Tag Archives: challenge

The Verdict…

Time to find out how well I did reaching my target.

And now to explain why I have to work this out.  Well, you see, as soon as I went away for the weekend, I realised I would be writing the fruits of this challenge on Evernote and that Evernote doesn’t have a word count function.

Immediately upon discovering this, however, I realised it was actually quite a blessing.  It made me paranoid that I might overestimate how much I was writing, and therefore not hit my 5,000 word target because I was prematurely resting on my laurels.  The result of this was a huge case of pre-emptive overcompensation to make sure I wouldn’t fall short.

So, what’s the verdict?

At this point, I’d like you to imagine a supercomputer making what the ’70s understood to be computer calculation noises.  For those who are struggling, it sounds like the noise wind chimes would make if they bleeped rather than chimed.  Wind bleeps, you might say.

Anyway, here it is!  Computer says…

It's... not actually over 9,000...

7773 words.  In eight days.

Wow.  I may not have reached 10,000, but I actually doubled my normal work output.  In fact, I achieved my 5,000 word target in just one weekend, look!  And, to be fair, you can only produce so much twaddle before you have to stop and organise the twaddle you already have.  Then you can work out where you are twaddle-deficient and fill in the gaps with adequate levels of additional twaddle.

So, now it’s time to put all this stuff in the folder and start thinking about what needs doing next.

And award myself the sapphire relic, of course.  Nice job, methinks.

Also, determined to read May Contain Nuts before March arrived, I blasted through several chapters last night and am proud to say I have completed it.  Another novel down!  Now to find a shiny new book to read…


Five Triple-Oh

I just spent all week slamming plot points onto PowerPoint slides and reshuffling them, attempting to climb out of the plot-related rut in which I’ve found myself.  As a result, I am glad to say the second and final acts have finally fallen right into place.

The first act is still very fuzzy and uncertain, but I doubt it’s going to right itself – or, indeed, write itself – with any amount of further planning at this stage.  It’s reached that point where you’ve just got to scribble out reams of total garbage, then empty the bin and assess which bits can be used for junk modelling.

Therefore, this week I have decided: it is time for a big push forwards.  Over the course of the coming week, I am going to write at least 5,000 words.

That is a fairly high word count for me.  Anyone who recalls some of my old graphs will recall that I tend to write around 600 words per day.  On a roll I’ll pass the 1,000 mark but, at the end of the day, rolling isn’t going to win me the hundred metre sprint.  (I am pleased with that quote.)  I’ll have to be disciplined to make this work, especially with my shockingly limited progress lately.

Still, if I hit the ground running, 5,000 might not be quite enough.  It seems wrong not to drive myself to reach for the stars and see how far I get.  You don’t know if you don’t try, right?

To tackle this issue, I’ll take a leaf from the proverbial book of fellow blogger Jim Franklin, who set out his 2013 year targets as Xbox achievements to complete.  Instead of these, however, I think I’ll give this task a Crash Team Racing theme.

For anyone too young, old or deprived of life meaning to know what I’m talking about, I am referencing the time trial relic races on the Crash Bandicoot racing game, which still stands as one of the best games ever made.  If you haven’t played it, I demand that you buy it for your Playstation 3.  And if you don’t own a Playstation 3, I demand that you buy a Playstation 3 exclusively to have bestowed upon you the honour of having played this game.  Even Chandler and Joey played this game – true story.  So:

 Sapphire relic:
5,000 words

Gold relic:
10,000 words

Platinum relic:
15,000 words

On your marks.  Get set.  Go.


I Didn’t Think Carol Singers Would Be This Much Trouble

But evidently I was wrong.  This Christmas story entry, for anyone who doesn’t know, has to be about carol singers.  A month after receiving this assignment, I have largely accepted that it has thrown me for a loop.

I think I’ve finally figured out why, too.  I mean, the humour aspect tripped me up initially.  I had set myself on the idea of something nostalgic and kind of bittersweet as a theme and only discovered the comedy component to the competition after I’d started writing.  I actually quite like my first attempt and, not being of the mindset to force a square peg into a round hole, have decided to finish that story as a separate project and think up something fresh for the competition.  You know, something which is a bit more built for purpose.

I’ve done that now.  Go, me.  But the real headache factor to this story is twofold.

Firstly, there’s the whole issue of the singing.  Yes, I know, singing is a necessary evil when writing about carol singers.  You can’t exactly not mention it.  It would be like writing about an artist and not mentioning pictures or omitting golf courses from a story about golfing.

But singing is a bit different, isn’t it?  Other character pastimes and professions just involve a bit of research and throwing around some well-placed jargon.  By contrast singing, of any description in storytelling, appears to involve spontaneously breaking into italics and defacing good prose with random sections of out-of-place verse to which the reader may or may not know a corresponding tune.

I’ll tell you what it is.  It’s like a musical.  A prose-based musical.  And I’ve never really been a musicals fan.  The closest I’ve gotten to a favourite musical is probably the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  For real.  I just find the whole practice of bursting into highly choreographed singing and dancing a bit… uncomfortable.  I’m inclined to feel the same way about it onscreen as I would in real life: that perhaps I should call a police community support officer to check your pupils, breathalyse you and escort you home.

So, back to my point, how does one present singing in a story in a manner which doesn’t bring back horrifying memories of song fanfiction?  Everything about trying to drop a song into a piece of fiction comes off like it’s been shoehorned in.  Not to mention the corresponding What I Call Miranda Hart Syndrome.  I mean, when do you stop?  Is two lines enough or do we shoot for a whole verse?  Do you throw in the chorus?  Go for the whole twenty verse extended album version?

Can you just cherry-pick the bits which apply to a character’s subconscious or are international treaties forged on preventing such shows of blinding cheesiness?  It all sounds frightfully close to corny, and Christmas carols already flirt with that old chestnut as it is.

Secondly there’s the door to door thing.  It makes the plot kind of bitty if you’re working from the point of view of the carol singers – which I am.  One house, then another, then another.  It’ll take some serious thought to avoid the story becoming too repetitive, the main danger being distributing the characters and events too evenly.  I think the trick to it will be not to focus on anyone but the most exceptional residents and try to make the story as much about the antics of the carol singers between their visits as possible.

I’m getting to grips with it, slowly.  I actually really like my idea, to be honest.  The problem is, as always, execution.

And, with that, I wish all of you a jolly good week, full of words which are spoken, not sung, and journeys unhindered by surprise bouts of back-up dancing.


Nearly there, folks!

Good grief!  Several hours of research, writing and editing later and my article for this magazine is almost ready to fly electronically to the desk of an editor to be judged.  With a final read-through I can put the finishing touches on it… and then think relentlessly about what the frig I’ll wear to my interview.

I’ve really enjoyed rising to the challenge this week but I’ll still be glad to have sent it off.  Not just because it’s a box ticked and brings a feeling of achievement .  It’s also because my class and group have both ended for the Christmas period.  I feel edgy, like I need to write some fiction.  I need my fix, man!

It’s actually quite nice to feel that way, though.  Not nice that I’m fidgeting like a drug addict; just nice to know it’s in my bones now.  Finally writing has gone from being a passing activity to being some kind of creepy, unsettling addiction.  It means I’ll always keep busy and always keep adding to my portfolio – whether I like it or not (and writing tends to be 99% “or not” by definition).  I feel like I’ve got the bug and that I’m growing up.  Two good things.

I’ll let you know how the interview goes whenever I can, but expect delays as I’m seeing friends and family from Thursday until Saturday.  (Don’t worry, it’s just fallen that way. I’m not arrogant enough to organise a four-day ‘Got the Job’ rave party weeks in advance.)

Fingers crossed!


It’s Like Countdown With Words In It

Before this week, I had struggled with the idea of writing prompts.  I always wanted to challenge myself and so went for several random words at once, but none of the random word engines I came across seemed particularly good or reliable.

When bunches of fairly easily connectable random words came up I began to wonder how astute the random word generators actually were.  I began to contemplate how many words were actually in these generators; whether all the supposedly random words in each group were truly independent of one another, or if they appeared in a finite number of fixed groups which just seemed to be random.

After all, I didn’t want to be the thousandth person out there writing a story about a squirrel eating metal sandwiches whilst trying to somersault on a motorcycle in front of swans fighting furry ladies.

But I feel a little differently now.  Partly I’ve just joined a writing course, which I think is helping me to look at everything as an opportunity to write.  I haven’t heard anyone’s work yet, but already a competitive streak is starting to emerge in me.  Though admittedly my competitive streak is not renowned for being entrenched in sound logic.  For example, I am irrationally competitive with Frank Sinatra because we share a birthday.  But that’s a story for another day.

Another helpful factor has been stumbling across a particular word prompt website which is totally fantastic.  It’s called The Write Prompts and has a variety of different challenges to try, supplying a new one every day to get you writing frequently.  I’ve already made use of several of them myself.

So in conclusion, my advice is to open your mind, push yourself and look for more unusual stimuli to stay motivated.  And by ‘motivating stimuli’ I do not mean arranging to being poked in the back every hour with an electric cattle prod.