Writing 1K a Day

If you’ve ever had a go at writing fiction, short story, flash fic, full-blown novel or otherwise, you’ll know how difficult it can be to maintain a good pace. By that, I mean it’s not only hard to write something every day, but also to write enough every time you put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. I know I struggle with both and for the last six months (at least) I haven’t really been that serious about my writing. Various events are to account for this (birth of my son, getting married, getting a new job) and, when I realised that, I gave myself some slack.

But now I am back in the saddle and ready to write. And not just write, but write and FINISH a novel. I know, right? Who would have thought I hadn’t ever achieved that in twelve-ish years of writing. Continue reading

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Breaking Free From Chapters

I heard some good advice last week. It was basically saying that not every writer writes the same; some like to plan in detail and write chapter-by-chapter, while others find it easier to be less constrained. We all know this anyway, but the most important point I took away from it was that you shouldn’t always feel an obligation to write in chapters.

I recently started trying out this with my own writing. I’m exactly the sort of person who hates detailed planning and feels pressure to achieve a certain amount of words per chapter. So, I took one of my three viewpoint characters, mapped out their next actions clearly in my head and just wrote. When I felt a natural break/end of scene, I moved onto my second character, without naming a new chapter and only dividing the text with a single asterisk. In this way, I wrote pretty well and progressed nicely. I didn’t feel constrained by a chapter and felt more able to throw my ideas at the page and leave the major edits for the next draft.

You may think that the above is commonsense, but sometimes us writers need a reminder of the obvious. Try it out and see if it works for you.

Remember, you can still take part in the Fantasy In Motion fantasy story! Just take a look at the below post and leave a comment with your entry.

Friday Fiction: The Story

It’s Challenge Time! #1: The 3 Minute Story

Here’s the first in a new series of articles for the blog. It’s simple, every so often I’m going to set a writing challenge. The more of you who join in and have a go the better. Just so it’s fair, I’ll also step up and share my attempt so you can all have a good laugh before you try it for yourselves.

The 3 Minute Story

Today’s challenge is the 3 Minute Story. It’s as simple as it sounds, but beware because it’s far more tricky than you could ever imagine. It’s both a race against time and against your own imagination. Here’s what you do:

  1. Think up a theme for your story.
  2. Make up some names for your characters. Writing any more than three characters will be nearly impossible.
  3. Go find a timer/stopwatch (easily found on Google).
  4. Start writing!

The only rules are that you must stop writing as soon as the stopwatch hits 3 minutes (no cheating!), you’re not allowed to re-draft but you can go back through and correct spelling/punctuation and you’re not allowed to pre-plan your story in any way at all.

So, make your writing quick, snappy and compact. Once you’ve finished the challenge, it would be great if you all shared the results at the end of this article by leaving the finished piece as a comment. Here’s what I managed to come up with:

* * *

Theme: Revenge

Twelve years. Twelve long years since Ilar had looked upon the face of the man he hated most in the world. There he stood, smug as anything and waiting for him to make a move.

‘You’re weak, aren’t you boy?’ Zadai taunted. ‘You’re but a babe still hanging on the apron-strings of your mother.’

Ilar bared his teeth and cried: ‘Keep your damn mouth shut. Your words are poison to me.’

Bringing his heavy blade to bear, Ilar readied himself, sounded a battlecry and charged at the man he had longed to kill. Twelve years. Plenty of time to plan revenge.

* * *

Writing Out of Time

Today, I have a simple writing tip for those of you who feel you can’t write quick enough. Sometimes, the words just don’t pour out like they do on those other days. You’ll read about writers who can churn out 2000 words in mere hours. It’s impressive and here’s one thing that can really help.

You will need:

* A stopwatch (online or physical)
* Your preferred writing implement
* Some sort of plan
* Steely determination

Instructions:

1. Make sure you’re ready to write and know where you’re heading.
2. Prepare yourself in front of your keyboard/with pen in hand.
3. Start the stopwatch.
4. Start writing!

A good first goal is 250 words in 15 minutes. It should be achievable, even when you’re not in the best frame of mind for writing. A fun game is to raise the word count target each 15 minutes and see how much you can write in a full hour. If you can write a little more than the target each time, you’ve practically got a chapter/scene written in an hour. Try it – it might sound really simple, but it really does work.

~ James

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Writing the Dream: 2nd February 2012

Look at the title of this post and remember it. Remember it really well, because every time you see it you will be about to be allowed a peek into my ‘writing head’. What’s a writing head, you ask? Never mind that now, there’s stuff to write!

Do you remember at school ever being told not to use the word ‘stuff’? I do. I love this word, because it’s so unspecific. It allows you to refer to everything and nothing at all in one fell swoop. When I think about my writing, I must keep track of the following:

  • Characters (names, appearance, personalities, motivations, dialogue etc.)
  • Plot (foreshadowing, twists, intertwining, main plot, sub-plot etc.)
  • Worldbuilding (places, species, history, names etc.)
  • Themes (revenge, loyalty, honour, family etc.)
  • Readability (hooks, structure, language etc.)
  • On top of the above, I am also listening out for interesting things that people say, looking out for their behavior and mannerisms and seeing if any news articles provide interesting ideas to play around with.

So when I think about all of the above, I broadly label it as ‘stuff’ and tidy it away in my writing head, which is quite separate to my work head, home head and gaming head. Luckily, I find it easy to switch between these different ways of thinking, so I don’t zone out in a meeting thinking about my novel, or panicking at home about stuff that happened at work. Usually, anyway. If I had to label the ‘heads’ I would do it thusly:

  • Writing head – creative, imaginative, hard-working & sometimes dark.
  • Work head – helpful, knowledgeable, quick & sometimes stressed.
  • Home head – lazy, happy, creative & sometimes slow.
  • Gaming head – compulsive, indecisive, competitive & sometimes grouchy.

As you can see, there are several overlaps and there are others, like my driving head, that are more sub-head or transitional heads. I do not have a favourite head or a least favourite head. They all serve a purpose and they’re all useful or useless depending on the situation. In case any of you are wondering, when I write these blog posts I use a combination of my writing and home heads (mostly writing).

As for my actual writing, it is progressing very well at the moment. I told my fiancée to force me to sit down and devote an hour each night to writing, instead of slacking off on the Xbox or wasting time on Facebook. This approach has been working very nicely for me. I’m the sort of person that needs structure and set times for things to happen. If I deviate from this, I find myself wasting time. I would have been well suited to the army, I reckon, if it weren’t for the mortal peril and all that.

Anyway, ramble over. When I feel a need to share more about how I write, I will create a similarly titled post. Until tomorrow, then…