April 20th, 2020 – 572 – Day thirty-five

I made 57 moves in my last game of chess. 12 were the BEST moves. Ok, so the chess.com app tells me 13 were outright blunders, and four were outright lost opportunities to win on top of that but, hey, one of my twelve was checkmate. Aye. I still suck at chess. But I’m getting better! Ish. Still got my eye on that beautiful chess set in marble, and if I get it you better believe I will be aiming to do better than 17 god-awful moves out of 57. 10 is quite enough.

In a stunning move in my writing, I managed to figure out how to inject a bit more excitement into a scene I was worried was ‘death of the novel bad’ at the time. Now I think I’ve set up a far more interesting conflict than the one I had initially planned, and one that is going to bring more of the horror elements I wanted to evoke front and centre in the plot. I should relisten to one of my all-time favourite books for inspiration in that vein: 14 by Peter Clines. His is a style and pazazz I aspire to, and I love the way he balances intrigue and horror in this book.

My routine is a total mess at the moment, but I am at least heading off to bed at half 9. That if nothing else is an improvement. Got to be bright and fresh for all my chess blunders tomorrow. And, well the hours of training at work too, that’s going to be interesting over Microsoft Teams. Here’s hoping the internet here is up to it. I’m quite interested to check it out. Get it, because I was, talking about chess two paragraphs ago? I can write humour right? Right?

Sad day when even your imaginary readers disagree with you.

April 19th, 2020 – 571 – Day thirty-four

I’m a bit out of routine at the moment yet again, not least because my writing has yet again slipped late into the day. I hit target some 5 minutes ago as I write this, and I never like it when it slips into the last hour, but the last 15 minutes of the day? That bodes for a bad night’s sleep, on a work night no less. I will keep this short so I can go sleep, but suffice to say my writing these past three days has been weak. Chapters 10/11 of TFS are pretty meh, and will need a radical overhaul or to be cut and replaced in whole when it comes to the rewrite. That’s ok, at least I recognise that. Doesn’t feel great though.

Here’s hoping tomorrow goes smoother. At least I think I’m getting better at chess…

April 18th, 2020 – 570 – Day thirty-three

Good news! I have found a new way I love procrastinating from writing my thousand words and ruining my sleep pattern: obsessive chess. Wait is that good news or bad news? I’m too shattered to know the difference at this point, but I have made it to level 5/10 difficulty on the app I play against so that counts for something. I feel I brute force too many games though; I should be looking to do clever checkmates and ruses, not eliminating all the pieces and promoting a couple of pawns. I’ve got my eye on a beautiful chess set to save towards, but not until I’m good enough at the game to justify it.

So why am I procrastinating so much? Well believe it or not it isn’t writer’s block, an ailment I do seem to have found the cure to – ‘charge head long and don’t worry if it turns out awful’. No to be blunt it’s because I am in a restless mood, not one to do with writing but more the realities of not being able to get out and about. I did 10K steps two days ago and that was a mistake in hindsight. It burned me out, and now I have a mind racing and a body slowly failing, given it wasn’t expecting me to put it through the mill. When my rowing machine arrives I need to remember this and be careful or I will hurt myself.

TFS is over the 20K threshold, and I think we’re breaking into act two at the exact point I wanted to. That suggests this is another 80K story rather than a 90-100K one. I am more than ok with this – wanting to keep my non-high-fantasy work to below six digits where possible – but I hope it proves substantial enough for my eventual readers to enjoy. I think it’s shaping up pretty well so far, action sequences, devastation, intrigue and mystery come thick and fast, though I think on the rewrite I might go for even more. Got to make that opening sweet.

I was so out of it today that I put water in the kettle, then poured it into my coffee granules. Nothing out of the ordinary there, except I forgot to turn the kettle on, let alone give it time to boil by magic. Turns out I love it like this, so I’m switching to cold coffees in the evenings. Should I really be drinking it at 23:21 at night? Well, probably not, but I should also have target long done by now and I’m playing chess. Still not quite got the hang of this ‘new lifestyle’…

April 17th, 2020 – 569 – Day thirty-two

So you know how I said I will hit 20,000 words today in my last post? Well, I will, but I need to not jinx myself like that. The words are coming, but it’s sludge not water, and that goes for the quality as well as the ebb and flow. It does not help that I seem to be burning out at the speed of bleugh. Ok, that time ‘bleugh’ didn’t make any sense. It was enough effort working through the Friday wrap-up, which did need to be my focus. At least on that front I have got close to my old work flow.

Even the coffee isn’t getting the creativity flowing. It likely doesn’t help that we watch TV every single day; I used to watch maybe an hour a week, but now it’s closer 11 hours. The days seem to be blending together in weird ways. We have ‘clappingday’ which was once known as Thursday, ‘vegetableday’ which began life as Wednesday, and the rest is one large splodge. I need to try and distinguish the days from one another, but that’s proving a lot more work than it sounds. I don’t exactly get much alone time. Kind of ironic for a lockdown but there you go.

I wrote the above when trying to psyche myself up to write. As it is, just over an hour and a half later, I’ve banked 1,400 words, though I feel they are ‘passable’. If bad is ‘ok’ the ‘passable’ is great news given how lethargic I was feeling, but they might be awful and I delusional with fatigue. In either case that’s enough for today. I will journal, and then sleep. Lord knows I need it, even if it appears not to help…

April 16th, 2020 – 568 – Day thirty-one

I had the monumental joy of finding out in the time I’ve avoided weighing myself, I’ve put on 2 stone. Oh, joy of multiple joys. So as of today I’m on the 10,000 steps a day. Granted I have a hallway, front room and some stairs to work with so it’s a teeny bit repetitive, but I’ve done worse walks.

TFS is on the verge of 20,000 words. Ok so it’s on 19,000 words but I will hit that tomorrow. That’s anything from 1/4th to a 1/5th done depending on how the plot pans out. My gut tells me it’ll be the latter as I am loving this story. I feel a little as if I should extend TSS to match, but the word count is arbitary compared to the flow. A story is as long as it needs to be.

Now to crash for the evening. Well, after I’ve opened my digital Ikoria packs…

April 15th, 2020 – 567 – Day thirty

First day back at work after the Easter weekend plus one, because I booked the Tuesday off to buffer my birthday. Seems a little meaningless on the face of it, but it did give me carte blanche to ignore my emails for another day. I’m now back to combing through tasks as normal and getting as much done as I can, and the break seems to have helped that. I’m hoping to have all the current requests from my inbox – now sorted into Trello – sorted by the end of the week. Fingers crossed.

I managed to write another 2,200 words of TFS before I went into work mode today, so that helps bolster the word count quite nicely. I find now that I have a formula that applies to stories I write, it’s much easier for me to jump into a new novel and feel where the beats should be. The stories themselves may be at times so different as to mask those points, but the natural flow lets me put structure to the back of my mind and focus on making a more gripping narrative. I think thrillers might become one of my favourite story types going forwards.

Lockdown life continues on as ‘normal’, whatever that means. The one thing I’ve found is people are reaching out to me a lot more than they used to, what with everyone having more mental space to think than they would at normal times. My only grievance is my grandparents insist on listening to the news every day. I’m getting better at tuning it out and work to change the subject in as delicate manner as I can when my grandad brings it up. It’s a tricky balance, as I do want them to be able to discuss their thoughts and feelings, but I don’t want to have it always ‘there’. Lord knows it’s ‘there’ enough as it is.

Short note on when I post – not that anyone is reading but me – but I’m going to move in a slow transition back to posting during the day itself. I am after all trying to emulate normal life again as best I can.

April 14th, 2020 – 566 – Day twenty-nine

TFS is skirting the 16,000 word mark, but I’m trying not to push myself for the sake of round numbers, which is harder than you’d think to resist. It’s a silly thing to drive yourself to do given that when editing you tend to gut the average scene like a fish with bits you don’t trust. Heck half the time whole scenes go in the bin. I chucked out half a scene of VOL that got me in a pinch today. Turned out it was important to the plot and I had to restore some 700 words. Incidentally, this is why I advocate never deleting anything. In a writing sense I mean, don’t go voiding GDPR on my account.

Back to work tomorrow which will be, interesting. I’m better rested now but it’s going to take a while to get back into the work mindset again. Privacy might be tough but I’ll need to work on not getting distracted. I’m thinking as a new model, I set a 4 hour timer when I start working, break for lunch, and then a three hour timer afterwards. If I do that and pick up the odd email around those times I’ll make up my hours on longer projects. Anyway it’ll be a test, if I don’t feel I’m working long enough I’ll just make it a 4 and 4. I’ve got a healthy queue including some backlog still, but I think everybody does right now.

My box set of the Goodies should arrive some time in the next two weeks. I hadn’t realised they’d made the whole collection available, or the whole BBC collection anyway – the ITV years are a separate DVD. I imagine this will be enough to keep me busy in the short term though, Tim, Bill and Graham helping keep my spirits up. I’m listening through ISIHAC again too of course. On a tangent, I’m also hoping to get back into a few of my old favourite point and click games in the evenings, as a nice wind-down activity. Padding my day with things like that – and changing the subject whenever covid-19 comes up – are helping keep the nasty buzz away.

I hope I do write full time one day. Dividing my life in two like this is all well and good, but I could produce so much more content right now. I think as the years go on I’ll only get more and more efficient at generating and polishing new stories, but what can I say, I’m impatient. I want to write them all now and share right away. It takes a lot of restraint not to hit ‘publish all’ on the two novels on WattPad right now. I have to remind myself that is an entire year of content I would be dumping in a single day. Cannot imagine it would look great from a data point of view.

April 13th, 2020 – 565 – Day twenty-eight

Today marks – almost – four weeks in quarantine. As if tomorrow at 5pm I’ll hit that milestone, with what feels like a mini lifetime of experiences. I imagine many books will be written about this time. Not sure I’ll be among them – TBS is set in 2021 and TEL 2023 so it is inevitable it’ll come up. That of course isn’t to say I’ve not been affected. My post yesterday shows that much.

Today was a good birthday. I’ve written it up in my journals but as a highlights reel, got to see mum and step dad through the window talking over phone; spoke to extended family on Zoom; watched The Goodies in the evening. I’ve got the complete box set on the way. I only found out you could buy it yesterday, and snapped it up first chance I got.

TFS is coming along nicely, close to 15,000 words now. Strange to think I can write in a fortnight what it used to take a month to do. Maybe in a year I’ll pull that off in a week! One can only hope. It’s turning into an action packed thriller, and I quite like the faced paced mystery genre. I may have to do a few more books like this in future. But for now off to bed.

Today was a good day. This will pass.

April 12th, 2020 – 564 – Day twenty-seven

My parents seperated when I was fifteen years old. As far as seperations and divorces go my parents could not have handled things better. They had a rough job what with me being a good four years mentally behind most children my age, crammed with social difficulties and the like. I was a mess as a kid, arguably only a toned down one now. Restless and at times unstable.

There was one thing growing up that helped ease me. Audio. I’ve always responded well to it, from a young age it’s been a go to to calm me down. Being a child growing up in the nineties that meant tapes, and I wore them to breaking point, over and over and over again. There was one show I would listen to for hours on end that got me through the confusion inside my head, helped me make sense of changes at home, moving out, and the turmoil I landed myself in time and again in the years hence.

That show was I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.

When I heard Tim Brooke-Taylor had died this morning, that hurt. That hurt on the kind of level most reserve for family. I only met him twice, both as a fan of course. He was friendly, charming and so genuine, the kind of man you got that from in such short encounters. The last time I met him, I met two other heros of my childhood no longer with us. Humphrey Lyttleton passed away less than a month later, and of course we lost Jeremy Hardy not long ago.

But, and you’ll have to forgive me as this is where I might lose you, to me they’re not really gone. Not even Willie Rushton, who left these shores before I even got my first tape. Listening to them has always been the one thing that comforts me when the world stops making sense. I even told mum I was making sure to bring all my recordings with me to my grandparents house. I’ve needed them a lot during this time.

Thank you Tim. You never knew me, but I owe a lot to you. To Graeme and Barry, to Willie and Jeremy, to Colin and John, to Jack and Humphrey. Y got me through so much back then, and still do now. I never had it in me for comedy as I hoped in my childhood to follow in your footsteps, but I hope I can one day move people in the way you moved me.

April 11th, 2020 – 563 – Day twenty-six

The National Theatre’s production of Jane Eyre is beautiful. There are many reasons this is my favourite book, not least the inspiring character of Jane herself. She’s tough, and she’s brave. It’s a book, a story that reminds you what can be overcome by a strong will and great mind. They’ve done an incredible job capturing it. If you haven’t watched it, do so now. It’s on YouTube right now.

I wrote another 1,250 words of TFS, which wasn’t so easy today as I’m flying a little blind in the plot. I know the structure and beats but even those are apt to change as they always must be. It’s a different way of writing to be sure, but one to be honest I find suits me better than I thought it would. I’m excited to see where this story goes.

Today we got a note through our front door. The new neighbours across the street were due to be married today, but they had to postpone from the virus. The note was from another neighbor who suggested we all go out to raise a glass to the couple. Everyone maintained distance, but it was a beautiful sight, a display of coming together. They just moved into the house I grew up in for 18 years. I hope they have a great life there.

My routine does at last feel under control. Tomorrow is my last day of my 27th year and it’s been, a strange one. I wonder how introspective I’ll be, or if I’ll just be looking onwards and upwards with optimism a year from now. My guess is honestly the latter.