In the end my new story reached 17,070 words (the original story had stalled at 10,900) in Four Chapters and the plot was slightly further along than the point at which I'd stalled before. By writing almost every day I've come to know the characters and their world far better than I did before, and I'm confident of finishing the story this time.
By having a target, both for the month and for each day, I was able to focus on getting something down every time I started to write, and by posting my total and extracts from the day's progress on the community I was able to see how everything was building up and get encouragement from other community members.
Naturally it was also a tremendous experience to read about the writing progress of others, and exhilarating to see their stories grow and take form. I definitely plan to use picowrimo and similar joint writing challenges in the future to get new stories started and stalled stories restarted.
In the meantime I shall try to keep up my target of writing at least 200 words every day, that being a target I can catch up easily when I have the occasional non-writing day. I'll be posting word count updates, and possibly the odd extract on here once a week or so.
For now, here's the very beginning of the story, pretty much as I wrote it the first time around. It will definitely need a lot of editing once the story's finished as I can already see places that don't quite match the feel of the story as it is now.
Rob remembered the first time he kissed Zack as sharply, and with as vivid colours, as if it was a vid-show playing in his head. They had climbed up Ilkley Moor in that last innocent summer before Rob went away to school, before Zack’s Dad disappeared, and before Rob’s Dad got re-elected. People said the events were connected – not always Rob being sent away, but the other two for definite – but Rob and Zack never let any of it get in the way of what they had.
They were lying in the bracken, watching the trails of two jumbo jets cross the clear blue sky above them. If Rob had rolled over onto his stomach and squinted, he might just have been able to see a bunch of Zack’s classmates taking off on their paragliders from the rock formation a klick or so behind them. There was a roar and a whoosh, and he sat up just in time to watch two Mig fighters fly through the valley below; just as planes had, Zack’s Dad said, for over a century.
“It’s just another practice run,” Zack said. “Nothing to worry about. Why don't you lie back down?”
Rob didn’t want to lie back down. He had plenty to worry about, even if war wasn’t high on his list.
“You won’t forget me, will you?” he asked.
“Why should I?” Zack rolled onto his side, and propped his head on his hand. “Should be me that’s worrying – you going away to that posh school, and me stuck here still at the same old place.”
“It’ll be dead boring.” Rob mimicked Zack’s accent – something his Mum and Dad kept lecturing him about. “You’ll be having far more fun than me.”
“You’ll be with all those other Minister’s kids though – much better friends for you to have.”
“I’ll still message you every day. Twice a day.” Rob gave Zack’s shoulder a shove, so he fell back into the bracken. “So don’t you worry about me forgetting you.”
“You won’t be able to sneak round to mine when you get bored though, will you? Bet you
find some other lad to hang out with instead.”
“Why would I want to? Find some other lad, I mean.” Rob knew why Zack’s Dad was pushing for them to be split up, but it wasn’t like they were doing anything when he crashed out in Zack’s bed. Even if other lads in their class were starting to boast about what they got up to with their girlfriends, Zack wouldn’t want to do anything like that just yet. Certainly not with another lad, rather than with a girl.
Or would he? Would he want to with someone else, someone that was more like him?
“Who’s to say you won’t find a new best friend?” Rob said, suddenly suspicious. “What about that Sam Amir? You hung out with him when I was in Cuba.”
“Only because you were in Cuba, idiot.”
“Wasn’t my idea to go. Wanker.”
“Never said it was. You still went, though. Bastard.”
“I missed you all the time I was there,” Rob said, growing serious. “And didn’t I message you every day? Twice a day? Three times some days?”
“Suppose.” Zack still sounded resentful, like it was Rob’s fault his parents dragged him off on their Official Visits.
“So why wouldn’t I this time? You’ll be here with all our other friends and I’ll be up there with a bunch of stuck up yahs who don’t know how to have a good time without paying someone to organise it for them.”
“Because they’re your people. I’m just a jumped-up military brat that follows you around, because my Dad works for your Dad.”
“Is that what you really think?” Rob was getting pissed off now.
“That’s what everyone says.”
“Well they’re wrong.” Rob decided he was pissed off with ‘everyone’, not Zack “I’m the one that follows you around, remember.”
“How?” He studied Zack’s face: his blue-grey eyes, his straight, narrow nose, his soft, pink lips.
“Dunno.” Zack stared back at Rob. “Just show me that they’re wrong, and you’re the one telling the truth.”
“Okay, then. You asked for it.” Rob leaned down and kissed Zack, right on the lips. It was nice. Better than nice. It was his three top birthdays all rolled into one, and compressed into those ten seconds. And Zack hadn’t hit him or anything.
“Well, that’s one way to prove it, I suppose,” Zack said, as Rob flopped back into the bracken next to him. “So what do we do now?” He slipped his hand into Rob’s. “It doesn’t stop you from having to go away, does it?”
“We’ve got another week,” Rob said. His heart was pounding fit to burst. He’d kissed Zack, and Zack had liked it – had seemed to like it, anyway. “We can spend all of it up here – I’ll scam the money for mono’ fares somehow – or round yours if it rains. Then when I go away, I’ll make sure to message you every morning, and every evening, to show I’m not forgetting you. We’ll still have the holidays together.” He squeezed Zack’s hand. “I might even be able to come down to Harrogate some weekends, if you can sneak me past your Dad.”
“Promise.” Rob wondered if he was supposed to kiss Zack again at this point. You didn’t find advice on this kind of thing – So you fancy your best mate – in the hockey magazines he read.
How about you? Do you find it helps to set targets for your writing? What kind of targets do you set? Do you give yourself rewards when you meet those targets?