Couch to 80k Week 7 Done and dusted

Let’s see. To recap day 4, a pause on writing and a little chat about building an ideal schedule, with a 10 minute window to write one out. These are the sorts of things I’m never sure I’m right or wrong – born partly out of the fact that there isn’t really a right or wrong way to do them, and partly because sometimes I’ll do something so quickly I’ll spend 8 minutes staring at it thinking “surely I’m wrong on this”.

So, a schedule of sorts, I think if you’re a long time reader of my blog, you’ll know I’m half obsessed with schedules. I mean, I never manage to stick to any of them, but I don’t half spend a long time thinking about them. So when Tim asked on day 4 about your perfect schedule it took one minute to write out my answer. And it’s this:

I mean, it’s not ambitious, I don’t think, and it’s pretty doable. Real life gets in the way, of course, and I get in my own way. But that would be as good a day as you could hope for. The Drawing in the schedule is my day job though, but I typically draw until 1am, so 12pm is a good stop point for me. And 2 pages of comic writing SHOULD be achievable within 3 hours (it’s wildly unambitious if anything) but doable.

Of course, I will never ever get to do it. But you know, live in hope.

Day 5 was a rewrite of the Day 2 climactic scene of my novel (remember, it’s all about writing a novel, even if I had intended to do just do this course to help me build up to writing a comic, I ended up having to come up with a novel – it’s not brimming with originality, if anything it’s basically the Masters of the Universe film or John Carter – normal schlubb finds himself the centre of a galaxy wide revolution and with the help of aliens, a princess and robots has to destroy the creature taking over the universe, then he goes back to his day job. The only unique point is, in the remix, the hero really leads the dullest life imaginable, and goes back to it a changed man).

Anyway, day 5, rewrite, that was fun, taking the final scene and giving it a different spin starting with the words “that’s not how I remember it…” (and, for your reading pleasure, or for you to completely ignore, that bit is at the end of this longish post)

Day 6 – today’s task was to write five scenes that are important key points in the novel. Remember, I’m not coming to this bootcamp with a novel fully formed, my main ideas are comics, so I’m making this on the fly, but even so, I was happy with some of the scenes.

Kind of mad I’ve been at this for 7 weeks (a little longer if you count some of the mid-week gaps therein).

Week 8 will be basically timed writing, taking this first steps and moving towards a full length novel with them. I’ll do that last week, though I’m not convinced I have a novel in me.

After that, as per various recommendations, I’ve bought Ursula LaGuinn’s “Steering the Craft” (such a great title) and will hope to spend a similair amount of time per day doing the exercises in that book.

Anyway, here’s the rewrite (forgive typos, dangling threads, changes of voice, etc, it’s a draft zero)


That’s not the way I remember it…

He came in, the Accountant. Weedy and desehevevilled. In his right hand he’d forged a sword out of some sort of iron rod that looked like he’d been adjusting a fire with. He really did look ridiculously out of place in the great majestic hall of Aucheron, above him, through the glass ceiling you could see the twin suns revolve around each other, vast streams of energy intermingle.

And in front of him…

Well, my Lord, you stood. Towering over him, senew, muscle and energy, crackling. Majestic in your strength. Armed with eight curved swords, ready to battle against the human to save the great palace, and everyone in it from whatever foul deeds his otherworldy nature would perform.

I saw you confront him, calling him the coward he is, challenging him to best you, in all your powerfull glory. But he could not, and I heard him admit as much. At least, he could not on his own.

I saw him call forth the cowards and traitors who had been, until now, rightfully banished to the edge of the world, they poured in, numbers the likes of which I have never seen. But you were undauted. What where they but as an insect to the tail of the Mighty Orayax.

To my shame, I witnessed the treachery of the Princess – A hex on her name – YOUR VERY DAUGHTER – channelling her energy through him, using your own power against you.

But you were, of course, too cunning for the human. He may hold dominion over the numbers of the sheet, but your power is of such vastness that it dwarves him and all how ally to him.

“This ends now” snivelled the coward, little realising the end was for him, not you.

It was my great honour to be in your presence when you redirected the power flowing from the Princess, to him and then to you. Using their own energy to take out the ragtag group of treacherous villains they had assembled.


And now, five scenes from today’s workshop.

1. Peter’s in the office. This is our first view of his life. It will be a montage scene, of an entire year. His world is small. He goes to work, watches the seasons pass. He sits at his desk. His eyes light up when Julie walks past, he goes home to a small empty flat and opens a tin of beans and decides to just eat it cold. Peter’s life is empty except for the scifi that he loves. A room full of toys. A bookcase full of scifi novels. A set of DVD of classic old british scifi.

2. A dimensional breach, an new world beckons, in the bathroom of Fleming, Fleming and Fullerton. Peter was in the loo, trousers by his ankles, when a princes, a robot and a beastman, beckon him, they need him, they need his help. He runs forward.

3. He’s on a precipace, to the left are the armies of the evil lord, to the right are the new friends that Peter has made. He has to make a choice, sacrafice himself to save his friends, or save himself. Peter chooses, and somehow makes it out alive. But from here he will never be the same.

4. The climax, Peter versus the great monster. Peter’s friends trust him, the princess trusts him, Peter has to win this battle. But he’s not strong enough. Until he is.

5. The return. Peter decides that he doesn’t want adventure, he doesn’t want airships or princesses, or robots or monsters. He goes back to Fleming, Fleming and Fullerton. But he’s changed. He won’t take any more nonsense, and he asks Julie out and ends with a promotion. But that’s not enough and soon he’ll start his own accountancy firm, a changed man.

Couch to 80k Week 7 Day 3

I won’t apologies for missing days (as much as I want to) you may well be enjoying the breaks.

A recap of Day 2 : Recall we’ve started a novel (I mean, it was right there in the blurb of the podcast that this is the whole point of the thing, but it still surprised me to be asked) and day 1 was a bunch of “Maybe’s” about what that novel could be about. Well, day 2 was “let’s write the cover blub”. This felt like torture for me, especially since I hadn’t really settled on a novel, though it feels like I’m basically – from my maybe’s and blurb – rewriting John Carter. Except my John Carter is an accountant, and this is probably going to be a(n attempt at a) funny novel. (Though fair warning: my heart isn’t in this chunk of the podcast, since my focus is and remains with writing comics, so I’m trying not to get too worried about the large amount of cliched plots I’m going to regurgitate).

So, recap down, day 3 is … let’s take the climactic end sequence and write it. Can’t know where to start without knowing where we’re ending, right?

I only decided today it might be a funny story, yesterday it was serious, I really am making this up as I go along – can’t you tell?

So, that said, usual caveats apply, there’s stupid repetition, it’s appallingly unoriginal, and wears its influences on all eight of it’s sleeves, here’s the climactic battle scene in “The Call” (or, possibly, “Called to Account”) and it tapers off since my 10 minutes were up, and there’s no way I’m working past the bell…

Peter stood, finally, in the great hall. The obsidian columns lined the marbled flooring. Above him the stars of an unfamiliar galaxy. Home was nothing but a distant memory now. He stood, white shirt, shredded. Power surging through him from the Galoga Root, in his hand he held the Sword of Antimon. He took off his broken glasses. The root not only gave him incredible power, but increased his senses, he no longer needed his reading glasses, so tossed them aside.

Prince Astoria held her breath near the doorway, in the corner of his eye he could see her chest raise and fall slowly, channeling her psionic energy through him.

Gone now, where the memories of working in the Accounts Department of Flemming, Flemming and Fulton.

Gone too, was Peter Aaronovitch.

Now there was only Peter The Great.

Peter The Great, and the Monster.

“Hahaha! You pathetic Worm, so you’ve tasted the root of power, at last, and you think you can best me”

Its voice grated through him. The creatures eight arms bulged and crackled with energy. Each held a sword and it raised itself to full ten feet tall. Stretching the arms out, holding the swords at length, bristling and ready to fight.

“I can’t best you…”

“Not on my own”

Behind Peter the swelled ranks of the armies of the Avalon Guard poured out from doorways lining the hall. Surrounded Peter and the Creature.

The princess continued to concentrated, Peter bowed his head slightly before snapping his head up, and blasting the thing with beams of pure energy from his eyes

“THIS ENDS NOW!”

The creature stumbled back, the army stepped forward ready to attack, waiting for Peter’s word.

Then, suddenly, the creature expanded it’s arms out, the energy swirled around him and poured out to the crowd, blasting through them, exploding people left and right, he’d been tricked. The creature was using Peter’s own power against them all.

He tried to stop, he thrust his arm in front of his face, hoping it would stop the energy, but just as he did so, the Princess collapsed, exhausted. It had been too much for her. And too much for the allies that Peter had spent the last year building up.

Dead. All dead.

Except for Peter and the Monster.

It relaxed, and walked towards him. Still towering over him, this thing with tusks, and arms.

Couch to 80k Week 7 Day 1 Gaze on my Works ye Mighty

(I promise this title is less a brag and much more a “oh look, is there any way I can slip the word “might” in to some sort of pun based title)

Couch to 80k podcast is a writer’s bootcamp with daily exercises by Tim Clare and is part of his Death by 1000 paper cuts blog.

Glad your still with me, if you are, and if you’re one of the few people I’ve chatted to tempted to do this bootcamp too, tell me how you’re doing!

Ok, this week we finally take off the training wheels and begin the nitty gritty of actually writing a novel. NOW… I’m not that interested in writing a novel, I don’t feel I have any great big long form work in me (maybe we all have one book in us, I don’t feel like that – I do feel like I’ve hundreds of stupid stories in me, well, mostly stupid, and that’s fine by me).

A recap of what the bootcamp has covered so far…

Week 1 lists (enjoyed this)

Week 2 Timed free writes (enjoyed this)

Week 3 Using Personas / Masks can unlock content (struggled with this)

Week 4 Stylistic Choices (struggled with this)

Week 5 Emotions (ho boy, this was tough)

Week 6 Metaphors and Similes (struggled with this)

If you know me, you’ll know, my long term aim is comic writing, and I started this bootcamp simply to build the confidence that I could do that. I’ve currently laid out the plot of a 40 page Bondian adventure that I’m chipping away at (I’ll either pitch this to Dynamite or turn it into my own super spy adventure)

But a novel? Nope, no interest.

That said, it’d be a bit of a cheat to get this far in the bootcamp and abandon ship now (though I have form on this).

So today Tim asked us to type up a bunch of things that we might consider our novel about and if you don’t already have a novel, maybe some things a novel could be about. Prefacing each statement with the words “it might be…” so we don’t end up too fixed in our ideas. We want the flexibility to move and change as the writing progresses and to be open to other, potentially contradictory possibilities.

I hard to start with something… and so I began with what I know

(And feel free to ignore the rest, but these are my novel notes… lame, unimaginative, idiotic and raw and ready to be abandoned at a moment’s notice)

It might be a novel about a man whose life is very like mine who goes through an extraordinary adventure and ends with him realising that he has the best life already.

He might work a dull job, as an office clerk, in accounts. Possibly he’ll find something or something that shouldn’t happen will happen to him. Something that suggests the world is deeper and more complex than he assumes (maybe despite his longing for a more interesting life he’s long since settled into assuming it’s never going to get that interesting). He might be a game player, someone whose day time is spend dealing with numbers, he may well keep fantasy figures at his desk. He might be single. Or separated. He may be 30, He may be a virgin.

He might open a doorway to another dimension, or unexpectedly find himself the nexus of some great prophecy, a hero to an entire universe.

He might be required to save the kingdom, the girl, and become king.

He might return to his own world, changed, but glad that things aren’t just as nuts.

His name might be Peter.

He might love a work collegue called Carol-Anne or Caroline, or Carol or Carrie. (Maybe carrie, which he likes because it’s the same as Carrie Anne Moss from The Matrix)

Maybe creatures arrive on earth as he’s walking to work and he has to help them.

He might be an engineer, and maybe this skill will be what saves them?

He might reject the princess. He might sweep Carrie off her feet.

He might have a mild stammer.

He might be glad that the universe is simpler where he’s from.

He might have to fight the mighty villain. (this might be, basically the plot of He Man)

He might say something like “Jesus, what the hell am I supposed to do, I’m just an accountant. I’m not even sure how the coffee machine works!”

And the princess might respond “No, my name is not “Jesus”, nor do I know what a coffee machine is, but you are aCountANT! Hero of my people”

He may be part of a propecy, he may have accidentally altered their future, he may have accidentally altered their past.

Couch to 80k Week 6 Day 6 a Writer’s Manifesto

Couch to 80k podcast is a writer’s bootcamp with daily exercises by Tim Clare and is part of his Death by 1000 paper cuts blog.

Today’s Couch to 80k Podcast episode Week 6 day 6 is about creating your own writer’s manifesto, done primarily as a way for you to get to know what it is you’re doing this for. Tim suggests this, like all other entries, really doesn’t need to be thought of as something others will ever see – but me being an oversharing drama queen is sharing mine here.

I have a clear idea of why I want to write, it’s maybe not as fancy as I’ve written it in the manifesto (such as it is, remember it’s simply a 10 minute free write on why you want to write, so it will veer and contradict itself and sound rambly or nonsensical, I’m ok with all of that).

Basically I want to write because I have ideas that I want to see finished. That’s it. They bounce round my head, year after year every so often popping up and saying “OH HAI PAUL – remember me! I’m that idea you wrote down slightly differently every two months of 2012 but never actually finished”. The only ideas that I’ve had that feel “at peace” (as it were) are ones where I’ve handed them off to a writer and we’ve either co-written them, or the writer has done a better job than I ever would. I just want the voices to stop, man!

Anyway, I have plenty of other things to do today that are unrelated to writing (I’ve got two scripts right now that need read, both by very accomplished writers, so figured best to get my scabby efforts out of the way before seeing what they have ahead of me)

Here’s my personal writers manifesto (warning: it’s probably a bit wanky, as all such manifestos are…)

Personal writing Manifesto.

1. What am I trying to achieve

2. What do I want it to do.

Measure a circle starting anywhere.

Persona Writing Manifesto.

From a purely selfish point of view, and most acts of creation are purely selfish – arguably, the very best are, I want to write to bring different worlds to life. I don’t want to write a kitchen sink drama and have that define who I am as a writer, I want to write a kitchen sink drama, then a sci-fi epic, then a short comedy, then a James Bond story, then a quiet introspective piece.

I want to exercise all the different storytelling muscles in side me. I want to take the joy of telling an anecdote to two or three people in a small group and expand that to a much bigger audience and a much bigger anecdote that builds and builds to be a proper story.

I want to never feel bored of a genre, I want to dip in and out of different stories. I want to sit and think about a story, immerse myself in it, and enjoy the telling of it – to laugh at how ridiculous some of the ideas are, maybe for their scale, maybe for their silliness, maybe for how just-so-perfect they are and obvious in hindsight that, of course, this was always the way this should be, but still surprise people in the telling.

I would like an audience to hold their breath as I control exactly what point the hero saves the day.

I want thrill power, I want to be up-lifted as a writer, and a reader of the work. I want to write stories that I want to read. I want to find the gaps in the work that other writers leave and fill them with my imagination, expanding new worlds out from those in between places.

I want to finish things. I want to put my fingers on a keyboard, type “in the beginning” and not finish until I write “the end” and everything in between makes perfect sense and is, in it’s own way, a little parcel of perfection, telling one story that is complete and moving on to the next one.

It would be nice to make money doing this, but I’m not doing this for money, I’m doing it for me.

On the plus side that means I really can write what I want to write, no concession to editors, no concession to publishers, no concession to readers.

On the other hand, my natural instinct is to make things that I hope people will wildly enjoy. An audience who come out punching the air.

I want to write Alien, I want to write The Seven Voyages of Sinbad, I want to write Hellboy, I want to write the fantastic and I want it to be fantastic.

And I want to sit down and draw it.

Couch to 80k Week 6 Day 5

Yes, I fell off the wagon. Back on it now though.

Week 5 broke me a little, and I discovered it’s ok to cheat and miss and episode (since Tim isn’t likely to come round my house and demand I get back on that horse) so, of course, week 6 got tough – I find it nice and easy to just play with freewriting – just fill 10 minutes of my brain vomiting out nonsense to see where it goes. Of course, that’s only part of writing (probably the best part). There’s also making things make sense, stylistic choices, metaphor, similie, opening sentances, you know… actual work.

And that brings us to Week 6.

This has largely been writing things then rewriting them with specific stylistic choices (week 1: write a couple of minutes about something you’ve done, make it as straightforward as possible. NOW! Make it as flowery as possible, filled with metaphor, etc)

Today was take a first sentence from a novel and rewrite it, keeping the same basic structure but making it about anything else, really.

I do love a first line of a novel, when I was a student a Queen’s University Belfast, in the hallway of the student Union, where I’d sit while waiting on a rehearsal room to free up for whatever play it was I was doing at the time, the wall was festooned with first lines of novels, and I loved reading them. So many clever ways in.

(Here’s a brilliant list of them http://americanbookreview.org/100BestLines.asp)

As it happened, I grabbed a big old copy of the HP Lovecraft book Necronomicon for no other reason than it was the first novel I could see beside my drawing board (where I’m currently typing) and picked one story at random (truth to tell I wasn’t sure what the exercise was gonna be about, so didn’t seem like any choice would be a bad choice) and ended up with The Lurking Fear.

Here’s the first line of it:

There was a thunder in the air on the night I went to the deserted mansion atop Tempest Mountain to find the lurking fear.

(I’m now half convinced I played a Choose Your Own Adventure Game like this)

Anyway, the mission was to take the structure of this sentance, and replace all the nouns/verbs/adverbs/whatever with new ones to get a sentance with the same structure, but different things happening in it, so, for example:

There was a crackle in the fridge on the afternoon I went to the empty pizza place beside Macdonalds to find the ominous smell.

(That’s a terrible example, but you get my drift).

Now, I’ll be honest here, part of me is thinking “no! I want to write comics, not prose, and this is all about prose” so my brain slightly checking out – but that’s just me going “also this is HARD and I wanted this to be easy”.

Anyway, getting back on the horse means getting up early again and doing this stuff while everyone is asleep; that seems to be the best way to go.

Couch to 80k Week 5 Day 4

I blame my sort of hazy-looking-out-of-the-window-like-I’m-still-in-secondary-school lack of attention for not realising this week’s writing workshops would be all about strong emotional exploration, revolving around a single traumatic event. I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, but certainly I’d’ve been more prepared for it.

Today was diving into the same subject as yesterday and writing more on the topic, could be a rewrite, could be an exploration of specific bits, could be really whatever you want (including avoidance if that was too difficult).

I’ll be honest, the best thing about yesterday’s writing was finishing it and knowing I’ll never have to do that again, then turns out that wasn’t the case.

I went back to my mum’s death and wrote about the aftermath, really. It wasn’t my plan, it’s what happened. I also felt like I wanted to keep it distant, turns out I can grab that nettle once, but not twice. It’s not that the writing was so perfect it couldn’t be re-written, more than it was drawn from my own feelings so deeply that… well, I didn’t want to cry again. Simple as that really.

And thank you to everyone who commented yesterday, both on the blog and on twitter. I think appreciate both as a connection to me us all as humans who have more in common than not, and -I’ve chosen to take it- as a nod, that I’m going in the right general direction as a writer (DON’T DISABUSE ME OF THIS! IT’S ALL I’VE GOT)

So here’s today. A calmer, more reflective meditation on the aftermath of my mum’s death.


It’s been years. I still sometimes feel hollow. After mum died, I went off the rails, not oh-my-god-Paul-is-drunk-it’s-only-10am off the rails, but off the rails for me. I was angry. I was angry at my youngest brother, who was seven years old at the time. I was so angry at him. Why wasn’t he as upset as me? Why wasn’t he crying every day? How the hell could he get up and play football and not give a passing thought to the fact his mum had died?

I was angry with myself, I was angry with my wife, my parents, my family, my work, my entire world.

Mostly I was angry with my mum.

She knew. She knew she wouldn’t wake up. She knew something had happened. But she didn’t tell anyone. Instead she wrote a note, and went to sleep content not to wake up.

The pain of death is felt by everyone left behind.

It’s been years. I’ve forgiven myself for being angry, and I’ve come to understand why she didn’t phone anyone, or go to the doctors, and just … let go.

Mum was 50, she’d raised five boys, had her first -me- at age 16 and the next at age 17. I can understand that tiredness now. I want to say I forgive her, but really, there’s nothing to forgive. In my heart, I think of my mum as both my mother, and the 16 year old girl who never had a chance to grow up into adulthood and sometimes, I remember a photo she showed me of her at age 6 and I think of her as that little girl too.

She was like a force of nature, until she was spent.

Looking at her in the tiny box they put her in, I could see, at last that she needed the rest. Even storms have to stop and mum was a storm.

Couch to 80k Week 5 Day 3 – Up close and personal

Oh man. Today. Today was tough.

I like emotional distance. I like humour and sarcasm and playful silliness – these things keep you from drowning in your emotions. My oldest son has ASD and I think for kids with ASD the general population think they’re cold emotionally, but they’re really not – if anything they can feel things very deeply and struggle to keep emotional dampers on those feelings. So they often overcompensate (learning how to cope) whereas neurotypical have very fine grained control over their emotions, it’s easier to keep it all damped down.

(Like, I think, every single thing about humans, there’s no real binary here – there’s no such thing as neurtypical and ASD – rather brains that work in varying degrees in varying different ways, but humans LOVE LOVE LOVE to classify stuff, so we end up with words that cover some portion of that rainbow of colours)

(I mean, the unspoken thing here is my constant wondering of whether I’m on the spectrum, the answer is: of course I am, so is everyone else. I’m human)

Anyway, I’m moving too off topic.

Continuing this week’s theme of Psychic evaluation, and – to put it crudely – plundering your own emotions for content (and I mean a more romantic way to put it would be to say “enriching your writing through the exploration of your own emotional experiences ” which is also nicely alliterative ). Week 5 Day 3, Tim tells us is an optional day – do it or do not. (There is no try).

(Is it obvious I’m stalling? It is, isn’t it?)

It’s write about a traumatic event in detail. I have a few to choose from, but the one that, I suppose impacted me the greatest – the real life changer, is my mum dying. It broke me for a good long time. So I’m posting it here, sometimes I feel like I need to keep these things private, and sometimes – often in fact – I discover that sharing this stuff touches reaches other people and they find they’re not the only one to have felt like this. I will be honest, I cried typing up a lot of the following. So, as per Tim’s instructions on writing it, I’ll give you the same on reading it: you can skip this one if you like.


I was in work. I think it was the start of the week. I had a shirt on sleeves rolled up. When someone came in to the room to tell me.

“Paul. Your dad is on the phone”. She looked concerned, but it was impossible to tell what it was about, though it seemed serious.

I phoned my dad.

“Your mum is dead”.

I don’t remember asking to leave, I think I told someone, I think I lifted my coat and zipped out there. I don’t remember how I got home. I think I phoned Annette. At that moment, everything was blurry, nothing was real. I felt a hurt so deep down, that I just wanted to wail. Not scream, but to reach inside and pull out of me a noise from the depths of my being. A Death moan- suddenly I wasn’t a man or a boy, as I was an animal, mourning the loss of its mother. A wolf cub, lost in the forest, its mother – its entire world gone, and I just wanted to howl out.

I think I went home to my dad’s house. I think my wife met me there. And, really, I disintegrated. I couldn’t take it. My brothers were there. My youngest brother, Luke, was in the room. The house smelt like home, but stale. My dad was shaking a little. Maybe I was vibrating through the room, like the only thing alive at that point was my loss. Mum was lying in bed. Someone mentioned a note.

She’d left a note.

“I felt something in my heart last night, something broke. I don’t think I’ll wake up tomorrow, take care of Luke. Love you”

I could feel stinging behind my eyes. Tear ducts heating up, stifling tears. And then I ran, I wanted to both run away as far as I could and go to my mum and crawl up beside her and lie there and never move again. Never move away from her. At that point, I forget I had siblings. It was only ever me and mum. For one year, when I was too young to even understand or realise, it was only me and her. She had me when she was 16. So from 16 to 17 years old this young girl had a baby, and that horrible moment made me feel what that must’ve felt like. I felt that love she must have had for that child, for me, and I felt it go. For it to suddenly be taken from the child. I felt sorry for myself, of course, but I felt sorry for the child I was. And the girl she was. And that she’d never had a life as an adult without kids.

I ran and ran and ran, and I’m still running.

I went upstairs, and went to the toilet, locking the door. I didn’t want anyone to see me, I wanted to be alone in my grief. I wanted to climb in to the forest, and stand over the body of the wolf and howl at the moon and the world and every bastarding thing that was in it that took my mum from me