After a lifetime of playing with ideas and words, Tom Hughes has committed to writing a whole book in just one year. As part of his mission, he’s going to be blogging regularly, sharing the trials and tribulations of trying – finally – to complete his first novel, while simultaneously running his own business and being a father and husband.
This week – where does inspiration come from, and what happens when the inevitable slump hits…?
Choosing An Idea and Narrowing Down My Inspirations
If you’re reading this you probably have it too. That notebook with all the ideas.
So this is where I have to jump in and make a decision on what I’m doing – we are cruising up to halfway through the first month and I’ve been caught up with writing this blog, running the business and being a husband and dad.
One of the most difficult balancing acts I’ll be facing up to over this coming year is time management. How am I going to find regular time to write when I’ve barely time now to read? But that is a subject for a different blog.
What comes first is tackling the notebook. It’s one of those large moleskine types that we all love. In lots of ways, it is the distillation of all the other notebooks. Some years ago, I went back through my collection of random notes and half finished things and I collected them all together in this notebook. Summarised ideas. Quite a few of them became short stories. I’ve been harbouring the idea from the beginning of this writing challenge that I’m moving forward with a particular story. Or actually, three of them pushed together.
Now, before we go any further, there’s a disclaimer here. I’m a Science Fiction writer. This I already know about myself. I love future tech and ideas, but more importantly, how it is grounded and affects contemporary humans and characters. We could be a trillion years ahead in post-human states, but still have relationship miscommunications that would be very familiar. I grew up with this love of Sci-Fi, inherited from my Dad, who showed the kindness to get me reading (and writing) as much as possible. Mostly golden age Sci-Fi. So that was it.
The three short stories that I’ll be combining are:
- “Draphur, The Seedcity” – the major narrative, which is a short story about an agricultural planet rebelling against the established order.
- “AltRas” – a story about a remotely operated submarine unearthing a drowned city.
- “Rupille Arrives” – which tells the tale of how planets are artificially moved and the effects that has on the populace.
Will this remix system work for you if you’re writing too?
I don’t know. Chances are you aren’t in the same position as this – you might have more of a novel idea rather than short stories, no definite ideas at all, or something else entirely.
I’ve a general direction and idea about what the overarching structure is, but I wanted to share some of the inspirations that have led to this project. I’m an ex-bookseller, so ordering is critically important with books – and I neurotically shuffled these choices around to make sure I didn’t suggest any order 😉 I’ve read a lot of Science Fiction, but I’ve kept each of these on my writing shelf as a constant reminder of what I want to aim for. Each are important for different reasons, but I’ve gone with a largely more modern mix, rather than sink back on my golden-era haunches.
There are countless other books that I could add here, but this is a good selection that now sits in front of me in a little tower of novels. It might give you an idea of where this is all heading.
- The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
- The Islanders by Christopher Priest
- The Stand by Stephen King
- The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
- The Player of Games by Iain M Banks
- Pump Six and other stories by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey
- Zone One by Colson Whitehead
- The John Wyndham Omnibus (this edition is way out of print)
- The Endymion Omnibus by Dan Simmons (this collects the last 2 books of the 4, but you get the idea)
- Dark Eden by Chris Beckett
So that’s the fuel in the engine. It’s nice to have them lined up like that. I’m going to take a picture in a year and put my book on top.
Battling The Two Week Slump OR Saved By The Accountability Packet
I knew it would happen. But better to know and give one’s enemy a narrowing of the eyes than not know it at all. Being a web developer/designer type, I’ve got Google Analytics running across everything that I can shove the code in to, including this blog. I check them all regularly, but I think I’m doing this in a unhealthy manner. What does it matter who and how many are reading the blog? Does it mean anything?
I’d love to have a pithy remark here and say Fake News, but on the face of it, Google Analytics is a solemn truth bearer. In order to break this cycle, I’m going to share my last 5 days of traffic over on onebookoneyear.com:
So what does it actually mean to me? I’m not sure. I’ve got a self-induced silence on the go for the next 5-and-a-half months about this AND nobody is arriving at the site. There are two halves of me at this point:
- I can give up and no one would be bothered. I could slip away quietly, probably even close the site down.
- I can keep going and prove that this is just part of it.
Thing is, I also sent out the Accountability Packet. Which means there will be questions and that is the exact reason I sent that out. If you’re reading this and only want to do one thing to set a fire going, the Accountability Packet is a great start. I’m sure that there are many others out there who have the same tendencies when it comes their own projects.
I intend to show that I can defeat this. Not for the thousands of non-existent readers right now, but for myself. At the end of the day, that’s who I’m trying to prove this to. To defeat myself, to overcome a tricky mesh of upper-limiting behaviour.
So what next? I mean, right now?
Well, I’m emerging out of my Two Week Slump. I’ve got great excuses. My Dad visited. There’s business stuff to sort. My daughter started playschool. I can think of loads more. None of them are real excuses, though. I had the time and space to plan, but it didn’t happen. 19 days of “planning” my first novel and what have I got to show for it? Not much. Not zero, but not anything like what I’d imagined.
Am I the writer I thought I was? Or is it this period of planning that has me pinned down? Maybe this was a mistake, taking this section to plan. I could have stormed straight into it. Still, I made that tiny little timeline on photoshop… so I better stick to it.