…The World Got Still

Butterfly brain has been to the fore this week, partly encouraged by catching up on some of the documentaries I’ve DVR’d over the last six months. I now have a half formed idea of an alternate universe somewhere out there where Mary I, Elizabeth I and Lady Jane Grey got together and said “You know, the three of us are way smarter than these fools who’re trying to write us out of history; how about it, ladies? Shall we?”

And before anyone points out that Mary, as a Catholic, wouldn’t have countenanced such an alliance with two Protestants: that’s why it’s only half formed! That said, I’m stashing the idea away in my ideas file – while it probably doesn’t work in any version of the real world, no reason the concept wouldn’t transfer across to a fantasy setting. Also going in there is the enormous “what if” concept of “What if Boudica’s revolt hadn’t failed?” – an idea that I’ve toyed with on more than one occasion, but never really got much further than that, partly because it is so enormous. There’s also a few more minor bits gone in there, like the hydro engineering the residents of Petra, the symbolism of Paradise Gardens and the details of traditional Sri Lankan cooking.

(why yes, my documentary watching is random and varied, how did you notice?!)

This coming week should be a little better. I’m actually off work on Monday, so hopefully I’ll have a decently productive weekend. I’d like to start March knowing that I’ve ticked off a full two months’ worth of writing (and maybe even finished something – that would be good!)

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…The Town Lit Up

Fair to say that my week didn’t entirely go to plan: I’d forgotten that the Winter Olympics was starting at the weekend and I do love me some speed skating and figure skating! (I’m less keen on the “chuck yourself off a mountain on a plank/pair of planks” events, but ice skating I get.)

However, I did get some work done. The opening three chapters of project 2 are solid, the next three chapters are in progress and the next three are outlined. So decent progress if not as much as I’d hoped for. Unfortunately, I failed dismally to keep a count of my words this week – it’s in the region on 10k, but more than that, I cannot say (because of having chunks of it already written).

I also managed to get some photos of both my planning board and also my current work space, so just to finish off this week’s update, here they are:

Bottom left is the passenger liner timetable from 1930, which I’m using to get my journey times right. Top right is a map of the relevant bit of Sri Lanka with an inset map of the world (I realised at the weekend I had no idea what else they’d see in the Med en-route, beyond the places I know they’d stop at!). Top left are some sketches of building plans so that I keep the location of the rooms consistent (and yes, there’s a bathroom included!). The note cards are notes for the first half of the novel. Bright pink is London; darker pink is the time at sea; yellow is the arrival in Sri Lanka. Roughly, there’s a note card per chapter until you get to the yellow cards which cover four or five chapters.

And my work space, looking remarkably NOT cluttered for a change! (Believe me, it normally looks much worse than this…) Most of the reference books you can see aren’t directly relevant to any particular project, but you never know when some of them will be useful! The timer is quite handy for doing writing sprints/bursts, while the note card is one of my cheat sheets for making sure that I spell stuff the same way twice. There’s also a mat for me to put my coffee mug down on (though as it’s directly behind my laptop, that will be moving) and a stand for my phone (so that I don’t sit there and fiddle with it!). All in all, it’s pretty comfortable.

So that’s me. More next week…if I can tear myself away from watching people glide around ice rinks!

…As Across The Hill

Apologies for missing a week – I write these posts on a Wednesday, between finishing my day job and heading to my evening job and just occasionally, I’m still actually working on my day job at 6pm…

That said, you didn’t miss much. The last two weeks have been simultaneously extremely productive and the complete reverse! On the one hand, I’ve been getting ducks lined up, plans written out and even got my planning board under way (I’ll post a photo of that next week!). On the other hand, I haven’t laid a finger to keyboard in anger, so my word count is a great big fat zero. Ooops.

However, this weekend will change that. I have some fairly detailed plans for three chapters of ‘The Hills of Ceylon’ so with a little luck (and a few uninterrupted hours), I should complete not just February’s word count but the missing bits from January as well and I may just have half a novel draft finished…

And The Sun Went Down…

Suddenly it’s Wednesday again and I’m not quite sure where the week has gone. Suffice to say, it hasn’t been one of my more productive weeks – and I really, really need to get better at carving out writing time.

Still, on the upside, I have managed to finish the chapter synopsis for project 2 and I have, tentatively, got a title for it. I’m leaning towards something along the lines of “The Hills of Ceylon” – at the end of the day, the setting is probably the most important character of the piece and the rest of the story is so much an ensemble piece that calling it something like “Ruth Abroad” feels like it doesn’t cover the half of it (even though that WOULD be a title with the right sort of tone!)

So what do you think?

For the week ahead:
1) Edit the first three of chapters of project 2 – it’s more a matter of find-and-replacing names that have changed and making sure that what’s left subsequently makes sense (the world needs no further instances of things along the lines of “He stirred his tea with his sthingy.”) than any real editing at this point.
2) Finish Fountains of Mustabah – at least in draft form!
3) Look at chapters 4-6 of project 2 and see what can be saved – I suspect not much of chapter 6, but the other two should be promising
4) Edit the last half a dozen or so chapters of project 2 – again, find and replace stuff more than real editing

If I can get all that done, I should be in a position to do some real writing on the project come the start of February.

Weekly word count: 450 (research/synopsis writing only)

…All Alone

Another week ticks by and the search for the answer to my cashew question continues apace – I actually think I’ve got the answer now (horray!), but I wanted to share one of my more…interesting search results from earlier this week, namely the additional searches Google suggested in response to my query:

Searches related to cashew nut history
can you eat a cashew apple
what was the first satellite called
cashew poison
cashew nuts health benefits
can you eat cashew fruit
cashew processing
cashew shell
who conducted the first bcci recognised international 20-20 cricket tournament in india

As they say, some of these really are not much like the rest of them!

In other progress, I’ve now pulled together all my bits, drafts and snippets for project 4…er…and located the starts of two rather intriguing stories. (This is what happens when I go spelunking through my archives.)

One of them, I distinctly remember, started out as an assignment that I ended up mothballing because while the intro was good I had no frelling clue what the actual story was! Looking at it now, I still don’t know what my story is but I think I want to try and find out, so welcome to project 5.

The other one is the reverse. I know pretty much exactly what the story is – in fact, it’s an idea I’ve been playing with for pushing twenty years (!) – but I had no idea I’d ever even attempted to start it. It’s a big, sprawling, intergalactic, historical, mythological beast that I thought I’d always been a bit too intimidated to ever begin. Apparently, I was wrong…so here’s project 6.

So, for those of you playing along at home (!) the full project list is now as follows:
Project 1 – The Fountains of Mustabah
Project 2 – The story formally known as A Chinese Adventure
Project 3 – The Black Path Saga
Project 4 – Freyja’s Daughter trilogy
Project 5 – A Soldier Walks Into A Bar… (No, that’s not its final title)
Project 6 – The Story Keeper

In terms of lengths, Project 1 is definitely a short story. Project 2 is a novel, but I’ve actually got about half of it written in one guise or another so it’s a matter of pulling it together and fitting it to the new location. Project 3 is a series of novels (it’s at least three, but it could be as many as six). Project 4 is three novels. Project 5 could either be a short story OR it could be a really massive big huge sci-fi/space opera thing (like I said: I have a great opening but no clue where it goes!). Project 6 is a stand alone novel.

Note: where the project is several novels I’m (probably) not going to work on more than the first part in the series (the exception being project 3 where it might either be the first part or it might be one of the middle sections – the full explanation of that was back in my first post).

So I need to get busy.

The plan for the week ahead is as follows:
1) Finish writing up the chapter summary for project 2
2) Edit chapter 1 of project 2
3) Come up with a title for project 2 (because The Story Formally Known As A Chinese Adventure is, frankly, silly – and I’m not nearly cool enough to get away with that)
4) Wrap up Fountains of Mustabah (I read through what I’ve got and as it really is only about 500 words from being complete in draft, I’m going to push through with it)

Weekly word count: 398 (research/synopsis writing only)

…Down a Dirty Road

This week’s been a bit of a reading week. Most of that’s been research-related (for Project 2) but *cough* not all of it.

I’m still hunting for that elusive information about cashew nuts (yeah, I really am not kidding about that!) but I’m now starting to pull together a lot of other information – I have plot (okay I’ve more or less always had that!), I have location, I have subplots and day trips, I have the British end of the names sorted out and (I think) I have a way to sort out the Sri Lankan names.

All things being equal I should be able to really start working on the writing side of things (while I finish up the research) this week.

On the project 1 front, not a great deal of progress has been made so I might possibly bench it in favour of project 2 – I’ll make that decision at the weekend and let you guys know one way or the other!

And in other project news, I’m officially adding a 4th project to my list of stuff to work on this year. It’s a contemporary fantasy series featuring Norse Gods, Roman history and British mythology (err, mostly not all at the same time), of which the first book is actually written (but in need of a goshdarngood edit/rewrite), the second book is about a third done and the third book has a series of intriguing bits written (including a really cracking opening pair of chapters – okay the first one does feature the cliche of the action turning out to be someone’s nightmare, but she’s a Seer so it’s at least partially justified).

So, for the next week I…
1) Will have a final bash at project 1 and decide if I’m going to mothball it for now
2) Will dig out all my drafts and bits and bobs on project 4
3) Continue with my research (won’t someone think of the cashew nuts…)
4) Read over my previous drafts for project 2 and make a start with updating them for the new location

Weekly word count: 450 (research only)

Well I Started Out…

First weekly update, right on time. And I actually do have some progress to report – which is not a bad effort for a year that is only 3 days old at this point!

On the project 1 front, I’ve been able to wrap up one of the scenes I was stuck on and I’ve had some thoughts (though none of them coming with any kind of word count) about the other scene I’m stuck with. If I can wrap that up I then just need to write the conclusion – and I’ve had a few ideas about that, too.

Overall, I’m feeling fairly positive about it. Of course, I’ll need to do some (considerable) editing, but it’s shaping up.

On the project 2 front, I’ve started my research. So far, it’s been less about learning new stuff and more about identifying what I don’t currently know (anyone know when cashew nuts became common in the UK?…!). I’ve got a word document that I’m stuffing my questions into for the moment so that I can keep track (and yes, I’m counting that towards my word count for the year because it’s just as valuable as actual story content – if not more so!)

The good thing is that a good chunk of my existing research isn’t invalidated (or probably isn’t invalidated!) by the change in location. In fact the first quarter of the book doesn’t change except cosmetically because my characters still have to get from London to Colombo and the route they’d take for that is either identical to (most of) the route to Shanghai or very similar (ie the ships to both travel east via the Med, Suez and sails round the bottom of India). So all the work I’ve done on that part is still good.

I suspect that my info on the basics of the growing and harvesting tea are also of use, but I’m less certain about that because colonial Ceylon and republican China in the 1930s are rather different locations. On the other hand, because Ceylon was an actual part of Empire I should find resources a bit easier to come by.

Oh, and I still need to figure out my title. (I did contemplate just going with A Ceylon Adventure, but it doesn’t have the right ring to me so I’m still thinking there!)

So for the next week, my main focus is is project 1. I’m hoping that a few good evenings on that one will see it done and then I can really dig into project 2. At the same time, I’ll be continuing to note down my known unknowns – and maybe try to convert a few of them into known knowns. (I wasn’t joking about the cashew nut thing, by the way!)

Weekly word count: 800 words (450 story; 350 research)

Marking Time…

Welcome to chapter 2, page 1 of this blog. I’ve done a spot of housekeeping, cleaned up the grot and we’re ready to go.

In 2018, I’m setting myself a challenge: to write 150,000 words (or 12,500 words per month, if you prefer your goals a little less all-encompassing!). What that figure represents is (roughly) two novels – so naturally, I have three* projects in mind for this…

Project No.1 is a short story called “The Fountains of Mustabah” and it’s an introduction to the epic fantasy setting that I’ve been working on for nearly four years. The short story’s only been in progress since September (I, er, got sidetracked with it through November/December) and is, basically, just in search of an ending (and a bit more middle, and maybe a bit of a tart up at the beginning, too).

Once I get it completed, edited, sorted and generally finished off, I will be looking around for a venue to post it – and as soon as I know where that will be, I will let you know.

Project No.2 used to have a title, but after a conversation at a Christmas party (which then percolated for a week or so), the old title no longer works, so possibly the very first thing I get to do for this one is get it retitled! It’s the story of an English family who, in the early 1930s, quit London for life on a tea plantation in Ceylon and the subsequent adventures they have there.

At present, I have about two thirds of this written in one fashion or another, but it will need rewriting, tidying and pulling together – plus the remaining third (which is planned but only written in a kind of note form) needs to be utterly revamped.

As with project 1, once I have it finished I’ll be seeking a venue for posting. With this, I may very, very well go the route of publishing with Amazon – but there’s a lot of words between now and that point. (Plus a lot of editing, plus a conversation or two with an artist about a cover – because if I’m doing this, I’m doing this right…)

Project No.3 is going to be more in the fantasy universe of project 1. Logic would dictate that I ought to be working on the beginning section, which is nominally called Mudlark and Marshrat, but the fourth section of the story (nominally called Emissary) also has a strong claim.

(Note: the universe actually started with Emissary, back when I first started noodling it, but in trying to write that it became increasingly apparent I really did need to know the backstory. It hasn’t helped that one of the central characters has changed sex several times – though she’s pretty well established as a woman now, I still have an entire draft where she was male, which has some good stuff in, but needs massive rewrites!)

As I won’t be looking at this much before June, I can leave this to percolate some more before I make my final decision.

There will be regular updates, each Wednesday, to give you an idea of my progress (hopefully, lots of it!). There may be the occasional other posts through the rest of the week, depending on what’s going on, but the Wednesday updates will be guaranteed at least through January.

So there we go. It’s not exactly a new year’s resolution – but it should make the coming year a productive one.

*Okay, yes, I know. I have tonnes of projects I could have picked on, and I do reserve the right to let my mind do the butterfly thing if I get particularly stuck with anything I’m working on. If I do flit projects, it’ll be in my weekly update!