2014 – a look ahead


Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers


I shall be aiming to participate in the usual #100kwords100days challenges (January and July, all things being equal) and also in NaNoWriMo 2014.

There is also a rather larger, tougher writing challenge – #milwordy. Those who are good at deciphering acronyms might realise that the challenge is to write 1,000,000 words during 2014. One. Million. Words. Two thousand, seven hundred and forty words a day. Every day.

I’m pretty sure I can do this. Typing isn’t a problem for me, and I have a stack of new project ideas ready to be lifted from obscurity. But my problem is one of producing stories which are good enough to go on to publish.

And that’s one of the downsides to rapid writing – the quality can, and sometimes does, suffer. Do I really need another million words of something-less-than-first-drafts, when I already have nearly 720,000 already sitting in Works In Progress? When doing my fast writing, I tell myself that I can add more character depth later, add a plot twist or a subplot later. And, I think, that leads me to be dissatisfied with my writing. It’s a conundrum. 


Anyway, I’ve been thinking, and I know what my major project will be this year, and that is to write a series of apocalyptic fiction novels, with a common main character taking the reader from small, local, everyman issues, up to global and international issues, and perhaps beyond.

I’m not going to do this alone. Oh no. I have a small army of previously-written concepts, which I’m going to use as fleshed-out plans for my 2014 writing. I have a character who struggles with politics and business (key themes for my End Of Civilization series), but on a very basic, local level.

He then moves onto to the national stage, moving in circles with people he used to watch on TV, tackling big international issues.

Then, he moves onto a global stage, where the challenges are bigger and the stakes are higher.

The final piece of the series bring him full circle, back to a very local level, dealing with personal issues, because he’s failed to resolve the mighty issues that challenged him in Book 3.

 Added to that (which is a big enough project on its own, I know) I will be trying to complete my collection of crime series. For marketing reasons, that might be written under a pseudonym, but we’ll see. All in all, it’s going to be a busy year.

 Happy New Year!

2013 – a look back, but not in anger



It’s been a bit of a mixed year for me.

On the positive side, I had two successful #100kwords100days challenges (January and July), and a successful NaNoWriMo. At the time of writing (December 30th), I’ve written 409,575 new words this year. Not all were fiction – the ‘rules’ of #100kwords100days allow for blog posts and planning to be included in word counts. But that’s still a good total for one year.

On the negative side, I didn’t publish anything this year.


One of my aims this year was to complete a selection of dark Christmas-related tales, and to publish them in time for the Christmas

But … I wasn’t pleased with them. Soseason. I did this – I created ten new short stories, at around 21,000 words in total, which I was going to bundle with three previously-released short pieces which had a Christmas theme. Some of them worked, but one or two didn’t – they weren’t strong enough stories, and my writing wasn’t the best. So I shelved the project. I didn’t delete it, and They Will Return, with tough rewrites to sharpen up the writing. Depending on the situation when next Christmas trundles alone, I will either publish them as a collection or release them for free as singles. Watch this space.

The bottom line is – I’m not going to release my writing unless I think it’s the best it can be. The quality of the writing is more important than any seasonal-related marketing strategy. I only wish that were the case with some other self-published writers.


I’ve completed 3 long works to “draft zero” status – a 65,000 word crime story, and two thrillers at 45k and 47k each.

But therein lies the problem. I love writing, I love the buzz I get from creating new characters and situations. But, before 2013, I was a terrible finisher. I never really completed anything but short fiction. So one of my goals for this year was to finish some long fiction, and I’m pleased I’ve been able to do that.

However, I’m still not completely happy with my stories. At the time of writing, I’m not sure whether they’re going to be edited, or put to one side. All is not lost, and I have good news in my “2014 – look ahead” post, coming soon, including a new life for a piece of writing that’s over ten years old. NaNoWriMo 2003, your time is up!

NaNoWriMo 2013 – roundup

2013-Winner-Square-ButtonAh, NaNoWriMo. It seems such a distant memory.

I ‘won’ (I always put that word inside quotation marks, as it’s a strange word to use in the circumstances), but I was fairly confident of doing so, having set out a good plan and knowing I had the time to write it.

As it happens, I completed the 50k on the 12th of November, and by the 30th, I had written a total of 74,021 words. I forgot to update my onsite word count for the last day, so my count ‘over there’ shows 72,796. Pfft.

I completed one ‘novel’, “Meltdown”, at 47,290 words. I didn’t complete the second ‘novel’, “Shed No Tear”, but it currently stands at 20,938 words. I also began writing a Dark Christmas Collection, as yet unnamed, and at the time of writing (late on the 2nd of December), the word count for that collection is 10,334 words.

So, what have I learnt from NaNoWriMo2013? Not a lot, to be honest. This was my 10th NaNoWriMo, and my 9th ‘success’. I know I can write quickly enough to complete the challenge, and although the completed work is in a very rough, Draft Zero, form, it is a complete story. The second work is a tricky one, as it has a complicated time frame, which takes some time for my head to get around. But it’s getting there, and the two timelines are coming together nicely.

What else? I attended a few local Write-Ins, and met some of our local NaNoers. Very nice people they were, too. Our local Essex group on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/nanoessex/ with its website http://nanoessex.wordpress.com/ was a busy place, with a lively mix of NaNo Newbies, experienced NaNoers, and doddery old hands – that’ll be me then. It was great to be able to share information and support. As a group, Essex wrote 8,345,822 words, which smashed our previous total. We had a large number of finishers in the group, which was fantastic. Some of us appeared on a local radio programme, http://www.saintfm.co.uk/ on Sarah Banham’s “Writers’ Block” show. That was great fun, albeit a bit nerve-wracking for radio virgins like myself. I think the vast majority of our group enjoyed the experience.

What next?

I, like many others, have unfinished business with our writing. Yet more words need to be written and edited. And there is a generally local group feeling that we want to continue to support each other, which is awesome. And so, we shall.

For me, although I’m still writing now, I do love a challenge.

In January 2014, the 3rd episode of #100kwords100days begins. Initiated by the prolific **SALLY QUILFORD**  (Amazon page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/SALLY-QUILFORD/e/B002BLQGBS ) it’s a challenge which requires writers to create one hundred thousand new words between January 1st and the 10th April. For those not quick at maths (or math), it’s 1,000 words per day. If you’ve been successful at NaNoWriMo, a smaller word count might seem easy. But over 100 days?

And, of course, there’s always the next challenge. A new thing hit my Facebook this week – “Milwordy”. A million words in a year. That sounds like a challenge. In a non-leap year, that’s nearly 2,740 words a day. During the winter, it’s doable. I’m not so sure about the summer, as there always seems more ‘active’ things to do in the summer – cycling, gardening, generally enjoying the outside.

But the wordcount is achievable, I think. On all but 5 days of NaNoWriMo, I wrote more than that. Is it possible to maintain that level of productivity over a while year, as well as edits and publishing some of the other things I have in the wings?

Do I want to produce another million words of first drafts? I already have 711,000 words of works in progress – 3 complete novels to first draft. Do I need any more?

So here’s my idea. I should take some of my earlier works, especially the NaNo stuff, and rewrite them. My writing back then was not as accomplished as it now is, I hope, and some of the stories deserve to see the light of day. I’ll use the existing stories as long plans, a bit like Karen Wiesner advocates in her “First Draft in 30 Days” http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/FD2.html

So that’s what I’ll plan. Whether I get there, I don’t know. But it must be worth a go, eh?

NaNoWriMo – week 1 update

So where are we? The bald facts – after 7 days’ writing, I have 35,467 words to my name this month, and after 2 days of #50K5DAYS, I have written 18,282 words.

Edit: (update) Only managed 3,040 on day 3 of #50K5DAYS, so I’ve abandoned this attempt. Should be ready to try again on Monday morning.

One thing that had occurred to me – some people might be put off by my posting large word counts. NaNoWriMo is all about personal challenges and achievements. I write fast; 2,000 words an hour is the norm for me. I am an experienced writer – I have 22 works in progress, comprising over 660,000 words (a work in progress is something I’ve written but not edited, or something half-written and incomplete). I have ‘won’ 8 NaNoWriMo’s so far in the 10 years I’ve been doing them.

All this means that, for me, my personal targets go a bit beyond the ‘standard’ NaNo, but they’re no less challenging. Maybe part of this ‘experience’ is understanding how, when and why I write.

There is no doubt that, for some, NaNoWriMo is an invigorating, enlightening time. Some will discover that, yes, they can write a novel. Some will discover the love of writing, and of creating something from nothing but ideas and thoughts. Some will begin great friendships and discover writing camaraderie. But there are some for whom NaNo is a dispiriting, depressing time. The sight of new-found friends disappearing into the distance with ever-burgeoning wordcounts can be upsetting, I’m sure.

So I’m wondering if NaNoWriMo should change, and allow people to set their own personal word count goals. If someone has physical difficulty writing anywhere near 1,667 words per day for 30 days, maybe they should be ‘allowed’ to set their own challenging target?

Then, if they do this, are these people not writers? Of course they are. They may not have the high volume output of others, but they may still enjoy writing. They may not have the stamina, or the desire, even, to create a novel, but there’s probably no reason why they can’t create a 10-minute play script, a 20-line poem, an article for a local newspaper, or a post on their blog. People who do this are writers, just as much as someone who can crank out 5,000 words in a day.

Why this? I have tapped a lot of words into Scrivener this November, and I intend to tap in a lot more. As part of our local support group, we cheerfully present our daily / total word counts with pride. But I wonder if there are some who view these figures with some sadness; I have felt awkward posting mine, worried in case any members of the group approach the challenge as a competition, and feel that they have ‘lost’ if they aren’t near the top word count generators.

But my message is: if you want to be a writer, write. Write what pleases you, write when you want to, write in whatever format gives you the best feelings. We are all writers, and we don’t need a word count chart to prove that.

Stripped-down Scrivener

NaNoWriMo 2013 is upon us, and at the time of writing (28th October), over 157,000 writers have signed up for the challenge. One of the hottest topics (as ever) is the subject of computer software – specifically, what do you use to write your novel?

For me, it’s always been about simplicity and light weight. Microsoft Word has become bloated and heavy (from a software point of view). It takes ages to load up (more than 2 seconds is ages in my book), and slows my computer down because it hogs so much memory.

Before now, I’ve used a simple word processor called “Bean” http://www.bean-osx.com/Bean.html (I’m on Mac). The crucial things are that it’s free, it doesn’t take up memory and is quick to load, it has a live word count, and does first line indents on paragraphs. What more do you need of a word processor? I’m sure there are others, probably just as good.

I had been reading about Scrivener for years, had downloaded a trial version, and last year used my NaNoWriMo winner’s token to take advantage of a very generous offer, and bought it for half price.

Then April happened. Here’s the story: https://geraldhornsby.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/scrivener-now-im-a-believer/

So now, I use Scrivener a lot for longer writing.

But Scrivener is a beast of a programme. It is hugely clever, and has a mass of features. It can be overwhelming for a new user. It was for me, before I simplified things. I now have a stripped-down template which allows me to concentrate on my planning and writing.

This is what it looks like:

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 20.56.53

There is no data in this Scrivener sheet yet. But you can see that I have 5 folders in my binder, each of which is completely empty.

1. Manuscript. This is where my actual writing will go. I tend to write in scenes – I’ll organise these into chapters later on, but for the moment, it’s easier for me to construct my story as a series of scenes, as in a film.

2. Characters. Here, I list each of my main characters, some short physical description, and character traits. Also, any relationships to other characters are listed here.

3. Places. Locations where my action takes place, with fictitious town and village names, and I list some of the buildings in these places, such as pub and shop names, with some brief descriptions.

4. Research. Any websites I have come across in my research, and reference material goes here.

5. Notes. This is where I put my initial story notes, and also any notes for future changes in the story. Often, I’ll have an idea for a change in the plot, or a new character, and instead of stopping my writing and changing it all around, I’ll just make a note and move on.

6. Trash. This is a Scrivener folder. When you delete any of your scenes, characters, or places, they are not absolutely deleted, but are sent instead to the trash folder within Scrivener. Just In Case!

Conclusions: I like starting a novel with Scrivener looking like this. It’s got the folders I need, and nothing more to get in the way.