Cariad Eccleston

Just a gin-filled dork.

My Challenges as a Queer Female Time Traveller: 18,137 words

10 September 2017

So last week, I finished the super-rough outline and started working scene-by-scene to add detail and do whatever planning I’d need to make the first draft faster to write when I get to it.

And it’s going pretty well! I’m about 80% through the first act, which puts me at 18,137 words!

18,137 words written

Daily goals

I’ve committed to a daily writing goal of 1,000 words, and I tweet every time I achieve it. The publicity keeps me accountable, and the likes are super motivational. Honestly, thank you to everyone who’s been helping me along!

And I’m not gonna lie: this reply from Michael La Ronn, one of my writing heroes, made my week!

Twitter reply from Michael La Ronn

Michael’s YouTube channel has been incredibly helpful and motivational. I really don’t think I’d be this far into my writing – if I’d have even started at all – if not for Michael.

So far, the only daily goal I’ve missed was on Friday. It had been a super tough day at my day job and I needed a break – from everything. It’s pretty likely that I’ll miss every Friday, since it’s the only night I get to spend with my boyfriend, Alex, but I think that’ll be okay if I can bump up my words-per-hour.

Right now, it takes me 2-3 hours to write those 1,000 words every night. So what’s slowing me down?

#1: Self-doubt

I can get a hundred words down – maybe more if I’m feeling good – and then I grind to a halt.

I don’t feel capable. There’s no way the story is going to be good. The characters are going to be bland. The pacing is going to be atrocious. The mysteries will have no nuance. It’s not going to be a novel: it’s going to be a sterile sequence of events.

I’m working on this mindset. I’m reminding myself – every hundred words – that there’s a long way to go yet.

Now’s not the time for pacing or nuance; now’s the time for getting the unpolished words out and on the screen. The rest will come later, with the help of my editor.

And now’s not the time to form complete characters; now’s the time to discover them, make notes, and feel it out. Right now, those characters get changed and refined in every new scene that hits the screen. I just need to keep ploughing on, an retrofit in their “final” characters later.

#2: No experience or gut instinct on structure

There are some parts of the story which are crystal clear in my head. The disaster at the end of the first act, for example, plays through my head as if I just saw it on TV.

But then I get to sequences like this in the outline – which, by the way, has been my major impediment today:

Elsee (our lead) is partnered at work with Const (our secondary lead). For their own reasons, neither of them are “in the moment”, so it’s tough to make this meeting interesting. I’m just slogging through ideas for reworking this and previous scenes until I find gold.

Then there’s some word building to do:

  • Where they get their 100-year-old style clothes.
  • What linguistic training they’ve done so they can talk to folks in the past without sounding ridiculous.
  • The bureaucracy and process of time travel, which sets up answers to all the “Why don’t they just…?” questions which these kinds of stories tend to raise.

I already have the “facts” written in my bible; I just need to tell them narratively, while getting the characters from their meeting room and to the time machine in an interesting way.

I don’t have any experience or gut instinct to tell me how to do this. It’s far from the most exciting or essential part of the story either, so I don’t want to over-think it.

But still, I’m staring at a blank sheet and trying to figure out how I can I get these two damned characters to walk between two locations and exposit a bit of important information along the way. I write a hundred words or so, then delete them, then try again, then delete them, ad nauseum.

My plan to overcome this is to:

  1. Take a break.
  2. Come back tomorrow, and blast out a stream of consciousness.
  3. Be open-minded to ditching that sequence entirely, and finding a totally different plan of attack.

Diversity, sensitivity, and authenticity

I want to write diverse stories. Not because I think it’s “cool” or “popular” – I mean, my god, have you seen the political climate out there? – but because I want to see myself and my friends in these stories.

The two leads are gay/bi. One supporting character is a trans woman. I’m minding my gender stereotypes in the jobs which keep the story’s world running. I can write gender and sexual diversity. I got this.

I’m also minding a culturally diverse cast of characters. It’s still white by default, because it’s set in south Devon and that’s my lived experience. I’ve got a bunch of Indian characters too, who are a fucking joy to write, and who represent the people I work with at my day job. Again, this is my lived experience.

Right from the beginning of planning this story, I wanted Const to be a black British woman. That’s just how I imagined her from day one. Freema Agyeman was a huge inspiration, but Christine Adams really solidified Const for me.

Then while I was taking a reading break, I found White Authors – Fill Your Stories With People Of Color, But Don’t Make Them Your Protagonists, and it made an impact. It made sense.

For sure, I have the creative freedom to image what British life will be like in a hundred years. But how I can write authentically about the future of black British life when it hasn’t been my lived experience here in the present? That’s not my story to tell, and my attempt would be – and I know I’m repeating myself – inauthentic.

“No matter how much research you do, you’re not going to convince me that you see the world the same way as an indigenous person or a black American. You simply won’t. White people don’t have to worry about cultural erasure, cultural appropriation, and systemic racism.” White Authors – Fill Your Stories With People Of Color, But Don’t Make Them Your Protagonists

That’s it!

There we go for this week! I’m going to keep pushing through 1,000 words a night, and see if I can sort out the flow through the first act.

And thank you to everyone supporting me by liking my updates – you people are amazeballs!