Daily Flash Fiction Challenge: An update

For the past few years I’ve done my best to maintain a work life balance. I’ve worked hard to be fast and efficient at my job so I’m able to fit more into my working day, limiting the amount of work I have to do outside of working day.

However, this new year has been getting busier and busier at work. My to do list will soon make me look like a short arse in comparison, (and I’m six foot four). Ultimately this has led to my work-life balance going a bit out of kilter, in favour of work. Lots of hours, and when I’m not working, I’m mentally exhausted.

It’s why I’ve gotten behind on writing again, and it’s annoying. I know I’ll catch up, but it’s a blow when I’m trying really hard to write everyday. And it’s not like I don’t have time, it’s that after a long day I don’t have the words. I write what i can, and that’s usually at least something each day, so when I come to catch up, like tonight for instance, I can follow through on the idea I had.

It’s not going to get better until Spring is gone either, but I’m not surrendering the challenge, I just have to acknowledge that some days I’ll miss target, some days I’ll have to double and treble and quadruple up, and realise that’s okay.

So for those that read my blog, (hey, lovely to have you here), bear with me, eventually normal service will resume.

P.S. Yes, in the time I’ve taken to write this I could have caught up – but no one’s perfect.

P.P.S. To those that balance writing everyday with work, university, zoo keeping child rearing, and what not – you have my full respect. You do amazing things.

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 2010 – End of Week 1

Well week one has come and gone, and what a tough week it has been. I had a sudden and complete lack of inspiration for the start of the week. So I spent three days casting about for ideas, and had some great ones, but none I could get into. Very frustrating.

All was not lost, Wednesday I finally had a breakthrough, and got some notes written about a new idea. Thursday I finally started writing, and off we go. Except it didn’t turn out that way as life kept interfering. All was not lost, went to the NaNoWriMo Leeds Write-In on Saturday, and churned out a few thousands words. Great stuff… and then the next obstacle, I came down with an horrendous headache on Saturday night, which progressed into a slight case of death Sunday (aka manflu – aka a head and chest cold).

So the truth is, week one is an unmitigated disaster, and i’m still ill. However if I can get to 20,000 words by Saturday night, I reckon I’ll still be in with a chance.

It does feel a bit like last year though, but all I can do is perservere. Its another great idea for a story, though possibly given the plethora of superhero origin stories and such, maybe slighlty redundant, but I trust as the story unfolds it will give a new perspective on that kind of universe.

I’ll talk a bit more about NaNoWriMo, just wanted to get my first official post done, and concentrate on my story a bit.

Here We Go Again…

I never meant for there to be so long between chapters, however, I kind of got stuck, so much going on in life.  Of course work is the biggest drain on my creativity, but as I’ve mentioned before, it pays the bills, so has to come first.

However, there is a new first, and that is my beautiful niece Phoebe, born two weeks ago today. She’s amazing – well amazing probably isn’t the most accurate description so far she’s learned to sleep, poop, and cry, but who knows what she’ll be doing this time next week.

Also, I have a pretty significant problem which interferes with my ability to write for any length of time. I started with carpal tunnel syndrome a few weeks ago, it was, and still is, really bad in my left hand, however now my right hand has all the symptoms too. I know have tubigrip covering both my arms in an effort to find release.

Carpal tunnel snydrome kind of caught me by surprise, I never thought i’d feel pain like this – even know as I type everytime I stretch to hit a key the pain is there, but ther are times when its excrutiating, especially at night. I’ve known people that suffered, and heard of plenty more – but I always figured it was constant discomfort rather than pain.

It does mean the limited time, and energy I have in my life for writing his decreased considerably, because I can literally only write during times the pain isn’t so bad.

I’m not giving in though, in a couple of chapters time, Memoirs of a Space Corsair is really going to take off, and get into the exciting adventures in space, and I fully intend to enjoy it.

Meanwhile, while the muse is with me, and I’m able to write I’m trying to get as much of chapter five done as I can, since its a day off work today, but back tomorrow.

Being Creative Isn’t Easy…

Being creative isn’t easy, writers block just won’t let me go – I get a small amount of joy and then it is gone. Distractions do not help, so many things in my life deflect my attention to the important things. Unfortunately in life we must weigh up the importance, so work is rated higher than writing – because if I don’t earn a living, I’ll not be able to write anyway.

That said, I’m trying to reclaim some of my life, trying to close off massive projects at work, thus freeing up my time, and my mind outside of work, however as with all things in business, available resources are filled as immediately as they become available. A frustrating situation – however one that should not be moaned about truly, as I said I need to earn a living, and there are unfortunately many people far far worse (by a severe magnitude), than myself for whom lack of work is a significant part of their lives, and writing is far from their immediate concern.

We western writers have it so hard don’t we?

An unfortunate thing about writing in the grand scheme of things its relatively worthless, compared with the realities of living. However, the worth of simple joy is not necessarily measured by normal merits of survival, but surely without joy, we may as well not bother to survive.

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.

Block Breaking

In the words of Shirley Manson (of Garbage), "My head explodes, and my body aches," why? Because I’m trying to overcome writers block, and it takes a lot out of me. Its akin to smashing my head against a brick wall for hours at a time.

Why would anyone put themselves through that? Is it worth being a writer if you are not very good at it, and in fact can not write a blessed thing? It is without a doubt a masochistic tendency of writers to try and write through writers block. However it is worth it.

What I’m trying to do at the moment is warm up to NaNoWriMo, I’m taking on the insane challenge of entering twice this year. Two targets of 50,000 words – which I’m definitely capable of achieving, but only if I write. Indeed daily its a requirement of about 4,000 words (with room for creative breaks).

So banging my head against a brick wall ia just warm up, next month I’ll be peddling a bike at twenty miles per hour into brick walls, and clinging on for dear life in the hopes I don’t get knocked off in the process.

I’m confident though, because despite the block, the ink is flowing. It might only be hundreds of words a day, but clearly that its any words per day after struggling with none is a great thing.

Bring on the impossible challenges. Speaking of which, throughout November, to help push myself I’m going to be giving myself little challenges, characters, and scenarios to include in the stories I write. There are already some over at NaNoWriMo.org: York & Leeds for my region. Will keep you posted on how that goes, and feel free to suggest challenges at me, the more the merrier.