Scribblings of a shaved monkey with a keyboard

Rambling

Decisions & deadlines

I made a decision today(1) and a kick in the butt for my writing.

I find I work better with deadlines – I was one of those kids at school that would do very little until almost the last minute then slam something out. Not always the best way to do it(2) but it’s how I was back then.

Nowadays I kind of acknowledge I need a deadline and generally work before there are only a few days are left. I’ve been working on upgraded costume parts for my Ghostbusters outfit in time for “The Love of Sci Fi” in December, I’m starting to work on things for the Larp I’m helping run in March(3) and so I figured I needed a deadline for writing something substantial, otherwise I would probably procrastinate the time away.

It all started with a mail I received about Angry Robot books open door submission window. This opened yesterday and runs until December 31st 2017

2 months to write a novel from bare bone background information I hear you say(4).

Nope. Even I know that in my most hyper-caffeinated, sleep deprived, sugar hyped(5) state I wouldn’t be able to manage that(6).

I’m setting myself the goal of having something that I can submit for NEXT years open submission window.

Which gives me between 364 days and 424 days to get something done.

I’m sticking a countdown up in the sidebar for the (probable) close date of the 2018 submission window.

Here we go.

Ttfn

Ady


  1. No. Not whether the underwear goes on the outside or not. Apparently that’s not an option.
  2. 72 hours or so straight awake working on my final project back in college would suggest it was never my wisest choices.
  3. Last year thanks to a combination of factors we had a grand total of 2 months to get everything together for the last game we ran…. Managed it, but it wasn’t exactly fun towards the end.
  4. I know your there. I can hear your breathing.
  5. For those that know – kinda how I end up on a lot of Larp events/games
  6. And the day job might get a bit grumpy if I didn’t show up for two months
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World building versus Winging it.

worldbuildingA lot of my writing time at the moment is focused on world building for the sci-fi setting I’m working on for my stories.

The world/setting information will likely end up being far longer than anything I’m likely to write based on it (1), but then the question that comes to mind is “Why?”(2)

Mostly for consistency.

And oddly, some inspiration.

Knowing how I want the Faster than light travel to work (3) – basing it on some extrapolated real-world physics, and frankly a little bit of the Space-fold drives from Macross(4) throws up a few ideas for incidents.

Oddly, also putting some thought into how the spacesuits work has also added a few potential complications…. For example, if the suits have nanotech filters for breathing gas and umm… bodily waste….. in case the wearers finds themselves adrift in space… what would happen if they forgot a catheter? (5)

These are just little bits that pop up as I’m typing out ideas, even before I’ve started putting serious thought into them.

Yes, I could go ahead and start working on stories with only the barest of setting information and add more detail as I go(6) and no doubt I will get to a point where I’m happy enough to start working on stories, and add more/change more as I go and incidents happen. But for now, I’m happy world building, I think it’s just how I’m wired.

Winging it is something I’m not always that great with – yet at the same time I know once I’ve got the setting details down, I can wing it and come up with a fair amount of stuff almost on the fly. (7)

But not yet.

What are your thoughts on world building versus winging it?

TTFN

Ady


  1. I’m always a little curious on how big the setting information is for something like Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series
  2. And occasionally, “Who are you?” “How did you get in here?” and “Please stop doing that to me”
  3. Other than “They go real fast”
  4. Because it’s Macross, and I’ve loved that series for *ahem* years now…. and Dammit…. checking the link reminded me I still need to find a Sub or Dub version of Macross Delta on DVD…
  5. Thank one of our cats for THAT particular mental image….. He’s had a catheter in for the last week 🙂
  6. I’m sure that’s how Sir Terry Pratchett did it – starting with the basic ideas and building from there… if you’ve read the series you’ll know the levels of detail by the end. Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to ask him now.
  7. I know the Warhammer 40k background damn well and can come up with bits for that quite easily, but at the same time I don’t feel much like writing fiction based in that universe – at least, not at the moment.

NaNoWriMo: Why I won’t take part.

na NO wrimo for me

naNOwrimo for me

This year, I’ve kept popping into the NaNoWriMo forums to see how people were going, and to see what the general atmosphere was.

It’s been the first year I’ve actually paid any sort of attention to it, and the first time I’ve put any thought into whether or not I’m likely to take part next year.

After all, 50,000 words or as it’s billed “A novel in a month”. Quite an achievement I’d say[1]

That was, until I spent some time on the boards.

People melting down because they weren’t ‘on target’; had written themselves in a corner; having to start again as it wasn’t as good an idea as first thought or a load of similar reasons.

Towards the end, there were people saying ‘I’ve not used the delete key at all, so I’ve got typos and plot threads hanging all over the place. That’s how I’ve got my word count up’. My personal favourite: “Every so often I’ll just key whatever’s in my head into the manuscripts, stream of consciousness fashion and it usually is nothing to do with it. I’m leaving it in however so that I can include it in my word count.”

I ask these people, especially the ones that artificially boosted the word count to hit the ‘target’: Why. Can you look yourself in the eye and say: “I did it”; or more likely, are you looking at yourself and saying “I didn’t do it, but I found a work around so it looks like I did. I didn’t hit the target so I didn’t succeed at writing.”

Really? REALLY?

In my opinion, word count is not an indicator of story[2] Word count should not dictate the story. The story should come first, whether it needs 2,000; 20,000 or a 200,000 epic. Of course, if you’re writing to a commercial deadline/contract you usually have an idea of the page count/word count required, but then once the story is out, you can then look at additional scenes/plotlines to explore or ones that it could live without to get towards what the publisher is asking for.

I’ve seen the arguments that NaNoWriMo is about pushing you to set and meet a target. 250 words a day is a target, and one that I so far have managed to hit quite well[6] Eventually, I may increase my daily target, or turn it into a weekly target[8] as then I can work more on Fridays and the weekend when I’m not at work to hit it. I didn’t need anything external to decide this. I did find that I’m not the only one however.

I’m also not a competitive person[9], and NaNoWriMo feels to me to be encouraging competitiveness (you get a certificate if you ’win’) between writers, rather than supporting each other generally.

The other thing weighing against NaNoWriMo for me is simple; November see’s both my wedding anniversary, and my birthday, so wrapping myself into NaNowriMo would mean sequestering myself away in the man-cave for most of the month[10] and missing both of those. That’d go down really well….

So yeah, I’m not going to take part in NaNoWriMo.

  1. It’s not a novel, it’s a first draft. Lot of difference…
  2. Look at Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings – MASSIVE word count, fairly straightforward story (Summed up perfectly in Clerks 2) with a LOT of padding[3] On the flipside of this, Harry Turtledove’s[4] Southern Victory series – Massive word count per book, but the way it’s written gives  quite a tight, detailed and rich story, and that’s just per book. I’ve got the paperbacks of all bar How Few Remain and they take up about 3-4 feet of bookshelf.
  3. I tend to skip a lot of Lord of the Rings when I read it, especially the Elven poetry and overly bombastic descriptions.
  4. This man is insanely productive with his writing, there are times where I’d love to meet him to learn, and others when I’d love to meet him to break his fingers[5]
  5. Usually when I’m having a none productive writing session and the little jealous monster is coming out.
  6. Well, apart from Monday night[ when Heather gave me an early xmas present of the Transformers video game.[7] But then, that’s why the target is for 250 words/day 6 days a week
  7. Because Giant Transforming Robots. That’s why.
  8. Which is effectively 1,500 words per week at the moment
  9. Take a look at my other blog for more about that
  10. I guarantee I’d come out of it at the start of December looking like Gollum, blinking in the daylight, going “Was I supposed to be going to work this month? So that’s why the phone kept ringing!”

Targets

So, as a birthday present to myself this year, I’ve set myself a daily writing target.

250 words a day. 6 days a week.

It doesn’t sound like much I know, but I set it based on a few things:

  • I’m working full time 37.5 hours/week. So, realistically I can guarantee myself about an hour a day on each workday.
  • I’m very much finding my feet with my writing, so I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself to produce say 1,000 words/day [1] so I’ve gone for a lower target.
  • I can always increase the target number as I get more comfortable with my writing.

Overall, I figure it’s a reasonable balance between having a life, and writing.

Since setting myself this target, the has only been 1 day I didn’t write 250 words – this is because I was editing sprawl run. According to my daily goal counter in FocusWriter [2] I managed -2.4% of my 250 word daily target – in reality it mean I’d removed 6 more words during the edit than I had replaced.

So yeah, I’ve got a target. It’s small[3] but something I’m confident I can hit and just that little ego boost from knowing you’ve hit a target everyday is something. Plus it’s enough to get going – last night for example, while outlining project-x15[4] and setting project js-1[5] according to the counter I’d hit something around 467% of my goal. That’s about 1200 words in about an hour of actual writing.

Something I feel proud about[6]

250words-250w

  1. Too many days of not hitting a target would not help me feel good about it
  2. A rather handy bit of software, designed to provide a distraction free writing environment
  3. But it’s better than ‘whatever’ for me
  4. Better known (currently) as “The Torture Room” – A horror story with psycho-cannibals. And apparently according to Mike, following a brief character description: Al Murray, cannibal pub landlord Sci-fi setting
  5. Which is not at all easy to do when fighting severe depression

It’s all about perspective

So, for part of today (In between procrastinating on the Transformers Wiki* and finishing decorating the kitchen) I’ve been working on a few bits & bobs for my writing.

One of the well.. Exercises threw up a couple of interesting viewpoints and at least one of them shows a possible character in the making. That is, if I ever decide to write that kind of story.

The premise was to begin a story with a given first line. I didn’t write much, as I didn’t feel it needed it. But, as an experiment** I wrote the same scene from the other participants point of view.

Behold: (And there’s a teensy bit of profanity behind the cut) (more…)


Humorous title goes here…….

So; last night I finished the entire* first draft of my short story Sprawl Run intended for the short story/first line competition in writing magazine (www.writers-online.co.uk).

It’s the first time in years I’ve actually finished a story; even though it’s a little over the word count and needs editing and a serious polish before I send it on it’s way.

Plenty of time yet, the deadline isn’t until mid-January.

Interestingly, it was a similar process for me to working on my various warhammer roleplay campaign ideas – Once I’d got started, the ideas started flowing and I got into the groove the words flew by.

In the end I had to drop a couple of scene ideas as there just wasn’t enough room in the format I was working to; although I may expand on it later or maybe work them into another story. Maybe a sequel?

What struck me (and again, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as the same thing happened once I got started with rpg work) was how much it fed into itself and how many ideas just a couple of characters and a couple of scenes can generate.

The overall story throws up in my mind a lot of questions about the two characters and how the whole situation came to be; What happens after; What’s the relationship between them; What have they done before. For example the quote:

Caspar chuckled. “That’s what you said in Kiev, and look how that ended up”

Tell me your not wondering what happened in Kiev? Shall I write that one at some point, or leave it as these characters ‘Noodle Incident

Not having the freedom of writing however much I felt like or a full length novel word count, I was forced to keep the focus on a relatively small window in time (I think it works out as about half an hour of in-character time, with a little bit set later in their day).

Because of the questions it’s raising even before an edit, I’ve laid the groundwork for other shorts I can write in the future if I want the characters to flesh out even more.

Overall though, there was the satisfaction of actually having finished a draft.

Something I’ve been saying I’m going to do for years now.

Heck I brought my current laptop in 2007 based on how useful it would be for writing etc.

It’s a small, faltering first step, But it’s a step.

*The half a first draft in my previous posts doesn’t count

More Preposterous Elitism

I’ll admit it.

I seem to be developing an urge to do something about the apparent amount of preposterous elitism that seems to perpetuate many, many aspects of the writing community.

In a drive to expand my horizons and help myself along with my writing I’ve been looking for local groups* as well as online ones.

I locate one, that along with its own facilities has courses, workshops, classes. The whole 9 yards – everything someone starting on the writing path, or further along it could want.

It’s not expensive to join. works out at about £5 a month. Not that  much in this day & age really.

However.

On looking at the how to join, I inferred a fair bit from these little bits below (I’ve edited out any identifying information) Highlights are mine. 

To join, fill in our Membership Application Form and send it to us along with a short sample of your writing.

Alternatively you can contact us with any questions at xxxxxxx@xxxxxxx.xxx or on 99999 999 9999.

In order to join, you must:

  1. live in or be connected with xxxxx;
  2. demonstrate a commitment to developing your writing;
  3. demonstrate a commitment to reaching an audience with your work (e.g. through publication or production).

Membership is at the discretion of the xxxxx Board of Directors.

Now, from this I had a few questions.

  1. What if you were either only just starting out writing, or did not feel comfortable sharing your work with others (short or long-term)
  2. What if you didn’t want to be published, but just wanted to join and learn more purely for writing for fun

From this, I inferred that

  • You have to already have been writing before joining (No beginners here ,Thank You!)
  • If you haven’t been (or didn’t want) to be published or produced then you were not considered a real writer and as such, we don’t want anything to do with you.

These are further reinforced by the ‘members’ snapshot on the website – All published in one way or another.

Just to see if I’m alone in this and have completely lost the plot, or if it reads the same to others I’m inviting comments below as well.

I’ve also emailed the organisation concerned with a link to this to invite them to respond if they wish.

*This is quite a large step for me, having suffered from social phobia for many years