Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The 2007 Review & 2008 sneak peak preview!

# "What a year... for a new year,... we need it like we needed life,... I guess..." # - Dan Wilson

So, here we suddenly are in 2008… I remember writing my first “year in review” post last January like it was only yesterday, but as I’ve started to look back over the past 12 months, I’m quite amazed (but pleasantly surprised) at how much writing I’ve been able to cram into the year that was 2007…

I’ve had this online journal on the go since the tail end of May 2006 and it’s an interesting exercise for me in my eternal pursuit (and need) to witness my evolution as a writer to look back almost two years later and be able to see how I’ve approached my blog writing in both the initial year of its existence of 2006 and then during this past second year of 2007.




2007, then, was my first full year of blogging as a writer since since, as I’ve mentioned, I created the blog midway through 2006 (being only really three-quarters of a year for my writing being on the Net). In 2007 I matched the number of blog posts of the founding year (30 in total) with another 30, taking the grand total to date to 60 (61 with this new year post, of course!). I think 2008, however, will probably see me blogging less here with fewer journal posts but that’s only because I want to do less of the “Me, me, me!”-style news posts and insert more “features” on writing in general (but always still somehow making the relevant parallels to what I’m writing/doing) – all the while with the hope that they might prove useful to other first-time novelists too… But overall I intend 2008 to see the completion of my “Year of Fear” (a 12-month period beginning in May ’07 which saw me try to make real strides to getting published and chortle in the face of writer’s block and a ‘fear of the blank page’) of finishing the novel and so the all-important second draft of Moon Crater is going to be taking up a lot of my time and energy. So I envisage there’ll only be perhaps half my “annual average” of blog posts here during this new year, but I also do intend them to be particularly interesting and useful posts in the overall elusive “search for the Missing Reel”… (I’m aiming for quality rather than quantity here, you understand…)

Getting back to my review of 2007, though - it marked 12 months in my writing life that saw me beginning to become more focused here on the blog, (which reflected my main writing output during the year on my Moon Crater novel - something that was the whole point of setting up this journal in the first place; to act as a running commentary alongside my “creative writing”). This did mean, however, that I ended up writing less “feature” posts on the whole, and so in ’07 I ended up blogging more about the day-to-day job of writing more, which was a good record for me to look back on in years to come, but didn’t necessarily make for riveting reading for others out there, I’ll be the first to admit… (that said, I still think readers will find some tidbits of interest in amongst my ramblings of the past 12 months, thus my wanting to do this review of the year!)

So, hopefully you stuck with me along the way in 2007 as I began the year in January (after reviewing the previous year’s blogging efforts) with a my 2007 "Coming Soon" post previewing stories I wanted to write while talking about my love of teaser trailers for upcoming films. I really wanted to draw parallels with my own writing and the on-screen world of TV and film, not least because they are so closely tied with one another and the subject matter I want to write about, but also because in my day job I work in a TV environment as a Broadcast Subtitler (so in a sense I also like to ‘write about what I know’). With trailers in mind, then, I set up a list of stories for 2007 that would be launched across my story pages (see these categories further down in the right-hand sidebar on this blog) at various times during the year. Parodying film and TV style, I added taglines and preview sentences from each story in the space where each would eventually appear (all of which can still be seen at the bottom of every story, following my commentaries there). I think on the whole this “trailer tales” idea worked well – it gave me a framework in which to write some stories (and finish some already-started) which I’d wanted to get done for a long time, whilst also providing me with welcome relief when wanting something different to write than the main novel during the year. One particular “Coming Soon” preview I trailered back in January 2007 was for an intended “spin-off” set of stories from my novel, called “Moon Crater Adventures” – I created and laid out a teaser blog page for these during that month and promised more information would come to light on these as the year progressed, culminated in the debut of the first story by the year’s close (I also dubbed these my “Seal Your Own Fate” tales for old-fashioned adventurous page-turning fun…)

February arrived all too quickly for me in 2007, probably because the month saw me hitting the big 3-0. It wasn’t all bad though, because since it was such a milestone birthday, my wife and I decided to treat ourselves to a trip to the Giant’s Causeway in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s not only a magnificent prehistoric place to really make you reflect on your place in the universe, but from a writer’s point of view, it’s the kind of site which stirs the wells of the imagination at their very core... (so much so that I plan to travel to the west coast of Scotland soon to see the other side of the Causeway, at Fingal's Cave and get more ideas for future fiction… Also this month I created a brand new story page using a new "blog" to host it (adding to the growing number I already had - I really must add web design to my ‘To Do’ list next year!) - ”Teeny Tiny Tales” would showcase my occasional ‘Micro Fiction’ which I quite enjoy crafting from time-to-time, on the bus or train, or even just on short walks... From humble beginnings early in 2007, then, with just two stories, there's now a total of five mini epics on that ‘flash fiction’ page for you to read over a coffee break or whenever you get a spare five minutes...

In March I went timeline crazy and blogged about my obsessive compulsive fanatical tendencies when it comes to series of books or the TV variety. I began a much-needed update of my Adventure Stories page this month too, giving it a new lick of paint (blog template) which was more fitting its tone and also creating “story title cards” for the writing there, all to add to the fun and adventure to be had on that particular page. This month too also saw the launch of two of my “Coming Soon” stories, namely Meticulous Nicholas and Drone, Drone, Drone, as well as a new “Tiny Tale” in the form of The Subtle Vowel. Sadly, Twig (my original official website designer) also decided to depart his duties this month but not before he added a couple of new story page links to my main homepage. It was being faced with the reality that I’d have to be soon taking over the design of my official website that I began to learn more “html speak” in March, 2007, too – showing off a bit with posts on the blog by being able to "quick link” to things via words or phrases. Lastly, that month also saw the launch of my 2nd Moon Crater Fiction Decisions Poll... (now closed), and the results of that will appear on this blog journal in a few short weeks from now…

April was my spring clean month in which I created yet another brand new story page and it was “brand new” in all senses, because my "Indie fiction" page is intended as a place to put up any newly-created stories which I want to keep writing to make sure my striving with the main novel doesn’t stunt my growth as a writer from the perspective of exploring new styles and genres… Part of my motivation to begin afresh with April's advent was that I'd heard back from two writing opportunities that I'd applied for at the back end of 2006 and both were basically the dreaded "rejection letters", so from these I had the brainwave of finishing my first draft of the novel once and for all by the end of 2007 and announced on the blog here the "Big Moon Crater Write-Up" which would begin the very next month and would probably take me the best part of the following five months to complete. It was a great feeling to be taking some positive action in the wake of those negative replies I’d received and would prove to be the defining writing action I took of the whole of last year...

And so the five long months of May, June, July, August and September saw me go into ‘deep undercover mode’ and on the whole become basically "incommunicado" in terms of my writing output as I began to push to write the remaining two-thirds of Moon Crater. I set myself a strict regime to keep to - getting up an hour before work each day - which worked on the whole and kept me going. I did slip and meander at times but always the goal of getting that last chunk of the book finally written out kept me going and to this new writing routine. Each week during those five months, I made sure I diligently reported back at this online journal about my strivings, giving a sample sentence from my novel to serve as more “teaser trailers” but also (Warning: take a deep intake of breathe here for a long gasp of a list which follows...) blogging about such "relevant" subjects as a writer's space and desk, pens versus pencils, the notion of "teaching" creative writing, finding a writing voice as well as a public readings voice, chapter lengths, chapter titles and chapter endings or hooks, keeping a writing notebook, timeline/continuity confusions within novels, writer's block, denouments and story twists, the themes of "time" and "family" in my writing and also recording my writing onto tape to listen to how it flows from a different perspective! (Phew, take another breath and we’ll move on...)

Framing all of this during the five-month "Big Write-Up" was the slow release each week of Moon Crater "key words" with the early May launch of the official site's my official site's Puzzle Page. To begin with, 2, and then later, 3 words or phrases a week were given here on the blog which then had to be crossed off a word search grid over at my Puzzle Page. By the end there was a string of letters left over in the grid which gave you access to... Well, do you really think I’d solve the mystery for you? All of the key words are still there and the puzzle page is still active (as well as the “restricted access”/passworded page on my official homepage which the leftover words get you into) – so this also means that some very special secrets to my novel are still sitting there waiting to be discovered if you make the time to Zip over there and solve this particular puzzle…

Other than the writing of the first draft of the novel during those five months I still found time to do other writing bits and admin, such as overhauling the look of this blog journal, giving it the BETA Blogger template facelift that still adorns it today. I also created Facebook Group called "Moon Crater – the book what I wrote (or am writing)" to help spread the word of my novel and other writing, which is still going strong now with about 60 members (tiny in comparison to other groups, I know, but it’s slowly growing, which suits me just nicely – I’ve always been the tortoise in races anyway!). I added some of my own doodle-type sketches to my "Moon Crater Adventures” page while also putting out feelers to find a suitably-gifted artist to help illustrate these space stories once they got going. I even managed to get some new “reviews” of my writing from no less than the Academy of Children's Writers for my short kids story The Strange Story of Stephen Cecil Smith, as well as being contacted by a well-respected theatre in my hometown of Newcastle who wanted to interview me about my writing. Another of my “Coming Soon” stories was launched during the Big Write-Up too, namely, A Story From My Childhood, as well a new micro fiction story The Here & Now . All this, and I decided to extend the 2nd Fiction Decisions Poll until the very end of the year for maximum input from readers… All in all, then, looking back, those five-months of the Big Write-Up were really productive for me (I DID finish the first draft in its entirety, incidentally) but on the other hand, just reading back over what I achieved reminds me of just how exhausting (but rewarding) work writing can be...

One thing that also happened during May to September last year was that my official website was hacked by some anarchic fans calling themselves "the Time Warp Initiative" – I don’t want to give them more publicity than they deserve here (if you feel the need, you can read more in the link under their name) except that I’ve come to realise that they aren’t going to be leaving me alone any time soon, so I’ve reluctantly decided I have to learn to live with them for now and to that end I’ve actually decided that soon I'll be uploading their “exposè” video to my sidebar on this blog now, because I actually quite like how it adds to the mystery of my novel… (plus, there’s additional method to my madness as I may just make it tie in with the official “Hunt” for the Missing Reel which will properly kick off in July this year – read on below for more on that, though!)

Coming out of the deep concentration of the first draft write-up, in October I finally got round to writing up a report on my experience being interviewed by the Live Theatre audience participation page from back in mid-summer. It was my first glimpse at the “celebrity CGAllan” and although it was a great experience, I came to the conclusion that since I’m naturally more introverted and introspective, I’ve got a long way to go on working on my writer’s public reading voice…

With November and the dawning of the Autumn proper, I was gearing up for the looming launch of “Moon Crater Adventures” and blogged about my hopes and aspirations for the series as well as making the announcement that I’d tracked down the brilliant artist Rich Windass who is now on board for this journey into the stars and beyond, illustrating the Adventures as they play out (and from what I’ve seen so far of his sketches, my writing has a lot to live up to!)

December began for me with some sad news of the passing of a writer I knew from the time of doing my MA in Creative Writing, and who was pretty influencial in my early days of trying to be a professional writer. But I also made sure I ended the year on a happier note with the finishing off of my “Coming Soon” stories by posting possibly my favourite story to date, The Silhouettes & Winds of The Valley, and also finishing off the second in a planned trilogy of tales (or perhaps that should be “tails”!) with my feathered friends from under the Tyne Bridge, in Kyle’s Companion. In the same post, I also announced a brand new Teeny Tiny Tale called Restore The Story (an everlasting endeavour for struggling writers!) as well as a seasonal reminder (a sort of Christmas present, if you will) of a short but exclusive extract from my Moon Crater novel that had been posted up over at my Indie fiction page, halfway down the sidebar…

So there you have it… Apologies that this is turning out to be so long a post, but as I said 2007 was my first complete year blogging as well as me having a firm presence on the World Wide Web, so that perhaps goes some way to excuse my exhaustive round-up now… Overall, I think 2007 was a year where I really became a “blog-aholic” but also learned to control it at the same time. In 2008 I intend to use my addiction to its maximum advantage… Realistically I know it’s probably going to be “2009 or bust” for getting the book firmly on its way to getting published (I’m talking about agent and publisher acceptance here, AFTER the second draft (and third and fourth?!) gets done!) – pretty bold plans I know, but 2009 will be the 10-year anniversary of me first getting the idea for the story of Moon Crater, so it seems like a fitting target to aim for now…

But what of the immediate coming year? Well, on the whole, it’s to be a focus and consolidation year for my writing – I’ll be concentrating on sprucing up my various story pages, since recently a couple of friends have commented to me, quite independently that, “You’ve got loads (of writing) on there, Chris!” and “Just how many websites have you got?!” My story pages (other blogs) are intended as extensions of my official site (and indeed, all are to be linked to from the objects on there eventually) but going into this new year without an “official website designer” I’ve realised that I need to take some time to uniform those pages a bit and make them more recognisable somehow as sub-pages of my main site.

And speaking of “findthemissingreel.com”, I have grand plans for it in 2008… I WILL finally find the missing Contacts Page which I’ve been promising to launch since the end of 2006 and there’ll be a couple of other surprise pages cropping up during the course of the year to take away from the now seemingly ‘infamous’ and mysterious “Secret 7” objects (see down the right-hand sidebar of the main page of those hazardous hackers for more on this) that to date remain “unlocked”… I mentioned above that the hackers’ video of my writing study had grown on me because of the official “hunt for the Missing Reel” which I want to launch later this year – I touched on this during my Big Write-Up of 2007 but the basic idea is that midway through this year, I’ll be setting off a series of puzzles, clues and a trail for readers to follow on my official website which will lead you on a search for the REAL title of my novel (“Moon Crater” is only a ‘cover’ name for the book and always has been) – I’m really excited about the prospect of setting this hunt up, so hopefully, you’ll be intrigued enough to join in the search, come the summer…

What else, though, for 2008? Well, I want to try to get more of my stories published online and in print and have already written two new stories this month and sent them off (more news on these as I receive it myself) and I’m also going to be on a personal quest to gain insight from professional writers. Back at the end of 2006, the celebrated writer GPTaylor replied to a speculative email I sent to him and said that he’d be willing to talk to me over the phone to offer advice and I’ve not taken him up on the offer yet, so that will be a start. I’ve also got the all-important second draft of my novel to work on and recently, bumping into the course leader from my MA course and her telling me, "Don't send your novel off until it's as good as it can be" really hit home and I don’t want to ‘jump the gun’ so to speak and ruin the impact I think my story could have by rushing to get it seen by potential agents.

I’m currently doing a Proofreading & Editing Skills Course for my day job as a Subtitler, but I also see it as important for my professional development as a writer - so in an effort to spur myself on and similar to Big Write-Up news updates, at the end of each post in 2008 I intend to add a small “Reading is Proof Enough…” part of the post where I recount my efforts for the month on the proofreading course…

I’d like to start “podcasting” in 2008, too, and have even asked for a digital voice recorder for my birthday. This will hopefully help me in my quest to become a better public speaker as well as giving further insights into the crazy workings of my brain as I may even do some of them unscripted…

In the "grand tradition" I began with 2007's "teaser trailers" post, there’ll be a second round of "Coming Soon" stories this year too, but to keep things different, I'll tell you more about them in the mid-months of the year - for now, though, here are some titles of current new stories I'm working on to whet the appetite and spur the imagination on:

Do hamster Scream With Eclectic Shrieks?, The Archenemy, The Ship At The Bottom Of Our Street, Heaven On Earth, Jacob The Library Cat, Invasion of the Government Inspectors and Broadsword Calling Danny Boy…

As a side note to these titles, when I first began to write creatively around ten years ago, I kept a notebook with a page at the back holding a list of “Titles without content”, I loved creating titles for stories that hadn’t been written yet because they inspired me to come back to them and a few simple words can sometimes conjure up an entire story, endlessly playing out in your mind… Those 2008 “Coming Soon” stories, then, are “titles without content” too – I may not have written them out yet, but all are in my head, fully-formed, just waiting to be committed to paper…

Last year at this time too I ended my "year review" post with a preview for “Moon Crater Adventures”, which in 2008 with any luck will be taking off at light speed, but mirroring that preview of things to come, I’ll end this post with the news of (possibly) my last ever (yeah, right!) story page… - “Flip Sides & Rarities” is a ‘secret’ page to hold my long-forgotten stories as I go on an expedition into my loft and cupboards in search of the pages of old manuscripts from up to a decade ago that I’ve lost or just plain mislaid. It’s going to be an “anniversary” year in more ways than one in 2008 for me and my writing, so perhaps I’ll even take my digital recorder with me as I search for these mythical pieces of writing and set up a podcast about it all… But for now, add this link to your bookmarks and favourites and I’ll let you know when the first piece of my “Forgotten Fiction” appears:





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"The Proof Is In The Reading... (or so they might say...)"
I'm currently undertaking a Proofreading & Editing Skills Course and each time I post on my journal blog here in 2008 as a way of motivating myself to keep going with it (and because it's quite relevant to my writing, really) I'll provide a small update on how it's going...

January's update:
For now, I’ve just dusted off the booklets and work books (I've had them for a while!) and begun reading them through to familiarise myself with the course as a whole... More next month on my progress as I undertake the first of the "test-yourself" exercises...

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