Category Archives: A-Z Challenge 2013

Z is for Zero – the word count no one wants to see!

Filling the page is not always easy . . .
Filling the page is not always easy . . .

When writing, keeping a tally of your daily word count can be a great tool to keep up the momentum.

My first experience of this was last November, during NaNoWriMo where the aim is to write 50,000 words in a month. To achieve this you need to write, on average, 1667 words EVERY SINGLE DAY. The great thing about NaNoWrimo is that they have an easy to use online system which allows you to input your total every day. It’s really inspiring to see the various totals change – words written, words to go, percentage of completion, daily average etc – and as I described in the post that I wrote on completion of that challenge, I missed having that incentive and I am yet to find a method that works as well.

What are your Word Count Tools?

I did ask other writers if they could recommend any blog plugins or phone apps that have similar word count tools, but aside from creating a spreadsheet (I HATE SPREADSHEETS) there doesn’t seem to be anything else available. As I am about to undertake another challenge (15k in May) I thought I would use this post to ask again – do you have any suggestions as to online tools I can use to record word count, and get other useful data from?  I would love to hear your suggestions.

Write SOMETHING!

Of course, recording your word count seems trivial in comparison to actually achieving a word count! For me, the main consideration is to at least write SOMETHING every day. Overall targets and daily averages are good, because they allow you to break it down in to more manageable daily chunks – ever mindful that if a day is missed, it will only increase the amount you need to do the next day, or the next.

If you want to keep your writing momentum going, any daily word count is positive – just make sure you avoid that big fat zero, and eventually you will reach those 2 words you are longing to write . . . The End.

The End?

And on that note, I want to bring to a conclusion my A-Z Blog Challenge for this year and thank all of you who have got involved, written your own posts, commented, followed, liked and shared. If you missed any of my posts, or just want to see how the whole thing panned out, you can find an amended list of my A-Z content here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post, and your comments on the challenge as a whole. Did you find it useful? Will you continue to blog regularly now? See you all next year?

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Y is for YOU, dear reader!

Having run out of images I decided to post a pic of my daughter instead!
Having run out of images I decided to post a pic of my daughter instead!

Yes, this penultimate A-Z post is dedicated to YOU, the people that actually make the effort to read and comment and share all of this content that I have been producing.

One of the main reasons I wanted to undertake the A-Z challenge was to breathe some life back in to my often neglected old blog. I created the site way back in 2009 but my commitment to writing for it has been sporadic, at best and by producing 26 posts over the space of a few weeks I now no longer have the excuse that I have nothing to write about. I’ve demonstrated to myself that, given the structure and agreed timescales, I can take a subject and (hopefully) craft a piece that is both relevant and interesting to others.

Whilst I don’t plan to be quite so prolific with my posts (don’t worry – I won’t be bothering you with a deluge of daily posts for a while), I do want to impose more structure and regularity to my content.

I have already begun weekly posts featuring flash fiction and other results of my weekly writing group. In addition, I have started to pen a regular flash fiction series with a comedy/horror theme called Don of The Dead, and I would also like to create some more writing-specific posts, as and when I get the time. And for the next month I will be posting short updates on the #15kinmay challenge I am undertaking with two fellow writers – more info on May 1st.

So, in closing, I want to thank any and all of you who landed here, read my posts, shared and got involved in the conversation. My favourite part of the challenge has been meeting such a range of fascinating and inspiring people. There are far too many of you to mention here, but here are just a handful of the regular visitors who helped to make this challenge so fun and rewarding:

First Draft Cafe

Lynne Lives

Rinelle Grey

DJ Kirkby

Dee Coded

Catherine Noble

Rebecca Bradley

And many, many more – take a look at my twitter feed to find them all.

Thanks a million. What have your best bits of the challenge been? What have you enjoyed most? Can you remember any of my other posts – are there any particular ones that stood out? Please comment below.

This has been part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2013 – only one more post to go tomorrow – Z is for Zero, the word count no one wants to see!

X is for X-Ray Music (song with lyrics)

Xray Music was inspired by documentary, 'How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin'
Xray Music was inspired by documentary, ‘How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin’

This song was inspired by a BBC documentary I watched a few years ago called ‘How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin‘. It told the story of how, despite being banned from the former Soviet Union, the Fab Four’s music still managed to find it’s way on to the turntables of the oppressed masses – causing a minor musical revolution in the process.

So desperate were the Soviet youth to hear pop music – in particular Rock and Roll and The Beatles – that they took huge risks to obtain recordings and continued to find more innovative ways to smuggle in the music. The method that most captured my imagination was using old X-ray film to make home-made vinyl. The flexible records were then sold by dealers who hid the X-rays, or ‘ribs’ as they became known, inside their coat sleeves. The penalties for being caught buying or selling the forbidden tunes were considerable – including public humiliation and in many cases prison.

It was a fascinating story and I’m considering using some of the history as the backdrop for a future novel or story. You can listen to The Wry Dogs recording of the song by clicking here.


X-Ray Music

Scratching records on Uncle Brezhnev’s ribs,

I’ve got to get my fix, got to get my disc.

Policemen try to stop me, they insist.

They say ‘what is this?’ they say ‘what is this?’

I want to scream ‘It’s Rock n Roll!’


X-Ray music saved my life, takes me far away and keeps me sane,

There is no shame,

X-Ray music loud and clear, X-Ray music helps me see my soul,

Yeah that’s my goal.


Lenin in my books but Lennon on my mind,

I’ve got to hide the truth

But search and ye will find.

Got to keep it locked up down inside,

But we can sense the change,

The turning of the tide

We make our own guitars and play!


CHORUS


They may think they own our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams

Our secret schemes

But come with me, cause there’s another way.

You and me and a turntable and a bag of music

We can go so far away, let’s go today


CHORUS


I think the Russian story is just one example of how music can be such a powerful force of change and inspire even the most oppressed individuals. How important is music to you? Do you believe it has the power to light the very darkest places and make a real difference to lives?

This was my 24th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – Y is for You’ll have to wait and see!

W is for WIP – Work In Progress

Will I ever reach the editing stage??
Will I ever reach the editing stage??

Yes, today’s short post seemed the perfect opportunity to tell you all about my work in progress.

In reality, of course, I’m actually working on several things at once – regular writing challenges from my weekly Writer’s group, a few short stories, songs when I get the urge and blogging just to fill out the time! But what I really class as my WIP is my unfinished first draft of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie.

I started it for NaNoWriMo last year, managed to hit 55,000 words in the month and it currently stands at around 62,000. By the beginning of this year, I first slowed, then stopped, then took on the A-Z Challenge as an elaborate way to procrastinate for another month (ok, I readily accepted the challenge when suggested by Maria at First Draft Cafe).

Which means I only have a matter of days before I promised myself that I would jump back on the horse and get galloping on my word count again. I have even entered in to a pact with a couple of writing buddies to try to keep up the productivity. We haven’t decided on a title for our own little challenge yet, but I’m going with May The Words Be With You (#maythewordsbewithu?)

I’m describing the novel as part satire on big business and corruption, part paranormal comedy caper, but that will no doubt be refined by the time I’m finished! You can find a quick synopsis and short excerpt on my Nano profile here.

So what is your current WIP? Novel, short story, poem or prose, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

This was my 23rd post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – X for X-ray Music (song with lyrics)

U is for Uncommon Courtesy

No Rude People Allowed Photo by Wayne kelly
No Rude People Allowed
Photo by Wayne Kelly

Common courtesy. What is it? Well, for one thing, it certainly isn’t as common as it used to be (I now realise that statement makes me sound about a hundred years old, and you may now be picturing me smoking a pipe, squinting into the middle distance and chuntering about ‘the good old days’).

In reality, I’m a mere 36 but I don’t think that precludes me from bemoaning the moral decline of manners and decency towards others. I was brought up to be polite and show consideration to others – a fairly standard part of being a human being – or so I thought. I was obviously mistaken.

Just a few examples of my gripes:

1) Smiling and saying hello to someone, only to be ignored, rebuffed with a sullen grunt or to receive a menacing stare.

Two words: Miserable. Sods.

2) Holding a door open for the person behind you, for them to sail past without acknowledgement or gratitude.

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot I’m invisible. I must remember to wrap myself in bandages next time I want to be seen.

3) Following an individual in to a building only to have the door closed in your face.

Remove your head from the dark place in which it currently resides and notice the similar-looking organisms that surround you – they’re called people, you self-absorbed imbecile.

4) Using your phone to listen to music in a public place – particularly on the bus – without the use of headphones.

Firstly, the kind of person likely to do this usually has awful taste in music. Secondly, music played through a tiny phone speaker sounds terrible anyway. Thirdly, headphones were invented a LONG time ago. Use them, you inconsiderate troglodyte.

And, at the risk of once more donning my ‘Old Man Withers’ pipe and slippers, it only seems to be getting worse. What next – someone using my shirt sleeve to wipe their nose? It’s coming . . . mark my words.

What are your pet hates when it comes to lack of etiquette and civility? Or perhaps you regularly indulge in some of the behaviour I have outlined and think I’m being a little over-zealous? Let me know your thoughts below.

This was my 21st post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – V for Vinyl. Why I love to put The Needle on The Black (with song and lyrics)

T is for Thief. There’s no such thing as an original idea.

We're all guilty of being influenced by the ideas of others.
We’re all guilty of being influenced by the ideas of others.

“It’s not where you take things from . . . it’s where you take them to.”

The above is a quote from ground-breaking French  film maker, Jean-Luc Godard.

Godard wasn’t afraid to take influences from his favourite works – be that in film, literature or music – and put them in to his own work. He was supremely confident that his unique creative voice would ensure that what he produced would be just as powerful as the original – sometimes more so – because he had taken it in a new direction or put a different spin on things.

As creatives we can spend too much of our time fretting over whether our work is too derivative of something else. Once you accept that there really are only so many stories you can tell, you can focus all of your creative energies on ensuring you bring your own personality and viewpoint to an idea.

Is it original?

You only have to look at a genre like Horror to see that despite a relatively small number of set situations and creatures (werewolves, zombies, vampires etc, etc) there are millions of different stories out there and new sub-genres are being created all the time.

Often, it’s more about using a genre to tell the story or explore the themes you are interested in – as Sci-Fi was used in 1950’s America to reflect the growing threat of The Cold War.

Get personal

Steven Spielberg famously wanted to tell a story about how the divorce of his parents affected him as a child. This resulted in what he describes as his most personal film – E.T – the Extra Terrestrial! There have been scores of films about aliens visiting from another planet – and yet Spielberg’s film seems fresh and original because he has focused on telling the story from his very personal standpoint.

As writers we should do the same. Go out there, absorb all these fantastic influences of film, music, literature and culture and create something new.

Become a thief and your work will be all the better for it.

Do you worry about being derivative? What influences your work and what stories are you interested in telling?

This was my 20th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – U is for Uncommon Courtesy, a rant.

S is for Satisfied and why you shouldn’t be.

The superb actress, Miriam Margolyes
The superb actress, Miriam Margolyes

In a recent interview with the BBC, eccentric and brilliant actress, Miriam Morgolyes was asked a very simple question:

“Are you satisfied?”

Miriam has had a very successful career, gaining critical and public acclaim, including winning several prestigious awards. She has a wealth of experience in radio, TV, stage and film as well as completing a world tour with her one-woman show celebrating the female characters of Charles Dickens. She is now in her 70’s and shows no sign of slowing down.

Despite all of this, Miriam was genuinely surprised by the seemingly simple question. Her reply?

“Of course I’m not! I’m deeply unsatisfied and that’s how it should be!”

And of course, she’s right. Being satisfied would imply it’s time to sit back and relax. To stop looking for the next challenge, or the next way to improve yourself or your life. There is a pattern amongst highly successful individuals:

They are never satisfied.

This phrase is often used in a negative context, but why? No matter your age or goals, you should never allow yourself to be satisfied. Oh, you’ve achieved everything you set out to do in life and your 25? Great – now pick some more goals and move on. Maybe you’re 65 and you’ve finally worked out how to use a computer and the internet. Brilliant – now learn how to set up your own blog.

There’s always something new to get your teeth in to – no matter how big or small. Never stop learning, never stop improving. Never be bored, but most of all . . . never be satisfied.

What do you think? Are you hoping to retire, sit back in your comfy chair and say, “I’m satisfied?”

This was my 19th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – T is for Thief. There’s no such thing as a new idea.