Thursday, 1 December 2016

A million words in 2016 (December)

I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for December (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro, and here are the diaries for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total Milwordy word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: December

1st Dec993,187
Last year, NaNoWriMo worked really well for me, which is actually why I started this "million words in 2016" project. But this year, unfortunately, I didn't quite get into the NaNo mindset. The start was a big messy rush (thanks to me being dumb enough to take part in a race to 50k) and then I hardly wrote a thing until there was another rush at the end. That's a real shame because one of the best things, I reckon, that NaNo does for a writer, is to enforce a regular writing habit.

This little graph-gadget thing shows just how many writing days I missed during November: 

NaNoWriMo progress-tracking-gadget-thing-whatsit

The green squares show the days when I hit the NaNoWriMo target of 1,667 words per day. The orange and yellow represent the days where I wrote a bit but not quite enough. And the reds... well... they mean I did absolutely nothing.

There's a lot of red :-(

Even though I managed 103k for NaNoWriMo this year, I only managed to write a decent amount on just ten of the thirty days. Ten out of thirty. That's a pretty terrible record!

I checked the NaNo forums and apparently it's quite common for people to attempt to be cocky by rushing to 50k. Many of them - me included - then find they lose motivation! Thing is, as you write your novel in November, you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site, and the progress bar turns green when you hit 50k. That results in something the overachievers call the "green bar blues". When the bar turns green, it gives a real sense of accomplishment... and that means a little switch in the brain flicks over to "I have finished and therefore can STOP!"

Motivation was low anyway, but it took a nosedive after I hit 50k and the feeling of apathy still hasn't quite gone! Ah well, I guess the only thing I can do is try to learn from this for next year. I'll probably still try to race to 50k (mainly just to annoy the competitive people!) but perhaps this time I'll be more prepared for the green bar blues.

No words today (I think I deserve a bit of a break after yesterday's 22k!) so the total's still 993,187.

2nd Dec993,346
The plot of my children's novel is getting darker!

In my current draft, when Crimble (a dragon) meets Calvin, she finds that the poor kid has a nasty magical injury that's threatening to turn his body to stone. No one is particularly sympathetic to Calvin and, because the injury is seen as impossible to cure, they're basically all just waiting for him to die. And this is why I'm saying the plot's getting darker: I've just realised that in the scene before Crimble meets him, Calvin is digging his own grave. His teacher doesn't want to move Calvin's body when he finally turns to stone, so has asked him to dig the grave and use it as a bed in case he dies in his sleep. How's that for dark? :-) 

I really love it when a story reaches the point where it kinda tells itself. I'm not shoehorning this "digging his own grave" thing in - it's just a natural consequence of the current plot that naturally arises from Calvin's predicament and the relationship between him and his teacher.

One weird little flash fiction today (about a spaniel who likes eating frogs) gave me a tiny word count of 159 words, so the total's now 993,346.

28th Dec996,899
The problem with being close to the end is that it's very easy to feel like you've actually finished. I can't believe I've left it this long to start on those last 7k words. Ah well, I'm back in the game now. Today I began a short story based on this writing prompt:

Write a scene that involves a safety pin. Use the word "delegate".

It's not the greatest prompt ever, but it resulted in a fun little tale about a guy who's told to move a giant safety pin that's bigger than a building. The whole thing got very complicated and resulted in all manner of random shenanigans. Luckily the shenanigans are fun (fun shenanigans are the best shenanigans) and so I'm quite enjoying the story so far. As usual I'm just throwing a few characters together and giving them a problem to solve, and thankfully a good ending has already arrived in my brain. Hopefully it'll be enough to see me through the last few thousand words. Can't wait to get finished so I can start editing and submitting again!

Today's word count was 3,553 which means the "million word" total is now 996,899. Nearly there!

29th Dec1,000,680
This safety pin story is wonderfully silly. God knows who will want to publish it, but I'm sure it'll find a home somewhere eventually. I'm about halfway through it, I reckon, and today it helped me push through another 3,781 words. The million word target has been reached at last! Total word count is now 1,000,680 with a couple of days to spare!

31st Dec1,002,141
It seemed appropriate to add a few more words on the final day of this crazy year of writing. I have to admit, it was a bit of a halfhearted effort! I'm quite drained by the whole project, however I'm definitely looking forward to getting stuck into a bit of editing. Next year I'm planning to start submitting for publication again - poems, flash fictions, short stories, anything really. Maybe even the novel, providing I can work out Crimble's life story properly. And if I force myself to keep submitting, then that means I'll have no choice but to keep pushing through the edit process (after all, I can't submit unless I've given the text a good workout). Here's to 2017 and, hopefully, a bit of success at getting a few more publications out into the world!

Today's word count was 1,461, so the final grand #milwordy total is 1,002,141. And, just for the sheer geeky joy of it, here's the final graph from my magic word-count-spreadsheet :-)

366 days. 1,002,141 words!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Local fame! Hooray!

Turns out that if you get placed in the Bridport competition, they do an article in the local paper. Page 25 of the Swindon Advertiser, no less! Haha, this obviously means I'm now incredibly famous and rich :-)

The facebook post got lots of likes. Over 200! That counts as viral, right? No? Oh... :-(

And here's the picture in case the facebook-post-embed thing isn't working:

Okay, I know it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it's nice to get a bit of an ego-boost occasionally! :-)

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A million words in 2016 (November is NaNoWriMo month!)

I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for November (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro, and here are the diaries for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: November (NaNoWriMo month!)

1st Nov900,770
I played a tactical game yesterday (31st Oct) by forcing myself not to work in the hope I'd have energy and enthusiasm for starting NaNoWriMo dead on midnight as the clock ticked over into November.

The plan didn't work very well. The words wouldn't come (mainly because I'm in a horribly turgid part of the plot where everything needs to be explained to Crimble before she can start joining in with the other characters).

But it's okay... the pressure of NaNo forced me to push through the explanation stuff, and I tried to find ways to intersperse a little action here and there. When I go back over it, I can break up the conversation with a bit more action. I think it'll work out okay.

The most important thing is I did actually manage to get words done today! NaNoWriMo has officially begun! As I say, I started just after midnight and managed to get 7,765 words done. Then I grabbed two hours kip (!) and headed off to a NaNo support class run by the awesome Jill Sharp. It's a friendly group in a lovely location (the Richard Jefferies Museum) and everyone's very supportive. Plus I ended up with a nice flash fiction about a guy trying to eat an apple tree. I must admit though, it was a bit frustrating to be at a class when I felt like I should really be typing! Anyway, I came home and grabbed a bit more sleep, then headed back to the writing shed to hammer out a few more words.

Final tally today was 10,791 which is also my NaNo total (seeing as it's only day one). However it's day 306 of my "million words in 2016" project, so the total for that is now 900,770. Woohoo - I'm on my last 100,000!

If NaNo works well for me then hopefully I'll be done with this project before December even starts! And that'll mean I don't have to write any more. Ever. Okay, I'm kidding... but it'll be nice to have a break from freewriting! I think my poor brain is a bit fed up with trying to give me ideas. It's about time I buckled down to a bit of editing!

Favourite line from today:

It looked like it was wearing a coat made entirely of squirrel fingers.

As you can tell, I'm producing some quality literature here!

2nd Nov912,743
The pressure of NaNoWriMo got to me today! It's hard to bash out a ton of words when you're also trying to craft a plot at the same time. I ended up having to abandon Crimble for a while and start another novel instead.

I chose to write another trashy horror novel. The concept of pantsing works very well with this genre, I find! Also, I had a title already prepared. It's probably the best title ever created for a trashy horror novel ever ever ever. Are you ready for this? The title is:

These things will EAT YOUR FACE

Admit it, that title is awesome. Especially because half of it is in capitals. If you were drunk enough, and in the mood for a bit of trashy horror, you would totally buy this book :-)

There's extra pressure this year because we have a bit of a competition going. One of our MLs types incredibly fast so we're all trying to beat her to 50k this year. Unfortunately there are a few of us who are massively competitive and it's all got a bit stressful! Not sure this link will work but if it does it'll show you my Swindon NaNo buddies sorted by word count. God knows why I'm including that link because it'll be out of date about ten minutes after I publish this post, but at the moment we have one person on 25k, another on 23k, and me on 22k. And it's only day two! 

I've never considered myself competitive before (even as a kid I would slow down to let other people win races simply because I could see they needed to win more than I did) but this time I'm joining in with this competition because the extra bit of pressure is helping me smash out the words. In fact I've just had two days in a row of over 10k! Million words, here I come!

Word count today was 11,973 so my NaNo total is 22,764 and my #milwordy total is now 912,743.

4th Nov940,257
Wrote nothing at all yesterday (very sleepy all day!) until about 8pm when I suddenly found some energy and powered through. Managed to get over 11k in the end! I used midnight as the cut-off point, then carried on typing until about 4:30am which gave me another 8k.

So I went to sleep with a NaNo total of 41k, then later managed to push on through and get to the 50k. So that's a NaNoWriMo win in only 4 days. Not bad! Kinda exhausted now though! Here's a screenshot from the NaNoWriMo website as proof! :-)

NaNoWriMo complete!

My spreadsheet graph's looking a lot healthier since NaNo started. Four days in a row of over 10k! I love how after all those weeks of doing nothing, the end of the graph is suddenly reaching for the sky :-)

Nearly there!

Word counts for 3rd and 4th Nov were 11,794 and 15,720. That means my NaNoWriMo total is 50,278 and the "million word" total is now 940,257.

12th Nov941,469
So much for the graph reaching for the sky! There's a progress bar on the NaNoWriMo site and, when it turned green (which it does when you hit 50k), my brain immediately said, "cool, I'm finished!" and I've hardly written a thing since. Oops.

Today was a "write-in" day with the rest of the NaNoWriMo-ers, and I think being around the other writers was enough to get me going again. It was hard work though. After 3 hours of sitting around chatting, I'd managed to hack together the beginning of a new flash fiction. It wasn't anything to do with Crimble though, which is a horrid shame because that's the project I really want to get done! However, words are words - and the main thing is to keep writing, even if you hate what you're producing.

The flash fic today was produced via this writing prompt:

"The sheep are lying!"

Thank you to Kat for the prompt! :-)  It gave me a new story for kids, in which the Big Bad Wolf realises he's been framed for stealing a farmer's flock. All the sheep in a field have vanished... apart from two who live on their own in a shed and, rather disturbingly, have been seen shopping for mint sauce.

In other news, I was invited today to give a little interview about writing on local radio! Thankfully it wasn't live (too scary!). I had a nice chat with Sam Loveless, the presenter of Rhythm and Rhyme at Swindon 105.5, and he's promised to edit out all my stuttering and stumbling! :-)

Today gave me 1,073 words so the NaNoWriMo total is 51,490 and the "million word" total is 941,469.

16th Nov943,250
Urgh. I really am staggering to the finish line. Can hardly find any motivation at all! Don't do the million word project. Repeat: do NOT do the million-words-in-a-year project!

Today gave me 1,781 words, most of which was a daft flash fiction about fingerling potatoes (which apparently are a thing). The NaNoWriMo total is now 53,271 and the million-word total is 943,250. Less than 60k to go! So close. So far.

24th Nov950,378
Forced myself to stay up late and blast out some words. Brain is not working too well at the moment so I'm finding it hard to focus on anything for too long, let alone writing. To combat this, I have several projects on the go at once. As soon as I get bored with one story, I leap to another. This technique results in a ton of unfinished stories but at least it keeps me typing.

Most of today's words came from using the lines from this article: 28 of poetry's most powerful lines ever written. I pluck out a certain idea from each of the poetic lines and use it as a prompt. For example, the line "Because I could not stop for Death, / He kindly stopped for me" gave me a fun little story about Death moving into the spare bedroom and sitting up all night drinking wine and playing cards with the ghost of my mother. Slightly surreal, but that's exactly what I like about flash fiction :-) 

Another bit of news... this Bridport thing is a gift that seems to keep on giving! They asked me to let them know a contact email address for the local paper, and that resulted in this lovely article! Okay, it's no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's nice to get an ego-boost occasionally! :-)

Word counts for yesterday and today were 5,008 and 2,120, which means the NaNoWriMo total's now 60,399 and the "million word" total is 950,378. Woohoo, less than 50k to go!

25th Nov953,194
Am still pushing myself to sprint to the end of NaNo, so managed 2,816 words today. It was mostly just rushed freewrites based on random prompts, but I think it'll all come in useful eventually. I also added a little bit more to "Hands" (a freaky piece about a guy who fills his bath with pieces of dolls). I've never liked the ending of it so hopefully today's freewrite will have given me some new ideas. Anyway, the NaNo total is now 63,215 and the #milwordy total is 953,194. 

27th Nov969,030
Yesterday was a zero word day (ouch) so I was especially mean to myself today and just kept pushing. Brain desperately tried to resist but was pummelled into submission with insane amounts of sugar, alcohol, and coffee. All horribly unhealthy habits, but they definitely seem to help the word count. Managed 15,836 words and every single one of them was blood-from-a-stone difficult! Not a fun day. But it's a great total and has put me a bit closer to my ideal target of 100k for NaNo.

Motivation is very low but we're nearly there now. The NaNoWriMo total's now 79,051 and the "million word" total is 969,030. 

30th Nov993,187
Yikes, the end of NaNoWriMo was quite a rush!

I'd been promising myself all month long that I'd finish the million words during November. It didn't work out quite that well, but I was close!

On the 29th, just before midnight, I tried one last attempt to find some motivation by putting this message up on facebook:

An attempt at accountability!

As expected, the "accountability" aspect didn't work for me at all. I think it works best for people who are competitive, and thankfully I've never suffered from that addiction! However I do want to finish the million, and I did want to hit 100k, so I managed to push through. Yesterday earned me 1,604 words (not bad for the last half hour of the day - I didn't start until after I'd stuck that Facebook post up!) and today's result was 22,553.

The writing today surprised me today... it actually came quite easily! Luckily I'd managed to find a story I could stick with, and after that the only problem was forcing myself not to get distracted. In all honesty, I think I could have hit 30k if my concentration wasn't so awful right now... but that would definitely have been overkill. Next year, maybe?!

Here's the graph from the NaNoWriMo website. I did lots of words at the beginning of November, then nothing for ages (aargh!), then lots! I'm sure life would be a lot less stressful if I could just learn to write a solid 1,667 words per day, like the NaNo guys advise! 

The oh-so-fascinating stats (to me, anyway!) and a graph from the NaNoWriMo site

Final word count for NaNoWriMo was 103,208 which means the "million word" total is 993,187. Only 7k to go! Phew... please remind me never to do this again?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016


No one knows what a Brain-Stanley looks like,
but this is probably pretty close

When freewriting, it's important to ignore the internal editor. However, the enforced word count on NaNoWriMo results in the writer-brain making some truly dumb decisions, all in the name of trying to squeeze a few more words into what you've actually written.

Some of the more obvious examples of this are things like always writing "Mr Ian Woon" instead of just "Ian", or not using contractions (e.g. always putting "I am" instead of "I'm"). Helpful for the initial word count, I guess, but really kinda useless in the long run.

But the writer-brain finds far dumber things to do - things that actually get in the way of freewriting. Take this for example:

She nodded for me to continue.

That's the line I was going to write. It's not amazing prose but it's perfectly acceptable, especially in a first draft. Anyway, it popped into my brain and my fingers obediently hammered at the keyboard. But as I typed the last word, a little piece of my brain woke up. For the sake of this explanation, let's call him Stanley. And remember, Brain-Stanley is a baddie in this story.

Stanley said, "Hey, if you type 'go on' instead of 'continue' then you get ONE EXTRA WORD."

The rest of my brain replied, "Oh come on, Stanley. Don't be a tit. What's the point of one extra word? Why can't I just put 'continue'?"

Stanley didn't care that the rest of the brain had just called him a tit. He stood there, with his tiny brain-hands on his tiny brain-hips, and said, "Because it's NaNoWriMo, you daft sod. We need all the words we can get."

There was a little bit of shouting, but Stanley won in the end. The line became:

She nodded for me to go on.

.... and I gained that one extra word.

So now I was a step closer to the end of my million words project. Hooray and hurrah?


This is a worrying trend. If my internal-editor-dialogue ("ooh, we shouldn't write it THAT way; we should write it THIS way") is too loud, then creativity stops dead. The moment my various Brain-Stanleys wake up and start shouting editing suggestions, that's the moment I start struggling to freewrite. And all this 'second guessing myself' is what slows things down. It's hard enough to produce 2,000 words per day, let alone with a bunch of Brain-Stanleys shouting at me.

Dear Brain-Stanleys, I appreciate the occasional extra words, but they're really not worth the internal dialogue distraction. Shush for a few weeks, okay? Please? Pretty please with chocolate cherries?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Name your characters well! And quickly!

I tend to give a character a random name and then change it later.

Initially, this seemed like a good plan... because a quick, "oh, sod it, he's called Fred" meant that I could carry on writing and not start wasting my writing time by googling lists of names or rushing to a name generator.

However, this is turning out to be a terrible idea!

Thing is, every writer has their natural rhythm. Lines tend to dance out of the brain in accordance with a certain internal flow or pace or beat, and woe betide the poor writer who starts screwing around with that rhythm in the editing stage (I find it gets lost very easily when editing, and then the whole text starts to sound stilted and unpolished).

Another problem is that the character starts to become "whole" in your head once you name him. I have a character called Calvin and he will never, ever, be anything else to me. If an agent or publisher (assuming I ever reach that stage of the novel-writing process!) tells me to change his name, I'm going to have a lot of trouble adjusting. And if they want me to change Crimble's name then I'll probably cry!

I'd always thought I could do a quick "find and replace" once I'd decided on a better name, but I realise now that's not an option. Here's one of the reasons: internal rhyme. Changing a name can cause lines to start rhyming, and that'll completely change the feel of the whole story. Imagine having a character called Bob and then you change him to "Fred" at the last minute. Suddenly you have a ton of lines ending with "said Fred" or "Fred said", and that weird little rhyme is going chime in the reader's head (just like "rhyme" and "chime" just did in this sentence!) and quite possibly get annoying over the course of an entire novel.

Turn to blog post number 394

Here's a similar example: What if the goddess of writing, J.K. Rowling, had called the character something other than "Snape" in her first draft? For the sake of argument, let's say she called him Maurice. When the slimy potions teacher is being grumpy, JKR could easily have written first draft dialogue in this form:

"Turn to page 394," Maurice snapped.

And the thing is, once you've associated a character with a dialogue attribution/description like "snapped", it's easy to do that over and over again. That word "snapped" becomes part of the definition of your character. "Snapping" their dialogue becomes one of their natural characteristics. We know what it sounds like when someone snaps - it's spoken quickly and the words are almost bitten off like someone biting off a head. That gives us a strong sense of character.

Then, later in this completely fictitious example, let's say JKR was editing and finally decided on the name "Snape". One global-replace later, she'd have a ton of lines saying "Snape snapped". Ugh. That just sounds daft. Suddenly the manuscript is chock-full with dumb-sounding dialogue attributes, and this would only happen if the right name wasn't chosen early.

Okay, you can argue that "snapped" is a bad word to use because all the writing books tell us to stick to "said". Fair enough, but that's not really the point of the example. Pick your character names early, and pick them well. Getting the name right will change how they feel to you, and that'll come out in your writing.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Bridport Prize - Flash Fiction 2016

In January 2015, I enrolled on a writing class with the awesome Hilda Sheehan. She spotted I was someone who lacked confidence and so she encouraged me (okay, pretty much ordered me) to start sending off pieces for publication. She was so right. Sending stuff to publishers changes everything about being a writer. It's exposing, it's terrifying, it's exhilarating... and then you realise it's not as scary as you were expecting.

And on those rare days when someone says, "yes" to a piece, it's the biggest boost of confidence in the world.

So here's one of the "yeses"! Sorry if it's crass to toot my own trumpet but here goes anyway :-)

A flash fiction piece of mine was lucky enough to be commended in this year's Bridport Prize. Woohoo! The piece was originally called The Angel in the Bathroom but it had a redraft before submitting and is now called Cure. Big thanks to the Bridport Prize, and the flash fiction judge, Tim Stevenson!

The lovely thing about this is that they put me on the Bridport website! Hopefully this is something I can wave in front of agents when trying to get Crimble's autobiography published.

My friend Stephen was kind enough to keep me company on the day and help me feel a little less nervous around all the proper writers! He took most of the pics as well! Here's a facebook post he put up. I love how much support everyone showed. I'm all smiles :-)

And here's a big pile of pictures from the prize-giving event:

The book! I'm in it! Page 148! :-)

Arrived at the Arts Centre to find my name and pic on
the wall. Exciting! :-)

Welcome drinks upstairs in the gallery 

Stephen looks out over the writers, trying to spot the poets

The prize ceremony. I think the people on the stage are the brave
souls who deal with the enormous bags of post

Sneaky pic of some of our table-mates. I was worried we'd not
have much to talk about but of course we had plenty in
common - we're all daft enough to spend our free time
frantically scribbling!

The ceremony begins

Poetry judge, Patience Agbabi

Short story judge, Tessa Hadley 

Flash Fiction judge, Tim Stevenson

Trying to find my way through the tables!

Going up on stage. In front of people! Scary!

Getting a prize. Yay! :-)

Lots of goodies!

EDIT: And just to top everything off wonderfully, I was complimented not once but twice by the queen of Bridport flash fiction, Kit de Waal! :-) *dramatic fan-boy swoon*

Saturday, 1 October 2016

A million words in 2016 (October)

I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for October (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro, and here are the diaries for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: October

1st Oct869,827
The Poetry Swindon festival is in full swing and so that's my official excuse for not writing! Well, I am actually writing, but all the words I'm producing are being scribbled in notebooks during workshops, and that means they're pretty much uncountable.

Okay, I could count them... but then I'd be spending valuable festival-attending time counting words instead of, well, attending the festival. Plus, most of the writing I'm doing is poetry attempts, which means the word count is pretty low.

Never mind. I'll get back to writing once the festival is done. In the meantime, here are a few festival pics!

Hilda starts the festival!

Workshop with Maggie Harris

Giggling festival helpers guarding Poetry Swindon's Dog

Workshop with Susan Utting in the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

Hilda as the Dada tin man

Dada madness!

10th Oct869,827
The festival is over and I'm broken! Workshops, readings, classes and a ton of socials and late nights. Such an intense 11 days! I'll have to do a proper write-up sometime (if I can find the energy) but for now here's a few snaps. And here's the link to the full facebook album (560 pics!)

The awesome Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air

Poetry Dog looking wonderfully spooky at 1 A.M.

Unexpected blackouts make for awesome pics!

Poetry Dog mug helps me recover from the festival lurgy

15th Oct870,492
Lovely day today! I attended the Bridport prize-giving! My "angel in the bathroom" finally found her home. She's on page 148 of the 2016 anthology. Full write-up here! :-)

Meeting flash fiction judge, Tim Stevenson

23rd Oct870,492
Okay, I'm finally recovered! Wow, I had a bit of a energy crash to be honest. Coming home from Greece was exhausting, and then there was immediately 2 days of rushing around (sorting out loads of stuff that I'd been ignoring for 6 months), followed by the festival, followed by driving to Bridport and back... it all kinda caught up with me. But I'm awake again now!

And that means it's time to start worrying about my word count again :-(

So... I have about 130k left to achieve my a million words. That's do-able, right? Surely it is. I just have to get started again!

But I think I broke my brain. I kept the word count going for so long that I don't think there's anything new in my head. And even on the days when I get some writing done, I keep getting confused which words are new and which were written ages ago - so I end up discounting all of them.

And I haven't counted all the new words I scribbled during the poetry festival. That's pretty awful for my word count. Y'see, I'm still merging several different versions of the same story... and that means I'm still failing miserably at managing to count all the new words I write. However the year is ticking on so I have to get better at counting.

Managed to count a few words today, so I can proudly announce I have 665 new words! Not sure if they're destined for book 1 or book 2, though. Probably book 2... which means Calvin's story (the story I'd originally thought was "book 1") is now either book 3 or 4. Maybe even 5. Christ, this is why I've been having trouble writing Calvin's story - it doesn't actually start for several books yet! No wonder I've been stuck for so long!

Okay, so today I wrote some words and did a ton of work towards preparing for NaNoWriMo. I'm counting today as a success! There's a week left of October, and I plan to write something every single day from now until the end of November. Do you hear me, Brain? EVERY SINGLE DAY.

My graph was looking so good! Now, however, the writing's been neglected so long that the "par" line (the red one) has nearly caught me up! I'm only 20 days ahead at the moment :-(

My once-awesome, now awful graph :-(

Current word count is 870,492. That means I have 129,508 words left to complete this insane task. There are 69 days left in 2016, so to hit the million word target I need to write 1,877 words per day. Difficult... but hopefully achievable.

Come on then, NaNoWriMo. I've ready for ya!

24th Oct875,572
Success! Today I typed words! Lots of words!

I needed 1,877 words and I typed more words than I needed!


Okay Brain, now just do that another 68 times and everything will be fine.

It was mostly all work towards Crimble's autobiography, which means I'll hopefully have the tricky "set up" bit finished before NaNoWriMo officially begins. Happy face, happy smiles, happy dance :-)

I also wrote a few blog posts. Not this one... ignore this one... this is just a diary... but I scribbled a few opinions/articles about writing (Brain-Stanleys and Naming Characters, plus another that I'll save for publishing later) and I think it's okay to count those words. After all, when I'm a massively successful author (if only!), I can use those blog posts as part of my book, "How to write an awesome novel". I will also write a book called, "How to procrastinate by imaging that one day you might be a massively successful author".

Not entirely happy today though. Had a bit of bad news this morning, unfortunately. A rejection. Okay, not quite a rejection - but there's a site I submit to every so often where they award prizes for the best story. I wrote a story that I was soooooo sure was the best thing I'd ever sent them and, although it got published, it didn't get picked as the best :-(  That kinda hit me hard - mainly because I really wanted it! Normal rejections are no big deal - but this one was quite painful. I guess this is the problem with submitting stories designed to appeal to a specific publication or editor - if you don't achieve the notice/accolade you're hoping for, and have really really tried for it, then failure hurts far more than just a plain old "no, thanks" type rejection.

Ah well. Nothing for it but to pick myself up and try again. Come on Brain - keep writing.

In other news: The NaNoWriMo daftness has begun! My internal editor is allowing me to freewrite, but is starting to suggest ways to increase my word count. Not good.

I should probably explain. But it's a daft explanation so I'll do it in a separate post, here: Brain-Stanleys.

Had a comical typo today. Someone nibbled on the end of a pork shop (instead of a pork chop). Well, it amused me anyway :-)

So... today was mostly a success. In summary: Brain-Stanleys are bad, and I got lots of work done on Crimble's autobiography. I have 5,080 new words and that means the total's now 875,572.

25th Oct 877,990
Bit demoralised today! Had plenty of time to write but somehow didn't manage to get started until 8pm. Didn't get much sleep last night so the words wouldn't flow today. It was a real blood out of a stone type of slog.

I seemed to be doing okay with Crimble's autobiography yesterday but today it just wouldn't flow. I think the problem is that I've hit an awkward part of the story. Crimble walks into a huge cave full of people (and dragons!) and they ask her to join them. Quite naturally, she asks what they're doing... and so I'm faced with trying to write a chunk of dialogue that basically sets up the rest of the book. And it's exposition type dialogue. You know - the sort that tells you a ton of background information that you need to know but is dull to read. Unfortunately, I can't think of another way to do this right now. Crimble needs to know a few things at this point of the story, and so does the reader. I've decided to just splurge out the "this is what's going on" dialogue, and then I'll have to break it up later in the edit.

God, it's dull though!

And that's the problem... I'm bored writing it, so the writing is difficult, and I know full well that if it's boring to write then it's boring to read. Obviously everything is fixable, but at the moment I'm struggling to get the words down.

Had to give up in the end and go write a few flash fiction pieces, just to get the word count up to the correct level. That part of tonight's writing went very well - I started two new pieces and they're wonderfully mad. One of them involves the characters stealing a necklace from the Virginia Woolf Museum while trying to hunt up ingredients for a spell, and the whole thing is going to go a bit monkey's paw on them. Looking forward to carrying on with that one... it might even turn into a short story rather than a flash fic!

Today saw 2,418 words and that means the total's now 877,990.

27th Oct881,110
Yesterday was a zero-word day. Annoying, especially when I'd resolved to write every single day from now on. I spent the day mostly doing things to help other people. Note to self: be more selfish! :-)

Crimble's autobiography is at a tricky stage so today - purely to make sure I managed a decent word count - I started a new story. It's a ghost story and I wrote it in a shed at the bottom of the garden. The story freaked me out so much that I was a bit nervous walking back to the house in the dark. I'm hoping that's a sign that the story is good, and not just me being a scaredy-cat.

The words are still fighting back, so writing was only achieved via ridiculous amounts of:
  1. cheap sherry,
  2. coffee,
  3. noisy techno music,
  4. toast.

Tomorrow I will probably spend the day moaning about the insomnia induced by:
  1. cheap sherry,
  2. coffee,
  3. noisy techno music,
  4. toast.

Hopefully I will also write some more words.

Malapropisms are especially amusing when you're hyped up on cheap sherry, coffee, noisy techno music and toast. Here's a silly one for you: Cheap sherry, Sheep cherry. 

Today's bonus: Zoé was kind enough to read out some of my 50-word stories on the radio. Zoé rocks. Thank you, Zoé!

So I pronounce today a double win :-)

Word count today was 3,120 so the new total is 881,110.

28th Oct884,238
Happy surprise today - I managed to write over 3,000 words with hardly any trouble at all!

Today I had three tasks/meetings scheduled, all of which could have stopped me writing. Thankfully the second of the three was a NaNoWriMo plotting session. NaNoWriMo events are probably the only environment where it's socially acceptable to semi-ignore everyone while manically typing, and it really worked for me today. I managed to achieve that weird state of mind where it's possible to hold a conversation (ish) while also writing. The session lasted for about three hours and towards the end of it I discovered I'd been counting my words wrongly and had actually done a thousand more than I'd realised. Nice discovery, but it meant I'd achieved today's minimum, so immediately stopped!

One of the local NaNoWriMo organisers has challenged us all to a race. She's a speedy typist and is planning to knock out around 3k-5k words per day, which means she's likely to win NaNo in less than a fortnight. Apparently if we beat her to 50k then we get a prize, which may or may not involve having one of our sillier lines worked into a cross-stitch pattern. I can probably survive without the cross-stitch, but I'm definitely taking this challenge on because it's yet another bit of motivation to push my typing speed :-)

Today's bonus was attending a pub quiz with my parents and WE ONLY WENT AND FLIPPIN' WON! :-) Yay us! :-) And the prize was a bottle of wine which will surely be set to good use (probably helping to fuel tomorrow's writing session).

Second bonus was discovering that other idiots oops, I mean keen writers are also doing this "million words in a year" project. There's even a hashtag (#milwordy).

Today gave me 3,128 words (weirdly similar to yesterday's count) so the total's now 884,238. Getting close to 90k now. Can't wait!

29th Oct887,007
Today I had no commitments whatsoever, so naturally left the writing until the last minute. I spent a while kicking myself because I really I should've used the day to get lots done, but luckily I managed to get going eventually and a reasonable amount of words appeared. Tried something new today. A friend suggested I try freewriting while listening to a bunch of radio plays by Samuel Beckett. It's a great idea to ensure you never stop writing (every time you go dry, just listen to the current line and use it as a prompt to continue) but it takes the story in some truly crazy directions... and so I now have seven new flash fictions that are all probably too mad to send off. I'll probably send them off anyway :-)

I aimed for only the bare minimum (2,733 words) today so the count was 2,769 and the new total's 887,007. 

30th Oct889,979
Splendid day at the library today at the NaNoWriMo Launch meeting with our Swindon MLs! (MLs are Municipal Liaisons which is the obfuscated-business-speak terms for "NaNoWriMo organisers"). They are absolutely awesome and gave us lots of pressies! Look at this!

NaNoWriMo pressies!

How great is this? Plot bunnies! An actual real plot bunny, complete with writing-prompt-collar. And a random inspiration quote from Roald Dahl! Plot ideas! Writing prompts! And a side characters to randomly throw in when things get confusing or slow or stuck!

We also did a fun exercise where we wrote an elevator pitch for our novel, then had to try and describe the novel out loud. As writers, we tend to be good at articulating our thoughts on paper but then bluster and blumble when trying to describe something out loud. It was good practice for when we reach the stage of trying to get someone to believe in our novels, and I now have a good elevator pitch sentence for my novel which is a pretty damn useful thing to have.

I'd planned to write lots in the Launch meeting but things went a bit wrong. Laptops are pretty damn useful when you take them to NaNoWriMo sessions but they're pretty damn useless when you forget the power lead. Oops! However a friend set me a writing exercise that resulted in a flash fiction called, "How to spoon a donkey". You'll be glad to know that it's not as weird as it sounds because, thankfully, it's narrated by the protagonist who happens to be... a donkey. Phew.

Word count today was 2,972 so the total's now 889,979.

31st Oct889,979
Gave myself a day off today. Brain was trying to push me into writing but I figured I'd have a snoozy afternoon and then attack the manuscript first thing after midnight (i.e. the start of November, when NaNoWriMo officially begins). This is a tactical play and may well fail terribly but fingers crossed! Happy Halloween, all! Spooky hugs to the lot of ya! :-)

Monday, 19 September 2016

The NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge (part 2)

I'm signed up on the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge this year. It's a nightmare! They give you just 48 hours to write a 1,000 word story... and that's far less time than my brain needs to polish something to perfection! People who can write that fast, I salute you!

The results for last time came out and I didn't do too badly. My story was given 9 points out of 15, which means I ranked 7th in my group of 35. That sounds okay, but only the top 5 go through to the next round... so it was far from good enough!

One of the best parts of this competition is that it provides feedback! From the comments I received, it seems the judges liked my writing but I lost points because I didn't root my story properly in time. Historical Fiction was the genre - and I suppose I should have realised that my story needed to mention a date, at the very least, if not a country as well!

Ah well, we live and learn!

Almost as soon as the feedback arrived, we were all allocated a new genre, location and object. This time my group was given:

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Location: A wildlife refuge
  • Object: A silver spoon

Last time, I wrote myself a method of how to tackle this competition. Because there's only one weekend to write the story, one of the main things I noted was that it was essential to come up with a good idea on the Saturday... because that means you can have a sleep before the editing and polishing. (I find that a break is really important between the first draft and the edit.)

Anyway, things went a bit wrong this time around. I couldn't come up with a good idea on Saturday, and so I panicked and just rushed out an action scene between a few characters. It was pretty bad, if I'm honest. I went to bed on Saturday with a wonderful case of the grumpy writer blues.

Humph :-(

On Sunday I decided to try a different story altogether. I managed to write a couple more stories but then I had three different stories and only a few hours left to choose which one to edit into something worth reading. 

I'd completely run out of time but I polished one of the stories as best I could, then sent it off with only minutes to spare. The next day, I read the story and hated it! But I guess that's just part of the job of being a creative writer. Sometimes you produce rubbish, and sometimes you produce a story that you love.

Never mind - at least now I won't have high expectations when the results come out in November! :-)

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Five minutes until 'I do'

I'm a big fan of the 50-Word Stories site. Trying to squeeze a good tale into just 50 words is one hell of a challenge!

My latest story is Five minutes until 'I do'. I had some great news today... it's been named Story of the Month :-)

This is especially lovely because this is a prize I've been trying for all year long! The last time I managed this was "Head Case" in June last year!

Now the story will go forward (along with all the other 2016 "Story of the Month" winners) to compete for Story of the Year. And the winner of that is given a place in the Hall of Fame. Exciting! :-)