Sunday, 22 January 2012

The best laid plans

'Bet it's a Scenario Five.' Muttered one of the troops
I wondered if York would explain the comment, but he just held my gaze, waiting for instructions. Although i'd had marines on my shoulder a couple of times, this wasn't a term i'd come across and i had to ask. I turned to the woman. Her hair was short and i could see gaps where the scars ran across the skin. There were similar fine lines visible between the tight cornrows braided into the hair of the woman that had given up her seat for me. Some sort of surgery, but different from that we all underwent as children to insert our implants. She was older than me; ten years, possibly more from the lines around her eyes. I looked into her eyes. This woman killed, often. Not that unusual for a soldier but there was  something in her eyes that said she did it without a hint of remorse and she was completely untouched by it. It was like looking into a mirror. Marine units were trained killers motivated by Hoo!Yah! and shared indoctrination. Born killers and psychopaths were difficult to control and were usually weeded out early on in basic training. Whatever she was, it wasn't a marine.
'Scenario Five?'
'Five basic scenarios.' She ticked them off on her fingers and i noticed that the tip of one was missing. 'Guard, Hot insertion, Cold insertion, Pursuit and, number Five, everybody's favourite, Lost contact. Whenever we find whatever it is we're looking for there are inevitably dark corridors full of traps, xenomorphs, madmen, danger and destruction.'

Before i started out, i wrote a plan for the book, with each chapter set out in some detail. It was a story about an investigator who was sent to find out what happened to a remote research station that had broken off contact. The working title was Scenario Five.

The problem was that the plan ran to fifteen chapters and around fifty thousand words. Half a book. I didn't have a clue what was going to happen in the second half, but NaNoWriMo was about to start and the keyboard was calling.

This is where i discovered that books actually write themselves and that the characters are in control. I'd worked up my two main characters through a number of short pieces and had a side of A4 for each with a biography, description and details on their characters. I knew them inside out. So, all i had to do was ask; in this situation, what would they do? And then write it down.

At times i was surprised. What was intended to be a brief stop at a shipyard to repair damage to the ship ended up being four chapters of violence and mayhem and the occasional pithy comment from one of the marines. It wasn't planned, but i enjoyed it tremendously and it added fifteen thousand words to the count :-)

Around this time i learned not to be frightened of the blank page in the planning book. NaNoWriMo (google it before November) teaches writers that the best way to overcome the difficulties we face is just to write. It's all about quantity rather than quality and everything else can be sorted out in draft two.

The whole back end of the book was written on the hoof. Mostly envisaged in the shower in the morning and then typed up and embellished in the evening. I read that Douglas Adams was typing new versions of the script for Hitchhiker right up to the moment that it was recorded (and possibly further changes to the ending after recording had started), so you don't have to have it all planned out months in advance. Many of the bits i had planned out are completely different now to what they were on the notepad as, when i tested them against the criteria of what would... they just didn't work.

I'd like to think that the final chapters of the book don't look under-rehearsed. I think there are some good scenes and one of my favourite lines.

'Shoot the bitch.' Shouted Cavendish, happily. None of the pain killers i used had that effect.

It's probably better in context.

No comments:

Post a Comment