Writing Big Year: Plotting lessons . . .

A bright idea popped into my head eons ago. Maybe I could characterise, indeed dramatise, a chapter as a “race” between different countries. What an exciting concept!

Well, in practice the “race” itself is murky. Different historical actors might well have misrepresented what was happening as a race for their own purposes. Different parties possessed different information and perceived matters in varied ways. If I use the “race” concept, I need a discrete point in time when the starter’s gun fires and another moment when a winner is declared, and I’m having a devilishly hard time picking either of those dates.

And focusing on a “race” means neglecting, at least in emphasis, other dramas of the time (we’re talking mid-to-late 1950s).

Do I keep the race notion or not?

Writing Big Year: Ineffectual

I’m working but not working as I should be working. Insight after a sun-drenched lunch.

I don’t meant that diligence or effort is lacking, but this mode of working is ineffective, ineffective not but charter or design but because . . . because why? It’s a mystery that should be resolvable. I sense it’s the mystery at the heart of this Big Year.


Been looking for a “smoking gun” (why am I using militaristic language?) in 1959, to anchor a plot. That did not work. Nothing spectacular happened in ’59, just many interesting (to me) events. From my mental stew, I’m beginning to see the way . . .

Kelby’s in Marrickville: busy-noisy, my style of coffee, Arcade-Fire-style radio, smiles (not mine), almost-open-air light . . . what’s not to like?

Dispatches from the Land of Steady: May 26

Are you ever called to the Land of Steady? This is the place where you need to just stay and be and try and stay . . . and stay. You’re at your canvas, brush dangling, panic gripping. You’re attempting the Blue Oyster Cult chord on your first guitar, again and once more, and your fingers go numb. You’re in the kitchen, nerves raw for many reasons, and you know you must keep on with the boring, the tedious, because that’s what you committed to.

The Land of Steady: you’re dying to flee because nothing good is happening and nothing might . . . but you’re better off remaining steady than ditching all hope.

You set yourself half a week to plot out Chapter 6. It’s too much. You collected too much information; nonetheless, you reckon you’re a dab hand at synthesis, so it should be easy, right? Well, after a day and a half, all you have to show is some ideas over a fraction of Chapter 6’s timespan.

This is where you’ve learnt to do one thing: stay. Never walk out. Stay. The plot will come. Stay.

Writers: homework time!

Steven Pressfield is brash and wise, a combination that invites attack. This post yesterday, on why he bins “clueless asks,” namely requests for help out of the blue, elicited mostly favorable comments but also some vitriol. My arduous, typical experience with marketing my writing matches Pressfield’s advice: do your best to get noticed but for heaven’s sake, inform yourself and don’t expect busy people to help out of the blue.  (The image is from Pressfield’s post and comes from the movie Clueless.)

Writing Big Year: Yet another fresh covenant

If I could work harder, I would, but I can’t, so I’ve taken another look at the shape of 2017. The essence of the Big Year – rising early and working uninterrupted for the morning – is faring well, though it’s exhausting, but the year’s goal morphs and morphs and morphs . . .

The morale-boosting aspect of my recent distraction back into catch-up-and-clean-up-and-be-done-with-it research is that I can at last see the entirety of the book – the research and the writing – as achievable. At last.

Anyway, I hereby nominate the 2017 Writing Big Year goal as having a publication-ready version of Volume I done and dusted. (Actually self-publishing will take a bit more elapsed time.) I’m in the process of installing a week-by-week plan but in essence I’ll need to finish first drafts by the end of October.

I shall.

Chapter 6

This tale is a the bulging hold of a supertanker: it holds too much. I try to talk myself into brash, cartoonish plotting.

A Big Year conquers whining

This morning I hunkered down to plan my 2017 Writing Big Year. Its outcome goal – Volume I publication by December 31 plus the other two volumes drafted by April 2018 – is unachievable. Estimating times for this and that, that and the other, gives a result that is at first daunting. I put my pen aside.

But here’s what strikes me. If I’d begun the year “fully resolved” to “write diligently,” and left it at that, where would I be now? Nowhere near my current position, I’d wager, nowhere near. Whole days and weeks would have vanished under an onslaught of whinging and mindlessness. Instead, the process goal of the 2017 Writing Big Year – to rise before the cows and to ignore Instagram until 12:01 – has been a triumph. No, I haven’t been a hundred percent diligent, desperately sleeping in a bit when over-tired and getting distracted mid-mornings, but hey, I also know to forgive small lapses, and I can honestly say I’ve stuck to plan over the first third of the year.

So . . . no new grand goal yet (I need one soonest!) but the Big Year has lit the dark road. I know I’ll succeed.