The writing of the book has taken a bit of a back seat over the last few weeks. The reason for this was that I hadn’t a clue what to write.
Not writers block. It was something more fundamental than that.
I had found that as I got further into my book I was finding gaps within the plot. You would think that someone writing a book would have a lovely plot all thought out and crafted before a single word had been written. Not me. As I’ve said before I had a rough idea and I charged on. These ideas changed as I went and before I knew it my story was no longer anything like my initial idea. The main characters were the same but they were getting up to all sorts of different things. My chapters were scenes and the scenes were clunky.
The book didn’t flow.
So what did I do?
I did what I always do. I flaked out. I got incredibly anxious and started acting irrationally. All the usual symptoms were there; the incoherent ramblings, a little swearing, running my hands through my hair, a beer was launched down my throat. All shockingly stereotypical of the image of a writer I have in my mind.
Trust me, being lost inside your own book is a crap feeling. It’s like suffocating in the very pages you have written. (Wasn’t this meant to be fun?)
Eventually sanity arrived.
There has been one constant in all the time I’ve spent writing this book. My wife, Naomi. She encouraged me from the get go, the one who told me I could do it, and I know she is the one who will get me to the finish line (no pressure, Love). She has helped me so much in the process of writing this book that it wouldn’t be the same without her. That is no understatement.
She advised me to write out each chapter on a post-it card and lay the chapters out on the kitchen table from start to finish. Within minutes gaps became glaringly obvious and in other places it turned out there were no gaps at all.
How do I fix the problem of the gaps?
Each problem chapter/ gap gets subdivided into mini scenes. Those scenes then get written out on a corresponding post-it card. In other words, I get granular with the plot. This way I can create a flow to the story which is (hopefully) dynamic and keeps a readers interest.
It also means I can work through my book in a systematic fashion. I pick up one post it card and write it up until its finished and then move onto the next. Eventually, some day I’ll complete my book.
After last weeks meltdown it was time for a re-think.
Or what some writers might describe as “work”.
I’ve already stated that after a year of writing I had been left with a big pile of folders which were stored on some cloud somewhere. There was some cohesion to my book but not nearly enough.
Now I have to consolidate not only the folders but my approach.
I don’t know how other writers work but the idea of researching before typing your first word seems like a big fat killjoy to me. It would be like putting a cake in front of a kid then telling him that he has to go and learn the recipe first before he can eat it. Balls to that.
I figured out my characters and a great deal of my plot as I went along. A large chunk of the plot fell into my lap only in the last few months. How could I have researched that before I even had it?
Now it’s time to do the gritty menial work that nobody enjoys. It time to write character bio’s, and with a list of characters that would put Forrest Gump to shame that’s gonna take some time. I need to research, fact check and draw parallels through the book. (It’s easy to forget something you wrote last year. I can’t even remember what I had for dinner last night……….Wait… Got it. Thai green curry.)
Research, bio’s, fact checking and other tedious stuff was something that I was never looking forward to but I was only following orders. Honest. All advice I read stated that I should write my first draft without editing myself. Just let rip. So I did. It was great fun and I’m glad I did it. However, I’m now left realising the Earnest Hemmingway quote, “The first draft of anything is shit” is 100% true.
So this last week I have started writing my character bio’s. And who would have thunk it? I’m enjoying it. I’m discovering new aspects of my characters as I go and surprise surprise, I’m creating plot threads which will tie my book together and also flesh it out. I’ve realised large chunks will be binned, parts re-written and some of it might even make the grade. All in all I feel like I’m back on track.
Before I go, just as a side note. I have noticed one thing. I don’t have the same stamina writing those bio’s as I do openly writing my book. An hour or so in and I’m losing focus. The week before I wrote for six hours solid (personal best) without flinching.
Anyways, I better get back to doing more menial work.
Last night I sat down to do research for my book. I don’t know what research means to other writers but for me it means scrolling through Youtube documentaries for a pretty rare neurological condition called Synesthesia.
The definition on Dictionary.com puts it like this:
1. a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualisation of a certain colour.
Basically it’s a coming together of the senses.
In other words, music can be seen in colour and colours can also have tastes. Numbers, days and months can be associated with different colours and some tastes can even feel like an object.
So far scientists have identified over a hundred different variations of the condition with a few strands being vastly more common than others. It is estimated that 1% of the earth’s population are Synesthetes. The condition has no known side effects other than it being 100% awesome.
The most common example is when Synesthetes associate days, numbers or months with certain colours. For example Monday could be yellow, nine could be green and so on.
It ‘s a pretty funky world for these folks.
So, I’m on the couch with my laptop open ready to take notes and Naomi is reading her book next to me. I’m watching the video of a Synesthete relating her condition. She tells us that she has a spacial type of Synesthesia. For her the months of the year are catagorised in a visual calendar which she can “pull up” when someone talks of a certain date. It’s pretty hard to explain so maybe its best to watch her video here.
As the girl is explaining this Naomi casually remarks, from behind her book, “Ah come on… That’s just normal.”
This was my response, “………..(bewildered) ………………what?”
“Do you not do that?” She asked rather casually.
“Then how did you learn the months of the year at school?” Naomi was now engaged in the conversation.
“By rote! January, February………….. Why? What do you do?”
“Well January is over here.” She points to her left. “And February comes around here after it and then March, April….”
“The dates of the month arc over it all like a big rainbow that gets further away but comes back to ya!”
Jesus Fucking Christ.
I’m researching a rare condition and low and behold I’m married to someone who has it. And neither of us knew it.
We verified it by Naomi taking this test
Boom! Naomi has Spacial Sequence Synesthesia.
Feel free to test yourselves at the above link folks.
I watched part 1 and part 2 of this talk by David Eagleman for any of you that might be interested.