Saturday, January 07, 2017

Kill Your Darlings

So, anyway, I think I’ve promised to post here more regularly about four or five times over the last couple of years, so I won’t be doing that again. The reasons behind my lack of posting are various: private, professional and finally due to a degree of boredom and irritation with the social media.

A little while ago I decided that in the mornings (rather than sit in my living room with a cup of tea, with my Ipad open while farting about of Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere) I would go straight into my office and get to work. I also decided that in the evenings I would again avoid social media and read and watch more TV. In these the only one I haven’t stuck to is the reading – must make more of an effort there.

My working day now usually runs like this: I am at my computer by about 8.00 AM, I warm up my brain by reading about 10 science articles from various sites across the internet, then I get to work. At midday I stop to cook and eat (a stir fry is usual now), then at about 4.00 – 4.30 I head to a local gym for about an hour or so. There I do 20 minutes on a cross-trainer, 30 – 40 minutes on free weights etc., finishing off with 2,000 metres on a rowing machine (I have four routines I do and intend to add more, because I’m getting bored with them now).

My aim has been to do my 2,000 words each day. I had a week or so when I was doing more than that – continuing to work after I got back from the gym and not stopping till 8.00 in the evening – but generally it has been less. The results? I’ve done a couple of short stories titled Grawl and Logan. The first is an elves and orcs siege while the second is a Polity story loosely based on High Plains Drifter. I intend to write some more short stories soon since doing so is something I have wanted to get back to for some time. Then there’s the book…

As I have noted here before, the latest book for Macmillan was a bit all over the place, having been written in spurts over a couple of years between periods of anxiety and depression. I’d ripped it apart and stuck it back together again many times. When I finally figured out where I was going with it, a few months back, that was after I whittled it down from 110,000 words to 90,000 words, while it sat in a file named ‘Jain’. Further work brought it back up to 110,000 words, then I hacked it down again moving sections from it into a file named ‘Jain2’ for a second book. More work, which involved further deletions and the diversion of a black ops attack ship called Obsidian Blade, resulted in the file name ‘Jain1’. Next I decided I had too many character POVs. I removed the POV of one character along with about a chapter of work on the same and this resulted in the file name ‘Jain1a’. I then decided this character was superfluous, so I killed her, and this resulted in ‘Jain1ab’…

‘In writing, you must kill your darlings.’ – William Faulkner

The quote is quite apposite in this case. I found myself writing more and more about the character I mention above, and drifting away from the main thrust of the story. She had to go, so I whacked her. Maybe it was doing this that led on to what happened next. The end of the story in this book was in sight. I had three plot threads I needed to tie off in a satisfying way, while also keeping them open for the next book. I worked with two of them, thinking to myself that maybe I needed to do more. I then moved onto the third yesterday, wrote another section and then finished it with three words. I realised that this was enough – that because of those three words I didn’t need to do anything more with the other threads. There is more to do – tidying up, some sections to be expanded, additions to be made – but I looked at those three words for about 30 seconds then after them wrote:


THE END.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Story Engine Working

Last week was pretty good with a word count above 5,000 but still, sadly below my target of 10,000. I think I missed recording one day so I can’t be sure of the exact figure. No matter. I’m writing. The book has now reached 107,000 words. This figure would be higher but for the fact that I’ve excised one section and transferred it to file marked Jain2 – the second book. My ending for this book is in sight, though I have to do some careful manipulation of what certain characters do and do not know. Other manipulations too. And one other plot thread that I’ll probably cut out and move to that second book too.


The problem I face here is that I’m writing a story that will extend across three or more books. My job, for you, is to deliver an enjoyable, violent, sensawunda romp that extends across one book with a beginning, middle and an end. However it must also be the beginning of the overall story arc of the ensuing books. Here I have to deliver an ending that satisfies to a degree but leaves hints of that overall arc and leaves the whole open to continue. It’s a bit of a balancing act. Nobody said it was easy, but then my ability to do this is why I’m sitting at home tapping out stuff about an alien AI, the Machiavellian schemes of an entity called Dragon and the arrival of a Jain super-soldier … rather than having to do a proper job.

At present I am just aiming to just get this first draft done. However I need to do some research. Some concerns the Schwarzchild radius of a black hole relative to its mass. But the other thing I really must do is read some of my own books again. I need to read the Cormac series again (please, don’t get excited some of you – Cormac does not make an appearance in the present book). I either need to read all five books or, specifically, read from when Orlandine appears on the scene i.e. Polity Agent and Line War. To be frank, probably many of you reading this know the events that occurred in those books better than I do now.

But it’s all going good. The complications and convolutions that in past months had been worrying me are really no different from those in the previous books. All that was different was me. I mean hell, what made me throw in a character like Orlandine in book 4 of the Cormac series, or earlier decide on introducing Skellor or pulling a certain brass man out of his grave? It is precisely this stuff that makes it!


Okay, back to back to a little venture into Jain pre-history…   

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Moving On.

Okay, that’s the final page proofs of Infinity Engine gone through and sent back to Macmillan. I’ll just say that I haven’t copped out on this – Penny Royal does have an aim…


Now it’s time to get back to the present book. I am past 100,000 words into this (the previous books were 140 -160,000 words) and things are going well. I do have one plot thread and one short section (a prador of the King’s Guard paying a visit to the king) that I may excise, but only to transfer to the next book. ‘The shape of things to come’ is nicely solidifying in my mind and I can promise exploding spaceships, hostile alien life forms, highly advanced technology and ultra-violence. Of course it wouldn’t be a Neal Asher book without them.


On the personal front things are looking good. My numerous visits to the gym are paying off. I don’t feel quite so knackered each day and I’ve now got back to walking too – going off for a 7-miler (thank you Google Earth) four or five times a week. I did get a bit pissed off at one point when my weight started to climb, but then I noticed how my T-shirts are getting a bit tighter and my arms seem to have exploded. Psychologically I seem to have won, with no more depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

Also, because I’m single, not inclined to visit pubs or clubs and because my profession is a lonely introverted one without much in the way of a social aspect, I’m having a crack at this online dating. I guess, because of my profile, this is something I shouldn’t mention. But I’m not inclined to give much of a toss about that.

Anyway, it has been interesting to say the least. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Turn Around

I’ve finally turned it around. The latest book, written intermittently over the last couple of years, was a mess. I’ve said before how I just let myself go with the writing following plot threads that led off into the wilderness and then, on numerous occasions, tore the whole thing apart and put it back together again. This time I’ve again torn it apart, rewritten it and stuck it back together again. And it’s working.

I am now 9 chapters in and can get back to writing new stuff. I did my 2,000 words yesterday but am not yet contemplating going back to doing that five days a week. I don’t want to push too hard and find myself bouncing out again, which has happened before. Anyway, I have some other writing-related work to get on with and I have a life to rebuild beyond slaving at a word processor for you lot!

But on the subject of the new book, I can’t leave this post without a few obligatory teases. I decided to make the character who delivered something nasty to a weapons platform – one of many around a particular accretion disc – an expendable character who does not appear in the rest of the book. An entity I have dubbed ‘the wheel’ might be a Jain AI. I don’t know – I just write this stuff as it comes to me. Anyway, it certainly shows a great deal of interest in a Jain super-soldier. And Orlandine … why is she building two war runcibles?


Heh.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Polity Timelines

Thanks to John Lewis for these. Here are some Polity timelines he put together...






Thanks John!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Body and Mind at Work

Well, the exercise at the gym has been knackering me. I’ve done an hour plus in the morning seven out of the last eight days. I’ve then come back, done some work, eaten at about midday, then fallen asleep for one or two hours. Okay, I’m fifty-five so there’s that, but I am seeing quite rapid change to my physique and, over the last few days my knackerdom is decreasing. With this steady decrease my brain is picking up slack too and I’m working more…

Usually, when writing a book, I can happily record a word-count in my journal five days a week of 2,000 words a day. That is simply not occurring this time for … various reasons. When I started writing this book (this was maybe the year before last) it was while I was depressed, anxious and suffering from panic attacks. I would have periods when I would feel better and maybe do a few thousand words. Also I took the view that just getting words down was the main thing and would pursue any idea that occurred to me. This had always worked before and I could usually sew together plot threads, or excise those that added little, or remove characters I didn’t need or even meld them with others – do the work. It didn’t go that way this time.

The ninety plus thousand words I produced rather reflected the state of my mind. Disparate disconnect threads run through. Characters are subject to radical change, often illogical change and some of the things they have done just don’t fit a story arc, probably because I had no idea of their motivations.

You get the picture.

I have tried a number of times to resolve this, approaching the book with new brio and tearing it apart, making a fresh start, rewriting a lot, but such has been the state of my mind that my energy for this would leak away after a few days. I would gaze at the work in bewilderment and see absolutely no solutions. I was never actually blocked; just incapable of weaving together the complications as I had always done before.

State of mind of course.

However, over the last four months things started to change. Many of you have read here of my perpetual battle with my own mind. I’ve tried many things, some of which definitely helped, some of which might have helped. All I do know is that I started to beat the panic attacks, and that the anxiety and depression started to decline. I also got slapped in the face with a couple of things recently: I’ll simply call them reality wake-up calls. So I came back to England. And now I’m working…

I started on the book again and again felt things were unresolvable. I then, after working on it for most of a morning, just sat and thought about it for four or more hours, hardly making any notes – a level of concentration I have been incapable of for some time. I saw solutions but they were not easy – I had to dig them out of my skull. The next day I copied the book to a new file and started tearing it apart once again, and once again putting it back together again. And it is working; I am seeing my way clear to an ending. This, to go back to what led me into this ramble, is why I cannot record 2,000 words a day: I am rewriting, reordering and deleting. In fact today’s word count would be negative.

Something else happened too. This book is the start of a series of books – maybe a trilogy or maybe more – and I was getting the same feeling of where am I going with this about the overall story. I slept today, again, and when I woke up I started thinking about it all. Immediately I started having ideas about that overall story – they propelled me to my feet and to a notepad. Wow, I just love the way the mind keeps on working even when you’re snoring. The subconscious is like a bull terrier with a bone, it keeps gnawing on it till something snaps.

The way is clear now and I feel good about this.