Monthly Archives: November 2017

NaNoWriMo Diary 3: Rules

illusThe big news: I hit 100k today, a day early! I’m as confused and impressed as anyone else.

To celebrate, my final NaNoWriMo blog and something a bit different. I’m still building up experience – I’m always building up experience – but this is my third novel in the last two or so years and I’ve arrived at some noveling rules that I’m trying to stick to this month:

1. Everyone is the hero of their own story

On one level, this means that supporting characters should not revolve around the hero. I want to create the sense that everyone in this novel is at the centre of their own narrative, is living and existing when my narrators aren’t around to witness it.

On another level, more literally, I enjoy having my characters ‘cross over’ with other novels. There’s whole groups of characters having their own – clearly exciting – adventures that my characters encounter only occasionally. It’s a lot of fun.

2. Characters should not withhold information from each other without good reason

Naturally, what constitutes ‘good reason’ varies enormously depending on the character and the context and what the information is, but there needs to be an in universe reason. Characters should not withhold information simply because it makes it easier for me, the writer, or because it would be more dramatic to reveal it later.

Characters withholding information is irritatingly common in fiction and it’s tripped me up a couple of times already – I occasionally have this instinct that characters should keep quiet about important things till later on, but often that just doesn’t make sense – and often revealing things early sends the narrative in a new and interesting direction!

3. If there’s an obvious solution to a problem, take it

This, I think, is closely related to the above. If characters have an obvious solution available to them, they need a very good reason not to take it. They certainly shouldn’t ignore the obvious just because it’s easier for me, the author.

The flip side of this, of course, is that there can’t always been an obvious solution – and sometimes when there is, there need to be reasons why the characters can’t take it, ie, conflict.

So: that, I suppose, is what I learned from this month of intensive novel-writing! Double NaNoWriMo has been a great experience but I think in future I’ll stick to my usual strategy of ‘writing however much I feel like’.

Back next week with your regularly scheduled Doctor Who blogging!

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My Week In Writing (26/11/17)

stats26I’m going to be honest: I haven’t really done anything except work on my NaNoWriMo novel. I somehow managed to break all previous words per day records yesterday, so now I’m a day ahead for 100k. Feels good to have some breathing space but I’m not sure how I managed that! I was in Starbucks, there was red bull involved, otherwise I’m baffled.

I’m planning on hitting 90k tonight, to maintain that lovely one day ahead-ness. Which should make it a lot easier for me to make the Literary Salon on Tuesday!

Otherwise, I went to four write-ins, started my christmas shopping (thus far entirely books) and that’s really about it.

I’m pretty much past the point in my NaNo that I was most dreading (it’s been slow going tonight, to say the least) so it should be smooth sailing from here to the end. I have an end point planned for this NaNo (not the end of the book) and here’s hoping I can hit that, at least.

And today I had a brainwave about Annabel’s arc for book three so I think that’s going to be done over from the ground up and involve travelling to another dimension.

I’m going to wrap this entry up now, because I’m drowning in my own novel and need to hit my target for the night.

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NaNoWriMo Diary 2: World

I’ve been working on this story, one way for another, about as long as I’ve been making up stories. This world has evolved and grown as I’ve grown. It’s gone through a lot of changes and it’s become very complex and very real to me.

So: let’s look at some settings.

20171111_230257.jpgThe Great Temple

The second largest Ellanei Temple in existence. Bigger than it looks from the outside and essentially a town unto itself, with acres of gardens, miles of underground tunnels, and a lot of secrets.

The Ellanei practice magic for spiritual, academic and practical reasons and so as well as its shrines the Great Temple houses a library, extensive teaching facilities, and the only local hospital.

20171111_230218.jpgThe Town: Templestone

Templestone is built on a place where reality is a bit soft and squishy. Thousands of years earlier this is what drew the Ellanei, the witches who built the Great Temple that gave the town its name. In modern times, it made Templestone an ideal location for a World Lock, a facility for creating artificial portals to other dimensions.

A market town with the vitality of the city, Templestone has always been politically left-leaning and highly magical.

20171111_230726.jpgThe Country: The Islands

Although its physical geography is very different, it’s a lot like Britain (circa 1980). It’s home to two sects of magic users: the Ellanei in the North and the Wizards in the South.

The individual islands are partly self governing, partly run by a central government in Daire, the capital city.

Notable islands include: Temple Island, the setting of The Green and the Gathering Tide; Tovenar, the island of the Wizards; Sheep Island, where Leo hails from; and Wittering Island, the capital island and Annabel’s home.

ab32ea64503104c1a1d29f9ea65fde9e---years-apollo-The World: Earth A

Earth A is physically and culturally not far removed from Earth, but from the earliest time it’s been a highly magical place. Earth A has an unusually high concentration of natural portals and there has always been movement between it and neighbouring dimensions, leading to interdimensional cross-pollination of wildlife, people, ideas and magics.

In the days before World Locks Earth A was a crossroad world of sorts due to its many portals and it has retained its status in the new age of easy travel. Its governments are often pivotal in the doings of the Interdimensional Union.

starsThe Multiverse: The Interdimensional Union

The Multiverse of which Earth A is a part might be infinite and is certainly growing. There are thousands of known dimensions with intelligent life, all of which are part of an expanding and volatile community.

Earth A is part of the Interdimensional Union, a relatively young organisation of governments from different dimensions that aims both to unify dimensions and monitor movement between them.

However, the Union only makes up a small portion of the Multiverse. Nobody truly knows how far it goes, or what could be out there. Free interdimensional travel is less than a generation old and people’s understanding of the Multiverse is rapidly changing…

There are a lot of stories to be told here.




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My Week In Writing (19/11/17)

stats19Well: I hit 50k this week! I’m on track to finish at 100k but trying not to get too invested – 3,333 words a day is a big time investment on working days and doesn’t leave much time for anything else so I don’t know if I can keep this up till the end of the month. Staying focused, though.

I’ve updated my NaNo profile with a new (much better) title and an excerpt, so go check that out.

Yesterday I had a look through some previous drafts for this same novel. They were all varying degrees of painful to read. Hopefully this one will age better!

Annique is currently at 45k and I’m adding to it whenever I can find the time. Aiming for ten minutes a day which is enough for me to do 500 words so I probably ought to be able to add to it more often.

This week I got caught up on Steven Universe. Enjoying the most recent arc more than certain previous arcs but still nothing like as interested in this show as I used to be. Still hoping it’ll pick up again, given how good it can be.

I’m almost finished season two of Stranger Things, which as ever I’ve been finding a bit mixed but maybe I should save that for a full review sometime.

Plus I am, naturally, still watching and still loving Dirk Gently, which so far has kept on getting better and better. Should be able to watch the newest episode after work tomorrow and very excited!

I listened to The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius, the newest Doctor Who short from Big Finish. My expectations were pretty high, given how good their last Adric Short Trip was, and it did not disappoint. Really creative, really poignant stuff. Where was all this high-quality Adric expanded universe material back when I was into the Peter Davison era, I ask you.

And yesterday I went to see Thor: Ragnarok which is an absolute delight (the jokes! The colours! Loki!) and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Next week, I’m hoping to meet and exceed my previous NaNoWriMo record (80,000 words) and keep going. Got some big plans (Thor was unexpectedly inspiring). So basically, more of the same!


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My Week In Writing (12/11/17)

stats12This has been a mammoth week, writing wise. My NaNo is up about 20k since last Sunday and I’m planning on hitting 40k tonight – as soon as I’m done with this entry, I’m getting back to it. I’ve hit an exciting part!

It’s going so well that I’ve decided to do something really inadvisable and shoot for a double NaNo. I’ve always wanted to do one but before now I’ve always felt I didn’t have the time. If I hit 40k tonight, I’ll just need to maintain an average of 3333 words a day till the end of the month which looking at my current stats is doable. And might just get me to the end of this book, which would be amazing!

In other news, I’ve been enjoying writing so much this week that I’ve started working on Annique again after putting it on hold for NaNo. So, that’s currently sitting at 44k and climbing.

In non-writing news, I’ve been keeping up with Dirk Gently, re-watching season one of Dirk Gently (sensing a theme?) and listening to a lot of Queen, for both NaNo and non-NaNo reasons.

I went to Inky Fingers at Lighthouse Books on Tuesday and sadly had to leave early for illness reasons. Really sad to leave because the performances were so high-quality! I did however attend all of Event Horizon at Banshee Labyrinth, which also had some really high-quality acts.

And yesterday I gave blood. A lot more bleedy than I anticipated (failed my test the first time) but I got a tunnock’s teacake afterwards so no real complaints.

Next week I intend to write. A lot.

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NaNoWriMo Diary 1: Characters

This year’s NaNoWriMo is tentatively titled Preliminary Castings (I will find a better title for it). I’m swamped with it, so here’s the first installment of a (hopefully) three-part series of short entries about this weird novel I’m writing: Characters.


Samuel Smythe

“It’s like being very connected to the universe.”

Clairvoyant. Failed Wizard. Tells the future by runecasting. Loves books, divination, learning languages.

Socially awkward puppy desperate for approval. Raised Catholic now agnostic. Hopelessly in love. Questioning. Cut adrift and seeking a new identity. Over-dresses and overthinks.

tumblr_nx7o81EMJa1qkzjnzo4_250Annabel Stuart

“Not nice, just different.”

Shapeshifter, probably autistic, aromantic asexual. Loves insects, spiders, worms, zoology. Only reads non-fiction.

Raised by her older brother. Bullied at school and learning how to trust again. Bespectacled. Blunt but never cruel. Loves having wings. Deeply self-conscious, simultaneously doesn’t care what anybody thinks. A contradiction and an enigma to everyone but herself.

tumblr_nx7nhv6IVX1qkzjnzo1_250Leo Adrei

“I don’t have feelings like a normal person.”

Mindreader, autistic, bookworm. Loves Shakespeare, space, the music of Queen. Hoards books, wears headphones 24/7.

Orphan. Grew up in care. Tries very hard to be a good person. Describes both gender and sexuality with vague wiggly hand gesture. Over-identifies with fictional characters, under-empathises with real people.

tumblr_nxh0emdB3a1qkzjnzo2_250Bridget Geddes

“I’m not cold. Am I?”

Healer, novice priestess, bisexual. Loves her friends, her culture, plants and the sea.

Studies too much. Polytheistic and deeply religious with it. Raised on a shrine by the sea. Stickler for the rules and more ambitious than she lets on. Teacher’s pet and irritatingly humble. Mostly just wants to help people however she can.

Up next: World.


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My Week in Writing (05/11/17)

statsWell, I’m officially underway on my eighth NaNoWriMo. I’ve been off work all week, so I decided to try and get ahead before I went back to work… and may have got a bit overboard. I need to dial it back or I’m going to exhaust myself – yesterday was apparently my ‘wordiest day’ of all time, at a little over 5000!

And that… really is most of what I’ve done! I’ve been to three meet-ups with my local group and met some nice new writers (plus caught up with some old friends) and I’ve reacquainted myself with some characters who might as well be old friends.

This year I’ve picked up where I left off in 2015. I’m hoping to get to the end of book two of this trilogy, though that might be optimistic. So far not much has happened, but I’m still very much in the relationship-building stage of proceedings. There’s going to be some more character drama to come and then, hopefully, some more action before the climax.

We’ll see how it goes! I re-read my 2015 NaNo and I left myself some intriguing threads to pick up. I’m not too worried, given my stats so far and how easy these characters are to write.

Also this week: I finished listen to 1963: The Space Race from Big Finish, which was an interesting one but ultimately disappointing. I reviewed Anita and Me on Goodreads. And I’ve been watching the new season of Stranger Things – behind everyone else, I know, but I don’t have the time for binge-watching.

And now I’ve done my words for the day, I’m pretty much just sitting here listening to fireworks outside. Happy Bonfire Night!


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Big Finish Reviews: A Heart on Both Sides & All Hands on Deck

Big Finish’s Short Trips Monthly range started up in January of 2015 and I’ve been a regular subscriber more or less ever since. And as of this year BF finally has a license to start producing New Series themed material.

Short Trips has always been an especially varied and creative range, so I was excited to see three special short trips blending new and old Who concepts; March/April’s The Jago and Litefoot Revival and for September and October a pair of stories sending two of Big Finish’s most popular companion characters into the Last Great Time War.

A Heart on Both Sides, featuring BF veteran performer Sarah Sutton as Nyssa, and All Hands on Deck featuring Carole Ann Ford as Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter and the original Doctor Who companion caused some high emotions amongst the fanbase when they were announced. Not because people thought they would be bad; it’s that Nyssa and Susan are both exceptionally kind and good characters, and Big Finish don’t you dare hurt them.

Needless to say, I had some big expectations for these stories. Did they live up to them? Well, sort of.

heartA Heart on Both Sides by Rob Nisbet

A Heart on Both Sides dives straight on in. We find Nyssa and her new assistant crewing a hospital ship, the Traken, trying desperately to help as many people as they can while the Time War rages around them.

But when their arrival on a neutral planet is followed closely by a Time Lord attack, Nyssa finds herself the object of suspicion and tensions run still higher when her assistant is found to be a Time Lord himself…

Nyssa’s assistant is, of course, the Doctor (as played by Paul Mcgann). She doesn’t recognise him and he never reveals herself, which, surprisingly, actually works. This is a Doctor who is working hard to stay detached from events. He involves himself in Nyssa’s life only as long as is necessary to save it and then he’s gone.

The emotional stakes are high and on that level this story is a tense and often moving listen.

Unfortunately, the premise doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny. It’s a fairly ordinary war-time story but the trouble is, the Time War isn’t an ordinary war. As far as we know, the opposing side are the daleks. The whole concept of Nyssa having ‘a heart on both sides’ (as the Doctor claims) is puzzling to say the least and never really explained.

A Heart on Both Sides sets out to prove that the Time War was more ideologically complicated than it might seem at first glance, but unfortunately doesn’t pull it off. I’ve thought about it a lot and the only ‘two sides’ I can think of that make sense in this context are fighting against the daleks vs remaining neutral, but if that was the intention, it really ought to have been explained more fully.

handsAll Hands on Deck by Eddie Robson

I had a lot of expectations for this story. I did not expect it to open with a dalek machine spewing custard. Suffice to say this one was a surprise!

Susan has now helped Earth weather not one but two dalek invasions and lost most everyone she loves in the process. But she’s determined to help her adopted homeworld rebuild. Life goes on.

Then one day she finds herself dealing with a dalek machine spewing custard. An asteroid that disappears before it can hit the Earth. A series of curiously harmless crises. Almost like someone is playing games with her.

It’s the Doctor, playing a very clever and dangerous game indeed. His appearance late in the story where it would normally be a relief is here an unsettling twist. The Doctor is, very unusually, here the antagonist. A sympathetic antagonist but an antagonist nonetheless.

His goal? To keep Susan from realising that Gallifrey is trying to contact her… to draft her into the military. To fight in the Time War. This reveal when it comes is hardly a surprise but its consequences are gutwrenching.

All Hands on Deck is a study into Susan’s character and her relationship with the Doctor, who hasn’t been the world’s best grandfather. The climax harks back to the famous ending of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, wherein the Doctor locked Susan out of the TARDIS and out of his life for her own good, starting her new life on 22nd century Earth.

The Dalek Invasion of Earth has long been praised for its emotional weight and criticised for its sexist, paternalistic undertones in equal measure. Once, the Doctor took away Susan’s right to choose her on path in life. Now their positions are reversed, and now she takes it back.

The decision of have the Doctor play the villain for once was a very interesting one, especially in a story about Susan, perhaps his closest companion of all. And it’s equal parts carthartic and heart-breaking, especially for listeners of The Eighth Doctor Adventures who know exactly what Susan has been through to reach this point.


A Heart on Both Sides was more or less what I’d expect from a New Who based Time War story, which is to say, an enjoyable narrative but ultimately unsatisfying. I hope Big Finish does better in their Time War boxset (I haven’t listened to it yet!).

All Hands on Deck was not at all what I’d expected, and it’s brilliant. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s familiar with Susan’s character. It’ll break your heart.




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