Sunday, June 2, 2024

Consumption Diary May (incl. 2/3 of a mini-residency)


She's a long one this month...


On May 20th I flew up to Auckland (eventually my bag made it too) and took up temporary residence at the Michael King Writers Centre in Devonport.

I leave on 10 June.

When I arrived I had a 33,573 word "first draft" of a novel that I worked on in 2022. I shelved it because:
    a) I was writing it about events in 2022 such as the anti-mandate protest at Parliament and wrote ahead of those events knowing I'd need to come back to it "later", once the present of the novel that was the future at time of writing became the past for the reader.
    b) I got COVID for the first time right at the end of the first draft and:
        i) being sick meant there was a natural break between 1st draft and my next concerted efforts with the manuscript
        ii) having COVID and being slightly feverish while writing the final chaps meant I was highly skeptical that it would would be any good when reviewed with some perspective.
    c) Once you stop, it's really hard to pick something back up again with the fear of it actually being shit and no longer relevant, but also (moreso) the fact I have a full-time job and a full-time family and JUST LIFE.

At the time I finished the first draft I knew it needed to be longer, but it would probably only top out around 50-55,000 words. There's a missing persons element to the plot, and I knew that the "resolution" in the first draft was a bit dumb, and should really be more of a red herring, and that there was a bit part character in the 1st draft that wanted/needed more page-time, and maybe making them part of the real "answer" would "fix" things? 

So I really needed a solid block of time to unfuck the novel, writing new chapters and overhauling/ditching existing ones.

Which is why this 3-week residence was and is such a boon.

Over the first two weeks I:
  • did a full read-through and mark-up in hard copy
  • writing a prologue (though it's not actually labelled as such)
  • expanded the first half of the novel (1st draft consisted of 10 chapters from the same character's p.o.v.; 2nd draft has two main characters alternating p.o.v. chapters)
  • re-ordering the 2nd half (told through v. many p.o.v. characters), adding some new ones, rejigging some others
  • doing a full read-through of this 2nd draft (using Microsoft Word's Read Through function - it's really good for picking up dumb typos and times when you've used too many words) and making necessary corrections and additions.
So the manuscript jumped up to 56,837 words (a net increase of 23,364), but any original words from the first draft really had to earn their keep.

I wasn't sure if I could achieve all of this in three weeks, but I knocked it off in two.

Which is great. Because now I am sick of that manuscript and can let it marinate again (and let some others read it) and it shouldn't be too far off.

And because that means I can also work on my second short story collection. Which is what I started doing today.

Well, I've written and published (and written and not published) many short stories since my first collection came out in 2010, and have had various word documents with my favourite selections combined since 2018 (with another flare up of activity in 2021). So the task isn't writing a shit ton more stories, it's re-assessing which ones should go in this collection and where the two or three gaps are that could/should be plugged by new stories.

Today I used the "Read Through" function to go through all the stories in my 2021 assemblage, plus a bunch I didn't think should make the cut back then (most of which I thought were good enough today, so I don't know, maybe I just love myself rn).

The biggest challenge is the majority of these stories were written closer to 2010 than 2024, so there really does need to be some new stuff. There's a story I have half-written that needs to be finished (it pairs directly with another story in the collection), and then there are two more stories I've written lots of notes for over the last 3-5 years, and just need to smash out.

So by the end of this next week, if I can add these three stories into the manuscript, that one might also be ready for other people to read.

After which, I may need a rest!

PS - all this writing means lots of listening to music, hence the longer than usual monthly playlist!

PPS - I've also done some exploring of the North Shore (and started an Instagram to share some of that stuff) and caught up with friends and family, so I have been going outside!!


Parade by Rachel Cusk (physical, novel, UK, 2024)
Second Place by Rachel Cusk (physical, novel, UK, 2021)
Kudos by Rachel Cusk (physical, novel, UK, 2018)
Transit by Rachel Cusk (e-book, novel, UK, 2016)

I had to review Parade, so I read/re-read a lot of Cusk in preparation. 

Doppelganer: A trip into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein (non-fiction, audiobook, US, 2023)

This proved to be very useful when working on the second draft of my novel, so I let a character name drop Klein.

It's way more personal (and scattershot - in a good way) that her earlier works. It could be a case of right book, right time, but I really liked it!!

Welcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-reum (audiobook, novel, Korea, 2023)
Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (audiobook, novel, Japan, 2019)

I've read too many bookshop/library-themed works this year. Sorry pals.

Palace of Shadows by Ray Celestin (audiobook, novel, UK, 2023)

I didn't think I'd like it. It seemed to be laying the gothic on really thick, but it did it really well.

Big Swiss by Jen Beagin (audiobook, novel, US, 2023)

Yeah! This was excellent. Funny, dark-at-times, possibly even profound. And it has dogs in it!

I really liked that the protagonist/narrator was late 40s (I think) but language and ideas still seemed to be alive to them. It felt true(ish) to my inner dialogue as a early 40s person. 

Totally unrelated negative-impulse: I don't want to Google how old Elizabeth Bennett's parents are in Pride and Prejudice...

Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (audiobook, novel, Ireland, 2011)

Another book I was on the fence about reading (having already committed many hours to listening to the very good, but very Irish Franzen-y The Bee Sting already this year).
Another book I ended up really enjoying. I think I preferred this to The Bee Sting because it's a bit less Franzen-y and because I myself have been grappling with a plot point not dissimilar to (not a spoiler, guys) Skippy dying!!!

(Maybe some months I my inner hater takes a holiday)

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell (audiobook, novel, UK, 2023)

A mash-up of cosy crime and reality baking shows. Does the baking stuff well enough, but the characters were pretty meh and structurally felt like the first death came way too late.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (audiobook, novel, US, 2021)

Fantasy continues to be the steepest genre hill from my affections to climb.

  • Hacks Season 3 - *makes a love heart symbol with his hands, then feels self-conscious*
  • Welcome to Wrexham Season 3 - good, but makes me hate the bandwagon Wrexham fans... I need to get an MK Dons jersey or something
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm - finished the final few eps of the final season, and also watched the Seinfield series finale (which I clearly hadn't seen before (yeeeeesh))
  • Prisoners
  • Dream Scenario
  • Blackberry
  • Atlas - No ma'am, unfinishable.
  • Unfrosted - Shouldn'thavefinishedbutIdidforsomereason