Monday, 25 June 2018

New attempt at a vlog

I thought I'd have another go at a YouTube vlog. This time I tried to keep a few things in mind:

  • I want it to appeal to people who might be interested in my books, so comedy horror fans and young writers!
  • I want the fun factor - my favourite vloggers are entertaining.
  • I want to offer something. If you're good enough to tune it, what do you get out of it?
  • I want to keep it short - I tend to watch vlogs in bite sized chunks. 

It took a few goes. Things I found difficult:
  • Looking at the camera rather than the screen (otherwise you don't make eye contact)
  • Not mumbling (it's hard not to be self conscious when talking to a camera on your own)
  • Remembering what I was going to say (it's not like I have a script)
  • Not going off on a tangent (too easy to ramble on about other stuff)
  • Keeping my own accent (I have a habit of doing a really bad American voice)
  • Uploading it (and not feeling, oh no this is terrible)
But I managed to do it, edit it and even make a little thumbnail. The moment it was up, I really wanted to delete it and do it all over again, but instead, I'm going to think about the next one and try to see if I can keep this thing going. The best vloggers vlog regularly - probably the reason they are the best - just like the best writers write regularly.

Here's the result. It's cheesy and embarrassing but kind of fun... enjoy.

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.

The result... well, it wasn't that fantastic. Why? Well once I put it out there, I quickly realised that the target audience for my video was different to the target audience for my books and this whole website bloggy type thing.

But, it was a fun learning curve. I still intend to vlog, but I think I'm going to start with something unique to me, something that I know well enough to talk about and that fits with the audience that I want to share ideas with - so stay tuned.

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

Friday, 15 June 2018

Streaks, Deadlines and Vlogs


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.


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...


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.