For the past six weeks I’ve been participating in the Clarion West write-a-thon. I’ve won two sponsors (thank you @SikesAaron and @transliterata – your flash fictions will be with you hopefully by the end of the hols) and written 36k. But how have I done in this final week? Because really, to have hit my target there should be a few more k on that total. Well, I began my week by starting a scene based around the character Unity, and I just could NOT make it work. The more I struggled with it, the less it worked.
Eventually I had to take a big old step back and examine the problem with a cold eye. And? Plainly put, the character’s thread wasn’t working. I mean AT ALL. There was a point at which I needed to end her part in the story, and didn’t, and everything of hers after that was just wrong. What did I do? I cut 6k. Excised that dead flesh right out of the MS. I can tell you it was painful.
Then I did what you do when you cut a chunk, I concentrated on checking the rest to make sure the impact of the cut didn’t resonate. And I discovered something else. Plot holes. Lots of them. I’ve pantsed this puppy on the whole, just outlining scenes as I know I need them and there’s been a lot of…re-jigging. Thing is I haven’t seeded these re-jigs back through the MS, resulting in some seriously out of whack scenes, some of which contradict each other content-wise. All a bit disastrous really.
I am, I’ll admit, a little brain dead this year. It’s been tougher than last year and that’s saying something, but I really didn’t think it had affected my concentration this much. Apparently it has. This often distracted and awareness challenged head of mine has dropped the ball somewhat catastrophically. Is it salvageable? Yes. It’s going to take some serious concentration and concrete planning, and of course it’ll mean I’m way off base with my personal deadline for finishing a first draft, which is a bummer. But at least there’ll be a first draft that won’t require re-writing from scratch, which it would’ve done if I’d only discovered these probs after writing ‘The End’. So it’s all for the best really.
And that’s that. I come to the end of write-a-thon having achieved my aim most weeks and had a major, if somewhat unpleasant, epiphany about my MS. I’ve enjoyed this. It’s taught me I can write lots in a day, and that I NEED to pay more attention. I’ve edited a fair bit for friends and for a publishing collective I’m peripherally involved with and, apparently, I’m a fairly good structural editor…if that’s true, then I need to apply these chops, however small, to the structuring of my own work. Don’t wanna be like the Fairy Godmother in The Slipper and The Rose now, do I?
Every novel teaches you something new. This one is teaching me that I can’t wing it. Seriously can’t. I hate planning with a passion, so my next lesson is to get over myself and knuckle down to it, because I can’t write without it. I don’t mean 20 page outlines, I mean nailing a solid central plot structure before I begin and keeping track of sub-plots and sequence as I go along FAR better than I do now. Just as we live and learn, we write and learn. It’s a craft, and we develop it. There will never be a point when I can say ‘I know what I’m doing’, but that’s part of why I love writing.
Here we come then to the final excerpt. I’m going to leave you with a small glimpse of the beginning, because that’s where I find myself planning from. This book begins with a character called Ko-Ren. We’ll never meet him again. We find him at the end of his story and we ride his POV into Shock’s story. He’s in his booth, being robbed by some Streeks (who you’ll learn more about if this book ever gets published *grin*), and he becomes an unwitting observational platform. Just as we see the story begin through him, so too do some of the story’s more mysterious players. Enough of my jabber, here’s Ko-Ren:
They burst around the concrete corner of the booth, bright and noisy as a flock of macaws. Hands scrabbling in his display as they laugh in his face. High, screeching voices throwing hard words like insults in Ko-Chun, Streek slang, a mix of Korean, Chinese and pidgin English spoken in rapid bursts, staccato as machine gun fire. He doesn’t understand a word, can only wave his fist as they run off down the plaza with handfuls of smokes, candy and filmy, unactivated e-zines, crumpled to wads. Neon transforms the splash of dirty rainwater in their wake to startling fireworks and the whole Plaza comes to life, as if to hide them from view. Thousands of salarymen and women pouring out the subways and crowding into the street. No one stops at the booth, or even stops to look.
‘Go fuck yourselves,’ he mutters, collapsing back into his booth amongst tumbled boxes, the bright scatter of candy bars and smoke packets.
Behind constricting ribs his heart’s struggling to haul blood, sputter-fading through every beat. He sucks air, desperate as a junkie, willing the pain to dull. No medicare for him, not some stupid old man too weak to labour, too dull to be a salaryman. Used to be a shop worker, a good job, before he got too old for the floor. They kept him on, allowing him to take shifts in the back, but three years in the warehouses reduced him to a shambling wreck, leaving two choices, the retirement complexes or a booth. He chose the booth. That’s like choosing life, for whatever value of life is found in a booth.
Breathing usually works, easy in, easy out, remembering days out on the ‘scraper roof-gardens following the unconscious flow of taiji. Not today. The inside of his ribs burn like smouldering lantern paper and he can almost feel his arteries shrinking as his heart takes longer and longer to complete each pump. Pain becomes ropes strung through his chest pulled tight, tighter yet, and darkness creeps across his vision like Tokyo City across the night, whispers following in its tracks like gossiping stars. He thinks he’s dreaming of heaven, but what angels speak like this?
He’s on the way out. We’ll piggyback.
Where’s Shock Pao?
Coming along. Came out onto Plaza from the Northern Line, so he’s a way off.
Something vast looms inside Ko-Ren’s head, filling him, pushing him out to the edges, flattened and see-through, and his struggle to breathe pain away fades to a spectre, a ragged memory he’s no longer sure was ever real.
There we are then, the final excerpt. I hope you guys have enjoyed these glimpses into the world of ESCAPOLOGY and I hope I fix these blasted holes so that maybe, one day, you can pick it up in a book shop or on amazon and find out what it is Amiga and Shock are up to their necks in.
Those of you who’ve visited during the write-a-thon to see what one of the participants is up to, it’s been a pleasure having you, I hope you stick around. When Umwelt culminates in a few episodes time, I’ll be playing around with new things. Seeing what I can do with this blog. I hope you’ll be here to observe the experimentation. And to everyone who visited because you’re a regular attendee – you rock! Thanks for keeping on coming here to read my madness. I’m pretty sure it’s not catching, but you might want to take precautions. Just in case…
To see you on your way for today, behold a moustachioed cat… plotting: