Tag Archives: Writing

15 lessons learned from my 1st #NaNoWriMo

I decided to have a crack at the National Novel Writing Month challenge this November. I’ve written 13,400 words in seven days. And like every other writer with a blog, I felt compelled to regale my experience in a jovial list format. So, buckle up, list fans. It’s time to get jovial.

1.) Holy fucking jeebus, trying to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days is A LOT BLOODY HARDER THAN IT SOUNDS. I’m serious, break it down: 1,667 words each day… every day… for 30 days. Even on my most productive days writing Citadel, I was hitting 1,500 in a day, once every couple of months. Now I have to pull that out of my arse EVERY SINGLE DAY, with no respite, lest I need to play catch-up.

2.) For all that is good and holy, plan your bastard project with more than 24 hours’ notice. I committed to NaNoWriMo on the 31st October, and whipped up the most cursory plot to a book that’s been hibernating in my mind for some time. At least twice I’ve come up against a wall of incongruity, which might well have been avoided had I given the bloody thing more than two thoughts.

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How The Walking Dead finally lost me

This analysis contains spoilers!

When a friend first introduced me to The Walking Dead, I was hooked from the first episode – nay, the first five minutes. Its abrupt 28 Days Later-style beginning leant mystery to the zombie apocalypse ordeal, as gun-slinging cop Rick sought to fill in the gaps of how the world turned to shit, and find his family.

There’s a tremendous amount of agency and conflict in the early seasons, fuelled by human drama and complicated relationships. The awkward love triangle between Rick, his grieving wife Lori and his best friend and romantic usurper, Shane – the head-scratching hick – carried the show for the first two years.

That glorious first season gave our intrepid survivors something to do, besides staying alive; namely, seek out possibilities of a cure, or find a military base to hole up in. But when those elements were dropped with the destruction of the research bunker, events began to lose their pace and urgency.

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#Meanwhile… Choosing Which Criticism To Ignore

One of the crucial phases a writer goes through is garnering criticism from peers and beta readers, but when you’re putting your work out there, some degree of cynicism is essential.

Indeed, it is crucial for a writer to identify what advice to take and what advice to take with thanks as you slowly back away, holding their notes to your chest, before bidding them farewell, closing the door, and shoving the toxic lot in the bin. And setting it on fire.

Seriously though, it’s a skill. Every writer needs to master it, else you’ll either disregard everything and never improve, or end up writing by committee – and NOBODY wants that.

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LE Henderson has an excellent post on her blog Passionate Reason about the Seven Types of Writing Criticism to Ignore.

Enjoy.

Twitter culls – the naked truth

Last year, having read illustrious articles like “How To Expand Your Online Reach”, and “Develop Your Author Platform Or Suffer Anonymity!”, or even “12 Routes to Achieving Online Omnipotence”, I made the foolhardy choice to follow every bloody writer on Twitter I could find, in the hope they’d follow me back.

Surely, with ONE BILLION FOLLOWERS, I’d be drowning in engagements and impressions and all those magical metrics of modern life!

It worked, to an extent. I’d post a blog, pin a link to my Twitter profile, then follow 50 writers I could find using hashtags or bio searches. Maybe two thirds of those would follow me back.

A week later, I’d do the same thing, but then unfollow anyone who hadn’t had the GOOD BLOODY GRACE to follow me back – the ungrateful gets.

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#Meanwhile… Strong Female Characters

For those of you who don’t know, audiences have been crying out for “strong female characters” for years now, and we’ve been treated to ever stronger and more kick-ass women on screen since. But is beating men to a pulp and cutting off their cocks really what critics were calling for?

Not exactly, according to the blog Jo Writes Stuff.

In her excellent and ongoing series, Jo takes fictional female characters and puts them through the grinder: her self-devised, 10-question assessment.

  1. Does the character shape her own destiny? Does she actively try to change her situation and if not, why not?
  2. Does she have her own goals, beliefs and hobbies? Did she come up with them on her own?
  3. Is her character consistent? Do her personality or skills change as the plot demands?
  4. Can you describe her in one short sentence without mentioning her love life, her physical appearance, or the words ‘strong female character’?
  5. Does she make decisions that aren’t influenced by her love life?
  6. Does she develop over the course of the story?
  7. Does she have a weakness?
  8. Does she influence the plot without getting captured or killed?
  9. How does she relate to stereotypes about gender?
  10. How does she relate to other female characters?

I came across her blog when Scarlet Johannson’s portrayal of Black Widow had won so many plaudits for being one such Strong Female Character she was to star in her own Avengers movie; but to me, she’d seemed utterly at odds with the idea of feminist depth, bemoaning her scars and referring to herself as a monster for her inability to bear child.

Lo, Jo had given Black Widow the 10-question treatment, and this is what she found.

Here’s a list of all the others. Her examination of Trinity is particularly good.

Seven words I learned reading the sport section

To obtain a strong vocabulary, we need but two things: the desire to read and the desire to learn.

However, all too often I gloss over words I don’t know, confident with the thrust of the sentence to assume meaning from inference. If you take the time just to quickly look them up – and how easy that is in this day and age – you can fill your mind from the word-well.

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#Meanwhile… Strong Writing Made Easier

Starting today, I’m going to be devoting Fridays to fellow bloggers I discover on these here internetz. You may not believe it, but sometimes other people have already said it better than me – yup. I know.

So, strap yourselves in, you writerly, readerly bastards, for here’s the first instalment of my #Meanwhile series…

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Writer progress: I am no longer a slush puppy!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been sending short stories out to magazines this year, in the hope of building up a portfolio of credits, not to mention to validate my assertion that “I am a writer”.

You may remember my frustration at receiving so many rejections. But what are rejections, if not slightly painful stabs of encouragement? Rejections are just psychologically damaging bullets of motivation, right? Sure, they hurt, but they drive you to improve.

This is shit – try harder.

Stop sending trash – learn to write.

What the fuck is this? – Go back to school.

REJECTIONS ARE GREAT, SEE?

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The final Act, and the temptation to flee

Writing is like a salsa; for as many steps forward you make, there are as many back, but every once in a while you get to do a spin or a flourish, and those stay with you. They’re the good bits.So it is with me; I bear good news, with bad news, but my catalogue of narrative pirouettes thankfully continues to grow.

The good news? I’ve reached the final act of my novel, Citadel. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, a lot of forward motion, but with almost as much backtracking. Aside from a manuscript of around 105,000 words, I have documents of cut scenes and entire plot lines that amount to 80,000 words. That is a staggering amount of editing. And it sounds like a colossal waste of time, right? Still: FINAL ACT people. That is good news.

The bad news is I’m finding it difficult to wrap it up. I’ve escalated the peril to such a degree, all seems lost, as it should by the end of Act 4. But closing it out and reaching a neat conclusion is proving a challenge.

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This is a writing blog, this is a writing blog, this is a writing blog…

It’s been more than a month since I last posted anything on this blog, and that’s because I’ve been too angry to adequately form a response to my compatriots’ collective decision to leave the European Union. I’ve been making my thoughts perfectly clear on Twitter, so I’ll leave it at that. I just can’t…

So! In an effort to break this writer’s block down and rebuild, I’m going to avoid politics, socio-political grievances and the surge of rampant racism, and JUST TALK ABOUT ME.

That may sound self-absorbed – and it is. But honestly, I’ve written a few articles I could have posted, but didn’t because they’d all descended into total despair at the world. I mean look at us: from the shootings in the States, to mass murder in France, Germany and Japan, bombings in Syria, Somalia and Iraq, political “cleansing” in Turkey – for fuck’s sake, we’re putting dystopian writers out of work.

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