Start, and Start Over – Always

I’m done with the outlines. Twenty novellas prepared and ready to be dressed in prose. It’s a bit scary.

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Last night’s sunset, as I was walking about contemplating getting started on my new story.

I started yesterday. I wrote the introduction words, and I began writing on the first scene/chapter. This morning I continued on the same scene, and this afternoon I scrapped it and started over.

That always seem to happen to me for some reason. I start working on a scene, and I get to a point where it just doesn’t work and I have to scrap it and start over. It’s an awkward and inefficient way of figuring out what the scene is not supposed to be about.

Okay, to say it always happens like that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s often enough it’s familiar to me. Part of the process – if unwanted.

Either way, it’s done now, and the first scene is now taking shape for real, and it’s much better than the initial version.

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This may be my new favourite writing spot. A cafe in an old church with a little back yard with a big tree you can sit under. The canopy is dense enough to keep a light rain at bay.
Start, and Start Over – Always

Eighteen. Two more.

It’s getting close now. Almost done.

The last few weeks have been slow. I think I’m still on schedule, sort of, but it’s getting tight. I need to finish the outline for two more stories and then I’m done and ready to actually start writing. I’m looking forward to it with both dread and anticipation.

It’s getting serious now.

I’m having doubts about my first story. Will it be good enough to get readers to check out the next one, and the ones after. Will it work? I think I can write a good story about an interesting character that people will want to get to know better. I know I can. What I don’t know is if I can hook a reader for long enough to get them stuck in the story. That’s the challenge.

I think the first story will work. I think. I don’t know.

That’s the scary part. The uncertainty. I’ll just have to live with that I guess. I’ve got to finish the outlines, and then sit down and have a serious think about what I’m doing with the first story.

Is it good enough?

Where is there room for improvement?

We’ll see. I might just have to trust in that the story is good enough and that I’m a good enough writer to pull it off. The time to faff around and fiddle with details is almost up. It’s almost time to hunker down and actually get things done.

It’s almost time to get the ball rolling.

Eighteen. Two more.

Troublesome Eleventh

Last week I wrote about how I’d completed the outlines for half the stories in my series. I wrote that I was making good progress. I jinxed it.

The eleventh story didn’t want to cooperate at all. I’d had doubts about it before, and now when I got to it I realised it just didn’t perform well enough at what it was meant to do. I tried to go with it anyway, but eventually I decided to scrap all but the first few scenes and start over from the beginning.

I then scrapped the first few scenes as well.

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Making some tea

Overall, the story is the same. It begins in the same way as the previous version, and it ends in the same way. It’s how it gets there that’s changed. I came up with a new conflict for the story which makes it a lot more interesting but doesn’t massively change the plot.

The story is different but it still fits into the series in the same way the earlier version did.

Maybe you could think of it like a piece of a puzzle? The original piece was blank, and didn’t have an image on it. It fit into the puzzle, but it didn’t add anything to the picture. What I’ve done with redoing the story is I’ve painted the piece in a way that makes the piece contribute to the image rather than just filling out a hole.

It took nearly a week.

I’m a bit behind target, but I’m done with it now and I’ve moved on to the twelfth story. That too threatened to act up much in the same way as the eleventh, but I managed to work that out in a better way and didn’t have to redo the entire thing. I even came up with something that’ll be a good addition to one of the earlier stories.

Troublesome Eleventh

Ten Done, Ten To Go

It’s time for another progress update. Just today, I’ve not actually done anything at all as far as writing goes, but other than that I’ve gotten quite a lot done over the last week.

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View from my new favourite writing haunt: Mr. Bradley’s Bar. It’s very often blissfully quiet at the times I’m able to visit.

I’m done with the third Scratch of the outline and I’ve started on the fourth, and I’m halfway done with with.

In this Scratch, what I’m doing is I’m going through all of the scenes for all of the stories, and I write a set of note about what’s happening in each scene. I also write down what is meant to be established in the scene and if something important is being reiterated that the reader already knows about.

So far, almost every scene establishes something new,  but it’s gotten more difficult to come up with things the further I’ve progressed. I like to think the things I establish in the scenes are important though, and I don’t just add things in for the sake of putting in new information.

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Same place, but a few hours later.

The thing that’s most commonly reiterated so far is that Alene is really attached to her suitcase. It may seem like a silly thing, but it’s important to her character and it’s important to the ending of the series.

Looking at the dates of the files I’m using for the notes, it’s been nine days since I started this phase. That’s a little over one story developed per day, which isn’t exactly swift, but it’s not horribly bad either. I’ve got a few things coming up over the next few days, but I think that with weekends and everything I’ll be able to keep that speed up – roughly, and I hope to be able to start working on the prose for the first story by the end of August.

Ten Done, Ten To Go

A Pretty Silly Name

Currently the series of stories that I’m working on go under the title Werewolves On A Train.

I don’t like that.

It feels silly. Silly and cheap. It also sounds way too close to Snakes On A Plane, which I haven’t even seen. It’s got the wrong ring to it, and I want to change it.

Coming up with a good name for a series is difficult. Actually, coming up with a new name for anything is difficult. I’ve had to do it twice already:

  • Toini was originally called Toivo, and then I learned that Toivo was a male name, and it didn’t feel right for a female character anymore.
  • The Anfylk race was originally called Hobbits, but I changed that once I learned that the word hobbit is trademarked.

Both times were difficult. Just accepting that I had to change the name was hard. Coming up with a new name too, and finally getting used to the new name. All tricky.

Chances are I’ll keep thinking of my current story as Werewolves On A Train, or WOAT, for a long time after I decide on a new name for it. I guess it’s just how the mind works. We get used to things and we don’t like them changing.

So what other ideas do I have?

  • Dreamchasers. This is good in that it’s descriptive. Roy is chasing his dream of being with Toini. Alene is chasing a dream, even though she’s not quite sure what it is. It’s good in that respect, but as a word it carries a lot of expectations that just aren’t met by the story. I probably won’t go with this.
  • The Old Dog’s Last Hunt. This is a much more fitting title than the above, but it feels long and unwieldy. Roy is the “old dog” and he’s chasing something. Once he catches it he hopes to settle down and take it easy. The issue, apart from being unwieldy is that “last hunt” carries a certain finality. When a hero goes on their last hunt it’s not because he’s decided to stop hunting and settle down – it’s because he dies.
  • Dog and Fish. This is the hip and mysterious title. “Dog” is a reference to Roy being a werewolf, and that should be pretty obvious. What’s less obvious is that “fish” is a reference to Alene. She’s also a shapeshifter, but changes into a rainbow coyote which is a doglike animal with fish scales. It’s a mysterious title for sure, but that may not necessarily be a good thing.
  • EDIT: Lost Dogs or Lost Dogs’ Journey. This came to mind today, and while I’m not completely sold on it yet, it feels like it will work. In my mind, the word dog has grown to become word people use for therianthropes (shapeshifters/werewolves) in the setting of the story. It’s also god symbolically as both Roy and Alene are a little bit lost in the world. I’m liking it.

Those are the ones I could remember at the time of writing. I know I’ve had more ideas, but they’re either too similar to the ones above, or bad enough that I forgot about them (that’s usually how I treat forgotten ideas).

A Pretty Silly Name

A New Space

I spend a lot of time in pubs and cafes writing, but sometimes I write at home. My ambition (one of them), is to try and spend a little bit more of my writing time at home. To that end, I finally got around to setting up a new writing spot.

Here’s how it used to look:

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Mixer, turntables, CDJs. Great fun to have and to play around with, but I haven’t actually used them for anything but collecting dust for several years.

And this is what it’s like now:

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A very visible reminder that I should be doing more writing.

I do need to get myself a proper chair or I’ll ruin my back and that’s not so cool. I like my back and I plan to keep using it for a while yet. For now though, this will do, and hopefully it’ll have the desired effect.

I just need to clean away all the junk that sat under the desk so I’ve got somewhere to stretch out my legs.

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The sun setting behind an empty whiskey bottle and a lego bulldozer.
A New Space

Men and women?

I’m musing on gender issues in my stories again. I’ve had some issues with “bad” stereotypes in previous stories and I’m pondering whether I’m about to stumble down that path again.

I want my female protagonist to be rich characters with depth and personality, and with the strength to carry their own stories forward, like people in the real world. That’s my goal, and it shouldn’t be so difficult now should it – at least it oughtn’t be, but who knows…

As a way to develop my characters a little bit I did a series of behind the scenes monologues with them (here). I pretend the characters are actor playing themselves and I have them hold a monologue about their role in the story. It was good fun.

I started with Roy, as he’s the first one to show up, then Alene, and Toini last. Roy’s male, Toini and Alene are female.

All three monologues loosely follow the same pattern. The character introduces themselves and then they describe their place in the story. What I found is that both Alene and Toini use Roy as a way of defining their place in the story.

I like to think there are good reasons for this. It fits with how the story is laid out and designed. It just feels a bit off – on principle. I want my female characters to be their own people, and they are, but even then I ended up having them describe their place in the story using the male character as their point of reference.

Am I overthinking it?

Yes. I’d say I am.

Both Toini and Alene are their own people and they carry their own stories. They’re more than backdrops for Roy’s story – a lot more in fact – and they know it. This whole rant is more a reflection on the topic as such. Am I letting my female heroes define themselves by the male hero?

I hope not. I don’t think I do.

I think there’s probably a line between where you describe your place in a story in relation to the other characters, and where a women describes her place in life in relation to a man. It’s a thin line, and I may be skirting close to it, but I think I’m still on the “right” side of it.

Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, or bonk me onna heid for being overly concerned with something that’s not an issue. Either is fine, really.

Men and women?