Editing my novel

March 29, 2015

Way back in 1994 I graduated from Sunderland University with a Joint Honours Degree in Computer Science and Physics.

1994…

A world before Google, before the iPhone, before the ‘XBox Generation’.

In those days, I played a lot of Roleplaying Games (RPGs) on my C64 and Amiga A500 but the idea of Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming (MMOG) was a long way off, so I played ‘Me v The Computer’ and dreamed of an Internet where I could play in a world were the other characters’ behaviours weren’t just created by clever algorithms from a programmer but were other human players. (I’d have to wait 10 years for Warcraft: Orcs & Humans to become the MMOG ‘World of Warcraft’)

In those Halcyon days post-uni, single with plenty of time outside of my new job with the MOD, going to Science Fiction and Gaming conventions with my friends I had an idea for a game. An online, massively multiplayer online game. I started to make notes, sketch out my concepts, plan the structure…

It turned out that I wasn’t a good enough programmer to do what I wanted to do, and, as my work with the MOD picked up I had less opportunity to try and become one. So I put my ideas away, knowing (hoping?) that one day I’d get chance to revisit them.

Many years later I found a couple of old disks, they were PC disks but they contained files I’d rescued from my old Amiga. Quite a few of the files were unreadable, their formats long since unsupported, but many of the documents I had saved were in Rich Text Format and here I found many snippets for the idea of that game I had many years earlier.

So, in 2008, knowing my programming days were long behind me (like any language, if you don’t practice, you forget, and I was out of practice) I decided to turn my game idea into the backbone of a novel and save it from obscurity.

So, while at a Conference in Edinburgh in 2008 I started Endless Possibilities. The apartment I was staying at had no TV, so over five nights, I wrote 15,000 words. I had a lot of ideas and I’d have written more if I didn’t need to get some sleep while I was away.

I quietly slipped those first 15,000 words to my fellow WordWatchers member, Katherine Webb (who was soon destined for incredible success) whose opinion I greatly respected (and still do). She liked what I had written, but at the same time threw my a curve ball. “I hope we’re going to see more of Steely,” she said.

At the time, Steely was a throwaway character, a plot mover and so I was puzzled by Katherine’s query. So I re-read the start of Endless Possibilities and I’m glad that I could see what Katherine could see, that Steely was no throwaway character.

I wrote intermittently over the next few years reaching 95,000 words in 2011 when I ground to a halt. I knew how the novel ended but I didn’t know how to get from where I was, to where I needed to be.

In March 2012, I bought a little Asus netbook as a belated 40th birthday present having decided I would write the end of the novel and then work out how to join the two bits together. I started getting up regularly at 5am, writing until 6am, which is when my alarm would have normally gone off and I’d begin my day properly. During a 2 month purple patch I’d written 45,000 words and unexpectedly finished the novel (or more precisely, I’d reached a natural conclusion to the overall story).

It has taken me a long time (almost three years) to get to the stage I’m at now. At WordWatchers recent visit to Symondsbury, I barely slept, editing Endless Possibilities at a somewhat manic rate, cutting the 140,000 words of the two separate sections down to 129,000. Since I got back, I have written the section that joined the two parts together, this turned out to be 8,000 words in length, bringing the novel back up to 137,000 words.

Now I’m going back through the novel again, beginning to end, fixing the mistakes (today I discovered I had introduced an eight day week for example), creating a consistent style (I’ve changed a lot as a writer since 2008) and putting my skill as a 75-word story creator to good use to tighten the whole thing up.

As of this morning, Endless Possibilities stands at 129,400 words and I’m very close to the end of this edit. Soon, Endless Possibilities will actually be finished and by finished I actually mean ‘Ready enough for WordWatchers to read’ – which of course means it’s not actually finished at all!

For the first time in a long time I think there’s a chance that you might actually get to read this!

Thank you for your time.

John

PS – Other blogs that capture facets of this semi-tragedy can be found (in chronological order) here:

http://www.wordwatchers.net/tag-youre-an-author-and-youre-it/

http://www.wordwatchers.net/a-long-time-ago/

http://www.wordwatchers.net/a-procrastination-of-writers-part-2/

PPS Thank-you to those on Twitter (you know who you are), who have been Favouriting, Retweeting and commenting on my recent run of #amwriting tweets as I try to bring this crazy ride to a halt – you’re the reason that I have written this blog.

The Circle Sea fills with tears of sorrow

March 12, 2015

Sir Terry Pratchett is with us no more. I’m not sure how to convey how utterly wretched this makes me feel. It seems so unbelievable cruel and unjust that such a witty, thoughtful, insightful and incredibly amazing human soul is no longer with us.

I wrote in a tweet earlier, shortly after I heard the news: “When I started writing I wanted to be the next Pratchett then I realised that to be half as good as TP I’d have to be 100x better than I was” – and this is absolutely true. When I read Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic they were like no books I’d ever read before. They were incredibly funny, embarrassingly funny sometimes – it turns out that you cannot sneakily read a Terry Pratchett book when you’re supposed to be taking notes in a lecture…

But, as brilliant as those two books are they do Sir Terry a disservice, for they have none of the subtle, character-study, complex plotting and wickedly observed story telling that developed rapidly in his later books. Reaper Man remains one of my all time favourite books, it is such a stunningly beautiful book, Death in all His glory. I hope he treated Sir Terry well when he visited today.

I was lucky enough to meet Sir Terry, twice, at book signings. Most people who meet Terry Pratchett met him at book signings. The first time myself and friends offered to buy him a Banana Daiquiri  – he agreed to join us if we could find a pub that would sell it – we failed, although we did try. I really wish I could lay claim to have bought Terry Pratchett a Banana Daiquiri, but I can’t.

I thought he faced his Embuggerance with amazing style and I hope the legacy he started with increased research into Alzheimer’s Research eventually bares fruit and his determination to bring the elephant (four of them stood on the back of a giant turtle indeed) in the room of Assisted Suicide to a sensible debate rather than an embarrassed cough followed by shuffled feet and looking at the floor, should not be ignored. His documentary about the subject is one of the most upsetting things I have ever made myself watch, but I’m glad I did.

So, finally, I offer you this – It’s a 12K word Discworld Novelette I wrote back in 1998, it’s set just after Guards! Guards! A few people (all Terry Pratchett fans of course) have read it over the years – they’ve all told me they enjoyed it. I hope you do too.

RIP Terry by Narnmindwalker

RIP Terry by Sandara

 

Discworld_They_came_from_somewhere_else

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”
― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

 

Until next time,

John

 

(Picture by Sandara http://sandara.deviantart.com/art/Shaking-hands-with-Death-519841642)

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