NaNoWriMo 2018 Prep : Plotting

So I’ve redone the plot I was working on. It’s still on the same world, but I’ve made the story more focused, more character driven, hopefully with compelling characters in the heroes and villains. The over arcing plot of the series I’m anticipating is still the same, a multi world conquest story, but we’re starting off small, and building out.

Going through a standard three act set up, with a major point in the middle of the novel, and a climatic battle at the end, so everything builds becomes bigger from start to finish, as there’s a couple of smaller conflicts earlier on. Nothing really innovative there, but I’m not going for innovative, I’m going for character moments.

Five talkie bits are planned, which hopefully I can keep quite snappy and not exposition heavy, (something I’m quite prone to), outside of those moments dialogue will be functional “Go here,” “Go there,” “Phew! that was close”, with actions and behaviours used to tell those parts of the stories. By no means is this the best way to write, it’s more if I do it, I can avoid a lot of pitfalls I fall into, (like circular dialogue that fails to end at a natural point).

So character wise on the good guy side (nominally the overall plot blurs who’s good and bad, but for the first novel it’ll be quite clear), we have a young character, an innocent caught up in something greater, and destined for something massive, then there’s the wise mentor, and a roguish mentor and defender, alongside a cast of supporting roles like military leaders, politicians, traders, and general people. A goal will be to have more dynamic and engaging secondary and tertiary characters.

On the bad guys, there’ll be a couple of military leaders who have the same goal, but sit in opposition to each other on methods, with one aiming for a domination victory, and the other a very targeted crafty plot.  I want them to be compelling, and to sew the seeds that they are the villains of the piece, but there’s a broader ethics involved which would allow for that obfuscation of heroes and villains later in the over arcing plot.

So –  a lot of work to do to make all that a reality, but at least most of the planning I’d done to this point is still valid and very useful. The history of the world still applies, though I’ve realised if I want to rely less on exposition, I might struggle to get some of it in, there’s only really one point in my plot where I can, (and must), show the history of the world. So, some block breakers are going to be experiments in historical exposition, and exposition generally.

Block breakers are now definitely going to be part of my prep after the recent trouble of number three, I might also do an out right short story as world setup for the NaNoWriMo novel, focusing on one character’s earlier life before the planned story takes place.

Daily Flash Fiction Challenge, an update

So today was the 34th entry in the challenge, so I figured I’d have a little catch up with you all.

I’m quite proud to have gotten so far, it’s proved as much of a challenge as I expected. So how have I done?

34 stories written
1 late by one day
6 done just in time

The one that was late, I completely forgot about until the next day, so on the 31st December I did two stories.

It’s a great challenge though, it’s given me the opportunity to try some new things, different styles, and genres. There’s plenty more things to experiment with yet, so I’m going to make a list. The list will come in handy when I’m running short on ideas, because keeping the ideas coming for another 331 stories is a worry.

The rules have been refined a bit along the way, so the rules are as follows:
One per day (anything extra is not part of the challenge)
To qualify it must be a story of 500 to 1,000 words in length
Editing is allowed to reduce word count, otherwise editing is discouraged
Stories must not be sequels to previous pieces of the Flash Fiction Challenge, or stories from outside of the challenge – however stories can be set in an existing universe
Research limited to no more than twenty minutes per fic (that’s a new rule, it’s too easy to get lost in detail you’d never be able to use, and not actually get to the writing at the comfortable time)

I think that about covers it – though the rules are somewhat restrictive in places, they’re all meant to help with writing.

A friend of mine from NaNoWriMo is doing something similar at 750words.com – the rules are a bit different, but the concept of writing daily is enshrined, which I like. I like the act of sharing though, the majority of what I write never sees the light of day, and if you’re not telling stories, you’re not a sorry teller.

It’s that sharing, putting the story out there to be appreciated or criticised, even with family and friends on Facebook, which is the number one thing I like about my challenge, I don’t judge, I don’t critique my own work, I just post it. That’s a good feeling. That’s not to say I’m going to post everything I’ve ever written, the big stuff will continue to sit in my editing pile, but when it is edited, I’m going to feel more positive about doing something with it.

So, head down back to writing. Ta ra folks.

Jonathan L. Lawrence

Aspiring.org Repatriated…

Well I’m back in sunnyfoggy Leeds once again. Prague was amazing, took a lot of pictures, saw a lot of sights, ate a lot of food, and drank a lot of beer. Perfect holiday. I also squeezed in two and a half chapters of Memoir of a Space Corsair.

I would thoroughly recommend Prague as a decent retreat, though there are plenty of distractions – the goulash is amazing, and the semi-dark beer is awesome.

Now I’m back, I want to focus a bit on my writing once more. I’m finally back ahead again with my current serial, having two and a half chapters currently unpublished onsite. However, I won’t be posting anything for a little while, I want to take down the first four chapters and do a thorough editing on them, cut out some of the extrenuous detail, close a few plot holes, and clarify some of the confusing elements. Unfortunately, though it was always my intent not to, very little editing was done on what I’ve posted. Just a spelling and grammar check. The idea was to just write – however having gone through the initial stories to compile a list of characters, character attributes, places, ships, and events (both covered and implied), I found far too many mistakes to just let it lie. So for the next few weeks, I will be concentrating on a thorough editing of the initial, and the unpublished chapters, to try and form a more coherent story.

It’s a good place to do it, the first unpublished chapter establishes Arsène Frassin into a different situation from before, where he has more control of his actions, the second removes most of the metaphysical shackles that bind him, and allow him to flourish as an individual, and not just someone trapped by circumstances (though, as there are no magic wands, some circumstances are still very much present, its the form that allows his freedom of action). This is where the story really begins, we’ve cleared the back story, and that is an excellent achievement.

There are other things I’ll be doing the next few weeks too –

  • I will be completing my notes on the story, which will help to avoid future plot holes, and blatant mistakes, (the worst of which is forgetting a character completely, and having him turn into a different character).
  • I’ll also get some of my notes written up, which is in the form of a writing diary, a kind of behind the scenes look (not that there’s much to see, but I’m sure there will be as the story really takes off).
  • I’m also going to plan out a few a chapters ahead, and give a rough gudie, for myself, as to where I’m going with this (read more of this further down)
  • Lastly, need to do my Autumn playlist in Spotify

Being a child of modern times, I spend a lot of time online, and one of my favourite sites is Ctrl+Alt+Del an online webcomic, which is updated regularly, and aimed at gaming, and gamers (though I’m not really one, I do play some games so get most of it). Tim that creates the comic, has recently just finished a storyline, where fans could email in their choice for the next action. A bit like the Choose Your Own Adventure books of years ago (one of which I have on my Kindle). Now he’s finished, he’s just done this post, in which he has a tree diagram of the choices that were made, and were possible. I’ve never done anything like this for a story (I’ve done story boarding and such, but its always a linear thing, and usually never in great detail). I quite fancy giving a similar diagram ago.

I would definately have decision paths, for my purposes though, I would literally fill loads of them with sample short adventures, which gives me the choice each time I write a new chapter to go one way, or the other, or stick to the core story. I think it would be a fantastic tool because it allows me to have both a plan, and an evolving story – as each sub adventure, in some way or form will add something to the core storyline, while also keeping to my main aim of a exploring as many different space adventures as possible. The great thing about writing in serial form is that if I don’t want to further the main story line for several issues, that’s okay, as long as it eventually ties back in.

So, writing wise, that’s my next few weeks sorted. It’ll give me a October to then squeeze some quality writing in, before I break off from existing projects and switch over to NaNoWriMo 2010.  Yes, its not far away at all now.

I think science will probably feature in my NaNoWriMo novel this year, purely because next week I’ll be at the Science Festival in Birmingham, absorbing lots of lovely science to be recycled into my writing.

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Then, soon enough it will be Christmas, and the year will draw to a close. It’s been an amazing year, and we’re only three quarters through so far. Why am I getting so far ahead? Just so I can mention that next year Aspiring.org will go international again (as in I’ll be holidaying across at least three different countries next year, go me). This last paragraph is of no relevance, but it makes me happy, so tough.

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Its Been A While

Reports of my demise, well weren’t really reported at all – but if they were, they weren’t true. I’m still here, this heart of mine beats its strong baddum baddum.

It has been a while since I posted, and the last time I posted I admitted failure, I had lost NaNoWrimo09, however it wasn’t the end of the world. Unfortunately, the writers block didn’t stay long gone, and since then I’ve struggled to write again. Even the words for blogging just wouldn’t come. As I said though, its not the end of the world. It never really is, however depressing it feels. That said, I’m feeling ready to write again, a whole chasm of ideas has started to fill the void where inspiration had previously been lacking.

I also have a brand new toy to help with my writing. Since I switched to using the Nokia 5800, I’ve been struck by the lack of keyboard, and many key features of my beloved Nokia E71, so until I get another new phone that combines the great features of the E71, and the 5800 – I needed a filler, which was either going to be a carrying my laptop everywhere, or gadget time. The gadget in question is an electronic pen. I got the cheapest one I could – however it is incredibly amazing. Forget your iPads, and you tablets, the future is pen and paper!

I’ve never been adverse to handwriting my fiction – in fact I find it far easier to transfer my thoughts to paper than to a screen, however I fail at typing up, and at some point I’m going to get stuck because my handwritten pages are hard to read, and get damaged, or go missing. There is no way I can type up thirty thousand words of my handwriting, especially not when most of my writing time comes while travelling. However, the digital pen comes with software to not only catalogue your written word into a database, but to also convert it into text.

Obviously the catch here is that the quality of your handwriting will affect how well your scribbles can be converted into text, the software can’t make miracles. I’ve found, though, that as long as it can hit 70%, you’re correcting, not rewriting whole sections. Which suits me, as it lets me slip a bit of editing in the process.

I bought the most basic one I could find, (by basic read cheap), and the look of the product does reflect this – however the actual quality is so much better.

It comes in two parts, the pen, and the sensor that does the recording. You clip your sensor to the top of the page, and then start writing. When you complete a page, you hit the button, and it starts a new one in memory. Best gadget buy of the year for me, its going to take a lot to top that. Here’s a link to the one I bought: http://bit.ly/bKV5OG 

Hopefully that’s going to help me achieve some writing – but toys themselves aren’t whats necessary, I realise now I’ve been having real difficulties at focusing on the tasks I set myself. So I need to work on my habits – and this is a general life thing, rather than specifically a writing thing. So I’m going to introduce some new behaviours, such as going to a coffee shop once a week to chill out, and read or write. Getting back to going to the gym, get myself fit, doing more puzzles to get my brain engaged, rather than switching off the second my mind wanders. I should probably stop making lists of things I intend to do – but we all have our vices. There are never any promises with me, I get distracted far too easily to even promise myself something – but I’m going to try. Writing isn’t just about writing, its about making better worlds, and better people to me, especially a better me.

In the mean time, I think I’m going to spend this week writing a couple of three hundred word short stories, just to get myself warmed up for the rest of the year to come.