Books, Critical analysis and reviews

Read: “Black Sunday” by Thomas Harris

Black Sunday by Thomas Harris is a thriller set in the 1970s following a terrorist group and their new American ally in the plotting and execution of a terrorist attack in New Orleans. The novel is Thomas Harris’s first novel.

How I got on

I’ve had Black Sunday kicking about for a while after starting a Thomas Harris kick at the end of 2020 and start of 2021, because of landing in Hannibal fandom. Having read all of Harris’s Hannibal novels, I wanted to see what this early work was like. (His latest novel, Cari Mora is also on my to-read pile.)

You can certainly see in Black Sunday the origins for Harris’s writing style where the plot speeds along as tidbits of characterisation are brought to life in the present or in harrowing flashbacks. And certainly his habit of not necessarily writing characters you should or would want to identify with.

When I found time to read this novel, I would devour chapters quite easily. It certainly works as a thriller, though sometimes I got tired running around in circles over Michael Lander’s misery and psychological disorders. Certainly, Harris does not shy away from the effects a character’s pasts will have on their present.

No one is well adjusted.

Would I recommend it?

If you’re unfamiliar with Middle Eastern politics at the time of the novel’s setting or indeed with them at all, much of the novel will make little to any sense. I’m the kind of person who’s read a lot on the historical situations there and the present issues, and seen and read a lot of news reports over the past 25 years as well as watching series like Homeland.

Should you know a lot about the above then you’re going to get along fine with the story’s main driving forces and plot.

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

Do not read this thriller if you’re expecting a happy ending.

Will I be keeping Black Sunday on my book shelf?

Seeing as how I now seem to be collecting Thomas Harris novels, I will be keeping Black Sunday on my shelf. If I wasn’t collecting them, I probably wouldn’t.

Final rating for Black Sunday

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’m giving Black Sunday 3.5 stars. It’s a little dated and creaky at times but still worth reading at least once.

(For the ins and outs of the To-read pile challenge check out the challenge and rules page.)

Standard
Creative analysis, Writing

I am a NaNoWriMo “winner”

National Novel Writing Month Winner 2021 banner.

Rather than leave it more than a year (like I did in my last post where I talked about National Novel Writing Month) I decided to update this side of New Year. So, yes I met the 50,000 words goal for NaNoWriMo for my novel Sunder (working title). And there was a joyous outcome from this year’s NaNoWriMo experience, considering my previous attempts:

I don’t hate what I’ve written and want to finish the story and redraft it!

Seriously, after writing over 150,000 words across three different NaNoWriMo years, it’s nice to finally have something I want to go back to and finish.

Next steps

I haven’t done much work on the story since November finished, but I am still jotting down ideas on what to do to keep the base story moving.

I think having a reasonably detailed (by my standards) outline has really helped. It’s taken me a while to find a tool I like for that kind of thing and I’d say that Scapple from Literature & Latte is my go to at the moment. I’ll make some notes in something like Evernote or in a physical notebook, especially world building stuff, but getting those plot points down is definitely something I like doing with a visual tool.

So, I’m probably going to start looking at the story again with a view to finish it in the New Year (I’m crafting a lot for the holidays, making gifts for loved ones, so writing has slowed down for the moment).

Once the draft is complete, I’ll be printing the lot off and editing sections by hand, taking myself away from my PC initially. Why? I found the process worked real well for me when I wrote and redrafted a feature film script for my final Masters project at uni.

Am I going to seek out an agent and/or publisher?

I think it depends on how I feel after redrafting the story.

It needs finishing, additions, redrafting and editing, and I know that very well. I’m definitely not feeling precious about what I’ve written so far but I know I need a full draft before I do any redrafting or refining. At some point, I should also probably see about trying to get it proofread too.

And there will be a point where that full draft is in a state I could try shopping around.

I’m not actually keen on self-publishing as a default, but I know that option is there for me if I don’t get anywhere with more traditional routes.

Additional next step…

I also need to properly go through my winners’ goodies from NaNoWriMo. I think I’ll be treating myself to the newer version of Scrivener with the voucher code that’s been provided. I’m still on a really old version of the software and was kinda waiting to see if I could succeed at NaNo before paying out for an upgrade as I suspected there would be a money-off code in the goodies 😅

I have actually got a copy of Scrivener 3 that I’ve been using for occasional bits of content at work. Mainly bigger pieces and script work (I actually used the comic script template on it the other week and was happy with how it auto-formatted the short comic script I wrote for a 4-panel comic strip). But it’s a work bought piece of software and not my own.

Anyway, I need to make sure I back up projects and settings. Apparently you can have both versions installed at the same time, so I will be taking advantage of that as I move from old to new.

Until next time

I haven’t made much headway on my reading list since my last post. But I’ve got over two weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, and I’m almost done with making gifts. So, I’m probably going to be reading, gaming and knitting something for myself while I chill out over my break.

Speaking of knitting, I tend to binge watch shows when I knit and I think I am probably going to need to talk about Prodigal Son here and on Nerds Assemble soon. I watched the whole show this past week.

Standard
Books, Critical analysis and reviews, Writing

It’s been a while: NaNoWriMo 2021 and tackling my “to-read pile”…

Feck, it’s been a year since I last updated the blog. So, here’s what happened with my NaNoWriMo 2020 novel, what I’m up to for NaNo this month, plus a new challenge I’m setting for myself. Here we go…

I hated that story

I hated what I wrote and never went back to the story after I passed 50,000 words and “won” National Novel Writing Month 2020.

BUT wait!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year and I’m not hating it this time round.

I’m just over 37,000 words in as of today and happy so far with the draft. Now, I might have seemed positive last year, but here’s the thing: last year’s story wasn’t dear to my heart.

Sunder is an idea I’ve been working on in terms of world building and planning since around 2018, maybe even earlier. I chose this year’s NaNoWriMo to give me the space and motivation to finally make a start on it. I can say even now that once I pass 50,000 words I will still have a ways to go, and that’s fine.

It will need editing but I’m enjoying this story and am positive that for me this will be the first NaNo story of mine I love. (My previous-previous win was in 2013 and again I hated what I wrote, but again it wasn’t a story close to my heart (or imagination) so here’s to hoping third time’s the charm.)

Anyway, all this talk of writing takes me to my next point…

112 books (and counting)

In October this year, my partner and I had a big sort out in our house over the course of a week. There were twelve trips to our local household waste and recycling centre and several more to a local charity shop.

During all this, I checked through my physical book collection and gave a bunch away to charity (though not as many as I did back in the start of 2019).

Anyway, this evening I was itching to fully catalogue the number of physical and digital books that are on my “to read pile”.

And it’s a lot, a 112 books a lot and those are the ones I can find.

Which means I think it’s only fair that I set myself a reading challenge that goes beyond something like whatever you find on Goodreads.

My to-read pile challenge

The challenge is simple, but I’m setting up some parameters that go a bit beyond “read the damn books”:

  1. I may only read books for fun that can be found on my to-read list or my currently reading list, the exception is re-reading previous books in a series in order to understand WTF is going on.
  2. I’m still allowed to take out and read books physically or digitally from my local library.
  3. I may not buy any new physical or digital books until I at least reach 50 books or fewer on the list.
  4. However, I am allowed to be gifted books or win them through competitions but these must go on my to-read list.
  5. I am allowed to give up reading a book if it’s not managed to hold my interest after I’ve attempted to read at least a third of it.
  6. I’m still allowed to read fanfic (though I will be reading with the knowledge that I have over 100 published books I could be reading).
  7. If I don’t want to keep a book after reading it, I should donate it to someone or a charity shop.
  8. I should write about the book on here once I’ve read it, and say how I got on, would I recommend it, and so on (post format yet to be decided).
  9. None of the above applies to books relevant to my role as a senior writer and editor that I need to read to help me stay skilled up for my job.
  10. All of the above is subject to change if I find this to be a completely terrible experience.

But let’s hope number 10 doesn’t come to be.

I’m using The StoryGraph to track my progress

Yeah, I’ve been using Goodreads for a hella long time but you know what? Amazon doesn’t deserve any more involvement in my challenge here than the few titles I’ll be reading via my Kindle.

So, I’m going with The StoryGraph to keep an eye on things. Two of the key reasons for this choice (other than feck Amazon) is that it’s “independent and black owned”.

If you want to add me on there: I’m emkingma.

I’ve also taken my annual reading goal over to The StoryGraph, and I’m hoping by tackling some of my currently reading, I can reach 10/10 for 2021. Currently, I’m at 8/10.

Should I actually find myself really liking The StoryGraph, I’m hoping to take advantage of their plus plan.

It’s late

I have been wanting to write the challenge part of this update for a while, and with no Nerds Assemble recording this week and cataloguing my books instead, I decided tonight was the night to brain dump this and run.

G’night and thanks for reading.

Standard
Writing

Resisting the urge to go back

Working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month, I am constantly resisting the urge to go back and start rewriting. That’s not the point of NaNoWriMo at this point, or any point in writing when you’re creating the first draft.

And so, even though I know that what I’ve written needs a lot of work, I am pressing forwards nearly every day and getting my words in.

I think knowing how much reworking is needed is in part due to limited outlining before I started to write this story. For much of it, I have been feeling my way through it while writing, discovering scenarios as I write and then going with them.

I’m still closer to completing NaNoWriMo than I have been in previous years, and by a significant amount.

Should I have outlined more?

Perhaps? There’s certainly an ease to be found when you know precisely what it is that you’re intending to write. And it would make editing take less time in some ways.

At the same time, I’m coming up with ideas as I write that I wouldn’t have been considering them so deeply during outlining. The biggest thing I will have to watch out for is consistency for character names and places, and beats when I do edit.

Just over a week to go

I am pretty confident I will hit 50,000 words by the end of 30 November, but I don’t think I’ll have a complete story. I think I’ll likely have about another 15,000 words for the story to come to some kind of narrative conclusion before spending time rewriting and editing.

At least one advantage I’ve found of writing in Scrivener (even if it’s the older version) is that it has encouraged me to not get hung up on writing things chronologically. If I need to go back and add something, then I can, and slot it in where it needs to go.

Or in the case of the one bit that’s sitting outside parts I and II on the manuscript container, just leave it there until I can figure out where the hell it’s going to sit.

Either way, the ability to move around without having to worry about where things completely fit, and being able to drag and drop scenes, has made writing a lot more enjoyable than it would have been if I’d been using Microsoft Word or LibreOffice.

First day I didn’t do any writing (yeah, I’m blaming Supernatural)

Despite all my progress, there was one day I didn’t write this week: Thursday.

The build up to the Supernatural finale was just so intense that I couldn’t get in the right head space to write, which, more fool me, because I then spent Friday trying to get into the right head space to write. The entire Supernatural fandom has obsessed over the finale in a multitude of ways since Thursday, and it has been very distracting as I try to consider what the hell happened in it.

I think the answer here is to almost completely cut yourself off from fandom or pop culture Twitter during NaNoWriMo if a big fandom event is going on. Or, y’know, not invest a significant chunk of your life in a TV show.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Either way, there’s this hole in my writing for the whole thing and I won’t be getting these writing streak achievements:

The hole in my writing progress:

Currently, we’re planning on talking about the finale over on Nerds Assemble Podcast next week.

Anyway, until next time.

Standard
Writing

First 10,000 words written

I’m currently taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)…

Like the title of this post says, I’ve made it to to 10,000 words, in fact 10,132 words, which means I’m slightly over the goal expected for today.

As you might see from the stats below, there have been several days this week where I haven’t been able to make the expected count, but today I was able to catch up.At the very least over this weekend, I plan to meet the minimum word counts for each day. But I am hoping that I keep my energy up enough to go past it and build up a buffer.

Since I last posted a blog post about my story, I’ve changed the novel from first to third person, decided to write some of it from a second character’s POV and further refined the overall plot. So, I have a better idea of the raw materials I’m working with, though not necessarily what’s happening scene by scene.

Why change from first to third person?

There was just something not sitting right with me after the first 1900 or so words. Rather than delete what I’d written or waste time converting it (not the point of NaNoWriMo, where you’re just meant to write and leave editing to after), I decided to move on and change perspective while continuing the overall story.

I also did a small poll on Twitter and this is what I found: 

People prefer their horror in the third person. Aside from a few books I’ve gotten in the Abominable Book Club, most horror I’ve read over the years has been third of some degree. The same goes for most fiction and fanfic.

And as noted when I was talking this over with a few people on Twitter, while most romance and erotica these days is written in first person, I certainly can’t stand reading it from that POV. The few horror novels I have, also make it difficult.

The Dresden Files, which is essentially urban fantasy, does manage a reasonable first person perspective, but I still struggle to read those novels.

So, third it is with some second person working its way in here and there. Mainly because I don’t want you to trust the narrator.

Goals for the weekend?

By the end of Sunday, the aim is to 13,336 words written to keep on top of progress for reaching 50,000 by the end of November. The 2013 edition of NaNoWriMo was the last time I made it to 50,000 words in a month.

Perhaps the main threat to my productivity is having succumbed and downloaded TikTok, and made an account for it (after checking over its device permissions). And all I’ve done so far is make a TikTok about trying to make my writing goal for today:

See TikTok @emkingma

All it’s doing so far is making me feel nostalgic for Vine. Like, big time. The emphasis on big sound and music on TikTok is kinda off-putting as someone with sensory issues.

Anyway, good luck to all word hunting this month. May your muse be with you.

Standard