Writing books

Plotting in Cambodia

I’m taking a sabbatical from work and leaving New Zealand for the UK for a while. When moving countries, I always used to do some travelling en route. This makes good use of the air ticket and provides a pleasant limbo between lifestyles so it’s easier to settle into a new routine at the other end of the flight.

On recent country moves, we’ve not done any travelling in between because of the ages of our children. This time was different as they were old enough to cope with a bit of travel.

We pondered Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia and eventually opted for Cambodia, one reason being having Angkor Wat on our bucket lists.

It was quite a different trip to earlier backpacking: we booked hotels before we went (and those hotels had swimming pools) and arranged much of our travel between locations. And we stayed very much on the beaten track. We had a few days in the capital, Phnom Penh, then went north to Siem Reap, the city reaping the benefits of being on Angkor’s doorstep.

Angkor Thom

Having tested the kids’ patience dragging them around ancient temples in the heat, we headed south to the river amongst rugged hills at Kampot, then to the beach at Otres. Finally, we flew out of Phnom Penh and landed in Manchester where the temperature was over 30 centigrade cooler. But we didn’t care because it was sunny and there was snow on the ground.

I loved being back in Asia again and enjoying the sheer difference of the place. The poverty is also a reminder of how lucky I am and I hope some of that rubbed off on at least my older son.

One of the objectives I’d given myself while on holiday was plotting out a new Young Adult dystopian trilogy. I’d come up with the basic concept on the way to work one morning and the makings of the plot for the first book were rattling around in my head, but it was well into the second week before I sat down and focused.

I used a version of the classic Hero’s Journey as my framework, as defined by the prolifically generous and useful Derek Murphy. I’ve never done plotting like this before before, so this was an experiment.

We were hiding out from the heat of the afternoon – which turned into a tropical downpour as it happened. My wife was working on her laptop, the kids were watching cartoons. We were all in the same room, so I found some chillout music on YouTube to drown out the TV, made a table in Word with rows for each stage of the Journey and a column for each book in the trilogy.

Then I filled it out.

It took an hour or two of plotting, although I’d done a bit of thinking before hand, but the format was undoubtedly helpful for inspiring ideas. I was delighted and satisfied with the achievement. Of course, there’s still the hard work of writing up to 200,000 words for the books, but with the shape of them framed up, I was raring to go.

I started writing several days into being in the UK, trying to do 2000 words on a weekday. I’m on target so far with about 10,000 words done and it would be nice to double that before Christmas arrives with all its distractions.

Watch this space.

Otres Beach

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