Wednesday, 30 September 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 38: “Building a better villain”

2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           68623

Everyone loves a hero.

But you can’t have a good hero without a good villain. While most of us would love to live the life of the heroes we create, maybe putting a little bit of ourselves into them as we bring them to existence on the page, we sometimes tend to leave the villain as little more than a two dimensional foil; something evil to punch.



I’m as guilty as the next with this. Often my villains are cartoony, paper thin, and lacking any sensible motivation (there must be a good reason to take over the world, right?). Most of the time I’ve build on the foundation of a school bully, or picked apart the evil doers who dominated my childhoods Saturday mornings.

However, while working on the second draft for CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD, I realised I was doing it again, and this time I set out to do something about it.

The story itself contains several villains; with smaller bit-part ones being set up for later adventures. But the main villain, a man named Jack Redit, is the main focus for our heroes’ attention.

The first draft version of Jack was thin. Wafer thin. He was brought into the story slowly within a prologue (unnamed), went on to attack an innocent man around the midway point (still unnamed) and then popped up at the finale, proto-formed and raring to go, despite not having once made contact with, or made mention of, Chris and Mike

I doesn’t take a genius to know that this was bad, bad writing. Of course that’s what first drafts are for. Jack didn’t exist as more than a fart in the wind during the first two weeks of CampNaNo. There was a place holder, a stickman, nothing more, and all it own was the word villain written across its forehead.


 The second draft was where flesh met bone. For starters the walking, talking gorilla got a name and a back story of his very own. But he was just a henchman. What about the stories proper antagonist? Jack was still a shadow of what I needed; no name, no past, no reason to take over the world. He was still just written in the body of the text as ‘Main Zombie’. And it was because I was making the mistake of focusing on my two heroes; two characters that I’d been building and shaping since their first appearance in flash fiction back in January. They’ve formed slowly over 30+ pieces of flash fiction, as well as the first draft of the novella. They’re the most formed characters in the story world. But it means diddly squat if they end up fighting a cardboard cut-out bad guy.

Of course making the decision to start work on the villain was one thing. I didn’t know how much it would reshape the story.



The main thing to remember with the villain is that they think they are in the right. Have you ever watched an argument and thought “they both have valid points” or “pros and cons on each side”. A great villain thinks that they are the good guy in their own little world, and it’s those dastardly ‘heroes’ who are preventing them from making the world a better place.

So that’s what you need to do; step out from behind the heroes view of the world for a second, and think about the real reason why the villain is trying to achieve their goal. It shouldn’t be because ‘they can’, or because they ‘just like blowing shit up’ (I know, I know; “some men just like to watch the world burn”). Maybe they were wronged in their past. Maybe they think that sacrificing ten percent of a population is worth it if it means protecting the rest (see Watchman, Utoipia). And the reason they send their henchmen to stop the hero(es) is because those super annoying do-gooders are the only threat to their carefully laid out plans.

I took Jack Redit to one side and wondered what his situation was. At first he was just happy to be back from the dead and eager to cause chaos. This is fine, if basic, but I wanted readers to sympathise with him a little.

Slowly but surely, in the last couple of weeks (when my neighbour isn’t forcing me to find quieter places to write due to his ongoing DIY project), I’ve been fleshing out (no pun intended) this undead villain and finding out what exactly makes him tick. And I think it’s going to make the story much better.

For starters, we see a little more of him. Not an equal share of the story compared to Chris and Mike, but way more than his original 2% page count. I’ve added in a few scenes at a steady pace through the story, enough to keep him in the readers mind, as well as to divide up the story with interludes, carefully controlling the pacing. I’ve intertwined his past with that of one of the heroes to, that way giving Chris more of a reason to take Jack ‘personally’ than if he was just the random, big-bad of the week. And finally, I’ve given Jack a subplot involving his past, something he needs to deal with outside of the main story, something besides carrying out his orders to just cause carnage.

Overall this will bring down the maniacal, mustache-twirling, punchy-punchy finale and give the closing scenes a little more thinky-thinky in its execution.

Hopefully Jack Redit is a worthy adversary for my two heroes. Hopefully the story benefits from his expansion.

How about you? Do you give you bad guys as much love and attention as the good guys? How do you go about making the reader care just as much for the villains outcome as for that of you heroes?
                   
I’m off now to write that heart wrenching, gut punch of a scene.

See you in seven. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 37: “Flash 100!!!”

Milestones are great.

It’s human nature to celebrate an achievement being passed, and crossing that great big 100 of anything is something to celebrate, right?

100 Birthdays?        Letter from the Queen.
100 Episodes?        Double length wedding special with special guest stars.
100 Comic Issues? Epic, bumper sized cross over event spectacular.

This Friday just gone I posted my 100th piece of Fiction for the Flash! Friday website (just to clarify; yes I keep track of things, and yes I have a spreadsheet that does it).



I will state, right from the off, that they are not all masterpieces. Not by a long shot. Unlike other contests I partake in, ones where I don’t force it if inspiration eludes me, I’ve made myself enter every single Flash! Friday since the first, back in May 2014. That’s every week without fail, even when I’m too busy.

Unfortunately this can sometimes mean that stories are rushed, or ideas are forced out against their will; incomplete and broken.

September 11th was a good example.

The wife and I took our little one out to Peppa Pig Land (if you’re outside the UK and not aware of this, it’s a theme park designed for very young children based on a cartoon pig and her family). It was long day, made longer by a child behaving himself for far longer than his parents expected. We’d predicted getting home around 2pm at best. Instead, we left not long before closing time; around 5:30.

Al of use were exhausted at this point. Our evening then consisted of putting little one to bed, getting our own dinner, and attempting to watch Anchorman 2 (long story around that). And a guest visit around 9pm. This meant I didn’t fire up the laptop until around 10:30pm.

If you read my entry, WHAT HOOD SAID TO THE WOLF, my exhausted state of mind is clear in the end result. I had no idea what I was writing, I started over several times, I bent the plot several more once I reached the half way point, and finally struggled to secure anything resembling an ending. By the time I posted it, the wife was already in the land of nod and midnight was fast approaching.

This is just one recent example, but there have been others. Getting ready to leave for holiday and scrambling to find 30mins before we left at 9am. Or what about the time I struggled all day to wring an idea from the photo of the Colosseum, pushing my imagination to breaking point.

Thankfully these ‘broken’ stories are a rarity, a by-product of writing with zero ideas, of tracking stats, of having my continuous unbroken run. On the other side of the track, I’ve produced some real gems too. I couldn’t be prouder of my winning story, BEHROUZ AND THE FORTUNE FISH. The fairy tale style, the fantastical oddness to the setting (a city within a giant fish) all spilled onto the page to form a story I’d have enjoyed reading as much as I did writing it.

Others include OXYGEN, the story of an astronaut stranded on the moon, too far from their capsule, their air supply dwindling. Asphyxiation leads to childhood memories resurfacing in those final moments. Broken into parts between the counting down of oxygen left, it’s a sad story that ends on a bitter sweet note.

And then there’s the tear jerker SEND OUT THE CLOWNS, a story of a small boy due to have an operation that will cease his contact with his best friends, four imaginary clowns and their dog.

100 stories has allowed me to try different thing too, to step away from superheroes, from the supernatural, from fantasy and sci-fi. I’ve attempted comedy, sometimes with respectable success, as seen in last year’s AMERICA CAN WAIT, a tale that put a lunch order before the declaration of independence, or this year’s IT’S WHAT’S ON THE INSIDE, the story of a not-so-cute kitten taking on the best gladiator the coliseum has to offer. I’ve tried romance, LOVE, NO MATTER WHAT offering a strange look at how the love between two people can remain strong, even when one half has been cursed and turned into a castle (?). And there’s BUTCHERS DOZEN, a step into horror as we watch a murderer converse with his handiwork.



I’ve always said Flash Fiction is great for two things: experimentation, and keeping the imagination exercised. Looking back over the last 100 pieces, my imagination has been to places well outside my comfort zone, dabbling in different genres, and trying different styles. I’ve even managed to write stories my own mother has enjoyed.

And I have to admit that even the bad ones are good for me. Writers should always be learning. Like cookery; you try something new that doesn’t work, you look at why, and improve it next time. Each story is a risk, and they don’t always work. But the failures that litter the ground only help the next adventure.

But what of the future? What will the next 100 pieces bring? Who knows, but I’m damn sure looking forward to finding out. Until then, I have my 200th piece of overall Flash Fiction coming up. Just five pieces to go, but to which contest it gets posted is anyone’s guess.

As well as going forward, I plan, at some point soon, on going back over what I’ve already produced, to see if anything can have its belt let out a bit and be given a little more room to breathe. While there are some stories that could and should only work in the tight word count that Flash Fiction offers, sometimes a struggling piece isn’t working because it wants to be something bigger.

In other words, I want to write a novel version of my April entry, THE RETRIBUTIONERS, a 1940’s take on the Avengers. Tell me you wouldn’t be slightly interested in Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, and Robert Mitchum standing together as Earth’s Mightiest? Okay, maybe not right now, but this one won’t go away.



So on I go; each Friday opening ‘that’ part of my brain and sparking new characters, new worlds, and new adventures. I’ll admit that sometimes I tire, sometimes I think about taking just one week off. But I know I’ll regret it. Like changing your lottery numbers; you can bet that’s the week they’ll come up. In other words, I still look forward to discovering what appears on the page, because it might be my best one yet.

I’ll leave you know as I ready myself for the Flash Fiction weekly circuit to start again tomorrow. But before you go, have a read of my 100th entry for Flash! Friday. I think it’s one of my better ones.

See you in seven.



WHERE WE USED TO LIVE

The human race was something, once. Earth, the jewel in our Empire.

But greater riches have been discovered in the galaxy; new worlds, new civilisations. Earth is raw, and only the poor remain. Or the scared.

I haven’t been back in nineteen years. My family wouldn’t have survived in this world stripped bare. We fled into the stars and never looked back.

So why am I here, now?

Jason, my eldest, a boy who fell far from the tree. I fear for him. Earth is a vile, lawless world now, a place only the bottom of the human barrel would call home.

It should seem hopeless, but I have money and connections. Even an entire planet can’t hide someone if you know the right words. And can grease the right palms.

So I stand now, in something classed as a hotel room from the sign outside; a cupboard in any other place. He sleeps peacefully on the floor, and beside him lays the problem. A Scarvian girl, pregnant with his child. An abomination not fit for my legacy.

I pull out two syringes; one will help him sleep on the journey home.

The other will help her sleep forever.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 36: “Wasted writing days”

I’ve just experienced a drought.

Two weeks ago, my output hit a level that I would love to maintain. 9 Flash Fiction stories in four days and a great start to the 2nd draft of my WIP.

However, all I managed (fiction-wise) in the last seven days was 1 piece of Flash Fiction. That’s the complete opposite of the previous week. And it wasn’t even a very good story (you spend all day with a three year old at Peppa Pig World, finally get round to writing at 11pm, and see what you come up with J).

I was not happy with that.

On the plus side, I only failed in fiction, I did manage other things, so the last seven days haven’t been a complete loss.



Every year around this time, I take three days off from work and enjoy having the house to myself. I fill up the cupboards with my favourite food. I chuck on the lazy clothes. I play video games. I watch movies.

This year I looked at Wednesday the 9th and Thursday the 10th with a writers hunger. Think of the writing I could get done in a nice quiet house. My son goes to nursery at 7:30am. My wife is at work by 8:00am. It could be heaven.

It should have been heaven.

My neighbour likes to do noisy DIY. I’m not talking about putting together a wardrobe on a Saturday afternoon. I’m talking about a remodelling on all floors and a rebuilt extension at the back. It started just after we moved in 18 months ago, and the end is still a way off yet.

This noise has sometimes impeded my writing in the evenings, as the neighbour likes to start a couple of hours of drilling and hammering not long after I get in.

I had hoped that my days off would avoid this; that I’d be done writing for the day before the neighbour returned home. But when I got back from dropping my son of on that Wednesday morning, and the neighbour’s car was still parked outside, I began to wonder if the universe hated me.

A two hour reprieve around lunch allowed me to get last week’s blog post done, but the DIY carried on into the afternoon. Creative writing was out of the question. I could have slinked off to the living room, I could have curled up on the sofa and watched a movie or carried on playing Minecraft. But I worked around the problem.

Even though I didn’t add or edit a single word to the 2nd draft manuscript, small breaks in the noise, coupled with the lower amount of concentration required, allowed me to do some harder work on the outline of my WIP. Adding detail to character sheets. Fine tuning the order of scenes. Fine tuning the scenes themselves. Planning and tinkering, hoping that the work would make the rewrite easier, if I should ever find the time, peace, and quiet to do it.

And, after making the best of a crap situation, I looked up to the universe, stared it straight in the eyes and said “I have another writing day planned for November 30th. If you f**k with me again, I’m gonna punch you so hard, you’ll think it’s a second Big Bang.”

Your call, Universe.



Fingers crossed I can get back into the swing of things, starting this Thursday with Micro Bookends.

I was absent last week due to the judging duties (the most difficult judging session I’ve done, to date). The down side to accepting the honour of judging was that I couldn’t enter my own work.

But what of Chris and Mike, I here four people near the back ask? They’ve had an unbroken run of adventures since first appearing back in January.

So, while I didn’t know the picture or the bookends, I did scribble a Chris and Mike adventure to mark the sad occasion. You can check it out here. It looks at just what the adventurous duo get up to when there are no monsters around.



And that’s the lot. A poor week, far from the one I had planned.

How about you guys? Any stories about the universe interrupting your writing? Or are you lucky enough to have access to a personal dimension where time it self sits on pause and allows you to just relax and write in peace?

Hope you all manage to hit your targets this week.

See you in seven.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 35: “A successful week of flashing!”


2015 TOTAL WORD COUNT =           66521

Those that know me can attest to the fact that I’ve always found it difficult to talk about myself positively. I used to struggle in my employment performance reviews, and nowadays it’s constantly thinking that my writing sucks.

But every now and then I get a boost, a perfect storm if you will. This week has been that for me and, even as the World’s Greatest PessimistTM, I can’t deny that I must be doing something right.




Let’s start at the beginning (don’t worry; it’s not that beginning, just last week).

I’ve made the massive step of finally cracking on with a 2nd draft, something I’ve never done outside of Flash Fiction. Last week I sat down with a pretty stable opening chapter and I felt ready for another pair of eyes to take a look.

My wonderful wife stepped up and proceeded to read. Now, I’ve told Mrs Creek before that I need her to be honest. Being only positive will damage me more than letting me know what’s broken. By now I think I can trust her to point out the issues that occur in my writing.

When she finished she sat back and nodded. She liked it. She wanted to know more (which means that the seeds I’ve planted are working). She said it wasn’t what she would normally read (she likes your books more, Mr J Patterson!), but she could enjoy what I was working on.

So far so good. While it’s not the best idea to have an outside reader pace you as you work, something that could cause you friend / spouse / colleague to become a co-author at a pivotal stage, it’s nice to know that the all-important opening is doing its job.

And for someone pushing on in a projects stage that he’s never done before, it’s a little bit of a boost when I needed it.

It made me happy.



The next awesome thing that boosted my confidence was a rather unexpected imagination splurge.

I’ve written before about sometimes having to really struggle with the various Flash Fiction prompts I participate in. Some weeks I’m beating my head against the keyboard in the hope that something just resembling a story will jump onto the page.
This weekend was the opposite. After posting my first Micro Bookends entry before I’d even started work, I suddenly found more ideas waving their little arms and asking to be produced.

Some contests have entry limits (normally two) but, after checking the MB rules I discovered that that wasn’t the case. I knew I still had to get one done, because my first one wasn’t the obligatory CHRIS AND MIKE vs story that fans the world over demand from me J.

So, I did that. I had two stories up. That should have been it. But another idea started forming at an accelerated pace, an idea that was fully formed in my mind before I’d typed the first word. To have three ideas, three stories that I was happy with, and proud of, was weird. And then another one formed.

Four! WTF?!?!

I managed to put the brakes on after that. Somehow. I focused on my current WIP and pushed Flash Fiction to the back of my mind.

Then Friday rolled around. Two more stories formed. Again, I really liked both (I’ll even admit that sometimes I’m aware that one of my stories is weaker than the other when posting multiples). If I’d been asked to choose just one, I would have found it difficult. Thankfully Flash! Friday does have an entry limit, so I had no choice but to stop.

Then Sunday rolled around. After a fantastic family day out to celebrate my Nan’s 80th, I fired up the laptop once home, and found myself trying to write two stories at the same time. They both wanted my full attention and were both fighting for the finish line. A hefty bit of editing later and they were both up.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, Voima Oy and FE Clark started bigging up Paragraph Planet yesterday and I thought to myself “I haven’t done one for that site in a couple of months”, so proceeded to write another piece of Flash Fiction.

Thursday, Friday, Sunday, Monday.

4 days.

9 stories.

1515 words.

I walked away from that weekend extremely proud. I’d really enjoyed writing all nine of those stories; none of them felt like dead weight. After finishing CampNaNo in July, August had me all kinds of burnt out, and I don’t think I wrote much in the way of ‘good stuff’. I felt like I’d returned.

And then the contest results started coming in.





This was the last one on my list. I’d won my first Angry Hourglass back in January, and finally got the coveted Flash! Friday win in July.

But Bookends was one that, in all honesty, I never thought I’d get. I got a 2nd place on my second attempt late last year, and have had a few Mentions, but once I switched to CHRIS AND MIKE vs, the lack of anonymity meant that I was probably excluded from ‘blind judging’. And rightly so. I had no problem with this and stated several times that those stories weren’t in it for the win, just for the fun (and the awesome cult following).

But, recently I started throwing the odd non C&M story in there. And it paid off in the most spectacular way.

The judge for the week had awarded me not only second place for A WORLD DIVIDED BY X, but first as well, for WHEN THE STUDENT BECOMES THE MASTER. I was over the moon. It turns out that my over-writing on the Thursday had improved throughout the day until, clearly, I’d ‘got it right’.

The contest’s judge @dazmb should be congratulated, not for giving me the last of my trophy trilogy, but for the immense effort he put into the comments. Each mention, each podium place, got the works. It wasn’t just word count (most comments exceeding that of the stories being judged), but the pure quality of it. The observations reminded me of Rebekah Postupak’s Flash Point articles (please bring those back). Some people would pay for the level of feedback that @dazmb went into, and for that reason, he is always welcome at my house for Christmas (note: Brian S Creek does not endorse or affiliate himself with Christmas in any way).



As I mentioned, I was proud of all my stories this weekend. But, if I was honest, the two for Flash! Friday were probably my weakest. In spite of that, I managed a Special Mention for A BEAUTIFUL FACE OFF, a dark tale of beauty and media.



I don’t think I’ve ever written two polarising stories before, especially at the same time. APPETITE was a dark tale involving a gypsy curse that comes back to haunt our main character, Victor, in a far more horrifying way than he imagined. My second piece TUMMY FULL OF MONSTERS, the one that got me a bronze on the podium, was a family friendly tale of a little boy with an upset stomach.



I don’t want this post to sound like bragging. As I said at the start, I’m not a positive person and have always found it difficult to ‘promote’ myself.

But I think the last year and a half of blogging has helped. Not having to look a person in the eye, not having to see their reaction to my achievements, makes it a little easier. I find it difficult to open gifts in front of the person that has given it to me, so having someone say they liked my writing to my face makes me blush, and causes my stomach to knot.

But in written form, it’s a little easier to deal with. I still blush, it still feels undeserved, but I’m embarrassed in private, so it’s not so uncomfortable. I don’t know how I would have taken the kind words of @dazmb, Steph Ellis, Josh Bertetta, and Karl A Russell if they’d been stood in front of me. I probably would have run away.

Kind words can lift an author, and for that I’m grateful. Not just to the judges who made last weekend so bloody fantastic, but to all the judges, and all the fellow writers who have taken the time, once their own stories are up, to read other entries and make kind comments.

I’m grateful for my Special Mentions, my Honourable Mentions, my Thirds, my Seconds, and (of course) my Wins. But I wouldn’t have had any of them if the community surrounding it all wasn’t such a pleasure to be part of.

And on that note I’ll leave you. Below are the Flash Fiction stories that did me proudest this weekend just gone. Hope you enjoy them too.

And here’s my Winners interview from Micro Bookends. Find out what makes me tick.

See you in seven.



A WORLD DIVIDED BY X
(Micro Bookends – 2nd)

X-linked recessive inheritance. It’s why men turn and women don’t.
I spent seven years in an abusive relationship, unable to escape a man I feared. He controlled me, belittled me, beat me.
Then one day he dropped dead. I thought I was free, that God had answered my prayers and struck him down. Instead, things got worse.
Men don’t stay dead anymore. They come back as something else.
My home is a dark corner beneath the freeway. I eat when I can, sleep when I can. The rest of the time I hunt the bastards down.
It’s all about survival now and I’ve got to stay on my game.


WHEN THE STUDENT BECOMES THE MASTER
(Micro Bookends – 1st)

X.
Y.
Z.
How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish. Graffiti on the page.
My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.
I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.
My three year walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.
“Would you like to play a game?”


A BEAUTIFUL FACE OFF
(Flash! Friday – Special Mention)

There used to be a time when you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing my face. Posters, billboards, magazines, television. I was the face of my generation. You want eye liner? Let me show you which brand. You want a new dress? Let me show you how good it can look.
But then she came along. Big blue eyes, perfect lips, and a tight little butt. She was me turned up to eleven. And she was younger.
It didn’t take long before I lost the deals and the adoration. Eventually I lost my mind. I’d spent every waking hour being beautiful for the world and then suddenly, everybody stopped looking.
I fell into an abyss; drink, drugs, sex.
When I eventually came out the other side, it wasn’t because of loved ones or some magical epiphany. I came back for one thing; revenge.
I’m going to take that bitch’s face away.


TUMMY FULL OF MONSTERS
(Angry Hourglass – 3rd)

There were monsters in Charlie’s tummy.
He had woken up this morning and his tummy had hurt something rotten. His mummy had asked him what was wrong and all he could think of was that some monsters were messing around with his insides and he didn’t know which end he was going to be sick out of.
Straight away mummy said that Charlie would have to stay at home.
This upset Charlie because Mrs Garret was teaching Volcanoes today and Charlie had spent all weekend reading about them in his encyclopedia, the one his Grandma and Grandpa had bought him for Christmas.
He was also upset because his best friend William had promised to bring in a rare Pokemon card today to do swaps. Charlie asked his mummy if William could come round after school but she thought it was best not to; “we wouldn’t want William to get monsters in his tummy too, would we?” she’d said.
Charlie guessed she was probably right. William was his bestest friend and he didn’t want him to go through this horrible feeling too, even for an ultra-rare Pokemon.
So Charlie stayed at home, snuggled up on the sofa, watching cartoons. Mummy had let him have a little lemonade (because the monsters don’t like bubbles), and some dry toast (because monsters might think the food’s boring and leave to find something better).
When it didn’t get better, Charlies mum gave him some tasty tasty pink medicine and much to Charlie’s relief it seemed to do the trick.
And while he didn’t feel up to having a proper dinner (just in case the monsters were hoping for something better than dry toast), he did feel a lot better by bed time, and was sure he wasn’t going to be sick any more, out of either end.
Before mummy turned the light off, Charlie asked her one last favour. She laughed a little but did it anyway.
So Charlie slept his best night ever. And the little cup of pink medicine did a good job at keeping away the monster under his bed too.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

(vol 2) Chapter 34: “2nd draft is the hardest part?”

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

Since I was old enough to know what I was doing, I’ve felt a pull to create crazy stories set in fantastical worlds. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a pile of notebooks or folders lying around, stuffed full of notes, maps, characters designs, and plot ideas.

And it’s never gone away.

But one thing has never changed in all those years; 99% of my projects are in one of two stages - 1st draft, or barely written.

For a long time I struggled to get over the wall that was ‘endings’. I either lost interest in a story, got bogged down in early editing, or got proper stuck-in-the-mud. I had ‘beginnings’ coming out of my ears, but that was always as far as I got. Maybe the ‘middle’ every once in a while.



All that changed in 2007 when I not only crossed the NaNoWriMo 50,000 word finish line, but that draft have an actual ending, a hero into the sunset scene that left (almost) everything wrapped up.

Two years later I did it again. And the year after that. Short stories began to follow suit and soon I was sat on a pile of first drafts.

Time moved on and I started to feel good about myself taking writing more serious. I had managed to climb over that dreaded ‘Wall of 1st Draft’ and could carry on with my journey. But do you know what I saw once I passed that wall? Another damned wall, much bigger than the last. It was the much scarier ‘Wall of 2nd Draft’.

Up until that point, the one thing I’d been drumming into my head was just to ‘get the story written’. I had to stop stalling and get a story onto the paper. Everything else would just sort itself out, surely.

I’d learnt from fellow writers that the 1st draft didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to be there for you to work with after you written that beautiful THE END.

But each time I finished that 1st draft, I would look at what I’d completed, think about what I needed to do to it to make it work, and become scared out of my mind. Because the first draft isn’t the hardest part of writing, of that I am no longer in any doubt. The hardest part is the 2nd draft; the fine tuning and definition of the project.



I’ve spent the last 18 months exploring and enjoying the style that is Flash Fiction. While a 100,000 word novel could take a decent author several months to edit into a respectable and sellable product, a 200 word piece of Flash Fiction can test an author for no more than a few hours.
I’ve learnt things about editing that you just don’t get from bigger projects. When you word count is so small and every word counts, you’re much harsher with that scalpel. Descriptions become shorter, dialogue becomes sharper. I’m hoping that I can take this thinking into the 2nd draft of CHRIS AND MIKE vs THE RISING DEAD.

Which brings me to this week’s piece of good news; I’ve actually sat down and started properly on the second draft. I’ve spent the last two months sifting through all that I wrote down in July’s CampNaNo, picking out the crap while polishing up the good stuff. Post-it notes of changes, note books full of more detailed character description. It all pushed things forward. But, as always, it turned out to be another stalling tactic. I was putting off the scary part of getting stuck back in.

The weekend just gone was busy, but on the wonderful Bank Holiday Monday, my beautiful and very patient wife suggested she take our son out for a little while to give me a bit of peace and quiet. Sometimes I wonder what I’d do without her.

So off they went and I closed the front door. The house was silent, the world so still. I set up the laptop, gathered my notes, laid out my pens, and focused extremely hard on escaping those dreaded demons of distraction. TV? Off. Phone? Silent. Internet? Only for research purposes. I opened up Scrivener, turned to the first page of the 1st draft . . . and began.



So far it’s going well. I’ve decided to go with the ‘start again’ approach, instead of trying to untangle the mess. Where stuff can remain, I will simply retype it as I go, perhaps tightening sentences here, and expanding the world there. I’ve already cut Chris’s point of view completely. I decided that it was messy having several scenes in the first third of the story switching between the two heroes. It caused too much to be explained to the reader too early, and became redundant once they both meet up. So the decision was made to make this story (and perhaps the rest of their adventures) drawn through Mike’s eyes. It makes sense, what with him being the ‘new’ bod to the world behind out world. His introduction to the strangeness becomes the readers parallel.

I’m hoping that things will get easier in future stories. Right now I have the added pain of world building. Things like Second Level and Ackworth Mental Institute show up in later stories, so I want to make them solid and functional. I have thirty three Chris And Mike stories done for Micro Bookends so far, and I know where things are going, which has me dropping little clues for all that the future stuff.

But the main thing is I’ve finally started a second draft of something bigger than just a short story. And while I’m not over that second wall just yet, I’ve started the climb, which is more than I’ve ever done before.

How about you guys? Which draft do you find the hardest? Are you still stuck looking up at that dreaded ‘Wall of 1st Draft’? Let me know your victories and defeats.

See you in seven.