Scribblings of a shaved monkey with a keyboard

Writing

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!”
Advertisements

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…)


Sci-Fi flash fiction

Space tore open. A massive flare of exotic radiation danced across the spectrum as a leviathan powered it’s way through the jump gate singularity.

The Terran Hegemony warship Agamemnon erupted; Plasma drives flaring as she accelerated away. Along her flanks, armoured covers retracted from weapon batteries as she woke for the fight to come.

“Transition complete Admiral” came the voice on the bridge.

“Release the frigates; prep for fighter wing launch. Find me the targets.”

“Aye sir.”

The Agamemnon’s attendant battle group, the frigates Encroacher, Comet, Hesperus and Eclipse detached from their parent carrier, each powering forward and prepping their own batteries like attack dogs baring their teeth.

“Battle group away; we have acquired targeting returns.”

“Clear the fighters for launch, get me a full spread of torpedoes ready, maximum yield”

“Aye Admiral”

Shielding retracted along the ventral hull of the Agamemnon, exposing her launch bays. Shrike class space superiority fighters and Mauler class torpedo bombers launching on bright plumes of plasma exhaust like seeds spat from a pod.

“All wings report attack formation. time to target 10 minutes and counting; Torpedoes loaded and ready, Main battery targeting reports locked and ready.”

“Excellent. Any response yet?”

“Picking up engine flare Admiral, looks like they are tying to run.”

“I’m not having that. I want them gone. All batteries, All torpedoes. FIRE!”


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

Future of Storytelling, Week 2

YOUR TASK IN GENERAL

Please pick any existing serial protagonist that you know very well, and use the attached PDF/the form below to create a character profile. This profile should include his or her most important traits. Please post the ANSWER below this question post.

This is helpful because…
a) …you can compare this profile to that of other protagonists.
b) …you can learn how serial characters are built and why some characters work better than others.

YOUR TASK IN DETAIL:

  1. Whether it is desires, enemies, professions, hobbies, religions, behaviorisms or else: Please copy and fill out the form with all the info you got from watching the show. (the list is also downloadable via pdf) Maybe it helps to rewatch one of the episodes first.
  2. Think about what makes this protagonist worth following through a whole series of episodes. What is it that HOOKed you?

YOUR CHARACTER PROFILE LIST

Gender: Male
Age: Never stated but late 30’s would seem about right
Physical Description (Size, Weight, Defining Attributes…): Tall, lanky, generally dishevelled and scruffy. Mop of black, unkempt hair, usually needing a shave
Personality/Nature: Curmudgeonly
Ambitions/Desires: To be left alone with his books, drink and smoke
Is mostly seen as: A grumpy, hermitlike almost scrooge character
Sees her/himself as: Friendly, helpful generally all round nice guy
Loves: Books, wine (Or any boose), cigarettes
Believes in: The general moral decay of society
Trusts: Himself, his friend Fran
Fears most: customers, being exposed to the real world
Fights for: depends if he’s drunk or not – if he is, it could be anything, if not it’s generally for a quiet life, and at one stage he fights to get his housemate back after he has kicked him out when he realised how much he missed him.
Hates: Customers, people who read books. People in general
Most important event in life up to date: Getting his bookshop. The supposed ‘death’ of his fiance
Most influenced by: Boose & Fags – also his best friends, Fran & Manny
Best Friends: Fran (Female, originally ran the next door shop) Manny – his housemate & general shop dogsbody
Worst Enemies: Himself.
Relationship/Family status: Had a Ma once
Social/Ethnic Background: Irish.
Occupation: Book store owner
Education: No Idea
Hobbies: Fags, Boose, books, shouting at customers
Special Skills/Talents: Incrediably resiliant liver, can unerringly throw a cigarette into his mouth regardless of distance. Capable of psycotic, yet non-lethal violence
Flaws: Doesn’t like people buying the books from his shop, doesn’t like restocking the shop, hates tidying, dislikes other people having too much fun
Disabilities: Himself
Special behaviourism(s), quirks,…: Can make clothes from Tax receipts, find any book in a pile almost instantly. Can insult someone almost endlessly seems to survive purely on boose, fags and books
Style (Dress/Life Style): Near Hermit/recluse, generally just want to be left alone by the world to quietly read his books. Always in a suit (Though dishelvelled and rumpled)

Name: Bernard Black
Nickname: Bernie
TV Series, this character is in: Black Books

Links:

Black Books on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0262150/

Black Books on Channel 4: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/black-books

black books


Weekly Writing challenge: Dear Abbey

So, based on the challenge on: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/weekly-challenges/ I present:

The Monkey Ooks: Advice for your life:

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is “You never know what you can do until you try”, and the same person also said “With the proper motivation you can overcome anything”

Something that I can quite happily say has saved my life.

In an incident, which I now look back on with a good sense of humor and have a laugh about it, which (as you’ve probably seen coming) I’ll relate below.

Wind backwards in time mumble years to an 11-year-old me, plus one of my best buddies at the time, out in the fields around our home village.

In one field, all on its own we espy a bovine creature, happily munching on the grass, and being of an inquisitive nature launch into a good-natured argument about what it was:

“It’s a cow”

“No, it’s a bull, why would a cow be in a field on its own?”

“It’s a cow, I’m telling you. Look, you can see the udders dangling”

This went on in a light-hearted manner for a few minutes, until in our eleven year old brilliance we came up with THE PLAN*

THE PLAN

We would, using a long stick (For safety!) quietly approach the creature, contentedly chewing as it was and gently poke it in the dangly bit.

If it was a cow, it wouldn’t be fussed, and would probably barely feel it.

If it was a bull, it would be momentarily discomforted and go “Moo” **

So, armed with our stick *** we crept up behind the bovine, and gently, oh so gently prodded it in the dangly bits…..

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

“See it’s a cow!”

“Nah, we just didn’t prod it hard enough”

With this, the poor creature receive an almighty WHACK in the danglies.

The noise started deep down.

The bass rumble of pure, unadulterated surprise, mixed with anger, and as it turns out, and amazing resistance to the pain of a log in what turned out to be the Bulls testicles.

I’m pretty sure the bull turned on the spot. I’m not 100% on this as we’d already started running, after sharing an almost comical look at each other as the sheer depths of what we had just done sank in.

To the end of my days, I will never forget the thunder of the bulls hooves behind me as I ran for it. Far, far faster than I’ve ever done either before or since.

Part way through the panicked screaming and running we realised we were NOT heading towards the gate, but running pell-mell towards a lovely, solid 9 foot stone wall.

There was NO way I was going to be able to climb that normally.

Sheer terror must have propelled me up it, like a younger spiderman that had no wish to be trampled into a paste by a vengeful Bull From Hell****

So yeah….. even my rotund, unfit form can manage some amazing acts of speed and agility with the proper motivation.

I must admit to some surprise with just how fast the bull recovered from a log in the testicles. Any man out there who’s been whacked in them can attest to just how debilitating a solid whack can be.

*Yes, I know….. A plan in capitals is NEVER a good thing in the end.

** Shut-up. Just shut-up. It seemed a GREAT idea at the time.

*** well, 6 foot log would be more appropriate

**** Seriously, this is the best description of its expression as we looked from the relative safety of the wall top