Ian Fleming, in an essay on writing thrillers, published in 1963:
We thus come to the final and supreme hurdle in the writing of a thriller. You must know thrilling things before you can write about them. Imagination alone isn’t enough, but stories you hear from friends or read in the papers can be built up by a fertile imagination and a certain amount of research and documentation into incidents that will also ring true in fiction.
A bit of self-promotion follows. If you need more inspiration and helpful emails to reach your writing goals (you have goals, right?), do request a beta to BlankPage, an online writing app I’m a part of. Ping me on Twitter and I’ll fast-track your beta invite.
Screens are interesting. I’ve got a lot of screens that I interact with. It’s obviously the actual device behind the screen that makes a difference, but I’s still fascinated by screens.
I’ve got a HDTV (several, in fact). I watch and play stuff on it, but other than that it’s not much of an interaction.
There’s the retina MacBook Pro too. This screen is gorgeous, a truly impressive piece of technology right there. Having switched to retina iOS devices a long time ago, I now have a hard time using an operating system on a non-retina screen, or equivalent. I love the retina MacBook Pro screen, and I can’t wait to see it on other devices.
I fancy myself a writer, with several books published. Most of the stuff you can buy written by me these days are technical literature. I’m doing alright with that, although I write (and wrote) a lot of other stuff too. Like fiction, which I’m focusing on at the moment (alongside the revision of The Writer’s iPad of course). I’m mostly writing short stories and novellas at the moment, but I’ve got larger things in mind too. There’s a novel that I need to revisit, rewrite, and then ship off to an editor and/or agent. Then there’s all of those ideas, the thrillers and the quirky stuff, the horror and the love stories. The things I write.
But I have a confession to make. The thing I write best, or at least the thing that’s easiest for me to write, is fantasy. You know, swords and magic and dragons and stuff like that, although not necessarily in the straight-forward flippant way I just said it. Fantasy can be quirky and dark and weird and mature and sad too. I’ve been so engrossed in fantasy literature and pen and paper role-playing games as a kid that it’s made such an impression on me. I get ideas constantly, I have no problems whatsoever building worlds or creating creatures and outlandish characters. It’s a bit weird, because science fiction is further off, although I think I’m pretty good at that too. At least if I take a step from the scifi cradled in today’s science, into the abstract, weird and twisted. Science fantasy if you will, although that’s another beast altogether, come to think of it.
Let’s leave it at that, because I have another confession to make. This one’s stupid, I know, but I can’t shake it. I feel silly writing fantasy. It’s kids stuff, not proper literature, too easy, too far from social commentary and real people’s lives, too far from important things. When I told people about my projects, years ago, they just wouldn’t take them seriously because it was rooted in fantasy. ”I just don’t get into that stuff,” they’d say, and I would feel even more silly.
How stupid of me, right?
Today fantasy is mainstream. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies made it so, big time, and the Game of Thrones TV series underlined it. Suddenly fantasy’s not just for nerds, everyone watches it, albeit perhaps not reading typical fantasy books. Yet I still feel silly telling people about this world and series of books and short story arcs that I’ve got planned, that I’ve been writing. It just feels weird talking about that stuff.
The whole thing’s stupid, and it’s all in my head. I shouldn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks about what I’m writing, I should only care about the story. If someone reads it then that’s great, and if not I’ll be sad and move on. But letting people who apparently have no interest in the genre nor in my fantasy writing get to me’s just not fair.
Yet here I am, with over a thousand downloads of my most recent fantasy short story, as well as a previous (no longer available) short story collection in the same world that people seemed to dig, and I’m still struggling with wether I should be writing fantasy. I can honestly say that I’m not sure how much of that struggle is me letting myself be limited by the outside world and my notion of what they might be thinking, and the fact that I’ve already written so much fantasy already and it might be time to try something new. I don’t like the feeling I get when people want to talk to me about my writing, and we all get uncomfortable when it’s not something the talkative people are even remotely interested in, nor capable of talking about.
Yeah, still stupid, I know, I know.
I’m not a person uncertain of myself. I run successful companies and give talks. I regularly put myself in harms way, not caring the slightest what people think of me should the situation warrant it. But my writing, and the idea I have of my writing, that’s fragile.
I’ve got the next couple of months pretty laid out in terms of writing projects. Mostly it’s short stories and novellas, but come summer, when my Primary Novel Project is rewritten, I’ll have to face the music again. Because I have this outline you see, this storyline that I think would turn out pretty well. To make that happen I need to finish the short story arc planned when I first released the Estam short story for free, and then I’ve got two more of those arcs. Then there’s the prologue book, which is halfway done already, and the culmination of all that in a book or two, possibly some short stories, I’m not sure yet. Anyway, there’s that, and the book that comes after, which I really, really, really, want to write… It’s an extensive project, one that’ll take years to work my way through, not counting whatever Hell actual publication might bring. I can honestly say that this mammoth project is enticing, and I think it’d turn out great. And it’s fantasy, in case you couldn’t tell.
I’m so torn by this. Things would obviously be a lot simpler if I didn’t have any other ideas, but I do. Plentiful in fact, I could just decide I don’t ”do” fantasy anymore and be done with it. No more doubt, no more silly feelings of being inadequate or whatever it is. I’m afraid that’d pose other questions though, perhaps doubt even. And I don’t like trying to fool myself either.
So there you have it, my fantasy confession. If I lost you along the way, it’s because I feel silly just writing this, which probably means I should man up and not give a shit. I’ll write what I’ll write, and that’s the end of it.
What cannot be denied is that the first Macintosh changed my life completely. It made me want to write, I couldn’t wait to get to it every morning. If you compare computers to offices, the Mac was the equivalent of the most beautifully designed colourful space, with jazzy carpets on shiny oak floors, a pool table, wooden beams, a cappuccino machine, posters and great music playing. The rest of the world trudged into Microsoft’s operating system: a grey, soulless partitioned office, with nylon carpets, flickering fluorescent lamps and a faintly damp smell.
Whatever tool you choose, the one that you’re happy with is the one that’ll let you perform best. I Stephen Fry’s case, back in the day, the Macintosh was empowering him, making him want to write. Today lots of writers dream of MacBook Airs because it just seems like a sexier way to churn out words than the black fat plastic Windows laptops they’re stuck with. It’s nothing special really, we all want better tools.
Every now and then the following advice in regards to writing floats up through the sewage. Beware, this is not for the faint of heart, so make sure you have someone dear standing by. Alright, here goes:
Write what you know.
I think that’s utter nonsense. I have to think that, otherwise the world’s a lot darker than I thought. Think about it, if every thriller and horror writer out there wrote what they knew, then they’ve committed more crimes against humanity than your least favorite dictator. I can’t believe that, Stephen King has to be a nice guy, so the only conclusion I can draw is that these fellows didn’t write what they knew.
If we writer types just wrote what we knew, fiction would be awfully boring. There’d be almost no crime or horror stories, nor any particularly interesting erotica for that matter. Let’s not even consider where fantasy and science fiction would fit in here.
“Write what you know” is bad advice, but there’s a grain of truth to it. Let’s twist it a bit, into “research what you write”, and we’ve got something useful.
Write whatever you want. Don’t be constrained by silly facts like you’ve never fine-dined in Venice, traveled in time, seen two-headed giants, or driven a golf club through the eye socket of somebody. Do research these things though. Where can you dine in Venice, what’s time travel really, how would a two-headed giant look and move, and what’s the terminal velocity of a golf club? Those are valid things to consider.
Tomorrow is November 1st, and although most of us call that iPad Air Day, some have more reasonable goals. Like writing a novel in a month, as a part of the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.
The target word count is 50,000 words. That’s 1,667 words per day in November.
Or as I like to call it: Quite possible to pull off.
I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo myself, I’ve got enough writing project on my table as it is. Although I must confess I’m weirdly tempted each year, despite averaging a word count higher than the necessary one to complete NaNoWriMo in style. It’s nice to belong, I guess.
While working on your NaNoWriMo project, I urge you to do the following:
Turn off Twitter, Facebook and whatever you’re addicted to, at least until you’ve reached your daily word count.
Pick a writing tool and stick to it.
Speaking of writing tools, I’ve got two links for you there too. First is my ebook, The Writer’s iPad, which is all about helping you write on your iPad. The second is a new focused writing service called BlankPage.io, which is free to use during November. The latter isn’t built by me, but it is part of the same Odd Alice satellite program as Shrtnws, so give it a shot.
There’s just no easy way to say this. My iPhone novel writing project is struggling. The story’s almost done and there’s just the endgame left, which adds up to a couple of thousand words or so, but the manuscript is way too short. As I’ve said before, writing in such short spurts completely changed the pace of my writing, and I’ve already re-outlined the novel twice, to no avail.
The past few days I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time each day to mull over what I’m going to do about this. True to the project, I’ve tried not to spend too much time. It has to be reasonable.
This is the new plan:
Insert the new scenes and character earlier in the story. This is usually not a good idea when writing, but I need these elements to proceed.
Add a parallell storyline, the one I scrapped because I thought it’d push the novel over 100,000 words. Yeah, that was quite a miscalculation.
Update the outline properly. I’ll most likely do this on paper, that’s how definite this thing’ll be.
Get back into the 300 words daily mindset, because these issues have left me scattered and unfocused.
That’s about it. I might change writing app as well, because Byword, which I’ve used thus far, have had quite a few issues with iOS 7. We’ll see, more on that in a later article series for this site.
The iPhone novel writing project is struggling. I’ve missed two days completely thus far (because of life and, well just life), and a lot of time is spent thinking and outlining and re-outlining. Some days see less than 300 words because of this, which I don’t think is in the spirit of the experiment, but a result nonetheless. The word indecision comes to mind.
The current status is this. The story’s progressing a lot faster than I thought it would. It’s not that surprising since each writing session is so short, and I indadvertedly want to reach a point where the session makes sense in its own. This is messing with my schedule and pacing, because as it is now this isn’t a novel, it’s a novella. It’s distracting and annoying.
This pacing tells me that the second draft will probably be a lot more fleshed out. This is not a new development for me as a fiction writer, when I stick to an outline I tend to be brief, which can be both good and bad. There’s room for improvement in this particular story, especially around a character I’ve decided to bring back. Fleshing that out will be another 10,000 words or so.
I’ve decided to take a week off to let the story rest. As you’re reading this said week is no doubt over already. I’m not sure how this fits with the experiment, but just like the trouble finding a stride, it’s a result if nothing else.
As of the last of September, there are four months left of the experiment. I’ve learned a lot about writing when there’s no time at all, and prioritize the word count when I’d otherwise do other things. I’ve also learned that I have issues with keeping to short word counts. 300 words is a small target for me, I tend to set my targets at over 2,000 words so that I can settle in properly and get the words flowing. I’ll hold off on any analysis around this for now though. It’s still an interesting experiment, and I’m really curious to see what I’ll have on January 31st 2014. And what I can do with it beyond that.
On August 1st this year, I started to write a novel on my iPhone. It’s a long project that’ll end next year. The idea is to write 300 words daily on my novel manuscript, on my iPhone, and obviously there’s a point to be proven in the end. Along the way, I realized that I need to schedule time and words for outlining work, and I’ve done that on a weekly basis, more or less.
One month in, I’ve written at least 300 words daily. The 31 days of August should mean that I’d have at least 9,300 words, but some of these words have ended up in the outline. Then again, I easily make up for the lost words by writing more than 300 words daily on average. The manuscript is 10,263 words long after one month, that’s 331 words per day had I spent all my writing on it. In short, I’m on schedule, despite the change in procedure that the outline work prompted.
Some additional notes:
I still write around 350 (manuscript) words per session, at 11–13 minutes.
The word count of each session have had an impact on the pacing of the story. I’ve since adjusted, but this might mean that additional editing’s needed, beyond the usual needs of course.
The story is progressing faster than expected, which means I’ll have to reconsider my outline yet again. We’ll see where this takes me later on.
I tend to write late afternoons or during the evening. The daily alert I’ve got at 4 pm obviously has something to do with this.
So far so good. I expect to report on the project on a monthly basis from now on, assuming there’s something to report. Daily updates are posted to Twitter and App.net if you’re interested.
It should come as no surprise that I write on my iPad. This is the setup I’ve been enjoying most of the time this summer, in my summer home.
The bookshelf features a desktop that you can pull out, fitted to a regular dining room chair, which is what I’ve been using too. I put the iPad mini on the first shelf to get a better angle. My keyboard of choice have been the Logitech Tablet Keyboard, covered previously. I’m not sure it’ll be what I use when I leave my summer home, but I decided to give it a fair shot and thus I left my trusty Apple bluetooth keyboard and its Origami casing at home. Just as well, as we picked up this combined bookshelf and cupboard this summer, and it would’ve worked less than great here. I think it’s good to be able to detach the keyboard from the stand, most of the time, and obviously that’s the case here.