NaNoWriMo Accepts My Official Surrender

NaNoWriMo comes to a close today and as the fog of war clears I’m in no way surprised to find myself on the casulaty list rather than the honour roll. I’d like to say I went out in a blaze of glory but the truth is it was more a case of being shot in the back whilst fleeing the field of battle…

The problems emerged at the end of week two. I should have remebered that my own blog is called Don’t Look Down and taken the advice to heart. Note to self – when attempting to write 50k in 4 weeks…NEVER EVER GO BACK AND READ WHAT YOU HAVE WRITTEN! As soon as I started re-reading I also had to start editing, and as soon as I started editing any hope of reaching the wordcount was snuffed out.

I’m going to put aside the 20k I have written for a few weeks and then come back and look at it when I have some distance. There is some really interesting stuff in there that I might spin off into short stories but at the moment at least I don’t think I’m going to finish the whole text.

I’ve gotten a huge amount from taking part in NaNoWriMo this year though, and will do it agina next year. For anybody having trouble getting their writing started I’d recommend it because it forces you to put pen to paper and start generating words. For people writing consistently its a good challenge to see what pace you can manage whilst still keeping a reasonable level of quality in what you are doing.

I’ve taken a few days break without doing any writing but I’m going to kick off a new project soon, picking up some ideas I developed half a year ago for an urban fantasy story. Interestingly I’m thinking about using an episodic structure and publishing the first draft of each episode on my blog, partly as way of replicating the constructive pressure of NaNo even when it isn’t there.

Oh…and sorry Kerry for losing you five quid. I’ll have to get you a beer in recompense.

Momentum and Submission Anxiety

I’ve just got confirmation from John Klima, editor of Electric Velocipede magazine that my short story ‘Momentum’ will be published in issue 13, debuting in November 2007, just before World Fantasy Con. Waiting a year to see the story in print will probably try my patience but knowing that the magazine will be on sale at the WorldCon more than makes up for that. I don’t know who else is on that months line-up yet but will post more info when I get it.

I have four other submissions outstanding at the moment, including ‘Cthul-YOU’ which is with Weird Tale’s. I don’t expect an acceptance from them but the waiting sure is fun!

Tumbling Uphill

Well I’m back. The holiday was fantastic, not least getting to see the sea, which living in Leicester I had begun to believe was no more than an unsubstantiated rumour.

Fantastic but surprisingly hard work. Hills. Rain. Darkness. No sooner had we awoken than it started to get dark. We then had to cycle up some of the worlds steepest hills to get anywhere in the short patch of daylight left to us. We then had to cycle back up the other side in darkness. When we got home it was cold and the only source of warmth was a coal and log fire which took about two hours a night to get going. Strangeley I enjoyed all of this.

More photos coming soon.

Tumbling Downhill

Holiday time. Lydia and I are going to throw ourselves up and down mountains on bikes in Wales. Maybe I’ll break something but probably not. No posts until I return as the welsh hovel has no internet or even a phone. I’m told we will be washing in the crystal waters of a fast running stream. Hmm…..

I’m starting an appeal to support my NaNoWriMo habit. Please give generously to help me reach my target. All sylables accepted. Send your donation to:

And remember. A writer is for life, not just for X-Mas.

Theres a Fiver in it

Learned today that my NaNoWriMo exploits have become the basis illegitimate black market dealings, including the betting of hard cash. I feel strangely invigorated by the idea. Of course need to forget that for every person betting on me, there is at least one other betting against. Given the choice I’m not sure which way my money would go at the moment. I’m well behind the pace but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve yet (Headline – DGW’s odds shortened to 3/1 following ‘Still has tricks up sleeve’ news.)

Must now choose between settling down to another disciplined 1700 words of NaNo or Mission Impossible III…you would think that would be an easy decision wouldn’t you? But no, even Tom Cruise may not be enough to put me off.

The Wall

I hit the NaNoWriMo wall today. Other than at the height of my flu last week I’ve managed to do at least 1000 words each day so far. But today I just couldn’t get anything out. I reached the end of Act One on Friday and just couldn’t resist going back and editing. Fatal mistake. With the editing underway forward progress is obviously going to be slower. But today neither happened, even though I had plenty of spare time. The main reason is I just didn’t feel any excitement about the story of SWORD today. Hoepfuly it will come back tommorow.

I think the editing is essential though. I’m quite happy with the 14, 000 words of Act One except they’ve taken my protagonist in the wrong direction. At the moment that direction is fixable but if I carry on any further I’ll end up with thousands of completely unusable words that I will just have to junk once NaNoWriMo is over, which really defeats the point of doing it.

I’m well off the NaNo pace now but may pull an all nighter once the edits to Chapter One are done and try and get back into the race. I haven’t done a really epic writing session like that since I wrote all 7500 words of Titan in one 18 hour sitting . I didn’t write anything after that for about 6 months so I won’t be risking burn out with anything that extreme again, but perhaps a slightly more mellow 4AM cut off point would work.

Sex Scenes *ho hum*

I think there is a literary award given for worst written sex scene. All the greats have won it – Roth, Rusdie etc. Not personal greats (boring, boring, boring) but none the less if I’m ever to share an award with them I hope it isn’t that one. And awkward sex scene disease seems to be going around

I was happily adding another a few thousand words to my NaNoWriMo total when BLAM! my perfectly platonic chapter goes and turns into a full on, 60’s stylee, free love romp fest! It took me as much by surprise as anyone. And now I’m left wondering – was it any good? Sure, writers ‘expose’ themselves with every word they write, but there is something very particularly risky about exposing your unique sexual vision for all to read. Particularly when you’re rushing to meet a 50k word limit and the delete key has become a mere memory in the midst of your feverish typing. And before you ask – no, I won’t be sharing an extract of the ‘lurve’ chapter. That ones getting a good editing before it goes anywhere.

As for NaNoWriMo I’ve had two days of VERY nasty flu disrupting my process, however I have added a few thosand to the wordcount, but I’m now a little behind the pace. A few late nights ahead of me when I’m fully recovered then.

A Moment of Suicidal Overconfidence

Ha ha! I had my best NaNoWriMo day so far turning in about 2200 words, which puts me up to around 7500 in total. Thats represents Chapters 1,2 and 4 of SWORD, and half of Chapter 3 (I lost momentum on it and just ploughed on to the next section) In also puts me in roughly the right ball park to make the full 50k assuming I can keep up the same pace.

So how is NaNo working out in creative terms rather than simple wordage? I’m not certain yet and probably won’t be until I finish. Its definitely a constructive way of making yourself write – to have any hope of hitting the wordcount you have to ignore the inner editor who is screaming at you that everything you are writing is pooh and you need to go back and spend six hours ‘polishing’ the first sentence. This is VERY, VERY helpful.

On the other hand I’ve now produced 7500 words of very rough writing, and if I am to have any hope of reaching the 50k I’ll be producing many thousands more before having any chance to sit down and edit. Now if when I do edit I discover a diamond in the rough, then this is all for the good. If however all I have is a steaming pile of BS that no amount of editing will ever make shiny and glittery, then its likely I will be in rather a bad mood for some weeks to follow. However, at the moment I’m feeling confident that not only will I make the 50k but the writing thats coming out, if not perfect, is at least capturing the story I’m trying to tell. (Now whether the story is any good, there lies a whole new set of doubts and misgivings…)

NaNoWriMo Chapter One

Unedited first draft, spelling mistakes and all.


The cards fell onto the table in a chaos, some face up and others down, but the players no longer noticed as their attention wandered from the game to the jars the drunk from and the jokes the spurted out between fits of laughter, and far from the duty that should have concerned them.

Sergeant Brittain heard the game before he saw the men. Their laughter echoed from the stone walls of the guardhouse the moment he opened the door. He knew as soon as he heard the familiar loud guffaw that his Captain was once again carousing with the assorted hangers on that accrued to his noble birth like scale on a urinal wall. Deliver my report and then leave, but even as the thought entered his mind Brittain knew it would not be that simple.

‘It is the brave Sergeant’

The men looked up from the large, oldwood table around which they slouched. At the far end Swainsthorne sat amongst a pile of food scraps, coinage and the rumpled remains of what might once have been official documents, now scrawled over with the mans awful ribald poetry. He gawped at Brittain, slack jawed, like a baby startled in surprise at being snatched from its mothers tit.

But it was Potzo, not the addled Swainsthorne, who had greeted Brittain’s entrance. The gambler grinned at his colleagues around the table, not one of them less than bleary eyed and saturated to the brim with ale, as though he had composed an ode of such veracity and wit they should all stand and applaud. Instead they laughed once again harder, and Brittain was not surprised at the lack of any cause for such humour.

‘He has come back to snap at your heels again, Henri.’

What Brittain knew of Potzo consisted of little more than the mans almost certainly exaggerated feats as a duellists. Not entirely false however, as Brittain had seen the gambler gut an opponent half a year before. It had been a weak fight, the man was drunk beyond reason but then so was Potzo, but even before he had met the winner in person he had less respect for him than the average gutter thief. It took less than three words from the mans mouth to make that opinion fall lower.

‘Sir. I’m to make the shift report to you.’ Brittain said.

“Whath?” Captain Henri Swainsthorne slurred his reply. Brittain watched as a bubble of spit formed at the corner of the mans lips and slowly inflated and then reduced with each of his commanding officers spittle laden breathes. Some power or collection of powers in the universe had seen fit to make this man Brittain’s superior. He wished that he did not know what powers had made this happen, that they were some pantheon of mythical gods playing tricks with the mortal world. But these powers were far more mundane. Power. Money. Rank. The nobs look after the nobs.

“Sir.’ Britain continued. ‘On this the 44th day of Eve, the year being of the Hound and the Bull, the 5th Street Barricade collected the following tithes. Inwards cam four single mounted passed each leaving their farthing. One farm wane passed, leaving a cage of two hens. Outwards three more riders, all leaving three farthings and…’

‘Whath?’ Swainsthorne flapped an arm around before him as he repeated the question. One sweaty hand swept across Brittains face, the dirty fingers catching on his lips where the Captain groped further, as though trying to discover what it was he probed. Other than turning his face away a quarter turn Brittain stood unmoving.

‘What ish it you are…muttering about Brittain.’

‘Sir, I am giving you the tally before I finish my shift.’

‘Hah,’ Potzo belched out from his seat. ‘He trying to slink off home!’

‘Home?’ Swainsthorne seemed to try and think the concept through. ‘ No home. Here. Cards. Drink.’

It took Brittain a few moments to realise the Captaon was suggesting he join the group of reprobrates he had gathered in the office of his command. Brittain felt the distaste well up from his gut and display itself on his grimacing face.

‘I have responsibilities at home.’

‘Sir.’ One of the drunken fools intervened. ‘You forgot the sir, sir, sir, sirrr…’ his voice trailed off as his eyes glazed over. The table fell silent for a moment.

‘Responsibilities, Sergeant. Your responsibility is to do as I command.’

Brittain did not respond. His temper threatened to erupt and he knew he could not guarantee any words from his mouth would be anything more than violent swearing.

‘I know why he wants to go home!’

Potzo interrupted the silence. Brittain refused to look at the man but he could tell from the excitement in his tone that the drunken fool really thought he had discovered some eternal truth, or at the very least a jibe that would cut to the quick.

‘He wants a go.’

The table waited for some explanation, but Potzo just sat and smirked as though it should be self evident.

‘A go at what Potz?’

The little weasel look confused that nobody had got the quip, but then smirked, and Britain realised the man had cottoned on that he could screw an extra ounce out of the moment. Just as the man spoke Brittain guessed his meaning.

‘Its that daughter of his. Every other man has had her, why shouldn’t he.’

The table was two broad to reach across easily and the men between Vrottain and Potzo sober enough to move jumped up to barr his attack, so Brittain found himself barricaded away from the cretin by wood and arms. But Potzo had pushed up and skipped back across the room where he now grinned foolishly. Brittain could see the craven in that grin. Fucking duelist, he thought, you can kiss this soldiers arse.

‘Now Sergeant.’ Swainsthorne seemed to have sobered slightly with the excitement, and in the drinks place was superior attitude that turned Brittains stomach. ‘Think of your family.’

And to his shame Brittain did, appaled to his gut that thje Captaons threat would work so easily, even if not as intended. All he wanted then was to walk out of the Captains office and back to his home where his wife or one of the young ones would be there to greet him. All day from the moment he had started the shift to the moment he walked through the guard door all he had wanted was to get home. And now all he had to do was finish his report and then walk out, just as simple as that. He relaxed against the men who held him back and slowly disentangled himself.

‘Very good Sergeant, Very good.’

Above the ruckus no one had noticed the calling from the guardhouse door. Now in the moments silence Britain thought he could hear his name being called

‘Now I’m sure Potzo will apologise for his little remark, wont’t you Potz?’

The little rat just grinned on, maybe scarred, maybe happy Brittain thought. Outside the calls grew louder and clearly carried the Sergeant’s name.

‘Seems you have more duty Segeant. Attend to it.’

Brittain took a moment to straighten his jerkin and then turned towards the chamber door. Potzo had returned to his seat as he passed and for a moment Brittain thought he might actually leave the room without further trouble.


Potzo, hissed the words without looking at Britain, too the other men around the table. If that had been all Briatin would have walked, but Brittain knew that would not be all. Best do it right if I do it at all, thought the soldier.

‘Maybe I’ll get myself a go at that little slu…’

The first blow knocked Potzos head forward hard. Britain grabbed a handful of the mans heair in his fist and with the full strength of his arm smacked his face onto the oldwood table. Card chips shot into the air, a bottle toppled over spilling claret on the carpet and from somewhere beneath Brittains fist came a dull crunch, then another and another as he slammed Potzos face against the table until there was nothing of it left.

Two of the gamblers made it to their feet by the third smash, but they sat down again when Brittain told them to.

Duty, then home. Briattin thought, and then realised he had said the thought aloud. The men at the table looked at him in shocked confusion, and Swainsthorne once again gawped like a stricken child. He met their look with a nod, then turned and headed too his duty.

Stretching Exercises

So Day 2 of NaNoWriMo comes to a close and I’ve hit 2,400 words but I’m still 800 behind the pace, and had really wanted to be ahead of the pace to make up for the inevitable slackness that will set in when the excitement of the new begins to dull. In my defense I had two evening events as well as full work days.

On the positive side I’m quite happy with the first Chapter and a half that wordcount represents. Having a strong outline in place has REALLY helped, I will never write without putloning forst again, at least not at novel length.

As I’ve been whitering on about it for some weeks I thought it would be interesting to post the outline for Chapter One of SWORD and a link the first draft posted on the NaNoWriMo site. Read on if interested, flee elsewhere if not…

The outline is below, extract in next post.

Chapter One

Sergeant Britain is disturbed by dark rumours and reminded of the corruption that prevents him doing his duty.

Brittain vs. Swainsthorne. Drunken Gamblers
Brittain is determined to get home but is frustrated in delivering his off shift report by his captain, who is playing a drunken game of cards and gambling. One of the officers foppish hangers on repeats a rumour about Brittains step-daughter. Brittain is pricked by the isult but mockingly calmed by Swainsthorne, only to have the insult delivered again which prompts action from Brittain. The situation is interrupted by a message that a stranger is at the barricade before it can progress further.

Dramatic Question
Can Brittain make it home?

Brittain’s patience with incompetents snaps and gets him into trouble.

• Chars: Brittain, Soldiers, Swainsthorne.
• Locs: The Gateway, the ruined streets outside and the corrupt city within. The captains chamber.
• Why does the city need guarding?
• The politics of priviledge – how a drunk noble is made a Captain above the more worthy.
• The gambling morons.
• Why had Brittain remained only a sergeant on dreg duties?
• Faint glowing lights on the horizon, and the first rumours of the crisis.