Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grant year, week 12: writing, writing, writing

I hit 70,000 words this week. I'm about midway through the second act. So, my second act is looking kinda short. My first act is too long. Which may just mean that I need to move that first climax a bit earlier.

I've decided that I'm going to create a fictitious outlaw motorcycle club for the purposes of my story. One reason is that I don't particularly want Bandidos or Hell's Angels turning up on my doorstep saying I've misrepresented them. The second is that I'm planning on using the whole bikie thing in the second book (yes! There's a second book -- provided I can sell this one) so, again, misrepresenting an outlaw MC is not high on my 'Dumb things I gotta do today' list.

So anyway, it's funny, trying to come up with a name that isn't actually an existing motorcycle club, outlaw or otherwise. I was thinking Scurvy Dogs but, yep, there actually is a Scurvy Dogs MC. And speaking of cool MC names, how about the Pissed Off Bastards!

At the moment they're just referred to as TK -- the letters I use when I don't want to have to look something up immediately. (I do a search and replace for TK and then do the research). Maybe I should just leave it at that. :)


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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grant year, week 11: researching and writing

I'm going to keep this brief because I want to try and knock over another thousand words tonight.

Had a more successful trip to State Library to check out Phil Dickie's The Road to Fitzgerald. It was so good I've decided to buy a copy! (Got it second hand, it's on its way to me now).

Have also been doing more reading on outlaw motorcycle clubs.

In The Brotherhoods, Arthur Veno has a totally different take on it to Steve Utah (Dead Man Running).

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Grant year, week ten: writing and researching

Mostly writing. I had one-and-a-half 'writing days' this week, and I was meant to have one on Monday, so I was going to see if I could get to 60,000 words. It would have been the first time I'd written 10k in a week since before kids, when I was writing '4157'.

But because of the quake in Japan I've got to shift my writing day to Wednesday, so that's not going to happen. However, I have done 57,000 words so I'm happy with that. I might aim for 65k by the end of the week. What I definitely want to do is stay ahead on word count. So, regardless of how much I write per week, still aim for 5k each week, as a minimum.

Into the second act, I'm starting to face some hard decisions. And I'm starting to realise that there are things that don't work, that will affect the structure, that need to be changed. I'm not stressing because I can see the changes that need to be made. I have answers!

There are some other things that I've yet to decide on. For example, the order that the tattoos appear. At the moment, it's kinda chronological, which makes sense. But maybe it would make more sense for them to appear in reverse chronological order ('Memento'-style). But I can't really make those decisions until I've written the whole book, given it a little rest, then had another look at it.

Other things I'm starting to wonder about is the pros and cons of using real people in a fictional story. Not the main characters, of course, but the backdrop. Skin Deep has a political sub-plot, which involves the rise of a Labor star, following a long period of conservative rule. So, I can make up history, or I can make up people. I can make up a fictional conservative PM, or I can imagine a world where Peter Costello succeeded from John Howard and went on to win the 2007 election. But, I'm not trying to write alternative history! And if the book sells into the US and the UK, which I obviously hope it does, then the knowledge of local politics won't really matter.

The research this week has been mostly online, looking into the 2006 Black Hawk crash off Fiji, in which two men died. Have also been reviewing a couple of books I own about the SAS, and also reading a book I bought recently, about outlaw motorcycle gangs in Australia.

Have also taken some photos down the Gold Coast (see previous entry on that).

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Skin Deep: Gold Coast

I've decided there may be a scene or two set on the Gold Coast, so I took the opportunity to get some photos. (You'll notice there's no 'sights' in there)

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Grant year: first act done!

Just finished the first act. It's almost 50,000 words long. I read an article by Kim Wilkins that suggests the breakdown of a novel is 20-30 per cent for the first act, 50 per cent for the second act, then whatever's left over for the finale. She says it's not an exact science, but it could mean that my first draft is over 150,000 words long. Which would make it harder to sell.

Having said that, I'm determined to let this story unfold in a natural way. Given I've got the grant, I have the luxury of exploring various storylines even if I end up cutting them later on. The last novel I wrote, I allocated 5k per chapter, but each chapter was only vaguely defined in terms of scenes. So I ended up with many chapters where I was struggling to find the 5k. So I definitely don't want to do that with Skin Deep.

The other thing I'm starting to realise is that it's going to be too confusing to incorporate elements of the protagonist's service in Africa as well as his service in Afghanistan. I'm not making any hard decisions yet, but I'm getting a strong feeling that I'll end up dropping the Africa angle.

I think I might spend my writing day this week giving the word count a push. I'm on track, but if I end up writing a 150,000+ first draft, it's going to mean it will take longer to write and longer to edit. And if I decide to cut it back to 80-90k, that's going to take a lot of structural work.

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

Grant year, week nine: writing and researching

Had a fairly frustrating visit to State Library on Friday. All my fault -- nothing to do with State Library!

I think, in my head, I imagined a montage scene from a movie about an investigative journalist. Looking through books, newspaper clippings, finding out 'stuff'.

I thought I would just go to the library and find out 'stuff'.

The day got off to a bad start because it was raining and I had to walk from the far end of Southbank, because SLQ's car park is still being repaired after the floods. So, even though I had an umbrella, by the time I got there, my shoes were squelching.

Then I had problems connecting to the shared wifi using my Mac, even though I've used it previously at SLQ and it has worked fine.

I got on one of the SLQ computers and started searching. But my searches were so vague that I may as well have been searching from home. Which, as it turns out, would have been a perfectly viable option for most of what I wanted to do (except I needed to renew my library card).

The last time I did newspaper research for a book was when I was working on '4157'. That was when State Library was inbetween buildings, so I spent the day out at Camp Hill (or maybe it was Cannon Hill). That was a different situation because I had quite a narrow search. I wanted to look at newspapers from specific days so I could see what was in the news that day, and get a feel for the era.

Back to the present, I couldn't find any Brisbane-specific books about tattooing or outlaw motorcycle clubs. The one general book I found about outlaw motorcycle clubs wasn't on the shelf.

I did find a couple of juicy titbits looking through online newspaper archives. There was a big police operation targeting the Finks a while ago. The defence counsel described the MC club as "Rotary but with tattoos".

There was another brief about a bikie who, after getting busted, updated his MySpace status thus: 'Goin to jail... yawn'.

Yesterday, when my wife and I were cleaning out the study I found some Writing Queensland magazines that I've been meaning to get to. In one of them, Kim Wilkins has some advice about research. And one bit is kind of a no-brainer. Basically, it's know what you need to find out before trying to find it. So, I wish I'd read that a couple of months back!

So now I'm thinking, maybe I don't need to research now. Maybe I need to use my writing days to power through the word count, and make a list of all the specific details I need to research. And then, if something major comes up, I'll know it and I'll be able to tackle it if and when it comes up.



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