Tag 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….

Outcasts–mid season view

Given the massive response to my earlier post, here’s a bit of an update as we continue to watch our way through the series.

Four episodes in (we’re catching up), I’m definitely growing in fondness for Outcasts. It’s pretty sophisticated writing, with layer upon layer of plotline piling dark edges on top of each other to create a really satisfying universe with characters you don’t quite know how to place and baddies you aren’t entirely sure are baddies – with the exception of the supremely creepy Eric Mabius as Julius Berger.

I’m hoping they continue to leave points of conflict open – from the romantic plotline between Fleur/Jack/Cass to the darker political one with Julius/Tate to the psychological ones with Tipper/Tate and beyond… but that’s only if they are given time to complete the story arcs as (apparently) intended. My concern, with only four episodes to go, is that there isn’t anything like enough time to round out all these stories properly. I’m hoping they avoid Deus Ex Machina where they can – my screenplay writing training with Robert McKee a few years ago drilled a strong distaste for that into me.

Quick plot check four episodes in (spoilers herein, avoid if you’re not at this point):

  • The past plotline – jawbone et al
  • The Fleur/Jack/Cass romantic plotline
  • The Isen girls plotline
  • The Tipper Malone plotline
  • The future of the ACs plotline
  • The Julius Berger / sexual assault plotline
  • The Julius Berger / Tate political plotline
  • The Tate/kids plotline
  • The kid from the pilot’s plotline (will he return?)
  • The role of the XPs plotline
  • The planet plotline (white-outs et al)
  • The Earth plotline (what’s happened etc)

That’s a lot to resolve in 4 hours of television – have I missed any? I’ll be impressed if they get through it all.

As to the future of the show, who can say? There’s certainly been an outpouring of support in the comments here but 2,800 odd fans on Facebook will not a renewal make, not for this man from the sound of things. Although what’s interesting for me from the ratings (increasingly worse, hence the rescheduling) and the comments (most people watching on iPlayer, and its in the ‘most popular’ TV on iPlayer section) is how little traditional ratings might mean for this show. It’s sci-fi, which means a passionate core audience. And it’s the BBC, so iPlayer might be the way to swing it.

Fingers crossed.

Epic fantasy month slows

My problem with writers that love “language” is that you end up clawing your way through pages of stodgy, turgid text in which virtually nothing happens. It’s one of the reasons that I’m generally dubious about literary fiction – a big vocabulary and ability to structure long sentences doesn’t make you a good storyteller. Case in point is the latest novel in Stephen Donaldson’s Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, which breaks several rules of good storytelling:

  1. It has so many characters and special terms (places, food, etc) it requires a glossary.
  2. It frequently uses words that really, if you wanted to understand what he was trying to say, you’d have to use a dictionary (and this isn’t me being dim…) – examples include “irenic,” “orogeny” and “frangible,” and those are just the unusual words, not the ludicrously verbose dialogue that can just about be interpreted if you stop reading for a second and think about it…
  3. Pointless use of old English in narrative flow – would it hurt to say “truth” instead of “sooth” and “virtue” instead of “virtu”?
  4. It has a higher word to event ratio than Jane Austen. The opening scene of the latest novel lasts 150 pages – in which all that happens is that they decide to go somewhere, pretty much.

So why am I still reading? I guess 15 years of being immersed in this particular story leaves me wanting to know where it ends up and my OCD is just about strong enough to see me through it. But time is against me – we go on our travels on Monday (more on that soon!) and chunky hardbacks are not coming with us!

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…

More planning needed

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from reading this blog, but I’m a decent writer. I’m capable of structuring arguments, thoughts, speeches, presentations and so on fairly well — I’m not claiming to be Martin Amis, but, y’know, not one of the manatees writing Family Guy (which, for the record, I am a fan of, but do criticise for being excruciatingly lazy with its writing from time to time. Blue Harvest, anyone?).

Anyway: once again, rather than taking that as a random diversion let’s call it an exemplar of what happens when you don’t plan a piece of writing. And that’s the temptation with blogs, just to hit “write new post” and spout random rubbish that’s occured to you that day. Well, no more! Or, at least, a little less. I plan to… plan more.

I should perhaps rename this blog the blog of unresolved resolutions. But I’m not sure that scans well.