Thursday, 31 May 2007

Novel Progress - getting there

1,200'ish words written late last night. Very poor words they were too - when I'm tired my sentences seem to get shorter and shorter, my word choices more and more monosyllabic and descriptions non-existent (I do love writing dialogue) but hey, that's what editing is for right?

Oh - also started reading a very good book "Make Your Words Work (Proven Techniques for Effective Writing - for Fiction and NonFiction)" by Gary Grovost. Over the last couple of years my writing style has gone from adjective/adverb hell to very, very pared back and I feel like I need to put a bit more zing back into my writing. That's something I'm going to look at when I've finished the first draft.

I didn't go to sleep until 1.30am again but I put down more blankets on the floor and slept a little better. When the sun came up I reached out for my eye mask (courtesy of a Quantas flight last year), put it on and went back to sleep! Up at 9.15am ready for the kitchen lady to measure up. She's been and the revised kitchen plans will be dropped off this evening.

Just got back from the dump (bye, bye ten bags of garden rubbish) and am having a quick break before getting on with the next task (plastering the various cracks in the walls and ceilings that have appeared over the last few years). I'm going to need another 'holiday' after this one is over!

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Novel Progress - Writing AND working my arse off

A tired post today because...

1) I've spent all day painting - the living room ceiling and all the tiles in the bathroom
2) Sleeping on the floor last night (even with lots of blankets) was not fun because:

a) laminate flooring is hard
b) the timer on my lamp was tick-tick-ticking for hours before I finally gave up, got up and turned it off
c) too much diet coke made me wired and I didn't fall asleep until after 2.30am
d) my blinds - despite stopping people looking in - don't stop the sun and I woke up when the sun came up and couldn't get back to sleep.


I did write 1,117 words of the novel last night


My lovely parents have cleared 10 bags of rubbish from my garden (and its only tiny - yes, I am a rubbish gardener), have replaced the big piece of rotton wood in one of my windows, cleaned my kitchen (so the B&Q kitchen lady isn't horrified when she turns up to measure tomorrow) AND laid laminate flooring in my hallway (begone yucky painted white floorboards).

Time for a takeaway and, if I'm still awake, a few more words on the novel later!

Monday, 28 May 2007

Novel progress - 2/3 written!

I really didn't think I'd hit the 60,000 word mark today (there just didn't seem to be enough hours in the day) but I thought I'd try and bash out a few words anyway. I only had an hour and, after 800 or so words, reached a bit of a sticking point (and thought "I'll just put this bit off until tomorrow") but I really wanted to hit 60,000 words today so I ploughed on and then, just as my hour was up - 1,946 words had been written and I'd hit my target! Two thirds of the novel written.

And breathe.

Last night I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean (3). It was....long. In fact there was an intermission (though no one sold ice cream). I hadn't experienced an intermission in a film since I was a child so it was a little unexpected (I thought the film had broken). So - how was the film? Slow (obviously) and it could have done with a real trim but it was still enjoyable (though not as enjoyable as the first two). I fidgeted quite a lot so I'd be very surprised if 12-years-olds didn't get the tiniest bit bored. I'd give it 6/10. Worth seeing at the cinema for the special effects but not worth buying on DVD to re-watch.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Novel Progress - Update

So, 1,700(ish) words written yesterday and 800(ish) words today and the current word count is 58,129/90,000 (64.6% written). Am aiming to hit 60,000 words written by Monday night.

For the last week I've written over the 750 words a day that YWriter told me I'd need to write to hit my 15 July deadline (i.e. novel first draft written in 4 months exactly). As a result I now only need to write 650 words a day to hit that deadline. Excellent.

The reason why I tried to write more than 750 words a day is because my parents are coming down next week to help me do up my flat and I'm not sure I'll be able to find the time to write. That said my parents are taking my bedroom and I'm sleeping on the living room floor - and they're 'early to bed' while I'm a bit of a night owl so I'm sure I'll find an hour here and there to write. Is it wrong that I'm worried about when I'll get to write rather than just being excited that my parents are going to help me fix my tumble-down flat? Probably.

You know what? Trying to write to a self-imposed deadline is really mentally tiring. My head is full of the novel - when I'm not actually writing about it I'm thinking about it, or I'm sketching out the last few days of the novel and trying to work out what scene should happen on what day. I'm going to have at least a week off writing when I've finished!

Today I wrote a really emotional scene and I just felt so drained when I'd finished writing it. Poor main character and 'A' - the other person in the scene - I really felt for them.

Right - I'm off for a walk. Need to stretch my legs and breathe in some fresh London pollution!

Friday, 25 May 2007


Okay - so here's some info about my ghost sighting/feeling experiences.

Experience 1

My Gran used to live on a farm in the country. The farmhouse she lived in was old (it had an outside toilet as well as an upstairs bathroom) and she had a pantry attached to her kitchen. She also used one of the downstairs rooms as a junk room - and that's where she kept her big chest freezer. When I used to stay with her she'd often ask me to go and get something from the chest freezer while she was cooking (normally a packet of peas) which required me to go into the junk room. Now I can't remember how old I was when I first felt a presence in that room but it's ingrained in my memory so I assume it was from the first time I went in. I say felt a presence because I never saw anything but I had an overwhelming feeling that there was someone at the opposite side of the room who was watching me. It was a very, very intense sensation and very, very uncomfortable - like the presence wanted me GET THE HELL OUT!

So, whenever Gran would ask me to get a packet of peas I'd run into the junk room, head down, wrench open the chest freezer, grab the peas and run out again. I would NOT look up - just in case I saw anything. I hate..absolutely hated going in that room.

Now for the interesting bit...

I never told anyone how I felt about the junk room. I didn't know what a ghost was and I thought people would think I was strange for being scared of the room. Finally, when I was in my mid-twenties, I asked my sister (three years younger) if there were any rooms in Gran's house that she didn't like.

"Yeah," she said. "The junk room. That room still scares the shit out of me."

Co-incidence or was there really something in there?

Experience 2

A couple of years ago I went to a cottage in Wales for three nights with a group of three female friends. There were only three bedrooms so two of the girls decided to double up in one of the double beds. That left one double bed in another room and a bunkbed in the tiny box room. Friend 3 and I decided that the fairest thing to do was to take it in turns to sleep in the double room. Fair enough.

The first time I realised there was something wrong with the cottage was when I was sitting on the sofa, alone, reading a book. Out of the corner of my eye I suddenly saw someone run up the stairs - like a dark shadowy blur. No one had been in the room with me and there was no way to get to the stairs without walking behind or in front of me and I hadn't seen anyone so I went into the kitchen to see who it was. All three of my friends were in the kitchen. Whoever I'd seen running up the stairs - it wasn't any of them.

That night was my turn to sleep in the double room. I closed the curtains before I went to bed and turned off the light. The cottage was in the middle of the country and not close to any main roads of street lamps so it was completely dark with the lights off. I'm talking pitch black. Anyway, I fell asleep. At about 3am I woke up. The room was still pitch black apart from a circle of light on the chimney stack - which was opposite the end of the bed. The circle seemed to pulse and I suddenly felt the overwhelming feeling that I was in danger and something wanted me out of the room. The whole atmosphere in the room had changed and it was heavy, thick, one of pure anger - something wanted me out. You imagine that you'd just jump out of bed and run away in that kind of situation but I literally froze. I pulled the duvet over my head and said the Lord's prayer over and over again (and I'm not particularly religious) - I was that afraid. Eventually, sweating my arse off, I fell asleep.

The next night was friend 3's turn to sleep in the room. I didn't say anything to her about what I'd experienced (I didn't want her to think I was a complete kook) and fell asleep, feeling nothing but exhaustion, on the bottom bunk of the box room. Friend 3 was a bit psychic so I was curious if she'd pick up on the vibes in the room.

She did. The next morning she told me there was a ghost in the room. She hadn't seen anything but she'd definitely felt something in there, she said.

On the third night we decided to sleep in the double room together. It was uncomfortable on the bottom bunk of the box room and we figured that if we stayed in the double room together we'd be fine. I let Friend 3 have the bed and I made up a bed on the floor with the mattress from one of the bunk beds. Again, I woke up at 3am. This time the circle of light was about twice the size and the feeling of menace had doubled. Whatever was in that room was royally pissed off that we were both in there AND WANTED US OUT. My friend was fast asleep and I didn't want to wake and scare her so I just lay on the floor and shook with fear (it sounds like a cliche but I was really shaking). I pulled the duvet up round my shoulders and then SOMETHING TOUCHED MY HAIR. That was it - enough - I pulled the duvet over my head and inched my way along the floor and into the corridor. It took me a long, long time to fall asleep.

You couldn't pay me to sleep in that room again. Apart from my near drowning when I went white water rafting last year it was the most terrifying experience of my life.

Experience 3

I've been living in my current flat in Brighton for five years. Last year water leaked through from my bathroom and dripped through my floor into my downstairs neighbours flat. That was the first time I met her - when she knocked on my front door to complain. She was an older lady, probably in her mid sixties and lived on her own.

I sorted out the problem with the bathroom and thought that was that.

Then, about six months later I woke up in the middle of the night. Someone was standing at the end of my bed. I couldn't see her per se but I knew it was an old lady. I didn't feel terrified, like on previous occasions, but I definitely felt unnerved.

A couple of months later I bumped into two people going in and out of the old lady's flat and struck up a conversation with them. They told me they were developers and were doing up the flat.

"Oh," I said. "Did the lady who lived here move out?"

"No," they said. "She died two months ago."

So there you go - my three ghost experiences. Sleep well tonight! ;o)

Novel Update - Progress and Shopping

A few of you have asked questions about my ghost experience (see 8 things meme) so I thought I'd blather on about that for a post (but not this post as it's long enough already. See next post) .

So... novel update.

1,200'ish words written last night and I've now written 55,538/90,000 words (61.7%).

The next scene I have to write is a shopping scene. I'm probably atypical of most women because I hate clothes and shoes shopping. As I mentioned in the 8 things meme I'm six foot tall so getting clothes that are a good fit is a massive pain (and Long Tall Sally are ridiculously over-priced). I tend to shop in Dorothy Perkin's Tall section and that's about it.

I also have size eight feet so buying shoes is always a chore. It's rare to find something in my size (oh why do shop assistants always have to say "I'm afraid we don't go up that big" in such a snotty tone?) and if I do find something in my size it has a ridiculously high heel (hellooooo...I'm tall enough already ta. If I was any taller men would start resting their heads on my boobs during rush hour on the tube).

Anyway (sorry, bit of a rant there) I have to write a shopping scene next and I really don't want to. If they were shopping for CDs or DVDs or books I'd be laughing...but they're not. The main character is chosing clothes for a male character. Oh joy! Several months back I blogged about picking out clothes for someone in a band. That was quite easy because we had a brief (military) but my character has to choose 'trendy' clothes for the male character.

Can anyone enlighten me - what's trendy for men at the moment? And I don't mean chav trendy - I mean 'oooh he looks sexy in his X,Y,Z'..

If you had a very uncool brother/son/boyfriend in his mid twenties and you wanted to give him a clothes makeover what would you pick out? Any ideas?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

8 Things Meme

Nichola tagged me!

Here are the rules as posted by Turning Pages:

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So here are my eight random facts...

1) I am six foot (which makes me feel like Giant Woman when I go out with my five foot and a bit friends)

2) You know the really ear-splittingly-loud whistles you hear at gigs? I can do that (thumb and middle finger style) - though am frequently asked not to by people standing close by.

3) I have freakishly long toes and can draw (rudamentary) pictures by holding a pen in between my toes (potentially useful if I ever become hand-less. Not sure I could touchtype with my toes though so let's hope that never happens)

4) I have a bit of a phobia about pips in fruit (especially oranges) and gag horribly when I get one in my mouth (which, I'm sure, is utterly charming for anyone in the immediate vacinity). On the same subject I also have an aversion to the ends of bananas and have to break them off before eating the rest of the banana.

5) I've seen, and had my hair touched by, a ghost. I have never, ever been more terrified in my life.

6) When I gave up smoking eighteen months ago I took up knitting so I'd have something to do with my hands when I was watching TV and ended up knitting a doll complete with jacket, hat, nappy and booties as a present for a pregnant friend! Haven't done much knitting since but am still off the fags (although I'm now addicted to nicotine gum unfortunately)

7) When I was a child I coveted the large, brown birthmark on my uncle's hand. He was/is a potter and an artist and I believed that, if I could somehow grow a birthmark on my own hand, I'd become as talented as him.

8) I'm left handed which apparently means I see the world differently from right handed people.

So I sound like an Amazonian, whistling, hobbit-toed, pipaphobic, knitting, brain-damaged, ghost fearing, birthmark-wanting freak. Was this meme deliberately designed to expose people's inherent strangeness or is it just me?

I tag Sally, Jen, Chris H, Liz F and ummm... (do eight people actually read this blog?)...anyone else that hasn't done it already!

Monday, 21 May 2007

Novel Progress - Update (and a Meme)

So, 875 words written tonight pushing me closer to 52,000 words (which is where I dropped novel #1). If I were a superstitious sort I'd be getting nervous round about now! But I'm not -apart from not walking under ladders (but that's just common sense) and avoiding black cats (don't know if one crossing my path is good luck or bad - and am allergic to them anyway).

And because I can't think of anything more interesting to blog about I'm going to fill out a writing meme that I saw on fessing author's site a while ago. And watch out - I'm tagging 5 of you at the end.

1. Do you outline?

Sort of. When I started planning this book I took a piece of paper, divided it into sixteen squares and called them my chapters (why sixteen I don't know but it worked out at something like 5,600 words each, for a 90,000 word book and that sounded okay to me) and then scribbled in some notes about what happened in each chapter. It was only when I was about 10,000 words into the novel that I realised I'd actually pencilled a lot of scenes rather than complete chapters! Now outlining is a bit of an ad-hoc affair. If I start to get a bit blocked/stuck I outline what the next eight scenes will be and, when they're written, I outline another eight and so on.

2. Do you write straight through a book, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?

I'm writing straight through the book. I know some people write the scenes they think they'll most enjoy writing first but I'd rather plough on and use the fun scenes as an incentive to slog on through the less enjoyable ones. I can't think of anything worse than having to write a whole load of linking scenes at the end.

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?

I have a notebook that I scribble ideas for novels and short stories into. Sometimes I even write stories whole stories into it when I get a bit carried away but novel writing is a strictly computer-based affair.

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third?

First. I like to totally step inside my characters and see the world through their eyes. It's also easier to get the voice right. I've written a few short stories in the third person but I do feel more comfortable using first.

5. Do you listen to music while you write?

Sometimes - but it needs to match the mood of what I'm writing and it shouldn't be anything I know all the lyrics of or I'll just end up singing along. Sometimes I like the TV on in the background. I do need background noise and distraction although occasionally I'll turn off the TV or music so I can concentrate on a particularly tricky scene and then realise, hours later, that the flat is totally silent.

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?

I'm not sure. The first names come pretty easier but I do have to google for surnames or else I end up using the surnames of people I know/have known!

7. When you're writing, do you ever imagine your book as a television show or movie?

Oh all the time! I can totally see my current novel as a film (can't every writer?!)

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn't want him/her to do?

Nope, but a few have shown up in scenes they weren't invited to!

9. Do you know how a book is going to end when you start it?

Yep. With this novel all I knew was the beginning and the end - the middle, however, was entirely vague.

10. Where do you write?

Pretty much anywhere that has a plug socket for my laptop. Sometimes at my desk but, more often than not, on my sofa.

11. What do you do when you get writer's block?

Panic! I've only really suffered from writer's block when writing short stories and then it's more of a lack of ideas and a lapse in confidence that anything else. With the novel I haven't had writer's block per se but I have found myself slowing down and getting a bit angsty but that was because I didn't know what was coming next. I got around it by outlining the next eight scenes (see answer 1).

12. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of word count, or as a percentage of the book as a whole)?

I try not to write less than 500 words a day (750 words a day at the moment to meet my July 15 target) and am happy if I write 1,000 a day. On a couple of occasions I've written over 2,000 but that's quite rare.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?

Ummm...I never finished my last project. I did re-draft my first 3,000 words of this novel though (for a comp) and probably did about 4 drafts in all.

14. Have you ever changed a character's name midway through a draft?

No but I have confused character's names (I've called Lucy 'Claire' several times) and I did give two characters the same name by mistake (one of the Keith's swiftly became Nigel)!

15. Do you let anyone read your book while you're working on it, or do you wait until you've completed a draft before letting someone else see it?

Ohhh no, no, no, no. No way! I showed the first 3,000 words to a critiquer in preparation for the comp and that was hellish. No one else is going to see the novel until I've finished at least the second draft.

16. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft?

Well, I haven't finished a draft yet but when I do I'm going to buy an enormous bottle of champagne and drink it all! Oh...and I'm going to buy myself a present!

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?

I did mean to solely focus on this novel but I've managed to write a few short stories too, along the way. I did have a quick look at novel #1 and decided I would finish it at some point but I can't write two novels simultaneously so it'll have to wait until I've finished this one.

18. Do your books grow or shrink in revision?

When I revised the first 3,000 words of this novel they grew. Good job I'm aiming for 90,000 words because I've got a horrible feeling that it may end up nudging 100,000 words when I've finished revising it! Then again there might be some horrible scenes that I end up deleting. I don't know yet!

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners?

Not for novels no. That's something I'm going to have to think about when I finish. Any volunteers? Though lovely A.Writer and Sally Quilford did look at my synopsis before I sent it off to the comp.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising?

No idea yet. I didn't enjoy revising the first 3,000 much but I think that was down to the pressure of getting it perfect for the comp.

Okay - now I have to tag 5 other people to do this meme... I choose... A. Writer (go on, you know you want to), Sally Quilford, ChrisH, Jen and Liz Fenwick.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Novel Progress - Update

WriteLink entry polished and submitted and 754 words of the novel written today. There might be more to come later, I'm not sure. Anyway, current word count is 50,526 (or 56.1% done).

Now that I'm approaching the home straight I've realised I have to spend some time working on the conclusions to the sub plots and how they interlink. My main character has a fixed number of days until the end of the book and I need to sort out what happens on which day. That sounds fairly straightforward in theory but it's important to get the balance right between the main plot and the subplots so the reader doesn't get bored of the subplots and skim reads to get back to the main plot. Also, because the main character is involved in the subplots as well as the main plot there's a bit of a causal relationship going on. And then there's the fact my main character has a job so she can't very well go skipping off to help character B in the middle of the working day (or can she?). Like I said, I've got some thinking to do.

The YWriter software really does help with this (I know I sound like I'm on commission here, the amount I plug it, but it's free so that would make my commission...well, you get the idea). Anyway, with the software each chapter is separate from the others. You can add scenes to your chapters - label them with a title and also add extra information into the notes box. And you can see all your scene and chapter outlines at a glance without having to scroll through a great long Word document.

The great thing is you can drag the scenes around, re-order them or even drag them into different chapters if necessary. What I'm doing at the moment is adding new scenes to my chapter and labelling them with the day and am or pm. Then I plan to write them, in order. If I discover I've made a mistake with the order (like scene Y would really sit better behind scene W than scene X) it's simple enough to drag the entire scene to a different place and re-label them so the days are in the correct order again.

I think I've made it sound a lot more complicated than it is but it's working for me - so far!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

I am SUCH an idiot!

Tonight I did something I hadn't done in the five years that I've lived in my flat...

I locked myself out!

I realised the second the front door slammed shut behind me. I searched through my pockets and my bag for the keys, desperately hoping I was wrong. Nope! The keys were somewhere in my flat.

I tried kicking my way into the flat (it always looks so easy in The Bill) but to no avail. I even considered trying to use my credit card to try and slip the lock but quickly realised, knowing my luck, it would only snap. There was no way back in.

Thank GOD I had my mobile in my bag. I rang the cavalry (i.e. the person who had my spare set of keys who so, so, so kindly offered to drive to my flat with them) and then texted the friend I was going to have a drink with to tell her I'd be late. She said that was okay.

I huddled up on the step outside my flat as a gale blew up my street and waited and waited and waited... (and shivered)

After fifteen minutes my friend rang back... would I get to the pub soon because she could only hang around for another hour (I was already an hour late)? As it takes half an hour from my house to the pub and my cavalry still hadn't turned up we decided to postpone and have lunch tomorrow instead. Ten minutes later the cavalry arrived and I'm now safely back in my flat (yes, the keys were in here) but no night out for me.

I need a drink. Dare I risk the off licence or am I only going to lock myself out again? Aaagh!

p.s. I blame my recent writing frenzy for my absentmindedness. Better to blame that than my own stupidity!

Novel Progress - Update (and a short story written)

Last night I wrote 1,191 words of the novel. Not quite the 1,500 I was planning on writing to cover a potential lack of words this weekend (due to the WriteLink Weekender short story competition) but more than I thought I'd manage. I'm now within spitting distance of 50,000 words written. My new target is to write more than 52,000 words (which is where I dropped the last novel) and the next is to hit 60,000 words (2/3 of novel written).

In other news I've finished my WriteLink Weekender story! The theme was posted at 9am this morning and I checked it out at 10am. I spent several hours umming and ahhing about what to write (a tip for short story competitions: never go with your first few ideas - the chances are everyone else will think of them too and the judges will receive a glut of similar stories) and finally came up with an idea. All I had to do then was write it within the word limit - no easy task - but... I've finished! Now I'm going to let the story rest overnight and look at it again with fresh eyes tomorrow morning. My timing couldn't be better as I'm going out tonight!

Now I've got the WriteLink story out of the way I should be able to write some more of the novel tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Novel Progress - Update

Really didn't feel like writing tonight but, after setting a 'finish first draft' target of 15 July the other day, the yWriter software I'm using informed me that, in order to reach that target, I need to write at least 750 words a day. Yesterday I wrote over 880 words and today I wrote 750, bang on the nose.

I'm going to find it a bit of a challenge to write 750 words on Saturday and Sunday as I'm taking part in the Writelink Weekender competition (see the end of one of my previous posts) so have to write a complete, polished short story to submit by 9pm Sunday. What I need to do is try and write 1,500 words tomorrow night so I can give myself Saturday or Sunday 'off''!

What kind of story wins a literary short story competition?

Now's your chance to find out...

Cadenza is a fantastic literary magazine. Last year I sent off for a complimentary sample issue and was wowed by the quality of the stories they published. This year I decided to enter their short story competition and, while I don't think either of my entries stand a cat in hell's chance of placing, I was curious about the kind of stories that win their literary short story competition.

After a quick browse of their site I stumbled across the 'Subscribe' page. I'd love to subscribe to Cadenza but I'm a bit too skint at the moment (pay day still horribly far away) so I looked to see if they were offering any alternatives. They were! You can buy a paper copy of the latest issue for £3.95 (but you need to send a cheque) or a pdf version for £3.00 via PayPal. Because I'm an impatient sort, I decided to plump for that option.

What a fantastic buy!

It's 81 pages crammed full of stories and poems. Not only that there are two judge's reports on the competitions that Cadenza ran last year as well. They also published all the prizewinners (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and a selection of the Highly Commended entries from both comps. It's a short story entrant's gold mine!

I've read two of the stories so far (and now feel even more despondent about my own two entries!) but - what quality stories. I really do believe that reading quality short fiction helps improve your own efforts and, by working out what it is that hooks the judge, you can examine what does and doesn't work in your own fiction.

If you want a copy go here, click on the 'subscribe' button and then scroll down the page until you get to 'Download sample copy. Latest version with full content. Only £3.00!' and then click the PayPal button beneath it. Happy reading/researching!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

The Bridport Prize - Get Your Stories in NOW!

If you're thinking about entering the most prestigious short story competition in the UK you might want to get your entry in asap. I recently read that Bridport receives in excess of 4,000 entries and 1,500 of those arrive in the last week (the closing date is 30 June). As the readers only have until 1 August to get the longlisted stories to the judge that doesn't give them very much time to carefully read those final 1,500 stories. This is one occasion, in my opinion, when it's definitely a good idea to get your entry in sooner rather than later.

Here's the URL:

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Novel Progress - Researching a Novel (London, trainspotting and multiplayer games)

I hate doing research - for anything - and deliberately decided to write a novel that would require little or no research. Unfortunately I've reached a part of the novel where I do need to do some research if I'm to write the next scene accurately and have sent out an SOS novel to a friend.

What's the scene?

A LAN party. Ever heard the term? It's where 'gamers' (computer game addicts) network their computers together so they can play a multiplayer game. I once had a go on Doom (many moons ago) but that was on someone else's PC and have no idea about the kind of elves and orcs fantasy world games that seem so popular. But I know a girl who does (!) so have sent her an email and a list of questions I'd like her to answer.

There are other areas of my novel that need research too. My novel is set in London and I've only vaguely decided where my characters live and, so far, I've guessed at the surroundings and the bus routes that connect them. At some point (when I've finished the first draft and I'm editing and adding more detail etc) I need to visit all of those places, work out if they're suitable places for my characters to live and make a few bus journeys and see how long they take! I'll also have to check out a few pubs nearby to see if my characters would drink there (oh that'll be tough!)

AND... I need to find out more about trainspotters. I've googled until my fingers bleed but can't seem to find out very much at all about what it is that gets a trainspotters heart beating faster. Anyone know which of London's many train stations is the favourite with trainspotters? Anyone know where in that station a trainspotter would hang out to get the best views of the trains?

So far I've just made it up but at some point I'm going to have to check all my facts!

What have you had to research? Or do you just make it up as you go along and leave it at that?

Edited to add: Rather than wait for my friend to come back with the answers to my questions I did a bit of googling and ploughed on through the scene giving the minimum amount of specifics (they can be added later when I get the answers to my questions). Wrote 1,123 words that wouldn't have been written if I'd chosen to watch TV instead. 47,012 words or 52% of novel done.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Write as Though You've Got a Gun to Your Head!

Having trouble finding the enthusiasm to finish your novel? Some fantastic tips from author Maggie Gee:

Flash Hit at WordRiot!

I received an email from WordRiot last night telling me they'd accepted my flash "What Shall We Do With the Bodies?" for publication. They're going to publish it in their next online edition - which comes out tomorrow! (I subbed the story in February but they lost one of their Fiction Editors hence the delay in getting back to me).

Am very pleased as WordRiot was on my 'I want to get published by these magazines/ezines' list. If you're interested the other places I want to 'hit' include: Mslexia, Flashquake, QWF, Vestal Review,, Woman's Weekly and Eclectica. Bit of mixed bag there!

Anyway, you should be able to read my story on WordRiot tomorrow, here's the link:

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Family Guy - Stevie mocks Brian's Novel (Part II)

OOoh lovely, more Family Guy...

Here's a link to part I if you missed it

Novel Progress - HALF WAY!

1,481 words written tonight which means 50% of the novel has now been written. Hooray!

I started this blog so I could keep a record of my writing struggles and achievements and that now includes this novel so, mostly for me, here are my stats so far:

Started writing notes about the new novel: (roughly) 23 February 2007
Started writing novel: 15 March 2007
Number of words written between 15/03/07 and 13/05/07: 45,019
Average number of words written per day: 763

If I continue to write at this rate (and I write a 90,000 word novel) I should finish on: 15 July 2007 (and then the second draft begins).

That means I will have written a 90,000 word novel in 4 months. I thought I'd write it in 3 months (1,000 words a day give or take) but I haven't been quite that speedy. Still, four months doesn't sound too bad to me, though God knows how long the 2nd, 3rd, 4th (?) drafts will take to complete!

To be honest I've got no idea if I can keep up this pace. In A.Writer's blog I recently wrote that writing can be like an addiction and I do feel like writing this novel (as well as writing short stories and flashes and continually subbing stories to publications and comps) has taken over my life. When I'm not writing I'm thinking about writing or feeling guilty about not writing. For some reason I've developed a sense of urgency about this novel - I need to get it finished asap. That's partly because I'm used to writing short stories and I like to see results quickly and also because I'm scared that if I start to slack off this novel will go the same way as Novel #1 and I'll end up abandoning it. I want, need, to write a novel from beginning to end.

It's also because, over the last few years, I realised that life is short. We (by which I mean me) put off our dreams and ambitions because 'there's always tomorrow' but sometimes we don't get a tomorrow, sometimes our dreams are cut short. That, if I'm totally honest, is what keeps me writing (nearly) every day.

That said, I know my limits and I'm all written out for today - time for a glass of wine (or two!) and some mindless TV. I hope you've all had a lovely weekend.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Writers shouldn't write ALL the time!

So, I wrote 1,055 words of the novel this morning (only 1,400'ish left to write until I'm halfway) and then came to a natural halt. I considered my options for the rest of the afternoon:

1) stay in and continue to work on the novel

2) stay in and write a short story

3) stay in and do some housework

4) stay in and watch TV

5) go out and do something else

Option number 3) was swiftly discarded (isn't it always?) and I seriously contemplated doing 2) and 4) simultaneously (it has been known) but finally decided on option 5) go out and do something else.

Next I had to decide what to do. It had to be:

1) Cheap (preferably free)

2) Nearby (am currently staying in London)

There's a lot wrong with London but one thing you can't fault is the amount of things you can do for free. I was spoilt for choice! I wanted to do something visually stimulating and educational and it should be somewhere that might stimulate new ideas for short stories. I finally decided on the British Museum. I spent a fantastic two hours wandering round (only slightly spoilt by the sogginess of my jeans - on my way there a bus drove straight through a puddle and totally soaked me!) and saw some really thought provoking installations.

In fact two hours wasn't nearly enough and I ended up taking a load of photos of some of the more interesting descriptions of the exhibits so I could read them again at home. I'll definitely be going back again. No immediate ideas for short stories but I believe that so many of your experiences in life soak into your brain and appear in your fiction, in one way or another, at some time.

Some more photos of the British Museum below, all taken by me.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Friday night's alright... for a bit of writing

I can't really call it novel progress today as I only managed a teeny 367 words but that was after writing a 1,000 word short story.

So, 2,517 words left to write until I'm halfway through the novel. I will write that much this weekend.

About the story...

I was reading something online and suddenly an image of young boy standing on the roof of a tower block popped into my mind. What was he doing up there? Where was he from? Was anyone looking for him?

In the end I decided to tell the story from the boy's sister's point of view and I wrote the entire story in one sitting (I almost wrote 'without stopping' but that wouldn't be true, I did pause a couple of times to think) . It's a pretty light-hearted story but that's a nice change after writing a more weighty story earlier this week.

That's my favourite kind of the story - the kind that comes to you almost fully formed in your head - and it's the type I'm best at. The story I wrote that came Runner Up in the Woman's Own short story comp last year came out in exactly the same way. On the other hand, when I have to work at a story and force it out, it's rarely a natural, flowing read.

I'll be interested to see, when I come to edit the novel, whether the same can be said for that. Will the 2,000 odd words I wrote in one sitting the other night read better than the 367 words I laboured over tonight? We'll see!

Oh! One more thing. Click on the link below for details of another short story competition. The competition is run next weekend (19/20 May) by Writelink and you basically have just 48 hours to write a story to a set theme and word count (which isn't revealed until Saturday morning).

Last year my story made the shortlist and, after it had been critted by some fellow writers, I gave it a bit of a polish and sent it off to My Weekly - and they accepted it for publication! Go on - why not join me in a bit of a frenzied short story writing session next weekend but hurry up and register asap because they only accept 100 writers max.

It's a £4.50 entry fee and a £50 first prize which isn't huge but you'll produce a new short story and, if you don't win, you can sub it somewhere else.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Novel Progress - Words, words, words

So far today I've:
  • Re-written the first two texts I sent to thelondonpaper text competition (having totally got the wrong end of the stick the first time) and texted them off
  • Written another text story for thelondonpaper text competition and texted it off
  • Edited two short stories (both of them quite old) and sent one off to a literary print mag and the other to a comp

Five subs in one day may not sound like a lot but it is if you have to edit everything first!

And now I have to do some work on the novel. Right now I'd rather sleep!

Edited to add: 1,600 words of the novel written tonight as well. Am creeping ever nearer to the 50% written mark. Just two more writing sessions and I'm there I think. Then there's just the small matter of writing this much all over again. Aaagggh!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

So - no words tonight (though I did write 400'ish words of the novel last night and a short story so not feeling too guilty) but I did finally get round to seeing "Stranger Than Fiction."

You've probably all heard of it but, if not, it's about a man who slowly realises that the strange voice he keeps hearing is a narrator's voice...and he's the main character in the book.

It's a fascinating film (more so if you're a writer) and I totally recommend you pop out to your local video/dvd shop and rent it.

Here's the Amazon link if you want to find out more:

As one of the reviews said "it's not perfect but it's close." The pace drags occasionally and there are a few moments when you think "hang on, would that character do/believe that?" but on the whole it's really very good. It's a quietly reflective film that makes you think...particularly about your characters.

At one point in the film, not giving anything away, the narrator gets upset when she thinks about how many people she's killed in her novels. I've killed two, but far, far more in my short stories. For example I've made:

  • a child die of leukaemia
  • an old lady die in a train crash
  • a singer die of throat cancer
  • a man commit suicide by hanging himself from his mother's bannister

and that's just off the top of my head.

So today's question is - how many people have you killed and how did you kill them?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Is this short story competition 'Up Your Street'?

Sorry - terrible pun...

Just found a new short story competition run by the Guildford Book Festival (word count 1,500, closing date 31 August) with the theme "Up Your Street".

Take a look at the pdf below for more details.

NB: Note to self - start writing down all these comps in some kind of diary/calendar or you'll forget them!

Monday, 7 May 2007

Novel Progress - Update

I spent a chunk of this afternoon writing very rough outlines of the chapters I need to write between now and the end of the book. I'm not 100% sure if they're in the right order and they may still need a bit of a shuffle around but it's helped me clarify the direction I'm going in. After originally worrying that my story wasn't full enough to fill 90,000 words I'm now thinking that my story is too complex to fill that amount of words and I might have to cut a character (one that hasn't been introduced yet so it wouldn't be a problem) so I don't create too convoluted a storyline.

Although I don't know the order that the chapters and scenes should go in I'm not worried as the novel seems to be progressing quite organically so far and, once I'm actually writing, I instinctively know which scene comes next.

Tonight I wrote over 2,600 words and a scene that I originally thought would just move the action forward and be fairly straightforward actually became quite traumatic for my MC when a character I hadn't originally planned to be in the scene showed up and caused havoc. It worked really well though, far better than my original plan and also helps tie in a scene that comes later so I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself right now (will try and hang onto that feeling, they don't happen often!).

So, over 40,000 words written now. Only 5,000 more and I'm halfway.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Words and films

Just a quick one because I'm off to bed...

1,230 words of the novel written today. Had to battle to get them written as I'm nearly at the end of my eight scenes (the ones I scribbled an outline for the last time I felt blocked) and I wasn't sure what was going to happen next. Still mulling that over.

On Friday night I went to see Spiderman 3 at the cinema - was really looking forward to it but...oh dear, it wasn't very good. The first hour or so was quite good and after than 4+ different plot lines got horribly interwined and it dragged. Very disappointing.

Tonight I watched a DVD called Angela-A which is a French film (subtitled) by Luc Besson (the same guy who directed "The Fifth Element". Oh my god it was wonderful. It was the sort of film that really resonates and aches - it just sticks inside you long after you've finished watching it. I sooooooooooo recommend it. Now if I could just write a short story (or indeed a novel) that has the same effect on other people as that film had on me I'd die one very, very happy woman.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Email Errors

One of my email accounts (I have quite a few!) is made up of my first two intials and my surname. Evidently there are a lot of CLTaylors in the world as I frequently receive email not meant for me. This one, which I got this morning, made me laugh:

Hi Babies,

Toi is going home after lunch today. We are on our way to the hospital now so mom can help
get her home. She is doing well and had a good night. expelled more gas and a little more
BM. still having some gas pains, but walking helps. gotta go will talk later, call toi's house.

Love Ya all sooooooooooooo much........

Now obviously I didn't laugh because someone's relative is ill - I laughed at the mental image of some little old lady farting non-stop as she walks along down the hospital ward as her family whoops and cheers in support.

Step *Pfffffffft* Step *Parp* Step *Plbphplbphplbph.*

(yes, I do have an immature sense of humour!)

The email below, received several months ago and from a different sender (and meant for a different CLTaylor) is rather more worrying:






"Satan has been loosed and has attacked even are (sic) family" - Yikes!!!

Friday, 4 May 2007

Unexpected Flash

I wrote about 600 words of the novel tonight and thought that was it, words-wise, for me for tonight.

Apparently not.

I decided to have a go at Maht's flash fiction "Growth" comp and, before I knew it, a vague idea had become a 750 word flash. I had to do some pretty brutal pruning to get it to under 500 words but I did it, and I've subbed it. Time for bed.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Wrtng a txt stry in 100 wds & 450 chtrs iz hrd

Not tons to report here. I did write 1,230 words of the novel last night and am now only 492 words away from 36,000 words or 40% of novel written (which sounds v. nice). Must get down to it tonight.

In other news I also spent last night working on TWO 100 word text stories for thelondonpaper text comp that I mentioned a few postings ago. When I read the conditions in the newspaper I assumed that 450 characters (including spaces) would be plenty for a 100 word story. WRONG. To write 100 words and not go over 450 characters you have to reduce most of your words to some kind of text-speak equivalent. Now I send a LOT of texts but mostly I use full sentences, correct spellings and punctuation. I know some of the text abbreviations: e.g. txt (for text) l8r (for later) btw (for 'by the way') and LOL (for laughs out loud) and u (for you) and nxt (for next) etc etc but, faced with words like 'abandonment' I felt a bit flummoxed. Should it be abndmnt or abandmnt or abdonmnt? You see my dilemma.

When you abbreviate words the sense is clear to you, because you wrote the story, but whether or not the judges get it is anyone's guess. I didn't spend too much time worrying about it tho' and just sent off my attempts.

Oh - one thing I should point out. If you got the website ( and search for 'text competition' you'll find the rules. Unfortuanately they contradict themselves.

At the top of the page they say "no more than 480 characters (including spaces)" and add STORY and your name to your text.

Lower down the page they say "no more than 450 character (including spaces)" and add STORY to your text (no mention of name).

There was no mention of whether the 450/480 characters should include space taken up by STORY or NAME but I assume they didn't. In the end I decided to go with the lower character limit, to be safe and added STORY and my name to the front of the text. Each entry took 4 text pages to write which seemed like a lot so I hope I followed the rules properly.

Ah well - I can only wait and see.

I didn't get round to using the S/Cally Short Story Generator last night but I have the flat to myself tonight so hopefully I'll give it a go (after I've written my novel words).

How's everyone else getting on? What have you been writing recently?

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

I am officially twisted! (hit at Twisted Tongue magazine)

I just found out that my flash "Cold Feet" was Highly Commended in the 5th Twisted Tongue Flash Fiction competition. Yay! First hit of May.

The results aren't up on the site yet but here's the Twisted Tongue's URL for anything who is thinking of subbing to them (NB: although it looks like a horror site it isn't. The stories just have to be twisted. Mine was about a woman with a feet phobia).

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Flash Text Competition!

Normally I don't grab a copy of The London Paper from the free-paper-guy on the way home (I normally pass him and grab London Lite from the guy further down the street), but today I did.

And a good job too or I would have missed this great little comp (only costs a text message +£1).

The comp is run by The London Paper, Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and PulpNet. What you need to do is:
  1. write a 100 word flash/story on the theme of relationships (whether it be work, home or play)
  2. enter your story into a text message on your phone (no more than 450 characters including spaces)
  3. text it to 88855 putting STORY as the first word

The combined cost of text entries, sent in more than one part, will not exceed £1, plus your standard network rates per message.

There will be two winners - one will be selected in an online reader poll.

Each of the winners will get

  • a pair of tickets to the Orange awards on 6 June
  • a set of Orange shortlisted books
  • a brand new phone
  • a year's free Orange broadband worth £200

Runners up will also win prizes.

Full terms and conditions are online at

If you can bear another £1 being added to your mobile phone bill give it a go!

Free to enter Flash competition

Yay! Maht (one of the novel racers) is running another flash competition.

The theme is 'growth', the maximum word count is 500 and you've got until 11 pm CST on May 7th, 2007 to get your entry in (anyone know what time is 11pm CST in GMT?).

When all the entries are in you get to vote for your favourite (only if you wrote one). There are five writer's choice awards (ranging from a $25 voucher to a $5 voucher) and a Jury award of a $25 voucher.

To find out more go here:

Not much to report so here's a report!

No words written yesterday and very little done writing-wise (drinks after work for someone's leaving do threw a spanner in the works). Last night I totted up my year-to-date figures (something I try and do at the end of every month).

I haven't set myself any specific targets for my writing year (apart from "write over 100,000 words this year") but, having read Sally's recent blog entry, I've started thinking that maybe I should. Anyway, here are my stats for the first four months of 2007:

Number of words written: 55,017
Number of stories written: 10
Number of flashes written: 2
Number of poems written: 1
Percentage of novel written: 38.1%
Number of subs: 81*
Number of hits: 9
Number of rejects: 29
Number of publications: 3

* 81 isn't the number of unique stories/flashes/poems I've sent out as I recycle my subs. i.e. if I send out a story to a comp in January and get a rejection in February I'll normally send it out again, straight away, to another comp or publication. That way you continually have subs 'out there'.

My stats don't look too bad for four months (especially the number of words written, the novel stats and subs rate) but I'm not impressed by the number of stories and flashes I've written. The hit rate could be a bit better too.

So, time to set myself some targets for the rest of 2007:

1) Finish novel
2) Write 40 stories
3) Write 20 flashes
4) Write 200,000 words
5) Get 40 hits
6) Achieve 20 publications (online or print)
7) Start new novel?

The targets look a bit high and scary at the moment but sometimes you need to stretch yourself. At the end of the year I'll report on how well I did!