The Thaw: Project Update

I was pretty pleased to recently finally break my 100,000 word target for the first draft of the post-apocalyptic novel, The Thaw, that I have been writing since last July. It was a big moment that I captured in a somewhat successful Facebook livestream. Considering my initial plan was 60,000 and then 70,000 words I’m impressed myself in what I have achieved! It’s not been plain sailing as perhaps I’d originally foresaw but projects like these are organic and gain a life of their own, almost; The Thaw certainly has!

Photo 20-05-2017, 10 37 00 pmI’m absolutely thrilled to have pulled this together – but my draft isn’t complete! First, the chapter I wrote during the livestream only barely touched upon a third of the planned narrative I wanted to cover, and I did discover that livestreaming writing does pile on the pressure, which isn’t ideal for a crucial part of the work but this is an experience I needed to learn from. But regardless of the perceived quality of what I wrote, I’m pretty confident that some of the ideas borne of that writing session hold weight and I want to include them into the final first draft. I plan to finally finish off the main bulk of the story (I plan a sort-of epilogue chapter to round off the book set some time after the climax) very soon.

And then I’m going to take some time off from the book before I even give the first draft a reading as a complete unit. I need some distance from the project, to cool off from it so that when I re-approach it late in the summer my mind is fresh and ready to appraise it and begin the editing phase. I’ve made a fair few notes during the first draft of things I want to change, improve, clarify (I didn’t want to go back while drafting; my ethos was to steam ahead only; I can fix stuff later) but an initial reading with a cleared mind will no doubt turn up other questions and points.

I’m really looking forward to editing it but I’m absolutely right, I feel, to take a break from the project and give it space to breathe. I do have some great plans for how I’m going to approach the editing but that plan remains somewhat in flux.

Again, I’m so proud of myself that I’ve managed to write The Thaw (especially given difficult personal circumstances) and I’m confident that the concepts at its heart are going to make a compelling story that I can’t wait to share more of. I’ve been pretty dogged in getting the first draft together; I can’t wait to tell you about my characters in a lot greater detail as the summer progresses!

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On Novel-writing: Finally breaking into The Thaw

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In researching this post, I realised by happy accident it was a year ago that I announced my two big projects that I was working on: The Thaw and Doors.

I’m pretty pleased to say, a year on, that both of these projects have progressed a lot, but today I want to focus on The Thaw, which is the novel I have been working busily on for the past six weeks, and for a considerable while long in the planning stages beforehand!

So, without further delay, I’d like to introduce you to…

The Thaw

a post-apocalyptic adventure by Richard Holliday

The Thaw is the story of Elian Sarkov, a young and naïve doctor who has lived and worked in a ‘frontier camp’ all his life, sheltered from the Wild that lurks outside and which has consumed the world after a nuclear apocalypse twenty-seven years before. When the unsavoury nature of the camp’s true purpose threatens Elian’s very life, he must decide if he can live on the outside while fighting to save not just his closest companion but perhaps the world from falling back into a nuclear winter.

Over the past month and a bit I’ve managed to put down about 18,000 words on the initial chapters of The Thaw. Previously I’d engaged in quite an intense period of pre-planning and outlining. While my outline is still incomplete I feel it’s advanced enough to guide me with the writing process for the first act especially.

I’m also taking on board what I’ve learned in my initial year of studying Creative Writing at Kingston University – emphasising on setting and giving my characters a journey, and giving them interesting, contrasting characteristics. I’ve also reflected quite a bit on my previous novel-writing experience with my science fiction story Colonisation/Mars Zero, which is on hold for now. I definitely feel that I’m in a good place to write The Thaw and I feel the concept – if I had to describe it using extant works, it’s a bit of Fallout, a bit of Children of Men and a bit of The Hunger Games – is solid enough to be the one I want to pursue as a potential ‘one for serious publication’.

I look forward to writing more about how I planned to write The Thaw, and maybe about some of the challenges I encountered so far and will do in the future, so keep an eye out, follow my blog on WordPress or subscribe to email updates!

Looking Back On NaNoWriMo

This time five years ago I was halfway through my inaugural attempt at NaNoWriMo, and halfway through writing my first ever novel-length writing project. It was the culmination of a few weeks of late-night planning of something great, and ultimately what I would say is the first big “event” that signposted my taking “this writing thing” as a serious endeavour.

I’ve attempted and completed NaNoWriMo three times; each successive time I learned something I didn’t know from the previous effort – to break my work into chapters, to have an outline prepared, and to be absolutely committed and have a rough roadmap of my story before November 1st. I really think that, as an event, it’s a great way to jumpstart one’s creativity, and to turn those eminently-latent thoughts of that novel you always wanted to write into something material. There’s also an awesome, supportive community that breaks down that barrier of writing being a solitary and exclusionary practise.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year; I’ve always been a proponent of business being an actual help to the writing process, but my university studies are quite intensive at the moment as I’m still fully transitioning to full-time education after years away, so I can’t really pillage time from my schedule for NaNoWriMo this year; at any rate, I want to write my post-apocalyptic novel The Thaw and my outline is nowhere near ready for the actual drafting to begin. I want to really harness that frenetic, creative energy to get the project off to a good start.

I always see NaNoWriMo as an opportunity, too, to tweak and further optimise one’s workflow, as productivity is key. The one aspect of NaNoWriMo that I found the most motivating was updating my spreadsheet to see my progress claw toward the goal of 50,000 words, and in a way, I find having such a crazy deadline brings about the most unexpected, and enjoyable, bouts of creativity.

I’m working right now on some ideas and plans for next year; I want to also reflect on this year as a whole – looking back on my resolutions, I’ve not kept to them particularly well, so I want to reflect on why that is and how I can look to better my outlook in 2016, and this will include the questions as to what is ultimately going to happen to my three partially-completed manuscripts that I wrote in those three heady Novembers. Happy writing!

Two New Projects!

I’m very happy to be in a position where I can explain in detail the two projects I’m currently excited to be working on!

Doors (a short film)

For the first part of the year I’ve been working with my good friends (and filmmakers) Gary Thomas and Mark Lever as I develop my first full short film script.

Doors is a science-fiction/psychological horror charting one man’s journey into madness as he tests the latest word in wearable tech. Think Google Glass meets Microsoft Hololens… with an alien twist that drives one man to the brink of insanity as he struggles to believe what he sees.

I hope to blog a lot more about Doors over the remainder of the year as I work with Gary and Mark to refine the script. As a group, it’s hoped to put Doors into actual production in 2016.

It’s also been quite an experience to work in a totally different form of writing – I’ve never really written a screenplay before, and despite initially being quite reserved about it, I have found the experience to be quite liberating, and there’s a palpable sense of seeing one’s idea develop across drafts.

The Thaw (novel)

I’ve also undertaken the first steps in a new novel, to which I have attached the title The Thaw. I plan for this to be a post-apocalyptic adventure charting a man’s initially insular desire to protect his family from an oppressive rump state that ostensibly protects the survivors of a nuclear holocaust in North America but is hell-bent on picking up where the atomic bombs left off with an army of super-soldiers bred from the very children of those it purports to protect.

This is a great opportunity for me to give something back to a genre I truly love. I want to put my own mark on the genre; before, having played games such as Fallout that have arguably perfectly-realised backstories and narratives, I felt that I was limited to what I could add to the genre. However, now I feel I have an idea (again, I hope to talk about it in more detail as I go through the writing process) that I can develop and have faith in, I reckon the time is right to craft my own destroyed utopia and tell a story that I feel will resonate with people.

Now that I have opened the proverbial can of worms, I really can’t wait to get started getting these projects moving! I have waited until I have made tangible progress on each before I announce them; too often, it’s easy to say you’re going to do something and then never mention it again. With Doors I have two drafts of a script and plenty of excellent, constructive feedback to work with for the third draft; I have at the same time made a concerted effort to make a start outlining The Thaw – I’ve plenty of notes for my backstory and universe that the story will take place in but it is now that I have a few chapters outlined (roughly, at least!) I feel that the project has the steam up.

With both of these things, I ended up doing a lot of insular, introspective planning but transcending that thought process into tangible preparatory work is the greatest leap I face with new projects. And I have faith in the concepts between both of these ideas that I feel they can now take a wide slice of my time.