Tag Archives: Writing

Four thousand words a day challenge: day ten


Cerberus has stuttered a little, and I’m concerned that the main narrative thread has veered off in the wrong direction, although the main denouement is still firmly in my narrative sights. However, Word count for yesterday was Start: 51389, Finish: 55640, daily total; 4251. Average has dropped sharply to just over 3900 and I’m feeling very tired. Doing 4000 words a day and holding down my day job is proving very difficult. That said; nothing worthwhile is ever easy, and I’m actually looking forward to finishing and then going to sleep for a full twenty four or forty eight hours. Five more days. Have I hit the ‘wall’? The part where you’re just so bloody tired you pick up the pace and carry on anyway?

This whole 4000 thing is beginning to feel like Hubris. The pride that challenges the Gods, and I’m beginning to hate myself for walking into it with both eyes wide shut.

Four thousand word a day challenge: day eight and nine


Yesterday was a bit of a disappointment. For some reason I really had trouble getting the story moving, and ended up 1700 words short of target with a measly 2300 on my scorecard.

Now here I am at a quarter to six in the morning, up since quarter past four and I’m back on form. Just me and the laptop, the stars in the sky and barely a ghost of light over Vancouver. 700 words so far, and moving on at speed. Mojo again working my is.

Day shift on the day job today, which cuts down available writing time, and I’ve got a hell of a lot of ground to make up. But the good news is that I’ve got a cracking dénouement worked out in my head. An all action blood and guts cliffhanger and life or death struggle, Well I like it anyway.

The first Cerberus will be ready on time and it will be bloody good. I just hope it’s what Harper Vector are looking for.

Four thousand word a day challenge; day seven


This is bloody hard work, and I’m flagging a bit. Still, the scores on the doors are;
Start: 44841
Finish: 49010
Total words for the day: 4169
Seven day average: 4096 words a day.

All this and a day job too. Seven more days to run before I have to start proofing and reviewing for submission on the 1st or 2nd of October. Five of which will be split between employer and Cerberus.

The story so far is good, with my hero about to go and play directly with the big boys. Am only hinting at who the villains might be so far, as there are three possible endings I want to try out. All three of which are partial cliffhangers for the next in the series, which I am going to have at least a weeks rest before even thinking about attacking. I might take a fresh look at the ‘Darkness’ MSS. There’s another marathon to run if it’s to be ready for launch in late April.

Four thousand word a day challenge; day six


Cerberus Conspiracy MSS progress

Start word count: 40648
Finish: 44841
Daily total: 4193
Total over six days: 24503
Average over 6 days: 4083.33 words per day. Comfortably on track and feeling fairly pleased with my output so far. As Angie puts it, I’m ‘in the zone’ with nine days to go before denouement followed by final edit and proof checking before submission.

Short interlude piece before the ramifications of the last chapter begin to play out, and I’ve tossed the odd clue as to the identity of the true villains into the mix. Just a hint, but enough for the diligent reader to connect one specific thread. Doesn’t pay to give the game away too early.

Have thrown in a few good lines for one of my female characters which should have any female reader thinking “Uh-huh.” and having a good giggle. Angie thought one specific saying was absolutely hilarious. She’s told me to watch out as it may come back to bite me. No doubt she will be proved correct.

That’s enough for tonight. We’ve done everything we set out to do today and then some. I’m good and tired enough to sleep soundly tonight. Working late shift tomorrow, so that leaves me the best part of the day to ratchet the story forward another couple of notches.

Murders most foul


Have just been writing a passage for Cerberus which gives any reader a chilling little insight into the perpetrators of a specific killing, and as such have had tremendous fun writing it. What that says about me as a person I’m not sure, but it can’t be all good. Still, I can see why people get off on reading the salacious details of a murder case. It seems to tap into something vicarious and cruel in the human soul. It even gives me the creeps, and I thought I was all creeped out many years ago after reading several illustrated manuals on forensic medicine and criminal psychology found by one of my then classmates.

Glad my version is fiction.

2401 words so far this morning, and I’m sitting in Nanaimo Waterfront Library typing this, listening to the Very Best of Billy Joel on my headphones. Aren’t laptops a boon to the time strapped wannabe novelist? Another forty five minutes and I have to go and pick Angie up from a do she has to attend. Then off to Coombs.

Four thousand word a day challenge: Day five


Start: 37018
finish:40576
Total: 3558
Total over 5 days: 20238
Average: 4047.6 per day. Still on target.

Today has seen my hero extending his abilities and being recalled to try and solve two new murders. I had to scrap 1000 words today, as quite frankly they weren’t up to snuff. The rest is good steady narrative. Cerberus is on track for the 80,000 word target. After submission I’m taking the week off from the keyboard.

Will try and get an earlier start tomorrow, as I’m off to the ‘Goats on the roof’ market at Coombs on what I call a ‘Cheese run’.

Four thousand words a day challenge; day four


Start: 33250
Finish: 37018
Total: 3768 words, 232 short of daily target. Average 4170 and on track for 80,000 word target by October 1st. This includes research, fact checking, and editing for grammatical and spelling errors.

Not bad considering. Have just ratcheted the first Cerberus story on to the next phase with a bizarre and ritualistic double murder. One my hero has to come back from exile and not quite solve. Because there are some things beyond even his abilities.

Am resisting the temptation to read the newspapers, because bad news always takes my mind off what I should be doing; i.e. writing.

Four thousand word a day challenge; day three


Late shift this evening, but I’ve been at Cerberus hammer and tongs today. The story is moving on, and I’ve spent a little time on an interlude for serious character development.

Beginning word count 28167
End session word count 32499

Close of play 4332 words
Averaging just over 4000 words per day excluding headings and formatting. Might have trouble keeping up the pace tomorrow as I have errands to run, but a break will give me time to think about how I link in the next story elements.

Update: Added a few more paragraphs after this evenings work shift. Final word count 33250. Total for the day; 5083. Birthdays and errands tomorrow, so I’ll be lucky if I make 3000 words. Time for bed.

The four thousand word a day challenge; day two


Fell short of the four thousand word mark today at 3617. Close, but no cigar. Yesterday was 4212, so that averages out at a shade over 3900 words, excluding headings so far. However, the story is at a natural break part of the narrative with a nicely barbed narrative hook baited.

Tomorrow I move on to the next phase of the story which is mostly in note form, so cracking the 4000 might be a little easier.

Cerberus is taking shape nicely.

The four thousand word a day challenge: day one


Harper Vector are opening their books to new authors without agents for two weeks from the 1st to the 14th of October 2012. They are looking for new science fiction and fantasy authors for an assault on the eBook marketplace. I have a novel I’d like to submit, but the problem is it’s all notes and fragments, and there’s two weeks to go before the submission floodgates open.

No agent has seen fit to respond to my many missives about other work over the years, and I’m pretty sure my work has gone unread and straight into the shredder. No agent, and no publisher will even look at your work. Not even into their slush piles. However, there is a window of opportunity here, and I’m going for it. At a target of four thousand words a day starting yesterday.

Word count for the first novel in the Cerberus series started at 20338 16th September. Current word count 25982 Tuesday 18th September 08:40am Pacific Standard Time. 1500 pretty good words since 6:10am this morning. Another thousand before 10am when I go off to the day job, and another 1500 after I get home around 6pm. Add in cooking breakfasts, making tea and suppers for both Angie and I, cleaning kitchen, brushing dog, and acting as Angie’s home tech support, plus watching a movie with her, and I have a full day. Tonight’s movie fare will be the Bourne Supremacy.

I have to keep up this work rate for fourteen whole days. I’m currently out of my office and working in the kitchen almost full time. Which seems to work. Back in 1987 I put together a 40,000 word novella, ‘Machine’ from scratch in thirty days using an old Imperial Safari. So work rate isn’t a problem. Hodder and Stoughton did ask me about writing a series back then, but I felt the character of the ‘Machine’ didn’t have enough in him to justify extending the franchise. I still have the old MSS, and revisit it from time to time. Just to see if I can pick holes in it. Oddly enough, that was written in a kitchen too.

Right. 9am. Break over. Back to work.

The hardest part of bringing characters to light and bolting them into a riveting story is the opening and closing sequences. Those I have. The rest of the story is mostly a detective whodunnit with some serious sci-fi roots. I’ve also managed to get a handle on who Paul Calvin is. A psychic cop with a conscience in a crumbling society, but that is all I’m giving away on this blog.

Another loss


Neil Armstrong, astronaut, one of my boyhood heroes is gone. Complications after bypass surgery so we’re told, but at the end of a remarkable life. One of only 12 people to ever set foot on another world. First man to set foot on the moon, test pilot, engineer and old fashioned hero.

This has saddened me deeply. I don’t feel much like writing today. Just editing, proofing and fact checking. That and an evening shift at work.

Angie is talking about a couple of days in Kelowna wine country and I’m inclined to go and leave the keyboard behind, although that might prove a little bit too much of a wrench. The first Cerberus novella is looking great, and Darkness is taking shape nicely. Must say I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy, as Stars is the result of eight years work so far. Eight bloody years. I could have done medical school or learned to play the saxophone, or perhaps not. You do what you do and that’s that.

Now stepping away from the keyboard. I need a break. A proper break.

Moments of perfect stillness


Friday was a good day, despite a couple of hitches. The only Triumph dealership on Vancouver Island has no sales demo models of the type of sports tourers I’m looking at, and we had to go rushing around for an ATM at the Brentwood / Mill bay ferry, as they only take cash or prepaid tickets. No credit cards.

The majority of the day was taken up with an unscheduled side trip to Butchart Gardens, a gorgeous 55 Acre flower garden and Arboretum created in an old limestone quarry. Most of the blooms are typically North American, big, a trifle blowsy, but nonetheless quite wonderful. The air subtly scented except for the heady, musky sledgehammer between the sinuses that is the fragrance of a lily.

Angie and I continued one of our philosophical conversations about how to find what I call “Moments of perfect stillness” and their use in aiding the creative process. We walked barefoot on grass, simply stopped and looked, took pictures, and in between noisy knots of people tried to explore this notion. I feel the flowers helped her understand my occasional silences are never a rebuff, merely preoccupation.

For my own part I’ve always been concerned that the need to talk incessantly reveals a deep inner insecurity. A need for constant reassurance indicating that all is not well with them. For the interrupted, it breaks the flow of ideas, and can scatter the creative thought process like a thousand startled pigeons. It’s what I call being ‘Porlocked’ after Coleridges eponymous ‘person from Porlock‘.

When I feel sure of my territory, or need to test concepts out, I share them with friends, but not before. I’m also pretty careful who I share them with. There’s nothing worse than saying what’s on your mind when whoever you talk to isn’t in the mood, doesn’t take you seriously, and / or has a mind so closed it visibly clanks when the cogs start turning.

In seeking a ‘moment of stillness’, my way of ‘getting there’ is simply to focus on a sound or smell and close my eyes, or focus on a vague point in the middle distance. Then concentrate. What does your chosen sound or smell mean? What are its associations and how do you feel about them? There are a number of self help authors who recommend this approach, but I always found the superficial Mnemonics they recommend a little too flimsy for keeping stories about whole worlds in my head. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great for small stuff, but not so good for mentally bookmarking extended storylines and the ever branching tree of character development. I have to be able to see, hear, and almost touch these thought-avatars for this mental anchor to function.

What really works for me is to add layers of ideas until the base concept of the focus object / memory feels solid in my mind, and then use that specific memory as a kind of mental mooring post. From that point it becomes relatively easy to concentrate on other things because the moment centres your thoughts, not letting them drift aimlessly and lose the truly important stuff you wanted to think about in the first place. It’s a form of self hypnosis. One which seems to work when heavy duty cogitation is required, and especially in unknown or uncertain mental territory. An occupational hazard when trying to write speculative fiction.

Take this blog post. I started it on Saturday, and picked at it through multiple interruptions, my over excitable dog, a couple of domestic dramas, a heavy duty conversation about email functionality, impending flights, other peoples preoccupations, travel plans for the next five years, a reorganisation of my kitchen and telephone calls from friends, family and various automated autodiallers. Using the moment of perfect stillness that I constructed as an anchor point, I can still flip up the memory of Butchart Gardens. Amongst other things; including story lines and character trees.

I’ve even managed to keep up a consistent 1 – 2000 words per day on ‘Darkness’ and ‘Cerberus’. Rugged.

Cerberus; an epiphany


This morning I got talking to Angie about matter, and how I looked at a mundane thing such as a fist. Half an hours breakfast conversation turned into a seven hundred word intro, which finally broke a logjam of ideas stalling the Cerberus project.

Now I’ve finally opened the floodgates into a massive story, which I’ve been trying to do for over five years. A series of eBooks about Paul Calvin, renegade cop with a psychic talent. the third in the series almost wrote itself, but I hadn’t a clue how to build the rest of the story arc. Until this mornings little epiphany.

Watch this space. 1400 words of really first class copy today, and what even my wife calls ‘electric’ reading. Cerberus has just been raised from the almost dead. Even I think it’s good.

Listening to Seals dance


Last night as dusk closed in, I was sitting out on the deck with Angie.  Not talking, but just listening to the night sounds.  From down in the narrows came the splashing slapping sound I now understand to be a Seal mating display.  A male Seal, in order to attract a mate, dives deep, then rockets three quarters of its body length out of the water before falling back with flippers outstretched to bellyflop on the water.  Makes a heck of a racket.  The sound carries for miles.  There were three I was sure of coming from distinct locations.  One half way down Mudge Island.  One between Round Island and Cedar shore, and another further down towards Boat ramp.  All making a racket.  All clamouring for attention.  Splash-bang!  Splash-bang!  Me, me, me!

What with one thing and another I should have been doing something similar with regards to the Stars Trilogy and my other work.  The only problem is that I’ve been busy doing other things, or there have been too many distractions.  My writing has been effectively dead in the water for six months, and my self imposed deadline for completing “Darkness” has simply whooshed on by.  It has stalled.  I have a beginning and an end, but the middle, the meat in the sandwich, is sparse and unsatisfying.

My problem is that my work is viewed by my family as some kind of bizarre and unproductive hobby, and in some ways I suppose it is.  Yet every time I revisit the previous two volumes, the more they grow on me.  There is nothing wrong with the stories or the writing, apart from being just shy of 150,000 words apiece.  The mini universe my narrative inhabits does not fall into what I refer to as the ‘Unicorns and fairies’ stuff of hyperintelligent pan dimensional beings (Who all look surprisingly human), just an isolated and querulous humanity, wrapped up in their own agendas, and struggling to get by on their brave new worlds. 

Angie has been nudging me to do some more promotional events to publicise my works, but to be honest I haven’t a clue where to start.  Nor the funds.  I’m revisiting my artwork (Which still looks good, even in poster sizes) and have written to the organisers of next years Vancouver Science Fiction convention, asking how it works, and what an author has to do in order to make an appearance. Despite my occasional stammer, I’m a reasonable public speaker with, from my attempts at stand up comedy back in the 90’s, a decent sense of humour.  I can get a laugh out of a crowd, and if I can get ten words out, I can get a thousand or more, and make it entertaining to boot.  The issue is, finding the crowd.

The thought occurs that if a lonely seal needs to leap out of the water and slap down hard to get attention, perhaps I should follow his example.