Characters – The Protagonist

Notebook II is filling up fast.

Several times, I have resisted diving into the manuscript and re-drafting. That’s what happened last time, and see where that got me.

I’m determined to put more effort into the outline, so that the characters don’t end up wandering off on tangents.

More importantly, I need to get to know my characters. They’re already much changed over the last couple of years. Their time in the cardboard folders has had radical effects.

—————————————————————My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Structure

In my first ‘members post’, I promised to find the manuscript folders, and maybe even open them. I am delighted to report “Mission Accomplished.” Tempted though I was to dive straight into the narrative and start making tweaks, I resisted.

Instead, I scan-read the entire draft, focused on the story. Apart from the glaring inconsistencies, the plot meanders. In parts, the characters stumbled from one scene to another without rhyme nor reason, and in the next wandered off nowhere in particular, for entire chapters.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.

Draft Wrangling

Book 1, draft 1, is 85,000 words. Book 2, draft 1 is 50,400. Both were written quickly (I won Nanowrimo 2015 with book 2).

I blazed away, focused on hitting word counts. If I faltered, I hit the forums, or Twitter, where well-meaning cheerleaders enthused and urged us not to worry about structure or plot holes. All of that could be fixed later. After all, didn’t Hemingway write, “the first draft of anything is shit”? Or was it Stephen King?

—————————————————————

My writing is supported by readers like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Join now.

Members

Members

4 minute read

I’m building a new lifestyle, here in the sun. Mags and I packed up and moved to Cyprus at the end of September 2018. If you are interested in our journey so far, click on the category “Living the Dream” which catalogues our progress.

I do a few things to keep me busy. Nero’s Notes is a company that sells notebooks and stationery online. Lime Training and Consultancy Ltd  offers anti money laundering expertise. I like to hang out with my family, which for me, means Margaret, and our canine sidekick, Spice. I play golf.

Each pastime rewards me. With revenue, satisfaction, joy or a combination of these. Thankfully, I do not try to earn money from my golf; I would be very hungry if I did rely on it to put food on the table.

My real passion is writing. I love to write, both on paper or on a keyboard. I love talking about writing. Agonising about writing. Complaining about writing. Writing about writing. In February 2015, I confidently posted here about writing my novel. April 2016, I was going to publish.

Ah.

In a matter of hours it will be 2019. I still haven’t published a novel. That’s despite taking time off other work to write the book.

Why not?

The answer to that will run long, and will certainly run the risk of being defensive, and self-serving. I shall try to be concise, and honest.

Imagine starting a new job. You arrive, eager and excited.

A desk? You need a desk? You’ll have to buy one. With your own money. A computer? Yes, you’ll need to buy that too. Pen? Paper? Yes, that too. You need to buy it all.

You realise that these things actually cost a bit. A lot actually, if you like the good stuff. Undeterred, you rationalise that these tools are important. You will use them every day to work; to work at being a writer. You’re investing in your future. The earnings will cover it.

Earnings, yes. Those. How much will you earn? Well, for the first eighteen months, nothing. Nada. Zip. After that, you can self-publish and you never know, you might get a thousand or two in sales. That might translate to a few hundred after costs.

Hmmm…hoping for more than a few hundred? Fame? Fortune? It takes years to be an overnight success, you know.

It takes hard work, talent, hard work, luck, hard work, timing and hard work. Did I mention hard work?

And with all that, the chances are that you will never earn back the money you invested in equipment, let alone the thousands of hours of your time.

That’s why not.

Why now?

Having spent a couple of years “being a writer”, which did involve some writing as well as quite a lot of buying writing ephemera, I ended up with not one, but two, first drafts. I had even done some work on combining those two drafts into one timeline. Then I stopped. Nero’s Notes took much of my time, Lime grew. I decided that these two things had better earning potential.

While that was undoubtedly true, it was not the whole answer.

I don’t like the idea of editing or of trying to find a publisher, or self-publishing. I don’t like the idea of putting hundreds more hours into marketing, with huge portions of any revenue going to third parties.

Those things too, are undoubtedly true. They are not the whole answer either. Yes, the work is daunting, Yes, the return per hour will be tiny.

The real obstacle is fear. Pride. Imposter syndrome. For many reasons, I measure success in pounds and pence. Publishing will crystallise the loss. Somewhere, I will have a spreadsheet that starkly demonstrates that writing is a waste of my time.

Now. I’ve told you. You know the truth. That’s a relief.

I’m going to edit the drafts. I’m going to publish – first to members, and then to the wider-world.

Membership – A new model

As I publish books, they will be for sale through all the usual channels, with all the usual cuts being taken by the middle-men. However – members of this site will already have copies as part of their membership.

Members will pay £12 a year. A pound a month.

Members will get access to subscriber only posts, on writing, publishing and productivity, direct access to a members chatroom, where I will hang out, and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year, before it is available on general release.

Members act as both the carrot and the stick. Revenue (after payment fees) comes direct to me, not to Amazon or Apple. Having people willing to commit upfront creates a huge incentive to repay that faith, to overcome imposter syndrome and to publish.

This approach is not new. I subscribe to several websites with similar models. The Pen Addict for one. I was inspired to write this post by Matt Gemmell, who has an excellent membership scheme and website. He has also written two superb novels, Changer and Toll, which I heartily recommend. Buy them, or even better, become one of his members.

How to join

If you would like to help, then become a member of stuartlennon.com, or give a membership as a gift.

I will still be publishing many posts on the site for everyone, after all, I want people to find me. However, a proportion of posts will be exclusive to members. Non-members will see the following message.

“This post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year.”

Naturally, there will be a link to become a member.

I don’t anticipate a tidal wave of people signing up. There are already many, many demands on our wallets. However, if you do feel able to become a member, then I’ll do my very best to give you value for money, and you will be helping me to live the dream.

21st Century Entrepreneur

I’m collecting business cards. Not other peoples’, just my own. I’m a 21st Century Entrepreneur.

There’s a buttoned-up corporate card for my work in anti money laundering. I have an awesome one for Nero’s Notes, featuring a cartoon of the little man himself. Finally, there is even a cool card that accompanies this site.

Stuart Lennon, business card
Inky!

In reality, a case could be made for a few more cards: I co-host a podcast, 1857, with TJ Cosgrove of Wood & Graphite. Additionally, I record my day on Anchor, making another podcast. I’m experimenting with video, largely for Nero’s Notes, and looking at several other projects.

21st Century Entrepreneur

Apart from being great news for business card printers, this proliferation of roles is increasingly widespread. Everyone has a ‘passion project’, a ‘side-gig’. It’s entirely possible to work for the council by day and be an entrepreneur by night. It has always been possible. Increasingly though, it’s the norm.

This is brilliant. I love the fact that people are finding outlets for their entrepreneurial creativity and making it available for others.

Technology makes this possible and it’s a great way to find balance in life.

Taking on Pocket Notebooks (now Nero’s Notes) has introduced me to a whole new range of activities which intrigue me. I’m learning about digital media, analogue tools, social networks and IT. Customers continue to surprise and delight me, and business partners both drive me mad and make me laugh.

The Novel

There remains, of course, the novel. Two manuscripts have be resting in a drawer for a year now, but they have increasingly been whispering to me as I pass by. I feel certain that I will pull them out for a read some time soon. Does an entrepreneur write, edit and publish a novel? I don’t see why not.

Therapy

This post is my form of therapy.

It’s been a while. I’m having a whale of a time building pocketnotebooks.

The Front Row have scheduled phase 2 of the Camino de Santiago over at Sensible Shoes Camino.

Backpack
Full Back pack for Camino II

I have called this post Therapy, because I’m aiming to get this off my chest, and thereby stop shouting at the TV and radio.

Rant Therapy

Brexit. Hard. Soft. Medium rare. With or without frites. I have just deleted a full page of ranting. Instead, I’ll be concise.

It will be OK.

Humble Pie

Update: I wanted to admit to a certain Mr Thomas that he was absolutely right. I wrote a post on how I was forsaking Apple for Google. Ed predicted I would be back. I am.

To run Pocket Notebooks, I need hardware that can run bonafide programs and apps. So, I work now on a Mac, supported by an iPad Pro and and an iPhone. In a week or two, I’ll almost be certainly handing over a wedge of cash for a new IPhone. I am well and truly back in the world of fruit-based electronics.

I don’t expect to be writing much this year. Business is full pelt. However, as it grows, it will become easier for me to carve out time – and I can feel Sean calling me from his archive file in Scrivener.

Recently, one of fruit-based devices flipped during a power cut. This was a timely reminder of the importance of backing up. Fortunately, I have developed a middle-aged man approach and have more backups than most major insurance companies.

In case you are looking for a setup, read on.

Backup

1. Put your file system on Dropbox. Just doing this means that you will have a copy of everything in the cloud. It’s free for the first chunk and then, if you need to, you can by more storage.

2. Use the ‘standard’ backup. In the fruit world, this means use Time Machine. I have a a drive attached to my Mac where a ‘constant’ back up is made. These backups are not necessarily the best, but they are easy to set up and don’t cost anything beyond the price of the disk.

3. Use a proper, bespoke Backup service. I recommend Backblaze. Easy to setup, not expensive and very high quality. Again, this maintains a constant backup in the cloud.

4. Super-Duper. This is a program that makes a clone of my disk. I have two disks. One attached to the computer, one in my bag. Every morning, I switch disks. If the office burned down over night, I could be up and running again as quickly as I could get hold of another computer. The super duper clone would instantly reboot the new machine and then one of my online backups would update anything from the previous day.

Get on top of your backup. Just imagine you lost all your photos?

English Humour. Drier than gin.

Many will be delighted to see the back of 2016.

We might be better to look forward to what exciting things are coming in 2017.

Watching “The Dambusters” on television today, I was reminded how dry the English sense of humour can be.

It’s a brilliant movie; if you haven’t seen it, look it out.

Throughout the film, humour is used by the airmen as a coping strategy for the very real peril that they faced. (Of the 133 that took off, 53 were killed that night.)

Early in the piece there is a wonderful example of dry english wit at its withering best, as designer Barnes Wallis attempts to get resources to develop his bouncing bomb.

Official, Ministry of Aircraft Production: You say you need a Wellington Bomber for test drops. They’re worth their weight in gold. Do you really think the authorities will lend you one? What possible argument could I put forward to get you a Wellington?

Doctor B. N. Wallis, C.B.E., F.R.S.: Well, if you told them I designed it, do you think that might help?”

(From “The Dambusters”, a movie based on Chastise, a real operation carried out by the RAF in 1943.)

I don’t know whether the line was genuine, or a bit of artistic licence. Either way it’s genius.

 

 

 

Review

img_20161129_083442

Ducks on the Pill Brook at the end of my street.

This morning, I was watching a very brave journalist broadcasting from Aleppo in Syria.

I do not claim to have any real handle on the rights and wrongs of that terrible conflict. I watched in horror and shame. Will we ever stop being a cruel and murderous, species I wonder?

I am fairly certain that the involvement of this joker hasn’t helped.

It is difficult to maintain any sort of perspective in relation to the events that I mention above, but I thought I might provide a review on a variety of things.

IT. I posted here about moving away from Apple, and here about moving to Google. My Pixel XL phone is great. Reliable, efficient and fast-charging. I can say the same for the Chromebook. The biggest change though works regardless of hardware. Turn notifications off. All except phone. This one simple step puts you in charge of your apps, rather than they in charge of you.

Politics. A lot of nonsense continues to be talked about Brexit. A favourite is the clamour for the government to publish a plan. A plan for a negotiation. A chocolate teapot. Eventually, the PM realised that all she had to do was agree. She will soon publish a plan saying – “We want free trade, and control of our borders.” Remainers will cry foul and demand to know what is going to happen. The government will respond – “Don’t know. It’s a negotiation.” Still. It keeps them busy.

US Politics. From a field of two, one candidate won. He is certainly a departure from the usual. There is a lot of noise about the inherent unfairness of the electoral system, and at the moment, outrage that a foreign power is alleged to have attempted to influence the outcome of the election. Apparently such claims made with no trace of irony. How will ‘The Donald’ work out? I really don’t know. I suspect he will continue to delight in upsetting any apple-cart that he can find.

The CaminoThe word alone brings a smile to my face. Somehow we managed to ensure that the pilgrim with the photos is the one least able to share them, so I have not written or posted as much about that week as I had planned. Walking twenty miles or more each day certainly simplifies life and I can’t wait for the second instalment next year.

Journals, organisers and stationery. I have chopped and changed through a myriad of schemes to organise myself. Both digital and analogue. My preference is analogue, yet digital is far better for sharing. Thus, I use a hybrid. My calendar, shared with Mrs L, is kept on Google; accessible from multiple electronic devices. Many events, I also transfer to my Economist desk diary. Here, I get some perspective on how my week looks. I find this more attractive than an electronic output and better for my weekly review. On the move though, the diary has too much heft. I now carry a simple paper A6 notebook with a Fischer space pen. I would rather use a fountain pen, but I often dress casual – and ink and jeans can be uncomfortable companions. Here, I employ parts of the #BuJo system to run my daily tasks. Of late, I have even developed a double page system to prioritise. I also have a reflective journal – which I would like to keep daily, but often is neglected. Joyfully, the journal has no notifications function, and therefore does not berate me for missing a day.

Corporate. I have a couple of clients for whom I provide support in anti-money laundering systems. I have also been reviewing a multitude of potential acquisitions. Both of those things are, by their very nature, confidential, but hopefully the work done this year will lead to good outcomes.

Writing. The last few months I have done no work at all on Sean. I have been perpetually busy on everything above. Now, given that I am largely (when Mrs L lets me) master of my own time, I have to ask myself why it is that I can find time for anything, anything at all, except writing.

That’s probably another post all on its own.

 

 

A great read.

img_20161209_102312

What Ho everybody!

Gratuitous photo of the Christmas tree and Nero the Schnauzer at his devastating cutest.

Mrs L has decided that the tree should be in a new spot this year. Mostly, I think that she enjoys watching me move furniture about. In fairness, the tree does look great next to the fireplace and the move has created a little nook, ideal for my armchair.

This morning I sat in that chair and read. A book. A real one. You know, with pages and everything.

I spent three hours finishing off an excellent novel with the dog at my feet. I suspect it is only a matter of time before Radio 4 becomes the soundtrack to my life.

The novel was ‘Rather be the Devil’ by Ian Rankin. It is the latest in the immensely successful Rebus series. I should disclose that I am a massive Rankin fan. I’m not quite stalking the man, but I did attend a book signing in Guildford recently and whenever in Edinburgh I accidentally fall into a pub from one of the stories.

In this latest instalment, Rebus and his old adversary Cafferty prove useless at being retired and skirmish again across Edinburgh.

For hardcore fans like me, this novel is bittersweet. Rebus is showing signs of mortality, reminding me that he is getting a bit long in the tooth and has not exactly lived ‘clean’. Still, he’s off the cigarettes and has cut down the booze and takeaways, so perhaps he is going to get a second wind. Gloriously, he remains maverick with a determined, pathological distaste for authority.

A great read.

I know that I have read a great novel when I feel sad that I must leave the world of the book. In my head, the last few days I have been hanging out in Edinburgh pubs, trying to piece together clues to the mystery. Now, the mystery is solved and I must return to the real world with sulky regret.

Ink, Ink and more Ink

 

rsz_img_20161107_142929

I recently rediscovered the pleasure of real pens, using real ink on real paper.

This was as a result of considering techniques for writing, and I was led into a new world of stationery by writing-buddy Amanda Fleet, who blogs about writing here and about stationery here.

It was Amanda who introduced me to Bureau Direct.

Now – be warned. The link above takes you to Aladdin’s stationery cupboard.

I recently had a look for ‘lined envelopes’. One hundred and forty choices. (All of which I could find a use for.)

Need a notebook? Four hundred and ninety eight options. (Not counting colour choices.)

Amanda and I correspond by letter. Yes. Really. Hand-written, on paper, in an envelope, with a stamp. (Any younger readers – ask your parents.) She has lovely hand-writing, and always has several fountain pens inked up and ready to go. Her letters are always an explosion of bright ink.

I have horrible handwriting, but am quickly catching up on the pen front. So it was time for me to start experimenting with some more coloured inks.

 

I had ordered the J Herbin Ten Inks Set. (£26.95 after my special discount.) OK, anyone can get the discount – sign up for their newsletter; but I still prefer to believe it’s just for me.

Inside the beautifully presented ‘coffret’ (just sounds better than box) are ten bottles of ink, each of 10ml. In order to test them out, I used a J Herbin glass pen that I had bought from Bureau Direct a few weeks ago. The paper is an Age Bag notebook, by Clairefontaine, available at, you guessed it, Bureau Direct.

rsz_img_20161107_150555

Check out Amanda’s excellent review of the paper here. I can only imagine that when naming the range, the Clairfontaine marketing team had risked the second bottle at lunch.

The ink is lovely to write with, even as this left-hander wrestled with the glass pen. In truth, the glass pen is not hard to master – as soon as you discover that rotating it will alter the breadth of ‘the nib’.

Colours – entirely subjective. I like them all, but I am particularly taken by the Gris Nuage. I suspect that tomorrow, I may have a different favourite.

The team at Bureau Direct are knowledgeable and charming. Delivery is fast and efficient.

Just be careful. I’m now mainlining stationery…