Tag Archives: plans

From an idea to an act of creation

When I really should have been working on other things there suddenly popped into my head a line:

They rode out with the intent to kill Old Man Madigan, and the means to make it so.

This happens to me sometimes. Sometimes a line, sometimes a description, sometimes dialogue – even whole conversations. I use the notes function on my phone, or I scrawl this stuff on scraps of paper that I then keep in a completely chaotic and highly intuitive mess around my house, or occasionally in a notepad I bought, long ago, for the purpose.

And so this line about Old Man Madigan sat ignored for some time, until I came back to it and questioned what I had made. Who is/was this old man? Who was out to kill him, and why? why ‘riding out’?

Initially my answers to that were confused collisions of genre, or reductive allusions to things I’ve liked elsewhere. I wanted them a long way from authority, such that they had to take ‘justice’ into their own hands. I wanted to explore that ambiguity of authority, or its absence. I wanted to question whether these men seeking to deal death were agents of justice or of revenge. Was this a community coming together against a predator, or was this mob rule, unfettered in its attack on an outsider?

I liked the idea of a posse.

So the US perhaps? A western? Shane, or The Searchers? It made sense of the ‘riding out’, but it just didn’t grab me. A space western? Perhaps Joss Whedon’s fault. I could almost see Nathan Fillion sneering my line. Awesome… and yet not my own. The space thing was interesting though.
So they’re in space, a long way from Earth. Colonisers then? Something between LV426 and the Wild West writ extra-planetary? Barely more original than channelling Mal, but perhaps something I could work with. If I could steer clear of a Takeshi Kovacs analogue. No horses I suppose. Are they riding out on bikes? Hoverbikes?

I followed this path for a while. Researched light-speed, the fastest man-made objects, the nearest goldilocks planets. Nothing there unless I’m prepared to have spacecraft travelling up to percentages of light-speed  and even then the travel time is decades. So perhaps a moon, Saturn has plenty, Jupiter too, some potentially life supporting. But these men riding out should not be in space-suits. That’s not what I see. That doesn’t work for me.

Back to the notepad and disorganised filing then. For weeks. Months. I start writing other things. I’m in the middle of something that’s pretty hefty. Novella at least, perhaps room to grow. And then Madigan’s back.

Australia. Red dust. Post the exploration, pre-Goldrush. Madigan’s an impossible survivor from the prison fleets, fled or released upon his term and free now either way. He’s impossibly old, and the means of his longevity have earnt him the antipathy of the young community nearby his secluded home. He had fled other men, at least the white ones, but now the communities are growing, the Europeans spreading, and it has brought him into conflict. How? A young girl, missing, killed perhaps, perhaps used by this secluded old man. An angry father then, a community of angry fathers. The men of a fledgling town drawn together by their hatred and fear against Madigan, their common enemy.

But if Madigan is so long lived? Will he be so easily killed? What means do these men have? What assumptions do they make, and are they valid? And what is the role of the local inhabitants, considered fauna, shunned, ignored. What do they think of Madigan, what is he – this European interloper who will not die?

The images were coming thick and fast now. Red dust, hard men worn by weather and work, stern women with determined jaws, children casting off their parents’ culture for one all their own, the Aboriginal tribe, shifting and displaced, those caught in the middle – part of both worlds and neither…  and in this Madigan – a spider in its web. Or is he? Is he really the villain of the piece?

So I started writing. And suddenly I had 4,000+ words and a couple of thousand to come. A short story. Not yet born, but gestating nicely and not far off.

Excerpt here.

The best laid schemes…

Robert Burns had a point.

Last night I thought out my schemes for today. I came up with a shortlist of important (writing) things I wanted to do:

  • Add to this blog
  • Submit some material to a new, non-professional, e-zine for Australian Fantasy (they’re non-paying but accepting simultaneous submissions, and a successful submission would mean a publication credit and a confidence boost)
  • Submit a new short story to a professional market Australian Spec-Fic ezine (gotta keep on submitting)

I also had some other (non-writing) things. I had to get some stuff done for my actual, professional career (the one that pays the bills, puts food on the table and keeps a rented roof over my head). I had to do some shopping for groceries etc… I would have liked to go to the gym. I had to get some eggs for Easter. The list could easily go on.

So here I am. 8:30pm. Working on dot-point one.

What happened?

Well I have two sons. One is four, the other just over a year. The younger one has gastro. We found this out last night… the hard way. I will spare you the details but it involved frequent vomiting. My wife lost more sleep over it than me, but it was still a late night. Then the older one woke up at about 4:30 and he was all mine.

This morning the youngest one didn’t go to child-care, and my wife needed sleep, so that was most of my day. Then the actual important stuff, like the groceries, the sick child, the housework etc… took over.

I don’t post this as a sob-story or an excuse though. I post this because I believe this is part of being an amateur writer. I reckon it’s probably part of being a professional writer. I reckon it’s life, and it sure does “gang oft agley”

This is part of the reason my novel manuscript took nearly a decade of occasional work (the other reason is it’s a fantasy door-stopper of a novel weighing in at just over 241,000 words).  It’s the reason I don’t like those ‘write a novel in a month’ plans that are on the internet.

But, despite all this, sometimes plans go awry in a good way. I was walking my sick son this morning, as as I walked around I started to find that fragments of ideas that had been bouncing through my skull were coalescing into an actual, viable, novel plan. So when I got the boys to bed I wrote this plan out a bit, and now I’ve written a profile of one of the principal characters. Soon I’ll add more planning (in the draft heading of the menu) including a plotting planner I use and some other pre-writing exercises.

Based on the planning I’ve done so far I should get a manuscript of about 80,000 words out of this (I’m planning to write about 90 and trim up to 10 in editing). That’s about novel length. So if everything goes according to plan you should be able to watch as a novel goes from idea (today) to submitted manuscript (?)…

If everything goes according to plan.