The verbal pitch

The Aramis Gothboi project: writing a children’s book

progress journal
DRAFT: 01 | word count: 35,262

Journal entry 28:

I spent the last few days casually honing my verbal pitch. At three minutes long, there’s not much to work with. I’ve been considering the flow of information and sentence structure to get it as clear as possible. I’m not great at writing uncomplicated lines when it comes to describing things. I have a habit of getting caught up in dumb turns of phrase that entertain me for the moment, which results in muddied clarity.

As mentioned last week, I have 400 or so words and three minutes to work with. I’ve had no problem fitting everything into that time limit and as a bonus, every time I go over it, I’m getting a clearer idea of where I’m wasting words. I’ve managed to shave off about 50 and between the next few hours before retiring for the evening, I believe I’ll lose a few more.

Note: A few words changed, but the length stayed the same.

I have a weird relationship with the process of editing. My brain doesn’t work quite the way other people’s do. Where some people can be quite clear in their meaning from the first word that comes out of their mouth, I was (and in many ways still am) a kid that would say ‘um’ a lot. Maybe this is because I’ve started talking before knowing what I wanted to say or I’m self-editing as I go, and the um is a buffering delay.

One of the positive things I got from doing standup was that this self-editing um process doesn’t go down great in a tight five. You’ve got to know what you’re going to say, or simply trust what you’re saying will result in what you mean. Admittedly it takes practice and learning to fly without a net is terrifying, but it has to be done.

Another thing, I’m not going to memorise this. I’d rather get it right than mess it up because I don’t remember it. 18 hours before it’s time to perform…

Journal entry 28.5:

Done. It went well, mostly.

A tech issue halfway through was one hitch—another was the order in which I presented my information, simply to frame the tone of the manuscript. I’d hoped the tone was inherent in my words and voice. It was not. I went too hard on the edit. Lesson learned. I also should have gone with memorising the piece—this would have given it the energy that spontaneity brings.

I am yet to learn I can do this without a net. This was not the end of all opportunity but it did mark the end of my studies.

I’m going to take a break before I push for that last 15,000 words. NaNoWriMo is just around the corner—perhaps there’s my chance to get it done.

Winding down on study

The Aramis Gothboi project: writing a children’s book

progress journal
DRAFT: 01 | word count: 35,262

Journal entry 27:

These little entries seem to be monthly now. Okay, that’s fine, I guess. But oh, how the time flies when you’re pushing to complete the program. How’s that? Well, the major component of my final uni subject has been completed: 5,000 words of polished material from the manuscript.

As stated in the brief I was given, Chapter 1 was always going to be a part of those 5,000 words—the rest would be made up by excerpts of my own choosing. Ideally, these excerpts would demonstrate the breadth of my writing.

My first excerpt choice was easy: Chapter 5. I’d recently reworked this chapter and run it through the writer’s group to give it the old clean-up. That was a little bit of an ordeal. Interestingly, I felt so damaged by the feedback that I had a crisis of confidence and it temporarily killed my progress on the manuscript. Every little correction or suggestion was yet another knife in the back from my cohorts. I felt like I’d worked so hard applying all the things I had learnt over the semester to this piece that it had to be near perfect. Of course it was not, and I was only able to see that once I’d licked my wounds clean and pulled myself back together again.

Reviewing that feedback, it became clear how much my cohort were correct (because they are amazing!) and what needed to be done, so I set to work on patching it up, and it was only then when the chapter actually began to sing. What I now had on the page was so much better than anything I could have achieved on my own and it became my first chapter that I actually felt was complete (for this drafting phase anyway).

So, then it was back to Chapter 1 to ensure I did the same thing. To my own detriment I didn’t have the time to put it through the same feedback process. After a pass or two with my own editing eyes, I realised that no matter how much I cleaned it up, I would still need another 1,000 words to make up the wordcount—so I chose Chapter 15 for that final excerpt.

Reasons for my excerpt choices:

  • Chapter 1 compulsory, but also introduced my characters and demonstrated my ability to write action.
  • Chapter 5 explored relationship dynamics and conflict.
  • Chapter 15 would let me flex using supernatural elements and also demonstrate how I balance the scary stuff with humour.

Good plan. Solid plan. Foolproof most wonderful plan. The problem, however, was that Chapter 15 was so undercooked that by the time it came to choosing an excerpt from it, I became acutely aware that there was far too much to be written to get it up to scratch. What ended up happening was that a short scene prior to the main action (where the ghosts show up) blew out with character development and grew into its own chapter – and three time longer than what I had for the still-too-undercooked ghost scene.

I was running out of time too. I should not have been writing at this stage – I should only have been editing and refining, so I had to make a decision and took an excerpt from that new chapter instead. It did not feature the supernatural elements but it did allow me to explore the Worm Boys (especially Noodel) and their reactions to Jo’s dragging them into this adventure.

The new chapter ended up being a pretty heavy scene – poor Noodel had gone through so much over the previous week – but I was able to play and get the humour in there to balance out the dirge of Noodel’s breaking point. I gave it some shape, which resulted in a neat little emotional arc for Noodel that fed nicely into the following sequence. I suppose for that, it ended up being a good excerpt – even if it wasn’t what I had intended to hand in.

From there I returned to chapter 1, which still needed work. I had the mental tug-of-war between what I felt was right and what I knew would be asked of me from my teacher. I think I ended up rewriting it three times as I tried to figure out which way to go before reaching the conclusion that it did everything it was supposed to (and would satisfy the both of us). Cannot wait to see the feedback for that one – the whole assignment, actually. That’s the reason I’m doing this anyway. To get that nod of approval that lets me know I’m progressing. I guess I still get a little peacock proud though, and want it to be perfect the first time – even when I know it won’t be. We’ll just have to wait and see.

So the final component of the course is pitching the manuscript to a publisher. I Had a practice run today. It went okay with a few notes given suggesting I add a little more detail on a few points. I enjoy the performance aspect, but I always forget just how nervous I get when I do these things. It’s almost ready to go now. 400 or so words or so that I’ll do well to remember before next week. But again, it’s not the be all and end all – well… it’s the end of the course, but you know what I mean. It’s just a test.

There’s a bit more tweaking to do and I honestly believe that if I do manage to do this from memory, the natural energy from performing may very well give it what I think is missing. That will be next week. Stay tuned, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Aramis Gothboi – Progress Journal: 30K OK. Where to from here?

Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One

Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.

Total word count: 30,040

~

Twenty-second Post:

All right then, I got that submission in with at least a few minutes to spare on the Friday night it was due and have since taken what I consider to be a well-deserved break over the weekend.

The accompanying application took about three re-writes to get it up to scratch, mostly because I didn’t have a super tight story summary and found myself continually diverging from the path as I tried to over explain what is, at its core, a fairly straightforward plot.

The following night I stopped in at a friend’s house and found myself recounting this problem and also retelling my tale of not being able to tell people what my book is about. Of course the next question that arose was, what’s your book about? Leading up to that moment, for my book I had previously written a:

  • blurb
  • chapter outline
  • summary
  • fair chunk of the actual book itself.

You think I’d be an expert on this by now, don’t you?

Nope, the same thing happened. I talked too much about unimportant details, tried to explain half the backstory and also began talking about things that will happen in subsequent stories. As a writer, when someone asks, you should probably be able to sum up your work in a couple of sentences. You should be able to pitch it.

After a few attempts, I got the story out in a fairly succinct way and it was suggested that perhaps I should record myself talking it out that way and writing down the way I explain it. That way I’ve got the old pitch in the bank and ready to go for any similar occasion. Damn good idea and I’ve added it to my list of things to do. And then…

I’ll begin redrafting all the work I did over the last two weeks. Writing 10,000 words in ten days is all well and good, but it sure as heck isn’t going to be of the highest quality.

I guess I need to reflect on that whole process. That last paragraph sums up my general feelings pretty well, but I think there’s more to explore.

Here we go:

 

10K in 10 Days: Evaluation

First things first, I should address my use of time over the period.

Day 01: 21,633 (+1,538)

Day 1 was off to a good start. I remember mentioning the night before that I thought I could easily knock out 3,000 – turns out I could not. I think the lesson there is to set realistic goals. I did hope to ensure that I was getting 1,000 words a day on average, and with work days approaching where I knew I’d be pressed to write 500, I set the bar a little higher.

Day 02: 22,066 (+433)

Day 03: 22,681 (+615)

Day 04: 22,715 (+34)

I stuck mostly to what I’d set out to do with the exception of the Friday where I got lazy and assumed I’d pick up the slack over Saturday. Saturday, however, did not go as planned.

Day 05: 22,832 (+117)

With a list of other commitments to meet, I soon realised that it would be a very unproductive day.

Day 06: 25,192 (+2,360)

Sunday became my catch-up day and I put in the hard yards to make up for lost time.

Day 07: 26,508 (+1,316)

Monday chugged along fairly well, but my total word count was slowing down due to the fact that I no longer had full chapters to tackle. Putting 1,000 words down in a session is really easy when it’s a rough draft from scratch, but when I’m looking at the clock and trying to add to existing text (and unavoidably editing as I go), it proved far more difficult to add volume as I spent more time tinkering with how to piece paragraphs together.

Day 08: 28,293 (+1,885)

Tuesday was a continuation of that same struggle as I backtracked over previous chapters to see where additional work was needed. By the end of the day, I realised that if I wanted to make the target (especially on a work day) I was going to have to add chapters that would allow me to write with flow and so I planned out two additional scenes and set them up for the following day.

Day 09: 30,040 (+1,747)

After work on Wednesday I didn’t mess about. After thinking about the additional chapters all day at work (sorry boss, that’s how my brain works), I got home and set myself in front of the keyboard as soon as I was able then knocked out the first new chapter with a little over 1,000 words. I had that done by about 10pm, which was actually an early wrap-up for writing on a workday. I had two choices, finish the last chapter with a little under 700 words the next day, or take a quick break and knock it out with a slighter later finish time for the evening. I chose the latter and got it done just after midnight. It was the right choice too. If I’d left it for the next day, I would have had zero energy for the submission application.

So there we have it, I managed to write 10K in 10 days. Am glad I did it? Yes. Would I do it again? Maybe, but certainly not under such time constraints if I do not have to. If I had 10 days with no other commitments, then sure. It’s an excellent way to keep myself accountable – especially in the first draft. If I were pushing for a final edit? No, avoid at all costs (In what universe would that even happen anyway?).

To recap, the next phase is cleaning up that work. I’ve now got ten chapters in front of me that could do with a little tender loving care. Once that’s done, I’ll call this as completion of the first draft, so I can then move onto the second. Preparation for this will include revising chapter outlines, reviewing character arcs, pacing and story beats, and then working out what needs to be added, revised or removed.

It’s going to be an absolute bloodbath.

 

the-cast-texture-colour
Aramis Gothboi – Cast of Characters (2012)

L to R: Uncle Devin, Loofah, Jo, Bubbel, Noodel, Squeek, Jaida, Aramis, Parochian Kid #01, Al Green, Piebald, Parochian Kid #02, Parochian Kid #03, Parochian Kid #04, Parochian Kid #05, Mayor Galveston, Porcelina, Doctor Gothboi, Lady Gothboi, Mr Cowell, Scabigail, Pustina, Brian.

 

To celebrate the progress I’ve made, this week’s bonus content is the full cast of characters for what was to be the 2012 comic book version of this story. With the exception of Porcelina, Doctor Gothboi and Lady Gothboi, every named character here makes an appearance in the written pages. At this stage I’ve added three more characters to the ensemble, and if I can squeeze it, will likely get the likenesses of Doctor and Lady Gothboi to turn up in the form of a painting somewhere inside Gothboi Manor too.

Stay safe.