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My Debut Novel, ‘Safe Hands’ – The Story So Far

I have mentioned my debut novel from time to time on this blog, but it’s been a while so in preparation for my upcoming weekly updates, I thought it might be an idea to bring you up to speed with what it is and where I am.

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“Cracking a safe doesn’t mean dynamite. No oxecetyline torch. And definitely no fucking stethoscope. It’s laying your hands on cold steel, feeling the tingle in your fingertips, caressing out each part of the combination.” – MICKEY BLAKE, SAFE HANDS.

Told in first person, ‘Safe Hands’ is a crime novel about an ageing safe-cracker, Mickey Blake.  For the sake of his dying wife and a son that hates his guts, Mickey is forced out of retirement to rob a run down casino in Skegness. Between Chinese and Russian gangsters and a crooked undercover cop . . . it’s going to be a tough week.

How it came together . . .

What began as a short story, has wound up being a messy first draft of over a hundred thousand words, with a few too many plot complications, an under-used character or two and some obvious structural issues. The good news is the rewrite is underway and I’m beginning to see the wood for the trees. Using Scrivener has meant that I can easily move around my scenes and chapters and anything I ‘throw away’ can be saved for another project or re-used somewhere else in the book.

I completed the first draft back in the spring of 2017. Since then, I’ve transferred my chapters onto index cards. Yes, it’s a little ‘old school’ and I could do this digitally in Scrivener, but I wanted to employ techniques learned from my experience in scriptwriting and doing it the old fashioned way has necessitated a much deeper analysis of my story. Structural issues became obvious and the inconsistency of my antagonist stood out as something that needed to be resolved. On that last point, I decided to write a character monologue from the perspective of my antagonist. It was a rambling couple of thousand words but left me in no doubt as to who my character was and what he really wants. It also created at least one new plot development that will definitely improve the story.

This week . . .

This week I’ve written a new scene between Mickey and his wife and have re-written a number of later scenes in the book. The plan for the coming week will be to introduce a new sub-plot that arose from the character work I’ve been doing with my antagonist.

I’ll report back on my progress next week, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear how you’re progressing with your own WIP. At what stage of the process are you? Have you discovered new techniques? Perhaps you are struggling and would like some help? In this week’s episode of The Joined Up Writing Podcast, ex-policeman and now writer, Matt Johnson has lots of help and inspiration for new writers.

As always, I’d love to hear from you, so do leave a comment below.

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Write Up to Date #4 – Coming Up For Air

Resurfacing - Photograph courtesy of Anita Gould - Flikr
Resurfacing Photograph courtesy of Anita Gould – Flikr

If anyone has been paying attention, you will notice I am more than a week late with this post. Life and, unfortunately, Death pushed my writing to the sidelines for a while.

Sadly, my Grandad passed away on May 1st. It was sudden, unexpected and in a foreign country, which complicated things even further. He will be sorely missed.

There has been lots to deal with – both emotionally and practically – and I am only now coming up for air. It will be a while before things return to normal, but my desire to write again is resurfacing and I will be pushing myself to reboot and start again this week.

Target Review

A quick review of the targets I set two weeks ago:

1. Summarise end of Novel Number One and type THE END – COMPLETED (more on this in a future post)

2. Write 1500 on the crime story – 300 WORDS

3. I WILL sub at least one piece this week – NO SUBS

4. Edit and release this week’s Joined Up Writing episode – COMPLETED BETA READERS EPISODE

5. Complete Phoenix Writer’s challenge – NOT COMPLETE

Completing the novel – even in a very roughshod, abbreviated manner, was a big milestone that I still haven’t really had a chance to consider.

This week’s targets

I still don’t feel completely back in the game, but let’s try some light creative stretching for my first week back. This week’s targets:

1. Write 1000 words on crime story.

2. New Blog Post.

3. Record new Joined Up Writing Podcast.

Wish me luck and I hope you are all feeling productive and positive. Let me know what you’re up to and make sure you hold me to account!

Happy Writing.

15k in May – Final Update

15k in May . . . It's all over now.
15k in May . . . It’s all over now.

Ok . . . excuse me while I just slap on a fake smile and put some positive spin on this . . .  ahem . . . there we go. That’s better.

So, 15k in May is over and the big question on everyone’s lips (ok, just the select few who are interested) is did I reach my word target? The answer is no, but I did make a lot of progress on my novel, writing around 12,000 words over the month. Better still, I highlighted some major issues with the denouement of the book and now have a much better idea of what I need to do to fix it.

I began brightly enough, throwing down words with reckless abandon, despite the fact that my outline chapter plan ran out several thousand words ago – and therein lies the problem. This novel is very heavily plotted, which is fine, but does mean that I should have really taken the time to properly devise how I was going to satisfyingly bring it all together for the climax of the story. Over the last few days of the challenge I ground to a halt, realising I had written myself further in to a corner and limited my possible outcomes to outlandish coincidences and conceits that will jar with the rest of the work.

All of this means I have to scoot back a few thousand words, to where I believe the problem started, and take some time to adequately weave everything together. I have begun to do this – with 500 words of notes written on the last day of the challenge – but it will be a work in progress over the coming weeks and months.

This is my first attempt at a novel and, like most forms of writing, it is a learning experience and a chance to create something I am proud of. Clutching this positive thought to my chest, like a childhood teddy-bear, I will continue the journey and keep you abreast of my progress. I am over 70,000 words in to the project and not about to give up so easily!

In the spirit of full disclosure, here are my final daily word counts for the challenge:

May 23rd – ZERO

May 24th – ZERO

May 25th – ZERO

May 26th – ZERO

May 27th – ZERO

May 28th – 663

May 29th – ZERO

May 30th – ZERO

May 31st – 500 (notes)

FINAL WORD COUNT FOR CHALLENGE: 12,289

Although I didn’t reach the target, it was a fun exercise and a great excuse to do more work on the book. It also gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from lots of other great writers, as listed in my previous post here. Thanks to everyone who took part in or supported the challenge. See you for 15k in May 2014?

 

Flash Fiction – A Recipe For Love?

This week’s writing challenge was to write 150 words on anything; however verbs and adjectives  ( and nouns where possible) had to have a gastronomic/food connection.

I found this challenge very tricky. I’m not sure I have adhered strictly to the rules, but here is my food-themed tale of nightclub romance. 120 words, excluding title.

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A Recipe For Love?

Drinking at the bar. Smokey room full of dried old fruits and sloppy seconds. Drum sticks roll, beating out a rhythm on skins pulled tight.

Out of the steam she rises, a slice of perfection. With a stirring in the loins, he whisks across the dance floor, cutting through the leftovers, reducing down the competition, until all that’s left is his sweetie.

She turns and freezes, a buyer at the meat market. He’s really cooking now, inexpertly blending cheesy lines with tender flattery. She lets him stew in his own juices for a while, until his passion comes to the boil.

“So, are you hot for me?!”

“Get stuffed,” she replies, grabbing the nearest beefcake and making for the door.

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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 food related flash fiction and post your links below?

15k in May – Writing Challenge. Week 3 Update

2 Weeks gone in the 15k in May writing challenge
3 Weeks down for the 15k in May writing challenge

Only a very quick update of where I am in the 15k in May writing challenge – my attempt to add at least another 15,000 words to my WIP by the end of this month.

I’ve found this week to be very tough going and have had 3 ZERO days and also a measly 75 words on another day! Despite this I am still pretty much on target. With 22 days gone, my wordcount should be at 11,000 – and as of tonight I am at 11,126 so just about hanging on in there. I could complain and say it was mostly due to busy work and social life (some of which is true) but it would be more accurate to admit that I have been struggling with self-doubt as I approach the end-game of my story. My mantra of ‘just keep writing’ has taken me this far, but it has also created gaping plot holes and a number of problems that need to be resolved before I can reach a satisfying conclusion. This has meant that I have had a lot of ‘thinking’ time and not as much ‘writing’ time.

However, as of this evening, I think I may have cracked it (or at least given myself a fighting chance) by writing something that at the very least surprised me – so I hope it does the same for my readers!

Here are my wordcount figures for the past 8 days:

May 16th – 714

May 17th – ZERO

May 18th – ZERO

May 19th – 75 (!)

May 20th – 268

May 21st – 328

May 22nd – 851

TOTAL FOR 8 DAYS – 2236 words.

TOTAL FOR CHALLENGE – 11,126

WIP TOTAL – 73,024

How are you finding your writing at the moment? Perhaps you have given yourself some other challenges to work through – how are they going? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback so please follow the blog, follow me on Twitter or comment below.

15k in May – Update for Week 2

2 Weeks gone in the 15k in May writing challenge
2 Weeks gone in the 15k in May writing challenge

I am currently in the midst of the 15k in May Writing Challenge.

Despite posting another zero day on Day 9 and a miniscule 177 words on Day 11, I am currently ahead of schedule and am happy to be writing most days. Even though my 15k is only words written on my novel, I am still writing blog posts and flash fiction, including my 2 latest posts:

The Other Woman – 150 Word Flash

Don of The Dead Ep3 – Don Goes Shopping

Speaking of Flash Fiction – this week’s top tip is to use writing prompts, photographs or anything else and simply WRITE. ANYTHING. I was rapidly losing momentum with a particular chapter and yet after spending a short break working on some flash fiction I had recharged my creative batteries and had my biggest word count of the week. If you have read my blog before, you will know this is something I am passionate about and you can read more tips on how to ‘beat the block’ here.

Other inspirations this week have come from the always entertaining Chuck Wendig and his excellent book ‘500 Ways To Be A Better Writer’. It’s jam packed full with useful, motivational and occasionally very sweary writing tips. His blog is also good to dip in to for his thoughts on writing, publishing and lots more. Purely coincidentally I am also reading one of his fiction novels, the urban fantasy, ‘Blackbird’ which is proving to be a great little page-turner and keeping my creative fires stoked.

Another tip is to join the challenge or just surround yourself with like minded people who want to help you achieve your goals. There is definitely strength in numbers and our little group has now grown to include:

Maria Smith
Dee Kirkby
Ileandra Young
Ruth Livingstone
Lynne Collins
Rinelle Grey
Alison Wells
Lisa Redmond

Make sure you swing by their blogs to see what they have been up to during the challenge.

So . . . 2 weeks of the 15k in May Challenge down and here are my word count stats for this week:

Day 8 – 444
Day 9 – ZERO
Day 10 – 724
Day 11 – 177
Day 12 – 905
Day 13 – 685
Day 14 – 500 (exactly – weird!)

TOTAL FOR WEEK 2:  3435 words

Total for Challenge: 8890 words

First Draft Total Word Count: 70,808

We may be half way through the challenge but it’s never too late to join in, so follow #15kinmay on Twitter, comment below or follow the blog.

15K in May – my next big challenge.

Join the 15K in May Writing Challenge
Join the 15K in May Writing Challenge

Am I mad?!

Having just completed one challenge (the A-Z Blog Challenge) only yesterday, it’s time to move on to the next! This time it’s the 15K in May challenge (#15kinmay) and I will be updating you on my progress every Wednesday during May.

Starting today, and for the rest of the month, I am aiming to take a big step towards finishing the first draft of my novel, ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’. As the title of the challenge suggests, the aim will be to add at least another 15,000 words to my current word count by the end of May.

With a little help from my friends . . .

Fortunately I have the inspiration and support of the other 2 founding members of 15K in May to help me towards my target. Maria of First Draft Cafe and Lynne from Lynne Lives are also taking part. We are all approaching the challenge in our own way, splitting the target in to a daily or weekly target, or focusing on editing a certain amount of pages.

I am aiming to write at least 500 words every day – which sounds very achievable, but I do have a busy day job, family and all the other stuff that likes to get in the way of finishing something!

YOU can help too!

My current word count is just shy of 62,000 and as well as the support of my fellow 15Kers, I would love your help and motivation throughout the challenge to help me get closer to 80K. I will be updating you on my progress on a weekly basis – as well as regular tweets using #15kinmay, so follow the blog, monitor the hash tag and please give me the gentle push/kick up the backside that I will inevitably need during the tougher days and weeks that lie ahead.

Join in . . .

Of course, there is nothing to stop you joining in and setting your own writing goals for May – even if they are less than 15K – so feel free to let me know what you are up to and tweet the hash tag.

You can find out more about ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’ in my recent WIP post, but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts, tips and inspiration as well as any goals you might be setting for yourself, so please comment below.