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.

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 43: The Snow Angel

This is the 43rd in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Snow Angel, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 13th January 2012

Word count: 594

Theme: family, father, loss, joy, pride, growing young, snow, winter, love

The story:

“It’s here, it’s here!” the little boy shouted with such joy.

“Calm down, calm down,” his mother urged him, “it’s too late to be going outside. Besides it’ll be better when you awake in the morning, trust me. Now get to bed.”

“Okay mummy,” the boy acquiesced. He climbed the stairs and went to his room, looked out the window once more with a smile and crawled into bed, eager for the hours of the night to vanish and for it to be morning.

Early the next morning, the boy was woken up by his mothers gentle rocking, and her whispered urgent words to wake up, “Come on Timmy, come see.”

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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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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.

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*).

 

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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.