Tag Archives: Citadel

The end is nigh, and other novel-writing revelations

A few weeks ago, the latest draft of Citadel tipped over the 100,000 words mark. It’s drawing closer to an end, when I can finally put this project to bed. I’ve spent the best part of 10 years on this story – though most of that time was spent learning how to tell it, rather than writing it, if that makes any sense.

That’s the nature of writing, I think. You can smash something out, but unless you study the craft and hone your talent, it is guaranteed to be a waffling mess. I look back at my early drafts, and they are practically instruments of torture – I cringe so hard reading them I give myself cramp. A lot of that was down to ignorance – ignorance of deep POV, narrative arcs, scene structure, character agency and the other mechanics of the trade.

But I’ve also learned to find the theme of a piece – the answer to the question: What am I writing about? If the answer is, “Radical battles and death and gore and political intrigue and titties!” you’re not quite there yet.

If your answer is actually another question, you’re getting closer.

But the biggest reason I’m excited to finish the story is that I want to do something else for a change. I want to write something new, something different and exciting. Something that I haven’t been mulling over for a decade. I can’t wait!

Why don’t I just sack off this project and do precisely that? Well, there are a few reasons: firstly, stubbornness is a factor. I said I’d do it, and I will, and not even me can persuade me otherwise!

Secondly, I don’t want the last decade to feel like a waste of time. I know it’s been a learning process – and that in itself is valuable – but to go so long without something complete and whole at the end of it would be pretty demoralising.

But thirdly, I’m not entirely without hope that Citadel is, in fact, a good story. I’ve no doubt I can do better, knowing what I know now, but there are scenes and characters in Citadel that I come across in the draft and think, “What the…? Who wrote this? It’s good.” There are moments that make my skin tingle, dialogue that’s witty and insightful (sometimes I don’t know if it’s me or the characters that came up with it), and tragic events that shake the very fabric of the world I’ve created.

So, I have to finish. And maybe an editor will say, “You need to cut out this entire sub-plot,” or “Do we need to see the antagonist in this light, or can we just leave him evil?” or “Have you considered doing away with description?”.

But that’s OK. It’ll be done. Finito. Complete.

A long, winding road leading to two words:

The End.

I can’t wait.

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2016 in retrospect

Yeah, I know; it’s almost February and I still want to talk about 2016. We’ve had enough of that monstrous year, I get it. But I want to ignore the political clusterfuck still smouldering in the UK and US, the hideous terrorist attacks in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul and the rest of the world, the rise of the alt-right (read: actual fucking Nazis), the permeation of fake news via social media, the gradual dissolution of political opposition in the UK, and the ever-increasing inequality our populace continues to vote for, like foxes voting Tory.

No – I want to talk about 2016 on a personal level. Because I’m a jabbering narcissist and assume I’m more important than our crumbling civilisation. It’s probably that narcissism that’s got us in this mess in the first place, but I’m a “Millennial” so I’ll do what I like, thanks.

So – 2016 was pretty mental.

For a start, I got married. I know, right?! I mean, who does that? Crazy stuff – but I have to say, it is rather nice. Actually, it’s almost exactly the same as before, but every now and then I mention “My wife” and I wonder whose brain I’ve taken control of, because that surely can’t be me, can it? With a wife? Like, I actually tricked someone into marrying me? And she PROMISED to stay with me, with no returns, and no backsies? Astonishing.

Continue reading 2016 in retrospect

What a writing journal can teach you about productivity

This week, I reached 115,000 words on my novel. I’m three and a half chapters from the end, on the home stretch, and already dreading the editing.Since October 2015, I’ve been tracking my progress with a writing journal, in which I record the time of each session, its duration, the number of words written and what chapter I was working on. A year later, I’m up to my eyeballs in data, and can draw some enlightening conclusions therein.

But first, a graph! Gadzooks!

word-count-oct16

As you can see, there are a number of lulls in productivity, loosely matching life events: Christmas in December, getting married and going on honeymoon in April, and being on holiday in August. Oddly, it is my holiday time that I’m at my least productive.

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The final Act, and the temptation to flee

Writing is like a salsa; for as many steps forward you make, there are as many back, but every once in a while you get to do a spin or a flourish, and those stay with you. They’re the good bits.So it is with me; I bear good news, with bad news, but my catalogue of narrative pirouettes thankfully continues to grow.

The good news? I’ve reached the final act of my novel, Citadel. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, a lot of forward motion, but with almost as much backtracking. Aside from a manuscript of around 105,000 words, I have documents of cut scenes and entire plot lines that amount to 80,000 words. That is a staggering amount of editing. And it sounds like a colossal waste of time, right? Still: FINAL ACT people. That is good news.

The bad news is I’m finding it difficult to wrap it up. I’ve escalated the peril to such a degree, all seems lost, as it should by the end of Act 4. But closing it out and reaching a neat conclusion is proving a challenge.

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This is a writing blog, this is a writing blog, this is a writing blog…

It’s been more than a month since I last posted anything on this blog, and that’s because I’ve been too angry to adequately form a response to my compatriots’ collective decision to leave the European Union. I’ve been making my thoughts perfectly clear on Twitter, so I’ll leave it at that. I just can’t…

So! In an effort to break this writer’s block down and rebuild, I’m going to avoid politics, socio-political grievances and the surge of rampant racism, and JUST TALK ABOUT ME.

That may sound self-absorbed – and it is. But honestly, I’ve written a few articles I could have posted, but didn’t because they’d all descended into total despair at the world. I mean look at us: from the shootings in the States, to mass murder in France, Germany and Japan, bombings in Syria, Somalia and Iraq, political “cleansing” in Turkey – for fuck’s sake, we’re putting dystopian writers out of work.

Continue reading This is a writing blog, this is a writing blog, this is a writing blog…

A man of few words – use facts to fix your fiction fatigue

I started a writing journal back in October to help me keep track of my productivity. Every time I sit down to write, I note the hour I start, the session’s duration, how many words I get down, the calculated new total, what chapter I’m on and any interesting notes therein.

This affords me a few boons: using the data, I’m able to figure out when I’m most productive, in order to concentrate on those sessions; but it also provides a neat motivational tool. Humans respond well to numerical targets and records, we’re interested in personal bests and incrementally pushing ourselves further and further, so being able to make a graph like this one can only be a good thing…

Word-count

Continue reading A man of few words – use facts to fix your fiction fatigue

The march of progress – #writerslife

Swarana and I have been back in the UK for three months now and life still feels like its in transition. We were travelling around south-east Asia for the first six months of 2015, having a look around and eating all the foods, so getting back into office/school-life has been, shall we say, taxing.

Now that we’re back, we’re renting a small bedroom from a friend, sleeping on a mattress on the floor every night and using a pokey airing cupboard as our combined wardrobe.

Living in a little room to save cash
Pokey

It’s cheap, mind, which was integral to our returning to London; I had to provide for both of us until the school year started and Swarana could return to work.

But, thankfully, we’ll be moving back into our house by the end of next month, which is exciting. When we bought it last year, it was an ant-riddled shit hole that needed a huge amount of work. We worked on it solidly until Christmas Eve last year, when we finally had to leave it to the estate agents.

Continue reading The march of progress – #writerslife

Authors – keep your eyes on the prize

In an effort to make my dream seem more attainable, I decided to etch the name of my book into stone. You can see it, up there, at the top of this blog… see?

What the Hell, let’s stick it here as well…

Citadel Book I
Inspirational title-in-stone image

(Hopefully, I’ll have more luck than Ed Miliband, who carved his goals into a giant monolith during his general election campaign and then failed miserably to achieve them. Poor bloke.)

As for me: I’ve never been so focused on anything in my entire life. I have the wordlust – from the moment I wake up to the moment I rest my head, the stories I have to tell are falling over themselves to get out.

Continue reading Authors – keep your eyes on the prize