A few weeks back I had to move all the furniture in my lounge room and this led me to deciding I might as well rearrange it as I put it back. The biggest part of this was moving the bookcase and – naturally – all the books.
I have a lot of books on the shelves that I rarely read. Particularly books I’ve kept from when I was a kid. This includes what you’d expect in fiction for young readers, but it also includes poetry. Lots of poetry.
From when I was about 9 I frequented a second hand bookshop which had a great selection of poetry and, with my meager pocket money, I started a small and eclectic collection. I should say, I’d already had a love of rhyme and so had quite a few books of ‘childrens’ verse’, but this shop allowed me to expand into other areas. I kept buying poetry there until I was well into my 20s.
The thing is; I stopped reading (and writing) poetry in my late 20s. This means I’ve had all these poetry books on my shelves for a long time just collecting dust. In fact the only one I still regularly read is a volume I stole from my dad! It feeds my addiction to John Donne, Lord Byron and Christina Rossetti. Less often I break out my dedicated books of Blake or Donne and, likewise, books of Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson for an Australian fix.
I suspect those will be the last poetry books to suffer being culled, but every time I do a rearrangement a few more go to the charity shop.
I’ve been off writing – still on the PAR – and it’s progressed well! I’m about to hit 90k of decent words (we won’t talk about what’s been thrown out) and I think I’m about 15K from the end. We’ll see.
What’s been amazing to me and the daemon about all this wordage is that I’ve averaged 7k a week since the start of December(!) and while that’s probably only 5k a week on working weeks, I’m pleased. I’m also still in love with the story which is remarkable. Possibly means I will come to hate it in the editing stage, but that’s fine. It’s nice to still be excited and looking forward to picking up the pen each day.
Weirdly I’m still long-handing most of it too. And is it wrong that I can completely see a movie version in my head? I don’t know.
Okay, with a work in progress nicknamed ‘the PAR’ it was inevitable I would make that joke some time… 🙂
But yes, it is running to form for a novel of mine right now. I’m so far into the story that I’m having trouble remembering what I did in earlier chapters! Which is usually the point at which I start to create a chapter map.
I’m not sure if it’s partly because I’m back to working in a straight word-processor for this, but in reality that can only be a contributing factor; all my novels have reached a stage where it’s too big to fit in my head. Of course, because of my pantser ways, I can never be entirely sure which version of a chapter/scene I ended up doing!
Side note on being a pantser: Apparently Lee Childs is one. This gives me a weird sense of… community. It’s a bit lonely out here on the pure-panter edge, as most of my writer peeps are either pure planners or planner-side-of-the-scale plantsers.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s been on my mind again after some of my bookclubbers asked me where the idea for the PAR came from. Considering my recent wordage was my excuse for not having read the book this time (!) I felt like I owed them a good answer. Luckily when it comes to the PAR the answer is easy…
I was watching a movie with a martial arts instructor who was a really interesting character, in love with a student, and I thought “that’s the kind of relationship I’d like to write”. This was partly his character in the movie, partly the idea of a relationship between two fighters and partly the extreme coolness of martial arts (I’m a teeny bit of a fan).
So my instructor became a sword fighter (because swords = cool). Then he needed something to be using the swords for (to fight beasties). Then he needed people to train (people surviving in a somewhat post-apocalyptic future earth). Then he needed a love interest I felt he’d fall crazy in love with (a highly experienced beastie fighter). Then I had to decide what kind of beasties and where they’d come from (accidental side effect of some research). Then I had to decide what the research was in aid of (finding a cure for a disease). Then I had to pick a disease and work out if it had caused the apocalypse or the beasties had (50/50). And then – the most fun part – I had to build an entire version of our Earth around the idea of an apocalypse with beasties.
Sounds simple when you lay it out like that, huh?
Funny thing is, Blurty had a similar start – a movie I was watching – but a totally different path and now it’s hard to see the origin point at all!
I think the writing daemon and I have got the flood-lights up around this black hole! It’s turned out nothing like I expected from my earlier ideas of how we’d get from this particular A to the upcoming point B, but that’s okay. At least we’re moving again.
Apparently the key to figuring all of this out was to add a plane crash. Who knew? I guess the daemon did seeing as he suggested in, but it was a revelation to me. Suddenly all the characters have reason to be running around doing things they weren’t doing before. Amazing.
You know, I wrote the title for this post and thought that’s actually a cool idea for a story! But no, I haven’t (yet) run off on another project. The black hole I’m referring to is a narrative one I fell into at the end of last week. Because there’s a gap in my story. A dark, deep hole that I’m still dangling a plumb line into to work out the depth.
It always strikes me as funny that the width of the hole can be quite small (I just need to get my character from here to there), but the depth – all the stuff you have to work out to fill in this gap – can be brain-bending!
The good thing in this case, is that I feel like I’m filling in a few further holes that were between here and the end as I go. How do I fill in holes, I hear you ask? I write out lists of questions like:
- If character z knows that the well is poisoned, then when did she find out and does she have an antidote?
- Could character p suspect z knows the well is poisoned? Could they be wrong?
Sometimes I scribble in an answer. Sometimes all the questions that follow indicate I’ve picked an answer. Sometimes they just stay as questions.
I don’t know if anyone else takes this approach, but I find it effective. It stops me from obsessing over finding answers before moving on to developing a new question and strange left-field things tend to pop up as a result. That or my brain suddenly goes “huh! that’s why we have the tame bobcat in the lake scene”.
It would be nice if my writing brain cells could put up hazard barriers or warning signs before I step into these holes, but then I guess the writing daemon and I wouldn’t be having so much fun thinking up new stuff!
Now this won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s read this blog over the years, but I am a bit of a film-fan. I’ve even mentioned before that it’s not uncommon I find books by first seeing the films based on them.
After having watched You before me a few months back and enjoyed it for a wonderful quirky protagonist and a sweet but sad romantic storyline, I thought it would be interesting to read the book. This led to my discovering they really didn’t change much between the two versions, though I liked what they pruned out for the movie.
The book though was interesting for another reason altogether.
It is a largely first person narrative with the bulk of the book in a single point of view. Where it deviates from these two things are curious. Firstly, it starts in third person. For only a bit over a thousand words of the point of view of the love interest. Then it sits in the protag’s first person for ages. Then there’s one chapter in an ancillary character’s POV, also first person. Then back to the protag for a while. Then another ancillary character. Then protag. Then another ancillary character. Finishes, finally on the protag.
Is it just me, or is that weird?
The ancillary characters are all fairly important people in the plot, but their POVs aren’t important at all. They expand on character and extend their different voices, but that’s about it. In the case of the last one – the protag’s sister – this POV change occurs at a crucial emotional and decision making moment for the protag, which I found downright jarring. The other two were harmless.
But what’s with the opening in 3rd? To me that’s really weird. Essentially it is more like a prologue without being labelled as one and, right at the start like that, you kind of forgive it.
Of course it was an interesting thing to read – a romance with an underlying social issue – after reading a literary novel that also mixed third and first. I think Hannah Kent had more justification for her choice, but it’s funny to see these kind of structures in such popular and film-convertable books.