Monthly Archives: October 2015

Almost ready for NaNoWriMo

Earlier this month I considered attempting NaNoWriMo. As the month has progressed I have become more and more certain I would try it. This post is therefore to declare my intentions: I am definitely attempting it. After hitting the 50,000 words mark in my writing since July on Sunday last week, it seems apt to try to double that at the time of the year when tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are making the commitment to write.

Over the last few days I have started to make preparations. I’ve put the main Kell story aside for the time being in favour of background stories to help me get a better grasp of the characters. So far I have not, as I had planned, gone into the other characters in Ekan’s crew, but I have gotten a better grasp on Kell’s history over the last ten years. I’ve also been busy making notes and filling out the world. Characters have new names and basic descriptions, regions are better defined, I’ve got a few more locations, and I’ve sorted out a linguistic framework (which is partly why some character names have been changed).

There are now two days remaining until NaNoWriMo begins, and though I’ve covered a lot of ground in preparation, I’ve still got more work to do.

  • I feel that the first chapter lacks a hook and an early conflict, so I’m hoping a prompt or dare (from the Fantasy Dares thread in the NaNo forums) might give me some ideas for that.
  • My outline for the second chapter remains very vague. There will be a storm, and character relationships and interactions will play a part in the arc, but aside from that I’m unsure. Again, I might need to add another element, perhaps an old grudge between two of the characters that comes to the fore as a result of the circumstances. Maybe I’ll write the story of the source of that old grudge today or tomorrow.
  • While the third chapter is pretty much decided at this point, after that I have nothing. Again, dares and prompts may be what I need to get things moving there, but it does worry me. The first three chapters won’t get me past 20,000 words tops, probably more like 15,000, so I will definitely need some more ideas. I’ll go hunting for them over the next two days, and on into November, and keep a record of what they are in my NaNo Resources spreadsheet (where I’ve also listed possible character names).
  • Linked to my chapter 2 problem, besides Kell and Ekan, and to a certain extent Meyri (who has been renamed Merdrig), my knowledge of the characters is quite limited. Writing background stories in the last two days of this month (and perhaps ongoing into November) will help, so I’m going to push in that direction.
  • Locations. I’ve done a bit on the places certain characters are from, but beyond Waytown (which appears in chapter 1, and is where Merdrig is from) and an as-yet unnamed village a few days south of Waytown (which features in chapter 3) I’ve got nothing. Googling the bronze age and stone age landscapes of various regions – Brittany, perhaps, since it’s the inspiration for the names and culture for the region around Waytown – might give me some ideas beyond just a string of villages and towns. Hopefully those locations can help with further ideas for chapters 4 and onwards.

To get all that done, I’ve got a few hours this evening after work, and a few hours tomorrow. I can of course continue working through those issues into November, until such time as they become critical, and I will do that, but I will want to focus on meeting the 1,667 words per day target as a priority.

I’ve read advice that aiming for a higher target, such as 2,000 words a day, is a good idea. It gives a buffer in case of bad days, and can help towards not just meeting the 50,000 word goal but flying on right past it. So I’ll see if I can manage that, at least for the first week. Background stories might just help me towards that.

All going well, I should end up with between six and ten chapters of this story completed in first draft by the end of the month. My intent for December will then be to tidy up the earlier chapters and continue writing more. Hopefully come January I will be ready to start posting them here on my blog for you to read.

Progress report: One Million Words, week 15

This week I have written a total of 2,467 words. This includes 13 haiku written across six days – I didn’t manage one on Friday.

That’s 352 words a day on average.

In the last 15 weeks I have written just over a NaNo novel’s worth of words – my total is now 50,043/1,000,000, or 5.0% I am now one twentieth of the way to my overall goal. Hopefully it’ll take me a lot less time to double that, as I will be attempting NaNo next month, starting next Sunday.

Continue reading Progress report: One Million Words, week 15

Progress Report: One Million Words, week 14

I have written 2,208 words this week, which is low compared to other weeks, but still something. This has included some haiku, which I have continued to practice since Wednesday’s workshop.

My total is 47,576/1,000,000, or 4.76%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 481 words (Damnatio Memoriae)

Tuesday: 445 words (Damnatio Memoriae)

Wednesday: 211 words (27 on haiku, 184 on Damnaio Memoriae)

Thursday: 33 words (haiku)

Friday: 153 words (Damnatio Memoriae)

Saturday: 406 words (Kell ch2 storm)

Sunday: 479 words (Kell ch2 storm)

Continue reading Progress Report: One Million Words, week 14

Exploring Haiku: Shine Your Light

I have just got home from a workshop held at my local library about haiku, led by local poet Bethany Rivers. The session was called Shine Your Light, linking in to the theme of light which was chosen for this year’s National Poetry Day, which was on October 8th 2015 (last Thursday). In Sunday’s One Million Words update, I said I wanted to take part in rejuvenating activities this week, and this haiku workshop was definitely rejuvenating.

Continue reading Exploring Haiku: Shine Your Light

Progress Report: One Million Words, week 13

This week has seen even more of a slow down. I’ve written 2,867 words this week, which averages at just 410 words a day. So this week at least I’m back at the same kind of level that I was in the first few weeks.

I’ve written a total of 45,368/1,000,000 words, or 4.54%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 316 words

Tuesday: 268 words

Wednesday: 826 words

Thursday: 455 words

Friday: 616 words

Saturday: 169 words

Sunday: 217 words.


This week I’ve started to feel that it’s time for a holiday. I haven’t had a day off, a complete day off, in a while. I’ve been doing extra shifts at work, babysitting once or twice a week in the evenings, taxiing for my fiance for his job, visiting friends two hours away, running errands and all sorts without a day just doing nothing in weeks, or indeed a day just chilling with more local friends.

I’ve been writing every day for 85 days now, and it’s been less difficult to do that that I anticipated, but even that is starting to wear.

I don’t mean to break my streak, but perhaps spending a few days writing something else, something perhaps more whimsical or in a different style – maybe even poetry (this idea prompted by my local library, which on Wednesday is hosting a poetry writing workshop with a focus on haiku, which I think would be interesting) – might give me the break I need. Combined with taking the time at least one day in the next week just to maybe have a short autumn walk and drink hot chocolate and have a bubble bath and other such relaxing and rejuvenating things.

The Story

Rejuvenating activities may well help my writing too. I’ve struggled with it this week, and not just because of the feeling of needing a holiday. At the start of this week I crossed out pretty much everything I wrote the week before, and then on Friday I realised that everything I’d written so far this week might need crossing out too. I wasn’t quite happy with chapter 2 of the Kell story, and subsequently with how chapter 3 happens, so I went back to where the trouble began, which turned out to be earlier than I had realised, and pin-pointed the problem, which was how Kell acted for one pivotal decision. It was a decision she should have protested, but didn’t.

But then what came out of the new version was something I felt lacked structure or conflict. And the realisation that I’d set up something that I’d failed to follow through with – a subplot I’d forgotten about – left things even worse.

At this stage I wonder if the general idea for chapter two should be held back, set aside, given time to stew, and a new plot should be substituted, something I can better use to get into the characters’ heads and establish their relationships and the general group dynamic – and how the addition of Kell and Meyri, and the removal of another character, as well as the addition of three years of experience and maturity and settled living has changed the group dynamic compared to the group last time they were travelling. I could try a group dynamics plot for chapter two, then put my solving a village’s problem plot into chapter three. Then with the benefit of a better grasp of group dynamics and the leader of the group, Ekan, in particular, I could maybe manage the original chapter three as the new chapter four.

This weekend I have written different things, mostly to give myself time to think. I will need, at the very least, a solid Monday, a productive Monday, to even know where things stand; possibly a few days, also, to think some more. (Mondays, it seems, are good days to make progress. I tend to do research and studying in the mornings – I’m currently signed up to an interesting FutureLearn course about the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean. This leaves me with sense of being productive, and fresh knowledge and ideas to inspire the writing process. A good Monday can set me up all week.)

Yesterday I wrote the start of a backstory piece on Kell. I wasn’t happy with it. I set myself up to fail; I was unproductive all day, in my PJs til about 3pm, and babysitting in the evening. I didn’t write before babysitting, even knowing the kid in question has no firm bed time and is more energetic than I can really bear over four hours. I got my notebook out at half past eleven, and didn’t write a word til ten to twelve.

Today I determined to write before Downton Abbey at 9pm. And again, I whiled away rather too much time. I’d already decided I wasn’t going to be working on the Kell story. So with 7 minutes to go, I just picked a playlist, put on my headset, and set a timer on my phone. What I came out with was about music and dancing and prejudices, or at least had the seeds of being about that. Maybe it could go somewhere, I don’t know.

Take away points

  1. Next week I’m taking time out from the Kell story to try some different things. And I’m going to feed those different things with some rejuvenating experiences too – and some wider reading and researching. I’m signed up to get emails from Daily Science Fiction, but there’s now dozens in my inbox I haven’t read yet, so that could be a good start.
  2. I need to have a proper think about this Kell story. There’s something there but I’m not into the characters enough. I’ll have to think of something for a group dynamics plot for a chapter, and maybe work on some short stories about each of the characters in the group – including the one that’s left.
  3. It is clear that my feelings about real life impact my ability to write. I need to take care of myself, mentally and emotionally, if I want to be a productive writer. That means not getting run down, taking time to do different things every once in a while, and taking the time to have a day off from doing anything too.

A Year for More Reading: update

I have been reading more this year, as planned, though until now I’ve been rather lax about the recording of it. Having just completed a book, I thought now would be a good time to update, and find out just where I am when it comes to that 26-book target.

Here’s the list of books I have read (as far as I can remember, by checking my bookshelf and my Kindle):

  1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
  2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C S Lewis
  3. The Surgeon’s Mate, Patrick O’Brian
  4. The Ionian Mission, Patrick O’Brian
  5. Treason’s Harbour, Patrick O’Brian
  6. The Liar’s Key, Mark Lawrence
  7. The Bloodline Feud, Charles Stross
  8. The Trader’s War, Charles Stross
  9. The Revolution Trade, Charles Stross
  10. The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett
  11. Star of the Sea, Joseph O’Connor

As for non-fiction, I’ve read bits of a few but not got all the way through any, or even most of the way, so there’s nothing to list. Must do better. I suspect I might be reading more acadmically-written books, and finding them rather dense, so might see what I can manage in books written more for a general audience.

So that’s 11/26, if you count the books I said I wasn’t going to count because they’re by my favourite authors. I’ve changed my mind about that; I’m counting them. In my defence, I could count the three Charles Stross books as six, which is how they were originally published, but I’m not.

Eleven books may well be more than I read last year. I’ve got the twelfth lined up, freshly picked up from the library yesterday.

I’m glad I read Star of the Sea. It’s given me insight into a period of history I was previously ignorant of, and it is incredibly well written. The style used is that of the “true crime” genre, though the story is fictional, with a character of an author who claims to have put the disparate parts of the narrative together – captain’s log, letters, diary entries, recollections, witness statements and so on. It’s one of these books that leads you to draw certain conclusions while carefully sowing the seeds of truth where they might easily be missed. The key characters are complex and nuanced.

The book I picked up from the library yesterday is The Genesis Secret by Tom Knox, which I look forward to starting later this afternoon.

If I am to reach the 26 planned books by the end of December, now less than three months away, I’ll have to read more quickly. I don’t think I will reach 26, though perhaps I might manage 18. Still, an improvement on last year. I’ve also been reading more short stories too, though I can’t remember those so easily. Maybe I’ll start making records of that too.

Progress report: One Million Words, week 12

This week I’ve slowed own a little. 3,568 words. It’s been a busy week, not necessarily in terms of work (I’ve only had my standard two shifts this week), but in other things. My fiance got a job and has been doing lots of overtime, and I’ve been the taxi for him since he doesn’t drive. I’ve been helping my brother with something – he’s just started a university course via distance learning and isn’t used to things like formatting documents and putting references into assignments. Then, with my fiance at work, I’ve had to take on the bulk of the housework. And yesterday we went to visit friends a couple of hours away.

That sounds like an excuse, but it’s not. I still managed to write every day, even if it wasn’t as much as last week. It is, perhaps, a reminder that I cannot increase my output week on week without occasionally dipping down again.

I am now at 42,501/1,000,000 words total or 4.25%.

Day by day summary

Monday: 277 words

Tusday: 219 words

Wednesday: 1,121 words

Thursday: 487 words

Friday: 368 words

Saturday: 508 words

Sunday: 588 words

Analsysis/The story

Aside from Tuesday – when I was writing away from home, and thus in my notebook rather that at my PC – I have continued working on the Kell serial chapter 2. It has become far longer than I anticipated, though there’s room for cutting. The simple matter of characters going and doing a thing and solving a problem grew a little beyond my original plan for it, and I found an organic way of introducing the key magical element of the story in a manner that is far better than previous attempts within the story. However, that introduction to an element is what is taking up a lot of words. I may seek to find a way to end the chapter earlier, with the problem it was setting up solved, and the events of the third chapter following on directly with the consequences of chapter 2’s solution revealing the magical element. I’ll have to see how it works, but for now I’ll just keep going until I find a good enough place to take a break.

In terms of when I’ve written the most this week, it’s nothing new. The days I’ve been busiest, I’ve written least. The day I wrote longhand I wrote very little indeed, but spent as long on it as any other day. The day I had pretty much free and clear and set aside a couple of hours earlier in the day for writing, I managed a lot more words.

Take away points

  1. Last week and earlier this week I attempted to introduce a key story element too early, but quickly realised my error and corrected it. Now I’ve found the right time for it in the story, it’s working organically and flows well. So it pays to let myself try something and delete it the next day if it wasn’t working.
  2. I write verbosely. A chapter I had imagined to be 5,000 words long is now over 10,000 words (albeit at least 1,000 words of that is crossed out, struck through, not to be used). I already knew I was quite wordy in my writing, but this seems to be doubly true when I don’t have much of a plan. Editing this will be a lot of work.
  3. Given the above, I wonder if I’m cut out for short form stories. I think I work best when there is space to expand, but I shall have to practice keeping things tight if I want to keep wordcounts for individual stories down. I do already read some short stories, but perhaps I need to read more, and more critically.