National Novel Writing Month Days 20-23

This entry is part 7 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017

DAY TWENTY

Written 21/11/2017 for 20/11/2017

My 10,000-word day got me into a better position than I had thought.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Didn’t you?

Anyway, it turned out I only needed to write 2,700 words to stay on target for finishing at the end of the month, so I aimed for 3,000.

The plan was to start at half seven, but I made that plan with a mouse so it didn’t work out.

(So many people are not going to get that joke)

In the end, I started at ten past eight, but did I let that hold me back from doing my 3,000 words by ten past nine?

What do you think?

Estimated words to complete book: 94,000

Words for par, Day 20: 62,666

Words written: 3,048

Total words: 63,923

Words over Target: 1,257

Average per day: 3,196

Remaining: 30,077

So it’s another good day.

If I can keep up these 3,000/day, uh, days, until Sunday and then on that day of rest knock out another ten thousand words I’ll go into the last few days of this challenge with very little left to do.

So, that’s exciting.

Onwards!

 

DAY TWENTY-ONE

Written 22/11/2017 for 21/11/2017

If there’s one thing I love – other than Eastenders, Eminem and Emma Stone (all e’s, huh, how about that?) – it’s challenges.

These can take a grand scale, such as my four year Man vs Bookshelf challenge, or a much smaller scale, like the one I undertook last night.

I started writing at eight pm on the dot and I thought to myself, I wonder if I can write 4,000 words in an hour.

It was, I admit, a hefty challenge, and I thought it might cost me some quality.

However, I’m not sure it did.

What certainly happened was that I became focused. I didn’t stop to take mid-session stats or to check my phone and I continuously ignored my girlfriend as she shouted through at me from the bedroom (sorry).

It was tough, and I was constantly hovering between making it and just missing it, which added a level of excitement that NaNoWriMo was not, alone, able to provide.

But did I do it?

Estimated words to complete book: 95,000

Words for par, Day 21: 66,500

Words written: 4,098

Total words: 68,021

Words over Target: 1,521

Average per day: 3,239

Remaining: 26,979

How’s that for tight.

Just over 4,000 and I didn’t cheat, either. I stopped exactly an hour after I started, and I was bloody pleased about it.

I might try it again tonight, but we’ll have to see.

I’ll let you know.

 

DAY TWENTY-TWO

Written 23/11/2017 for 22/11/2017

Look, I’m very busy today, so I really don’t have much time to talk.

Let’s keep it brief.

I wrote for just under an hour.

My output was not what it was the day before.

I still hit 3,000 words but did not quite match what I would have liked to do.

Still, I’m on target. See below.

Estimated words to complete book: 94,000

Words for par, Day 22: 68,933

Words written: 3,000

Total words: 71,021

Words over Target: 2,088

Average per day: 3,228

Remaining: 22,979

Another chance to move the chains tonight (that’s an NFL reference).

Hopefully, it can be a big day.

Until then, goodbye.

I got blogging to do.

Other blogging.

 

DAY TWENTY-THREE

Written 24/11/2017 for 23/11/2017

I try my very best, always, to restrict my evening writing time to writing only.

The moment you start throwing other tasks in your time just disappears and you end up getting no words done and half a blog.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work in practice.

I try to blog before work and at lunch but recently I’ve been getting into work later than usual so I’ve had no time to do it then, and there’s not enough time at lunch to get everything I need to get done, done.

So last night, I had to do some blogging, and I was able to finish editing my latest Man vs Bookshelf review and schedule it (so look out that, the day after next). Then I set up this blog, putting in all entries except the one I’m writing now.

With all that done, I was left with a markedly short about of time to do any writing, and I had to go over my writing deadline to do what I want to do.

I’ll do a round up on this book when I’m dong and talk about a some of this stuff then, but it’s worth mentioning now that the final act is not coming together as I would have liked.

There will be large changes throughout whenever I do edit this book, but for the most part I feel that I have had a good starting point. Something to build on.

This last act has felt a bit like I’m writing for the sake of writing, and given how far I’ve come in terms of developing the idea of this series, it feels pointless writing what I’m writing at the moment.

It’s my fault, really. With the first draft I did last month I was constantly pivoting and changing direction as I went, adapting the story and the plan I’d written to fit new plans and ideas that inevitably arose as I went along.

It makes for a first draft that’s a nightmare to read and makes little sense, but it’s so much better for follow up drafts.

I haven’t done that here, sticking more religiously to a plan I’ve probably outgrown.

That’ll hurt later, I think, but hey, at least I got my words done for the day.

In the end.

Estimated words to complete book: 93,000

Words for par, Day 23: 71,300

Words written: 3,123

Total words: 74,144

Words over Target: 2,844

Average per day: 3,223

Remaining: 18,856

So yeah, I’m feeling a little lethargic, but there are positives.

I know where I want to change this story and where I want to take it.

That’s all good.

But for now, I just want to get this first draft done.

So let’s focus on that.

National Novel Writing Month? Completed it. (days 16-18)

This entry is part 5 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017

DAY SIXTEEN

Written 17/11/2017 for 16/11/2017

After a zero-day, you have to rally.

It’s not enough to look back and say you’ve done loads recently, so it’s okay. Or even to say that you’re well over target, so it doesn’t matter.

It’s a psychological thing. Two bad days in a row and you start to struggle. Or at least, I do.

So I wanted a good day. I needed a good day, and I wasn’t sure I was going to get one. I’m still up North on holiday and I didn’t think I’d get the time.

But then, I did.

Yay.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 16: 26,666

Words written: 5,681

Total words: 42,680

Words over Target: 16,014

Average per day: 2,668

Remaining: 7,370

So it sucks to have a zero-day, but the stats are good. In the last four days, I’ve had the zero, but then three days where I hit over 5,000 words.

I doubt I’ll get anywhere near that today, but I’d like to hit over 1,500.

I’ll see how it goes.

 

DAY SEVENTEEN

Written 18/11/2017 for 17/11/2017

Less than 5,000 words to go!!

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 17: 28,333

Words written: 2,523

Total words: 45,153

Words over Target: 16,820

Average per day: 2,656

Remaining: 4,847

Okay, I know I normally write a bit.

I know that’s what gets you through the week.

But it’s 20 past nine am now and I won’t be able to write after midday.

In fact, I’m leaving at midday and I’m not dressed and there’s breakfast to come.

Basically, I don’t have very much writing time today and I want to get as close as possible to finishing the 50,000 words if you don’t very much mind.

Thanks.

 

DAY EIGHTEEN

Written 19/11/2017 for 18/11/2017

Well NaNoWriMo has hardly been a ticking clock thriller for me.

I started badly and had a couple of rubbish days between then and now. Even a rare zero day.

But I’m still done.

NaNoWriMo 50,000 words complete as of 18th November 2017 with 510 words change.

Well done me.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 18: 30,000

Words written: 5,357

Total words: 50,510

Words over Target: 20,510

Average per day: 2,806

Remaining: -510

Now, despite ‘completing’ NaNoWriMo the book isn’t finished, and I would still like to do it in November.

It’s going to be tough, given I still have at least half to go with less than half the month less available to me, but I’m going to try.

It’s Sunday, bang on midday as I write this sentence.

I’ll get some done this afternoon and tomorrow, when I write Day 19, I’ll create a new set of stats to deal with the shifting nature of the challenge.

See you then.

Man vs Bookshelf: Grandpa’s Great Escape

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

After struggling to get through Good Omens in the allotted time, I wanted to dive into a quick read.

I choose Grandpa’s Great Escape. It may look beefy, and weigh in at over 450 pages, but don’t let that fool you. It is, after all, a kiddies book, and thus utilises BIG words and plenty of pictures.

So I intended it to pose no problems, and it didn’t, as I raced through it in three days.

Nice and easy.

So what did I think?

David Walliams and Me

If you had asked me twelve years ago if I could see Little Britain’s David Walliams writing successful children’s books I would have asked you who you were and what you were doing in my school.

Totally inappropriate.

I suppose it’s not that weird to think that David Walliams is now writing children’s books.

Yes, Little Britain and Come Fly With Me were utterly inappropriate for kids, but that kind of irreverent toilet humour is ripe for translation into the type of books David Walliams now writes.

So, when I heard Walliams was writing fab kid’s books, I wasn’t surprised. Not only that, but I was keen to give them a go.

Now, full disclosure, I’m not a child.

Well, not in a legal sense, anyway.

Nor do I know any children to whom I could read these stories. But, if you think kids books are for kids and kids alone, you are a poop (ha!)

Kids fiction is at its best when it works on two levels. One for adults, one for kids. After all, it’s the adults that read the books to their kids, so it has to work for them.

And, when it’s top notch, it transcends age boundaries altogether.

Remember, Harry Potter was a kids book once.

(If you haven’t heard of Harry Potter, it is a series of books about a boy wizard. It was initially intended for children but has achieved a reasonable level of success across all age groups in the past twenty years, having sold at least forty trillion copies.)

So I was ready to give Walliams a go, and my girlfriend was kind enough to buy me three of his stand-alone stories. The Boy in the Dress, Gangsta Granny, and Grandpa’s Great Escape.

Grandpa’s Great Escape

‘Grandpa’ was the third of the three Walliam’s books I read.

Set in the 1980’s, it is the tale of Jack and his Grandpa, a World War II pilot who now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. When Jack’s parent feel they can no longer look after Grandpa, he is moved to the old people’s home, Twilight Towers, run by Miss Swine.

When it becomes clear that Miss Swine is mistreating her wards for person gain, Jack must help his Grandpa make a daring escape. An escape that, if successful, will give Grandpa a final chance to relive his past and once again take to the sky in his beloved Spitfire.

As with Gangsta Granny and The Boy in the Dress, this is a fast-paced, exciting read, and ‘Grandpa’ is certainly the most action-packed book of the trio, racing from set piece to set piece without ever losing the heart of the novel.

It’s also – as the others were – funny. There’s plenty here for kids – fart and poop jokes – but also for adults. The sly humour that kids won’t notice and only adults will get. Always very well done.

Based on humour and pace alone, it’s easy to see why children and parents have fallen in love with Walliams’ books, but there is something else he achieves in his writing I find so impressive.

Dealing with ‘adult topics’.

I don’t read a lot of children’s fiction, but I imagine many writers shy away from the issues Walliams utilises in his books.

The story of Grandpa’s Great Escape is all about Jack helping his Grandfather escape the horrible old people’s home – Twilight Towers.

This, alone, makes for a great story, but it’s the framework, and the heart of the tale, that really sets it apart.

See, as mentioned above, Grandpa is inflicted with Alzheimer’s. Now, this is a horrible illness, and one I can imagine is difficult to convey to children in a way they can understand.

Walliams’ does it brilliantly. It is not shoehorned in as some idealistic message, tacked on to the story. It is the story. It drives the plot along. Nothing happens if not for Grandpa’s illness, and we, the reader, are never left in any doubt that this is the case.

What is particularly touching is that, given Grandpa’s condition, grandson Jack is the only one who can communicate with him. By learning to live in Grandpa’s memories with him, Jack can help grandpa more than anyone else. He coaxes the elder down from great heights when he – grandpa – believes he is in his Spitfire and he – Jack – understands that, just because Twilight Towers is not Colditz Castle, does not mean it is not a horrible place, worth escaping.

This entangling of adventure and illness sets up a beautiful – and emotional – finale, which I won’t ruin here. But is thoroughly earned and the perfect culmination of everything that has gone before.

I’m not ashamed to say; it would make some people teary.

Not me though. I’m well manly, and this isn’t Lion King.

No matter how popular Walliams gets, a lot of people will be put off these books because of Little Britain, or Come Fly With Me, or because you’re not a twelve-year-old boy.

Don’t be put off.

Pick up a Walliams book.

Give it a go.

You won’t regret it.

“Hang on, before you go…”

Yes, yes, yes, I know what you’re going to ask, why did I give it a 3/5 on Goodreads?

I don’t know, to be honest. I probably should have given it a 4. If it had been a ten point scale I would have given it a seven.

Hey, have I mentioned how much I hate Goodreads’ five-point scale before?

Next Time

We’re going away from fiction next time out as I will be reading the first of two Brian Clough autobiographies I have.

I hope I’m reading the first released, but it’s hard to tell.

See you then!

National Novel Writing Month: Days 1-5

This entry is part 2 of 9 in the series National Novel Writing Month 2017

DAY ONE

Written: 02/11/2017 for: 01/11/2017

When getting into a new task or challenge, there’s nothing more important than getting off to a good start.

I said as much in Man vs Bookshelf. In fact, it was the reason I changed my mind about the book I was starting with at the last moment; to give myself the best possible chance of a good start.

I knew I was in equal need of a good start here. A first day of 2,000 words would have done it. A real chance to set down a marker and say, yes, I’m going to make NaNoWriMo mine. I am going to win.

So how did it go?

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 1: 1,666

Words written: 901

Words off target: 765

Total words: 901

Average per day: 901

Remaining: 49,099

Aye, not great.

Not great at all.

But it isn’t my fault. Who starts National Novel Writing Month on the same day as Apprentice and my trip to Ikea? Talk about poor planning.

You’re going to say that National Novel Writing has to start on the 1st of November because November IS National Novel Writing Month.

But “the 1st of November” as a concept is pretty transient, don’t you think?

Anyway, doesn’t matter. We are where we are, and at least I wrote something in the fifteen minutes I had sandwiched between dinner and The Apprentice.

I still hit nearly 1,000, despite the fact that I had a crisis about what I was going to write.

In fact, if you consider the fact I switched over and started writing something else halfway through the above mentioned 901 words then I would, in fact, have about hit 1,000.

But I changed back. It was only a wobble. I’ve been planning this book for the last two weeks and thinking about it a lot longer than that, and I’m going to get through it.

Tonight there is no Apprentice, and no Ikea (although, actually they didn’t have what I was after so I have to go back at some point, sigh!) so I’m going to take a big old run at it.

Today’s target: get up to 3,000 words total.

We’ll see how I do.

 

DAY TWO

Written 03/11/2017 for 02/11/2017

I’ve been watching Game of Thrones.

This is causing problems.

Time was I would come home, watch half an hour of telly and start writing. I would hit up to 5,000 words an evening, and I wasn’t doing so much blogging, tweeting or Facebooking either.

After my terrible start to Nano on the first it looked like it was going to be another shit day yesterday. I came home, cooked and watched Game of Thrones. By the time that was done it was quarter past eight.

Now, nine o clock is reading time and I have to do that for my Man vs Bookshelf series, so time was already running short. Add in the fact I then had to schedule some tweets and Facebook posts, and I was sure it was going to be another terrible day’s work where I’d be lucky to hit a thousand. Mainly because I wasn’t feeling the writing at all.

Then I sat down and started, and you know what? It all turned out alright.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 2: 3,333

Words written: 2,270

Total words: 3,171

Words off Target: 162

Average per day: 1,586

Remaining: 46,829

So that’s alright then. I wrote till half nine in the end, but I’m now right under par. Much better.

Come tonight I want to get above that par. That’s the target.

 

DAY THREE

Written 04/11/2017 for 03/11/2017

Habit is vital for everyone. It’s what lets us get out of bed in the morning to go to work with only five or six minutes of screaming and do all the other crap we have to do after that.

Habits are particularly important for writers (almost important as they are to nuns, hehe).

For me, when I get into writing, and I’m doing it consistently every day, my output is incredible. I’ll knock out several thousand words a day (as I mentioned yesterday, I think), I’ll race through first drafts like nobodies business.

But, when I allow the habit to break… that’s when trouble arises.

Finishing my last first draft when I did, I was left in a quandary. Usually, I jump right into my next novel. Keep that momentum going because I know that if I don’t, I’ll get out of the habit, and then my writing efforts will fly off the rails, and that way disaster lies.

This time, however, I finished my first draft just over a week away from November 1st, and I was ahead of schedule for writing anyway, having smashed out 60,000 words in four days on that novel over a week off.

So I made a decision. A quite terrible decision.

I took those days off so I could take part in bloody NaNoWriMo.

It’ll be okay, I reasoned, like some sort of idiot. I love writing, I’ll just get straight back into it.

Twat.

Now, I’m on day three of November, and it’s just not clicking. I’m forcing myself to knock out some words every day (which is vital by the way, even if you’re not in the habit) but I’m not doing enough. I’m supposed to write between 7:30 – 9:00 every evening but the yesterday, as with the day before, I didn’t start till way too late. In fact, last night (Friday) I didn’t start till gone ten o clock.

I thought I would just write a few words (the bath was running, after all) but in the end, I managed to get in more than a few words.

I ended up with over a thousand words and a flooded bathroom (a double win, you might say, although that wouldn’t be very nice of you).

It’s still not enough. I’ve fallen further off target, my average words per day have dropped, and I’ve still not got into any kind of writing groove.

It’s becoming rather frustrating.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 3: 5,000

Words written: 1,027

Total words: 4,198

Words off Target: 802

Average per day: 1,399

Remaining: 45,802

Today is Saturday, day four. I don’t usually write on a Saturday but today will have to be an exception. I need to smash out a good three thousand words, get myself back on track, and see where I can go from there.

Let’s get habit building.

 

DAY FOUR

Written 05/11/2017 for 04/11/2017

Finally!

If I can, I like to write every day, but a lot of the time, I have Saturdays off. Sunday is my BIG writing day – I try to do a full working day from 9 till 6 – so I can get away with having Saturday off.

However, I knew I was going to have to get at least something done yesterday for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, it had been another bad day for writing on Friday, and I was in danger of falling even further behind in the NaNoWriMo stakes and, secondly, because I was going out last night, and I know I can never write when I’m hungover, so it was very unlikely I was going to be able to write for a whole hour, let alone a whole day.

So, I sat down yesterday morning, and I got to it. Finally fitting a good amount of words and, for the first time, going above the target for the total word count at the day, as you can see below.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 4: 6,666

Words written: 3,569

Total words: 7,767

Words over Target: 1,101

Average per day: 1,941

Remaining: 42,233

Today, Sunday, is going to be a difficult day because of the aforementioned hangover and the fact that I’m writing this entry at twenty past seven and I’ve yet to write any words on my novel, so, the target has to be to reach the par of the of the day at the very least and, if I can get to 10,000 words.

I’ll do that now.

 

DAY FIVE

Written 06/11/2017 for 05/11/2017

I predicted yesterday when writing about the day before yesterday but talking about yesterday that I wouldn’t do much writing on account of being hungover.

This was not unfounded, although I did far better than might reasonably have been expected given how I felt earlier in the day.

The principle of writing though is that you always write. EVery day, no matter what. Or you will fall out of the habit.

So I got on my computer and, in the hour and a half I had, I actually managed to bang out a respectable amount. Just less than the day before, in fact.

Words to “win” NaNoWriMo: 50,000

Words for par, Day 5: 8,333

Words written: 3,336

Total words: 11,103

Words over Target: 2,770

Average per day: 2,220

Remaining: 38,897

So now we’re in a good place. I’ve built up over 2,000 words safety which means I can afford to drop a day further down the line, although I certainly don’t plan to do that. Today we are back to work, and tonight the aim is to reach at least 13,000.

Let’s see if I can get this week off to a better start than last.

What a week (for writing)

Like the rest of you, I hate Monday mornings.

However, also like the rest of you, I knew that, as Monday rolled around (again) I had to drag myself out of bed and head to work because bills or something.

But that, I’m afraid, is where the similarities between you and me end. Because, while you sat at your desk and suffered in silence, not just on Monday, but all week, I had had enough.

“That’s it,” I said to my boss upon walking through the door. “I’ve had enough. I quit.”

And he said: “No.”

And I looked him in the eye, and I said: “you make some good points, Mr Boss, I retract my resignation. But I can’t hack it this week; I’m going home now.”

And he said: “also no.”

And I said: “Fuck’s sake, mate, can I at least have Tuesday through Friday off?”

And he said: “Okay, but only because you keep starting sentences with the word ‘and’ and it’s poor form, and I’m sick of it.

An- sorry, so I said: “Good enough for me.”

So I had a week off, and I told myself I was going to be productive.

I was going to cure world hunger, and if I couldn’t do that (which I couldn’t) I was going to write.

See I was 56,000 words into a projected 80,000 novel, and I thought, if I work hard, I can finish that book this week.

I did an’ all. But it’s better than even it sounds. Because that 80,000-word novel grew over the next few days and by the time I finished, yesterday evening, it had become 116,000 words.

I had just ploughed out 60,000 words in fours days. So I whipped my calculator out and worked out that’s 15,000 words a day.

Yes, a calculator, I’m a writer, not a mathematician.

It has been a whirlwind. Pretty much non-stop writing and I’m so excited to get to re-drafting it after “letting it lie” a while.

In the meantime, I’m going to be ploughing on with my Man vs Bookshelf challenge. (I’m meant to be writing my Lisey’s Story review for that right now, but it’s harddddd, so I’m doing this instead) and, come November, I”m going to writing a new first draft for National Novel Writing Month so I’ll be planning that over the next few days.

So thanks for reading this ego piece and look out for the product of this beautiful week (working title ‘The Thing About Luke’) next May. And, in the meantime, remember to get your copy of Poor Choices, my latest novel.

Honestly, you won’t regret it.

Unless you do.