Wednesday, 28 October 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 42: “What’s On The NANOWRIMO Menu”

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           70626

A deadly hush falls over the crowd as the final days of writing calmly come to a close. It’s just four more sleeps before the adventure begins, a time when every word written is a step towards the legendary 50,000.

Nested nicely between Halloween and that first chocolatey day of advent, sits a writing event that I stumbled across back in 2007. National Novel Writing Month; the challenge to write 50,000 words in just 30 days.

Now, while I’m (still) not a published author, I do have a few projects sat on the back burner that only exist because of NaNaWriMo. Whether these projects will ever be completed, or if they’re destined to remain trunk novels that I just needed to get out of my system, is irrelevant. I am just glad that I found a way to sit myself down and write them.

NaNoWriMo is born from that drive to switch off your internal editor, to get words on the page no matter what, and to grow a story, some characters, and a brand new world, as you go along.

In 2007 I started with just a basic premise; what if I was friends with the Grim Reaper? Over the course of the following 30 days I added new characters, devised an alternate system for how death works, chucked in angels and zombies, and planted the seeds for two sequels. All this from a single idea and two characters. It was so much fun exploring as I went. Sometimes I’d get stuck and ‘skip’ a chapter, maybe coming back to it later. Halfway through a main character became a bad guy, something I didn’t notice was happening until the reveal itself. It’s all so loose, so fluid. It’s all about discovery.

It was a tough year, that first one. No writing buddies back then, it was just me. And that was the year I bought an Xbox, nearly derailing the whole thing. I can see now, looking back, that I made a bad decision not waiting until November was over to make that purchase. Yet a little part of me is glad I did. Because, falling behind allowed me to do some epic late minute writing (with two days left I somehow managed to write 7941 words in one day, nay one session, that ended at 3am on the 30th). While I try to avoid putting myself in that situation again, it’s empowering knowing that if I need to write that much, I can.

A year later I returned to challenge myself again, to prove it wasn’t a one off. This time round I took the first two chapters of a superhero story I’d started earlier that summer and went with it again. As before, characters appeared, plots twisted around each other, but it all turned out pretty damn good.

It was a bit easier that second year. I had hindsight and experience. I also had something a little closer to planning because I was working from an idea that had been sat in my head for years.

I could be forgiven for bringing a little confidence to the table when November 2009 rolled around. I had a 100% strike rate so far and I was getting ready to work on an idea that was very well planned out. The story of an agoraphobic boy who finds himself trapped in the world of his favourite fantasy books, MAXWELL COOPER should have been my easiest NaNoWriMo yet. The book was divided into seven mini stories, allowing me to move around as and when necessary. I had the whole plot planned out. I had a large cast of characters for our hero to meet. And I also had writers block. I guess I could have done without that last one. That was my first fail.

But I didn’t let it put me off. A year later and I was gifted with something all writers crave; free time. I was made redundant and put on garden leave. This meant that I couldn’t start a new job, that I didn’t need to go into my old job, and that I was still getting paid. It was effectively a three month holiday . . . and November sat right in the middle.

It was no surprise that I crossed the finished line that year. In fact I crossed it early, and managed an extra 8000 words on top of the target. And the kicker is, the story still isn’t finished. It was my most epic idea, something that I know I’m not ready to go back to just yet, but one I can’t wait to work on it in the future.

In 2011 I failed after trying to start 2009’s project again. I can take a hint and have avoided that story ever since (even though the wife really wants me to finish it). 2012 saw my zombie western brought to a sudden halt by a house move and the early arrival of my son.

After becoming a dad, I assumed that all my writing time would fade away. I didn’t think I would find the time to type anything, let alone 50,000 words, and it was made more difficult by the cramped living conditions I was experiencing at the time.

And yet somehow I did it. In 2013 I avoided writing a whole novel, and instead began my ode to the TV shows I used to watch growing up. I began work on my most successful NaNaWriMo to date; a supernatural TV-show-style episodic project. Ten novella’s with individual adventures that carry a series long arc through the middle.

It was fun, planned, and once again nowhere near finished when December rolled around. But it was somehow easy. I got into work early and wrote. I blocked out the world with soundtracks at lunch time and wrote. I got home in the evening and wrote. My wife supported me, my friends supported me, and my work colleagues supported me too.

I liked writing episodic. I’d discovered Flash Fiction last year and I like working shorter. So for NaNo 2014, I planned an epic Fantasy story broken down into bite sized pieces. I have never planned a NaNo as much as I did last year. Maps, plots, character histories, species, Gods, cities. It went on and on. I started planning it from the March of that year, took a break with an unrelated novella during CampNaNo that July, and then carried on planning and replanning right up to the starter pistol firing.

And again it all worked. I was hitting writing targets with more ease than I did in the early days. I crossed the line with a couple of days to spare. And I had a couple of writing buddies for the first time ever, people that were new, and others who I’d met from the Flash Fiction community.

Which brings me to this year.

As it stands, 2015 is the year that birthed CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD, and in July I expanded the first of their Flash Fiction stories into a novella. While I’m still working on the second draft of that project (which a recent illness lost me two weeks of working on) I’m going to use this year’s NaNoWriMo to carry on expanding a couple more. I don’t know how many, though I’m planning two at the moment. So hopefully, by the time I open day one on my advent calendar, I should have complete first drafts for CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH and CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM.

Despite the lack of planning I feel pretty confident going in because I’ve spent a long time with the characters and the world. I’ve got a new laptop I’ll be taking into work which means I don’t have to hand write and retype when I get home. This will mean less wasted writing hours.

It’s all building up now. I’m trying to finish the novel I’m currently reading so that reading time becomes writing time. I’ve got my Scrivener set up ready to go. I’ve got my word count excel spreadsheet all ready too.

So that’s it. Four more sleeps and then we’re off.

If you’re taking part then drop me a writing buddy request over at NaNoWriMo; the more the merrier. There’s nothing better than being lifted through the month by the word counts of fellow writers. It helped me last year to chase down a couple of my writing buddies. Although I didn’t beat all of them, being in their ‘slipstreams’ helped get me over that finish line comfortably.

As with previous years, my next few posts will track my progress, and I’ll be offering tips and advice as and when it occurs to me.

So that’s all, really. Good luck to all of you participating. If you’re not, but you know someone who is, then cheer them along.

Four more sleeps to go.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 41: “Write when you can”

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           70368

I’ll be honest and say that what I really wanted to do was write about the new Star Wars trailer. That thing blew up yesterday and, I have to say, it was amazing.

You see, while I spend this blog writing about what I’m writing (or more often the case NOT writing about) I thought it would be nice to occasionally dip into the things that make me Geek.

Like Star Wars. And comic books. And Xbox. And Big Bang Theory.

But this week has just thrown me a curve ball and I thought I’d highlight something that, in hindsight, is a rule I wish I followed more.

For the last five days I’ve been ill. So bad that I’m not at work this whole week. Now I’ve had days off before and I can usually take advantage of some of that ‘free time’ to get stuff done; finish that book, catch up on movies, and most importantly, get some writing done.

But, more often than not the day drags on and I don’t use it wisely.

This week has been different though. I’ve had no appetite, I haven’t read a single page of the latest book I’m reading (which is annoying because I’m close to the end – sorry Sean and Dave) mainly because I can’t concentrate for very long, and this blog post is the only thing I’ve written since last Friday.

So, what’s my point?

Well I guess I look back over the last month, even the last year, and realise that, while I am writing more than I have before, am I doing enough? Instead of setting aside four or five hours a week to work on my project, if I look at my ‘free time’ could I not find more?

I know that, even if someone just writes 100 words a day, it will end up a nice novella by the end of the year. But if I really want to get something done then why not push myself to write 1000 words a day.

Now I’m not saying we should all go big. What I mean is, I could write a 100 words a day and be happy about it, if that was indeed all I could manage. But if I’ve got time for more, instead of misspending that time, I should focus it on better things.

Because these last five days have been so frustrating not being able to write. It’s taking a lot of effort to produce this post and it’s not using the imagination. And I’ll be lucky if it breaks 500 words.

I guess what I’m saying is; write when you can, and make sure you don’t regret not writing when you can’t.

NaNo in eleven days.

Hopefully I’ll feel better in seven.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 40: “NaNo is coming!”

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           69693

It is now the middle of October which, for a lot of writers, means only one thing . . .

NaNo is coming!

I can’t believe how fast 2015 is going. It feels like just a couple of months ago that I was getting stuck into last November’s project, the ill-fated FALLEN SWORDS. I had big plans for that sucker which, after a name change to FRACTURED DAWN and only eleven episodes written, just stalled. I wish I could go into more detail about what happened to it, and more importantly what is going to happen next, but for now my episodic fantasy has been put on the back burner. Perhaps in another blog post.

This year I’m writing something else.

Although 2015 has seen me write various things, more than anything else it has been the year of Chris And Mike. What started back in January as a fun mix of Scott Pilgrim and Buffy soon rolled into an ongoing weekly challenge, one that I’ve been producing ever since.

July’s CampNaNo saw the world of Chris And Mike expand as I stepped back and took their first adventure (CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD) and turned it into the novella CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD.

I’m still working on the second draft of this (coming along nicely) and didn’t want to be derailed from these characters even for just one month. So the only logical step really is to keep going with them.

So, this November, I will be expanding on the next Chris And Mike adventures. My hope is to round out the first trilogy (CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH and CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM). This will complete the origin story and finally get them . . .

Wait. That would be spoiler territory. Let’s not go there.

Suffice to say that I will be spending the next few weeks going between drafting the first story while juggling the planning stages of the next two. This is good, I think, as it will allow me to mix in details here and there between all three pieces; adding little Easter eggs and small hints, planning for the future.

Where I go after that is anyone’s guess. The rest of this year will be taken up with NaNoWriMo and editing, so it looks like 2016 will be the year of Chris And Mike vs. Whether it’s one story, a collection, or an ongoing series, it all depends on the reception and my attention span. I’m hoping I’ve conquered that second

Its 18 days until NaNo.

But I’ll see you in seven.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 39: “Where a prompt can lead”

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           69365

This week has been busy, and in all the wrong ways.

It’s because of this that today’s post is nothing short of a stop gap until next week.

But, not one to waste an opportunity, I thought I’d use last week’s explosion of ideas over at Micro Bookends to demonstrate one very simple point; it’s amazing were the authors mind can go from a simple prompt.

At Micro Bookends last week, the prompt words were PERFECT for the start, and PITCH for the end. A beautiful picture of a young woman (below) was also required to somehow be tied into out pieces.

What follows are four entries I wrote over the course of October 1st, four stories that are very different from each other, despite all starting and ending with those same words.



Perfect body. Perfect smile. Perfect eyes.

That first band practice, I was uncontrollably drawn to her; following in her scented wake for the rest of the day, the week, the year.

She was my inspiration, my rock, a goddess, sent down to dance around us mortals, to give us a taste of something beyond our fragile mortality.

Yet she was much more than something to just idolise and crave. While her body and mind were temples, ones she’d graciously gifted to me, she took such pleasure in leading me on adventures, expanding my mind, and showing me the world.

We love and laugh, while our hearts beat in fever pitch.


Perfect silence; the crowd sits with bated breath.

It’s the final ball of the game; two strikes down, one more for glory.

I smell the grass, feel the tingle of the chilly evening air. I tug the peak down to shield against the spotlights.

This is what it all comes down to; the innings, the game, the whole damned season. We make it to the big leagues and I might just make enough to get me and Beth outta that crappy one bedroom.

I rub my fingers across the cowhide, get a final feel for the ball, let it sit perfect.

Here’s the wind up, and there’s the pitch!


“Perfect way to spend the evening,” I said to the piece of scum sat opposite. I threw the first picture across the table. “Know her?”

He didn’t answer, didn’t look at the photo.

“Karen Newton. 29. Ran her own ad firm. Loved playing that guitar,” I said, tapping the picture.

He just shrugged. Heartless bastard.

I showed him another, and another, ones from the murder scene now. Flesh, blood, death. This time he looked, face twitching with each image, something pent up inside him, wanting out.

“Fine!” he yelled. “I did it! I killed her!” He took a breath. Two. Three.


“That snobby bitch turned down my sales pitch!”


Perfect weather is no silver lining when you’re stranded on a desert island.

I wish I was anywhere but here right now.  I swear to God, if she plays Kumbaya one more time, I’m going to wrap that fucking guitar around her neck.

I mean of all the people from the cruise ship to survive besides me, why did it have to be the crazy bitch from the ‘Entertainment Squad’?

She’s smiling. I hate it when she smiles.

I’m about to tell her exactly that, when the island growls, as if it was waking from a deep, deep slumber.

And then I feel the island pitch.

That’s all folks.

See you in seven.