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I write because…

It's how Harry Potter does it! :)

It’s how Harry Potter does it! 🙂

I write because of the pure enjoyment that comes from just creating and spending time in other worlds, exploring places and ideas that would never be possible (or, at least, pretty darn difficult!) in our own realm of existence. Imagination can give the characters I have running around in my mind a name and a backstory. Most importantly of all, it can give them a home. From this point, and as you spend more time with them, you get to see how they develop; they do things you expected, and, quite often, things you would never thought they’d dare to do. They develop alongside the world you’re building (or building on), and eventually you realise there is never going to be an end to this development. You’re in a deep hole and the only way to go is down, deeper into their psyche to find what makes them tick. They will forever keep changing, just as we do ourselves, until our time has passed. Looking back on what has been created at this point makes the whole process truly magical, and being the huge Harry Potter fan that I am, a spot of magic is something truly worth aiming for in life. That is why I enjoy writing.

The first time I ever really remember voluntarily writing a creative piece at school came sometime between the ages of six and eight. It was a collaborative piece with one of my friends, which we gave the warm and fuzzy name of ‘Welcome to your Worst Nightmare’. I don’t remember a great deal about it, but that can possibly be attributed to there not really being much to remember. We had our characters — both heroes and villains — and we had our action set-pieces. Our characters had names, and they looked like whatever we drew them like on the front page. That was the depth of our character development, but we were happy, busy as we were throwing them into whatever trials and troubles that had sprung to mind just a few minutes prior, while our classmates drew or played Connect 4 during the wet breaks we had to stay indoors for. The characters probably weren’t so pleased about the arrangement we had in place, but that was their life; they had to do as we told them. I don’t think we ever finished the tale though, which is a shame.

Writing is something that I’ve always come back to every now and then throughout my life. I had a few more instances where a story I’d written at school had grabbed me and made me build and develop on it afterwards at home. I’ve taken part in two NaNoWriMos in the last three years, winning my second attempt with a total of just over 51,000 words. With the exception of my first NaNoWriMo attempt though, nothing else of my fiction has really found its way onto my blog, and that’s something that I’d like to change now. This is why I chose to join Writing 101 and Blogging 201 this month. I hope to bring this little place back to life and make some friends in the process as we share our passion for writing together.

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Second time’s the charm – Camp NaNoWriMo victory

Camp NaNoWriMo memories

The most beautiful sunset.

Camp NaNoWriMo came to a close once more on Wednesday, and I am very pleased to say that I was able to join the celebrations around the Winners’ Campfire this time around. After almost falling victim to crippling procrastination even before I had typed a single word in the first week, I can’t tell you how happy it made me to be able to type the title of this post just now. Looking back on my daily word count totals I can safely say that there was very little consistency in how much I was writing each day, but my entire efforts in winning this month were kept alive thanks to a few big-scoring days, the largest of which was 5,755 words.

My final word count for the month stands at 50,169, which I validated on the Camp NaNoWriMo website after my final late-night writing session at 1:34 AM on July 31st. Celebrations were heard in my cabin once more just two hours later as another of my cabin mates crossed the finish line. Funnily enough their total word count was just 9 words away from mine. Very strong performances were seen elsewhere, as two of my other cabin mates past the 70,000 word milestone and one made it past 60,000. Unfortunately, one of our cabin mates never joined in the fun, but of the seven of us taking part five made it to our 50,000 word goal, typing up a grand total of 322,482 words in the process.

Now we have welcomed August into our lives the mission of continuing my novel presents itself. I know I still have so much more to write, and, if asked, would give a rough estimate that I will finish the story in the region of 100,000-120,000 words. I would love to continue to work on it in the coming months (albeit, probably a little slower than I have been) so I can have it in a near-completed state by the time we get to November. When November arrives I will once again be joining three of my cabin mates on this great adventure we call NaNoWriMo. One less novel idea trapped in my mind should, in theory, make it easier to see what lies beyond the revolver-wielding cavemen and curious alien visitors that remain to pick out my next tale. I’ll let you know if that is true sometime in October.

Once my current novel reaches a stage I’m happy with I’d love to put it on here alongside its November predecessor. Hopefully they will learn to get along despite having almost nothing in common, right down to a complete lack of Medieval siege engines planned in my newest effort. (Seriously, I don’t even know where I could squeeze one in.)

If you took part in Camp NaNoWriMo I hope you had as much fun as I did. The experience of being placed in small chat groups turned out to be much more enjoyable than I initially thought it would be at the start of the month. It’s made me wish that the main NaNoWriMo had a similar structure, but at the same time it’s neat that these events have a unique feel to the main event in November.

Thanks as always for reading, and I hope you have a great weekend. My family bought a new car earlier this week (a Mitsubishi Delica) so I’m looking forward to have a test drive in that later on today when I visit my grandparents.

August approaches – Camp NaNoWriMo and A2 preparation

Yesterday we entered the final week of this month’s Camp NaNoWriMo and the final stretch of my second journey to try to write a 50,000 word novel. This month has proved to be much more productive than last November as I have already overtaken my total word count my first NaNoWriMo attempt. In what seems to be typical fashion for me I instantly took the opportunity to make it more difficult for myself by allowing the first week to completely pass me by. Procrastination is a terrible friend, so while I think back for something that I can convincingly blame this terrible start on I will congratulate two of my cabin mates who, unlike me, wasted no time at all in making a strong start and already find themselves eating those tasty marshmallows and hot dogs under the warm air of the victory bonfire. They are Elyse.Rock and Salathielly. I am hoping they save some of the tasty victory goodies for me, because with the help of a sizable word count today I plan to be almost there myself by early next week. 50,000 words eluded me by some margin last November, but I won’t give it the satisfaction of doing that again. I will be sure to post my ecstatic reaction when I do finally reach my goal. If you’re taking part I wish you all the best in making it to the winners’ bonfire. It’s certainly going to be worth it!

The ability to set your own word goal has had me thinking all month too. I wonder who set themselves the largest word count goal? One word shy of a million, anyone? That’s never going to be my cup of tea.

Yesterday also marked the second birthday of The Formula Magician. My humble little platform for rambling made itself a home on the internet back in July 2011 as ‘Gaming Cove’, but would come to be more affectionately known as The Formula Magician when I was able to ‘borrow’ the name suggestion from Microsoft when it appeared as a suggested gamertag during the creation of my second Xbox Live profile (the things you do to play Rainbow Six: Vegas split-screen). The occasion was marked with a tasty rhubarb crumble, and of course, a chocolate birthday cake. My sister Kirsty also put her far superior artistic abilities into creating a lovely new banner for the top of my blog. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it, so I think it will have pride of place here for a long time to come. Thanks again, little sister.

As July gives way to August I think I will be making a serious return to my studies. Looking through the A2 modules for my subjects tells me this is going to be a complicated year, especially in biology. I have a nice chunk of homework that I’ve been shamefully putting off so far to focus on my novel writing. I’m quite looking forward to my chemistry summer project though. We are creating presentations covering the main points of different topics across both the AS and A2 years to act as a helpful introduction to each of the key points in each topic before we dive right in to the more complicated stuff. My topic is esters, famous for creating those lovely sweet, fruity smells, or in my case when I make them, the smell of Deep Heat. They’re also horrid things to draw until you get the hang of what is removed from each molecule of carboxylic acid and alcohol to join them together.

I guess the next week or so would be a good time to start drafting up my personal statement too. Overall, I am really looking forward to getting back to college and also not having the pressure of having exams straight after Christmas to worry about, but as has been mentioned by some of my fellow AS WordPressers an opportunity to re-sit AS exams sometime before summer next year would be appreciated, I guess we can’t have everything though, and if I regret my standpoint in ten to eleven months time I’ll let you all know. For now though, I am looking forward to an exam-free January.

Thanks for reading as always. I Hope you all have a great weekend. If you’re taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo, good luck once again on reaching your goal. Let me know how you’re doing. If you’d like to follow my progress, feel free to take a look at my camper homepage.  Now, back to my novel I go.

Camp NaNoWriMo and X360A tournaments – a summer multitasking exam

Apologies for using that forbidden word in the title. Now the A Level exams are all finished for the year it’s left a void in my time that used to be comfortably filled with revision. Not to allow complacency to creep in our lecturers have given us a fair pile of exam questions from the exams we’ll be living in fear of eleven months from now to compliment our summer studies. You are all going to be studying over the summer, right? I’m planning on putting quite a bit of time into practicing my maths. I’ve heard some scary stories about Core 4, so I think I’ll need every advantage I can grasp over the next year. The grades I’m aiming for are AAB, which would nicely meet the entry criteria for both of the chemistry degrees I’m interested in studying at the University of East Anglia, which secured its place as my first choice university last weekend. I never got around to writing a post giving my thoughts on how my exams went this month, but if you are interested I’ve written a brief summary alongside my fellow A Level students over on The Student Room. I’m much more confident than last time it has to be said.

The post-exam feeling of emptiness I have been feeling should be very short-lived now. Two upcoming events hope to flood this free time in a manner similar to a bucket full of water cascading into a poor, unsuspecting jug, which consequently flies off the counter causes two of the family cats to vanish upstairs in a blur of black and white fur. I guess that scenario wouldn’t do the kitchen floor much good either. Best not to try that out later. These events happen to be Camp NaNoWriMo and the X360A Genre Tournament.

In a showcase of better preparation than November my novel has been named more than ten minutes in advance of the event starting. Over the weekend I hope to give a bit more structure to the fragments of plot I have floating around my mind, pulling enough of them together to make a strong start in the opening week. My last attempt fell victim to middle-of-the-month syndrome and the words needed each day started to rise dramatically as my writing time fell. They met somewhere in the middle, and my dreams of reaching 50,000 were over from that point. This month has all the advantages over November: there are no two-hour round trips to college; there are no exams looming in the near future to prepare for; more of my friends are participating so there’s more compet… team spirit. My friends will likely finish before me, but I’m confident I can land my arrow on the 50,000 word target this time.

My other activity in the coming weeks will see me once again showing some attention to my Xbox 360 as me and my partner Judge Bergan team up to fight for ‘not last place’ in the Genre Tournament on X360A. I’m not terribly brilliant at even getting close to the podium in these tournaments as they combine two things I’m quite bad at these days: achievement hunting and playing games consistently. They are always great fun though and my 360 enjoys the promise of daily use, so I’ll always keep putting my name down. The first genre will be chosen tomorrow. I hope it’s RPGs (which means Random.org will pick fighting) as I’ve had a desire to go back to playing Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect 2 and Oblivion recently.

Action will also be a good genre for me. Being a huge Harry Potter fan there’s no real reason for why I haven’t played the two Lego Harry Potter games yet. They’ve been sitting on my infamous ‘to-buy’ list since release and, as they also sit happily in the rather large list of action games, it would be a perfect time to add them to my collection. Twelve teams are entering the competition, and any correct guesses of my and Mr. Bergan’s final position six weeks from now will entitle the guesser official and unquestioned use of the title ‘psychic’ in all future discussions.

My half marathon at Coombe Abbey is now just two days away. Looking ahead to Sunday’s weather has given me a sense of relief. Light cloud and 17°C sounds perfect for running to me. Wish me luck and thanks as always for reading.

My NaNoWriMo creation – Chapter 1

We’re now approaching the middle of November, which in most respects is a good thing: we’re closer to Christmas; closer to the release of Far Cry 3; it’s more likely to snow (not too much more though!). It also means that we are half way through NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. This is my first attempt at participating in this event this year and so far I think it’s been going really well. I have a general idea of where I want my story to go, but I’ve been lacking slightly in the whole putting fingertips to keyboard department. I currently have just under 10,000 words written, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to catch up with that par bar on the NaNoWriMo website over the weekend.

I thought it would be a nice idea to post the first chapter of my novel on here, to add some new content and to give friends and family a chance to see where my novel’s story may be heading. Please enjoy.

The wrong side of the portcullis by Stephan C

Following the twisting path my imagination has forged, never looking back until the 1st December.

Chapter 1 – The decision we made

The great oak tree that Edward had perched himself up against was starting to hurt his back; the rough bark digging into his skin. He was only vaguely aware of how long he had been sitting there, staring up into the sky. It was still dark when he resigned the idea of being able to get any sleep, and now the morning sun was piercing through the tree canopy. If his friends had seen him they would probably wonder what was so fascinating about a cloudless morning sky. His thoughts were not with them though; he couldn’t even remember their names. All he could do was revisit that moment two evenings prior. The site of that great, unfamiliar army stood outside the gates of his home. He remembered that sickening feeling of his heart plummeting when he knew from the size of that army all hope must be lost for those trapped inside the settlement’s walls. He was grateful that they had remained undetected; he didn’t dare to think what may have happened if they had been spotted, but with this relief came an incredible pang of guilt. He had abandoned everyone he had grew up with, his princes, and Lord and Lady Manson in favour of his own survival. While he knew there was almost certainly nothing he could have done, it didn’t stop the guilt from eating away at his heart and stealing any desire to get some rest away from him. He had been sat there all morning and his friends were beginning to worry.

“Edward?” The voice brought his senses crashing back to him with a start. It was Lysa, he could tell by the drained look in her eyes that her quest for sleep had only been slightly more successful than his own. On another day he might have been jealous, but today? Today, only death’s calling could bring him the gift of sleep. She sat down beside him and started to brush the morning tangles out of her long chocolate-brown hair. It was exactly the same colour as his own, but while his stopped just short of his shoulders, Lysa’s hair flowed down in a silky smooth stream ending at the base of her back. “I share your pain,” she said sympathetically “but there’s nothing we could have done. There’s only four of us, and we have two good swords. I doubt we can count that ceremonial longbow.” Edward felt his mood lift a little away from the pit of resentment he had placed himself in back when the moon was sitting proudly in the sky as he thought about this comment. He visioned himself standing back on the fields surrounding Merehill, the great silver and ruby encrusted longbow gifted to Lord Manson by the court of Tymaria to honour to eighteenth birthday of his eldest son Matthew. In reality he knew a longbow made from silver would never work, but this was his vision with his rules. The arrows were flying true into the hearts of nameless figures from an unknown land. One by one his enemies fell; he felt great, the surge on adrenaline coursing through his veins. Nothing could stop him from saving his friends and family trapped inside the palisade walls of Merehill – he was back leaning against the base of the oak tree. Lysa had given him a prod on the arm, bringing him back to reality. She giggled, “you always drift off like that,” she said smiling “off on another of your little flights of fancy, leaving me here alone.” Edward smiled back. He was so grateful that Lysa had caught him in time to declare her intentions to accompany his caravan to Tymaria to collect the supplies for the upcoming celebrations. Normally she would wish him well, but always remain at home. Tymaria was a city that she had always wanted to visit though. The market was known across the land as the place to visit for exotic goods from far off lands and high quality local produce alike. The thoughts of what may have happened if she had stayed at home in Merehill didn’t bare thinking about.

He had always thought of Lysa like a sister. Ever since the age of five they had always been spending time together. Their parents were always working closely together while they were children. Their fathers co-owned the Lord’s caravan business and therefore would often have to travel to towns and cities up and down the land.  Occasionally, when they were a little older, they had travelled with their fathers on some of the journeys to more local, neighbouring towns. Edward’s father had told him numerous times that he wanted him to take the reigns of the company after he had retired. Edward had always been excited by this; the idea of always being able to travel to the distant cities and islands that he knew he would never be able to visit as a child.

The opportunity to join Edward had been offered to Lysa, but she had her heart set on moving south to Tymaria to run a stable. She had always had a great love of horses, and once she had learnt that she could make a living breeding and looking after them her mind was made up and Edward could see no going back.

Their mothers had worked together to give the town its relatively well-known inn, The Jolly Blacksmith. Lysa had been told that they named it in homage to her grandfather Walter, who had passed away a year before her birth. He had been the settlement’s blacksmith for thirty-five years and the quality of his metalwork customers from most of the nearby towns, and the inn named in his honour continued to have this appeal to residents across the region. During the evenings the inn would always get relatively busy so Edward and Lysa were always happy to help out. They were sometimes mistaken for being siblings by travelers from neighbouring towns while helping their mothers. People saw their similar hairstyles, heights and judged from how well they got along that they must be brother and sister. When asked the pair just giggled and agreed. They weren’t blood related, but they were damned if they weren’t just like brother and sister in every other way. He wondered how much, if any, of that old life could be salvaged after that army marched on Merehill. They had to go back and check to see what remained of their home. It had to be tonight, he couldn’t let all the possibilities fight amongst themselves in his mind. He had to know for sure, one way or another, whether the others wanted to come with him or not.

Edward opened his eyes. He noticed the temperature had dropped compared to earlier when Lysa had joined him under the tree that had been his home all morning. The clear blue sky that greeted him this morning had been replaced by stone coloured clouds which looked ready to drop their payload onto the forest where they had sought shelter last night. He looked down and saw that Lysa had fell asleep on top of his leg. The early morning warmth must have sent them both off to sleep. In the distance he heard the crackling of a fire, which told him that his other companions must be awake now. Edward tried his best to move his leg from under Lysa’s head, but he knew this would be a tough challenge. She was always a light sleeper and, sure enough, she awoke the moment he started moving. “So much for that sunny day I was hoping for,” she said after a long yawn, “we should probably start making our way back to the others before these clouds give us what it looks like they are promising.” She picked herself up from the floor and started brushing the fallen leaves from her clothes. She was wearing an emerald coloured dress today, which contrasted with his own sky blue attire. Her dress matched her deep green eyes, which he had always been a little jealous of.

“We should.” Edward replied, “It sounds like they are preparing a meal.” Which meal he could not say; he had no idea how long he had been asleep for under that tree. As he got to his feet he cursed aloud. His legs had become numb due to the length of time he had been sat there. Lysa offered him a shoulder and they started making their way back to the camp. The numb feeling in Edward’s leg soon began to give way to the hot stabbing pains of a thousand pins being poked up and down his legs. Edward started to wish he could have the numbness back, but thankfully, after a few minutes the pain started to subside and he could move his toes freely again.

A short walk later they arrived back at their makeshift camp where Edward’s quest for sleep the night before had been so unsuccessful. Maxwell was standing over their metal cooking pot, a fire crackling away with a happiness that couldn’t be found anywhere else underneath. “Edward. Lysa.” he said nodding his head in a curt welcome. “Beef stew will be ready in a few more minutes.” Much like himself, Maxwell had also been a man of few words since they retreated into the forest. It didn’t surprise Edward, they were all worried about what fate may have become their loved ones. Maxwell was both taller and older than Edward. A man of twenty-four years, Edward liked to think of him as the group’s bodyguard. He had short black hair and Edward had noticed that he never seemed to wear any vibrant clothing. Today he was dressed in his usual grey, covered by a boiled leather vest. Even now he still had one of the group’s swords sheathed at his side; ever prepared Edward thought to himself. He was friendly enough, but often hid his emotions behind a stern looking face, making it difficult to work out how he was feeling. But today that mattered not, he knew that all four of them felt the same.

Edward joined Lysa who had taken a seat at the front of one of their two caravans. They had let their horses roam free in this part of the forest for the time being, Edward could see the head and front legs of one of them through the trees when he looked to his left. It was happily grazing on the long grass that was abundant here. We should be grateful we were returning from a trade mission and have two caravans full of goods to sustain us comfortably, he thought to himself while they waited for the stew to finish.

About twenty minutes later Maxwell announced that the stew was ready. He knew that no-one would particularly feel like eating, himself included, but starving yourself wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Just as Edward to climbing down from the caravan he felt a spot of rain hit his lower arm. The clouds had promised to open earlier, and now they were ready to deliver. Maxwell had served the stew up into four bowls already. Lysa and Maxwell grabbed their bowls and Edward picked up one for himself and one for Peter, who didn’t seem to have come out of the tent. They all headed inside one of the two modestly sized tents they had brought with them before they fell foul of the weather’s promise of a heavy storm.

Inside the tents everything was very basic. Two makeshift mattresses made of leaves and grass stretched out down each length of the tent and in the centre was a lantern, which was no giving off a bright glow in stark contrast to the now dull outside. Edward didn’t mind; if he had his way they would only be stopping there one more night. The fourth member of their group, Peter, was sat cross-legged on one of the mattresses reading one of his books by the light of the lantern. Peter looked up from his book when they came in and smiled “Feeling any better?” he asked to everyone in general as Edward gave him his bowl of stew, and they each joined him sitting on the mattresses.

“Better than earlier.” Edward replied.
“I guess so.” said Maxwell.
“I just wish there was something we could do.” said Lysa.

Edward had wanted to leave bringing up his wish to return to Merehill until they had all eaten something, but Lysa had presented him with the perfect opportunity.

“I want to go back to Merehill tomorrow.” he said after a few spoonfuls of his stew. There was a few moments silence before Peter replied “Is that wise? What if it has been garrisoned, you saw how many of them there were outside the walls. That doesn’t even include any that were doing goodness knows what inside—”

“We’ll never know for sure if we don’t go,” Lysa interrupted “if there is nothing we can do when we’ve seen the situation, then I guess I can live with that, but good or bad I hate not knowing. What if Mother and Father and everyone else can be saved?”

After that Peter quitely agreed. It was quiet for a few minutes afterwards. The rain had started to get heavier, and the sounds of the droplets hitting the top of the tent and the trees was the only music that broke the silence that filled the tent. Edward didn’t feel particularly hungry, but the beef stew was very tasty and he found it easy to enjoy. Most of this food they have with them was meant for Prince Matthew’s birthday feast – he stopped that train of thought right there, refusing to acknowledge the dark possibilities that he kept hoping wasn’t the reality. Lysa and Maxwell were the first to finish their stew, Peter chose to have some of the crusty bread with his, and Edward was just cleaning out the last few chunks of beef with his spoon. After they were all finished Maxwell offered to take the bowls down to the stream about ten minutes walk from their tent to give them a wash. Edward followed him out of the tent. The rain greeted him like an old friend, and within a few minutes he was soaked through. He walked towards their horses, which were taking shelter stood under one of the larger trees he could see. They both looked calm and content, if rather wet, and one of them neighed happily as he stroked their manes. As he was standing there the rain started to subside a little, but he could tell the sun was setting because the light was fading fast in the forest. Now what little light made it through the clouds was blocked from completing its journey to the ground by the tree canopy.

Maxwell returned a few minutes later carrying the now clean bowls and cooking pot. “We should get some sleep if we’re going to be awake in time to make it to Merehill before sunrise tomorrow.” he said as he got close to Edward. Edward nodded his head in agreement. “I just hope I can actually get to sleep tonight.” They walked back to the tents and entered the empty tent opposite the one Lysa and Peter were inside. Once inside Edward unfolded his wool quilt and placed his feather pillow at the head of his leaf mattress. He laid down and placed the quilt over himself, which quickly started to take some of the chill out of his bones. The days had been getting noticeably shorter for weeks now and he knew it wouldn’t be too much longer until the first snowfall of winter. They had to have a course of action before then, which is why Edward felt it was so important to get some closure to the sight they had witnessed a few nights ago at Merehill. As he was laying there, in the dark, Edward was pleasantly surprised to feel his eyelids getting heavier. After a few more minutes the urge to close them had become too great and he had drifted off to sleep.