Nicer Prose

Morning all – a busy few months, my busiest yet with work and life this year. I looked at my average sleep data today as recorded in Apple Health, and I was getting an average of 8 hours a night at the start of the year, and then 7 hours a night, and now the past two months have been 6 hours a night or less. While that is a consequence of recent work and travel, there have been other most healthy positives – I have been achieving well at a crossfit gym I’ve been attending for a couple of months now, and I’ve never eaten as healthy as I have across the same period, which has been a terrific boost to my life. With regards to the novel, however, I have been struggling to keep consistency going – I have been sneaking in a few bursts of activity here and there, but overall it has been tough going lately, particularly with how busy a few work deadlines have been. I feel the need to hold onto the novel tightly, to take power back and to help the story make its way to the page and into the light, day by day. I will keep on – at this stage I don’t want to necessarily recalculate my timeline that I was keeping so well too in the early planning phases of the novel, but it will be necessary, especially to help me dedicate to a more consistent pace. Perhaps that is what I need to do, hold myself more accountable to the sort of scheduling I was at the start of the year. I’ll think about this and update on the blog shortly.

In saying the above, I have been writing, or more truthfully re-writing the completed first section of the novel that I finished a couple of months ago. The prose I’m generating now in the re-write is nice, I’m really happy with it. I’m sure a third edit would improve things even further, but at this stage I just wanted to know that I could get the prose to the point I wanted it, ready to be read by others, and this second edit of the first section is definitely where I want it. It could perhaps afford to be a little more idiosyncratic at times, but it does have a cleanliness to it that I’m enjoying. Once I’m finished with this edit of Section 1 I am very eager to get started on the draft for Section 2, to see the story continue to unfold onto the page, to become more and more real. I need to refine my writing schedule and set time goals again, that’s what I’ll do now, writing this blogpost has helped me identify that.

To leave, this is a wonderful illustration I received spontaneously from Dokinana who completed that wonderful manga inspired artwork of my characters some months ago, and who sent me another Katita fan art some time ago as well. Love her take on the character 🙂

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Section 1 – Complete

Interstellar blast – I’m back to save the universe. Well, maybe for Thom Yorke with his airbag in OK Computer. The only universe I’m back to save is my own sense of guilt at not blogging her more frequently. However, my built is diminished by virtue of having completed Section 1 of my first draft today. Hooray – I’m seventeen thousand words in, and I’m very happy with what I’ve achieved so far. Sure, it’s only the first draft, but it feels good to have turned ideas into prose after they only existed as structural notes for these past few months. I still remember the trepidation I had at starting to write prose – what if I didn’t know how to do it, what if all the words were terrible, what if I got stuck and couldn’t move on. The thing that has helped me the whole way through, even the days I didn’t write, for all the days I didn’t blog and record my progress, the key to making the prose work was the small chunks that I had prescribed myself to work on in order to complete each micro-act / act / chapter to eventually complete the section. Each micro-act was around 200 words, and that is such a readily achievable amount of words to achieve that it made approaching prose an experience that was not at all overwhelming which, in the scheme of writing a novel, is a very fortunate thing. The thing I did find tricvky, however, was making time to write every day. At the start of the year when I was planning and outlining each day, I was in an amazing routine – sitting in the studio at the same time each day and writing was an absolute joy. I do feel like I can recapture this again, but I also am being kind on myself and not thinking too poorly of my efforts so long as I continue writing when I can. I haven’t lost any of the fire for the novel, I think about it each day and I look at imagery and listen to music to inform the aesthetic and voice of the book at every opportunity. And, for the most part, I am writing consistently and am happy with my progress. It has taken two months to finish this first section of the book, and I think that is fine. I originally planned for it to take a month, so while I am double the timeline, I am nonetheless fine for this pace to continue so long as I continue to progress in a steady, pleasing fashion that puts good words on paper.

At this point, I am going to review the first section of this first draft and massage for a fortnight. In the vlog below I discuss how I want to make sure I get the voice, the pacing, the tone all in order so I can incorproate this into the future sections I write. I have a general sense of how I am sounding, but I want to be more confident in it, and make sure it is consistent throughout each paragraph, before I move on. I’ll update you soon on how this revising is going, and hopefully I’ll share some passages that highlight how I am progressing. Onward and upward, I’ll make sure to vlog again shortly and see you soon.

Act 1.2 Finished, Act 1.3 En Route

Hello world – oh boy, there is a lot of dust on this website. Nearly a month since I last updated, since I finished Act 1.1. What happened? Two key things immediately come to mind – I have had a very busy month of travel and deadlines, and whereas I was able to squeeze in some slim lines of time for the planning periods of the novel, I was not able to do this so readily for what is required of the prose writing component. As a result I gave myself permission to relax on my daily writing schedule and to pay attention to other parts of life that needed time and balance – travel, health, family, work responsibilities, etc. Over the Easter break I have worked hard on getting back balance into my days – is it really not possible to find an hour to sit down and write each day, even on the busiest of days? I was doing so well at the start of the year with keeping to a daily schedule, and I kept saying to myself, if you miss one day the novel will never get written. I took a hardline approach because I knew how important routine was.

What I can say now, is that both paths are true – it is true that without a routine nothing can be accomplished, novels don’t get written unless you write every day; but I can also say that if you are too brutal in your adherence to ticking every box every day, it tires you out and your work suffers, and so you need to relax your standards just enough to give yourself breathing room to recalibrate your daily schedules and responsibilities as needed, and then start again with your best foot forward when you can. That’s what I’ve done – I’ve steadily been working on Act 1.2, I’m really happy with the prose, with the way it is all coming together. I finished Scene 1 of Act 1.3 this morning, and again I’m enjoying the language I’m building up across the pages, the process of writing it is a delight and I can’t wait to go back over what I’ve written and tidy it up into more aesthetic prose, but for the time being it is all pleasing to my ear and my eye and I’m proud of the progress I’m making.

All told, if I had written a scene a day from when I started Phase 5 around the start of March, the novel should have taken till the start of September to finish. Because I missed a few weeks in March and I’m just getting my groove back from the start of April, I now have 109 scenes left to write. Taking out weekends for planning and revising, from now into the future 109 weekdays takes us into the middle of September. Given what I’ve written above about the need to not be too hardline when life does get particularly busy, but still with the need to reflect and balance things out promptly in order to keep good routines in place, I feel like a start of December deadline seems reasonable to finish the first draft of the novel. If it happens sooner than that, fantastic. If it stretches into the new year, that’s completely fine as well. I can’t see it going beyond the start of the year honestly, that is quite a generous patch of time I’ve given myself. I am so impatient to start on the second draft of the book and it isn’t even finished yet – I want to polish the prose, make sure the pacing and voice and trajectories are all in order, and then I want to hand the novel to a few trusted editorial eyes so it can be interpreted and given a life outside of my own head. A Complicated Surgery Will Take Place On The Beach Tonight. In time, in time.

Act 1.1 Prose Finished

Good morning world – it is a Sunday morning, I am recording my first vlog in quite a few days. Since Tuesday as it turns out – I burned brightly at the start of the week, on Monday and Tuesday, writing my prose, going to the gym, accomplishing my work tasks, reading, learning iOS development, enjoying family and friends, and then boom, my energy levels reached a point that were efficient for succeeding at work tasks but not a lot else. I didn’t write on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – luckily, I caught up yesterday, finishing all the scenes within Act 1.1 and stamping the first draft complete last night. It is fortunate I have relegated weekends to catch-up and planning so accomodate times when I don’t meet my weekday writing targets. In the vlog above I discuss turning this vlog and blog into weekly format instead of a daily, to allow me more time during the week to focus on the task of prose writing. I’ll feed back here every weekend, either on a Satuday or a Sunday, to review the week that has been and to set up the week to come. Now, on to Act 1.2 🙂

Thrill Seeking

When I wake up of a morning, before I head for a run and I’m thinking about the contents of the day ahead, I get a new and intense sense of thrill for the pending session of writing. It is the sort of thrill you experience when you know you need to walk into a room and deliver a talk, or when you’re about to ask someone out on a date. It’s a do or die moment – the spectre of failure is so present, and it is such a thrill to take it on head first.

It has such an uncanny sense of magic about it, the act of stringing words together in a form that brings ideas only previously seen in the head to become alive on paper. Thankfully I survived a second day of prose writing, putting down over a thousand words this morning, around 30% over my target. I need to remind myself to source images before I sit down – I’m so visual in the way I think about translating ideas into words, and having photographs or art in front of me helps immeasurably. It worked a treat this morning – I discuss this more, and read what I wrote this morning, in the vlog above.

Prose Onward

Good morning – today, my prose journey officially kicked off. While I did put around 200 words down from last weekend and yesterday combined to get my head into prose world, after the week of travel I had and the reflexive thinking break for the period it was an absolute delight to sit down and write some proper sentences this morning. In retrospect it was quite an inefficient morning – even though I hit a word count of 889 after an hour of writing, which completed the first scene of Act 1.1 for the morning, which was a thrill to see that I could meet this word count within the hour I have provided – the big lesson from the morning was that on the Sunday before the week commences, I need to prepare for the week by sourcing photographs and artworks that reflect the scenes I will be writing for the week ahead. I am very visual when I write, I love to look at a photo of what I’m about to write, or as close to it as possible, to help bring the words out. So that is a lesson for next Sunday, and perhaps for across the day as well when I get a chance to consider photos and images for the following day, so I don’t have to find them when I should be writing, and my connectivity in the shed is not amazing so good to have them ready and saved beforehand.

In the vlog above I read out the words I have written so far – I won’t do this every day, just to start with, helping me be transparent and accountable in reading these novel words aloud 🙂

Let’s Go

I’m back from taking a week off for work travel and allowing my mind to reflexively settle after the systematic planning schedule of Phase 4, before drifting into the sea of prose in Phase 5 of my novel writing schedule. It was a very sensible decision – I feel refreshed and repurposed going forward, and I’m confident about meeting my prose targets each day. I discuss this in greater detail in the vlog above.

My two other reflections, that I don’t mention in the vlog above, are that part of the travel I did was perfect inspiration for Part 2 of the novel, by chance the landscapes were exactly what I had been planning for, but I didn’t know I would get to see them again so soon again in real life, so that was a psychogeographic thrill. And secondly, I received a spontaneous piece of fan art from artist Dokinana yesterday morning, she sketched Katita (below) and it gave me a huge smile to see it pop up on my Twitter feed.

With my Sunday planning for the week ahead finished, it is now time to kick off my first week of prose writing. 665 words a day, one scene a day for five days, completing the act by Saturday. Let’s do this – see you tomorrow morning.

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Reflexive Settling

I am in a different state, after a day of trains, planes and automobiles, and I have a week of busy travel in front of me. That’s all fine, I knew it was coming. But what I have decided to do this week is something I didn’t anticipate – I’m going to take a week off from writing. This is not a decision I’ve made lightly – my committment, the title of this blog, is to write every day – however, I feel this is best for the creative quality of the novel. I have been systematically progressing, step-by-step, through Phase 4, an act a day, planning and outlining, building blocks day after day. And it’s been terrific, I achieved great results, my consistency to the task is what has allowed its success. However, when I started on Phase 5 yesterday, with a burst of impatient energy and wrote some prose to get me started, I realise today that while this was a terrific thing to do and it allowed me to jump the mental barrier of not being sure what my prose writing is capable of these days, I acknowledge today that it would do me a significant benefit to allow my mind a couple of days rest. A reflexive break where background thoughts can settle in new ways, rather than not being given the chance to rest up in the move from Phase 4 to Phase 5. I might call this week Phase 4 – giving my mind a chance to think in non-directed ways, to not have particular goals to address, to just be allowed to go wherever it needs. I’m going to still blog and vlog every day, internet connectivity willing as I travel into further regional territory, but the focus will be free wheeling and loose and without boundary, in all the ways I feel it needs to be at this point before I jump back into prose. Let this week be a week of unfettered day dreaming on the themes of the novel, and then next weekend I will be back home and planning my prose writing for the week ahead.

This is a good decision. I’m pleased that circumstances have presented me with it. I’ll see you tomorrow 🙂

Phase 5

Best guess is she has something to do with the medical profession, but there are no certainties here. Yes, there is the first aid kit strapped to her belt, but then, there is the bastardised samurai sword hanging from her back. She looks ready for war, wearing a flak jacket covered in red desert sand, but then, she is wearing thigh high socks and, yes, those are kitten heels, shiny red and highly reflective in the moonlight. Red is a theme here – her hair, the cross on her first aid kit, the sand on her body, her shoes, and it could just be dry tears having mixed with the dirt on her face, but it wouldn’t be out of the question to say there has been a film of deep red blood wiped across it not long ago.

This morning I started Phase 5 of my novel – prose writing. With four phases of background and outline planning finished across the past two and a bit months, I feel it is time to commence prose writing. I have been eager to start for a while now, but I held of until every scene of the book was navigated through planning. Now, I feel there is nothing left to plan for, and that all future planning will be prose planning, establishing content and feel, considering when particular messaging should enter or hang in the background, creating new ideas as they need to manifest but otherwise sticking to the plan I’ve established. I have a busy week in front of me, and Saturday’s wouldn’t usually be for prose writing, it would instead be a revision day, but I couldn’t help myself, I had to show myself I could still put words on page in a prosely fashion, so I can hurdle that mental barrier as soon as possible. 665 words a day is not going to be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination, particularly with my very demanding work schedule, and this week particularly I have a week of trains, planes and car travel lined up – but all of that is just a challenge to rise to. My no fail goal each day is to write, so I will at the very least write every day, and I will see how I go with meeting the word count. I need to write with fearless abandon, just get the words on page, edit it and make it pretty later, but for now, get the words on the page.

End of Phase 4

Today marks the end of Phase 4. In the vlog above I explain what that means in terms of where I am at now with the novel, with regards to remember what Phase 1 was (initial thoughts), Phase 2 (whole novel plamnning), Phase 3 (reflections and considerations) and Phase 4 (micro scene planning) – as for this blog, I need to run to dinner, I ended up writing and the end of the day rather than the start, so things like this happen – see you tomorrow for the start of Phase 5!

Oh, and look at this amazing concept art that arrived this morning, so cool:
Surgeon_and_Wheelchair_Fighters