Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Lock

Last week, the washing machine started to make a loud noise during the spin cycle. When I say loud, I don’t mean “Oh, it squeaked a bit.” I mean it shouted out its death throes like a Shakespearian actor trying to steal the show.

Then the door stopped locking and when then door doesn’t lock, the cycle won’t start, therefore rendering it less washing machine more wet place to put clothes.

How does this relate to writing?

Sometimes things don’t click in a story and it won’t lock and this stops you going any further, just like the door on my washing machine.  Sadly for my washing machine, the fault was terminal, but the beauty about writing is that a little hiccup doesn’t have to be fatal.

Here’s some things you can try when you get stuck:

Free writing.

Write something else. Get words out. Doesn’t matter what they are. You may find the answer comes to you during one of these sessions when you are really thinking about it. 

Handwrite something in a journal.

I love handwriting. I love notebooks. Combine the two and keep a journal for those moments when you’re stuck. Usually I find that the journal entries reveal things I didn’t know about my characters and myself. However, resist falling into the “angst trap.”

Do five minutes of plotting.

Write down what you do know about the scene in bullet points. Write down anything else relating to the scene. This should help to get your mind in a place where you can write the scene itself. After doing the washing, having a cup of tea, eating a snack, rearranging your desk etc etc.

Write through it.

It’s not going to be pleasant and it’s not going to be easy, but puttting In an hour or two of hard graft might produce that scene you needrd to glue it all together.

Leave it and come back later.

I work chronologically so doing this is my least favourite way of doing things. However, if you write scene by scene then glue it together at the end, this way will work really well for you.

Whichever you choose to do, don’t give up on that novel. Your characters deserve a voice, and you don’t want to stop the world from knowing as much about them as you do, do you? Don’t let one little lock stop you from giving them a chance to be heard.

Why I write.

 

Some bits from my first draft

Hello, first draft!

When the wonderful Michelle from The American Resident asked if anyone would like to answer some questions about writing, I jumped at the chance. There’s one thing you can always guarantee about a writer: they LOVE to talk about writing. This is because it feels like we’re working on our writing while we’re doing it. So, having been passed a very exciting and prestigious baton, I’ll tell you what’s been going on.

 

What am I working on?

Actually, there are two projects on the go right now and both are taking me out of my comfort zone.

The first is the remnants of the most recent Camp NaNoWriMo in April and is a twisted fantasy where I’ve been making up the rules as I go along.

Writing fantasy is hard.

I’ll say it again: writing fantasy is hard.

The most challenging thing I’m finding is remembering the new rules of physics and making the novel clever enough to return to previous storylines.  I’m finding the twists more difficult in fantasy because there is an expectation that nothing is as it seems. It is entirely possible that my first draft is more poop than your average first draft and all first drafts are poop.  However; it’s most of the way to the end and the rest is plotted out so some may suggest the hard work is done.

We all know that writing the damn thing is just the beginning of the hard work.

The second project is a piece of non-fiction which I’m procrastinating about writing. It’s a research project that I have “accidentally” been doing for years and it’s time I put my data to good use. I love to study people and I’m fascinated by the Internet and our interaction with it.  I’ve written fiction about it a few times and I’ve decided that now it’s time to take what I know and what I’ve found and all the other things that are flying around in my head and dump on the page to see what happens.  It  might work. It might not. You don’t know until you try.

 

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?

I’m not certain that differing is always a good thing. People like familiarity.

In short, my work differs because it is mine and no one else’s. I write about very personal memories and try to bring in a real depth to my characters. I also think this is a trait shared by all writers.

The fantasy I’ve written is accidentally similar to Pratchett. I think that’s more because his books hold the standard for fantasy and I’ve just followed the cut and stick guidelines for standard fantasy writing.

 

Why do I write what I do?

I write because I love the challenge. I like to try different genres and styles because I like to push my abilities and see where my boundaries lie.  Bits of the non-fiction book are going to be written as you would write an academic paper because I want to try it, although I realise this style is heavy to read. (The research requires me to read a lot of academic papers on the subject so I know how much of a headache that can be. Maybe it’s time we stopped the world of academia churning out heavy papers and gave them a standard that they could share with the rest of the world? No one said research results have to be difficult to understand unless you’re privvy to the ways of Higher Education.)

I write what I do because I get images in my head. I get snippets of dialogue and faces and actions. Then I sit and write and get more and more things about my darlings until they’re there, on the page, fleshed out with personalities I had never even considered for them. It’s quite fascinating how it all comes together.

 

How does my writing process work?

I start with a vague idea. I generally have five or six of these brewing at any one time. Sometimes I do a brainstorm of things I might like to happen. This process starts way before I even think about the first words.  I have a journal that I keep, not regularly, but I like to write my thoughts in there and sometimes, these thoughts include ideas for the story. I also keep a lot of notes on my phone.

When the big day hits, I begin and try to keep up a steady pace.  This never happens and I end up binge-writing — writing nothing for two or three days then writing 4000 or 5000 words in an evening.

I usually prepare a playlist of songs that bring on the most visual imagery relating to the story for me. This becomes my music for the writing phase.

The plan after that is to go with the flow. Stick to the basic outline but don’t worry too much if it meanders.  I have stories where I’ve written things in and out of chapters and left loose ends dangling.  The most important thing for me is to get those words down, get the scenes out of my head and let the characters reveal themselves.  Once they’re out there and I’m beginning to know them it makes writing their stories much easier.

Non-fiction writing seems to consist, so far, of research. I’m reading a lot of blogs and papers and having a lot of discussions with friends about the subject. Nothing is set in stone yet, although I have the odd question I have jotted down to try to answer. I should imagine my best ideas are coming out in (quite ironically, given the subject matter) chat sessions online. We shall see. It’s all in its very early stages and a very new adventure.

 

If you’ve enjoyed this, please go and look at Michelle’s blog. I know Michelle through our online writing group and our trusted feedback group. She is a valuable member to both and an extremely talented writer. Her experiences as an expat add a broad and deep insight to her writing.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to get people to agree to continue this trend, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely bloghop to do and a great opportunity to think about what we’re writing and why we’re writing it. If you’d like to know more about the people in our feedback group and how fabulous they are, read this.

And then this happened.

WInning

WInning

Sanity is a friend away.

The last couple of weeks I’ve flip-flopped between writing nothing and binge writing. I’ve hated my work and myself.

It has been hard.

I was nominated for the Liebster award by Olivia and I’ve been thinking about what I would write but I’ve been so wrapped up in my weird fantasy world that I’ve been unable to do anything else.

So, in the meantime, before I have a chance to do the award and pass it forward, I’ll mention some of the online people who have kept me sane (ish).

Aimee has a lot of talent. She has a knack for finding ways to talk about the things that we as mothers all feel but are too afraid to say. And she makes it funny. Oh, and she has a novel coming out soon.

Beth is down to Earth, well-read, opinonated in a good way and will always say what she means. Her writing is deeply twisted and powerful, so if you get a chance to read any of her fiction, snap it up. The characters she creates for her worlds are divine.

Stephanie has a way with words and writes beautiful poetry mainly focusing on motherhood. She has been recently published in an anthology and keeps an important community alive with her Virtual Open Mic Nights. She’s jumped into writing with both feet and her commitment and passion show in both her blog and her poetry.

Maddy writes about finding time to write around her children, and the intrusions life can have on your writing time. Despite this, she consistently produces touching poetry and involves her children in her creativity.

Sadie is currently working on the second draft of her novel and blogs about her exciting journey. Her writing is an excellent insight into the world of a writer who is pushing herself as hard as she can and giving her novel the best possible chance. Sadie always has encouraging words when you find yourself in a writerly muddle.

Michelle is working on her exciting novel. She’s a brilliant blogger and has a kind heart.

Francesca is a wonderful example of what you can do when you listen to your heart and go with the flow. She was a fellow NaNoWriMo-er back in November and has gone on to edit her book which she will be releasing into the wild very soon.

Community is so important when you’re writing. It’s somewhere you can go to keep you sinking too far into the pit of your character’s despair, a place to run to in moments of confidence failure and people who will give you honest feedback on your ideas.

Writers know what it’s like to feel a little bit mad a lot of the time and we all need someone to help us through the darker days.

Enthusiasm wanes

Look, it’s day five! We’re all still excited about our new darlings and the paths they’re taking.

Aren’t we?

What if (like me) you’re secretly not as thrilled with everything as you thought you would be?

What if real life already has its huge foot on your head ready to push you under the water?

What if your research for your career, a tummy bug and clinical depression have thrown you into some kind of mental tailspin and you’re struggling to find which way is up? (Might just be me!)

What happens then?

You’re already behind, your word count looks pathetic next to others in the community and you can’t see a way out.
What do you do then?

Well, realistically you have two choices – give up or write the flip out of your mutherflipping story.

Which one will it be?

Giving up seems easiest, doesn’t it? After all, you’ve made a start, and no one asked for more than that. The only one not winning (there is no such thing as losing in this game) is you. And if you’re really not in it, then stop. Simple. There’s no need for the extra pressure, there’s no need to put your life on hold and prioritise your imagination, especially if the only thing you’ll gain is another first draft festering on a hard drive somewhere.

But what about the time you spent planning and thinking about this before the challenge started. Think about the brain power you’ve already put into your characters. Think about the characters themselves and their journeys; journeys that will never be if you don’t keep going.

What if this story is The One?

How great will it feel to get that winner’s badge?

So, to you (and mostly to myself) I’m saying keep going, get up to speed, you’re not so far behind that you can’t catch up.

Let’s do this!

How to win at NaNoWriMo

You could, if you wanted to, copy and paste 50,000 (or your chosen target for this challenge) random letters into the validation tool at the end of the month.

It would give you a win, but you’d really only be cheating yourself.

When I did my first November NaNoWriMo back in 2011 (all those years ago!) I had no idea whether I would be able to do it so I took to the forums and picked up a few tricks.

1. Use long double names for each character.
Names like Fredrick Joe and Sally Marie are great. Have your character insist their full name is used each time.

2. Do not use contractions.
No more “it’s”, “isn’t”, or “don’t”. Make it part of your style for this particular work.

3. Have a character who swears a lot.
If you don’t mind a few curse words that is. Be inventive with them too; imaginative combinations can add humour to the story.

4. Have a character who uses long sentences or finds it hard to get to the point.
This can be great when combined with or instead of the swearing method as it adds the potential for interesting dialogue which can push your work in a new direction.

5. Describe all of the things.
See that chair over there? Describe it. See the way the lamp lights the room? Describe it.

6. Give your character an inner monologue.
This can depend on which POV you’ve chosen but can add an unexpected depth to your character.

7. Copy and paste.
If it’s suitable, you can use a small amount of copy and paste. It gives the novel a groundhog day feel, and can be used to symbolize repetitive behaviour, or a week of mundane existence.

8. Use song lyrics
You’ll need some permissions if you want to use the lyrics in a published novel otherwise you could find yourself in trouble, but your character can certainly be overly appreciative of lyrics in the first draft.

9. Write every day.
The one thing you will notice about NaNoWriMo is that if you miss one day, you’ll very quickly find yourself becoming disheartened by having to find the additional words the following day. Writing every day, even if you don’t meet your wordcount, will get you in the right mindset and stop you falling too far behind.

10. Take five minutes out before doing your daily bit to plan what you’re going to write.
The blank page looks less daunting if you have a vague idea what you want to put there.

11. You are writing a first draft, so don’t worry too much about having additional names, or too much swearing, or big chunks of description. You can cut these in the editing phase if you need to.

12. Write. A lot. As often as you can.

13. It’s not supposed to be a chore.
It is supposed to push you and it is supposed to be hard, but it’s not supposed to give you a breakdown.

14. Be easy on yourself.
If you miss your target, or can’t write because real life has got in the way, that’s ok.

15. Winning isn’t everything
If you get 10,000 words of a story you’ve been trying to find time for, then you’ve won. Get the words down, get them out.

Most importantly, the best way to win NaNoWriMo is to have fun.

On your marks… Get set ….

April 1st, here we come!

Lull

As the starting line for the next NaNo draws closer, we get restless.

We want to get started on our next big thing. We want to finish it too, although the reality is that life will get in the way and some of us will have to leave our stories unfinished.

Its scary and exciting, this NaNo thing. When you see that blank page for the first time and think “I have to fill you with 50 thousand words,” that can be a little daunting.

That’s why we have the Lull.

The week or so before a challenge, I stop all novel type activities. Mainly because my head is buzzing so much with new ideas that trying to concentrate on anything ongoing is futile, but also to give myself a chance to step back, reflect, stare at the blank page in a panic and wonder if I have what it takes.

This is the only chance we are going to get to doubt ourselves before we are thrown in and left to swim.

Thing is, you won’t drown. You will write. And even if you only write a few thousand words you wrote something.

That’s what actually counts.