So I Kinda Sorta Maybe Wrote A Novel (Again)

I guess I’ve been away from this thing for a little while. Apart from a quick excited post the night before Star Wars opened and a grand(ish) return to blogging for a top ten films of 2015 list I haven’t really been around since last April. So, the absence and the reasons behind it…

To tell the story properly (as all stories are and should be told), I have to go back to 2014 and my various failed attempts to write an epic fantasy novel called The Kraken and the Clock Tower. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what happened there. All I can say for certain is that there was some fundamental problem with that project that caused me to keep getting stuck at some point around 10,000-15,000 words at which point I would basically delete everything, go back to my outline to reshuffle a few things, and try again. I repeated this process more times than I care to think about.

By the time I shelved the idea, I was thoroughly burned out on the whole thing. Not just The Kraken and the Clock Tower (which, for the record, I’m still at least a little convinced I can salvage in some form at some point) but for writing in general. I just didn’t want to do it any more. I was, to put it bluntly, fucking sick of slamming my head against this thing and getting nothing back. So I quietly quit.

I carried on blogging of course. The act of putting fingers to keyboard still felt good away from the constraints of having to write fiction, and the idea that maybe I’d switch over to some sort of amateur blogger who occasionally writes critical pieces about films or video games or books or whatever else takes my fancy set in. I didn’t once stop to consider it as a career or bother to set up some sort of schedule for myself, it would just be a fun thing to do whenever I felt like it.

But over time, as the sting wore off, I softened and opened up to the idea of just having ideas again. Working at a cinema helped, surrounded by friends who are themselves aspiring creators. Talking to people about the films they’re making and screenplays they’re writing started bringing me back around to the idea of doing something of my own some time around I guess January.

The idea was simple. It was to be called The Road Pirates and it would be something akin to Mad Max meets Ice Road Truckers meets Lovecraft. But the idea just didn’t really stick. Instead, I found myself on a long and slow box office shift just waffling an idea on a piece of receipt paper. It turned into a short scene about a kid named Zack who works at a cinema but spent his entire shift fantasising about filming his own movie. It wasn’t destined to be anything, it was just a way to pass the time.

But then things started to happen. Shapes began to form, entirely separately at first, no real rhyme or reason to them. Zack stuck with me, perhaps because I could identify with his being a cinema worker with a compulsion to do something more with his life. He was joined by a twin sister Jeannie, and her girlfriend, a fiery redhead named Tallulah Rainbird (for reasons I can’t entirely remember).

Then I saw It Follows and the beautiful desolation of Detroit captured my imagination. If I was going to write something again, it would be set there I decided, or at least in a secondary world facsimile. Again, I was undecided, and the Detroit idea formed separately from Zack and Jeannie and the others.

Finally, a breakthrough occurred. As some readers will remember, I started a feature where I began to watch the films of David Lynch in order. And I cheated a little bit. One night after a late close I arrived home and decided that, yes, 2:30 in the morning was the perfect time to brave Mulholland Drive, and somewhere along the way in that tale of lost love and intrigue and fractured reality, everything took shape in my head, all at once.

And so we come to the novel. Admittedly, the title of the post was a bit misleading, since it’s not really done yet. But I am more than 100,000 words in, meaning I’m a couple thousand away from it being the longest piece of writing I’ve ever put together. It’s titled Cinema Vérité and it’s essentially about everything I talked about above.

Zack Madison is one of the last refugees of Dearborn MI, a town left behind by the collapse of the motor industry, along with his sister Jeannie, her girlfriend Tallulah, and the Madisons’ increasingly conservative religious mother. Working at the last independent cinema in Detroit and resorting to petty thieving to make ends meet, Zack may have found a way out for him and his friends when the discovery of a dead actress starts him down a path to creating his own films, until the lines between reality and fiction, substance and dreams begin to blur, and malevolent forces gather themselves seemingly to stop them at any cost.

Admittedly, the blurb needs work. But the story is there, it has a fairly concrete beginning, and I know exactly how it ends. Right now I’m just in the process of joining the dots and getting a first draft down on paper so I can begin moulding the thing into the shape it needs to be.

I imagine I’ll go fairly radio silent on the writing process again, since that seems to be what hobbled me a bit last time around. But I’m just so excited to be back to a place where I’m passionate about doing it again. And hopefully going forward I’ll figure out how to make room for a bit more blogging than I managed in 2015 as well.

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