Monday, July 17, 2017

Combustion engine: Fortnight 12 of The Burns

Double rainbow, Andy Bay
Wordcount for Fortnight #12: 14,262 words

  • 1st week: 8,214 (6 writing days)
  • 2nd week: 6,048 (3 full writing days, 2 abbreviated days thanks to sick kids)
  • 90% on the novel. The rest on this blog.

Sick kids suck, but all in all: Good numbers. As in:

  • the most productive fortnight so far (beating Fortnight #5 - 12,320 words)
  • 8,000 words in the 1st week is more than a number of fortnights so far. The most pleasing thing is that most of it was spent on the novel.

And the quality? Meh.

But I am looking forward to butchering these chapters when I'm done with the first draft (or get further into it) and know which bits are necessary evils and which are just plain evil. And if I keep writing 6000+ words a week, I'll be butchering sooner than you can say, 'Doog tish'.

Hail on the beach, St Clair

A word or five about 'outspiration'

If you Google 'outspiration' you get a bunch of outdoorsy types using it as a shorthand for 'outdoor inspiration'.

But I'm using it as the opposite of 'inspiration'. (Yeah, I concede it's kinda dumb, but it'll do for now).

And I'm not talking about 'discouragement' or 'demoralisation' or 'outcome' or any of the other 232 antonyms for 'inspiration' listed online.

I mean those things that MIGHT have inspired you, had they existed before you created your THING, but they didn't. Your thing came first, and the potential inspiration came second.
Outspiration (n)
When one of your ideas comes true before you finish your book (and no matter how much you say you came up with the idea first, readers will always experience your idea through the thing that really happened in their past)


In my Location Scout novel (in progress), I have a young filmmaker who is offered the chance to direct a big Hollywood film that is important to a Sci-Fi franchise, only to be removed from the project in the early days of principal photography.

Then in June, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were removed/fired from the Han Solo standalone Star Wars movie.

Directors (especially emerging ones with a clear aesthetic) being removed from big budget projects is not unheard of. I mean, the director of Rogue One was sidelined / removed right at the end of production of that film, so it's not even the first time it's even happened in the Disney-era of Star Wars (NB: I only learnt about this through articles about Lord and Miller getting shitcanned).

The important thing is to note is that my book won't come out until probably 2019 (touch wood), at which point the Lord/Miller firing will be old news and people might assume this was a source of inspiration. No. It was outspiration -- the only link between my book and their firing was maybe my negative vibes made their way to Kathleen Kennedy who woke up one morning and said, 'Yes, I should fire those guys!'

Sorry, Phil. Sorry Chris.


In the same novel-in-progress I also have a successful Hollywood director who has a passion project that he has been talking about for decades but hasn't been able to make yet. He's about 10 years younger than Martin Scorsese, but he's an Italian-American filmmaker from New York, so you're more than welcome to think Scorsese-esque thoughts when reading about my fictional filmmaker.

When I started working on the novel and building up ideas about this Italian-American director, it was 2015. I didn't know about Scorcese's forever-delayed film Silence. I only found out about it at the start of 2017 when it was snubbed for the Oscars and then came out in cinemas here (wherein I watched it).

I saw Silence when I'd written only about 10% of the first draft, so there could be ways it works itself into the text (I'm skeptical), but it most certainly didn't influence the fact that my book would have a Hollywood director finally getting to make his religiously-themed passion project. All of that was locked in before I knew about Silence.

What does it all mean?

I'm not saying I'm psychic. Or even that original. I build my plots around central ideas/problems and/or characters and overtime they gather other elements like a massive lint roller used to tidy a kid's bedroom, and then I start to write.

Aside: most often for me the lint roller is an idea - like a window dresser who raises his children to be living mannequins - that comes first; but sometimes it's a character - like the annoying best friend in The Location Scout who I knew instantly and then things like being a e-sports shoutcaster and former shut-in stuck to him.

The things that stick to the lint roller tend to be unoriginal things (a director getting fired from a big budget movie), and therefore likely to happen again in the real world either while writing the book or after publication. The challenge it to make your book original in the way you piece everything together (much the same way as you use words and punctuation to make fresh and exciting sentences... unless you're blogging).

There are a hundred other things in my part-finished first draft that could 'come true' before I finish. If all hundred happen, even then, I'm not fucked (though some of the magic will certainly be called into question). If they all happen to a small group of people, and their story gets told in a semi-narrative way... well, then I'm fucked.

But what are the chances of that??

Sunday, July 9, 2017

June Consumption Diary


Here are some of my favourite tracks from my June listening.

NB: A lot of the later entries come from a Spotify playlist called Meet the Beatlesque, which I came across at the bottom of ELO’s discography.

Also: I was considering doing a ‘best albums of 2017 so far’ as part of this month’s consumption diary, but the coverage of books and film below got kinda long so I’ll keep my powder dry on that one.


Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet (novel, audiobook)

I’d been thinking a lot about Millet’s 2005 novel, Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, even though it was over a decade since I’d read it. So I chose this (it was one of two Millet options on Audible) and I loved it so much, even though I could compile a bunch of qualms about its length or structure or ending (all basically the same qualm).

It isn’t anywhere near as ambitious as OPaRH (oh, I never new the initials spelled that), so it’s less memorable, but also less flawed (at least until the last fifty or so pages).

But yeah, serve me up some more Millet, please!

Why Can the Dead Do Such Great Things? by Robert Bartlett (non-fiction)

I’d read about this book at the start of the year and its title had stuck with me. It summed up pretty well one of the main questions in the novel I’m working on (like, how come 400 years ago a guy could levitate 300+ times and convinced the Inquisition he was legit and not committing witchcraft and there was enough proof to be beatified and canonised after his death... and yet we don’t seem to have the capacity to believe in levitation today – so who’s wrong: the people 400 years ago, or us? Or is there a third way?)

Anyway, this book is about the cult of saints within Catholicism, from the early Christian Martyrs through to the Reformation. So the "dead people" didn’t just do great things when there were alive (heal the sick, scrutinize hearts, friggin’ fly) but they can also do great things after death (i.e. answer prayers – help you pass exams or land a plane with both engines on the fritz). I admit I skimmed this prayer stuff (I can only ask myself / you all to re-examine one materialist bias at a time).

[In June, I also read a bunch of other stuff about San Giuseppe da Copertino (most of it in Italian) – things I picked up on my travels in Italy – but I won’t list every pamphlet]

The Neapolitan Quarter by Elena Ferrante (4 novels, audiobooks)

I listened to My Brilliant Friend in May. Actually, I read the first couple of chapters of the physical book in March or April. My wife was reading it, and I wanted to see if I should make time for Ferrante, but she (my wife, not Ferrante) but she reads so slowly.  I would still be waiting to get the book. So I borrowed the audiobook through my local library online service.

Did it hook me? Well, I finished all four books (none of them are particularly short - the audiobooks are 12.5hrs, 19hrs, 16.5hrs & 18.5hrs long respectively; 10 hours is kind of standard for a novel) in just over two months. But *in hushed tones* I listened to these books at 1.75x normal speed. This really helped me stick with them and meant I could listen to them (and a bunch of other books) over May and June (and a little bit of July).

While hooning up Autostrade 14 in Italy, I listened to just over half of The Story of a New Name (book 2), and wasn’t sure I’d get around to finishing it. It really got bogged down with the trip to Ishcia, where it was pretty obvious what was going to happen with Nino and Lila (and Bruno and Pinuccia) but it took sooo long. Maybe this impression was compounded by the straightness of the road I was driving?? But still: those few weeks on Ischia take up more real estate on the page than any other similar span of time. I don’t doubt the importance to the overall story, but were they the most important? And it's not like the narrator, Elena Greco, didn't plough through some SIGNIFICANT LIFE EVENTS in savagely sparing fashion (often these were the most enjoyable sequences).

Anyway, I did end up listening to the last 10 hours of Book 2 in two or three days once I got back to Dunedin because the loan period was about to expire -- I was still not really hooked -- but I went straight into Book 3 (Those who leave and those who stay). Its shameful to say, but I enjoyed this book the most because it’s about Elena’s burgeoning career as a writer.

I took a break between Books 3 and 4 and read/listened to two or three different kinds of books. Ferrante’s quartet is powered by this kind of violent charge that’s both repellant and intoxicating and I felt I needed space. It’s easy to see how the repellence of masculine violence and oppression of females can be pleasing to read (At last, someone gets to stick it to the [Italian] man); but there’s a lot of girl-on-girl pscho-emotional carnage, which is more unique. The pleasure derived from this can be a bit like rubbernecking (Oh my god, female friendship is the worst! Amirite guys? Guys?) but it’s only one of many painful pleasures being exacted upon the reader at any one time.

I can’t decide if the quartet is the result of incredible ambition or incredible restraint. Is it complexly simple or simply complex?

Beyond the prologue at the start of book one, and the way the narrator concertinas time in fairly standard ways, there’d been very little prolepsis / foreshadowing. But two-thirds of the way into the final book (The Story of the Lost Child) there’s a new section (the chapter numbers restart at one) and we go all the way into the present in a few pages, then rewind back to pretty much where the previous section left off. Interesting, but I'm still trying to figure WHY it was done like that.

There’s also an epilogue, which pushes us even closer to the present day and ends with an image/event with ambiguous significance. Like: I listened to the last five minutes three times and I’m still not sure what to think except: No Clean Answers.

Final point/crackpot theory: 

I'm really glad the idea of Lila (a computer wiz) hacking Elena's computer and rewriting some of the tale (which was hinted at early) was roundly dismissed by the narrator at the end. But it did make me wonder if the whole quartet of books was Lila's project, writing in Elena's voice, as a kind of revenge for Elena ripping of the Blue Fairy and turning Tina's disappearance into a book. Having freshly finished the books, I haven't gone back and read much writing about them, but I'm sure there's another four books worth of stuff on the question of authorship within the novels (let alone the 400-books worth of dross on the elusive author herself... All I can say is, if anyone had read all four books and still wants to track down the real Elena Ferrante, they're beyond dense).

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and other clinical tales by Oliver Sachs (non-fiction, audiobook)

A bunch of case histories, all limited by the fact Sachs was the Dr involved in the treatment (often not the primary physician, sometimes only seeing a patient once). Even the title tale involves only two meetings and Sachs never hears from the man again. In my edition, Sachs ends almost every chapter with a postscript, often saying how many other cases he’s come across since first publishing the chapter/book, and sometimes saying the patient is still as they were 10 years ago.

Despite these limitations/frustrations, it’s fascinating stuff. I went to a talk a week after finishing the book and one of Sach’s case studies was mentioned, and I felt very in the know! 


In the air (return flights)

Get Out – Was looking forward to this. And it was good. But I kinda wished the baddies were more real (like Deliverance; not inbred hicks, but not totally overblown splatter-film villains). I mean, Philando Castille. Donald Trump. The world’s scary enough without resorting to Dr Frankensteins.

Lego Batman – Okay, so wake me when there’s a left-field superhero movie that doesn’t slip into the sinkhole of the standard superhero movie plot in the 2nd Act.

John Wick: Chapter Two - Hurrah! I haven't seen Chapter One yet. I didn't feel like I missed much in the sequel and I still want to watch the first one. Probably the mark of a great action film sequel, eh?

The Red Turtle – A shipwreck flick from Studio Ghibli? Yes please! It was great. I struggled a little with the shift from realism to fantasy (and back?) but every frame was stunning and helped carry me along. Great stuff.

Pork Pie – Not as raucous or unhinged as the original. And the raucousness and unhingedness were about the only thing going for the original (apart from the game of spotting notable landmarks and observing changes in the intervening decades).
West World – the original 70s movie – So hokey, so loose, so dumb. Amazed Michael Crichton was trusted to pen anything else; glad he didn’t direct Jurassic Park!

The Art of Scandinavia (1 episode) – I managed to catch the episodes about Denmark and Sweden on Prime (or Choice TV?) when they screened during the weekend (in March or April?), by pure chance. And fluked it again because the 1st episode (Norway) was the only one available on the in-flight entertainment. I loved Andrew Graham-Dixon’s docos when I was in high school and he doesn’t a) appear to have aged in the intervening 18 years b) varied his style one iota. Having rediscovered AGD, I’m afraid of stumbling across something online about how facile he is (which I kinda always suspected), or that he eats babies. Can’t I just have this portal back to the youth I misspent on art history and it’s all perfect and innocent and no one gets hurt? Please?

Bob’s Burgers (2 eps) – shouty, shouty comfort food.

Taboo (2 eps) – So much is packed into the pilot. So little happens in the second episode. Abandoned.

Back home

Better Call Saul (remaining episodes of season 3) – the only episode that fell flat was the finale. Everything else: man. I mean, it’s basically created a new genre: the scam show. It’s like they’ve taken one of those real life forensic shows from one of the channels with very high numbers on Sky (you know, where they try hard to distance the work from CSI shenanigans) and a legal drama where, with one extended exception (Chuck vs Kim & Jimmy) you don’t ever get to see the court room, and a police procedural, except you don’t follow the detectives but the people they don’t know they can’t catch. At the end of every episode, I’m like: that should have been sooo boring. But I was riveted. Riveted. And now I feel a little bereft. Come back Jimmy!

Okja – So this totally fell flat for me. Like, afterwards, I looked on twitter (it had only been on Netflix for 24 hrs so there was a lot of people talking about it) and everyone was going on about how they’d never eat meat again, but I think that’s an easy thing to tweet, especially when everyone else in your timeline has been saying they’re looking forward to this movie dropping… But gosh, it was such a sloshing slop bucket of tones. The timeline was hard to follow (the opening felt like it was in the future, then it flashed forward 10 years to the present day…). The premise was hard to swallow (that people’d buy the story of a superpig being found and 10 more superpiglets bred and raised for 10 years in 10 natural environments when a) they look nothing like pigs b) after 10 years the 2nd generation of superpigs reach maturity and to celebrate here’s a whole bunch of meat products from superpigs… eh? Like, if I was going to stop eating bacon, gimme Babe or Charlotte’s Web or a decent longread article. But not this.

Shimmer Lake, 30 Minutes of LessThe Trip to Italy, Win It All

Friday, July 7, 2017

Light the fuse: Fortnight 11 of the Burns

Moeraki Boulders
A week late again, so this refers to the fortnight 19 June-2 July.

Total words: 7,875

  • Novel 5,416, Blog 2232, Other 227
  • 1st week 4595 (including a Saturday(!) and several 5am starts)
  • 2nd week 3280 (lower as I spent Thurs and Fri that week on structure/re-story boarding scene in the novel and writing NOTHING)

The main distraction in fortnight 11 was the NBA Draft. My interest in the NBA was at a low ebb during the season, thanks to the Sacramento Kings still sucking (it's 15 years since their glory days!!) and then trading their best (but admittedly problematic) player for what looked like peanuts. But one of those peanuts was a 1st round draft pick, and some luck in the lottery meant they had the 5th and 10th picks in a pretty good draft class. So I got sucked back in, big time.

Draft day, 23 June
(I actually wrote 1,010 words in the morning)
(I didn't like any of their picks on draft day
  • Fox was the consensus #5 pick but I think his iffy jumper and slight frame will mean he never reaches stardom and Dennis Smith Jr and Jonathan Isaac would have been better picks long term.
  • Trading #10 for #15 and #20 was fine in principle. I mean, Zach Collins is overrated, and I'd have been angry if they took him had they kept the pick, but Malik Monk or Donavon Mitchell will both be productive players. But, leading up to the 15th pick, I though maybe it'd work out well.
  • But Justin Jackson at #15? I just don't see him being a starter, ever. You can only draft the people that fall to you (so no Monk or Mitchell or DSJ), but I'd have taken a flier on OG Anunboy, or gone big with John Collins and picked up a wing with #20 (Ferguson, Ojeleye)
  • Then they took Harry Giles at #20, which is fine in the context of how many okay but not great bigs they have, so you might as well swing for the fences, but I don't like his chances of ever regaining the confidence in his legs to get back to his high school form, let alone be a plus baller as a grown man. OG, Ferguson, Ojeleye (who they passed on again at #31), Juwan Evans (ditto), Caleb Swanigan, and Wesley Iwundu were all higher on my big board.
  • At #31, they took Frank Mason, who's you're prototype college star, pro failure (at least we didn't take him with a lottery pick *cough* Jimmer * cough*). Juwan Evans was much more upside. But they were clearly going for character guys, and it looks like Mason might be the 15th man on the roster, so maybe it'll all work out.
That all sounds quite negative. I'll probably wrong on half of these guys (no screenshots, please!_, which means 50% of their picks pan out, which is an okay haul in the end. So I give their draft a B, because it could have been better, but it could still be great.)

And this week they've killed it in free agency bringing in one decent player in his prime (George Hill) and too stars in the twilight of their careers (Zach Randolph, Vince Carter) who know the coach's system and can teach the young guys how to be pros for 15+ seasons. 

So yeah, I know anyone who reads this blog for stuff about writing or photos of the South Island didn't read all of that, but I had fun writing it.

Anyway. PHOTOS!

Andersons Bay inlet on a frosty morning

Looking the other way

Marne St, flooded in king tide
Otago Harbour, killing it

Reason #751 to love Dunedin: Bacon Buttie Station!
Glenfalloch selfie with son.
I don't often write in cafes, but when I do...

Monday, June 26, 2017

May Consumption Diary

This is well overdue. Blame the change of the month coming while I was halfway through my Italian research roadie…



The hidden life of trees – Peter Wohlleben (Non-fiction, audiobook)

In a weird way, this book picked up where James Gleick’s Time Travel: A History left off in April. Wohlleben’s book is an exercise in imagination, as one must consider life at a different speed. Both in understanding the life and actions of individual trees, but also considering how so much of what should be done to rebalance forests requires steps that will look worse for the rest of my lifetime.

I frequently thought of that viewing platform in Zealandia where there’s a info board depicting what the forest will look like in 100 and 500 years (or something like that), and how just imagining today’s trees but bigger isn’t the future at all.

Wohlleben’s book is focused on central European species. It would be amazing to have a New Zealand version!

Religion for Atheists – Alain de Botton (Non-fiction, audiobook)

I don't condone violence,
 but AdB seems to promote it
 with this eminently punchable pose
I decided to listen to this book for something to argue against and it didn’t let me down. A couple of minutes in, I was beyond the point of yelling at Mr de Botton and considering yanking the earbuds from my ears. The utter flippancy with which he dismissed the miracles of Saints! It was kinda great to realise that, even if my factory defaults have all my switches set to skeptical, pure, unthinking skepticism now angers me as much as pure, unthinking belief.

I didn’t yank my earbuds in the end (in part because I was listening while riding my bike) and I found myself agreeing with some of de Botton’s suggestions (getting strangers to eat together), whilst simultaneously hating his guts (and his quasi-intellectual sophistry).

The Good People – Hannah Kent (novel, audiobook)
I listened to this because Hannah Kent was appearing at Dunedin Writers Festival and I was interested to see how Kent played with the concept of flawed belief (the main characters believe in The Good People, aka Fairies).

I didn’t end up going to Kent’s session (family dramas) and suspect a festival 1 on 1 wouldn’t have been the right venue for the kind of pressing questions I’d like to have seen Kent answer. 

Because, I think she’d have all the answers, but how much would she squirm while answering them?

Do I even want to see another writer squirm? If this book was written by an Irish woman, would I have thought anything much about it at all? Well, of course I would have. But maybe I’d have keyed in more on the technique and gotten less hung up on ‘Why is she doing this?’

The final chapters represent a closing down of possibilities and ultimately the staid and stuffy views of the lawyers (and the more mercenary villagers) prevail.

We should have seen that coming!

Oh well.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I listened to the first of Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet before leaving for Italy. I listened to the second and part of the third while on the ground. And I’m halfway through the fourth right now --- so hopefully I can right about all four books as a single thing, which is totally how I think it should be thought of and discussed.

So hang fire for a week or so…

My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith

I remember watching a book show while living in Edinburgh and seeing a segment about how Alexander McCall Smith writes his books. He has a researcher and two other helpers working in an office on the ground floor of his house. He comes down, knocks out an insane amount of pages each day, and then leaves his worker bees to tidy up.

I had to walk past AMS’s lefty complex on the way to a friend’s place, and thought of the productivity going on behind that wall every time. But until last month, I’d never been tempted to actually read one of his books.

And, honestly, I only chose this one because I searched Italy/Italian on my library’s audiobook catalogue and this came up. I thought maybe, while travelling to or from or within Italy I may want something lighter.

And light it was.

After six hours of listening, it put a bow on everything, the very bows we expected from the first chapter, and then, poof, it was over, vanished, forgotten.

So that’s an Alexander McCall Smith novel?!  



Consumed at home
Dear White People (Season 1) – devoured. Displays the unevenness so common with shows at the moment, where the first 2-3 episodes feel dense, not just in narrative but also challenging linguistic and cultural dimensions, then the next 5-7 eps stretch out what was so great (and challenging) about those first eps, but you’re hooked so on and on you watch. Where will it go in Season 2?

Consumed in the air (outbound flights to get to Rome)

Split – This sucked. I can’t believe some people thought it was a worthy (kind of) sequel to Unbreakable. Maybe I’m favourably misremembering Unbreakable? I mean, making your villain’s superpowers (and villainy) derive from a mental illness – like that’s not gonna unduly stigmatise people with that very illness? It’s pure doltishness that has no place in 2017.

Passengers – Okay, so even if the script had been seriously overhauled and allowed the film to have some kind of tension, the total lack of charisma between the two stars would have scuttled the experience anyway, so why bother, right? Who’d be a writer.
Start of Fantastic beasts – just as I can’t be arsed writing the full title, I couldn’t watch more than twenty minutes of this. Three words: Eddy Redmayne’s face.

The path (episodes 1-3) – Cult research. Takeaway: cults can be very boring.

Curb your enthusiasm (2 episodes) – could have been any two. That’s the beauty, and the curse, of Curb.

2night – an Italian dating flick that didn’t teach me Italian.

The Founder – Like Breaking Bad with hamburgers, only Ray Kroc isn’t smart enough to be compared to Heisenberg (someone else needs to point out he’s in the real estate business, not the fast food one), so you’re left only with the feeling that everything was horribly inevitable.

Last man on earth (1 episode) and People of Earth (1 episode) – I watched to see if these shows weren’t the same thing. They aren’t. Now I know.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Cold compress - Fortnight 10 of the Burns / 20 Week review

Fortnight 10 summary

(NB: this is for the fortnight ending 18 June, so I'm a week behind)
  • Total words: 10,600 words
  • 1st week – 3841; 2nd week – 6759)
  • Weekly imbalance - 1st week was a 4 day week after returning from Italy, and generally getting back into the flow.
  • Split - all on THE NOVEL except 385 on this blog.

First 20 weeks in graphs

What follows is, on one level, meaningless. It doesn't matter how many words I write, or how quickly. All that matters is what ends up getting published.

But, as I've said before, quantity is a precursor of quality. And things like wordcounts help to keep me motivated, allow me to reflect on my practice and, hopefully, DO BETTER WRITING.

Bar chart:

This'll probably be too small to be meaningful (even if you click on it), so let me gloss it. It's colour-coded for the type of writing (novel, short stories, blog, poetry, essays, other) - more on the split between forms later. But it shows that I focussed on short stories in February to blow out the cobwebs, before sliding into the novel in month two.

There's a lot of non-writing days. Like every Saturday (except one) and Sunday (except two), and periods where I had people staying in Dunedin or was exploring (Catlins, Fiordland, Italy - that big blank patch on the right). More on which days of the week have been more productive shortly.


So, interestingly, non-fiction (blog + essays + other) is a pretty big slice of the pie. If you remove the Chris Cornell thing and the Recurrent Neural Network Poetry thing, the distribution would look more like what I'd have expected at the beginning of the year. I've gone and committed myself for at least one more decent piece of non-fiction (more on that in another post), but this exercise has convinced me I should probably start saying 'no' to things.

At the moment, I'm resisting a strong urge to go back to short stories. But I would like to find a way to carve out time later in the year -- like after I finish the 1st draft of the novel and before I start second draft, but that relies on me getting to the end of the first draft this side of Christmas...

Speaking of.

Line graph:

This is a little misleading.

When I open my working draft of the novel later today, it won't be 44,000 words, more like 36,000. These stats represent the cumulative total of my daily wordcounts on the novel, rather than the actual wordcount of the novel-in-progress.

So I've lost about 8,000 words already. This tends to happen when I'm starting a new section and I do it in a fresh word document, work on that for three or four days, then cut and paste the cream into the novel's main document.

Some examples for future reference that won't mean anything now: the Motta quotes between the first and second section (only about 2/3 made it in; these may be further slimmed down as time goes by); the Curio Bay insert.

To get to 36K after four months is okay, I guess.

I probably should have done a post at the start of the year about my expectations... If I did, I might have said 10K per month (only takes around 500 words every week day) as the minimum, but this wouldn't have factored in two weeks in Italy (and the prep for such a trip). Which would put me right around my floor.

So a little disappointing, especially as I feel the manuscript is getting a little flabby at the moment and I need to go back over the last 30 or so pages and trim, trim, trim. (But the other fifty pages have had that treatment already and feel tighter. So my first draft isn't rip, shit and bust. When I get to the end, it's probably my draft 1.5.)

Looking ahead, I should be about to meet and exceed 10K a month until I finish the 1st draft. At the moment I'm less certain about the total length of the novel than I was when I started. I'd have said 70-80K in February. Now, It feels 110-120K (about the length of THE MANNEQUIN MAKERS). But that's for the first draft - I may get savage in editing and create something sleek. May.

Doing the maths on this minimum scenario: if I need to produce another 80K words, that'll take 8 months but I only have 7 before the end of the residency. And what about Christmas and all the logistics of moving back to Wellington (probably have to go back a little early so my daughter's settled before starting school at the end of January)?

And I can kiss goodbye to my dream of a fortnight to work on short stories while I let the completed first draft breathe.

If I want a finished first draft by the end of November, I'll need to 16K a month. That seems doable. The last two weeks I've been able to produce around 1,000 words a day, so 10K a fortnight.

Doable, but not yet bankable.

What do the numbers say?

Which day of the week is my most productive? Part 1

NB: this is wordcount across all forms, not just on the novel.

This result really surprised me. In an earlier fortnight summary I said Tuesdays were my most productive days, which made sense as I take the weekends off, Monday involves a bit of working myself back into the flow, and Tuesday is where I still have the energy and enthusiasm and direction.

But Friday?

And what's up with Wednesday being so paltry. Do I run out of energy after only two days of writing? Or is it that I only have two days of clarity about what I'm writing before having to scratch around on Wednesdays to be able to be more productive the rest of the week?

Then I considered how these numbers were calculated. It's the average of all wordcounts from the given day of the week, divided by the number of those days thus far (19 for Monday and Tuesday, 20 for the others).

But what about all the zero days? Surely they weren't distributed evenly.

And they weren't. Of the 19 Mondays, I had 7 goose-eggs. Wednesdays had 8 non-writing days out of 20. But Friday only had 4. This seems to be a quirk of when I've been travelling or had people come to visit from up North.

This is what it looks like if you take all the non-writing days out of the equation...

Which day of the week is my most productive? Part 2

That's more like it.

I'm still surprised Monday beats Tuesday. This may be due to some of the blogging that happens on Monday.

And the dip on Wednesdays and Thursdays? That's something to reflect on. It'd be great to pull those days up to 1,000 words per day, though that might be quite hard given I'm already 20 weeks in.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Flame out/flame on: Fortnights 8 & 9 of The Burns

Self-portrait, Assisi
Fortnight 8 (8-21 May)
Total words: 9,781 (1st week: 5,897; 2nd: 3,884)
Breakdown: Novel 1,903, Blog/essays 5,898, Poetry 1,980

Fortnight 9 (22 May - 4 June)
Total words: 0

So, I left for Italy on 20 May and got back to NZ on 4 June, which explains the goose egg for Fortnight 9. I actually wrote about 5,000 words of notes while on my research roadtrip and took over a 1000 photos/videos, so it was quite productive, but it was a slip back into Pre-Production rather than time spent in Principle Photography, as they say in the movie business, so I'm happy to call it 'zero' and reap the rewards of massive and intimidating wordcounts in subsequent fortnights (not to jinx anything).

As for Fortnight 8, there was the Dunedin Writers Festival, which involved some prep and some poetry on my part, which I wrote about in part here. And prep for my Italy trip, which meant there wasn't a lot of time (or headspace) to push the novel forward.


What to say about Italy?

I don't want to say much, because I want to funnel most of it into my novel (or its first draft). But I will say I found the question of sharing my journey on social media was a fraught one.

There's the temptation to share pictures and videos to make people eat their smartphones in jealousy. This is doubly so when you see others doing it while you're travelling.

But my trip is so much more interesting that yours! 
But my meal was so much more epic! 
My driving in Italy story so much funnier (and better told)!

But, of course, the reality of travel, especially solo travel for a specific, work-related purpose, isn't all jealousy inducing. There's all those meals alone (and the orders you regret: walnuts? walnuts!). The relentless mental load of getting all the places you need to get under your own steam. And the fact Italy can be a frustrating, backwards, unfriendly fucking place at the best of times. But it's easier to share the sunset shots, the flashmob in the Pantheon that gave you chills, the humblebrags about how many km's you've carved out and leave the static schmucks back home to slowly pickle in their own bile.

And with that, some pics...

Papa Francesco addressing us at the Vatican
The Pantheon 

Flying into Brindisi

Santa Maria della Grottella, Copertino

Driving to Martina Franca



Driving the A14

My Nissan Micra for the week, approaching Assisi



San Marino

San Giuseppe da Copertino taking flight


The tomb of San Giuseppe, Osimo

My haul (Fossombrone and Osimo)

Lido di Ostia