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Category: Diary Page 1 of 47

2020: Week 52

(December 28 – 2021)

The end of the year. The start of 2021. We actually made it! It would take a whole website to adequately sum up 2020, and all the thoughts and feelings within, but I’m at least grateful that things in my neck of the woods are far better than I could have ever expected them to be when everything started changing back in Feb/March.

This is usually the time of year when I think about how the format of my blog is going to work for the following year. While I enjoy these weekly posts, I’m less and less driven to do them as the year goes on—I certainly don’t schedule time to write them, they just happen when I feel like it. Consequently, I think it’s time to move away from the weekly post. I still want this blog to focus on my writing, however, so maybe what I’ll try is writing a post whenever I wrap up a writing project—either a new story, or a chapter in the novel.

There’s also something else I want to do. Something that’s bugged me is that I have a terrible memory for trivia (I have a terrible memory for many things, but tiny nuggets of random info have a particular habit of falling through the sieve). So, in a bid to improve that I’m going to take a note every time I find myself thinking ‘ooh, that’s interesting’ and I will then share those random snippets with you as we go. I may just do them as separate tiny blog posts, or I may append them to the main posts. Let’s see …

2020: Week 51

(December 21 – 27)

It is the week of Christmas which means a few things. It means no work for starters. I always enjoy this period of the year: a chance to zone out and mentally reset … and also to catch up with various odd jobs around the house (mostly tidying and sorting).

In theory there should be plenty of time for writing, but in practice the lack of routine, the need to prepare for christmas, and the drive to strike things off my household to-do list means that writing takes a back seat.

I have committed myself to focusing on the novel as my main writing project. While I don’t do New Year’s resolutions anymore, I do intend to finish this one off in 2021. I’m currently working on the opening to chapter two and, in a familiar refrain, it’s needing a lot of surgery. At this point the characters are better defined than they were in chapter one, but there’s huge icebergs of exposition that I need to carve up and rearrange a bit more elegantly. This has required going back and forth over the first quarter of chapter two several times … but I think it’s been worth it, and I think I’ve finally reached a point where I can move onto the rest of chapter two.

2020: Week 50

(December 14 – 20)

I managed to finish my Christmas story and I’m pretty darned pleased with it too. It may be just a slight trifle of a tale, but I got a bit more substance in there than simply a monster hiding in a child’s room. The plan now is to promote my previous christmas tales and then publish this new one on or before Christmas Eve.

I’ve decided to continue using Medium for now. It has a nice, easy to use interface, I get stats telling me how many people have looked at vs read my stories, and I’m able to publish my stories under my ‘Slightly Odd Tales’ strand.

I still have one of my christmas stories on Vocal (dot media) and I’ll leave it there for now, but I’ve already deleted the other one (which had barely any views). This was the story I recently did an edit on, but it turns out Vocal does not let you edit stories once they’re published, which is a big no-no given my propensity for leaving typos (aka easter eggs) in stories for my readers to find. Furthermore, I couldn’t even delete the damn thing without having to email the folk at Vocal first and waiting several hours for them to come back to me. It’s a nice enough platform, but I need full control over my content.

I have also been continuing to revisit the novel. I’m up to chapter 2 now, which is needing even more invasive surgery than the first chapter. The latest section in particular has taken on the semblance of a jigsaw: I’ve separated out the various scenes (and by scenes I mostly mean dialogue exchanges which convey a distinct aspect of plot or character) and am currently working out how to make them fit together, and which pieces belong in a completely different part of the story altogether.

Most people, of course, would do this sort of thing before actually writing the novel. However, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough you’ll recall that I took a hybrid approach to this one: I went in with an overall plot for each chapter, but left enough room in for the story and characters to find their own way. I think it’s paid off in the wild and crazy tangents this tale has taken, and tidying up these inconsistencies was always going to be part of the deal.

Who knows: maybe I’ll finish the damn thing next year!

2020: Week 49

(December 7 – 13)

Excellent: it turns out that I already released the haunted mobile phone story last Christmas (which probably explains why it was in fairly good shape already). Even though no one actually read it, it still feels like cheating to release it a second time around, which leaves me with the problem of having to come up with something new.

So I’ve had a necessary trawl through the Archive Of Unfinished Masterpieces (coincidentally also the title of the next Indiana Jones movie) and found this fragment that I scrawled down earlier in the year:

I know it’s hungry.

I can hear its tummy growling.

It hides in the darkness in the corner of my room, waiting in the shadows where I can’t see it. It stays away from my bed. But I know it’s there.

The air is cold and moist with its breath

Now, if that doesn’t have the makings of a classic Christmas tale then I don’t know what does. Watch this space.

2020: Week 48

(November 30 – December 6)

This week I remembered my semi-official tradition of releasing a new spooky story each Christmas and decided that this was a thing I also wanted to do for this Christmas.The inevitable problem is that I always remember this tradition too late in the year to give me a chance to write anything new.

To solve this dilemma I’ve dug out an old, almost-finished story about a man being haunted by his mobile phone. It’s a very M.R.James inspired story (one might even suggest it’s a plain rip off of Casting The Runes) but one I’ve never managed to get quite right.

That being said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what good shape it’s in. So far all the scenes seem to be in the right place and it’s needed nothing more than a light polish.

2020: Week 47

(November 23 – 29)

I’ve been very ugh enjoying revisiting the novel (I’ve been through the prologue and have almost finished chapter one now). Given that this is my second editing pass through it, I’m quite surprised at how much I’ve needed to rework. It’s almost entirely character stuff, but my two leads remain a little unpolished in these early stages. There are also moments where I’ve clearly enjoyed myself too much and thrown in lines and exchanges that don’t really belong and disrupt the flow of the narrative. As such there’s been some chopping as well as some changing.

The good news is that I’m enjoying this process enough that I’ve rebooted my evening writing shifts. Of late I’ve found myself either too tired or too uninspired in the evenings to tackle any writing, so I haven’t done any writing. This week however I simply felt like carrying on where I left off in the morning. Excellent.

2020: Week 46

(November 16 -22)

I had a moment of inspiration for one of the new stories that I’ve been struggling with. It’s a timey wimey one, but with a gothic flavour, so finding both the correct tense and voice has been a particular challenge. It doesn’t sound quite right in the past tense, so I’ve been writing in the present tense, which is coming out too sterile for my liking.

In trying to work out the right voice, I then imagined it being read aloud, and suddenly had this image of a classic M.R.James type narrator sitting in their drawing room, dusty old book open before them, telling us the tale.

Somehow this nailed it for me. The present tense helps emphasise the times-wimpy ness, but the classic gothic narrator voice sets exactly the right tone. I’ve gone back and reworked the first few pages of the story and, yep, I think it’s gonna work.

2020: Week 45

(November 9 – 15)

I’ve done it. I’ve decided to do a fresh edit of the novel right from the start (again). I’m in a curious place where I have the motivation to write, but am not especially inspired by any of my new or current projects so I may as well make a push to get the novel into a decent shape. Besides, I’m still not quite happy with the evolution of my characters. They get to where they need to go, and they start in the right place: it’s just all the bits in between that need some work.

True, there is a risk of overworking it and turning out a story that’s even more sanitised than a George Michael single, but I just can’t help feeling that I really need to retread the journey right from the start in order to nail the finish.

2020: Week 44

(November 2 – 8)

As I sit here writing this, we’re on the second day of counting votes in the US election and my feelings towards it somewhat parallel my writing energy over the last few weeks. Sure, it looks like Biden may well pull through but there still millions of people over there who willingly voted for one of the worst people in the world—and many of them will have voted for him out of basic self-interest, or because they want to see harm done to the people has already harmed and will gladly harm again.

It makes one question the value of democracy. There are deep problems in the USA that have their origins long before this election, and those problems mean that someone like Trump can not only become President, and lie, cheat, steal, and cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people through his first term, but that people will still vote for that.

And while I’m pretty sure that no one reading this will start screeching ‘woke politics’ at me, we should note that this is not even about politics. If a person can’t accept that lying, stealing and bringing harm to people are bad things, plain and simple, then who is the one with the problem? These aren’t political issues; they are moral and ethical issues.

And how does this parallel my writing efforts? Well, it doesn’t really, but I have endured a certain lack of direction over the past weeks. I don’t specifically write to get published, but it is a natural endpoint. To write a story and have no one read it makes the story somewhat pointless. Just as to have a democratic election and have people vote for a demonstrably terrible candidate makes democracy seem somewhat defunct. All that effort to ensure people have choice and a say in their future, and what do they do?

I suspect the closer connection may well be that anxiety around the election, and the fact that there are a few too many parallels to US politics over here in Australia, has simply resulted in some mild writer’s block. But isn’t it much more fun to draw random relationships between my backroom writing and global politics?

2020: Week 43

(October 26 – November 1)

I’ve been struggling quite a lot with my writing over recent weeks. I’m not sure if it’s a form of writer’s block or not. I’m still getting words out, but they continue to feel somewhat directionless. As such, I’ve decided to try a couple of things to fix this.

Firstly, I’ve discovered that no matter how much time I have in the morning, I have a limit to the amount of time I can spend writing. I start to lose steam at around the 30-45 minute mark. Given this, and given that I’ve been neglecting my exercise for some time now, I’ve decided to get back on the cross-trainer in the mornings. I’ve previously rationalised that it would eat too much into my Very Important morning writing time, but as per above this clearly isn’t the case.

Secondly, I’ve been wondering if having too many unfinished projects over my head is causing mental clutter to get in the way of any fresh writing. I’m frustrated by the fact that I’m one chapter away from finishing the first draft of my novel and yet can’t quite motivate myself to wrap it up. I’ve also got the science-fiction short story that I’ve been working on for several months now and can’t quite get right. I also have one or two other short story projects that are stalling.

Consequently I’ve decided two things: firstly I will get back into doing some exercise in the morning (so at least I’m making good use of my time no matter what); secondly, I will finish the damn novel. Hopefully both of those measures will get the blood flowing.

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