Tag Archives: starting a new project

Laying Foundations

So – yes. Hello. Happy Tuesday to you.

I regret to inform you that my plans for yesterday, Bank Holiday Monday (i.e. to do loads of work), didn’t really materialise as I expected.

It ended up looking a bit more like this than it should've... Image: gainesvillescene.com

It ended up looking a bit more like this than it should’ve…
Image: gainesvillescene.com

We had a lovely and unexpected visit from my parents-in-law, which basically made me relax and enjoy my day off. As a result, lots of the planning I wanted to do for my NaNoWriMo project is still undone.

This morning, however, I’m wondering whether that’s a blessing in disguise.

You might remember me saying that when I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I had a project in mind. I had a title for it, but very little else. I spent a day or two last week drawing up characters and their profiles and their relationships and family dynamics and the details of a plot, and then last Friday my brain was invaded. An entirely new story, an entirely different voice, a full-blooded, spiky and determined little character sat down inside my mind and a story started to tell itself. I scrambled for a pen and tried to follow this voice as it spoke, and three pages later it faded out. I’ve been trying to plan – all in my mind, of course – a story arc for this wondrous character ever since.

However, can too much planning, in this case, be a bad thing? Well. I’m still not sure.

It’s rare and fantastic to ‘hear’ a strain of a story, and it’s a lucky person who happens to be in the right place at the right time and whose brain is tuned in just the right way to pick up on a tale as it passes. Last Friday, I was that lucky person. I literally sat down and wrote, without even thinking, the opening few pages of a new book; I loved everything about it. I’m not saying these words are set in stone, or that they won’t change between now and the time I write ‘The End’ on this particular project, but I know it was exciting to feel so enthused and positive about a writing project. It felt fresh and spontaneous and free and unbidden, and I wonder if setting up a scaffold for the rest of it and expecting the story to fit a certain mould or conform to a particular plan, is something that will kill it stone dead.

Then, having said that, I don’t want to reach 20,000 words and hit a wall.

Image: thepunch.com.au

Image: thepunch.com.au

So, I’m trying to compromise. I’m laying foundations for this story, but they’re not solid like poured concrete, and there are no inflexible metal bits. My foundations are in my head, still – I’ll start putting them down on paper after November 1st, and we’ll see if I can keep the process as organic as possible – and they are, as yet, pretty vague. I have a main character, and I have a name for her. I have another character, and a name and basic outline for him. I have an Antagonist who has a Dastardly Plan (insert your own ‘mwahahahaha’ here), and I have a sense of the world they inhabit. Importantly, I have a handle on the voice of the story, which is different to anything I’ve done before – and, crucially, is in the third person – and I really want to keep that little voice alive, because it’s thrilling.

What I don’t have in any real sense is any idea how my protagonist is going to get from point A to point Z – as in, from the first site of conflict with her enemies to her final showdown. However, perhaps I’d do well to discover it along with her. I’m imagining a tense chase through the icy streets of Paris, a scuffle at the Gare du Nord, and a pair of stowaways bundling themselves onto a northbound train…

Anyway, stick with me through November and hopefully I’ll have plenty more updates to share with you. If you’re taking part in NaNoWriMo and you’d like to be my writing buddy (or if you just want to have a peek at my page), you can find it here.

Whatever you’re laying the foundation for today, I hope it goes well.

Image: ohs.com.au

Image: ohs.com.au

 

 

 

 

Baby Steps

At around this time of year, children start to go back to school. My local primary school opened its doors again yesterday to welcome in the very little people, those who are only beginning their education; I happened to be outside yesterday afternoon at around the time they were being released into sweet, sweet freedom after their morning’s learning. It was an interesting, and rather poignant, thing to witness. I saw one young boy, his schoolbag almost as big as he was himself, holding his mother’s hand as he made his way home. When I tell you his face bore an expression that wouldn’t have been out of place on a man coming up out of a coal-mine after a fifteen-hour shift, I’m not telling you a word of a lie.

Man, all that colouring in this morning was so hard... and as for *playing?* I mean, the teacher's a slave-driver! Image: roadtrip62.com

Man, all that colouring in this morning was so hard… and as for *playing?* I mean, the teacher’s a slave-driver!
Image: roadtrip62.com

This little boy – who can’t, realistically, be more than four – looked like he had been broken. It was as if all his tiny dreams had fallen apart, and everything he’d ever believed to be true about the world had turned to dust. I almost wondered if he was saying to himself: ‘Right. So, I tried school. I didn’t like it. At least I’ve got it out of the way. Phew! Am I glad I never have to go back!’ I wondered how he’d react when his parents gently broke the news that not only would he be going back to school the next day, and the next, but that he was actually at the beginning of at least fourteen years of education.

I have some very fuzzy memories of my earliest schooldays. I remember being shoved into a sandpit and pushed down a slide; the same boy, incidentally, was responsible for both these hilarious and rather painful japes, but luckily we became great friends later in life and I don’t still have a master plan in place to wreak my revenge upon him. (Honest.) I recall that my favourite school dinner, as a tot, was a concoction of small pieces of sausage mixed up with baked beans, which is something that would turn my stomach if I tried to eat it now. I remember a lesson about birds – I could have been no more than five or six at the time – which the boys at my table found hilarious because it mentioned ‘Great Tits’ and ‘Blue Tits’. I didn’t really understand what was so funny, but I do remember laughing anyway, as one does when one is outwitted by one’s peers.

Hahaha! I get it now! Hilarious! (I still don't get it.) Image: publicdomainpictures.net

Hahaha! I get it now! Hilarious! (I still don’t get it.)
Image: publicdomainpictures.net

Actually, I was one of those weirdos who enjoyed school. My parents tell me that I never really minded going back to the classroom when August rolled around, probably because I was the kind of kid for whom sitting down indoors and looking at a book was, pretty much, as good as life could possibly get. I really loved to learn, and – to be honest – I still do. Back then, being at the beginning of a school year was a wonderful thing. The excitement of empty copy-books, waiting to be filled with slanted, wobbly handwriting; the (not so happy) anticipation symbolised by the pages of my maths homework book, all the words I still had to learn to spell, all the fresh new textbooks waiting to be read… The memory of it still gladdens my heart.

While to this day I love to learn, it’s a shame that the one thing I didn’t bring with me from my schooldays was that same sense of excited anticipation surrounding new beginnings; nowadays, I tend to be rather more like the young boy I saw yesterday, he of the crushed dreams and tethered spirit. I look up at the mountain of ‘things to do’ and I get a so overwhelmed at the thought of how far I have to climb that I forget about the view I’m going to have from the top. Every new project undertaken is like beginning from first principles over and over. It’s so easy to allow the feeling of ‘I can’t do this again’ to shout louder than your desire to start something new, and make it impossible for you to keep going. Overcoming this takes constant vigilance.

I’ve been pulled out of my writing process for the past few days due to ‘real life’ issues, and so today I have earmarked for working on ‘Tider’. I know what I’m doing, I know where the story is going, I have a clear plan in mind; my goal is to write three thousand words before ‘close of business’. I have the enthusiasm for the work, and I certainly love the story. I know I can do it. Getting myself started after so many days away from it – taking the first step up that huge, looming mountain ahead of me – is the hardest part, though. Wherever that little boy is this morning – whether he’s crying into his cornflakes at the thought of another day at school, or whether he’s glumly packing his books and his pencils into his schoolbag, or whether he’s being supervised as he ties his shoelaces – I feel a certain kinship with him.

Getting started can feel like such a huge obstacle. However – as I’m sure that little boy, and plenty of other small people all over the country, will learn – once you get your momentum built up, there’s no limit to where you can take yourself.

Happy Thursday – hope it’s a productive and happy one for you.

Image: watoday.com.au

Image: watoday.com.au