Monday, 12 October 2015

What's New - NanoWriMo 2015

What’s New – NanoWriMo 2015
Well everyone, it seems that we are rapidly coming up to that time again. The summer is nearly over, although I must say, today the weather is fabulous… it’s a pity I am working!
The Nano site ( has been updated and relaunched, so for all you wrimos, I suggest you to pop in and check everything on your dashboard is up to date, and, write some details about the novel you plan to do. Before you ask, yes, I edited mine this morning J For those of you who haven’t decided yet whether to join us in the month of literary abandonment, I urge you to give it a try, or for veterans of Nano, to do it again. It is a lot of fun, and there is nothing like having a push to squeeze out those creative juices.
I know that for many of you it has been a hard year, and my personal thoughts are with Francis because I know he has had some unpleasantries (judging from his Facebook posts), and I do hope he is feeling better. I like to think that everybody else is in fine spirits.
As some you may have already heard, I will be Municipal Liaison this year. I have had about thirty pages of documents in from Nano headquarters telling me what they expect me to do, and I must admit, it all seems a bit daunting. Having said that, I am sure that I will work my way into the role. Just be a bit patient with me while I get my head around it all. I have been away a lot recently for work, but hopefully there will be less of it over the next couple of months. Of course, any advice or suggestions about my new role will be gratefully welcome.
I have printed off some posters and flyers, and will be distributing them to a few shops and libraries. I will also be sending a letter with some posters to Falmouth College, to see if we can get some more recruits. A chatroom will be set up for Word Wars, and of course for any of us who just want to talk, get advice, see what is going on. I will give you all details as soon as it is ready. I will also be available night and day for anyone who needs me.
Kick-Off meetings will be held at the Truro Arts Café on River Street on 17th October, and another at Cassandra’s Café in Coinagehall Street in Helston on 24th October. Both meetings are at 2:30pm. I am more than happy to do ones in Falmouth and Penzance, if there are people who want me to organise them too. For people further north, if you are interested in having a meeting near you, then get in touch and we can sort something out. I will list all meetings and get-togethers on the Nano site.
As for me… I have a deep passion for writing, as I am sure many of you already know. I have always been a storyteller, and the next logical step was to put some of them down on paper. I am not, by any means, a good writer. None of my manuscripts are even perfect in my eyes, but that doesn’t diminish the enjoyment I get from the craft. The way I see it, it is not the perfection that counts, but the journey to find it. This year, I will be bringing a story that I have had in my head for a long time to life. I have so far about twenty pages of notes, and no idea how I am planning to begin… Roll on 1st November!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

From a bit of dialogue to 50,000 words!

Right then, it seems impossible that eleven months have flown by, and yet we are here again. Twenty-four or so hours and the relentless goal of being a NanoWriMo winner starts all over again. Last year I had a huge headstart with over 13,000 words of notes, bits of dialog, chapter and character details… this year I have a sheet of paper with all the prime numbers up to 6,977 with the corresponding dates listed next to them, few notes in a pile, a short synopsis and a blank whiteboard on the wall waiting for rushed ideas. Pretty much in the same state as most of the people who I met today at the pre-Nano meeting today at Waterstones.

I have just come home from a great gathering of people who will be taking part this year, some old faces which were lovely to see again, and many new ones whom I am dying to get to know some more. I managed to chat to a few people briefly and as always was fascinated to hear the diverse stories they had to tell, or in many cases are dying to write out. There sadly wasn’t enough time to speak to all the people who were there, nor was there enough time to get to know more from some of the people who I did get to meet and wanted to know more, including the couple who are testing out Cornwall by living down here for a few months and the lady who is writing a novel about Chinese history the old fashioned way; by pen.

The newcomers to the National Novel Writing Month I’m sure feel the same as I did when I first entered the competition, apprehensive about how to go about their task, worried that they will end up to look fools or have the so called writers block, or worse of all scared to talk and chat to those of us who have gone through it all before. The fact is that it’s not just the newcomers who feel all those things, heck, I’ve done Nano twice before and I still feel just the same as I did a day before my first one; the only difference is people expect me to sail through it, and so with that come expectations that I’m not yet sure I can fulfill.

This year I have set myself a real challenge. A story with little or no dialogue, written in the first person and about a man who cannot move, see, talk or even breath by himself… what was I thinking when I came up with that idea, I don’t know! I do have a backup story to fall back on though if everything does go wrong, but I will try and give it my all with the one I want to write, however daunting it seems. I really can’t wait to get started and see what it turns out like, or if it will work at all. One thing I know is, to paraphrase Chris Baty who first start up the NanoWriMo competition: “There is a novel inside me, that only I can write.”

As always, I got asked a few times how is it possible to write 1,666 words a day for thirty days (the minimum count of average words a day to reach 50,000 word count.) Every writer has their own answer to this, and I have one myself which is just write anything and worry about what you’ve written after the competition has ended. Alas, that answer doesn’t always bode well if you have a story, or part of a story in your mind that you want perfect right away. Well firstly, don’t disillusion yourself that it will be perfect first time around. I personally have re-written one of my novels called ‘Mother Nature’ a full seven times now with the last re-write totaling over 135,000 words, and it’s still not in the slightest way perfect. The thing is though, it gets better and better every time. It’s all to do with that budda thing of knowing that your journey for perfection will end when it is your end. It might well be the reason why I haven’t gone down the route of publishing any of my work yet?

For those who have realized that a story takes thirty days and 50,000 words, and perfection takes a little longer, here is a method that might just guide you a bit if you think the daily wordcount is impossible. I am going to take a couple of notes, a bit of dialog and cycle through it a few times… we’ll see what we can do with it. Let’s set a scene:

Sarah is in the utility room. She is about to do some washing. It’s Saturday.
Francis, her teenage daughter wants her jeans because she is going out.
There is an argument.

Okay, so there is not much to go on here, but it’s a short scene and it hasn’t been written yet… so let’s copy what we’ve got and add some dialog:

Sarah is in the utility room. She is about to do some MORE washing. It’s Saturday.
Francis, her teenage daughter wants her jeans because she is going out.
Francis: “Mum! Have you seen my jeans?”
Sarah: “You mean the jeans I found lying beside your bed?”
Francis: “Yeah… my new skinny ones.”
Sarah: “I’ve just put them in the machine.”
Francis: “Oh Muuuum… You know I’m going out tonight. I want to wear them.”
Sarah: “Well if you’d put them in the wash basket, they would have been the first things in the machine and would be dry by now.”
Francis: “You never wash my things first!”
Sarah: “Your things never find their way to the wash basket.”

Well that’s enough for now, heck I’m showing you a concept, I’ve got my own writing to do. Now though we are starting to see things developing. Let’s copy what we’ve got again, add a bit of description and this time, let’s put it into a format that’s more indicative with a written novel:

   It was Saturday again, and Sarah was already on her second load of washing. The first load of the day was already dry and if she was quick in folding it, could skip the process of ironing. Her second most hated chore was briefly interrupted by her over hormonal daughter.
   “Mum! Have you seen my jeans?” By the tone of the voice, her daughter was again going to spend the evening out of the house and with friends.
   “You mean the jeans I found lying beside your bed?” Sarah wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries, and certainly not in any frame of mind to have another argument.
   “Yeah… my new skinny ones,” Francis’ arms and surly demeanor worked in unison with each other.
Sarah would have dearly come out with a remark that would have ended any conflict before it had started, but even as she spoke she knew that the end was already a long way off: “I’ve just put them in the machine.”
   “Oh Muuuum…” There it was, the high whining note that could only be found at the rightmost end of a piano. “You know I’m going out tonight. I want to wear them.” The surly look fell almost as soon as it had arrived, and as quickly as her arms dropped the appearance of someone wronged took over.
   “Well if you’d put them in the wash basket, they would have been the first things in the machine and would be dry by now.” Sarah made a point of hitting the door of the dryer, which opened smartly as if it knew it would get blamed if it didn’t act quickly, and showed a full load of clean and sweet smelling laundry. “See!”
   There was a little quiver, hardly visible, internally in Francis’ chin. “For f**k’s sake Mum, you never wash my things first!”
   “Your things never find their way to the wash basket. You start taking responsibility and stop talking to me like that or you will find yourself in a whole heap of trouble, young lady.” Sarah took a step forward, which amplified the sense of anger that was brewing up quite quickly inside her.

Oh dear this is not good, but I’m hoping that you can see what I’m trying to achieve. Let’s go one more time and this time add in even more details… See if we can tidy this up a bit:

   It was the weekend again, Saturday, and Sarah had once again wasted it cleaning up the house. It somehow was mid-afternoon already, and instead of spending her day off doing the things she wanted to do, she was working harder than she ever seemed to at the shop; which unbelievably was her paid job. All through the working week she had waited for this day, looked forward to it, and yet now it was finally here, she found that it had passed her by without the slightest hint of ‘me’ time. It was just as well that the weather wasn’t much to look at. It would have been even worse if it hadn’t been mizzling outside, but then if it were sunny then she would have been tempted to say to hell with it, and leave the chores for another, less deserving day; one where the term ‘Dreckly’ couldn’t have been applied so freely.
   Still void of make-up, well what’s the point of putting your face on when the hair resembles a bomb site in Basra, and there’s no Ben Aflick look-a-likes around to warrant trying to hide the crows feet. Oh dear, crow’s feet! Why oh why does age show in your face first; it would be far less stressful if wrinkles started in your feet and took a few more years to work their way up, she wished… or is that begged?
   The second and last load of washing, and then maybe a sit down for a bit; biting her bottom lip, there was a thought. The dryer beside the washing machine had finished it’s cycle, and the warmth in the air marked a zone of comfort, just slightly more bearable than the chilly draft from the cracks around the edge of the back door, only a few feet to her left.
   Sarah stuffed the last load into the drum, threw in a tablet from the tub marked ‘Fairy’; as if their was anything magical about what she was doing, and slammed the shaped door closed. One button press and a whooshing sound of water marked the initiation of the hour-long whites cycle. Standing up she put her hands on her sides and leaned herself back, oh she was starting to ache… tomorrow, without a shadow of a doubt, she wouldn’t get up out of bed at all.
   Kicking an empty basket into place at the door of the dryer was a lot easier than bending down and moving it like a real grown-up would, and ….

Okay there I won’t ramble on and stop there… I’m sure I could do a whole lot more here, not least Francis seeing that the white washing is going a pink colour because a pair of red knickers snuck in there, but I didn’t want to diverse too much from the notes we originally had. The thing is, I cycled through each time and let my imagination go and from those first three lines it’s quite easily possible to take it up to a daily word limit needed for Nano.

Outside of the competition I tend to work the other way. I have a long novel and cut bits out, but while we are in the month of November then it’s perfectly acceptable to work this way, and lets face it there are many famous novelists who have a story on a sheet of paper and use this method to pad it out to 100,000 words or more.

The eagle-eyed readers of this blog post might have noticed that the word-count comes to 2,132 and yet all I have been doing is rambling for an hour and a half. As I have always said to anyone who’s asked, I write, I have never said that what I write is good… However, Nanowrimo is about QUANTITY and not quality. I have just taken a subject I know little bit about, have shown how just three lines of notes can be expanded to show more of a story, make it slightly readable and increase a wordcount.

Funny thing is, if I had written this tomorrow (that’ll get the grammar freaks worked up), then I could have counted this in my Nano total. Well, maybe!

That’s all this time folks!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Those Immortal Words - The End!

It's got to be, for me, one of the strangest feelings I've ever felt. To actually write those immortal words down on a page and lift your fingers from the keys, knowing that you belong to the club of countless others who have done the same thing through the ages.

It's something I have felt many times now, but it never seems to dwaine. To write 'The End'

To see a story that popped into my head a couple of years ago, has festered and brewed in there for so long, has finally taken shape and moved from the neural patterns of the mind, and into the physical world is something quite overwhelming.

This evening, I came home from work with the last bit of the puzzle in my mind, and before even kicking off my shoes I was tapping away. An hour later and not only the last bit of the puzzle, but the last moment in the story was complete. Realising that I didn't even have any food in the house to, if not celebrate with, stave off the hunger pangs, I went out to Sainburys. Walking around other shoppers, I tried to find something to pop into my microwave, I really didn't know whether I wanted to jump in the air for joy or stand in the middle of the place and cry: luckily I didn't do either!

Every day, there must be creative people all over the World who have finished a project that's been ongoing for months or even years. I know writers who take part in NanoWriMo who have finished their books and have had days like this - today though, is my day! The silly thing is, it's not actually finished, now comes the hard part of editing, re-editing, re-writing, editing again and again until I'm totally sick of the story - but for now I'll enjoy the moment. I haven't got anyone here to celebrate with, so instead I'll eat my dinner, press the print button and have a well earned early night!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Aylesbury and Salisbury Services

A busy few days for me last week. Monday I travelled up to Aylesbury Traincare Depot to do a service on one of our oil/water separators, it was sooooo hot and definitely the worst timing to do such a job.

I drove up in the van, which in itself was more like an oven than a mode of transport; however, my mistake was to stop at Taunton services for a breather, and a cold drink. Costa up there does some amazing coolers for when the heat is getting to me, but the queue was so long that it was apparent that I would lose half an hour plus just waiting, so decided to skip the drink. When I got back into the van, the sun had been hitting it so much that the seats burned and the steering wheel was almost too hot to touch, resulting in me putting on some riggers gloves to drive away until it had cooled down somewhat.

I don't remember ever going to Aylesbury before, but it was quite a nice place and the Premier Inn I stayed at was well above average. Martin join the party late that night after going to Wyfla Power Station before meeting me near where the service was to take place.

Trying to work on the Tuesday, even with the lightest of overalls and Personal Protective Equipment on was a nightmare, and I'm sure I was close to the record for most sweatiest workman ever! I did get laughed at when I emptied out the media baskets that were completely caked in oil, and I ended up with instead of white and orange (hi-vis), a more black, slimey and oil covered getup - all up my arms, face, head... everywhere!

Anyways, we had booked for the job to take two days but somehow managed to do it in one day, even after feeling as though I was going to pass out from the heat a couple of times while down in the oil sump sorting out their suction pipes.

Wednesday was used in the hotel just getting over heatstroke before I made my way down to Salisbury to spend the rest of the day in the new room with two fans on full while I laid on the bed recovering.

By the time we got to Salisbury Train Care Depot at 9am on Thursday, the people there had already taken the lids off the separator and sucked out most of the oil layer from the top of it, so the job for us was a lot easier and quicker than we expected. In fact by midday we had finished the cleanup and were refilling the separator with clean water from a fire hydrant. Martin and I went into town, which is quite a quant place, to get a drink and by the time we came back an hour later the separator was ready for testing. Just a couple of hours later and I was back on my way home.

Friday was spent cleaning up, go knows how much oil from the two depots we managed to bring back with us, and cleaning my new work boots involved being on my hands and knees while scrubbing them in a bucket... so much for their blue and grey colour, they will always be a permanent oily/black from now on. Hey-ho!

Well now back I won't be complaining about the weather any more... it's glorious! We have put off a couple of other services though because it's really far too hot to try and do them in this weather.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

My cousin Emma... Long time, no see

Well I've just had a couple of wonderful hours catching up with my cousin Emma. She has come down to St Agnes with her husband Malcolm (sorry for not recognising you straight away) for her son Joshua's rugby tour. Emma looked fabulous and hasn't changed a dot since I last saw her getting close to eight years ago, Malcolm was on top form and Joshua has grown right up.

It's sad to think that I spent so much time with my cousins Sally, Emma and Mary when we were kids, and now we let many years pass us by before seeing each other now that we're adults... a cycle I would love to change from now on. I have been invited up to theirs for dinner next time I'm passing by Putney, and will definitely take them up on their offer.

We chatted about my Nana (where we all stayed for sleepovers god knows how many times), people that we've never spoken about before on my family tree, and how the world has rotated in different ways through different lives... I really could have carried on chatting for hours!

It was lovely seeing you again Emma, I had a lovely evening, lots of laughs. Have a great day tomorrow and let's catch up some more soon x

Thursday, 7 March 2013

How do I come up with new stories?

I am often asked how I come up with new stories and how I think of the ideas that I do; I would guess all writer’s are asked the same questions many times. In fact I have myself wondered how certain authors have come up with ideas that I would never have considered. On the other end of the scale, there are stories like William P. Kennedy’s Toy Soldiers, a story that I could kick myself for not coming up with myself, even though I hadn’t started writing when he jotted that one down! As with all budding writer’s, there will be people around that will always come up with a great idea before yours has sprung into your brain, or worse that you find after you’ve written something, that it’s similar to.

It is even true that my first novel ‘Something Brand New’ bares a resemblance to the first J K Rowlings Harry Potter novel. When I wrote it I had not even heard of Harry Potter, let alone read it. Don’t get me wrong there are no wizards, no flying games or castles in my manuscript, but there is a young ten year old soul looking for his future parents in a world only a breath away from our own. Combined with that is a style, not too dissimilar from the one she uses, I will confess. Actually when rewriting the novel some ten years later, there was one paragraph that sounded so similar to her words I decided to completely rewrite it.

I have also found this Christmas just gone that there is a story about Santa crashing his sleigh. For those of my readers who have seen the film ‘The Santa Incident’, in my opinion a rather poor effort in comparison to some great festive movies, there could be an idea that one of us writers had got the idea from the other. Now I am unpublished and only came up with my first idea for ‘The Late Christmas’ in 2006 so the writer of that couldn’t have got his idea from me, and yet the film I watched a couple of months ago couldn’t be more different, and yet somehow similar.

Luckily, my baby, who is right now being rewritten for the umpteenth time ‘Mother Nature’, doesn’t as yet have anything that I can compare it to. I think the day that I find something similar will be a sad one for me.

Anyways, what was I saying? Oh yes, as some of you know I am a fan of some of Stephen King’s work, most notably The Stand. Mr. King has said in public that it take two totally separate ideas brought together to make a good story. It sounds a strange thing to say, but the more I thought about it, the more that he makes quite a bit of sense. Lets take the above story Toy Soldiers as an example. Basically the story revolves around an all boys school for troubled teenagers – there’s a story right there that many of us could write, but then the author added a completely unrelated story into the mix. While we learnt the characters and the rules of how the school was run, another story about a terrorist group who are trying to force the release of the founder-member, who is incarcerated. The terrorists make their way to the school and take the pupils hostage as a lever to getting their member freed. This is a classic example of how two separate ideas can indeed be bonded together to make one quite enjoyable read.

When Stephen King was asked how he writes a book, he came back with ‘One word at a time.’ This of course is exactly how you actually write a book, but certainly this was not what the person asking the query was meaning. In literal terms, an author will start with a blank sheet of paper, or a blank document on a computer, and start typing. However, it is entirely formulary, with the author working from models or ideas in his mind, the idea of writing one word at a time before coming up with the next word is ludicrous. Moreover, when I go over what I have written on a first draft, I will often find that I have missed out words, phrases or sometimes even half a sentence because I am desperate to get the words down in the way I have them in my mind as quickly as possible, before the synaptic patterns change or completely degrade.

However, let’s go back to Stephen’s ‘One word at a time’ because there is some truth in that, although not for a first, second or even third draft of a manuscript, but for the editing. When editing a piece of work, every word in their singularity as well as within the context of the sentence is looked at very carefully. One slight change of a word can completely change the meaning of the sentence, and placing that same word in a different place within the sentence can not only do the same, but can enhance even the shortest of notations.

In the past couple of weeks I have come up with two fairly good ideas, which if I had more time I would like to pursue. Both these ideas came to me during that half awake, half asleep state before dozing off for the night, and both times I woke up and started writing my ideas down – which tends to mess up my sleep patterns quite well. As it happens, for both of these possible stories, I have a completely different idea that I’ve already started to merge into the first ideas, one at the very end of a story, the other as a parallel plot.

Now don’t ask me how I came up with these ideas because I really couldn’t tell you, they just popped up in my head. Also, when thinking about them I suddenly popped up and thought of a completely different story that could be squished into them… maybe it’s just an active imagination, that’s all I can put it down to. Now there are times that other things around me have influenced my train of thought about stories. For instance, I had on the back-burner a few years ago the idea of Santa crashing his Sleigh, as I’ve already said, but it was only when I was listening to a track from Moby did it come alive.

It was the day I was moving into the Farm down on the Lizard. I had asked for a few people to help with the move, and sprucing up the place so that it was liveable. We were all in different rooms painting everything that didn’t move, and many of us that were moving, if truth be told! In the background I had my jukebox on random and ‘Everlovin’ by Moby came on. I was happily painting away and in my mind I imagined large American eighteen wheeled trucks in a convoy, rolling across the American desert… listen to it and I bet you’ll know why I had that image. Well then I added to the images in my mind, the trucks filled to the brim of Christmas presents, then a large teddy bear symbol on the front of each truck, then helicopters with the same symbol on them flying above the trucks with large sacks dangling from them. Lastly, I had crowds of people cheering as each of the thousand trucks passed them because their presents were being distributed to all the homes… all within one sitting of the Moby track. The Late Christmas, the story I had on the backburner for three years previous to that day had taken a completely different route all within about a foot square of paint… It was within the month that I started to write the full manuscript, and if I don’t say so myself, it turned out cherry :)

So lets recap on my ideas and how I get them down. Often I will come up with an idea and that idea will sit on the backburner for a while; maybe get written down as notes or on a corkboard. When another idea comes up that can be linked into it, I will add it to the first. Only then will it start to show it’s colours and whether there is something to continue with. At that point I will often write a chapter or two, quickly and in draft to see whether I can put down on paper in a way that resembles what I have in my mind; not one word at a time but in a flurry of finger presses on the keyboard, or scribblings on paper that are hardly legible. If I find there is something meaty in the idea then I consider writing a full manuscript… and that is about it.

I have often been told that I’m eccentric and that my mind works in mysterious ways, but I can’t help that. I’m sure if you ask other writers how they come up with their ideas, they will give you a different story, but that’s what makes us all unique. Happy writing all of you.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Better late than never!

My apologies to everybody who has been waiting patiently for me to write my post, but it has been a very hectic couple of months... I can hardly believe that it's the end of February already! Basically, work has taken over recently, so much so that I've even found that a lot of my weekends are now getting clogged up with it. However I see that while I've been gone the world has still moved on around me. Today was the last day of the Pope's duties before another one is elected, we've had the horse-meat scandal, snow and of course close encounters with asteroids (or if in Russia, even closer!) We've had the passing of Mr. Good Life himself, the Oscars and even more austerity... some things change, some never do.

It hasn't been all bad though, I did take a trip up to Scotland to see one of our customers. I drove up to Manchester in the van, and then Martin and I carried on the journey in his hire car. We drove through the snow, which was coming down quite heavily at the time, but I was more concerned with how pretty everything looked than concerned we might get snowed in - we didn't!

On the journey in the van I dictated a chapter of one of my books, just to see if I could act out the scenes while driving, rather than listening to the radio, which is usually my only company. It was a fifteen hour journey in the van, and I dictated over 8,000 words - I'll have to try that during NanoWriMo! Talking of writing, I did go to the Creative Writing Group again at Waterstones. It was held on Valentines evening, so you can imagine what we all had to write about!

I have started to write a few things for this blog, which I haven't finished yet, so there really is more to come soon... I think on one of them I get on my soapbox a bit, but then if these posts were boring then you wouldn't be reading them :)

Well, I am working for some of this weekend and I've got a get-together with a load of other nerds (sorry, writers) on Saturday, but will make a concerted effort to add to this - I just wanted to say that I haven't forgotten you lot.

Oh yes, just before I go... As with many of you, I have felt over the past few weeks that I would freeze in this cold weather; however, I have just heard that Sir Ranulph Fiennes (one of my heroes) has just been evacuated from his latest expedition because of frostbite... Apparently, he just removed one of his gloves to adjust a strap on his ski binding, and ended up with four poorly fingers! And we complain about the cold? I think I'm going to have to harden up.

Can I just say in here that I wish him and his fingers well, and a damn good try Ranulph - Get well soon.

Okay that's it for now, speak to you soon.

Fred Deakin
Design Engineer & Writer