The Writeasy: Let’s Talk About Writing

Just the two of us this month, as Clive and Rob talk about writing. We cast an eye over the fast-changing world of self-publishing, look at some short fiction mags and answer that all important question: just what does Nanowrimo stand for?

(as I mention at the top of the ‘cast, Script Frenzy has now become open-remit challenge Camp Nanowrimo. It’s well worth a look, especially if you like the idea of a more collaborative environment. Check out www.campnanowrimo.org for more info, and to sign up for some writing fun in April!)

Nanowrimo – A Sad Announcement

I wanted to make it work this year, I really did. But the pressures of three blogs plus re-write duties on Habeas Corpus and other pipeline works means that something just had to give.

That something, alas, is Nanowrimo.

I will be buckling down and writing, sure, just not on a new 50,000 word project. It will be interesting, I think, to try and do 1700 words a day across all the projects I have on the table this autumn, and this is certainly not goodbye forever.

This will be no break for me. If anything, I will use the Nano excuse to up my game in solidarity with all the word warriors out there. Expect some big posts this November.

To everyone, and especially the Oxfordshire Nanos, good luck and be magnificent. Let’s be verbose out there.

Life After Nano: and then this happened

First things first, then.

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I hit 50, 000 words on the evening of November 29th, which is slow by my standards, but perfectly acceptable in the scheme of things. As ever, the moment when I upload wordcount to the Nanowrimo site (painfully slow on the first and last couple of the days of November, a phenomenon we refer to as “the robust nature of the nano servers”) to get redirected to the winners page is a bittersweet one.  You expect fireworks, or a party, and what you get is… well, a very nice round of applause from the Nano staff, and a couple of downloads. But then the point is not to have the world fall at your feet at the enormity of your achievement. If you’re anything like me, the end of Nano is not the end of the story. Nowhere near, in my case. Ghosts is dangling on a massive cliffhanger. The casual reader may consider that I have written myself into a corner. Not the case, kids. But if you want to find out what happens next, you’re going to have to let me know.

Work on Ghosts will now continue behind the scenes. The first draft will stay up until the new year, at which point it’s being pulled into Scrivener so I can start work on the second draft. As for the first part of the story, Pirates of The Moon – well, I have plans for that, which I’ll share with you in due course.

 

On the same subject, you can now view Simon Aitken’s brilliant Blood + Roses on a rental pass at the all new revamped site. I can’t recommend it enough, and I’m not alone. Critical Film called it “a turning point, for the better, in the constant evolution of the modern cinematic vampire”, and I agree. This is a great opportunity to support an acclaimed independent horror, and you should run, not walk (well, metaphorically speaking, as you’re no doubt reading this at home in your slippers with no intention of budging off the sofa) to the site and check it out.

 

Finally, a little self-promotion that I can’t believe slipped through the gaps. Time Out is now available to view at Raindance.TV, at significantly improved quality from the YouTube link. Those who sniff that it was only shot on Super 8 in the first place are so very missing the point it’s not even funny. Go check it out, and witness the glory. Also, we get a tiny morsel of cash for every view, so that’s nice, isn’t it?

Right, back to work. The twist I have in mind won’t write itself…

Life During Nano: The week in wordcount.

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It’s always an exciting moment. November 1st. The first day of NaNoWriMo. And let me tell you, Readership, this time I was ready. I was primed. I knew my story, I knew my characters. I was plotted up and ready to go. I stepped onto a slightly slower train than usual at Reading, all the better to get a good start on the day’s wordcount. It was perfect. There was a seat with a table for my coffee, and room to perch my netbook. I had the software I needed, I had my backup strategy sorted out. I was good, as any number of eighties action movie icons would tell you, to go.

I opened my netbook. It was dead. I’d forgotten to charge it. And of course, I was on a train with no handy power outlets. Not, I have to say, the best of starts.

I coped by using my phone. I’ve quietly refined my typing skills to the point where I can double-thumb with pleasing rapidity. But even I was surprised to see that I’d managed over 700 hundred words on that first morning. It’s not an experiment I’d choose to replicate, but it’s good to know I can do it if I need to.

What this shows is that Nano is about getting the wordcount, any which way you can, in any way that suits you. Do it on the kitchen table. Do it on your lunchbreak. Do it like me, on the train or the bus. Yes, I’m still talking about writing, mostly.

Nano does funny things to your head. It makes you write and think in much longer sentences than you would normally. It’s always there, nagging at the back of the head. Have you done your words? Why haven’t you done your words? Why are you hoovering? Shouldn’t you be writing?

And the world around you becomes fair game. That funny thing the old dear in front of you said on the bus? You can use that in the book. That silly thing that happened at work today? You can use that in the book? That book you’ve been reading? You can use that in… oh, maybe not.

There are, of course, the freaks of nature that will finish Nano in absurdly short periods of time. Four days. Although there are writers on the forums that had hit 300,000 words in a week. The mind boggles and the fingers tingle at the thought of that much writing. I’m at … well, have a look to your left. See the widget? That’s how well I’m doing. At the time of writing I’m at 17,000 words, which will get me to the 50,000 word mark a day or so early, although I’m planning on improving on that. The story has a long way to go yet, and I’m enjoying the way it’s changing and reforming under my fingers. The John Carpenter influences are coming out a lot more clearly than I’d expected, which means the story is much more actiony and horrific than I’d thought. None of this is a problem. I’d planned on a big, fast-moving story. And hoo boy, that’s what I’ve got.

A gentle reminder that I’m posting every word I write this month up in the Ghosts Of The Moon link above, so feel free to read and comment. Pointing out spelling mistakes and grammatical errors will be met with hollow laughter. This is writing in the raw, Readership. Out of my head and into your hands. Fiction doesn’t get any purer than that.

 

Nanowrimo: and here we go.

So, it begins again. It’s November, and my mind is on my wordcount and my wordcount’s on my mind.

The link to each day’s output will be up on the link above, so feel free to peruse and comment. It’s first draft, so of course it will be rough round the edges. Porcupine rough.

Also, I have a word count widget running, so you can follow along as I creep closer to my goal. Exciting, eh?

Updates will be brief over the next few weeks, but I’ll keep you updated as to my life during Nano. Such as it is.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…

Nanowrimo: A Few Useful Tools

There are just under three weeks to go until the start of the 2010 Nanowrimo, and already there’s a sense of real anticipation and nervous excitement. Wordsprints (where you write as much as you can for a given period; say half an hour) and timed exercises are happening on Twitter, with the #nanolove hash getting a lot of … well, love. The forums at the Nanowrimo site have reopened, and are buzzing with activity. It always seems a shame to me that they don’t stay open for the whole year, as for November they are a hive of crazed creativity and overwrought drama. It would be great to get some of that feeling all the time.

The Nano forums are essential for those moments when you just need to bitch about how badly things are going, or crow about your rapidly expanding wordcount, or wail about your lack of inspiration. In the forums, you realise just how many other people are in this with you, and feeling and suffering and exulting in exactly the same way. Nanowrimo puts you in touch with an awful lot of like-minded people, and if you sign up to the regional forums, you could even meet up with some of them face to face!

And of course, software developers are there to help the aspiring writer part with their cash – in the name of productivity, of course. There are a few tools out there that are worth your time, and funnily the good ones are open source and free.

I had great results last year with OpenOffice, which has hella good error correction and auto-complete functions – a boon for sloppy typists. On full-screen mode it’s a good distraction-free option and really helps you bang up the word count. The team behind it have just broken away from their corporate masters at Oracle to create the new LibreOffice, which I will be viewing with interest. I’m also eyeing up FocusWriter, which seems like a neat, prettier version of the Gedit/Notepads of the world. I’m having some issues installing it on my little Linux netbook, as it doesn’t come as a prettily packaged .deb file, but I’ll get there, I’m sure. With a choice of background, word count and daily goals built in, it seems to have been designed specifically for the shenanigans in November. But frankly, I’m happy as long as there’s autocap and a little something to help out my dreadful spelling.

Meanwhile, have you got your Dropbox account yet? and if not, why not? It’s free, it’s 2gigs of storage that seamlessly syncs across all your machines (including your smartphones), it’s a complete no-brainer to set up and use. It saved my butt during Script Frenzy early in the year, and it’s an essential for me now. In fact, if it sounds good, drop me a line. If you go through an invite from me we both get an extra 256mb for free. Used in conjunction with PlainText, I can jot down ideas on my phone and know that they will be waiting in a folder in my Dropbox whenever I need them. If you’re a writer on the go like me, these two bits of free loveliness are my solid recommendations.

And oh look, Scrivener is rolling out a major update in time for November! Scrivener is brilliant for thwacking out a first draft and letting you organise it at the same time. I used it exclusively for my first three Nanoes, and it’s still a favourite. The upgrade will set you back about $25, $45 for a new licence, with a thirty day free trial – just enough time to complete your Nano challenge. Totally worth it.

But these are only tools. When it comes down to it, Nanowrimo is about a very simple act. Writing 1700 words a day for a month, and being consistently surprised at what comes out. I know I always am, and that’s what brings me back year on year.

Want to know more? Feel like giving it a go? then start HERE. And if you need a friend, then this is me.