Lucky I got ditched

Maaaan, what a weekend!

I’d love to tell you that I finished Working Title between signing off Friday and waking up Monday morning (I didn’t). I’d even settle for regaling you all with tales of excess after being reunited with friends of old (there aren’t any). An epic trip into the Welsh wildernesses would be cool, but all I managed this weekend was to stay in and not write (that much).

That’s not the confession of some incapable wannabe (it probably is). Oh no. Saturday, mid afternoon, I was puller away from the keyboard by a knock on the door. There stands Lady Orchid’s delightful neighbour with a half smile and grim eyes. Turns out my old dad’s van has died on a particularly nasty road in the middle of nowhere. To make matters worse, they’ve got no mobile reception and can’t call for help. They, were their lives a nasty movie involving engine troubles and horribly mutated cannibal-killers, were staring what James Scott Bell would call ‘Trouble Brewing’.

Luckily for the parents, the worst thing that happened (after the breakdown, of course), was a couple hour wait for a tow truck and the nasty flask of coffee I took up to them to tide them over (they’re not so keen on strong coffee).

Since it’s not Thursday and I saved this post to drafts on Monday, I reckon the mental mickey pace of my week is quite clear. Work has picked up again (posh customers never make life dull, just infuriating) and apparently there’s some tiny little winter fest around the corner that needs attending to. Anyway, I’ve not had a lot of time to work on Working Title. It is creeping along, just not at the 20k-in-one-day rate I’d envisioned. Still, I’ll hopefully finish this one up (before the aforementioned winter bash) and that’ll free me up for something else.

Okay, I admit that was a bit of a nothing post, but I didn’t want you lovely people to think I’d dropped off the earth without letting you know how things go.

Right, I have to extract this cat from me chest. I’ll see you in a couple of days.

So I got a little side tracked…

I said I’d walk the Howling Horrors then jump straight back into the story. That didn’t happen.  I took my pooches for a stroll through the lovely woodland in where I live, but my keyboard had a little break. The delightful Lady Orchid lives on the route I amble with the animals. I popped in for hot chocolate and a chat that lasted more than a few hours. That’s no bad thing, because enjoying romance and friendship is at least as important as hurling words.

It’s Friday, usually a day of held breath and excitement. Actually, I guess it still is because although I’m client free again (long, boring story that’s not as bad as it sounds), I’ve got the rest of the day to smash my way through some more words. Yes, I’ve had to lower my word count expectations, because writing on the fly is slow, but I’ve also seen some interesting differences between plotting and going organic (I’ve not no love for the term ‘panster’).

My as-yet-unnamed protagonist is a guy (Scav is heroed by a young woman, plus I’m not keen putting a lady through a splatter punk scenario because I couldn’t condone certain behaviour, even in fiction). From one sentence, I know he’s likely to be in his early-to-mid-thirties and knows how to dance fox trot (albeit not very well). He has shaggy black hair and works as a courier. He has also been terrified of caves since childhood.

Although I have some ideas, I don’t know why he has these attributes. They’re the interesting little character quirks that would make a real person interesting and also the kind of minutiae I’d never though of for Mona Kit (hero of Scavenger Hunt). Yes, I can tell you that Mona is a certain height with red hair, that her mother died in a fire and her father is an unknown, but I’d never thought that maybe she learned to toss knives to impress a wasteland guard who absolutely made her knees quiver or that she can’t stand the taste of  cranberries because a mean-spirited kid from the shelter fed her the fruit for kicks when she was very young.

In Smith’s writing into the dark, he mentions that plotting comes from the brain’s left hemisphere and in the land of order and logic, the tried and tested are true. I found this interesting because, when plotting, there’s invariably a scene or seventy that are almost carbon copies of previous work. The scenes frustrate the hell out of me and invariably lead me to reach for my Perl IDE and run the programme again. I repeat this process a lot.

The right hemisphere is where the goblins live, stirring their big cauldron of ideas and throwing them willy nilly (sorry, love that phrase) out into the brain. According to Smith, writing into the dark (as he calls it) harnesses the right hemisphere, leading to greater creativity. I’m no neuroscientist, and I only have personal experience to back up his claim, but I can see the next chapter of Working Title in my mind, where things are possibly going to head and how I can dig my protagonist even deeper into the brown and smelly.

Strangely, I can also see exactly where I’d take this had I reached this point on an outline. The story would go in the same tried-and-tested direction that much of my other (unfinished) work has gone and I’d become deflated by the sameness of it all. I’d reach for the IDE and start the process again.

Let me be clear; I’m not saying that writing into the dark is the ‘One True Way’. With everything in life, we’re all our own individual bags of meat. I’ve probably failed as often going organic as I have plotting, it’s just at this point in time going in blind is working for me.

Anyway, I have an empty mug and an unlikable cop to inflict bad things upon. Have a great weekend and I’ll see you on the WordPress.

TL;DR?
If writing’s your thing and you enjoy doing it, sit down grab your tools of choice and just crack on and enjoy.

How much is too much coffee?

Chapter two took half as long as chapter one. I guess that’s creative flow kicking in. Apparently my protagonist is a delivery driver and he doesn’t get on with coppers. He’s also prone to headaches of various origins.

A while ago, I mentioned Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith. I’ve tried using his method before, but not had a lot of luck (outside of short stories). Since I’m going in blind on this little project, I am going to take note of some of his advice.

Smith reckons you can write a novel straight off the bat, no outline, in one draft. To do this, all you need to do is crank out a chapter, edit typos, punctuation etc, then make notes of important doo dads (character description, potential Checkov’s guns etc) and bear all that in mind for following chapters. Although it flies in the face of modern writing advice, it (at least on the surface) seems plausible.

All that said, I’ve got my pen and notepad beside me as I write. I’ve just finishing chapter two and will crack on with chapter 3 (after I’ve walked the dogs and refilled my mega mug).

It being 13:00 and having some unavoidable commitments ahead of me, I don’t think I’ll be getting 20k words done today. For that, I’d definitely need an outline and a copy of Rachel Aaron’s 2-10k

 

I’m off to get another brew

Two hours in and chapter one is done. That sentence feels pretty good, but I know for a fact I write at twice that speed when I have an outline to play with. Writing without one is clunky and stilted, like that time I was flying freight in the R’tari system and had to utilize a loading suit to see off some pesky space pirates.

Being slow isn’t all bad. Sure, the chance of me getting out 20k today is slim (my previous record is only 17.5 anyway). The plus side is a simple lesson; write one word at a time. When I’m a little stuck for what happens next, hit a few keys and get the next word out. Rinse and repeat until things start flowing again and worry about making things make sense later. That’s probably the best way to view this post, thinking about it.

Anyway, the dogs are going crackers and I need more coffee.

I’ll get back to you in a bit.

I’m gunna need more coffee

Morning Chinchilladors,

I’ve got an unexpected day off on my hands. That’s no great shakes when you run a business. I’ve been thinking about sitting around moping (okay, I have been sitting about moping), but it’s a complete waste of time and I got the bills to pay.

It’s been eight months since I churned out Scavenger Hunt. I’ve been pretty unproductive since I hit the publish button on that one (Hi Orchid!). I figured an unexpected day off would be the perfect opportunity to crank something out.

Unlike Scav, I’m going to hit this one blind (maybe more a short-sighted kind of thing). Since I’ve got your attention, I’ll rattle off something from the Perl-based generator and have a go at sharsies.

This is what I got:
Your genre is Splatter Punk
Your protag wants to get something physical
Your character faces a Physical death
Your ending is Positive
your length is 20 thousand words

20k words unprepared in a genre I’ve never before written? It’s lucky I had my 4-egg piri piri omelette before jumping into action!

I’ll update later, even if it’s just a ‘what was I thinking?’ tweet. Now off you go. I’ll catch you on the other side.

‘How to get to know your story’s world with world building questions’ by Kylie Day.

With the longer nights and bad weather drawing in, I’ve found myself less in demand. By no means has the day job dried up, but the seasonal slow-down is starting to take effect. With a touch more free time on my hands, I’ve been able to get in a touch more reading and writing (and, of course, spending time with Lady Orchid).
If you’ve been around her long, you’ll know I tend toward Spec fiction these days. You’ll also know that my MO is short, intense bursts creativity followed by massive lulls. Since this pattern tends to leave me little time for story world backgrounds, I picked up a digital copy of the exhaustively-titled ‘How to get to know your story’s world with world building questions’ by Kylie Day.
It’s a very slim book, 23 pages according to the Amazon page. Including in that number are a dedication, a why I wrote this section and various other bits and pieces. In fact, the actual meat of the work is contained with 13 pages (on my kindle for PC). These pages are a series of one line questions relating to your fictional world.
The small amount of usable content isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Although you could probably find the same world building questions on blogs and web pages, it’s nice and convenient to have them all kicking around in one place and although some of the questions appear a bit redundant (How do people earn a living seems a lot of ground to cover for an entire planet/multiverse/universe), answering the questions in sequence really gets the juices flowing and sparks more ideas into life.
Yes, How to get to know your story’s world with world building questions is a very short book, but I found it quite useful and at less than a quid, I’d say it’s worth picking up if you need a little hand with the old world building.

Excising Dead Matter

Between taking Lady Orchid and her three seedlings to the beach, entertaining said sea monkeys while their mummy learned the fine art of horseless charioteering and a gamut of other fun things, I managed to turn a surgeon’s eye toward Refuge. Unfortunately, despite all the weekend’s goodness, I found something lurking in the story’s guts.

Refuge’s second scene revolves around the mutant menace’ leader. He’s in what passes for a maternity ward in his post-apocalyptic hell hole consulting with a physician over the first viable child born solely of mutant parents. At the time of writing, this scene seemed like a pretty big deal. Scavenger Hunt makes it pretty clear that inter-mutant reproduction is impossible as an unchanged humans must be involved in the process.

This little piece of information has always been something I’ve wanted to put into the overall story, but in hindsight, I don’t think book 2 is the place for it to happen. In fact, throwing in the mutie-mating derailed the story I actually wanted to tell.

So, I’ve cut 15k worth of writing and throw it into a drawer somewhere. That may have been a bit painful, but on the plus side, I’ve worked out why the story felt slow and stilted.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I have a second draft to write.

Editorial Joys

Refuge’s done and dusted, ‘The End’ has been written. I did say I’d leave it a while and write something else before grabbing the red pen. As it turns out, I’m an impatient sort.

Because I’ve been writing this one mostly blind (that’ll remind me to back up my work), I had the feeling I’d lost the intended story somewhere en route. With everything said and done, I realised that was indeed the case. The story I had was not the story I wanted and things were too far put to tie up with the planned route of part three.

I could have left things as they were, tickled the manuscript into shape and worked from the back of that to adjust the next story. That’s not what I did. Instead, I’ve spent the past few hours reading, editting and looking for where things went wrong. I then dumped 15 thousand words in one key stroke.

That may sound a little bad but although that’s a fair bit of work rejected, I’d say it’s a good thing. Although it’ll take time to put the errors right, it means that I’m not putting out work I’m not happy with. 

Left Toe Shuffle

Early mornings and long days have got me a bit on the back foot. It’s too be expected, what with the sun shining and the birds singing. Real work floods my days at this time of year, so the rewarding work has to get relegated to stolen moments.

In spite of everything book 2, draft 1 is complete. It weighs in at a little longer than scav, but the insides are a whole lot messier. I think I’m going to give this one some time to rest before I set about some red pen surgery.

As if to celebrate the final words going down on book 2, my meteorological masters have taken it upon themselves to watch the world drown. To celebrate the unexpected day off, I’ll be hammering out as many words as I can in the new few hours, though I’ll probably do some yoga first.

Suck

I’ve never been a runner. A swimmer, sure. I’ve done a lot of swimming. I swam a couple of miles for charity and I used to be quite good. I did a bit of judo, even won a couple of medals at club level, so you could say I was okay at that once too.
 I’ve never been a runner though. I did that 5k thing once, but I wasn’t really running on account of the woollen Santa costume and a beer barrel brim-filled with small change. Six guys were going to walk it around the track. One dropped out. I was asked to step in on the day.

You could say as a runner I suck. Every jelly-legged step I take sucks. My ability to run up hill, and it’s pretty rolling here, sucks. My heaving, four-months-off-a-23-year-smoking-habit-lungs can just about suck. 

Opting for less than the full 10k would have sucked. I could have managed a 5k run with minimal training, and the 2.5 would have sucked so hard staying in bed would have been a less sucky option.

So I suck at running. There’s only one answer. When I feel like hammering out a couple more words to avoid the trails, suck it up and pull my shoes on. When my ribs are tied tight with stitch, suck in another lungful of air and throw out another stride. When I go for longer than my training plan requires, even if it’s just by one minute, suck up that glory and keep it tight in my chest for inspiration on the next run.

Yeah, I suck at running. Everything sucks at the beginning. I’m damned sure I’m going to suck it up and deal with it.