Wednesday, 25 June 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 20: “New design, Camp, Zombies and a mention”

Hello everyone. Today you find me in a cheerful mood. Outside of the usual things like fatherhood, work, and pub quizzing I’ve had an eventful week.


The first thing you’ll notice without me having to mention it is the new look of the blog. I found that a couple of little things were irking me about the old version and I’d put off taking care of it for a couple of weeks now.

At this stage I’m following a nice selection of fellow bloggers and it’s impossible not to notice other peoples great design choices. On more than one occasion I’ve seen something and thought “cool, how do I get my blog to do that”?

First off, I didn’t like the fact that there were not clearly defined break between the columns so I found a template that does that. Now each gadget and blog post is clean and split from other content. I think it looks easier on the eye.

Also, now that I’ve started posting links to my stories I wanted them to be easily grouped together. That led me to include a third column. The plan for this new column on the right is to ‘list’ all my available work. To begin with it will just be links to my shorter, free work for people to check out and comment on but, eventually it will show my full novels for sale.

Finally I played around with the column widths. It was a little cramped after adding the extra column but I think it looks better and fills more width on the screen.

Obviously at this early stage of the blog it’s a good idea to keep working on the general layout and style. There’s still so much to learn and it was never going to be a case of picking one design and sticking with it for the entire run of the blog. As I grow so does it. Hopefully you will all follow me along the way (hints and tips welcome).

Camp NaNo is just around the corner so I have been busy planning my novella, TATTOO. I finally got my hands on the Camp NaNo trial version of Scrivener and I have to say, I’m impressed. Whilst I haven’t been able to write a single word of the story (though I want to, I really want to) I have been busy working on the characters and planning scenes. Scrivener is great for this with its corkboard style planning pages.

Something that some authors do is to ‘cast’ their story and so I’ve given this a go. In the below image you can see the five actors I’ve picked to play the main characters in my story.

It’s important to add that I chose not just the actors but those specific pictures for a reason. I made sure not to select a picture of the actor on the red carpet in an expensive dress or suit. These actors were portraying roles, even if this is just to make it quicker for me to get a feel for the characters. That is why the picture of Julie (actress Ellie Kendrick) has her looking a little thoughtful and sad. I couldn’t pick an image of the actress smiling and waving because the character of Julie doesn’t start the story in a happy place.

I’ve also been able to start planning the story through chapter cards. These are good for just briefly outlining the events of a scene or chapter and, as you can move the cards around the corkboard, it’s easy to change the order of the story without having to cut and paste or rewrite.

As I mentioned in the last post I will be posting every Wednesday throughout July with updates and insights into the novella as well as a running review of the Scrivener program.

If anyone out there is planning to take part then give us a shout, tell me what you’re doing and keep me up to date with your progress. Visit the website and send me a message (my user name is Briman79).


If you’ve been following me for the last couple of months you might remember that I entered a short story competition with my story CONDOLENCE

Well today I learnt that I did not win the SFX magazine ‘Writing Dead’ competition or make it as one of the four runners up. I locked myself away in a cupboard for a couple of hours this afternoon, cried, vowed I’d never write again, slapped myself and finally got over it. All better now.

On a serious note though, congratulations to James “JC” McFetridge on his winning story ‘BRAND NEW, IN BOX”. I’ve linked to the SFX article here but you’ll have to go out and buy a copy of the magazines 250th issue to read the winning entry. Also, big shout out to the four runners up too.

Obviously with the competition now over I can and have posted my entry up on Wattpad for all to read. Even though it didn’t win I am still really proud of it. Let me know what you think.


And finally I made a small but impressive step regarding my side line in Flash Fiction. I’ve only entered four times but last week’s story, ONE CROWN TO RULE THEM ALL was my first mention.

It was quite an exciting moment when I turned on my phone Monday morning to find a tweet saying that I’d had a special mention for ‘Interesting Title’. To be honest it was a last minute change but I do like it.

My next goal is a runner-up result and then that coveted winners’ position. Roll on this Friday; I’m hungry for more.

And with that I’m done. I hope you like the new look blog and I hope some of you join me for Camp. Counting down to July 1st.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 19: “Off to Camp NaNoWriMo”

Something I mention often on this blog is the annual writing event that is NaNoWriMo. Since I first took part back in 2007 it has been one of the biggest parts of my writing. It really is when I’m at my most creative and productive. I have four 1st drafts that I don’t think would exist in any form without NaNo.

I’m coming to the part of my Uncanny Tales project where I’m ready for feedback. In a few weeks I’ll be sending drafts to my beta readers as well as posting the stories on Wattpad and here on the blog.

While the stories are out there (hopefully being enjoyed and critiqued in equal measure) I want to get on with something else, something bigger than a short story but not the volume of a novel.

I recently discovered that NaNoWriMo runs two other events through the year called Camp NaNoWriMo. Taking place in April and July, it’s almost exactly the same with just a couple of differences, the main one being the word count. Unlike November’s 50,000 words, Camp NaNo allows you to pick your own word target.

I’ve had an idea for about a year now that was not going to make it as a novel but offered more to explore than I could fit in a short story. With that in mind I’ve decided to take a stab at this novella for July’s Camp NaNo.

Julie Barrett is trapped in an abusive relationship. While her boyfriend is away for the weekend, Julie’s best (and only) friend convinces her to get a tattoo. But the tattooist they go to is no normal artist and, upon seeing the evidence of Julie’s predicament, he gives her a tattoo surging with magical potential, a tattoo that will change Julie’s life forever.

I’m aiming to get it to 20,000 words which should be easily doable. It might even go about 10,000 over. The main reason I want to do this is because, over the last few months I’ve mostly been writing up and editing existing stories. This will be like a break where I can get to write something fresh, recharge my creative batteries. It works out nicely for where I am with the Uncanny Tales project too.

So, for the month of July I’ll be aiming to write a minimum of 650 words a day. I know it doesn’t seem much but, unlike last year’s NaNo, I won’t be able to write everyday so I’m planning to smash the word limit on some days to balance out others.

And that’s not all I’ll be doing in July. I’m also going to be trying out Scrivener, a writing program that is designed around writers and, according to the hype, makes things a hell of a lot easier. It seems especially useful for indie writers:

  • Everything is in one file in one program.
  • It has a corkboard where note cards and pictures can be placed; great for the planning stages.
  • It allows you to move chapters around with ease. You simply drag the file where you want to go and the novel is reordered.
  • Formatting seems so much easier. A lot is done at the end of the writing process like chapter heading, page numbers and front matter.
  • You can set your own word targets.
  • It compiles and exports your document in a number of different formats. This allows you to knock out a  version of your novel for Kindle, Kobo, i-books or Print-on-Demand.
  • And, it uses snapshots and automatic backups so the chances of losing your work are greatly minimised.
I’ve heard a lot about Scrivener through podcasts and blogs and I’ve been itching to try it. In fact, from what I’ve seen and heard I’m 99% sure I’m going to end up buying it. However, I’m going to be sensible and, before purchasing the final product, I’m going to give the 30 day trial a go. I figure that NaNo is the perfect opportunity to try this out; 30 day trial for a one month deadline.

So as well as updating you with the progress of my novella each week throughout July I will also be reviewing Scrivener as I go, pointing out what impresses me, whether it meets my expectations and what makes it so talked about by the many writers I follow.

I’m off now to get two short stories tidied up as well as get some planning done for TATTOO. If any of you are taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo then let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@BrianSCreek). It will be nice to tag along with some fellow writers and keep each other on track.

Next week I’ll be talking about two great books I read on the subject of self-publishing. They’ve been great at getting me ready for what comes next and I think everyone who plans on publishing their own stuff should definitely take a look at these.

Also, more Flash!Friday coming in two days. Hope you’re enjoying reading them as I’m really enjoying writing them. It’s a nice way to end the week.

And finally, this time next week issue 250 of SFX magazine is out on newsstands (UK only, I think). I’m guessing that if I had won the Zombie short story competition (with my entry CONDOLENCE) then I would have heard something by now. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to reading the winning effort and anything else they publish about the event. I will also be posting my entry here and on Wattpad if it is not included in the magazine for you great folks to take a gander at.

See you in seven.  

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 18: “It’s where ideas come from”

Several years ago I finished Microserfs by Douglas Coupland. This was a big deal because it was my fourth attempt. To this day I don’t know why I struggled on three separate occasions. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it and it’s not because it was a difficult read. I may have thought these things at the time but, on that successful fourth pass, I loved it and breezed through it.

All I can assume is that it’s all about the timing.

I find it’s the same with writing. I have a list of most of the ideas I’ve ever come up with. A small amount I get on with then and there but some of the ideas don’t feel like they want to be written just yet. So I leave them and, every now and then, I look over that list and see what feels right that day. I can even end up merging two or more ideas together.

It can be a stressful experience to want to (or even have to) write something but find yourself minus the inspiration. The more you yearn for that idea to ‘pop’ into your head the more difficult it becomes to relax and let that process happen.

A lot of the time I find myself hearing a news story or watching a show and just thinking simple questions like ‘What if’ or ‘Why’.

With IMPRISONED (which will be up on this blog and Wattpad in a few weeks’ time) it all started with a real life news story about a man who, after fifty years in prison, had been found wrongly accused. I thought about all that time he would never get back and how lucky he had been that his punishment was only imprisonment and not execution. These thoughts stayed lurking at the back of my mind until I caught a programme on over crowded prisons. They talked about whether execution would relieve this and I thought back to the wrongly accused prisoner. What if they got it wrong? How can we be 100% when it comes to ending life?

So sometimes just coming across a random news story can spark off an idea and lead into something bigger.

Last year I took park in evening classes for creative writing. During one of these lessons our teacher passed out some newspapers and asked us to flick through them. She wanted each of us to find a head line and use it as a spring board for a short story.

I went through all the newspapers and came up with nothing. I’m not big on world news, politics or even sports so most of the papers contained nothing that I normally follow. Even general news seemed quiet.

The teacher noticed me struggling and offered me the PC stuffed in the corner. I relaxed then. I logged in, brought up Google news and went straight to the Technology section.

Now, most of the time this contains news about games consoles, mobile phones and cars but I got lucky that day. I found an interesting article on bionics and how far we see mankind going in the future with integrated technology (wish I could track that article down but it was a year ago). It talked about camera eyes for the blind and mobile phone like devices connected straight to our brain.

And then I had the spark.

How far could humans go with this? How much augmentation is too much? When are you no longer human?

And then I started writing.

Switched On

Monday, 3rd June 2021

            “Mr Stanton?”
I turned my head as a doctor came into my room. “Yes”, I replied.
            “Good morning. My name is Doctor Fletcher and I’ll be over seeing your procedure this morning.”
            I smiled nervously. I get that’s it’s his job to reassure and relax the patient but he can’t stop me thinking about what I’m about to go through. After today, after the surgery, my life will be completely changed.
            I watched the doctor as he looked over my chart at the foot of my bed. When he finished he walked around to my right, a fixed, well-practiced smile on his face. “How are we feeling today?” he said.
            “I’m okay,” I said as I took up my end of the small talk. We were both just waiting for the go ahead now. There was no going back from this even if I wasn’t feeling good. Too many people were counting on me going through with this. “Have you done this before?”
            “Three times, not including today,” he said. “So you’ll be my forth.”
            “Have there ever been any . . . ?”
            “Complications?” he finished for me. “Only once. His name was Michael, I believe. It wasn’t unexpected though. He was the third person in the world to go through with this specialist procedure but only the first in the UK. But the silver lining was that those issues we stumbled across helped us perfect the surgery. And he’s doing fine now. Working hard and making us proud.”
            I already knew most of the information he told me. I did my research before signing the paperwork. Even with the large pay out my family would get I still needed to know exactly what I was getting myself into.
            A nurse knocked on the door to my room and entered. She was a pretty thing, looked like my wife when we started dating, only not blonde.
            “Everything’s ready, doctor,” she said.
            “Okay,” said Doctor Fletcher. I noticed him checking her out as she turned and left us. I hoped he didn’t get distracted so easily during the surgery.
            “Right,” he said. “We’re all ready to go. You’ll be out for about 30-35 hours. We’ll go through the entire procedure before you’re woken up. It can be uncomfortable for the patient to do this in sections. After that you’ll be awake and at work by the end of that day. No aches and no pain. In fact, unless there are issues with your recovery, you probably won’t see me again.”
            I hold my right arm out to him. “Thank you doctor.”
            He takes my hand and shakes it. “No, Mr Stanton. Thank you. This procedure is just the beginning. I can’t even imaging where this will lead us in the near future.”
            I smile and relax, looking up at the ceiling.

Friday, 7th June 2021

According to my display it’s been several days since I was awoken from surgery. I’m still getting used to phantom limb syndrome and not needing to breathe but that should all pass. The hardest thing to learn was controlling the data on my display just by thinking it. Now that my neuro implants are plugged into the Governments data library I can work non-stop longer and faster than I ever did at my old job. Just like those volunteers before me.
Sure I miss my family but, like the body I once inhabited, those memories, those connections, will soon fade. My mind belongs to the state now.
Rule Britannia. We never clock off.

Please let me know what you think of this piece. And let me know what you do to find ideas when the well of inspiration goes dry. Do you scour the news headlines for stories? Go for a walk? Watch your favourite movies?

Next week I will be discussing my plans for this July’s Camp NaNoWriMo which I’m really looking forward to. If you’re taking part then let me know. It would be nice to talk to fellow writers during the month long challenge.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

(vol 1) CHAPTER 17: “Read. Review. Repeat”

First off let me apologise for the slightly downbeat post I put up last week. I’m glad I wrote it as it helped me to vent frustration onto the page. It allowed me to step back and take stock of where I was at that moment. Of course I’m sorry that it took up your time to do it.

I imagine all unpublished writers hit lows on a regular basis. That was probably my first one since I started this four months ago. With an ongoing uphill struggle and the constant feeling of isolation it can smother you in doubts if other things in your life pile on as well.

I’ve picked myself up and dusted myself off now. In fact, I’ve had quite a productive weekend and am now much clearer about my plan for the rest of the year.

It all started last Friday when I dipped my toes into the world of Flash Fiction. After following a fellow author Craig Anderson (please read his free book GETTING Lucky; it’s a great story and well written) I noticed he regularly took part in a weekly writing challenge on Flash! Friday.

I’ve been watching it for a while and decided last Friday that I would finally step up and enter a piece; 150 words using just a picture and word prompt. Although I didn’t win I think it’s fantastic to use for motivation just once a week. It barely takes time out of my writing as I can get it done in my Friday lunch break. Going forward I will be posting my entries every Friday for you to view. Feel free to jump in yourself and flex those writing muscles.


I finally finished typing up the first draft of LOVE BITE, my vampire short story. It’s taken me forever and I really wish I knew why. It still needs a little work on the beginning again to match some changes I made to the final scene but I think it’s good. I’ll hopefully have a good version to get to beta readers soon.


Due to my new plan I found some time on Saturday to start working on book covers for each of the seven stories going into UNCANNY TALES: vol 1. It was fun playing around with images and fonts, trying out different things until I (and the wife) felt it looked good. I like the four I’ve finished so far and even managed to do one up for CONDOLENCE, the zombie story I entered time the SFX magazine competition. I’ll be doing a bigger piece on book cover design in an upcoming post.


This is what really got me out of that rut I was moping in. I had been so caught up in putting out a cheap e-book of collected stories in time for Christmas that I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was actually hoping to achieve.

I’ve recently read a couple of fantastic books on indie publishing that have opened my eyes to certain things (more on that next week) and I now know how I personally need to go about things.

So, a 99p collection is out. In its place will be a free collection with exactly the same content.

“That’s not much of a dramatic change,” I hear you cry. And you’d be right if that was all but you didn’t let me finish.

You see I can’t just give my seven stories to a group of family and friends and hope that only their feedback will help me to get the best out of my work. They are great beta readers even if sometimes I need to coax more out of them then they would openly give and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

But I need to reach more people, be seen by more eyes and be discovered by readers who like nothing more than to soak up story after story after story. Thank god I discovered Wattpad.

I hope that, by putting my stories up for a sea of readers to view that I will get unbiased, fearless, brutal reviews of my work.

And of course, if it’s up free on one website then I don’t feel I can go on to repackage them together later on down the line and charge for it. People will just go back to the free version. I would.

I’ll still keep my core beta readers (sorry guys but you’re not off the hook yet) but hopefully I can get a more mixed opinion on the basics from strangers who don’t know me from Jack. And, if nothing else, it’s exposure. It would be great if someone sees one story and goes onto the next and the next and the next until they're e-mailing me asking “Do you have a book coming out anytime soon?”


And because I don’t think that’s enough for me to be getting on with I will also be entering Camp NaNoWriMo this July. 30 days with a self-imposed target; should be fun.

Whilst I’ve taken part in six November NaNoWriMo’s I’ve never tried Camp NaNo but as I’ve had an idea for a novella bouncing around in my head that I thought was too big for the collection and too small for a 50,000 November NaNo,  I’m going to try that.

    *   *   *   *   *

The main thing is that I feel like I’m back on track. I’m absorbing more with a whole lot of podcasts coming out of my ears and I’m reading books about writing/selling books in between reading other books. Crazy.

As always I thank you for following me on this and putting up with the growing pains. Overall I’m enjoying myself and I hope I can look back next year and the year after and think “Wow, I’m glad I persevered.”

Feel free to leave comments below and, whether you are a budding writer or not, I encourage you to try out some of the sites I’ve mentioned. What could it hurt to challenge yourself to a 150 word flash fiction piece, complete a short novel in July or post the first three chapters of that book you always wanted to write and see what people think?

See you in seven.