Friday 22 March 2013

Bludgeoning a Novel

Yesterday I took out my first ever novel The Bureau, and beat it into submission.  Having just finished the first draft of my third novel, Bad Dog I could now look back on my first born, see the problems I was having with it, and why they were problems.  We don't talk about the second born as that was terminated due to not owning the IP for the setting.

The title for my first novel was The Bureau, which got a big thumbs down on the writing course I attended a little while ago.  Once I explained why it was called The Bureau people understood, but felt that it lacked punch.  So today after beating the words I had written into a different shape I'm thinking of going with State of Mind as the title (update I changed my mind, and went back to The Burea until something better comes to mind).

Pitch line for State of Mind aka The Bureau WIP: The Professionals meets Call of Cthulhu.

Synopsis:  Two men face a darkness that leads to reality changing around them.  One thinks he is going mad, while the other runs from organized crime lords. Two stories, one dark truth.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Writing Log 130320

Early this week because I have just finished the first draft of Bad Dog.

Total words this week 4268.  running total for the month 29214.  First draft total for Bad Dog 93,015 words.


1. Do an edit for typos and double words etc. for rest of the week

2. Start plotting the sequel and let Bad Dog rest for a month

3. Write a couple of articles for Henry Hyde and take photos

4. Read some books for back ground research for Bad Dog

5. Have some down time with my partner next week

6. Write some blogs

Saturday 16 March 2013

Writing Log 130315

The Rules of Writing with apologies to J. R. R. Tolkien, but I couldn't resist.

Three Rules for the Basics of spelling, grammar and punctuation,
Seven plot points for the Structure of the story,
Nine for the Words that name, describe and place in time,
One rule for the Author telling the story
In the Land of Writing where the author's fears do grow.

One Rule of writing, One Rule for ideas,
One Rule to finish novels and then try to sell them
In the Land of Writing where the author's fears do grow.

My writing this week has been a bit more of a struggle as I wrestle the story to an end.  I have three chapters to write with the scenes I need to tell described as one-liners in my outline, and from this you can tell that I'm a macro rather than a micro writer, see theory post here.  However, you may start writing at one extreme of a continuum, but trust me when I say that you will have to progress to the other end to be able to finish your novel.

So this week my total word count in 11,039, so yay!  What that doesn't show is the peaks and troughs as I plowed my way  through to get to that target and maintain my average of two thousand words a day.  So now Bad Dog stands at a total of 88,748 words, also yay!

Friday 15 March 2013

Theory v Practice

I like to think about stuff, I guess it goes with the territory of being a writer, or perhaps not.  Maybe it's just because I like thinking about stuff.  One thing I was taught on various courses was the importance of theory and the need to put it into practice, because to paraphrase Kant; Theory without practice is meaningless, but practice without theory is blind.  What I think is that one can apply this to looking at the following:

Literature versus Genre writing
Micro versus Macro plotting
Character versus Plot driven stories

All of these I have seen, or heard being described as starting places in opposition to each other.  However, it seems to me that if you took the above and put them into a drawing like this then they can be seen for what they truly are.

These points are not mutually exclusive things, rather that they are on continuums plotting the progress of discrete changes as one moves from one end to the other.  It is only when you looked at them in isolation do they generate extremes, and in my experience taking extreme positions leads to less tolerance of diversity and acceptance of differences from one's own view as being equally valid.

I might come back and kick these around a bit another time as I think there are some rather interesting assumptions going on as the relative merits of each with some things seen as more valuable than others.  All inspired by the course I talked about here.

This article was inspired by my weekend Guardian Masterclass on the Fundamentals of Fiction run by the award-winning author Tim Lott, where he discussed the six points in my three axis drawing.

Friday 8 March 2013

Writing Log 130308: Bad Dog

I don't make New Year resolutions, because one tends not to be able to stick to them and therefore what is the point?  Better instead to just identify the changes you want to make, come up with a plan on how do that, and then do it.  However, my partner told me to keep a physical record of my daily writing in a diary, which I have been doing since the beginning of January.  So here I am writing the first of what will probably become weekly diary entries keeping track of the work I've been doing with my time.  Given that this blog is about writing, this will mean I'm keeping a very public record of the number of words I've written in that time. So no pressure then!

Writing down the number of words I've written each day has been a useful tool for me as it allows me to track my progress towards reaching my targets.  When I started writing I just made the target easy, write something each day.  Looking back in my diary I can see that the first day I sat down and started writing Bad Dog I achieved the grand total of 346 words.  This is not bad and is pretty close to the advice Chuck Wendig gives if you want to write a novel then write 350 words everyday.  Of course I didn't manage this everyday, but I made progress, which is the point.  It took me a couple of weeks to get to the place where I had written a thousand words of my novel that day.

A thousand words is a pretty good too, and there are authors who have made their career based on a thousand words a day.  However, a couple of people I know said something along the lines of one really needs to be able to write two thousand words a day, if you want to be able to make a living from writing.  Looking back now I see it took me a month to get to the place where I could write two thousand words a day. Though I didn't always achieve that total everyday I wrote.  Now what I find by looking back through my diary is that by the end of the week I have managed to average two thousand words a day.  To do this require you to treat writing like work, which means letting go of the need to be precious about the words, and seeing them as mere markers on the way to your ultimate goal of a finishing your novel, which is about 100,000 words in today's market place.

So this week my total word count is 13,097 words.  The novel is now running at 77,712 words and the summit is in sight.

Monday 4 March 2013

The Call to Writing

In another place and time I found myself in a rare position of having a job where I could write stories while I worked.  I had written short stories as a teenager, which my stepfather had told me, were better than he could write.  However, his main comment was that they were written in American English, which made my stories somehow less than they could be.  Writing was certainly not proper work, as it would lead to the misery of poverty; better to have a proper career in banking, like him.  Time passed, and I grew older, but I failed to become a banker, or a solicitor by the time I was nominally an adult.

This is of course for some definitions of adult, but not all definitions of adult, because this was a time when traditional adult roles were changing.  The forces of change ranged from feminist challenges to the male patriarchy, to Margaret Thatcher and her ideology of TINA; There Is No Alternative.  Still, my life was ordinary but I still felt the call to write stories.  As with all things there comes criticism, and my younger self could not cope, because it felt like rejection, and rejection was the thing that I feared most.  Being rejected meant being unloved, unliked, and having to face death all-alone.  So I found other ways to be creative, ways that would not result in me having to face being alone when it was my time to die.

Rejection of what I believed was right for me led to isolation from change that reduced my circumstances, and made my less ordinary leading to rejection and being alone.  Then death came into my life, not for me, but for my friends and family, and I realized that if I were to die without having written the stories I wanted to write then I would die very angry and bitter, full of sadness and regrets.  A friend challenged me to write, and I started, but got stuck again at the barrier of what to write from the sheer number of words one needs to finish a novel.

Then, as in all good stories, something happens to the hero to aid them in their quest.  I was given a present from my partner to help me on my journey to become the writer of my own stories, and through the internet I found my first guide who pointed the way to the path that led to the truth, just write.  Thank you Chuck.

There began my quest to become a writer, and like all quests there was danger from having to face and overcome the monsters of doubt, fear and uncertainty.  The words I wrote taunted me, leading to despair and frustration, but I started again by writing something different, another story and challenged myself to write everyday.  Other people said that is not enough, and that I should write more.  Some writers reported they wrote more words in a day than I was writing in one week.  Confusion and chaos arose from the contradictions all around me, and then I remembered the truth again.  Write, just write, but write everyday, and you will find your way.  I crossed that threshold two months ago, and in so doing I have found myself lost as my old self struggles with the daily task of writing, and the feelings that it generates from doing so as I grow into my new role as a novelist.

Then came the time to get my present, which some may say arrived after the time it was needed, but real life is not a simple story where things happen just in time.  There are complex stories of setbacks, and new challenges that change from day-to-day.  There I met a mentor who taught me that being a good writer is not the same as being a novelist, because everyone can write something that is good, but not everyone can write a novel, because a novelist must have staying power and commitment.  A novel is more than the sum of its parts.  Not all the chapters in a novel will be perfectly written, and the search for perfection must not be allowed to prevent one from reaching the goal of finishing the novel.

I have finished the two-day workshop, and like all mentors mine has imparted his wisdom, and now I must face the trials ahead.  I have helpers like my partner for one, and a community of writers on the Internet for another.  Some will serve me better as certain times, and less well at other times, but I know the fundamental truth that the power is within me.  So I now approach the darkness of the innermost cave of completing the novel, and then I must submit it for publication.  That part of this story is not yet written, but I know I can do it that I must do it if I want the reward that is to become an author of a novel, and here is the final truth.

One is not enough, because if one is good, two is better and three better still, because that is the novelist's quest.  Novels test the author's ability to explore new ideas, to create new characters, and new worlds; to write what no other author has written before.

I have just returned from attending a weekend Guardian Masterclass on the Fundamentals of Fiction that was run by the award-winning author Tim Lott, full of enthusiasm from his teachings I was inspired to write the above.  His two day workshop covered the following: Introduction to novel writing, The psychology of writing, Planning and structure, Dialogue, Character, Plot versus story, A sense of place and time, Next steps and selling your novel.


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