Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Write-a-Thon Week #3 Catch-up

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Day #24 Progress: 1,350
Objective: +11,461/+30,000

Alright, touché, my bad.

One’s been horrifically remiss, blogging-wise. One may also be a tiny bit behind as regards the dreaded wordcount of doom. One, however, is getting back on track like a Pendolino on speed. I would stop to wonder why, except I don’t really have the time. Besides, I have my suspicions. The fear of failing the challenge acts as a bet within the bet. “Aha, see?” side A of my brain whispers in my left ear, devilishly attired in Prada, “You’re rubbish. You’ve let yourself go, there’s no way you’re catching up now. Particularly as there’s six, not five, weeks in total, innumerate cretin.” Side B, for her part, looks a different kind of business, and speaks in the other ear the no-nonsense tough love I need to hear. “30,000 – not 25,000 – words, she says? Splendid. Six impossible things before breakfast and all that. Nothing to it. I’ve got every confidence in your commitment, and even more in your fear. Now get back to work.”

And back to work I get, within establishments of caffeine in comfort-sized cups and apple crumble in tall sleek glasses, on picturesque riverbanks and quivering motorways alike. Sitting or lying, I crack on with the craft of lying with the truth in mind. Now, the bespoke mug supposed to remind me of Neil Gaiman’s wise words regarding the truth of the mind is – sadly – delighting someone other than myself, at some unspecified point between rural Warwickshire and Stansted Airport (not specifically an appeal, although one can always hope against hope). Yet if I close my eyes, the wisdom scrolls still against closed lids. 'Oh Lord,' the reel reads, on a roll by now, 'let me not be one who writes too little, a decade man between tales,' and as always, I need to brace myself against a reproach that feels like a kick in an especially grown pair. Ouch. Nothing like injured pride to get one galvanised for the messy business of creating worlds out of thin air, particularly when in fact the air’s half as old as you are, and thicker than the legendary fog of the Po Valley.

So what have I achieved in the past two and a bit weeks of being productive, if a tad on the uncommunicative side? Well, since you break the fourth wall to ask.

I’ve done & dusted Chapter 8.3, affectionately known as “Oh dear, all hell begins to break loose.” Therein I’ve made some rather enthralling discoveries. For one, what I have come to define as Ockham's Razor for Characters. Which, translated into Un-pretentious, means: never posit more characters than are strictly needed to make sense of a narrative. In all fairness, this was originally meant to be but a practical safeguard against a sprawling cast too large for me to even envision in a group picture. Actual application of the principle, though, has yielded intriguing results. Such as, Character Snapshot Too Vivid To Remain Half a Paragraph in Someone’s Backstory + Required Sentient Plot Device = A Living, Breathing, Believable Human Being. Granted, “human being” is here or in fact anywhere in my disquisitions to be taken in its loosest possible sense; doubly granted, it is but my humble opinion that this new (but not really) character is believable in any way, shape or form. This being said, if I don’t hold any such opinion to begin with, why should anyone else bother? More on this fine point later.

Another thing 8.3 reminded me of was that characters know best, always. William Faulkner’s writing process reportedly began 'with a character… and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.' It’s an easy example to forget, when your inner (who am I kidding? Outer) perfectionist turns into an unhappy workaholic, causing – cue reprisal of Gaiman’s rather magnificent voiceover – 'dread to replace joy upon the page.' Possibly the most magical thing about this marathon is that the pernickety OCD planner doesn’t get a word in edgewise, as there’s simply no time to invent psychologies as clear-cut as diamonds. What you are left with are interior lives about as clear-cut as twice caked-over boots, squelching in the mud. Given a blank page and a timer, the one who (for want of a less black/white term) I shall call my main baddie has evolved yet again, right past all my rosiest expectations. Writing about him is currently a dizzying mixture of tenderness, annoyance, respect and plain revulsion; what else’s to say? If he can inspire half that depth of contradictory emotion in readers, I will pat myself on the back and take my Muse down the pub for a pint or three.

Also on the dusted checklist is 9.2, which to begin with was a sheer, unadulterated joy. Quick-fire dialogue that writes itself 100 words a minute as characters bounce off each other like the bezzies they’re meant to be makes this a very happy bunny indeed. To end with, which brings us up to speed with today’s progress, 9.2 nearly made me weep into my coffee. It was all I could do to hiccup silently, teeth sunk into my hand in a strangled attempt at public composure. A good sign, surely, for – to take back the fine point I gave you to hold, and end prettily by borrowing a touch of (Robert) Frost – 'No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.'

Programmatically, tomorrow will see me delving into 9.3, excitingly enough also known as the last subchapter of Part 1. Once that and a couple of odd & end-y snippets here and there have been dealt with, I will officially find myself on Peak Halfway Through the Blasted Thing, looking down through the aerial perspective at the finishing line. I cannot begin to tell you how fantastic that feels.

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