Thursday, July 30, 2009

Putting It Out Of My Misery

July 31 is deadline day for four projects I've had my eye on, and I've been scribbling away for some time now to get as many done as possible.

A couple of weeks ago it became obvious that I'd not have time to write stories for all four. Two of them had ideas ready to go, so those were the two I decided to stick with, ditching the others. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices, right?

Of the two remaining, one was partially formed, the other pretty much written in my head - that's the one I started with, reasoning that I'd be done with it sooner and then able to concentrate on the other.

Except that the longer I worked on the story, the worse it got. The plot seemed to hold water, but after finishing a 7000 word first draft it was just ... wrong.

So I pulled it apart, put it back together and started writing again. And if anything it ended up even worse.

I put it aside and puttered around with the second story for a day or two, but my mind was stuck in a rut. Why didn't Story One work? Maybe if I did this to it ...

More tinkering under the hood, another draft and the story had gone from a reasonably straightforward yarn with a risque comedy bent to a deadly serious tale of infidelity, murder and vengeance, stuffed to the brim with sub-plots and reverses.

And in its own way it made sense. It's just that it wasn't the story I wanted to write, and I'm pretty damn sure it's not the story the editors are looking for either. So with one day to go and two stories to write I have 8000 unuseable words of one and 2500 incomplete words of the other.

Which is how I've come to this moment of clarity.

Maybe the story can't be fixed. Maybe the problem is so ingrained and deeply rooted that juggling characters and tweaking the plot is just polishing a turd?

So I'm taking it out behind the shed and shooting it. If I know it's dead I might be able to concentrate on Story Two, which appears to have none of the problems plus the added bonus of having a tentative approval based on the synopsis I ran past the editor.

Now all I have to do is get an extension on that deadline ...

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Just the Job

It's been a strange old month, both filled with work and plagued by the loss of it ...

The global financial crisis appears to have been just the excuse many companies were looking for to get rid of workers. Anyone with the word 'freelance' in their job description (ie has no contractual obligations owed to them) has been fair game. Four weeks ago, it cost me yet another long-term writing gig, meaning that in the last year I've lost about 80 per cent of my annual income. And with Perth hardly a hot bed of publishing, the chances of my clawing it back are slim. Naturally, the latest cut conicided with my wife finishing her work at university for the term - eight weeks in which she doesn't get paid either.

Needing to bridge that two month gap, we turned to the government, only to receive a letter from Centrelink (that's the Aussie DSS, for you northerners) informing us that our income is too high to qualify for any financial assistance. I'm framing the letter, which declares a family of four can survive on a total of $300 a week (about 120 quid), because I'm still upbeat enough to find it funny.

Anyway, despite all that I've still been flat out working - the problem being that the work's either low or non-paying, at least at this stage. I'm a couple of short stories to the good but because they're on spec, no income yet. Meanwhile I've also been getting stuck into a couple of as yet unannounced editorial projects ... but again it's too early in the game for them to warrant any cash, unfortunately.

The good news is that I've identified a gap in the job market - if the employment section of the paper's to be believed, there's a shortage of people in Perth who can make decent coffee. So I'll be signing up for a barista course as soon as possible.

After all, what good's a writer without caffeine?