Friday, 31 March 2017

Milestones!

I was chatting with another writer on Twitter when they said they fail more often than not. It got me wondering, what constitutes a creative failure?

Leaving a project unfinished? Writing something that's imperfect? Writing something somebody doesn't like?

Thankfully NOT one of mine.

The fact is, most people don't even bother to try. So your short story was only 1000 words long? That's 1000 words more creative work than most people have ever attempted. The story isn't as good as it could be? Good - you've already identified where you can improve! And for everyone that may or may not like what you've written? Who cares. Screw them. Seriously.

Do what you love for yourself first, and everyone else second.

I need to find out who this guy is.

Today I've had what I consider a small success. The fourth draft of Bovine Intervention has hit 25,000 words. I'm aiming for the book to be about 100-125k in total, so that's perhaps only 20-25% of the final product. And the fourth draft isn't even going to be the final one...

But hey, I love crossing those big-number finish lines, no matter how marginal they appear. I'm still having doubts about the tone and direction of this book (second-book syndrome?) but I don't even care. Because I'm doing okay, I trust my own judgement, and I will celebrate my trivial successes. And maybe, like, three other people will celebrate with me.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Recent Reads!

As the dog needs a bone, as the bird needs to sing, as the cat needs to knock things off the table and stare at you as if it was your fault all along, does the writer need to read. My reading is at best, slow, like how I sip my coffee, and at worst, infrequent, like my exposure to fresh air and sunlight. So when I do read, I like to make sure I'm reading quality material. Here are just a few of the books and series I've been reading this year.

Shades of Grey - Jasper Fforde
No, not that one. What kind of website do you think this is?! No. This is a darkly-comic dystopia about a far-future society in which people are classed according to their perception of colours. Purples are the upper classes, Reds and Blues fairly common, while the miserable Greys are downtrodden and scorned. It sounds oppressive, but this book was incredibly funny. Everything is described via the Munsell colour system and the book is packed with colourful puns - my favourite being the National Colour employee Matthew Gloss. Its silliness is as detailed as to be weirdly believable, and the story takes some incredible and moving turns as well. Eagerly awaiting the next one.


Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
I loved the first book back in uni, and I enjoyed the Dirk Gently novels too, but I've never read any further in this particular series. Please don't hurt me! I started back at the beginning a few months ago and am now about halfway through Life, The Universe and Everything. It's not something to overthink, I find the details sketchy and the plot almost non-existent. Its strengths lie in Adams' incredible ideas. Highly readable.


The Muse - Jessie Burton
As I said on Twitter, this historical novel about a mysterious painting deserves every billboard ad it got. Stunning tale that jumps between two periods in 20th century history, with a few painful connections. Really moving.


The Burning Page - Genevieve Cogman
Third in Cogman's series about librarian/spy/assassins who jump between parallel worlds. I love the concept and am looking forward to the next one, but book three was a bit of a disappointment because I felt like the author was holding back too much info about the world and its characters. My patience is far from boundless...


Harry Potter - J. K. Rowling
Needs no introduction. I'm re-reading them for the first time since they came out when I was still in school. I'm seeing new depths and allusions I never noticed as a young reader and I'm astounded at the clarity and economy of Rowling's narration. A lot of detail in very few words. Currently about to start Goblet.


Craft Sequence - Max Gladstone
I've got no idea what this is but I love the covers, the titles and the sample I read. Any fans about? I can't wait to get stuck into this series!


An insight into the contents of my eyeballs right now. If you're a writer and not a regular reader, start today. Really. You'll notice an improvement in your work with every book you read.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

February Progress Update

Hey everyone, welcome back. I'm really pleased to announce that the third draft of Bovine Intervention is complete. Bovine Intervention is the full-length sequel to Déjà Moo, due for release in 2018. Why 2018? I've got a lot of edits ahead of me. The novel's only 83,312 words long so far, compared to Déjà Moo's some 130,000. And a third draft hardly compares to an eighth, in the case of Déjà Moo. (Yeah, editing includes more writing.)

For me, the editing process is way more than correcting typos and adding in more jokes. I've got to examine each of my characters' motivations and choices to ensure they're consistent and logical. I've got to remove characters that don't contribute to the narrative and replace them with others that do. Plots will be scrutinised, twists will be analysed and - hopefully - something resembling a fully-functioning novel will rise from the ashes of my successive drafts. And as for the scene in Chapter Seventeen that I didn't *technically* finish writing? Gods help me, it shall be done. 

In the meantime, the Lawnmowers, Inc. series isn't going anywhere. Both Déjà Moo and Encore Moo are available to purchase on Kindle in your local territory. And if that's not enough, here's a teaser for Bovine Intervention - the opening paragraph...

Sahila Kavita Paswan considered herself something of an expert, only nobody would ever find out, because nobody bothered to ask. Sahila wasn’t usually the kind of woman to offer opinions unsolicited, but she hadn’t many choices when it came to social interaction. It wasn’t much of a leap to suppose that someone who worked six eight-hour shifts a week at Aphrodite Records might have been able to tell you the difference between Bloodstone and Stoneblood, but you mightn’t be surprised to learn that very few people actually cared.

For the record, one was nu-metal with a ska twist, while the other was alternative baroque with a hip-hop flavour, but if you asked which was which you’d be met with no more than a quiet tut and an eye-roll. Sahila had no patience with amateurs. She could recite, on request, each of the eighteen number one hits held by the progressive techno group Bernie + the B-Sides – her karaoke staple – and could even advise which Belladonna Printemps album was a collector’s item and which was better served as a coaster. As it happened, she was in the middle of doing exactly this.

Bovine Intervention is due for release in 2018. Check back soon for a synopsis, cover reveal and some Lawnmowers, Inc. short stories focusing on the series' supporting characters. Until then, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

2016 - The Year of the Cow

A lot has happened this year. But that goes without saying, right? If you’re feeling anything like I am, you probably can’t wait for 2016 to be over. There’s always something cathartic about a new year, even if the individual days remain pretty much the same. It’s the time for reflection, reinvention, and improvement. A chance to move on from all the troubles that came before. And we’ve had a lot of troubles this year, wherever you are in the world. Too many atrocities to count. Too many dead legends. Too many ill-informed decisions made by people who genuinely thought they were doing the right thing. I live in hope they prove correct.

2016 hasn’t been a complete bust. I – at some point, I’ve forgotten exactly when – made the decision to break into self-publishing. I’d tried about two dozen agents, of course. Most of them said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” A few said, “Good luck.” One said, “I love it. I wish I could read the whole thing. But I have no idea to market it.” And I know exactly why they said it. Perhaps that was the best I would get from a commercially-minded literary agent. But 2016 has proven that there is a need for a niche urban-fantasy about celebrity cattle and a time-travel addict.

This year I’ve been overwhelmed by the response Déjà Moo has received, both from friends and strangers alike. The amount of readers around the world who have given the book a chance – and loved it – has been incredible. The generosity of strangers who have taken the time to promote, share, and bolster the reputation of Déjà Moo with reviews across Amazon, Goodreads and their own blogs, has been greater than I had ever hoped. And I’ve endeavoured to return the favours. In summer, I started beta-reading for other writers in similar positions, and I’ve spoken with some fantastic people this year. The online reader-writer community has proven a powerful force, thriving on cooperation and continuing to challenge the traditional publishing structure. If I’ve learnt one thing this year, it’s that in order to succeed, you have to pay it forward.

With that in mind, what can I offer you in the coming year?
  • Short stories! As we speak, I’m planning a series of short stories that will build upon the Lawmowers, Inc. universe. These will be released for free, right here at www.dejamoo.co.uk.
  • Writing tips! I’m going to be writing up my thoughts on every aspect of writing, from dialogue to plotting to editing, and sharing these periodically as well. Whether you’re a writing newbie or a curious reader, I hope these will be both informative and entertaining.
  • Beta-reading! I love reading works from other writers like myself. If you think you are ready for a second (or third, tenth, hundredth!) pair of eyes on your work before you release it, have a look at my beta-reading schedule and claim a slot now!
And as for the future of Lawnmowers, Inc.? I’m pleased to confirm that work is well underway on a sequel entitled Bovine Intervention. I hoped to complete the third draft for NaNoWriMo, but alas, life got in the way. New job plus long days equals tired author. Not only did I fail NaNoWriMo but I failed to complete the novel. Still, I succeeded in taking my own advice, and 60,000 words in two months is better than no words at all. And I’m still going. Lawnmowers, Inc. is very much alive, and it will return before you know it.

That’s all for now, but expect more updates soon. Wishing you a very happy new year,

Peter

Monday, 24 October 2016

10 Tips to Survive NaNoWriMo!

It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's more exciting than Christmas, more magical than a month at Hogwarts, and more stressful than, er, Christmas. Haven't heard of NaNoWriMo? It's National Novel Writing Month, and it's an online competition to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.



Yes, that's fifty thousand.

Yes, it can be done. Thousands of busy, stressed and over-caffeinated people manage it every year, and so can you. I've succeeded every other year since 2009, and guess what? Every one of those drafts was awful. That's not the point. The point is not to create quality. It's to create something. Something you can work with in the future. And it's a perfectly attainable goal, if you can keep calm and put in the hours. But whether you're a nano-newbie or a keyboard-calloused veteran, you can never have too much help. Here I've compiled ten tips guaranteed to make your November as stress-free as possible.



  1. Stock up on supplies. Whether it's tea, coffee, chocolate, gum, a music playlist or some scented candles, your aim is to make your writing time as comfortable as it can be. The last thing you need is to sit down, braced to knock out that twist in the second act, only to find you're out of your lucky Ethiopian blend and you've nothing else to chew on but your fingernails. Unless you want to take up foraging like you're competing in the Hunger Games, make sure your cupboards are stocked before October is out, and your future self will thank you.
  2. Remove all distractions. Alternatively, remove yourself from all distractions. Put the laptop on flight mode. Put your phone on silent. Unplug the router. Unplug the phone. Hide the video games (or get someone else to hide them from you!) Lend your Kindle to a friend. If you're like me, you might instinctively pull up Twitter every hundred words to tweet about your progress. This is not only a waste of time, but disruptive to your momentum! There's nothing better than getting into the zonewhich is kind of like flying the TARDIS, only instead of flicking levers and running around in circles, your characters are doing it all for you. 
  3. Know your characters! As a historic pantser (i.e. a writer flying by the seat of their pants), I've made the industrious decision to plan ahead this year. I may be working with characters I already know, but they're in a different place to where they began 130,000 words ago. You need to know what drives your characters and informs their choices. I like to fill out a tiny worksheet for each character.
    • What is their Greatest Strength? The strength is an asset that they can put to use at some point in the novel. It could crop up frequently or rarely, but it's a tool you can use!
    • What is their Fatal Flaw? This is a weakness that might hinder the character at a crucial moment, or hold them back on a day-to-day basis. This will have an influence on their decisions, their opinions and even how they speak.
    • What is their Basic Need? This is the story goal that your character aims to accompish by the end of the story. Your character should always be working towards this.
  4. Know where your story is headed! It sounds weird, but I like to settle on the ending first and work backwards. I pick a scene that encapsulates the end-goal for that particular character, and ask myself how she got there, tracing her steps in reverse-order. This will help you keep your story on track - and if you decide you don't like that ending after all, feel free to break away from it and pick something you prefer!
  5. Don't edit as you go along. It'll slow you down, and distract you from the real goal of NaNoWriMo which is to FINISH something. Don't look back - look ahead.
  6. Get involved in the community. Chat to other writers in the forums. Chat to other writers on Twitter. Join a NaNoWriMo community group on Facebook. Attend the NaNoWriMo social events - they crop up all over the world! Your local writer community is likely as enthusiastic and friendly as mine - in fact, if it weren't for my local group, I probably wouldn't bother coming back year after year.
  7. Treat Yo Self! Prepare a reward for after writing. This could be a small daily reward or a big thank-goodness-it's-over reward. A daily reward could be something like dessert, your favourite TV show (can you guess mine from the quote?), a relaxing bubblebath or anything else you could need but don't always make time for. A big December reward could be something like a celebratory meal, a new pair of shoes, or just a lazy day off. I am not recommending you bankrupt yourself, but any treat whatsoever will do. For me, it will be a big video-game binge. 
  8. Try not to fall behind. The general rule for NaNoWriMo is to write 1,667 words per day. Miss a day, and you've got to write 3,334 words the next day. That's a double workload. Let it build up for any longer, and it can feel like an incredible burden. Keep on top of your daily word count, and spare yourself the anguish of a word backlog. Do one better and get ahead. Build up a reserve of extra words in the first week, when you're still feeling fresh, because the week two slump might just hit you!
  9. Take a day off. This really ties into my previous tip about getting ahead. If you can knock out 3,334 words on a Sunday, give yourself Monday to recover writing-wise. You deserve a little respite, you hard worker, you. 
  10. Take care of yourself. Your health comes first. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be fun, and if you're struggling - really struggling - it's no longer fun. Sometimes external events get in your way. Life happens. If you have to abandon your novel or feel you can't continue, don't be disheartened. You've already written more fiction than most people will the rest of their lives, and there's nothing to stop you returning to it at a later date. 
That's it. In short NaNoWriMo is a difficult undertaking, but it can be rewarding, sociable and a great deal of fun. Thinking of getting involved? Sign up today! And if you're ready to go, good luck.