Monday, 30 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #10 - The Final Update!

'Tis done!

I can hardly believe that I did it! On Sunday I woke at 4.30am, got up, started writing, and hardly made any progress. Went back to bed hours later, got up again, worked until evening, and only just scraped the day's word count. Still wasn't sure if I would do it. Today was the last day of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have been writing, and writing, and thought I was just short of 50,000. Then I did the NaNoWriMo validation, and it told me I had written 50,580 words. More than I needed! Wow. Again: wow. I'm still trying to feel normal.

Since the last update I wrote a new story called Transmission (in two parts, intended to bookend my collection). Also a bonus for my horror fans: "Turner began with a prologue. But what happened before that?” You'll find out (if my beta readers vote for the story to be in the collection).

You'll find all my NaNoWriMo posts here, if you want to look back over my progress. This was difficult. Maybe a novel would have been easier than a short story collection. And maybe I'll find out next year! Thanks to everyone that followed my journey and wished me luck. :-)

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #9


It's proving to be a real struggle here at the end of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). See the chart? I'm catching up to my goal slowly, but am having to write 2,750 words a day minimum to recover from the week on a writing course (isn't that paradoxical?) I was also caught out by the NaNoWriMo "Words Per Day To Finish On Time" in the image above. I assumed it was my daily goal, but even if I finish and add my daily word count, the figure still includes the current day - something I had not realised at the start. So, for example, I have two days left, Sunday 29th and Monday 30th. But that
Words Per Day To Finish On Time 1,849
is actually only a third of the 5,547 words I still need to write! So I have to halve it and add it back on to get the real figure of 2,774 words on Sunday, and the same on Monday. Yes, it caught me out. Maths is not my strong point.

I think if this was a novel I'd find it easier, because characters and settings and styles would carry on: but when I have to start a new story every few days I have to reinvent all that, dig out a different folder of research to assimilate, and somehow force my brain into creativity.

How's it going? Well, I finished the drafts of the following stories:
  • Harvest Festival (action survival horror)
  • Web (dark; women's fiction)
  • Living In The Present (Christmas horror)
  • Claws True For Buyer (the working title; archaeology gone wrong)
  • Overload (teenage techno horror)
  • WV (not got a proper title yet; wintry and ghostly horror)
  • Sinker (Scottish angling horror)

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Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Newsletter Time Approaches


Once I've finished NaNoWriMo I'll be working on my next newsletter, hopefully with a redesigned format so it works well on mobile devices as well as PCs. I'm planning on including a few new things amongst my usual ramblings:
  • A bonus Christmas horror story, only finished last week and never seen before!
  • A chance for your name to appear in one of my stories as a character.
  • An opportunity to beta-read and give feedback on my next work, a collection of horror stories.
These will only be available to the people that sign up for my newsletter, so if you are interested, sign up today! And sign up your sister/brother/parents/the thing under the bed/singers/third cousins* while you're at it.

* Delete as appropriate.
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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #8

These stats tell a story

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) nears the end. One week left! I'm up to 33,677 words, out of my 50,000 word target. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it... :-)

My current story is about claustrophobia (though I need a title that doesn't give it away too early); exploring old caves looking for treasures to plunder is a setting I haven't tried before, and is ripe with opportunity. I'll have that one finished in a couple of days, the fourth story since I began NaNoWriMo. I also had some good news yesterday. I'll put it in my next newsletter, I think - something I'll send out after NaNoWriMo. Sign up if you're interested.

Since I'm feeling generous, I dug out links to two posts from my archives, for those who like listening to stories. Back in 2013 one of my horror stories, Creeping Jesus, was turned into audio - blog post / YouTube. Then, a month later, it happened again! Just Telling Stories was adapted with actors - blog post / YouTube. Both productions are really good quality, so give them a listen if you want to get into a creepy mood!

Lastly, I keep reading articles about things being "banned" as being culturally insensitive. The media obviously sensationalise these stories, so the founding incident may not be so severe as it is represented, but the discussion around the events can get quite heated. I've just read this one about yoga. It left me with three thoughts.

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

The Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins)


My thoughts on the books after just finishing the three of them. Spoiler alerts! Best to read on only if you know the story. Having said that, I won't be recounting what the books are about, just some of my impressions.

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1)

Well-written, well-paced, enjoyable, a page turner. Any book that I want to pick up and continue with is on to a good thing. I enjoyed the story, characters and twists.

I wasn't so keen on the use of the present tense - I'm so used to reading novels in past tense that this regularly grated. I was also a bit surprised at a few errors, considering the book will have been edited so many times and made so much money - publishers cutting back on polishing books? For example "I know one has found me and the others will be honing in". Should be "homing in" (though it is a common error). There's also some badly-planned sections that come across as unconvincing placeholders. For example, Katniss decides she wants to hunt alone because Peeta is noisy, then come back for him, but doesn't think he'll agree. She hasn't said anything about it aloud but immediately he states that's what she should do, for those reasons. It's the kind of thing an author writes because they have an omniscient view, but later editing should remove the too-obvious god hand.

I should also go and fuss the big grey thing stood in the corner. When I started reading The Hunger Games I knew little about it, having avoided mentions and spoilers and films. I just had a vague idea that it was popular and was dystopian sci-fi, maybe like 1984 – I switched off whenever Hunger Games was mentioned online to avoid knowing more. As such I was surprised as I read it that it seemed so familiar – and immediately connected it with Battle Royale. I kept thinking “Wow, that’s similar, surely it can’t be an accident?” Suzanne Collins says she never read Battle Royale or knew of it as she was writing Hunger Games. I can accept that, though it still seems strange to me. I knew about Battle Royale years before Suzanne Collins wrote Hunger Games. Battle Royale was widely talked about and praised - I bought it from a Waterstones display. It wasn't something obscure. Then they made a film of it and it became even more well-known due to the controversial violence. Still, this has been discussed elsewhere, I just wanted to mention it as someone who knew nothing of the controversy or what Hunger Games was about, but the resemblances immediately struck me – children forced to kill each other as a punitive lesson by a controlling, hi-tech Government; an arena with randomised weapons, areas altered to force victims together; a person forced to enter the games twice; a hero finding a way to outwit the controllers; rules saying only one can win, but a pair of potential lovers finding a way to both survive; technology to track and observe the children and so on.

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Saturday, 21 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #7

Can't have weekends off, or I'll never catch up!

I don't celebrate Christmas. But today I started a new story, called Living In The Present. A Christmas tale, full of carols, brandy by the fire, decorated trees, snow, and happy children. Ah, so lovely! Of course, since I am working on a horror collection, things are much darker than they seem at first (especially when Dada arrives). Anyway, I surprised myself by also finishing that story today! Only 1,400 words, so short and sweet compared to my usual outpourings.

While typing away I was aware of how easy it is to adopt bad posture, and to increase the risk of wrist pain, RSI et al. I had it really bad once, to the point that I could hardly even bend my wrists (in my case from over-use of the computer mouse, especially during one long, fateful late-night session of System Shock 2 in a dark and cold room - I was left almost paralysed the next day, and martial arts was agony, since I did aikido which involved wrist-locks!). Anyway, once you identify a problem you can start to rectify it. In my case I got better due to adopting more sensible habits. My top tips?
  • Use helpful technologies such as wrist supports, vertical mice, mouse beans - whatever helps.
  • I learnt to use the mouse in my opposite hand, which hardly took any time at all. It's a good idea to alternate, so one hand gets a rest. For general computer use you don't need precision.
  • Another tip is to let go of the mouse when you don't need it. Reading a long page of text? Rest your hand on your lap rather than leaving it in the clutch of death all the time. Also you can scroll through docs and web pages with pg down/pg up (or arrows) rather than always using a mouse.
Look after yourselves!

I also saw that an author had included one of their fan's names in one of their novels. A fun idea! I could probably use some people's names in the short story collection I'm working on, which saves me from leaving my nose stuck in the horror that is baby-naming books. I will probably offer this to people on my mailing list, so if you don't want to miss out, sign up! Of course, you'll have more chance of being eaten by cannibals than being a surviving hero, but it is still fun to see what happens. :-)
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Thursday, 19 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #6

It's difficult to catch up once you fall behind!

Yesterday I finished Harvest Festival (draft 1). The ending really got me going, it was like watching an action film and the words kept coming out! Such fun to write. It needs editing next, but I'll probably put it to the side until NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is over. It's good to let work sit for a while so you can assess it with fresh eyes.

A real change of pace today, from fast action-adventure-horror to a dark character piece tentatively called Webb. Spiders, babies, women's issues, from the voice of a Pakistani immigrant woman. It's been a fun challenge so far, and I've made a good head start. Here's the opening, drafted this morning without much planning, just trying to develop a voice:
This country is three things to me. I list them. First, it is cold. I shiver. I think I have not stopped shaking since I was made to come here. Two, is dark. I have lost the sun that watched me grow up. This one is small and mean and is so far away it has no interest in the people here. Three, is damp. I know heavy rain, yes, but not this always-water thing. Black mould grows along tiles in the bathroom, even if I scrub, scrub a lot, it come back quickly. There is a thing in the kitchen (cupboard? But it has no cups in?) and it is not wood, it is made of something like pieces of wood, all mashed together, baby-food furniture. And where it touches ground it gets bigger, splits, crumbles, and I sweep up the bits. That is what I mean! Damp!
And things you call creepy crawlies, they like it. They are always here. They run in lines along the edge of the carpet. I get up in morning to make Husband breakfast, I see curvy slug trails drying on the worktop. 
And every day I clean up thick old web. So much. This, up in the corner. I have to use a long duster, it try to hide from me. I push it in, turn it, and all the sticky grey and bits wrap around. It remind me of something I see on your television once, called candy floss. Your fairgrounds make people smile, but this is like making evil candy floss as I twist sticky horrible on to it.
I would not eat this.
Talking of food... Consider making vegan chocolates as presents! Talented UK game developer Tom Francis posted this idea on his website. (My postal address is available on request, imperfect chocolates and off-cuts are welcome).
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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #5


Well, I'm back from my week-long writing course. I'll do a separate post about that when I get the chance. In the meantime, you can see from my latest NaNoWriMo stats (above) that I fell behind a bit on my daily wordcounts - but I am catching up!

I really enjoy writing Harvest Festival! Tomorrow I'll finish the story. The ones I've posted on Facebook are a few parts behind where I am really up to. I'm now pondering the idea of publishing Harvest Festival separately as a 99c novella, which can work quite well with some stories. It does seem to break up into short, natural chunks. If you want to read it so far, then here are the links (though note that Facebook loses italics and paragraph spacing, so things do look neater on the page). Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7.

My observation of the week is about the Internet. Talk about the feels and you get 3 views. Post a photo of your dog or cat = 1,000,000 likes. :-)
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Monday, 16 November 2015

IT BT: Spammy Rants And Stupid Routers


Writers are multi-talented beasties. I have a background in e-learning, computers, librarianship, information science, and other such crafts. As such, I often get asked for help with anything computer-related. Computers are complicated. Variants of hardware, software, drivers, settings, operating systems and so on. Inevitably even a genius like myself needs to seek help with some problems. But my other interest is communication, and words - surely it shouldn't be difficult to find that help?

Today I had to help a family member who had upgraded their broadband connection to BT Infinity. It wasn't something I was familiar with, because I prefer to use independent, ethical or green companies, such as the Phone Coop, GreenISP, and Triodos. The basic problem was that every device connected to the new Wi-Fi router with no problem, except for the laptop my mother uses. It just didn't ask for the router password. I forced it to use the password via advanced settings, but it still didn't work. Since I didn't have the Internet yet, I couldn't use online help, so decided to ring BT support.

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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Friday, 6 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #4

Angel Of The North, or Wicked Wizard Of The West? You decide.

November is National Novel Writing Month. It’s also World Vegan Month. Sounds like a good excuse to make some rich chocolate cake (as if an excuse was needed…) Or try this pumpkin cake. Pumpkins, you say? Must be time for a daily update to Harvest Festival! Make Part 4 your lunch-time read. (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3)

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has been an eye opener for me. I hadn’t expected it to be so much fun, and to fuel my creativity in that way. Veni, vidi, scripsi. You can take part even if you aren't working on a novel.

Here's an inspirational quote from Ray Bradbury.
"What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling".
Ray Bradbury; from "How To Write Tales Of  Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction", edited by J.N. Williamson.
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Thursday, 5 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #3

My current NaNoWriMo stats

Still going strong. Some of the Scenes for Harvest Festival have had me typing so fast it was like a brain-to-page translation splurge in real time. When that happens you know you're into the story! You can get a sneak peak at this new horror story on my Facebook page (if you Like the page you'll get updated when there are new posts): Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3. The story won't be there forever, so get it while it's fresh! Another option is to read it on Wattpad (again, only there for a while, then I'll delete it).

Writing is something you learn all your life. That's why I go on writing courses, and read books about the craft. I try and learn something every day. This morning I read an article by Robert Bloch where he complained about books which were padded artificially so they could be sold for more; flimsy ideas stretched into series so even more books could be sold; books written just to catch the current trend and to make more money. He said that it is more important to write a good book than to just try and write a commercial book, with the market and projected sales put before the needs of the story. It's a good lesson.
"The story should be written in the length that is most effective. When the primary consideration is to tailor it for the market, all too often one ends up with the sorry realization that the emperor has no clothes.
Of course, all these admittedly anachronistic notions can and should be dismissed if you're only looking for a fast buck. In such a case, just do the exact opposite of what I've advised here: Get a premise, any kind of a premise you can beg, borrow, or steal; blow it up into the biggest book or the longest series you can manage. Substitute sex for substance and violence for vitality, and God bless."
Robert Bloch, 1986; from "How To Write Tales Of  Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction", edited by J.N. Williamson.
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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #2


National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). This is really fun. It doesn't stop you doing research, or planning; it just gets you writing. Every day. Developing good habits. It cracks my whip and dangles my carrot.

It seems like a good time to point to a resource for writers. I bookmarked the Inspiration For Writers tips many years ago, and only just got round to reading them. There's some solid advice there. Showing versus tellingavoiding redundant words, active writing, character development, dialogue and tags (the latter relevant to my recent post), using flashbacks, POV, commas... Use the Writing Tips menu and sub-menus on the left to find all that and more. They also offer editing services.

Today I wrote 1,915 words. I'll refrain from including any tables or charts. If you're interested in the current work you can get a sneak peak at my new horror story, Harvest Festival, on my Facebook page (make sure you Like the page while you are there!). Part 1 / Part 2. I'll probably add another part tomorrow. Happy writing!
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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015 - Update #1


I said I'd signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) - here's my first update! As you can see from the image above, I am on schedule at the moment. Over 5,500 words of my new horror story Harvest Festival have been written. That feels good. Sometimes I stare at the screen for a while, but it is usually because I am ordering events in my head rather than because I am stumped. And now that the main action is kicking in I found myself typing away like a demon at one point. I can't tell how long this story will be - at this rate it could easily end up as 20,000 words! After it's done I'll begin my next, tentatively called Webb. I'm aiming at different kinds of horror, including monster features, killers, phobias, sci-fi, psychological horror, and action adventure horror. It's fun to try different things. It will be interesting to see if the residential writing course I'm going on next week helps or hinders my NaNoWriMo project wordcount! However, I can honestly say that NaNoWriMo has added some fun to my work, and I have been genuinely excited about achieving my daily wordcounts.

As an aside, I noticed that Amazon opened their first physical bookshop (in Seattle, USA). I like the way they want to show the books face out - in traditional bookshops you often have to remove and put back every book in order to see the covers. Covers are frequently works of art, and should be displayed face out. Another interesting angle is that Amazon will be interested in stocking books which sell, based on the huge amounts of data they have access to. As such, it probably won't matter whether a book is traditionally or independently published - only how popular it is. That is a massive difference from traditional bookshops, which are very focussed on production method (as are literary prizes in many cases, unfortunately, which exclude quality books from being considered). It's about time book discussions considered only the book itself, not how it came to be. Yesterday Orna Ross wrote an interesting piece about e-book sales, and the way the statistics often exclude independently-published books. Times are changing.
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