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.

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 2011 – From Week Two to the End

NaNoWriMo 2011 week two, or as I shall hereby refer to the 45th week of 2011, ‘ The week that won it’.

I’m sure you can guess why, if you can’t, or even if you can because I want to show off, as of Sunday 13th November I hit 50,000 words (50,443 to be precise). Can’t validate until the 25th November, but still after falling short two years running, to hit a second week finish feels great.

I can tell you, it was quite a buzz to hit the 50,000 mark, and I didn’t stop there. Week three saw me push on with the aim of hitting 75,000 words, including “The end.” Want to know how that went? Well I did that too. Though, it was a bittersweet second victory, someone I loved dearly passed away on the Saturday, and I contemplated on just stopping with 8,846 words still to go. That wasn’t the memory I wanted to have of someone I love passing, and though it was a slog, I finished at 75,114 on day 21.

So, the last step of the immediate NaNoWriMo process is to validate your win. And I did.


So there you go – I officially win this year’s NaNoWriMo. I have a badge to prove it.

However, I have decided that there is more to NaNoWriMo than simply writing 50,000 words though – that’s goal number one, with a couple of sub-goals that are worth noting. Below I’ve listed important steps in the writing process as I see them right now, (I reserve the right to grow as a writer and evolve these later*).

 

Continue reading

Tools for NaNoWriMo 2011 (Planning)

So I’ve talked about the planning I’ve done and am still doing for NaNoWriMo but not about how I’m going to be working.

First of there’s how I’ve done the planning. There are obvious tools such as the browser I’ve done online research from (Firefox on my PC, and Dolphin Browser on my phone), and then sites such as Wikipedia,  space.about.com, and news websites (for the latest science and technological developments and theories). Nothing ground breaking there, I’ve been using a lot of science based sites to flush out details I can populate my universe with, but some sites on the history of piracy, and 16th, 17th, and 18th century naval life.

That’s all great but once I’ve got it, whether it’s snippets or whole articles I need to store it so that I can access it again, preferably offline so I’m not distracted by the internet later on. For this I use Microsoft Office OneNote – something I’ve had for ages but never gotten round to exploring for writing. It’s good, I’ve two projects on there, one for all that juicy research, the other for character bio’s and scene/locales.

I’m also using an app on my phone called Thinking Space (I’m using the pro version, but the free version doesn’t restrict you other than listing some screen retail to ads). This is a mind mapping (or brain storming if you want to call a spade a spade) tool, it’s a lot lower on detail than one note but has the advantage of quickly summarising thoughts and ideas and showing how things are interconnected. It’s in Thinking Space I’ve also mapped out the structure of the story, so I can clearly see what each chapter needs to include to feed events four or five chapters further into the story, and ultimately the end. Hopefully it means no loose ends at the end, and if I can keep it up to date it gives me a to-do list of changes I need to make in editing if things happen later in the story that weren’t originally part of the plan and need supporting events.

Other basics in the planning stage include Microsoft Word, Notepad, and a calculator. Then there’s my Kindle, where I’ve been reading plenty of similar sci-fi, and piracy novels. They’d also a few travel guides on there as this is an interplanetary novel each location needs to be distinct but something that can be related to by the Earth found denizens of today’s earth. It helps to borrow from out countries, cities, and cultures to enrich my fictional universe, lest everything in the universe somehow looks and feels like Leeds.

Add into that Google Sky Maps, Google Translate, and we’ve pretty much got everything I need for a space based science fiction story.

These are the tools I’ve used fire the planning, and they’ll be reused in the writing stage, but added to by things that are geared to better improve my writing, speed me up, andkeep me going. I’ll cover those in a subsequent post dedicated to that subject. I’ll do one in January to show the tools I’ll use to edit this story. For other novels I’ll try different tools and review them.

Nanowrimo Day One

Day one… is done.
I’m not going to bore you and me with daily NaNoWriMo updates – I’ll keep it weekly.  However as the first day is over, I thought I’d give it a start.
So my thoughts on my NaNoWriMo project so far – I suck. Okay, it’s not that bad, I’m  well past the 1,667 word standard target for day one, however I wanted to blast it. My  personal schedule called for 6,000 words. In the end, when I finished last night I was  at 3,062 words. I should be happy with that, but I’m not.
See the problem is, I got home from work, (and I’d been successfully writing on my  phone on the way home), and just went pfft. I got distracted by the interwebs,  television, food, reading the news. So what I need tonight is a digital coccoon to stop  this happening again. Going to need it to, as I’d really like to make the Herculean effort  to get back on track, (according to my schedule for the early push by the end of today I  need to be pushing 10l to 11k). However, that’s probably not reasonable, so if I write  6,000 words today, I will allow myself to get back online. Though from this point  onwards I’ll only be recording the shows I like, I’ll wait until I hit 50k to watch them, (I  actually prefer watching multiple episodes back to back anyway, you get to to see arcs  developing better than if watching them one by one.
After today the schedule, aside from weekends, becomes a lot less punishing – that’s  why a good strong early push is so important.
Okay, aside from my crap ability to focus after a days work, and my inability to resist  the temptation of other forms of entertainment,  the story itself is going pretty good.  I’ve got a pretty good idea where I’m going still, we’ve not gone completely off plan  (though I used more words than I anticipated in the first section – I can easily see in  editing that the word count in that chapter alone will drop 25-50% but I’m not too  worried about that now). I’m now on the second chapter, and I’m pushing hard at the  world building, because chapter one was too limiting an environment to build up the  world the story takes place. Chapter two is a little cruise, several meet and greets,  and  just a tinge of excitement, as a preview of what is to come as the story progresses to  the thirdhalf way point.
That’s actually a little bit of an issue, but again I’m pusing it aside until the editing  process – I think the plan I have flows pretty well, but it does trouble me that the main  events of the story line don’t happen till late on – with feeder events earlier on building  up to it. However, if it doesn’t work I’ll worry about it in editing, because it’s too late to  go back now, and if I go off plan I’ll probably lose the thread in my head.
This of course makes sense to me, but I offer no guarentees anyone else will  understand a word of this.
So, do I feel confident after just one day? Despite not being where I want to be, the  likelihood is I will finish this year, I do have a plan, I’ve got a cast of characters, yet still  there’s plenty of room for my own creativity.
I was going to throw in all sorts of random stats, such as I’ve spent around 4 hours 37  minutes writing, currently averaging 15 words per minute (including the time I’m sat  looking at the screen trying to motivate myself to put words down), at my current rate  there’s 59 hours writing to go, and as things stand now (with only a part day done on  the second day),  should finish on or around the 27th November), however I just could  find a seemless way to fit them into this post, so you’ll have to wait till I’ve got a few  days worth of stats.

Another update – but good news!

Well the time has finally come, I’m going to actually show some brand new original writing on my part.

The first two chapters of my Memoirs of a Space Corsair are completed, and edited (though I offer no gaurentee to the quality of my self-editing, especially in the small hours of the morning). I’ve really gone for a bleak start to my characters adventures, and the third chapter will largely be bleak, though of course I can not keep it in such bleak a circumstance, I’m fairly sure if it continued into a fourth chapter, Arsène Frassin (my main character), would probably but aside his principles and simply off himself. He’s been through a lot, poor lad.

Hopefully these first two chapters give you a hint of the potential in this boy, trapped by circumstance. It is the foundation for the character, and ultimately the whole series of stories I have planned.

Hopefully, once we move out of these initial chapters, each entry will actually work as its own short story, but feed into the overall plot I intend. However, I must admit, the first three chapters, and possibly into the fourth are sequential, and intended to be read as such. I want to try and keep a word count of between 5,000 and 10,000 per instalment, just because its neater than trying to read 30,000 words in a single posting, and more convenient for the style of writing I want to achieve. As we do move into later chapters, and each adventure is one instalment (albeit with the possibility of an adventure or two being split across two instalments), it should feel a bit more like the pulp fiction of the first half of the twentieth century. I suppose I should come up with a garish and extravagant cover or two to go with milestones in my story.

I am finding this project very exciting, and its been relatively easy to write (albeit in between work, and family), but I can honestly say, the editing has been a lot tougher. I’m sure if I were to re-read either chapter through right now, I’d probably find another hour or two of changes to be made. There is little time for that before the first chapter publishes, so I shall let it lie, plenty of time before the scheduler posts up the second chapter though.

I had to have a little think about the impact of posting a story online, just as with poetry, I want to share my creative works, but a part of you does wonder, what would I do if someone misappropriated my ideas? I’ve of course added “© Jonathan L. Lawrence, 2010”, but also a disclaimer at the beginning, spelling out that this is mine, and mine alone. This may be overkill – however when I ran forum for writers, way back when, the issue of copyright did come up, and I can appreciate the wronged parties point of view.

I want to do a post on copyright, (I did do one previously, but it was more an idea, rather than a real look at the subject), and will probably do this week. I sometimes think copyright isn’t really reflective of the time, yet at the same time, I want my creative works protected as I share it with the world. There has to be a balance somewhere, and maybe it lies with the creators rather than the law to find that balance. Of course I am, in my small, untalented way, a creator, so I’m biased.

Anyway, I hope you read and enjoy the first two chapters, and I hope not keep those that do enjoy it waiting with the third and fourth.

Au revoir,

Sage

P.S. Feedback, good or bad, is always welcome – it makes me feel important that someone felt enough about what I’ve written that they would say something about it. I am an egotist after all is said and done, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Plus, it might just help shape me into a real writer, then if I was ever published, I’d have to acknowledge your contribution – (bribery gets you everywhere, or it does in Arsène’s corrupt world).

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.