Personal update



Drum kitIt may not seem much, but I was very pleased to have my symbol for ‘Drum kit’ (though they call it ‘Drum set’) accepted by . If you’ve not been paying attention, thenounproject is a project to assemble world class, international symbols for things which are free to use on a Creative Commons licence.

Why a symbol for drum kits? Strangely, as far as I can make out, there is no (or hasn’t been) any internationally recognised or even half-way decent symbol for drum kit. You would expect, in these days of the Googlenet, that you could get hold of symbols for anything. But, it seems, you can’t.

There are, of course, lots of attempts at illustrations for drum kits. There are colour computer-icon types that come with GarageBand and Apple Logic. Aside from the fact that they are quite small, bitmaps, they lack the essential quality of the symbol: that it is reduced to the minimum level of complexity. Equally, you can get symbols for various parts of a drum kit, for example a single drum, drum sticks, and so on.

The particular reason for developing this symbol was a symbol font called ‘BarnBats’ which I’ve been developing to support the visual identity for theBarn, which is the church I go to in Bidford which recently moved from being based in a village hall (with all that entails) to its own building. Most of the symbols in BarnBats are based on existing, recognised forms which are either internationally recognised, or are obviously what they represent. Since much of it was based on the Creative Commons work of others, I decided to give something back by uploading it.

What makes me chuffed to bits (as we say in the UK) is that is heavily moderated, and nothing is accepted unless it’s been checked for all kinds of things. Thus, it’s a validation of my own particular contribution to the visual language of mankind: the drum kit symbol. A small thing, but my own.

I won!

I won!

NaNoWriMo winner

So, NaNoWriMo (the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month) has validated The Impostor, and I’m now officially a NaNoWriMo winner.

All this means, of course, is that I wrote 50,000 words during November. Still, I’m jolly pleased to have taken part.

If you are still NaNoWriMo-ing and the end is not in sight, please take some encouragement from me. My first novel took ten years to complete, and was way too short. My second novel took four years to complete, and was far too long. NaNoWriMo is a brilliant opportunity to get something completed quickly which is more or less the right length. There’s still five days of November left, which is enough for fifteen thousand words at a reasonable pace, thirty-thousand going quick, and enough to do all 50,000 words (I’ve encountered someone who did his entire novel in the first five days) for the manic. Fear not. No matter how outlandish your plot feels now, once it’s actually down on paper (or electronic paper, most likely), it will feel like the most obvious thing in the world (in the good sense). Characters that seem sketchy and uninteresting will take on a life of their own in the mind of the reader and even, in Stephen King’s words, some kind of telepathy will take hold and tell the reader what you meant, even without saying it.

And, if it doesn’t, there’s always the second draft.

NaNoWriMo — past 50,000 words

NaNoWriMo — past 50,000 words

Timeline for The Impostor

I passed 50,000 words — the month’s goal — in the early hours of this morning with my novel The Impostor. I’m actually aiming for 75,000 words, to make it a complete novel rather than a novella.

My aim, at the start of this year, was to get into the rhythm of writing novels. My first book, The Frozen Heart, which eventually become a video game, took me almost ten years to write. My second book, the Skifter, took four years. The Frozen Heart was too short, and the Skifter was too long. If you were reading this site at the beginning of the year, you’ll remember I kicked off with 12 Days, a novel written and posted online in 12 days, set over the twelve days of Christmas. It was an experiment as much as anything else, taking in elements of steampunk and fantasy.

Since then, The Mosquito God and the Twelve Labours of Djenn picked up a small but (it seems) devoted following on

Every time I write one, I learn a little more about doing it.

The Impostor is a historical adventure, set in 1862 (incidentally the year Birmingham Children’s Hospital was founded, though that isn’t relevant to the plot), and based on the character of Max Curtis of the Montenegran Imposture.

I’ve prepared differently for this one than from the others. For 12 Days, I hand drew a chart of what happened on each day, with lines of variation written in, and did little character sketches before starting. The Mosquito God had something a bit similar, but looser, and the Twelve Labours of Djenn I wrote very much from hand to mouth, with the labours themselves as the overall guide. The book ended up very differently from what I expected, and I was so pleased with it that, after a suitable period of proof reading, I sent it out to agents. Two have rejected it, and one hasn’t got back to me yet. I’m not put down by this — I had supper with some novelists the other week, and one told me that I really hadn’t paid my dues until I had submitted it to at least eight agents. Such are the vicissitudes of the writing life.

For The Impostor, I’ve gone back a little to my earlier system, but supplemented with help from Timeline 3D (see image), which lets me plot out exactly what happens on each day, and at each time, and then see them all together. For writing I have the trusty Jer’s Novel Writer, which I also used for a set of character sketches.

The other side of doing a historical novel is research. I am ever conscious that ‘research’ on the internet is the biggest source of procrastination that exists, so I vowed to get as many details ready as I possibly could before I began. This led me to some fascinating characters, such as Edward Prince of Wales and his sister Helena (Lenchen), whose personalities are briefly sketched out in many historical sources.

I had promised myself that there would be no more ‘research’ while I was writing, but it was a vain promise: the more you write, the more you want to know exactly how an arrest is made in 1862 London, whether the paperclip had been invented, what was the currency of Hamburg at the time, how to get from Berlin to Luxembourg by train, and exactly what the relationship was between the mad emperor of Austria and the independence of Belgium.

I’m pressing on now to get the final 25,000 words done.

Please do feel free to read what there is so far: The Impostor


The Impostor — NaNoWriMo

The Impostor — NaNoWriMo

The Impostor — NovelFor those interested in what I’m doing, I’m now taking part in NaNoWriMo 2011 — the (Inter)National Novel Writing Month. The novel, which needs to hit 50,000 words during November to ‘win’, is called The Impostor, and you can read it as I go on Figment. If you feel like commenting, but you’re not part of Figment, you could also leave your thoughts on Facebook —

Essentially, it takes the unnamed character from The Montenegran Imposture, which was a Figment Showcase author pick a couple of months ago, and takes him as Max Curtis on a romping adventure through 1860s Europe, complete with murder, kidnap, sword fights, and the ultimate wedding gatecrash.

Let me know what you think!


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