Ah… the corners! Please not the corners!

So I’ve written myself into a corner. First of all, fantastic I’m doing a couple of pieces of writing just days apart, got the bug again, and it feels good, until it didn’t.

So, Block Breaker #3 I’m writing a short fantasy piece… or I’d intended it to be short, literally just a battle scene, actually pretty much one fight between siblings amidst a battle scene… and I spoilt it within a  few words by separating them, and then ending the battle, alluding to a greater conflict with sorcerers. That was fine, the story takes place over  a couple of battles then.

So the corner… that’s where I am now, I’ve written myself into a corner with a big dialogue piece that’s really spun the story out. Going to have to delete it and go back, shorter dialogue that just tells the essentials. Problem is, that goes against my self imposed no editing rules for Block Breakers.

So what are my options to leave the corner, and maintain my rules? Well I can have a slightly disjointed story, where in the first part I’ve gone dialogue and plan heavy, and have a time jump that skips all the stuff I’ve set up, and brings us closer to the main line of the story, think Thanos getting the power stone off screen in the Avenger’s film. Or I could play it out, go for a 15k story, rather than the 1 to 2k’s I’d originally anticipated, (really I just felt like practising writing a fight scene as a warm up for NaNoWriMo in a couple of months), and lastly I could just stop and start something else.

I think the time jump is my best option, may even try and lay the suggestions that it was an epic bit we jumped, I can always do what TV and movies do, and do a spin off story that follows that adventure later, when I need some more practice in the genre, I don’t often revisit characters. Of course, I often don’t finish stories I start, so sequels aren’t a thing for me.

The long and the short of it though, is this is why I’m going to be carefully plotting my NaNoWriMo entry this year, because writing yourself into a corner, or far from the plot is exactly why I don’t finish a lot of stories I start.  I finished NaNoWriMo last year because I had a plan, and even though I drifted from it, I had a path to guide it back to.

But I’m going to keep going with the Block Breakers, because I feel like writing. Probably helps that for the month of September I’m keeping off other Social Media platforms – if you’re interested visit the Royal Society for Public Health , I started on the 1st September, and we’re 9 days in, and I’ve been writing more. I’m choosing not to count my blog as Social Media, (even though it technically is).

So enough rambling, I’ve got a time jump to do, and a no editing policy on Block Breakers to maintain. Hope you’ll excuse some bad writing in the middle, for what will hopefully be an exciting ending.

Perfect Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance

Great title… and really hoping it’s true. Yes, this is another post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, two months away.

So, it’s now 61 days until NaNoWriMo commences for 2018, and I’m trying for a smarter write, I really want this year to be effortless… it won’t be, but at least it could be a little less difficult.

So… anyway, at the moment I’m putting work into creating the whole world for my novel. Maps and everything. Actually it’s just one of several dimensions within my story, but the bulk of it will take place on one world, I’m kind of thinking this will be the start of a series. This first one is a mysterious stranger story.

And off he goes on a tangent…

Actually, there’s sword and sorcery film kind of like it, now that I think about it, The Sword and the Sorceress (starring David Carradine), I have it on DVD somewhere, weird film, like a Fistful of Dollars, it’s based on Yojimbo. This blog post has gone in a fairly random direction, I was sure my story was original… but there are similar stories out there. However, as I’ve started planning, I know it’s going in a different direction, yes it’s a mysterious stranger story, but it’s not a single town, or two gangs at war with each other, it’s a multi-nation world, with many competing agenda’s – more like Yojimbo meets Game of Thrones maybe.

I’m now trying not psyche myself out, which is something I’ve done in the past. I had a great idea for a sci fi story where people could switch out bodies, in a world that’s like Facebook made real, people earned points for necessary work that couldn’t be done by robots, and got to spend the rest of the time at play, and some of the bodies they used got weird and wacky. Then a while later I learned a film was coming out called Surrogates which had many similarities, and I failed to explore it. Even more annoying Ready Player One then came out a couple of years later, and that had many similarities with what I’d started. No one wants to write someone else’s story, and so you move on.

Here’s the kicker though, I was a moron – it was a perfectly good story, it had a great moral core to it, drama and tension, and the opportunity to have fun and present a dark future. Having seen Surrogates, and read Ready Player One (not got round to watching the film yet), mine would have been different.

So, the plan for my current novel stays, I won’t over-analyse, or deviate from my vision – I have resolution for NaNoWriMo this year… and a blog post that deviated quite a bit, so let’s bring it back.

Back to the point

I’ve been creating maps, and Wikipedia like entries for each of the worlds, countries, and cities (the one’s that are likely to feature in my story anyway), and histories for all these things. I’m aiming to have a deep and rich, feeling inspired by my re-reading of the Dune series. Next up, I’ll start compiling my character lists, and then flesh out their details and backstories. Lastly, I’ll start pulling together timelines, one the history of the main world of my story, a wider history of the dimensions, and then the timeline of my story, of course with plenty of toing and froing along the way as ideas develop. By the time the 1st November rolls around I’ll have a deep guide to lean on.

I wanted to call out some of the tools I’ve been using to pull this world together, primarily Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator which is rich and immensely customisable, with great exports, including spreadsheets (and JL loves himself a spreadsheet or two)

Also Watabou’s Medieval Fantasy City Generator which can generate really detailed random and customisable city views

There’s been a few random name generators on the way so far, but I’ve been using those two a lot and wanted to do a post calling them out, and give other people the opportunity to utilise them.

Pre-NaNoWriMo 2013 Update

So, NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us, just days to go.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit it in later in the month. There’s a lot going on in my life, in most aspects of my life in fact.

Problem is, I need to keep challenges tough. In fact they need to be borderline unbeatable. That pressure I’ve found is absolutely necessary for me to win. Once 50,000 words was too much, now 100,000 looks easy. 150,000 should be doable, and 200,000 falls into the possible if I try hard category. Now, I know, or at least suspect that the level of effort I can put in is curtailed as I mentioned. So, I’ve thought really hard about how to challenge myself. Tiered targets, one of which is definitely borderline achievable, then the others taper off allowing for the shifting sands of fate upon my writing time.
Challenge 1) the most daunting, and potentially silly. Partly because I’m doing it to see if can beat someone, partly because even I don’t think it’s possible. The challenge is a day one win. 50,000 before midnight on first.

To make it easier, I have however booked the day of work, I’ll be going to bed early, and rising just in time for the 1st of November to officially start in the UK. I’ll probably have a 9am nap. It’s all perfectly possible if you get a strong start, and I’m sure knowing where I need to take those first 50,000 words will help.

Challenge 2) nice and simple, with two weekend days, but work on all the others, another 50,000 words by the end of the following 7 days.

Challenge 3) a final 50,000 by the 30th November.

All challenges are exclusive, so challenge 2 is 50,000 regardless of how many I manage to achieve in challenge 1,and challenge 3 is always 50,000 regardless of what I achieve in previous two tasks.

These are just word count challenges, I’ll find and/or steal challenges along the way, to keep it interesting and fun.

So now I’m done bragging about the size of my target, I should probably discuss something practical. I want to cover off preparation separately, and then there’s technology (a favourite post of mine), and I’d like to discuss what I’m planning to write. No, a far more urgent, (well brief and unimportant), is what I’ll do with my blog during this time.

I won’t be posting everyday, because I need to write fiction, not blogs, and a post every day would basically amount to “Woohoo, x thousand words!” or, alternatively, “Boohoo! X hundred or less words, this sucks!” Neither of which are that much fun, daily. A post the day after the challenges are due sounds fine for word counts, and self aggrandising.

If I post at other times, I’d like to focus on challenges I’ve faced in trying to achieve those targets, lessons learned, funny story, excerpts from the #nanoyorks chat room, because the people there, (the rare troll aside), are so fabulous and great. (Yes, I’m sucking up, but I’m not around much this year so have to do something to keep them liking me).

Right I should get back to planning, have a lovely climate controlled hotel room, no distractions for a few hours, and lovely tea. What more can a writer want for?

To anyone, and everyone taking part in this year’s NaNoWriMo, I wish you all the best, and good luck.

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.

Tools for NaNoWriMo 2012 (Writing)

As NaNoWriMo draws to a close I want to mention some of the tools I’ve used this year, and their pro’s and cons. I actually started this as a look ahead to what I would be using, but I got distracted by life and work, but I think it’s important.

This year I was hoping to not be caught in the Technology Trap™, (as happened last year). Now, as I can’t handwrite for toffee, I ended up caught right back in it. I decided that I wouldn’t do any writing on my phone this year, and concentrate purely on my computer. It meant fewer sync issues, and since I have a wonderfully touchable touchscreen laptop, I could use that for writing on the go, (space being limited on buses).

Unfortunately, last week I got hit by a lovely piece of Ransomware, that demanded money to unlock my desktop. Now me being hit by a virus is incredibly rare, despite not using virus scanners, other than Windows 7/8’s built in ones, I’ve not been afflicted by anything for a long long time. Worst I had was something that redirected my searches, and it was easily dealt with. I don’t even know how it got me, because I don’t do dodgy downloads any more, and the only sites I’d visited were for research this month, and the NaNo forums of course. Somewhere along the way, one of the pages I used for research must have gotten me. It doesn’t matter really, but it did rob me of two good days writing just when I needed them.

I fixed it, and it was time to carry on. I do want to use this story as a message though, back up often. If it had been something worse, and I lost my laptop for longer, or worst still it had done something to affect my files, (and I’m thinking of the documents my stories, and their preparation are kept in specifically), I would have been screwed. Back up often when you’re writing, whether it’s school/college/university work, or a story, or from your job. It doesn’t matter, it takes a few seconds to back something up occasionally  but it will save you pain and far more time later on, if something does go wrong.

Okay, back to the tools I’ve used this year, which has been a lovely mix of the digital, and the objects in the real world.

So, I’ll cover the digital orientated tools first:

  • Good old Netbook (currently the Dell Inspiron Duo, that transforms between a standard clamshell laptop and a tablet). Handy space saver, comfortable keyboard, with Windows 8, a nice big on screen keyboard, and it runs pretty fast.
  • Android Phone (currently the Samsung Galaxy S2, no physical keyboard sadly but on-screen keyboard solutions can empower word counts, plus camera and voice recording vital functions that can help a writer out)

I also have a tablet, however I choose to give that up this year. It’s filled with comics, and would have been easy to get distract by them.

Well that’s the electronic hardware for the software I’ve got another array of tools at my disposal that sit on my hardware:

  • Microsoft Word (PC) , hands down the best word processor by miles, for me anyway. It’s comfortable, and known, and stable – three absolutely vital features, I don’t want to be thinking about what I’m typing into when I’m trying to focus on writing.
  • Microsoft Excel (PC), I’m an Excel geek, I’ll openly admit that, I’m also terrible with numbers and mathematics ironically, so each year I use my Excel skills to track, analyse, and forecast as I go through NaNoWriMo. It works for me, so I’ll keep it going.
  • Microsoft OneNote (PC/Phone/Tablet), is handy tool for organising my research, all being well this year I’ll mostly just need to reference it, rather than spending a lot of time on research itself. Nice thing about Excel is that it’s available on all my devices.
  • QuickOffice (Phone/Tablet), is my home away from home. It gives me full word processing power on my phone, and limited spreadsheet functions. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best of what I’ve tried.
  • Box.com (PC/Phone/Tablet), has two purposes, it keeps me backed up, and allows me to access my writing from all my devices wherever I am. Plus it works directly with both Microsoft Word and QuickOffice so it’s convenient.
  • SimpleMinds Pro (Phone/tablet) – mind mapping software that has helped me organise my thoughts, and plot out new ideas.

Now, the electronic tools are great, and for obvious reasons they account for 100% of my word count, but not 100% of my creativity. Instead at least 20% of my creativity came from non-digital tools:

  • Pen and paper – the most obvious tools. I catch and store notes, write a couple of plans, experiment with an idea. Should I ever find myself completely destroyed by the Technology Trap™, I would drop to just this. I doubt I could do 100k of words in a month though.
  • Whiteboard and whiteboard pens (obviously) – I have two A4 white boards. I can scribble to my heart’s content, and nothing is permanent. Just wipe it off and do over. It’s also crazily invaluable when working with StoryCubes (see bellow).
  • StoryCubes – these deserve a post on their own. I love these little things, and if they’re something you think could help, I wholeheartedly recommend getting some. I want the other two packs. They help me break through parts where I’m stuck, and they help me develop entirely random plots.

Once upon a time, I would have just relied on writing, (whether pen and paper, or on a computer), and I never finished anything. I think I’ve gotten older, and five years of NaNoWriMo have helped me mature somewhat. I’m not a full planner, but the plans I do do, allow me to handle complex ideas, keep track of where I am, and where I’m going, and I don’t get stuck. I don’t get bored and wander off. Shiney things lose their lustre somewhat.

That’s technically not true, two of my NaNo novels are hanging this year, but they’ve not stopped, December will see a lot of work to plot out the specifics of their closing, and then actually writing it. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time plotting in the middle of the month. They will be finished.

These tools of course are what work for me, everyone is different, and I hope you find the tools that work for you.