Archive for the ‘Novel Blog’ Category

First draft is complete!

Hurrah! It took me a couple of weeks longer than planned, but the first draft is now complete. I originally planned for 90,000 words, but I’ve ended up with a little over 101,000 (which is why it took me a bit longer). The work isn’t finished yet though. All I’ve done is moved from one phase of writing a novel to the next. I’ve done the fun bit, now I have the hard work to do. This is where I have to take a good hard look at what I’ve written, cut out all the crap bits, make the good bits even better, make sure I’ve kept the characters consistent, filled in all the plot holes, squished the typos, booted out all the bad habits, stuck a broom up my backside and swept out the garage. Yes, this is the hard bit – the editing. I’ll be blogging that process as well, but essentially, that’s what I have to start doing from now…

Anyways, to celebrate the fact that the longest bit is done and I have a workable story – I’m posting 10 youtube clips you might enjoy. They all have some sort of vague link to the novel ranging from hilarious to downright creepy. There’s at least one many have seen before, but it’s worth posting anyway (you’ll know it when you see it). So… be entertained.

1) I remember watching this on TV and couldn’t stop laughing. It’s cruel, I know, but the guy with the glasses – the look on his face is priceless.

The Grim Reaper – Just for Laughs

2) If you’ve ever watched Most Haunted, you might find this one amusing. Derek had this one coming…

Derek is possessed by… well, you\’ll see

3) The pepper’s ghost effect. This is an amazing, and very easy trick to pull off. Take a look at the first clip to see just how incredible and real it looks (there’s no cgi or camera trickery), then look at the second clip which is a tutorial using a scaled down version to explain how it’s done.

The Ghost at the piano

How it\’s done

4) This’ll scare the cheeses out of you (if you haven’t seen it already)

Ghost caught on film

5) And the link from that one’s pretty good too. Quite creepy.

Creepy girl in mirror

6) Great tune…

Ghosts N Stuff

7) The art of Zdzislaw Beksinski. Inspiring but dead creepy.

The art of Zdzislaw Beksinski

8) This tells you a bit about “cold reading”. It’s a conversation between Derren brown and Richard Dawkins.

Cold Reading

9) A scientific look at the soul – does it really exist?

Do we have a soul?

10) Oooooo – salad fingers is so disturbing!

Salad Fingers


What time is it?

Getting closer to the end of the draft now, but I still have at least 30,000 words to go which takes me to some time in March for completion.

I’ve come to a temporary halt in the writing for the moment, though, because I need to sort out the timeline. Every so often there’s a reference to what day it is or what one of the characters will be doing at the weekend or how long it might take for someone to get something done. Up until now I haven’t given that much serious thought; the important thing was to press on with the draft, but now, as things start knitting together, I have to be sure the timings are right. That means I’ve had to pick one of the important events in the story’s timeline and and work out exactly what date everything else happens, so that there aren’t any problems with continuity. So far, I’ve found out that a fairly significant chunk of things happen on firework night! Could be interesting and (unless I decide to change it) to work all the bon fires and fireworks into the narrative.

But I’ve also slowed down writing these last few days because I’ve been on a course at work (all this VB database stuff is turning my brains into cottage cheese), so a lot of my creative energy us sapped at the moment. Oh, and now the firs few bits of the draft have been posted up at Write Club (a private writers’ workshop) the critiques have started coming in. Favourable and very useful so far and issues have been raised that are worth sharing on here too.

More on that in a few days.

WC2011 begins

In a previous post I mentioned that the place I needed to be to get my work critiqued is WriteClub, and I made a start with that earlier in the year, but eventually held back so that I could get a head start before getting fresh perspectives on the novel in 2011. Well, 2011 isn’t quite here yet, but WC2011 is. The doors have closed to the public and all the novelists are in, accounted for and wringing their hands with excitement to get started. And get started they have.

Each author gets placed in a list and they have to critique the two authors above and below them. Well, not the authors – their novels. The groups have now been assigned, so I now know who my four are, but I don’t yet know what to expect. Two of them are new to WC, but already, I’m starting to see these are both talented peeps, so the feedback, I’m sure, will be top notch and very useful. So far that seems to be right. I’ve already posted an updated prologue and within a day I got some very useful feedback. The other two, I know already, and again, I’m looking forward to some pucker commenting – they’ve already helped me a great deal.

As for my progress, this may well slow down over the next few days – I have a day job (I wish it was writing!) and that day job has me back in student mode. I’m learning about database coding (no, don’t roll your eyes, I’m sad enough to find it interesting, okay? Oh, all right, I suppose that does deserve an eye roll), so my head is getting packed solid with numbers for the next week. And me brain can’t be doin’ wiv numbers and letters all the same time. No biggy though, I’m more than 50,000 words in and still hoping for an early March completion of the first draft.

Half way there…

I just sneaked over the 45,000 word mark today, so the first draft is half complete.

On another issue, if you posted something up here and it got deleted, or you registered and now can’t get in, please let me know. I was getting a huge amount of spam and so ended up deleting a tonne of stuff. If your comment was in there, I’m sorry! It’s all fixed now though, anyone posting just needs to enter that little validation sum so that the site know you’re a genuine poster and not one of those nasty little cyberbots creeping around the net.

The diary of Tyler Penrose

There’s been another new development on the format of the novel in the last couple of weeks.

It ocurred to me as I was starting to write a perticularly poignant scene for the hero, that for the side of the story involving his fall from faith, I need to draw the reader much closer to him. Usually I’d do this by using first-person perspective, but it didn’t feel right to write the whole novel in that style. The solution came like a blindingly obvious flash of lightning – show exerts from Tyler’s prayer diary as the story progresses. This will enable me to show, in great detail, how a person can move from a seemingly unshakable faith to atheism.

The first three entries are done, and it was surprisingly easy to write (probably because I’m drawing heavily from personal experience).

Each entry will take on a specific format based on the way many Christians organise their prayer times. First, Tyler will write down notable experiences of his day (this will help to summarise parts of the plot I want the reader to take note of). Secondly, he’ll list all the things he wants to pray about. Thirdly, there will be a Scripture reading (this will be an exert from the Covenant of Gaia that I’ve been writing too). And lastly he’ll write down everything he thinks God has told him as he prayed.

Everything’s going very well at the moment and I’m really enjoying the process. I have a suspicion the book might end up a little larger than the 90,000 word count I’ve been aiming for though. We’ll see.

The Covenant of Gaia…

Still hacking away at the first draft. I may not have done many updates here in the last few weeks, but it’s all still going strong.

I’m about 28,000 words in, which is to say that I’m about a third of the way through. I’m focusing heavily on characterisation with this story, more so than usual. Strong characterisation means that readers will hopefully care more about the situations they get caught up in, but there is a danger of it becoming more of a soap opera than a sci-fi horror, so I have to make sure there’s still a lot of other interesting ghosty/sci-fi stuff injected into the mix. It’s still too early for some of the really important plot developments to kick in, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought about what new ingredient will add a bit of mystique. Enter The Covenant of Gaia

For a lot of religious cults there’s often a collection of sacred scriptures that play a big part in shaping the faith of the believers. Specifically within the Christian realm Mormonism springs to mind. For those of you who don’t know the history – it was founded by a guy called Joseph Smith who basically pulled together Scriptures detailing his encounters with the angel Moroni. These documents got bolted on to the Holy Bible and became part of their doctrine.

So I’m going to do something very similar for the my lead character’s cult – he’ll be referring to a very old collection of sacred scriptures known as “The Covenant of Gaia” -  which he puts on an equal footing with the Bible. They’ll take on the form of mythical stories and fables, a bit like the sort of creation mythology you see in the book of Genesis,but I haven’t decided how I’m going to fold it into the novel yet. I may make it quite a small collection of ancient stories over a long timeline that gets revealed gradually throughout the novel, or I may keep it all as a completely separate thing and even release it as a different book (a bit like “Tales of Beedle the Bard” that marries up with the Harry Potter books – though obviously that’s a different genre). Either way, it’ll be useful backstory and some of it will work its way into “Gaia’s Engine” somewhere. I love to write that sort of thing, so even though it might distract me briefly from the main narrative, it’ll be a blast to write. I might even post a sample up here. Let me know if you’d like that.

Until my next post, have some fun over here. The Wyrd Shop problem page. I recently had a look around this shop in Edinburgh and they’ve got quite the selection of strange occultish things for sale, but on their website they’ve got this great page which acts as a sort of jokey advice section for budding witches and warlocks. It gave me something to smile at anyway. :)

Edinburgh Terrors…

So there we were, Ruth and I, heading off to the spooky underground vaults of Scotland’s heart. And let’s face it – neither of us expected to see any ghosts, orbs or zombies. At the most, I was hoping for the infrasound present down there to produce some sort of creepy psychological effect that would suggest otherworldly stuff, but my actual experience proved to be far more terrifying than that, and it didn’t even happen in the vaults! It happened in broad daylight in the crowded bustle of the streets…

Ruth: “Look at that bloke over there, he’s got his legs open. I’m not going to look. You have a look. See if he’s got anything on under there.”

Simon glances over at the Scottish pensioner seated in his kilt on the steps of a nearby monument. Legs at twenty past eight, the town resident appears to be minding his own business, watching the world pass by… with the open kilt. Watching. Waiting.

“Want me to check it out for you?” is my foolish response.

“Go on then.”

So I do, expecting to see darkness or underwear, but no! Oh, no. And the ancient, meat-and-two-vegness has forever burned itself into my brain. Lesson learned. Leave the kilt people alone! They fear nothing. Not even a cold wind.

Compared to that, the real experience in the vaults was considerably less frightening, but it did have its moments. We went on two separate tours.

The first was in Mary King’s Close where the scares came mainly from the guide who would bang her staff loudly on the stony ground every so often. Naturally she chose her moments well. Unfortunately no ghosts turned up, however we both noted the curious sensation of slight giddiness during the tour, and Ruth even remarked on a moment of faint nausea in one small room where there is supposed to be the ghost of a little girl. A huge collection of dolls and toys have been placed near the alleged sighting, so it’s a little creepy, but I suspect our symptoms were more to do with the way it was built (possibly at a slight slant) affecting our inner ear or something, or maybe it was breathing in the dust from the rafters that were supposedly composed of human ash!

The second tour, late at night, was called “The Ghost Hunter”  and the environment was far more atmospheric, the story-teller more animated. The vaults were lit only by candles, which were blown out behind us as we made our way through. At one point Ruth and I heard a mysterious clicking sound in the dark vault behind us and we were convinced a tour guide was ready to jump out at us. But there was nobody there – must have been the pipes.. or something.

The highlight for me in there was the sound of a motorbike roaring through the streets above us. With the acoustics in the vaults, it genuinely sounded like a deep-throated moan. Just shows what the power of suggestion can do.

So, although this was all very entertaining, there wasn’t much inspiration there for me. Not as much as the Mausoleum in Edinburgh we found on our last day. Part of that place (the Black Mausoleum) is supposed to be one of the most haunted places out there. We saw it during the day, but take a look at the photos below and imagine creeping around this place late at night. I think it might give you the wee-willies!

Spooky stuff!

Plenty of stuff has been happening lately. I got myself a brand spanking new PC with nice big 24″ monitor so I can fit more words on the page!

I’ve about to start on chapter 4 pretty soon but I still have a load of stuff to set up before I can settle back into my writing routine – files to transfer, applications to set up, software to install – that sort of thing. And there’s a huge temptation for me to spend many a late night playing computer games with this new beasty, but I don’t think there’ll be a problem finding the inspiration to keep writing – not when I’m about to spend the weekend at the Edinburgh Vaults! Check this place out:

It’s well known for its hauntings, and even a sceptic like myself will probably be hard-pushed not get a bit creeped out. Apparently it’s the infrasound. Not sure what that is? It’s a frequency of sound that seriously messes with your head. Google it and tell me what you find. Anyway, I hope I get to meet a ghosty – it’ll be very useful story material.

Started Chapter 2 today…

Had some feedback from someone else at Write Club (Stuart) and he tends to agree with Gayle’s comments, so that was further confirmation I needed to make some changes. I’ve done that, but it’s not been easy. Anyway, I’m getting badly hung up on the first chapter, so I need to move on.
I think I’ve got a bunch of problems with it, but I’m hoping that, when the rest of the novel starts to smooth out, the fixes for this chapter will come naturally.

The biggest problem at the moment is that it’s too long. I’ve been looking to cut stuff, but each section seems necessary at the moment. I’ve added my own notes/commentary to this chapter this time, a trend I might continue. I did it because I wanted to write justifications for each of the sections, and I think it helpded me think quite hard about whether I need to keep them.

With chapter 1 out of the way now, I’m a 1000 words into Chapter 2.

All change…

That’s the thing with the early days of writing a novel (well, it is for this one anyway) – things keep changing.

I started to write a prologue, but after a chat at WriteClub, I’ve decided to go back to first person perpective for this novel. So, I’ve now written another prologue in which our hero is looking back over events, about to face a serious showdown. Most of the rest of the novel will be all the things that led up to that event.

The pros of writing first person: It feels natural for the story as I started to write it, plus, this perspective always has the advantage of taking you right inside the character’s head, bringing you emotionally closer to everything.

The cons of writing  first person: It’s a very limiting perspective. You have to be careful not to write about things that your character couldn’t possibly know. For this story, that might be a problem. Plus, if I want to tell the story from some other characters’ perspectives (which I do), how do I do that from within Tyler’s perspective? It’s going to be a bit tricky.

For now though, I’m just going to get on with it and get some momentum going with the writing. Don’t be surprised if I change my mind again!