Monday, August 28, 2017

This is not a drill: Fortnight 15 of the Burns

Fortnight 15 wordcounts

Total words: 11,247 words (60% on the novel, 32% on non-fiction, 8% on this blog)
  • 1st week: 6,799 words (4 day week because I spent a long weekend in Chch for a 90th birthday party, whoop!)
  • 2nd week: 4,466 words (4 day week because of Hamilton…) 

Poetry reading in The Link, NZ Poetry Day, 25 August
A Popular Boy

Last week, in the span of two days, I:
  • spoke to a 300 level Modern and Contemporary Poetry class about my Google Translate and Recurrent Neural Network poetry (the stuff I covered in this post from May). 
  • took part in the NZ Poetry Day lunchtime event at The Link at the university
  • gave a talk about my novel-in-progress as part of the English Department’s Friday seminar series. I talked about why I’m writing about a levitating saint and making movies in the age of VFX, how I’m writing it, and read from two early chapters. This was the first time I’ve read from it. My wife hasn’t even read any of it yet – except maybe the half a page excerpt I included in my application for the Burns.

A poem I chalked outside The Link for NZ Poetry Day
Smoove moves

A lot of this fortnight has been spent working on my paper for the Dan Davin Short Story Conference that kicks off on 1 Sept in Invercargill. After reading a bunch of NZ short story collections without any kind of framework/scientific rigour, I created my own framework for cataloguing the ‘moves’ a writer pulls when executing a short story and did a proof of concept (it took 4 hours to catalogue and analyse the 80 moves in the story I picked). And now I’m in the midst of writing it all up.
You can read a slightly outdated spiel about my talk on the Conference’s website here (final papers will make it online eventually too, I think).

Anyway, it’ll be really interesting to have so many people talking about the short story – and being down in Invercargill. There’s a marae visit and an afternoon in Riverton on the last day, and then I’m taking my whanau to Stewart Island for four nights. Here’s hoping the Big September Storm doesn’t happen till after we’re back in Dunedin!


I also went to Hamilton for a day/night last week for a thing that’s more to do with getting myself sorted for life after the Burns than writing. Everything about that trip in one word: meh.

Localised fog over the Taieri Plains that kept me on the tarmac for two hours.
But, like, who really wants to leave Dunedin? Or go to Hamilton?

Tactical Procrastination

With all this other stuff on the go, you might think progress on the novel would have slowed. 

But, so long as I was in Dunedin, I found myself plugging away at the next scene, and the next, and the next, partly as a way to put off writing my ‘The Moves’ thingy, or preparing for my talks. 

I experienced this when working on The Mannequin Makers, at some point after passing the midpoint when the work had enough momentum that it wasn’t a matter of procrastinating from writing it, but I'd often use writing it to put off doing other things.

It’s cool to have reached this point of fulcrum on this year’s main project, but it’s too soon to take the foot of the gas completely – I can’t coast to the finish line in angel gear, that’s for sure. In fact, I plan to go back to my story-boarding/cue-carding ways this week to make sure the story doesn’t sag in the middle and readers are happily being pulled along to the climaxes they expect, and those they don’t.

I should probably also be mindful of life beyond the novel over the rest of the year. I was in bad shape physically after finishing The Mannequin Makers, in no small part due to the continuous, concentrated hours I could happily spend on the manuscript. (After being a slack writer for a couple of years, I lost the prescription glasses I needed after finishing TMM and haven’t replaced them coz my eyes kind of came right by themselves. Let’s see how they are when this next novel’s put to bed!).

Bird life
Kereru at the uni
Kereru, closer

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