Sunday, 31 December 2006

It's a Brand New Year

I'm actually composing this on New Year's Eve just in case I'm not in a great frame of mind to write it up tomorrow, today, whatever...

I only had one resolution last year and that was to lose a bit of weight. I was 88kgs/197lbs and determined to get my weight back down to 80kgs/179lbs which I hadn't seen since I was a teenager. Well I reached that mark and then some with the lowest weight around October of 70kgs/156lbs.

Funnily enough writing a book wasn't one of my resolutions despite wanting to write something for about ten to fifteen years or so. That's another story I'll save for another post one day.

So, if you really want to know, my next New Year's Resolutions in order of preference:
  1. Of course to finish my book, properly, that is the #1 priority and right now I give myself a 100% chance of success in doing that.
  2. Submit my book to a publishers or agents, not sure the best route yet. I give myself about a 85% chance of actually doing that. Getting the book published isn't something I am making a resolution, I think that road may take longer than next year.
  3. Is to keep the weight off that I lost thanks to last year's resolution and not let my weight get back over 75kgs/168lbs. I rate those chances above 95%.
  4. Do more woodturning. That's write, I turn wood into shavings on a lathe and in the end I either have pretty bowls or pens, riveting stuff. I'm not that good at it, but it's a very relaxing hobby and I need to do it more. 90% chance of making that happen.
  5. Maybe drink a little less (and pigs might fly). Hmmm. Yuh, we'll just wait and see.

Best of luck to you and yours for the next 365 days. Dare to dream a little for this year, you never know what you might surprise yourself with.

Saturday, 30 December 2006

The Second of Two Full Days - A New Milestone!

I made it, I did it, and I did even more than yesterday. You want to believe I am a happy author today. There was a lot of ground covered, some new ideas that came to me, a worrying time when I felt I was writing my plot into a corner but then another idea came to me which fixed all that beautifully and by 6pm I was done.

How many today? 7,200 words, which is almost a thousand more than yesterday. Grand total for the two days, 13,500 words! Tis a day to be proud, tis a day to be happy, tis a day to go and buy me some Jack Daniels and celebrate I think.

Now a shrewd reader might also be wondering about the total word count at this point, and that's why I am so happy right now. I have hit, and passed the 75,000 word mark. So my original target count for the entire novel has been busted and I think I have at least another 30,000 words left in this first draft EASY. Total novel count by the end of the today is 81,800 words! Here are some more stats on the progress:
  • Word count 81,800
  • Started on the 26th of October means a daily average of 1,278 words a day
  • MS Word says I have been editing the document for a little over 87 hours
  • Page count is 308 which averages out at 265 words a page

Here are the last averages at 50,000 words just for comparrison:

  • Word count 50,200
  • Started on the 26th of October means a daily average of 1,321 words a day
  • MS Word says I have been editing the document for a little over 54 hours
  • Page count is 190 which averages out at 264 words a page

Cheers!

Friday, 29 December 2006

The First of Two Full Days

Almost a week ago I wrote that sometime soon I would be working on my novel for two full days. The first of those two days, yesterday, has now passed and I'm pretty chuffed. To say I wrote all day is probably a bit of a stretch. I actually got in front of the keyboard around 9am all ready to go, but thought I would check out a couple of my favorite blogs first, which invariably led to links of other blogs and oh my where has the time gone it is 45 minutes later.

Dammit.

That's what I get for not logging into my Writing profile which only includes my novel, iTunes and Internet Explorer with a blank list of Favorites and is pre-loaded with thesaurus.com (for givin' me words that mean the same as other words cept fancier like), dictionary.com (for tellin' me what them fancy words mean in the first place) and google.com.au (for research, no really).

I also fiddled around a fair bit during the day, I would have a spurt for five hundred words before hitting a lull. Then another five hundred and I decided I need new music. Another five hundred and it's time for another coffee. Plus of course there was lunch. And more coffee, and tea, and so and and so forth. If anyone that's reading this is a writer then you can probably empathise.

But despite that, despite that, I was still able to get out a goodly number of words by 5pm when my brain finally told me enough was enough and I could go stuff my creativity where the sun just don't shine. So how many words had I achieved? 6,300 which for ME is a really big deal. That's a little more than twice that I have written in a single day before. Now if you are a writer and reading this and your thinking to yourself, "Geez, he led me on through this post only to give me whole total of 6,300 words? What a hack. I don't get out of bed for anything less than 10,000." Well then yay for you, but this is me we're talking about here and if I can get close to that again today then I will have covered a huge amount of ground.

Hell, I could even be pretending I'm a real writer and might actually do this for a living one day. And I might win the 33 Million Powerball on New Years Eve too...

Thursday, 28 December 2006

...like a sparrow builds a nest from scraps...

I read a great quote the other day:

"Writers are vacuum cleaners who suck up other people's lives and weave them into stories like a sparrow builds a nest from scraps."
Garrison Keillor

I read it in the December issue of "Writer's Digest" magazine (US). It was something that really struck a chord with me because I just happened to be eating breakfast in a cafe reading this particular magazine for the first time.

While I was reading - and enjoying some bacon and eggs with toast - there was an older lady and a young (teenage) Asian girl sitting next to me and the lady was telling the girl something of her childhood. Without going into it, her story sounded just fascinating. If I was a braver person I would have said something to her about writing her life. As fact it sounded incredible enough, if it was turned into fiction with some splashes of action, some dashes of daring and buckets of romance; wow, what a novel!

So the next time you are out at a cafe you might want to pay attention to what is being said around you because you never know what might be heard. And if you do hear something interesting then for Pete's sake write it down! There is probably no end of books that started from an overheard snippet of a conversation when the magical 'what if' gets applied to it.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Hurdles

Right now I feel like someone who is doing a 110m hurdle race and I have clipped the sixth hurdle and now my rhythm has broken. The first five hurdles were easy; gliding over them with effortless grace, the sprint between hurdles in perfect time and motion. A well oiled machine. After hitting the sixth hurdle my sprints in between are choppy, out of cadence. Clearing the next hurdles have been akin to the jumping of a flightless bird, arms and legs flailing madly. I now have the grace of a brick that has been lobbed underarm onto the lawn expecting it to roll smoothly.

From the day I started writing this book (October 26th) I stuck to my guns and wrote every single day. Sometimes the minimum 300 words, occasionally over 3,000. But since I missed a couple of nights the week before last, I have lost my forward motion. I even missed another three nights this week just gone. Wednesday night was out having Christmas drinks with work colleagues. Thursday night I was still, shall we say, "recovering". Last night, I have no excuse, I was a lazy bastard. So 1,200 words that I have to make up today in quota before the book is where it should be at this point.

BUT!

There is hope. I have the next week off through to Tuesday the 2nd of January and I plan to write every single day again to get me back into rhythm. Not only that, I want to dedicate at least two days to writing ALL day, or be in the act of writing, just to see how it goes. I may achieve nothing, or I might just make some really good headway. I'm at 65,000 words now and I would like to hope I can crack 75,000 by the time the week is done, anything beyond that will be a bonus.

Be not like the brick; be instead like the athlete in flight.

Friday, 22 December 2006

"A Dash of Style" by Noah Lukeman

I've just finished reading "A Dash of Style - The Art and Mastery of Punctuation" and I have to tell any budding author reading this, it's a great book.

Noah has written this book specifically for fiction writers, because lets face it, we can get away with more shall we say 'creative license' than other forms of writing.

The first part of the book is devoted to the period . / the comma , / and the semicolon ; Noah gives us many great examples on each, showing us what all these punctuation marks can do for pace and maturity in a book. I really enjoyed how he describes looking at your work and having a good think about each mark you place. What is it like without it, what if you add a semicolon, does it build suspense etc etc

In the second part he touches on colons : / dashes - - / parentheses ( ) / quotation marks " " / paragraph breaks and section breaks. This is the only area I was slightly disappointed. The information on dashes and parentheses was really good, but I thought the quotation marks was a little thinner that I would rather. Speech in a book is one of the most visible punctuation areas and I struggle a little with using it effectively. Still, it gave me more knowledge than I had before, and I suspect you could write a whole book on effective use of quotation marks.

The last section includes the question mark ? / exclamation point ! / italics / points of ellipses ... and the hyphen - By this time the book feels like it is in wrap up mode, but there is still a great amount of knowledge imparted with great examples from familiar literature.

At the end of each section Noah includes exercises you can try out with your own work. I have done a couple of them and my writing is definitely better for it.

I am VERY glad I bought this book and already it is a reference for my own writing. Noah Lukeman's style is engaging enough that you can read it without putting yourself to sleep. Anyone who is writing fiction will get great use out of "A Dash of Style - The Art and Mastery of Punctuation".

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Passage of Time

I'm having a bit of an issue and it's not the one where I feel like I have lost a bit of momentum. No the issue is passing time within the story. I'm finding it a bit difficult to have a sequence of events from the current scene where I am now, to the next one which I already have mapped out in my head.

It would be too easy just to say, "...they jumped in the car and drove off into the distance with a lazy wave over their shoulders. Next stop, the town where things will happen..."

I feel I have to give a logical sequence of events leading up to getting in the car. Or maybe I don't? Maybe I could just chuck them in the car and push them on their merry way. But then I worry about continuity in the story and having to come back and fill in the gaps later.

Am I putting words on paper just to fill pages? That's the other question. All this worry I might end up with 5,000 words in the cutting room floor file, or an editor might send it back with instructions to 'cut out the fluff'. Still, when I think about it, I believe I need this sequence in the book. It is part of building more of a bond between my protagonist and his support people, so that hopefully when something bad happens to him/them later the impact is greater insert evil laugh here

Don't mind me, I'm just rambling. I have the week off for Christmas and I hope to have at least a couple of days where I will attempt to write, or be in the writing process, all day. Nice plan, we'll see how it turns out.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Welcome to Struggletown. Population, Me.

Urgh. Man, things are tough going at the moment. Remember my post a few days back about not not writing for a couple of days? Well it seems no sooner had the words left my fingertips I had friends stay for a couple of nights and thanks to catching up and maybe a little too much Jack Daniels I missed ANOTHER couple of nights writing.

So last night I had to write 900 words before I made up the quota for the what I missed and last night's duties. It was hard. Tonight was also hard, I seem to have lost a lot of my momentum and it's a real effort to get myself back on track. Tonight I finally pushed out about 1,200 words but they came tough, real tough, and I am not even too sure of the quality.

I hope I can get back on track again soon. And anyone else who wants to come visit? Go get stuffed. And I mean that with as much love as you could imagine.

Oh yeah, the book is at 61,600 words which is about 234 pages. I guess I have around enough for a novella, but that isn't enough, I want me a full length book and I will write me one or die trying! Do you think I have rah rah'd myself up enough? Tomorrow night will tell.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

"Buzz Cut" by James Hall

On the weekend I finished Buzz Cut by James Hall. This is the first book of his that I have read, and it will probably be the last. When the lead character has the name Thorn, for me that should have been the warning sign.

Basically the book is about a guy Butler Jack, a psycho, who get his kicks out of jamming 40,000 volts through people and quoting the history of words, he takes control of a luxury cruise liner looking to extort the owners for big money.

I won't give away too much because people might want to read the book, but I have to say I didn't like it.

First is motivation. I couldn't get into what drove the main characters in the book. Why does ole Butler Jack happily kill people, why does the owner of the luxury liner not want the Feds brought in when the body count is piling up, why does Thorn - our fearless hero - find he has to hunt this guy down at all costs. The things that motivated all of them didn't convince me enough to feel empathy for any of them.

Second is the antagonist, Butler Jack. His thing, his "schtick" as it were, is a fascination for the history of words. Just before he would kill someone he would start sprouting on about how "ransom" came into being or other stuff. You know what it did for the flow of the book? It shot it in the leg and left it limping along like it was never going to make it home. Just when I thought something interesting was going to happen we got the full lowdown on how Florida got its name. For crying out loud stop killing the pace with this mundane crap!

Third is the names: Thorn, Sugerman, Butler Jack. They might do it for other people, they just didn't do it for me.

Unbelievable characters, an unbelievable plot that didn't work for me, and motivation that just wasn't believable at all.

1 Star.

Even though I give it one star I respect James Hall. I respect him because he is a published author and I'm not. I have got a long way to go yet.

Must, Write, EVERY, Day!

Wow, what a tough few days. I've just had confirmation that I must attempt to write at least my 300 words every day otherwise the wheels risk coming off in a big way.

Friday night I bought a bottle of red on the way home and it kept me company for most of the night. I've written when tipsy before, it's not pretty, I now try to avoid it. As always when you have had a few drinks under your belt you think you are capable of the most amazing things. Well one night, not too long ago, I had a drink or two before I started writing and found I was banging away at the keyboard at a furious rate, the ideas just flowing out of me, it was great, it was spontaneous, it was WRITING!

It was shit.

The next day when I read what I had done the night before, most of it went into the cutting room floor file. So I try not to write and drink if I can help it.

Friday night was a wash, what about Saturday? That was no good, I was baby-sitting my nephew for the weekend. I took my novel on USB stick so I could work on it if he got interested enough in a movie or something, but unfortunately being two and a bit, his attention span is is what you would expect from a two and a bit year old, so I got nothing done. That evening I was just too tired and the little bugger kept getting out of bed. Oh it was a real fun game. Not.

So come to Sunday, haven't written a thing in two days, I'm tired from my lack of sleep the night before, and I am getting really twitchy, I am like an addict going without my fix. But the nephew is still going off like a frog in a sock and I didn't get anything done. Finally got home this afternoon and sat in front of my computer, feeling better, knowing that I now had 900 words to churn out just to meet the quote for the last few days.

And I was staring at a mental blank wall. I started to panic a little, I have to admit, what if I can't think of anything to write? Is this the beginning of the end? What if I can't write anything?!

Thankfully I used a technique which has worked for me before which is to let my mind wander a little, type out some gibberish crap and then thankfully, THANKFULLY the words started flowing. 2,800 words later I've not only done the quota for today and the prior two days I missed, but I got some extra good stuff out as well. I'm disappointed I missed out on a good Saturday, but I have still done my minimum and that's what counts.

Really must not do that again - if I can help it.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

To Think a Broken Arm Would Cause So Much Hassle

No I don't have a broken arm, neither does my guy. It's one of the other characters in the book. Something happens and a bunch of guys are injured, one of them ends up with a broken arm. That seemed good, seemed to give me the cause and effect to move from one scene to another, but then problems.

A quick bit of research showed a broken arm had a number of issues: splintered bone, infections, inability to straighten it out without risking more damage. So damn, that won't really work. Fine, I give him a dislocated shoulder instead. But wouldn't you know it, I don't think that would hurt enough. Damn. OK fine then, a compromise, a fractured arm then, will that do, will that be OK? I don’t think the character was happy being hurt in any fashion but in the end a fractured arm has turned out to be the best without totally ruining any believability the injury might have.

Why do I have to feel like I need to write believable fiction? Why can't I just write a bunch of crap? Why couldn't I break his arm at an awful angle and just have a couple of burly guys pull it straight and strap it to a board? Because I hate it when I read it - crap - that's why. A book of fiction full of stuff that is so impossible just detracts from a good story. Well for me it does anyway. I can only suspend my disbelief so far, ya know?

So I wasted a good hour or so tonight writing, rewriting and further writing just those few pages that involve the arm and the consequences of it (it may still end up in my "cutting room floor file"). Felt like such lost time and I only had 600 words by the time I was done. Was ready to throw it in for the night but after so much struggle I wanted decent output, I just don’t feel satisfied unless I crack four figures in a session anymore.

Thankfully the total word count by the end of the night is 2,100 words and another notation in my word file for things that will need serious attention in the second draft *sigh* Still, gotta take the good with the bad.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

Ladies & Gentlemen, We Have Passed the 50,000 Mark

Happy day. I hadn't intended to at the start of the day, but I passed the 50,000 word mark after putting out another 3,000 words. The book is still progressing quite well and I am keen to get to the next couple of scenes. It feels like I have been writing in the current setting for ages, so a change will be nice.

I know 50,000 words isn't a lot in the grand scheme of a novel, but it is the first time I have been able to put so much into a book AND still have a lot of story yet to come!

75,000 words as my first draft target now seems so achievable it's ludicrous. Instead of revising how many words I would like to do, I think I will just let the book write itself and end when it feels like. This makes me very happy as it means the finished book should actually have some substance to it. Doesn't mean what I have now is all quality, but I'm happy with how I feel I'm improving my writing each day. I'm thinking more about the different nuances that can be applied to characters and settings and without going all "literary" or anything I'm quite pleased with some of my output.

Today's writing featured more of a nasty nightmare that I hope is a little scary and not too gruesome. I don't want to be a writer that relies on blood and gore for reaction if I can help it.

I'm still resisting the temptation to print out what I have written so far in case I get too twitchy to start re-writing before I plan too. I still need to stay focused on moving forwards.

Some stats on getting to this point:
  • Word count 50,200
  • Started on the 26th of October means a daily average of 1,321 words a day
  • MS Word says I have been editing the document for a little over 54 hours
  • Page count is 190 which averages out at 264 words a page
I also had the first comment today made to one of my posts. Thanks Yvette, you're too kind.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Political Correctness - The Death of us All

I found a concerning editorial on the web the other day. It's about a book written by John Dale called Army of the Pure. It was actually commissioned by publisher Scholastic Australia to encourage young kids to read and has been described as "almost flawless". Pretty good so far? I think so.

So reading further I learn the book is about a "group of kids in a soccer club who stumble upon a terrorist plot to blow up the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor in Sydney's south, and are chased by an extremist group who also happen to be Arabic-speaking." Hey, this sounds like something I might like to read, could be a pretty good yarn.

So why is it concerning?

The problem is if I did want to buy it, no book stores - according to the article - are stocking the title, deciding instead to self censor on the basis of what is referred to as the "Muslim issue".

If I may use the vernacular: what a crock of shit!

Lets ignore the Muslim tag for the moment, hell lets use "the M word" instead, what about any book that has Nazi Germans as the antagonist? Better pull all them from the shelves lest someones feelings get hurt. Mario Puzo has a lot to answer for as well then, all of his Godfather books, well that is just blatant Italian stereotyping isn't it? Yank them from the shelves before someone reads another copy. Mathew Reilly's book "Temple", well hell, EVERYONE is the bad guy in that book, Germans, Americans, British. Take that book of the shelves right now, wouldn't want to get them in a huff, specially the US, they got the bomb don't you know...

As a hopeful author, and I mean really hopeful, is this the sort of treatment I might expect when I'm trying to get a book published? Do I risk my book of FICTION being taken too seriously and that on the remote chance someones feelings get hurt my book won't see the light of day on shelves? What if a Native American features in my story, or an Australian Aboriginal, or *GASP* a Caucasian westerner!!! No wait, I've got a better idea. I work in information technology, I think I will make it my personal crusade to get out there and burn any book that calls someone in IT a "geek", I'll be protecting all IT workers around the globe. Did I say Crusade? Hurry up and rip apart those medieval books too then, nasty lot those Knights and their quests.

Am I sounding ridiculous? Well I bloody hope so. If book stores want to drive would be Authors to POD publishing then keep up the good work, because if this is where it starts, where does it end? BTW I want The Simpson's removed from the air due to taking the piss out of Aussies in one episode. Our PM doesn't spend his day drinking beer while floating naked on a farm dam in an inflatable tube. Don't be silly, he's wearing a g-string.

Click this link to read the full article written by Karen Brooks for the Courier Mail