My oh my, well it has been a long time…

My oh my, well it has been a long time…

My last post here was the 31st October, just getting ready for NaNoWriMo 2013. I’d had the ambitious aim of finishing in twenty four hours, but alas, I was a bit ill – quite a bit ill actually, and it waylaid me. Still, I managed a day ten win, so I’m still proud and happy.

A lot has happened in the past eight months, in November I started a new job. A very busy, stressful, demanding, and satisfying job. Lots of travel at the beginning of the year for work, (I’ve racked up something like twenty nights in hotels this year so far). In January I had to move from my home of over a decade, but I now have a two bedroom back to back all to my lonesome, and it’s nice, if a little too quiet at times. Both new and old friends have been coming and going, each bringing those indelible marks onto my life, the little changes, the memories, the lessons not to be forgotten.

This is just a synopsis though, you’ll have to wait twenty years for the biography, because all that life stuff isn’t what this blog is for. No, this is blog is for the writing. If I were to look at my life and say what label I would most like to be identified with, it would be ‘Writer’.

Of course writers write. Being published, even read, that’s irrelevant. Writers write. That’s the only thing that defines a writer. I write stories, that’s me. Despite everything going on, I’ve actually been doing that. Had a few false starts, that are now doomed to the dusty and neglected corner of my mind labeled “For future use”, but there’s one that’s fast forming a story that I’m quite proud of. It’s post apocalyptic zombie stuff, so hardly original, and somewhat dated with the zombie fetishism rapidly vanishing from fashion, but I’m enjoying writing it, and it has clever touches.

I’ve been reading a lot too, I’m practically devouring novels at the moment, but it’s helping me form my ideas for NaNoWriMo 2014. A nice big epic story to achieve my highest November word count yet, and of course another attempt at the one day 50k.

What else is happening? Well the post apocalyptic zombie novel should be finished this month. This July I’m banning myself from social media, (I don’t count blogging), no TV binges on Netflix, LoveFilm, et al, just four hours a week to watch films, healthy diet, exercise, chores being done, and the rest of my free time being taken up with writing and reading. I’m going to be highly productive this month, starting with finally updating here.

Will be pulling more interesting stuff together as well, rather than just recaps of my life, (because there’s enough replays around with this World Cup nonsense).

So watch this space.

Pre-NaNoWriMo 2013 Update

Pre-NaNoWriMo 2013 Update

So, NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us, just days to go.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit it in later in the month. There’s a lot going on in my life, in most aspects of my life in fact.

Problem is, I need to keep challenges tough. In fact they need to be borderline unbeatable. That pressure I’ve found is absolutely necessary for me to win. Once 50,000 words was too much, now 100,000 looks easy. 150,000 should be doable, and 200,000 falls into the possible if I try hard category. Now, I know, or at least suspect that the level of effort I can put in is curtailed as I mentioned. So, I’ve thought really hard about how to challenge myself. Tiered targets, one of which is definitely borderline achievable, then the others taper off allowing for the shifting sands of fate upon my writing time.
Challenge 1) the most daunting, and potentially silly. Partly because I’m doing it to see if can beat someone, partly because even I don’t think it’s possible. The challenge is a day one win. 50,000 before midnight on first.

To make it easier, I have however booked the day of work, I’ll be going to bed early, and rising just in time for the 1st of November to officially start in the UK. I’ll probably have a 9am nap. It’s all perfectly possible if you get a strong start, and I’m sure knowing where I need to take those first 50,000 words will help.

Challenge 2) nice and simple, with two weekend days, but work on all the others, another 50,000 words by the end of the following 7 days.

Challenge 3) a final 50,000 by the 30th November.

All challenges are exclusive, so challenge 2 is 50,000 regardless of how many I manage to achieve in challenge 1,and challenge 3 is always 50,000 regardless of what I achieve in previous two tasks.

These are just word count challenges, I’ll find and/or steal challenges along the way, to keep it interesting and fun.

So now I’m done bragging about the size of my target, I should probably discuss something practical. I want to cover off preparation separately, and then there’s technology (a favourite post of mine), and I’d like to discuss what I’m planning to write. No, a far more urgent, (well brief and unimportant), is what I’ll do with my blog during this time.

I won’t be posting everyday, because I need to write fiction, not blogs, and a post every day would basically amount to “Woohoo, x thousand words!” or, alternatively, “Boohoo! X hundred or less words, this sucks!” Neither of which are that much fun, daily. A post the day after the challenges are due sounds fine for word counts, and self aggrandising.

If I post at other times, I’d like to focus on challenges I’ve faced in trying to achieve those targets, lessons learned, funny story, excerpts from the #nanoyorks chat room, because the people there, (the rare troll aside), are so fabulous and great. (Yes, I’m sucking up, but I’m not around much this year so have to do something to keep them liking me).

Right I should get back to planning, have a lovely climate controlled hotel room, no distractions for a few hours, and lovely tea. What more can a writer want for?

To anyone, and everyone taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo, I wish you all the best, and good luck.

The Road to NaNoWriMo 2013

The Road to NaNoWriMo 2013

It’s that time again, when many writers put their heads above the parapet of their day to day fertile scribblings, (or piles of blank paper, depending on how their proverbial muse has been treating them), because right around the corner is NaNoWriMo.

Sixty-six days until the madness begins again.

In case you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo before, it’s the National Novel Writing Month, (albeit it is now very much an international festival of writing). The goal through the thirty days of November is to write a fifty thousand word novel. How, and what are upto you.

I’ve done it several times, and I’m on a chain of wins, which I hope to maintain. Every year I set myself a bigger and bigger challenge. This year I’m doing the same one hundred and fifty thousand words – but the first fifty I’m going to aim to finish in three days. To put that in context, last year it was day ten when I hit 50k,the year before day 13. The harder a challenge I set myself the better I do – regardless of whether I ultimately complete the challenge, I will do more than enough to be proud of.

I’m not sure what I’ll write just yet, I have some great ideas I’ve previously mentioned, but I’ve either been working on them too much, or the idea turned out not to be as writable as I first imagined.

I may not have an idea for a story specifically, but I have some thoughts on style – basically I want to try my hand at a multi generational story, following three generations of the same family. If I go with science fiction then it will be based on a colony somewhere, and be quite western inspired, but I could go fantasy and set it in a world where a cataclysm is happening, has happened, or is fated to happen. I like both ideas to be honest – but I’ve not fleshed either of them out.

Cue mind mapping, and copious research. I may go with neither and do something else entirely, but that’s where I am right now. That’s the joy of the road to NaNoWriMo, getting ready for it… And potentially trashing all the plans and doing something else entirely come November the first when it begins.

Writing Playlist Summer 2013

Writing Playlist Summer 2013

Well this is awkward, I wanted to post about my new writing playlist. In the past, I used Spotify and it wasn’t too bad export the list to make it postable, (words not the music itself – though sharing that on Spotify was easy too if someone had Spotify). Now I’ve switched to Amazon Cloud Player – all my tracks stored within easy reach of my phone and my laptop without the chaos of thousands of MP3′s loitering, in many cases with duplicates of duplicates.

However, Amazon don’t make it particularly easy to export the text of a playlist – so to show you mine it has to be a cut and paste job via Excel – took two copies and pastes to get the whole thing out. This is how dedicated I am to sharing.

This is actually my longest list thus far, and it’s just under half what it started off as. However I’m happy with it.

Music is, and always has been important to my writing process, for three reasons:

  1. It gaves me pacing and rhythm
  2. It focuses the mind, and it can distract the mind from over focusing
  3. It’s inspirational

For me to add it to a writing playlist it usually has to conform to three out of these four criteria:

  1. It requires no effort to ignore
  2. It doesn’t jar with the worlds I’m trying to create
  3. It fits with world’s I’m trying to create
  4. It eggs me on, exercise music for the brain

Of course there are always exceptions, and it’s entirely subjective, which it’s my list, and probably in it’s entirety only works for me. However, I share to compare and discuss, so feel free to comment with any suggestions.

My playist for Writing, Summer 2013

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Daily Flash Fiction: The Early Conclusion

Daily Flash Fiction: The Early Conclusion

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

Genesis 1:31

And the writer saw everything he had written, and behold, he saw 14 grammatical errors, 27 spelling mistakes, 5 plot inconsistencies, and 3 unbelievable truths

Jonathan L. Lawrence, May 2013

 

Hands up if anyone noticed I’d not posted in a month? Well I noticed, and it was very annoying, because it means I’m really really quite far behind on my daily flash fic posting. So far behind that it’s gotten to a month and a half, (well 44 days to be precise). I’m never going to catch that up, because I don’t think I can commit to daily stories at the moment. It’s never been my style, I’m not a short story writer. Well despite 135 short stories to the contrary.

That said, I am really proud of some of them, yes they all need a lot of work – the challenge was not to edit and just keep posting, but there are some real gems in there.

And since I’m very fond of stats, I’ve had a look at some for this challenge:

105,168 words written (in story only)

796 average story length

Here’s some graphs, because I love a good graph. The first shows my words per day, and a moving average word count. It shows I was gradually getting shorter in length, which was a goal of the challenge, so that’s something positive to take away:

From Word Usage

The second is just for my interest really, I like seeing an accumulative word count. Of course with a limit of 1,000 words maximum, and for most of the challenge a minimum of 500 it was pretty much guaranteed to run a relatively straight line, but it’s nice to see all the same:

From Word Usage

Aside from getting bogged down in distractions, apathy, and writer’s block, I’ve enjoyed the challenge for the most part. And it’s succeeded in several ways, such as having the chance to try new things, practice things I’ve never been particularly good at, writing with a little more abandon. It’s also given me ample opportunity to see where my skills are weakest in the fundamentals, (spelling and grammar that I simply don’t get).

It’s also more words than I’ve written outside of NaNoWriMo since I started doing NaNoWriMo, and probably from before then too.

I’m not done though, although I won’t be trying to keep up with 365 short stories in a year, I am going to post the occasional short story – to keep my eye in for next year, to give me a break from other projects, and to simply test out an idea I’ve got bouncing round in my head.

In the meantime I’ve got two pretty big story ideas, neither of which will be saved for NaNo, I want to write them now. I’m in a planning phase at the moment with brain storms and notes scattered all around. I’ve decided which one I’m going to write first, though I’ve written a few lines, (the proverbial foothold in enemy territory of the plain white page), I’m mostly writing out the back story. It’s a fantasy piece and it requires a good backing mythos to really work.

I’ll get you next time, Gadget. Next time!

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 135: The Voice on the End of the World

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 135: The Voice on the End of the World

This is the 135th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Voice on the End of the World, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 14th April 2013

Word count: 632

The story:

“All you have to do is crawl inside and pull the wire,” the voice over the wireless headset said.

“I’m not going to survive am I?” Carol asked.

“Its already too late. I’m sorry, we didn’t know it would be uncovered,” the voice said soberly.

“I liked you better when you were flirty,” Carol said, “This will save everyone else though?”

“We think so, it will at least stop it spreading,” the man on the other end of the call said, “If there were any other way… If there was any way at all to save you, I would make sure it was done, even if I had to hop in a helicopter and do it myself.”

“Thank you,” Carol said.

“When you go in,” the man said, and Carol appreciated bringing the conversation back to business, “The cables going to be far in, it’s bright red. Pull with everything you’ve got until it comes loose. That will stop the reaction and the radiation will begin to subside.”

“What’s it going to be like in there?” Carol asked.

“It’ll be hell, it’s going to be hot, your hands and feet will burn every time they make contact with a surface. You’ll feel your hair melting, and your vision will be impaired.”

“Wish you’d stopped at hell,” Carol said.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 134: Interplanetary Politic

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 134: Interplanetary Politic

This is the 134th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Interplanetary Politic, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 13th April 2013

Word count: 460

The story:

“What makes you want to be president?” the journalist asked, then tipped her microphone forward.

The senator took a calming breath, “I want to make a difference. This world we live, well the universe really, faces unique and immense challenges, and as head of the World Government, I believe I can help us through it.”

“There’s some controversy over the office of World President, many member nations have expressed a wish to leave, or even disband the World Government. President Hutton founded, and headed the government for four terms, without him, will it stand?” the the journalist asked.

“I wouldn’t say it was under significant risk,” the senator said, “People are worried, the future is uncertain, it’s understandable. However, humanity has the greatest opportunity to shape it’s own destiny since since someone shared the secret of fire with their neighbours. The first rounds of the presidential elections will be in a few months, everyone will vote at least to see where it will go, before anyone chooses to leave.”

“Thank you Senator Wetherby,” the journalist said turning back to face the hovering camera. The senator walked on, where his press consultant and Chief of Staff awaited him.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 133: The Pitch

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 133: The Pitch

This is the 133rd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Pitch, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 12th April 2013

Word count: 820

The story:

“This it?” the General asked looking at the stand.

“That’s what all the fuss is about,” the executive said.

“Its not very intimidating,” the General noted.

“This weapon isn’t a threat, if you pull the trigger while it’s pointed at someone, they will die. Armour, cover, none of that matters. It has a one hundred percent kill rate, and it’s spot on accurate. No loud bangs, not even the puff from a silencer. It does one thing kill,” the executive said.

“Can we wrap it in something more terrifying?” the general asked.

“A wolf dressed as a wolf?” the salesman asked.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 132: Romancing of the Fighter

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 132: Romancing of the Fighter

This is the 132nd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Romancing of the Fighter, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 11th April 2013

Word count: 758

The story:

 “Let me put this a way you’d understand,” Francis said, “I need room to manoeuvre.”

Robert stood there quietly, waiting for more, challenging Francis to go further, when he didn’t he asked, “Why?”

“Because this isn’t the life I wanted. Fair enough you got drafted, a lot of people did, but after the battle for Epsilon Eridani, most people quit and returned home. You went career without even talking to me.”

“They needed me,” Robert said, he was a man of few words, a trait he considered stoic, right now Francis just found it infuriating.

“I needed you,” Francis said, “I needed you, and you are barely here. Always off on some secret mission or another you can never talk about when you are home.”

“I understand,” and he really thought did, his colonel had warned of the hardships of a career in the defence force.

“I need space, and I need time. I need to find out if this is what I want,” Francis said quietly.

“I understand,” Robert repeated.

Two weeks later Robert was gone, he’d been out of contact for a week, Francis already knew that meant he was on mission again, and he was trying not to care, but he worried, he always worried. Pilots had short life spans, so many things to go wrong when you’re in and out of space constantly. Francis had seen the war documentaries, accidents had taken nearly as many lives as the enemy in the two years of the war.

There was an electronic chime from the door.

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 131: Duct Rat

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 131: Duct Rat

This is the 130th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Duct Rat, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 10th April 2013

Word count: 952

The story:

The war had been raging for two generations. There had been quiet times, cease fires, truces, but they had only served to provide time for each side to resupply, recruit, and rearm.

It was a terrible time to be born, but it was the universe Crys Shirebrook was born into. Constantly on the verge of starvation his whole life as the enemy tried to cut off supplies to the colonies, just like his side was. He grew up in an age where knowledge was spread easily and quickly, and at a young age he was indoctrinated into the propaganda of the war.

So it was predictable that at the age of fifteen he signed up to fight. His skills were identified, categorised and subsequently he was rapidly trained as a space fighter pilot.

He earned his wings and then he was thrust into the bloody business of war.

On a routine patrol he was captured by the enemy and taken to their capital ship for interrogation. He was scarcely twenty, and he was scared. Little did he know the stuff of heroes was in him.

On the eve of his ninth day of incarceration, and his third of torture, (or preliminaries as the torturer called it), Crys caught a break. Just a worn strap, just a door not quite shut, but suddenly he was free. Out of his cell, and realising be couldn’t just wander round, he would be too easy to spot, he made his way into the air ducts, pressing deep into the ship.

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