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! :-)

Thursday, 1 September 2016

A million words in 2016 (September)

I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for September (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 and August.

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: September

1st Sept861,132
Okay, I'm finally going to say it. Trying to write a million words in a year is a terrible idea.

I'm serious.

I admit the project has produced me a ton of first drafts. And some of them, I actually like!

But OH MY GOD there's been no editing done at all. None!

So all I have is messy novels that desperately need some attention! Back in May, I was really enjoying this project, but since then it's become horribly frustrating because I really do feel I've nothing to show for all this effort.

Admittedly I am planning to dedicate next year to editing all these novels into something that other human beings can read, but for the moment all I'm left with is a ton of messy words, with no tangible/demonstrable result that I could ever show anyone. And that's pretty damn demoralising.

In particular, the project that started the whole "millions words" thing off (namely, last year's NaNoWriMo novel) is still sitting around waiting to be edited. And it's nearly November again! So after all that hard work (and it was hard - I wrote nearly 170,000 words in 6 weeks!), I've not edited my NaNo effort into a proper novel. A whole year and it's STILL NOT DONE! So there's a very real danger that I'll never ever edit it... and that, I think it's fair to say, is a colossal waste of time (and not something that makes me try NaNoWriMo again this year!)

Shall I stop grumbling now? :-)

4th Sept861,132
Some fantastic news today - my latest 50-word story was named "Story of the month"! :-) Click the link for the full story. I'm so happy - I've been trying for this all year long! :-)

15th Sept861,132
Right, so here's the current situation. I have tried time and time (and time and time) again to write the first book of my fantasy series. Each time I have failed because there are two (yes, two) protagonists. All the writing books in the world give DIRE warnings about a beginner novelist trying to write in two unique character voices, and I think they're probably right.

I had always planned to make Calvin the main character. He's the typical Luke-Skywalker-Harry-Potter-orphan-boy-makes-good type of guy. However, Crimble (the cute little dragon who becomes Calvin's guide) is soooooo much more fun to write! And she's also very arrogant, which kinda makes her hilarious. I'm basically writing her as if she was a cat (i.e. she's cute, but she's also a cold-blooded killer who couldn't care less if her owner gets run over by a combine harvester).

So yes, it's probably time to give up on Calvin. That's a shame because there's something adorable about the (probably cliched) dumb farm boy character discovering he's destined for something huge. Maybe I'll manage to write a novel from his point of view one day but, for the time being, I'm concentrating on Crimble.

Here's the second problem. My world building is out of control! Two of my characters are gods and that means I've had to plan the timeline of my world since it was created. That's hell of a lot of world building! Most of it is done now, but there are still a few massive problems to sort out.

What with work and god knows what else, I've somehow allowed this crazy project to take control of my life for the last decade or two. I admit it's been good fun - planning this thing - but it's also exhausting and I have to rein it in at some point or I'm never going to get this flipping series written.

So I've now created "Book Zero". The book before what I thought was going to be "Book One".

Book One was meant to be Calvin's tale, but it's soooooooo much work to try and explain everything without resorting to agonisingly dull exposition. So my solution is to *show* the world building through Crimble's eyes. And I mean literally show it - because Crimble is quite an old dragon (no offence, Crimble) and therefore she's around to see most of it happening.

I'm not going all the way back to the creation of the world, but allowing to Crimble write her autobiography is helping me in two ways. First of all, she can tell the reader what's happening as she watches the world changing around her. That cuts out a lot of exposition. Secondly, the book will all be in Crimble's character voice - and I've had a lot of good feedback about that!

Crimble seems sure people will want to read her book. I wish I had her arrogance/confidence - I really do! Anyway, she's telling her story and that's great because it means I'm writing again.

A few years back, I wrote a draft of this story and so that's what I'm now working with at the moment. Just to confuse matters, I discovered I actually have two drafts of the same story. I don't remember writing it twice, but the documents are sitting there on my hard drive, and it's definitely my writing, so now I'm deep in the middle of trying to amalgamate the two drafts (they both have good bits that I want to keep!)

Joining the two drafts is hard work, especially when I'm also having to write little bits to keep everything seamless. And it's essentially "editing" - which I swore I wouldn't do this year. Thing is, editing is hard work and it's also massively time consuming. (I'm sure anyone who's tried writing for a living will agree!) ... And the really awful thing about editing is that it does NOT work when you're trying to write a million words in one year! It's literally impossible to keep an accurate count of all the new words you write while piecing things together. Well, it's impossible for me, anyway. So here I am, manically writing like crazy, joining two messy first drafts into one so I have a decent foundation to my new draft... and I have no idea how many words I'm writing. And that means I can't count them - and that means they don't count to my million words.


Next year I refuse to do the million words project again! I might do a few NaNoWriMo attempts spread throughout 2017, but denying myself editing sessions is just too darn frustrating. 

I'll try to stop moaning now :-)

22nd Sept866,411
The lovely thing about having stories out there in the world is that occasionally someone adds a comment or leaves a review - and you see it and *bang* you're suddenly full of smiles. For example, a comment has been recently added to Head Case, and it's made me a very happy bunny indeed :-) Here's a screenshot, just in case for some reason it ever vanishes! 

Thank you, Mita! It's comments like these which keep us daft writers going! :-)

(I say "daft" because, let's face it, writing is probably the maddest career choice ever. No money, long hours, and oodles upon oodles of crippling self doubt!)

Mita spurred me on to check if there are any new reviews for Grans & Ammo (a fun little novella I wrote a while ago about grannies fighting zombies). Happy to say I now have two reviews on and four reviews on Okay, that might be small beans to some, but it makes me happy :-)

In other news, I'm writing again at last! Crimble's autobiography has been set aside for the moment, and I'm trying a few new things (including the next part of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge). The word counts aren't great but at least there's something new being typed at long last! The words on 17th and 18th Sept were for the second part of the The NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge - read about that on my other post here!

Counts for 17-21 Sept were 1,435, 2,245, 875, 320 and 404. That means my total has finally gone up! I'm now on 866,411. Unfortunately I'm about to move home in four days time, so all the kerfuffle will probably stop me writing again. Hopefully I'll keep it going somehow.

30th Sept869,827
The last week was a bit of a whirl. I never expected my time in Greece to go so fast, but here I am, back in England already. The Swindon Poetry Festival has started and will be continuing all next week. I've already got about a thousands pages of notes from it! Oh no... that means I have to type them up, doesn't it? Aargh! :-)

I got a few words done in the last week. Not sure how I managed this, but I did! Word counts for 22-24 Sept were 794, 415 and 1,594. There was a bit of a break and then I managed 613 on the 28th. That means the total's now 869,827.

It's been a busy time what with packing, travelling and "festivaling", so I guess I have a legitimate excuse for not writing loads of words. I'm hoping to get back into it once the festival is over. See you in October!