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This blog documents my staying at home and writing (and the subsequent whatevers to that writing). It also serves as an online journal for friends and family. It is more-or-less guaranteed to be sans intérêt to most anyone else.

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writing about the story known as ‘Pirates’

2004 Reading List

Being a list of books read during the current year.
Sourcery
Hogfather
Moving Pictures
Pyramids
Soul Music
Mort
Faust Eric
Small Gods
Carpe Jugulum
Jingo
Men At Arms
Feet of Clay
Maskerade
Lords and Ladies
Reaper Man
Witches Abroad
Guards! Guards!
Interesting Times
Equal Rites
The Last Continent
Wyrd Sisters
The Eighth Colour
The Light Fantastic
Dark Side of The Sun
Strata
Only You Can Save Mankind
Johnny and The Dead
The Discworld Companion (with S.Briggs)
- Terry Pratchett
A Child Across The Sky
The Wooden Sea
The Land of Laughs
From the Teeth of Angels
A Marriage of Sticks
- Jonathan Carroll
Northern Lights
The Subtle Knife
The Amber Spyglass
I was a Rat!
Clockwork
Count Karlstein
The Ruby in the Smoke
The Shadow in the North
The Tiger in the Well
- Philip Pullman
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant
Witch Week
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Magicians of Caprona
- Diana Wynne Jones
What a Carve Up!
The Rotter’s Club
A Touch of Love
The Dwarves of Death
The House of Sleep
- Jonathan Coe
The Empty Sleeve
Smith
The Sound of Coaches
Blewcoat Boy
- Leon Garfield
The River Styx Runs Upstream [Le styx coule à l’envers - Nouvelles]
Ilium
- Dan Simmons
The Black Book
Set In Darkness
The Hanging Garden
Hide And Seek
Black And Blue
Bleeding Hearts (Jack Harvey)
Witch Hunt (Jack Harvey)
- Ian Rankin
The Wish List
Artemis Fowl [2]
- Eoin Colfer
Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K.Rowling
The Shining, Stephen King
Eastern Standard Tribe, Cory Doctorov
Free for All, Peter Wayner
Desolation Point, Dan Brown
Darwinia, Robert Charles Wilson

2003’s reads can be found here.
[writing]
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back to the grindstone...

Curiously enough, and I’ll admit that I’m one of the amazed, Pirates is back on the rails. I just started rewriting the points in Chapter Three that needed rewriting, and it started working. I’m rather worried. There are other points that will probably need changing, and I suppose that I shall re-read all that has been done up to now, but I think I can probably continue. I’ll keep you posted.

On the writing front, I have just finished reading The Wish List by Eoin Colfer, it was a great read, and while the end was predictable, it was very nicely done, and had some lovely twists on the way. It was also a fine book in that, at no point did it pull its punches. It deals with crime, old age, child abuse, moral problems, but at no point—except for the age of the protagonist, and her world view—did I feel that it was a children’s book. No, it was difficult and subtle. Just before this I had read volume 2 of the Artemis Fowl stories. This was disappointing. It was a good bottle read, but the fizz went out very quickly, and there was none of the nuance and feeling in Wish List.

Oh, and I haven’t been a good boy. I haven’t sent Juliet out to agents. I’m probably worried about this, and would like an impartial opinion. I’d like to change the beginning, but on the other hand, whatever changes I might make won’t change the Y structure. However I still wonder if this first scene [that I have in my head] would help or not. Should I send off the manuscript? Indecision…

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writing
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deed poll

I have also decided that Pirates will probably not have the name that I intended to give it. This also came to me under the shower. People close to me might say this might mean I should take showers more often. For the ideas, of course, the stink takes far longer to go away. All lies, all lies.

I thought:
The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He’ll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Yes. I thought. That’s it. Fine. Bring on the dancing horses…

. . . . .

For those who don’t know, deed poll is the old name given to changing your name. It wasn’t that, but the form of particular contract, except that form of contract has more-or-less dies out, except for name changes. And so the words “deed poll” are used familiarly to mean a change of name.

There you go.

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writing
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aching feet

This evening, with aching feet, I finished typing up Chapter Six. I have a few things to verify, but it would appear that this isn’t a blocking factor, that I can consider myself happy with the work done, for the moment.

I think that I will, when the time comes, read all of this out loud, and do the final check through like that. There are passages where things can still be changed and improved; the rhythmn tightened. Overall I’m pleased with how this is going, the material that I needed to add is in there, and it fits well. I’m just hoping that I won’t need to come back at a later point and add, or change, things. And, as far as I can tell, the story holds up. Of course, I’d really have liked the events covered in these chapters to just cover about 3 chapters, but, well, you can’t have everything. I just hope that they are not considered too boring and slow-paced.

Anyway, these chapters average out at 6000 words. Which means that, first of all that is a decent length for a chapter and works with my intentions; and secondly, that I have 30,000 words all lined up and ready to have fun.

Chapter Seven will need some more consequent changes. I’m even wondering if I should completely rewrite it by hand before attacking the typing. I will reread it and try to see.

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writing
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slow progress

This is not just caused by the fact that I am not getting much time to transcribe, slipping this activity into the spaces around trying to give Kim a fun time, but now by changes that are either necessary in the story, or just impose themselves.

Chapters Two to Four were pretty straightforward. There were occasional improvements, turns of phrase and so on to include. This was done without too much trouble and typing was quite fast [well, fast for me…]. In Chapter Five, I not only needed to rewrite a scene completely, but a new one became necessary. I also discovered that I hadn’t written the last scene in the chapter, just sketched it in. Now, in Chapter Six, I am finding more ‘notes’ rather than well-written scenes; scenes that need minor changes, passages that need major changes; as well as the common and garden re-reading and corrections, and the occasional ‘What the hell could I have been thinking when I wrote that?’ and not forgetting ‘What-the-hell-can-that-word-be?’

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writing
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long time, no blog...

I have been spending time with Kim and, in the moments that I managed to shuffle off to the side, I have been typing up the ‘finished’ chapters of Pirates. This is in the morning before she gets up and the evening, once I have read her the bedtime story. I am nearly finished with Chapter Five, and Kim is at the swimming pool with Ludivine.
I typed ‘finished’ in inverted commas because I thought that they were, but this chapter definately needed a paragraph between two scenes that quickly became an additional 2000 words and took me two days to write/correct. I have also found that the last scene is just sketched out, not written at all…

Currently the number of words for each chapter stands at…
Chapter Two: 5535
Chapter Three: 5111
Chapter Four: 6321
Chapter Five: 5758 [as yet unfinished]

If you don’t know why Chapter One is missing from this list you haven’t been paying attention. Coming back and typing things up, correcting and changing, has allowed me to get a better idea of how this story is coming on.

Quite frankly, I like Chapter Two very much. It has flow and unity. It must be my favourite so far. The others, I fear, don’t have that smoothness, they are more choppy as they contain more scenes. At least this is my impression, I can’t be sure that this is true. What is true is that there are many more things going on here. It might just be that Chapter Two was very easy to write, and left a good impression because of that. And that similarly, it was a pleasure to edit, correct and type.

So far all the changes that I have needed to make have been made, and none too painfully. I have cut a couple of scenes that didn’t add anything to the story and added the material that needed to be added.

With a bit of luck I will finish Chapter Five today and then get going on the next. I’d like to finish typing everything for next Friday when Kim goes back to her mother’s for three weeks. Then I can try and finish the first draft of the other chapters…

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writing
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fireworks

I have started typing up Pirates. I’m not a very fast typist, I’m afraid as I’m only halfway through Chapter Two. And I haven’t typed Chapter One, and I have been at this for two days already.

The two days is a bit of a white lie. In fact I work on this in the morning before Kim gets up, and now, at night when she is asleep. Plus this isn’t just transcribing from paper to word processor; I am working out the knots, the awkwardness, the changes that are in that notebook just behind my forehead. So far, I am amazed; this is a lot less bad than I imagined. And no, I’m not being pessimistic or modest. A lot less meant that I was prepared for purple prose, for an aftermath of adjectives and adverbs, and long, long phrases that went on forever losing all focus and purpose, so that at the end, people have completely forgotten where we started. Of course, all this is just starting days, I have plenty of time to get things wrong later, but for the moment, I feel good about this.

As to Chapter One, I have my latest set of notes, but as this chapter and the last one ‘speak’ to each other like bookends—well, that is my intention at the moment—I feel all right about leaving it that state in case I need to have to add, or change, material.

Speaking of Kim, I fear that she got a little bored today; I sought out the phone numbers of her friends and in doing so had to sort through so much mess I just got down and started making piles on the floor. Now things should be easier to find, and a list of ‘common’ phone numbers is pinned up over the pegs where we hang coats just inside the front door. But we did make a great list of all the free concerts and shows in Paris this summer, and added them to the day planner that we made. Most of the things start on the 14th, so we should be a bit more active towards the end of the week.

All we need now, is to find a good firework display tomorrow night…

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writing
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a pause in the pause

The opening chapters to Leon Garfield’s The Empty Sleeve have so far been wonderful. So full of ideas, sparse and pleasantly written, and that little sinister noise rustling at the edge. Kim stops me from time to time to ask about a word, but that’s fine, shows that she’s listening. I just hope that she’s enjoying it as much as I am.

Kim is with Emiline, who is getting quite rounded, this afternoon. I can believe that she’s pregnant seeing here like that [of course, it could be a very severe case of indigestion, but let’s not go into that]. They have gone to see Shrek2. For some reason this does not tempt me, and so I am quite happy to let them enjoy it together.

I am profiting from the peace and quiet to make the notes for the rewriting of Chapter One that I should have done three days ago. I always thought the psychology of this chapter was weak. But there again the lack of psychology is not necessarily a bad thing, I was aiming for Beowulf and that just seems more Thomas Hardyish than Henry James. Anyway, I have now found glimpses of 19th century Medieval slipping in: sort of The Lady of Shalott [which makes me think of this more precisely this ] meets Beowulf.

[complete aside on this subject. This brought to mind one of my first visits to the National Gallery when I must have been around 16. I rushed along to see the pre-raphaelites—probably getting distracted by the John Martin paintings that I discovered there; wonderful stuff for 16-yr-old boys…—and in front of, I believe that it was The Lady of Shalott, was a very beautiful girl, 18 to early twenties, a very pale pre-raphaelite style type of pretty, gazing up in awe at the paintings; she had a great plaid of thick red hair that stretched down to her bum. At the time I was utterly knocked out by the effect. About twenty years later, I realised that she probably posed in an around that section for most of the day, as it all seemed a little ‘too much’, both as an effect [affect?] and a coincidence…]

Anyway, I will continue with my Tennyson meets Beowulf and see where it leads. I wanted some Arthurian references around the place [there are others already there], so this isn’t too bad. It reads, at the moment, like something that one could have read in Arthurian stuff, but not quite able to put one’s finger on. That is, I confess, the sort of feeling that I’d like.

As I take the time to think things through in preparation for redrafting, other parts are also coming together: changes, bits that need adding. I am also realising that there are some more stories hanging around the edges of this one. I will resist until I have finished this—and, of course, then I have Died to write—but it might be interesting to explore some of these places again. We’ll see.

. . . . .

Note to myself: iTunes Precursors and Contemporaries is pretty dismal. I was wondering how hard it would be to put together a good recommendation engine. Have to think that through some time. Could be easy to do badly…

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writing
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I should not have stopped to think...

Since then I haven’t stopped. Thinking about little niggardly nagging things in the story, that is. [Should I have said, little niggardly nagging things in the narrative, or even, little niggardly nagging nuggets in the narrative, or would that have been overdoing things?]

Sorry for that interruption. As I was saying, thinking about these things that need changing. And thinking. And wondering if I shouldn’t work on the second draft of the half that is written, then I can incorporate those elements and see if it goes where I think it should [or, as I suspect, it might start heading where it thinks it should.] Whatever, this may help my waste less time [or waste it differently] when writing the second half.

Yet, all this means a radical [i.e. complete, floors-to-ceiling, and possibly beyond] rewriting of Chapter One. Who knows if the story might not profit from that to go off into new and unknown territories.

How come they never warned about this at school?

. . . .

Decision number two. Send off ‘begging letters’ to agents concerning Juliet. Ow!

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writing
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taking stock

Today is July 6 and I’m collecting Kim tomorrow, so this is, more-or-less, my last day of ‘unfettered’ writing.

Good points. While not finished I figure that I am, as-near-as-dammit, halfway through the first draft. While I wanted to be finished at this point, things could be worse…

Neither good nor bad points. Chapter Seven just ended yesterday. I had spent two days rewriting large parts of it. There is probably room for more improvement, but at least I have got the points that I wanted to, there, ready in place. And then, wham-bam, it finished. Just felt like a good finish and the next chapter started. Now this disturbs me as the essential conflict that will feed the rest of the story was supposed to start at the end of the chapter. This is, I admit, very late… Half way through the book? Now, with the changes yesterday it will come even later. And then I realised… The Raven Girl. She is part of the material that needs to be revised in the early chapters, but suddenly I saw her a lot more clearly and realised what she was doing. [Don’t ask. I mean, Colin was supposed to be the assistant before he started taking over the story which originally belonged to McHarry. Jones was supposed to be a strong character, but it’s obvious that, if I let him, Tom would run away with the story and not give it back, and then this Bird Girl who just wanders around waving her arms suddenly makes an attempt to grab the storyline also.] If I go back and put the Raven Girl into the places where she should be, plus in one or two more where I can feel her scratching at the door, I think that this business of Chapter Seven or Eight, or even Nine—I mean, who really knows? I’m only writing this thing!—will work out OK and the story will be back on the tracks.

Bad points. See above.

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writing
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blots and splodges

I suppose that there is a myth, an idea, a desire, that a book will write itself. That it will be so possessed by the Story, that it will just flow from mind to pen to paper. And that even the first part is not always necessary. That there is some distant imperative that will cause the book to be as the story must be.

Doesn’t work like that. SInce yesterday [I must be more than 4000 words into Chapter Seven, by the way] I realised one of the problems with the way that the story was smudging itself along.

Everyone is just too nice.

Oh, there are occasional ruffles between McHarry and Colin. Stone is not above teasing from time to time, and Tom has the potential to be a real pain in the posterior if Colin doesnt work out. To go back a bit, Gramps could be as deaf as a post when he wanted to, and Super could be… well, she was Super. But fondamentally these are all nice, friendly, decent people, ar heart. And Jones has all the makings of that also.

La-la-la.

How very boring…

I don’t want people spitting things out at each other, but how many times have you just had to work alongside an utter imbecile, idiot, wanker, etc. How many times has your boss been a raving looney, fascist, or just plain incompetent? And how many times have you not only hated someone’s guts, but it was mutual?

Life’s like that. So it should be all tweety-pie, but it rarely is. And then there are others, borderline cases, people who just persistantly work against their own interests, either because they can’t see it, or because they have a bee up their bonnet about something else.

Anyway, I think that I will have to go back and rewrite chunks of Chapter Seven. And I have a weird feeling that someone is going to fall violently ill.

Perhaps I should have just stayed in bed today and let the story write itself.

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writing
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rewrite

Chapter Seven stands at around 3500 words. This is a very approximate count of the sort—well this looks like a 310 words page, and this one is a 200, that’s a little under; aha, a 300… Very unscientific. But it looks like I have broken that Chapter’s back before it breaks my spirit… But I’m not entirely sure on that last point.

This Chapter is hell. Somehow I seem to be saying that about all of them, no? Maybe they are wearing me down. Anyway, it feels plodding, pedestrian: no sparkle. Not only is there a lot happening, but it must cover a long time, about 2 months in all. So it will definately be a long chapter. But I can’t bear the idea of a long boring two months drag.

To further complicate matters, new secondary characters have crept in, and they all need their place. There is street urchin Tom, there is Jones’ daughter, whom I fear will be called Alice, there is Jones’ wife… and there is a small black kitten with large paws who is scratching at the door for even a little role. I never realised it before, but Colin is crying out for someone like the kitten to look after…

So judging from the quality of writing in this Chapter, all my hopes of this being draft one have just sunk underground; far, far underground. Oh well, it wasn’t reasonable anyway. So this will all be draft zero and that’s it, don’t expect much else of me in this state. There may be a couple of nicely turned phrases here and there, but if the rest of the story doesn’t hold up, what can I do?

Rewrite. Rewrite.

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writing
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just to be getting along with

Put like that it sounds pretty good: I managed between 800 and 1000 words yesterday. I won’t be more precise than that for the moment as I have no intention of going back to count them, never mind read them. I could say that working yesterday was slightly more bearable than gouging one’s own eyes out, but that would be overdramatic. I prefer to say that it was like trying to dig a hole in deep and cloying mud. And that as soon as you managed to pull a spadeful from the heavy sticking morass, it all settles down and you can’t see the trace of your hole. And it was about that much fun too.

Today, to make things better I also have doubts about the story. This is new. Before I just had doubts about the writing. Now I find the story boring, predicatable and linear. This is not the sort of thing to fill me with enthusiasm and the desire to get down to writing.

Apart from that, I noticed yesterday that I have used 14 supersize black ink cartridges, since I started working on this book. This implies that if I manage to finish I will use up about 40. Somehow this seems sort of crazy to me.

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