Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Wet matches: Fornight 20 of The Burns

I did some graphs back at the end of Fortnight 10, and should probably do some again now, but it's already Tuesday (I had the day off yesterday to spend with visitors) and I don't really want to diddle round with Excel right now.

Better to open with Dunedin and its surrounds!

All photos from the last fortnight.

Yellowhammer in the gorse, Tunnel Beach

Fur Seal, Aramoana
Sheep, blocking the way to Cape Saunders, Otago Peninsula
(no metaphor intended)

Fortnight 20 wordcounts
Total words: 11,034 (60% on the novel, 26% on this blog, 14% on other non-fiction)
1st week: 5,524
2nd week: 5,510

Two equally disappointing weeks, symptomatic of the slough I’m in with the novel. For weeks I’d persisted in moving forward, trying to get a first draft done before Christmas, but as the section in San Marino continued to grow, I could feel the tension and interest (mine and the imagined reader’s) trickling away. Something was wrong back at the beginning of the Italian section, but I wasn’t sure what.

So I printed out the 84,000 words I had and read through from the beginning.

Last time I did this (about two months ago), I was pleasantly surprised how much fun it was to read. This time, the first section remained unproblematic, but the laws of diminishing marginal returns had sapped the fun from it.

I managed to find a number of things at the start of the second section that were sapping the potential of the later chapters (and promised to unbalance the whole shebang).

As always, it boils down to a protagonist being too passive, or his/her intention not being clear enough or believable.

I’m in the midst of rewriting these early chapters now and the process will take weeks for me to get back to where I was mid-October.

It’s a pain in the butt, but I think it’s far more efficient to do this work now than keep rambling toward an unsatisfying and ultimately arbitrary finish line.

As for the ending of the book, I see that quite clearly (it’s a shorter section, maybe 10k words, set two years ahead of the rest of the novel) and it hasn’t changed since I dreamed it up back in July.

So it’s really just the large middle section that’s causing all the problems. But nothing is fatal.

Just more work/rework/binning/recycling.


Hoopers Inlet, the peninsula
Short Story Club

From the files I have with me in Dunedin, I can only ascertain that I wrote the story before July 2008 (when I submitted it to Sport). I’m pretty sure this is one of two stories in A Man Melting that I wrote before I did my MA in 2006 (the other being ‘The Tin Man’, though it had a different title). Around the same time, I moved from Hotmail to Gmail, so the trail goes cold in my online archives then, too.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure ‘Manawatu’ is it at least 10 years old. It definitely bears the marks of being written while I lived in Australia (and by an angst-ridden twenty-something).

Re-reading it now, and hearing it be discussed, I’m pleased with how it goes about its business (that very interior, very analytical beginning, carried on to the point it feels confronting, to then have some external action, which is only fully explained when the interior is understood). Not bad for someone a year or two older than the protagonist.

It’s the story I’ve thought about the most this year while writing my location scouting/levitation novel. In part it’s to do with the incredibly close 3rd person narration, and in part the fact my protagonist is a year or two younger than me and there’s that tension between loading him up with autobiographical elements and letting him realise his true (and truly different from me) character.

So ten or twelve years or whatever it is later, I’m back where I began, angst-ridden and uncertain.

Yep, feels about right.

Mist on the water, Kaikorai Estuary
Creative Cities Southern Hui

I was on RNZ National myself on Sunday, along with Nicky Page, to spruik the Creative Cities Southern Hui which takes place in Dunedin at the end of the month.

Details about the hui here. (It’s a pretty cool lineup when I follow [alphabetically at least], Hera Lindsay Bird and Shayne Carter).

And on my bio page for the hui (and in the radio interview above) I hint at what I’ll talk about. For now the working title is: ‘We are all storyteller: analogue and digital perspectives on narrative’. It basically takes some of the deep thinking I’ve been doing about NBA 2K18 and similar games, and looks at the crossover between writers/readers and game designers/players, and what we could learn from each other.

For the birds

Shags and gulls, Andersons Bay inlet
The raw materials of a short story set on the Andersons Bay inlet and adjacent playing fields are slowly gathering. I seem to add to the store every time I bike passed.

Birds play a big part in this not-yet-story. There's a grandson and his grandpa. And the grandson twenty years later watching his son play cricket, which is to say, not really watching his son play cricket. And birds. Did I mention birds?

The photo above was taken on a cold and rainy day last fornight. It was rare on that account (the weather last week was AMAZING, and though the temperatures have tailed off since Friday, it's still been suitable for outdoor adventures). And perhaps because of the weird, icy late October downpour, the inlet was alive with dozens (possible more than 100??) shags and a similar number of gulls (both black-backed and the smaller red-billed). Based on the group feeding and appearance, I'm 90% sure the shags were Otago aka Stewart Island Shags, most likely from the population that breeds at Harrington Point. They're stunning birds and seeing that many after some kind of feed in the inlet, and being pestered by the gulls, was quite a sight.

My tally of other species seen on or around the inlet in recent weeks includes: grey duck/mallard hybrid with nine ducklings, paradise shelduck, royal spoonbills (up to half a dozen at one), white heron, white-faced heron, white-fronted terns, sparrows, chaffinch, goldfinch, blackbirds, starlings, welcome swallows, variable oystercatcher, spotted and little shags (far more common than the Otago shags). 

Completists only

Or you could go for a walk!

Tunnel Beach

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