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This time last year I attempted NaNoWriMo despite being exhausted from attending two conventions in a row whilst suffering from a heavy cold. Needless to say I failed to finish – and I’ve been struggling to get my writing mojo back ever since.

With November looming once more I briefly considered giving NaNoWriMo a try, but I’ve done even less preparation than I did last year, which for me is a recipe for disaster. Also, given that I haven’t written a single sentence of fiction in months, attempting 1,667 words a day from a standing start is totally setting myself up for failure.

Thus, I have decided to use the NaNo vibe to set myself a target of planning a novel in November, which I will then write over the course of the winter. Here are my goals:

  1. To have a complete outline by November 30th
  2. To start writing the novel on December 1st, initially with a minimum target of 50 words per day.
  3. To increase the daily minimum until I’m writing at a productive rate

Now, 50 words might sound ridiculously low. Certainly it’s way too low to get a novel finished in a reasonable amount of time. The point is, it’s a minimum. If I feel like writing more, great! In fact I suspect that once I get going, my daily average is going to be way above that. I’ll probably not hit NaNoWriMo levels, except maybe on weekends, but that’s OK as long as I’m making solid progress.

I’m deliberately setting the bar really, really low to begin with so that I can’t wriggle out of writing every day. Fifty words is almost nothing. A simple three-sentence paragraph is almost enough to hit that target. (<- 38 words) No, the 50-word minimum is precisely calculated to be low enough not to seem an unassailable target even when I’m really tired, but long enough to add substance to the story.

Before I wind up, I’d like to thank Peter Newman for running a “Getting Unstuck” workshop at BristolCon, which helped shake some of these ideas loose. I only signed up at the last minute, since as a pro I don’t usually have much interest in writing workshops, but I find I’m really missing being in a regular writers’ group and being able to talk craft issues with my peers. Sure I chat with writer friends at conventions, but we usually only talk about our works-in-progress in vague terms – we’re socialising, not engaging in critique.

So, that’s my plan for Winter 2014/15. I aim to post about my progress periodically – probably at least weekly, to keep myself on track. If all goes to plan, I’ll have a first draft completed next spring!

Book Anniversary giveaway

Since it’s been a whole year since I had any new fiction out – yikes! – I thought I’d cheer everyone up with another giveaway 🙂

This time last year I had two pieces published: the final volume of the Night’s Masque trilogy, plus a short story in the BFS anthology Unexpected Journeys. I wasn’t able to give away any books until December, as it took a while to receive my author copies, but this year I can mark the occasion in style… Read more

My BristolCon schedule

It’s my last convention of 2014 soon, and it looks like I’ll be going out with a bang. I have two panels at BristolCon, one of them as moderator. Since I know most of my fellow panellists pretty well by now, this is going to be a lot of fun!

Common Writing Problems Q&A (11am, Room 2)

When the wheels come flying off your story and it dives over a cliff in flames, how do you get it back on the road again? Editors see the same problems in fiction over and over again – we talk about YOUR problems, and give you suggestions to help you overcome them.

Robert Harkess (Mod), Gareth L. Powell, Terry Jackman, Anne Lyle, Snorri Kristjansson

Rogues and Ruffians, Pirates and Thieves (7pm, Room 1)

From Han Solo to Loki to Locke Lamora, the scoundrel has enduring appeal in SF and fantasy. What is it we all like about a bad boy (or girl?) Who are the best SFF rogues, are pirates better than thieves, and how do you write a good bad good guy without getting completely confused?

Anne Lyle (Mod), Huw Powell, Ben Jeapes, Gaie Sebold, Lor/Rudie

Hope to see you there!

Knitting and Geekery

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</script></noindex> My longest work-in-progress (in both senses of the word!)
My longest work-in-progress (in both senses of the word!)

When I was young – back in the Dark Ages! – knitting and crochet were all the rage, but then in the 80s they went into something of a decline in popularity. However they’ve seen something of a resurgence in recent years, helped no doubt by Ravelry, an amazing social-network-cum-marketing-site devoted to knitting, spinning and crochet, and of course the crazy art of yarn-bombing. It’s even spread into geekspace, with yarn stalls and stitch’n’natter sessions popping up at SFF conventions!

I learned to knit and crochet from my Mum, but she was so skillful and prolific that I didn’t have much incentive to knit for myself, so I turned to sewing and particularly embroidery. However in recent years the combination of aging eyesight and long hours on the computer has prevented me from enjoying the intricate designs I used to make, and in February this year I took up my knitting needles once more (or rather, bought new ones). Not only is knitting very relaxing, but unlike embroidery it results in useful items of clothing that mean you’re not so reliant on the whims of the fashion industry to supply the styles and colours you like.

But what has this to do with geekdom? Well, my initial motivation to knit again was to make a Doctor Who scarf like the one worn by my favourite Doctor, Tom Baker. It’s a really easy design, just garter stitch, so I can work on it whilst I watch DVDs of Tom Baker episodes – you can’t get much geekier than that! As you can see above, I’m not finished yet (there are 846 rows in the pattern, and that’s the shortest version!), but I’m getting there…

The Scarf isn’t the only geeky thing I’ve knitted, though. Because it was taking so long, I started looking for a simple toy to knit as an “instant gratification” project and came across a pattern for a knitted Iron Man. As a big fan of the Marvel movies, of course I had to make it! In fact it came out so well that I’m going to adapt the pattern to make a Captain America.

My most recent geeky project is my own – first ever! – design. I wanted a soft cover for my iPad Mini, preferably one without any buttons that would catch on other stuff in my backpack. I couldn’t find anything that fitted the bill so I turned to my recently learnt sock-knitting skills and used them to design what is basically a giant sock with a flap that tucks in to protect the iPad all round. I’m stupidly proud of it, having only been knitting seriously for about six months, and will be releasing the pattern soon (see below).

I have to admit that knitting is not only very relaxing after a day on the computer, it’s also addictive. I’ve been shamefully neglecting my writing in favour of hanging out on the Ravelry forums and searching for patterns – as a means of procrastination, it’s hard to beat. Hopefully the novelty will wear off eventually, because I really do need to get on with this latest book before everyone thinks I’ve retired from writing!

Don’t worry that this blog will turn into a knitting site, though – such is my current addiction that I’ve set up a dedicated knitting blog as an outlet* for my new passion. For the longest time I resisted the urge, fearing it would stop me from blogging here, but all it did was stop me from blogging altogether. So I’ve caved in, and I’m hoping this will free up some brain space to think about writing and fiction again. NaNoWriMo is looming, and I have nothing planned yet!


* The iPad Mini cozy will appear on my new blog in due course, as soon as I’ve covered a couple of other time-sensitive topics, like using conkers as clothes moth repellent. No, really!