Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A poem - Stand Up To Fear

 My photo of a statue in The Abbey Gardens at Malmesbury taken on a recent holiday. Do you know this garden was featured on TV as the home of "the naked gardener". Everyone wore clothes on thte day we were there however.

I seem to have come to another halt with new poetry at the moment, however this is one which I did not post on this blog when it was first written, this seems to be an oversight since I am quite proud of this one.

very much darker than  my usual output but all the better for that; "a change is as good as a rest", they say. Read below how it came about.

Fear assails me
Analysing my body
with frigid hands
Fear disrupts my thoughts
My brain refusing to comprehend,
should I run?
should I hide?
should I fight?

Fear, like an improbable
thief in the night
plundering my thoughts
stealing away my abilities
for decisive action
I must think
I must exploit
my remaining choices

Fear seeks to freeze
my understanding
of the real world
Fear builds upon the unknown
the unbidden becomes tangible
feeling powerless.
wait awhile
be positive

Fear may be defeated
(Fear is not all-powerful)
assert the truth
demand the right

Now an explanation of how it came about.

One Idea is sometimes called mechanical poetry. There are a number of on-line poetry generators for what they are worth. I always thought of them as a bit of fun. I have in the past actually written programs in basic to generate poems from a list of lines either in memory or from inputted data. So I have an idea how they work. But in the spirit of a little fun, I was trying one or two of these. I did find one that I thought gave passable results, and one of the offerings actually caught my attention.

I took the half a dozen lines and turned them into three stanzas of similar length. I am not sure how this really works, maybe I should have sat on it for a few weeks but I am so glad to have actually completed something other than my other relief valve, a haiku. I have to admit that I actually used a thesaurus for the first time for this poem, it almost seems like cheating but it did help to provide a couple of words which I preferred to my originals.

I think the ending is OK, but may look at it again and attempt to edit one or two lingering doubts. So here it is for now:-

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A New Novel Appears - a new blog.

I have decided that I don't want to submerge my poetry under the current outpourings in my enthusiastic gallop to start writing a novel.

This means that I have started a new blog called, A Novel Appears. I have copied the last three posts  over to that new location and will use that blog to write about my experiences as a writer of a novel. The story of the novel will also unfold in the pages of the blog. By making it public I hope to keep up the enthusiasm that I feel at the moment.

This blog will therefore be strictly for poetry, which was the intention when I first started it

Saturday, 15 February 2014

My New Novel - time for a pause!

I did quite a lot of reading / research before I set ot to write my first novel. I did not have a plot or story in mind at the time and I was looking at the tools that were advertised as helping writers design their novel. In fact, I started testing them with quite simplistic ideas and wanted to see if they would really offer any help.

I looked at simple mindmap software which was great as a brain-storming tool but it seems that like all software, too many functions were simply superfluous to my requirements. It was just as easy to use a pencil and notebook. OK if I started to make a lot of edits, then my notebook began to seem a little messy and I did need to redraw. A free mindmapping software is Freeplane. Lots of features but far too many for my simple needs. Could work for you however.

I looked at Trello, which is a sort of on-line pinboard; lots of uses, in fact the link contains lots of ideas and I found the site via an articlec on writing an outline for a novel. However this was too simplistic. (does this sound a little like Goldilocks and the three bears?)

After this, I considered a word -processor, very simple and multi-layered; I could even start writing based on the  outline which was developed. But the aim of most tools in this genre was to keep track of not only the chapters and scenes but also the characters, locations, items (anything else pertinent to the plot) and 101 other things. Would a simple WP package allow me to do this easily? I have MS Word and had used it to write many articles; and I had always used an outline to write technical reports and an MSc and PhD theses. I had always managed before, but could I find an easier way.

My next trial was with Storybook. Another pinboard type of program but developed specifically for writers to aid in designing a novel. This keeps track of all those things mentioned above but I found it a little stilted and I must admit to having one or two issues. Firstly, there was no help available with he free download. Under the Help Menu were the choices to donate or contact, neither these nor the help file were accessible; simply giving a 404 not available error. The simplistic example file did not help a great deal, so I did not get very far with this at all.

After all these failures I hoped that yWriter5, a word processor, might be the one to ring the bell. It offers all that I could have hoped for. The main screen offers an outline based on chapters and scenes, and a datebase to cope with all the rest. Characters, locations, items. It has various tools and offers reports which may prove useful to monitor the efficiency of the writer. With the built in WP you can even write the basic novel in the tool. However it does not offer complete formatting so you will need to export the text ( several options are available) and use a more powerful WP package for tidying up before submitting to agent or publisher, depending upon your requirements.

Lastly, I had come across a method of designing the novel called The Snowflake Method, which I mentioned in my last post. I had said that I was hoping to follow this method to write my first novel, however after managing to get through the first few stages, I wanted to hop ahead. For instance, I could not list my characters without putting more detail  into my outline - which the method seemed to leave until quite late. So I am on the cusp of modifying the method to my own requirements. Each to his own as they say! I have been quite satisfied with progress so far and will give more details about progress in my next post.

One last, one very last note. The Snowflake Method suggests using a simple spreadsheet to define the descriptions of each scene. This does seem to have much to say for it, and I would probably have used MS Word and Excel together but I am slowly getting used to yWriter5. I will persevere with this software for a while as it does seem to have most of what I think I need without being too complex. It does take a little getting used to as any software but would be easier if it had an easier Help File. The help file has been written by a third party and is quite simplistic, based on a set of FAQ's.

So it looks as if I have a way to proceed, using yWriter5.

I will push on with my novel, and provide a little more detail of the introduction and the main characters in my next posts.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My new novel, stage 2

I said in my last post that I will be following a method, called the snowflake method to design the novel , and in my first post stage one was a single sentence of less than 15 words to encapsulate the entire novel.

The method uses the analogy of the description of a snowflake by fractals, i.e. a simple shape is made ever more complex by applying simple rules. Such as this image from a Julia set.

Stage 2 is to expand this single sentence to a full paragraph which touches on the novels introduction, the three main disasters (as used to design the novel, although of course there may be more) which affect the direction of the story and the actions of the main characters. And finally the ending, how the final disater is overcome and the ending of the novel.

Eadwyne's Encounter With FEAR*

Eadwyne recruits a force from his lands, to join his Kings’s army in a distant war. Before leaving his <court magician / friend / steward> attempts to use an ancient spell to provide protection for the detachment and ensure their safe return. He gets the spell wrong and Eadwyne (unbeknownst to himself) is <split> and an evil twin is created, to become his nemesis.
The war goes badly for the King at first, and lasts much longer than expected. Eadwyne eventually returns home to find his land is ruled by his nemesis who is known by the nickname FEAR. The villagers find their nightmares are stolen and their worst fears are becoming a reality.
Eadwyne is imprisoned when he tries to reclaim his castle and sentenced to rot in the dungeons with his band.
There is a successful escape attempt and Eadwyne gradually learns of who FEAR is and what is needed to put matters right. In the subsequent necessary <activities> Eadwyne becomes infatuated with a woman who helped with the escape, and makes her his lifelong partner. With the downfall and complete disappearance of FEAR, life returns to normal for the honest folk of Eadwynes villages. 

N.B. I have used the parentheses < > to bracket names, etc which I need to research a little more.

*A working title only

My biggest fear: PROCRASTINATION. I have already listed in my notebook two other ideas for plots and a way of finding more ideas from a dream notebook which I kept for several months a few years back. On the surface ideas which could be used in this novel ...... but still, I need to focus on one at a time.

I have been researching FREE software to help design the story, characters and landscape of the novel. I have found two or three which might help and I intend to select TWO to try out in parallel over the next few weeks. I will have more to say about these in future posts.

A last word:- the snowflake method is analogous to an outline but does include some helpful tips as you work through it. I will also be listing a few ways of creating an outline to balance the experience of creating this my first novel.

I should say that as the author of a number of technical reports/theses and many on-line articles, I would not attempt any writing project of a reasonable length without having a skeleton to build upon. I do however realise that writers like people are very different and individual. You must assess whether this process is the right way for you to progress. For example, I never seem to write poetry with any forethought as to where it is going. I start at line 1 and forge ahead - but that is another matter.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A new project - my first novel

Yes, that's right after over 50 years of writing non-fiction, lyrics and lately poetry, I am attempting my first novel. 

Sci-Fi and Fantasy have always been my favourite genres and so I have decided that one of these two will be the way I will go. I have been seeing so much of late relating to "how-to-do-it" that I started to wonder if I had it in me and the last session finally stung me into action. I have made promises before but never quite carried them through so I am making this public right from the start as a sort of rod for my own back. That way it might get finished. I have no timing in mind at the moment however, so don't hold your breath.

Of course, I may need to start another blog to cater for this new direction for my creative writing but that is something for another day. I will be taking a few steps along the road before I do that.

Talking about a few steps, the early stages can be likened to outlining a technical report or thesis, of which I am very familiar buut there are many references to the method for those writers less well-off. One article, called "The Snowflake Method" reads very well and I shall be particularly be taking note of the many aspects of writing which sound like very good advice to a sheer novice. Simpler although just as effective articles on outlining abound on the internet.

Step 1 in The Snowflake Method, is to write a sentence giving a top level overview of the novel. The sort of thing you will see when a book is advertised, so it must encompass thte story and the main character and the goals. So here is my second attempt. I needed to shorten my first, as the method recommends no more thaan 15 words. here it is:-

Our Battle-worn hero returns home from war to find his kingdom ruled by "Fear".

I am still not sure about this but each stage can be modified as you work through the method. It will do for now. I have put Fear into inverted commas because the antagonist will be an evil twin of our hero, created by a magical accident as he left to go to war.

But that's enough for now, I am eager to get on with the next stage, although I will be hoping to create the world in which this story unfolds from scratch, just a whim!

BTW, no title yet! I will sort that out as the story unfolds.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

More Limericks to keep

Do you remember the competition I wrote about in the last post? A Limerick competition, but one in which you need to include a word from your address as the last word in the first line. Sounds difficult? well not really just pop back and all will be revealed.

Just popping back in today to post a couple more contenders. I really am not sure that I am managing to use my address to its fullest scope - maybe I should move? However, it did get my brain ticking over again after that long lay off since christmas.

A guitarist I know out of England,
Wanted badly to make just one last stand.
He found a cool base, a drummer as well
And a vocalist who could do much more than just yell.
Then hey presto, on stage, a new rock band

BTW that's me and my fender. And a tee-shirt I designed on Zazzle, It reads Guitarists do it with their fingers. My wife tells me it has a double meaning but I don't think so - do you?  If you want to check out more Zazzle tee-shirts, try my shop 

There was an old man, lived in fair Solihull.
His brains we are told were a little bit dull.
He thought hard, he thought long,
On the words for a song
But results came to totally null

The image is the High Street, Solihull, my town . A CC image from Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solihull_High_Street.jpg)

Still hoping for more to choose from before I make a choicefor my entry to this competition.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

A Limerick Competition

Have you ever had one of those days/weeks/month when nothing seems to go right. Yea, well that's been me for the past couple of years. OK, some things have worked out but every now and then I find that something has simply not worked out. Maybe I am becoming paranoid, I don't know but that's the way I feel.

Here's one very tiny and insignificant example.

Last week I bought a writing magazine, yes I do spend money on real printed magazines. Somewhere in that mag was notice of a limerick competition. It was from somewhere in Ireland (the five line poem called a Limerick is named after the town of the same name) and offered a small monetary prize for a Limerick using part of your address as the last word in the first line. As you are most likely aware, a limerick is a five line poem with a rhyming scheme of AABBA. This means that the address (part) sets the scene, as it were, for the poem. Now, my address offered a number of poor choices; I could have used a nnumber of things such as the road name, area, town, county even the country but I was not impressed by the scope offered by any of them.

Eventually, I thought that I had an idea which allowed me to overcome my doubts. I used the technique of enjambment, running the first line across to the second. This allowed me to use the two word name of the county I lived in, the West Midlands. I was rather doubtful that it would be allowed by the judges but at least it was a possibility and got me started.

A house with a mouse - by John Dyhouse

There was a young man of the West
Midlands, in fact; lived in a palatial nest
He had a fine house
with its very own mouse
but oh, what a terrible pest.

The only problem is that I was unable to find the reference to the competition in the magazine, which was in fact Writing Magazine ,  I could not even find it on their web site, so despite now having several limericks to choose from, I no longer have the details to send in my entry.

No I know it isn't the end of the world (I did say it was small and insignificant) and I will be searching very carefully to find it again but that  sums up what has been happening so many frustrations and issues have been dogging the family. But I am a half-full person so will continue to be optimistic. I have no doubt that it is in that magazine and so am sure that another page by page review will unearth it soon.

I will post a couple more of the limericks in my next post.