February’s progress report is a little late I’m afraid; not to mention somewhat scant on progress. Thankfully, I’ve got a pretty good excuse this time, as detailed in my previous blog. I know it will come as little consolation to my legion of followers, but life threw a pretty big surprise* my way a couple of weeks ago, which has kept me more than a little busy.
It’s time to get back to the daily grind though. So where did I get up to before everything kicked off? Well, as mentioned in January’s progress report, I’ve decided to focus on a standalone novel I’ve been working on, temporarily titled Blood.
In short, the story follows a legendary warrior who comes face to face with his own mortality. With death looming over his shoulder, he sets out on a dangerous quest to face his gods and ask them the meaning of his life. His only companion on this journey is an eight-year-old girl with questions of her own.
You can find the first draft of the opening for this novel here, but before I get to the juicy bit of where I’m currently up to, let me take you back to the beginning.
The general consensus is that there are two types of writers: those who plan, and those who prefer to wing it. I kinda disagree, but only because I fall somewhere in-between. Once I have the idea for a story, I need to know how it begins and how it ends. From there, I can sketch out a brief outline of the plot, using bullet points to offer a brief description of each scene. This outlining tells me not only how the story progresses from point A to point B, but also what characters will appear and where they belong in the world I’ve created. Generally, though, that’s as far as the planning goes. Once the writing kicks in, it’s down to the story and the characters to fill in the detail, which can occasionally lead to slight diversions or utter relaying of the road I’ve laid out for them.
For Blood, I used a piece of software called Scapple to outline the story. It’s a simple but nifty program that lets you create brainstorming diagrams and flowcharts to help get your ideas down as easily and succinctly as possible.
Here’s a (probably useless) shot of the outline I created for Blood, with the details blurred out so the novel retains some air of mystery!
As you can see (or possibly not), I’ve created a flow chart made up of bubbles for each scene/chapter in the story. As the story contains multiple point-of-view characters, I’ve colour coded each scene to the character I’ll be using for the POV (except for Part Three, where the POVs will be decided when I get there). This chart now gives me a good overview of the story, as well as a wave of satisfaction each time I finish a scene and move onto the next bubble. It will also come in useful for writing a synopsis if/when the time comes for submitting for publication.
For what it’s worth, I’d definitely recommend Scapple to any would-be writers out there, as well as Scrivener, the word processor from the same developers, Literature and Latte. I think you’d be hard pressed to find better tools for writing, particularly novels and screenplays. I won’t go into any more detail on them at the moment, as I’m sure there are a thousand articles out there about the benefits of both. That said, I’ll probably write a post or two myself detailing how I use them in my own work, along with any other tools I can think of to recommend, so long as I think there might be some interest in this.
That’s the plan then, how about the progress? Well, I’m around five chapters through of a planned twenty-four(ish) at the moment. The month of February was spent mostly trying to get over the first hurdle of chapter 6, in which I introduce a new POV character who has a couple of things going for her that I’ve not really tackled before. Firstly, she’s an eight-year-old girl. I can barely remember being an eight-year-old boy, let alone knowing anything about being a girl. Secondly, she’s blind. How do you write a third-person POV scene for a character who’s blind?
It’s fine though, I’m not worried. Old or young, male or female, blind or not, a character is just a character at the end of the day – writing one is much the same as writing any other. And it’s a challenge I relish!
What’s holding me back, slowing me down, is the same thing that’s always held me back. It’s that constant, unending, live editing I fall foul of whenever I try to write fiction. It’s as though every line needs to be perfect before I’m willing to move on, but getting that perfect line is easier said than done… and even when you think you’ve got it, the sparkle soon fades when you look back at it a few days later.
To solve this issue, I’ve decided to set myself a target of producing 500 words a day. If I can focus on hitting that word count rather than editing as I go, I can hopefully get down what’s in my head much quicker than my current pace.
That’s the plan anyway. And the word count should help to measure progress more accurately when writing these monthly reports. Hopefully.
Watch this space.
16th March 2018
*It wasn’t a surprise really. It was actually quite clearly sign-posted. They even predicted it, practically to the day.