Preparation, Preparation, Preparation That Hits The Limit

I’ve been neglectful (yet again) of this blog, and hope that one day, I’ll be able to get to squeeze in more time and opportunity to create more posts. I enjoy it, but with various other things happening, it gets forgotten about a bit too much for my liking. But that is for another blog post…

Back in June 2015, I ended up writing a blog post about preparation and planning. This is a sort of revisiting, because in the Cabin for the April 2016 Camp NaNoWriMo (one of the things keeping me busy, but in a good way,) was the comment “I tend to have issues planning ENOUGH if that makes sense. I never quite make my final word count because I run out of story.” This is an interesting problem, from my view. I’m not sure how to fully answer it, either. But I’m willing to give it my personal thoughts, because it might just produce something that can help someone.

The first thing I think of with this is the issue of word counts. After years of bumbling along, and making literary messes, I’ve come to the conclusion that how long a story is supposed to be determines quite a few things. I now regard short stories as episodes in a television programme, and novels to be like films. I think I have touched on this before, but I’ll go through it again, because it connects in with what I’m going to say a bit later on.

To summarise, I regard every hundred words in a short story to equate to a minute of screen time, and every thousand words in a novel to equate to a minute of cinema time. By looking at it in that way, I then have a basis to gauge the length of the story, and thus work out how long I want it to be. This visualising is important, because then I can sit down and think about how much needs to go in, to make it get to that limit. From there, I can decide on the location, and see what research I need to do to get it right, and what interesting details I can learn about the place that can help build the atmosphere of the story.

Take Odessa, Texas, as an example. This is a city of 1000,000 or so people, in the middle of the desert. It has a nearby city it is a huge rival to in terms of American Football, their teams doing quite well for themselves in the leagues. (The Permian Panthers was the idea for the television series Friday Night Lights.) The city also has a meteor crater (which was part of the group that crashed with the Arizona crater meteor,) a replica Globe Theatre, and a replica Stonehenge. It also has connections to the Bush family, if memory serves. Suddenly, from what I have just outlined, you can start to get ideas, because there are some really nice features that could really set things in the story in terms of tone.

I also consider the characters as well. How many will be needed to get to that limit? How do they all interact with each other, and how does that spark chain of events? If I need to, I’ll go and add a character or two whilst writing the story, to add more depth and potential to it. In a sense, the characters are like threads waiting to be woven into a tapestry: each strand adds to the colour and variety of the whole. Not only that, but pull away a thread, and the whole tapestry could unravel. Life is about the events that spark off from the encounters with people, places, knowledge and realisations, when you think about it. And this follows true for story weaving, too.

Of course, it can sometimes turn out that you have managed to get the end, but failed to get to your target. For me, that is no issue at all. It them means I’ll go back through, and try to see what I can do to add to it. Have I described all the characters fully? Have I described all of the locations? Is there any minor or trivial characters than should be expanded on, to help benefit the story? Finishing under the word target isn’t a crisis; you have finished the story, and thus can build on the structure some more.

This should serve as a helpful start to people. I’ll probably end up coming back to this topic, and adding some more in another post, when I have come up with more to say.

Oh, and Happy Easter to all of my readers. May you all have a great and wonderful weekend.



Reflecting On July 2015 Camp NaNoWriMo…

I feel quite guilty and embarrassed at not having made a post sooner. It makes me feel bad, though last month was something that… well, I’ll get into that in a little bit. But the thing is, I’ve been busy, trying to get life to resurface at my forum, not to mention getting on with posting on other forums, and getting back into circulation, so to speak.

As for last month… it was a curious, strange, but exciting time. In the end, there were four of us in the cabin, and it was a friendly, productive environment. We all got past out word targets, so that was really pleasing to see. Not so much because it makes the cabin look good, but the fact is, we all look good; we helped each other out, and contributed.

But for me… what do I feel? How did it go, from my perspective?

Well, I feel that this was very much a mixed bag for me. Certainly, I managed to get past the 10K target, but I didn’t finish the project. in fact, I have had to abandon it, because it needs a lot of restructuring, and remapping. Things you can’t do during a writing challenge. So, I went and started another project, just to try and fill the time. Of course, that has now become a fuller story than I was thinking of. thus I have managed to fail at reducing my writing pile; rather, it has increased. Full facepalms all round…

That said, I did sit down and start using software to map out the Thorns Of Lovecraft mythos time-line. This was a helpful exercise, if only to prevent an oversight from getting through into final print, and making a huge embarrassment for myself. I plan to touch on that at some point, because I feel that is a topic in its own right.

Another interesting development was the discovery of me being able to be far more portable than I first thought. Granted, i have the Netbook, but with a messed up keyboard, (the function key has gone haywire,) I have to have a full keyboard with me. Then you need a mouse, and you want the power supply as well, right? So in the end, you are carting around a small array of items and pieces, taking up space, and adding weight. So, not a really helpful option for me.

So what is the answer?

Believe it or not, it is quite simple indeed. Smart phone running Android, a Bluetooth keyboard, and a charger as a precaution. That’s it! There is WPS Office (formerly Kingsoft) available free, so you can get working a lot more readily than you think. It means that I now type first thing, before the start of work, and also after work, in the library. But I can also work elsewhere – and do. There is a cafe in town that does a nice iced lemonade. Just the ticket for writing the latest story that is stuck in my head.

So, whilst it isn’t finished, I can see this story betting done over August. Expect me to mention it, as the project progresses.

The Nightmare Child Returns…

Well, I’m trying to sneak in a blog post whilst there is a few moments to do so. Later on, there will be more word sprinting, and more scenes created in the cabin.

The cabin is much smaller this time around, but that doesn’t matter: Everyone is gelling together really well, and it is amazingly productive. A pleasant difference to April, which was wildly different. I’ll no doubt recall those events at some point.

So… what am I writing about this time around? Well, it is an effort to go and get a project finished. I have too many of them littering my hard drives, so it is a key task to get some done and dusted. So, this month, I am working on a short story from April 2014, for that particular Camp NaNoWriMo. That time, there was a collection of short stories planned, though for various reasons, i only completed two, and got quite a way into a third.

The Nightmare Child is turning into something of an oddity, in my view. It was conceived as a short story, but it is now over 17,995 words, with no sign of getting to the end as yet. So, it is likely to be a short novel, once it is all done. This means I will have to rethink the whole concept of the collection, but I am certain it will turn out for the best in the end.

So, what is this story about? Well, it is set a few years before the events of my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel, The Thorns Of Lovecraft. It was a way to show how things came to be by the time the novel occurred. I also had a request from someone who had read it to explain a small clique of girls that have brief appearances in the novel. So, this one is following the arrival at the school of Chloe Taylor-Philips, a girl who is used to being at the top of the pile, and the Alpha Princess, so to speak. But when she starts Miskatonic Academy, things change immediately for her. Now, she is either ignored, or picked on. She is the target of  a number of pranks, all of which affect her social standing.

What makes matters worse for her is that she starts to see the shadows move, and then other things begin to happen…

So, how do I feel about returning to this project? Well, it is interesting to do. I am still working on getting back into the flow of the story, but I can safely say that it is now easier to get into every session. The time away may well have helped me; I have developed the whole universe this resides in since I started that story, so I have some additional ideas I can place into it. I also have ideas as to what themes i want to try and add to the story; obsession and fear being among them. All of this to go and set things up for The Thorns Of Lovecraft.

Time will tell, though, if I can get this story finished… I rather hope so. It is a wonderfully atmospheric story in places, and certainly deserves to be completely written.

Explaining Write-Ins…

Now that the latest Camp NaNoWriMo is under way, I thought I would try to explain what a Word Sprint is. It might sound corny, it might sound like it is for advanced writers only… but really, it isn’t.

A word sprint is a period of twenty minutes, where you do nothing but write. That’s it! You just sit down, and when an agreed upon time starts, you then go and write away. You don’t stop to edit, you don’t stop to correct spelling or grammar mistakes – that comes later. Right now, you just go and write.

Then you give yourself a break of ten to twenty minutes, and then you do the whole process again.

Of course, this works best if you have at least one other person with you, but you can do it on your own. You can also do it anywhere: at home, travelling to work, in a café, at the library… All you need is a way to keep the time, and a way to write stuff down.

If you are doing a word sprint on the way to work, you might only have a mobile phone handy. Well, if it is just a smart phone, with no bluetooth keyboard attached, (and yes, that is perfectly possible to do with more up-to-date versions of Android phones…) then you will inevitably be writing less. But it doesn’t matter a bit. As long as you get writing, get words written down – and saved what you’ve done – that is all that matters.

Hopefully, I have helped to explain what a word sprint is, and have inspired you to have a few of your own. Try it… you might find you’ve written a novel without realising it!

Gearing Up For Camp NaNo…

Well, it is the dying hours of June over here, and that means that I’ll be this time tomorrow working on finishing one (of way too many) of my unfinished projects. A lot has been done with it already, and I plan to get it finished, and then move on to other things that need finishing.

I also am feeling a bit nervous, a large part because i am hosting a cabin, and am keen to get it to work. I’m sure it will all go fine, but there is always that niggling doubt…

Hopefully, throughout July, I will be giving regular updates as to my progress. It’ll prove interesting to see what successes I have, and what pitfalls I discover along the way. And hopefully, some others will be reading along, and discovering them along with me.

Well, I wish all those participating a great and successful month, and to everyone – See you on the other side.