Last weekend wasn’t my first time at the Winchester Writers’ Festival, but thanks to a scholarship from the University of Winchester, it was the first year I managed to attend the entire event. That really made quite a difference, since the full range of day courses, talks and workshops offered far more variety than I could have got from any individual day. It was particularly useful to be able to get advice on both writing and publishing. Here’s how the weekend went:
Each day of the festival starts (if you get up early enough!) with coffee and an opportunity to chat to other delegates. For the first two days, this was also an opportunity to wander around the Book Fair. I was really keen to make the absolute most of the weekend, though most people didn’t turn up until a little later.
Being there at quieter times was pretty handy, because when it got busy (such as immediately after Sebastian Faulks’ keynote speech) it actually got a little difficult to move about the place. I got talking to Matador (on the far left) who were kind enough to spread the word on Twitter. Continue reading
Once upon a time, there was a strapping young lad named Arnold J. Rimmer.
…so how does it work out?
You see, it takes Rimmer a week to make this epic timetable. That’s a week he can’t spend revising for the astronavigation exam. It’s also a week that he’d already planned into the timetable itself, rendering it pretty much completely useless. Because of this, he is forced to devise a new timetable, which also takes a week to produce, and thus is also completely useless. This happens two or three more times without Rimmer doing any revision whatsoever. Eventually he realises that the timetable has also sprouted an extra September and that he is an hour late for the exam…which he fails for the thirteenth time in a row. Shortly afterwards, he is vapourised by a reactor malfunction.
You don’t want to be like Rimmer, do you?
Didn’t think so.
Don’t be like Rimmer—be like Bruce Lee.
This is what SD cards looked like in 1972:
- Record cards can be moved around, allowing you to change the order of events or look at the story from a new angle.
- Record cards are too small to include an extra September.
I’m only sort of kidding about the September thing. The small size of record cards (3×5 inches, typically) forces you to think in terms of plot points rather that scenes, which is excellent if your plans normally go into too much detail. However, I first tried using record cards in preparation for NaNoWriMo last year, and found that it was also an excellent method for coming up with a plan really quickly: this one took less than a week. I have to admit, before I tried doing it this way, I never really planned novels out at all, largely because I just wanted to get stuck right in.
Spoiler alert! …but only if you can read my handwriting.
Don’t concentrate on the finger! Concentrate on the moon.
Keeping things simple.
It’s worth noting that even at this late stage in the planning process for my book, none of the characters even had names. My protagonist was still simply called “the Hero.” People can get awfully sentimental about character names, but if you’re just interested in ironing the creases out of the plot, they really don’t matter. Similarly, the “Empire” antagonist later turned into a foreign trader with a band of mercenaries, overly keen to “civilise” the protagonists’ stone age society (and turn a healthy profit by convincing them to grow cash crops for export). I feel like this is a more interesting, believable motivation for the “bad guy.” If I’d stuck rigidly to the first version of the plan, I’d have been lumbered with a bloodthirsty “Grrr! Conquer everything!” antagonist who just liked to break stuff. The beauty of the record cards is that you can swap out anything, anytime (though in this case it was less work just to read “Empire” as “merchant”). Plot now, sort the details out later!
Sorting the details out later…
A chief unfortunate enough to have had his femur turned into an arrowhead by the KasseKo hunter, BakaRo.
Not going overboard with the fine details.
- You can rearrange them however you like.
- If you’ve written yourself into a corner, you can easily replace the cards that aren’t working out.
- You can spread them out on the floor in various ways, tracking where characters are or how various storylines play out.
- You can easily focus on just one segment of story, if you have to.
- The small size of the cards forces you to focus on major plot points.
- They’re exceedingly cheap and easy to get hold of.
- They offer a readily available, easily stackable source of things to scribble notes on if (like me) you’d ordinarily just use the back of an envelope.
Flash Fiction Month 2014, Day 29
Challenge #13: Write an epistolary story in response to a piece of flash fiction written by another author this month. The story must include at least one dead character, at least one nameless character, and at least one cat. This story is a response to Joe Wright’s piece, Toil and Trouble.
Dear Miss MacAbre,
I have a somewhat embarrassing problem. As a recently deceased usurper of the throne, I’m having some difficulty adjusting to the afterlife. I understand that’s totally normal, and I’ve been very impressed by the advice on offer. The leaflet I was given upon arrival—So You’ve Been Besieged by an Army of Guys Dressed Like Trees and Your C-section Rival Lopped Your Head Off—was both helpful and unnervingly specific. I’ve taken everything it says on board and, though it’s hardly smooth sailing, I feel that I’m making good progress. My wife, who died shortly before me, seems to have acclimatised much more quickly and has already succeeded in gaining employment with a local magazine.
My real problem is that while I am content to slowly adjust to life after death, my wife is pressuring me to commit regicide once again. This causes no end of worry, as not only did it not work out so well for me last time, it is actually the same king. I fear that murdering him a second time would threaten to end our already strained friendship.
I love my wife dearly, and have tried to divert her attention from what I believe to be a doomed enterprise by adopting an adorable kitten named Spot. Sadly, my wife does not share my affection for him and upon seeing him will invariably attempt to shoo him outside. Also, I fear that distracting her with a pet or hobby would not address the underlying problem in our relationship.
I eagerly await your advice. Also, if there’s any chance anyone at your publication would be able to look after a small but very energetic kitten, I would be much obliged.
Boo hoo hoo! You sound like such a whiny little girl. If I were a man, instead of a lady, I would totally murder that king so hard! In fact, I wish I wasn’t a lady so that I could actually murder him. I would be, like, soooo full of cruelty and thick blood and junk. And manly. Really manly. Just like you should be, except you’re not, because you suck. You big wuss.
Go kill Duncan again, and do it right this time.
Dear Miss MacAbre,
I’ve taken your advice, but I can’t help but feel that I’m just going round in circles. Everything is happening the same as before, only this time people seem to be much, much, much more suspicious of me. I didn’t like to mention this initially, but a lot of people who were around for my first stint on the throne are also dead now, and it’s hard to persuade them that I didn’t kill the king’s ghost. Frankly I feel kind of guilty that they’re even giving me the benefit of the doubt.
It’s fine. Just throw a big banquet. Get ‘em so drunk they don’t know what’s what! Also, if any of these people gave you trouble last time around, this would totes be the time to bump them off. Live and learn, right? Well, learn anyway.
Dear “Miss MacAbre,”
I didn’t exactly study at Wittenberg, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea to plan multiple murders in the “Help and Healing” section of a widely-read magazine. While I’d like nothing more than to see both of you get your comeuppance, I personally would prefer it if you didn’t arrive in the after-afterlife quite so soon.
Banquo’s Ghost’s Ghost
Too late. He’s your problem now.
Banquo’s Ghost’s Ghost
I think we should see other people. “Till death do us part” and all that. You can keep the cat.
Macbeth’s Ghost’s Ghost’s Ghost