Category Archives: amwriting

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Stuck on your WIP? Skip to the end . . .

Stuck on your WIP? Things getting a little like wading through treacle? My advice? Skip to the end! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing after a long spell of procrastination and self-doubt.

Last time I gave you any kind of update, I was still in the honeymoon period of writing my second novel. 25,000 words in. The beginning of the relationship, when everything is exciting and new. Almost a year later, and I’m closing in on 90,000 words, and as we all know, with so much water under the bridge, you have to work a bit harder to keep the magic alive.

Loose-fitting pants . . .

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m a Plantser – I like to have a rough idea of where I’m going but don’t like to spend days and weeks planning every minute detail. These loose-fitting pants have served me well for the current novel (working title: Safe Hands) but, as usual, a couple of unexpected plot events took me by surprise and before I knew it, I’d created several loose ends and was tying myself up in knots. Although I had a vague idea of where I wanted to end up, with every new chapter, I felt I was drifting off course. My output slowed and eventually dried up completely. Anyone familiar with my posts will know that stopping to think for too long kills my momentum and gives rise to the dreaded Self-Doubt. So many times I forget to take my own advice – see Write or Die post from 2014.

Speaking of ‘Skip To The End’ – get to the point!

So, just at the moment I was ready to quit, I remembered my own advice and that of writing friends – WRITE THE ENDING FIRST. As my novel takes place over a week, building toward a heist that my protagonist and his cohorts have been planning, I decided to move directly to the day of the big job and just . . . WRITE. It was slow at first, but as I continued to raise the stakes, the words began to flow freely and without censure (a direct quote from writing friend Maria Smith) and I finally stopped worrying and clung to the fact that I’m writing a first draft. It’s meant to be terrible. The next stage will be editing and I can’t get to that stage unless I actually have something to edit.

The End is Nigh (honestly)

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because I had similar issues with my first novel (still consigned to First Draft Hell). But this is different. It’s a weird feeling. I know I’m tantalisingly close to finishing the first draft, but for once I feel calm and positive about the novel I know this ugly first draft will become. What about you? Do you have to wrestle with self-doubt on a daily basis – ‘of course we do,’ you reply, ‘we’re WRITERS!’ So how do you deal with it? What are your tips for pushing on through to the bitter end? How do you tackle all those plot complications you’ve created along the way? Or maybe you are a planner and merely scoff at all this talk of losing the plot? Let me know in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter.

Finishing my First Draft – The End of The Beginning

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”          – Winston Churchill, 1942.

Let’s skip forward a few decades. Wednesday May 29th, 2015. The day I finally typed ‘The End’ on the manuscript of the first draft of my first novel.

Picture the scene: On typing the final letter of that final word, I printed out the last page, placing it carefully on top of the perfect stack of paper beside me. The early morning light shone through my window, illuminating the hallowed manuscript. I looked at the items on the desk – a cigarette, a single match with which to light it and a bottle of the finest champagne . . . wait a minute, I’m confusing my life with Paul Sheldon from ‘Misery’.

Here’s what really went down . . .

You may remember from an earlier post, I have been wading through the quagmire that was the climax of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie. Months and then years slipped by as I fought to satisfactorily tie up all the loose ends I had created for myself, without losing faith in the entire story. Let’s just skip to the after-dinner coffee and say I failed to do that. I had a stark choice – ditch the whole thing mid sentence and put the 80,000 plus words on ice, plough on indefinitely or fudge a solution that’s somewhere between the two.

I always did have a sweet tooth . . . The Fudge

So . . . after taking counsel from a couple of writing buddies, I did ‘end’ the novel. Satisfactorily? No. The story has more holes than a mole-infested lawn. However, I did give a brief summary of what needs to happen and to whom so that the story reaches the original denouement I had in mind. It was nothing more than a few paragraphs, written synopsis-style, but it means my story is more or less complete. More importantly it means I can put that all important first novel behind me and move on to Book Two (more on that in a future post).

In a recent interview we did for Joined Up Writing Podcast, I asked author Daniel Ribot for his best advice to aspiring novelists. His words of wisdom were simple: Come up with 3 ideas for a book . . . . and write the worst one! His reasoning was based on bitter experience. The first novel you actually complete has a good chance of being terrible – or mediocre at best. I now realise that the best way to learn is to fail.

So what went wrong?

In essence, my outlining process was thinner than Victoria Beckham. I had a basic and incomplete chapter plan married to a dysfunctional seven-point plot outline, which gave birth to a wayward, unmanageable novel-child. I’ll quit this metaphor while I’m ahead.

Anyway. Despite that, I still love the premise of my story, along with the protagonist and villain(s) of the piece. There are loads of scenes and even whole chapters that I’m still really proud of and I’ve been writing long enough to know that nothing is wasted.

The End of The Beginning

So, my beginning has come to an end and it’s time to move on to the next phase of my novel writing journey – Book Two. I hope you will join me and follow the inevitable ups and downs, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the blog.

What have been your experiences with that difficult First Draft? What have you learned? I hope this post has given faith to those of you who have struggled and I wish you the best with your novels – be it the first, the second, the third . . . oh you get the idea.

Write Up To Date #3 – He shoots . . . He misses!

My trademarked ‘I’m Sad’ face

Let’s get straight in to it. Here were my aims for last week, along with the mixed bag of outcomes:-

1. Write minimum of 1500 words on novel – 300 words written.

2. Write minimum of 1500 words on crime story – 1100 words written.

3. Record, edit and release this week’s Joined Up Writing Podcast Extended episode on Character now available.

4. Complete Phoenix Writer’s Challenge before Saturday – COMPLETED.

5. Sub one piece of work to a competition or for publication – NO SUBMISSIONS.

Pretty bad week. No excuses, but a mixture of work and life obstacles sprang up to slow me down. The main factor for the failure to get near my word target for the novel, was the work itself. Try as I might I can’t escape the fact that I’m so far away from where the story needs to be, ploughing on regardless is only causing me more difficulty. The story is broken and can only be fixed with a MASSIVE rewrite. With this in mind, I will be bringing the novel to a close THIS WEEK – simply by writing a few closing paragraphs that bring the story to an end. I gave it a try, but I need to type ‘THE END’ and put away the manuscript – both literally and metaphorically – so that I can clear the decks for Novel Number Two and my other writing projects.

I didn’t quite reach the target for my crime short story either, but that was only because I wasted time on the novel. I’m really enjoying writing this and I’m getting good feedback from my critique group. I’m currently planning a heist (fictional, of course) so it may be a little slower going this week as I will need some thinking time.

BUT we recorded another two episodes of Joined Up Writing and I released the scheduled episode.

A flash of inspiration meant that I completed the writing challenge for Phoenix Writers. It had to be based around eating and discovering something unpleasant in your food. Here was my take:

Sing a song of sixpence, a mouthful of blood / Four and twenty blackbirds wedged in good. / And when his mouth was opened, the King began to scream / Oh what a witch, that evil bitch, the nasty, wicked Queen.

So . . . Let’s shake off the disappointment and plot some targets for this week:-

1. Summarise end of Novel Number One and type THE END.

2. Write 1500 on the crime story.

3. I WILL sub at least one piece this week.

4. Edit and release this week’s Joined Up Writing episode.

5. Complete Phoenix Writer’s challenge.

Ok . . . I’ve stated my Writing intentions – what are yours? What are your thoughts on my proposed solution for dealing with Novel Number One? Let me know below and have a great week.

 

 

No one said it would be easy . . .

(Hitchcock Calendar - pic by Wayne Kelly) This year has been a scream - can you believe it's nearly over?
(Hitchcock Calendar – pic by Wayne Kelly)
This year has been a scream – can you believe it’s nearly over?

This will be a short post as I still intend to do a “Review of the Year/Looking Forward” type piece to kick off January, but yes, I feel I have neglected the Kelly’s Eye blog of late – my last real post being way back in July. July?! I blinked and now I’m staring down the barrel of 2014. Scary stuff.

I haven’t been resting on my rump though. My day job has been pretty full-on for the past few months, I’ve been trying to keep on track with my writing submission goals, working on a new project with Phoenix Writers and blogging over on the Phoenix Subs blog. Oh, and, you know, living my actual life. So, as a consequence, like a long suffering canine friend, my personal blog has been waiting patiently to be once more taken for a walk.

Whilst I have continued to submit my writing for competitions, I haven’t spent a lot of time working on new content. I did have a month of chairing the Phoenix Writers meetings, which was interesting and rewarding, but did mean that I focused less on producing new material to take for critique and more on ensuring the work of others was aired and commented on.

Having said that, I have written a new short story for an upcoming anthology our group is working on, and have edited and submitted another that I was working on a few months ago. I have also had some excellent advice and motivation from a fellow writer to help me get my unfinished novel back on track. My first draft is stuck around the 70,000 word mark and is so near to completion that I can almost see the words ‘The End’ shimmering in the distance. It is my number one priority to at least get the ball rolling again during the Christmas break.

I know I’m not alone in struggling to knuckle down to any focused writing at this time of the year. Everything is so manic, at work, at home and everywhere else that when I do get the odd half an hour to sit at the keyboard, my mind is zipping off in several directions at once or cloaked in the fog of exhaustion. For the past few weeks I was battling with this, beating myself up about not being as creative and productive as I would like, but then I realised I was fretting about a lot of things that are out of my hands.

I was getting stressed about ‘not doing enough’ when really I should have been pleased with the things I was achieving. I have managed to consistently submit work since joining the Phoenix Subs Group, I’ve written a new story and I’m regularly attending critique sessions. These are all positives and I just need to ensure that I make the most of the rest and relaxation I will have over the Christmas break.

So, what about you? Have you found the lack of daylight and the stresses of modern life have been affecting your creative endeavours or do you thrive on the extra pressure? If it’s the former, take my advice and go easy on yourself, stay positive and enjoy the holidays.

Merry Christmas and take a minute to comment below. I would love to hear how you are all doing.

Don of The Dead episode 4 – Don’s School Reunion

Don of The Dead - my ongoing comedy series about an inept zombie.
Don of The Dead – my ongoing comedy series about an inept zombie.

Don of The Dead – Series Overview

Don is recently deceased but didn’t quite make it to the other side, so seems doomed to join the rotting ranks of the undead rubbing shoulders with the living who have now begrudgingly accepted that some people just refuse to die.

Each short episode finds Don dealing with the everyday difficulties of being a walking corpse.

Previous Episodes can be found here or by selecting the Don of The Dead category.

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Don’s School Reunion

I stepped in to the school hall, the smell of cleaning fluid and adolescent sweat assaulting my senses, and found myself face to face with Jeremy Jones. He looked toned, tanned and totally at ease until he accidentally stood on my foot, recoiling, as he heard the squelch and saw the brown goo ooze from my old brogue shoe.

“Oh. Like. Sorry. It’s Dan, isn’t it?” he said.

“Don. Hi, Jeremy.”

“Yah, yah. For sure. Remember now. You never turned up for the last term and no one knew why.”

I gestured to my missing cheek and loose eye-ball. “I was attacked by a zombie.”

“So, like, you’re one of those Undead dudes? Always wondered what that’s like. Good pay? What’s the benefits package?”

I stared at him for a moment, judging his stupidity. Assessment: ‘very stupid’.

“It’s not really a job, Jeremy. More of a terrible curse.”

“Bit like a job in Finance then, yah?” He laughed and held up a hand, waiting for a ‘high-five’ that would never arrive.

He glanced over my shoulder. “Anyway, Dan. Just seen Felicity Hardwicke. Must dash. Dead good to see you again. No offence.”

He left me alone to be respectfully ignored, just like every school disco I had ever attended.

Some things never change.

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I would love to hear your feedback on the character, stories or anything else you want to talk about so please leave your comments below. If you want to stay up to date with Don’s escapades, simply follow the blog by email or check out #donofthedead on Twitter.

Writing – taking stock and moving forward.

Marble Head Sculpture in Cartagena, Spain - Wayne Kelly
Marble Head Sculpture in Cartagena, Spain – Wayne Kelly

It’s been a few weeks since my last post – I had a manic time at work, followed by a fantastic two week holiday. Now I’m back, refreshed, recharged and ready to write.

Actually, I was ready to write after only a few days away, and I began a brand new short story whilst holidaying in Spain. The story seemed to appear, fully formed from nowhere, but was no doubt inspired by the sand, sun and sea all around me. It’s called ‘Beach Hut Monsters’ and is quite a departure from the stuff I have written of late, being firmly in the action/horror/suspense genre. I have almost reached the end of the first draft and it’s coming in at around 5,000 words. I’m hoping to get the word count down with subsequent edits.

It has been great to work on something new and to recharge my creative batteries. I was feeling fatigued and jaded before my holiday, but time out has allowed me to take stock and set some new writing goals. It was only with hindsight that I realised I currently have a number of stories that are near completion, but need to be finished ready for submission. These are:

Life of an Artist – During a book signing a successful children’s writer is confronted by a mysterious man from her past, transporting her back to a cold, dark and rainy night on a railway bridge when she was ready to take her own life. The story needs quite a bit of editing before being ready for submission.

The Autumn Anecdote – Two aging musicians reunite for one last night of glory at the local pub. Will they be ready for their final performance? Will their patience and aching bodies hold out? This story just needs a few more edits and a tweak to one of the main scenes, but will then be ready to go.

When Your Number’s Up – Doris can’t believe her luck when she wins the strange automated bingo calling robot, ‘Willy Balls’. However, she soon discovers that Willy isn’t quite the model house guest that she expected. This is very nearly ready to go – just a couple of edits and it will be ready for submission. If possible, I’m looking for a bingo themed short story competition.

Beach Hut Monsters – My current WIP. 3 adults and 2 children find themselves trapped in a beach hut on a secluded coastline, surrounded by terrifying creatures that have emerged from the sea. But are the real monsters inside or outside of the hut? I am nearing the end of the first draft, so there will be a couple more drafts before I’m ready to do anything with this one.

As well as the above, I also have a number of flash fiction pieces (many of which can be found on my blog) some of which I would like to enter in online competitions.

My aim is to finish all of the above, and submit at least one of them. Then, and only then, will I return to finish the first draft of my novel, ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’.

Time away from ‘real life’ can enable you to step back and put things in to perspective. It was only with this perspective that I could see that I was frantically moving from one project to the next without properly finishing anything. So my new goals are based around working on one piece, finishing it, and then moving on to the next. I’ll keep you posted with my progress.

How about you? Do you find it difficult to set goals and stick to them? What works best for you? I would love to hear your thoughts below, so please comment, subscribe to the blog or follow me on Twitter.

Flash Fiction – Tears of a Clown

This challenge was to write a 100 word piece containing the dialogue, “What are you lot doing here?’

Here’s what I came up with (100 words):

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Tears of a Clown

Ken was dead.

When he opened his eyes, he found he was beside a huge circus tent. Stale candyfloss and calliope chorus floated past on the breeze as several familiar figures approached.

“What are you lot doing here?” asked Ken.

“Welcome, Coco!” said Mr Giggles, painted tears contrasting his cheerful outlook.

Ken groaned and looked down at his own garish red and yellow costume.

“No! Please!”

“Yes, you guessed it,” said Flower, “It’s Clown Heaven!”

“Is this a joke?”

“Coco!” said Jangles, “There’s nothing funny about Clown Heaven!”

Ken sighed and put on his clown nose. “Yeah. You’re telling me.”

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I try to post these on a weekly basis and I love to hear your feedback so please comment below, follow the blog or join the conversation on Twitter. Why not try your own pieces based on the same prompt and post your links below?