Tag Archives: writing

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.

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.

A poem for Wonderwool Wales

Yesterday I took a trip to Builth Wells in Wales to go to Wonderwool, a wool and textiles festival which was so much more than I expected, full of amazing yarns, cool crafting tools, beautiful creations from clothing to decorations and even an “under the sea” themed knitted & crocheted grotto, and also a few live sheep and alpacas. It was great and I made a few modest purchases and picked up dozens of business cards and leaflets.

The day inspired a poem, and here it is. I used the meter and rhyming structure from On Wenlock Edge by A E Housman.

On looming peaks the Welsh sheep graze

In shadowed glen and green hillside

Beneath scudding clouds and sun’s bright rays

They chew the grass, quite satisfied

 

As golden daffodils droop brown

And newborn lambs leap, jump and skip,

The Welsh hill’s bride must shed her gown –

Dark winter has released his grip

 

And I, upon the road below

Drive home from Builth Wells with car full

And glimpse those sheep who cannot know

Their fleeces have become my wool

 

Where I bought it – there was art!

Creative crafts I want to learn

Beauty formed from wool and heart

With my purchase I take my turn

 

Beneath scudding clouds and sun’s bright rays

I sit with crochet on my knee

The wool which in those colder days

Once warmed the ewe, will soon warm me.

Camp NaNoWriMo: a brief update and some thoughts

I’m 9 days into Camp NaNoWriMo and so far I’m a bit behind. I haven’t topped 1,000 words once – and I need to average that many words to meet my 30,000 word goal for the month. So I’ve got a bit of catching up to do. But I think things are starting to move now. I have a good idea of where things will be going for at least the next two or three thousand words, which is always helpful. And after that there will be plenty of excitement too.

There is a different structure to Camp NaNo compared to the original November NaNoWriMo. In that one, you had access to busy forums that hundreds of other people were posting in every day. With the cabins, it’s quieter, more intimate.

I think I’ve got a pretty good cabin. Only about half of the cabinistas are active in the chat, so it’s mostly the same four or five people I’m talking to, but that works for me. Sometimes when there are too many people you can feel drowned out and insignificant. Especially when – like I often find myself – you’re in a different time zone than most people talking, so you miss the chance to get involved in discussions because they happen when you’re fast asleep. With this cabin, though, it’s quiet enough that I don’t feel the conversation all happens when I’m asleep, I feel involved, and that’s helpful. Even when the conversation isn’t about writing, it’s encouraging and self-confidence-building to simply feel part of something positive.

And I’m not just saying that because some of my cabinmates have started following my blog, I promise.

The chat format, though, can be restrictive. It’s a single feed, with a character limit. There’s a reply function which simply puts the name of the commenter who wrote the comment you’re replying to at the start of your comment, so you don’t get threads and digressions. The character limit forces conciseness (though I do sometimes post multiple comments in a row to say all I want to say; conciseness is not my greatest strength) and the single feed seems to have helped us keep on topic, for the most part.

But I do often find dedicated single-topic discussions helpful. The multiple-thread forum format from main NaNoWriMo and other writing boards allows more in-depth discussion, which the chat doesn’t really. It’s probably a good thing; talking about writing can be a massive time sink, a procrastination activity. Ruling that out is probably good for productivity (though of course it doesn’t stop me seeking it out elsewhere, so it’s not a silver bullet to procrastination).

I will say this: I am very glad I requested to be put in a cabin with people with similar goals and the same genre. It means we’ve got more in common, are more likely to be at a similar wordcount. In the past I’ve had writers around me – whether friends on main NaNoWriMo or cabinmates in the two previous Camp attempts – who have either soared ahead and churned out more words in a day than I can manage in a week, or who are taking a far more relaxed approach and only writing a hundred or two hundred words a day. Either one makes me feel discouraged. With the former, I feel inadequate; with the latter, unsupported. With similar goals I can look at what they’re doing and think “oh, she’s doing well, but if I push myself just a little more I can catch up”. Or “well, everyone’s having it tough right now so the fact that I only managed 700 words today doesn’t mean I can’t meet my goals in the end.”

It’s a lower pressure challenge than main NaNo, which I think is what I need right now. It’s less of a big deal. And yes that means my progress towards my million word challenge won’t be as rapid, but it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, to use an old cliche. This is helping. It’s motivating. It means I’m pushing just a little harder than I did in March and February. And that’s really what I need.

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

I’m feeling good about my writing so I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve got some momentum with Horrible Monster right now. It’s going well and I’m feeling good about it. I’m getting into the meaty parts of the story now. So it’s just the right time for a writing challenge – and would you believe it, there’s one about to start!

Camp NaNoWriMo – a sister-challenge to National Novel Writing Month in November – sees writers setting their own goals and working on any writing project, not only novels but also screenplays, poetry, short stories and more. It takes place in April and July. Instead of big massive forums that every participant can access, writers are grouped into cabins of up to twelve. It’s like an online writing group, in which the cabinmates will cheer one another on.

I’ve set my goal as 30,000 words. That’s 1,000 a day – a little above my current average, but I did better than that in November so I should manage it. Two writing sessions a day will easily see it done.

It’s going to make it a busy April – I’ll also be picking up learning French again, in preparation for a holiday in September. I’ve also been thinking again about poetry. Specifically, I re-read one of my favourite poems yesterday – On Wenlock Edge the Wood’s In Trouble from A Shropshire Lad by A E Housman. It’s a great poem, very visual, and I’d like to draw it as a comic. I’ve not done much drawing for a while, but a small project like this – 5 pages, one for each stanza – would be a good first step, and good practice if I pick up other planned comics again.

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.

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.