Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

10 Reasons Why Being A Writer is Like Being A Parent

Today is my son’s 2nd birthday. Even though I’ve written this in advance, trust me when I say, I cannot believe that two years has passed. Time has always seemed to fly by, but its at moments like this that I really get shocked at just how much has slipped through my fingers without me being mindful. I look at him with his curls bouncing under 3 feet of body, yeah – he’s already over half my height!  I still wonder where on earth he came from, and how he can have been inside my tummy and yet, in two short years, talks and giggles and poops like a machine!

It got me thinking about just how similar being a parent is to being a writer. Here’s why: Continue reading

New Years Resolutions

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I have tried on a number of occasions to set lots of objectives for the new year, and generally speaking failed, or taken two years to complete them!

However, I am going to set some resolutions anyway.

1. Read a book a month (trying to read more non-fiction)

2. Give £5 to charity every month. I actually started this in November, donating to Movember, and then to NaNoWriMo in December.

3. Finish a first draft of my novel

4. Spend more quality time with the wife and kid.

5. Get to my goal size… (this is the hardest, chocolate addiction is a hard one to break)

What are your New Years resolutions?

To Edit or Not to Edit? That is the Question

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HELP…

I have a wonderfully rare gift tomorrow. A day off from work, almost entirely child free that I intend to dedicate to writing. Whilst I am acutely aware I now have an overdue assignment, tomorrow is dedicated to my novel. But I have a problem.

I have 50 something thousand words written – that need a heavy edit, I have some major character development needed too, and probably before I carry on. I have also lost a bit of confidence due to the mis-timed feedback and I’m not sure how to get it back. But it has knocked me significantly off track, and now I feel like I need to go back and edit major storylines, sub-stories and character lines.

But here is my question, Should I go back and spend the time I have between life admin editing the 50K? Or do I spend a couple of hours on character development and then soldier on with the story and edit at the end?

Now – before you all charge in and tell me to plough on (because thats what everyone has said without exception)

There are a few caveats –

I need to either raise my confidence with what words I already have down on the page or I am not going to be able to continue, OR someone needs to provide me with an extremely rational logical argument as to why I should continue.

Listen to me. I already know the answer, I am inviting you to tell me to continue, but I am stuck. Stuck wanting to edit, to critique and perfect what I have before carrying on… the urge to edit is overwhelming.

Also now I haven’t looked at my novel since the 26th Nov when I completed NaNo, the usual ‘carry on to keep the flow going’ doesn’t really apply, as I am a bit out of the flow now anyway.

So what do I do???

Answers on a blogpostcard!

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner… Or NaNo?!

Hate to gloat… Actually, no, no I don’t. At least not in this instance… because…. drumroll please…..

 

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It’s official, November 26th took me to a staggering 50,070 words… I celebrated and then promptly wept into my repetitively strained fingertips at the realisation I still had another 30-40K to go dawned on me. Did I mention the need for several redrafts?

KILL ME NOW.

I am also at the point where I can’t decide whether to add in a twist, which would fundamentally change an aspect of the book.

hmmmm.

Anyway, good luck to all those still NaNo-ing. As Dory would say “Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming”

 

NaNoWriMo – The Dirty Truth

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Writing a Novel has always been on my list of to do’s in life. Ok, its top of the list, but it just never happened. I was too busy being sucked into planning to actually ever get any words down so I decided to suck it up, and get on with it. As a first timer to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. But this is how I see it:

Week 1: And we’re off… The thrill of NaNo, everyone’s ahead. Loving life, love NaNo. Chat NaNo, talk NaNo, bore people to death with NaNo, have no problems with plot, structure or characters, on a role, “I can do this shit” euphoria. Taptaptaptaptaptap, burn taptaptap still buzzing, shovel sugar in, tell EVERYONE about it some more, chatter chatter excitement excitement more sugar.

Week2: We’re riding the high, riding the high, riding the high….. put on 2lbs in sugar and chocolate – thats ok, its only 2lbs, can lose it after. Riding the high of NaNo….

CRASH, BURN, DIE. I HATE MYSELF. I’M SHIT AT WRITING. I’M SHIT AT EVERYTHING.

Writers block, unblocked, blocked again, Shovel more chocolate in to cure depressive writers mentality. Self criticise. Stupid NaNo. Suddenly remember why you started the challenge, tap tap tap, chocolate, crisps, hate on work for getting in the way of writing, tap tap.  Feel the burn, feel the slump, can’t do it any more, for the love of god why did I start this… Stupid idea. Hate my story anyway, It’s shit, I’m shit. Row with the husband/wife/partner for writing too much and not talking to you despite their full support at the beginning of the month. Tap tap, Oh I made it to the end of week 2.

Week 3: NaNOOOOOOOOOO burn, exhaustion, head cold, sore throat, RSI, Neck ache, back ache, everything fucking ache, chocolate, ready meals, ready meals, more ready meals too busy writing, forget to bath the kid, put on another 3lbs, HATE my book, but come too fucking far to stop. Someone says something annoying on stupid forums, hate them, hate work, fight the urge to throw laptop, throw something else instead, fight the urge to delete story, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, I’m behind (hate life), I’m ahead (love my story), I’m behind (hate life), I’m at par (thank god for that), tap tap tap, I’m behind (fuck my life).  More chocolate, seen midnight every night this week, I’m ahead, oh its the end of week three…. Love my story.

Week 4: Baring in mind we’re not there yet, here’s how I am hoping it goes:

Oh My God, It’s the start of the last week. SHIT it’s the start of the last week, WAIT…. it’s the start of the last week…. it’s nearly over…. I CAN DO IT…. burn, more chocolate more sweets, M.U.S.T. keep typing, tap tap tap, late night writing, lunch break writing, writing on my phone in the work toilets, writing on the train, writing sentences in meetings on my notebook. Feeling the burn, can see the light, just three more days, tap tap tap, love my book, tell everyone how close you are to finishing, tap tap, chat about NaNo, love my story…. one more day, tap tap I can DOOOO IT.

MADE IT MADE IT MADE IT. Thank god its over I’m never doing it again…..

335 days later… Repeat cycle.

 

Writing Tips #5 Killing off characters

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Killing off characters…

Whilst I might not be an accomplished published writer… yet and therefore not necessarily have the right to say what I am about to, I am a prolific bibliophile, which does give me the right as I may well read your work one day too! Just as a caveat, this isn’t meant as a slur on anyones work, just a lowly readers opinion.

So, killing off characters….. lots of people do it, in fact most authors kill off a character or two… Sometimes it helps to shimmy your plot along… Great, do it… but what about when you kill off a main character…?

George RR Martin does it all the time you say, well if game of thrones can do it then so can I.

No. No you can’t.

I mean, you could. But word of cautionary warning… don’t just kill off main characters without a irrefutable reason. I will give you an example.

Spoiler alert: Veronica Roth & Divergent

If you intend to read Divergent then skip to another post!

You spend three long books getting to know, investing in and falling in love with her main character Tris. Then she offs her a few chapters from the last book. Fatal mistake. I know I am not alone in thinking this either. Most of my friends who have read her are equally as pissed off. Heres why:

1. She spent three books making us fall in love with her character, ‘feel’ for her character, get to know her inside out, as well as we know ourselves.

2. We were invested in her

3. It came out of the blue – I had to re-read the page in which she killed her off three times before I understood that she had in fact killed her off, at which point I genuinely said out loud “Are you fucking kidding me?”

4. Three books close to a thousand pages of reading about a character and then the last couple of chapters end without her in it.

5. Secretly most people want a happy ending for the characters they love, unless the whole book has lead you to a different ending, which this didn’t.

6. She wrote the first two books from the main characters point of view, in the first person, and then split the last book chapter by chapter to two different characters POV – annoying. Do it the whole way through or not at all.

7. She tricked us, into thinking she was going to have a happy ending with ‘four’ her boyfriend and live happily ever after.

This all adds up to being NOT ok. It’s sloppy writing, in fact it is down right lazy writing. I feel like she couldn’t be bothered to work out an ending so she just offed her main character. Who does that???

Another point to note is POV. Veronica Roth writes in the first person. *SLAPS FOREHEAD* you simply can’t write three books in the first person and then kill your character off. I mean obviously thats why she split the last book to write from two characters view points, but still wrote in the first person. It was tough going and annoying. But explains why she was able to kill off her main character.

She made me invest in a character and then tricked her readers (me) out of the ending we had been expecting and wanting. It’s not ok to do that. Whilst Veronica Roth wrote an outstanding first book, which has clearly made her millions, and an ok second book, she utterly massacred the last one, with an ending thats pissed off every reader I know. It has certainly put me off reading any of her future work. What it does show, is that she can certainly make her audience talk about her work, and feel emotional about her work, I mean, if angry counts? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t meant as a character assassination on Veronica Roth or the Divergent series. I am just trying to show you how not to really irritate your readers.

DON’T CHEAT US OUT OF AN ENDING YOU LED US TO.

 Obviously, if you have led us down the road of knowing the main character is going to die, then fine. But if you haven’t, then please be careful, think about what your readers would want and expect, and hope for, for your characters ending.

The one thing I do have to thank her for, is she inspired me to get off my arse, and write a better story, with a better ending. I’m not saying I am a better writer than her, I’m clearly an unpublished nobody. But, she made me want to write a story with a better ending. I was that annoyed! and here I am in the midst of NaNoWriMo, several thousand words deep in my book…. 🙂

Writing Process Meme

My lovely tutor Esther Newton at the Writers Bureau nominated me for the writing process blog meme. Esther is a fab tutor, always giving such thoughtful and comprehensive feedback, and also an extremely talented writer, my favourite story I have read of hers which had me in fits of laughter was a story written through a series of letters from a very angry customer to a rather naughty hotel owner!

I have to answer four questions and nominate three other bloggers to continue the process. I will do my best at answering the questions, but I might have trouble nominating bloggers, as most of the friends I have made through blogging thus far have been fertility friends rather than writing friends, blogging about writing is still new for me. What I will try to do though is nominate people in my writing group- and then consolidate their answers into one post and pop it up here at a later date.

So, here goes:

1. What am I working on at the moment?

So much it hurts!

  1. I blog, obviously. That’s a constant WIP.
  2. I have written a short story for an adult fairy tale competition, that is sitting on my laptop in desperate need of proof reading so I can submit it by the 14th November. But I’m rubbish at proof reading so I am quietly ignoring it, until I have to submit it. When I will unsurprisingly give it a quick once over, beat myself up AGAIN about being shit at grammar and then submit it anyway, probably full of mistakes. 🙁
  3. My next assignment which is a 4000 word short story about post apocalyptic Earth, due on the 10th December, and thus far I have a title and an idea! and 44.5 thousand words between me and finishing NaNo to have the head space to write it! Gulp.
  4. I run a writing group on Facebook – its a small group of just 16 at the moment, but like anything, if you want it to flourish you have to put the time and effort in, and constantly think of new conversations to generate new writing chat.
  5. My labour of love… The novel I have slaved over, and am writing as part of NaNo. It wasn’t created because of NaNo, I have been working (planning) it for at least a couple of years, although one character and a couple of creatures, have been nuzzled in the corner of my mind since I was 9. I even found the story I wrote about them the other day. This is THE book, the story, that one everyone has in them thats probably rubbish but a complete labour of love. I am in love with my story, I want to live in this world! I know, I probably sound like a complete lunatic!
  6. The second instalment which came to me like an epiphany in a training session, at which point I then scrawled all over my training book with maps, and notes and keys for the story in the tiniest writing you have ever seen so that I didn’t get caught! This is now in the fermenting stage (I’ll explain later)

I think that’s it at the moment.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This is the hardest question to answer. Other than the fact I am coming up with new ideas (which I guess is the one thing I do pride myself on, my unique ideas) I am not too sure. I guess everyone has their own writing style so that would be different too. Although I don’t quite know how to describe my writing style, maybe I will ask Esther, or some of my friends who have read my work. I guess the one thing my friends say, is that they can clearly hear my voice in my work, they know it’s me writing, so that I guess makes it separate from other writers work because there is only one me!

Ugh, this is actually really hard! I am a bit stumped, particularly because I am really quite critical of my work, so it’s hard to now think of something good to say! erm… A couple of people have said my dialogue is quite good, I am quite good at making it realistic and believable.

Does that count? I give up!

3. Why do I write what I do?

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I’m joking, kind of! Writing isn’t a choice though. It’s not a want, a like or a desire. Its an out and out MUST. I HAVE to write, I NEED to do it. Writing quiets my brain from the incessant noise all my characters make in my head. If I don’t write, they scream at me, or prod at what brain cells pregnancy left me with, until I write their stories, and tell their tales.

I mean, of course, like any budding writer, I want to be published. I want to be the next JK Rowling, or Stephen King, or Veronica Roth. But we all know the odds are infinitesimally small. So that doesn’t drive me. An intense need to quiet my characters does!! Ok, a need to tell the stories that fill my head, create the worlds I always wished I could read about. Writing, is a therapy, its cathartic, it allows me to live in another world, where possibilities are limited only by my own mind.

4. How does my writing process work?

HA! 64 million dollar question. Erm. Well, I am a bit of an epiphany kind of girl! I will have a Eureka moment, when something pops into my head, whether it be a character or concept, or plot twist, and then I will spend a lot of time padding it out. I would say that the majority of my writing process is unconscious thought. I need time, not to consciously think about my story, but to let it ferment unconsciously in my head. I just need it to sit there quietly in a corner of my brain whilst I carry on with day to day life. Generally speaking I hate detail, in life, mostly work, I’m awful, I can’t do grammar, I can’t do numbers or spreadsheets. It always surprises me when I can delve into such depth with a character or setting. I spend an awful lot of time noticing little intricacies about people, friends and colleagues. If I meet an interesting person at work, I will scribble notes in my work notebook about that person or character right next to some important work notes! I remember in a meeting once a few years ago, I was so flabbergasted at the sight of a particular person, I was gobsmacked that no one else in the room was as intrigued as me. This gentleman was late 50’s and had skin so deeply grooved and lined he looked like a sculpture, he had a beautiful afro, that reminded me of my grandad, and his big dark eyes made him look ever so slightly like a lion. I had to literally force myself not to stare at him, so instead, I spent most of the meeting snatching glances at him, and unashamedly drawing a picture of his face on a post it… which I still have!

I write notes about my characters and settings and storylines EVERYWHERE. Literally, I have a notebook on me constantly, whether in my work bag, handbag, or on my phone, I have scraps of paper, project files, and document after document clogging up my phone.

I draw them all together and generally speaking put them either into a word document of notes that I develop into  a short story. Or if it’s for my novel into my Scrivener file. Genuinely don’t know where I would be without Scrivener.

I am annoyingly organised. I would say that for novel writing, I drive myself utterly insane with planning and preparation, to the point where, for an entire year, I put off writing my novel because I didn’t feel I had prepared enough. I also have a tendency to hold a lot of information in my head, which usually results in me having mental bandwidth issues, and monging around like a zombie at the end of the day when I physically can’t hold anything else in my head! If it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I would have ever gotten my novel written.

For short stories, I am much less uptight. I can generally speaking let them evolve naturally, you don’t have time to put all the detail in, it’s short sharp and to the point, I generally take a week to get a story down, then spend a few days editing and re reading it. I have a few friends who tirelessly read the drivel I write, so I often send copies of stuff to them just to have a second third or fourth opinion. My poor wife, usually gets roped in to read them, as does my mum. Both of whom aren’t really readers, and don’t enjoy this part of my writing process! but do it anyway because they love me, and I nag them! haha.

There are two other bits I failed to mention:

1. Pinterest. I am a hugely visual person, and I love a good scrap book / mood board. Pinterest has become the bane and love of my life. I use it constantly drawing boards together for inspiration characters and stories and research.

2. Research, I love research, particularly if there is a theme in my book, in my novel, the different places are based on different themes, so I had to do a lot of research on those topics. But for the 4000 word short story, I am currently doing in-depth research on ‘alternative history’ there is a whole culture out there that believes aliens have visited and our history is not what it seems, so my story is partially inspired by this. I love a conspiracy and anything unusual, so I regularly take snippets of odd things I hear, or strange topics for inspiration.

3. I’m a night owl. Mostly I write at night, after my boy is in bed.

That’s it. Possibly my longest post ever, and a little insight into my strange brain!