100kword100days update

Further to my 2019 goals, I’ve been working on the novel “MELTDOWN”, during the 100kwords100days challenge.

It was going pretty well – it’s more of a rewrite than a first draft. The first draft was written way back in 2013, during NaNoWriMo. The story sort of held together, but there were several plot holes. And the usual mish-mash of character and plot problems. It needed a rewrite.

I was doing quite well, adding and changing words, then got sidetracked into the actual design of the story. Those who know me will understand, as I have a fascination for Story Design (I even wrote a book about it), and I realised with this rewrite that I really needed to go back to first principles, apply my ‘Snowflake‘ and ‘Save The Cat‘ procedures to really get a grip on the story and make it work like a thriller should.

In conclusion, I have 15,000 good words, all in the right places – from the original 47,000 words. And that’s where the story now is. There are more old words that can be imported into the new framework, but for the moment, the project is parked. There are more important, real-life issues to be sorted for now.


Look at me, blogging an’ that

I seem to be doing better on my interaction with people lately. Which is not very secret code for hanging around on social media a lot.

Anyway, last night I brought my wordcount spreadsheet up to date. I keep my own Excel spreadsheet, recording my daily wordcounts on various projects. It’s a good idea, so I can try to keep myself on track, and give myself motivation. It also allows me to track my endeavours on various writing challenges (I love a good challenge, me).

So, after adding up the blog posts I’ve written (few of which have seen the light of day), and the short and flash fiction I’ve written (none of which have seen the light of day), and my faltering, stumbling steps on Death In Print, my Danni Monroe crime novel, I added a whopping 19,257 words to my word count, and my 2016 total now stands at 62,907.

One of the challenges I enjoy is the #100kwords100days project, which has been running twice a year for several years now. To achieve my goal (100,000 words in 100 days, of course) I need to write just over 3,000 words a day for the next 12 days.

So I’m off to write.

Pip pip!


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!


100k words in 100 days – success!

Just a quick note – after the success of the first 100k words100 days challenge this January, we decided that we wanted to run another one during the summer. Starting on July 1st, it ran for 100 days, and finished yesterday on October 8th.

And I succeeded! Early summer writing was limited due to other, non-writing projects. In early August, when the plan called for 40,000 words, I was sitting at 15,000 words. In early September, I managed some days with over 2,000 words written, which brought me more on track. From the 17th September onwards, I dedicated myself a little more, having days of 2,000, 3,000 and even 4,000 words. In the past week, I’ve had two, 4,000 word days, which brought me to the brink of success. I finished tonight with 100,496 words written for the challenge.

This has seen me write one almost novel-length thriller (45,000 words), complete a crime novel (adding 21,000 words to the previously-written 44,000 to make 65,000 words) and begin several shorter works in the horror, thriller and crime genres. I’ve also done some planning for NaNoWriMo 2013, and written several blog posts.

All in all, a tremendous personal success.

As a group, we wrote over 1.65 million words. Eight of the group managed to write over 100,000 words, and one writer managing over 160,000 words during the challenge. All along, there was fantastic support in the Facebook group created for these challenges, and we shall be continuing the support process during NaNoWriMo as a number of us are taking on that challenge as well (50,000 words during the month of November). And next January, we shall be restarting the next 100kwords100days challenge.

My thanks go to Sally Quilford for coming up with the idea in the first place, and the rest of the group for their support and banter.


Writing challenges – are they any good?

First, there came National Novel Writing Month – often shortened to NaNoWriMo. The challenge? To write a 50,000 word ‘novel’ during the 30 days of November. First

NaNoWriMo remains very popular. In 1999, their first year, they had 21 participants and 6 winners. In 2011, they had over a quarter of a million participants and nearly 37,000 winners. The number of words logged in the 2011 event was 3,074,068,446. Over three billion words. Staggering.

However, there a couple of problems with NaNoWriMo:

1) The pace is pretty high, at 1667 words per day. The danger is that you type words, not create a story. Generally, I’ve been dissatisfied with my 8 NaNoWriMo winning ‘novels’

2) 50,000 words do not a novel make, especially that, by the time you’ve done some (necessary) editing, you’ll end up with something around 30,000 words.

Several other challenges have emanated from the NaNowriMo people. Camp NaNoWriMo is another 50k word novel month, in the month of July. Script Frenzy is the same, but for scriptwriting. And it doesn’t stop there. Others have created NaNoEdMo (editing), NaNoWriWee (30k in a weekend). There’s a ton of monthly timed artistic challenges at http://www.wikiwrimo.org/wiki/List_of_timed_artistic_challenges

So, with all these problems, is it worth doing a timed wordcount challenge? Bearing in mind that:

* You have to be prepared to work at it. Nothing worth having comes easily. You need to make compromises. You need to write when you don’t feel like it.

* You can feel down if you start falling behind. You need to either stick with the schedule, or not. If something gets in the way – illness, family issues, meteorites hitting the earth – you need to accept that you’re not going to achieve that target.

* You can end up with nonsense. Ernest Hemingway said “the first draft of anything is shit.” And it is. Mine are, anyway. That’s what the editing process is for.

However, there are a couple of huge positives:

* Having a regular, challenging schedule means that you need to write each day. This is a very good thing. And once you get into the habit of writing each day, you can’t stop. More writing = a better chance at gaining a publisher or more self-published works to offer to the public.

* You can feel that you have what it takes to become a novelist. This is also a good thing. We’re all delicate, fragile souls, and our confidence needs lots of bolstering.

How do you succeed at timed writing challenges? Here are some hints and tips I’ve used over the years.


I’ve seen many authors fail the challenges, but one of the biggest reasons is due to lack of planning. You really can’t write a novel without having a plan. An idea is not enough. An idea is not a plan. The plan is something which lists plot points, from the start, through the middle, and to the end. The plan lists your characters, with some sort of character definitions. The plan can be a chapter-by-chapter detailed definition of your story, but it needn’t be. Without the plan, your story will run out of ‘legs’, you will run out of story, before you complete the necessary words. And, with something like NaNoWriMo, there is no time for major replanning.


It sounds obvious. But some people don’t. They feel tired, they have a busy day at work, they have a family member fall ill. All valid reasons, sure enough, but if you can break through these barriers, write just a few words, a couple of sentences, maybe a paragraph or two – then you’ll stand a much better chance at succeeding.


NaNoWriMo have forums for you to chat with your fellow challengees. They have individual local forums for people in your area. They have forums for your genre. They have technical question forums. They have forums for people to recommend writing resources and programs. And so it goes on. There are Facebook groups, Twitter hashtags, other forums. All of which take you away from what you are supposed to be doing – WRITING!

Restrict your non-writing social media efforts to a certain amount of time during the day. One of the best things I have found to do is to close down my browser when I’m writing. That little bit of effort to open up the browser and load websites takes just long enough for me to think carefully before doing it.


One of the problems many challenge writers have is of finding time to write. We think to write 1000 words a day or more, we need a couple of hours of time away from other people, in silence or with the music of our choice, a glass of wine or a cup of tea, and a view to inspire our writing.


You need to put your writing instrument of choice in front of you, and write. I’ve written whilst food has been cooking. While watching TV. In between doing household chores. When the rest of the house has gone to bed. Before the rest of the house has woken up in the morning. Whilst waiting for an appointment. During a 15-minute tea break. During a lunch break. Learn to write in small sections, and with distractions. Learn to switch off from outside influences, and concentrate on your story. I can type at around 1,000 words an hour, creating fiction as I go. That’s four, quarter-hour segments, or six, ten-minute segments during the day. Can you find six, ten minute chunks of time to write. Sure you can!


Yes, the challenge is about writing. And writing is work. Damned hard work. But you’re allowed to have fun, too. Chat to others about what you’re doing. If there’s a forum, join in. Read blogs that other writers offer. Here are a couple that might amuse or encourage you. Chuck Wendig is not everyone’s cup of tea, and he’s irreverent and some of his language may offend. But what he says is the truth, so please read them, and nod your head sagely, and remember who told you to read them!



Good luck!


New Year – New Challenge!

It’s New Year, and despite the fact I don’t make New Year Resolutions these days (thereby avoiding the guilt trips I have suffered in the past when the resolutions get broken within a week or two), I’m up for a writing challenge.

100k100day logo-simple-2-294


And there’s no better challenge than my old mate Sally Quilford’s 100k in 100 days challenge. The idea has some similarities to NaNoWriMo, in that there is a word count target at the end of the period – i.e. 100,000 words in 100 days. Mathematicians amongst you will probably soon be working at that this means 1,000 words per day, which is much less stressful than NaNoWriMo’s 1,667 words per day average. Still, that’s about four pages of a paperback novel, which doesn’t sound too onerous, does it? But definitely worth doing. By mid-April, you’ll have enough of a first draft written to enable you to edit it down by 20%, and still have an 80,000-word novel to send out or publish.

The other difference is that Sally allows writers to use creative writing from other destinations, not just on one ‘novel’. You can include blog posts (as long as it’s about writing), writing articles, short stories, poems, and stuff like that. Again, it’s to reduce the stress and the pressure, and allow you more freedom in choosing your writing. The main idea is that it keeps you writing.

I’ve created a little spreadsheet on the internet for people to log their word counts. Simple enough, but the first place I chose to host the spreadsheet was very unreliable. The fact that their blog hasn’t been updated since 2009 doesn’t exactly engender confidence, either. After a second hiccup, another writer from the group suggested Google docs. I had been confused by Google telling me I needed to download Google Drive (which I did, but which isn’t appropriate for everyone to do). But, on further investigation, that was just to allow easier uploading / archiving, and Google Docs works pretty much as it always has done. So the word count spreadsheet resides on Google’s massive servers.

So, how are we doing, four-and-a-bit days into the challenge? So far (as I type this) – which will, of course, count towards my daily total 😉 – the group has recorded over 279,000 new words written, across the 89 users currently listed on the spreadsheet. An amazing total! Personally, I’ve taken my Performance Enhancing Drugs (Christmas cake and coffee), and am aiming for double the average, and trying to write 2,000 words per day. After 4 days, I’m sitting at 8,874 words, most of which are in a new novel wth a working title of The History of Things To Come. The subject is the end of the world, for which the December 21st date has come and gone. This book, which is fiction of course, shows why that date was incorrect, and more importantly, names the REAL date. Death and destruction all the way. It’s a thriller, in case you can’t guess.

In the next blog post, I will list some of my coping mechanisms / tips for writing challenges. I’m an 8-times ‘winner’ of NaNoWriMo, and I’ve discovered things that work, and a lot of things that don’t. I hope you’ll join me then.