Well, I’d love to say that I spent the last week recovering from Comic Konga! lounging aboard my superyacht, but alas, such things were not to be. In fact, I only finished off the last of the work projects — weeks late, mind you — today. There’s a certain empty space reached at the end of a project; I’m stil into it when it goes out the door, and then I’m left with a burning desire to do, well, something but I’m never sure what.
And then, I remembered: Slackwritertron!
Mind you, this exercise is really more of a break from work rather than something I’d do instead of it. Writing has so far never been something I’d consider doing full time (mostly because I’m a scatterbrain). It is very important, though, because I find that when I’m writing — fiction especially, no matter what its quality is — it acts as a kind of lubricant for the rest of my work. It’s no coincidence that the past few years have sucked creativity-wise for me, because I haven’t really been writing.
So, Slackwritertron! (I really should stop coming up with things that have exclamation points at the end… ! ) It’s a bit like NaNoWriMo in that it’s a mad dash to wordcount, but it’s also for those of us (um, me) who can’t really be arsed to finish it all in November.
The goal is simple: At least fifty thousand words of fiction between now and December 31st, 2007.
It doesn’t matter what I write to get there, simply that I write. I have far too many halfway done projects on the burner that I couldn’t, in good conscience and just for sanity’s sake, do NaNoWriMo and start a whole new novel (which I probably wouldn’t finish). I don’t think of this as a group project, really — it’s just something I’m going to do — but if you wish to show solidarity you can copy down the logo image and participate too.
I’ll be popping in every few days with updates on word counts, which stories those words are going into, plot traps and continuity conundrums etc. You know, finally using the allVishal.com Journal for real, honest journalgiri. It’ll mostly be pretentious navel-gazing, of course. You have been warned. Here’s what I’ll be working on
This is a Savant story I started back in March with no delusions of grandeur, just a scene in a room that might one day have made it into a story. Then some time later Jamie asked me to write a story involving a few story elements of his choice. Strangely enough, that first scene flowed perfectly into them, and Fishbowl was born. I worked on it a fair deal over the summer, plugging in scenes from throughout the story as they came to me, but haven’t touched it for a while.
The more I think of it the more I realise that it will be a long story, and I’m probably a third or a quarter of the way into it. I sent out a short bit of this — 3700 words — to friends a while ago and they seemed to like it. It was much less than was written at the time, but that was the only complete scene. This will probably be my primary focus of Slackwritertron (oh, to hell with you, exclamation mark!) until its done.
“…All I’m proposing,” Suvan was saying as I entered the kitchen (just after Sophie), “is that we should spread our drinking runs out through the three days so that we don’t end up with a massive hangover!”
“So we just have several little ones?” Corsair asked.
“He means we should try and stay sober for extended periods of times,” Astral said.
“Why would you want to do a stupid thing like that?” Corsair asked with mock-horror.
“Nobody’s getting drunk!” Sophie shouted. The others were startled enough by her voice echoing across the long kitchen to make Pyntaillion’s wings go halfway into her ‘threatened’ stance, and make Syro jump out of his seat. She strode confidently, me in tow, across the length of the room to the dinner table at the other end of the kitchen.
“I demand an explanation for such disturbing statements,” Corsair said, this time with real horror icing his face.
“We’re going on a trip,” Sophie said.
Currently: 12,666 words.
In the end: I would have said 20K at the beginning, but now it may be more like 30 or 40. A novella, I suppose.
This is the project I started for Script Frenzy last June. It’s supposed to be a movie script, but by now it’s run away with itself and is more like a miniseries. On the surface it’s a loose — very loose — adaptation of Beauty & the Beast but, as the name implies, with more of an Indian spin on things. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on having people break into extravagant song and dance numbers at the drop of a roomaal (mostly because it would be hell to write on a page). It’s more DC Vertigo than Yash Raj.
I’m not writing this in a traditional movie script format (though Roughdraft, my word processor of choice, does have a nice screenplay mode) because I know that what I write now will not be the final version. I’m doing it as a kind of loose present tense story, a treatment. It works for me, and during Slackwritertron it will serve as an ‘antidote’ of sorts to Fishbowl and other stories. When I’m writing Savant stories especially, the voice — his voice — needs to be in there from the beginning, so even the roughest of drafts is more complete and has more thought put into it than most people say you should in a first draft. With Sundari I don’t need to worry about that since it’s going to eventually be in a visual medium anyway (comics, maybe, when my drawing improves). This resulting text is a lot rougher, more like free writing now and then. It’s not a pretty read at all, but it works and I should use this method more often.
Hansika, out of breath, and crying, stumbles up to the fountain at the base of the slope near her house, and collapses against the wall. She sobs. The gently smiling stone form of Vidria looms above her, its gaze skywards, looking at the moon.
A sound; the guttural breath of a monster, or a horse, and the clap of quiet hoofs on cobbled stone. Hansika starts, a final tear running down her cheek. From the darkness of an alley near the statue, someone — something — watches her.
“Who’s there?” she asks, with not a hint of fear, and no trace that she’s just been crying. She pushes herself back against the fountain wall and gets to her feet. She peers into the darkness of the alley, and hears the feet of whatever’s there skitter over the stones.
Hansika slowly walks up to the dark alley, passing under the hot pool of the street lamp. “Is anyone there? Show yourself!” She reaches the boundary of the light, and in the darkness she barely makes out a large black form.
Immediately she raises her right fist and mutters a spell. Her hand flashes with light and bathes the alley in yellow light just as we hear the swoosh of something departing.
The alley is empty, save for some rag-covered boxes. A ginger striped cat leaps silently onto one, then mews, flashing its silver-coin eyes eyes at Hansika, and leaps up onto a small wooden balcony.
Hansika lowers her hand and extinguishes the light. “Always a cat,” she mutters to herself. She’s wipes her tears away, sighs, and walks to the road that leads up to her home.
The cat jumps up to the roof of the building, and mews again at its occupant. The Beast crouches silently on the roof. It quickly turns to look at the cat with its glowing eyes. The cat pads up to it, unafraid, and to the edge of the roof. The beast collects it in one of its massive palms, and strokes the back of the cat with one of its fingers, breathing a strange sound that is almost a lullaby. It watches Hansika walk up the hill, and then looks at the moon with a sigh.
Currently: 20,100 words.
In the end: It’s very difficult to say. When this was still a movie script, the part of the story I’ve reached would have come at the fifteen minute mark of a two or two-and-a-half hour movie. Of course, in the writing of it, a lot more material has been added and now what I’ve written so far would probably fit in two or three issues of a comic. In the end it may be hundreds of thousands of words long. And that’s just the treatment…
3. Other Short Stories
Last February when I went on vacation (*sniff*) I gave the old mp3 player to my cousin. I’d kept a backup of my writing folder on that, and a few days after my return she asked if I still wanted it there, and if I would mind if she read any of the things. She was quickly disappointed that a lot of the stories in there stopped abruptly — they’re unfinished — and I asked her for a list of ones that she would like to see completed.
There are about forty of them, of varying lengths. Some of them are self-contained shorts. Some are stories from greater universes such as the old Vampyres & Daemons stuff, and there’s one that would probably have ended up being a novel or three. There’s even one Savant short — 99.99% — that is really self-contained and has since fallen hopelessly ‘out of canon’ but I might be able to pull something out of it.
The problem I face with some of them is that they were started six or seven years ago. This was before I started doing general outlines for stories before I attempted them, and in a few cases I have a vague recollection of where the story would eventually go. Some of them, I’ve plain forgotten. This isn’t so much of a problem as a challenge. Looking at them now, with fresh eyes, I can pick up hints of ways I may have wanted things to go, or even come up with entirely new ways of finishing things. Some of them will work better as comics, I think — a story called Brass Pyjamas springs to mind — and I may attempt that, but first I want to write them down as stories.
I’ll probably save these for after Fishbowl. I’m a scatterbrain, but even I have limits.
“I wouldn’t want your calf to have putrid dung,” Siddarth now called to the brown bovine by the neem tree. He then wondered if the neem wasn’t driving the insects away, as neem trees are wont to do.
“Who were you talking to?” Sapna asked, setting the steaming parcel, made of banana leaves, on the veranda near him.
“Apsara,” he pointed.
“Cows don’t talk.”
“So you say.”
“True.” She sat and the cow decided to join them, though she brought her own breakfast along and was busy masticating.
“Idli,” Sapna said, unwrapping the parcel of rice cakes.
“Again…” Siddarth mumbled.
“Oh, Again!” Siddarth checked himself and answered with glee. He picked one of the white discs up and fiddled with it.
“What’s wrong?” Sapna asked, pecking at an idli.
“It’s nothing,” Siddarth said.
“We’ve been married three months,” Sapna reminded, “don’t tell me it’s ‘nothing’ or I’ll turn it into something.”
“Do you think it’s proper for a woman’s husband to be sitting around on a cold, drippy morning in his underwear while she’s fully clothed? What would someone say if they came round here?”
“What would people say if it was the other way round?” she replied, and smiled.
(from the aforementioned Brass Pyjamas)
Currently: Tens of thousands of words, cumulatively.
In the end: Probably a couple of hundred thousand.
Onward & Upward
I’d love to say that I’ll be writing every day, but that’s probably not going to happen. I will try, of course, because there’s enough times in any given day when I’m slacking off and could be doing something productive. There will be times when I just. can’t. write. and I hope those are few and far between, if not entirely nonexistant. I look forward to writing fiction at a good clip again. Hell, I’ve been looking forward to it for years now. When Fishbowl is done I will make the first draft available to read. Not on the site, mind you, but you can drop me an email. Same goes for the other shorts, but given its raw nature, I’d like to keep Sundari to myself for a while. You never know, I may suddenly turn into a comic art genius, and I’d love to show you the story as I imagine it — in a visual medium.
Of course, I may end up taking to the ‘slack’ rather than the ‘write’ in Slackwritertron, and not complete anything, but really now I have no excuses. The’re a laptop that actually works (unfortunately it also plays Half-Life 2 really well). The lure of Gran Turismo and an untouched copy of Final Fantasy X-2 notwithstanding (and, y’know, pr0n), there aren’t as many distractions as there used to be (we unplugged the cable. TV is a distant memory. I don’t miss it). There is that last Harry Potter book I have yet to finish, and I’m somewhat reluctant to read it while I’m concurrently writing lest it filter through into my prose in some kind of weird Opal Mehta way, but that really shouldn’t be a problem.
I can’t write for shit anyway.