Catching Up

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Over the busy weekend, as I said in my previous post, I had a lot to think about, and managed to resolve an issue that had cropped up, having been kindly, if surreptitiously had this pointed out by a friend. 

That had been put behind me and I continue now to play a bit of catch up in terms of the goals I had set on the numbers I wanted to achieve each day and week. 

See: A Calculated Approach

Up to the end of yesterday, I should have signed off 9000 words.  However, my count was only up to 7486, leaving me 1514 words still behind my target.  The news here is not all bad, as after the weekend I had been 2500 words behind, therefore over yesterday I made up 1000 words.  The royal we are starting catch up, and quickly. 

My big drive this week, if I cannot catch up in one day is to have caught up by the end of the week at least.  What this means, is that I want to have 15000 of the 60000 target, by 19 January.

Here we go!  Time to climb that overhanging cliff face.

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Falling Behind – unforeseen obstacles

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“You’re falling behind Murray.  You need to MUFASA!”

Laugh, go on…  Ok, just a little giggle?  You smiled though, didn’t you!?  Admit it!  Even if, with the shake of your head…

I had asked a very simple question of my friend on Thursday this week.  It was a question that seemed so mundane at the time.  However, my question to him was answered by a number of questions that he threw back at me.  His questions were good ones, pertinent questions, addressing something that I had not, until then, considered significant to the story as a whole.  However, Beelzebub’s advocate has now pointed out an aspect of the story that I have had to put some thought into, which has set my timelines back a little.

The questions have been answered now, but the pressure, is on with my only having signed off just over 5000 words this week so far.  The delay has left me hanging from the cliff face, trying desperately to cling on and climb up to the 7500 word mark that I had planned to achieve by the end of tomorrow.  With today being a likely write-off – literally – I will need to put my head down and bang out 2500 words on a Sunday.

Stress.  Best of luck to me!   

 

And so it Begins

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Below are a couple of excerpts from the first chapter.  Please let me know if you have any criticism here?  I am particularly interested in the African accent that I am trying to portray for the nurse.  What are your thoughts, please on keeping this up or not?  My concern is that readers will not be able to make out what she is saying.  Please feel free to comment.

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It must have been peak visiting hours at the hospital that day as the only parking I had managed to find was two bays away from furthest exit.  “At least I don’t have far to drive to get the hell out of here,” I said to myself as I started on the hike back through the packed parking towards the hospital entrance.  It was mid-afternoon on a Thursday, but the sun had lost none of its sting on its way down to the Western horizon.  My shirt had started to stick to me in uncomfortable places as I approached the hospital buildings.

Sunninghill hospital was located in the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg, and cared mostly for the middle to upper classes.  The relatively high fees ensured that the less fortunate had to resort to government-run hospitals.  The buildings looked as if giants from the distant past had overturned empty packing boxes and left them outside on the pavement.  The only distinct feature, amongst the big, brown, square building blocks, was the entrance.  Jutting out from between two of the biggest giant boxes, an obvious afterthought of an unimaginative architect was a covered walkway, indicating that I was going in the right direction.  It was functional in terms of keeping the rain off the patients smoking outside, while leaning on their drip poles, but did not fulfill the purpose of creating a welcoming atmosphere.  I dodged in and out of the pajama-clad inmates, and made my way into the building.

Inside the double sliding doors I took in the foyer.  It was a wide-open space, white tiled, and white walled.  Couches were strategically placed in areas outside different departments.  There was the general waiting area in front of me across the floor.  There was little couch-space left for anyone else to join those already sitting, leafing blindly through archaic copies of National Geographic and You Magazines.  To my left was the emergency waiting area.  Judging by the looks on the peoples’ faces that were sitting there, the couches did not seem particularly comfortable.  Behind and to my right was the cafeteria, serving skinny cappuccinos, strawberry-flavoured Snapples and full English breakfasts, among other things.  To my right was the entrance to a stairwell and a bank of dark grey elevator doors, obscured by a mix of silent orderlies, chatty nurses and impatient members of the general public.  In front, and to my left was the reception area, my first port of call.

I made my way across to the desk, where a plethora of anxious people faced off across a curved wooden counter with a wide-eyed young man, furiously hacking with his fingers at a stained keyboard, whilst attempting to listen to the pleas of ten different voices all at once.  There didn’t seem to be any queuing system to try and create any sort of efficiency.  Instead, I watched as the loudest and most forceful dominated the attention of the poor receptionist, frustrating those clearly less abrupt in their collective demeanor.  The squeakiest wheel gets the oil, I thought, and leapt forward to take the spot a broad-shouldered behemoth of a man had left upon triumphantly leaving the counter.  I felt a twinge of guilt as I realized that I had cut off a tiny, grey-haired lady who had been waiting patiently, but I pretended not to have noticed her and began to squeak as loudly and obnoxiously as I could.  Eventually I out-shouted an Indian man to my right, who had also cut off the diminutive pensioner, and snatched the attention of the frantic receptionist.  I froze.  Shit!  What was the guy’s name!?  The receptionist looked straight at me in utter disbelief.  The Indian man next to me began to squeak again, with enhanced vigor.  “Who are you looking for, Sir?” said the receptionist.

“One moment.  Hold on.” I said, re-gathering my wits.  My hand darted into the back pocket of my jeans, seizing the note I had made earlier, while on the phone.  “Here,” I said, handing the note to the receptionist.  I had not read the name, since I had had it spelt out to me three days earlier, and I now doubted whether I had even written it down correctly.

“Mabena,” read the receptionist out loud, squinting his eyes at the computer screen in front of him. “Siyabonga Mabena.  Yes, he’s in Aloe ward.  It is on the Second Floor.”  I thanked the man, turned my body sideways and slid out through the growing crowd of visitors.  Behind me I heard something that changed my attitude completely.

Over the din of desperately squeaking wheels, in a firm but friendly tone, I heard the receptionist say, “Please let the lady through!”

***********************break

The head nurse of Aloe ward was, to my mind, somewhat of a paradox.  She was short and round, physically the long-lost, African sister of Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.  Crows had left their footprints around her eyes, and it seemed as though the carrion had also pecked at her eyeballs, leaving them bloodshot and recessed.  It was as if the pain and suffering she had born witness to over many years, had had a physical affect on the top half of her face.  By contrast, the bottom half was untouched by any sort of weathering over time or through tragedy.  Her nose was round and flat, accentuating her perfectly smooth, plump cheeks and big, full lips.  Although the heartache had stolen the glint from her eyes, her smile, which she greeted me with as I approached the nurses’ station, possessed an immortal quality.  If her eyes were not there to reassure you, her big, wide, wonderful smile was.  “Good hufternoon, Ser.” she said, “How ken I help you?”  Her accent was African, although I could not say from exactly where.  She was formal, and yet welcoming, somehow putting me at an ease I had not felt since I had left home that morning.

“Um, hi, yes,” I said, stumbling over my words at the unexpected courtesy, while at the same time fumbling once again in my pocket for the note containing the man’s name whom I had come to visit.  “I am looking for…” I pulled the note out of my pocket, but this time made the effort to read it myself, “…Siyabonga Mabena.”

“Ah, Siya,” she said, “whut a luffly men.  He is in room seven, just up the pessege.”  She leaned forward over the counter behind which she stood and indicated the direction in which I should head.

“Thanks,” I said, still a little taken aback by the friendliness and calm she radiated.  “Thanks,” I repeated, and headed down the wide, light grey corridor.

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A Calculated Approach

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The Numbers

Having proudly, yet nervously, told a fair few friends and even more new friends that I am writing a book, there seems to be a couple of trends in the questioning that follows the interactions.  In addition to the most prominent, “what is it about?” I have been bombarded by a number of, “How long is it?  How far are you?” queries.  The former has been addressed in a previous post.  I am now responding to the latter here.

I have approached the “numbers” in the writing from a fairly formal, calculated point of view.  Having researched average lengths of novels and required minimums, I have hit on a number of words that I am aiming for.  Forgive the use of non-words here, but I feel that it is easier to follow the numbers with, well, numbers.

According to various sources on the world wide web, it appears that an average novel is expected to be more than 50000 words.  With this novel being my first publication, I am aiming for a modest 60000 words.  There are no places in the story that I want to draw out, and a lot of the prose is dialogue driven, which is why I decided on this number.

Having mapped the story out into 14 chapters and an epilogue (although this epilogue may well become chapter 15), in order to reach 60000 words, I am looking to average 4000 words a chapter.  This number will vary and represents no more than a working average, but I feel will help along the way to keep me focused.

The Timeline

With the silly season posing, what can only be described as a massive distraction, I find myself in a position where a review is required to get the story swimming through my grey matter once again.  With this in mind, I have set out the following timeline to work towards in order to achieve my goal of having the novel complete, at least in my eyes, by the end of February this year.

Approaching this now from a “9 to 5” point of view, and calculating from next week Monday, I have 40 working days and 14 weekend days to write, rewrite, review and complete the novel.  Assuming working days are for reviewing my progress so far, and writing the remainder, and the weekend days for reviewing and completing what I get through each week, I am expecting to write 1500 words per day to meet my target.  This may not seem a lot, but each session requires, in my case anyway, reviews and rethinks of previous prose and making any adjustments as well as extra research as and when required.  My goal is to finish each day completely satisfied with at least 1500 word, and each week completely satisfied with 7500 words.

The Caveat

One point I do want to make clear is that these numbers are, like Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate code, “more like guidelines.”  There may be days and or weeks where there is more and others where there is less.  One of the purposes of this blog is to keep you informed as to the progress or lack thereof and the reasons behind these deviations from the average.

A Little Teaser

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Jack Grant is an up and coming journalist who has recently written a poignant piece on the failings of the processes within the judicial system of South Africa.  The article was shunned and his attempt to create a respectable reputation within his field, squashed.  He is contacted by a stranger who is sitting in a Johannesburg hospital, on his deathbed, with the promise of a series of stories that will change young Jack’s life.

Curiosity, and a nothing left to lose attitude compel Jack to visit the stranger.  Over a number of days the man relates a series of gruesome and horrific stories of two men who, together, orchestrate and commit a number of frightening murders.  The tales are unbelievable, and yet terrifyingly detailed.  Jack is left questioning whether the man is simply a twisted old stranger, looking for attention, or whether there is something more significant in the dark depths of the stories.

Against his better judgment, and with selfishness being his motivation, Jack continues to listen to the man, documenting each of the stranger’s stories.  He hopes to be left with a series of shocking, but highly marketable stories.  He hopes that he may even be able to expose a pair of serial killers?  He wonders, however, whether there is perhaps a purpose behind the stories, or whether the man simply mad…

 

Ignore the Gremlin

Ignore the Gremlin

Without doubt the biggest obstacle that I am trying to tackle in writing this book, is that of fear. The idea is there, the motivation is present, the plan is laid out, but yet I remain terrified.

This fear of failure is manifest in a little gremlin sitting on my shoulder; constantly telling me that what has been written is rubbish, that people will not like it. He tells me that what I have planned to write is too graphic, too gory, and the readers will think that I am one sick puppy. I believe him – a lot of what is to come will make Dexter look like a kitty cat with a feather duster.

Most of my friends and family believe me to be a care-free, confident person, with little regard for what others may think of me. This, however, could not be further from the truth. At my core I am a shy and insecure as Charlie Brown himself. In fact, I am worrying right now of what anybody reading this may be thinking.

Some might say that I over-think things, and I would struggle to stand up to the podium and debate the point. I was brought up to always think before saying or doing something, which is not a bad trait to possess. However, if you mix that with my non-confrontational nature, I tend to choose not to take the plunge, preferring to avoid even unjustified repercussions.

I need a mind-shift. I have realized that, in order to move forward, I need to make the fear of failure and the potential for negative reaction past-Murray’s problem. Now-Murray and future-Murray will be diving headlong and confident into anything and everything that warrants doing, knowing that it may not be perfect on the initial attempt. I am taking inspiration here from Mr Thomas Edison. When questioned on his numerous and continually unsuccessful attempts at illuminating his fellow mans’ lives with the, now indispensible, light bulb, Edison retorted with, “I have not failed, I’ve just found ten thousand ways that it won’t work.”

Here’s to ignoring the gremlin.