Wednesday, 29 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 16: “Deadlines”

2015 WORD COUNT = 22146 words


The gears turn, the arm moves, the clock ticks, and another minute of our time goes by.

I always feel like I’m busy. I get up and get my son ready for the childminders before heading off to work. Once home its son to bed, chores, dinner, something good on television (nearly finished Daredevil season 1) or maybe a little play time on the Xbox (loving Assassins Creed IV at the moment).

And I also like to write.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t plan my time perfectly. It vexes me that my brain is over productive while I’m busy and I find ideas hitting me left, right, and centre with no way to jot anything down. Then I get home and stare at a blank Word doc while I’m dodging tumbleweeds.

I use some of my annual leave throughout the year to have writing days. I love these. Say goodbye to wife and son for the day, get breakfast and then get stuck in. Maybe a movie around lunch time before diving straight back to the story. I was most productive during both last year NaNo projects on days off.

But, for the rest of the time, I find my writing mood fleeting.

Thank God for deadlines.


Nothing gets my creative juices pumping like a good deadline. I used to pop in and out of the writing mood but I changed my habits a little when I started to write this blog. No matter what else was going on, no matter what I was working on, I had a post to put up on a Wednesday evening come hell or high water.

And so far (touch wood) I’ve done it. Sixty Five posts with no breaks.

This year I took it to the next level. Inspired by Betsy Streeter (check out this fantastic interview with her here) I decided to post a story in instalments. So far it’s going well but I will let you in on a little secret.

I am working off the first draft I wrote last November. Each few weeks I take a chunk of the story and see how the flow can be divided up into episodes. Sometimes I need to add stuff to a scene while other times (like episodes 2 and 3) I have to write from scratch because I realised something was missing from the original draft.

But, even though I have a 50,000+ word draft and even though I have more detailed plans going up to episode 14, I don’t seem to be able to knuckle down and get it written. I’d like to have ‘banked’ episodes so that I can work further down the line. I’d honestly like to release them weekly. But for some reason I don’t. Even now, with episode 7 due in 48 hours, I still don’t have a version I’d like to hand over to my two editors.

It was the same in school. It didn’t matter if it was just a weekend or the summer holidays; that homework got done on the Sunday before I went back to school.

I know I’ll get it done. I have for the last six episodes, after all. But I just wish I was better. I started this whole thing last year because I wanted to write regularly and get my work out there. Well, mission accomplished. Now I think it’s time to turn up the gas and produce more. I need to have that stuff in reserve. It’s not about multiple projects; it’s about being ahead of myself and not leaving things to the last minute.


The one plus to the deadlines is that I find I’m most creative under that pressure. Take the upcoming FlashDogs Anthology 2, for example. Once the prompt photos were handed pout I spent the first two weeks with diddly squat. And then, when ideas did come they were, in my honest opinion, crap. Ten years ago I would have been happy with them. Hell, maybe even this time last year. But I can do better now, I’ve proved it.

I panicked a little, sure. But the closer I got to the dead line (less than four weeks now including final edits) the better it got. Old ideas fell away. Something new burned inside my imagination. I’m hoping to get two drafts sent for proofing this weekend while I work on another two.

I have butterflies, my nerves are jangling, as I get closer to the end of May. But there’s something else there, something like inspiration. The pressure is helping.


How about you guys? Do you grab an idea and let it flow onto the page in its own time? Or, like me, do you need that date marked on a calendar to light a fire under you but. And for you readers out there, how often do you want stories fed to you? Do plots fade away if the intermissions are too long? Do you like to binge and plough through story after story?

Feel free to let me know in the comments or on twitter. I’m off now to get stuck into episode 7 of FRACTURED DAWN (48 hours and counting).

See you in seven.



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 15: “FlashDogs: The Return”

2015 WORD COUNT = 21538 words


FLASHDOGS EPISODE II
A NEW MASTER

Alone in the quiet village of Portchester, a young writer
struggles with his dreams of finishing just some of the
many stories that fill his notebooks.

Taken in by a mighty Dragoness with the hopes of honing
his skills and controlling his vivid yet wild imagination, the
young writer discovers that he is not alone.

The FlashDogs, a mighty writing alliance, is soon formed.
Using their skills for good they band together to produce
an Anthology that could save the entire galaxy.




FLASHDOGS EPISODE II - THE FLASHDOGS STRIKE BACK

Last year had an awesome ending what with the release of the FlashDogs first Anthology. What’s that you say? First? But wouldn’t that mean . . ?

Yes, yes it would. Another is coming. In fact two more are coming. You see, the FlashDogs didn’t create an exceptional collection, put it up for sale, pat each other on the backs and then go our separate ways. Oh no. That’s not what FlashDogs do.

While most of us got back to personal projects (see FRACTURED DAWN) and our relaxing routine of Flash Fiction contests, all filled with newfound found optimism, the folks over at FDHQ were busy concocting a plan to create something better than that first Anthology.

It can’t be done, you say.

Ha! Ye of little faith. Did you see what we did before? Did you turn page after page of that first Anthology and weep/laugh/gasp?

That was the rookie book; something created by a talented group of people finding their way. But now they, now we, know what we’re doing. As I type this I don’t hold a finished product because there isn’t one. And I lack precognitive powers too. But I know the plan. I know what the FlashDogs have been asked to do and the idea . . . well, just trust me, if you like Flash Fiction and if you like collections, then you’re going to love this.



MY PART IN ALL THIS MADNESS

We’ve had the photo prompts for a while now and I’ve spent weeks brainstorming, trying to come up with something that will blow readers clear out of the water.

I’ll admit I’ve struggled. It’s been tough. I’ve mentioned before that it’s that whole ‘second album’ syndrome. I don’t want my work to be deadweight to the book. I want to impress both the readers and my peers.

I had some ideas early on but they felt clich├ęd. I tried to walk away from them but my mind was stuck in the tar pit of those loose plots and I struggled to free myself, to clamber away and start a fresh.

Thank fully I was lifted when I saw on Twitter that others were in similar situations. I’d fallen back into that world of the lonely writer, completely forgetting that the FlashDogs aren’t just about publishing, they’re a support group first and foremost. Seeing others talk about their frustration or moaning that they must find more time while our fearless leaders calmed nerves (mine included – thank you Mark) allowed me to take a deep breath, relax my imagination, and remember why I’m doing this.

It’s not about impressing. It’s not about being published. Not yet.

Right now it’s about doing what I love and that’s taking a prompt, letting it loose in my mind and seeing what craziness comes out the other side. And then just running with it. How do you think I came up with that story last year about a guy in a post-apocalyptic world driving across the country in a tank that has his dead mothers consciousness merged with the vehicles AI control system.
So far I have one story in a good draft and an idea for the next. I’m feeling it now. I’m finding my groove (just like Stella!).

Obviously at this early stage I don’t want to be the one that spills the beans regarding the plans. As before, information will be released as and when it needs to be.

Until then, I will leave you with the new Anthology banner designed by the ever skillful, Tamara Rogers.

See you in seven.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 14: “Episodic Writing”


2015 WORD COUNT = 19003 words



EPISODIC

I’m into episodic TV viewing (currently binge watching series 3 of Community). Sure, I love movies and won’t hesitate watch anything Marvel or DC that hits our cinema screens. But right now we are living in a golden age of television.  

There’s Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Arrow, Flash, Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil and much, much more.

And while I love watching this format, a couple of years ago I started to think about writing this way too.

I’ve always had ideas for epic trilogies, inspired sagas and even great one off, classic novels (perhaps all I lacked was ego J). But I struggled to plan on a large scale and ideas jumped into my head and evicted the previous ones on a regular basis. I’ve always been more comfortable with short stories and, more recently, flash fiction.

Way, way back in 1999, when I was all about screenplays, I was struggling with a script and took a break. I needed to work on something fresh, something different. I began writing a television series that clearly would never see the light of day, called DARKNESS FALLS. I was into Buffy at that time so it was heavily influenced by this and had lashings of demons, ghosts and even robots.

I planned five seasons, a prequel mini-series and managed to complete the scripts for the first three episodes.

And then, like with all my writing back then, I got bored and walked away.

But nothing ever leaves this noggin of mine. Over a decade later it all came to the forefront and was revamped for my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, MIGHTY GRAY. My plan was (and still is) to produce ten novellas each styled as a television episode and released monthly before packing them together at the end of each ‘season’ in a DVD boxed set style.

I’ve mentioned before that I thought the idea was ground breaking until I discovered that better writers were already doing it . . . better.

Unlike previous projects though, I didn’t give up.

Flash forward to NaNoWriMo 2014 and I wrote the first draft for what would become FRACTURED DAWN (aka, Fallen Swords). The plan for this was on a smaller scale. I’m currently rewriting the project and releasing them in fortnightly 1500 word episodes. You can check them out here.

While I’m enjoying the FRACTURED DAWN project, I don’t want it to stop there. I have a bigger plan, something I’m hoping to get rolling next year.

But, as before, someone else got there first.

Like a lot of my writing discoveries these days, it started on Twitter. I got a new follower, Kara Monterey. Kara has founded a great looking website over at http://channillo.com that’s all about serialised literature. Authors are able to apply for a slot and then release their writing in a regular fashion, whether it be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories or essays.

It sounds perfect, it sounds like just what I want to do. I’m interested.

Now, the down side to this is that the author cannot put up work that is already available for free elsewhere. I’m currently very happy with how FRACTURED DAWN is working and don’t really want to remove it from my blog.

So where does that leave me?

Well, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m starting to see that short, bite sized writing could be the way forward in this time restricted world of ours. Sure, novels aren’t going anywhere, but people’s time is. So if you’re not an established author it’s a lot more than a monetary barrier keeping people from discovering you. There is also that time barrier.

Over the last few months I’ve been looking at several of my unstarted projects and wondered if they would maybe work better in the same format as FRACTURED DAWN. I have several already lined up to start working on in the second half of the year.

I originally planned to put those up on the blog too but now I’m seeing that there’s a market out there for episodic writers beyond our own sites. And Channillo looks to be one of them.

It’s still early. I’m currently working on a couple of other projects that will keep me busy until the end of July. But it’s good to be thinking of the second half of the year now and seeing what else is out there to work on. I’ll be keeping an eye on the site though to see how it grows.



ON A SIDE NOTE

The organisers of this year’s National Flash Fiction Day are getting the ball rolling this year by rolling out Flash Flood on Friday the 17th April (that’s right, it’s in two days’ time!).

Over the last few weeks a whole bunch of us Flash Fiction writers have been submitting our stories in the hope of being included in the Flash Flood.

I’m happy to announce that my story, THE CLIMB, will be one of the stories featured.

So if you have a spare few minutes this Friday then hop over to the site and see what you think. Stories will be going up throughout the day and there will be a wide range of styles for you to enjoy.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 13: “A Quick Word . . .”


2015 WORD COUNT = 18133 words


I did have another post planned for today but, due to some forgetting, incompletion and general words in the air, I think I’ll put it off until next week.

So what’s going to happen instead?

If I’m honest I’m just going to wing it. You see I’m all over the place at the moment. This isn’t a bad thing as there isn’t any panic. It’s a good kind of ‘all over the place’. It’s busy.


I’m really getting into things with FRACTURED DAWN now. The main page for the blog is looking better (though I can’t wait until I have a proper webpage for it) and I have a decent looking logo design now. It can only grow as each episode adds more characters and expands the world.

If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet then go here for the first episodes and see what you think. And let me know here on the blog or over on Twitter. Feedback could be helpful at this early stage.

I’m also getting stuck into my contributions to the next FlashDog anthology. It’s still early, deep within the planning stages, but something is there (actually four somethings are there).

Of course, being the pessimistic fellow that I am, I’m starting to feel that ‘second album’ pressure. The last anthology was good, really good. But this one has the potential to be a hell of a lot better. So I don’t want to be the one that has their name on a real stinker of a story. Or, worse still, it’s excluded because it’s so bad. I’m hoping I honour my inclusion, because I damn well want to be invited back to the next party.


And talking of Flash Fiction, I kinda messed up over the Easter holidays and completely forgot to post my entries from last week. So instead of doing a separate post when I’m four days late, it makes sense to lay them below.



MICRO BOOKENDS

It’s the eleventh ‘Chris And Mike vs’ story and this week I went for action. The alley and the look on the kids face immediately brought to mind those on foot chases from movies and I just went with it. But Chris and Mike don’t run away like little girls, do they?


CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE SCOURGE OF THE NILE

“New plan,” said Chris. “Run!”

The creature’s roar pursued Mike and Chris down an alleyway. They rounded a corner, narrowly missing two goats and a small boy. Mike scooped the boy up without breaking stride. They ran on, zigging and zagging, as the jaws of death closed in behind.

Once clear of the village, Chris turned and held out a golden amulet, one which channeled the suns energy directly at the creature’s chest.

The lizard man exploded.

Eventually the villagers emerged from their homes, cheering. Mike put the boy down and picked a few chunks of meat from his hair.

“Great,” he said. “I didn’t bring a change of clothes.”



FLASH FRIDAY

I struggled a little with this one but not the same way as usual. I came up with an idea pretty quickly, only I wasn’t too happy with it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get away from it as I spent the morning searching for other characters in different situations. As the clock ticked away I conceded and got to work on the piece I entered. I think it’s better than I expected but not one of my best.

A lot of people mentioned it had an Indiana Jones vibe. However, the inspiration came from the opening scene to The Fifth Element.


MISREAD
Why didn’t he listen to me?

The stupid, drunk fool. A teacher too afraid to listen to his student, too obsessed with making a name for himself. And what did it get him?

Dead.

“Don’t be silly,” he’d said. “The symbol above the door pertains to life eternal. Don’t you understand? This is what man has been searching for? This temple is the key to immortality. It is a gift from God.”

But he didn’t see the symbol above it. The rock face was a little damaged and it was hard to read but it was there. I could make it out but I was always good at reading the language. That’s why the Professor hired me.

So why didn’t he listen?

The symbol above meant harvest; ‘To Harvest Life Forever’.  And that’s what’s going to happen now because that idiot ignored me and opened the doors. Now he’s dead and the whole of the world will suffer.

All I can do now is run. Run through the desert. Run back to civilization. All I can do is warn people. 

Because I saw what came out of that temple and it was not a gift from God.
Oh God, why didn’t he listen to me?



ANGRY HOURGLASS

Another week without an entry at the Hourglass but I have a good excuse. I was lucky enough to jusge again and I enjoyed it more than the last time. Of course, this might be because it was a bank holiday, my wife took my son out for the morning and I had a nice, chilled Easter egg to keep me company.

There were some great stories on offer and I got to experience that eureka moment when I found the winner. As soon as I finished it, there was no doubt in my mind. You can check out Voima’s fantastic story here.



And that’s it, another short post. Hopefully I can get some better stuff prepared for the next few weeks while I hunker down with my current projects.

Don’t forget, if you fancy giving Flash Fiction a go then head on over to any of the sites (links on the main blog page) and see where it takes you.

See you in seven.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 12: “Projects Make The World Go Round”

2015 WORD COUNT = 16369 words


Well, we’re a quarter of the way through 2015 and things are going quite well.

I’m already enjoying a massive improvement over previous years when it comes to writing. I’m doing more, planning more and enjoying it a hell of a lot.

I started the year with five projects planned. Here’s how I’m doing.





PROJECT 1 - A FESTIVE ZOMBIE TALE

While my zombie short story CONDOLENCE didn’t win last year, I got another chance thanks to SFX once again running their Writing Dead contest. The rules this time round had a few extra twists with Christmas lights and a Santa zombie being required.

I took some time and struggled to find something I was happy with for just 1500 words. It wasn’t until the last minute that a character popped into my head almost fully formed and told his story in a world of zombies and no Christmas. That story is HUMBUG and while it also didn’t secure a win, I’m still very proud of my writing and have now added it to the links on the right. Feel free to click on the cover and pop over to Wattpad to check it out. And if you got a spare couple of minute then please let me know what you think.




PROJECT 2 – AN EPISODIC FANTASY TALE

FRACTURED DAWN is coming along nicely. There will be another episode coming this Friday and our main character finally gets a name (I’m not enjoying typing ‘the man from the beach’ over and over again).

I’m also planning on adding some more details to the front page (outline, character details etc) as well as working on an image to represent the project so that I don’t have to keep using the Skyrim picture above (even though it is the greatest game ever made!).

I’m still working off of the first draft I produced during NaNoWriMo last November and am enjoying being able to dig deeper and fill in more detail. While writing the upcoming episode 5 I took a seventeen page chunk of the draft and managed to plan out the next ten episodes. If I stick to the plan then just that should take me to August 7th.

I’d like to say thanks to a couple of friends who have been very supportive of this project since it began a month ago. I’ve had a few kind messages as well as people asking when the next one is out and what’s going to happen next. It’s all very encouraging.

And a big thanks to my two proof readers (Mrs C and Miss J). They take care of spelling and ask questions where needed. Couldn’t do this without you both.




PROJECT 3 – A FLASHDOG TALE

A great piece of news is that there will be another FlashDogs anthology later this year. I was over the moon last year when I was invited to be a part of that first collection. It was something special to be able to hold a book in my hands that contained something I’d written. To the FlashDogs who organised it I will be forever grateful.

And while that whole project was great, this one is going to be even better. I won’t go into details just yet but it’s already shaping up to be last year’s anthology on steroids.

Fellow FlashDogs are already busy creating new worlds and new characters. While I’ve been quite busy lately I’m hoping to utilise the upcoming four-day-weekend and get stuck into a couple of the ideas I’ve been mulling over.

When I started this whole ‘taking writing more seriously thing’ last year I couldn’t have imagined the twists and turns it could have taken. But, for where I’ve ended up so far, I wouldn’t change a thing.

More info soon.




PROJECT 4 – A SECRET TALE

This is something I started a month or so ago. I mentioned a while ago that I was given a Moleskine notebook for Christmas. Well, currently, within its pages is a small project that is coming along nicely and hopefully something I can get out into the world before we all sit down in nine months’ time to eat turkey and exchange gifts.

Once the anthology is completed and out there this will be my priority.




PROJECT 5 – AN EVEN MORE SECRET TALE

I finally started prep work for this project last week. I’ve outlined the plot and drawn up all the characters but that’s all right now. I have a sketchbook because I’m hoping this will be less words and more pictures. It’s one story that I don’t want to rush and I only hope I can do it justice.



And that’s it. One project down and four to be getting on with. Of course that’s not counting my plans to do something for July’s CampNaNoWriMo or Novembers NaNoWriMo.

And there’s the fantastic weekly Flash Fiction contests to be carrying on with; Chris and Mike vs The World episodes don’t write themselves, you know.

Have a good Easter and may all you writers find time to write.

See you in seven.