Distraction and Apps…Where I went wrong


I love apps. There’s no getting away from it, I love apps. The reason for this is twofold; firstly I am a nerd (or is it geek?) and have totally bought in to all the tech associated with iphones, macs, and so on, so I love this stuff. Secondly, and more important, is that, for the aspiring author, they are a distraction. That is the key.

If I were to list the apps that have crossed my path, sheltered under the umbrella of ‘writing workflow’, it would be embarrassingly large. So here goes…

  • Scrivener
  • Byword
  • Ullyses
  • Storyist
  • Adobe Story
  • Textilus
  • Word
  • Google Docs
  • nValt

So that’s just *some* of the writing apps. Associated with those are the myriad note-taking apps…

  • Simplenote
  • nValt
  • OneNote
  • Evernote
  • Pocket

And in further association, there are the general apps that become wired into all the rest…

  • Dropbox
  • OneDrive
  • Google Drive
  • iCloud Drive
  • Box
  • Mindnode
  • Aeon Timeline
  • Photoshop CC
  • Illustrator CC
  • Lightoom CC
  • IFTTT
  • Workflow
  • duet

And these are the ones that I have currently. I have acquired and discarded about the same amount, though I struggle to remember them so I won’t bother listing them here.

So, a lot of distraction going on. You have to realise that most of these apps require some significant investigation to get used to, and I have put in the learning time on nearly all of them, under the misguided assumption that ‘It will help me be more productive’.

Hundreds of YouTube tutorials and a thousand ‘How To…’ websites later I can confirm…they did not. Don’t get me wrong, I still use a lot of these apps (such as Byword and markdown, with which this blog post is written) but–and here is the rub–I don’t really need to.

If I have a message to get across about all this, it is that there is too much emphasis on workflow and organisation. If you want to write, just WRITE and stop thinking you need a bundle of digital assistants to do so. If you feel the urge for an app, read a book.

Wrestling with an idea…


M_Id_389095_Wrestling_in_OlympicsThe gods of ingenuity are capricious bastards, at least with me. They send an idea to me half-formed and leave me to it, letting me go through months of agonising re-writing as I try to find the golden nugget that I am absolutely certain lies within it.

This happened to me a few months ago. I had an idea for a story that came as I was doing some other bits of flash fiction. Excited (as much as I can get) I set upon writing, fleshing out the idea and giving names to people and places, adding oomph to the background, doing some much needed world-building. All was good.

Then I reviewed what I have done and found myself unhappy with the results so I started again, thinking, foolishly, that only a tweak or two is needed. Then I re-read that, and decided it needed re-doing….and the cycle began. Ten thousand words are discarded as another written in its place. And another. For bloody months!

I have found that wrestling with an idea is a process that seems without end. The curse of the writer is that he is never entirely happy with his work, which leads me to the real rule that I need to consider: At some point you just have to stop re-writing and get on and finish something.

The good part is that all the re-writes and wrangling have helped codify your world of imagination, and the practice is a necessary part of it all. Without that practice the idea doesn’t have a chance to form itself into something genuinely interesting and unique. It turns out that the job of a writer is to agonise, which is fine…I can take on such burdens if the result is an idea made real.

You have to nourish that spark, fan the flames, ignite that conflagration, but be aware that it is not a quick process. If you ever claim to have had an idea fully formed, not needing an age of pondering to get right, then I am both annoyed and utterly jealous of you. Thankfully, I think those types are probably unconscious plagiarists!

Until next time, y’all. Be good…

Frustration, the blank page and nothing to read…


I have never been one for lacking anything to write, a trait that has kept me occupied and more than entertained on many an occasion. It has always been gratifying to be able to rely on my previously immutable ability to churn out something imaginative without much prevarication. However, I appear to have come up against a blank page. The dreaded writers block. It is alarming!

There is no solution to it other than continuing to write, no matter how bad the results. The fact that what I produce is unconvincing, all my prose riddled with self-doubt, and each premise utterly banal and derivative is of great concern. I await an epiphanic moment with increasing desperation.

It is not lost on me that I have not been reading much lately either. In almost every piece of advice about writing that I have ever come across, the instruction to READ, READ, READ is always in the top five.

So, if I have a strategy for writers block it is this: Read more, write into the wind.

Now, I’m off to find a novel I can get my teeth into, and hopefully the creative juices will flow as a result. Any recommendations gratefully received!

The state of affairs…


Hello, halloo, bonjour, um, bien venue? Regardless of the salutation, I realised that it has been MONTHS since I updated my blog, preferring to spend time doing anything else entirely, out of a misplaced sense of apathy. Or, if not misplaced, certainly un-heeded…

But here I am, loyal readers, with an update on this blog’s tagline: ‘HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS AS I FIND OUT JUST HOW HARD IT IS TO WRITE A BOOK…’

Featured imageI have not stopped writing since I last blogged, and I finished my Foxytale’s first draft. I sent it out to some (initially) willing beta-readers, and the comments back were not either multitudinous nor plenty, but there was feedback enough for me to get settled in for a big re-write, talking into account the comments made.

It’s an odd process to follow, I found, but it has helped iron out flaws I obviously did not notice from beneath my subjective blanket. I’m only 22k words into the re-write, and already there have been some fairly significant scene changes, some plot wrangling, and some harsh deletions.

I continue at a snail’s pace, but as I always said, this was why I started all this in the first place. You don’t get better without painful years of grind. These are those grinding years, unfortunately. I remain, however, un-deterred in my mission.

As for other writings, I have three fantasy ones stuck around the 100k word-count mark. I have not binned them, just taken a break, much as I did between Foxytale re-starts. I find I am better able to be objective given a few months to forget the good lines…

Beyond those, I have any number of one-two-chapter beginnings written, for any number of fantasy/contemporary/Sci-Fic potential books. It’s all about the grind, today!

It would be a lie if I were to concede that I have allowed a few non-writing days to creep in, but I have determined that it would be best if I knuckled down again. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be published… Stranger things have happened, you know…!

PS Check out SCENE!, my creative writing series I did on here, now collated in one place to make some sense...Here. Enjoy!

5000 limericks…


statistics2Presuming there are about thirty words in a standard limerick, I have so far written the equivalent of five-thousand – that’s 5000 – limericks in my latest attempt at writing.
I’m not bragging, it’s just the only thing I can think of to post about, which does not bode well for my blog in the long run, in all honesty.
Still, five-thousand limericks is not to be sniffed at. That’s a lot of rhymes. Makes you think.
So I guess this is a progress report.
With so many words done you’d have thought the story would be well under way. It would be a reasonable man that expected you to be in the meat of the tale by now. You’d be wrong. My lead character (indeed, the POV) has been problematic. It feels very much like I’m trying too hard to demonstrate the character’s growth, and as such am losing the pace. Not that pace was ever an imperative, but it’s never good to drag the story’s arse through the mud. The incidental (ie non-POV) chars are worryingly unremarkable and I have the awful feeling that, if I ever get to the end, I will need to re-write whole bundles of chapters (bundles being the collective noun for chapters, as all know).
But, Zen-like, I forge ahead, still enjoying the progress. A friend of mine said this week that they could never try to write as they’d just not know what to write, which struck me as quite shameful. If you don’t trust your imagination enough to make stuff up, then what the hell is going on? You have probably finally lost your inner child, and you are fully justified in mourning.
Well, post done, I’m off to do other stuff.
J

Writing tools – a review of apps I use


writing

After two years forging a fairly inaccurate furrow through the field of attempted writing, I thought it might be time for me to do a little review of the myriad ways in which a writer can avoid actual writing by playing around with apps. Or, if I want to be a little more constructive about this, a review of the apps that have helped me and that I use often in the pursuit of writing nirvana.

In no particular order (although Scrivener is definitely top!)…

 

1. Scrivener http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php – Around £28 from the App Store

Scrivener screengrab

This is the writing software I now use. It wasn’t always the case. I spent a while writing in MS Word, Open Office, even Googledocs, but when it came down to it Scrivener was , I found, everything I needed, or what I could ever expect to use. The blurb, from the website…

Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

It cannot be understated; this software is AWESOME, and I use that word reservedly at best. The list of options is incredible, and the ways in which it can help organise a draft is mind-boggling. There are criticisms, but only a few, but I have tried any number of alternatives (Ulysses, rWriter etc) and they are all inferior in one or a number of ways, to Scrivener. I wholly recommend. One downside is there is no tablet/iphone version, though we are persistently assured it will one day arrive. However, you can get past this in other ways – dropbox etc, as you will see later…

 

2. Evernote https://evernote.com/ FREE

Evernote screengrab

Evernote is a free online notebook that syncs with your devices, has loads of great embedded tools for clipping notes while you browse the internet, and, like Scrivener, a whole heap of options. Plus – and this is the best bit – it’s free. FREE! You can purchase additional features and storage, but I have yet to find the need. It’s just great for organising your notes. For instance, I have notebooks for non-writing stuff, for research, for images and so on. I have found this invaluable, especially because you can add notes wherever you are – through my phone or iPad, and it all syncs up. I could even log onto my Evernote through any browser on any computer and find all my notes there. Love it. Nuff said.

 

3. Dropbox https://www.dropbox.com/home FREE

Dropbox screengrab

Quite what I used to do before Dropbox I will never know, and I shouldn’t really have to tell you what it does, because everyone should know.

Most importantly I can sync my Scrivener files in Dropbox and edit them on my iPad/iPhone with Textilus (http://www.textilusapp.com/) – a simple yet powerful text editor – and then it syncs right back with Scrivener when I’m done.

Storage is upgradeable (like with Evernote) but I’ve not even nearly got close to my limits, so all is good in this world. Ah…life in da cloud…

The alternative to this is google drive (like you’d bother) or iCloud (which is looking threateningly good), but in the meantime Dropbox has the answers to my needs. Now, if only it could get me to actually write…

 

4. Pixelmator http://www.pixelmator.com/ FREE

Pixelmator screengrab

In the perfect world I would buy Photoshop. But the world isn’t perfect and I refuse to spend that much on software, no matter how ace it is (and it is…I’m slap bang in the middle of a 30 day Photoshop trial and it’s flamin’ brilliant), so I turn to cheaper alternatives for my image needs. I have tried quite a few (Gimp, Artrage et al) and they all have their good an bad points, mostly that they don’t have the features of Photoshop, and although Pixelmator has this problem too, it seems the best of a free bunch. I managed to make a map of sorts, for the first time working out how to do it thanks to youtube tutorials.

It really helps in worldbuilding to be able to visualise your setting, and Pixelmator has allowed me to do this. It is a good app, especially because it is free.

 

5. Aeon Timeline http://www.scribblecode.com/ Around £28

Aeon Timeline screengrab

I think the best way to describe this is to let the blurb tell you all…

Aeon Timeline is more than a series of events on a never ending line. With Aeon, you can divide your timeline into logical groups, projects, or concurrent arcs. You can model the relationships between events and people, places and ideas. Aeon calculates people’s ages for you. And you can link your events with research material such as external files or images that can be displayed inside the application.

Worldbuilding is difficult. Organisation is required (and I am not good at that). Aeon Timeline allows me to make a timeline that fits with my own calendar, own rules (want fifteen days in a month, three months in a year? You can do it here). When it comes to wasting time, this is the king of all. It can also sync with Scrivener and organise your chapters into a visual representation of events. It is very handy. That said, it is not going to be for everybody, but it works for me.

There you have it. Some software that I use in my everyday avoidance of actual writing. That said, I’ve written over a million words in the two-plus years I’ve been writing seriously, so they aren’t as good as all that for avoiding work.

Happy writing, people!

Navel-gazing comeback post of doom


It has been a while since I posted on this illustrious and rather ‘meh’ blog of mine, but be assured it was not the blogosphere I was ignoring, but the entire world… So with that in mind I thought I would ease back into it all with a gentle summation of my recent scribblings…

navelgazingLet’s see…. Well since I last mentioned anything I have done fifty thousand words of a contemporary thriller-type story set in Yorkshire in the real world/present day. That was fun, but, as usual I lost focus, and the story kind of drifted into uncertainty. C’est la vie.

And then I started another fantasy effort, which is ongoing – sixty-five thousand words so far. But I have reached that same problem that I have always had in all these projects… indecision and doubt. Lots of it. Enough to railroad it all, I fear. But I am working on it…

Not so damned easy, this writing malarky, I have decided. You may quote me on that…

Hopefully this missive will get me back into communicating with the outside world – I have been neglectful of correspondence and contact because of some stuff going on in my life at the moment. But I a trying to resolve this and get my head back on straight.

Do you know what? I hate reading navel-gazing blog posts like these, so I’ll stop now and maybe post a bit of whimsy at a later date, if I can spare the creative oomph required. In the meantime, as the great man said…Stay shiny!

Ten things I’ve learned (serious post)


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Well, enough of the whimsy (though I do like it) because occasionally this blog has to at least touch on my writing once in a while – it is the reason it exists after all. I do this on the auspicious occasion of my hitting the 200,000 word milestone. Actually, it’s 199,837, but I know that if I set to it, this blog’ll not get posted on today, such is the extent of my ability to get distracted.

So, what ten things have I learned since I started doing this, some ten or so months back? Let me list the ways and means…

  1. Don’t be an arse and set off on something without at least a modicum of planning. It’s all very cavalier and exciting to write by the seat of one’s pants, but it makes for a meandering tale that lacks focus. Have an ending at least superficially scratched into the meaty grey mass of your brain. You may be lucky and find one on the way and change it, but it’s better to start with one and change than just hope a plot will present itself. That way lies madness and 200,000 words of dubious worth. 
  2. Find someone who is willing to read your stuff, and will unflinchingly support you and tell you how fantastic you are. It makes for good productivity. Saying that, also find someone who will criticise the arse out of it. For balance…
  3. Even if you can’t be bothered, try to write something everyday. Yeah, it may be rubbish, half-hearted, and eminently delete-able, but it becomes almost second nature, and words start to fly.
  4. Last thing at night, as you lay with your head on the pillow, just think about where you’ve left the plot. Imagine where it goes next. I swear, if you grant some brain-time to it, the ideas come. Write em down if you think you’ll forget. I don’t need to, I remember everything, as I’m sure I pointed out at the start of this post…
  5. You will doubt yourself. You will read what you have written and think, “That is utter shash”. This is normal. But dont stop. Re-write. The next point will help…
  6. Be brave. If you are assailed by the winged tyrants of doubt, then don’t hesitate to cut that whole thirty thousand words. If I was on a deadline I would perhaps think twice, but if, like me, you are just writing to get your story done, then don’t hesitate to chop the last three weeks work. I have found the discarded stuff still contributes to the whole, even if only in background or in clarifying the best way forward.
  7.  Read. A lot. I often find that while I am reading I get a sudden idea for my own work, usually utterly unrelated. I think it must be down to the imagination part of my mind being stimulated. It works for me, anyway…
  8. Have a rest from it once in a while, but don’t stop writing. Go off and start on something fresh – a new story in a whole new world, if that’s your bag. In doing so you will find, when you go back to your original work, you will have some new ideas. You will find yourself in a rut, probably because you are thinking so much about the story, and a change can give you that freshness when you go back.
  9. Have milestones. Mine have all been word counts. The trap to avoid is the not wallowing in your successes. I found myself at 50k words and just stopped, a bit dismayed over the distance to the next milestone, and inordinately proud that I actually got there. But then next thing you know…100k words, and so on.
  10. Get someone to proof read. Your eyes will just skip over the errors in your own work, no matter how careful you are.

Wow, that was harder to do than I expected. I should have done a top three. I’m sure I’ve duplicated some entries, too.

I think this is one of my rare moments of serious reflection. You should cherish it. Not even the barest iota of whimsy. It feels wrong. Like watching a monkey masturbate. You know it’s wrong, but the damn thing has such a funny look on its face.

Until next time…

Calling all readers!


There! No, there, next to the lamp. No, to the left. See it? Is it how you remembered?

No. Because I’m talking utter rubbish. There is a lesson to be learned in this.

Lacking the wherewithal to post anything of relevance, interest or merit, I (your author) find myself poking the keyboard, hoping my unutterably complex brain will dredge up something inspirational. Perhaps under some vast self-delusion, I consider that my meaningless jabber is providing the previously bored reader with what they need – the nourishing, mineral-rich essence of entertainment, wrapped in comfy, fluffy words.

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What I don’t consider is that the reader (who is wise, considerate – a learned person of discretion) is not fooled by this.  “This person,” the reader opines, “has no idea what he is writing about. This is a waste of my valuable and tax-deductible time.”

That reader is right, of course.

Suitably chastened, I (your author) am both shamed and enervated by the realisation that I am engaging in foolery.

The wise author lays down (stops typing on) his pen (the keyboard) and reassesses his life, becoming a wandering doer of good, giving of himself that he might regain the self-respect the reader had driven from him in that devastating judgement.

But there are no wise authors, only stupid ones who write pithy posts with a desperate yearning to be loved. We are ineffably flawed.

The stupid author, caught in ever-decreasing circles of self-loathing and substance abuse, and the peculiar type of self-hate that comes from watching too many episodes of Star Trek – The Next Generation,is physically, emotionally and spiritually reduced. He turns to drink, self-flagellation and collecting ceramic frogs, to the detriment of humankind.

Do you, revered reader, want that on your conscience?

No, and thrice no. For you are, as had been said previously, wise, considerate and learned. You say, instead, to yourself, “Ha! Good post!” in the comments section, like the blog, tell your friends, give them your dedicated support and love, and then the world is a better place.

Is it too much to ask? You have a responsibility, dear reader. Validate this cheap-shot.

Eye Wonder…


Have you ever gone on holiday and had the feeling you left something turned on? Yes? No? Well, maybe you should write a comedy routine based on stuff like this and then intersperse it with jokes about airline food and mothers-in-law. People will lap it up.

Anyway, that was my introduction to today’s post; a post that at this time has no theme, save for the doodle I have put up for your delectation.

Conventional wisdom suggests I should weave the subject of the drawing into the text of this post, perhaps making one or two incisive comments and deriving a conclusion that is as tenuous and flimsy as using the inferred existence of WMDs as an excuse to steal M&Ms from the shop.

But I defy you, convention, you beguiler, telling us what to do and when to do it based upon reasonable extrapolation from years of evidence. I spit in your false face, tradition with your big silly chin. And etiquette? You can shove that one up yer arse. You won’t find this post being led around by the unmentionable. I fly in the face of protocol, like an unconventional, wildly unconvincing rebel.

At this point I should be summarising my post, noting the key points, perhaps. Or issuing a witty aside to distract from the pointlessness of what you have just read. But I won’t, rebel that I am.

So. in summary, I am attempting to infer that I am no slave to convention. Note points A to C above as proof.