NaNoWriMo

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I’ve taken a little time off from Horace over the last few months and as a consequence I’m way behind the deadline I set myself for that first draft.

So to try and kickstart myself into action I’m taking part in the yearly National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) initiative. The objective will be to complete 50,000 words during the course of the month of November which will be a heck of a challenge for me. It won’t get me quite back on track but should go along way towards my original timescale expectations for the project.

I’ve taken part in this initiative before and whilst I’ve never achieved the 50,000 word target it certainly is a good way to get you motivated. Joining some of the forums means that you can share your woes with other participants. Definitely recommended for the budding writer!

Wish me luck!

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Horace – A Working Title!

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It’s been a little while since I posted on this blog. I’ve had a break from my writing since my last self-published memoir – Discovering My Suomi Roots. Guess what? I’m itching to get started with another writing project!

Some time ago I started a fiction work but never finished it. I think the thought of a writing project approaching novel length scared me off somewhat. After all, previously I had only written short stories. And so that led me to embark on a “step by step” approach and build up my word count for my writing projects. Hence the three self-published titles I completed over the last 18 months.

So now it’s time to clean the dust off that old manuscript. I have a few ideas to change it slightly and maybe write it from a different viewpoint to the original partly finished draft.

What’s subject matter? Briefly it’s about a man called Horace who has just retired but whose retirement plans are turned upside down. It’s not a quasi-memoir, but I guess I can relate to some aspects of it having retired almost five years ago. The title? Well I haven’t figured that out at the moment but for now we’ll just use the working title of Horace.

Like my other projects I have set myself an initial timescale for completion of the first draft. Hopefully I can achieve this by the end of November this year. With the editing process I should be looking at a finished work sometime during H2 next year (2018). That’s the plan anyway!

I’ll endeavour to post some regular updates to this blog updating my progress. Wish me luck!

 

First Draft Complete – Now The Real Work Begins!

Finally I finished the first draft of Discovering My Suomi Roots on time (by a couple of days!). Now the real work begins!

The first draft I always find hard work. I’m more of a plotter than a pantser that’s for sure. But, despite all the  planning at the outset, I still find it hard working my way through to completion. Somehow I manage to plod along convincing myself it will all be worth it in the end.

My planned structure and content for a writing project always has to be flexible. As I am writing I find other detail I have overlooked for inclusion. Or ideas on how I might tell the story differently suddenly strike me. So there has to be some flex in your plan.

It is very tempting to look back and start rewriting parts of your writing that you know will have to be rewritten. Avoid this! Your focus needs to be aimed at completing the initial draft. Revision comes later!

Once completed, for me, the enjoyable part comes next. I find the revision process much easier. You have something tangible to work with even if you are working with a very rough first draft. My words and thoughts flow easier. I am much more relaxed as the story starts to come to life and take shape.

But without that first draft there can be no revision process!

 

 

 

Writing That First Draft

This is a major learning year for me. Up to the end of last year I had written a few short stories and non-fiction articles. Most of those being assignments for a creative writing course I was studying.

In 2016 I was determined to turn my hand to some larger writing projects and learn a little more about the craft of self-publishing. To date I have released a couple of short works – a personal memoir and a non-fiction title, both about 15000 words each. Not long writing projects by any means, but a big step for me.

Over the last couple of weeks I have begun my next writing project in earnest and I am 13000+ words into it – less than half way. When I started writing I read an awful lot of blogs and articles on the subject. I have tried to pick out advice and tips that work for me to help me along the way.

Here’s what I’ve learned to date about writing the first draft :

The Right Environment

Firstly you need to find the right personal environment to write. No matter what you are writing you need somewhere that suits you. I have learned that everybody is different and has different preferences. Personally, I like to take myself off into a quiet study room, when I am writing at home. No music, just peace and quiet. This helps me gather my thoughts. Either early morning or early evening is when I tend to do my writing, setting an hour or two aside to focus on it.

Planning

I’m a planner. I like to be organised and have structure. Even with a structure I can still be flexible with my writing but at least it gives me the comfort of a framework to work within.

I use Scrivener for my writing but you can use any writing software that you are familiar and comfortable with. I plan out the chapter structure using the cork board option within the program. Once I have completed that process I then plan out the content for individual chapters making notes on the subject matter I want to include. These are easily accessible and to hand within the Project file as is any research I have done.

You should have a basic idea on how long the writing project is likely to be in terms of word count. This is something you don’t necessarily have to stick to unless of course you are writing an article or story to specific word count guidelines. It will however give you an approximate guide of what you should be aiming for. If you have set yourself a timescale for completing your first draft you can then quite easily work out a daily word count target.

Set yourself a daily word count and stick to it. Any deviations should be exceptional. This certainly helps keep me on track to progress and finish the project once I have started.

With everything set up I am then ready to write.

Writing

Write until you finish the first draft. Do not look back on your work with the intent of revising any of it until you have finished. Doing so is fatal, as I have found. It just gives you an excuse to slowdown or stop the whole process of finishing your work.

Your ideas on individual chapter content might alter as you progress your writing. Rather than make any drastic amendments immediately I always wait until I finish the first draft. If need be I make any necessary notes to myself in the manuscript itself. I can always cut and paste chunks of text later into other chapters as part of the revision process.

Usually if I look back on what I have written I see a lot of obvious amendments I need to make. These may be areas where I could have used more or better dialogue, use of cliches, too much useage of particular words or phrases, etc. I leave any amendments until the second revision.

After The First Draft

Once I have finished the first draft that’s when the real work begins for me. Shaping and finalising the writing into a completed work. How many revisions does it need? I need to be happy that it’s as good as I can make it so I don’t set myself a revision maximum. However there has to be a limitation to the number of revisions you undertake to bring it up to an acceptable standard.

I have found writing to be a continual learning experience.

Bargain Books – Amazon .co.uk

My two titles are on sale at Amazon.co.uk from tomorrow at 0.99p each for one week only. After that they are back to their normal price of £1.99.

So hurry, get them at this special discount while you can!

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Living with Timmy

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Get Fitter, Get Leaner, Get An Activity Tracker!

Car Park Misery

“I HATE this bloody car park!”

“You say that every time” my better half calmly retorted.

I was wound up tighter than the cork I had unpopped in that bottle of Beaujolais last night. What had started off as a routine Saturday morning trip was turning out to be another nightmare.

We had set off later than I`d have liked and the illuminated signs at my usual car park told me it was full – how do they know? Does someone sit there counting the cars in and presumably out again? I doubt it but I wasn`t going to take the chance of spending my Saturday morning going around in ever decreasing circles.

So here I was at the car park from hell where half an inch between cars was a bonus. The sole aim of the proprietors seemed to be to squeeze as much metal and rubber into this place as possible regardless of the consequences! And, of course, there was the obligatory four-wheel drive parked breaching the yellow line next to me. I`d have to have the elasticity of Mr Fantastic from the Fantastic Four to even remotely have any chance of getting out of this car.

Reversing out, the car radar was like a hyperactive child with a constant warning tone filling my ears.

“Watch this side” barked my wife.

“I`m too busy watching this four-wheel monstrosity” I shouted. “Besides, the radar will warn …”

Too late, I could here the sound of scraping metal ringing in my ears above the high pitched noise of the radar warning. Having extracted myself from the space they called a parking bay, I got out the car to inspect the damage. Not a mark on his car but mine looked like someone had taken an electric grinder to it! That would cost a pretty penny to put right, I thought.

I got back into the car. My other half had that smug ‘I told you so’ look on her face. Nothing needed to be said. I quietly drove out of that metal graveyard vowing never to return but knowing full well there was every likelihood I`d be back again next Saturday to do battle again.

The Letter

It was hard for George to stir himself from bed on that morning of all mornings. To tell you the truth it had been hard for him over the last 3 months. He had felt nothing but an emptiness in his life. A great big void that refused to be filled.

It reminded him of the time his family moved house all those years ago. He remembered it all so well. Like yesterday. His father got moved with his job. It was difficult enough for him at that age but the long move up north meant he would leave all his friends be- hind. He protested with his parents for weeks beforehand but in the end he had to accept the inevitable. He found it hard to make new friends easily.

It was his first day at the new school. He felt so alone and vulnerable but tried not to show it for fear of upsetting his mother. She had waved him goodbye at the school gates. He stood there alone in the playground. The energy and noise from the other children re- verberated all around him. He wanted to find somewhere at that precise moment to hide and close his eyes until it was time to go home.

As he stood there his gaze met that of a young girl who stood with a group of friends. She had a round face with blonde unruly hair but otherwise was neatly dressed. Her eyes met his and it was if she understood his uncertainty in that instance. Even at that young age she had stood out from the other girls and had a smile which would always melt his heart.

She walked over smiling and gently said, “You must be the new boy. It must be a bit strange for you at a new school and all. Come and meet my friends and I`ll show where our class is when the bell goes.”

He was mesmerised by her right from the start. She stayed by his side and looked after him for the rest of the day making sure that he found his way to all his classes. She showed him where to go at break times. George did not want that day to end. To his de- light the same routine followed the next day and the days that followed. They formed a close friendship and he quickly forgot the friends he had left behind.

He remembered all the fun they had together during those innocent school days and the pranks they used to play on each other. That wicked mischievous smile remained with her throughout her life. They shared many laughs together over the years and into married life.

George knew from that first day at school that they would be with each other for the rest of their lives. He thought Ethel did too but she refused to admit it to him opting to keep George “on his toes” as she liked to call it. Usually followed by that smile of hers.

Now there was just emptiness in his life. She had been a fighter he remembered. In those last days he knew she had been in considerable pain but typical of Ethel she refused to show it. She was protecting him again from the reality of it all and would have called it “keeping a brave face”. Something she had always been good at.

The pain was still with him. Watching someone fight for their last breath was not easy. In the end she had to let go of her tenuous grip on life. He had cried so much during those early days unable to accept the final reality of it all. Why on earth had it happened to Ethel he had thought at the time.

Gradually a numbness settled over his life. He rebuffed any contact with family and friends. He preferred to mourn her loss on his own despite their best efforts to the con- trary. Finally, a reluctant but inevitable acceptance settled over him, and now there was only the void left which Ethel had previously filled.

Today of all days felt especially difficult for George. It was their wedding anniversary. A day they always looked forward to. The routine had always been the same over the years.

They would start by having breakfast in bed whist looking through their old wedding al- bum. George would arrange for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to Ethel sometime during the morning from the local florist. Pink roses. She always liked pink roses he thought. George would then whisk her off to somewhere he had picked out for lunch. Out in the country, followed by a slow drive back home.

It would be different today but he decided he would keep to some of the old routine whilst having breakfast. He carefully took the album from the sideboard drawer. Apart from the formal photographs there were those from wedding guests tucked in the back of the album. No matter how careful he was when taking it from the drawer one or two pho- tographs always fell out. Today was no exception.

Amongst the fallen photographs on the floor his gaze focused on a white envelope which fell with them. His attention was on the handwriting which was unmistakably Ethel’s de- spite being shaky. The envelope was simply addressed to him and sealed.

George froze, knowing that he had not seen this when he had taken the album out last year. His upper lip visibly trembled as he bent down to pick the envelope up. He then sat down but could hardly dared open it. Emotion welled up in his eyes. Carefully he opened it. Inside was a letter in the same handwriting as on the front of the envelope. The letter

was written on two sheets of the pink floral writing paper he had bought Ethel for her birthday. Slowly he read it :

Darling George,

I know you will be reading this letter on our special day.

Forgive my handwriting but it is difficult for me to hold the pen steady. With each day that passes I feel I am slipping further and further away from you and thought it would be better to write this note to you now rather than leave it much longer.

You are probably wondering how I managed to slip this letter into the album. Well, you will recall I asked for one last look of our photographs towards the end. I knew that you would take them out and look at them today. Our day. You always were a creature of habit!

George I hope you are looking after yourself. You always took pride in your appearance even on that first day we met. I still remember the newly pressed school uniform you wore. So unlike the other boys, who looked as though they had rolled around in the mud. Come to think of it they probably had! I never told you George but right from that first day I knew that you were for me. A girl has to have some secrets from her husband!

You always were so different from the other boys. Kind and considerate with a genuine sense of fun. Life throws an awful lot of stuff at you and you have to have a laugh along the way. I felt I did with you George.

But life moves on. I know you will have found it difficult these last few weeks. You will have moped around refusing any help. I know you too well. You are a good man George and really deserve to live out the rest of your life with the same happiness that we enjoyed together.

It is hard for me to write this letter but I really do want you carry on with a full life. You deserve it. The memories and our love together, no one can take away. These memories and that love made us the people we are. You must continue to live on.

My love will be with you forever more as I know your love will be for me. But that love needs to continue in your life. You have friends all around you and I want you to enjoy the rest of your life George. I really mean it and I know this may even mean meeting a lady friend some time in the future. Bring her the same happiness you brought to me.

Only one small proviso – make sure she moves aside when your time comes to join me!

I will always love you.

Your darling wife Ethel

Tears slowly trickled down the creases in George`s face. Ethel had known she was near the end. Even then she had casts thoughts of herself aside and thought only of George. Looking after him again. Just like those early school days.

George spent the rest of the morning looking through the album and reliving the memo- ries caught on camera. He reread Ethel`s letter several times and carefully put it in the back of the album with the loose photographs. He knew he would get them out again next year no matter what happened. His memorial to Ethel he would call it.

Later that day he picked up the telephone and slowly pressed some familiar numbers.

“Hello,” the voice said at the other end.

“Hello Peggy, it`s Dad”

“Hello Dad?” There was a tone of surprise in Peggy`s voice.

“Is it okay if I come for tea next Sunday?”

“We would love you to come Dad … it`s been so long …” There was obvious emotion in Peggy`s voice. He could sense she was crying at the other end. George shed a tear or two also. Tears of joy.

When George had finished on the telephone he knew what he needed to do. He had to live his life. Ethel was right. He would remember her always but he needed to move on.