about the unfinished story part b

by josephzizys

This morning I thought I would try to plan a bit more and talk about some of the issues I have going forward and a little about the process I am using. I started all this on January first this year when I resolved to write one thousand words each day as an excersise to train myself to write and to discipline myself in writing. I had quit my job at the end of the previous year with the intention of writing and studying, and I thought that having some goal would help me not to slip into sloth and despond. So far I have met my resolution, writing my one thousand words each day for about the last forty days so far. At first I wrote mostly diary entries, and reccollections about my past and so on, then I tried a few experiments with dialogue, then I found myself stagnating. I was continuously writing about how I felt each morning, what had happened the previous day, etc etc. I wanted to write stories, but all I was managing was a journal, and the journal was hitting a slow patch.


Part of this was because of when I was writing. I found that when Katie and Elliot where up there was always lots to do; food to prepare, babies to change, lots of noise and happenings, not conducive to writing. So I would rise sometime before them both and make myself a cup of tea and try to write my one thousand in the hour before they got up and before I did my meditation, this way I had a chance to write in quiet, and also to imbibe some caffine and wake up a bit before meditation.


As you can probably imagine this has several consequences. First, it means that I tend to write my words, save my file and then shut down my notebook so that I can meditate. No proofreading, no editing, not even spellcheck beyond what is picked up automatically. So the work is pretty raw. I have consoled myself about this by saying to myself that I will go back over the whole lot at one hundred thousand words and clean it all up.


Secondly, my writing continues to be almost completely unplanned, the hous or so I use in the morning is the only time I devote to it and it is devoted almost entirely to writing, not planning, this means that at best I will have a vague idea as to what I amgoing to try in the evening and if I am lucky I will remember it clearly enough in the morning to take a stab at it.


These two factors, lack of planning and lack of polishing, have meant that now that the inspiration, or desperation, required to write some actual stories has hit me, I am suffering from their consequences.


the unfinished story and a story both lack any proofreading or editing, but the unfinished story also, because of it’s great length, feels the lack of any planning keenly.


I am still content with my process, I have found that the task of writing under a deadline and with a specific quantity is still teaching me things and is still developing me, so I am resolved still to continue as planned; write one thousand words each morning until I have one hundred thousand words and then review, proof, and edit the result over several weeks, then start again.


For the next one hundred thousand I intend to set myself other goals, a continous narrative perhaps, structure, planning, but for now I go on as I have.


This leaves me still in a pickle when it comes to the unfinished story. I have resigned myself to the lack of editing, the awful hack phrases like “knew no bounds”, the constant shifts in tense, the overuse of adjectives, the uneven pacing and lack of proportion in some of the events from the emotional perspective of Lizzy, it goes on, and I would polish up each page a great deal more if circumstances where different. But then I might need more of the day for it, and I might end up with only five hundred polished words, and I am not willing yet to allow that.


I have not resigned myself, however, to leaving the story unfinished, and I have not now got the ability to simply ‘feel’ what happenes nexxt, now that Lizzy has escaped from her tower. So I need to plan more, and I have started to do just that.


Yesterday I spoke with my sister, and with Katie, about the unfinished story and bounced ideas of them, clearing up my own thinking somewhat. I have decided that Lizzy should find the world a kind of neutral place at first, that is the story should present the outside world in neutral tones until she encounters some obstical or adversary. I have been thinking of William Morris’s book The Water of the Wonderous Isle, one of my favourite fairy tales, and the tone set there after the heroine escapes her witch-mother.


I really like the idea of writing a story that recreates that style of Thurber or LeGuin or Morris but is set in a contmpory city like my own, a fairy tale with magic and everything, but with a modern, somewhat realistic setting. Jeff Noon and Vurt and Pollen spring to mind too.


So this is my planning solutioon: if I want to plan or think about the story I am writing, I can think and plan by discussing with people, but also by writing, and here I’ve written up my first planning session, not much planning done, but at least I have laid the groundwork. I was saying to katie that the logical thing for Lizzy to do once she overcomes the shock of the new is to work out where she is standing in relation to her view from the window and then go to where she saw the boy. I guess after that she would take stock of the scene, realise that the world is impossibly huge compared to her flat and that she can’t imagine where the boy could be. So assuming I don’t feel the need to plan futher ahead, that will be what I write up next.