August Blog: Toward the end of August

I’m back on the old sod now and it feels like a lifetime ago that I was stateside. The summer and my time in Maryland and DC went by so quickly that I’ve barely had time to gather myself before moving on to the next thing.  I finally got all most of the spelling mistakes in Attrition corrected, which meant that I could actually read the story. This was a follow on from the novel masterclass with Mia Gallagher but the process of spelling correction slowed me down considerably. It’s a first draft and only about half way completed; actually with hindsight it’s probably closer to a third of the way completed as there’s so much more of the story to write. No doubt a lot will be cut back during the next drafts but for now it’s a case of getting the first draft completed and on the page.

One of my goals was to read the story with particular attention to my protagonist, Kitty Coyne, in an effort to better understand her motivations and desires. As mentioned before, I love Kitty. Yes, she’s a murderous adolescent with a temper from hell, but she’s intriguing, smart, and determined. Despite her wrongdoings she isn’t all bad. Through the process of reading and observing her actions, as well as her surroundings, I’ve been profiling Kitty a bit more than I usually would. It’s not that I didn’t know her motivations beforehand; I did and I feel I know her very well but I wanted to know her even better and bring her motivations into everything she does. One simple way of mapping out this process was to write down words that already existed in the story or words that came to mind as I read over the story. These words acted as signifiers for Kitty and her motivation. This was very useful and I made a point of only using word that Kitty would be familiar with and possibly would’ve used herself. Her abusive mother became “a tough woman”. The alcoholic father became “too fond of his drink”. This allowed me to inhabit her world more fully and get further inside her head. Ní heolas go haontíos (you don’t know somebody until you live with them). It’s the classic if you want to know me, come live with me scenario. That’s what I’ve been doing with Kitty. I thought I knew her well but now I feel she’s revealing a deeper level that I didn’t have access to before.

A few plot holes and story issues are also evident but it’s a very rough first draft so that’s exactly what I was expecting. These aren’t major issues however and I’ll deal with them after I get the first draft complete, as I usually would. Attrition takes place over two time periods; rural Ireland in the late 1920s and England in the 1940s.  I’m writing the first draft in chronological order order as I find it slightly more straightforward when the two time periods are quite distinct. I have decided however that I’m going to rework the story flow in my next draft, possibly starting off in the 1940s during World War II and then splicing the story throughout, although most of it occurs in the late 20s.

Finally, and here’s the big one, the dreaded point of view change. I have to admit, I’m totally overwhelmed by this but I know it’s achievable. I’ve played around with a few formats but for the rest of the story I’m going to use multiple close third person PoV. Naturally, I’ll be telling a lot of the story from Kitty’s PoV but I cannot tell it all like that, so other characters will also be included, such as Kitty’s mother and Cora. Kitty is the only character who spans the entire story but there are other sub-stories involving the other characters that she isn’t privy to, so these will take a different PoV.  The reworking of what I have already written to date will also be a major headache but I think I’m just going to focus on moving forward for the time being. I will revise the PoV for the first part of the story when I’m working on draft two.

The second day of the masterclass with Mia Gallagher is this coming weekend so at least I’ve plenty to feedback on my process, even if I didn’t get everything done I was hoping to.  It will be interesting to see how the other participants have fared over the summer also, as there was huge learning the last time from the shared experience of the group.  No doubt I’ll have plenty to write about for the September blog, so at the very least that’s something.

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