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!

My Daily Challenge for 2013

Okay, so now NaNoWriMo is over for another year, I have to face up to something. I’m not really writing at any other time of year, which is a very bad habit. So, I’ve had this cunning plan of copying someone else sort. There’s a member of NaNoYorks called LittleSparks, who is writing 750 words a day, and has done so for the past 340 days consecutively.

This, I find incredibly impressive, and so I’m going to copy, kind of.

What I’m going to do though is try and do a single story every day for a year. Including right through NaNoWriMo, and the two Camp NaNoWriMo’s that precede it. Completely separate from any other word count scores I should add.

Then, I’ll post them here, after a little bit of editing.

It’s an act of creativity, perseverance, and timing.

It doesn’t matter where I do it, or how I do it, it just has to be done everyday, no catchups, no getting ahead. Each one has to be greater than 500 words, but less than or equal to 1,000 words. It doesn’t have to be super original, in fact I doubt I could do 365 short stories and be truly unique with even a handful of them, so there’ll be cliches, and things might seem familiar on occaision. They will hwoever be my words, and my idea at the time of writing.

What else? Oh yes, to achieve this awesome goal, I’m going to use prompts. Anything from a random photograph, conversation, and yes my much trusted and used StoryCubes. Where possible, I will try and include the prompt, if someone feels they can do better, who am I to stand in their way?

This is running from today (2nd December 2012), until the 1st December 2013

Anyway, I’ve set up a category for my daily challenge, let’s see if on 2nd December next year I can look back and count 365 seperate posts in there.

In the meantime, a post is coming up with my first offering.

Also, if you want to find out a bit more about Flash Fiction (i.e. very short, self contained stories), there’s a wikipedia page to explain here, and here you can go read countless examples of the art form.

 

Ta ra folks.

NaNoWriMo 2012 – a long awaited update

Usually during November I post every few days about my NaNoWriMo progress, that is until I crash and burn and end up riding the fail train until the end of the month, (though I did win last year). This year has been different, oh yes, on both accounts.

First of all I’ve failed to get round to inane blog posts about my progress until now, (now into the final week). Secondly, for the second year running, I missed the connection to the fail train and gained my win early. In fact at ten days, I was on the success train four days earlier than last year. That’s right, choo choo, I’m a winner again!

Okay, a grown man putting “Choo choo” in that statement may not sound like a winner, but it felt good, and so did winning.

This of course isn’t about rubbing all your noses in my success, (not entirely anyway), it’s about how I succeeded, and what I’m currently up to, (and no its not running round city centre bollock naked going running up to people before going shouting “Choo choo” in their faces – that behaviour gets you sectioned, and NaNoWriMo does not qualify as mitigating circumstances).

So, my last NaNoWriMo post before this, that was actually published, (have a whole post on tools that I didn’t publish, which is good as I went a different way), was all about my final decision for project this year. I originally had decided on three possibilities, and had a whole scientifically inaccurate way for deciding which I would go with.

Then October hit, and the Road to NaNoWriMo was in full swing, and I decided I didn’t want to do it. All that planning won’t go to waste, but it’s not being used right now. Instead I had a grand plan for revolution, with a Tyrant in Downing Street. I’m sure you can see the appeal of this given the times we live, and are likely to be living in in the future.  It’s tough, it’s exciting, and it’s political. What more can a guy ask for in a novel?

So with the planning session for the West Yorkshire chapter of NaNoWriMo, I plotted out my novel, sorted out my main character and time a line leading up to the main events. Then November the 1st at 2:30am (I napped longer than I expected), I got to work on the ambitious story I had in mind.

Another reason for choosing this particular story was I did it as a history book, narrated by a single voice, but telling many of stories of the life and times of said tyrant.  It meant I didn’t necessarily have to care about continuity, writing in the right order and what not, it’s going to be easy to chop and change in editing. Whole sections can be lifted and moved, or indeed just removed without impacting everywhere. It was quite liberating, so much so with a big first day, and a huge Saturday I was well on my way. I was hoping for a Wednesday night finish, (50k in 7 days, epic), however NaNo crud hit early this year and it threw me off my game somewhat in the first Monday and Tuesday of the competition. It was a distraction I could ill afford for the 7 day 50k. So, I didn’t do it. That said, it didn’t stop me, I carried on when I was better, and won on day 10. 5k a day average? I can live with that.

So November 10th was a glorious day, since I won. Unfortunately for my 100k plans, the story lost its traction after that. I’ve stopped it at 52k, and moved onto a new novel, with the aim of doing a second novel in 10 days. So far I’m behind after losing two days to the curse of technology, (my laptop by loathsome ransom ware).  The second novel got me to 100k in eleven days, and I completed the 50k for that particular novel on fourteen days.

Below you can see a chart of my word counts, per day, up until today. I did my best, but I was no where near consistent. (click the image to see the chart in full size).

From Word Counts

Neither is finished, but both need a bit of extra planning to tie it all together and finish off. So I’m calling December finishing month. There’ll be three to do, as tomorrow I’m starting another story. This one will be short, about 25k, just to finish off the last week. I’m not worried if I don’t hit 25k, it’s just a bit of fun.

The plot is entirely driven by StoryCubes, (see below for the selection in question). No idea how it’ll work out, and I’ll probably need more StoryCubes at various points to pad out the plot.

From Story Preparation

I have a whole post in mind as to how much StoryCubes helped me, and how I used them, and the fun. So I won’t share my interpretations just yet. I think though I’m going to do a StoryCube story once a month, just for fun.

It’s early yet, but I’d hate to forget, so here are the obligatory thank you messages.

Thank you to:

  • NaNoWriMo for hosting and organisation the month.
  • The Yorkshire chapter of NaNoWriMo for being such a lovely encouraging forum
  • #NaNoYorks chat room for its many word counts, and encouragements, and putting up with my plot talks, and occasional boasting.

In particular, I’d like to thank (in no specific order):

  • Sparkie, for whom I was desperately trying to race, but out paces me for writing with worrying ease – even hundreds of miles away in her new home.
  • Kerantli, for secretly being the organised and responsible one, and prodding me when I needed to stuff.
  • Rokk, for talks about Bond and plots.
  • BoredRobots, for being the foil to my personal story

A further mention goes to:

  • My colleagues at work that have put up with me talking about things they have not a single care about.
  • My mum for encouraging me, and my dad for taking an interest in the plot.

So yeah, plenty of thanks, and I’ve missed a lot of people out. Some people don’t even realise they’re helping, but they have. I could never have made it through NaNoWriMo these past couple of years without the care and support of all the other WriMo’ers I’ve encountered.

I’m stood here on this podium in tears now… but no one’s handed me an award yet. Ah well.

Road to NaNoWriMo 2013 starts here

So I’ve been a bit quiet on here for a bit too long – the same is true of my writing.

After my success at NaNoWriMo 2011,and personal difficulties during and after, I wanted 2012 to be a significant year, unfortunately I stalled on editing my NaNoWriMo novel. It needs a serious re-write to turn my main character into a bad guy, with sympathetic qualities who reluctantly becomes the hero the universe needs, from where he was in the first draft which is a good guy in a bad guy’s job.

I know what I needed to do, but I choked for now. I will come back to it later on I’ve decided.

But choking doesn’t stop there, aside from a couple of false starts I’ve not written anything original. I have however had some great ideas, which is what I’m going to write about now.

You see, one of the things that helped me last year was the planning I did for my novel. I may not have ended up following the exact plan, but I had enough of an idea about where I was going that I was able to do 50,000 words in two weeks, and finish the story around 75,000 within three weeks. I learnt something, I’m not good at ‘pantsing’, (writing by the seat of your pants). So this time round I’m considering several possible stories, and doing my best to outline them.

Before I get into what my ideas are, I should mention targets. This year, for NaNoWriMo, I’m going to completely aim over the top. My personal target for the month of November will be 125,000 words. It’s doable, my daily word rate for the three weeks was 3751, to hit 125,000 in 30 days would be 4,166. Not a huge stretch, but it won’t leave much time for stopping and struggling for the next idea needed to keep the story moving. So planning is going to be key, and this year I’m trying to plan better.

I have three possible novels this year:

  • Firstly, one I’ve wanted to do for a while, a modern retelling of the Count of Monte Cristo, set in London, Paris, and New York. The world is primed for it, and can fit around the events of the novel to really come alive. Downsides, what I have in mind is quite complex, easily 125,000 words, but a lot of is nitty gritty detail of the revenge operations.
  • Secondly, a continuation of the universe created in last year’s NaNoWriMo novel, involving a new protaginist, a new antagonist, a wholly different adventure that might, or might not run consecutively, or concurrently to the original story. Challenges, 125,000 might be a bit long for a space adventure novel of the type I write.
  • Thirdly, a complete restart of my first NaNoWriMo novel from back in 2008, I’ve learned a lot since then, I never actually got it finishedm (though I hit the 50,000 mark just), and I think about it alot. Goal, to fully re-imagine the story to make it easier to read, give the characters more history and depth, and give them more urgency – 125,000 words might be long, but it gives me a chance to explore the nature of the world.

At this stage I’m not sure which I’m going to go with – I’ve already started outlining the Monte Cristo project, but I realised it’s possibly too much for NaNoWriMo – I know a lot can be done in editing, but I would really want to get in the revenge plots as well as I can and just need to clean them up for the second draft. It involves really looking at ways you can screw over bankers/investors/hedge fund managers and the like, and achieve a satisfactory level of revenge.

The others would be easier on many levels, the space pirates universe is easy to write for, it’s largely pulp fiction, with easy rolling story lines, multiple arcs that intertwine, but fun as well as there’s politics, dubious motives on characters and nations. The rework of my 2008 NaNoWriMo is easier because I know the story, certainly the first three quarters, and I’ve got great ideas for thinking about, (imcomplete projects are rarely far from my mind).

Once I’ve gone through the Pro’s and Con’s of each idea, I’m going to write a summary, (just a line or two for each about the principle character(s), the situation, and the goal), and if after that I still can’t decide, I’ll have to go all out and do a synopsis of some description for each one.

The great thing is, which ever two I don’t do for NaNoWriMo can be my projects for the 334 days after NaNoWriMo. I’ve got time booked off this Christmas, (usually I work except for the bank holidays), so I think that’s a good time to start my first post NaNoWriMo novel.

I turn 30 this year, so I’m determined that this year will be the turning point where I knuckle down and not get distracted from….

Ooh look shiney!

Sorry, I won’t get distracted from my writing.

With even more planning going into this year’s novel, I’ll hopefully have plenty to say. Plus, I’ve some other ideas for articles that would be worth exploring… so you might just be stuck with me for a bit.

Aha! Found You!

My muses have elected to return to me it seems. I suddenly have the ability to write again, and am doing so with gusto working on a new project. I know, I have lots of unfinished projects I should be working on, but I’m just enjoying writing right now.

So the new project, it’s currently titled Journals of a Space Corsair, and is a sci-fi piece. Inspired by the concept of the Bio of a Space Tyrant novels by Piers Anthony, which I read recently, and once I finished reading those books, I also read Michael Crichton’s Pirate Latitudes, between the two of them, this whole science fiction universe of mine was inspired and created in my mind. What’s more is I’ve been able to put it into words, something I’ve struggled to do for the past eighteen months.

It’s a nice feeling, not too many words just yet, but just passed the 20,000 mark in two weeks so that’s a comfort.

The way I’m doing this project is blog posts, it’s an auto-biography, so I’m going to write it as a series of confessionals, the man’s story in his own words, detailing his good deeds, but mostly his crimes, the lifestyle he led, and the suffering he brought and received. The hardest part is not giving in to my tendency to make the character a flawed good guy, or to have the character swing from bad to good. I’m trying to write something that reflects a man, and not an archetype from a TV series. That isn’t to say there isn’t an arc, in fact there’s a pretty big one, and my aim is the character goes from illegality to legitimacy, and then back to illegality. Times are turbulent, wars rise up and allegiances change.

I do feel the need to acknowledge Piers Anthony, and Michael Crichton, as their books are a massive influence on this story, it was their books that really lit my imagination on fire.

From Michael Crichton I tried to take a sense of how pirates actually operated, and in many ways how the new world worked, the trade routes between the colonial lands, the stopping off points like Jamaica, which I’ve tried to translate the spirit of into worlds and space stations.

From Piers Anthony, obviously I’ve tried to take the format, the fictional autobiography of a significant figure in future history, I’m also borrowing some of the technology he mentions in his books, the travelling via a beam of light, over massive distances, which is as reasonable a way to explain interstellar travel as any. Of course it is fraught with its own difficulties in a story that takes place in real time, with politics, wars, and tactics – I can’t really afford it taking decades to travel from one planet to the other. Instead, I shall embellish the idea with faster than light energy – so it takes days and weeks to travel between the stars.

I think it is important to acknowledge where a story comes from – it is not my intention to plagiarise these amazing authors, but they have inspired within me a tale which I think is unique and distinct in its own right. Besides when it comes to science fiction, it’s never easy to come up with easy ideas for propulsion, and story telling in general tends to form into archetypes. I think that’s one of the advantages of writing an account of a self confessed bad guy, while not ground breaking or unique, it is a point of view that is carried far less often than that of a hero, heroically battling to save the world.

My intention is to post up a chapter (and if I write it right, it will be more of a self contained short story, which feeds into the overall tale), every fortnight, detailing a significant memory of this space corsair. I won’t be launching it right away, as I want to build up four or five chapters ahead, this gives me a nice cushion with which to edit the stories (because while the muse does flow, it tends not to check the grammar for me, nor does it worry about the annoying inconsistencies of writing large pieces of work in small bits). Also, my sister’s baby is due next month, I’m on holiday in Prague in August, and I’m off to the British Science Festival in Birmingham this September, so there’s plenty to interrupt my schedule.

Speaking of the British Science Festival, I’m really looking forward to it, it feeds a lot of knowledge in my science fiction, such as the power system for the ships in my story – I learned that from a presentation I went to on fusion energy, I always favoured the methodology employed in the tokamak fusion generators, rather than the method involving lasers, purely because it seems to me that once such devices as ITER are operational and producing massive quantities of energy, we would be able to learn from this and scale the process down to have a device that can sit aboard a starship and produce the kind of energy I need for propulsion, FTL (faster than light) travel, and of course the staple of most space based science fiction, the weapons.

I am genuinely excited to be writing again, and long may it continue. Nanowrimo is in November (it’s always in November, hardly a surprise there), and this year I’m going to ace it. Mark my words.

NaNoWriMo 2009 – An Update 10/11/2009

Well we’re now into week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and I managed to resolve my problems that came about at the end of last week. I say temporarily, because despite introducing a brand spanking new character, to whom I switched to, so I could imply the extent of the problem with my protaginist, without gettimg bogged down in detail, (and the logic of how long healing should take), I still wrote in the troubles just later in the process.

Two thousand words dropped for nowt, and probably another thousand to erase the second mistake.

I do have a plan though, and it is a cunning plan, go back again and undo the difficulties, limit the protaginists psychological difficulties (which are what would take too long in the time wise to deal with), but keep the secondary character. Kind of a sidekick to help out my protaginist through the couple of days recovery he needs (I’ve also undone shooting him in the legs, and instead had the bullet nick his brachial artery).

This should mean my character is less on his own, and has more interaction, and I can up the humour a bit. I’d much rather my characters were funny people than the narrative, or situations. Gallows humour is good, especially in procedural crime writing.

So, recovery is in sight – but I do have some monster writing sessions between now and this Saturday. Which is fine, I don’t mind the pressure, it’s only when deadlines become tight that I really put my foot on the gas and blast those monster wordcounts out. I had hoped this year woukd be different – but events conspired against me.

Meeting up with other NaNoWriMo’ers helps – it’s where I found mysels thinking out the solution to my plot problems. It was a good meet up on Sunday, (7th November 2009), some new faces and old. It’s enough to make you believe writers are generally smart, talented, driven people, who are genuinely nice, friendly, and social – until you remember I was there ;), brutish talentless oaf that I am.

The only way to hit 100,000 is going to be by being diligent, and erm… Deadlining with an all nighter on Friday – yes my bad, but we each have our ways of writing afterall.

NaNoWriMo 2009 – Week 1

Well we’re now seven days into NaNoWriMo and I’ve only achieved 13,000 words so far. This is actually to plan, yet now we’re going I can’t help but feeling I’m falling short. Today is Saturday however, and I planned in most of my word count for Saturdays and Sundays (because I’m not lucky enough to be able to live without earning lots and lots of money).

In my defence (against myself, since I’m my own harshest critic), there has been a lot of drama to trip me up along the way. From car thefts, work, and family – all neatly working their way into my writing time, and mindset.

I shouldn’t be bothered, the plan was for 20,000 a weekend, with and extra 5,000 on a Friday, and we’ve not had a full weekend yet – but I want to do more, be faster stronger as a writer.

I’m not helping myself however, trying to exercise and write at the same time isn’t easy, and it’s taking it’s toll. The Friday just gone, I should have done 5,000 words, instead I slept. Oops, my bad.

It just means today (Saturday) I have to hit 15,000 to be sure of my targets.

Actually, I do realise I’m being unfair, everytime I think about it, I ramp up the amount of words I need to do each week (and subsequently each day), because of how badly I’m doing. It’s not just to contemplate for being bad now, it’s to compensate for things being just as hard later. I know that if I could get away with it, I would probably set myself a target of 50,000 words a day this weekend. Which isn’t unachievable really – think about it, assuming I slept for 12 hours, out of the 48, and wrote for the rest – I’d only need to achieve 52 words per minute consistently.

Of course, that’s not likely since I’m here writing this, oops. 15,000 today and tomorrow is fine – it’ll get me to 42% of my target, which does give me room to relax for the rest of the month.

I am my own hardest task master… I’ve as many psychological issues as my main character – but he’s paranoid delusional, since I started writing his life has now gone quite psychotic. The irony is, I didn’t mean to do that, all I did was shoot him, and he’s gone nuts. Oops.

So now I’ve got to get him functional, get him out of hospital, and somehow have him run (a bullet passed through both thighs, and at one point he starts bleeding out). Oh hum – well here goes.

The good thing with a 100,000 word count target, if I don’t finish this in 50,000 I can push it to 60,000 and then have a nice shorter to finish the challenge with.

And if you think I’m a harsh task master this year? Next year will be 50% harder… and you don’t even want to know about the year after that.