1. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Writing Jack Spurling: A Progress Journal

    Discussion in 'Progress Journals' started by Alastair Woodcock, Mar 31, 2018.

    I'm doing this as a means to 'motivate' myself to get properly going on the second book in my teenage time-traveller trilogy.

    The first book was written in about 4 weeks, after a month or so of preparation. The first chapter had been written seven years ago and left to fester as I lacked the discipline and drive to finish it.

    Somebody I had recently met read some of my stuff and said I was a good writer and told me to finish the story so I did. Nothing like that sort of motivation.

    Jack Spurling was a random creation of mine seven years ago when I wrote that first chapter. He is now someone I feel I know quite intimately and I think I've almost brought him to life. He'll necessarily have to grow up a lot in the second adventure. He spent a week or so in Roman Britain during the first book and achieved quite a lot, given his tender years and lack of life experience.

    Now I'm ready to dust him off and get him out of my brain for another outing.

    I've got a draft introduction done (I don't do prologues) which is a brief historical summary to give an idea of the 'backdrop' to the story and as is my habit, the last page or so is also written, so I already know, roughly, how I want to end it. This will be a 'quest' which will be essentially set over two books and I'm still not sure if I'll just write both in one big go or go at it one at a time.

    I aim to get going next week on a semi-detailed chapter by chapter summary and character list. This story will be set in three time periods, so it will be quite challenging. I've already spent 2-3 months researching the Ancient Greeks and have refreshed my knowledge of the Romans as they'll still play a major part in this part of the trilogy.

    I have browsed through the excellent 'Plot and Structure' by James Scott Bell, as well as Christopher Booker's 'The Seven Basic Plots', which I guess I'll never fully read as its too damn long.

    There's basically no putting off diving in properly now and getting on with it.

    My aim is simple: To make this book better than the first one.
     
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  2. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    After almost 30 months of no activity on the Jack Spurling front, I have finally got back to work.

    I downloaded and installed Scrivener, after reading positive reviews here and other places. I haven't exploited more than 20% of its features, but no doubt I'll use it more effectively as I go along.

    I've mapped out six chapters, which could change as I am a pantser not a planner, and the first book added an extra chapter as it was being written. During writing it actually became a trilogy (in my head, at least), even though it's more a case of two stories across three books - the first a classic 'voyage and return' followed by a 2-book 'quest'.

    I've watched quite a few 'how to' videos on Youtube re: Scrivener (which reminds me, I'll need to pay for it sooner or later if I want to go on using it...) and I've started watching some of Kate Cavanaugh's 'authortube' channel. She is a lively enough character, making the task of writing sound a lot more fun than having a tooth extracted, which is more than can be said for some successful, published authors. However, the one thing you never actually see is what she's written (for obvious reasons I guess). I've sat there watching her silently bash out 5000 words during one of her recorded 'writeathons' and wondered 'Why am I watching this?'. Her aim is to inspire people to keep writing, when they feel like packing it all in, presumably. I understand this as I definitely need inspiration to do any serious writing. If I stop for more than a day it's hard to get going again. I occasionally dig out On Writing by Stephen King, because my style and process (pantsing) is a bit more him than say, JK Rowling. I have never read Harry Potter, and don't intend to start any time soon.

    At the moment, I've been battering away at the mountain for about 10 days or so and have 6,805 words, including the introduction, most of the first chapter, and a chunk of the last. I have downloaded and saved (in Scrivener) some nice pictures and converted a BBC website article into a PDF (Scrivener did that for me, which was nice of it). I think the next version of Scrivener (I am on Windows 10) may allow you to store whole web pages offline (?) without the need for converting to PDF.

    My crazy and probably impossible target is to finish both books 2 and 3 by Christmas. Book 3 is vaguely outlined (mostly in my head), but needs a lot more work.

    More to come soon, including how I'm trying to get to grips with the compile process in Scrivener.
     
  3. Murkie

    Murkie Active Member

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    Hey, that's some great progress! For comparison, I ended last week with 2600 words done. I'm guessing your writing is aimed at a YA audience?
    Scrivener is great, isn't it? I just tested on the Mac version and you can save websites into it and view them offline (I didn't know about that!) So I assume the Windows version will follow suit.
    If you're looking for successful, published authors to follow on social media for guidance, I recommend Brandon Sanderson's youtube channel - very informative lectures, his books are pretty good too if you like fantasy.
     
  4. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Thanks for that. I must admit I'm not really a fantasy person but I will have a look around Youtube as there are plenty of writers on there (of different levels of experience) willing to pass on advice. The Windows version of Scrivener right now is clearly a bit out of date and so the new one (v3 I think) should be worth upgrading to.
     
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  5. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    I've stopped for today after a typically frenetic 800-word piece of mostly dialogue. Jack is on his way, again. Things will soon start to get really challenging for him (not to mention for me too, as the writer).

    12,733 words deep (Chapter Two, now about three-quarters through it). The first book was 42k words, and my target for this one will be 40k-45k. It's always been meant as a short novel format, nothing too long or demanding and aimed at a young audience of 11-15 years or so. Having said that, nobody of that age has read any of it. My audience up to now has been friends and relatives. I should really be thinking of finding someone with a child of the requisite age range to read it.

    Still not paid for Scrivener but will over the weekend. Will get back to looking into the compile process again once I do. What I had a problem with (not a big one) was when I changed font or font size in the text document, the final compiled document would appear to keep the same font, and same size, throughout. Using 'As is' may get round that, but I think that may knock out things like automatic chapter headings? Anyway, a problem for way down the line. I know I can compile to a Word document and edit if I can't get it quite right.

    Also, still watching videos by the seemingly inexhaustible Kate Cavanaugh. It's amazing she has any time to write, given that she is so busy filming and editing herself, and feeding her dogs, and visiting Walmart, etc. She's never had anything published, either. I didn't have the patience to keep my (finished) manuscript sitting on a shelf for months, as she advocates. I had it on Amazon within a fortnight of finishing. Now I'm considering a few edits to Book 1, a new (Scrivener compiled) smaller paperback format, and a re-release (so to speak).

    Actually who am I trying to kid that anyone will buy my work? Total sales to date equal about five, and one of those was me.
     
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  6. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    I've been getting so bogged down and distracted by other tasks, that the writing project took a back seat for a good month or more. Then I decided last week to do a 24-hour 'writeathon'. On Friday I sat down at midnight and managed to add 8,000 words in 24 hours.

    No, I did not write continuously for a day. There were periods of up to two hours at a time when I didn't write a word. But I managed to keep at it and by the end, I had got deep into Chapter Four, which is approximately 60% into the whole story. Jack's situation becomes tricky in this passage, and since Friday's marathon, I've gone back and re-written a couple of small passages, which I think improves the story. More of that, much more no doubt, to come.

    Incidentally, I thought sitting down on a chair for a day would be good for my back, which is often sore, and which I'd managed to 'rick' earlier in the week. As it was, all that sitting down made it worse. I will go back to writing while lying in bed. I know that's a bit odd, and doesn't lend itself to long writing sessions, but seems to work for me.

    Scrivener is now paid for, and I've started to break up the chapters into much smaller 'scenes' as the software (and most of its users) recommend you do. Still nowhere near exploiting all the features, but the story is getting written, albeit slowly, and I'm adding more stuff to the research folder, if only so I can take a break from the actual writing to take a look at all the interesting artwork which is basically a series of artists impressions of ancient cities, including quite a few quayside/harbour scenes. There are three or four photographs taken by 21st century tourists. Jack is a time travelling teenager, but not all of the story takes place in the past. I actually fixed on a key location some time after I'd started writing. I'd never heard of it before, but on reading up on it, and scanning through many images, it was obvious it was perfect for my story. This of course, was important because my story is not fantasy -- it takes place in the real world. The locations are all real, or based on historical reality.

    I'm still watching Kate Cavanaugh as she drinks copious amounts of coffee in her new house, and knocks out some of the million words she plans to write in the next year (I can't quite see the point in such an arbitrary target? but whatever floats your boat, I guess). Her dogs seems to lie down around her as she writes, as though the sound of her keyboard relaxes them and sends them to sleep.

    I have no dogs, and I don't write as often as she does but 8k words in a day is undoubtedly a record for me. Now I am aiming to finish before Christmas (no longer an impossibility), although the original target (see earlier in thread) was meant to be both books 2 & 3 done by then. I realise now that was absurd. Book 3 may get done by the middle of next year. By which time, I'll either be dead or extremely ill.

    Words: 25,236
    Tea: A lot of cups
    Hope: Returning, slowly.
     
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  7. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Quick update: Reached the 30k word milestone yesterday, amid some minor re-writes. Story now roughly 75% complete.
     
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  8. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    On Thursday evening at about 8pm, I finished my book. 41,700 approximate words and six chapters. First project to be completed in Scrivener. Some further, minor edits may still be needed, but for now I'm happy with it. I edit as I write but I've now read it through almost 100% and it looks good to me. It took me over four months in the end, which compares to barely three weeks for the first book of the trilogy (but I had written the first chapter some eight years earlier). I wrote every day for that first book but this was much more of a bind, and I wrote next to nothing for a whole month at one stage. There's no doubt the 24 hour writing marathon got me back on track and after that I was fully motivated to finish. I even managed 1500 words over Christmas when I was staying at my sister's house in Bradford (as part of a COVID-compliant bubble) which was my first time writing a serious project 'on the road'.

    I will now probably let it sit for a week or two before checking it over one last time and begin the process of publishing.

    I haven't even thought about the final part of the trilogy yet but I hope to start that within 2-3 months. In the meantime I have three short story ideas mapped out to lesser or greater degrees and will be working on them, as well as looking at sorting out a slightly edited version of the first part of the trilogy (running it through Scrivener).

    Working title of the second book is now 'Jack Spurling and the Quest for Greek Gold'

    With the planned title of book three being 'Jack Spurling and the Olympian Mystery'


    P.S. I did my purging of 'just' and removed 29 instances of it, leaving about 15 that I could JUST-ify!
     
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  9. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Big Update: I published both Book 1 (re-published in a smaller paperback format with some small edits to the text) and the new Book 2 over the last 24 hours. Just waiting for the paperback version of Book 2 (The Quest for Greek Gold) to pass Amazon's 'review' process (does anyone know exactly what that entails?) and all formats will be good to go. I had to put up the prices, at Amazon's insistence. £8 for the paperbacks and £3 for the Kindle e-books. Can I reach 10 sales this time? Watch this space....
     
  10. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Congratulations!

    Usually the review process is fairly short but can be 72 hours. I believe it's mostly your book being run through programs for quality and content checks and then pushed through for approval. The only time I had something not get approved is one I used a keyword that isn't accepted (like "free" or "kindle unlimited"). If that happens you figure out the issue, make the changes, and resubmit.
     
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  11. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Thanks. Seeing as the eBook has been accepted, there shouldn't be a problem with the paperback, as it is the same content and same keywords. I did wonder if there was any human intervention but it doesn't sound like it. Apparently there are close to 3k self-published books added to Amazon every day.
     
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  12. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    Paperbacks can be annoying if you've fudged the cover dimensions. If they think any of the images or lettering will be cutoff then they reject it.
     
  13. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Having published the books successfully, I've now set up a blog to share some of my other writing content. More stuff will be added in the coming weeks:

    https://writingfromholme.wordpress.com
     
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  14. Alastair Woodcock

    Alastair Woodcock Active Member

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    Update: No work yet on the third book of the trilogy but hoping to get going on it in the summer.

    In the meantime, I entered the first Jack Spurling book into The Times/ Chicken House children's fiction competition for this year. First time I've entered a writing competition so it will be interesting to see if I make the long list, at least, and if I get any feedback from the judges.
     
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