Aramis Gothboi – Progress Journal: Second milestone reached!

Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One

Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.

Total word count: 16,314
2nd MILESTONE (15,700 words) REACHED!

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Ninth Post:

I’ve reached my second milestone one week earlier than anticipated! Feels good to see that 20K goal so close that I can almost touch it.

“20k? Is that all?” I hear you say. And then you go on (because of course you do), That’s pretty short for a first draft.

Yeah, it is.

20K is an arbitrary number set to motivate me to push the project forward. As it’s tracking so far, when I complete this draft it will sit somewhere between 25K–30K.

To celebrate, here’s a picture of Brian the zombie because why not?

 

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Brian the zombie (2012)

 

Celebrations aside, let’s focus on what have I’ve been doing this week. This week’s progress, as mentioned last week, has mostly been reworking and expanding upon existing material. I’m currently in the middle of Act II of the story and I’m finding that the action for each chapter is already there on the page, so the bulk of the work is adding dialogue and working on scene descriptions. The existing material has been workshopped and edited once or twice too, which has gone a long way toward making this whole section work and in it we finally meet Aramis, as well as see the stakes being suitably raised for everyone else.

“Act II? Isn’t that a little late to introduce your main character?”

There you go again and fair point too. For context let me quickly say that although this is currently titled the Aramis Gothboi Project, Aramis is not the protagonist of this book. Aramis does, however, play a pivotal role in Jo’s arc – this is her story. Additionally, many of the events in this book will set up future stories that will play out with Aramis (and others) as the main character.

Got it? Good.

Right, having worked my way through about six sections of this existing material, the weekend saw me finally at work on another chapter where the map wasn’t nearly as well-drawn. I stumbled at first in trying to get anything down, but once I sat down and just got on with the writing, I realised that because this narrative has been kicking around in my head for so long, it’s just a matter of putting the effort in so that it can pour out onto the page. This one (and the following four chapters) will most definitely require redrafts. Just like last time I was in this position, this chapter is really quite rough and will require another pass or two to iron out the details.

Speaking of details, I came to the realisation that I haven’t given Jo and the Worm Boys last names. Jo is an orphan so maybe it’s kind of fair enough, but the Worm Boys and their parents should certainly have family names. Anyway, they’re all getting one now (even Jo), so I’ll be spending a bit of time on this over the coming week.

One of the primary characters in this story that doesn’t need a last name is the house where Aramis lives. Gothboi Manor is a primary location for a number of the chapters I worked on this week, so I’ve been thinking about her a lot.

 

 

With this in mind, let me take you back once again to another time…

The year is 2012 and I’m developing a previous incarnation of this story as a comic book. Along with character designs, village maps, and all the other elements I’m juggling, I’ve also taken to designing Gothboi Manor. I’ve gathered reference material of all kinds, including any floor plans I could find for similar houses. I found inspiration in the meticulous work of Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s comic series Locke & Key, and just know that I’ll have to put a lot of thought into making this house believable, so I’ve set about making floor plans of my own and rough elevation drawings to bring this integral piece of the puzzle to life.

Basically I wanted the setting to be believable, and to have a reference for not only what it looked like from every angle, but also how my cast would interact with the space both inside and out.

As is painfully evident, my own limited sketches left a lot to be desired and I even set about making a 3D model out of cardboard so that I could easily view the exterior of the house from any angle. Unfortunately the model didn’t survive, and it seems I didn’t take any photos of it either.

Oh well, no point dwelling on the past (unless you’re writing about it).

Toward 20K and beyond!

 

Aramis Gothboi – Progress Journal: Share and share alike

Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One

Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.

Total word count: 14,073

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Eighth Post:

It has begun. Humans are reading my manuscript with the aim of sharing their critical thoughts with me. It took some time to adjust to this unfamiliar level of vulnerability, but I think I’ve come to terms with this necessary step in the process.

Last week began with a little freak out about handing pages over, and I found myself hating every word I’d written. As I developed the feedback questions, I felt the urge to rewrite the whole book before handing it over because, in my eyes, it was all garbage and every sentence was wrong. Needless to say, anxiety had kicked right in and I found myself needing stop for a moment and breathe. Instead of agonising over it all, I put a pin in the task and stopped thinking about it until the following day.

The next morning I went over my notes and the chapter I was to give to my test readers. Yes, it was badly written and yes I did end up re-writing half of it before handing it over, but after a good night’s sleep I was able to see that it wasn’t the end of the world and I didn’t need to stress as much as I did.

So far it’s been a positive experience and already I’ve had some simple suggestions and questions about the story that I couldn’t see for being too close to the work. I’m now very much looking forward to continuing with the feedback process and finding out what else I can do to improve the manuscript.

Progress on the word count has been minimal. I re-wrote one chapter this week and split another into two, and I’ll continue along at a similar pace in this familiar territory for the next five-or-so chapters. After that, there are more chapters that will need to be written fresh before I reach the climax. As these unwritten moments simmer away in my subconscious, I’ll continue to focus on the work at hand. Again, progress will feel a little slower because the word count won’t grow substantially as I continue to re-write and add to the existing text.

To summarise, I’m feeling confident and on track.

This week’s bonus content is a little bit special and relates back to the topic of sharing work with others.

Back in the days when this story was going to be a graphic novel, I shared my art and story notes with fellow artist Helena Norback in the hope that she might help me to improve on the designs I’d already made. As you may have noticed by the amazing character art on this page here, it all went very well. One flaw in the plan, however, was that Helena is such a better artist than me that when I got her roughs back I couldn’t help but think she’s so good at this – what the heck am I even doing?

Hurt pride aside, here are the results:

 

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Aramis character development sketches by Helena Norback (2012)

 

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Aramis – final design (2012)

Those goggles! I loved them so much that I knew Aramis would now have to where them in at least one scene just because they were so cool. Helena also experimented with hair colour and clothing, and it was brilliant to get that fresh perspective.

 

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Porcelina character sketch by Helena Norback (2012)

 

Porcelina will not appear in the current book, but you can see how different Helena’s interpretation of the character was from my own sketches. Her version is definitely more childlike, and all the better for it. The costume variations I was playing with were slightly more mature – and even though Porcelina is a living doll, I think I was pushing those designs in the wrong direction.

 

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That’s all for now. Guess it’s time to get back to the manuscript.

Till next week. Stay safe!

Aramis Gothboi – Progress Journal: redrafting and finding the right feedback

Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One

Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.

Total word count: 13,254

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Seventh Post:

Not a huge step forward in terms of writing this week. I spent a little time editing a pre-written chapter that, to begin with, was mostly changing the tense until it became overwhelmingly clear that it was actually a terrible piece of writing and so I’ve had to put it through the wringer a few times to get it up to scratch.

I shouldn’t be so surprised that the draft was a bit garbage – it was, I think, the first chapter I developed into long-form from the existing TV script. As you might have guessed, I started writing the chapters of this thing out of sequence with my reasoning being that this chapter was one of the more exciting action pieces featured in the story (and probably the most developed scene in script form).

The redraft was fairly straightforward with a few lines added to align what happens with one or two things from the previous chapter, otherwise the bulk of the chapter remains the same in terms of story because the action of the scene works well.

For a little context, this scene sees Jo (our protagonist) come to blows with Piebald (antagonist) for the second time. At the end of the chapter, Jo is victorious, but must now escape further wrath from Piebald after taking something of value from him. To summarise, it continues the conflict between the two characters, ups the stakes, and progresses the main plot. The biggest challenge I have with this chapter is striking a balance between description and pacing that I’m sure I can fine-tune with further edits.

Having smashed my first milestone out of the park last week, it feels like I am way ahead of schedule and it looks as though I may reach my final milestone a month ahead of schedule. This sense of forward momentum has made me consider that perhaps I should shift my markers and set some new goals. But then, maybe this is a tad premature. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt to think about what I’ll be doing next, but really I should just keep my focus on the task at hand. One step at a time as it were. If I do reach the finish line early, only then should I set new goals. After all, I gave myself space on this project to counter any life event that may throw a spanner in the works. Anything could happen over the next few weeks. Anyway, this was just a thought.

So yes, with this current drafting phase, I’m a third of the way into the story (further pre-written chapters will require the same redrafting as the previously described chapter). I’m feel positive and on track, but I’m also feeling like maybe it’s time to recruit others to give this thing a read, just to confirm this is actually true. One of the hardest parts of writing for a lot of people, I think, is getting the feedback you actually need to push the work in the right direction.

It’s been a while since I’ve put myself under the critical microscope for my writing and I’m happy to report that the prospect is actually a little terrifying. Reaching out this week for people to do just that was no small feat, but I did it and was presented with the reminder that I need to be clear in setting out what kind of feedback I’m looking for (thanks Steph!).

Feedback can take many forms, and even the most innocuous suggestions that people throw your way give can feel for the writer like a dagger through the heart.

 

 

In my experience, the best way to get what you need is to be clear in asking for what you want.
Asking is this any good? might give you an answer, but if you want to turn that one-word answer into something constructive, you’re going to have to dig a little deeper with your line of questioning.

What’s good or bad specifically? How’s the tone? Is the POV consistent? How’s the structure? Does the motivation of this character make sense? What could I do to fix this paragraph? How can I improve this dialogue?

If you can focus the attention of your reader to specific elements of your writing, you’re more likely to get the answers you require.

As I said, it’s been a while and I’m a little bit terrified, but this must be done, so along with more chapter progress for the coming week, there’ll also be preparation for feedback too.

Wish me luck!

~

This week’s bonus material is all about reference material. When this was to be a graphic novel, I had hopes that the village of Parochia would be just as important a character as any of my main cast. For Parochia to be believable, it would need to look like it could exist in real life. Now, living in the city of Melbourne, you might not think that there are a great many places to gather reference material for an isolated mountain village without driving for at least an hour past the suburbs.

If you’re looking for inspiration from visiting real places and you can’t get to those places physically, sometimes you need to think a little outside the box. This chapter I discussed this week is set in the woods of Parochia. These woods are not overly dense, but are still a great place to hang out and have adventures. The well-worn path through the middle of the wood sees a lot of foot traffic from the villagers, but it’s going off the path and into the wooded areas where all the action happens.

Back in 2012 I lived in Brunswick West. This inner suburb is a stone’s throw from Royal Park (home of Melbourne Zoo), which would be the most logical place to source reference material for trees and the like. Where I lived, however, was down by the freeway, which is mostly cement sound barriers, pylons and overpasses. Alongside the freeway however, is a thin strip of grass that lines the concrete of the aqueduct. Down this way, I found some pretty fantastic areas that still feel secluded despite being in the middle of the city. Here’s a few snaps I took for inspiration.

 

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Also, this chapter is the first appearance of Mr Froggington (AKA Al Green). Here are some of the reference photos I used along with some early sketches and the final design.



With Google at your fingertips, you can find references for pretty much anything, but there’s nothing quite like discovering and being inspired by the real world. Have you ever found your creative muse in unexpected places? What was it and how did you incorporate it into your story? Let me know in the comments!

Aramis Gothboi – Progress Journal: First milestone reached!

Progress Journal for Aramis Gothboi: Book One

Mog’s ongoing account of completing the first draft.

Total word count: 12,564
1st MILESTONE (11,400 words) REACHED!

~

Sixth Post:

I’ve set three word count goals over the course of this project and as you can see by those numbers up top, I’ve well and truly smashed the first one. It’s time to celebrate! …Or is it?

In recent times a whole lot of us have been left with a whole lot more free time on our hands than we’re used to – myself included. If that’s the case, shouldn’t I have done twice the amount of work? There’s a lot of talk at the moment between creatives about productivity in these interesting times.

 

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Found: https://imgur.com/PDrxxzd

 

It’s tough out there right now with a lot of uncertainty around the corner for a whole lot of people. As one of the few that can be considered essential workers, it means I still gotta get up and go to work despite the government saying, please don’t. Unlike some who’ve straight up lost their jobs and now have to rely on that same government whose fault it was that they are now unemployed, I’m in the weird position of the casual worker with a job that pays just as much to be there as it would if I were at home on the dole (as it currently stands) – so yeah, what’s a guy to do?

I guess the point I want to make is that these are not ideal times. It’s not a great time to be thinking about the future, it’s not a great time to be enjoying the present, and it’s a hell of a lot worse than it has been in the past.

But when are there ever ideal times? Is there some kind of Goldilocks zone for living as a creative? I don’t think there are. You do what can, where and when you can. If you’re looking at Instagram accounts or on your Facebook feed at peers seizing the day, or at least pretending to with unsubstantiated vigour, and you’re there looking at your own confused mess in the mirror and trying to make comparisons between the two – just stop right now.

You are not them. You cannot compare yourself to them, or anyone. Growth, progress, a sense of forward motion only can only be measured by the ground you personally have covered. If you feel like stuck in your car with a flat, why not get out and take a walk to the nearest town and grab a postcard. Just chill.

And if you are struggling, know that you’re not the only one. Everything sucks right now, but getting all worked up about all the coulda shoulda woulda is just going to make you feel worse. If the news is getting you down, switch off the feed and get back into that book you were reading or watch your favourite show. As a creative, you have an edge over those that aren’t because you can create your own distraction, but only if you let yourself. Sometimes you just gotta rest up a bit before you dive in.

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Worm Boys Horseplay (2012)

Should I have done twice the amount of work by now? No. I set my goals so they would be achievable. I don’t have that much more time than I did previously. I still have to do all the things that I had to do, and that includes keeping enough variety in my day that I don’t go mad during the isolation period. I could spend two weeks pushing forward to get 10,000 words on the page, but it would be the same as pulling an all-nighter to write an essay – it might get me over the line to hand something in, but it will be a lesser result than planning and spacing the work out over the time I’ve been given.

This week’s work has wholly focused on the aforementioned chapter where I needed to step back and spend some more time developing a character. I didn’t end up writing a scene or two as planned, but I did write some material that was all about who the character was and how she fits into the larger narrative. In my Youtube research I found Alexa Donne who made this little video, which has some pretty useful tips and pointers for character development.

 

 

From Loofah’s Mum, the two-dimensional placeholder, I now have Jemma. Jemma has forged herself a place in the village of Parochia and along with a purpose in the greater story. She has wants, needs and her own history, and wouldn’t you know it, while I was writing her, she seems now to have her own agenda too. Knowing your characters and their purpose is essential, so too is being able to control them. I think I have her under control, but she’s awfully independent and doesn’t much like being told what to do – and I love her for it.

 

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Loofah Investigates (2012)

 

What preparation do you do when developing characters? Are you a slave to the character profile sheet, write short stories to get to know them first, or something else? Share your tips in the comments!