The Writing Journal #4

Turns out there’s a lot to cover in this week’s entry, so I’m going to write a worryingly short First Act and cut right to the chase instead…

 

Target Number 1 – Add 3,000 words to my novel manuscript.

Status: ACHIEVED 😊

And then some! In aiming to add 3,000 words to my novel I actually ended up adding just shy of 6,000 words instead! I had to check and double check Word to make sure it wasn’t broken, and still am not quite sure I believe it isn’t, but I will most certainly take it as a big victory this week.

A couple of reasons for this immediately spring to mind. Firstly – a new approach to the creation of new places and people. One of my bad writing habits is that I usually get caught up in small details when writing a first draft, which can be a real momentum killer when it comes to the narrative drive of the story. This is not so much of a problem in a “real world” setting (Cardiff is Cardiff and evermore shall be so) but a fantasy novel, set in an entirely new world of my own creating, has only exacerbated this particular bad habit. Every place/person/object/creature/etc. has to have a new name assigned to it, be that fantastical or “real”, and it has to be the perfect fit. At least, to my head it does!

This week, though, I tried something new. Instead of spending hours and hours trying out all sorts of new name combinations and working out the agricultural contributions of individual farms we pass, I gave all the new places I came across a generic name, sometimes even just a letter, and carried on with the story. It seems painfully simple now that I type it like that, and I’m sure some reading this will have already arrived at this conclusion with their own work, but small habits like this often get overlooked and its important to confront them to help you move on with your projects, in the way that this particular realisation has helped me, and will hopefully continue to help me in the weeks to come.

The second, and perhaps more fun, reason for such a prolific week was that I got genuinely caught up in a “scene” that I was excited to write. Many, if not all, stories are a mixture of scenes or moments that are exciting and stimulating to write and those that are necessary yet perfunctory scenes for the overall narrative. Obviously when it comes to the final product your job as a writer is to make those perfunctory scenes exciting, but how you go about doing that can often be an arduous, frustrating process. This is the hard slog of being a writer. When you do come across a scene you love though, I feel it’s important to allow yourself to get swept away in it and enjoy the ride so that you remember why it is you set out to write this story in the first place. It’s a sense of exhilaration that you can feed off and use to propel you through when those more difficult plot points and scenes inevitably rear their heads again down the line.

 

Target Number 2 – Complete the step outline for the latter half of my screenplay.

Status: FAILED ☹

I hate having to write that I failed this target because it implies a bad week for the screenplay (again!) when in actual fact it turned out to be pretty good! Still, I set the rules of my experiment when I started and, under those rules, I did not complete the latter half of the step outline so therefore have to declare it a failure. Sad times…

Or perhaps not so sad, and let me tell you for why. When I looked through the step outline last week, I found that it was completely at odds with where the script had naturally gone during the writing of it. The key plot points were intact, but so much more texture had been added that the previous step outline bore little resemblance to the film I’m actually writing. I therefore decided that the best thing to do was to start the step outline again from scratch to help me get a better sense of where the ending had to go and what steps would be needed to get there.  This in turn led to another epiphany that took even more thought time away from my original target; namely that feature film may not even be the best medium in which to tell this story anymore. With the increased quality and popularity of the mini-series in the last year or so, it occurred to me that perhaps this would be a better fit for the tone and style I’m aiming for. It’s an exciting thought that I was keen to explore but, with only 24 hours in the day and a niece’s birthday party to marshal for, this unfortunately meant Monday morning rolled around with the original target unfulfilled. Failed on a technicality, but in the grand scheme of things, a much bigger success could be in the offing as a result. I’m not going to argue with that!

 

The novel is in good health at the moment, and I am confident that can continue with a little less attention this week. My screenplay, on the other hand, does require a bit more thought and so will become the main focus instead. Whilst the debate between feature and mini-series rages in my head, I still think there is a real benefit to finishing a first draft of a feature version to get the story arc right, if nothing else at this stage. This week’s screenplay target may seem a little familiar then, but with a whole new perspective attached.

 

This week’s targets:

  1. Add 2,000 words to my novel manuscript.
  2. Complete the step outline for my screenplay.

 

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