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12 Books in 12 Months

writing books and blogging about it

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Public Service Announcement

If you are a Facebook user (and I do appreciate it is not everyone’s cup of tea), this post may be of interest to you.

I recently found out via the always helpful Nicola Morgan’s author page that the site now requires page admins to pay them cash dollars to promote status updates to folk who already ‘Like’ something.  Essentially, if I don’t give them my money (which I haven’t, because come on) 10% or fewer ‘likers’ will receive 12 Books page updates in their news feeds.

What this means is that you are missing out on some super hilarious memes I’ve been scheduling, like this: Continue reading “Public Service Announcement”

12 Books in 12 Months: A Review

In November 2010 I completed National Novel Writing Month, a challenge where you have to write 50,000 words of a novel before midnight on November 30th.  From this adventure, an idea was born.

The received wisdom is that once the first draft of a novel is written, you’re supposed to leave it alone for at least three months before returning to edit – preferably longer.  Coming back to it with fresh eyes means you’re more likely to be ruthless about cutting stuff that doesn’t work.  But what do you do in the meantime?  For me, the answer was write more.  Essentially, NaNoWriMo created a monster.

In 2011, I set out to write the first draft of a novel every month of the year.  I gave each month a genre, and off I went.  It was hard going, and I only reached the hallowed 50, 000 words twice throughout the year.  But I don’t regard that as total failure, more as a lesson in what is physically possible.

Whenever I was tempted to beat myself up about it, I went back to the fact I was working four days a week as an office temp throughout the year, as well as producing monthly columns for The Broughton Spurtle and Ten Tracks, and other articles for Mslexia Magazine, IdeasTap, The Guardian and STV as I went along.  I may not have produced 50k fiction every month, but I think I probably did reach 50k across all my writing.  I blogged about this in June to serve as a constant reminder.

But what was the final word count?  Drumroll, please….

Continue reading “12 Books in 12 Months: A Review”

A Progress Report

Today being the 27th of the month, I am remarkably close to the half way point of the whole 12 books in 12 months fiasco (unless you count book 13, I suppose, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

Unfortunately this happens to be the point where progress has slowed down an embarrassing amount.  I ought to be basically done with book six by now, yet I’ve only written about 10,000 words.  Almost all of which is background and characterisation that I foresee myself editing down to maybe a few paragraphs in the final book.  It’s the type of stuff that it makes sense to know as an author, but probably feels a bit long winded and boring to the reader.  Pottermore, rather than the material a gripping plot is crafted from.

Continue reading “A Progress Report”

Generating Traffic

According to an article I read and now can’t find again (I thought it might be on The Social Penguin or Contently Managed but apparently not), links on Facebook generate far more traffic than links on Twitter.  With that in mind, I would like to ask you all to click the ‘like’ button on the 12 Books in 12 Months Facebook page and then to post it to your own stalkerfeed by clicking the ‘share’ button on the left of the page.  It would be pretty good to get 200 fans by the end of the month, and I promise I don’t spam – I update a few times a week.

Image from xkcd

How To Name A Character

I often come up with character names ahead of their personalities.  Not always, but often.

But when someone else comes  up with your character for you, it’s a little bit harder to name them.  I am in the process of writing book five, and before I started I had a suggestion from the lovely Arielle Bosworth (click her name to go to her blog) that “your protagonist should be a talking sheep who is also a wizard. It could be amazing.”

She went on to explain, quite rightly, that “sheep are entirely unrepresented in the fantasy genre.”  And if I don’t rectify this glaring omission, who will?

However, I had to then come up with a name for this character.  So I thought about it a bit, and decided perhaps I would gain some insight from looking up ‘sheep’ and ‘wizard’ in other languages.  This is what transpired:


I googled the Latin first.  Dead languages are pretty fantastical, after all.

In amongst all the adverts I found my answer – ‘Ovis Aries’.  Naturally the first two names that came to mind that sound a bit like these were ‘Ovid’ and ‘Archie’ – both of which could work.  Ovid, Roman poet who was very popular in the middle ages, unusual first name which could mark him out as special; and Archie, short for Archibald, a fairly old fashioned name meaning ‘brave’ which this sheep will have to be in order to complete his quest.  Whatever that is.

There was only one thing for it – I had to appeal to the internet for help.

And Twitter spake unto me saying:

And I thought ‘hm, the ideas I have for this are less mystical and aloof and probably more suitable for ten year olds.’  So I went on the facebook page to see whether they were in agreement.

And although the writing was rather small you could see that the Ovid tally rose ever further.

So, for the time being at least, that is what my wizard sheep is called – Ovid Archibald McHaggis.  One wonders how characters were named before the days of the internet.

How do you name your characters, other writers?  Do you have a set process, or is it a bit ad hoc, like me?  And do you ever change a character name half way through writing and then have to go back and check them all?

My Daily Routine (or lack thereof)

In my ongoing quest to integrate You The Public more fully in the 12 Books process, this week I am answering questions from Elaine, who takes lovely photos and blogs over at Dreams and Whispers.

Elaine writes:

Firstly, I would like to know how you manage to fit so much writing into your daily routine! Do you find you can write better at certain times of the day, or do you stay up late to catch up with it? Do you need a quiet space and clean desk, or can you type amongst noise and chaos?

To be honest, I don’t always fit writing into my routine!

When I did that first book for NaNoWriMo last year I was working in Dalkeith and living in the New Town, which meant I was commuting an hour either way every day.  All I needed to do then was write on my phone when I was on the bus, so most days I found I’d reach my daily word count before I even got home.  It was mega easy to keep on top of it then because it was just part of my routine.

In January, the legendary time that 12 Books began, I was off work all the time because I was house sitting for my parents for two weeks and my temp agency didn’t have any work that only lasted the fortnight I was available.  This meant that theoretically I had all the time I could possibly need to get into a routine, but in actual fact days went by where I didn’t write anything – although I was researching a lot (that first book, Caligula’s Blog, involved quite a lot of reading of history books on account of the fact I didn’t know a huge amount about Caligula).   There were a few days where I sat and did massive chunks of around 5k at a time to make up for it.

February was not a lot better in terms of routine, because my temp agency didn’t have anything for me till nearly the end of the month.  However there were days I didn’t do much because I was a bit depressed – I really hate being unemployed, not least because it means you have to live on cheese sandwiches or other similarly cheap foodstuffs, but also because being unemployed in a grey Edinburgh February in the coldest flat known to man… Well, it wasn’t conducive to 100% creativity.  On the days I did write, though, I was doing vast swathes – I think the most I did in one day was about 7k.  Which is a lot to do in one go and I dread to think what I’ll make of it when I go back to edit.

In March and April I had the luxury of being in the same job the whole time, and I’ll be in the same one for May and June too. The wonders of temping.  This means I work 4 days a week and have 3 off.  However, because my workplace is within walking distance of my house (about 1.5 miles), I don’t have commuting time to write, and depending on how busy we are it can take quite a lot out of you so that when you get in at night you don’t particularly want to hunch over Word on your own in the bedroom.

What I try to do is write during my breaks – the time everyone else in the office goes on Facebook! – and on Mondays and weekends, pending social engagements and what have you. But because I do a lot of other stuff too (writing for various websites being the main thing) I’ve found that admin Monday and random times at the weekend isn’t really enough, so today I’ve sat down and planned out my time in as detailed a way as I can manage, with the specific aim of incorporating both writing and reading time every day.  I doubt whether I’ll stick to it religiously, but I’ll try!

I sometimes have a dedicated workspace, but it’s our spare room and currently my sister is staying in it.  Over the past month or two I’ve just worked wherever I can – often sitting cross legged on the bed which is doing my back no favours, or at the kitchen table which is better but opens me up to the distraction of chatting to housemates about the latest developments on Judge Judy.  (In case you’re interested, there are no new developments on Judge Judy – it’s the same every single time.)

It’s definitely easier to get stuff done in a quiet, dedicated area, but if that’s not possible I find that even going along to a coffee shop can help me get stuff done –  particularly if you resist the temptation to ask for the wifi password!  I am pretty adept at tuning out noise and chaos, but it’s harder when writing fiction.  I can edit an interview together or draw a picture in front of the telly; sometimes I can tune it out enough to do blog posts and job applications; and other times I can even tune it out enough to read a book, but I can’t write fiction like that at all.  Stories definitely require me to curb my multi-processing ways to an extent.  I can zone out the hubub of background conversation in a coffee shop, but not the laughter track on Friends.  Not sure why.

In terms of best time of day to write, I’d be inclined to say I work better either first thing in the morning or last thing at night… but I do have the odd burst of afternoon brilliance ;p  When I wake up on a weekend at 8.30am or some such annoyingly respectable time, I’ll quite often bash out 2000 words or so and then faff about for basically the rest of the day.  Well, not faff exactly, but I’ll do blog posts and set up interviews for sites I volunteer for, and I’ll go on Twitter and read links to tips for authors or weary articles about the current state of publishing; or do other writing related things that are relevant but could realistically wait till later.

Then during the week, when I come in from work I’ll be tired and find myself doing lots of other boring domestic stuff and suddenly at 9.30 I’ll be ready to do an article or some novelling and I’ll carry on with it till midnight.  Then I’ll be grumpy cause I won’t get enough sleep.  Oops.

Still, only 8 months to go!

Tech Fail

I have just spent what feels like several days trying to work out how to make a button to link this blog to the Facebook Page.  After all, ‘likes’ means prizes.  By which I suppose I mean statistics.

During this difficult time I discovered that I could not use a WP plugin because I have a .com account as opposed to a .org – there is an article explaining that here if you’re interested.  I also re-discovered a fact that you probably already know, namely that Facebook is impossibly annoying.  It flatly refused to let me use the inbuilt share tool as the 12 Books page, which means that this post may or may not automatically appear on my personal profile, which is not the plan I had.

To cut a long story short, I used the widgets menu to make my own share button – click on the picture at the top of the side bar (currently a cowboy hat) and it will take you to visit Mr Zuckerberg.  I am conscious that people don’t want to be spammed into next Christmas, so I don’t really update the FB more than a few times a week.  This means that if you do choose to ‘like’ me, your stalkerfeed will not be taken over by 12 Books updates.

In other news, the tale of Victor McGlynn is taking shape in my mind, but writing has yet to commence.  It will do later on today, once I’ve attended to a few other chores.  And I think it might be quite good.

March

In MARCH I will be writing a Western.

I’d like the main protagonist to be an older gent, based on a lovely chap who used to come into the library and take out 12 westerns at a time, even though he’d read them all hundreds of times already.

Maybe he sees his day to day life in a slightly schemey bit of a Scottish town as a Western? Maybe he goes back in time to the Wild West, either in reality or in a dream?  Could it be a sort of western style set up in the future, like Firefly/Serenity?

I don’t want to spend too much time researching the actual history of the wild west, I just want it to be a fun, colourful, ripping read!

It has been suggested that I call my old gent Victor McGlynn, and that ‘The Shootist‘ and ‘Once Upon a Time in the West‘ would be good films to watch.  And I’ve been told to listen to Ennio Morricone during the writing process to get me in the mood.  I’ve also got a copy of Salty’s Gold to read – let’s hope it lives up to the blurb.

(Old Salty Parker rose into town every week with his little poke of gold dust and left it at the bank. He was the last of the miners at Willard’s Creek and the source of his gold was a mystery that many folk wanted to solve…)

But I need a bit more to go on.  What other western movies should I watch for inspiration? Where should my story be set – the actual wild west or somewhere totally different? Who are the other characters?  Is it a revenge saga?  Who needs avenging?  How?  When?  Are there horses?  Or bandits?  Or ponchos?

As ever, you can leave a comment below, through twitter, or on facebook.  Or you can send me a good old fashioned email – ali.george85@yahoo.com

Still Here!

Hello.

I haven’t updated in ages, for two reasons.  First of all I wasn’t writing anything for days at a time and I was too embarrassed to tell you.  Well, I was writing loads actually – there was an article about libraries, one about trying to make it as a freelance journo, and one about what it’s like trying to get into theatre directing; as well as assorted posts on my other blogs – but it none of these were my murder mystery novel.

Then last weekend, I wrote so much my hands nearly exploded.  That meant I didn’t really have time to blog, although there was some very mundane tweeting about how many words I had got down.  Between Saturday and Monday I did 23,722 words in order to catch up with my word count target.  Re-reading and editing that lot is going to be interesting…

Anyway, now that chicken sitting duties are over I have gone back to work four days a week, which I hope will help to get me into some semblance of a writing routine.  Assuming I get some suggestions for March’s Western – thus far it has been suggested that the protagonist be called Victor McGlynn, which I rather like, but other characters / plot devices / etc are still wide open.  Feel free to leave a comment below or on the facebook page if you’ve got any further ideas!

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