Post NaNoWriMo Challenge Plans

So following NaNoWriMo this year, win or lose, I’ve decided on a challenge to continue writing and build on whatever momentum I have, (or lost during November if it doesn’t go well).

I’ve got dozens of stories in my drafts that I’ve never finished for one reason or another, I’m going to go through them and finish a couple a week during November. Some of them are years old, and the original ideas and goals have faded from my mind, so it will be interesting to see where I go with them.

So Completionist December is going to be a thing. Of course that will be followed by Editing January, where I take a run at a second draft of my NaNoWriMo story, (editing is soul crushing, so usually doesn’t happen, maybe I’ll change it up and redraft and edit last year’s NaNoWriMo instead, for similar reasons as completing all those short stories, it’ll be interesting to see where I take it). I’m not planning further than January, because while at the moment I’ve got the writing, (and blogging bug), who knows where I’ll be come February onwards.

So things to look forward to, in the meantime I’m concentrating on planning and preperations for NaNoWriMo, and Block Breakers (short stories) for practice.

The Tale of the Unreliable Narrator

Recently I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother, it wasn’t something that interested me before,  but I caught some clips on YouTube, and it looked fascinating. Turns out it was a lot more fascinating that I expected, for all it’s flaws, it told stories in a unique way for television, and it might be one of my favourite uses of an unreliable narrator.

Before we begin, let me explain what How I Met Your Mother is, in short it’s an American television sit-com about the lives and loves of a group of friends as they make their way in the world… well New York, it’s told in the style of the main character recounting the adventures from 2030 in a nostalgic fashion to his children.

The wonderful thing is, as he’s explaining it to his kids, there are very obvious obfuscations and biases at play, which telegraph clearly the unreliable nature of the narrator, things like smoking weed suddenly becomes having a sandwich, but because we know he’s editing the story for his audience as he tells it, it’s safe to assume there are less obvious revisions at work.

One of the main characters is Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris, his a womaniser, a pick up artist, and the stories told like his sexual adventures are true and successful, I think in real life though, the success rate was probably less, and the more insane pick up strategies weren’t as extreme as presented, but it’s an exaggerated portrayal of a character. That’s just one example but you get the idea.

I’ve only once used a narrator in my stories, but it’s something I’d like to try my hand at again, see if I can get it right. Technically speaking every story written in the third person is in a sense narrated, but there’s a big difference between the writer telling the story, and the voice of the narrator character telling the story. It allows you to inject bias and passion into the story, you can paint characters in more extreme and clear lights, or obfuscate certain qualities of a character out of bias. Basically you aren’t trying to describes the facts of situations, you can be more subjective.

In essence the author is always the de facto narrator, but usually we aren’t involved in the story, we’re describing the events from a perspective of the all seeing, all knowing, our biases are choosing what we show, and what we hide for later in the plot. A narrator in essence is a character telling the story, either in the first or third person, they may or may not have been involved in the story being told themselves.

I think my favourite examples are probably noir thrillers, think of your stereotypical detective story with the hard boiled private eye or policeman telling you like it is… with lots of metaphors of course:

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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.

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!

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.

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 42: A Family Tradition

This is the 42nd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

A Family Tradition, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 12th January 2012

Word count: 725

Theme: family, brother, father, fight, challenge, nobility, honour, distinguish, responsibility

The story:

“It is time, sire,” the page said dropping to one knee to address the king who had stoicly been sat in his throne for three days without rest waiting for this moment.

The king nodded, and broke his vigil to stand, “Fetch my bread, and fetch me wine, then bring my weapons and my armour,” he commanded. The bread and wine were brought first, he ripped a chunk of bread off and dipped it in the wine. He sucked on the wetted bread chunk until all that was left was the crust. “Take the rest, give it someone more deserving, and more in need than I,” he commanded.

Next came the armour, it took three men to carry the armour, and two to carry the sword, a sixth man carried the large daggers. The king was a giant of a man, compared with the people of his kingdom, he was easily a foot taller than their tall men, and he was big and broad. The kingdom respected strength, and they respected their foreign born king for his, and over the years they had learn to respect his wisdom too, he had brought them peace, and prosperity until recently.

The first reports of trouble had been heralded two weeks ago, the word coming from the east was that giants were attacking. The king knew otherwise, and as the reports came closer, he dispatched his army to clear the way, but not to attack. Some had ignored orders to their peril.

As the king strapped on his sword, having put his armour and daggers in place first, he flexed. The old armour was masterfully made, a gift from another king. The leather beneath the panels and studs creaked as they were forced to make way for the still taut muscles of the king.

“I am ready,” the king said to himself quietly.

“Sorry, sire?” his page asked.

“Nothing,” the king said, and then added, “Clear out all of you. Make sure the castle is empty.”

“In the absence of your guard, we will stand and defend you sire,” the page said, the sword and armour bearers did not seem so certain.

“This is not a fight for the kingdom, this is personal,” the king said, “I would not have my people die in my stead.”

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Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 25: The Fisherman’s Son

This is the 25th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Fisherman’s Son, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 26th December 2012

Word count: 876

Theme: father and son, bonding, learning the ropes, the paths of our fathers, sci fi, civilian sci fi

The story:

“Okay, let’s just fix that right there, shall we?” the captain said with fatherly tenderness.

Jack just looked at him, he was eight but didn’t say much. This was the first time his father had taken him out on his old boat.

“Fix that line!” the Captain shouted down to the deck. Jack looked out over the railing, down below men scattered around fixing cables in place.

“All set for star drive, Captain,” the first mate said.

“Course set?” Captain asked his first mate.

“Alpha Centauri, on the slow route,” the first mate confirmed.

“The word is go,” the captain said, then turned to his son, “Okay I want you to hold on to this handle, it’s going to be a bumpy, and it’s always scary the first time you go to star drive.”

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