I’ve made many an attempt at writing a novel using the infamous “make it up as you go a long” approach. Which I think is fine if you’re doing it for your own entertainment but if you want to actually last more than a few chapters and not be random pish then there’s no other option that to bite the bullet and plan. And properly! Of course I’ve done as well, few scribble on the back of an opened out envelope. Nope – that doesn’t work either. The problem there is that I wasn’t making a commitment at the start, no story doodled on some scrap paper is ever going to great. That’s why this time I went for the Moleskine approach. Now you’ll either have no idea what I’m talking about here or will already be way ahead of me. If you’re not familiar with Moleskines go do a quick Google for ‘moleskine notebook’, it’s okay I’ll wait. That you back? Righto.
Having made a financial outlay you’ve already made a proper commitment
So Moleskine’s are basically high quality, high price notepads. Even though they’re a joy to write on, that price tag for what is essentially a pile of paper bites at my inner frugality. And that’s exactly why they’re a great place to plan your novel – having made a financial outlay you’ve already made a proper commitment. If you don’t follow up then the money’s been wasted. There’s also this whole idealogy behind the Moleskine brand – that’s it for great ideas and storing important pieces of information, this piece of fictious advertising that Leonardo Da Vinci used to use one. You owe it to your Moleskine to fill it with greatness. No doodles here, no half assed ideas. It’s little faux leather hand is now on your back, pushing you forwards. Character notes, location descriptions, timelines – these should all soon follow. Personally I find myself feeling so precious about not squandering my Moleskine that draft all my notes before commiting them to it – adding an extra level or evolution and formation to the ideas.
This was my submission to the SFX 2009 Pulp Idol short story competition. The story was short listed but didn’t win anything. I’m still quite pleased with this although it does suffer from the same problem I always encounter with short story competitions – the word limit. Even though it’s a very short piece it does suffer from the 1000 odd words I had to hack out of it to be under limit. At some point I hope to revisit Patrick and his little agency, see what types of ghosts he might encounter.
They Said There Would Be Cake
The house at the end of Wickham Drive was set back slightly from the rest, almost as if the others had drawn themselves away to a respectful distance. It clearly hadn’t been lived in for years, windows thick with grime, weeds swallowing the rusting fence. Patrick pushed his way round to the back door, intending to force it open but found it already hanging ajar. At this point, many people would have turned back but Patrick was here because he had a job to do – Patrick was here because he was a Ghost Detective.
“Cake? What’s so important about cake? And who’s they?”
For clarification, a Ghost Detective is neither a detective who is deceased nor a person that detects ghosts (although that is involved to a degree). A Ghost Detective is an investigator who works, exclusively, for the spirits of the dead whose souls, for some reason, are unable to move on. They would come to Patrick (well leave a note on his office desk during the night) and he would figure out what needed to be put right and fix it for them. A bit like assisted self-exorcism. Soon after a case was closed, it was usual for some sort of payment to appear on Patrick’s desk, cash or old jewellery mostly although value and form varied greatly. It was a lonely line of work but Patrick enjoyed doing it.
If like me, you’re primary activity isn’t writing (ie you’ve got a day job) then finding the time, and the motivation, to get words down on paper can be a real challenge. Writing a novel is essentially a second job so after a day lost in the office often the last you want to do is sit down in front of a computer screen again. To help improve this situation I’ve found ticking off the days on a calendar to be an excellent motivator.
I first heard this method referred to as Chaining by Jerry Seinfield to keep himself motivated when writing. You get a big wall calendar and everyday you write you put a big red cross on that day. Once you’ve gotten through a few days then you’ve made yourself a chain of crosses, a visible indicator of your progress – the task then is to not break the chain, forcing you to write every day. I’m sure he wasn’t the first person to think of this and the idealogy can be applied to almost anything be it running a business or quitting smoking.