Back on track!

Sci fi train

Just a tiny update this week. I have made it to 4597 words, so not quite finished with my chapter but at least I made a decent dent. On top of which, I have just reached the most exciting part of this chapter and I am looking forward to writing it – hopefully that will give me a kick to finish. I do feel like it’s getting easier, it’s just finding the time!

What keeps you going when you are kept away from your writing?

Cheers all!

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.

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We’re getting some interference… Listen

Listening stations

Not much of anything to report this week – real life got totally in the way of what I had hoped to do with my writing. I’m not feeling particularly discouraged or annoyed about it, these things happen. As much as I might want to be writing for a living, that is not the case at present and sometimes I just have to put aside my imaginary friends and fictitious locales to concentrate on the important stuff.

In an attempt to keep myself engrossed in my story and the universe in which it takes place I have been making notes and jotting down ideas if I get a spare minute. I have mentioned my enormous plot outline before but I also have a document with ideas for continuation of the story or just extensions to the current project. Who knows what will come of the rambling, messy ideas it contains! Importantly though, it keeps me excited about what I am working on.

Another thing I make sure to do when I am kept away from my writing is listen to other science fiction stories on Audiobook. It really does help in a lot of ways. For example phrasing and terminology relating to starships or astro-navigation are not something I tend to encounter in normal everyday life, but I can absorb such things from a good book playing in the background whilst I am doing something else. A single short sentence can inspire big ideas.

Hopefully I will get more time to write during the next week. I will be carrying over the same goal from my last post: try to finish my first chapter.

What do you do if you can’t write? Do you like to listen to audiobooks whilst you do other things? Let me know if you have any good sci-fi audiobook recommendations! I spotted ‘On Silver Wings’ by Evan Currie recently and have added it to my list. Thanks for reading!

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.

And we have lift off!

Take off

This week has seen me sailing neatly past the goal I set for myself, reaching 3462 words with my first chapter.

I realise this is still a very small word count but I feel like things are now properly under way – we have lift off (if I can mix my nautical and space ship idioms)!

So what is the next step? More power to the engines. I want to get myself writing faster; more words in less time. I have a lot going on at the moment and my writing time is limited. 15 minutes here, 10 minutes there – a whole half an hour in the mornings if I get up even earlier. I actually do most of my writing in a Google Doc on my phone because it’s portable (I thoroughly recommend this by the way – make your writing a bad habit you can do when you should be doing something else…)

I have been aware of NaNoWriMo going on in the writing world without me during the last month. I would love to be able to focus on my novel to that degree – but that’s not possible right now. What’s interesting though is that there are so many resources and tips out there for everyone. One that caught my eye is the Pomodoro Technique which involves setting a timer and doing things in small chunks.

Pomodoro

I want to give this a try over the next week: even if the lengths of time I have available don’t change, maybe the ticking clock will give me a boost. Pressure me onwards. We’ll see.

Realistically I think I just need to do more writing and I will speed up naturally with practice. I am going to challenge myself to finish my first chapter by next week. I don’t know if I can do it, but I am going to try.

What helps you to write faster? Any tips or ideas? Let me know and thanks for reading!

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.

Progress on Mars

Mars

I am now at 1862 words with my first chapter, which means I reached my target for the week! In fact, that nearly catches me up to where I should have been if I had met my previous goal as well.

Trying to be less of a perfectionist and just get the words out has definitely helped but I find it a difficult thing to do. Still, hopefully it is something I can refine with practice. Whilst what I have managed is most definitely a small benchmark, I am very pleased with the progress. It has really been a big motivator to see my imaginary world(s) beginning to unfold on the page.

I feel like I have now actually met my main character. Watched him move, heard his thoughts. It’s like he’s gone from being a flat image to a real person. I like him, though I don’t think he’s a nice person. It’s going to be good fun watching him go through the events I have planned for him. So far, all I have seen him do is react to the opening setting of the story: Mars.

Having never actually been to Mars myself, I need to make sure I research everything properly for the descriptions of the scene, but that is something which could easily become a distraction. This was almost the case with a snippet about the Troposphere and Martian dust storms, but I caught myself before I fell down the rabbit hole. Tricky because it’s certainly interesting stuff! I can’t allow myself to stop and look into the tiny  details now. I can do it when I come back to edit the text later.

I have had several ideas for other novels this week, but I am staying focused on the current project. I’ve written the ideas down for future reference – the idea of creating a universe in which I can set many different stories is very exciting. It just makes me want to work harder towards it all.

As a goal for the next week, I’m going to try and get the total for chapter one up to 3000 words. Anything past that will be a bonus but if I can reach that target then I am halfway through the chapter.

What’s it like for you when you first meet your characters? At what stage of the process do you do your research?

Thanks for reading, catch you next week!

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.

Write like they can’t see you!

Spy

Just a short post this time. Six hundred and eight words. That is less than the goal I set for myself last week. Blast.

So I didn’t make my target. However, I believe I know what my problem is. I have been far too obsessed with quality when what I should have been focusing on is quantity. It’s tempting to make excuses and say that this was just a one time thing: the opening sentences have to be good, right? There has to be a good hook… Except I know my brain and I know that this will become a problem if I don’t get myself out of this bad habit before it starts.

I need to remember that what I am working on RIGHT NOW is a draft. Just a draft. Even if it is riddled with errors and doesn’t flow nicely, it does not matter. Nobody needs to see this! It doesn’t matter if it is absolutely terrible! I just need to get the words out. I can edit it later. At this stage I need to be less concerned with how my work comes across and write like nobody else can see it, because they can’t.

So I will repeat the same goal for myself this week. Write one thousand words. While I do it I shall endeavour to train myself not to worry about the quality so much!

drafts

Is this a problem you have struggled with? How did you beat it? Let me know!

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.

Trans-Atmospheric Ferry and a Chisel…

ship mountains

It’s been a busy week! My day to day work has been keeping me away from my writing more than I would like but I have done what I could. If you are wondering what the chisel in the title is about: I had a bit of a mishap and the index finger of my left hand is currently bound up tightly in a dressing! Typing with one finger incapacitated has been interesting.

In my last post I set myself the goal of ironing out the final kinks of my plot outline, specifically of sorting out my main character’s motivations. For a while I was not really sure how to go about this. I went through my big outline, changing small things here and there but not really achieving the desired effect. I left it for a while, came back to it but still couldn’t get things right.

Here’s a tip I have learnt this week – if you have something in your story that you are excited to write about, when you have ideas about it put it in a separate document. Do not put it in your plot outline as a reminder because it can become a HUGE distraction! I did this, specifically with the description of the ship my characters will travel in throughout my story. I spent all of my writing time for two days adding to and adjusting this description instead of focusing on what I was supposed to be doing…

Eventually I got back on track and managed to sort my main character’s motivations by changing the dynamic of the relationship with another central character. Suddenly everything snapped into place and things I had already written made more sense.

I have sent a copy of my outline to a writing friend, Ramona, just to get another pair of eyes on it and check it for glaring plot holes. While she is doing that, I am going to get to work on my first draft, beginning with chapter one (revolutionary, I know). I am going to set myself the target of writing 1000 words before my next post – that doesn’t sound like a lot but I figure it’s best to start with an easy goal.

Is there anything that you have found particularly distracting whilst working on your own writing? Thanks for reading, and I will leave you with the description of the ship that kept me so preoccupied. I’m sure it will change again at some point!

She was a hodgepodge vessel. Long and slim, measuring in at just under 150 meters. Her shape, combined with her many protrusions, masts and antennae reminded me somehow of a wingless dragonfly. A backwards dragonfly with the widest point, the engines, at the aft.

 

In a former life the gently curved upper section atop the ship as well as the lower fuselage containing the landing legs and boarding ramp had belonged to a trans-atmospheric ferry. Originally designed for moving passengers and cargo between a planetary surface and a nearby station or moon, the ferry sections gave us plenty of internal storage space and the ability to land anywhere instead of being restricted to orbital anchorage zones.

 

Despite the useful salvage, the ferry did have its issues. Some horrific accident had put her in the junkyard and whatever it had been, she seemed to have been totally gutted. Passenger with a firearm and no trigger discipline leading to explosive decompression was my guess. Nik reckoned satellite strike or something involving mirrors – we found a lot of glass inside that didn’t seem to belong. Either way, incredibly inconsiderate on the part of her former crew. Even worse, the ferry had not originally been equipped with a Drive unit. We’d stripped out what was left of the trans-atmospheric engines and spent days trawling through the junkyard trying to find replacements better suited to our needs. Nik had eventually come up trumps, finding the rear half of a decommissioned naval corvette. Admittedly, we’d lost a noticeable chunk of our cargo capacity by the time we’d finished mating the big cylindrical corvette hull and it’s oversized engines to the ferry components, but I was happy with the trade-off. 

 

I’d also made sure we salvaged as much of the armour plating as possible from what was left of the corvette – everybody had complained about the extra work, but I’d insisted. Having first hand experience of just how much damage an unarmoured ship could suffer during raiding and boarding actions, I wanted as much protection as possible.

 

That had left us with about 60% of a ship, although without much in the way of avionics systems, only one working airlock, no lifeboat and a large hole in the front of the corvette section where the warship’s prow and main weapons systems should have been. An old and very unlovely heavy-duty space tug had solved these issues; becoming the donor for most of the missing components. With the long framework, reinforcing spars and the main tractor array from the tug mounted to cover the gap up front, we finally had not only a complete vessel but one that could take hold of other ships with considerable power. A perfect boarding tool.

 

She was fast, armed, armoured, able to grab hold of prey and had plenty of space for storing ill-gotten gains. Practical. A pirate’s dream.

 

She was also ugly as sin.

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.

Plot Outlining

Control-room

From all the things I have read during my research, the videos I have watched and podcasts I have listened to, it seems there are two main schools of thought when it comes to working on a novel. Those who plan everything out meticulously, and those who write by the seat of their pants. Wayne Kelly on The Joined Up Writing Podcast discusses this fairly frequently with his guests and is an advocate of ‘pantsing’ it.

I have tried the more improvisational method before numerous times. As I mentioned in my first post I have started writing novels several times over the years but never got very far with it. When I began on my current project I tried the same thing, and even made it through five whole chapters before I hit the inevitable wall. It just doesn’t work for me. Back to the drawing board.

I continued researching and began to look into plot outlining. Working everything out ahead of time. This has turned out to be the way forward for me. In particular, I have found this video by Jenna Moreci particularly helpful. Now Jenna states that her outlines usually end up being thirty pages, and when I first heard that I thought that sounded excessive. Plus the whiteboard covered in post-it notes? I don’t need to do that much, right? I continued plugging away at my outline document, adding to it here and there, studying articles about story structure, The Hero’s Journey and so on. My outline word count crept up. I did get stuck at one point and it turns out the whiteboard thing works. I solved my issues.

So today I have a plot outline document 44 pages long, 23185 words in total. I have laid out every scene in detail, and if anything I am more excited about starting to write the individual chapters now than I was when I first began this project. I know my characters so much better, and can imagine what they will do and the things they will say in each setting. I can see the gritty locales in my head and imagine the explosive climax scenes like watching a film in my mind’s eye.

I have decided to aim for a 90,000 word novel, broken up into 15 chapters of 6,000 words each. I have a target to aim for, broken into manageable chunks, and with a brief of the events that need to take place in each scene already written. I am aware that no plan survives contact with the enemy but we shall see how I get on! Currently I am making the final tweaks to small details, my main character has been causing issues at this eleventh hour (just trying to get his motivations straightened out). I hope by the time I post my next update to have all the kinks ironed out.

What helps you with your writing? Are you a planner or a ‘pantser’? Are there any videos, articles or podcasts that have helped you? Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you on the next one.

Here’s a link to the lovely artwork.