Posted tagged ‘Writing’

A Little Progress

January 4, 2009
Mollusc Farming

Mollusc Farming

Up to 825 words now.  It’s been a lot slower than my NaNo story, partly because I’m taking time to make it readable by children (aiming around the 10 year old level, I think), but still engaging for adults.  As a regular bedtime story reader I’ve come across some books that are aimed squarely at kids without any thought for an adult reading it to a younger child.  If the reader isn’t enjoying it, then it makes it difficult to keep the listener interested.

My MC has a best friend now, a slightly older and certainly wiser fairy, called Talia, which has let me get into writing some dialogue – a reliable way to get to know characters better (it is for me, at least).  In the course of the dialogue there are some little details about the differences between night & day fairies, as well as an insight into some of the roles filled by night fairies (the Tooth Fairy Corps, mollusc farmers and dew painters to name a few).

An encouraging little bit of progress…


The Night Fairy

January 3, 2009
The Night Fairy

The Night Fairy

Thanks to those of you who voted in the poll I put up on the 1st of January.  I’ve closed it up now and I’ll be doing the fairytale (50% of all votes).

I’ve got a very sketchy outline of the start and end of the story as well as a few of the main characters.  It’s about a night fairy, Nyxie, who longs to see the daylight, but I haven’t got much more structure than that just yet, apart from knowing what the final outcome is.

Tools for Timelines

November 20, 2008
Overview of a timeline

Overview of a timeline

I’m using a Linux PC to write on, which has fewer options for dedicated writing tools than Windows or OSX, but there are still a plethora of free applications out there which are very useful.  I’ve yet to find my best way of working with them, but I thought I would share some of them for anybody else who might be starting out with writing under Linux.

The first of these is available for Linux, Windows and OSX and is OpenOffice.  What I’m going to look at is not the word processor part, which is a fully-functional alternative to much more expensive applications, but the spreadsheet application.  I use the spreadsheet program, known as Calc, for putting together timelines for major events and key characters in the story.  Click on the below for a more detailed view, but in essence what I do is:

Create columns for Chapter, Day/Date, then one for each main character and possibly for other events which need to fit into the flow, such as historic background events.  I then change the background colours of each character heading to give them a unique colour.

In the left column, under the chapter heading I enter the chapter number and a very brief summary of the key things that I need to happen in that chapter, one line for each thing.  It is easy to add more later by selecting the whole row and inserting additional blank rows.  I then put a solid line under the chapter and move down to fill in the next chapter’s key events.

In the next colum (column B) I’ll put the date, the day or some measure of the passage of time where it is important.  This can be real timesaver if you need to refer back to dates at any time in the future of the story – crime/detective/mystery stories will definitely benefit from this, and it will stop your readers getting confused.  Note that you don’t necessarily need to explicitly mention the time passing in the story, just be aware of it as you write so that you don’t end up contradicting something mentioned earlier in the book.

Under each character you have a cell for each activity they are involved in.  It doesn’t have to be too detailed, but there will be times that you need certain things to happen in the correct order, such as in chase sequences or as a mystery starts to unfold, where you need one character to have done something before another does something else.  It is at this point of completing the timeline that you’ll have to regularly add rows as you realise that the plot for each character will have a place in time in comparison with the others.  When characters have to interact in some way; passing an object from one to another or one doing something that directly and instantly affects the other, then the two events should go on the same row.  To emphasise and keep track of these important events, I colour the background of the cell with the heading colour of the character they are interacting with (see the image below for examples).  This makes it easy to see where groups of characters need to meet across the duration of the story, helping you to realise that you might have to get one of them to the other side of the country for the event to take place.

In other columns to the right of the main characters I place events that define the background to the story, which could be historic events or train arrival times; in my current book it shows the timings of a series of murders in relation to the flow of events.  You could also use these columns for non-character items, such as a knife or a ring or a love letter which you need to keep track of by using the character heading colours to show who holds the item as the events unfold.

Detailed view of the timeline

Detailed view of the timeline

If you’d like more information about writing using Linux, I’ll be doing some more of these over the next few weeks, but I would also recommend you take a look at The Writer’s Technology Companion where there is a useful ongoing series about using Linux for writing.


November 5, 2008
NaNoWriMo08 Participant

This is what I’m starting off with.  The “National Novel Writing Month” (NaNoWriMo) is an annual internet event to encourage writers to put pen to paper and write a novel of at least 50,000 words.  The focus is on meeting the deadline for writing; it’s quite okay to edit the finished article, but the word count needs to hit the target to qualify.  Quantity rather than quality is the initial concern, but that can be addressed later on.  It’s an exercise in forcing yourself to write, finding out what works to motivate and inspire and showing that it can be done.

The event runs for the month of November, which means I’ve already missed four days work, but I’ve been mulling various ideas overnight and have come up with something that I think I can make live as a novel.  There’s still a fair bit of planning and working out the finer details, but in essence it is a mystery which may have elements science fiction, depending on how the plot sorts itself out in my head.

The story is about a man who travels regularly between his home on the West Coast of Scotland and his work in Central London and realises that he has been experiencing blackouts on the flights there and back.  Once he comes upon this realisation it becomes apparent that unusual things have been happening in those missing hours which seem to have a link to both his life at home and in the city and could change his life forever.

More details to follow as I work them out and start to actually do some writing.