Wednesday, 25 November 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 46: “NaNoWriMo – Day 25”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        71806

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               40926

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           112732

As the end of the month closes in, I feel a twinge of jealousy upon seeing several NaNoWriMo Writer Buddies crossing the finish line and validating their projects.  And while I’m a hundred percent over the moon for them and their success, I’m annoyed at myself for not being there with them.

But my race is not over, not yet. I still have five more writing days to go and I’m pretty much on schedule. Better still, other than day 19, I’ve managed to pass the daily target of 1667. Sure, I’d have liked to have validated already, and either carried on with less pressure, or called time and moved onto something else. But you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. Not 25. Not 35.


And it looks like I’m going to use every single one.

DAY NINETEEN – 1202 words

It was a last minute choice to create the other dimension library and so I just carried on with it on Thursday. And something else I decided to do was bring in the events of a future Chris and Mike story; CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE LIBRARIAN, my ode to the sad passing of Terry Pratchett. In that piece of flash fiction, written earlier in the year, I’d had our heroes meet the Librarian of the Unseen University.

Obviously it’s a character I can’t include in my own works, so I made a subtle change to my worlds version. I still wanted to keep it as a cheeky nod though, so the change is, as I said, subtle.

DAY TWENTY – 2129 words

Day 20 was one of those writing sessions that just seemed to flow. With a now working laptop, I was able to get a nice chunk done before my shift started, and another session at lunch just built on that.

These scenes see Chris and Mike make their way (in what may or may not be a stolen car) to the old tin mine, the start of their journey to find treasure deep within the bowels of the Temple of Gloom.

DAY TWENTY-ONE – 1906 words

With the elevator now out of action, Chris and Mike face their first real danger of this adventure as they make their way down the elevator shaft.

Despite a busy morning, my wonderful wife took our son out to allow me a little piece and quiet and I took full advantage. What would I do without her?

DAY TWENTY-TWO – 1822 words

The guys were reaching the end of what was the old abandoned tin mine and about to cross into the ancient cave system hidden deeper below it.

DAY TWENTY-THREE – 2089 words

Sometimes the story flows out into the laptop easier, sometime it’s a challenge. Monday was impressive, and I didn’t need to do more when I got in, the daily target pretty much accomplished. But I wanted to finish the scene.

And what a scene. With nothing but slow exploration and cave walls for company, I decided it was time to throw the first real threat at the boys. And what better way then for someone thought dead in the prologue to be brought back to life (sort off). A vicious scrap ensues, and our heroes are changed by the conflict.


And let’s not forget about the pair arguing between themselves when their lives aren’t in danger. I’m really enjoying fleshing out the relationship between the two main characters, something hinted at, but minimal, in the flash fiction pieces.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR – 1880 words

I managed a thousand words on lunch but didn’t expect to manage much more once I was home. Tuesday night is Pub Quiz night, after all. But the babysitter (aka mother) was caught in traffic and suddenly an extra thirty minutes appeared from nowhere.

So the guys entered the catacombs below the city of the caves. I carried on in the evening and threw in another homage, this time to the movie which this novella kind of borrows its name. That’s right; rotting rope bridge over river.  

DAY TWENTY-FIVE – 1747 words

Day 25 was a dark day, which fortunately had a happy ending.

I booted up the laptop at lunch time, ready to get stuck in, only to find that the memory stick I use was having some corruption issues. Crap!

Things got worse when the back-up version also failed, as did the compiled Word doc version. But a ray of hope came in the form of the copy of the Word doc that I normally stick on the desktop. I was saved.

Except that I wasn’t, because the previous night, the writing session before the pub quiz (we came second), I used a different laptop. And, trying to rush as I was saving it, I didn’t make a copy. So I lost every word written on the 24th. Every. Word. And I like those words.

So this lunch time I had the NaNo wind knocked out of me. I won’t lie; I was so fed up with laptop and save issues, I was very close to giving up for the rest of the month. But I spent the afternoon talking myself out of quitting.

And then something magical happened. I dug deeper when I got home, and found a backup that held all that I had done. Carefully I restored it and then jumped for joy, desperately looking for someone, anyone, to high five (son was in bed, wife was out, cat ran away scared).

And so, happy once more, I got on with what happened after that bridge I mentioned had a failure. More conflict between the boys, before something ancient, something waiting, revealed itself to our heroes.

The end is near, in more ways than one.

And that’s my last update for November. Next week’s post will be the aftermath where I discuss the highs and lows, what I loved, and where I failed.

Another big congratulations to those with their purple bars. Buy me a drink, and I’ll meet you at the bar. And let’s not forget those that are still running alongside me, all heading towards that glowing word target in the sky.

Of course some people won’t make it to the end this year, for a variety of reasons. But to them I say this; you may not make it to validate, but whether you wrote 1000, 10,000, or 40,000, they are words that you did not have under you belt when November started. With the pressure of November lifted in a few days, you have a seed to carry on working with. And that’s something, right?

Before I go, there’s just one more thing. There was a little bit of sad news last Friday for those of us in the Flash Fiction community. Upon looking up the Flash! Friday prompt for the 20th November, we were all greeted by Rebekah Postupak’s announcement that Flash! Friday, the launch pad for many of us Flash writers, will be coming to an end.

While I’ve wanted to be a writer for a long, long time, I can’t deny that, if I hadn’t been led to the Flash! Friday website all those months ago, if I hadn’t built up the courage to jump in with a swell bunch of authors, then I wouldn’t be still trying to realise my dream.

Sure, the regular writing, the forcing myself away from my comfort zones, has all helped to improve my writing and sharpen my skills. But you can get that from other sites, other writers groups. For me, Flash! Friday was is more than that. It’s a place where I found people like me. It’s a place where mighty friendships were born. And from these friendships, a cool admiration and respect grew. And then following the forging of a group, an Anthology was created, leading to people reading my stories in an actual solid, and very real, book. Any success I’ve had, and any success I achieve in the future, just wouldn’t have happened without Flash! Friday. Of that I have no doubt.

I’m planning a bigger article for later next month so I’ll leave it there for now.

And that’s all for now. So wish me luck. Five more days of writing, with tomorrow being a day off work (that should help big time).

See you in seven. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 45: “NaNoWriMo – Day 18”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        71606

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               28151

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           99757

With November the 15th now out of the way, it’s the downward rush towards the finish line.

These last seven days have been tough, a lot tougher than I expected, and I feel like I’ve let myself down. The want to write was there (most of the time), but as I got to the end of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH, I found myself wading through tar again. Yet it’s not the ending that gets me, it’s that annoying little bit just before it. The part where the heroes prepare themselves, and head off to face the finale. It’s that pause, the build in tension, the wind up. Hopefully it’s something I can work on.

But, despite the struggle, I did manage to write these last few days, so it’s not quite the disaster that it felt like at the time. 

DAY TWELVE – 629 words

Well, I thought I’d been clever by sticking a cottage in front of my heroes, so as to mix things up a bit. And then I found I’d written myself into a basement shaped corner. Today was spent of winding up the solution, getting the heroes the hell out of there, and getting them back on track.
One silver lining was that I’d discovered a solution to a series of breadcrumbs I wasn’t even entirely aware that I was dropping. From the start I’d placed a mysterious figure watching from the shadows but not really thought much of it. While the boys were fleeing the cottage, my brain was busy building an elaborate backstory for this mysterious figure, as well as a way to intertwine his plot into the main story.

Unfortunately it was late, and my mind was struggling to keep a steady pace. I planned what was coming next and called time.

DAY THIRTEEN – 1204 words

To have written anything on Friday was a massive surprise. With it being my son’s birthday, I had planned for a zero word count day (plan for the worst, hope for the best). Add Flash! Friday, a health visitor visit, a trip to the doctors for my son to have a flu jab, the morning at a play shack, a meal out – well, as you can see the day was pretty packed. So 1 word would have been a blessing; 1204 was just plain awesome.

This scene was all about taking what I’d thought up the previous day and putting it on page; the mysterious figure is reveal, and a key location is set up.

I sensed the ending coming now.

DAY FOURTEEN – 1740 words

A few weeks ago, while planning the story of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH, I had this vision of the whole forest collapsing into the ground, our heroes barely surviing. The only problem was how that would fit in with the story of two guys just lost in the woods.

Flash forward and the story was becoming a little more epic in scale. The shadowy figure is revealed to be a key character to the forest, a forest that doesn’t exactly sit in our plane of existence.

I really had my ending now.

DAY FIFTEEN – 2039 words

My son’s birthday party. A day far busier than the Friday. Another planned zero word count day. So guess my surprise and excitement when I managed to update my spreadsheet with 2000+ words. How did I manage it, I hear you ask? Well, I guess I was kind of lucky that the Brazilian Grand Prix was nothing short of a bore fest. I mean it was the opposite of entertainment. So out came the laptop and the words flowed.

It was the last planned day for CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH. I’d decided early on that I’d handle a minimum of two novellas this November, and day 15 was the halfway point. Couple that with the struggle to build the ending (I ended up skipping the build-up and the last burst of writing was the last couple of scenes of the story) and I was ready to start the next story.

DAY SIXTEEN – 1281 words

A new story meant a new intro. I decided to open CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM with a standard TV show opening. So the scene is set, new characters (an archaeologist and his assistant) and the novella’s big bad is semi-revealed.

DAY SEVENTEEN – 1759 words

In a similar way to how I started the last novella, I wanted to find Chris and Mike making their way through the real world, dealing with new real world problems. In this case, Mike is homeless and jobless and is now relying on Chris for help.

Of course Chris being Chris, things are never that simple. And that’s why, instead of show Mike to his house, the pair end up at a house viewing for a building that really should be torn down.

DAY EIGHTEEN – 1704 words

After venting to his friend, Mike finds that Chris has bigger plans than just being a cheap, run down home. You see he has a treasure map.

I spent a lot of this chapter doing more world building too, aware that this series could have legs, and things can be dropped in here and there to set up for later adventures.

The point of NaNoWriMo (in my opinion) is to always march forward, to keep writing and leave the looking back (all that editing) until December 1st. And so I apply that logic to all aspects of the process. Like badly written prose, the distractions and writers block of the last week are now firmly stuck in the past and cannot be amended. All I can do is keep my chin up and power on, knowing from past experience that a word splurge can happen at any moment. I’m behind my targets, sure, but nowhere near the distance to consider stopping. Not by a long shot.

And in the meantime there are my fellow FlashDog writer buddies to draw inspiration from.

A massive congratulations to Tamara Shoemaker, Margaret Locke, and Carin Marais, all who have in the last week, crossed the 50,000 word finish line. To do that this early is amazing, and I am in complete awe of each of them.

Meanwhile, still in the race, and running alongside me, are Tamara Rogers, Emily June Street, Steph Ellis, Liz Hedgecock, Rebekah Postupak, and Casey Rose Frank. All still pouring out the words and keeping me honest.

And that’s it for another week. Looking forward to see where tomorrow leads me. Good luck to all those still charging through their stories.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 44: “NaNoWriMo – Day 11”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        71507

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               17995

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           89502

This week has been a lot more of a roller-coaster than the smooth sailing of last week’s post. Recurring illness gave me my first non-writing day of this year’s contest (losing me the chance to obtain one of this year’s new NaNo’ badges), and a struggle with the plot has caused me to go from racing downhill on roller-skates to trudging waist deep through golden syrup.

But there is a solution to hand, a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ button to press. And I’m close to hitting it.

But first, a look back.

DAY FIVE – 1441 words

When I originally wrote the flash stories, and even while planning this expanded version, the characters of Chris and Mike had their adventure while hiking through the woods. Just the two of them, walking through random woods.

So I was surprised as I got to work on the trip to find myself creating a sort of Centre Parks style camp site that had more modern amenities and a lot of civilians.

But I went with it and had some fun, a particular highlight being the creation of random character Pete Sugar; that guy you meet when you go away who forces himself into your holiday, who knows more about the place your staying than the staff, and who just annoys you but doesn’t seem to ever realise it. I don’t know where he came from, but it sure was fun writing him. He could end up being the series Sheriff Pepper.

DAY SIX – 1670 words

Once again I experienced a Friday calamity with my laptop after an error with yesterday’s PC update caused the device to loop. I used a bit of IT know-how and rolled the update back but had to redownload programs. With no Wi-Fi at work and 11% battery, getting a Flash! Friday entry and my NaNo word target done became a challenge. So, instead of writing in my lunch break, I got a good chunk done at home instead.

I began the main plot, the hike through the forest. After a discussion over breakfast, and the addition of two girls from the tent next door, the guy’s head off on a planned activity hike.

Originally I wanted Chris to be aware of the supernatural goings on from the prologue, but at this point I changed things so that he wasn’t lying to his friend. I didn’t want their trip to have ulterior motives.

Hence the creation of the two girls who join them on the trip. I wanted another victim and, more importantly, I wanted the disappearance to happen directly to Chris and Mike. So one of the girls goes missing as the heroes fight about being lost.

And the mystery continues.

DAY SEVEN – 1779 words

This weekend saw a relapse in my recent illness and I cursed whatever force clearly didn’t want me to participate in NaNo. I struggled to focus most of the day but suddenly found a drug aided window of inspiration late after dinner and managed to get some writing done.

Continuing the theme of not writing what I planned to write, I scrapped the heroes starting to search, and instead brought the surviving girl and our heroes back to the camp site. Where the police had been called in.

I liked how this turned out, the tension of the police keeping an eye on Chris and Mike, and it emphasised that what he does isn’t public knowledge. Dialogue between Chris and Mike shines light on what can and can’t be said in front of the general population. Obviously Chris was released from an institution at the beginning of the previous story, so he knows where the truth can lead you if you’re not careful.

DAY EIGHT – 0 words

This is the day a lot of NaNo writers fear. That first day where you can’t find the time, or that motivation has left you, or your brain just goes ‘stuck!’. After two days of punching threw a relapse in the flu that I thought I was over, I just didn’t have anything left in the tank.

It hurt to see my word count spreadsheet get its first ‘red’ as I went negative for word count, but these things happen and are easily fixed.

DAY NINE – 3178 words

Today was a glorious day. I had word count to make up and I was feeling feisty.

After getting into work a little earlier than normal, I took advantage of an extra half an hour writing time and somehow managed to get down 1050 words before starting my shift. Add another 1600 for lunch, and rounding out the day with 500 more after dinner, and I hit an awesomely high word count. Hope I can match it or beat it a couple more times before the month is out.

So what did I do with those words? Well, a lot of it was dialogue, as Mike fought to stay out of the supernatural world that Chris was part of. But his friend talks him round, and lets him know that fighting evil and their friendship are important together.

After that it was all about getting the pair from out under the police at the camp site and off into the woods so that they could begin tracking whatever was haunting the forest. I could have kept it simple and had them keep to the shadows and take the main path. But I remembered that I mentioned the camp site having a lake in an earlier session. I pictured all the different boats these activity centre places let people use and thought they could cross the lake and sneak into the woods that way. Of course things are never that simple for Chris and Mike, so I couldn’t let them just get any old boat. Swan peddle boats seemed in keeping with the spirit of the stories.

DAY TEN – 1417 words

The search of the forest begins with Chris showing a little bit more of his magical knowledge, as well as making Mike feel comfortable with a hand axe for company.

I got them back to the site of the disappearance before hitting a slight wall that I had feared since I’d started; walking in the woods can get boring and repetitive.

So I did the only thing I could think of as I struggled to hit the days word count; I dropped a mysterious haunted cottage right into their path.

DAY ELEVEN – 1342 words

Another struggle today as I played around with the purpose behind the cottage. Just throwing it down at the end of the previous day meant it didn’t come in with any history, so I spent the start of today’s session building it as the characters moved through it (thank you google for some spooky images). However, I hit that thick treacle. My fingers began to itch towards the emergency plan I’d set up for just such an occasion.

Still, I got home and gave it another stab; bringing in a mysterious creature and trapping Chris and Mike in the basement. The output slowed again and I cursed myself for writing my characters into a damned corner. How could they escape? Secret passage. What else could I do?

I moved my hand away from the big red emergency button, giving myself another day to see if I can write myself out of this rut.

I am hoping to lay down some high word counts this week end. Wish me luck.

And that’s it. I got close to that dreaded wall, close to coming to a full stop, though I still have that safety net of just moving onto the next Chris and Mike story. But I’m hoping I don’t use it. I managed to plan out a nice 2000 word scene which should not only see me through tomorrow, but get me back out of the red.

And while I’m struggling a little (it’s nowhere near disaster yet), it’s great to see my FlashDog writing buddies all speeding off, full steam ahead. There are some fantastic milestones being hit by my fellow short form experts.

One last thing; yesterday saw the release of Fallout 4. If you play video games, if you enjoy RPG’s, and if you’ve had any experience with the previous Fallout games, then you’ll know that there’s no other time sink like it. And while I lift myself out of several holes this week (illness, lack of time, writers block,) the biggest challenge I face now between here and December 1st, is balancing the work/reward system of writing and then gaming. Because as any addict will tell you; it’s one thing to say you don’t need something, but something else entirely to turn away from it.

And this blog post is almost the length of my daily word count target.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 43: “NaNoWriMo – Day 4”

2015 WORD COUNT=                        71349

2015 NaNo WORD COUNT=               6968

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           78317

And they’re off.

NaNoWriMo 2015 has started and words are being typed across the world at a truly exponential rate. Can you smell that burning? I can’t tell if that’s millions of imagination’s in overdrive, or millions of computer keyboards being put through their paces.

With five November wins, plus two CampNaNo victories under my belt, I don’t start these events with the same level of fear that I used to. It’s all excitement and awe now. I can’t wait to see what happens to my story before that first advent calendar door is prised open on December 1st.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What’s happened so far?

DAY ONE – 1897 words

I didn’t waste much time getting started. With the family up, breakfast devoured, and everyone dressed, I opened up the laptop middle of the morning and set to work on the second Chris and Mike story; CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE FOREST OF DEATH.

My entire word count today didn’t even stray near our main characters as I set about with a classic precredit scene involving a poor guy who’s night gets a lot worse. In a really creepy way. There are noises in the woods, a strange creature, a missing girlfriend and then . . . well that’s where the credits would roll. It was a nice TV style set up just to hook the ready and set the scene for things to come.

DAY TWO – 1728 words

The majority of my writing this year will be done inside of my one hour lunch breaks. I purchased a second laptop, a nice cheap little HP, so that I could take it out and about with me and not worry about it being our home computer. The little blue CreationStation is solely for writing. And Solitaire.

So on day two, as one o’clock rolled around, I set up shop in the canteen, a glass of water and some sandwiches to hand, and began work on chapter two.

This scene was all about bringing Chris and Mike together after the events of the last story. There’s fallout from the events of the undead uprising and things aren’t exactly cosy between the two. There be tension there; snappy dialogue and subtext. Some of the info dropped in the scene is also planted for people who may not have, for whatever reason, read the first story. It’s one of those ‘previously on . . .’ moments. I plan to tweak it carefully in editing so that it’s not too heavy handed.

DAY THREE – 1671 words

Another lunch break, another word target met. I really enjoyed the scenes today. A little round off from the previous days works, followed by a dark dream sequence, one that shows Mike may have been affected by recent events much worse than first thought. In fact he might be really f**ked up.

As the clock ticked away my precious writing time I suddenly did something that caught me by surprise. The chapter ends with a slightly scared Mike picking up the phone and dialing a number. We don’t know who he’s called but he wants to meet up. I finished typing that last line, a real TV episode cliff-hanger, and realised that I had absolutely no idea who the hell was on the other end of the line.

Figure I’d work it out before day four.

DAY FOUR – 1672 words

So day four rolled around and I still had no idea who Mike had phoned. So I went ahead and did the only thing I could; I wrote. I tried an obvious character, but it didn’t worked, so I deleted it. Then I tried someone else but that undid a subplot. Next I looked at some of the obscure characters that turn up in later stories and tried to see if their backstories could be amended to cross Mike’s path earlier in the saga. Short answer? No.
And then I tried a character out of left field . . . and things got weird. I think it’s a good idea. I certainly helps to bulk out a subplot in an unexpected way. At the time I was 50/50 on its inclusion. But NaNoWriMo is all about pushing forward and I just got on with it. Editing was later; right now I had to get 50,000 words down.

And that’s it so far. I’m confident, and I haven’t fallen behind at all. 1667 crossed every day so far; I aim to keep it like that.

Something I’m happy about this year is that I have a few more FlashDogs as writing buddies. I think last year I had two; this time around it’s nine. It’s nice to be heading into this marathon surrounded by a great group of friends. And I can’t help but smile at the irony that we all met writing 100 word stories, and now we’re aiming for 500x that.

And that is all. I got a nice little Honourable Mention for my Flash Fiction story KILL.EXE, the tale of a military designed robot who just wants to sit with the birds and watch the sunset, much to his designers chagrin.

I’m still planning to keep up with the Flash Fiction (I have an unbroken streak to think about) but this month it’s the big story. This month it’s all about CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE WORLD.

See you in seven.