Monthly Archives: February 2016

Progress Report: One Million Words, February 2016

This month I’ve written 20,028 words, with an average of 690.6 words per day. This is a slight decrease compared to January, but I’ve had a fair few days over 1,000 words – and others down around the 300 words mark.

My current total is 154,823/1,000,000, or 15.5%.

That’s about two novels worth since July, though it’s largely been in short stories and attempts at them, and different versions and chapters of Kell’s Adventures.

This month, after I finished writing the latest version of Kell’s Adventures chapter 1, I took a little time to be indulgent. First I spent a few days writing a silly time travel story involving warning people about the imminent sinking of the Titanic (can you guess what I’d been watching documentaries about?) It was fun, but I had no plan.

Since then I’ve been writing fanfiction, as outlined in my recent post Delving back into fanfiction. But as I stated in that post, I wasn’t willing to dedicate more time to it than this month. That has now come to an end. Maybe on days I’m stuck I’ll jump back into it for a day or two, but for the time being I’m focusing on bigger things.

While I was writing that story, I was working on another: Horrible Monster. I’ve been working out the plot, the characters, the connections and the motivations. I bought a notebook so I could work on it while I’m not at home, because carrying around a PC is a little tricky, especially in a handbag that can only barely fit my Kindle. So I’ve made some progress, worked out a few bits I wasn’t sure about, thought about what I wanted the ending to be and how to get there, played around a bit with the world.

Tonight I started writing it. I dare say the title – and the nickname of the eponymous thief – will change. That’s an element which goes right back to the dream where the whole story started, and is now one of only two surviving elements from that dream (the other being the core element: a law enforcer chasing down a thief). Anyway, I finally got one more thing worked out and was ready to begin, so rather than mess around any more with the fanfic, I thought it best to dive right in, and I’m fairly happy with the result. Might need trimming down a bit, but the essence is there.

The plan for now is to continue working on Horrible Monster for as long as it takes. This is a novel-length story and now I’ve got things sorted out I want to capture it while I can. Assuming 80,000 words when it’s finished, and February’s rate of writing, it should take me 116 days – a little under 4 months. Of course, that ignores possible blips, days when I’m struggling and write something else instead, or move over to another story entirely for a week or three. But even with that, it’s something I should be able to manage by the end of summer.

In the meantime, yesterday I came across an opportunity for writers living in the west midlands (or possibly just the West Midlands, with capital W and M – the county rather than the region – in which case I’m not eligible, as I’m in Shropshire) to be featured in a radio show or podcast. I sent off the Dragonbane story I wrote before Christmas, since I’ve always felt it’s better spoken than read. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be asking my lovely fiance Matt to read it aloud and I’ll soundcloud it for all to listen to. If it does work out, I’ll probably take some time out from Horrible Monster to write more short pieces – or try writing them alongside HM.

So for March it’s likely to be a lot of Horrible Monster progress. Kell’s Adventures is taking a back seat at the moment. My passion for the project has dried up rather. More thought needed.

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Review: The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Usually I stick to fantasy on this blog, with occasional forays into historical fiction and science fiction. I’m making an exception for this book. Partly because I really just want to talk about how awesome it is, and partly because I read it as part of my attempts to read more books written by local authors – Shropshire authors.

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah tells the story of Ivo, a terminally ill 40-year-old looking back through his life as part of a game suggested for him by Sheila the nurse at the care home where he now lives. It’s a life of fun, regret, love, pain, friendship and crochet. As time runs out, Ivo uses the A to Z game to put things back together before it’s all too late.

a-z of you and me

Continue reading Review: The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Delving back into fanfiction

While I’ve been working on getting my notes together for Horrible Monster, I’ve been back writing fanfiction. I started this particular story – The First Mallrat, set in the world of teen apocalypic sci fi series The Tribe – several years ago but haven’t worked on it since 2009. I’ve been rewatching the series lately so picked the story up again, and it’s been fun. I’ve added two more chapters to the above linked story and have another almost ready to upload and a fourth started.

I’m really enjoying getting back into this world. The Tribe is a great series, for all that it’s very much a product of its time, and in the first episodes at least a product of the inexperience of the child actors performing in it. It’s also a powerful series, dealing with several issues that teenagers could well face – including sex, bulimia, bullying, depression, brainwashing, and simply trying to survive in a world the characters struggle to understand. The Tribe is full of great characters working together in spite of differences.

For me, writing fanfiction is an indulgence. It’s fun, there’s no pressure, and I get nearly instant feedback from a very small but dedicated audience. Since I’m writing the story in a serial format, I’m not worrying about an ending, or building up to a climax, or any of that. I’m just looking at where things stand and seeing where I can go from there, sometimes taking into account the parallel canon events in the show and at other times taking my key characters off in another direction entirely.

That freedom is one of the main attractions of fanfiction. The world and the characters are pre-made, so there’s no need to spend any time making notes and developing these elements, you can just pick up where you like and run with it, adding characters and elements of the world as needed or desired. It allows you to focus on the story, the character relationships and the actual writing, and to jump right into all that straight away.

One of the things I find most beneficial about writing fanfiction is that it helps me to learn how to depict characters. This is perhaps something that works best when writing fanfiction of a visual medium, like a TV show or film. I can see the way a character, like say, Lex, acts on screen. He’s brash, he speaks up whenever he has an opinion, he interrupts, he has a confrontational tone a lot of the time. I can hear the way he speaks on screen, and when I write him even though the scenarios are different I can hear his voice clearly in my head. When I am writing character interactions in fanfiction, I am interpretting what I see on screen and translating voice patterns, mannerisms and body language onto the page.

With my own characters in my original fiction, I don’t have that on-screen version to copy from, but having copied from them for the fanfic, I know what I need to consider – the way they speak, the words they use, how they stand, how they interact with others within a conversation.

But there’s also cause to be wary with fanfiction. Much as I am enjoying working on The First Mallrat again, it cannot last. It’s not serious writing. It’s a fun interlude, but it is not and cannot be my main focus. It keeps me writing while I spend time thinking, but before too long it must be set aside once more in favour of a story with a future. Fanfiction can never be more than a fun few chapters posted online for fans of the world to enjoy. Creating my own worlds is my priority, and I can’t let the fun of fanfiction distract me from it. Not that my own stories aren’t fun, but there’s a lot more effort that goes along with that fun.

Here’s my deadline: the end of this month. One more week. That should be long enough for me to finish the current chapter, and it should be long enough for me to have worked out enough of the things that need to be worked out in Horrible Monster for me to make a start writing it. Play time is over, it’s time to get back to work.

Review: The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross

After reading The Fire Mages at the end of last year, I was eager to read more from Pauline M Ross, and I picked for my next read the sequel to that one, starring as its protagonist Kyra’s daughter, Drina.

Drina is a rather sickly girl with a strong attachment to her mother, so when she is summoned by the Drashona (equivalent to a queen) who wishes to assess whether she would make a suitable heir, Drina isn’t too happy about it. Drina finds herself trained as a diplomat, and in this role meets with the new living god of the Blood Clans – a mysterious people possessing a strange and threatening type of magic. When Bennamore goes to war with the Blood Clans, Drina must protect those she cares about and see through the complications to bring about peace.

fire mages daughter

Continue reading Review: The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross

2016 reading update

I’m definitely on track for my reading goal of 26 books this year. After five weeks, to be on track I need to have read two books and be about half way through a third. I’ve read four and have started the fifth, putting me nearly two books ahead of schedule. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

  • Cadfael: Monk’s Hood, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  • Cadfael: St Peter’s Fair, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  • Key Under Blue Pot and Please Milk the Goat, by Marie Sever
  • Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  • (Just started:) Cadfael: The Leper of St Giles, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)

I blogged about the first two, and enjoyed them so much I wanted to get back to Cadfael again. My lastest book selection was also inspired by my decision to make a Cadfael doll to donate to my local library for their upcoming grand raffle – a local literary figure makes a great library prize.

Key Under the Blue Pot was an amusing, fast-paced diary-style novel about a house sitter and her many adventures with the houses, pets and neighbours of her clients. I read it because it’s by a local author, and includes some local settings, and I am glad I did because I enjoyed it a lot.

Rebecca blew me away. It’s something I’ve had a cultural awareness off for years, and after a recommendation as part of a conversation online I borrowed it from the library. Utterly compelling, with such a vivid depiction of the protagonist’s personality. I plan on seeing the Hitchcock film adaptation soon, and I think I’ll pick up some more of du Maurier’s books soon too.

I’ve got a few options for what to read next, including another book by Pauline M Ross, whose book The Fire Mages I recently reviewed, and several books on my shelves, including Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, which I still haven’t got to and really should. Also I’m eager to continue the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. We’ll see what I feel like when I finish The Leper of St Giles.

Progress Report: One Million Words, January 2016

It’s been a busy month in January. I got a second part-time job and I have booked a table at this year’s Christmas fair to sell crocheted gifts and decorations, so I’ve had a lot to be getting on with besides writing. Still, I’ve kept with it and written every day.

I’ve written 22,881 words in January, for an average of 738 words per day.

My current total is 135,225/1,000,000, or 13.5%.

Continue reading Progress Report: One Million Words, January 2016