Snowy Monday Morning #Haiku191 & #Novel-in-Progress Excerpt

alongside snowfall
chalk acquires a creaminess
hitherto unseen

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I’ve decided to take about a fortnight’s sabbatical to complete the first draft of Twicers,  the futuristic satire I started writing during National Novel Writing Month, 2017.

In January, for Friday Fictioneers, I posted a 100-word excerpt from the viewpoint of my main protagonist, Japeth. Today, you are to meet Blip, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and works as a computer and robot maintenance engineer at the Duffers’ Centre, a futuristic take on the Job Centre.

THE EXCERPT (260 words)

Overtime felt good because it meant starting work after closing time. No people. Just robots and a row of dispensing machines stocked with salt and vinegar crisps and cherry red energy drinks that she would raid when spring arrived.

It was February, with plump snowflakes tumbling through the twilight. The building inside was neither hot nor cold, but warmer than the temperature outside. The toughened glass windows had security blinds. Tonight, a few disgruntled duffers had gathered outside, looking as if they wanted to throw something harder than snowballs at the window, not that it was yet minus one degree Celsius and cold enough to make a decent one.

Blip hurried into the Centre, her graphite earmuffs over the hood of her hoodie and under the hood of her graphite parka. She saw the duffers without meeting any of them in the eye. Not that she was afraid of them. Simply, she wasn’t in the mood for conversation. But then she was never in the mood for conversation. On the rare occasions she had to pretend interest in what someone else was saying, it was agony, unless they were talking about animals, alternative energy, astronomy, chess, or computers, but only if they knew their subject and weren’t spouting bullshit.

She knew ‘bullshit’ was a silly word, as humans did not literally spew bull’s faeces out of their mouths; however, it was an excusable addition to her vocabulary as it had a hard-hitting sound to it and she couldn’t think of a more concise way of describing such idiocy.

The Pantser’s Antipenultimate Panic #Novel Writing

You would have thought by now I’d have learned the pitfalls that go with being a seat-of-your pants writer. Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, it’s living dangerously. And yes, every time I reach the final third of my novel I come unstuck.

This time it’s worse than usual. Instead of writing at my usual steady pace that sees a first draft completed in six to nine months, I slammed out 50,000 words in one month during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and then only had time to write 6,000 words in December, so I literally lost the plot.

Yesterday, I wrote three pages of dialogue between two people that did little to advance the plot. I may or may not have picked up on some threads earlier in the novel, but mostly I was waffling in the dark.

On reflection, the cause of this waffling is clear: that I can’t remember what I said earlier in the novel, or what clues I laid down. When a writer reaches the stage of to-ing and fro-ing every few sentences via the keyboard shortcut [Ctrl][F], it’s akin to playing yo-yo and hoping the string doesn’t snap.

The moment of reckoning has arrived. I cannot proceed in a southerly direction, when I keep on having to retrace my steps north. If I carry on like that, I will end up tearing out my hair and casting my novel into the trash bin. But I neither want to tear out my hair nor cast my novel in the trash bin, as I’m rather fond of both items.

Thus, my only option is to stop writing and return to “Go”, even if go is situated at the North Pole. This does not involve any kind of rewrite or detailed proofreading, but a straight read through to remind me what I have written in the first two-thirds of my novel. As I’m doing this, I will write a chapter-by-chapter synopsis to save me having to do so at the end.

What am I looking for?

  • Clues
  • Revelations
  • Contradictions
  • Pacing/waffle
  • Direction
  • The story arc

And to end on a positive, what do I love the most about the novel that makes it worth saving?

  • The characters
  • The wry humour
  • The quirkiness
  • The story’s overall premise
  • The setting
  • The novel’s title

See you all when I get back from the North Pole. Only joking 😉

Friday Fictioneers — Memory Stoked

The writing of my latest tome is taking longer than I expected, thus my urge to take a breather and take part in this week’s Friday Fictioneers challenge. Many thanks to Sandra Crook for the photo prompt and to our dynamo of a host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

My apologies for posting yet another excerpt from my novel Counting Magpies (last seen disappearing through a black hole into another universe, otherwise known as the publisher’s submissions backlog!).

Genre: Speculative fiction
Word Count: 100

~MEMORY STOKED~

Janice has never lived in a city akin to Warsaw, or witnessed multitudinous fire-gutted buildings, some with bodies inside. I trudge after her, weighted by a memory.

When I was seven years old the Mafia burnt down my favourite ice-cream parlour—some kind of turf war—with my friend, her older sister, father, and grandmother inside. Afterwards, I’d obsessed over visions of gallons of ice-cream melting into a rainbow stream that ran all the way out the door and down the road to forever, not to hell but to paradise. This fantasy was better than imagining the family incinerated alive.

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

 

Friday Fictioneers — Imprisoned

Many thanks to Rochelle for using my husband’s spiderweb picture as this week’s photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers. Some of my blog followers and visitors will already have seen this picture, which accompanied my New Year’s Day Monday Morning #Haiku 181 — Spider, thus to avoid spiderweb overkill, I’ll just post a downsized reminder of the original to go with my 100-word story for today.

My apologies for not having participated in Friday Fictioneers since last October. Throughout November I took time off from blogging to concentrate on penning the first 50K words of my latest tome for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and succeeded in reaching the necessary target to qualify as a winner. December was all about catching up with jobs and squeezing in a bit of writing when time allowed. January was a slow starter, but I’m now on the homeward stretch of the first draft of my novel, with about 15-20K words to go.

So here you have it, a trimmed snippet from my work-in-progress Twicers, which is a satire set in the not-too-distant future. My main character, Japeth, is loosely based on  my MC in The Parable Teller, a short story of mine published in the Aesthetica Creative Works Annual, 2011.

Please be warned that the excerpt contains a profanity but, under the circumstances, I’m sure you’ll agree my MC is being most restrained! Also, note that I use the singular of the word “heel”, as Japeth only has one leg.

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IMPRISONED

By now, his eyes had adapted to the false twilight afforded by a row of high-up windows at the rear of the workshop, each one opaque with grime and laced over with spiderwebs.

With the dogs at his heel, he conducted a search of the workshop and nearly tripped over a tin bucket. Toilet rolls were stacked on the shelf above, with a piece of corrugated cardboard propped up against them. The cardboard had painted on it in white the words “COURTESY OF THE MANAGEMENT”.

“Shit!” said Japeth, which seemed apt. Nobody needed nine toilet rolls for a short stay.

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To read other Friday Fictioneers’ stories for this week, or to add a 100-word story of your own, please click on the blue frog below.

#NaNoWriMo 2017: Two Winners In One Household!

Yay! We did it. My son Joshua and I managed to write the opening 50,000 words of our novels between November 1-30 during National Novel Writing Month 2017. This was the first time either of us had participated in NaNoWriMo, but we both felt the urge to do something that stretched us to the limit.

At one stage I was about a week behind with my word count and thought I wouldn’t make it, so had to do some mad 3,000 plus sprints per day to catch up.

Joshua managed to be more consistent in his progress but was a bit erratic in updating his word count on the NaNoWriMo website, so his final stats and graph looked a bit strange, which is why he wanted me to post mine and not his. In case you are wondering who Wolery Wol is, that is one of my online author usernames/pen-names.

My novel, which will probably end up at about 75,000 words in length, was inspired by a short story I wrote way back, titled The Parable Teller, so this is what I chose as my working title during NaNoWriMo but ir won’t end up as my final title as it is no longer suitable. This, my sixth novel, was intended as an exercise in shutting off that pedantic inner editor and recapturing that creative energy and dynamism that went with writing my first novel years ago. It worked, but doesn’t mean that I will skimp on the editing during revision 1, 2, 3, 4, or however many it takes.

When I started the novel I thought it was science fiction, but after writing the first three chapters, it dawned on me that it wasn’t science fiction but mainstream satire, which happens to be set at an unspecified time in the future (think Ben Elton meets Jonas Jonasson). In fact, it is possible that I have never written true science fiction, or true fantasy for that matter.

[Thank you, Bob Shaw for your book How to Write Science Fiction, which has been lurking on my bookshelf since 1993, and became my only reading material throughout November. It would have saved me from a lot of marketing problems, if I had read your book properly in the first place. Next on the list is Writing Fantasy Fiction by Sarah LeFanu, on my shelf since 1996].

My enlightenment has proved a liberation, as I am now free to embrace my quirkiness without the strictures of rigid genre.

My son’s novel is his first, although he has written plenty of short stories (you can read one of them here), plus he has a BA in History, English and Creative Writing. He likes to write fantasy: real fantasy, unlike his mother! His novel, which also has a working title that he intends to change, will end up much longer than mine and sounds potentially epic.

Lastly, I want to award my husband a medal for his patience and encouragement throughout November. It must be hard enough for anyone living with one NaNoWriMo maniac for a month, but to live with two, you have to be some kind of saint.