Monday, 9 July 2018

Back to work

I've had fun playing with authortube vids and uploading a couple to YouTube, but I was amazed at just how long the whole thing took.

1. Recording
First of all is the recording itself - actually, there is a more important stage before that, but you don't realise that until you've tried recording and utterly messed it up. Then you realise that stage one is actually...

1. Thinking of what you want to say.
I spent soooooo long on this bit, usually because I'd go off at tangents and end up way off topic. I tend to ramble - which is why blogging suits me because I can backtrack and edit as much as I like. Once I thought I knew what I want to say, then it's time to record.

2. Recording (again)
Talking to a camera is tough. I record sound separately so I'm constantly starting and stopping both, then realising that I've forgotten what I meant to say and have to start again. Yes, I can edit and chop, but doing it every sentence is a pain and doesn't look natural. Better to have as much as possible in each take and fit them together.

3. Editing.
Assuming it's all gone right, the editing is next. I use Shotcut to edit because it's open source, but I encountered a couple of bugs if I tried to cut the sound and video separately. There was one time where I just couldn't get the sound to sync with the video and had to start over.

4. Uploading.
The easy part. Except I had to create a thumbnail to go with it, so that was another twenty minutes in Photoshop.

All in all, doing a couple of author vids was a lot of fun but it really cut into writing time. One video took almost an entire Sunday by time I'd got everything the way I wanted and finally uploaded it. For me, that's just too demanding on my time. I work full time and like to do at least some family things on a weekend, so the remaining time I have is kind of precious. Do I want to be a YouTube star, or a writer?

Writer. Every time.

If I find a way to do vids in a shorter time, I might give it another go. But for now, I'm heading back to writing to play with my current WIP.

Laters...


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. 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. Laters...



Colin Mulhern

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

First reviews of Buttercup

And best of all, they are from the target audience. Thanks to my sister-in-law Michelle for bringing these across.


Colin Mulhern. Buttercup Sunshine.

Monday, 28 May 2018

A walk in the woods

Instead of buying Christmas cards this year, we bought a couple of memorial trees for Matthew (my son who died due to his cerebral palsy) and Paul (my brother-in-law, who died of a brain tumour). These were planted in a new woodland somewhere in Durham.

Yesterday we had a drive up. You don't get to find your actual tree, you just know that you are helping with a bit of conservation. Plus, it's a nice place to go for a walk. So, for no other reason than the memory of a canny day walking around newly planted woodland in Durham, here are a few photographs.

Nice place for Poppy to explore
Red hot down here. Wish I'd brought me towel and a cossie.

Poppy found a way down to cool off.


Climbing up a steep hill and see a Wicker Man

Not scary at all. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

First week of sprints

I'm quite happy with my first week. I ended up writing 11,000 words in 7 days.

Now on first sight, that sounds pretty fantastic. Going at the rate, I could complete a Middle Grade novel in three weeks, or an adult novel in seven. But consider that when I first started playing with writing sprints, I was hitting around 3,000 words a day. If I'd continued like that I should be closer to 21,000 words per week. That would mean a Middle Grade novel in ten days or an adult novel in three and a half weeks.

Of course, there's a little more to a novel than writing fast. Part of successful writing sprints is knowing what you are going to write before you get going, which means a lot of planning and pre-writing. So you have to add that into the mix - does that count as writing every day? If it does, I'm laughing, because I jot down ideas and scenes all the time. It doesn't result in word counts, and sometimes it's just doodles on paper, but it is development and creativity.

The other thing about writing quickly is you get lots and lots of errors. The theory is sound - Most of what you write in a first draft will be rewritten or deleted.

But I like to play with sentences as I write. I usually do something called cycling, where I write a chunk, go back and edit, polish then move on. That's not possible with writing sprints. To maintain high speeds, you have to ignore grammatical errors and spelling mistakes and simply push on. And if you want to hit the magic 5000 words per hour goal, you need to switch to dictation. I've tried that with Google Docs, both in the house and while out walking the dog. With my accent the results were usually hilarious and needed more work than ever just to get them to make sense.

All in all, I really like the fun and the challenge element of writing sprints, so I'm going to keep with them for now, and plan to really go for it when I start my next project. I'm going to plan in advance and see just how fast I can complete a 30k Middle Grade novel. I'd like to get a first draft in ten days.

But for now, I'm going to keep the sprints for fun projects that aren't really about anything. Just writing for the sheer fun of it.


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Streaks, sprints and word counts

Yesterday was the first of May, and I agreed with a writing friend to go for the #100daysofwriting challenge.

It all stems from my post a couple of days ago about following Chris Fox's guide to writing 5000 words per hour, but it also goes back to the writing streaks I've done in the past, where a streak is the amount of days you can go by hitting a minimum word count for each day. I think I managed 500 words per day for 53 days which isn't that fantastic at all.

This time I'm taking a new approach by going for streaks of sprints. Sprints are small chunks of time (15 minutes for me) where I just bang out the words and track the amount written.

I'm not going to blog every day because blogging takes up valuable writing time, but also because publishing word counts doesn't really make good blog material. The only function of tracking is a motivator for myself and to see on the long term if writing sprints really do help.

Also, 100 days is a long time. Most of this is going to be just play - writing for the sheer fun of it. What's the point in that? Well, the fun of it! But also, it's the fun writing that creates the best ideas that I can eventually take to the next level. There's no need to keep the Nano approach just for November!

Colin Mulhern



Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Scrivener pros and cons

Okay, so here's my verdict on Scrivener. I've spent the last couple of weeks absolutely submerged in this thing. I didn't want to simply tinker, I wanted to know the thing inside and out. To do that, I transferred my current WIP across and dove in.

Overview

Scrivener is a piece of writing software specifically designed to work to a writer's needs. Someone sat down, took a look at how they work, at how other writers work and decided to make a piece of dedicated software that can handle everything from concept notes, to research, photos, character profiles, synopses, scenes and chapters. It's got everything you can think of, and if you've got the time, everything can be customised. Clever stuff indeed.

Everything a writer could wish for... isn't it?

Pros

Great for outlining, plotting and researching. If you do bags of research that you need to refer to as you write, then Scrivener can keep it all under one roof. You can split the windows and have anything in either - ideal if you are redrafting or need to keep notes on screen. You can colour-code keywords, add tags and labels to folders and files. You can also track all of these. As for writing, you can work directly in the window or bring up a full screen, having everything else either faded or blacked out.

Cons. 

Learning curve. Even a simple project will cause frustration. I consider myself quite IT literate, and I'm used to complex software from my time in the games industry, but I spent a LOT of time watching YouTube guides. Some things seemed just too complicated or difficult to find. Also, getting your work out of Scrivener and into something else is also a pain. What you see on screen is not what the final document looks like. It isn't very portable. You can save to Dropbox, which works fine if your other laptop runs Scrivener, but this means syncing those files (lots and lots of them). Scrivener will also back up locally, so that other laptop needs to be secure. Not good if you're using a work's machine.

Conclusion.

I want to like Scrivener more than I actually do. It ticks so many boxes, and once you get into it, isn't particularly difficult to use at all. Unfortunately, it makes playing far too easy. So when it came to actually writing, I didn't get a lot of work done. While having everything at your fingertips has its advantages, it's also a distraction. Having everything right there was like having a screen full of sparkly things when all I really need is my manuscript. I ended up compiling my document, took it into Google docs and slipped straight back into the writing seat.

Google Docs on full screen.

And that for me is the acid test. When it came to getting work done, I reverted to something simple because for me, to be able to write, I need to clear out the clutter, remove the distractions and simply get to work.

Added.
It's less than 24 hours since I wrote this post, and I've already gone back to Scrivener to give another, last last last go. I'm my own worst enemy. It's like having toothache - I just can't help wanting to give it a prod and a poke. At least this time, I've written a couple of thousand words.

Colin Mulhern