Mutiny on the Bounty

After being home from University for just under a week now, I’ve only managed to write 1080 words. And those were all yesterday, when I finally made myself work instead of catching up on TV, playing Xbox or playing with my cats.

I feel a bit like the story of the HMS Bounty – the ship docked in Tahiti after 10 months at sea, and had to spend 5 further months on the island due to unexpected problems with their cargo. Those five months in a tropical paradise were enough to destroy the sailor’s discipline, and problems further arose due to the captain’s heavy handed punishments and routine humiliation of other sailors. Many mutinied.

While not a completely accurate comparison, when I arrived home – away from my usual workspace and my university mindset/work ethic – all discipline I had created in writing 1050 words every day was lost.

Thankfully I have nobody to blame but myself, and nobody to answer to but myself, so I’m not likely to be court martialled. Also, I’m not actually all that far behind on my wordcount, as I’ve organized my timetable for work until the 1st January, which will mean I am exactly on track for 48,000 words by the new year – just over half of my novel.

Now all that remains is to force myself to follow orders.

Project Update #2

So today I realized that I’ve been writing on a tangent in my project.

Instead of focusing on the main plot and moving the action onwards, I’ve been stuck on one section for the past three/four chapters. I also discovered that wasting three days straight playing on a new xbox game and spamming acheivements isn’t particularly helpful in the long run for anything but my gamerscore on xbox live.

At this point in the story, I should be near, if not at, the point where Nate sets out on his quest. Instead, I’m still a long way from that. I’ve wasted about 10 – 15,000 words on trying to develop his relationships with EVERY character he’s met as well as introducing some others.

As Rick Riordan says, describe each character in a memorable way with as few words as possible, and they should make a more lasting impression than if you describe them down to how many freckles cover their nose. Great advice, shame I didn’t apply it to my character’s relationships as well as their appearance!

Rather than edit the story at this point and lose those 15,000 words (which would just make me feel like I was too far behind to catch up), I’m going to leave them as they are, and just write from where I feel the story should be heading, and then when I’ve finished the rest of the story, I’ll come back and write the section in between to join them together. Once that’s done, I’ll just have to read through the whole thing to ensure it works for sense, for style and for consistancy of theme and imagery.

Here’s hoping that I haven’t left myself too much work to do at the end of the project.

On a plus note though, I’ve managed scores of 68% and 78% in my two pieces of coursework so far this year which have been marked, and handed another in on friday. I’ve now got from now until February to focus on sorting out as much of my project as I can, and then I’ll focus on my coursework deadlines.

Happy writing,NK

Project Update

So it’s been a while since I posted on here, and I thought I’d just write a quick one (which will probably turn into a long one) before I go and catch a train home.

The flavour of my latest problems have been issues with unfocused chapters, and pacing.

After I finished my fourth chapter, about three weeks ago, I realized that I was going to finish this first draft with WAY more words than 80,000. I’d taken a whole 6,500 words in that chapter to only barely touch on what I’d said I was going to resolve. The chapter was supposed to be the first big reveal, where my protagonist is told exactly what is going on and why everything which has happened so far, has happened.

Instead though, it ended up being a whole chapter of a back and forth between the character and his father, with whom he has some serious issues. While I’m happy that I managed to write a decent amount of interaction between the two of them, and it definitely helped me to be clearer in my mind about how the two of them would react to each other, it was a very slow chapter, much too slow for the rest of the plot, and spilled over into the next two chapters. Obviously, this then slows the pacing of the rest of the story, and doesn’t create any tension in the story either.

I’ve just finished my 28,000 word count for last week (Couldn’t focus over the weekend, but that’s a different story), but I think that at this point I should be further in the story than I am.

When I start a new chapter, I write a few paragraphs on what I think should happen in it, so I don’t have to keep thinking about where I am in the story and what needs to happen. The problem I’ve had over the past three weeks is that I haven’t stuck to those paragraphs. I even ended up copying several points over from one chapter into the next because I hadn’t focused my writing tightly enough.

Part of that problem is that I’m not confident in my dialogue at all, so when I need to write a chapter which is essentially just one character being given information, it drags out much more than it should. The other part of that problem is my inexperience. When I started the novel and planned it out, I was fairly confident. I’m in my final year (third year) of a writing course, and I know my writing is much stronger than it was when I started the course. And yet here I am, only 6 chapters in after 28,000 words and behind in the story than I feel I should be.

Inexperience in this instance isn’t so much not knowing what to say, but rather having the confidence in my own writing to use fewer words saying something, or even not having to spell it out and allowing the reader to work it out for themselves. Yes, this is my first novel and my first draft, so I know I’m entitled to mistakes, but these are mistakes which sap at your confidence.

Having to edit part of the story for a different piece of coursework hasn’t helped either, because I’ve convinced myself it’s a terrible idea to go back and touch previous chapters in any way at all, or even think about editing, at least until I’ve finished the whole first draft.

However, after discussing this with my tutor, I know it isn’t nearly as bad as I’ve told myself it is, because I can simply edit the piece from the point of view of writing style rather than for the story consistency. Treating it like a separate story will help as well.

Anyway, off to catch a train home. And on the subject of trains, does anyone else find them to be the most productive place to write? I know people on my course say it all the time, that trains are the best place to write because you’ve no internet and nowhere to go, but I honestly find that my writing goes much faster when I’m on a train as well.

All the best to everyone for their writing endevours until next time,

NK

I hate people who read over my shoulder.

It’s one of the most distracting and irritating things to happen if you’re trying to work and you can see in your periphery that someone is watching you type. I don’t mind so much when I’m reading a newspaper or a magazine, though I’m always tempted to ask them if they want to buy their own copy. But reading whilst I’m trying to write it is just plain rude.

Maybe I should start from the beginning.

Because I sent my laptop off for repairs on Monday just gone, and I then realised just how difficult it was for me to work on a tablet without a physical keyboard, I decided that the best place to work would be the university library computers. So there I was, minding my own business and writing a two page synopsis (which has now turned into a four page synopsis, but that’s not the point). Random student comes and sits down next to me and begins work on his own essay.

About 10 minutes later, he looks over at my screen. I can see from the corner of my eye that he’s reading my work, so I open internet explorer and google for “Irritating work distractions” to get him to concentrate on his own work.
Five minutes pass, and he does it again. This time, I don’t bother with the passive aggressive, I just tilt the screen away. This doesn’t deter him either.
The next time he starts reading my work, I look over at him. He looks at me. We both know that he’s reading my work, and he knows I’ve caught him doing it. What does he do? Goes straight back to reading it.

Seriously. I’m trying to work on a fantasy novel, and someone I’ve never met is looking over my ideas. I feel apprehensive enough as it is just discussing my work with other people on my course, let alone with total strangers. I hate the feeling of being judged, which is exactly how I felt when he was reading my take on Lucifer and Michael.

This continued for about three hours before I got fed up and left.

I’m not usually precious about my work – I’m perfectly happy letting my housemates, coursemates and friends from home read and critique it. I’ve sent work in to perfect strangers for editing even when I know it’s absolutely terrible. And I’ve never been averse to drastic editing and cutting of my work either. But something about being there when it happens, and while I’m in the midst of writing it, is just so off-putting that I find I can’t continue working on it.

So this morning, when my laptop returned after only 4 days away for repairs, I’m sure you can all imagine just how happy I was that I wouldn’t be having to try and hide my screen again in the library.

What do people think. Am I being too fussy or does this irritate you as well?

Technology Issues

Ever since I bought my latest laptop in December last year, I’ve been having problems with the power and the fan. Two people who know much more about computing than I do advised me NOT to get an Acer. Which is exactly what I then went and did.

Apparently, Acer are renowned for overheating problems.

Anyway, the specs for this laptop are very impressive, especially when compared to my last one, which was about 5 years old. The problems I’ve been encountering with this Acer are that the fan seems to do little or nothing to cool the laptop down. So now and then, and particularly during Summer, it just overheats and then cuts out. No warning, nothing to say, I’m getting too hot, maybe do something about it.

Just completely cuts out. Needless to say, this got very old very quickly, particularly when I was in the middle of writing.

These power losses eventually resulted in some sort of problem with microsoft word as well, which now refuses to open without telling me it has a fault in the archives or something like that, and doesn’t work at all sometimes. Thank God Open Office is free software.

So I decided that enough is enough. I’m sending it to Acer to try and see if they can sort it out for me or replace the laptop. I bought myself a 500gb external harddrive to back up all my files on. I then bought myself a brand spanking new Asus tablet, so that I can continue with my writing coursework while my laptop is away.

Here comes the fun part.

My tablet refuses to recognise Open Office files, and won’t sync any word documents from my laptop when I plugged it in. There’s also nowhere on the tablet to hook it up to my 500gb harddrive. So what I’m now having to do is:

– save all my files from Open Office into .doc Word files
– upload the above files onto dropbox
Then on my tablet:
– download all of the above files
– open them in the android standard word document editor, Polaris, and work that way.

As soon as University is finished and I move home, I’m buying myself a desktop computer. No more fussing about with laptops overheating or tablets not running the same operation system.

I’m already looking forward to the return of my laptop, because trying to type at the same speed I usually do with a keyboard is just impossible on a touchscreen.

In other news, I’m keeping up with my word count for my project.
After talking to my tutor, we agreed that I should make the swap from my science fiction piece to my fantasy piece which I was already writing for my Commercial Fiction module.

It’s been three weeks since I started working on it and I’ve written 12,000 words as of tonight, so thus far I’m managing my 4,000 words per week.

This will probably become more challenging from this week onwards however, due to my first coursework deadlines looming and trips home for family events in November.

Heres to hoping my next blog entry will contain more good news.

NK

Project Problems

So I said that I’d blog about my third year writing project, and here’s my first real problem.

I’ve written 6 chapters. They’re pretty average if I’m being honest, and not particularly well written.
My real problem is this –

I don’t know what to write next.

And this isn’t to do with bad plotting, because I’ve known for months what the whole plot is. I’ve planned the whole novel out, I know when characters are supposed to meet and interact, I know when certain things are supposed to happen. But here I am, and my main character is stuck in a room. She has no way of getting out. She has nobody to talk to. She has nothing to do. I’ve already described the room in my first chapter, as it’s one of the main locations.

I was essentially writing a chapter of exposition, just to boost my word count, even though it needed to be written, because the previous chapter from her POV had ended on a bit of a cliff hanger and with some character development.

I think my main problem is that I’ve completely lost interest in the story, which is a shame, because I think it’s quite a good one. I just don’t have the passion for it any longer, and the characters and setting don’t feel real or interesting enough to me any more to be able to write convincingly about them.

I’ve had to start writing 3 chapters of a different novel for my Commerical Fiction coursework, due in for November, and I’ve already written a prologue (just as an excuse to write some backstory out, whether I use it or not) a full first chapter and am about halfway through chapter 2. This story has much more going for it as well – the main character has freedom of movement, so he doesn’t have to stay in one room and try to think of things to do there. He has people to talk to and interact with, which helps his development and keeps the reader’s interest. The plot itself is much more interesting, because it isn’t so convoluted. And best of all? I’m interested in it.

It might just be because it’s new and shiney, so to speak, but the character interests me, and so does his interaction with the others. He feels more realistic, the story is MUCH more the sort of thing I love reading than my original project, and I’m already enjoying writing it.

Here’s another plus point. If I choose to write this new story completely, then I’m only two weeks behind my original schedule for word count at this point, and I can still have 80,000 words written before my project deadline in March.

One of my main worries about changing novels though, is a piece of advice I read on an author’s website.
Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series (one of my favourites) writes –

“Finally, don’t get discouraged! Writing a book is always hard work. It’s much easier to think of new ideas. You’ll get to the middle of the manuscript and you’ll think, “Oh, this is too hard. I think I’ll start another book instead and that will be easier.” DON’T! That new book won’t be any easier. Soldier through and finish.”

Who better to advise on writing process than a published novelist of at least 10 titles?

I’ve yet to go through this with my tutor, so I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. I have to continue with both projects for the time being, just in case. But if I do decide to drop my original idea – Io, then that means I’ll only have one project to focus on, which will save time and effort, and I’ll already have written the first three chapters and a book proposal for a piece of coursework, so I have less work to do already my for deadlines.

Procrastination

I’m sure many people have battled this fiend at some point or another, particularly when something important needs doing. In an effort to be more social as a house this year, my housemates and I decided that we would compete in our own version of The Great British Bake off every Sunday. This week, we made pasties.

All very well and good, until I realised at around 5pm that I’d done minimal writing today and really needed to crack on. So I sat down at my computer, turned it on and checked my emails. Immediately found several important ones which needed replying to ASAP. Twenty minutes and several emails later, I checked the BBC website for the latest news and realised I was missing the Cricket World T20 Final commentary, so I started listening to that.

Dinner time came and went.

Offers of a film being watched in a housemates room were extended. (Thankfully I managed to impose the need to work upon myself at this point!)

And now at 1.40am I’ve finally found the feeling of having been productive today – I completed something I started work on yesterday, and sorted out some plot details for a piece of coursework.

Admittedly this has no bearing on an 80,000 word novel, but here comes the brilliant news. Without realising it, I’ve already written 10,800 words of my novel over the past few months! While obviously this is only a small part of the whole project, and I’m hoping that I won’t allow myself to become complacent because of it, 10,800 words is about 4000 more than I’d expected.

Here’s hoping for a more productive next week.

Sleep well!
NK