Monster

Yup, I’m definitely gonna need more than a month.

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It’s not like this story is writing itself, anything but. At times it has been a tough job, slogging through the numbers: with the first crescendo of action about to happen, I reckon I’m probably about a third of the way in. However, there is an awful lot of exposition in here, most of it warranted. After we hit the end of this section, things can pick up a bit.

I reckon 100k is probably nearer the mark for completion.

There’s nothing stopping me going back and editing stuff out at a later date, of course: for now, the priority is to tell the story as it stands, and that’s proving surprisingly simple. I’m really, REALLY glad that time was taken to plan this in advance, because there are several points where if it hadn’t been, giving up and walking away would have been a really easy thing to do.

This time however, I have something to prove.

I am not getting any younger, as the hand will attest. The reason I started doing this challenge, so many years ago, was to write a novel. In all the times when the month was over and I looked at what had been produced, there was never really satisfaction with the end product. This time around, this is a piece of work to be already immensely proud of. Whatever may transpire, this will be pushed beyond a first draft.

Creating a monster will come with a new set of responsibilities, but until the story is done, size really will not matter. I’m already organising December’s content around this, so that there is no interruption to my writing processes. It is perhaps most satisfying all that this is a narrative not only to get lost in, but which also is throwing up some genuinely interesting new directions from the original pitch.

Speaking of which, I need to write a new summary to post on the NaNo website…

Oops, I Did It Again

Having hit 25k on NaNo this morning, there MIGHT be a bit of a problem going forward…

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This isn’t like last year when I decided to stop because other things were more important. Nope, this time around has come the revelation that I do not want to stop. There is too much fun being had living and breathing this new narrative. In fact, considering where I am along my timeline, this 50k could at least double by the time I’m done. It is entirely possible we have a full blown epic tale on our hands.

Planning has presented this as possibility, and because there is understanding of what else needs to happen around the words, it’s probably the right moment for a rethink. This time however, instead of panicking and tossing the whole idea because it won’t fit into my current lifestyle choices… let’s do this differently. Let’s rearrange everything else around what has become most important and work from there.

For a change, personal happiness can take centre stage.

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This decision has produced an unexpected, knock-on effect. A couple of issues that I’ve been struggling to resolve are now sorted, complete without issue. My exercise regime’s taking an impressive upward turn. Willpower, instead of crumbling when it became apparent I’d not finish to time, has strengthened, which makes the desire to eat bad stuff that I’m having to ignore considerably easier.

I’m quite a binary being, when all is said and done. To realise that this enjoyment factor has been missing in my life is important: knowing why has been something of a revelation. Relaxing into this process has provided a key to a door that’s been locked since before counselling was started earlier this year. Here, it seems, is an important space not only to be explored, but inhabited.

I’m really looking forward to where this new journey takes me.

Everybody Wants to Rule the World

As we established on Monday, my novel for November’s now finalised. The next step, as also committed to, is a written copy of the basic plot from beginning to end. I’ve been mentally getting this particular house in order during School Runs this week with my Spotify soundtrack, which has existed in several forms for a fair few years now. I realise already there are some gaps in action that need filling.

However, I can’t do that without the right pieces of music to help.

Music is immensely important to my creative processes: I can’t emphasise enough how much the right song will create vivid, compelling pictures in my head which I can then transcribe to the page. It doesn’t have to be classical either: this WiP has some unexpected pieces of modern music buried within… except I’m imagining them reinvented as folk songs, played on instruments from another time.

This musical accompaniment is perfect for my alternate historical setting, and it gives a special haunting quality to some key scenes. It’s also making me realise what an absolute godsend YouTube is for any writer looking to find the right atmospheric background for their endeavours. Now, if I could only find someone doing Prodigy songs on this instrument, I’d be golden… ^^

It’s likely the narrative’s gonna be done before the weekend, so that the missing pieces can be successfully filled whilst the most free time is available. Friday night therefore will be spent with headphones on and Spotify on my tablet, attempting to map the progress of what, I realise with some horror, will be the first of at least a two book series. There really is too much here to shove into one decent sized novel…

That’s a worry for another day.

Things to Make and Do

The decision has been made, I’ve changed my NaNo page BACK to where we started a week ago. No more indecision. There’s a Soundtrack being updated and many changes in my head as to where action was initially going to head. Now, however, it is time for some honesty. I’ve mentioned before some of the technical shortcomings that hamper my long-form fiction work: repetition of words, bad grammar and the eternal problem of going on Multiple Tenses Safari.

All of this is known well enough to handle without worry: I can cut out superfluous words, but not too many, because that hampers decent narrative flow. It is a delicate combination of when and where, it is apparent. All of this goes without saying, but the majority of that should happen during my editing period and not whilst I’m writing. The issues then need to be admitted in public before going forward.

I seem to have terrible trouble being confident my narratives truly work.

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This is a pretty staggering admission from someone who likes to believe, on most days, that she’s capable of telling a damn fine story… except, there are always holes. This is the problem… going great guns, ready to start working… then discovering the plot’s got a gap in it that’s not really that wide, but can end up looking insurmountably deep. This time around, therefore, I’m going to do something that’s never been done for a NaNo before.

It’s time to transcribe the narrative, longhand, from start to finish. I don’t expect this to be either pretty or easy, but every plot hole needs to be identified and covered. If this doesn’t happen, it will just be like the last couple of times when I’ve tried to write something complex: my own brain will destroy the fragile confidence built up over the last few months and BANG we’ve gotten nowhere. It’s not happening.

The story is going to be finished.

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The hope is if I can do it once, then we can do it again with a couple of the unfinished manuscripts on my hard drive. Now the major shortcoming in long-form writing has been identified, it’s time to crack on with the task. There’s poetry scheduled over the next few days, but space has been provisioned at the weekend for the all-important first pass. Needless to say, you’ll know how it all worked out this time next week.

Cross everything please, it will be very much appreciated.

Free Yourself

I mentioned it on Monday: Tuesday, it became inescapable.

The last time I attended any kind of convention was nearly twenty years ago, and it certainly had nothing to do with any kind of career move. When I took this change of direction, an awful lot of people made the point that to learn how stuff works, it’s not a bad idea to find people to teach you. There are courses to take online. Individuals will offer editing services or email critiques.

Or, you can decide to drive for four hours each way to a place halfway across the country based on your gut feeling. That’s why I picked Mslexicon: it’s the first time its happened, a writing-focused residential event and I’ll know absolutely nobody there. Judgement and preconceptions will therefore not exist, so they can’t derail me. What I get from the three days will roughly depend on what I choose to put in.

It is time to see if counselling really has altered my ability to be a grown up.

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I have a week to organise myself. It’s not like I’m not ready: this is what’s been planned for literally years. Going with an open mind plus determination to record everything I can, it will be an adventure. Frankly, it already is. If you want to follow my shonkily organised excursion, this is what Social media and Instagram were made for, right? I may not be willing to influence, but I do love to share.

Right, I‘d better start by updating my laptop…

June Short Story: Indigo

This story was first serialised in 30 daily parts during June 2019 via the @AlternativeChat and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 4pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


Indigo

Many ancient cultures, when presented with technology for the first time, were wary of its power over them. Stories persist, as aborigines and native Americans initially encountered cameras, that they refused to pose, fearing that a portion of their soul could be stolen forever. Such fears were clearly borne from ignorance, inability to grasp how technology would transform then improved our lives, extending longevity and enhancing experience. Watching my daughter’s tiny form on ultrasound, this first picture of her is most precious of captured moments.

I take picture of her ultrasound, uploading it to a Cloud already stuffed full of a lifetime’s worth of moments: college, first real date, holidays and home. The Bean’s mother and I, trying for five years; last round of IVF finally, blissfully rewarding persistent determination. Then comes a moment of instant, inescapable fear: should I do this? Once, when a picture was taken, the only way to share was by hand, passing prints to Grandma and Uncle. Now in a moment, the World can see, smile and coo. What a beautiful foetus you have both created with love.

Abbie’s staring from her position on examination couch: not for the first time, it is as if she reads my thoughts. ‘Delete that, please,’ and I do, without a second thought. Grannies can see the original. Uncle Chris too. Let’s do our pregnancy journey differently than expected.

Technology doesn’t need to dictate everything.


I buy film for the first time since college, black and white: it will be easier to develop at home. The Internet provides everything required to build a darkroom in the shed, re-purposed for my task. This is the right thing to do. Abbie picks up a pencil, carefully draws Bean in her womb, first time I’ve seen her do so in years. There’s enough money in the bank right now that she need not go back to work after the birth: relief is palpable, joyous. Something fundamental altered during our IVF experience.

There are those who don’t understand, of course: why no baby shower? Where are the Instagram updates of Abbie’s body shape changes, baby room progress? Having worked so hard to finally create life, why on earth aren’t you making an effort to share this journey with everyone else? We lie together, night after night, talking through fears. Best friends understand reticence to share, admit jealousy we can live without validation. At least one couple are doing the same, trying to disconnect. There’s growing disapproval at work at the effect technology has on lives.

Life is so fragile, precarious, and we’re reminded of this six months into the pregnancy. My mother has a stroke and within 48 hours she’s gone, nothing medical staff can do. Two massive bleeds, separate hemispheres of her brain. She never regains consciousness to say goodbye. Leaving Abbie in London, I travel up to Manchester to arrange a funeral: no service, or wake. A simple goodbye, and then she’s ash, to be scattered on Ilkley Moor. This massive house, my home for two decades, seems like a great place to start history anew with new, precious life.

With mortgage paid for, furniture and fittings good for many years, time to employ Abbie’s brother Chris to oversee refitting and updating this house as a family home. All work is kept in the family, everybody can turn the tragedy into something positive: we’re all back north. However, Bean will enter the world in London: Abbie doesn’t need more stress, I have no desire to generate extra work than we’ll both soon possess with a newborn. The few friends we still talk to locally happily offer to help shift and relocate lives: loss is slowly rationalised.

I’m aware of the Digital Freedom Act being implemented across media only in passing: when own circumstances radically change, it’s easy to block out bigger issues. When government happily voted for reverses decades of austerity, supports vulnerable and needy, there’s no problem. What isn’t expected is that Eleanor Ruby Freeman will become one of the first children born who are bio-tagged at birth. There are no need for pictures when your own DNA becomes means by which a definitive ID will always be possible. Photos and faces can be altered, after all…

A tiny chip, inserted into her heel, is used for health professionals to store data on growth and development, vaccinations plus reminders on when boosters and check-ups are scheduled. Eleanor isn’t even phased by the insertion process: other people however feel less sanguine. We discuss our now mandatory implants for several months: is this really a good idea? As with everything else, it is usage that matters most: we won’t augment with recording glasses, audio implants. Others may record us, but we won’t do so electronically ourselves going forward.


Amazingly, we are not alone. The introduction of mandatory DNA recognition corresponds with the collapse of several major social media organisations. Others demonstrate disgust at global oversharing by ignoring all but their local communities, shunning constant internet access. As Eleanor reaches six months old, I finally leave my job in project management. Abbie and I go it alone as traditional signwriters, combining joint art skills in graphic design and illustration. Wherever possible, we barter services for daily necessities or domestic requirements.

This is surprisingly effective when customers sell their own produce: vegetables, fruit and grains become the staples in our household. Meat is a luxury that I learn to live without, chocolate now too expensive for us to ever consider as an option. Our World is changing rapidly. Turn off notifications, shut off outside distractions and no longer are you considered insular, dangerous. Instead, community spirit rises, unopposed: Manchester is a beacon as London’s status as capital city is suddenly, irrevocably wiped from country’s maps almost overnight.

In a dreadful, catastrophic combination of tidal surge and unprecedented rainfall, Thames Barrier fails to hold back an unstoppable torrent of water. Hundreds of thousands of people drown in low lying areas, many refusing to leave their homes thinking warnings were exaggerated. Those who believed the incoming calamity was seriously overplayed by a Government that permanently erred to being overprotective perished alongside those who listened to fake news claims that global warming had been invented as a left wing conspiracy to destabilise big business.

The central database that held country’s DNA ID data was located in East London: as it vanished under a twelve foot tsunami, suddenly it didn’t matter quite so much how the Government identified anybody. As physical backup records survived, humanity went back to what worked best. I mourn friends that have drowned. We take in another couple, known since college, displaced and desperate for somewhere to feel protected. They both tell me privately how I have become their idea of heroic, my values their goal. A new future where care will supersede aspiration.

The country is shrinking, coastal areas rapidly being eroded, flooded and lost forever. Technology that was once lauded as life changing becomes dangerous and potentially frightening. We watch in horror as Sizewell Nuclear Power station suffers a meltdown, irradiating Suffolk. Our culture, when presented with technology, has made such great advances, yet in a year we have regressed decades, possibly far further. We celebrate Eleanor’s first birthday in darkness, candles not on a cake but as only light source. Power is now rationed, as are food, medicines.

However, optimism remains in our home, the larger Community. Adversity has change many who were bitter, angry and lost in the years before. The need to survive and thrive may be absent in some places, but not here. In a way, we were already prepared for working without support. As the future becomes less tech and more graft, I wonder what my parents might now think of all this: hundreds of years of industrial progression has almost totally been eradicated, by a planet that never truly thought through the ecological consequences of massive consumerism.

Eleanor’s birthday gift is hope: we will prevail, rise from consequences of our combined arrogance and make good what has been so broken and destroyed. We have each other, a strong and smart group of friends, joint desire to survive. I can but believe this will be enough for all…

Nice Weather for Ducks

It’s odd, sitting here, realising that the way in which I write is altering every time fingers are placed to keys. It’s become easier over time, noticing how other not writing-related stuff is evolving: grip strength, breathing, lifting skills. It never really occurred that in the process of redefinition, the same might happen with words, spaces and punctuation. The economy of process is producing some really quite startling revelations.

One of the most important things learnt in the process of the last six months came from, of all places, a random tweet. Those of us who hang so many hopes on ‘that one piece’ whether it be novel, poem or article, that if we can get just one thing to be successful, everything will fall into a place. It is the hugest of fallacies, of course: once you’ve done it once, it’s an expectation it will happen again.

The tyranny of progression, ultimately, is your own expectation.

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My mental Angry Mob still exists, of course, instant indignation at the latest rejection to arrive, but with meditation, cake and belief, it’s progressively easier to rationalise the lottery, for that is what this will always remain. Every time I write a post like this, situation improves: less stressed over failure, not bothered with validation: what matters most of all is happiness. Is this good? If not, how do I make it better?

Perfection presents itself in odd ways: phrases of poetry, means by which voice and feeling seamlessly combine, memory sparking creativity. The pictures really, really help too as my work becomes less about words alone and more the two things together. This might be a way forward worth examining in more detail too. There is such joy in creating my own backdrops, and this is not diminishing.

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May this enthusiasm never end, and may I have the opportunity, for many years to come, to create my own words and pictures for many more projects such as #EndoftheFear.

Honestly, I could not be happier.