Couch to 80k Week 1 Day 7

Haha! There IS not week 1 day 7. But I’m in the habit now, so I thought I’d continue today in the spirit of the entire week of it. (If you’re coming in late, Couch to 80k is a writer’s bootcamp, 20 minutes per day, 6 days per week – 10 minute pep talk, then 10 minutes of a writing exercise. It’s an 8 week course and you read all about it here).

As this first week has been all about lists, I figured I could make my own list – and since I’ve been noodling, from week one, with one of the character names that I really liked that came from one of those lists (Curiosity Vanderbilt, space detective!) I thought it’d go with “Things a futuristic PI could investigate” with 10 minutes on the clock.

Here’s my top 3 (of a reasonably long list)

1) Missing person who has been turned into 10 other people, each are aspects of the persons personality, none have complete memories of who they are.

2) The PI witnesses their own murder via time dilation

3) Femme fatal who turns everyone she meets in to another version of herself. Exponential growth means she’ll become the entire universe if not stopped.

Starting the next week tomorrow! See you then.

Couch to 80k Week 1 Day 6

Whoop whoop! And that’s week 1 done.

I enjoyed that a lot. For a couple of reasons; 1. I’ve tried couch to 5k and this is a lot easier. And 2. It’s the start of a journey that, I hope, ends with me writing for myself.

Day 6 was another list- and I think we’re done with lists now, Things you’d find in a protagonists bag. I’ve been slightly surprised to find out what my brain does when told to just go off on one. On the names list it turns out I – well, I dunno if I’m good at it, but I churned out a lot of names that I really found fun and interesting (and now anytime I see a two word combination I think “Oh would that make a good name?” I mean, “Quaequam Blag” is a Betelgeusian exclamation, as seen in 2000AD, that means – more or less – “WTF”. But now, I see it as a really fun name for a bank robbing alien.

That’s the good bit. My brain is slowly rewiring itself towards writing.

I feel like deep inside me there may be a decent writer – to be honest, if I didn’t think that I probably wouldn’t even have started the thing. I just need to give myself the tools you need to begin to write and, more importantly, to finish things you write.

One unfortunate side effect, is I can hear Tim Clare’s dulcet tones when I read books on writing now – narrating the book to me. This is, largely, I think, down to the fact that I binge listened to a whole load of his podcast “Death by a 1000 cuts” (of which the couch to 80k is part).

I recommend the podcast. I don’t recommend the binge listen (I can even hear the bugger reading this blog post out as I type it.)

Oh here’s my top three things to find in a protagonists bag:1. A small mobile phone, small buttons, with a green screen and a battery that lasts for weeks. There is no signal.2. Nothing. A null. A void. Emptiness. Loss3. Old B&W photo, from the vietnam war, three of the people have a red line through their faces, the top left corner is folded in.There were, of course, much more. But I liked those three. Tim talks a lot about “Crunchy Specificity” – in other words, get to really clear specifics. Not the house, but the small terrace that was built in the 50s, roof tiles covered in moss. Not a packet of sweets but a packet of starburt, torn at one end, but closed over so the remainign sweets don’t spill out.(These are not good examples). Anyway. You go and do it. If I can do it, I bet you can do it better.

Couch to 80k week 1 day 4 – Writus Interruptus

I’ve been trying, as best as I’m able, to make the early morning the time when I sit down and do the couch to 80k writing boot camp (it’s a 20 minute podcast, with 10 minutes set aside for a writing exercise). I tend to go to bed late though, so it’s not always that easy to get up – and then we have kids, so there’s a certain mania in the morning. The best time has been to get up with my wife (an early riser) and before the kids are awake.

Monday’s are the only day that is -theoretically entirely mine for working – Annette does the kids in the morning, and then she’s off doing her thing. (She works Tue/Wed/Thur and is studying so attends classes on Friday).

SO I figured I’d get a chance to get some work done. I tried one other time to set up and work in the living room, but soon discovered the TV blaring behind me (as I sat at the table with my back to it) wasn’t as relaxing as one might hope. So I quickly scooted out to do the 10 minutes of writing that Ct80k requires. This morning though, I closed my studio door, sat down and started working – with the door closed the kids outside it were muted and easy to ignore (we’re in a flat so there’s no upstairs/downstairs, just one floor with my studio room being right in the middle).

Right in the middle of the 10 minute writing exercise, my wife scoots her head in and asks me to do one of the boys breakfasts. And to be honest, I wasn’t terribly prepared for how the flow of work would be interrupted. As a working artist, spending hours on a single page you get used to stopping and starting – it’s awful, but after a while it’s the norm, so you pick up and put down fairly easily (don’t get me wrong, it always makes things take a lot longer or become impossible). I suspect knowing I had only 10 minutes though made the interruption way worse than it should have been. Today’s exercise was to write a bunch of physical descriptions (though I’m not entirely convinced that’s exactly what I did) but once the interruption happened it was just … bluerch.

So what I’m saying: let your loved ones know you need 20 minutes, tell them (my mistake was just retreating into my room to work).

As for the exercise itself, I tried to be a little too clever I think – and ended up not even 100% sure if what I did was what was asked. Oh well, it was just an exercise.

More tomorrow.

Couch to 80k week 3 day 2/3

Didn’t get to blog yesterday. If you’re interested in taking part of a free writers boot camp it’s here.

My process for doing this is to work on my iPad Pro, using a pretty nice logitech keyboard (I like it because the keyboard is lit, and I’ve found the hideous expensive apple covers tend to fall apart after a year so there was no way I was buying the apple keyboard cover)

I will talk about what I’m doing on the course, and my text that I generate (I realise it’s interesting to me and somewhat amusing sometimes to put the entirety of whatever I’ve typed but, as my wife has already pointed out – more than once – no-one wants to read an entire list of funny names [she didn’t even say funny names, I added that to salve my ego)

What I’m saying is, if you want to do the boot camp – do it sight unseen – and look away now.

Continue reading “Couch to 80k week 3 day 2/3”

Couch to 80k Week 1 Day 1

I’m doing a couch to 80k writing course, it’s free and it appears to be fun!

You can read why I’m doing it here and if you’re interested in doing the course, you’re probably better off not reading the rest of my blog post until you’ve done it yourself.

Ok, week 1 day 1 was the start. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the exercise on the first podcast was the write a bunch of names. That’s it. Names are hard – I’ve written a couple of short stories and I generally don’t name characters – it’s like a too weighty an obligation. Anyway, I didn’t know what the exercise was going to be, and I’m glad I didn’t because if I did I might have spent several hours mulling names over in my head before committing them and they wouldn’t have been ANYWHERE near as much fun as many of the names I ended up with. I surprised myself – it turns out, when push comes to shove, I’d rather give a character a name like “Olympic Monsoon IV” than “Robert Black”.

Here’s my list (there are TWO real names in this list, friends I haven’t seen in decades – shout out to my pals with the odd names! I hope you’re keeping well, and if you’re google vanity searching, I hope I spelt your names right!)

  1. Frietz VonLebierdick
  2. Patrick Wellbuttoned
  3. Fitzwilliam McGrath
  4. Cornelia Voxenstrap
  5. Edgar Lumbago
  6. Monsieur Maseret Mazzurati
  7. Captain Fielding Wombat
  8. Jullimia Moosebreath
  9. Échart MacDougal
  10. Harcker Strump-Locket
  11. Major Odomo Fidelma Cassiopeia Pickpocket
  12. Ooblong Scarpetti
  13. Marshall Luminousity-Quilt
  14. Fitzgibbon Neilvolstagg
  15. Heir Hero Fascheltzvitz
  16. Curiousity Vanderbilt
  17. Mars Loompen
  18. Luna Cornwallis
  19. Prince Esartlz Piccadilly
  20. Theo Heckfizzle
  21. Dollar McFaulty
  22. Corblatz Boozamble-Qu’orne
  23. Noosle Coocoo
  24. Jim Semicolon III
  25. Patrick McTaggle
  26. William Rhythemicgymnasitica
  27. Corbon Quitzle
  28. MacFergus Tracer
  29. Bollard Comblesnatch
  30. Feezle Garlarckle
  31. Thomas McWilliams
  32. Frederick Veerna
  33. Bart Noitgedat
  34. Meera Visvanathan
  35. Romba Cooble
  36. Qurio Pittlesnoop
  37. Coople Hashtag
  38. Rocket Cumblebecksmith
  39. Sardie Veevonprig
  40. Werble Coobleprong

 

(I’m particlarly tickled by “Patrick Wellbuttoned”, “Bollard Cumblesnatch”, “Romba Cooble” – though I think my hitchhiker’s guide love is showing in some of these names…)

On Writing

After, possibly, decades of talking about it, I’m trying to step up my ambitions about writing from “I would like to write something” to “I should write something”. Part of that has been reading a lot (inspired, to be honest, by Stephen Mooney’s approach on Half Past Danger where I think he read every book on writing he could get his hands on before starting the story. It worked for him).

My excuse about not writing has always been “but I work with so many great writers” – and I do. From Gordon Rennie (first professional writer I’d ever worked with) to Garth Ennis (with whom I’m doing a World of Tanks series with) and every writer in between (Rob Williams, Michael Carroll, Al Ewing, and more than I can currently remember) I’m been particularly lucky in who I get to work with – I think in 18 years of working in comics, I’ve had one script that I think was a bit iffy (and that was a LONG LONG time ago). In fact, even when I was a younger artist starting out, I was usually the weaker link with writers who went on to become professionals in writerly fields (Journalism, teaching, notably). And so, if I come up with a fun notion, I can usually chat to a writer and find them running with the idea in directions I’d never think to go in (because they’ve moved way past the cliches I’d get bogged down in).

But I’ve always wanted to be in more control of my own destiny – writing and drawing and colouring and lettering my own work (though, as with writing, I’m cursed – CURSED I SAY – with friends who are far better at those things than I am).

Anyway, I’ve started the process. It begins with reading, so far:

On Writing by Steven King. (Great book, as much a King biography as it is a book on writing).

Save the Cat  A book about screen writing by Blake Snyder. Pretty good breakdown of what a movie requires. I’m honestly not 100% convinced by the idea that you can follow a simple formula and get an award winning movie, on the other hand it feels like if you’re going to write a block buster style film these are the things the audience might expect – so better to go about it with some notion.

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue James Scott Bell. I picked this up, because I felt that dialogue was gonna be a weak point even before I started writing (I can tell a good yarn when talking, but translating that to words on a page felt like it was way tougher than I could possibly imagine). I actually enjoyed this book, felt good and useful advice. Suspect I’ll go back and reread it too.

I’ve been trying to avoid “How to write Comics” type books, largely because I’ve seen so many comic scripts, I feel fairly confident that I know how to do that (and of course, the moment you write a comic script you realise instead of having the perfect inside knowledge of the craft all you’ve really done is formed a little comic writer cargo cult, where you know what it should look like, but instead of building a radio from dials and electronics you’ve built it from twine and sticks)

I also tend to feel a lot of writer/artist advice is survivor bias – ie tips that writers/artists think helped them, but in fact, made not a jot of difference, they just happened to be things that they did WHILE things where going gang busters for them. I know enough people who’ve failed and succeeded to know it’s hard to formulate success.

My to-read pile still contains a couple of writing books (notably Into the Woods and Words for Pictures – by Brian Bendis) and I wanna get through those before I pick up any more.

I should say, I talk to Rob Williams a lot – and we’ve talked about writing before and anything I know about writing has come from him – structure, theme, all that good stuff (so thanks for that Rob)

Now, I’ve started writing. Finally sat and wrote out a script for four pager than I’ve been noodling with for years (this is partly why I want to write “think of an idea, write it, draw it, move on” sounds a lot better than “think of an idea, write bits of it down, forget about it for a year, write bits again, repeat FOREVER”). I’m ok at ideas, I think. I can plot reasonably well (or at least string a bunch of things together) it’s making it work as a cohesive narrative is my problem. Though, it turns out I write really badly for artist-I Took the four pager and started doing layouts and it was like “this writer is TERRIBLE – I can’t draw this”. I need to work on that.

On another writer front, I found a neat little podcast/exercise thing called “Couch to 80k” (I’ve never successfully completed “Couch to 5k” so I’m hoping this is different). It’s a daily podcast with a 10 minute writing exercise as part of each episode. So you sit, listen and write when it tells you. I’ll blog about my experience with it separately, because goodness knows, this is already more writing on the topic of writing than I’ve managed to write as narrative story.

I’ll get there.