Preparations

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For those of you who don’t follow little old me on Twitter, or who haven’t ‘liked’ my page on Facebook, or ‘circled’ me on Google+, you probably haven’t heard what madness I’m up to next. See, I like to write. I’d like to think I’m a little bit good at it. Stories are kind of a big deal for me.

So, I decided to write one in a week. A novella, in fact. On camera, live-streamed to the whole Internet. And then I’m publishing it, at the end of that week. Yes, I’m serious. I’m actually going to write and publish a novella in a week. It probably seems a bit mad. But hey, I’m not here to tell you all about that project. Not directly. You can read the press release for that here: http://paulcarrollwriter.com/balor-reborn-press-release/

What I want to talk about is the preparation stage of this project.

Let me be honest here: I don’t keep my room very tidy. I try to, but then I buy something (like a dozen books) and suddenly nothing fits anymore. So, everything ends up on the floor, and my beanbags end up in the middle of the room, and generally you need to step widely over everything. It’s a good thing I haven’t been out (drinking) much lately, or I’d probably be dead having tripped over something coming into the room.

In preparation for this ‘writing a book on camera’ stunt, I actually cleaned my room. There is literally nothing but a pair of shoes I plan on putting away that’s remotely in the way between the door and the bed. And it’s not even like it matters so much, because the camera will be pointing in such a way that no one will see any of that part of my room.

However, I’m a good little boy and I did it. My room is tidy. To make it even better, I got myself a new desk chair. It’s still in its box, because my dad wants to make sure it’s actually put together properly, instead of me falling and dying on camera in front of the whole Internet. Even if the fall didn’t kill me, I think I’d be the first person to literally die of embarrassment, whether it’s physiologically impossible or not!

So, that was another thing done. With the press release last Friday, that was Thing #3. I think I’m doing quite well. My parents are now making sure I have a kettle in the room, and an icebox for the milk, some water and my packed lunch. (Yes, I’m actually going to eat a meal-a-day on camera. The though frightens me, but not as much as losing the entire audience while I eat a sandwich.)

The last piece of preparation has been in running competitions. I’m giving away a copy of the book every day through my website. It’s fun, but it means checking in every few hours to make sure there are actually entries. I do enjoy reading them, though.

Want to enter? Please? You can see the list of them here. I’ve no idea when you’ll see this, but the current competition will be specified! http://paulcarrollwriter.com/balor/

So, four things, not counting everything my parents are doing for me. I’ve also already prepared the plan for the book – the only thing I’m allowed with me! The only other thing to do is to try organise a blog tour for post-publication, and excuse myself in advance if I don’t get to write a post next Monday. I’ll be busy, don’t you know!

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The Den and Me

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Let’s make this short and sweet: this group was what made being a writer worth it in the early days. I was sixteen, only starting out, not that confident in what I could do, and nowhere near ready to really attempt writing all the time, for a living, or for any other reason.

What happened? I set up the Den back in the days when Bebo was cool and the Books section had just kicked off. I wanted us to be the place for writers to go to discuss their books. Unfortunately, Bebo sucked as a model, so a writer joined me in the running of the group and set up a forum. That forum became the centre for everything to happen in the Den. We had dozens of topics running at once, and we were really getting to know one another.

That was when someone suggested we do a book. An actual, for-sale, book. And we did. Five people volunteered to edit, with one taking the role as lead editor. Someone designed a cover, we all spread the word around, and within a year and a half of the group first appearing online, we had a book and we were connected to a charity in Yorkshire. I was seventeen years old, going into my final year in school, and from there things kicked off.

It was in the months that followed that I wrote the novel that stands out for me, Meet Sam. It’s not Fantasy or Science Fiction. It’s completely different to everything I’ve ever written. Friends who read it laughed out loud. That helped. That really did. It was written to be funny and light hearted, while hopefully engaging people with the life of the titular character. It was fun to write, and I did it in a month – my first attempt at NaNoWriMo.

When I joined Twitter in the March following, I was brave enough to declare in my username and bio that I was a writer. To this day, I still have that username and I openly tell people how many books I’ve written. If I hadn’t started this group, I wouldn’t have had that confidence. I reckon it was those little things about my Twitter profile that really got me a following.

Now, I have a writing job on an online magazine, I have a website, I’ve released an ebook and I’m set to release more this year. I’ve continued to meet new writers, and I feel I can actually engage in conversation with them.

And that’s the point of this post: I didn’t get all that confidence in being a writer from setting up the group. I got it from being part of the group. I learned to talk to other writers about the craft, and I’ve learned a lot from so many different people I couldn’t tell you how I know what I know. It’s the one bit of advice I would pass to new writers beyond “Just keep writing”. With a writing group behind you, you can engage with the people who have been at it longer than you, learn more about the craft and build up some confidence.

And who knows, if you join this group, you might even have a story in our next anthology.

I’ve made some real friends here, and I invite you to do the same. And in case you’re wondering if it really helps: it’s seven minutes to midnight as I write this sentence, having forgotten I had to write today. We’re just back to writing the blog, and look – now I’ve written something for the day. Admittedly this has been a rushed job, but at the end of the day this is what’s important, actually writing something.

What can you take from this post, then? Three things:

  1. Join a writing group. It’ll help. It really will. Join this one, even. We’re still looking for bloggers. Email me at literaryden @ gmail.com Simple as that.
  2. Write every day. It helps you to get into a good practice. Keep a blog on specific days is especially useful, because it forces you to write to a deadline.
  3. Everyone starts off small, but it’s possible to do things you didn’t think likely. Just write.

Happy writing, and I’ll see you next Monday. Maybe next time I’ll give myself more than eight minutes to write.

Evening in the Forum…

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What was that noise?

No, that noise. In the distance. Not fireworks, it wasn’t a thunder or boom. Did you not hear it? Hmmm.

Care for a drink? Yes, I think we have some of that in the cabinet. I prefer cognac, myself, find it warmer and more tasteful. But whatever, each to his own, as they say. Settle yourself by the fire, that’s it.

It’s awfully quiet on the Forum these days. I can remember when the Forum was busy all day, every day. But people don’t have as much time as they used to, it’s true. Even I cannot get online half as much as I’d like to. Then again, everyone’s doing NaNoWriMo, so they’ve got plenty on their minds. Life will resume to normal in December.

There it is again. A kind of… I don’t know. Cold. Creaking. Sort of. But nothing in here creaks. Not normally, anyway.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo last year. Failed miserably, it’s just not in my style of writing. I like to take my time, edit in stages as I go along. Revise and change as I get ideas. Writing is a fluid thing, it is always changing and evolving as you write, I find. Others will disagree, of course. Some people can just hammer out words like there’s no tomorrow and not worry about all the crap that gets in.

Would you like another? It’s all right, I’ll pour. A little more? There you go.

I like to think of writing as being akin to panning for gold. You sit there for hours, scooping up the water and the mud, shuffling and shaking the pan, shifting shit by the tonne until you find a few tiny little nuggets of gold. Words are that shit, and you have to plough through lots of them to find those little nuggets. So I sit and shuffle, checking carefully as I go along, searching for that little glimmer of gold.

That’s starting to bother me, now. It’s more of a groaning, creaking noise. Wonder what it is? It’s coming from down the hall. There’s no-one else in the Forum this evening, though. Well, no-one consequential. Just a few newbies, wandering lost and lonely down in the lower levels. Awfully close to the cellar, actually. Oh, and you and I, of course.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, writing and panning for gold. It can also be likened to any other art, where you are creating something. Take the master carpenter, for instance. In his workshop lies a masterpiece. Everyday he scrapes a little at it, takes his chisel to it lovingly and carefully, crafting the intricate designs and edges. When it is finished, it will raise him a few hundred, of not thousands of pounds. But to be able to bring that masterpiece to the world, he must also work. His Dreaded Day Job must suffice to pay the bills and keep his family fed. The smaller, ordinary chairs and tables he crafts for smaller amounts of money. The worktops and window frames and floors he installs. He takes pride in each and every one of them, yes. But they are merely his DDJ, tiding him over while he finishes that masterpiece. And when he finishes it, he will begin the next one. Sometimes it takes years…

Time to investigate that noise, I think. Let’s see what’s down the corridor. Careful as we go, don’t want to fall on any of the old loose floorboards. They can be quite treacherous at this time of year, as the cold settles in and everything shifts a little.

Now then, just this way… there! Did you hear it? Yes, yes! Just like a shriek or a yell. I wonder…

Yes, writing can take years. No, not down that way. And even then, a writer may not find all of those little nuggets they were looking for. So many slip through our fingers, it is heart-breaking. Don’t open that door. No, it’s the cleaning cupboard. All the mops and buckets will fall out on the floor. This way…

Down there is the cellar. The beating heart of the Forum. Literally, of course. Reginald is down there now, working hard away. Nearly time for his supper, actually. He keeps the whole Forum powered. Oh yes, he’s a trooper, all right. Never complains. Well, not overly much, anyway.

In fact, I think that noise is coming from down there, in the cellar. Let us go and see. Now, do be careful on the stairs, they are even more treacherous than the floorboards. Yes, that one is a little loose.

Ah yes, definitely down here, that noise. Horrible squealing noise. Guess we need a little WD40, I think. What’s that you say? The loud noise? Oh that’s the generator. And that other noise is the wheel, that turns the generator. Reginald is round the other side, over there. You won’t see him till you get round there.

You go look over there. I think the noise is coming from one of the gyrators. Let’s see… aha! Something stuck in the back of the wheel, causing the shrieking. Pass me that big crowbar, would you? Yes, you can go and see Reginald in a moment. Let’s just get this wheel spinning properly first. That’s it, just lean on there a little…Dear me, that’s stuck fast.

Yes, the cage is most definitely necessary. It took us two days to get him in there. Several people lost limbs, unfortunately. I was lucky, I must admit. How else do you think I lost the ear? Haha! Only kidding.

Now, lean on there again… a little more… that’s it! Just like that! Look at that thing go now, much smoother. What was it you say? Oh, just a…well, a bit of bone, I think.

Yes, you can see Reginald now. Just round there. Don’t get too close now.

My, you look like you’ve seen a ghost! He is big, isn’t he? We’ve measured him as best we can, at about six feet tall. Oh yes, super sized. But so useful.

And what do we feed him on? Oh that’s easy. He’s never fussy. Look over here, in this pit. Yup, that’s where all the lost newbies end up if they don’t contribute on the Forum. Can’t have them cluttering up the place, now can we? If they’re not going to be useful and join in the conversation, in they go. They keep for a few days at least. One young lad survived a whole fortnight before he finally gave in.

Oh no, of course not! I feed them to him alive, my friend! What do you think I am? Cruel to hamsters? Dear oh dear, no. They must always be alive. Only just, can’t have poor Reggie chasing them around his cage, that would put him off his appetite. No, alive but weak and frail, that’s always best.

Feeding time, then! Would you like to help me? It’s always better with two people, they do always like to wriggle as you pull them out…

No? Oh well, just hold that cage door lock for a moment. You don’t want to do that either? Where are you going? There’s no rush! Come back? What’s that? The police?

Oh no, can’t have that. Where’s the switch. Oooh! I bet that hurt. Yes, we had that put in as a safety mechanism. All the steps move as one, bring you down with a crunch, I am sorry if that hurt. How’s your leg? Is it broken… oh yes, definitely broken. Oh well, you’ll be on the menu tomorrow night then. Now come here.

It’s no use trying to crawl away, now! Come back, I’ll have to use the meat hook if you keep struggling. No, this way… that’s it… a little closer… my, you are a strong one, aren’t you? A little further… down you go! Now, isn’t that more comfortable down there with everyone else?

Now then, dinner’s coming, Reggie! I’ll just fish one out for you. Yes, this little lass will do. Bless her, she’s been down here for three days crying that she wants her mummy. Shame. Anyway… yeah, come here, darling!

Back up now, Reggie, that’s it, away from the cage doors… In you go, sweetie! Woah! Nearly got loose, then Reggie! Can’t be having that. You crunch on her. That shirt might get stuck in your teeth though. Make sure you chew your food. Starting with a thigh? Good lad!

Now then, must be off. I think another newbie has arrived.

G’night, Reggie!

Good night, dear visitor. Hope you don’t get too cold down there…

Finding Time to Write

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In a cruel twist of both Irony and Fate (the latter’s not actually cruel…) I found myself on the receiving end of a question about writing, particularly about how to avoid procrastination and finding time to write around school work and paid work and sociliasing with friends, and a million and one thousand things (to steal a line from Alex Day’s Holding On) that get in the way of writing.

My blog post, this blog post, was due in yesterday. My excuse for it’s lateness? I had no time to write it. Now, normally I’d laugh at such excuses. “No time to write?” I’d cry out. “Make time!” That’s supposed to sound enthusiastic for writing by the way, not like a drill sergeant being a tool. But yesterday, and Friday, my time was stolen. Now, I’m not complaining about Friday… I got to go to a Muse concert here in Dublin (fantastic, by the way!). That took up a day of writing for NaNoWriMo, and meant I couldn’t prepare this blog post.

Yesterday though… that was a nightmare. I arrived in work a full two hours early. I know, how? Well, my head was so full of madness that I messed up my time table and was in fact due in at twelve, not ten, and was due off at six, not four. So instead I worked from ten until six. You might wonder, then, why I didn’t write when I got home. Simple answer, the honest answer, is that I had mass to attend. I know, I’m putting God before you all. I apologise. But in all seriousness, I was actually singing in the mass in my friend’s choir, so I couldn’t skip it. Then when I got home, I had dinner and was subsequently too tired to even think about remembering something as hugely important as this blog, let alone move from out of the couch.

Now, that twist of Fate! (yes, I give “Fate” a capital letter.) You see, in my vlogging days (i.e. now) I talk about NaNoWriMo to try and encourage mass participation in the event. The people at NaNoWriMo, henceforth called NaNo to save me typing too much, found out about these vlogs. In fact, they were so happy with them that I was asked to do the Daily Q&A for their site! Even today I’m still on the homepage, and my vlog views and subscribers have shot up. Not only that, but my face is out there with someone actually asking for advice via email! Ironic, then, that I had no time to write. (have I said that already?)

So, how do you find time to write? Well, it’s simple – plan to write. Much like you’d plan to see friends or go to work, plan to write. I had planned to write on Friday before seeing my friends, but was instead getting ready for a concert. I got my ticket two hours before the show; I couldn’t plan, so I couldn’t write (I also couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see my favourite  band play live – you can priorotise if you wish; don’t say no to a one-time event so you can write, unless you really have to). Saturday, I planned to write after work, before mass, but couldn’t because I had my time table wrong. I then planned to write after mass, but was too tired to do anything because of work. Today? I slept in because I was so tired from work. I think you’re beginning to see a pattern – plan!

Now, I’m as addicted to the Internet as a lot of people, but there are things you can do to help yourself write. Only look at your favourite sites and forums after writing your daily goal. Don’t play online games. Farmville and Cafe World can wait until after NaNoWriMo. Only watch the shows you want to follow, not just whatever’s on TV. Re-runs are not good for your novel, unless you use them for inspiration and go straight to work afterwards.

When reading, if it’s for pleasure, not school/college, choose something to help you find your voice, or something short that you don’t have to spend hours at, so you can write more later that day.

If you have an English essay due in (or if you speak both English and another language and can clearly understand this, any essay will do), try plan some writing time before it, but leave enough time to get the work done. When you get down to your school stuff then, you’ll be in writing mode! (not good for Maths though, as vocabulary and numbers don’t go hand in hand).

Use your time efficiently. If someone asks you to play a game with them (like Fifa 10), say “no” if you’re behind on your novel, or say “one match” if you really want to play, and make it one match! And when you write, actually write, don’t just sit there looking at a screen.

Now, hope this is helpful, because I have to go and try do some of my own writing! Best of luck with the novels guys!

Good Luck for NaNoWriMo!

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Hi guys and gals, I’m sneaking in here for a quick blog post before Brendan subs tomorrow.

You probably know by now that tomorrow (well actually, in local UK time, less than 45 minutes!) brings the start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). If you don’t know about it, why not? Where have you been all year? And more importantly, where will you be for the next month? Hmmm?

Anyway, the LitDen has several people entering NaNoWriMo this year, and several of our friends are also going to be suspending their personal social lives for the next thirty days in order to bleed out 50,000 words.

So I’d just like to say a very big GOOD LUCK! to everyone taking part. If you need any moral support/cups of tea or coffee/chocolate/sedatives/straitjackets etc during the month, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Good luck gang, I’ll see you all on the other side.

Er, hopefully…

Oh, and not forgetting… Happy Halloween!

NaNoWriMo

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In two weeks from tomorrow (that’s November 1st), the literary world will be taken by storm in a massive, annual writing event known as NaNoWriMo. (Nah-No-Wry-Moh — Stands for National Novel Writing Month). For one month, several thousand people (aprox. 120,000 people last year) will write 50,000 words each. It sounds cray, and it is. But it’s the most fun a writer can have while sober and alone.

Last year, I participated with my novel Meet Sam. It was my first attempt at mainstream fiction, and it seems to go have gone down well with everyone who’s read it. Naturally, this pleases me.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to recruit writing buddies and novelists to participate in the event with me (you can now too!) I’ve successfully adopted our own Amy Claire as a novelist for the month, and my friend Sophie has signed up.

Yes, I said adopted. Click this link for more info (opens on a YouTube page, but not a video in itself). At that link I’ll be posting videos about NaNoWriMo, including tips and updates on my own novel through the month.

So, NaNoWriMo in short:

  •  30 days
  • 50,000 words
  • Thousands of writers (46,ooo + at the time of this posting)
  • 1666.66 words per day

It may seem difficult. In fact, in a way it kind of is. But I’ve done it before; I can help! I’ll give tips and encouragement to anyone who needs them. I’ll be your writing buddy! It’s easier knowing someone doing it. That’s rule one of NaNoWriMo. Just leave a comment here, or on the Adopting a Novelist video, and I’ll be in touch in return. Simples.

Side note: This year I’m writing a book about a wedding singer (appropriately called The Wedding Singer). It’s set in Dublin and will feature, among some geographical features of my home town, some very true aspects of human life such as sorrow, despair and heart break, as well as all the joys that go along with overcoming such things and making new friends at the same time.

Side note 2: Sorry this post is rubbish – I didn’t have a lot of time to write it.

Side note 3: You can’t say you don’t have time to write. I work six hours every week, I’ll assignments due in, I go to choir every Thursday and have a mass once a month. I have drama twice a week and at least one birthday to attend during the month. All that, and college (and unlike some people, I have a lot of hours!)

A little word on planning…

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There is often discussion in forums I’ve visited about planning a story. One argument: don’t do it. It’s a good point; why plan when you could be writing? Well, in this post I’ll be giving you reasons for and against planning. The alternative, and this is a technical term, is winging it.

Firstly, there are many ways to plan. That’s important to recognise. During NaNoWriMo 2008, I was a huge fan of planning. My novel idea was complex to write, but easy to follow when reading. I know, because I had people read it. In short, the entire novel took place in 24 hours, and so I needed to plan every last detail. No minute could go astray, no second could be wasted. I needed a way of tracking the character’s movements to prevent something useless happening, or, the alternative, too much happening. That’s always possible – don’t forget that. So, what did I do to plan this book that needed planning? I took notes. As the novel was complicated from the writing side of it, I took down notes on every last chapter.

That same method is also important when another situation arises, when winging it just won’t do. This situation is called school. Put simply, school drains away most young writers’ time. Nine to four plus homework and study and friends and sport etc – they all take away writing time. When the writer finally sits down to get some work done, they might not know where to start. I know I didn’t, in a separate novel that took much longer than a month to write. I needed chapter plans, character notes, everything like that, just to stop myself getting lost. The story was planned in my head before it was on paper, obviously, and the plan went on further than the written part, but I needed what was written down for that particular novel.

Which brings me on to my next point – if you wing it, you may insert something into the plot at one stage, and completely forget about it because you’ve no notes. This can also happen if you plan, mind you, so you need to be careful. This is the part of planning you don’t always have to write down, once you don’t forget about that one little item, conversation or character at some point in the rest of the story. That creates a plot hole. If the thing that might become a plot hole is planned, however, you might just remember not to leave it behind at chapter one and remember twenty chapters later about it when it’s too late. This also happened to me… except it was forty chapters and the book was almost over.

The other methods of planning involve diagrams, or simply short notes of things you want to happen, but not in any strenuous detail that might otherwise distract you. Depending on how you’re writing the story, such as how often and for how long, this might be the best option for people who like to have some sort of plan in place. I’ve recently taken notes on my current WIP in this way, due to the fact that I’m now in college. I may not always have time to write like I did, and so I need something to at least remind me of where I’m going.

That particular novel, however, is being written in the wing it style. Up until a few days ago, I had an empty notebook and only a plan in my head. And a large enough word count considering I had only started two weeks beforehand. That’s the advantage of winging it, you see. You could find the words coming easier than usual, or you could be trapped in some amazing writing momentum that’s fuelled by inspiration and cannot be interrupted for any reason whatsoever. Nothing as dull as thirty pages of plot-planning should disrupt that writing flow.

So, which way is best? Winging it has a clear advantage in that you can write to your heart’s content, full speed ahead, creative engines flaring, while planning makes sure you don’t crash into that iceberg and create a major plot hole. My advice, and the way I’ll be finishing my novel (I hope) is to wing it, but keep notes on ideas you get if you know you’ll have to slow down the writing process at some stage in the near future. Better to plan than to forget every last detail of that precious story of yours!