Monday, 18 June 2018

Writing Day and my first writing vlog

I set myself a bit of a writing challenge yesterday - a Writing Day to see how much I can get through in one day without it impacting too much on other things. I completed my Buttercup #2 edits on Saturday and I don't have another project on the go, so there was nothing to lose. Besides, I wanted something to keep me busy today.

I started the day without much of a plan. I knew I wanted to write about a ghost and the basic premise but not much more than that.

I decided to use Google Docs for this rather than Word so I can take it out with me. As it turned out, I didn't do much on the go but it's nice to know you've got the manuscript wherever you go. (The down side of course, is Word is just way, waaaayyyyyy faster.)

I did two writing sprints early in the morning letting the idea find its feet. After 2,000 I took the dog out which got my thinking about the next scenes, came back and did another quick sprint then the world of Sunday took over - shopping, cooking, washing and ironing (we usually share this, but my wife is otherwhere this weekend).

Ploting or Pantsing

Around the 5,000 word mark I realised that the idea might work. So here comes the argument between plotting and pantsing. I could easily have spent today plotting this idea to the Nth degree, but sometimes putting too much focus on the big picture doesn't allow for the development of the more subtle points that happen within chapters, the stuff you can't plan until you're actually writing it that has massive impact on the way the journey flows. So, although I always say I'm a plotter, it's certainly been interesting to just dive in and see what happens. But it's early days. Chances are, if I get through a first draft I'm going to have to fix a whole load of things at the end. We'll see.

Vlogging and YouTube

Another part of the challenge was to record the day and make the leap into the world of Vlogging. I've kept a blog for years, but I've only played a little with YouTube - but over the past few weeks I realised that I do more research on YouTube than anything else. When I was looking at Chromebooks vs laptops - YouTube. When I was learning how to use Scrivener - YouTube. Plotting - YouTube. I still read blogs, but they don't pull you in the same way that video does. The other main thing YouTube has in its favour is the way you can't help but bounce from one vlog to another. Which is precisely how I ended watching so many writing vlogs, and there is so much great stuff out there.

Of course, when it comes to doing it myself, it's a different story. I don't think I'm particularly camera friendly. I mess up my words, my accent is quite broad and if I try to soften it I sound weird. But what the hell... I decided to give it a go.

I had a title for this project, but I like to keep my cards close to my chest so when it came to doing the YouTube thing, I went for a working title of The Window Box... and it's kind of stuck. I quite like it. I think I might ditch the original title.

Once I edited it and put it all together, there were loads of bits I had to cut out, then I had a wobble and decided not to upload it at all - this is the arena of youngsters, after all (isn't it?). But late on, after a glass of wine (or two) I decided what the hell. I've done the work. I look how I look. Just go for it.

Upload...

As for my Writing Day, I managed a total of 6,200 words.





Friday, 15 June 2018

Streaks, Deadlines and Vlogs

Streaks

I'm cutting my current writing streak short. Two reasons - firstly, it's getting way too complicated. As I said at the beginning, I've taken an old script and tried to breathe some new life into it. The book is a puzzle/treasure hunt kind of thing, and I focused so much on the puzzles and solutions that I never stopped to wonder what the antagonist's motive was, and in trying to address that, it's become a monster. The second is that it's beginning to drift away from what I want to write right now - comedy horror. This had both initially, but in trying to deal with the first problem, the central theme of the story became so much darker, which made the comic relief moments more of a distraction than a natural part of the story.

Is it time wasted? Of course not. Every sentence written makes you a better writer, and regular writing streaks increase stamina. It's all about keeping the machine ticking over.

Deadlines

Buttercup #2 edits are underway and need to be done as soon as possible so I can work on the illustrations over the summer. Most of the weekend is going to be spent doing that. However... there's a however attached to this. which leads me on to...

VLOGS

I've been watching a few of these lately. Most are by young, unpublished writers but that doesn't make them less valuable. In most cases, they burst with enthusiasm, and that's infectious. They are often fun and honest - a real warts and all reflection of the hurdles that regular people face on their journey, and because it's done during that journey, it gives a better insight into the creative process than a blog or an interview written after the event.  It's like seeing an artist's portfolio - the rough sketches are always so much more interesting because they give you a better appreciation of the final product. They reflect the struggle, the persistence and development that forms the heart of the creative process

I think vlogs like these are important because they help other writers realise they are going through the same difficulties. I include published authors in this too, because when it comes to that first draft, there isn't a lot of difference between me struggling with a new idea and a young writer doing exactly the same. Experience makes the journey easier because you get to know the pattern of the game, but you still have to sit down and turn out the words. Seeing other writers in the same boat really gives you that inspirational buzz.

I keep meaning to dust off my own YouTube channel - I'll certainly do a Buttercup promo in the next few weeks. That might be enough to get the ball rolling and do a few vlogs of my own.

But right now... I'm going to watch the Hobbit. I started watching this on DVD last night, then discovered our Jack has got the lot on BluRay. Now I'm going to have to start all over again as I feel cheated on quality.

Added - "however"

I forgot the "However!" One of the vlogs was to log a Writing Day, just head down and see how much you can turn out. Sounds like a fun challenge. 


Colin Mulhern

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Writing Streak - day 10

Running on empty right now, so I'll make this post short and sweet. Fab round numbers today (I have rounded up by about 20 or so - so it's not exactly perfect - that would be weird).

I will quickly say this though, when I came to looking at reviewing this project, one of the things I wanted to do was to switch two of the characters, make the protagonist male and antagonist female. Today was the scene that would really test that. I'm happy to say, I feel it works fine.

Right, that's it. Might skip tomorrow as I'm out with our Year 6 kids to Flamingo Land all day. I won't get back too late, but I think it'll be take away and an early night. Does you good to have the odd break though - bit of a recharge.

Words today - 3,000 (500, 600, 1900)

Total to date: 20,000



Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Prologues, Opening Chapters and a taste of things to come.

It's Day 9 of my writing streak but I thought I turn this into a general post rather than a simple update because I've hit a scene that I wish I could have at the opening of the story.

If you haven't read the previous posts, here's a quick update: I'm between projects at the moment, (about to start edits of Buttercup #2) so I thought I'd take and old script and have a bit of a play. I spent a week re-planning and plotting the whole thing and began a complete rewrite nine days ago.

Today, I'm really happy. Not in the amount of words written, but in that I've knocked out a key scene which has turned out lovely and horribly and creepy. Proper shivers down your spine stuff. That's when I had a moment of thinking, 'Ah, if only I could kick the story off with something like this.'

Of course, I can't because it's a turning point, but if I've got that lying in wait somewhere in the middle of the book, I really need to give the reader a hint of what to expect. That's one of the things I addressed when I planned this version - you need the reader to be sure of the kind of book they are reading. This is why agents ask for your first three chapters on a submission and not your best three. If you can't let the reader know what they're in for right there, you've already lost them.

One trick is to write a Prologue. Prologues are fiction Marmite - some love 'em, some hate 'em.
Personally, I quite like reading Prologues, but I rarely use them. A better trick is to use similar language to describe the ordinary opening scene with key words that give a flavour of what's to come.

The best example I can think of right now comes from William Gibson's "Neuromancer" which begins:

The sky above the port was the colour of television,
tuned to a dead channel.

Booom! Misery and technology in the first line.

In Buttercup, I made sure to show it was comedy and horror - a little girl with a chainsaw running to Granny's cottage pretty much nailed that. As for this current project...

Well, that's going to have to remain a secret, buried deep, deep down where the earth is cold, where the worms churn the soil in blind ignorance of what they're feeding upon.

Yeah... something like that.

Anyway, counts for today.

Day 9 words - 1,470 (200, 1,270)
Total so far - a nice round 17,000.

Monday, 11 June 2018

writing streak - day 8

Good news: no more crashes.
Bad news: my word count is 1,600 less than what my Excel file says it should be.

Despite saying in last night's blog that I was going to leave the current chapter as it is, I wrote a brief, almost throw-away note to myself just before turning off my laptop. It was just a short sentence about scrapping both ideas and doing it completely differently. This morning, I looked at that, had a think and started to plan out a few ideas. At lunch I set up a new approach and tonight wrote the intro to the new scene. It works, and it's better than the original idea that I had so much trouble in ditching.

However, in rewriting that chunk, I've stripped it down from a 2,000 word chapter to something short and rather horrible, so my output has gone up by my Total word count is down. Which means I need to include -1,600 in my Excel document.

More good news - now that this scene is set, I can move forward again with some fresh ideas.

The hardest part about rewriting an old project isn't cutting out the bad stuff, it's cutting stuff you actually like. 

Anyway... stats for day 8

Total today - 900 words (400, 500) and 1,570 deleted.

Which brings down the total so far to - 15,530 words.

Estimated final word count  - 30,000.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

writing streak - day 7

Sorted out my Word file first thing this morning. There was definitely a bug in there somewhere. I ended up saving it as .txt file to clean everything out and start over.

Once it was fixed and reformatted, I spent an hour bouncing between Word, LibreOffice and Google Docs trying to decide which is the best option to take it forward. Google Docs is safe and super easy to use, but a fully installed word processor (either LibreOffice or Word) is just faster. Much faster. So, hoping that the problem is fixed, I've gone back to Word. For now.

I didn't get any actual writing done until late afternoon. I managed around 1,800 words, then came to a halt. I realised most of the last 1000 words needs changing. Just doesn't sit right.

Long break. Something to eat, watched Passengers - great movie! - then did another hour, most of which was going round in circles.

The problem is that this story is based on an old project, and there are aspects of that which I still like, but trying to include them feels clunky, and trying to rewrite them feels like I'm letting something genuinely good slip by.

I think tomorrow I'm going to leave it as it is and try to move on. Get the first draft finished, read through and make a decision then. Onwards!

Today's total - 2,470 (1870, 600)

Total so far - 16,200.


Saturday, 9 June 2018

writing streak - day 6

There's good and bad about today. I'll get the bad out of the way first.

Bad news

Another computer crash. Whoop whoop. Don't they just make using computers all the more exciting? The extra exciting bit this time was that Word decided NOT to do an autosave, despite all the settings assuring me that it really, really would this time - honest. I didn't lose too much work, but it is annoying. I've got a feeling it could be a problem with the file itself and the strange way Word mixes things up - it's been a bit glitchy ever since I deleted a load of comments, which reappeared for a while. Strike 3 and I switch back to G-Docs.

Good news

Planning and plotting is all good, but you can only plan so much. To plan in full detail is... well, that's writing the thing, isn't it? This morning I had a fairly set plan for a scene that I wasn't really looking forward to writing at all. It felt like a case of writing by numbers, just joining the key points with a few hundred words. That's a warning sign though, it really is. If I find it dull then how can I expect a reader to enjoy it? Once I began writing, the creative bit of my brain kicked in and took over. I ended up with something that isn't only fresh and fun, but adds its own stamp to the main story - to a degree that I've no idea what will happen at the end. I'll deal with that whenever I get there. 

The other good news is that I finally got Age of Mythology to work on Windows 10. Of course, that means I've spent two hours playing AoM when I could have been writing, but some things are just too good to miss.

Not a huge amount of writing done today, but I have done a bit of back-tracking, fixed a few problems and edited along the way. Here's the stats.

Total for day 6 - 2,240 (1000, 350, 850)
Total so far 13,730

(I guess I've slipped a bit. I should be at 18,000 if I was going to complete it in 10 days.)

 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Writing streak - day 5

A fairly low word count today, so here's the main excuses: I'm bouncing back and forth in the script at the moment and I've spent a lot of time writing little rhyming clues that form part of the story (pretty much all I did first thing this morning). 

But I do have another excuse. A really good one, too! We've just started our class Family Assembly, which means a good deal of big voice teaching (or "shouting" to those not working in education), which is sooooo draining. I left work shattered with a beast of a headache. All I really wanted to do when I got in was either go to bed or crack open a few cans and chill. 

Instead, I watched the worst ever Nicholas Cage movie. Paula gave up and went to bed but I had to watch the rest to see if they it would have any kind of ending - it didn't. I only turned the laptop on to have a quick browse over what I'd written at lunch time and ended up doing a quick blast of 800 words. 

So... not fantastic, but it's the weekend tomorrow. I wonder what excuses I'll find then.

Totals for today - 1,800 words.

Total so far - 11,500

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Writing streak - day 4

Things didn't get off to a good start. Following my computer crash last night, my laptop wanted to install an update so I set it away. An hour later, it was still busy so I left it on and went to bed. This morning, it was shut down, so I thought it must have finished. God, no. As soon as I turned it on, it had more work to do. An hour passed and it was time to leave for work, so I had to leave it once again. The result: no writing done this morning.

I got a big chunk at lunch and a bit more tonight, but I've hit a stage where the outline simply isn't detailed enough to cover all the small complexities of a plot and things are beginning to get fiddly. It's only by writing the full copy to this point that I can see that for certain things to work, I have to do a bit of backtracking, drop a few clues and then carefully juggle the surrounding scenes.

Long story short, most of this evening was spent on the finer points of planning. So, once again, the word counts don't reflect the time and effort. But it doesn't matter, the plot itself is tightening up and the more subtle mechanics are beginning to tick.

Words on day four: 1,610

Total so far: 9,680

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Writing streak - day 3

Grrrrr... Just had a computer crash, losing a chunk of work. Not a big chunk, but enough to be annoying. My own stupid fault for returning to Microsoft Word.

About an hour ago, I thought I'd finish early and call it a day - have a cup of tea, watch a bit of TV and have an early night. Then I realised that my word count so far was 200 words short of 8,000. So, I put the post on hold, opened my document and thought I'd do another ten minutes or so. 250 words later and the screen froze. The only solution was to take a photo on my phone, just in case the auto-save wasn't working (it's messed up in the past).

Hard shut down and restart. Open Word and see that it hadn't auto-saved (despite the settings saying it should). Glad I took the photo now. I wrote it up, saved it and finally can do my post.

I'm exactly 1000 words behind where I should be. That's an average of only 300 words short each day, but it soon mounts up. I'm going to have to do a lot of catch up at the weekend in order to finish this draft in ten days. Still achievable though.

Anyway, stats for today.

Before work - 559
lunch - 920
early evening - 370
late evening - 1070

Words written on day 3 - 2,919
Total so far - 8,068

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Writing streak - day 2

Today has been a tricky one. I've put more hours in that I'd like, but that was mainly because I spent the last hour going around and around in circles rewriting the same chunk. 

This, of course, goes against my own advice that writing a first draft is about banging out the words as fast as possible, and that you should leave the editing until later. But with this section being the moment that give the story the first big push, I couldn't leave it alone until it was nailed down. 

Which means I've probably written about 4,000 words and boiled those down to about half that.

Here's the figures.

Morning - 630
Lunch - 650
Evening 1 - quick half hour in front of the TV, resulting in 160 more words

Computer off. Watched a movie - I'm not spending all night writing!

Evening 2 - basic draft - 600
Evening 3 - editing that same draft over and over, resulting in 180 more words.

Words on day 2 - 2,219. Not as many as I'd like, but I've solved a truck-load of niggly problems.

Total so far: 5,149 - so about 850 words behind where I should be, but not bad. I'm quite happy with that.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Writing streak - day 1

I'll make this short and sweet. It's 10:30 and I've just finished my last half hour sprint. I managed four today, here are the counts.

Morning - 500 words
Lunch -  730
Early evening - 930 (about 50 minutes)
Late evening 770

Total for day 1:  2,930 words.


Sunday, 3 June 2018

Planning, plotting and a new writing streak

I've spent the last week planning a story. Not writing or drafting or anything like that. Just planning. For a whole week.

Yup, this is me. Except that I plan in Word. Otherwise, it's like looking in a mirror.

A week?? Why so long?

I took an old story that was a bit of a mess and wondered if I could revise it. I stripped the whole thing down and wrote a list of the major plot points, then started over.

At first I started considering other story ideas - effectively planning a whole new story - but I quickly realised that was not what I wanted to do; I wanted to fix the story I already had, not create something completely new.

I went back to the basic skeleton and spent days identifying the key points. Then I looked for the obvious gaps and built it up, only to have it all collapse. Then I started over again... and again... and again. Each time it got closer to something that made sense.

I finished this morning. The result is a 2,000 word outline of 32 balanced story beats in 4 acts (I split Act II into 2A & 2B, if that makes sense). The result isn't too different from the original story at all, but mechanically, ie how the pieces fit together and the story flows, it's a LOT better.

So tomorrow, I'm going to start writing the thing. I can use elements of the old script, but that often causes more problems that not, so I'm going to avoid cut and past and write the whole thing fresh.
With an estimated word count of 30,000 words, and an average of 3000 per day, it should take me ten days to bang out a first draft. Although, in practice, things often go differently.

Note: I don't know whether or not this is a project I'll actually submit or do anything with. I write all of the time, especially between projects. Picking up an old project is a good way to keep the engine ticking over. Fun too.

I'll blog each day to keep track of how it goes.

Colin M