Richard Wright

author of strange, dark fictions


The 20 Day Novel: Day 8

Captain Phillips

This evening I’ll be meeting up with some folks for a burger and a movie. It’s mostly to get out of the house, which I forget to do sometimes when I’m making stories. Apparently, Tom Hanks wrestles a pirate. Naked. For rum. Or something.

I don’t know much about this movie.

Lots to do today. As I hoped, I feel a little better after the slump over the weekend and the last couple of days. That’s good, because the daily word count I need to complete if I’m to finish the book before xmas has soared to 5865. That’s getting close to being more than I can sustain. Once it gets to 6000 words, then it is officially slipping away from me. I can do those words on good days, but not over and over again, day after day. At least, I don’t think I can.

So, this is D-Day. I need to turn my output around, hit or exceed that critical word count.

Okay. Facebook off. Twitter off. Email shut down. Bugger off, real world.

5865 words. Go.

10:35 – 11:30. 1110 words. That’s more like it. I’m in interesting territory right now. Last night, as I was about to go to bed, I realised what was about to happen next, and why the things I thought might happen were wrong. It takes the book in a very different direction, and I’m testing the waters with what I’m writing today. I’m also cheating a bit. With three point of view characters so far, I’m trying to make sure none have two chapters next to each (for the sake of variety if nothing else). Today though, I want to stay close to Charlie Banks, and am hoping to write at least his next two chapters one after the other. That means skipping whatever happens to the others in between Charlie’s bits just now. I’m writing out of order, basically.

Anyway, time for a break. We have no drinking water in the house, so I should fix that. I long to be able to drink tapwater again…

Ah. You know that thing where you think you’ve been referencing Norse mythology then you have a moment of clarity and skim back over everything you’ve done and discover that it’s all Greek and half of it doesn’t fit?


Just me then.

12:30 – 14:00. 1116 words (2226 total). Took a bit longer to get back then I thought, but this chapter is still going well. After the strict structure of Craven Place and The Flesh Market I’m enjoying not knowing how this story is going to pan out. That might be why distractions threw me so completely over the last few days. They’d always have had an impact on what I was doing, but it was probably greater because I have no clear path through this book. Going to take half an hour now, then come back for another shove at things.

Took a longer break than expected, but it wasn’t a proper break. Little details of the next chapter kept sliding into place, so I sat back and let them. Ready to go again now.

15:00 – 15:45. 1097 words (3303 total). Oh Charlie. Poor, poor Charlie. Things are not going well for him at all. Having decided during that last break how this chapter would play out, it is pouring onto the page so fast I can barely keep up. A quick break now to ponder the next bit and make sure that it isn’t pouring out as a shapeless, meaningless mess.

16:00 – 16:15. 246 words (3549 total). Just a brief burst to get this next section started. This entire chapter, and the one I wrote earlier, has taken the novel in a fresh direction, and added some pace and urgency to events that it didn’t have before. Basically, the whole thing has shifted from a cool concept to an actual story with a momentum of its own. I’m starting to like it very much.

Off to make myself presentable, then will be heading out for a burger and movie. I’m not done for the day though. I don’t see myself having any problem picking this up when I get back. Almost wished I hadn’t made arrangements – sure I’ll enjoy being out of the study for a few hours once I get there.

So then, Captain Phillips. A film with almost no characterisation built into the script, which instead relies on the not inconsiderable talents of the two leads to bring charisma to empty writing. It just about gets away with it. Brilliantly directed and structured, but very poorly written. It’s a true story of course, so I want to forgive the lack of suspense in the last hour. Once the navy turn up, everything is a foregone conclusion. That the audience sticks around is testament to the structure of the thing. At the very end, once rescued, the trauma catches up with Phillips in a scene in a medical bay where he finds himself unable to communicate or understand what’s happening to him, and that largely silent performance of belated terror and confusion is just about the first moment in the film where a character is allowed to be a character (and Hanks does it brilliantly).

Right, it’s half past eleven at night. Scrivener resets its word count for the day at midnight, so I’ll write until then and call whatever gets done a success.

23:30 – 23:55. 645 words (4194 total). Okay, Scrivener is about to reset, so that’s a good time for a break. If you’re the sort of teenaged boy who flicks through horror novels looking for the sex and violence, then you should jump to chapter eleven when you buy The 20 Day Novel. That’ the first act of violence in the book (that’s seen – plenty more is alluded to). Deeply unpleasant it is too, but this is a high stakes sort of story, and the adversary is one to be taken seriously.

I may come back in a moment and write on. Technically, I’m now getting a head start on tomorrow’s word count, so it’s going into tomorrow’s entry. Come back in the morning and see how I get on.

As for today, 4194 words complete. That’s starting to get back to normal, but isn’t there yet. The manuscript is now 28,328 words long, which isn’t too shabby. Tomorrow I have to do almost 6000 words, which is psychologically quite a big number. All the more reason to plow on for a while tonight.

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  1. Donald BDecember 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I am so impressed with your stamina Richard. You’re doing well even if you don’t think so.

    • Richard WrightDecember 4, 2013 at 4:07 pmAuthor

      Cheers! It’s the same for anybody, I suppose. The gulf between what you aspire to and what you can actually achieve is usually just a little further than you think. Still, it would be a boring world if everything came easy.

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