NaNoWriMo Preparation – the practical (fun) stuff

NaNoWriMo Preparation – the practical (fun) stuff

For the past couple of years I’ve been writing about various things I do to prepare for NaNoWriMo, it’s the things stuff. The electronics and software, the pens and the paper, etc… I’ve already mentioned my spare room, so I’ve spent some time setting it up, arranging it, and adding some motivation posters and such. I’ve had great fun, and there’s still some odd jobs to do until it’s quite ready for November in just 36 days.

Below is a list of the things my new den has, and some photos, for posterity, (because by the time November 30th comes around it will probably be covered in screwed up papers, broken pens, cables strewn about, books stacked haphazardly, etc… etc…).

  • A 20m reem of paper, and lots of blutack so I can get it up on the wall and plot out my timelines and such in big.
  • A collection of physical books for guidance and inspiration, (yes as well as the Kindle ones, I’m quite loaded with advice from over the years). These include:
  • A4 whiteboards (2 of them, with whiteboard pens to go with), for when you just want to experiment with an idea without committing to anything, (you’d be surprised how liberating that is)
  • Huge collection of notebooks, and pens
  • And these things are pretty important up in the home office:
    1. No TV
    2. No Xbox
    3. No fridge/snack draws


So, in earlier posts I mentioned I bought a new laptop this year, it’s the Acer Aspire V5 11.6” model. It’s snappy and comfortable to write on, and even though the screen’s an inch bigger than my last one, the whole laptop is smaller and lighter. So it’s perfect for NaNoWriMo.

For PC software this year I’m sticking with the tried and tested Microsoft Office, I’m on the 2013 version on this laptop and it’s nice and comfortable. I know there are alternatives, but they have never measured up for me. Aside from the Evernote Windows 8 app, (for syncing research), that’s pretty much it, some software yet to be decided upon for brainstorming, and the return of my over complicated NaNoWriMo Excel tracker.

I’m aiming for an uncluttered computer for writing. I’m not going to be writing on my mobile phone or tablet this year. In the past couple of years mobile writing has probably accounted for somewhere between five and ten percent of my overall word counts, however it can be frustrating at times, and my motif this year is to keep it simple, so I’m sacking it off. Instead the time I would have spent mobile writing will instead be focused on research, and I’m going to keep a running tally of what I need to research. It’s a nice separation I feel, because my computer does the grunt work for writing, and the mobile does the grunt work for just about everything else. So here’s what I’ve got on my mobile and tablet (Nexus 5, and Nexus 7 respectively):

  • EverNote, to collate and organise my notes, which handily shares with the Windows 8 EverNote app, not only that but it allows you to attach photos, links, website extracts, all very handy for research purposes.
  • SimpleMind, brainstorming charting tool for organising my thoughts in a brainstorm. The other reason I like these is the ability to lay out an idea, and then rearrange it, move information from one node to another etc… (great for settling on character backstories and such)
  • WordPress, because this year I’m not just going to stop blogging on October 31st, and then resume again until July the following the year with a “Oops I forgot to mention I won”
  • Amazon Kindle app, (and also my Amazon Kindle device), for my collection of advice and inspiration books I’m going to try and make full use of this year.
  • Google Earth, not a tool I’ve used in previous years, then again my sci-fi has been largely extra-terrestrial, this time round we’re spending a lot more time travelling round Earth, and I think Google Earth will help in that goal of being more descriptive in my writing.
  • Wikipedia, I don’t normally have this app installed, more often than not it bugs me – and accessing Wikipedia through my browser allows for multiple tabs which is far better for research – however the saved pages function might come in handy. It also might not, because I can bookmark from a browser, so I guess watch this space.
  • Plume, to keep in contact with the NaNoWriMo Twitter community in less than 140 characters, (which is perfect for NaNoWriMo, why waste lots of words on communicating when they should be going into your novel!)
  • Simple Notepad, in case I know I’m going to be out and about, and the opportunity to pull out a computer and write is limited, this will be my backup, ideally I don’t want to do the writing on my mobile as mentioned already, but better to be prepared.
  • Writer’s Lists, an app I got after doing some Google Surveys, it’s pretty good as a quick reference for elements in story writing. I’m going to be running my plans through to see what opportunities it gives me to refine my plot and characters further.

So that’s the preparation for the how, where, and on what. Next post I intend to go in to what I do once I’ve had an idea. I’ve been planning what I write for a few years now, (and with three wins in a row, planning has kind of worked for me), so I thought I might share some of my lessons, and hopefully in the process actually codify what I largely do by whim and instinct, and fix that bits that are broken.

Where is this all going? – A quick follow up

Where is this all going? – A quick follow up

So a few weeks back I wrote a post about my changing ambitions in writing. Basically it boiled down to going from being an ‘aspiring writer’ to an ‘aspiring author’*

Which is really thrilling.

Not that I was bored just writing, just the opposite, I just wanted more excitement and challenges by pushing the envelope.

I still think just writing for fun and frolics, to relieve stress, to exercise the brain, and to exercise demons, or whatever your motive for filling blank pages with glorious words, is not only perfectly fine, but perfectly good. I’d be more than happy to continue to do that – except that I feel the need to constantly challenge myself, and sometimes just doing it for for self-gratification doesn’t give me the impetuous to really reach and stretch.

And if I’m really honest, there other motive I have is for that little snippet of fortune and glory – but the odds of achieving either are without any doubt extremely long.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

- Michelangelo (the renaissance artist, not the turtle)

I’m saying this for two reasons:

  • One because I didn’t want anyone to think my own personal change in goal for my writing is a slight at any other goal or purpose for writing. It isn’t – it’s a personal choice.
  • Two, because it leads nicely into my next blog post where I evangelise both writing and NaNoWriMo.

Whatever your reasons for writing, whatever you hope to get out of it – I hope you do it and get it.

So, I hope that clears the air a bit.

5 reasons I think everyone should try NaNoWriMo once

5 reasons I think everyone should try NaNoWriMo once

Before I go into what NaNoWriMo has done for me, and my five reasons I think everyone should try it, here’s a reminder of what NaNoWriMo is:

What is NaNoWriMo (well my interpretation anyway)

NaNoWriMo is the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. That’s as simple as it gets. It happens every year, and has been going on for fifteen years. It has a fabulous community, and great meet ups, (or at least I can confidently say it does from first-hand experience here in Leeds, UK).

Anyone who reaches 50,000 words is declared a winner, but you don’t need to give your novel to anyone, no has to read it – if you want an official win, you put it into software on the website that simply counts words and then forgets all but the number of words you wrote. It doesn’t have to be a master piece, you’re only aiming for a first draft after all*. The story doesn’t even need to be finished, you could hit 50,000 words, and realise you’re only half way through, and that’s fine.

The most important thing to remember about those 50,000 words, or more, or less, don’t edit. Don’t worry about what’s gone wrong three pages back, write around it, and ignore it. If you spot red squiggly lines, ignore them, move in. Spell checkers work just as well at the end of your novel, as they do if you run it each and every page. By not editing, worrying about spelling and grammar, you can focus on just writing. Get the first draft onto the page, and you can polish it up to a glorious shine after November.

In truth, no one need ever know you’re doing it. You could do it in private, your time a mysterious secret to your friends and family. You could just join the forums online, and never meet a person in the real world while you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Or you can go beyond the weekly meets, spend every night and day you can in the coffee shop as other Wrimos**, coming and going trying to do the same thing. You control how much or how little you get involved.

As to how you write, well you can do that on your computer, your tablet, your phone, or you can go old school and do it in a notebook using a pen, (though if your handwriting is as bad as mine, good luck). I suppose if you really wanted to go old school, you could get out the stone tablets and start chiselling away, (though I’m not convinced you could do 50,000 legible words in 30 days in stone, anyone want to prove me wrong?).

The choice is yours. In fact, that’s pretty much NaNoWriMo in a nutshell. You can choose what to write, where to write, when to write, (well within the month of November), what support you want, who to write with.

If you want to sign up, go to nanowrimo.org – check out some of the resources for getting started, there’s a lot of good information that can be of great value to newcomers and old timers. I do like a lot of the pep talks, (which can be found archived here: http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks, my particular favourite being Piers Anthony’s in 2008, as not only is he one of my favourite authors, it was thoroughly entertaining and inspiring).

* draft; first or preliminary form of any writing, subject to revision, copying, etc. (I’m not being patronising, I just really want to emphasise you’re not writing a finished piece, it doesn’t matter if freind was spelt wrong, move on and you’ll pick it up in editing).

** Wrimos; a participant of NaNoWriMo, or NaNoWriMo like challenge

Me and NaNoWriMo

The most common theme throughout my blog for the past 6 years has been NaNoWriMo. It’s as important a marker in my year as my own birthday, maybe even more.

It’s changed my life in so many ways, and it’s also helped me to keep something important within me alive. I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t say for certain that by now I would have stopped writing, I think that’s a distinct possibility if I’m honest, (poetry has long since stopped being a facet of my creative life), but I do know for certain it’s changed how I’ve approached writing, and the lessons I’ve learnt don’t stop at writing.

What I’ve also got is three successful attempts at NaNoWriMo, and two rich lessons, (okay two years I failed to complete 50,000 words – I prefer to think of what I gained in my lack of success). With each of those attempts I’ve two stories to enjoy, the story of having tried, and the story that directly resulted from trying.

I’ve met some really fantastic people over the past six years, who’ve helped me a lot in writing, (hopefully I might have helped them on occasion too).

It’s incredibly exciting, you live life to deadlines, you have to rush to catch-up, or you’ll get lost in the middle of your novel and have to make the heart wrenching choice to abandon a story and switch to a new one so you can accomplish your goals. (I don’t recommend that by the way, but at some point it happens to us all – we just can’t take a story further without a lot of work, or starting it again, and you don’t go backwards in NaNoWriMo, you go forwards).

In fact, going forwards is one of the things I’ve learnt the most from NaNoWriMo, it’s given me a bit of ambition, a lesson in goal setting, rather than settling.

Finally, the five reasons to do NaNoWriMo

As a result of all the above, I honestly do believe if you’ve any interest in writing a story, from a short story to an epic novel, that you should give NaNoWriMo a try. So here are the five reasons I think you should give NaNoWriMo a try:

  1. The most basic one of all, because you have an idea. Story telling is everywhere, television, the internet, the radio, it’s in your newspapers, and your magazines. Storytelling is a part of all our lives, so I’m willing to bet at some point in your life, you’ve had what you felt was a great idea. What’s the worst that could happen? If you don’t like your first draft, you can file it away for another twenty years, and if you do like it, you can enjoy it being realised, and you never know, you might make your fotune with it***.
  2. You love books. You’ve been taking and taking for years, feasting on the latest J. K. Rowling, Katie Oliver, or Robin Hobb, maybe now’s the time to have a go at giving something back, to adding to the pantheon of storytellers? I don’t care what anyone says, if you write, you’re a writer, and that’s an accolade you can keep.
  3. To be part of a community that stretches from right where you live to all the way around the globe. The local communities are amazing, and the global community will blow your mind. The regional wordcount boards have a peculiar focus each year – we here in Yorkshire, in line with our Olympic successes, like to sit with pride higher than whole countries. Everyone’s there trying to help each other, trying to outdo each other, supporting and cajoling just when you need it. You’ll meet new friends, try new things. You’ll part of one of those mysterious groups that take over whole areas of coffee shops, laptops and notepads dotted around, people calling out the latest challenge.
  4. Whether you end up writing 500 words, 5,000 words, 50,000 words, or 150,000 words – it’s all good. Yes the challenge is to hit 50,000 words, but if you don’t it’s still great. If you only did 5,000 words, that’s more words than you had at the start of the month. Its 5,000 words closer to the story you always wanted to write. So no matter what, you can win.
  5. To have fun. If you enjoy writing, enjoy it. There’s tremendous joy in building something new, it’s exciting, and thrilling… and in the world of the consumer it might even feel rare and precious to you.

I could go on, but I set out to just do five reasons, and I think that’s accomplished. NaNoWriMo, whatever your aiming for, is a defined time to do it, it’s a supportive community, it’s the opportunity to make something, to leave behind the what ifs, and say “I am”.

Unofficial reason number 6, every year they have new fun images to celebrate participation and success, and they’re a different theme every year. My favourites were the Venn diagrams, (what can I say, I do charts and graphs for a living), but last year’s 8 bit designs were a lot of fun.

 

*** I wish I could promise you a fortune, but sadly most novels won’t make it – but I can’t stress this enough, if you don’t try, you won’t know.

NaNoWriMo – Preparations

NaNoWriMo – Preparations

“May you live in interesting times…”

  • Purported to be a Chinese proverb to an enemy, source unknown

My job has been keeping me busy lately, (which is both good and stressful at the same time), so I’ve not had as much time to write blog posts, or more importantly prepping for NaNoWriMo, as I would have liked, (yes, I know readers to my blog are important, but it’s kind of pointless having a writing blog, if you don’t write).

November is going to be a tough month, but I’m confident I’ll be able to handle it – both my job, and the ridiculous number of challenges I’ve set myself this year. In previous years I’ve loaned out my Xbox, and blu ray player during NaNoWriMo to void myself of distractions.

Now this year, I live alone, and have other alternatives. I’ve got a whole spare bedroom which I’ve not really been utilising as well I had intended, but its perfect distraction free environment. Its only flaw is that it’s two flights of stairs away from the kettle – but I’ve got a thermos jug, so that should see me through extended writing stints. I’ve got everything I need now for it to be a home office, (library, keyboard, mice, monitor). It needs a bit of setting up still to be quite right, but it’ll do.

That’s my big plan for this weekend, getting it all setup and organised.

Of course that and I’ll deal with some planning issues. Pretty serious planning issues, which is the real reason for this post.

For a while I was really struggling to come up with an idea I could do. I had loads of ideas, some of them were reworks of old novels, others were original, (however I then decided most of them were derivative in some form or another). I knew I needed something special, given all my goals from this year’s NaNoWriMo, and I just wasn’t finding it.

I actually started writing a post bemoaning my lack of success, however moaning wouldn’t help, so on a train trip down to that there London, I got myself a nice fresh book, a new pen, (because fresh starts require fresh materials in my mind), and set up about going through my existing ideas looking for something I’ve overlooked, or accepting just because an idea might share some commonalities with a popular story or two, doesn’t mean it should be abandoned, (I mean a Sun Hero type story with a young mage set in a fantasy world, doesn’t have to be anything like Harry Potter – though my idea did involve his particular gift being for wielding lightning, which just crossed a line with me).

Luck, or the proverbial Muse, or whatever you want to call inspiration, was with me, I hit upon a new idea, and set up about plotting it out. It’s very different from all my other ideas this year, it’s got scope and challenge, it’s broad in its sweep, but with a core of characters that I can really flesh out.

I’ve got quite a few pages of notes already written, still got many more to go, and I need to do some time lines (before and after the start of the story). My only concern is whether I can hit the word count target I’ve set myself, I’m aiming for 200,000 words, but if I do that, I think it’ll be a lot of waffle, and the story telling might not be so clear, which goes against one of my challenges. I think it might be worth letting go of that one goal, and would be sensible considering I do have a job to do as well. I’ll keep the 50,000 words on the first day goal – that may or may not be achievable, but it’s really fun to try.

Another bit of preparation I want to do is some art work. A temporary cover to put on the NaNoWriMo novel profile page, but also illustrations from key scenes, objects, and people, make it easier to do the descriptive writing challenge.

So all in all, things are looking up. Roll on NaNoWriMo in just 44 days.

NaNoWriMo Playlist 2014

NaNoWriMo Playlist 2014

At least once a year I write a playlist to write to during NaNoWroMo, and there’s a whole logic around my choices which amounts to a few key rules:

  • Music that matches my story, (Starfuckers, Inc just doesn’t put you in the right place for a tender love scene)
  • Has reasonable pacing, (I will write in time to the music, that can have interesting effects on my writing),
  • Is not distracting, (if you have to stop and pay attention to the music in the background that’s bad, it’s a loss of momentum)

Now this year I had this whole plan around have three playlists, so I could better match the music that I’m listening to to the parts of the story I’m writing. One of the playlists would be entirely general music, the other softer more sad or romance inclined, and the last one would be frenetic and angry and gory to inspire a bit of carnage in my writing.

It’s a really good plan, however, I’ve also chosen to change my cloud music provider. Previously I’d been using Amazon music, (£22 a year), and have had no real regrets, especially since their desktop player really took off – but there’s no streaming to ChromeCast, and while the tracks themselves can be picked up by other apps, the playlists can’t.

So I’ve settled on Google Play Music, which confused the hell out of me because I thought it was £10 a month, (£120 a year!), but that’s just if you want a more Spotify like service. I don’t, I have lots of music, of which I add to occasionally, Google will let me upload up to 25,000 tracks gratis. And I can do all the fun stuff like stream through ChromeCast, and stuff.

I did consider going back to Spotify, but I prefer the limited ownership that mp3 has, compared with no ownership offered by streaming only services.

Unfortunately, as Amazon Music playlists aren’t sharable, I’ve had to spend time recreating my major playlists, and rather than spending ages recreating three more, I’ve just done one playlist for NaNoWriMo 2014. I’ll have to wait until my next project to play around with the multiple playlists idea, and single playlists have always worked well enough in the past.

Beneath the cut is this year’s playlist, it’s not in any particular order as I’ll keep skipping the music as I write.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Playlist Read the rest of this entry

Sesquipedalophobia – or how I learned to appreciate simple words

Sesquipedalophobia – or how I learned to appreciate simple words

I have a bit of a bad habit, where I could say something with one word, I often use twenty-five, (that’s probably my guilty little secret to success in NaNoWriMo), and sometimes when two or three simple words will do, I’ll use one antiquated or complicated word.

It’s something I’ve fine all my life, but I guess it became especially prevalent in essays for college. That little word count target that others in my class struggled with, I’d blast past. I even got told off, “This is more than I’d expect for a university essay.” If you were to talk to my boss at work, he would probably bemoan the war and peace emails I send, which ultimately mean everything’s fine.

It’s never all waffle, (though I’ll admit to doing a fair bit of that), I just tend to over think things, and the sum total of my thoughts gets recorded. I’ll even write something once, and then correct myself, rather than editing the original words, (and that’s how continuity errors become great big blooming plot holes in the middle of a story).

As I mentioned, another side of my bad habit is to use recently antiquated words, perfectly good English, but not something you would use in conversation. Which makes all of the above even harder to read, because not only are you making your way through a tour de force on making a loaf of bread, your scratching your head at what on earth the Chorleywood process means.

I’d like to think I’m not trying to purposefully over power the reader, or appear more intelligent than I am – it’s more a deep sated desire to make myself understood, and yet making myself thoroughly misunderstood I imagine.

And it’s also my love of older books as well. I love Victorian and Edwardian pulp fiction, and that carries a style and form of language you don’t really encounter in the modern world, and it’s inevitable that will carry over into my writing.

Challenge one of this post then is to write in plain English, it doesn’t have to be concise, because that’s simply not how I write. I’ll use editing to reduce my gross verbosity.

Now you’d think given that I write lots and lots of words, and use super cool, (okay not really cool), words, that you’d read a page of my novel and after getting past the gross verbosity you’d have a crystal clear picture of everything from how it’s set, to what happened, and what was said. However I have a curious problem with how I write is that, despite the gross word count I’m really bad at descriptive writing. Dialogue and action are explicit usually, the scene around it, the character descriptions, the locations,  these are usually bare and brief.

I remember  back in high school a teacher once telling me to leave things to readers imagination, and somehow that advice has become so ingrained as to go to the extreme.

I greatly admire Frank Herbert’s descriptive verbosity, but it’s not something I have ever been able to do a frequent of. I’m more aligned with Robert E Howard, (though even his descriptive skills are much richer than mine).

So the second challenge of this post is to scale back some of the action and dialogue, and give a bit more time to setting the scene and characters. It won’t matter if it’s not great, if it’s there I can work on fixing it in editing. In fact, I can make it the first focus of my editing. If as I write I flag any significant, or significantly absent descriptive sections, I can as soon as I’m done go through and redo those bits, and then go into the second draft proper, and  a more general and thorough editing. I don’t want to subtract from pace, if I stop to spend time on something I struggle with, there’s the chance I won’t finish. I know that’s happened in the past.

Going to put both of these challenges into this year’s NaNoWriMo. Where else? Well if I were sensible of try a couple of short stories ahead of November, and put all this into practice. However time is not necessarily on my side, but we’ll see. I’ve got a few days off in September.

Sounds like I’ve got an action plan to me.

 

N.b. the word of the day is clearly going to have to be ‘verbosity’ I seemed to have used it a lot. In fact, I think I’m falling in love with the term ‘gross verbosity’.

Oh it’s a Greek Tragedy…

Oh it’s a Greek Tragedy…

One of the things I’ve been doing this summer is studying the art of story telling. I’m frequently loose in how I approach writing, not working to one style or method, (if I were being romantic about it, I’d describe myself as the Bruce Lee of writing, however in reality it’s purely because I just go with the flow). For instance, I often don’t have a defined antagonist, or I’ll have multiple in succession, (kind of like bosses in video games), or the antagonists will be an organisation of equal parts.

There’s actually nothing stylistically wrong with that par se, however it doesn’t really sit with fashion. Audiences expect a clear antagonist with subordinates, people they can root for or against. Doesn’t matter if it’s the monster of the week, or business men, it all ties back to one individual that sits atop an hierarchy, or goes it solo. Sometimes writers throw twists of a hidden relative, or a behind the scenes bogeyman to fuel a sequel, but they either usurp the antagonist’s power after the main conflict is resolved, or they were always the enemy and the hero never knew.

Meanwhile my protagonists tend to be singular heroes, even when they’re part of a group I paint them as above it, separate from it. I’m not happy I do it most of the time, it’s what my recent writing actually required, it was post-apocalyptic after all, and he was the only survivor in the region. However this peculiar failing on my part has probably been the cause of many stories not being finished as I write myself into a corner no single mere man, (or woman), can escape.

Of course there are ways round this, I could go back and alter the story to add in another character to come to the rescue, or indulge in a bit of deux ex machina, but that would feel contrived to me. That said, recently I’ve seen some excellent uses of this, such as in the film Gravity (I won’t spoil it with details if you’ve not seen it yet), or in Star Wars, (you know the bit in the first film where Obi Wan speaks to Luke at the critical moment, “Use the force Luke”. Both are well reasoned, and don’t feel at all contrived, (to me anyway).

Having one character to carry the whole of the story sounds simple, but if you write yourself in the corner, you’re stuck. Not to mention it’s unnatural, and if it happens in the workplace it’s a very dark day because one employee, with either good or bad intentions, holds a whole business to ransom.

I can admit my failings, it’s the only way to learn to do better. To do better I need to change how I write, so I’ve been studying the how other writers handle their protagonists and antagonists. One of the methods I like it’s a common one in Greek story telling which involves three principle characters:

  • Protagonist, chief actor – who enters into conflict because of the antagonist. They’re the one we follow, identify with, and support… Most of the time anyway.
  • Deuteragonist, the second actor, he’s the supporter or even a minor antagonist, his loyalties, drives, and actions alter independent of the protagonist or antagonist, but in accordance with his own arc/plot.
  • Tritagonist, the third actor, this is your antagonist, the provider of conflict to your protagonist and potentially deuteragonist.

This is quite a simple method, but it has flexibility which is good. You could have the Deutaragonist as multiple people for instance, as long as each part qualifies, if you were on a long voyage, you might have multiple guides along the way, if it’s a war story the second in command could die and be replaced by someone else fulfilling the same function – though each would bring uniqueness to the role.

While looking it at, I did wonder if it’s realistic? And I could easily find thousands of hypothetical examples of this dynamic. One of my favourites is a film called The Sting (1973, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford), though the con uses many people, and the target has how own people, ultimately the core of the story is protagonist, deuteragonist, and tritagonist, while necessary and intimately involved with events and well characterised and acted, the other characters are superfluous, nice detail, vehicles of convenience. It’s the same with TV homages to the sting as seen in Hustle, Leverage, and White Collar to name a few, so much so, in those homages, previously strong characters are relegated to minor roles.

I’m not trying to belittle other characters importance, certainly while there are good examples of stories with only three characters at all out there, you mostly can’t create a convincing world without other people. However, if you’re to create an arc or a plot for each and every character in your story, if each of them had to have more than a line of backstory, the story would become a diluted mess, and if you only had two fleshed out characters, (the protagonist and antagonist), the story would be just as diluted and weak.

There are many ways you could do your primary characters, maybe the story needs five, maybe it only needs two, all I’m saying is with the two I normally do I get stuck, and with more than three I don’t think I could keep it in course, so I think protagonist, deuteragonist, and tritagonist is a dynamic that I think will work for me.

So this is another challenge for my NaNoWriMo 2014 novel. All being well I’ll have a strong cast of characters, a protagonist that people can invest in, and no plot holes for me to get buried in. So in the plotting I’m doing I’m going to list ten characters, the three summarised above, some key characters to help drive the story on, with enough detail to make them interesting. Thereafter, other characters will be planned as a list of names, and what their role within the story is, and some description notes.

Where is this all going? – Redefining success

Where is this all going? – Redefining success

I alluded in my last post what being a writer to me is.

“[...] Writers write. Being published, even read, that’s irrelevant. Writers write. That’s the only thing that defines a writer.”

In that sense I’m quite successful, I can and do write. That’s more of an epiphany than you might think, I called my blog Aspiring because I thought I was an aspiring writer, a nascent storyteller, yet still not on the mark, however that’s not the truth. I might be trying to learn to be better at writing, but that’s irrelevant. I write, therefore I’m a writer.

What I really am is an aspiring author. I’m trying to hone my craft to the level I feel comfortable sharing my works, with little or no qualification. That’s not as easy as it sounds, I’m highly self critical. To accept something I’ve written to be good enough to publish to the world, (whether that’s through this blog, through self publishing ebooks, or through submitting to publishers), is no small feat. I have done it, like with the sci fi serial I posted for a while, (and since taken down because I wasn’t happy with it), and the daily flash fiction challenge I did, (albeit with lots of qualifiers about quality and haste, all 140+ short stories are still there – so that’s something, right?).

I’ve decided I want to take this seriously though. I want to leave my mark in one fashion or another, and there’s one thing that I’m good enough that has the chance of being indelible, and that’s writing. What I do at work is transient, it’s replaced by the next big thing pretty much monthly, I don’t have any particular insights into my job that would like to a new methodology being named for me. It’s not modesty, because I do some amazing stuff. Now writing, I don’t know if I’d ever be good enough to be remembered beyond myself, but there’s a greater chance of it.

Millions of stories, books, every year get forgotten about. It’s actually kind of sad when you think about it. However thousands will be remembered by people, thousands will affect lives, and some of those will go on and be read and remembered by future generations.

When you read Jane Austen, HG Wells, Frank Herbery, Tolkien, DH Lawrence, even things like Beowulf, you’re contributing to the immortality of not just the characters, but the writers. And I find that tremendously exciting, to be connected with these fantastic talents across the bridge of years. So of course, I’d like to try my hand at that – not that I’m saying I can, but I am saying I can try. It requires refocusing myself, and really aspiring. All I’m saying is it’s possible, it’s exciting, and it’s worthwhile.

Even if I somehow miss, (and I won’t know that until the day I give up writing stories), I’ll still have all the fun of crafting my stories into words.

So there’s a few milestones I need to get past on the way, which I’m going to explore over several posts. Here’s a few key ones that I need to do for this year’s NaNoWriMo:

  • A good story idea (and all the elements that implies like interesting characters, a compelling arc, fascinating sub-plots, etc)
  • Clear writing, (no needlessly using overcomplicated or antiquated words – I’m not trying to win over critics, I’m trying to win over as many readers as I am capable of)
  • Focusing as much time, (or indeed more), on my second draft as the first draft
  • Pure dedication to the art of editing, and re-editing, (ad inifinitum), until the story is finely honed. Then I’ll consider having a third party take it further.
  • Promotion of my self and my novel, which is a bit of a tough one because I’ve no idea where to start, but I’ll cross that bridge once I know I’ve got a story I want to push that far.
  • The right vehicle from myself to my readers, (whether it’s publishing to my blog, to ebook stores, or whatever – whichever is right for the novel)

So if that’s my challenge, when am I going to do it? When else? NaNoWriMo. My goal of this NaNoWriMo is a complete first draft of a novel. I think I’ll aim for the 200k mark, assuming I’ll lose half in editing and re-editing, that should leave me with a reasonable sized novel.

To do that I’m going to have to be prepared, so this will be another planning year. That gives me 66 days to get ready. This week I’ll filter my ideas down to just a couple and then make my final decision, and dedicate myself to two months of detailed plans. Characters, scenes, plots all detailed ready to be pulled together into a story.

This year, (well next by time I’ve finished finishing) editing and such), will be the year I finally make an attempt at doing something with my writing, if I’ve got something that warrants it, that is, if not I’ll immediately start a new project. The first draft and first round of editing will be completed before moving onto another project – because anything less would be defeatist, than realistically evaluating what I’ve written.

It doesn’t do to preface a challenge with failure, but what’s the worst that can happen? If I don’t succeed, if I don’t have millions of people feverishly pouring over my words, I’ll still be a writer, and I’ll still be enjoying writing. This is merely another level hopefully.

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.