NaNoWriMo – End of Week 3: The End in Sight!

This week I’ve written my longest and my shortest stories so far in this series. As always I’ve tried to mix and match my style hopefully making this stories significantly different to one another so it doesn’t feel like you’re reading the same thing rehashed over and over.

I’ve had to concede defeat over trying to produce one story per day. I’m so far behind with that plan that I have to cut my losses while I can. I’ve been so used to producing fiction which is between 1,000 – 2,000 words for publications that I assumed I would write quite naturally at this size. However, when editorial constraints are thrown off it seems I don’t have a natural word count! Hence one story is less than 1,000 words long and another is over 6,000!

In terms of book word count however, I’m well on target. As I write, my first draft has come to 43,000 words so far (well done if you’ve read every single one of them – I’m proud of you!) and the NaNoWriMo target of 50,000 words will be reached very soon – perhaps even by the end of the weekend? I’m personal target is to write more than 60,000 words before November is over and this looks very likely indeed now.

As the third week ends I’m now setting my sights not just to complete the first draft but to start editing the first stories. So now is a good time to give me your thoughts – good or bad – about the stories. Even simply pointing out typos will help (posting these stories is such a rush that I’m sure I’ve made plenty of gaffs despite reading through, correcting and editing each story a couple of times before presenting it for reading publicly). So please do make some comments when you can.

I’ve received a lot of praise and encouragement privately from many of you and I thank you for that. It’s really interesting to see which stories resonate most with who. I think most of the stories I’ve written have been ‘the favourite’ to at least one person. Keep such comments coming – I haven’t decided what form the final book will take as yet so it is good to know which stories are liked the most. In all likelihood I will produce two or three versions of the final version for different purposes.

As I’m not going to manage 30 stories in November the final book will also contain stories I won’t have had time to publish so there’s an extra incentive to buy it when I produce it in December!

On to the stories this week then:

Daniel in the Den is my shortest story so far. I’ve tried to be a little clever with this story and, though it is certainly fiction, I can tell you it is a composite of very real events which happened in my life (though not necessarily to me directly) about sixteen years ago.

Insignificant Woman No. 2 is the second of my series of essay stories. Again, fiction, but also deeply personal and based on my own experiences as a teenager. I’ve not tried to excuse or sweeten up any of the characters here but be true to what it was like back then.

A Good Match is my longest story and one of the longest I’ve ever written! Like Babuthis is a re-imagining of a Rabindranath Tagore story mixed with my own reflections about life for most Bangladeshi women. It’s also borne out of my fascination for the supernatural myths which pervade Bengali culture.

Finally, published today, is The CircleI rarely get to mention in these posts that I am a keen amateur conjurer and have loved performing tricks and puzzles ever since I was a young boy. The idea of the magician has changed a lot since I was a kid. I wanted to be Paul Daniels – now often ridiculed by the general public but brilliant in his day – but nowadays kids think of David Blaine or Dynamo as what magic is all about. I wanted to lift the lid a little on what it is really like for those of us who adore this hobby and are in it for life – far from the gaze of the public.

I should point out that the club (or ‘circle’ if you like) I belong to now is hardly like the one I describe here! I’ve taken memories from clubs I knew as a kid (I was the Teenager described in this story) to create this fiction. The club I have been a member of for many years now meets in a hotel but I really did belong to one which met in a church hall as I describe. Oh and Benny Bilbo’s story really did happen!

That’s it for this week – I hope you enjoy the stories! Thanks for reading them and for your love and support.



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NaNoWriMo – End of week 2: Thoughts and round-ups


Another week of NaNoWriMo over and I’m keeping well on target having just completed a couple of hundred shy of 30,000 words. This means I’m keeping more than on target (I hoped to reach 30,000 tomorrow – exactly halfway through the month) despite the fact that I’m behind on the story-writing!

I’ve just upload Day 11 but this is actually Day 14 – so how come I’m ahead? Well, simply, I intended to write around 2,000 words each day which should be enough for a story (give or take a few hundred with the occasional short-short or much longer tale). As it turns out, some of these stories are running to 500 or even 1,000 words longer than expected! Who would have guess, huh, that I’d write more words than I planned? O.O The result is some stories are taking longer than a day to get the first draft written, checked and uploaded even though I’m often writing much more than the daily 2,000 words I need.

I should clarify what I mean by ‘first draft’ – the term I’ve used throughout to describe my publishing of this book as it is written. Despite the extra words, what I’m publishing on Writeoutloud is the first public draft. So I do spent quite some time revising, editing and proofing the stories before I publish. However, what the stories lack are the input from readers – which is where you guys come in. I’m grateful to those who have offered their thoughts and given me great encouragement on the blog – please do keep them coming in. I welcome good and not-so-good thoughts because once November is out of the way I will be busy re-crafting the tales in readiness to publish.

By the way, just so you know, I’ll be removing a lot of these stories from the site soon after NaNoWriMo finishes so don’t hang about waiting to read them! All but a handful of the stories will be closed to public view by the time the book publishes so go get a cup of tea or coffee and get reading. Even the longest tale takes no more than fifteen minutes to read (I promise!).

So, this is what you’ve missed this week if you want to catch up:

Into the Dark woods saw the return of my two young characters, Jimmy and Terry, up to no good again as boys growing up in the Eighties should! They will return again, one final time, next week.

The Man in the Attic was my little venture into futuristic, dystopian and Orwellian writing. Several friends ‘in the real world’ have commented how much they liked this story which is encouraging. I deliberately kept the characters anonymous not just because it fitted with the plot but also because I wanted the sense of everyman to be communicated. Under a UKIPian form of Government this could be any British man or woman…

Babu is a re-imagining of a story by one of my favourite writers, the famous Bengali writer, musician and poet, Rabindranath Tagore. I wanted to communicate something of the issues facing children of poor families in Bangladesh while also commenting on some of the well-meaning but tragically inappropriate ways us westerners can sometimes can sometimes try to ‘solve’ Asian problems.

Insignificant Woman No. 1 is the first of a series of story-like essays I will be publishing over the remaining fifteen days or so. Though semi-fictional, these tales are, perhaps, the most personal of all the offerings here and were, in fact, the inspiration for this whole idea. The original title for the book was going to be ‘Insignificant women and other tales’ until I changed it to the current title.

Finally, for this week, the latest story is Fish. I enjoy writing stories ‘which aren’t what they are’ and this is certainly one of those. Not a ‘sting-in-the-tale’ as such (I pretty rubbish at writing that kind of fiction – I’d be hopeless as a crime writer!) but one in which I hope the reader wants to read the story again and has to do a bit of work to decide what really happened. Here, deliberately, less is definitely more.

Well, that’ it for this week’s round-up. Thank you again to all of you who both to click the ‘like’ buttons, share tweets, post on Facebook and comment on the blog. I do appreciate it and hope you will continue.

Best wishes


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NaNoWriMo – End of week 1: summary and thoughts

Well I’ve made it through the first week of NaNoWriMo and I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself! 15,000 words written so far and I’ve not missed a day of uploading the latest story to my writeoutloud blog (although it has been with only minutes to spare a couple of times!).

I hope you’ve had the opportunity to pop over to my writing blog and read some of the stories and, if you did, I hope you enjoyed them. For those of you who haven’t trotted over yet, or in case you’ve missed any, here’s a round-up of what I posted with a few insights into their creation or background.

The Bombing Raid was my first story and I drew on my memories of growing up in a Midlands town during the late 70s and early 80s. I apologise to non-British readers who might struggle with my attempts to reproduce my town’s accent but I felt it was important to be as authentic as possible.

You might find this bizarre (maybe not in today’s internet-world where you can find anything you can imagine if you look hard enough) but there is a Facebook page dedicated to sharing phrases just using my town’s way of speaking and I drew on that page extensively to get the accent just right.

The two boys who feature in the story will appear again, so watch out for them!

Ghost was a very difficult story to write. Though it is not my story as such, it does draw on experiences personal to me and I had very clear images in my head as I wrote it. At the same time I was very aware of others reading this story who might have had similar experiences and I didn’t want to downplay the feelings – often mixed – which arise from the kind of childhood the protagonist endured. The inspiration for the setting, by the way, was a single scene from the film Forrest Gump.

The Jazz Gig was such an amalgamation of people I’ve known and experiences I’ve had! The main storyline, however, is based very firmly on fact. It happened to me and I have the autographed book (real name ‘Hail! Madam Jazz’ by Michael O’Siadhail) in front of me now. It is a treasured possession.

However, I’m glad to say other aspects such as being divorced and leading a life on the road as a Jazz musician are not true – much though I would have loved to jam with the Jazz greats I mention.

The Sitar is a supernatural story I’ve wanted to write for a very long time. I’ve written many times on this blog about my love of the sitar and Indian ragas in general and how it was the fulfilment of one of my greatest desires to learn to play the instrument. This love – and that of the love of Darjeeling which I share with my family – combined to form the seed of this story.

As I began writing it, I wanted to ‘authenticate’ the supernatural aspect and began researching Hindu mythology. Consequently, I very nearly didn’t get this story written in time as I found the research absolutely fascinating! The internet is a dangerous toy for someone who has ADHD and this is compounded by the fact I now have my collection of books again which have been in storage for many years. For this one story I had a pile of books on my desk nearly two feet high! As usual though, only a fraction of what I learned made it into the story.

The Old Man on the Beach was the most recent story I’ve imagined and is born of some of the difficult times I’m experiencing currently. The old man is entirely made up but, I suspect, is actually a projection of myself. I really do enjoy taking strolls to my local beach but I’m nowhere near as reclusive as the character I made for the role of protagonist.

I have to admit that the ending of this story took me entirely by surprise. I had no idea that it was coming until I actually wrote it. I’m not normally one who ‘lets the muse flow’ – for me that’s usually a recipe for disaster! – instead I plan out all my stories or chapters well in advance so I can write freely within a predetermined structure rather than flail about randomly. This time however, I wrote with purpose but the ending just ‘happened’ before I knew it and my planned ending had to go out of the window! I hope you liked it if you read it.

Well, that’s the round-up so far. I think I’d better get on with writing today’s story. We go back to childhood memories for this one and the reappearance of Jimmy and Terry. I had better not leave them too long; you never know what mischief they might get up to!

Please go take a look at my ‘first draft writing’ and add your comments – anything from typos spotted (always useful to know) to encouragements, criticisms or questions you might have. I’d love to hear from you and get your feedback. You might even end up with your name (or blog name) featured in the acknowledgements when I revise the book and publish it (I’m aiming for mid-December but no promises) so get commenting!

Best wishes


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NaNoWriMo Day 1 – A Life Lived Through Stories: Introduction

Sonali blurb front coverIf I’m honest, I was a little disappointed to the response I received when I announced my intention to share my book project for NaNoWriMo on my blog here. considering the huge numbers of people who regularly follow, many of whom are good friends, and the thousands of visits this blog receives I expected a little more engagement. This is not to knock those who did respond but merely to say I hoped more would come on board. Perhaps I was wrong to do so.

Whatever, from this I’ve decided that I will post each day’s work on my writing blog – Writeoutloud – which is the more appropriate medium for the book anyway. This blog is meant to be more reflexive and focus on specific subjects. It is the other blog where I try to keep a record of my published work (some of it, at least).

I will write updates and summaries here as well as share my thoughts on the process as NanoWriMo kicks in. I’ll also post the occasional story here as well as on the other blog. However, you might want to consider signing up at Writeoutloud so you receive the daily notifications or click like on my Sonali Facebook page, if you’re an avid Facebook user like me, where I will also post notifications each day. Assuming you want to read my little creation and be a part of the creative process, commenting and helping me craft the work.

Today I have written my introduction to the book which explains a little about what it is, what it isn’t and, perhaps, what it might be. Here’s a taster (click the link below to read the whole):

A Life Lived through Stories: Introduction to the blog version

This is a book, but it is not a book. This is an autobiography, yet it isn’t. This is a novel, except that I can’t call it that because it is a collection of unrelated short stories. In short, I really don’t know what it is even though I have a very definite plan in mind and, though the parts are not yet written, the choreography of this little dance has been well and truly rehearsed.

To be fair, some parts are more rehearsed than others. Some have been virtually written for years just waiting for the right moment to unveil them. Others aren’t written, yet have pretty much written themselves – it’s just that the words are currently scribbled in my head, filling nooks and crannies and waiting like sweets bulging in a sweet machine, straining against the dispenser and ready to gush out into eagerly accepting hands, rather than fixed and static on a piece of paper.

This is a book about me. Only…that’s not at all true. Not one word of it is about me. Basically, I’m about to tell you a whole stack of lies. Whopping great humongous ones; outrageous ones; stories which would I would be ashamed to bring up in front of my mother because she would ‘wash my mouth out with soap and water for telling such falsehoods’. Despite this, to the discerning reader – and certainly to those of you who have the misfortune to know me personally – my life will be mapped out in these pages.

Sometimes the best kind of lie is the truth.

To continue reading on Writeoutloud click here.

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NaNoWriMo – It’s coming…what to do?

Audience participation needed for this one so read to the end (it’s not long) and leave a comment!

Well, it is indeed coming. NoNoWriMo, the national novel writing competition is about to start and I’m in a quandary.

On the one hand, it will be the first time I have ever been able to take part in the November competition, the aim of which is to write the first draft of a 50,000 word novel within the month. I’ve always done the smaller sister competition in July. It would be good to get another work of fiction done and ready to use and the competition would give me the challenge I need to do just that.

On the other hand, life is not so good right now – for me or for my family. If you’re a regular reader you may have noticed that some of my more recent posts have been quite sombre for much of the time (or as sombre as I get at any rate). Some of you also know why. The point is, I’m not sure NoNoWriMo is a stress I need right now.

But, I’ve got to be writing (that is my job now) and I’m so busy with article writing these days that my fiction writing (which was the reason I wanted to be a writer in the first place all those years ago) has really been on the back-burner. This competition would give me the much needed impetus to get writing the creative stuff again.

But if I do the competition what do I write? I’d like to write each part or chapter and put it up as a blog post each day. Then I could get feedback from you guys along the way in readiness for the second draft (and third, and fourth…). But what to do?

I did think about doing thirty chapters on thirty years of my life. Then I thought I’m not sure I want to get that raw and public about my life-story as yet. It’s pretty horrific in places. Still, I can think of ways to downplay some of the awful and still keep it interesting. I think.

Or I could do a fictionalised version which would be based on my life and people I’ve known, stories I’ve seen unfold, but would composite all that together into something that was ultimately fictional. Think James Herriot I guess, same kind of true/not true hybrid. could be much more interesting by the fact it would be much less about me and more about people I’ve known.

And on the James Herriot line I could do a series of connected short stories based on the teaching life. Again, fictionalised, but based on my experiences of twenty years of teaching in various contexts.

Or I could just write thirty unconnected short stories and not be autobiographical at all. I have lots of ideas for these and I would be interested to see which ones you liked and which you…liked lots! I could then make a book of the ones which got the best reaction after dealing with the editing and revising.

So what do you think? Would you like to see me do the NaNoWriMo challenge here on this blog every day throughout November? And if so, which of the above options would you be most interested to read? Please give your comments even if there’s a ton of them in the end – I’ll read every one of them and take note. If I don’t get much response then I might still do the competition but I’ll keep the draft private. So if you want to read it then you better say something right now!

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