Friday, November 27, 2009

Crossing the Line

So there you have it. Three days to go and I have passed the 50,000 word mark, officially completing NaNoWriMo 2009. I even managed to squeeze an extra 600 words out before the plot collapsed, gasping, under the strain.

As far as the story itself goes ... well, it's workable. Yes, there are dodgy bits (like the character who fulfils a function for the first half of the book, then mysteriously disappears ...) and there'll be a fair old rewrite required, but you never know. At least it's proven the story has the legs to sustain a longer-than-usual length. By the time it's tidied up, I can even see it cracking 70,000 words.

The big thing I've picked up is that my writing speed is now far faster than before, and ultimately that should make me more productive. But whether I can make the jump from microscopically fiddling with plots before writing anything to just plunging in without a safety net ... the jury's out on that one.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Wordhammer: 40K

I've got a job on next week that will essentially pay for everyone's Christmas presents, so wanting a clear run at that I've been beating away at the NaNo word count over the weekend. And today, with much celebration (well, I stopped for a coffee) I cracked the 40,000 mark:

That puts me two and a half days in front, with a shade under 10,000 words to go. Doesn't sound like a lot, but I'm starting to wonder if the story still has enough plot left to get it over the line. Quite apart from anything else, having a couple of days off to do proper, paying work will give me a chance to nail down the ending in my head ...

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Hit a personal milestone today as my NaNo novel overtook the word count for my novella in the Bernice Summerfield book Old Friends. When it reached one word shy of 32,000 it officially became the longest single story I've ever written.

Now, if I can get it published one day ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror: Volume Four

The good people at Brimstone Press have just announced the line-up for their forthcoming best-of-the-year anthology Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume Four ... which just happens to include a story by yours truly. The full roster of stories is:

The Last Great House of Isla Tortuga by Peter M. Ball
The Claws of Native Ghosts by Lee Battersby
Pale Dark Soldier by Deborah Biancotti
Heere Be Monsters by John Birmingham
Teeth by Stephen Dedman
Her Collection of Intimacy by Paul Haines
A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead by Richard Harland
Moments of Dying by Robert Hood
Just Us by Pete Kempshall
Painlessness by Kirstyn McDermott
Smoking, Waiting For the Dawn by Jason Nahrung
The Casting Out by Miranda Siemienowicz

Obviously that's a pretty impressive list of names from the Australian spec fic scene, so I'm pretty excited and flattered to be included. (And on a side note, I'm also pleased to say that four of the eleven other writers on the list - Stephen Dedman, Paul Haines, Robert Hood and Kirstyn McDermott - will be featuring in Scenes From the Second Storey next year. Hurrah!)

ADFH Volume Four book will also include a comprehensive summary of the dark fiction scene Down Under over the past year. It's not out for a couple of months yet, but you can get along to the Brimstone website right now and order a copy ahead of time.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Great Minds ...?

I imagine everyone who's done any writing for any length of time will have experienced this ...

I've had a short story on my mind for well over a year - I had intended to pitch it for Voices, but it fell foul of the fact that all stories for that particular book had to be confined to a single hotel room. This idea needed the characters to spend some time outside of it, so the story was shelved and forgotten.

A couple of months ago I find it again, dust it off and decide to write the thing. It's a bit limp in places, but generally holds together reasonably well, so I shoot it off to my trusty beta-readers. It divides opinion. Some think it's in need of major surgery, others that a minor tweak will do it. And with the readers' votes exactly even, I decided to set it aside again, come at it with a fresh outlook and see what happens.

Fast forward to a conversation with a friend last week. He's talking about a Famous Writer he likes, one I myself am not that keen on, regardless of his stature in the industry. Suddenly my friend is telling me all about this story Famous Writer wrote ... and I sit there, slack-jawed, as I listen to him recount what could, but for some minor changes, be the very story I wrote some weeks earlier. Had I pressed on with my tale and submitted it to anyone ... well the word 'plagiarism' springs to mind.

Of course, this kind of thing does happen - as someone once said, there are no original stories. But to find that mine bore such close resemblance to something written many moons ago by Famous Writer ... I don't know whether to be irritated at the wasted effort or pleased that I'm obviously thinking along the same lines as a successful scribe.

Actually, the fact that I don't much like Famous Writer swings it for me ...

Anyway, NaNoWriMo continues apace.

Fourteen days into the 30 and I'm a shade over the minimum word count. The plot's creaky and the characterisation's wobbling like a trampolining jellyfish but that's rather the point, isn't it - to weed out these problems along the way?

Tomorrow then it's foot to the floor for 25,000 words.

The halfway mark ...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

One Step Ahead

So I eventually decided that I'd give that big project a go. Yes, I've got plenty of other claims on my attention at the moment, but for various reasons this is something I thought I'd take a shot at.

Over the last week I've been stealthily working at a story for
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). For those unfamiliar with the scheme, the rules are that you start writing any time after midnight on November 1 and you finish before the stroke of midnight on November 30/December 1. In that 30-day period, you write a book of no fewer than 50,000 words.

And that's it.

There are no prizes for this. The point of the exercise is to put a rocket up the bum of people who sit around wanting to write a book but never quite finding the time. By the end of the month, the ideal situation is that you've broken the back of your chosen project, that you have a sizeable manuscript that may not be JK Rowling but that gives you the raw material you need to turn into (hopefully) a viable novel.

My big concern with this - beyond "Do I have the time?" - was the way I write stories in general. I plan. I plot and I fiddle with a tale until I know exactly where it's going and how it's going to get there. Then I start to write. That's not to say I don't deviate from my route map as I go, but I have to have the route map to begin with.

For this project, however, I started with a vague idea for a villain and a single idea for a scene: just enough to get me going. At the end of each day, when I've made my word count, I've been thinking up enough plot to fill the next day's writing. And, somewhat surprisingly, I'm rather enjoying it. Of course, there's the very real possibility I'll get to the middle of the month (or earlier) and find the whole thing is absolute pants, an irredeemable mess that's wasted countless hours of my time. But so far being just one day ahead of the story is working for me.

(I have to admit that I thought of an ending the other night. I'm keeping it tucked away somewhere safe ...)

So here's a little widgety thing that the project organisers provide for procrastinating bloggers like myself.

I'll pop in and update it every couple of days, so you can see how I'm travelling and if I'm falling behind at all. Feel free to drop me a line and have a go if it looks like I'm slacking off.

Apart from that, let's see how it goes ...