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…
The first draft of Ghost Tracks cracked the 45,000 word mark today. To celebrate, here’s a short excerpt.
“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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It’s my last night at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre, and it’s time to round up what I’ve achieved over the last 2 weeks.
First and foremost, this residency has been about the writing.
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.
They followed me home. Can I keep them?
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:
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.