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.

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.

Where’s the Inspiration?

A man walks onto the scene, he strolls with forced assuredness, yet you can read in his body language he’s not as confident as he’d like to be, he eyes the megaphone in his hand cautiously, before coming to a step. He lifts the megaphone up, taps the small end, then raises it to his mouth, before clearing his throat, “Ahem!”, then he queries, “Is this thing on?”, his words boom out of the megaphone’s big end. He laughs nervously in response to the annoyed stairs he receives.

The man stands there a few moments before finally seeming to get the confidence to raise the microphone to his mouth again, as he megaphone reaches position this time his cheeks take on a bit of velour, and his eyes seem ablaze, he takes a deep meaningful breath, and speaks into the megaphone,

“Right, listen up,” now all eyes are on him, only they’re attentive rather than annoyed, “I demand to know where my inspiration is! I think it’s wholly unfair that you’ve abandoned me right now. I need you, I can’t write without you. Without you these pages are blank, and what words come are empty.
“Inspiration I’ve never needed you so bad, I’ve got all these things to do, and you’ve abandoned me, given up the fight, and now I stand alone against the tide of battle.
“I beg you return to me your charm, your talent. Words are meaningless without you!”

The audience looks rapt, his words have moved them, they feel his desperation, and they ponder borrowing the megaphone.

The man looks down upon his audience, upon their swept up faces, he watches the emotions play across their faces. Then a thought dawns in his mind, a realisation, maybe even epiphany.

What the man realised was this – inspiration is hard to achieve, but it can hit at the strangest moments, and all you can do is find the nearest waiting apparatus and take advantage.

Everyone has different things that inspires them to write, and inspires what to write. For myself these are most often two different events, for others they might be most often the same.

There is also another possibility one without the other, which can either be liberating or frustrating, for example:

  • I may have a brilliant idea what to write, but no inspiration (will) to write it – so it all plays out in my head because try as I might I can’t convert it into words. Obviously a form of writers block.
  • Something may give me inspiration (the will) to write, but without any inspiration. Here my mind, and the paper is ab empty canvas, and I can just let my thoughts flow freely. Probably doesn’t make for great reading, but it’s fun and liberating for me.

Everybody is different when it comes to inspiration, I know all too well what holds true for me, is complete gibberish to another. In broad strokes, I have probably captured the general forms of inspiration.

In terms of what inspires me to write (gives me the will), it falls down to three categories: the outdoors (nature, weather, scenery, architecture, etc…), other people’s creativity (a book, a film, a piece of music, also biographical information about a creative person, or someone who’s faced adversity in their life), and challenges (nothing gets my creative juices better than a bit of competition).

Sadly these things aren’t guaranteed to get me writing, but most often once I start writing it’s because I was inspired to by one of the above.

In terms of my inspiration what to write, it’s usually something close to hand, something I’ve imagined happening, my emotional state (yes, I can be a bit emo in my poetry), or a need to impress others so I can belong, and validate myself.

I’ve written about many things, from religion to coke cans, from fantasyic tales to mundane moments of life, and from historical events to nature.

Sometimes my indpirations puts me on the path to something specific, sometimes it’s just the starting point, or catalyst for a cascade of ideas.

I will say this, whatever the idea, I do love it when it happens, it’s a veritable joy to let poetry over take me, a joy and love that only falls short of sex.

As I’m getting older, inspiration is getting harder – dry spells last longer, but when the floodgates open, I feel sure the joy is deeper, as I come to appreciate it more.

Still I would live in those moments more if I were able to, giving myself over to the wild abandon of inspiration.

So I feel abandoned when inspiration doesn’t come, and call to it from my megaphone, hoping to attract it back. For me my megaphone is going to beautiful places, reading and listening to music, and entering challenges – hoping beyond hope, inspiration heads my call and answers.

That’s what inspiration is to me.

Evolution of a Writer

Charmander - beause everyone should be a Pokémon - or something like that

Charmander - beause everyone should be a Pokémon - or something like that

So Charmander gets in a fight, it’s against a more powerful Pokémon, though his trainer is sure his Pokémon can handle it.

The battle rages, and indeed in a last ditch effort, Charmander gets the win. The crowds go wild, it’s the little pocket monster that could.

Wait, but what’s happening now? Why Charmander is glowing, what’s going on? Suddenly the glowing shape of a small odd looking lizard is replaced with a larger odd looking glowing lizard, and as the glow fades, Charizard is stood there looking thoroughly chuffed with himself. He’s evolved, become a better Pokémon, bigger, stronger, and smarter. Everyone is shocked into a stunned silence. His trainer starts clapping, and soon the auditorium goes nuts.

What’s this got to with anything? Well after a fashion I think writers evolution is similar. Certainly my own is, I get stronger very gradually, but every so often I tackle something big – and win. The gradual improvement, the many small lessons learnt, and the sudden influx of effort and challenges pushes me to a new level.

I’ll admit, it may be a confidence thing – I’m not a biased judge of my own ability, in the absence of Mr Horobin and Mr Barrand (my English teachers in high school), I can only presume to rate myself.

Every piece I write I get a little better, every review and edit nets me a few more lessons to avoid problems in the future, but every major trial tests everything I’ve learned, and gives me so many new lessons.

In terms of talent and experience, I evolve into a whole new monster, with new lessons to learn and embrace. I find the end of a piece of work, or project, the most exciting time, and I need to focus on that when the challenge seems too daunting, or I lose the inspiration (will), I have reasons to carry on.

It’s true of most things in my life, I’m a far better analyst now than I was four years ago, there are periods of gradual improvement, and those moments where I’ve jumped to a whole new level.

Now I’ve turned myself into a fictional firey Japanese lizard, I think the job is done for this post.

P.S. I don’t know Pokémon that well, if I’ve got the evolution wrong, aplogies to the diehard Pokemon fans out there.

My Poetry Writing Process

The fabled writing process, everyone has one, or one they prefer at least.

My own process keeps me sane, keeps me trying, and ultimately makes my work better. That’s what I’m going to explore in this entry.

I’ve found, that in the past spending a few moments considering what my process is has made for better poetry. It prevents me trying to force myself to fit molds that aren’t mine, which so far when I’ve tried has led me down paths of frustration. Having the desire to write a poem, and then destroying the will to write is a terrible thing.

Preface: Before I start exploring, it isn’t fair to say I have one writing process, I have several – the aim of this post is explore my writing process for poetry, I will do another blog entry in regards to writing literature.

So what is my poetry writing process?

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