Sunrise on a run

Sunrise on a run

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Law of Averages: 6,000 words

So, I previously posted about my 10,000 word start on a novel.  Do I say much about it yet? No, I'll keep under wraps for now.  I was aiming for another 10,000 words in August but realised that if I'm setting the story in an alternate reality, I needed to spend some time on world creation and setting.

2,000 words later.  It's not much when you look at July's 10,000 but it's 2,000 words which will hopefully assist in production of the next 10,000.  I've outlined my ideas for another chapter and spent some time sketching out key aspects of the version of reality which provides the backdrop, and out of which the plot will develop.

One key aspect of the setting, and one which isn't covered in the OU handbook, is that of timeline.  Even if your narrative only covers a single day, you still need to place that day within the context of others, it does not occur in a vacuum.  I don't think I've fully settled on a convincing timeline of events.  There are various political events, historical events and a war which provide context to the setting.  That timeline won't necessarily be expounded upon within the story but I need to have a firm grasp on events gone before in order for the actual narrative to take shape.

There is an additional challenge in that creating an alternate reality, I am trying to graft that alternate reality onto real historical events.  Currently, I think my timeline is much longer than the one onto which I'm trying to graft my alternate reality.

There is research I need to do on the history of early computing and in particular, the Babbage machine.  As yet, I don't know whether I need this knowledge as part of the plot, it might just be for context and to assist in this alternate world-view.  Any recommended reading?

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Monday, September 02, 2013

Val McDermid: Wire in the Blood; the Retribution

Having read these back to back last week, I felt they deserved a mention.  I sometimes marvel at how much the girls enjoy reading; once Boo's lost in a book, the only place you'll be able to find her is once she's got to the end.  She's spent most of the summer reading Lemony Snickett's series of unfortunate events.  There's 13 books, I don't know whether each book chronicles just one event.  Plus she's been engrossed in the local library summer reading challenge.  

Having downloaded and read Wire in the Blood, I was trying to find which Tony Hill/ Carol Jordan book to read next.  As the Retribution follows the escape of the Wire in the Blood's killer from jail and the subsequent series of unfortunate, but premeditated events, it made perfect sense.  (The pricing helped but maybe that's for another post)

There must be something about being on Summer holiday as I last read a couple of her Tony Hill/ Carol Jordan books last summer.  Wire in the Blood is good.  You find out fairly early on, whodunnit, but there's two parallel crimes being investigated. This is a structure which is used in the Retribution, I can't remember whether it's used in any other of her books.

I preferred the Wire in the Blood.  The Retribution was a good sequel but I wouldn't recommend it as a stand alone read.  We are reacquainted with the killer from Wire in the Blood, he's out of jail and out for revenge.  In fairness, the ending comes as a complete surprise.

One criticism is that the use of new technology as a way of contrasting how time has passed too obvious and there are a couple of moments where it is a little too contrived.  Before the first murders, the killer is viewing his quarry via hidden cameras and over an Internet connection.  I found it hard to believe that his 3G connection would be that reliable up in the Yorkshire Dales.  Secondly, there is a moment when someone is given details of the killer's residence but the development is too new for his Satnav to pick up.  That I can understand.  What I don't understand in these days of smartphones is why he doesn't just look on Google maps to find it.  Maybe that particular character doesn't have a smartphone.

There are useful references back to other episodes in the other books, it helps make the characters believable and you have faith in their fallibility.  However, it does also mean that the book doesn't stand up on its own.  

Interestingly, I've realised that my favourite (only) crime writers are female: Val McDermid, PD James and Agatha Christie.  Is it just that I haven't read any male crime writers, or is there something about their writing styles wch I prefer?

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Friday, August 02, 2013

Give me seven years and I'll give you the novel

So I've spent the last month participating in Campnanowrimo.  The premise is simple: you set a target and write.  The default target for the month is 50,000 words, I decided to move the goal posts to 30,000 and finally 10,000.  In the end I was a little short of 10,000 but I had 9,500 words of story with a strong feel for where it will go.

Having spent the past year doing an OU module on creative writing, it was good to be able to put what I've learned into practice.  I've not written that many words on one particular story so that's a first for a start.  I'm minded to continue into August and aim for another 10,000.

There's many different ways of skinning a cat:

10,000 words a month = 326 words a day
32 train journeys to and from work in a month (2 a day in 16 days) = 313 words per train journey = 626 words a day
9 evenings when Mr S is away = 1,111 words an evening
9 weekend days in August = 1,111 per day

Theoretically: 32 train journeys plus 9 evenings plus 9 weekend days = 30,000 words in a month.  Put like that (although a need a whizzy app and some graphics knowledge to turn it into an infographic) 10,000 words is a third of what I could theoretically write.  In fact, there's a bank holiday and I have a week's annual leave, giving me another 6 weekend days.  That's another 6,666 words (somehow fitting as Mr S is off to see Iron Maiden this weekend).  That and a stag do he's going to are another 2 evenings to write: 2,222 words.  So that's another 8,888 words - approaching 40,000 now!  

Now in reality, we will be out on day trips at the weekend, or at home building cardboard castles with the girls.  Then there's time spent exercising (ideally 1 run, 2 circuits sessions and some yoga), time spent doing paperwork and other domestic activities.  Additionally we are chicken-sitting for two sets of neighbours over the next few weeks.  Oh and of course time [wasted] on Facebook, Candy crush and general internet browsing, reading of books and writing this blog.

Then there's the writing process.  I'm tending to find it easier to write in longhand and then type up in the evening.  It's more comfortable than typing reams on the iPad and helps with the process of creative refinement.  

But what it boils down to is that there is time to write 10,000 words in a month. Joseph Heller took 7 years to write Catch 22.  Now my attempt at a pre-draft is nowhere near Catch 22's league of sheer geniusness but let's assume that Catch 22 is 50,000 words.  That's 7,143 words a year. Infographic anyone?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Game of Thrones: the re-read

I have just completed a re-read of Game of Thrones. Series 3 has recently been broadcast in the UK, we don't have cable or satellite (an advantage or disadvantage of owning a listed property, depending on your perspective), so it's been amusing to see various references via social media to the events as they unfold.

When I last read the book, I posted my commentsand one of my main complaints was about the religions and how they sprout up like mushrooms. They tend to appear as a new contender for power is introduced and on a second re-read, they perhaps sit within the story more neatly.

My only criticism this time is that the present narrative is sometimes overtaken by past narrative. In book 5, certain characters consistently spend their time remembering events from 15 years ago and the plot advances more slowly as a consequence. I say criticism but it's an observation. Given the sudden appearance of characters, there is a certain need to provide their back story. A story is like a tapestry: you can see the threads which make up the front but without the criss-crossing tangle of threads on the back, there'd be no picture.

I have thoughts about where things might go but I don't want to give too much away: greyscale zombies v wights anyone? Unlikely but it was a thought that crossed my mind.

There was a meme doing the rounds recently about why George RR Martin isn't on twitter (think how many characters have been killed off so far...) I think on my next re-read, I will have to do a death count. Even after a second read I am in a state of denial over the demise of some of my favourite characters, I won't say who...On the death of some characters however, one has a feeling of resignation, a thought of "oh well, they've served their purpose".

It's called the Game of Thrones, but who is moving the pieces? There are a few puppet-masters but whose bidding do they serve?

I won't re-read now until book six is out, so no more blogs on Game of Thrones until then...

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Saturday, April 06, 2013


Having found some pictures of my previous mini and admiring how shiny it looked, here's a scan - having messed around with the Picassa options!
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Curry (musings on the back of a takeaway menu)

Come, don't hurry or harry, for hurray, it's Curry night!
Karma is yours, in creamy Korma
But first the pappadums, prickly pickles and pakora

Selecting the sides, too much dhal makes it dull
Bhaji: Brindal or Bhindi, Okra or Aubergine?
Rice now, or nan, not too much now for I
may slump into sleep, pilau for my pillow,
Pad ghum or party?

(pad ghum: Bengali expression describing carb-induced sleepiness after too much rice!)

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2013: the first post is away!

I was surprised when looking back through last years' posts that there were only just over ten, I thought I'd been more regular in my witterings. I suspect there's posts I meant to write but didn't get round to doing so.

This first post probably falls into that category. Back in September I took up crochet. Since then I've been crocheting my little socks off (perhaps I need to make a new pair?)

My first creations were the little monster Amigurumi which I'd mentioned in a previous post.

Once I had the hang of following a pattern (the secret is to keep counting), I made a mascot for Boo's first Netball match:

Followed by some Hello Kitty Witches. These took me longer than Halloween but the girls liked them nonetheless.

By now, it was time to start making Christmas decorations, I'm not sure why these pictures have come out smaller.

Next mission is a blanket for my Nan's 93rd birthday. It's made up of 9 granny squares sewn together. I've nearly finished the second one, fortunately I've managed to speed up so it may yet happen by mid-February...

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