Tag Archives: challenge

Progress Report: One Million Words, Autumn 2016

I’ve been a bit lax on updates lately, but I’m here to catch up now.

My current total is 307,504/1,000,000, or 30.8%. So I’m nearly a third of the way there now. Since my last update some time ago, I have written:

  • September: 13,776 words
  • October: 14,822 words
  • November: 15,812 words
  • December until the 10th: 3,195 words

The Story

Over the last three and a bit months, I’ve worked on a range of stories, including time travel fanfiction (that’s not a typo where I missed a comma, that’s a fanfiction involving a time travelling character from the modern world ending up on a British naval hired vessel in 1813; followers of my reading updates can guess exactly which ship that might have been), preparatory stories to help me get into the world and characters of Kell and Atoni, and my NaNoWriMo project, Kell & Atoni.

It is this latter which I wish to talk about.

It’s crap. I restarted it in the middle of November (don’t worry, I still counted the words I’d written). And I’m not happy with the restart either. I’ve been trying to work out why that might be today, and I think I have an answer: lack of preparation. Or at least, the right kind of preparation. I’ve got no outline, no theme, no goal for this story except to write a fantasy story in the same stylistic tradition as the Aubrey-Maturin novels, with a friendship much like that model at its core.

But it’s clear I need a more structured approach than I have been using. For now, I’m putting the project aside while I develop not only that structure, but also a deeper understanding of what I want from the story and the source material I wish to emulate. I also need to better develop the characters. At the moment they are barely distinguishable from any protagonist I’ve ever written, and it’s clear to me now that I have a significant weakness in that area.

Moving forward

I’ve got a short project planned in response to a challenge on /r/fantasywriters, so I’ll be working on that for at least a few days this month. The challenge is to use a stone age setting, which is something I’ve played with for a while but never quite got anything working (including one story in which Kell discovered a stone circle used by mammoths as scratching posts). So if nothing else I’ll have fun.

Beyond that, I need to work on exercises that enable me to develop the characters of Kell and Atoni and practice writing their voices.

I’m feeling rather lost with my writing at the moment, but it’s about time I got back on track so I’ll be working hard in the near future to move forward. Funny, I always seem more motivated with hobbies when I have less time for them, and the same is true now – I’ve got a temp job that just started which is full time, in addition to my existing part time job, and of course with Christmas fast approaching I’ve got a lot to sort out in the way of gifts and cards and decorations. So we’ll see how that goes.

Advertisements

Progress Report: One Million Words, August 2016

Another late one; I’m slipping. I apologise. I have lots of excuses (it’s been a tough month) but I won’t bother relating them. Suffice it to say things aren’t working lately. Excuses aside, I need to keep better track of things, or I find I’ve got weeks worth of writing log to catch up on and have to work out what day I wrote what through a combination of dates in file names, dates on pieces of paper, and where dates don’t exist, a process of elimination. Not the best approach, I admit.

So for August I wrote 17,315 words. That brings me to 259,899 words in total, or 26%. August’s output was a modest improvement upon July’s, but it’s still below where I really want to be. I have continued to write daily and my total as of the end of August is 410 consecutive days.

I finished Horrible Monster at the start of August and then proceeded to write some short stories of various lengths, as planned. Some were related to my next project and others were based on prompts I found online or other ideas.

Kell & Atoni

My next project has the working title of Kell & Atoni. It builds upon my plans from last year for Kell’s Adventures, using the protagonist from that as one of my protagonists in the new project, but I wanted to take it in a different direction. Anyone who has been following my reading updates might have noticed I’ve been working my way through the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, and it is from that series that I draw upon in attempting, with Kell & Atoni, to tell a series of stories in which two characters become firm friends and travel together as they seek to achieve their own goals which are compatible with one other.

So far I’ve done a little worldbuilding and worked on a few short stories set before these two characters meet. I’m not yet ready to begin with the story proper, but with November approaching I feel that this is a project to tackle for NaNoWriMo, which gives me a few more weeks to prepare.

The plan for Kell & Atoni is for novella-length stories exploring their goals, their world, the directions their obligations, fears and ambitions take them in, and the human and magical obstacles they face. In preparation, I have begun workign on, and will continue to write, short stories exploring points of the protagonists’ lives before they meet, elements of the world and the cultures they are part of or encounter.

Progress Report: One Million Words, July 2016

I didn’t quite finish Horrible Monster in July. I still haven’t a week into August, but I am close. In total, I wrote 14,084 words in July – somewhat less than previous months, showing a slowdown.

My total as of the end of July was 242,584/100,000, or 24.3% – very nearly a quarter of the way to the million words. On July 18th I reached another milestone: I had written every single day for one year. Not one day missed, not Christmas Day, not New Year’s Day, not my birthday, not the days I worked 16 hours or drive 200 miles. So I’m pretty damn proud of that.

The Story

Horrible Monster is so close to the ending now. I struggled for a week or two exactly how I would get there and which direction I would take that ending, and I have finally made a decision; now it’s only a matter of writing it, and it shouldn’t take long. A few thousand words only.

So what happens to Horrible Monster after I finish the first draft? I don’t know. Recently I’ve been in the “oh god, it’s awful, I hate it” part. I’m not sure if it can stand up. It certainly can’t in its unedited state, and if there is something there worth keeping it is going to take an awful lot of work to get it up to that level. And editing work being the kind I tend to put off doesn’t bode well. I think it’s a “we’ll see” scenario. I’ll give it a few months and see if I feel the core story is worth the editing and rewriting that would be required.

I’ve got a new project lined up. It’s a new version of Kell’s Adventures, with some major changes, the introduction of a second protagonist, Atoni, moving the location of where I will begin, and much more. But it isn’t ready to begin yet. I’ve got a lot of character work and worldbuilding to sort out before it goes anywhere. My approach for this project will be to know the characters and know the world – and then let the plot take me where it will.

In the meantime, I think I’ll work on shorter projects. Prompt-inspired short stories, perhaps a rewrite of Mountain Story, and episodes from the lives of Kell and Atoni from before the start of their story together.

2016 Reading Update, July

We’re just past half way through the year and I’m well ahead of target. By last update, back in May, I’d already raced past the half-way point on my goal, and now I’m closing in on the finish line (not that I’ll stop when I reach 26, where would the fun be in that?) So let’s see what I’ve been reading lately.

The list so far

Here’s what I’ve covered in previous updates:

  1. Cadfael: Monk’s Hood, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  2. Cadfael: St Peter’s Fair, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  3. Key Under Blue Pot and Please Milk the Goat, by Marie Sever
  4. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  5. Cadfael: The Leper of St Giles, by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  6. The Fire Mages’ Daughter by Pauline M Ross
  7. Cadfael: The Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters (Edith Parteger)
  8. The Mages of Bennamore by Pauline M Ross
  9. The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
  10. The Plains of Kallanash by Pauline M Ross
  11. The Magic Mines of Asharim by Pauline M Ross
  12. The Morville Hours by Katherine Swift
  13. The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence
  14. Echoes of the Great Song by David Gemmell
  15. The Dragon’s Egg by Pauline M Ross
  16. The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O’Brian
  17. The Letter of Marque by Patrick O’Brian

Recent Reads

And here’s what I’ve read since May’s post:

18. The Errant Hours by Kate Innes

Set largely in Shropshire, this book falls under my “local reads” sub-goal. It’s an historical adventure/romance following Illesa, an impoverished young woman with nothing to her name but a valuable book, and no family but a brother in need of rescue. An exciting and enjoyable read, made all the more special by the familiar setting.

19. Iceland Defrosted by Edward Hancox

Two in a row for “local reads”, as Ed is from Shropshire. I bought this book a couple of years ago at his book launch in the local library but only just got around to actually reading it. It’s written in a casual, friendly tone, with the author’s love for Iceland raw on the page, and I though I’ve never been there I found I was falling in love with Iceland too thanks to the sincerity of Ed’s prose and the lively descriptions of the places he visited.

20. Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle

I reviewed this fantastic novel in full here. It’s a brilliantly woven tale packed with excitement, with a thoroughly relatable protagonist and a rich world. I can’t praise it enough, and I hope it does well in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off 2016, which I think is a fantastic way of showcasing the best indie fantasy around.

21. The Thirteen-Gun Salute by Patrick O’Brian

and

22. The Nutmeg of Consolation by Patrick O’Brian

Yes, I’m still reading them in pairs. When O’Brian ends a novel with his protagonists stranded on a deserted island, how can I not immediately read the next? I’m really loving this series and when I finally get to the end I will no doubt start again at the beginning. It took some getting into when I first started reading it, but now I’m more familiar with O’Brian’s style, and less likely to give up on books than I was back in 2009 when I started reading the series, I am certain I will enjoy those first few books more on a second reading than I did on the first.

23. A Star-Reckoner’s Lot by Darrell Drake

I’m counting this. I read it, it counts. Darrell has employed me to proofread his novel and so that is what I have done. Towards the end I had to consciously slow down and remind myself to pay attention to the words, how they’re spelled, how they’re punctuated, the syntax and flow, and so on, because my mind wanted to race ahead and find out how it would end. The first two thirds of the novel is a bit slow burn, plenty going on but it’s difficult to see where it’s heading, but the seeds are sown and once they sprout quite a tale unfolds. Look out for it when it comes out, folks. Here’s Darrell’s website if you’re interested.

Up next

If my local library can get in the book I am looking for, I’ll have a few Charles Stross titles popping up in my next few reading updates. And there are a few books on my shelf I really should get around to reading at some point. Plus if anyone else on the SPFBO 2016 wants to send me a free ARC I’ll definitely be receptive to that.

Progress Report: One Million Words, June 2016

A bit of a slow down this month, thanks to a number of factors, from catching a cold (in June! Damn weather.) to being very busy and being stressed about what I am now calling The Event (and doing my darnedest to ignore now).

I managed 16,159 words in June, for an average of 538.6 words per day.

This brings my total to 228,500/1,000,000, or 22.9%.

If I can hit 25%, or 250,000 words, by mid July, I’ll be on track to complete the entire million words within four years. It’s a bit of a stretch as there’s more to go to reach that than I have written in most entire months, but it does show just how much I have done – and how much there is to go.

The Story

I’m still working on Horrible Monster, working through towards completion of the novel. I had thought, this time last month, that I was on the home straight, but the story has taken a little bit of a turn and I’m uncertain about whether I like the new character, whether the story is best served by his inclusion, and how his presence is going to affect the ending.

I am seriously wondering if I’ve muddied the waters with some of the plot lines and whether it is quite how I want to tell this story, but I can’t quite see how the “extra” plot lines could be cut without significant impact on the rest of it. On some levels I worry that the story is too simplistic, too serendipitous even.

But at the same time I wonder if I am just worrying over nothing, letting the self-doubt creep in, and if I just need to finish the novel before I can make a true assessment of its merits and weaknesses. After all, when I took part in long distance hikes – a local charity walk of 22 miles – it was always around mile 16-17 that the pain was worst, my pace at its slowest, but once I got to mile 21 and the end was in sight I always had more energy and better pace, and the pain seemed to fade into irrelevance.

Looking forward into July

I don’t know if I will finish Horrible Monster in July. It is possible, especially if I speed up in the final mile. I’m nearly at 70,000 words, and with the amount of plot that’s left it might end up around 85-95,000 words total, so it is entirely likely I will finish it.

I will shortly have a lot more time on my hands. Today was my last day at one of my two part time jobs, and I haven’t got another lined up to replace it yet. By about the end of next week a huge number of outstanding tasks that haven’t yet been completed, or in some cases started, will be done. If it takes me a while to sort another job, I’ll have a lot more time to write and to engage in the kinds of activities that assist writing, like going for walks, reading, and taking the time to appreciate the moment – which, I’ll admit, I haven’t done much of lately. Then there’s researching, learning and blogging too, all of which I’ll have more time for.

So it may well be that July ends up a particularly productive month regarding writing fiction, blog posts and poetry; reading, researching and studying; and maintaining my flat to a standard that would pass a landlord inspection.

Progress Report: One Million Words, May 2016

I just can’t break this rate I’ve been working at all year so far. My May total is 18,123 words, for an average of 584.6 words per day.

That puts my total at 212,341/1,000,000, or 21.2% towards my goal. In the middle of May I also passed the 300th consecutive day of writing.

The Story

I’m well into Horrible Monster at the moment, but I’m struggling. The story is nearly at 55,000 words now – though some of that has been struck through, discarded. What’s being kept (at least for now) is probably closer to 50,000 words. Still, that’s quite a sizable length. I’m on the cusp of the major setback now, so things are about to get very difficult for my protagonists. I think once I get past that turning point I’ll write a bit faster, because from there it’s got some more momentum, more action.

I think part of the reason I’m struggling at the moment is some of the themes I’ve been exploring, including anxiety and depression. I’m not sure if it works within the story, to be honest, but I’ve got to try it to find out. They do say write what you know, and there are some very personal elements going into this side of the story. Set in the context of fighting for justice, I’m not sure if it’s too much. But then I can’t help but feel that one of the storylines is too much in the fight for justice side of thing. I’ll have to see when it’s all done.

I do know that there will be a lot more work to be done on this after I finish. Cutting, adding, rewriting, slimming down, speeding up. But what I have so far I’m reasonably pleased with, as a starting point to build upon.

Progress Report: One Million Words, April 2016

In spite of Camp NaNoWriMo, my wordcounts did not go up during April. I wrote a total of 19,060 words, for an average of 635.3 words per day – slightly below March’s average. Still, it was nice to have others to chat to about writing.

At the end of April my total stood at 194,218/1,000,000 – 19.4%. I’m not far now from my next hundred thousand words.

Horrible Monster

I have continued to work on Horrible Monster every single day in April. I am becoming more focused on this now, particularly in the last week. Although some days it feels a bit like I’m writing filler, stalling while I work out where I’m going, for the main part things are moving forward at a good pace. I’m getting more deeply into the various plot lines now.

A problem I am consistently coming across is rushing ahead where I know answers but where it does not fit the plot to get to that point just yet. A few times in April I wrote scenes in which I revealed more or advanced the plot further than I was happy with, so ended up striking out paragraphs or even pages at a time and starting from an earlier point. (Though the words are still counted, for the purposes of my challenge – after all I did write them.)

I think I’m getting better at that now, though. It happened more earlier in the month.

On looming peaks

The only other thing I have written this month is the poem I posted a little over a week ago, plus a couple of haiku. I’ve been sharing the poem widely, reading it out to my friends (in particular those who went with me to Builth Wells for the wool festival). I’ll definitely be looking out for other opportunities to write more poetry.

I found that imitating the meter and other aspects of an already published poem – On Wenlock Edge by A E Housman – was helpful in giving me a framework to then insert the words and story of my own poem, so in the near future I anticipate taking a similar approach. Learning to walk before I try to run.

May’s plans

Going forward into May, I will continue writing Horrible Monster. I intend to keep going until I finish it. I definitely feel like I have momentum on this novel right now, even if my daily wordcounts aren’t all that great. I don’t really want to interrupt it at this stage, in case a short interruption proves fatal to that momentum and I stop working on it. But that would mean, at the rate I’m going, it might be several months before I finish it. And that will mean it’ll be months before I write anything else in prose, since I’ve never done well working on two different stories on the same day. Still, there’s nothing stopping me from writing more poetry. And perhaps as I approach the end my daily wordcount output will increase.

There are a lot of other projects I’ve talked about on my blog which have made no further progress for a long time. The Mountain Story, for example, still largely exists only in a handwritten notebook; Kell’s Adventures have seen no further notes or planning. I am very much focused on Horrible Monster at the moment, but perhaps once I finish it I should take some time to work on other projects – and relax my rules a little to count editing, typing up and making notes as writing activity that doesn’t break my streak – even if it doesn’t add to my wordcount total.

Progress Report: One Million Words, March 2016

March’s numbers ended up being only slightly more than February’s: 20,335. The month ended up a little slow due to a few busy days with limited writing time (on the plus side, I had a great time seeing some live comedy last night). My March daily average was therefore 656 words. Though I did have a few days over 1,000.

That brings my total to 175,158/1,000,000 words, or 17.5%.

Most of March’s words were on Horrible Monster. I’m working my way through it now. I also spent a few days on something else, a short piece that doesn’t have a title.

Continue reading Progress Report: One Million Words, March 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.

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