Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Another New Novel(la)

Whilst my last novella is being read and edited by some dedicated friends, I decided not to let the grass grow under my feet and start writing the next book.

The version being edited, is a murder-mystery set in China and follows the trials of a hack called Harry Patterson, who gets into far more trouble than he'd expected when he investigates a regular story in Beijing. Fuck Off, Chip will be the first of a series of Harry Patterson novels to be written over the next few years. But in the meantime the new story is a change of pace and a departure from murder-mystery and into science fiction.

Writing Fuck Off, Chip taught me many things which should hopefully speed up the writing of Black & White. Things such as planning and not just writing into the air will at least give me a sense of direction; the established use of spreadsheets will help organize the story and its sections and having established that writing in small chunks using Q10 is better for focusing my mind and not getting bogged down in pages upon pages of text I now have the best tools for my job.

So on with the writing!!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Work tools

I wrote before about the tools used to write and about how I found using spreadsheets to be a great way of planning a book.

Well recently, I've been getting pretty fed up with my copy of X-numeric throwing up odd error messages, so I looked for new spreadsheet packages that would provide what I need for writing ie just give me columns and rows to write in. But, as you'd imagine most spreadsheets are designed to compete with Excel and provide more bells and whistles than I need.

Eventually I found Spread 32 a free, very small bare-bones spreadsheet on a copy of Floppy Office. It's even smaller than the one written by the people at Bye Design. I don't mind about the lack of color in the FO version but it's one limitation is that it only recognizes files in its own format. So I can't import old spreadsheets. But that's not a major hindrance and so long as this one keeps doing what I need it to I'll stick with it.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Is the end in sight?

Another 7,000 odd words and the end is getting closer. It still has a way to go but it feels stronger for the edits that were suggested  by friends.

Originally I wanted to leave it all hanging, like the final scene of the Italian Job (the original version, that actually took place in Italy!) but it did feel incomplete. So, I've compromised and wrapped it all up except for one little bit.

Now, it's time to get the red pen out and look through the whole thing before giving out to my friendly editors.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

New Header

After the feedback I received I've been busy making the edits. It's certainly been a challenge and if I'm honest I was aware of many of the faults, so these comments just kicked me in the pants.

But making these changes is tiring and often demoralizing, especially when I hit a brick wall. To get over the hump I write other things, a change of pace and a change of scene often does the world of good.

With that in mind here's one I knocked up earlier.

A Deists Dream

The Universe was not, as some would believe, a master stroke of engineering created by some divine being. It was a fluke: a one in an infinitesimal chance against. It made the chances of finding you're holding the winning the lottery whilst being charged by a herd of elephants in your high street, seem  pretty big. And then there's life, sentient living breathing rutting life.  You think that there's life on your cheese after it's been left in the fridge to become a hairy scrotum after a sweaty day playing rugby. Nope that's just mold, absolutely no chance of anything interesting happening there.

It basically takes, as any scientist will tell you,  a lot more luck than that.

Tuesday afternoon and our hero is bored, he's sitting through another lecture on the history of someone or other who did something really amazing. With a pad of paper on his lap and a clutch pencil in his hand he started to doodle. The lines flowing, like a melting glacier, that would etch their way into the papery fibers coating the micro-filaments with a gray powdery soot. By the end of the lecture. it's a mess of  assorted lines and shapes, nothing of any interest to him or future archaeologists. He tears the sheet of paper off the pad and shoves it deep into his jacket pocket.

The next day he finds himself sitting on a bus, going to meet some friends. It's a long journey and he hasn't got a book to read, so he shoves his hands in his jacket pockets and pulls  the collar up around his chin to ward off the biting cold.  Inside his pockets he finds the paper he'd drawn on the previous day, he looks at it, smiles and stuffs his hands back, hoping that the thin fabric will have some kind of curative effect on his circulation. He drifts off to sleep and dribbles slightly. Waking with a start he finds he's missed his stop, where is he? He panics momentarily. He's at the end of the line, miles away from anywhere. He gets off and waits for the next bus back.

Lunch the following day was lasagna and chips from the college canteen, he's all but forgotten about the paper that's still in the pocket of the coat he wore the previous night. The frost from the previous night, has melted, leaving his pocket slightly damp and smelling like his parents' wet Spaniel after a romp through a muddy field.

He wakes late, misses his lectures, drags on his clothes including the now musty jacket, he greets it like an old friend, shakes it and the paper and pencil fall onto the floor. Picking them up, he shoves them back into a pocket and heads out of the door. It's raining, the harsh wind drives it hard into his face, his coat wasn't designed for this, he wipes the spray from his eyes, hoping that his eyelashes will stay clear enough to cross the road. They don't,  and as he crosses the road he momentarily finds it odd that he's suddenly flying through the air when just as suddenly he lands on the cold wet tarmac. Muffled noises surround him and then silence.

His fish supper went cold that night. He wakes the next morning in a strange bed, and, except for the beeping machines complete silence. He tries to move, everything aches. He sees his clothes in the corner of the room. A nurse comes in, he asks for them. The black jeans have been torn and sliced, from the tarmac and the nurses' scissors; the jacket survived more or less intact. The paper and pencil are still in the pocket: battered but still working. He bites through the pain and draws more, adding more complexity to  Tuesday's doodle.

And there he leaves it. He closes the cover of his pad and darkness envelopes his etchings. Unknown to him, the water, the cold and collision with a car have created the perfect storm and a universe is created and our hero has become a God. In time this universe gives birth to sentient beings, but he doesn't know about them. 

Time passes and he grows older, the young man becomes a young father who becomes a middle aged parent before becoming a grandfather and finally an old man. Still unaware of the lives he kick-started all those years ago. He dies and his unknown legacy lives on, still foolishly worshiping a man who knew nothing of their existence neither knew nor cared. 

Monday, 3 October 2011

First Draft is Being Read

I've now handed a first draft of the book on to a couple of friends who's opinions I value. So far it's been very positive. Once I've made their changes I'll throw it out to a wider audience. 

This is important for a couple of reasons:
1. It's nice, if the reviews are positive, to have the ego massaged and I trust my friends to be honest and not spare my feelings.
2. It helps to untangle any messes that may have been unintentionally created.
3. In my case they also have knowledge about the area I'm wring about so they can provide specific information and added details to add extra realism.

So, now it's on with the rewrites!!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mind Mapping your way out of problem

I last mentioned that I was having problems getting to the bottom of my plot. I needed to know exactly why the plot was happening in the first place. The problem is I had all of these thoughts but no way of linking them together and expanding upon them.

So I turned to mind mapping, a simple technique to resolve any creative problem because it's basically a mind dump. Here's a précis of the techniques suggested by Tony Buzan in The Mind Map Book

1 The quick-fire Mind Map burst
Draw a stimulating central image on a large blank page. And for 20 minutes (no more) let ideas flow as fast as possible.

Take a break (to rest the brain)
2 First reconstruction and revision
Make a new Mind Map:
Identify the major branches or Basic Ordering Ideas, combining, categorising, building up hierarchies, finding new associations, and reconsidering in the context of the whole Mind Map any ideas that initially appeared 'stupid' or ‘absurd’.

3 Incubation
Go for a walk and relax.
Sudden creative realisations often come when the brain is in a relaxed, peaceful and solitary condition- perhaps when walking, running, sleeping or daydreaming.

4 Second reconstruction and revision
Do another quick-fire Mind Map burst to consolidate the results of this integration.
Consider all the information gathered and integrated in stages 1, 2 and 3 in order to make a comprehensive
Mind Map.

5 The final stage
Search for the solution, decision or realisation which was the original creative thinking goal.
Link disparate elements in the final Mind Map, leading to major new insights and breakthroughs.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A leaky plot

Not so much of colander more of bucket without a bottom. Whilst editing I've discovered a hole in the plot that desperately needs filling.

I knew it was there, but figured I'd just ignore it since solving it will take a lot of work and thinking. Let's face it it's more enjoyable to be writing and letting it flow and worrying about plot points later.

Now is later. Working through the revisions in my spreadsheet it's easier to see where the hole's are. The problem is I'm not sure how to fix this hole, maybe I'm also scared that the potential explanation will get out of control, so I'm self editing before I even write it.

Resolving this issue has now become my main priority!  Mind Maps here i come.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Writters Block

It's been a long time since I posted and there are many reasons excuses but the main reason was writers block. I'd written 17-18,000 words and had ground to a halt. I couldn't see how to move forward. The idea of painfully sitting and reading the whole thing with a red pen was excruciating. I did it for a while but Christ it was boring. I knew I needed a new approach if this was ever to move on.

I was reading Darcy Pattisons blog and somewhere she mentioned about spreadsheet editing and since I was messing around writing short stories and doing some e-book formatting in InDesign I needed another distraction.

Spreadsheet editing takes a series of columns labelled:

  • Section -  a number
  • Chapter - The chapter name or number. This includes several sections.
  • Purpose - Why is this section here what purpose does it serve
  • Time
    • Day
    • Time-of-day
  • Characters
    • Major
    • Minor
  • Setting  - In a living room in an office or wherever
  • Summary - I don't use this as a summary more of a place to keep all of the work that I've been editing. so it's the most up to date version of the novel
  • Follow Up - bits' that need to be researched websites, images etc.
I took my original draft and broke it down into sections and at last I had something I could look at in small chunks.

Once in the spreadsheet I tried to edit directly in there, but spreadsheets are crap for editing large amounts of text, despite working on a large widescreen monitor. So I went back to basics and copied the Summary text into Q10 which I keep on a USB flash drive with PortableApps installed.

And now because I'm only ever working in chunks of 500 or 1000 words  it's easier to see what I'm working on at any given time and therefore ensure that there are consistencies and because it's always in the spreadsheet I can see at glance that I've got the character names correct and should I need to move a scene around from one place to another I can.

So with things going again it's full steam ahead.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Keep plugging away

Well it's been a while since I updated this page  and nobody seems to be reading it so what the hell? Resistance is the worst thing that we face. It's easy to come up against resistance and not break through it. As a writer with a full time job and a 3 year old it's hard to find the time to actually do the writing.

So what have I done about it? Well over the last couple of weeks I've come across a couple of really good self help books, bear in mind that I can't normally read these things as they're full of unproven platitudes for the weak willed.  So what changed? The first one "Do the work" by Steven Pressfield tells you how to break through the resistance we all feel when doing any big project but the one piece of advice i found realy useful was from an interview he did where he told a writer to just write for 2 hours in one go, ignoring all else that is going around him and not self editing as he was doing it. I never managed the 2 hours but 90 minutes was enough to type 5000 words completely unedited. I'll worry about the editing at the end, the most important thing for me right now is to get the bloody novel written.

The other book is "59 seconds" a self help book with a difference, all of the techniques have been backed up by psychological research and will take you less than a minutes to do. Want to get creative do suduko or a word finder puzzle before hand and your sensisble side will be taken care of to let your creative side do the creating. Ok, so I'm paraphrasing but you get the point.

So push past the resistance and get writing

Friday, 11 March 2011

Time Management

As I settle into this writing lark and find that life without an office is a tough gig, after all there's no boss hanging over me making sure I do my work and don't play games and no threat of being fired if I look at porn all day. So how do I motivate my self?

 It may seem absurd but I just downloaded a Daily Schedule, and although I don't really like routine, it is something I need. Now at the end of each day or in the morning I print out a copy of this and scribble on it. I don't work to the 15 minute segments that it gives but I plan roughly what I'm going to do each hour, so today I ended with this:

There's time for writing, time for study, timer for making the dinner, tidying the house and other stuff. So let me  know how you manage your time.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Spent a couple of hours working on the short stories but somehow only wrote 100 or so words. It's hard to get going sometimes and I really have to force myself to work towards the the goal of getting these books published.

Being connected to the internet is one of the biggest distractions we as writers have and it's amazing what we'll find to look at when we're meant to be doing something useful. Today I was distracted by the following:
1. looking for a new keyboard
2. looking for ways not to get distracted, which found me on the NanWriMo website
3. reading the Write or Die website
4. a rather daunting list of how many words I need to write to call my book a novel, short story or whatever else.
5. Google reader with more links to more blogs than I realistically need.

But although it wan't much today, it was something. So whatever else you do today, sit in front of screen and keyboard and write something.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The beginning

Everybody has a novel in them or so I hear. Mine has been waiting to come out for sometime, rather like an overdue baby. This one, (or will it be twins?) has been gestating for at least 15 years and somewhere along the way, not only did it change gender but species as well.

Like many people I started and stopped and started again often without a plan or sense of direction. This fine if you can do it, but what I realised is that I can't. I need to plan out my novel in order to give it a sense of direction otherwise it simply runs out of steam.

But even before that I needed to get over my fear of rejection. I was afraid that once I had finished my opus I would get rejected by publishers and agents alike. Strange for someone who makes a living out of writing (I'm a copywriter) but there you go. And then I came across an interesting blog by Joe Konrath who, whilst being published by publishers, also makes a decent living out of self publishing his work on Amazon, so that's the route I'm going to take. Once complete this book will be professionally edited and have a decent book cover, I'm simply bypassing the unnecessary gatekeepers and going it alone.

So now I have two books on the go, one is murder mystery and the other is a collection of short stories about peoples' day dreams.

One of the problems with plotting is that it isn't writing, although it requires a lot of effort, so I have my book of daydreams on the go at the same time.

The murder mystery is getting plotted as I write and the characterisations are developing all the time, and when I need a break from thinking too much I just get on and write about the daydreams.

So for now, that's as far as I've got. I hope to complete writing these books by June and have them ready for release by September. So if anyone is reading this you'll be the first to know when they're available.

I'm going to keep writing.