Category Archives: Writing

Novel writing and word counts

wordcountOver the course of my sabbatical, despite initial enthusiasm and mind-map fun, I lost steam for the longstanding dream of writing a novel. The process seemed too complex and beyond the time and word count capabilities of a working dad with too many other hobbies.

However, as my obsessive blogging over the last couple of months has demonstrated, I’m capable of churning out a few words on the commute, on blog-friendly topics, AND research them, link to them, tweet about them etc. Out of curiosity as to exactly how prolific I had been, I installed a word count plugin, which revealed that, of the 210,000 words or so I’ve produced in the last 8 or so years of blogging, an astonishing 38,000 were produced in the last four months – 22,000 of which in the month and a half after I returned from sabbatical.

Which was a bit higher than I expected.

I might think about opening a new Evernote with story ideas and see if I can build up a head of steam blogging simple short stories… and if those go nowhere, finally write off [sic] the idea… I might even wheel out the writer’s block….

Nursery rhymes for our time

Sensei Paul and Rach came to visit this weekend and Paul got me thinking about alternate, modern nursery rhymes. He had a few, but one in particular stuck in my memory:

Oh the great old duke of York
He had 10,000 men
But due to government cutbacks now he has just one man
And due to the strain and the stress
Of doing all the work
The Duke of York’s man

Certainly not all of the nursery rhymes we sing to Emily could make this transition but certainly many of them could. Another one (all of these are paraphrased as my memory isn’t that good):

Twinkle twinkle little star
What a flaming ball of gas
When you get too cool you may explode
But if you’re not you might collapse into a black hole

This one occurred to me today whilst we were singing to Emily:

There were ten in the bed and the little one said
Roll over! Roll over!
We’re in this mess because of poor housing planning
The government’s overspent and now inflations running
So please, remember, to mark a check in your ballot
Single votes they count for me and you


Little Miss Muffett
Sat on her taffeta sofa
Eating her curds and whey
But lactose intolerance
Increased her flatulence
And scared all the small boys away


Mary had a little lamb
Whose fleece was white as snow
This was due to genetic modification
The EU had yet to approve

And everywhere that Mary went
The lamb was sure to go
Due to sophisticated neural implants, RFID and GPS tracking

The scansion on some of these needs work. Any more for any more? The whole thing puts me in mind of Katie Melua’s response to Simon Singh’s complaints about "9 million bicycles" – well worth watching this.

Mindmapping a universe

Inspired by Tony Buzan, with hat doffed to Scot  for the Buzan meeting and with thanks to my lovely wife for providing the Moleskin notebook as a Valentine’s gift, I’ve begun mapping out the universe I plan to start writing stories in when I have a few weeks off in March.

Major branches include technology (power sources, FTL tech, etc), politics, aliens, the fate of the Earth, the state of AI, the longevity of human life and various other social or political issues.

We’ll see if this mechanic gives me what I need to focus my creative energies enough to actually write something cohesive, compelling and fun, but at least its a start! And its pretty fun!

I’ll write more about Mr Buzan and the most important chart in the world soon enough…

I be Mr Heinlein

Whilst I appreciate these quizzes don’t count as content, becoming a science-fiction/fantasy writer of sorts is something of a dream so I thought I’d share this with you.

I am:

Robert A. Heinlein

Beginning with technological action stories and progressing to epics with religious overtones, this take-no-prisoners writer racked up some huge sales numbers.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Which is cool. Stranger in a Strange Land was a deeply weird book when I first read it (I was 12) but it’s a masterful piece of storytelling.

Short stories

I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately. Neil Gaiman and Alistair Reynolds in particular; they’re learning me structure and tone of voice; both things I need a bit more practice with so that I can rein my imagination in and actually write something down.

Neil G seems to be master of two things in particular: atmosphere and singularly dark plotlines.

Reynolds has tight control over story structure, and space-operatic universe in which to play.

Me? I got nothing. This writing lark is hard. But I’m plugging away…

The bearable meaning of song lyrics

When I was fourteen, and the Weezer blue album was new, I remember having a conversation with my Dad. “Daddy,” I said, “when they sing: ‘I write these stupid words/And I love everyone’, do you think they mean they love every one, as in everybody, or every one of these stupid words?”

It was a question of some importance to me. And my Dad said “You know, Armand, I really don’t care.” It wasn’t an insensitive statement — he just didn’t understand why I was curious. I can’t remember if I was upset or not at the time; I suspect not, but rather just wrote it off as a generational thing.

And at various points over the last few years, I’ve lost my curiousity over things like that, and have been worried that I’ve fallen up a generation. But for the last few months, I’ve been curious again. Maybe it’s just that I’m doing more writing at the moment, of song lyrics, the novel etc. But it’s nice to think idly about these things again, as they flit in and out of the pile of things that matter to me. And its a big pile.

Repeating old arguments

You may have noticed I’ve gotten slightly more, erm, esoteric in the topics of my posts lately. (oh no, a blog post about blogging, run run run!!).

That’s for a few reasons.

Reason number 1: I’ve gotten bored (bored bored BORED bored bored) with reading fifteen takes on the same thing. Google buys YouTube, Edelman fakes blogs, company XX launches new web2.0/social media tool, David Blunkett is crazy, David Cameron is tedious, here’s a video of one videoblogger interviewing another videoblogger etc etc. I mean, I still like finding out about those things but the repetition was wearing thin, so I won’t add to it unless I really really want to. And I should probably extend my blogroll…

Reason number 2:
Despite the ridiculous traffic I’ve been getting (apparently around 1,600 unique visitors a month, between 14-16 RSS subscriptions per day, and a total of 700MB worth of traffic a month)… well, there was no real need for me to tell you that. Just showing off. But really, the point is, I’m writing this for me and I’m glad that some of you seem to enjoy it. But I’m not going to try to anticipate what other people expect of division6 and try to write a bit more from the heart.

Reason number 3:
I have been inspired. Askaninja, Scary Duck, Ze Frank… these guys do stuff about nothing every now and then and they do it brilliantly. A show about nothing… where’ve I heard that before?

So I hope you like the ‘new’ division6. I will rebrand a little soon (perhaps following some of your suggestions) and am on the look out for a catchy tagline; something as ground breaking and inspired as “Scary Duck: Not scary. Not a duck.” — would be nice.

Ah, a great afternoon of writing

Sure, there’s been some procastination, online chatting, gaming, TV watching and general timewasting, but the story seems to be coming together! It’s never as quick as I think it’ll be, but looking at my plan, I seem to be about 2,300 words into a story that’s going to be about 12,000 words long, so that’s some progress. The idea is that this will form the structure of the novel, and give me a sense of whether the story has potential, and is worth turning into a full book.

So far, there are mystery men in long coats, football, a pool bar, a curious metal plate, a crazy prophet, a robot in disguise, a bully, two heroes and a tripped out mother. It’s getting exciting! And I haven’t even introduced the baddy yet!

This bit’s really tough, though, as there’s no need for the whiteboard. I’ve done that stage of the writing and now I just have to sit around, by myself, tapping away until I get the story out. Still… a dream’s a dream, and you gotta give it a shot. Watch this space.

A great couple of days

The last few days have been good. I mean, really good. My long-anticipated birthday celebrations went ahead, a significant number of friends made a significant amount of effort for me and I had a great time. Thanks to all who came along and wished me well; it meant a great deal to me and was appreciated.

Today, in the anti-climactic wake that ensues any great self-involved event, I busied myself with life-admin. Not the most interesting way, perhaps, to spend a day off, but I’ve finally cashed that cheque from the IRS, I’ve filed everything that was piling up on my desk, done the requisite loads of laundry, installed a Wiki in my webspace (purpose tbc) and… and this is a separate point, really, but…

I’ve decided on the main plot/motivations for the novel. I’ve even mapped out a scene-by-scene breakdown for a short story version which I’m going to try to write over the next week or so. If that works, once tested on a couple of unsuspecting friends, I’ll be able to work to expand it into a novel proper and see about sharing some elements of it with the world at large. It’s not quite there in my head yet but I now have a proper structure to flesh out and its very exciting. My whiteboard, needless to say, is currently full!

The only downside to the last few days (other than the fact that they’re over) is the fact that my camera went AWOL on Sat night. If you chance across a Sony DSC-T7 camera with lots of pictures of me and my friends on it I’d really appreciate it returned… do get in touch.