Month: October 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015

The blog has been quiet because I have mostly been working, whether on day job stuff or the novel writing I actually need to do.

I will post a goals update tomorrow (or possibly Saturday – we’ll see) but I thought I should make an update about my NaNoWriMo plans for this year.


A friend and former ML Kim Switzer runs a writing coaching business called MuseCraft and she wanted to try out a curriculum for NaNoWriMo prep. I signed up, and I’ve found the exercises very helpful in developing my concepts this year.

Thank you Kim!

Plan B: The First Idea

I have two novels I am actively working on but both of them are in advanced enough stages of preparation that they are not really suitable to work on for NaNoWriMo – one of them was my 100k draft from 2013, while the other I wrote another 50k on last year to complete its second draft. So, I was sure I wanted to work on something new.

There’s a Greg Egan short story called Axiomatic which has rattled around in my brain ever since I read it. It’s about rewiring your brain to change the core properties of your personality. It’s a cool concept and a fascinating story, but I wanted to take a variation on that idea and go a different direction with it.

This story is called (at the moment) Perscon.

The technological conceit is something I am calling personality overlay – your core personality doesn’t change, but you download someone else’s ideoplex into your brain to act as a filter on your perceptions. The thought is that people (particularly the jaded wealthy) would use this technology to see their lives and experiences from a different angle for entertainment purposes.

Here’s the logline I developed with Kim’s help:

“Dack Sudo, a charismatic street tough, has a way out – recording his personality for others to experience – but then he’s banned when his mind proves too dangerous. When he is marked for death, he must find the truth about hidden mind control technology before the conspiracy takes over completely.”

So if that story is plan B, what’s plan A?

Plan A: The Wisdom of a Crowd

A while ago I took a presentation skills class at the day job. The five minute talk I prepared for that class was about “How To Write A Novel in 30 Days”.

Then earlier this year I thought it might be a good idea to expand that five minute talk into a full blown lunch presentation*. One of the gimmicks I came up with was to have the audience provide me with some ideas to write about in November.

I gave that talk last Friday, and we decided to have a story set in a steampunk Roman Empire.

Crikey – this one has been fertile ground.

I’ve been trying to stick to the plot cues from my colleagues which means I haven’t explored all of the potential conflicts (if an industrial European civilisation emerges a thousand years earlier, what of the other empires around at the time?) but this story (which I am calling Steampunk Rome at the moment) has been hugely inspiring. Here’s the logline for this one:

“Five centuries after Rome abolished slavery, ushering in an era of technological enlightenment, two friends, each with their own secrets, learn of a conspiracy to keep the true nature of this golden age hidden from the masses, and both must make choices that will change their lives forever.”

Plan C: Why Not Both?

So I have two stories I really like, both of which have potential for fitting into larger universes or even being series.

How do I choose?

Why should I choose?

I’ve written 100k in a month before, and writing two 50k novels simultaneously should be doable from a word count point of view.

And so that is my plan: two novels enter, two leave.

I may regret it, but it should at least be interesting.

Stay tuned here for updates on progress, emotional state, and sleep quality.

[*] my day job provides lunch on Fridays along with a speaker. It’s a great way of maintaining company cohesion, even as the company continues to expand.

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Everything To Its Season

I like running, but I love cycling.

This has been true for as long as I have been running. I started cycling as an adult when I moved to Nottingham, before I had a car (before I had even passed my driving test, in fact) and it was the first form of exercise that I did with any consistency. When I did get a car I rode less, but apart from a break during my last couple of years in Surrey (when I concluded that the roads were simply too hostile for me to ride on any more) I’ve ridden at some point during the year ever since.

My running has been happening for about ten years less than that. Cycling is great exercise, but it takes longer to get the same effect – I ride hard, but riding hard for an hour feels about the same as running hard for half that time. Hence my taking up running: it is a more time-efficient form of exercise.

But I still love cycling.

These days, I find that cycling to the day job is an excellent way of getting the exercise I need without disrupting the day job flow, but it comes with costs: I lose the bus ride in for other projects, and sometimes it takes me longer to get into the groove at the day job because I’m still in a traffic-dodging head space.

And so I come to the realisation that my cycling is seasonal not because of the weather (although that is part of it – I won’t risk riding in icy conditions when the roads aren’t salted) but because when I hit October I need the bus ride to do prep for NaNoWriMo.

I will probably ride to the day job tomorrow, Friday, but that may be it for me until the spring.

It’s better weather for running anyway.

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The T-Shirts of NaNoWriMo: 2015 Edition

the 2015 NaNoWriMo T-shirt!

the 2015 NaNoWriMo T-shirt!

Here we have the very splendid 2015 NaNoWriMo T shirt. Like last year’s, the logo and typography are joyous. Not so pleased withe the shirt quality itself, but the price hasn’t changed so something probably had to give.

I’m glad to say that I have the shirt in plenty of time for the kick-off this year, but I won’t be able to go to this year’s kick-off – the timing of the events just don’t permit to attend. I will certainly be donning this T shirt for the NaNoWriMo talk at the day job, though, so it will get a good public outing (apart from wearing it several times during the month).

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Epic Card Game for Magic Players, part 1 – Why Epic?

Epic Card Game is not Magic, but it is similar enough that it can be very confusing for someone who is familiar with Magic.

First of all, let us address the prominent pachyderm: why would you play Epic if you have Magic?

  • cost
  • a complete game
  • balanced play
  • it’s like a primer in cube

One of the biggest differences between Epic and Magic is that Epic is a card game, but it is not a collectible or trading card game. Magic has a thrilling (and frustrating) element of luck around which cards you pull from a pack, and which cards you can subsequently afford to purchase to make your deck competitive. I try very hard to control my spending on Magic cards, but I still run a constant expenditure on cards for new sets, packs for draft events, and occasional singles as I try to make my deck effective.

Epic has none of that: you buy a complete game, and there are optional expansions and promos to buy but they are not necessary to enjoy the game. The colour decks within the base game are well-balanced, and this base game supports many of the most interesting formats in card games of this type: drafting, constructed decks, multiplayer, even (with the addition of more decks) cube.

By contrast, Magic requires a $10 per person cost for each booster draft – twice that for a sealed draft. If I want to draft with my two boys that’s $30 a pop.

A similar drafting experience with Epic is $15 for the base deck, and that’s it for as many drafts as we want to do.

In later parts, I will talk about terminology differences and the specifics of gameplay.

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NaNoWriMo Proselytism

November is coming.

While I’m still trying to finish the second daft of Shapes, I am also beginning planning for NaNoWriMo. This will be my twelfth year, and hopefully my twelfth win.

Part of my prep this year is that I am doing a lunchtime presentation at the day job talking about writing a novel in thirty days. There’s a lot to cover in what will be a 35-40 minute presentation, and I’ve been thinking hard about what it is about NaNoWriMo that I most want to convey to my colleagues.

The biggest things I think I want to put across include:

  • fun
  • community
  • creative outlet
  • the power of crushing deadlines

I am also going to be asking my colleagues to help me decide what it is I am going to write this year. I have some ideas but they are so far poorly developed – I am hoping to harness the wisdom of the crowd to shape the bones of a story which I will be able to spend a month writing.

I’m thinking of getting three things:

  1. setting – where should the story be set? When?
  2. characters – use the Fiasco method for this
  3. basic plot Рinciting incident, two or three crises, a d̩nouement

Well, we’ll see how well that goes, eh?

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