Not Directly NaNoWriMo related

So, no matter what you do, you cannot insulate yourself from the world. Life will get in the way of your writing.

I’d done well, just a medical appointment – hence the making it to the victory. The victory celebrations didn’t last long.

Here in the UK on the 5th November we celebrate Bonfire Night. I used to love it when I was a kid, have a bonfire in the back garden. Rarely we’d have fireworks, but mostly we watched other peoples. Other years we’d go to the big events that the council or others would put.

If you’re wondering what it is, in brief – in 1605, after years of Catholic persecutions by the state, here in England, a bunch of Catholic conspirators set about trying to blow up Parliament. It’s an event known as the Gunpowder Plot. It failed and after the perpetrators were sold out, and the conspirators, especially the nominal leader were tortured, and eventually sentenced to death, some by being hung, drawn and quartered. Check the Wikipedia article if you want to know more:

Suffice to say, it’s kind of a weird tradition where we celebrate a plot that failed, and we celebrate the famed perpetrator of the plot Guy Fawke’s execution.

And all this is by the by, it’s exposition to what happened. I live in a area of Leeds called Harehills. Unfortunately last night, not that long after I’d posted on here, and done my Vlog, youths decided to stage a pitched battle with the police.

This happened in several place on Harehills Road, including at the top of my street. It was chaos, the police retreated at one point, after they were pelted with rocks, bricks, and fireworks. Left to their own devices there was anarchy, and lots of fireworks. Bins were stolen and burned. Eventually riot police came, and got control of the scene.

15 people were arrested, ages ranging from 11 to 23. There were people from outside of our area coming in and joining the violence and chaos.

Suffice to say for residents in the streets around the violence, it was terrifying. Witnessing the police retreat, and let the chaos roll, made me the most afraid I’ve ever been in the life. I was expecting that any moment the violence would spill down into the rest of the street. Lights off, doors locked, and hoping I’m not doing anything to make myself a target.

Just to be clear that didn’t happen, and ultimately I was safe.

I never thought I’d be so relieved to see a line of riot police across the top of my street. When they finally turned up, they dealt with the youths quickly.

So why am I telling you this? I don’t generally do personal stuff in my blog. Well it’s this, once the morning came around, and things returned to normal, it gave me a lot of room to think, and come to some realisations.

  1. I’ve seen riots on the news, but I don’t think I ever really understood just how terrifying they are, how much it impacts the people around it
  2. I don’t think I’ve done a good job when writing fear in the past. I’ve never been so terrified in my life, and my writing has never conveyed anywhere near to how it really feels. It’s not just me though, I don’t think a lot of writers do
  3. Random violence is it’s own motive. Sounds odd, but evil bad guys are something I can never wrap my head around, but there was no motive for the events last night, these youths just wanted to fight the police, and cause chaos. Some people just want to watch the world burn

So, in the cold light of day, this is what I’ve realised.

So between tweeting a lot, handling queries from the press, three interviews (none of them used… not surprised since except for some brief moments, I was looked inside hiding all night).

These are some of the images I took, the one with the police was a video took that has been round the internet a few times.

Damn It Words…

I lost momentum, again. It is so very easy to do,  you go from trundling away up the highway of creativity at a hundred miles an hour, and next thing you know, you’re on some unlit country back road with no headlights, and no idea which direction is which. Your stuck, frozen.

Whether it is writing a story, or a blog post – everything you try struggles and doesn’t seem to take you in the direction you want to go. It’s a frustrating experience, it’s not quite a writer’s block so much as writer’s ineptitude. Every idea stumbles, good or bad idea, it just doesn’t work. That frustration leads to some temper tantrum like feelings that are very unbecoming of grown up.

I started writing another block breaker, I had an idea – but I missed something. And whereas before, I at least had ideas to fix it, though they took effort. I don’t now. All I can think to do to is restart it, with plotting… so not really a block breaker.

It’s not just the block breaker though, I was struggling before that, the block breaker was this fantastic idea I’d been playing around with in my head, in hindsight I should have just banked it, and done some planning on it later and done something different. Maybe I still will – it might not be a bad idea to do in November once I’ve finished my main NaNoWriMo project, assuming that I don’t mess that up and don’t finish.

Sometimes these things happen, I know – they’ve happened many many times before, and will no doubt happen many times in the future. All I can do is choose to keep relighting that flame. Which is ultimately what this post is about – it serves no other purpose than to share some feelings and be a finished blog post.

Next up, either a post with some actual content or a block breaker, however short and sweet, there’ll be something.

Put the kettle on, it’s my birthday…

Well actually it will be my birthday when you read this – I’ve no intention of blogging on my birthday, I intend on making far too many cocktails, and drinking them. Plus I want to try making gin filled cake pops. This fella knows how to celebrate.

But it’s a strange birthday, it’s not a number of consequence, nor is it half way between numbers of consequence… it’s just a birthday, and yet it marks a very interesting point in my life. I’m in a period of change, lots of things up in the air, making some mature decisions… and of late some markedly immature decisions, ultimately trying to get to grips with who it is I want to be.

Yeah, it’s a little trippy and pretentious – but it’s true too. I know I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a young age, but other than a bit of blogging, and one or two competitions, and NaNoWriMo, I’ve not really actually explored it, not as profession, or a life – it’s just a hobby, no commitments. I know why, I’m not very good at it, and that’s okay – I’m not very good at pool, but I enjoy playing anyway. So, writing will be a hobby for me, forever.

Other things need to change though, and hopefully those changes will lead to a healthier, happier and  more balanced life, where I can afford the mental energies to write, to learn, to create, and to play. Those are the things that important to me, and yet I frequently neglect them. I’d like to show my niece a better way to live, just as much as I want to live a better way too.

To get there requires big changes, so that’s the theme of this birthday. It’s not a traditionally significant one, but this year it is to me.


P.s. when I wrote this I didn’t realise I’d be ill for my birthday, which really sucks that optimism out of the day. Ah well…

88 Days… Not all that long

So apparently NaNoWriMo 2018 is creeping up on me, it’s just 88 days away. I need to get plotting, planning, and researching. I won last year… first time in ages, and it came off the back of plotting, so that’s the way I’m going again.

Only, I’ve been so focused on Dune recently, that’s all that’s in my head. Think I need to go in another direction entirely, science fiction is out, maybe a fantasy story in a much smaller space. Shall see what inspiration strikes.

So, for those taking part in NaNoWriMo, what are you doing to prepare, or are you holding back until closer to the time?

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.

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.

Surprise! I’m a writer!

Why surprise? Well I’ve surprised myself, we’re now two months into this writing challenge, and I’ve not stopped.

I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d stick with it, but I have this far. There’s still 298 stories to go, but it’s been a good start.

There’s a lot going on in my life, which has served as quite the distraction. I’ve missed one day – ironically on the least distracting of days. There’s been a fair few days where writing has been last minute.
I should offer a word on quality, or lack thereof – the challenge is to write, not edit. The only editing I’m doing is to trim the word count to fit in my maximum of one thousand words. It’s not always pretty, but it’s creative.

Well kind of creative – there’s probably twenty ways to armageddon the world. Pleasantly, sometimes bitter sweetly, occasionally tragically it’s been a lot more than destroying the world, I like to think I’ve got some genuine drama, emotion, and fantasy in there.

I’m going to be making a list of goals – stories and styles that are off the beaten track for me. Things I might not be good at, but are a stretch.

I’m also going to launch a separate but related challenge to edit two stories a week. Two of the Daily Flash Fiction Challenge stories, just seem spelling, grammar, flow editing, maybe do some rewrite to clarify what I intended. Otherwise the main rules of the Daily Flash Fiction Challenge, 500 to 1,000 words, a self contained story, not just a series of chapters.

Anyway the upshot is I’m writing and enjoying it. Which puts me in a good place.

Here’s to writing.

Splendid isolation in Yorkshire: A creative writing course in the shadow of Sylvia Plath

Once money’s sorted out, I’d like to go on holiday here. It’s a retreat for, and a course in creative writing, which seems pretty interesting. This flagged up in my news alerts, and now I just want to go.

Lumb Bank, Hebden Bridge

I’ve got days left to book on my annual leave, even with a couple of weeks booked off for my walk from Ilkley to Windermere in August. It sounds wonderful, and now I’m writing consistently I’d like to learn to write well, and be more focused. If not before August then definitely after the Science Festival in Newcastle in September. Around Christmas I’m intending on having a few days on the coast to get some more writing done. Busy year all told, but I really want to fit this writers retreat in. I’ll find room somewhere, if not this year, then next.

Symbiosis – or why I love writing so much


  1. Interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both.
  2. A mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that my characters are real, nor is the world, however realistic I might try and make it.

But, all the same, my characters mean something to me. No matter what goes on in life, I rely on them to distract me, and subvert the truths of my existence that day. For their part, my characters can’t live without me, they need my troubles, my joys, and my truths to exist themselves. They are no aware of it, truth be told, being figments of my imagination they are not aware of anything, yet there is a mutually beneficial relationship.

Therefore I can only conclude that I have a symbiotic relationship with my own imaginings. On some levels all writers do, we get involved. Doesn’t matter whether it’s writing for a book, or a film, or a game, it doesn’t matter if it’s just a story you tell your two and a half year old niece on the fly.

Well here’s the thing, that symbiosis doesn’t last forever, eventually move on. Maybe that character, or that world might be still in small way active at the back of your mind, it does however fade. A cruel ending you might say to such a relationship. Except it’s more a parting of the ways, certainly for some writers. The writer gets a new character, and a new world to become symbiotically attached to. The character or world gets, if the author shares their work, to form a new type of symbiotic relationship with a reader.

I love that, I really do. I think it makes each book special, every character amazing.

I’m not the best at conveying these worlds and these characters to paper, but when I do, and I share it, my one true hope about my writing is that the reader forms a different but important relationship with my characters.

I would love that one day, I write something that connects with enough people that my characters exist on in fan fiction. To know that my characters connected with an audience in that way would be truly special. Don’t get me wrong, writing for profit also handily goes with this particular want, but I’d honestly take much loved and cherished characters than simple cash.

So, yeah – it’s corny, a little cliched but I do genuinely feel a connection with my stories, that’s what I love. I’m hoping one day to have the craft to be able to actually put these fantastic stories into words that people understand and appreciate.

A writer should always be reading, and sometimes that means going beyond their normal stable of genres. So I’m branching out into what currently sells. It’s a new thing, I’ve only just started, but I’ve just read The Hunger Games trilogy, and I certainly can see why the first book became so popular. (my initial view having just finished the trilogy are three things: emotional blackmail, food, fast pacing – and I don’t mean any of that in a bad way, it’s a great trilogy  especially the first book).

I have no problems coming up with ideas, and now I’m getting a dab hand at the planning stuff. Now I need to learn how to connect with an audience. Next year’s NaNoWriMo will be to write a first draft that I won’t have any reservations about letting someone else read. I’m not too fussed that the kind of thing I write doesn’t get into top 100 books very often, I can write in most genre’s comfortably. Instead it is just how these top authors connect with their audience, and maintain that connection.

So what’s next? Well, given that I have a focus for what I want to get out of reading, I will sit down and properly lay out my thoughts from Hunger Games, a review, but one that is focused on that audience connection. Then I’ll do it for the other books I go for. I’ll do it at one a month, (I’m not a millionaire after all, and I need to fit it around the other things I read). I can see my Kindle being very busy next year.

Space photos from teen’s £30 eBay camera are out of this world | from The Sun

This is fantastic – when can I try?

Ooh come to think about it, I’ve got a raspberry pi that could be interesting near space. Not sure there’d be much 3g coverage for control, but a radio might work.

Might be out of my league, but I’ll add putting a satellite into space to my bucket list. How fantastic would it be?