It’s week two of The Last Ditch, and I’ve finally found the music I needed. Tunes matter when I’m writing. Stories like to have a soundtrack, and when I find one that suits my story it functions as a mental shortcut back into the action when I sit down to type. The sounds fuse with the fiction, and dump me back into the world I’m trying to create almost as soon as the headphones go on.
The novella that I’m currently writing is being crafted to a looped playlist of the scores of all four Transformers movies, one after the other.
I know, I know. Watching a Transformers movie is like being nailed to the floor and kicked repeatedly in the head by an angry rhinoceros made of rage and concrete. They’re awful*. The soundtracks though? Brilliant. Thrilling, emotive, full of soaring themes, doom, and rising bombast…I love them. How one thing led to the other, what Steve Jablonsky was actually watching when he composed the music, is a bit of a mystery. He can’t possibly have been watching the actual movies when he devised them.
Anyway, those soundtracks are a perfect match for the kind of mood I’m aiming for with this novella. They weren’t the first thing I tried – last week I gave the Gears of War suite, by the same composer, a tryout, but it didn’t work. Gears is ace, but there’s no uplift to it, just recurring swells of horror and tension (which makes sense, a game being a different sort of narrative to a movie). It’ll be perfect for something one day, but not this.
Anyway, now the Transformers soundtracks are no longer the Transformers soundtracks. They are the soundtrack of this novella, which makes me feel as though I have done the world a great humanitarian service. You’re welcome, world.
Right then, diary time. As usual, I’ll write these bits across the week and post them up on Sunday.
Today felt easier than last week. Only sat down to write at around two, but stayed sat, with minimal faffing, for a good three hours to finish Act One**. I think I’m pleased with how this is shaping up. It’s much less frustrating than the last time I tried to put this story down, and is much more eager to get places instead of hanging around and procrastinating endlessly. My internal editor is still mostly switched off, save for emergencies. Such as? It seems that even in the roughest of first drafts I cannot have a thrown chair ‘bounce across a manicured lawn before sliding behind a neatly trimmed bush’ without giggling like a schoolboy. Duly edited. A total of 2154 words done by the time I downed tools for the day, plus another restructure of Act Two as some new ideas popped out of what I wrote today. I love Scrivener for this – the ease with which you can mess around with structure.
Well I thought I was done cannibalising the previous version of this novella, but the start of Act Two requires some exposition. I already wrote that in the aborted draft, even if it was different characters doing the expositing at the time, so today was a little bit of new writing and an awful lot of revoicing previous material. Thanks to that I added 2994 new words to the draft. A lot of them will have to go again. There’s now more sitting around and talking at this point in the story than I’m comfortable with, but at least the raw material is there to work with.
And lo, he stared upon the black, expository pit that he had wrought, and he did despair. As well as yesterday’s material, there is a second chunk of exposition due in this novella, towards the end of the Act Two. Rather than have another session of heavy cannibalisation hanging over me like some sort of guillotine, I’ve jumped ahead to that part of the synopsis and filled it in. Most of it has been unenthusiastically ripped from the previous draft and dumped without edit. I don’t yet know how the action around that scene is going to play out, so I’ll leave the customising for when I get there. It’s all bloat right now, and suffers for being well researched. The curse of research is the temptation to use it, you see. To use all of it, whether it serves the plot or not. In this case, much of it doesn’t. While it might make for an interesting history lesson around the origin of particular real world artefacts, that isn’t what I’m trying to create. You’ve heard that writers should kill their babies, right? Research is the chubbiest baby of them all. I’ve worked hard to know all that stuff, and it hurts to take it back out of a manuscript. But it has to be done.
A total of 1995 words added to the manuscript today, about most of which I have enormous reservations.
All change! An opportunity arose for some family trips today and tomorrow, so rather than beat myself up trying to write in the gaps, I’ve brought my weekend forward two days. On my calendar Saturday was an admin sort of day, and Sunday a day off. A little jiggery-pokery later, and Thursday is my admin day with Friday my day off. I’ll write on Saturday and Sunday instead. Today’s day trip was to Glasgow’s West End, to enjoy A Play, A Pie, and a Pint at the Oran Mor. This week’s show was the excellent His Final Bow by Peter Arnott, in which John Wilkes Boothe awaits his reviews after assassinating President Lincoln. A lively two-hander to a full house, and very enjoyable. James MacKenzie gets all the flashy, eye-catching material as Boothe, and is both funny and exasperating at the right moments, but Alex Fthenakis does really solid work to meaningfully expand what could otherwise have been a one man show. If you’re ever in Glasgow for a few days, put A Play, A Pie, and a Pint on your to-do list. It’s usually excellent, and on the rare occasions when a show doesn’t quite hit the mark then you’ve only lost an hour of your life. And you’ve had a pie. Which makes up for it.
A day out in Edinburgh so that Eva could take in some art and Kirsty could marvel at the bones of a giant sloth, which she had not previously realised was a thing. Both missions fully accomplished, and I also had the joy of watching Eva see her first Botticelli. She’s a talented and fast developing artist herself, and recently declared Botticelli her favourite artist. When we stumbled over The Virgin Adoring The Sleeping Christ Child at the National Gallery, not having realised it was there, her reaction was similar to how some people would react to their favourite movie star jumping naked out of a massive birthday cake***. A flat out, awe-struck explosion of excitement and joy. Brilliant.
Today I’ve jumped forward again, to the explosion of action that ends Act Two. I’ve gaps to fill in earlier in the story, but the hell with it. I have images in my head so I’ll crack on with that bit now and go back later on. There are black vans, and narrow spaces, and heavy firearms. It’s all kicking off… 1658 words done today.
Finishing up the end of Act Two with explosions and chaos. This has been a fun set of scenes to write, nowhere near how they’ll read when I’ve gone back over them, but exhilarating to get down anyway. 1394 words done so far, and I after post this up I may go back and do some more.
So far this week I’ve written (or recycled) 10,195 words, and the manuscript in total is at 19,990 words. It’s been a really good fortnight, and a great start to this Last Ditch year. Next week I’m shaking things up a bit, dividing my days between more than one project. Dayjobbery resumes too, which will mean drastically reduced word counts I suspect, but I’m accounting for that. If you’re the sort of deranged masochist who enjoys this sort of thing, come back next week and I’ll walk you through it.
*Except for the final act of the third one, which if you can separate it from what somebody somewhere thought was a story is actually an extraordinarily thrilling Lovecraftian apocalypse in metal.
**Even after seeing the trailer for Thor: Ragnarock, which dropped today and which made me bounce up and down with delight at the sheer absurdity on display.
***Unless their favourite movie star is John Hurt, or Carrie Fisher, or any others who are dead, because that would be horrifying.