So that is the first part of Slipwater in the books – pun intended. That’s fourteen chapters and just over 45,000 words. I’ve amended a few things and added approximately 1,500 words along the way, but no change is an isolated thing: everything has repercussions. Fortunately most of those are a case of simply changing a line or two at another point in the story to fit the new logic, but sometimes I have to turn off the laptop and get some fresh air to save me from throwing the machine out the window.
But, deep breath… I’m halfway home.
It’s back there, behind some trees, but I can see it now.
I’ve refined the first nine chapters of Slipwater, which comes to just over 30,000 words, and I am still on course to have this completed by the end of the month and get started with the submission process in February. So thats all good. The word count has increased marginally, I’ve added some important details, and – with the benefit of having the entire plot in front of me – have managed to retrofit some nice little MacGuffins along the way. Foreshadowing is a lot more impressive when you know what you’re predicting…
I always respected the art of creating a novel – and it is an art, whether you like the finished product or not – but if I was to offer one piece of advice to budding first-time novelists, it would probably be this:
— write a simple story, and tell it well —
That’s really all you need to do. Make people laugh, make them cry. Make your words entertaining. Write what you know, and don’t have too many plot threads. Don’t go down the path that I have and try to sprinkle in a serial killer, a suicide, a toxic friendship, a misguided shot at redemption, and a theory about the multiverse.
Because that will just get messy.
So I have gone through the first seven chapters of Slipwater – tidied it up, trimmed the fat, tried to squeeze as much story out of my words as I can – and although writing a novel is somewhat like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge (in that once you reach the end you head back to the other end and start again) it’s getting to the point where I’m really happy with the story on a sentence by sentence level.
The problem (if there is a problem) is… distance.
Slipwater is the town central to the plot of the novel, but I have played a little fast and loose with its distance from other locations in the story. Ideally it needs to be further away, but then that interferes with how long it takes to get there, which also means my day/night cycle is turned on its head, which in turn doesn’t really work for the characters involved in the travelling…
You get my drift.
I appreciate all of this is without context and therefore completely meaningless, but the more of the onion that I peel away the more apparent it becomes that I will need to fix this before I can send the novel out for publication.
I could probably get away with it – most readers would likely not even notice – but I’ve been sitting with it for a long time now and these logic issues scream at me from the virtual page. If I’m going to give myself the best shot at success… I need to ensure that what I send out is the best it can be.
So my first kiss in the year 2018 was shared with a guy, which is totally fine – we should all strive to experience new things, while we are still young enough to enjoy them – and although it is true that he was a better kisser than most of the girls I have had the pleasure of interacting with since my lips began actively seeking out others, this is not really what I meant when I internally concluded that this year I wanted to expand my horizons.
Still… I’ve had worse starts to the year.
I’m not one for making resolutions – be they New Year ones or otherwise. The first day of the year is a fairly arbitrary time to be changing certain patterns in your life, or to be telling yourself and others that things are going to change or this year things will be different… but today I’m willing to follow social convention and do just that.
The one thing I want to do in 2018 is to find a publisher for Slipwater. I don’t think this is out of my reach at all, and if I thought this was just a pipe dream I wouldn’t be writing about it here. The story is interesting, thought-provoking, and well-written. It’s not Dickens or Shakespeare by any means, but it is miles better than a lot of novels I’ve read in recent years! I am well on the way to completing a final draft of the manuscript, and am very happy with what I’ve produced so far, and I’ve pencilled in February as the month to start the process of sending it off for scrutiny.
So that’s it: find an editor who likes it. That’s not so much to ask for, is it? And if by this time next year I’m still twiddling my thumbs…
…well, that’s not going to happen.
Watch this space.
A Die Hard Christmas by Doogie Horner (illustrated by JJ Harrison) – 2017
Now I don’t make a habit of reading illustrated storybooks, much less receiving them as Christmas gifts, but this year in my festive stocking, I found this little marvel from my sister – something that I didn’t even know existed. Having read it and seen the presentation I’m surprised it took so long to turn this genius idea into a reality.
A Die Hard Christmas is based upon the greatest movie ever made* boiled down to thirty pages of rhyming couplets, complete with gorgeous illustrations throughout. There are some instantly memorable visuals that really (somewhat surprisingly) capture the action classic, and the story itself (even more surprisingly) actually works quite well in this condensed form.
Of course, it goes without saying that despite the surface appearance, A Die Hard Christmas is not for children. The visuals are filled with blood, and there’s a choice expletive to end the story, so please don’t mistake this for something written by Julia Donaldson.
I only wish I had thought of the idea first.
* This is not up for debate.
Diff’rent Strokes (1978 – 1985)
Diff’rent Strokes existed at the height of its popularity a few years before I was really aware of it, but the reach of the show – and ironically, that of the diminutive star Gary Coleman – was far and wide. His character, Arnold, became something of a small screen phenomenon back in the early eighties.
In much the same way that The Fonz did not start out as the star of Happy Days, Arnold Jackson was not originally conceived as the focal point of Diff’rent Strokes. His catchphrase, What you talkin’ ’bout Willis? became so ingrained in popular culture in the early eighties that it threatened to overshadow the entire show. And just like Happy Days, Diff’rent Strokes had a very catchy theme tune.
Diff’rent Strokes was about a couple of black kids (we’re allowed to say that, right?) who are taken in by a wealthy white man, and yes, that is just as obvious a plot device as it appears. Credit where it’s due though, the show tackled a lot of heavy subjects that typically weren’t explored in what was essentially a ‘family friendly’ sitcom.
Oh yeah – and if anyone asks…