Many Things

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Many things. So many damn things. First off, my 30 day NaNoWriMo post didn’t publish. In fact, it disintegrated in the ether. But I guess all that really needs to be said is that I did it. By the end of November, I’d doubled the target with over a hundred thousand words. December was a write off, what with Christmas and loitering on Pinterest pretending that this would be the year I make all those awesome homemade decorations and epic cakes. It wasn’t. But it was the year I finally gave in and bought Scrivener with my winner’s discount.

I have no idea how I lived before this. One huge bulky file with hundreds of pages. Unwieldy drafts printed out to make paper revisions. That’s how I lived. Utter lunacy. Scrivener has transformed the way I organise my writing and has saved me and the planet a fortune in paper and ink. I’m sure much of it is psychological. I like having chapters and scenes that can be moved about, or worked on side by side. I like how it all concertinas down into one project, then opens out again in beautiful order. I like how I can tell at a glance which characters and artefacts are in a scene, and where that scene was set, thanks to the aesthetically pleasing colour-coded keyword function. I like how much easier it feels to write tighter scenes when I have a clean screen in front of me. I like how notes, links and photos can be added to scenes for inspiration. I like how I can see how the scene word counts accumulate in neat little bundles, making me feel accomplished. It appeals to my mind and my eyeballs.

I started work on the second book in January, with my 100k NaNo words in the bag. A few days before the end of February, I’d finished my first draft. It’s heavy, at 180k, but it’s done. I’m not fiddling with it too much until I’ve finished the third book. I started it yesterday and have bagged 4k so far.

I feel compelled to point out that my thoughts on Scrivener have not been paid for or sought. If they gave me money, I wouldn’t love it more.

Day 20

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I hit 50K on day 18, but couldn’t validate until today, so there you have it. I’m officially a winner.

The very best thing to have come out of this year’s NaNoWriMo is that on most days I’ve been able to ditch my old school ways. I’ve barely written with a pen for the last two weeks. I’ve been typing straight into the PC and it’s been easy enough. I won’t lie and say I’ve written the most brilliant prose ever seen, but it’s no worse than anything that flowed out of my pen.

I had a bit of a strange moment when I realised how different my routine could be. My usual way is to write a few thousand words by hand, type them up at night, then update my word count before midnight. At this point, I would be done for the day and spend the rest of whatever time I had before bed reading trashy historical romances. My new routine is to write straight into the PC, updating my word count often, watching it climb in steady little bursts. I write best late at night, but had previously been using this time for typing, so now I find myself working past midnight, updating before and after. By the time I start writing the next day, I usually have at least a thousand words in the bag, which is an excellent motivation for me.

So this year, because of NaNoWriMo, I’ve changed the habits of a lifetime.

Day 10

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So it’s day 10 and I’ve hit the halfway mark. Twenty five thousand words. Two new characters. Lots of questions to delve into. A ghastly tour around an abandoned mental hospital. Menace on the underground. An unexpected comedy crush. The return of some favourite but relatively unexplored characters. I’m having heaps of fun, especially as I never intended to write a sequel. I didn’t think I’d bury these characters for good, but I didn’t expect them to be getting up to such mischief so soon either.

Obviously if I continue at this rate, I’ll have 75K in the bag by the 30th, but I don’t want to tempt fate so I won’t.

I hope those of you doing NaNoWriMo this year are enjoying yourselves.

NaNovember. Already.

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It’s that time of year again. Falling leaves. Hidden dog turds. Fireworks. Whole TV channels dedicated to Christmas films. Hot chocolate. And most importantly of all, NaNoWriMo.

This November I’ll be writing the sequel to the project I started last July. I’ve been outlining for the last few weeks, and although I don’t know exactly where it’s going, or even where it starts, I have a scene list that ought to get me over the 50K mark. This is the least prepared I’ve ever been when embarking on a writing project so I’m a little nervous. But I know my characters and my location better now, which should help the words to flow.

Two unanticipated side effects to all this outlining occurred. One, it gave me the opportunity to backtrack over the first installment to plant little clues. And two, it gave me my ending. As I said in a recent(ish) post, I wasn’t happy with the ending. The battle scene was a bit too final, and I couldn’t work out the exact thing that would make my protagonist so devastated in the aftermath of the battle. But I’ve got it. It even ties in neatly to her fear of abandonment. I could not be happier about this development.

If you’re taking part this year, good luck!

Second Draft Underway

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These past weeks have seen me with my head down and fingers flying. I finally typed up the remainder of my handwritten manuscript. I now have 176,000 words to play with. It’s all printed out and I’m about two thirds of the way through the first batch of revisions. I now have a second draft document open and it’s made me realise three things. One, is that because I edit my previous day’s work before I start writing for the day, my second draft is really my third draft. Two, is that because I edit my whole story whenever I hit a major plot point, this second draft is really a fourth draft, maybe a fifth, with the beginning subjected to more revisions than the rest. And three, this has made the first half of my current batch of paper revisions fly by while the least revised ending needs a lot of work. This is making me panic about its reading readiness. It’s making me think that after so much revision, it really should be more perfect.

I’m not happy with the showdown as it stands. It needs a scary amount of work. Every paragraph is littered with notes to make earlier inserts. This is how I work anyway. I find myself using a weapon, for instance, and realise I need to set it up much earlier. So I write something like (INSERT: blunderbuss in will reading scene), but not that, obviously not that, so that when I do my paper revisions, I can rummage back to the right spot and casually work in the blunderbuss. These insert notes will appear every few pages initially, then they thin out a bit. But like I said, the showdown is littered with them and they aren’t as specific as I’d like, so I’ll be making late decisions on where the inserts should go. It makes me feel so disorganised, even though this is the most organised I’ve ever been.

So tonight I’ve copied my first draft with all its associated notes and inserts into the new file. Now I just need to decide whether to start making the changes that I’ve already addressed on paper straight away or wait until I’ve redrafted all of it. I’ll just be rocking in the corner.

Bad Timing

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For eighteen months Derek had attempted to cajole a smile out of stone cold Claire. He’d been counting. He’d tried small talk. Will the carpark ever reopen? Will the leaky roof ever get fixed, or must customers forever dodge traffic cones with their squeaky trolleys? And whatever happened to the deli counter?

Derek eyed the row of checkouts and, out of habit, checked his broken watch. He didn’t even know why he put the stupid thing on every morning. He glanced left and right again, as if his choice wasn’t already made, and shifted quietly into Claire’s line. It wasn’t the shortest queue, but Claire was efficient. Her line would move faster. At least it would with the collection of sturdy pensioners in line. Sturdy meant no fussing. Pensioners meant none of that Challenge 25 nonsense.

A tomatoey blush crept up Derek’s cheeks as he remembered how strangely Claire had looked at him when he’d mentioned how the customers attempting to buy alcohol just kept getting younger and younger. He knew he looked younger than twenty eight, and he’d never tried to buy alcohol from Claire before. He wondered if she’d ID him. But more than that, he wondered if she’d ever smile at him. He couldn’t even figure out why he wanted to see her smile. Derek didn’t fancy Claire. That would be absurd.

Claire glanced along the line. He was here again, the one who wittered endlessly about all sorts of nonsense. Beautiful nonsense. Tempting her with his youthful blushes. God, he was gorgeous, his dark head bobbing above a foamy sea of white and grey. Why must he always get in her line, reminding her of days lost to the cruel tick of time? She was young and beautiful once. Full of laughter. Laughter, she thought, with a mental harrumph. She couldn’t even remember the last time she’d smiled.

Derek kicked his basket forward, the polished floor providing little friction, and popped a mint into his mouth. He had tried everything, even jokes. Jokes about horses walking into bars. Jokes about jaywalking chickens. Unfaithful cartoon characters. Jungle-dwelling kitchen appliances. Fruity marsupials. The only thing worse than Derek’s jokes were his puns. He shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

Stone cold Claire with her ice cold glare, he thought, as their eyes met across the loaded conveyor belt. No wonder she always looked at him funny. She could probably tell he was making up rude rhymes about her in his head. He blushed again and checked his useless watch, just for something to do.

“Did you remember your loyalty card today?” said Claire, lifting the checkout divider and sliding it into its rack. Good god, woman, you’re not his bloody mother. Might as well be. Oh god, he’s blushing again.

Derek fished the card out of his wallet. “And I have some coupons.” He laid them out in a curve in front of her. Like a rainbow, he thought.

Like a smile, she thought. BEEP!

“What are these like?” she said. “I’ve been meaning to give them a try.” She looked at the packet in her hands. Fishfingers. She was asking him what fishfingers were like. Generic brand fishfingers.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Answer, you idiot!

“They’re alright, but I don’t think you’d like them.” BEEP! “They’re cheap and bland.” BEEP!

“Ah, they aren’t worthy of me. Is that what you’re saying?”

Was that a smile? Did I miss it?

“Absolutely,” he said, determined to make her smile reappear. “I’m uncultured. I’ll eat anything. But a fine lady, such as yourself, deserves only the finest foods.” BEEP!

She chuckled, a smile lingering on her face, lighting her eyes. Derek stood, holding his breath, as if releasing it would cause time to tick on, taking Claire’s smile with it.

“If I was twenty years younger,” she said, with a wink. What the hell did I just do? Did I really just wink at someone half my age?

Derek smiled, then blushed. How young does she think I am? Fifteen? She can only be ten years older than me, if that. God, she has a lovely smile.

“That will be twelve eighty four please,” said Claire.

Derek fumbled with his wallet, his fingers suddenly too fat to pull out a twenty pound note.

With just a smile to sustain him until his next visit to Claire’s line, Derek headed along the high street to get his watch repaired. The queue was long and he cursed his bad timing. Should’ve got here sooner, he thought, thinking of Claire. Twenty years sooner.


Inspired not by Derek, but by Clive. Cheers dude.

word count 760. A little long for flash.

Complete First Draft: Check

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Finally I get to tell you that my thirty year old idea has been fleshed out from a rough plot on a side of A5 to a finished first draft of around 180,000 words. With some scenes still to write and hefty revisions to make, the word count will fluctuate, of course, but I expect it will be a fair bit slimmer. And I say “around” 180K because I only have 120K typed. The rest is handwritten on 120 sides of A4, so could be anywhere between 60K and 75K because, like everything else I do, this blog included, the size of my writing is inconstant.

My girl has had a lot to deal with this year, so I’m letting her chill for a while. It’ll give her time to learn the languages she’s so keen on before I start stalking her again. I’m sure her family could do with a break from all the excitement too. So tonight I raise my cider-filled glass to honour the Penhaligons. This last year would’ve been shockingly uneventful without you. For letting me into your lives and allowing me to tell your story, I salute you.