Diary Challenge Update

Big news, loyal followers: the diary is finished! I repeat, the diary is finished. 366 pages (January 1st appeared twice) of hand-written, totally random stuff. And it only took four years. Yippee! If you have no idea what I’m talking about it all started way back here.


The Diary – no, I didn’t take a new photo

It would be difficult for me to give a break down of exactly what is in the damn thing. At least 1 complete script, 50,000 words of a novel, and many many many short stories, flash fiction, ideas, characters, bits of novels, plots and poems. There are zombies, pirates, aliens, apocalypses, angels and demons, bond villains, parallel universes and a lot of weird Christmas stories. Sounds like the best book ever, right? Well it wasn’t all fun. There’s at least one page describing my fishtank, some shockingly bad poetry, and some filler days that are just my RPG characters having arguments with each other, just to mention a few of the pages I’m less proud of. But it’s done.

Now I have completed the diary challenge (a tiny bit later than intended), I want others to be able to do it too! The whole point was to write something every day and have enough prompts to get me through the year. My next job is to compile these into one handy document so anyone can do the diary challenge. In time for New Year, you say? Yes indeed! And I will put in proper prompts that anyone can do in place of the few weeks where everything was themed around my psychology revision topics. So get your page-a-day diary ready and you too could have a weird, wonderful, and occasionally cringeworthy, book like mine in just 12 months :).

But what’s next for me? Well I’ve got a lot of raw material to work through now. Who knows how many books and stories I can dig out of those pages. But I’ve also gotten pretty good and writing shorts and I don’t want to get out of the habit, so introducing…


my new book! This time there is no special challenge or set rules. It’s just a blank notebook. Well, it’s not blank anymore because I already wrote a story in it, and I will write many more. If the diary challenge has taught me anything it’s how to get over that fear of the blank page. There was a time I wouldn’t start writing down story until it was fully formed in my head. And by then I was so committed to it I was terrified of writing it wrong, so often it still got left unwritten. In my head a blank page had the potential to be perfect, and I couldn’t sully it without being sure that it would be. Now I’m free of that crazy notion. If I have an idea I just write it and see how it turns out. If it turns out wrong it’s no big deal, I can write it again, and again, until I get something I like. There’s always another blank page. The point is to not be afraid of starting anymore. It was a lesson worth learning the very very long way.

Maybe I’ll do another diary challenge one year. Maybe even next year, it depends what Santa brings me ;). But for now I’ve got a notebook to fill, two novels to edit and an MSc to do. Whatever happens in 2015, I’m not going to be bored! And I am going to be writing.

Diary Challenge: Pirate week

It’s post-NaNoWriMo and I’m trying to keep up the spirit of the Early Birds’ club by logging into the chat room every morning 6am to 7am and spending an hour writing. OK, so far my hour has been cut down to 20/30 minutes mostly as Ben has got wise to the fact I’m up. But I have been writing, and there are usually snippets of time to be stolen in the car or before work so I’ve done quite well.

This week I have completed Pirate week of the diary challenge*. Monday-Wednesday involved creating a pirate character and writing a couple of scenes for them. I created cyborg space pirate Captain Gemma Steel, deposed princess who now leads a ruthless crew and steals from the corporation that took over her home world. Sounds a bit outlandish, I know, but the setting might be interesting and I’m hoping Markie can be persuaded to develop the universe with me and co-write some space adventures :).

Free-writing saw a band of scientists on voyage across the Arctic Sea to investigate the rising of the threat that destroyed Atlantis.

‘The Hostage’ turned out not to be as helpless as his captor thought, and our genre bender mixed pirates with Lovecraftian horror and unleashed unspeakable tentacle death on the scurrilous toe-rags. Arrrh.

Not bad for four days’ work. This morning I had run out of Pirate week so I let Timmy, the NaNoWriMo chatbot, set me a flash fiction challenge. I didn’t think I could manage his first suggestion in the space of a page:

* Timmy challenges Starkitten: Find a way to kill your MC and bring them back.

And I didn’t think his second suggestion was very exciting:

* Timmy challenges Starkitten: Have someone exclaim, “Small children should not dart out from behind corners!”

His third suggestion was ok:

* Timmy challenges Starkitten: Have an inanimate object provide the wise counsel for the MC, similar to Brian’s level head in Family Guy.

So I used all three. Now I have a very strange flash fic about a recently departed woman discussing her right to appeal against her unfair death (after swerving to avoid darting corner child, of course) with a potted geranium who specialises in afterlife law for some reason.

Maybe I shouldn’t listen to Timmy any more…

But #amwriting so I shouldn’t complain. I wonder what I’ll write tomorrow.

*No one noticed that Pirate week was supposed to be done in September**, right?

** *cough*September 2011*cough*

NaNoWriMo 2014

NaNoWriMo winner banner

I’ve been pretty quiet on my blog about National Novel Writing Month this year. This wasn’t by design. I’ve just been very busy. When I went into the challenge I wasn’t feeling confident about ‘winning’. I’ve only lost NaNo once, in 2006. What went wrong in 2006, you may well ask. University went wrong. As an Open University student, most of the time I had the wonderful good fortune of an academic year that started in January and finished in October, just in time to completely devote myself to NaNoWriMo. Except for 2006, when the course started in October instead. That year I wrote only 5,000 words.

So let’ s just say I didn’t have very high expectations going into this year. Not only was I only 1 month into a Masters degree, I have the added distraction of two children who weren’t around in 2006, and still work 4 days a week. I planned to fail. I decided that rather than end up with 5000 words of a beginning to abandon I might as well add to one that I still needed to finish. That way even if I only wrote a tiny bit it would at least be a little bit I needed.

At first things did not go well. For the first couple of days getting back into the swing of continuing a story I started six years ago was hard going. Even after spending a couple of months rereading and plotting I didn’t feel very well acquainted with my book. I think my book and I sat together in awkward silence for the first hour of November while I tried to come up with valid reasons to ditch it and wing it on a new one instead. Fortunately the only reason I could come up with was ‘finishing my old book is too hard and I don’t wanna write it’. So since that was a stupid reason, I persevered. I wrote 50,000 words. I finished my book.

So how on Earth did I manage it, with two kids and a job and university, when I failed so badly the last time? I think there are two main factors:

1) Mark
Having a supportive spouse was key! Mark always does NaNoWriMo with me, but after realising he just wasn’t going to be able to make 50,000 words himself this month he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I had enough time to do it. Thank you, Markie! I would not have finished the first draft of my book this month without you.

2) Experience
2006 was my 2nd NaNoWriMo attempt. I won the first year, with a story I had planned quite well in advance. I had successfully completed one other novel prior to that and it took me about 7 years to finish that one. I was inexperienced.
This year marked my 10th anniversary of taking part in NaNoWriMo. I’ve also spent much more time outside NaNo editing, done Script Frenzy a couple of times, and done my daily writing challenge. I’ve developed good writing habits in that time, and I think it’s likely that my typing speed has improved. I have got better at doing NaNo :).

What have I learned this year? I’ve learned that if I get up at 6am I can fit a lot of writing in before breakfast, and that’s something I’m going to try and do for the rest of the year as I go through the editing process with this book. I also learned that I can do this with University. I can make a little time for writing every day. And next year I can work on something new because I don’t have to plan to fail next time. I can plan to win 🙂

The Captain’s Blog: Episode 4

It’s Friday! And that means it’s new episode day. No one noticed that we missed a week, right? Good, moving on…

This week it’s Episode 4, and things are getting weirder on board The Chimera as Tori and Jared find that Jared’s missing ship isn’t the strangest mystery facing them. As usual it’s nice and short – intended to be approx. 5 minutes running time if it were a real webisode.

Episode 4: Cargo

Next time it’s Episode 5. Bet you can’t wait ;).


The Captain’s Blog: Episode 3

Sorry, slightly late, but here is Episode 3. It occurs to me that I don’t have any copyright info on this website for my writing. I should really put something official sounding together, maybe use on of those nice tabs at the top of the page. But for now, here’s the gist: don’t steal my stuff, and if you want to share my stuff give me credit for it 😛

Episode 3: Roomies

Episode 4 ‘Cargo’ is due on Friday, but you all know what I’m like by now.


2014 Challenge – March: The Captain’s Blog

Sorry this is late! It was ready on Friday but we had an emergency sci-fi convention* in Pwllheli, the land of no internet or 3G signal.

There are a couple blog posts from the original diary challenge that led up to this. It started off in challenge w/c 21st March, which was one of four brain storming weeks I had to prepare for Script Frenzy that year. I toyed around with four different ideas but this was by far my favourite and was of course the one I wrote in April. The following week I posted the premise I came up with. And now, I give you episode 1.
A few notes. This is written as a working script (mostly), meaning it includes camera directions. In real life the director would decide on those so they wouldn’t be on a normal script, but since no one is filming this I thought it was nice to put them in to help visualise the shots. If you are not familiar with scripts then apologies if it is tricky to read. If you are familiar with scripts then apologies for the horrid formatting mistakes I have probably made! On the plus side each episode is very short and should only take a couple of minutes to read :). Hope you like it!

The Captain’s Blog – Episode 1: Alone

Coming soon…Episode 2: The Visitor


*Our attending was an emergency, the sci-fi convention was planned over a year before hand :P.

Camp NaNoWriMo


Yup, signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo! Before anyone says I’m crazy, let me assure you I have not signed up for another 50,000 word monster first draft to lie unfinished and unedited on the hard drive for years. I have signed up to complete another 30,000 words of ‘Homunculus’, my 2012 NaNo tale of androids and psions in the far-future encompassing large amounts of material from the DD303 course books (it was my final year of uni, my head was kind of in that zone). I’m hoping that this will take me to ‘the end’ and I can move it to the edit pile. Since I’m going to be concentrating on that for the next month I had hoped to get two short stories finished this month for my other challenge. I typed up two different stories from The Diary and spent a lot of time thinking before finally admitting that neither of them where right. These were the original challenges:
Point of View Character Tag: http://www.leighkeating.me/?p=56
1 scene written from 2 different PoVs: http://www.leighkeating.me/?p=68

They were both fun writing challenges, and I invite anyone to have a go at them for themselves :). But in the end I just had scenes, not a complete story, and I’d be happy to share them but it’s more of a writing group thing (any of the Lancs & Cumbria Wrimos fancy taking on the challenge?). So, I’m giving you something else over the next couple of months. Probably my favourite piece from the whole of the diary challenge – my 2011 script frenzy script ‘The Captain’s Blog’. This was planned to be a ten-episode web series, so super short episodes of about 5 minutes each. It was also the last Script Frenzy, so a fitting thing to share in April when the challenge used to run :(. I could just publish an episode a month and get to the end of the year very easily, but that seems like a bit of a cheat, so this month I will give you episode 1 and I’ll try and update once a week. That should get me through to the end of May and give me enough time to finish my novel before starting another short story editing job. So check in on Friday for Episode 1: Alone.

Right, where was I up to in that novel now…

Big Bang Theory [Rant]

I saw yesterday that The Big Bang Theory has been given another 3 seasons. Since I have watched this show almost religiously since episode 1 I was a bit surprised that first reaction to this news was disappointment. To be honest I’ve not been enjoying the show as much lately and it is mostly due to the portrayal of the characters, especially (but not limited to) the women on the show.

Let’s start with the girls. It’s a show about archetypes so we shall forgive them bubbly blonde party girl Penny, but TBBT has really missed an opportunity to represent geeky girls and women in the show. I had high hopes when they introduced some intellectual female characters as show regulars with Bernadette and Amy, but at every turn the show enforces the stereotype that girls don’t like sci-fi, or play D&D, or read comic books. Well let me tell you that I am a girl and I love sci-fi, and I play D&D, and I read comic books, and not only that, SO DOES MY MUM! But no, in the world of TBBT girls from all walks of life prefer girlie things like shoe shopping and make-overs and only boys are allowed to geek out over steam trains. The closest the show has come to having a female character who is equivalent to the boys was Lesley Winkle, who seemed to vanish quite early. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a women in the show who’s part of the inner geek group rather than just a love interest for one of the blokes. So I would like to ask TBBT writers to think carefully about what they want to do with those three years they’ve been given, and maybe take a page out of Joss Whedon’s book and give us a variety of believable girl geeks. I do like Amy and Bernadette, but the constant separation of Penny’s girls and Leonard’s boys when it comes to leisure activities is more like a Victorian dinner party than a group of friends in modern day LA.

But it’s not just the female characters that get a tough time from the writers. Let’s take Stuart. Poor Stuart, initially presented to us as a credible rival for Penny’s affection with his own comic book business, shy charm, and wonderful artistic talent. Now his character has been completely rewritten to make him a pitiful joke. The fact that his business is struggling and he has to rely on welfare to survive and is clearly suffering from depression is supposed to be funny? Yes, mental health conditions are hilarious. Please use your three seasons to give Stuart a break, the poor guy deserves it.

I could go on. Poor old Raj probably deserves a place in this rant, but it’s getting a bit long now so I’ll leave it there. Just to be clear, I know I do not have to watch this show, but I am invested in the characters and I’d like to know what happens. The fact that the stereotypes have got worse and the jokes become crueler as the seasons have gone on is what disappoints me. 3 season renewal just sends a message to the show’s makers that this is something they are doing right and it’s what people like, so they’ll probably just do it more. But we girl geeks watch the show because we like the geek culture, and we like Star Wars jokes, and we’re just as gutted as Sheldon that Firefly got cancelled. It would be nice if we could be represented, or at least acknowledged, in the next three seasons.

2014 Challenge – February: Animal Rights

Sorry it’s a day late, but here is my February short story. This was done for the animal themed week of the diary challenge. The prompt was from Saturday 14th May “Flash Fiction: Write a short story which features an animal as one of the main characters.”

This piece was inspired by various ‘talking animal’ films/cartoons, particularly Nickelodeon’s Barnyard. FYI, the movie was not great, but the spin-off series had a certain surreal charm that I found appealing :).

Thanks once again to beta reader/editor/test subject Markie, and here is the story: Animal Rights