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First Potatoes from the Allotment

Image courtesy of Simon Howden

Mr Aberforth pulled the potato from the ground and brushed off the dirt. He threw it into the bucket with the others, but, as it flew through the air, something about it caught his eye.

A strange surge of excitement set his stomach fluttering. He wiped his palms on his jeans and carefully recovered the spud. He turned it over, gingerly.

The way it tapered to a point, like a chin. Eyes which suggested, well, eyes. And, that darker blemish, there, like a mouth. But, most distinctive, the way that top bit stuck up, with a suggestion of a curl.

The face of Elvis Presley stared out at Mr Aberforth from the potato.

He cradled it to him and glanced furtively around the allotment to see if anyone had noticed. Everyone was busy with their own veg. He quickly bundled his tools into his tiny shed and wrapped the celebrity vegetable in a plastic bag.

There wasn’t a moment to lose. He had to show the world!

Mr Aberforth’s Elvis potato makes a guest appearance in the novel I am currently working on, called “Mime”. I felt the moment of discovery deserved it’s own story.

Have you ever found a vegetable that looked like something else?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2015 official posterIt’s two thirds of the way through April and Camp NaNoWriMo and I’m slightly behind on my targets. Although I’m not technically behind on average, I have less time to write over the next week and a half, so hitting my 60,000 word goal is going to be a stretch. Nevertheless I shall give it my best shot.

The re-write of my novel Mime is progressing well. I have a clear list of the missing material that I’ve made good progress checking off. I did however want to be further ahead with re-writing scenes which need major changes by this stage.

My additional challenges of 30 pieces of micro-fiction and 3 short stories have received less attention. I’ve had less time to write than I’d hoped this month and my priority has always been the novel edits.

I’ve got a much better idea of my concentration levels and the amount I can get done in any one sitting. Going forward I think a more modest 30,000 target for each month will be very achievable and give me something to aim for outside of NaNoWriMo.

Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo? How are you doing? Do you think you’ll reach your goal? What have you learned during the process?

The food was at the back of a small, white box. Mushkin put her foot on the smooth surface and tested it. Nothing bad happened. She sniffed and felt with her whiskers. Strange smells mixed with the tempting aroma of wheat but none that she recognised as dangerous.

She stretched her little body forward and stuck her head and paws into the box. Then she crawled in completely.

The floor rocked and something clicked. She turned around quickly but the way she had come was now blocked. For a moment, she panicked and threw her tiny form against her close prison but succeeded only in moving it across the floor and not herself out of it.

Then she calmed down and ate the morsel of cracker she’d been after in the first place. She understood that she was trapped and that was bad but no part of her could think her way out. When it started to get light, she slept.

Field Mouse

© Copyright Zorba the Geek and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0

We caught a mouse in our kitchen last night. We’ve named it Mushkin. I don’t know if it is male or female but we’ll call her she for the time being. She’s actually not a house mouse but a field mouse like the one above.

We think she found her way in through the walls and came in to escape the bad weather we had last week. There might be more of them so we will leave some food out tonight and see if it goes. If there are more I’d rather catch them all and release them all together.

Muskin is currently in a plastic box with some bedding, water and food. She seems pretty chilled out about it all.

Tomorrow I start the mammoth task of turning my 70,000 word manuscript into a finished novel. I may not finish in the month of April, but I plan to put a shed load of work in. 60hrs or more.

I had a little personal celebration moment today and indulged my stationery addiction. Look, new binders! One of which I actually needed! The other two I bought because there was a 3 for 2 offer… not sure what I’ll do with them yet.


Part of the reason I wanted to celebrate was because today I decided to build a field trip into my Camp NaNoWriMo month. I’m going to Oxford, one of the main settings for my novel, Mime. While I’m there I’m going to visit the Bodleian Library on the Oxford University campus for a guided tour.

A lot of what I write is set in fictional universes; either fantasy realms, other planets or futuristic versions of our world which only bear a passing resemblance to where we live now. It’s a lot easier to write when you can create your locations from scratch. With Mime I have had to take a different approach. Set in present day, real world cities and areas of the UK, it needs a fine balance between accurately described real world places and imaginary places that would fit into the wider real world locations.

Place is something that has to be experienced in my opinion. Even with such powerful tools as Google Earth and Streetview it’s hard to get a feel for somewhere you have never been. It’s hard to get a sense of the scale, weather, people or vibe of the place.

I want my readers to believe the story I tell takes place in a place they know, and to do that I need to go there and, if possible, write the scene in the location.

Other places on my “To Visit” list include:

  • Oakhampton and Dartmoor
  • Castle Park and Victoria Square in Bristol
  • Debenhams in Bristol
  • John Radcliffe and Churchill hospitals in Oxford

How do you research real world locations? Do you take field trips to places that will feature in your books?

My main goal for Camp NaNoWriMo is to spend at least 50 hours editing my novel, Mime. I currently have an incomplete rough draft of 70,000 words.

Now I say edit, but a more accurate term might be revise, more accurate still might be re-write but let’s stick with revise. Whichever the case, 70k is a lot of material to work with. It takes me several hours just to read through it.

My strategy, as advocated in Theodore A. Rees Cheney’s Getting the Words Right, will be to start at the macro scale and work down to the micro scale. I don’t intend to get to the micro scale within April, but the strategy is the same.

Here, in all it’s nerdy glory, is my plan. Complete with weekly buzzwords.


  • Identify the major changes that need to happen and start moving things into place.
  • Start filling in the gaps with new material.
  • Start marking up the material with smaller changes to be implemented later.
  • Create a new outline which reflects the new structure.

Week 1 objective

To have a strong idea of the final structure and how to achieve it, and to have started making the required changes.



  • Finish implementing the major changes identified in week 1.
  • Focus on drafting new material to fill in the gaps.
  • Progress with marking up the smaller issues.

Week 2 objective

To have a substantially complete draft with a clear plan to generate the remaining material.



  • Finish drafting incomplete or missing scenes.
  • Focus on resolving issues created by the re-structuring process and smoothing transitions.
  • Take another look at pacing and make changes to fix any major issues.
  • Continue marking up problem areas.

Week 3 objective

To have a complete draft with no missing scenes or awkward transitions. The novel should now be one complete piece, ready for more detailed editing.



  • Work through the new draft focusing on the smaller issues identified earlier.
  • Improve character voice, scene tension and overall pacing.
  • Edit for sentence structure, style, grammar and spelling.
  • Create a new chapter structure.

Week 4 objective

To have a complete, revised draft in which most issues have been addressed if not resolved. This draft should be ready for review.

Camp NaNoWriMo - Finding our Stories

Do you have a plan to acheive your camp goals? How are you going to break it down?


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