Notebooks

I love notebooks. I may have already mentioned this. I wasn’t entirely telling the whole story though.

Moleskine bookmark

It’s true, I do love a nice Moleskine notebook. And I *do* have a stash of them, and there *is* one in my bag.

Truth is though, my beloved notebooks are all too often left unblemished by pen or ink. I suspect I’m not alone in this – a fresh, pristine notebook is all too immaculate to actually spoil by writing in it. Moleskines feel like they should contain Great Thoughts of Great Importance, not random scribbles like ‘2 pints of milk, some cheese and a loaf of bread’. They should contain beautiful handwriting, delicate sketches of Venetian architecture…

Oh, of course they shouldn’t. They’re a notebook, just like any other. So why is it that I find it so hard to actually *use* one?

A friend, many years ago, got Wreck This Journal, “an illustrated book featuring a subversive collection of suggestions, asking readers to muster up their best mistake – and mess-making abilities to fill the pages of the book (and destroy them).”

I need to do that, to exorcise my notebook demons. So I’m going to take one of my unused Moleskines and whilst not *wreck* it per se, certainly *use* it. I’ll make notes, try my hand at sketching and maybe write a bit of my own as-yet-unwritten novel.

How about you, dear reader? Do you use notebooks? Do you suffer from the same problem when it comes to starting a new one?

Things I learned from #NaNoWriMo

Things I have learned from doing #NaNoWriMo last year.

1. 50,000 words is a lot
Really a Lot. With a capital L. On day 1, it’s a huge snow-covered mountain of Lot, and you’re standing at the foot of the Trail of Lot wearing shorts, a t-shirt and entirely inappropriate shoes. You’re giddy with excitement and the promise of a story to be told. Along the way you’ll get cold and wet and experience the highs and lows, but when you reach the summit, the view is incredible.
Oh, alright. You probably won’t get cold or wet (unless you’re typing in the rain, which is pretty foolish) but trust me on the views.

2. When you get to 10,000 words, 40k still seems like a lot
It is, obviously. But you’re well on the way. Characters are turning up and doing Stuff, Plot is starting to happen. Giddy early days.

3. 25,000 words is a weird place
You’ve achieved a massive amount. Characters are now doing Stuff to each other in new and interesting ways, Plot is everywhere, Subtext might get a look in if it’s lucky, and Sub-plots bounce around like excited puppies. You’re halfway. Well done, writer!

4. When you get to 40,000 words, 10k seems like hardly anything
Weird, huh? True though. Perspective is a wonderful thing. That moment when you realise you’ve got four thousand words to go and you think ‘ah, I can do that tonight’ – brilliant.

5. Taking a day off writing isn’t the end of the world
So long as you remember to share the missing wordcount over the time remaining and don’t sweat trying to catch up. Unless you’re on day 29, in which case get your butt in the chair and WRITE. Don’t take too many days off though. I did miss a couple near the start and spent ages playing catch-up. Then missed two days near the end which left me 10k to do and four days in which to do it.

6. NaNoWriMo stories don’t come out finished
Or fully polished. Or even slightly polished. There might be the essence of a story in there somewhere, but it will need work. The first draft is suppose to suck, or so I’m told.
Boy, does mine suck.

7. Writing lots of characters is hard
I had entirely too many characters in my NaNo last year, to the point where I remembered late in the day that the two characters I introduced on Day One had entirely failed to make a reappearance. I also found another three characters wandering around from Chapter Two, lost and confused. They all came in quite handy when I needed some people for my psychotic homicidal teenage-angst-wridden AI to bump off in entirely creatively gory ways though.

8. Introducing lots of characters at once is also hard
Yeah. Mine turned up in groups of two and three. Finding an interesting way of introducing three menacing mercenary terrorist pirates in one go is bloody tricky. Go on, you try it.

9. Dialogue is my thing
Seriously, get me two characters in a room or on the other end of a phone/radio, and I’m happy as a pig in muck. I like my characters to talk. A lot. To themselves, if no-one else is around.

10. Planning helps…
I set my NaNo on two spaceships, with action bouncing around and between each. I realised late on that I had characters running around between different locations, but had no idea how those locations hung together. Whilst it was quite nice to be able to have them get from Engineering to the Bridge quickly, it probably contradicted tons of earlier stuff.

11. … but is not essential
It’s quite nice to wing it. Characters had a bit more freedom to do Stuff, and I can go back and re-plan my locations based on what I know now. At the end I threw in an entirely new pair of characters and let them experience the results of what had been happening for the previous 45,000 words. It was fun to see it through a fresh pair of eyes. And finished off the last 5k quite nicely, though opened a whole new set of questions. I reckon that the story needs at least another 25k to finish it off.

12. I need a new keyboard
My super-cheap Microsoft value keyboard is fine for puttering around on the internet and firing off status updates to twitter and G+, but for serious keyboard time, it sucks. Note to self: remember to buy new keyboard.

13. Sleep is for wimps
I find that my best writing time is from about 10pm until about 1am. I’ve done my day, I’ve settled down with a nice cup of really hot tea and I can just go at it. My brain has had the day to work out the kinks from the previous writing session and come up with some new things I wanted to try.

14. Music rocks
Finding the right tunes to write to can be a challenge, but is fun. If you’re writing sci-fi, I can recommend the Portal 2 soundtracks, ‘Music to Test By’. Bonus points as they’re FREE.
Whereas writing exciting action scenes to Kate Bush? Doesn’t really work. Although her new album is utterly glorious and beautiful.
Over the month I also compiled a ‘stuff I really like’ playlist on Spotify which I would put on shuffle and just write to.

15. I need to get a good thesaurus
Lots of what my characters ended up doing was going through airlocks, doorways, corridors, hatchways and interacting with computers, consoles, control panels and so on. Finding new and interesting ways of describing the same thing over and over is a challenge. I suspect in the second draft, a lot of that will find itself on the cutting room floor.

So, fellow writer. What have you learned from NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo ideas

I think this year’s NaNoWriMo[1] might have to be a homage to Bond, James Bond. It is his 50th anniversary, after all. And I’m a HUGE Bond fan.

I need a good villain name – I’m thinking female, as very few Bond stories feature a really good female villain, with the exception of Rosa Klebb[2] and possibly Elektra King[3].

I need a good name. And possibly a Dastardly Plot – I’m considering having her attempt to wipe out the world’s coffee supply…

Suggestions onna postcard, to the usual address.

[1] oh god, am I really considering doing it again??
[2] though if memory serves, in the films[4] she was part of SMERSH, and therefore technically part of Blofeld’s gang
[3] not the best of Bond villains, though, was she?
[4] in the book though, she was working solo iirc

NaNoWriMo approaches

It’s that time of the year again when thoughts start to turn to NaNoWriMo.
For those new to NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month (see what they did there?), and takes place in November of each year. The premise is startlingly simple:
You start on November 1st and finish at midnight on November 30th. In those 30 days, you write 50,000 words.

Fifty thousand?” I hear you cry. “Isn’t that like totally a lot?”

Yes. Yes it is. And stop shouting, please..

That’s kind of the whole point. You’ve got thirty days. You need to be averaging 1,666-and-a-bit words per day, so you don’t have time to edit (well, assuming you’ve got other things to do other than write). It’s all about getting that first draft out of your head. Write first, edit later.

(First drafts, by the way, are supposed to suck. That’s the law. You can check if you like.)

Anyway, I did NaNoWriMo last year, and for the first time ever (I’ve tried it several times before), I went over that magic 50,000 word mark.
Not only that, I finished a day early. *polishes winner’s medal*


There were points in the process of writing it where I was literally laughing at how bad it was. The grand plot and character that I’d started on day one sort of fizzled out by day three as I moved over to see some action over *there*. I realised on day… fifteen? sixteen? that the character I’d based the whole story plan around hadn’t been seen for two weeks. I wrote her back in, decided that I didn’t really like her much, and wrote her back out again. These other guys? Doing all the cool stuff over *here*? Far more interesting.
So, it was an experience. It completely drained all of the writing mojo I had though, and I’ve not really written anything much since. I picked up last year’s NaNo recently and started re-reading it. I was surprised that bits of it didn’t actually suck quite as badly as I’d remembered, and bits of it actually sounded like I knew what I was doing. Other bits sounded like someone else had written them.

These were clearly the post-midnight caffeine-fuelled sections. You tend to get a lot of them.

I’ve not decided if I’m doing NaNo again this year. I quite fancy the challenge, but also fancy doing something a bit different.
Watch this space.

Neil Gaiman: ON WRITER’S BLOCK.

Neil Gaiman: ON WRITER’S BLOCK.:

neil-gaiman:

I’ve seem to be hitting writer’s block far too often now. My grade in my creative writing class is suffering because i don’t turn in anything because i’m never really satisfied with anything i do. all my good ideas seem to turn into bad ones once i write it down. How do you get pass writers…

via tumblr http://dakegra.tumblr.com/post/18894600218

Monty: Prank calls

“Who are you phoning?” asked Molly, looking up from her computer monitor. 

“Oh, don’t mind me,” he replied, flicking through the telephone directory he’d been carrying as he walked into her office. “Ah. There we go. Mind if I use your phone?”

Monty picked up the telephone and started pressing buttons, checking against the number on the page. Molly waved her hand for him to continue. They were his phones after all. 

He cradled the handset on his shoulder. “Saw something interesting on the side of a truck this morning. Thought I’d give them a call… Hello?”

Molly sighed. Dear God, she thought. Was it really that time of the month already? She continued typing up her resume.

Monty stuck his tongue out at her, then returned his attention to the call. “Hello. Yes. Diamond Relocations? I saw one of your trucks this morning and have a little job for you. The address? Zenn Industries HQ, Thomasson Plaza. Yes, the centre of town. Are you free today?”

Molly rolled her eyes, clicked on save, then got up and went over to the coffee machine. She waved a mug at Monty.

“Excellent. What? How many boxes? Just the one.” He grinned, twirling his yellow pencil around in his fingers, nodding at Molly’s offer. “Very small. About three inches square. The Mortens-Haag Diamond. He keeps it in a safe on the thirty-seventh floor. Do you provide security or should …”

He held the handset away from his ear, a look of glee on his face. “Got further with that lot! I wonder…” He resumed flicking through the pages of the directory.

“Don’t you get bored of doing that?” Molly asked.

“Never, my dear girl. Never. Aha! Here we go…”

She poured him a large mug of something dangerously caffeinated, and leaned over his shoulder to see what he’d circled with his pencil.

“You’re not…”

His grin was the only answer she needed. She sat down, plugged in her headphones and cranked the volume up. Monty ignored her and dialled.

“Hello? Yes. Twenty-Four Hour Recovery? Saw one of your trucks this morning, and have *just* the job for you. I need last Tuesday back, it’s a bit of a blur…” 

Monty: cars

An old snippet of writing that I stumbled across in a long-forgotten folder on my PC. Made me smile. Must write some more Monty soon.

~~~

The wind whistled over the damp cobbles, adding to the icy chill in the air. Molly picked her way between the frost-rimmed puddles which reflected the dingy sodium light of the street lamps. She shivered and pulled her long black coat tighter around herself. What was a nice girl like her doing out on a night like this, she mused to herself, checking her watch. Wrong side of midnight too. Closer to dawn really. A girl really needed her beauty sleep rather than being out in the cold.

Her cellphone buzzed in her coat pocket, breaking her reverie. She pulled out a bluetooth earbud, popped it in place and answered the call she’d been expecting.

“Ah, boss. I’ve got a little problem.” She turned at the street corner, scanning left and right. “It’s about the car.”

“It got towed.”

She pulled the earbud out as Monty unleashed a tirade of invective, gave her employer a moment to finish then replaced the tiny transmitter. “I know, I know. Looking for a replacement now.” She’d spotted a car a hundred yards down the street, parked in a dark spot between two lamp posts. She hurried towards it. Not ideal, and she could imagine what Monty would think of it, but needs must.

“Wait, got one. What’s your ETA?” A staccato burst of gunfire from above answered her question. She killed the connection and delved into her handbag, fishing out the lockpick set that Monty had made for her. He’d been giving her lessons on how to deal with the basics. She hoped that she remembered what he’d taught her. The freezing night air didn’t help and she had to stop to blow on her hands to warm them up as she fumbled with the slim metal tools. That one went in *there* and this one like *that*. She twiddled them experimentally.

The cellphone buzzed again. Monty announced that he’d need a car by the front entrance in, oh, about twenty seconds or so, preferably moving, preferably very fast. Ideally something in the bulletproof line, but he realised that beggars couldn’t be choosers but could she please hurry up, thankyouverymuch. Molly hung up and returned her attention to the lock. Another fumble and she’d dropped the tension pick. In the manner of all things dropped near parked cars, it helpfully bounced underneath the vehicle, just out of reach.

Molly swore loudly, kicked the car and examined her options. Monty needed a car, now. She’d lost her means of getting into this car. Any car, for that matter. Another burst of gunfire focussed her mind and a solution popped up.

The brick made a satisfying crunch as it went through the passenger window, spraying the interior with tiny shards of glass. Brilliant. One car. Hotwiring, she was good at, taught at a very early age by her elder brother, Charlie. Three seconds later and the car was laying down streaks of rubber. It hurtled towards the junction and she threw it into a handbrake turn, tyres protesting loudly. She grinned. This was fun.

Monty exited the building via the large glass front doors. She was not surprised to notice that he hadn’t bothered to open them first. Stylish. He was being pursued by two security guards bearing semi-automatics, firing wildly at their quarry. He bounded down the steps five at a time and dived through the newly removed passenger window. Molly, at his request, floored it.

It took him a second or two to recover his composure and dust himself off before he took in his method of escape.

“What on…”

Molly cut him off. “I know, I know. I was kind of stuck for choice.”

“It’s a…”

She gave him one of her trademark Looks. “Would you rather walk?”

He returned the Look. “Quite frankly, yes. I mean, there are cars and there are cars, and then there’s… this?”

She screeched the custom-built, neon-paint jobbed, darkened windowed, rear-spoilered boy racer to a halt. Two large fluffy dice bumped on the windshield.

“Out you get then.”

A bullet took out the rear window, destroying the elaborate flaming skull decoration. He sighed and waved her on. Molly smiled sweetly and put her foot down again.

“You’re actually sulking, aren’t you?” she said, glancing over at him, sat there with his arms folded and the beginnings of a pout on his lips.

“I don’t like these cars. Remember what happened to the last one? It was rubbish. It very nearly blew us up.”

Molly thought for a second. “No, the rocket-propelled grenade nearly blew us up. It was hardly the car’s fault. And it was either this or one of those tiny French cars. This one at least looked like it might get us out of here in a hurry.” She looked in the rear-view mirror. “Hold on…”

The car slid around the corner sideways, engine screaming in protest. Unfortunately for her, the guards seemed to have a very nice, very fast looking black SUV which took the corner almost as well as she did.

She looked down at the speedometer as it crept up past sixty, seventy, seventy five. There was no way they’d get away from these goons, not in this, not now they’d reached the main road. “Running out of ideas, boss.”

Monty delved into his backpack for a moment, and came out with a small package. “Lucky for us I didn’t need this to get into the safe. Those old Dortmunder & Fforde 900 models are too much fun to crack…”

He flicked a switch, grinned then leaned out of the window before lobbing the explosive charge in a carefully timed arc.

The resulting explosion was small, but enough. Especially as he’d thrown it at the lorry they’d been passing. A lorry containing a load of scaffolding poles, which rather helpfully strew themselves in the path of the SUV.

Monty leaned back in his seat. “Brilliant. Despite your appalling taste in cars, a job well done.” He delved into his backpack again. “Want to see it?”

Molly nodded, and whistled softly as he unwrapped the black velvet from his newly acquired prize. “That’s possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.”

Monty grinned. “Isn’t it just? Zenn is going to be *so* mad. I wish I could see his face when he finds out it’s gone” He scratched his ear, thoughtfully. “Do you have…”

“In my bag.”

He retrieved the small laptop and powered it up. “Where..?”

“Third one down. It’s the one which says ‘monitor'”

Monty clicked the icon and a window opened onscreen. It was dark. “Come on, Zenn. You must be there by now. Don’t you want to even check… ahhh. There we go.”

A man’s face appeared in the window, a slim face framed by silver hair and a neat goatee beard. It looked annoyed. Very annoyed. Monty grinned and waved as his nemesis picked up the tiny remote camera he’d left in the safe.

“Gotcha…”

The sign read: “Empty buckets are to be left with Sundry Officer. Failure to comply will result in swift retribution. Doors closed at 10 PM.”

Cliff sighed and looked sadly at his half-full bucket. The contents squirmed in a way that seemed to sigh back at him…

This wasn’t why he’d joined up. He wanted to travel through space, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, going boldly where no man had gone before.

He looked in the bucket again. It glooped at him mournfully, depositing a slimy tendril of mucus on his freshly laundered red shirt. His watch read 21:56.

He considered his options. He could, he supposed, attempt to hand in a not-quite empty bucket. He didn’t like the sound of the ‘retribution’ though. He could tip the bucket out in the nearest garbage disposal, but as a vegetarian and animal lover, it would go against his beliefs. He squinted at the contents of the bucket. He was pretty sure that it was alive. It was certainly moving.

He looked at his watch again, then opened his backpack and tipped the gelatinous mass inside, before opening the door to the Office.

He’d always wanted a pet.

some interesting things I’ve found

First off, the Star Wars ABC, which is oddly beautiful:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tweedlebopper/sets/72157600166417445/detail/

Then a fantastic post by a fellow pen addict:
http://www.randsinrepose.com/archives/2007/10/16/the_gel_dilemma.html

which is so me, it’s scary. Must go and buy some more pens. My favourite line was this:

if you’re going to have an argument about pens with anyone, chances are there’s a Moleskine nearby.

Brilliant