On Finishing Ecko

The EndOnce upon a time, there was a pad of paper and an ink pen. There was half a paragraph describing the Banned. It was the winter of 90/91, and I was dating a biker – I guess somethings are inevitable.

Through my twenties, the project sprawled to some 600,000 words – three and a bit books – and ran dry just short of the Ubiquitous Final War. I stopped in the middle of a sentence, and never went back to it.

I’ve often wondered what I was doing – or where that sentence would have ended.

Stopping writing – being unable to write – is a deeply personal thing. Whatever your artistic outlet, quitting, admitting failure, is a tragedy. And you miss it! I missed the catharsis and the creativity and the characters and the places it was going to go and to take me… Eight years of lacking the confidence to imagine is a dark thing indeed.

I’m sure you know the rest. Returning to the Con circuit in 08, I started writing again, and Ecko was reborn, initially only for me and because I found that I could. Equally wordless to losing a dream is finding it again, all un-looked for. It’s magic in its purest form, and it feels like amazement.

So: twenty-plus years. Ecko’s a contentious and confrontational project (I didn’t realise that when I started), and hasn’t been to everyone’s tastes. But I’ve been lucky, as I haven’t had to compromise the content. It’s meant a share of very aggrieved reviews (what do you mean it uses bad language and crosses genres?!) but hey, them’s the brakes. I never thought even one person outside my social circle would read it, never mind enjoy it, and that’s been more than enough.

Anyway, standing at the closure of dream is weird feeling. I cried when I wrote the last sentence (upset the cat), because the journey’s been so much of my life, and because I’ll miss it, and because I never thought it would happen at all.

But honestly? Though it’ll leave a hole, moving on is probably long overdue!

The Chapter of Doom

Bang!If you’re a writer, you’ll know the one. It’s the one that refuses to do what it’s told, that gets harder and harder, that you hit your head repeatedly against, wondering what will break first.

It’s the one where you cut and paste and cut and paste and cut and paste and realise that actually, you should dump the whole damn thing and start again – but then your sentences fail you and you stare at the blank screen wondering if what you just binned was so bad after all…

It’s the one that’s like pulling teeth, like pulling the veins out of your arms. You go out for air, you make yourself coffee, you buy Jazzies from the garage and you come back and you start it again…

And again…

Until you want to fucking scream.

Every book’s had a Chapter of Doom. For those who’ve read Ecko Rising, it’s early on – the cyberpunk chapter that’s Ecko’s run on Grey’s base. That one started in a sports centre, moved to a disused theatre, then flirted with the abandoned Underground… the breakthrough came when I was standing outside Titan House one day, looking up at the roofs opposite. Ecko Burning had one too, but that one hit the cutting room floor and was rewritten as part of the edit.

And Ecko ‘Endgame’ has one, of course it does. One I started over the holidays, one that’s been through the edits and the re-edits, the frustrations, the head-bashing, the sugar-rush, the going out for air, and the coming back in with my sleeves rolled up….

…and this evening, I’ve finally – finally! – kicked (headbutted?) its stubborn arse. Yay!

There’s absolutely no message in this post – it’s just a story about a story, about the stuff that happens to us all. And to say, that if you hit your head against it hard enough, and for long enough, it will be the Chapter of Doom that breaks first.

The bruises on your forehead are just a part of what writing is.

No Excuses: Write!

No TimeIt’s all too easy to find excuses. No time, no energy. You’re thinking about too many other things – and even if you do write, your plotlines get scrabbled, and your characters go off at tangents. It’s hard to keep the whole thing in your head. Sometimes, in the interests of hitting daily and weekly targets (and I’ve talked about this stuff before) you write stuff down… and it’s only when you come back and read it that you realise you were writing any old crap just to get the job done…

Break out the violins. It’s been a <very> long month.

In the last few days, though, I’ve completed the final proofread of Ecko Burning and had a chance to read it through, cover to cover, and then to carry that plotline forward into the WIP, Ecko III (it’s called Endgame, in my head, but that may not end up on the cover!). To be blunt, I’ve had a chance to see the appalling effects of writing when you’re bloody knackered.

Oops.

But. Some focus and rest, some sunshine here and a G&T there, plus some fairly ruthless applications of the big red pen, and it’s actually all hanging together much, much better than I’d thought. Tying up a big narrative like this, all of the odds and sods, is a hefty job – and I want it right.

The point to all this waffle? It’s taken me two days to go through Ecko III and hack it into shape. It’s meant a lot of Tetris, and stuff on the cutting room floor – but the work is better for it. Tighter, and the plotlines are strong.

I guess the moral of the story is this: no matter how busy or how tired you are, write. It may be scrappy, and need work, and not your best stuff – but you’ll be a hell of a lot better off than if you had to do it from scratch.

However you fold time to make it happen – no excuses.