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Posts tagged “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!”

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


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


Future of Storytelling: Week 1

In which I post my response to the creative task of the week for the Future of Storytelling Mooc:

The Task

Please think about which story you have read, seen, listened to, played or experienced has impressed you most in your life. … Which story can you still very well remember? Write down both, the summary of this story (what you remember of the story, not what Wikipedia says.. 🙂 and – on the other hand: – what made it so special to you that you can still remember it.


YOUR TASK IN DETAIL:

  1. Retell this story by giving a short summary of what you can remember of it. (in less than 400 words)
  2. Think about (try to remember) and write down what fascinated you most about this story. What can you remember best? What impressed you most? … Its characters? The locations? The plot? The style and voice of the story? Or maybe even the surroundings of how this story was told, maybe by your parents, grandparents, or maybe in your first self-read book? Tell us the story OF the story so-to-speak. (less than 500 words)

Your answer could be a simple text/essay … or maybe you prefer creating a story in itself, a poem, an info graphic,… about it. — Whatever suits you best!

For me, this is quite tricky. I don’t think there is any one story that has impressed me most. That said “In the mouth of madness” Is one story that I can always remember.

in the mouth of madness

In it, our protagonist, John Trent, an insurance claim investigator hired to locate the missing horror writer Sutter Kane who went missing while working on the manuscript for his next book (The titular “In the Mouth of Madness”).

This has caused massed riots around the globe as people cannot get enough of his works, even though rumors abound that they are affecting the “less stable” of his readers.

In his investigation Trent, accompanied by Styles ( a representative of the publishing house that hired him) tracks Kane down to the town of Hobbs End – a supposedly fictional town in which all of Kane’s novels were set. It further reveals that the inhabitants of this town know they have no control over their own actions, only that “thay are being written this way”. Implying that Kane is influencing their actions in the world by his writing.

Trent confronts Kane in his sanctum (A huge church, supposedly built on the site of dark rituals) to discover that he is only there because Kane wrote it, and his role in the new novel is to deliver the finished manuscript. It isalso revealed that it is not his writing, he is a conduit between this world, and Eldritch Horrors from beyond (A nod and reference to the work of H.P Lovecraft) and that the more people that read his work, the weaker the barrier between our world and that of the horrors becomes. Kane then proceeds to tear open a rift in space to the abyss beyond, and with Styles reading the book describing Trents actions exactly he flees from the creatures with the manuscript.

Trent then destroys what he believes to be the only manuscript and reports back to the publishing house, much to their surprise as they state he delivered the manuscript to them 3 months before and that the movie is due out next month for those who don’t read the book.

On finding a poster for the movie featuring himself, Trent finally snaps and murders a fan of Kanes as he is coming out of the bookshop. A crime for which he is committed – The movie itself starts with him being committed and we see it through the medium of him recounting the story to a psychologist as, in his words “It’s getting worse out there” as the barriers weaken and people mutate as the horrors pass through and take over our reality. The final scene is set after Trent is able to escape the asylum following something involving the creatures and the asylum – a scene where we hear rather than see the action.

The final scene is Trent in an empty cinema, watching the movie of the book, which starts off exactly as the movie we are watching did and essentially, is the movie we have just scene. Implying that the entire thing was created to complete the transition of the creatures and the end of the world.

What fascinated me about the story wasn’t the gore, or the monsters (You barely see them in fact), but the way it was told. From the point of view of the character inside it, who knew he wasn’t insane, but knew that no-one would believe him as the story was so preposterous and outside of the realms of ‘Normality’. It also, in my opinion is the best film that can claim to be an adaptation/influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, as up to that point Hollywood had taken his stories and turned them into standard horror/slasher schlock. Which misses the psychological point entirely. Examples of other H.P. Lovecraft sories that have been translated very, very badly to film:

The Dunwich Horror:

Movie on Amazon:

Kindle edition of the story on Amazon:

Audiobook on youtube:

Herbert West: Re-animator

Movie on Amazon

Kindle edition:

Audiobook on Youtube

Part of the appeal for me, is likely what made it a bit of a flop at the box office – It’s not got a happy ending. In all the horror movies I’ve seen, the antagonists tend to be dumb almost to the point of being retarded and wanting to destroy themselves. In the mouth of madness has a much more feasible (I would say realistic, but I’m not sure that’s the best choice of words) outcome, especially when compare to something like ‘Scream’

Additionally, a lot of the creatures/events/things in the film are left to the viewers imagination. A rather nice touch to my mind as most people will be able to picture far worse creatures and scenes than even the most imaginative creature designer. It also means that it is a little more of personal experience and personal horror as the audience is required to actively participate in picturing what is not being shown. After all, how often have you seen a horror/mostor movie, only to be dissapointed when the mosters are finally revealed and it’s a rather disapointing rendition of a man in a rubber suit?