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A Lifetime Of Tetris

Here’s the rundown so far, chapter by chapter. Let this be a warning to all about the risks of making notes and then flinging aforementioned notes over your shoulders and just going with whatever felt good at the time. Obviously if you’re reading this then a lot of it will be spoiler filled. Then again what you read here will probably change anyway. Don’t say you weren’t warned though.

Prologue- Alien ship crash lands into Scottish waters

1- Morag (Mother of missing child) gets a taxi from the train station to a local bed and breakfast as she revisits Auldrigg, the town she left in the aftermath of her daughter going missing ten years previously.

On a side note it’s still bothering me that Morag doesn’t really have a reason to come back bar ‘she feels like it’. She moved when it became clear a lot of the people living in the town at the time started to think she’d killed her own daughter. Why on Earth would you go back to that? 

2- Jamie (local police officer) makes his rounds through Auldrigg. He stops at the local shop which is run by Robert. They have a bit of conversation which is mainly to establish their characters and lay down some details for the future. Currently neither of them are aware that Morag is heading back. There’s also a moment where Robert has a complete miscommunication with a German tourist about buying stamps.

3- The first chapter that nips back in time by ten years. Anne (Morag’s daughter) is trying to leave the house as her Mother is on a cleaning fit and she doesn’t really want to get a job to do. She convinces her Mother that she’ll be about ten minutes as she goes down the shop. She leaves the house. On the way back from the shop, after meeting Robert there, she finds what she thinks is somebody unconscious on the beach. She is attacked by some unknown presence and dragged under the sea water.

Only by reading this back have I clicked on exactly how much ground is covered in this chapter. It seems really unbalanced.

Hopping back and forth between the two time lines is something that happens a lot. I’m trying to make it obvious which is which each time as certain features in the town ten years previous are either no longer there or falling down later on. It might get a little bit to break neck though. 

I wanted to be able to use the ‘meanwhile back at the ranch’ method. This means that you can zip to location B if the story is slowing down a bit in location A and vice versa. Currently though my two ‘locations’ are the same place just ten years apart.

4- Jamie is at his house and is told by Deborah, the owner of the guest house Morag is staying at, that Morag is coming back. This news hits Jamie like a sledgehammer. He was the officer in charge a decade beforehand who promised Morag he’d find her daughter but then never did.

5- Morag goes back to her house which, by now, is a shell of what it used to be. Here she bumps into Jamie.

First major problem with this, why is Jamie hanging around where he knows Morag is going to be? When he heard the news I’d automatically made him out to be some kind of coward about the whole thing.

6- Anne finds herself suspended underwater. She thinks she’s drowning initially but is surprised to find she can breath. Eventually she’s let go and floats back up to the surface. She lands on the beach soaking wet and wondering what just happened. She walks home but then sees that her house is empty and almost derelict. In a panic she goes to Jamie’s house and finds him there. Unknown to her ten years have passed and Jamie just about faints on the doorstep when he opens the door to her.

It’s pretty obvious here that I’d never really thought about the actual mechanics of being taken by this alien. Exactly what happens? What is the process? My only figuring here is that she can breath underwater because the alien can as well. The alien needs a body as his has been damaged in the crash, Anne’s will do. The reason why he’s picked her has yet to become apparent.

7- Morag is in her house, the sun is setting and her daughter has not arrived home from the shop. She walks down to the local pub to ask if anybody has seen her. Upon being told she’s being paranoid and that Anne will be somewhere she goes off to find Jamie at his house.

It’s only by reading this back that I was reminded that I gave the pub a name early on. ‘The Hopeful Angler’. It sounds horrible now.

8-  Anne and Jamie are talking in his house. It’s at this point she discovers she’s been gone ten years instead of the five minutes she thought.

Also, chess gets mentioned a lot. I have no idea why.

9- Morag ends up in the town shop meeting Robert.

The more I’m reading through this the more I’m noticing the momentum of the early going is running out about now.

10- Jamie leaves Anne back at his house and goes down to the beach where she said she was attacked. He finds some kind of creature and is chased by it. He manages to escape.

This is the first part that really plays havoc with my ending as it stands. Currently both Robert and Anne have been used as templates by the alien. In Robert it creates years of what he thinks is some kind of depression, a constant feeling that he’s actually somebody else. In Anne it manifests itself as some kind of confusion.

Jamie is also taken but that’s not revealed right until the last chapter. The alien’s survival strategy is to spread itself thin. Why would the thing attack him if it’s actually holding a part of itself in Jamie? 

11- Morag breaks into her old house to see that it now appears to be a drinking den for the local teenagers.

And my god there’s a lot of inner soul searching in this chapter.

Way too much.

12- Jamie returns to his house having been chased by a strange creature. He describes the whole thing to Anne who has been holding up in his front room all this time.

13- Away back to the past again as Robert goes down to the shoreline and is taken by the alien himself.

The first time details are given of what exactly might be ‘wrong’ with Robert. True fact, Robert started this whole thing as a character of light relief only but he’s come into this in a big way.

14- Back in the present day and Robert and Jamie have a conversation over breakfast. They try to work out what they’re going to do and say to Morag should they see her again.

This entire thing takes place in an American diner. Not as in a diner in America but an American style diner that somebody has opened in a small Scottish town. Somebody has actually done that in the city down the motorway from me because they came back from the States being really impressed with the levels of service there. It does seem a bit out of place though and I was trying to get over the idea that this is exactly the same. It’s Americana via Scotland and it doesn’t quite work. It feels a little bit out of place but then the entire book has being out of time and place as a running theme.

15- Robert, having left Jamie in the diner in quite a hurry, goes back home to deal with the pain in his arm. It turns out to be a blue stone like object that is embedded into his skin. Basically it’s the alien transmitter, any command given is relayed by this. He tries to carve it out with what he has in his bathroom.

And it gets a bit gory.

16- Anne is still keeping a low profile in Jamie’s house having not been told that her Mother is around. Jamie returns home briefly and it’s the first mention Anne makes of asking for Jamie’s help in finding Morag.

The rub about this is why Jamie is keeping this young child hostage knowing full well she could just take her straight to her Mother and be done with it. This would also fulfil a promise he made years ago. My only grace so far is that he’s a logical guy and this isn’t logical. He’s waiting to find an explanation as to why Anne hasn’t aged at all.

In reality though, has he been ‘taken’ by now and it’s therefore a protective thing? Anne is later established as the main replacement for this dying alien.

17- Back to ten years ago again as Jamie starts the investigation into the whereabouts of Anne.

It’s established during all this tha Jamie and Morag know each other and Anne has often been around Jamie’s house playing chess. I’m still not sure why a Mother would be happy with her teenage daughter going around the local police officer’s house to play board games.

18- Anne gets sick of waiting around for Jamie to come back and plots her escape. She ends up jumping out of the bathroom window.

19- Robert’s in his bathroom having been past out when trying to remove the blue glowing stone that’s currently in his arm. He’s rather shocked to find the alien in his bathroom as well. The alien ends up removing it cleanly for him and he has rendered himself ‘incompatible’.

This is also the first time the alien actually gets a name. ‘Pilot’. It might remove a bit of the mystery but it makes writing him a damned sight easier.

20- Back to the past as Jamie tries to get access to Anne’s computer to try and find out if she was in communication with anybody she might have gone off to meet. He finds a few conversations with a male classmate of hers. He knows exactly who it is and sets off to his house to see if he knows anything.

I’m kind of tripping a fine line here regarding social media. If we say 2018 is the present day here then I’m going back to 2008. Twitter wasn’t really a thing, Youtube was just starting but you wouldn’t have got decent internet speeds in any Scottish fishing town then to stream anything successfully, Facebook hadn’t really been invaded by teenagers yet and Instagram was still just putting filters on your photos and little else.

Looks like it might be a job for MySpace!

21- Anne walks the streets of her home town again. She meets an old man who says something about how a woman is staying in the local bed and breakfast who had to move away a few years ago.

Bloody hell, I’m really going to need a better reason for Anne to find out where her Mother is. This is awful.

22- Jamie ends up trying to question a petrified teenage boy in front of his Father. It leads to nothing.

I’m literally sending a character down a path I know to be false. I know he’s not going to turn up anything, the reader will know he’s not getting anything so I’m not sure why this is here. This might be a obvious chapter to cut.

23- A fresh, non ‘aliened’ Robert returns to his shop. Suddenly the depression like symptoms he’s been getting for years have gone. He’s like a new man but there’s an echo of something that still bothers him.

24- Anne walks into the dining room of the bed and breakfast and finally meets her Mother again after ten years.

I currently hate this chapter. I wasn’t sure if Morag would be pleased to see Anne again or if she’d wonder why the hell she’s remained the same age. It’s handled horribly at the moment and reads like a daytime soap opera.

To be honest the book starts to loose every grip it had around about now. Buckle up.

25- Ten years previous again. Jamie is leading the search with a group of locals to find Anne as the sun goes down. The police helicopter flies around above.

26- Still ten years into the past as Pilot wakes up under the sea in his crashed ship. Realising his own body is damaged and will take a while to repair he finds a suitable replacement wandering on the beach. Robert is taking a stroll along the beach.

I’m honestly surprised I waited this long to give Pilot a bit of attention. It feels really late in the day.

27- Present day Morag and Anne are upstairs in the bed and breakfast talking. Anne tells Morag she went to Jamie’s house and she’s been there a couple of nights. Morag hits the roof about this and bolts out the door to find him.

Once again, this is horrible to read back.

28- Back in the past again as Morag goes off on her own to try and find Anne who’s now been missing for a few days. She ends up meeting a group of guys outside the pub who knew Anne’s father. Rather than sympathise with Morag they accuse her of doing all this to get attention much like she got the attention of Anne’s father.

Essentially, I have a group of blokes who will think of anything to blame a woman. I’d like to say this is a bit of a stretch but I’m not sure it is. 

HANG FIRE! I SEEM TO HAVE TWO CHAPTER 28’s! What a mistake to make. It least it means I only have 33 chapters rather than 34 in that case.

28 (Again)- Robert works out that it was he, under Pilot’s control, who set the trap for Anne to get caught. Caught up with guilt he is suddenly taken with the idea of killing Pilot and ending all this.

I actually quite like this bit. There’s a bit with Robert fumbling around his kitchen trying to find a decent murder weapon.

29- Back to the past as Morag moves out of town. Despite a last minute talk with Jamie she still leaves.

30- Jamie returns home to find out that Anne has gone. It’s not long before Morag and Anne catch up with him. Arguments begin until Anne tells them they need to find Pilot to work all this out.

31- Back to the past again as Pilot gets used to living in Robert’s head. He stumbles across the sand towards his house in the harbour area.

Personally I cannot get the mental image of the bad alien from the first Men In Black movie out of my head for this. 

“Sugar…waaatter!”. 

32- Robert finds a kitchen knife that he bought but never used in his kitchen. It’s the weapon he needs and he leaves the house. He meets the town gossip outside who is really desperate to know why he’s carrying a knife outside.

These bits kind of get a bit too comical in patches.

33- Anne, Jamie and Morag go to the beach and a spaceship suddenly emerges from the water. The door opens and they go inside.

Actually I seem to have forgotten how numbers work so there are more chapters after this.

34- Robert arrives at the beach and finds the ship. Inside the previous body of Pilot is just about dead and he doesn’t want to let Robert in because he can tell he’s armed. Anne, being part of Pilot also, convinces him he doesn’t mean harm. Robert does come aboard, he leaps towards Pilot and drives the knife into his head, it does absolutely nothing and Pilot spends time explaining why this all happened.

And it’s the most Scooby Doo thing I’ve ever written.

35-  He owner of the bed and breakfast watches Anne and Morag check out as they travelling back to the city. She can’t work out what’s happened. The same taxi driver that brought Morag here a few days previous is taking them back to the train station a few miles away. Jamie comes back to wave goodbye.

36- Robert and Jamie talk things over in his shop. Robert is happy everything is over and that Pilot has gone. Jamie agrees as he leaves the shop. The last scene is Jamie nursing the blue orb in his arm and trying ti hide it from everybody.

That’s it then! If you’ve read all the way through this drivel then you have my thanks. It’s vastly overblown and losing grip on anything resembling a story from about halfway through onwards. The ending is also stuck together with glue and some of the characters are as well. It’s going to take a while to fix but I’ll start with the prologue and see where it goes from there.

But hey, first draft is done!

 

 

 

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Four Spice Chicken

My wrestling article is finally finished!

(Incidentally if 90’s WWF shows are your thing then you could take a little look should you so wish )

This clears the decks for the second run through of ‘The One Who Left’. I wanted to take the time to get a little few others bits done and out of the way so I can have a good clear run at this. I’ve spent a bit of time going down the chapters in order and I’ll be posting the entire list on here with a brief run down about what happens in each in the very near future. After that it’ll be a case of deciding what stays and what goes. It’ll probably get really deep into the workings of the story and what direction it’s taking. If that’s your thing then we’re all cool but I can perfectly get with it if that sounds completely boring.

The first question I’m already tackling is the prologue. Whilst I’m not really a fan of prologues in books usually I put one in here because it was the first hint that something alien was happening. The alien itself is not named at all in the opener and it’s simply a description of his craft falling through Earth’s upper atmosphere before plunging into the sea just off the coast of Auldrigg, my fictional Scottish fishing town (you’ve no idea how many different Scottish sounding place names I had to Google until I got to one that didn’t exist in real life). The version of the prologue currently in place is pretty vague on detail of who exactly this crash landing person is because I was far more interested in keeping him in the shadows until about halfway through the book. The core of the story was the daughter’s disappearance so keeping an alien being on the sidelines for the opening parts of the story seemed to make sense.

Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps the prologue doesn’t have to be there at all but I’ll still have a crack at rewriting it with more detail on the character and why he got there.

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The Revolt Against The Management

I haven’t been back to the book for the last couple of weeks. It has remained closed since I wrote ‘The End’ on the final page. The main aim was to get some other work done that was outstanding before going forward with it. I’ve done my last game review for Orange Bison so that’s now filed and waiting for them to upload it. There’s also a wrestling report for my own podcast The Conquistabores to get done but that’s not far off.

Once the decks are cleared then it’ll be game time. I’ll be starting up another text file and then porting over all the rewritten chapters one by one onto the fresh slate. I figured this would be better than just cutting and pasting the whole thing over first and changing it all from there. At least this means the fresh versions will be on the new file from the get go.

It’s looking like I’ll be doing a chapter run through on this blog very soon followed by showing the first chapter both before and after the rewrite.

Hopefully that should be interesting.

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The Dumfries Rain

Having never really edited a first draft before I’m wondering what the first step is going to be. The most likely route I’ll be going down is writing down all my chapters in numerical order with a one sentence line about what happens in each. Then I’ll have a general overview about what happens in the story, what needs fixed and what needs cut all together. The concern I have is that I planned out nineteen chapters but it’s ended up being thirty four.

My other big worry right now is that there are parts in which I’ll expand outwards with. I’ve always been of the impression that you had to cut down when editing. The whole point is that you’re cutting down all the fat.

Yet here I am, with entire sections that are basically ‘something happens here’ that’ll need fleshed out. What I have at the moment is the pencil outline, I’m adding the shades right now.

I have a wrestling article to finish and a game review for a website. After that the battle starts all over again.

In a side note, for those keeping score, I made the fourth attempt at home made sourdough yesterday at it turned out like a Frisbee.

400g flour.

300g of starter

About 300ml of water.

And 5g rock salt

Has given me something that should be thrown as a sport not eaten

Back to attempt number five soon then.

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Programming Goats

I’ve woken up this morning with a genuine clarity of mind. It has in turn made me feel really good within myself. I think it stems from the first draft being finished last night.

Often during the process of having I writing project on the go I’ll feel guilty about doing the stuff I enjoy. There is always the inner voice asking why I’m not hunched over the keyboard right this very minute. If I want to be a writer so bad and for that to be my main job then why am I not writing with every spare second I have free? It can get really miserable and means that I stress about going places or doing other stuff.

‘I’m getting older and need to crack this writing thing now!’ I will think to myself somehow of the strange belief that every newly published author is below 25.

After writing ‘The End’ last night I made a cup of coffee, laid out some biscuits and watched some wrestling on TV. I’ve done this before over the last eighteen months of this book project but that feeling of this act being frivolous vanished last night. It felt wonderful and probably contributed to the clear headed feeling I had this morning.

I’m off to Manchester this weekend for a Doctor Who fan convention. It’s been booked for a couple of months but I had the usual worry about it beforehand. Thinking about it this morning gave me a much more enjoyable angle on it.

Whilst the book certainly isn’t ‘finished’ it has passed that first major hurdle. Psychologically it’s been more beneficial than I ever thought it would be.

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551 Days

4th March 2017 to 6th September 2018.

That’s 551 days.

It’s the period of time it has taken me from writing the first word of this book to, five minutes ago, writing ‘The End’ on the final page if the first draft.

It reads horribly, I only did notes for nineteen chapters at the beginning yet seem to have run it up to thirty five, one character changes age halfway through because they were far better being older and the town itself only gets a name from about two thirds in. This is just the beginning of the problems this thing has.

Also this time scale would have been far shorter had I not been plagued with a severe case of not being bothered by it between September last year and February this. I think the initial rush of writing about these characters left me and the stark reality of having to do something with them set in. For many weeks I was avoiding doing anything for fear of having to sort all this out.

But the crucial part is that it exists as a whole project. I’ve partially broken Open Office doing this but I’ll fix that later. For now I have some wrestling articles I really need to write up. The first hurdle is done though and that’s the best feeling.

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Empty Arena Boss Fights

The rain helped.

I’m now standing on 54,150 words and there’s probably another chapter to get out of this. Probably one more session will do it but that might have to wait until Thursday when I’m next off work.

I’m in Manchester this weekend so I’d really love to get it all done before then.

The end (of the first draft) is in sight.

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When The Summer Is Over

The Scottish school kids went back for term a couple of weeks ago and the English kids are following them this week. It’s belting down with rain outside so any thoughts of taking another trip out to the coffee shop today are being put on the back burner.

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The current view from my back window.

So it looks like a good day to write. As I look at the file now I can see that my word count is just shy of 53k so I’m not that far away from finishing what I consider to be a first draft. It’s a terrible read though with half formed ideas suddenly being introduced halfway through without much backing of set up. Once I begin the rewrites and the process of putting those new chapters into Microsoft Word as opposed to Open Office (those keeping track will remember that I broke Open Office spell check about 25,000 words in and it hasn’t returned) I’ll perhaps put some sections up here from both the old version and the new and show what sort of angle I’m going for. It’ll also hopefully detail how much the tone seems to have changed from what I was writing 18 months ago when 4,000 words was a major achievement.

 

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The Need For Consistency In The Sourdough Bread Baking Community

My son started secondary school last week. His previous school was about a ten minute walk from our house and we used to walk up together and then walk back in the afternoon. Now he gets a taxi to his new school each day which picks him up outside the house. Whilst this does mean I don’t need to be ready and dressed when he has to go anymore it does mean I can go the whole day without leaving the house. This is not a good thing.

I had planned to do a bit of writing today. Firstly I had a few finishing touches to do to a games review for Orange Bison, a website I have occasional contributions to. Once that was done it would be more on the book. Sitting down to write at 8:30am though, once my son had left, would mean I’d be indoors all day again. I felt I needed a walk out first.

Anybody who thinks the last few entries in this blog have lacked photos is in for a treat right now.

I was on a mission for spelt flour. Hang with me here because I have my reasons. For the last few weeks I’ve been trying to homebake a decent sourdough loaf. I have my starter bubbling away in a jar underneath the stairs and it’s fed each evening (mostly). My first attempt at such a thing resulted using 100g of starter, 394g of white flour (I know, I was following an online recipe) and 8g of salt (yikes!) resulted in something which was flat but actually did taste like sourdough once you got past the salty after taste,

Upping the starter amount to 250g and the flour to 400g (because rounding up is good) yet reducing the salt to 5g meant it rose a certain amount but tasted really bland.

Various recipes online give wildly different instructions.

So I thought maybe adding spelt flour would give it something else at least, mixing it 50/50 with the white flour. The weather was good so I walked to the local shopping centre because there’s a health food shop there. I wasn’t sure if they’d have it but amongst the protein powders and energy bars but I did manage to strike gold.

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Today will mark the third attempt. These are the things I do when not writing.

Whilst I was at the shopping centre I decided to get a cup of coffee and a cake at 11am because I don’t often get the chance to do this without it being my lunch hour or something.

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With great foresight I managed to remember to bring a book along with me to read as well. I’m currently a good part of the way through Jim Smallman‘s ‘I’m Sorry, I Love You’ which is a history of professional wrestling. It’s a really good read, well researched yet still accessible. Wrestling fans will understand the title, anybody not in the know will think it’s a bit odd. There was a woman who was on the table opposite me who seemed to be trying to work out, from the picture of a bare chested man on the front, which Mills and Boon novel I was reading.

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Then I walked back home past the town shops up the road from my house. I bought a loaf of bread and some steak pie. I got home to realise that I forgot to buy breakfast cereal for tomorrow morning.

Also once I got back home this year’s version of Pro Evolution Soccer is waiting on the doormat. Every year I tell myself I should just not bother with spending money on the latest edition because it’s just a little bit of an improvement. Then they announced that the Scottish Premier League was officially in the 2019 version.

I’m such a sucker.

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All this took me up to noon when I got started with writing. I’m actually doing quite well with it so I’m glad I trooped out for a jaunt this morning. If I’d have stayed in then I would certainly have got underway earlier but it would have been a bit stop and start as I was trying to find the groove.

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The Absolute Certainty Of The End

This last part is a grind. I’ve always had two endings in mind for the story and have made the rather stupid choice of going for neither of them until I got to that part in the writing process and I could sort it out then. Now I’m at that bit I’m really, really regretting that.

One ending I came up with was boring but made sense, the other is the complete opposite. Now I’m actually at the ending I’m kind of trying to bodge together a halfway point between the two and it really isn’t working. I have too many characters in the one place so it all feels like they’re just queing up to say massive chunks of exposition before all trying to kill each other.

There’s a big part of me wanting to go and fix this RIGHT NOW but there’s another part that just wants to get to the end (or at least an ending of sorts) so I can go back to the start and solve everything from there. Considering some of the early chapters were written about eighteen months ago they’ll feel a completely different atmosphere to what I’m writing now.

There’s also the fact I’ll need to transfer all the text into Word from Open Office as this number of words seems to have broken the Open Office spell checker.

 

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