Archive for November, 2011

“How’s NaNoWriMo going Chrissey?”

“Don’t ask.”

As NaNoWriMo draws to an end I find myself only just creeping over 15,000 words. It has not been the avalanche of creativity that I was hoping for. I would like to blame external influences and distractions, and that would be partially true, but really I just couldn’t find my passion for the story to begin with.

I’ve had a number of good days where I wrote 1500-2000 words, but I’ve equally had a lot of days when I wrote nothing at all. I think in this case the challenge arrived at an inopportune time when I had too many other things I wanted to be doing.

I have a few days left and I am going to try and hit 20,000 before the end of November. After that I’m going to do a more extensive breakdown of my experience and maybe see if I can answer that question about whether I am a pantzer or plotter.

I am only just starting to find my groove with the characters and the storyline, so I am going to continue straight into December and see how I get on.

Here’s an excerpt from the first draft of chapter 1 of Mime:

Sam turned her key in the lock and pushed but the office door only gave about an inch and she piled into it. She gave it an experimental shove with her shoulder, trying to judge whether it was blocked by something or someone.

“Elliot? Can you let me in?”

She listened at the crack for any signs of movement but heard nothing. With a resigned sigh she put her bags down by the step, set her shoulder to the door and pushed. It slid open a fraction more with each push until she could squeeze through the gap.

Once she was in she moved the three stacked boxes of printer paper off to the side of the hall and checked she hadn’t done any damage to the hinges. Then she collected her things from outside.

Elliot must have been in to take delivery of the paper and by deduction he must still be here because he’d couldn’t have moved the boxes in front of the door from outside.

The Weird News offices took up the ground floor of a converted Victorian terraced house. She’d always thought the kooky, musty little building was just right for what went on there.

She followed the smell of burned coffee into the little kitchenette and lifted the half empty coffee pot, heating since the afternoon before, off the hotplate. She dumped the brown sludge into the sink and ran some water to wash it down.

It was too early in the morning to be doing washing up. Instant coffee would have to do. She filled the kettle and set it boiling then reached into the overhead cupboard for a mug.

Another hand reached past hers, crumpled white shirt rolled up to the elbow. Sam tensed, her head unconsciously turning towards him and her eyes closing for just a moment longer than a blink.

Elliot lifted a mug down and set it on the counter while Sam waited for the strength to return to her fingers enough to grip one for herself.

“Morning,” he said as he inspected the abandoned coffee pot.

Sam gave herself a mental slap. “Don’t even think about putting that back on,” she said, grabbing a spoon for the instant coffee granules.

“Looks clean enough.”

She quickly took the pot off him and set it back in the sink. “I’ll sort it out later. By the way, do we have a poltergeist?”

He crouched down to get milk from the fridge. “Not that I know of. Why?”

“Because I find it hard to imagine you would do something as stupid as blocking the door with the delivery you’d just received.”

He looked up at her, frowning and then she saw the penny drop. “Ahh, yes I was going to move those.” He set the milk on the counter and stood up. “Sorry.”

“If I have to break in again I’ll start to think you’re trying to get rid of me.”

A brief, rare smile flickered on his lips and Sam looked away. She had a habit of reading too much into a smile like that, which only ever ended in disappointment. She was nothing more than a colleague to him. Which was fine.

With coffee made they took their mugs through to the main office. The big bay window at the front of the building let in plenty of light and Elliot had let Sam have the desk at that end of the room when she started eight months ago. At first she’d thought that it was a kind gesture, but he preferred the corner at the back of the room.

“Thought I’d go through the inbox today,” Sam said. As she walked to her desk she took note of the empty take out cartons on Elliot’s desk. “Don’t tell me you were here all night.”

“There was something I had to follow up.” He stacked up the cartons and dropped them into the waste basket beside the desk.

“Don’t put those in there,” Sam muttered. She deposited her bags and coffee on her desk and then walked over to retrieve the food crusted containers. “Elliot, Weird News isn’t exactly a daily publication, what could possibly be that important that you can’t go home and sleep.”

He slumped down into his chair and slapped his keyboard to wake his laptop up from standby.

“Spontaneous combustion,” he said, his eyes lighting up. “And there’s tens of eye witness accounts.” He tickled the mouse pad as if it would speed the machine up.

Sam set the food cartons on the filing cabinet by the door and drew up a spare seat.

“Someone died?” she asked quietly.

He looked up, the light in his eyes turning to a stab of guilt. Sam felt bad for bursting his bubble sometimes; she knew he mourned people’s suffering, his own grief drove his obsession. It just turned her stomach to see him revelling over someone else’s tragedy.

“Well, yes, but we can’t do anything about that.”

She nodded. “Go on then, tell me.”

“My twitter search picked it up first actually. About six or seven people tweeting about someone catching fire in Castle Park.”


“Last night. Some time around nine pm. I picked up the search about an hour later.”

“So, what makes it spontaneous combustion and not regular combustion? Weather was nice yesterday, could just be someone with a barbecue or something.”

“All of the reports say the same thing. The man was walking and then he was on fire, just like that. And not just a smoldering sleeve, a real inferno, like he’d been doused in petrol.”

“Maybe he was, could have been some kind of gang attack.”

Elliot shook his head emphatically. “No, by all accounts there was no one near him.”

“Sounds like it’s worth investigating at least,” Sam said, settling back in her seat. “Do you need me?”

“Not yet, no point in both of us doing the leg work.” He looked up nervously. “Unless you want to come, of course.”

His reactions confused her at times. He paid her as an employee, and yet he often seemed uncomfortable giving her orders. She got the feeling he was expecting her to suddenly realise Weird News wasn’t really a legitimate career choice and leave.

“No, no, it’s fine. I should get on with some things here.”

She left him tapping away at his laptop and retreated to her own desk.


Scribbles giveaway winner

A week ago I posted as part the scribbles blog hop about how I use paper in my writing. As part of  that I offered readers the chance to enter a giveaway.

Now technically the requirements were to post a comment AND subscribe either here or on twitter. However, since no one new subscribed that week I’ve decided to consider everyone who posted a comment (except those who opted out).

So, all the names went into the hat on little slips of paper (very low tech) and out came…


I’ll be in touch directly to sort out shipping.

Thanks to everyone who commented and took part. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to get round everyone’s blogs and comment but I had unexpectedly hectic week.

Autumn in Pentwyn

My head is buried in NaNoWriMo this week, so I’ve not had time to come up with an interesting topic to write about. Instead I thought I’d share a few pretty nature photographs taken around the area I live in. Enjoy.

(Click photos to enlarge)

A single orange leaf clings to a twig

A Single Leaf

Yellow-orange fallen leaves collect in a circle below a partially bare tree

Shedding Tree

A few red berries on a slim, leafless twig

Red Berries

A traffic cone on its side against a tree on a wooded slope

Traffic Cone

Brown, brittle sycamore seeds on a leafless branch

Sycamore Seeds

A few red autumn leaves on a sapling

Autumn Leaves
























Creative Commons LicenceThe images in this post are original photographs by Chrissey Harrison and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Scribbles blog hop & give away

All of the bloggers taking part in this blog hop event will be posting pictures of their journals, and talking a little about how journals, and paper in general, play a role in their writing practice.

My lifelong relationship with stationery

NOTE – click on any of the images to read more.

A sheet of loose leaf paper with writing, in a binder

My oldest notes c.1996/7

As soon as I got a computer of my own as teenager, I started using that to write my prose. Writing my drafts on paper seemed like adding an unnecessary step; it would have to make it into the computer eventually. Given that I couldn’t type without looking at the keyboard, copy typing from a hand written manuscript would have taken many long, boring hours… per page!

Now I can type while looking at the screen and my typing speed is not much slower than the speed I can write by hand. It’s certainly fast enough to keep up with my brain.

An open notebook showing hand written text

My notebook for my WIP

For me, paper is a planning tool, a tool for exploring ideas. I like to take advantage of the fact I can write and draw on it in any way I like.

Notebooks are a great way of making sure all your notes stay together but I used a lot of loose paper sheets for jotting down ideas.

I do most of my actual writing on my laptop, but paper often comes back into the mix during the rewite and editing phase.

A printed page in a ring binder showing hand written annotations

Editing a short story

Post-it notes are a great invention. When I was struggling to work out a plot hole and pacing issue in my draft novel, Hidden Talent, I wrote each scene down on a post-it note and tried them in different orders stuck to my coffee table. It also turned out to be a great way to explain my dilema to my partner so I could bounce ideas off him and talk it through.

An ink sketch on lined paper of a tree beside a path. A bird sits on top of a way marker.

One of my doodles

I can’t imagine being able to work completely without paper. Even with programs like Scrivener and Photoshop to expand the functionality of my computer beyond simple word processing, there is something uncomplicated about paper, a freedom of expression.

I turn to paper when I am out of my comfort zone, when I need to seriously wrestle with a problem.

A stack of various size and style notebooks

Notebooks everywhere

Somehow the act of drawing the pen across the page adds gravity and momentum to my thoughts. It is as though words written on paper have more weight than strings of characters on a hard drive. After all, as writers, we all want the ultimate destination of our words to be the paper of printed book.

What is your relationship with paper like? Do you find you use paper for certain parts of the writing process more than others? Has anyone found they have been able to move completely away from the pen? I hope you’ll share your views in a comment.

Give Away Time!

Spiral bound, A5 notebook with a close up photograph of cheese puffs cover, with a striped pencil

Give away prizes - click to enlarge

Hi, my name is Chrissey and I have a stationery addiction. Some girls like buying shoes, I like buying pens, folders, notebooks, stickers and all things stationery.

In celebration of my first blog hop, I’m going to do a little stationery give away comprising a funky cheese puff notebook and a pencil. Leave a comment and follow me, either here or on twitter @arcadestarlet and I’ll draw a winner next Friday.

Remember, if you win the give away, you must be willing and able to provide a suitable postal address. If you wish to opt out while still posting a comment, please include “not entering” in your comment.

Ready, set, HOP

Thanks for reading and I hope, commenting. Now why not hop to another of the fabulous bloggers taking part in the scribbles blog hop:

Danielle La PagliaAnne MichaudMarianne Su

Victoria D GriesdoornRen WaromJ.A. Campbell

Tammy CrosbyMaria KellyNatalie Westgate

Tony NolandLarry Kollar

NaNoWriMo 2011

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on scheduling creativity where I described a little about my failure to complete Camp NaNoWriMo in August.

Now it’s November and I’m trying again with the original and best NaNoWriMo. Whilst my project in the summer was an unplanned idea which I just tried to run with, this month I am working on a story I have been planning for over two years.

I have a substantial outline that covers the first 30k and a skeleton outline for the remaining 55k to take me up to my final 85k target. I also have substantial character, back story and set piece notes to work from.

I have written novel length manuscripts in the past. My semi-complete novel Hidden Talent is 70k in length, but it didn’t start our that way. It only grew to that length in the process of re-writing the initial 36k draft. I have a number of unfinished ideas that total more than 50k, which I wrote without planning.

This challenge will be something of an experiment too, into my preferred writing style and pattern. Am I a “pantzer” at heart or can I dicipline myself to write in a structured way?

I hope to know a lot more about my writing style and preferences by the end of the month. In the mean time, here’s a bit about the novel I’m working on.


Elliot Cross used to be a crime reporter with a large, well respected newspaper. That is, until the day his brother was killed by something… unnatural.

Consumed by guilt, Elliot left the professional world and founded Weird News. Now he tracks down tales of the paranormal, sorts the truth from the hoaxes and reports both.

When Elliot and his partner Samantha start investigating a simple report of spontaneous combustion, they quickly realise they have something more complicated on their hands; a supernatural serial killer. The police are unable to see the connection between the victims but Elliot and Sam get one step ahead.

But, when they intercept the killer and save a child’s life, they suddenly become the hunted. There’s only one man who can help them, renowned demon hunter Gabriel Cushing. The question is, can they find him in time?

I’m quite heavily involved with a site called The Great Escape. We are a collective or community of creative types producing films, fiction and comics. On Monday, we will be uploading our most ambitious project to date; Terror of the Killer Carnivorous Coat.

The idea for the novel Mime spawned from the fictional world created for the film. Of course I don’t want to give too much away, it is a mystery, after all.

Originally we considered making Mime a film, but some of the set pieces I envisaged were just beyond our financial and physical capabilities. So, I decided to give writing a novel a go, but that was a seriously daunting prospect since I had never seriously attempted to write a book before. I bought a notebook and I started brainstorming ideas and developing characters.

The hero of the film is Gabriel Cushing, a demon hunter. I decided early on that I wanted to introduce a new hero for Mime and the idea came from a prop. In one of the opening scenes of “Killer Coat”, you’ll see a magazine on Gabriel’s desk entitled Weird News. From that spoof magazine cover, I created Elliot Cross, paranormal investigator, journalist and editor of Weird News.

I have a hero, a heroine (Elliot’s colleague and photographer, Samantha) a villain and a sequence of events. Now all I need to do is get the words down on paper.

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