All I Want for Christmas is You

My husband phoned me this morning, and the conversation went as follows:

– What do you want for Christmas?

Cuddles

– You have a standing order for cuddles. This is not helpful. Really, what do you want for Christmas?

– … Cuddles?

Honestly, this year there is nothing I really want. Except maybe this chair but it costs £2000 + and I’m not that dumb.

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Then I thought about it. I’d like the Novel done (which I’m working on so you know, it’s going to happen.) I’d love a publishing deal. After that, honestly, there is nothing I want. I don’t crave anything. This is not about aggressive consumerism and never was. I’m remarkably simple to please. Treat me with respect, make me tea now and again and offer some cake and honestly, we’re utterly good. The Man with the Bag can skip me and go give someone else the cheer.

This is a roundabout way of me telling you guys that come the New Year I’m hoping to be a lot more active with general posting, and that the whole process of writing is still going on despite a daily word count update. I have a ton of stuff I’d like to discuss involving process too, quite apart from the other things I’ve promised myself to write. I just gotta get it all organised and out there and that’s always been half the battle.

If I’m quiet, you can guarantee at this point it’s because I’m working.

The First 50k

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I took a day off everything else yesterday because I knew, if I put my mind to it, I could finish the first 50k of the Novel. It’s pretty much written itself in the last five days, and I’ve now decided to take a day off looking at it as a work in progress and instead am reading it, like a novel, on my tablet whilst making copious notes of where I’ve contradicted myself. Then, starting Saturday, there will be two days of going from the start and working to the end and re-writing the thing to be more coherent, consistent and to fill in her holes (of which there are already several) Then on Monday? Away we go on Part Two.

I’d hoped to do more sharing of process along the way, but I’ve gotten far too involved in the journey, but that’s not a problem because now I have a month’s worth of alternative blog posts to play with. Let us begin, as seems only right and fair with the unofficial ‘theme song’ for my fiction.

In my imagination, this is the song that plays as the credits play over my fictional TV drama, which is based on the ‘Chameleon’ book. There’s a Baccarat table, at which someone is shuffling a pack of Tarot cards, the backs of which are the symbol of the Euclida (my primary group of protagonists). As each card is turned and laid, the pictures on the Tarot are of the actors and actresses that would play the roles of each ‘character’ as that’s how another of my protagonists both imagines and predicts the future. I’ve currently got Allison (who designed the front cover for Default) making me The Priestess, who is my primary female protagonist, Alexx. That’s how the original idea for this fiction took shape, but I have (amongst other things) a member of my husband’s family to thank for the basic inspiration.

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I’ve long held an interesting the powers of prediction, going back as far as my early 20’s, where my final year project at University was a Radio documentary around the myths and truths of Astrology. When I met my husband, it became apparent that his family has a link to prediction too. One of his Aunts is known as a notable psychic, and has a number of legitimate claims of validity to her name. Her daughter is also known for Tarot readings: I’m not here to either belittle or cast aspersions on them, because I have my own personal experiences of these ladies’ abilities. In fact, it is my one meeting with my husband’s aunt that forms a vital part of the thrust of the narrative. They say you use your own experiences to drive your imagination and they’re totally spot on.

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A lot of the book is wrapped around chance and circumstance, what might be truth and what could be intractable. This has always been a subject that has fascinated me, and it won’t be the last time I explore these themes, but this story has lived and grown in my mind over the process of the last five years. However, the story that now exists in words on a screen is in many places a long way from those original ideas, and has almost effortlessly evolved from one place to another. I’m really rather pleased with what I’ve managed to achieve thus far too, that this narrative is both strong and has a definite forward momentum.

Now, it’s time to take a moment to regroup, before I continue to push forward.

NaNoWriMo :: Day Seven

We’re a week in. Currently I am considerably ahead of schedule: so much so that yesterday I effectively took a day off. I reckon that once I’ve showered and sorted my chores for the evening, I will still have the opportunity to stick some more stuff to the total. In fact, if I’m honest, 20k should be doable by the end of tonight.

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I already know that I’m not stopping at 50k. Already there’s a sense I’ll need about double that total to get to where I want to be. Yesterday on the train I invented a number of plot devices I want to insert into the narrative: a friendship bracelet, a variant on the same cuddly toy given to successive generations of infants, a first edition of a very famous novel. All these things have relevance in the narrative. Now I just need to work out where and when they appear.

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Mostly, it is all going worryingly well 😀

NaNoWriMo ::Day Four

Absolutely the best thing about creating a Novel is that it is your rules and nobody else’s. That means, in the last two days, I’ve completely rewritten history. As part of that, I’ve needed to design an icon that will appear all over my ‘World’, which is a visual representation of the organisation in which my main character (and pretty much everybody else I’ve written so far) exists. I’ve been working at this for several weeks, if truth be told, and now I think I’m there:

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The fact it started as lady parts is really important: this is a female-driven hierarchy. It will be the symbol that appears on flags and standards, on the uniforms of the modern-day iteration of this ‘Regiment’and I can imagine it carved into the stone of ancient temples, castle walls and into the prow of ships. It will be a good luck charm, a ward to dispel evil spirits, and so much more. This is the moment where I wished I could draw better than I can, so I could come up with a modern graphical representation of this: I may give it a try as relaxation going forward.

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The word count really isn’t going to be a problem. I’ve stopped for the night, mostly because I need to think through my next scene, and I’m far enough ahead now to not worry about where this is going, because I know my destination. That means I’ve been cheating a bit and going back over earlier dialogue, but it is utterly worthwhile. I’m in a place that I cannot get enough of and utterly love, and the story as a result is just telling itself. That’s the most amazing thing of all, and makes me smile whenever I think about it. I have a story that really works, and the ease at which it’s translating from head to screen is a testament, I think, to the hard work I’ve done in previous months honing my craft.

This process has made me realise that a lot of previous ideas that have never made the light of day (and at least one that did) have come together to produce this story. Mostly, I can see all the influences and derivatives here, I know what has swayed this story to where it now lies. This is a fascinating insight into process for me as a result.

It’s also the most fun I’ve had with a NaNo since I began participating.

NaNoWriMo :: Day Two

Firstly, I’m STILL ON TARGET. Two days in and I haven’t stuffed it up yet. No cheating, no pretending I’ve written when I haven’t. Even though I’m broken from over gym-ing and stupid rep challenges I still did the work. Amazingly, this story is writing itself, though there is perilously little physical description of my protagonists at present. I can go back and stick that in later. For now, I’m more concerned with getting plot sorted.

The history I wrote works quite well as a general introduction, and will be particularly useful as exposition if required later on. Right now there are only two people to worry about, but the next issue will be to introduce a whole group of new characters and their relevance to this duo. This doesn’t frighten me nearly as much as expected. I also introduced a couple of things into play I’m really happy about, in terms of how this alternate world is described. Text is already being stared at with an understanding of what to keep and throw away. Most importantly of all, the skills learnt doing Bond really are beginning to bear fruit in terms of narrative confidence.

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I won’t have much chance to write in the next few days, but the youngest is having a sleepover Friday night which may give a chance to pile on some words. Right now, looking to the end of this ‘story’ there’s an understanding that this may be more than one book’s worth. The logical conclusion for ‘Book One’ is in one of three possible places: Central London, Manchester or New York, and there’s a bit of indecision as to where to go. For now, the narrative is sound to that last point, so if I wanted to leave the door open to continue? I could do just that. There’s never been an idea that felt like this for me before. Beginnings and ends were always the plan. To possess a concept that could run indefinitely? Exciting times ahead.

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Keeping a daily diary of progress is also really helpful, because there is an added incentive not to cheat and to keep momentum going. It helped a lot tonight that there was sushi as reward after a long day. It will help even more if I can get legs to work tomorrow and have another hour at the Gym. Working on a Treadmill is the best workout for my brain as well as body. Some of the best ideas come in the endorphin highs experienced from extended exercise.

I think that concept is more than likely to work itself into the Novel in due course.

 

NaNoWriMo :: Day One

Today, I began the way I mean to go on for the next four weeks, by pimping the HELL out of myself just about everywhere. That also meant asking the Writing Gods for a blessing: as I follow a bona fide one of those on Twitter, it was time to chance the collective arm for a thumbs up:

I had to explain the principle, but once that was done, Ian’s thumbs up was an inspiring start, and off I went… except I had already started earlier. However, most of that went out of the window and now there’s a prologue before my opening chapter and after that… well, I realised that if any of this alternative history is going to make sense to my reader, there probably needs to be context first. Here is where I have to thank the guy who taught an Evening Class in creative writing a few years ago, that told me that sometimes, to make your work make sense, you need to pave the way with exposition. However, to make that work in this framework whilst ensuring this doesn’t come from the mouths of characters? My first thought, if this were television, would be to use some kind of public information film. However instead I’m going to rewrite history in increasingly specific terms instead, using the conceit of historical textbooks.

That means that I spent four paragraphs creating a backbone of data that will become the basis for ‘The Condensed Diviner History :: Volume One (Origins and Hypotheses)’ by Professor Archibald Desmond Granger. Granger’s offspring already have a significant part to play in proceedings and it seems appropriate to give the seminal historical reference to the grandfather of one of my supporting cast. It also brings some much needed gravitas to my subject matter: imagining the world that exists in my ‘alternate reality’ is a vital part of getting the detail and tone just right. It helps that I can lose myself in this place for authenticity after all. On that front, I’m employing a technique I use for other writing, which is to assign an actor to each character so I can imagine them reading dialogue. This worked surprisingly well for the Bond fiction and is already paying dividends here.

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That means today’s total’s already well over what I need it to be, but it is likely to change tomorrow as I’ll undoubtedly take the synopsis I wrote and expand it out to cover more specific areas of ‘history’. What this has allowed me to do is establish the city of Inskit which occupies the space that would, in this reality, be St Petersburg. That’s not important immediately but will be later on. For now I’m going to be spending my time in a 21st Century London where Social media was never invented, computers are only used by law enforcement, scientists and the military, and where a country is about to vote on a bill that might condemn a tenth of the population to slavery, and possibly death.

If that’s something that sounds interesting to you? Watch this Space.