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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 33: “Epiphany saves the story”

There are many great moments an author can experience when working on a project. Writing THE END once a 1st draft is complete. Holding a physical copy of your book in your hands for the first time. Getting a positive review from a stranger.

But there’s one great moment that can occur early on in the process which, for some authors (and more importantly the stories they’re trying to construct) can be pivotal to the whole project.

The epiphany.

Not all authors will experience this wonder, and not all stories will require it. But for those that have found a project saved when a light bulb suddenly illuminates a solution, it can feel like the greatest weight has been lifted.

I recently had one of these moments and the best way to describe it is that I felt like I’d won the greatest prize ever. The wife and I had just gone to bed (if you’re reading this mum; separate beds, separate rooms) and, as most often happens when my head hits the pillow, I forget about all the crap of the day and just focus on whatever project I’m currently forging through.

At the moment, my WIP is giving me problems with its final act and I’ve recently spent a lot of my brain power trying to figure it out. The villain of the piece is weak, but the real issue has been how his master plan can draw the heroes in without getting out of control too soon. I need a good reason for him to take it slowly.

So I lay there, and I lay there, and I lay there, juggling the problem over and over while playing back scenes from the 1st draft in my head, like the dailies for a movie.

I relaxed.

I pictured the villain. I pictured the title. The villain. The title. Villain. Title.

I felt the edge of sleep calling . . .

DING!

Now, while you can’t control an epiphany, while you can never request it or command it, there are things you can do to help it along. Sometimes it can click when your project is the furthest thing from you mind. You can suddenly see something or hear something and it falls into you story like the missing building block or puzzle piece that it needs.

I had this once with a project that I couldn’t get a decent first chapter for. It was a sequel to a story that had a happy ending, but the second books beginning felt slow. Then one day, I’m doing the washing up while listening to some TWO STEPS FROM HELL on the old i-pod when - BAM! - there’s my intro. And the project itself was something I’d put down years ago and wasn’t even thinking about. Somehow the mood of the music just created images in my head that slowly involved characters I’d been ignoring.

For my current project, it was a little more forced because I was playing with the story in my head. But I wasn’t stressing. I wasn’t annoyed. I wasn’t banging my head against a brick wall. Instead, I was just daydreaming about it, like I’d been doing all week while stuck on my sofa, ill, and watching crappy daytime television (although I did fit in a viewing of the fantastic LAPUTA: CASTLE IN THE SKY). Obviously this week of sickness (I had it bad, but my son had it far, far worse) means I’m further behind than I’d like to be on the 2nd draft of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD, but the epiphany has coincided with my return to health so now it’s full steam ahead.

To anyone out there struggling with a major plot point, a clever twist, or a bombastic ending, I hope you get your epiphany soon. Just remember; don’t go looking for it, because it will find you.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 32: "CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RESULTS"


Ladies and Gentleman, thank you for joining me on this momentous occasion.

We’ve had three days of Flash Fiction results trailing off from this past weekend, and now it’s time for the main event, the one you’ve all been waiting for, the Mac-Daddy of Flash Fiction contests.

But, before I dive in, let’s look at some highlights from the build-up. These last 72 hours has been spectacular.

We had a shake up over at Micro Bookends with Geoff Holme throwing his Chris and Mike shaped gloves into the ring, then only going ahead and getting a bloody Honourable Mention for his trouble. Chris and Mike step into the world of fan-fic! What’s next?

Flash! Friday gave us our second 5 TIME CHAMP in the guise of the legendary Chris Milam. And, as if this wasn’t enough, his spectacular story was enough to stir Flash Points from its deep. deep slumber.

And just when things couldn’t get any better among the world’s greatest Flash Fiction community, our Stella  threw a beautifully dark tale into the Angry Hourglass arena that saw her hoisted back onto the podium where she belongs. A well-earned silver medal.

But these contests were mere warm ups, something to get the crowd excited and baying for more.



Two weeks ago I presented an epic prize in the form of a 50% discount code for the writers choice of writing programs; SCRIVENER. And all you mere mortals had to do to have a fighting chance to win this prize was show me your very own ‘Chris and Mike vs’ stories. I give you all a photo and a word limit, you step into the world of Chris and Mike, and tell me a fabulous tale.

Three brave souls took on this challenge, three names synonymous with talent in the Flash Fiction world universe; Holly Geely, FE Clark, and Karl A.Russell Each presented a Chris and Mike tale that I myself am jealous of not scribing first. They took the characters so beloved by millions and spun their own tales, fully instilling the qualities of our classic heroes.

Before I announce the winner, I’d like you all to put your hands together for the REAL CHRIS AND MIKE who took time out from monster hunting last week to sit down and read these tales. The boys have fought the darkest demons of hell and saved our world countless times, but both said that choosing a winner was the greatest challenge they’ve ever faced.

Your stories honour them and that is all I can ask.

But enough rambling; you’re all here for one thing and one thing only.

The winner of the first (and probably last) CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE COMPETITION is . . . .



Holly Geely with her awesome tale,

Chris And Mike vs The Robotic Waiter.

Congratulations Holly. You story made the judges laugh, you made the judges cry. I will message you the Scrivener discount code (and thanks to Twitters recently increased word count for messages, some instructions too) a little later today so that you can download it and get cracking with your next epic story.

A big thanks to FE Clark and Karl A Russell. Your entries were equally loved by the judges but, as Connor MacLeod always says, “There can be only one!”

So please put your hands together one more time for Holly, before scrolling down and enjoying her story.

Normal service will resume next post.

See you in seven.



CHRIS AND MIKE VS THE ROBOTIC WAITER

By Holly Geely

"I forgot my wallet," Mike said.
"How convenient," Chris said.
"Wait, did you hear that?"
The team knew a scream when they heard one. The other patrons took no notice.
"Pretend to be drunk."
Mike staggered over to their waiter.
"I love you, bro," he said. He squeezed the waiter in a hug.
Chris snuck into the kitchen. Two robots were lowering a gagged man into boiling water.
"Stop ruining my favourite diner!"
One robot turned and blasted Chris through the wall. He landed, stunned, at the waiter's feet.
The waiter was now (unsurprisingly) a robot – and so were the other patrons. Mike was in their clutches, being tickled relentlessly.
"We are the Torture Bots. You will be broken," the waiter said.
One of the other robots shed its exterior and revealed…a grizzly bear.
"I was hoping for a human," Chris groaned.
The grizzly grabbed the heroes and hauled them out the door.
"Duck!" she yelled.
The diner exploded behind them.
"Where will we eat now?" Mike demanded.
"Did anyone save the guy in the kitchen?" Chris asked.
"Never mind that," the grizzly said. "I've been looking everywhere for you. The world is in great danger. I need your help!"

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 31: “Edit, How I Fear Thee”


2015 WORD COUNT =              63167



CampNaNo is over. No more writing days (well, except for my weekly Flash Fiction addiction).

So, I took a week off after crossing the July finish line, mainly because it’s best to get a little distance from a writing project before you dive back in.

Maybe most would leave more than a week, sure, but I don’t have that luxury. Not to say that I have a deadline. I don’t have a publisher deadline looming over me, one that I must reach come hell or high water. Instead, I’m forced to head back into the breach because, at the end of the day, I’m my own worst enemy.

I’ve mentioned before that I had the attention span of a six year old on a sugar rush. I know that, if I take too long away, another of my projects will rear its head and sink it’s fangs into my timetable. Or, worse still, I could come up with a completely new idea that I’m super, super excited about!

So a week is all I’ve allowed. In fact, the editing starts tomorrow. Actually, scratch that. It’ll start Friday because tomorrow is my wife’s birthday.

If you’ve ever edited a book before then you know what I’m in for. You’ll probably say to me that it’s worth it in the end, that the sweat and tears are part of the whole process. I believe that is true and I long to hold a finished product in my hands, one with my name on the cover and my story, my ideas, draped throughout its pages.

But that’s not to say I ain’t scared.

I spent the last fourteen or so months getting to grips with Flash Fiction and one thing it’s helped me with is editing. You have an idea and write it down but, more often than not, it exceeds a word limit. So you have to edit. You have to chop away a little bit here and a little bit there until it reaches the criteria. Sometimes this causes you parts parts. Sometimes whole sections that seemed necessary suddenly reveal themselves to be . . . not. Mostly, though, you see individual words dotted around your story that don’t really serve a purpose.

Editing Flash Fiction has taught me to look out for these things; when one word says the same as five, when a sentence doesn’t do anything to progress plot or character.

Now I just gave to apply this to something eighty times longer.

As well as chopping, there’s going to be a lot of rearranging to do. While writing my CampNaNo project, things were changing all the time. New characters came out of nowhere. Plot twists grew right before my very eyes. And the backstory evolved into something greater than what I went in with.

The whole story has to now be reshuffled. Things that got wrapped up in the ending will now have to be sewn back through to the beginning. Seeds will need to be placed.

And like I said a few paragraphs previous; I’m scared.

What if it turns out to be rubbish? What if I tie the plot up in more knots? What if things don’t make sense? What if?

Well, I guess we’ll find out.

I know this will be the hardest edit on this project. I’m basically going to be starting again from scratch, only this time with a more detailed plan. And once I’m through this, the remaining edits (two, five, twenty?) should merely be all about fixing and fine tuning.

I’ve written many pieces of Flash Fiction as well as a couple of short stories. But this is the biggest thing I will have edited; this biggest piece I’ve taken past that scrappy first draft. So just getting underway is daunting. But if you want to get a finished book out in the world, then you need to edit.

Wish me luck.



Before I go, just a quick update on the competition I ran last week.

The premise was simple; I had a 50% discount code for Scrivener, the wonderful writing program I’ve been using for the last year. I earn it for completing CampNaNo this year but, as I already have it, it’s kind of wasted on me.

I thought it would be nice if one of you guys could utilise it and a competition seemed like the fairest way. Of course, with my CampNaNo project being the growth of my ‘Chris And Mike vs’ mythos, I thought it would be cool if a Chris and Mike themed flash contest was the deciding factor.

The competition ran for a week and, for most of that time it was a one horse race. But thankfully, a couple of fellow FlashDogs joined in at the last hour. Unfortunately that means that I only received three stories to hand over to my judges, which is a tiny amount when compared to the weekly Flash contests I take part in. But then another way to look at is that I received three entries, when I could have got none.

So, big, big thanks to Holly Geely, F E Clark, and Karl A Russell. Your fabulous stories (yes, I read them) have been handed over to The Real Chris & MikeTM. Due to the fact that they are work colleagues and I’m now off until next Monday, I can only apologise for the delay in the results. But results we shall have, no later than this time next week. Good lucky to all three of you (I couldn’t call it).

And that’s all for now folks. I’m off to finish watching Great British Bake Off (it’s brainwashing me and I don’t like it!)

See you in seven. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 30: “How was Camp(NaNo)”


2015 Flash Fiction Word Count =         40683

2015 CampNaNo Word Count =           22122

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           62805


CampNaNo. A place to write whatever you want, with whatever word target you feel comfortable achieveing. Some use it to finish new projects, while others rewrite something gathering dust. What did I use it for this year? To get my first ‘Chris And Mike vs’ novella underway, and also get warmed up ready for the big show in November.

Here’s how my last two July days went.



Day Thirty – 778 words.

Lunch time contained several distractions, so I didn’t manage to hit my 1000+ target like I’d hoped. But I did write some really fun stuff that sort of came from nowhere, stuff that’ll need to be wrapped back around the rewrite.  

It’s all about the zombies now. I realised as I wrote the church infiltration scene that the book didn’t have a real villain, as such. Sure there was the shadowy figure from chapter one, and let’s not forget the mysterious and deranged Dr Gellibrand. But they’re characters from the bigger Chris and Mike story. I’d neglected to build up to this individual novella’s villain.

I started the chapter worried how paper thin he was, but the details quickly came out of nowhere. He’s witty, violent, and has a devious world changing plan up his rotting sleeve. That’s the villain checklist.

Unfortunately, my initial pass at him will have to be altered. My first instinct with the villain’s background seemed clever, but I think it’s a little controversial looking back over it. I don’t want to put readers off my work, especially when the only reason for the villain’s history is ‘that it would be cool’. So the character now has no name (other than ‘zombie leader’) but I’ll work on that.

Other than that, the scene is the obligatory ‘heroes captured, villains plan revealed, evil looks like winning’ scene.


Day Thirty-One – 228 words

I was determined not to have a non-writing day, but only just managed it. Due to an abnormal Friday (6:00am work start, half lunch, early finish to head home and take care of my son, the wife’s evening plans being cancelled, and fish & chips while watching 22 Jump Street), I only had a short space to do any NaNo writing. This was on top of my other Flash Fiction commitments (ie: trying for my second Flash! Friday win – spoiler; not this time).

So despite crossing my self-set finish line last Tuesday, the story still doesn’t have an ending as July comes and goes. It’s been fun (as always) and I feel all warmed up ready for November’s NaNoWriMo. And now I have a nice little project that needs polishing up and pushing out into the world.

And that’s another NaNo project done.



I’m going to take a break from the non-Flash Fiction writing for now; maybe just a week. I’m looking forward to getting back into reading, if I’m honest. While I managed some during July, I mostly felt guilty if I hadn’t at least hit 1000 words for the day.

During the writing of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD my mind was constantly discovering new things to add and alter as I went. The point of NaNo is to power through though; write now, edit later. Because of this, I never went back and changed anything during that 31 days, at least not on paper. The plot twists and new character appearances are all in my head, ready to be worked back into the messy draft that I’m currently the owner of.

The second draft is the one that people will see (or maybe the third). That’s the one that will resemble the finished product. Right now, all I have is a messy plan in novel form.

And after that? There’s more Chris And Mike adventures to write, I guess. I’m going to keep expanding the Micro Bookends entries until a) I get bored; b) you get bored; or c) it’s clear that it’s not working.

Thank you for following the posts the last month. Apologies if reading about a story that you can’t read is a little confusing and/or boring. Hopefully it will make more sense once it’s sat on your bookshelf, front and centre.



COMPETITION TIME

When I ‘won’ CampNaNo last year, one of the perks was earning a discount code for a writing program called Scrivener. I was already interested in getting it at its normal price of £28.14 GPB ($40.00 USD), so half price was a no brainer.

Scrivener is a fantastic little program that can be very useful to writers either established or fledgling, once you’ve learnt what it’s fully capable of. I’ve used it for all my writing projects outside of Flash Fiction since purchasing last summer and I love it.

When I collected my ‘winners goodies’ this year, I noticed that Scrivener had once again partnered with the NaNoWriMo to once again offer a 50% discount code if you crossed the finish line. Obviously, as I already own a copy of Scrivener, it’s pretty useless to me.

And then I thought, I wonder if any of my online writer buddies would like to have it instead. The link for the code does state that if you already own Scrivener to feel free and pass the discount onto a friend.

So that’s what I decided to do. But how could I choose? I didn’t know who already owned scrivener and, more importantly, who out there wanted it. I could have asked out loud and waited for a list of people to build up, but there was no fair way for me to decide who to hand over only one code to.

“Contest?” said my brain.

“Good idea,” I replied.

After a little brainstorming, I came up with a plan. And I think it’s a good one.

So, if you’re interested in purchasing Scrivener and would love to benefit from paying 50% less for it, here’s what you have to do:

Starting tonight, you have until 9pm (GMT) Tuesday 11th August to write your own Chris And Mike vs story based on the below photo prompt. The story is to be no more than 200 words, and (here’s the cool bit) they will be judged by the REAL Chris and Mike.

Starting now, post your Flash stories in the comments below. Once the deadline hits, I’ll give the legendary judges a week to choose their favourite. The results will be announced on Wednesday 19th August, both via Twitter and on this blog.

So get thinking, get writing, and let’s see what you guys can do with the weirdest characters I’ve ever based on work colleagues.

Those rules again.

Deadline = 9pm (GMT), Tuesday 11th August 2015.

Length = No longer than 200 words (not including title).

Title = Must start ‘Chris And Mike vs’.

Entries = 1 per person.

Details = Don’t forget to leave your Twitter handle so that I can contact you if you’re picked.

Winner = Will be announced on Wednesday 19th August.

Prize = One 50% discount code for Scrivener on Mac or Windows (normal prices £28.14 or $40.00).

Rights = The rights to your story shall remain with you. All I ask is that, by posting it on the blog, you give permission for me to reprint the story elsewhere in any future Chris And Mike related ventures (where you will still receive full credit for the piece). I also ask that you refrain from publishing the stories elsewhere (ie; you own blog) until after the results for the contest have been announced.  

Picture

Photo by Brian S Creek


And I think that’s everything. Hopefully I haven’t missed anything (it’s my first blog contest, eek!). Good luck to all who enter.

See you in seven.