Slap-Bass Odyssey

Contrary to what this blog might suggest, there has been a lot going on in life. I’ve just gotten to the end of an ultra-wearing run of subbing, plus I completed a fairly gigantic article, and now entered the hallowed phase known as “Well, if I haven’t heard anything, that’s probably good news…” One pleasent side-effect of the subbing was that I was around while the What’s On TV film desk was clearing out their DVD cupboard- and was able to pick up a fantastic amount of swag as a result. Having recently fallen under the spell of fantastically bizarre Brit comedy The Mighty Boosh, I was flirting with the idea of getting their DVD box set- and was then able to grab the first season for free! Huzzah! Plus, I’ve been sampling the second season of Arrested Development, and I’ve got a gigantic stack of movies and TV to watch- and Twin Peaks: Season 2 is finally winging its way towards me on DVD. Admittedly, my multi-region DVD player is finally starting to die, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

In other news, I’ve recommenced a rewrite on the book. I’m no longer certain if anything I’m doing is actually working, but I figure all I can do is slog through this version, get to the end, and see what I end up with. I’ve got to get myself writing more regularly, and in order to do that, I’ve got to finish what I’m currently working on.

Tomorrow will be another epic journey into London, which should hopefully include 28 Weeks Later, a small-scale, gritty indie film all about a man struggling with his relationship problems and where his destiny truly lies (along with a brief subplot about a black costume that’s actually an alien symbiote), and hopefully a ride down one of the fantastic-looking slides that are currently pretending to be works of art in the Tate Modern. Life is full of surprises…

Staying the Course (Don’t Panic….)

I had a brainwave today relating to the book- there’s a set of scenes that introduces one of the main bad guys, and I knew instinctively that it wasn’t working, and I’d been trying to sort out a way of making work. Suddenly, on a walk in the woods today, I saw a way of doing it, which would involve some major shuffling around in what I’m referring to as the cliffhanger to part 2 of the book, leading into the final act. I saw it, and suddenly realised that it would read better, and be much more ‘novelistic’- alot of my storytelling devices are actually hi-jacked from television and comics, and there’s times when that kind of thing doesn’t work. So, I had a solution- trouble is, I couldn’t come up with a way of shuffling around the cliffhanger that wouldn’t suck the drama out of the scene. At the moment, it has a couple of clunky sections, but part 2 of the book ends on a genuine “Holy Crap, what the hell’s going to happen now?” moment that will hopefully have people screaming to get on to Part 3. I could change that to something more ‘literary’ that might have better technique- but I think it’d lose the storytelling energy that it’s got at the moment. I’m not saying there isn’t a way of doing it and not losing the energy- but I really think that unpicking a major chunk of the story, at a time when it’s actually starting to feel like it’s fitting together, would be a bad move. If I’d had this idea much, much earlier, I might have been able to do something with it- but it’s not the kind of idea you can introduce into a story without damaging the framework that’s already built. I’d rather concentrate on getting the story as it is to a standard that I’m proud of, rather than spend the next few months trying new configurations of plotting, and ending up essentially chasing my tail. This is a lesson for the next one- it’s too late for this one. I’m going to get this thing into shape, and I’m going to be proud of it…

Number of the Beast

One more day to go, but the experience of being in Cornwall now has the distinct feeling of winding down, mainly because I’ve gotten to roughly the point where I wanted to be. I now have a slightly shambolic but considerably slimmed down version of the book- and the current word count?

160,920

That’s about 27,000 words shorter than the previous version, which is making me feel like I’m actually getting somewhere. Of course, a reasonable proportion of the book- especially the last third- is a bit on the underwritten side, and is going to need a small amount of expanding to read well, but I’m hoping it’ll all equalise out with the other stuff that I’m sure I’ll be hacking out at some point. I think I’m roughly looking at a book that- theoretically speaking, and depending on type size- would be about 350-450 pages long, which is a little longer than I was aiming, but not by much.

The plan now is to get back to London, print the thing out, get George to read it through, then sit down with the manuscript and note down every single problem (which may, to be honest, take a while). Then, I’m going to go through the thing with a fine-tooth comb, and fix as many of the technical problems as I can. Once it’s as polished up as can be… then I’m going to send it out to people. Whatever the problems that come back, I don’t want silly, trivial spelling mistakes and grammar errors to be coming between them and the story. If they don’t like it, then they don’t like it- I just don’t want to be giving them reasons not to like it.

I’m happy, though. It feels like I’m making progress, and I’m another step along the way towards making a book that I’m proud of.

The Nature of the Catastrophe

I just lost a subplot. It collapsed on me, and the worrying thing is, I think the book’s much better as a result. It was a section of the story that kind of grew in by accident- I was doing a major rewrite to try and get it to work, and I was hitting major problems. Serious, serious writing block, to the extent that I started losing all faith in the book, my abilities, and the last year that I’d spent trying to hammer this damn thing into shape. I knew what my brain was telling me- dump it- because I’d felt it about another subplot which just wasn’t working out. I think the main deciding factor was that the subplot only actually appeared directly four times in the first nine chapters, and didn’t actually impact on the main plot until right at the end. I’ll lose a couple of really nice sections, but I think it’ll also end up more focussed as a result. The main thing is- I’m not attempting to write a powerful literary novel about the future. I’m trying to write a fun romp, and anything which gets in the way of the fun romp-ness may need to go.

This may have a massive effect on the stuff I need to do. However, I’m going to see where this takes me.

Mr Sleepy

Never make plans. Never stare yourself in the mirror and say “Tomorrow, the work TRULY begins!” When you do that, it usually means you’re in trouble. The last few days for me have been mainly taken up by attempting to recover from my cold, with some gradual work on the book crammed inbetween. Dad and Linda set off for their week in France this morning, so today would be the first time in nearly a week where I’d be virtually on my own (aside from Linda’s son Tom, who both works and has an active social life, so he’s barely here). Hurrah, I thought to myself. Time to knuckle down, and truly get some serious writing done.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, I ended up waking up at 5.10 in the morning, slightly hungry and completely unable to get to sleep. I filled time by watching some TV, had breakfast, finally started to feel human, went and bought stamps for a couple of letters in the nearby village, came back to the house, and promptly started to crash into a semi-conscious fug. I lasted writing about two sentences before I slumped back upstairs into bed at about 10.15. I then blinked, and it was 11.15. I then remember getting up, wandering to the bathroom, going back to bed… and then things got a bit strange thanks to a decidedly epic dream I had- a version of a ‘New Doctor Who’ season climax involving flying aliens, saucer-shaped aircraft, and multi-dimensional landscapes intersecting with Washington D.C.

I finally woke up four hours later, with only an hour or so of grey sunlight to enjoy before the day got dark once again. I’ve at least spent the last few hours planning out the next few days, and arranging some of the character threads of the novel together so they’ll be easier to work with. The novel is still in shaky shape, but is now running nearly two chapters shorter than it was- I’m just worried that certain structural things I was doing in earlier versions aren’t going to work now. What I’m going to try and do is put all of that out of my head, and concentrate on the actual, nuts-and-bolts writing new stuff that needs to be written. Once I get a ‘new rough draft’, I can print this bastard out, read it, and I’ll have a much better idea of where the dead patches are. I’m slightly paranoid about throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but I want this to be a book that moves quickly, and doesn’t grind to a halt. It’s supposed to be a romp, gawd-dammit.

If my paranoia, insecurity and other neuroses allow it, I would like to have a functional version of the new structure of the book by the end of next week, so I can start doing some really aggressive rewrites over the Christmas period. I sometimes doubt whether I’m cut out for this- but despite all the problems, I read through the end of the novel a couple of days ago- and it rocks. It’s a mess, it needs a tremendous amount of work, but the damn thing rocks like a Metallica album, and if I can actually get it to work, I can rest assured that, at the very least, nobody is trying to do the kind of things I’m trying to pull off here. Of course, I may later discover that there’s a very good reason nobody else is trying to do it. Hey ho…

I miss George. I haven’t seen her since last Saturday… and I really miss her now. Maybe it’s just being on my own, but I can’t wait to get back to her and, despite all the ridiculous nonsense awaiting me in the future, I also can’t wait to get this next phase of my life going. It may be scary, but something tells me it’s going to be worth it.

Mr Sneezy

I’ve arrived in Cornwall, after missing my train down (I was stunned to find that, thanks to traffic being responsible, I was simply handed a particular piece of paper, told to give it to the guard, and wasn’t charged a penny. Getting a new ticket would have cost me £70, so I was especially pleased), and this experience was made even more fun by one of the most spectacular colds I’ve had in a while. I’ve spent most of the last couple of days sneezing my head off, and while I was very productive book-wise yesterday, today turned into a day of Lemsip-provoked slumping, and listening to the Doctor Who audio discs I need to review for SFX (One of which was fairly rickety, but the other of which was extremely good). Productivity needs to return to something resembling normal tomorrow, as I’ve only got two weeks down here, and I don’t want to spend all of them sniffing and being miserable. The first five chapters of the book are now shorter and more streamlined than they’ve ever been before- but I really need to move onto the dangerous chapter 7-10 zone, the area that’s caused me so much trouble before. If I can get through this, I can get most of it done. My aim is to have a polished version of the book that’s ready to send to people by the end of the year, and hopefully ready for agents and publishers pretty soon after that.

Now all I’ve got to do is figure out exactly how to survive the financial turbulence of the next few months.

No news on the flat. The Estate Agents are at least showing people around, but we’ve got no bites yet. Funnily enough, I’m feeling fairly philosophical about it. Our new house is, however, going to demand that I get back into driving pronto, as neither walking nor bike-riding is an option.

Change is good. I have to remember that. Change is good…

(My ‘TV Eye’ looks at American television will return soon. I also want to do something on the Sixties Doctor Who DVDs I’ve gotten recently- THE WEB PLANET and THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH. I’ve just got to concentrate on the book at the moment, as there’s a frightening amount to do. At the least, I saw last week’s HEROES today- top notch stuff, and warming up for some seriously big stuff to happen over the next couple of episodes. Also saw GALACTICA, which was an improvement on last weeks, but still suffering from the ‘let’s keep all the episodes self-contained’ phenomenon that really doesn’t do the show any good.)

Am currently working my way through season 1 of VERONICA MARS, and can now understand why I’ve been hearing so much about it. I’m only six episodes in, but it’s already going in some dark and intriguing directions.

More soon…