2018: BUY ONE YEAR, GET THREE FOR FREE

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Let’s recap, shall we?

At the start of the year, I was a month away from being released from a job that had turned sour and toxic. I was vastly overweight, crippled by stress, and deeply unhappy. I hadn’t completed a full piece of writing in well over 2 years, and hadn’t completed a novel in closer to four (and that one had been stillborn: a melange of bad writing and awkward choices that simply refused to come to life and be sellable).

Then, of course, we moved to Karratha. Luscious took up a position teaching at the High School. I tra-la-la’d out of the job with nary a look back (How well was I respected? My going away gift was a book of art from the Kimberleys (I was going to the Pilbara, several hundreds of kilometres away), and my Director, who knew me since my first day, could only comment on the fact that I occasionally swore when asked to make a speech about my achievements over the 8 years of my time there). I started teaching relief at Luscious’ school a day or two a week, sat down to write, and opened up my recipe books and my copy of House Husbanding for Dummies.

How’s that worked out for me? Wouldn’t you like to know?

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PROGRESS. OF A TYPE.

I realise I’ve not been around these part lately. There’s a very good reason for that.

We’re up to inputs time. Thankfully, it’s school holidays, so I have a chance to get large batches done each day. The second draft of Ghost Tracks should be just about completed by the time we have to get back into our school routine.

Give me a short while. I’ll be back soon.

 

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Page 129 of 203. or, to put it another way, I’ve edited enough today: I’ll do that bit tomorrow. 

 

FIRST DRAFT, DONE.

And that’s the first line-edit of Ghost Tracks done: 201 pages; 56,000 words; and far too many scribbled corrections.

Now for the inputting, which takes waaaaay longer: every decision leading to another decision, and down the rabbit hole we shall go, dancing……

THE RIGHT WORDS IN THE ORDER RIGHTLY

I realise I’ve been quiet for the last little while, but there’s a very good reason for that: I’ve started editing Ghost Tracks.

I don’t really enjoy editing, if I’m honest. I enjoy the creation of a novel, the red-hot rush of words and scenes that are involved in discovering the story for the first time. Because of the way I write, I often discover things only shortly before the characters do, and it’s that thrill, that sense of creating something new, and clever, and surprising, that I live for. Reordering words already written, poring over a story already told, well, that’s just drudgery.

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ALL THIS WEIGHT LOSS STUFF IS FASCINATING, BUT WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE WRITING, HUH? HUH?

Back from the air-conditioned comfort of the library, and it occurs to me that I’ve not actually mentioned how my new writing world is coming along: given that the majority of you know me as a writer and not some sort of work experience weight-loss guru for the aged and blimpically-inclined, maybe I should actually talk about the stuff that brings us all together for a moment…

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FIRST STEPS

“What does a nobleman need more than anything else?”

“I don’t know.” Paul considered the question for a second. “A big castle?”

“No, stupid. An heir. He needs an heir.”

 

First Karratha writing session achieved. 1000 words on Ghost Tracks. Not a marathon effort by any stretch, but the first new words I’ve typed in months, so it’s a positive start to my new working arrangement. I’m aiming to hit 2000 words a day for the remainder of my time here, so I’m giving myself one week just to get back into the swing of things, and then it’ll be head down, bum up and working hard to make this new writing life pay off.

 

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DAY SIX: NUMBERS FOR BETTER LIVING

Anybody who thinks numbers aren’t beautiful has never been a writer. As much as I have a love of mathematics (much like I have a love of boxing: I’m not much cop at anything beyond the basics, but by God, I love what the form can do), it’s the rise in pure numbers that gets my authorial mind smiling.

Let me show you. As of the close of business today:

  • 6700 words on Ghost Tracks, taking the text from 17,500 to a shade over 24,100.
  • 3000 words on Song of the Water, equalling 1 complete short story, taking the proposed collection to, in a beautiful piece of symmetry, a shade over 24,100.
  • 300 words on The Ballad of Arthur Williams.

Equalling 10,000 words since I arrived here.

See? Isn’t lovely? Doesn’t that make you smile? Because it make me grin like a freaking loon.

The other thing that made me smile like a loon today was my family deciding I needed to be taken out for dinner, and driving all the way here to pick me up and take me out. I’m loving this small taste of the life I want to live– writing full-time; advancing projects on a daily basis; drinking up the solitary, reflective life of an artist– but it means nothing without the love and support of those I love, and I’ve been missing them terribly. Everything I do, everything I sacrifice, everything I undertake: without them, it’s ashes.

It’s a small thing: a meal together, some laughs and togetherness. But it gives me the motivation to keep going and do them proud.

 

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They followed me home. Can I keep them?

 

 

DAY FIVE AND STAGES THREE

A simple day, today. After the social butterflying and story completion of yesterday, it was time for a return to the word mines, and an attempt to get some serious traction on Ghost Tracks.

Having spent the last 4 days staring out at the same view, I decided to pack up my computer and head into the nearby town of Midland to write, just for the change of scenery. It worked: I managed 2500 words, and shaped up the next part of the narrative, so that the next day or two of writing should come as easily as today’s.

That represents an important turning point for me: I’m not a plotter, which means that I rarely have more than a general sense of where I’m going in the short term. I usually know where I want to end up– I have the ending of this novel all sewn up, for example– but the details of the journey are often only discovered very shortly before the characters find out. In loose terms, my writing comes to me in three stages:

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DAY THREE AND AN EVENING WITH LEE

Day three of my residency, and apart from taking my work past a couple of notable milestones– Song of the Water passing 2000 words and Ghost Tracks cresting 20,000– today was notable for the appearance of a surprise guest.

There’s long been a rumour of a ghost here at the Centre, and sitting alone in a perfectly silent chalet in the depths of the rolling gardens is a perfect situation for a lonely ghost to come silently through the walls and hang in the space between the door and the desk, staring through you into the depths of a million alternative realities.

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KSP RESIDENCY: DAY TWO

My first full day of Residency, and it was important to set in place a routine that I can follow for my full time here. To that end, I started by being woken up at 2.30am: Greenmount may be idyllic, but it is also right under the departing flight path for Perth airport, and the planes are only a few hundred metres overhead and working hard to climb. Back in the day, I lived in Huntingdale, which is under the approach path– I got used to the sound of aircraft overhead, but that habit has not yet reasserted itself.

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2017 KATHARINE SUSANNAH PRICHARD WRITERS CENTRE WRITING RESIDENCY

It is upon us: this morning, I packed myself up, hugged Luscious and the kids goodbye, and hied me to the other end of Perth to commence my 2-week live-in residency at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre.

I’ll be working on 2 projects while I’m here: Ghost Tracks, the children’s novel wherein the protagonist derails a ghost train and is forced to travel to the otherworldly dimension to make amends; and the collection of short stories about supernatural incursions into historical events in Western Australia. In addition, I’ll be attending some writers groups, conducting a workshop, and being a part of some events throughout my stay.

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GHOST TRACKS

Paul sat on the back porch of the motel and pitched stones into the long grass that covered all the visible land between his perch and the broken fence that failed to delineate the boundary between the motel ground and the abandoned railway line beyond. He’d been stuck here for four days, now, ever since his grandfather’s funeral. Four days in a nowhere town of eight streets so far up the bum of the Western Australian wheatbelt that even the grain trains had stopped rolling through town for lack of interest. Four days with no internet, no TV, no video games, barely any phone reception, one café that closed between 1 and 4 pm and after 8pm, three books of which two were snaffled by his Mum and dad and he wasn’t allowed to read the other one because it was ‘too adult’, no kids his age, no kids of any age, no interest from his parents and worst of all, if he stopped to think about it too much—although he didn’t… couldn’t—no Granddad.

One of the best parts of writing Magrit was reading it to Luscious and the kids every evening– the book started out as a way of giving Master 11 something to look forward to each day to help him cope with the Rumination Syndrome that was destroying his life at the time.  

Now that he’s recovered, and Magrit is in print, I’ve turned my attention to a new kids’ novel. That thar is the first paragraph of Ghost Tracks, and just like last time, I’m reading it to the family as we go. 3400 words in as of tonight; there’s going to be some lovely nights curled up, finding out what happens next together.