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.

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.

Daily Flash Fiction: The Early Conclusion

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.

Genesis 1:31

And the writer saw everything he had written, and behold, he saw 14 grammatical errors, 27 spelling mistakes, 5 plot inconsistencies, and 3 unbelievable truths

Jonathan L. Lawrence, May 2013

 

Hands up if anyone noticed I’d not posted in a month? Well I noticed, and it was very annoying, because it means I’m really really quite far behind on my daily flash fic posting. So far behind that it’s gotten to a month and a half, (well 44 days to be precise). I’m never going to catch that up, because I don’t think I can commit to daily stories at the moment. It’s never been my style, I’m not a short story writer. Well despite 135 short stories to the contrary.

That said, I am really proud of some of them, yes they all need a lot of work – the challenge was not to edit and just keep posting, but there are some real gems in there.

And since I’m very fond of stats, I’ve had a look at some for this challenge:

105,168 words written (in story only)

796 average story length

Here’s some graphs, because I love a good graph. The first shows my words per day, and a moving average word count. It shows I was gradually getting shorter in length, which was a goal of the challenge, so that’s something positive to take away:

From Word Usage

The second is just for my interest really, I like seeing an accumulative word count. Of course with a limit of 1,000 words maximum, and for most of the challenge a minimum of 500 it was pretty much guaranteed to run a relatively straight line, but it’s nice to see all the same:

From Word Usage

Aside from getting bogged down in distractions, apathy, and writer’s block, I’ve enjoyed the challenge for the most part. And it’s succeeded in several ways, such as having the chance to try new things, practice things I’ve never been particularly good at, writing with a little more abandon. It’s also given me ample opportunity to see where my skills are weakest in the fundamentals, (spelling and grammar that I simply don’t get).

It’s also more words than I’ve written outside of NaNoWriMo since I started doing NaNoWriMo, and probably from before then too.

I’m not done though, although I won’t be trying to keep up with 365 short stories in a year, I am going to post the occasional short story – to keep my eye in for next year, to give me a break from other projects, and to simply test out an idea I’ve got bouncing round in my head.

In the meantime I’ve got two pretty big story ideas, neither of which will be saved for NaNo, I want to write them now. I’m in a planning phase at the moment with brain storms and notes scattered all around. I’ve decided which one I’m going to write first, though I’ve written a few lines, (the proverbial foothold in enemy territory of the plain white page), I’m mostly writing out the back story. It’s a fantasy piece and it requires a good backing mythos to really work.

I’ll get you next time, Gadget. Next time!

Surprise! I’m a writer!

Why surprise? Well I’ve surprised myself, we’re now two months into this writing challenge, and I’ve not stopped.

I wasn’t entirely convinced I’d stick with it, but I have this far. There’s still 298 stories to go, but it’s been a good start.

There’s a lot going on in my life, which has served as quite the distraction. I’ve missed one day – ironically on the least distracting of days. There’s been a fair few days where writing has been last minute.
I should offer a word on quality, or lack thereof – the challenge is to write, not edit. The only editing I’m doing is to trim the word count to fit in my maximum of one thousand words. It’s not always pretty, but it’s creative.

Well kind of creative – there’s probably twenty ways to armageddon the world. Pleasantly, sometimes bitter sweetly, occasionally tragically it’s been a lot more than destroying the world, I like to think I’ve got some genuine drama, emotion, and fantasy in there.

I’m going to be making a list of goals – stories and styles that are off the beaten track for me. Things I might not be good at, but are a stretch.

I’m also going to launch a separate but related challenge to edit two stories a week. Two of the Daily Flash Fiction Challenge stories, just seem spelling, grammar, flow editing, maybe do some rewrite to clarify what I intended. Otherwise the main rules of the Daily Flash Fiction Challenge, 500 to 1,000 words, a self contained story, not just a series of chapters.

Anyway the upshot is I’m writing and enjoying it. Which puts me in a good place.

Here’s to writing.

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

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.