Progress on Horizon Skies

The other day, I reached something of a milestone in the progress of my novel Horizon Skies.

Chapter 20.

Ok, I realise some of you will be thinking, “how is that a milestone?”

For anyone who has known me throughout my life, they will know that as I’ve been writing on and off for decades with nothing to show for it this is indeed, a momentous achievement. It means that for the first time in realising one of my ambitions I am actually sticking to the plan and getting it done.

My problem in the past has always been developing the story beyond its initial beginning. The ideas are always there, I can picture it in my mind’s eye but developing it on paper had always been difficult. I would find the story unravelling, like watching a thread pulled loose in a piece of fabric. My characters would meander, I could never work out how to weave elements together and this would always lead to me abandoning the manuscript and forgetting about it until I felt inspiration strike again.

This time, however, I have noticed a definite trend in a lot of books I have read which I believe has really helped me with my writing.

The dedication of a chapter per character is a brilliant writing skill. Not only does that character develop entirely within their own universe but there’s room for their back story and room for them to breathe within the pages. I’ve noticed it with a lot of writers (Morgan Rhodes and Trudi Canavan for example) and I find it provides a definitive line between each character’s story until such time as their destinies bring them together.

This is the approach I’ve taken with my story. I have five central characters, two of whom are thrown together fairly early on but it’s not until I’ve reached this final part of the story that I’m now at the stage of being able to bring them together which will move the story towards its finale and set the scene for the sequel.

I’m very excited about this; I look back through my scribblings and notes, little doodles in my notebook and feel I’ve done myself proud. When the book is finished I can get to editing and fine tuning and then take the next step on my journey as a writer 🙂

What’s In a Name?

Quite a lot it turns out, especially where the name concerned is the book title.

When my story first took shape in my imagination many moons ago, the title of Red Sky Dawn was always there and at the time it seemed to fit very nicely with the story arc I had in mind.

Over the years, however, as I’ve started, stopped and started again the basic plot has remained the same but so many elements have changed that as time wore on, Red Sky Dawn began to feel rather hackneyed. I guess, as I’ve grown older and worked on my writing skills the book has grown with me but it outgrew the title.

I realised, I would be doing the story a massive disservice to keep the original title and it was on my way to work one morning this week that I began throwing titles around.

I commute to Cambridgeshire every day and having only lived in the area for less than a year I still feel rather charmed by the beautiful countryside. Rural England is a part of the country lost in a bygone age where, away from the smog and smoke of big city living, one can truly appreciate beautiful green vistas, endless skies and the most stunning sunrises. It’s a rare morning that doesn’t see the sky awash with pink and orange swathes of soft clouds, where the sun is a bright, golden disc on the horizon bathing the earth in shimmering amber.

That’s when it struck me. Endless skies, infinite horizons with promises of the unknown and thus, Horizon Skies was born and Red Sky Dawn was laid to rest.

This simple change has actually rejuvenated me. I no longer feel I am working on something old and tired but something new and fresh with the real possibility of finally getting it finished!

To finish this book would be the completion of a labour of love that has seen me go through myriad life changes and perhaps the title is also a reflection of a place I was in at the time it first germinated. The new title has a more positive feel and a brightness and I shall take to the remaining blank pages with renewed vigour.

My Writing Conundrums

The last couple of weeks have been rather taken up with work and preparing for my Amdram stint in Sherlock Holmes next week. Sadly, this has impacted on my writing time and I’ve not had many opportunities to get stuck in as it were. Plus, I’ve been rather politically vocal this week as anyone who follows me on Twitter is aware!

So, here I am at the start of a very well earned, long anticipated week off work; so I have decided to get back to doing some writing as well as updating my blog. Which I promised myself would be updated every week.

I am currently twelve chapters in with a word count of 27,244 which averages to 2,095 per chapter. By my reckoning, if I manage to complete the intended 30 chapters I want the book to be this should be around a 60,000 word novel. From what I’ve read in blogs etc., that doesn’t seem to be a bad length for a first effort. Ideally, I would like to finish around the 80,000 word mark.

My biggest conundrum has always been; what length should a chapter be? When I write a chapter that has manifested as a “movie” in my head I find the words flow very smoothly and the chapter literally writes itself to a natural end.

That’s all well and good but then, there are the chapters that don’t start life that way. Typically, these are the chapters centred around one particular character. When I read them back to myself, they seem a little dull and lacklustre but to do away with them would lose a lot of work.

Should I not worry about these chapters right now and come back to them later when perhaps I may be feeling more inspired? Or should I persevere and doggedly write them to completion, even if I’m not entirely satisfied with their outcome?

Sitting down this morning to write, I decided to revisit chapter eleven. It’s dull, there’s nothing exciting in it and it flounders at the 1,700 word count. I’ve written school essays longer than that!

I’ve added another 400 words to it and decided to give the focal character in this chapter a back story that reveals a struggle with sexuality resulting from a past event.

Then I berate myself, have I written in a gay back story purely to show that I am in some way, trying to represent the LGBT community with one of my characters? (Let’s face it, there isn’t much representation for the community in mainstream publishing.) Is it relevant to the overall plot or is it purely there to give a little insight into this character’s current dilemma and situation? I think time will tell on this one, as I have an overall plot to follow but the subplots have a tendency to spring themselves on me when I least expect it.