I have joined the NaNoWriMo winner’s circle!

It’s official, I have actually crossed the finish line and completed my 50,000 word NaNoWriMo novel within 30 days.Winner - NaNoWriMo 2012

For those of you who want to know how I did it; not only have I been writing furiously alongside #NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, snatching sessions when I can, I’ve even taken to writing on my smart phone in the car (while my husband is driving of course, not me). There are some wonderful apps you can download on Android (I was using Polaris Office) and there’s even wordcount software you can utilise in the absence of MS Word. Oh, and there has been a distinct lack of television watching (with the exception of my favourite TV show The Vampire Diaries – what can I say, I’m devoted).

Most of the work has been completed in the evenings, when the house is (relatively) quiet and I can focus. Cue me emerging three hours later from my make-shift office of the cramped corner of the bedroom – with just a candle for company – with tired, pink and bloodshot eyes.

With the word target being 1667 words daily, there have been days where I’ve written nothing at all (family commitments and a teething toddler), and days where I’ve written over 4,000 words (thank you @NaNoWordSprints). It’s not an easy task; anyone who says otherwise is either an eternal optimist (and deluded), or lying.

With words pouring onto the page, the inner editor barred for the month and the clock ticking, it’s amazing how much rubbish you can churn out. I’m dreading next month, after leaving it for a few days, when I will unearth the story and read it in preparation for the second draft. It’s terrible; it’s got holes all over it, the writing sucks and I have been visibly cringing as I’ve been racing against the clock.

I realise I’m putting myself down here and need to stress the point that It Doesn’t Matter if it’s not OK. Because as I said before – I have a wonderfully flawed, completed, first draft which I can work with; I have the bare bones, the skeleton, the foundations on which to build. And actually, some of it’s not bad. In fact, I have surprised myself with some of the paragraphs. Especially some of the intimate scenes. 😉

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a prior novel which I started in NaNoWriMo 2010 which needs my attention.

As for the rest of the participants: Keep going, Wrimos! You can do it!!

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A flagging mess, a sore throat and a pep-talk

Oh, bugger this.

I have just sat down to work on my novel – instead I find myself drawn to writing a blog post about it instead. Two days ago, I blasted through 40,000 words. Then as I slowed to a halt at around 43k, I realised that I already had the ending worked out and there was no way I would be able to write 7,000 words worth of ending. So I made a list of some scenes I needed to inject to expand the story and had a tentative burst of enthusiasm yesterday, which lasted all of half an hour.

My throat feels like I have attempted to swallow a thousand pins, but they have all got stuck and no matter how much I drink (last night saw vain attempts to numb it with medicinal quantities of vodka), the blasted scratchy things just won’t wash away. So I have plied myself with paracetamol and black coffee, and while my little one sleeps, here I sit in front of my laptop procrastinating, for the first time in perhaps 20 days.

Now it would seem that the powers that be are conspiring against me to stop me from “winning”, as something has come up which will require my attention in approximately 10 minutes, so I see little point in trying to focus this morning when I know that my concentration will be broken as soon as I pick up momentum.

There is hope, however. No matter how much of a mess I think this novel is, with its short bursts of exciting material and its longer, drawn out boring scenes, the following extract from the pep talk from Grant Faulkner has given me a little boost. Because while I stare at the dust bunnies mounting in the corners and the specks of fluff on the carpet, and worry that this story is a load of crap, at least I will have a complete, fully revisable novel, winking and luring me into its pages to be edited and crafted into something that might, just possibly, be worth reading.

“Now many gifted and creative people are perfectionists, so the pandemonium of the creative process can be a source of anxiety and self-criticism. Some people get so turned off by the tumult of their novels that they quit, wash the dishes, and feel a great sense of accomplishment as they gaze at a sparkling sink…

“See what globs of plots you can toss into your stories this week. Splash paint and flip  feathers up in the air in your descriptions. Think mish-mash. You’ll have plenty of time to embrace your inner neat freak in revision..” ~ Grant Faulkner

You’re absolutely right, Grant, and I only have 5.5k to go. Yes, I can DO THIS!

NaNoWriMo update… 14K to go!!

It’s day 20 in the NaNoWriMo world of writing.

In order to have written a 50,000 word novel in 30 days, I should be on or around 33,340.

My total word count to date, is 36,024.

I logged on this morning, stared at the page for the umpteenth time and thought “where am I?”

I’m not sure how it happens. I go and live my life for a few hours (feed the child, entertain the dog, take the husband for a walk etc) or sleep for a while, and when I come back, it’s almost as if I have no idea what’s going on in the story and wonder if I’ve been writing it with my eyes closed. I don’t think it helps that my inner editor is itching to go back and read what I’ve written. If I allow that, I will find myself editing without even realising and before I know it, I’ll have lost an hour. I’m looking forward to the revision process; I can’t wait to read this story. I know I’ll be cringing constantly throughout the whole thing and will have to read through it first before letting the red pen loose, but at least I’ll be able to remember what has happened and what has driven the story to where it is now! There will be so many holes and hazy plot lines, but it’s OK – because I will have a complete, first draft, novel.

I spent several hours yesterday matching celebrity look-a-likes to my characters. I won’t spoil it by naming all of them, but I did settle for Daniel Craig as the naughty spanner in the works. 😉

After wondering where to start this morning, I checked out NaNoWordSprints on Twitter but there was no activity, so I decided to start my own sprints. I didn’t get any takers until I’d finished sprinting, but it helped me no end; I was going for 10 mins, then 15, then 20, then 30. After lunch I teamed up with romance writers Michelle Smart, Nina Milne and Angela Quarles for a 1k1hr session (1,000 words in 1 hour) and also used the NaNo word sprint prompts (which were now up and running) to blast through. The end result was a total word count for today of 4,000.

I’ve probably made it sound like a word-count contest; it’s not. It’s a fabulous way to really push yourself, to get those words down on (electronic) paper and to work the bare bones of your project.

So waffle aside; if you’re NaNo-ing, I hope this post gives you some inspiration to race on through and reach your target – you’ll feel so proud of yourself when you’ve landed.

Go on – surprise yourself and win NaNoWriMo – see you at the finish line. 🙂

Hello, 30,000!!

I am delighted to announce that I have just passed the 30k mark in my NaNoWriMo novel. I’m still not any further forward with choosing a title for it (I have played around with a few, but none seem to quite fit).

I hit a stumbling block earlier. At around 28k, I was stuck on a sub-plot and couldn’t move forward until it was resolved. I’d introduced a character quite early on, who showed real potential. Then, suddenly, I found I didn’t really know what to do with him. How could one powerful character appear out of nowhere and then deflate like a punctured balloon? He had no direction, no mission. Because the mission I initially had planned for him didn’t suit. It didn’t work. So I sat down, and I thought, and I Googled for some inspiration, and I started working out the sub-plot. It really helped, because now he has direction again, and he has shown me a different side to his character.

On the plus side, I have managed to come up with blurb of sorts, just to give an idea of what the story is about.

This is the beauty of NaNoWriMo, especially if you don’t have the time to do any planning; you just launch yourself into the story and have to see where it goes. There are obstacles, there are brick walls. Yet there are also some pleasant surprises, and I think I have just hurdled that wall.

And that’s me for another day, totally knackered and ready to crash, but leaving you with the outline below as a little taster 🙂

Imagine a concept where your emotions are so powerful, they can open a gateway to another world? A portal to another time zone. Not time travel, but just another place in time where you can meet your soul partner to show you the way, the way to find your true self? The gateway to happiness and to the love of your life… 

Where do I go from here?

I ended last night’s brief writing spell with a closing line, and now I don’t know where to go with it. I am actually sitting here with writer’s block. Prior to this, I would have said that I didn’t believe in writer’s block, that it was just an excuse to stare at a blank page. But when you’re mentally exhausted, it is indeed possible. Except in this circumstance, it’s only the case with the novel I’m writing for NaNoWriMo; the flow of words has become stagnant.

I started with an idea. One character. No plot line.

I now have a handful of characters, one heroine (the protagonist), a hero and a baddie (antagonist). Except the baddie has yet to do anything untoward and the heroine has reached a point in the story where I’m not quite sure where to go from here. I have also ended up with a romance with an element of science fiction/fantasy/paranormal (call it what you will). I don’t quite know how I ended up here, it just happened.

I know what the ending will be, and I know what leads up to it, but I have become stuck as to how to begin the next scene. It’s one of those scenes where you have to have inside knowledge to be able to write. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you have to do research. If you’re writing a novel in 30 days, you don’t have time for research.

I suppose I’d better just make it up as I go along and then make time for the research afterwards. After all, that’s what NaNoWriMo is for.

Yes, that’s what I’ll do. OK, that’s better. I have removed the cork and can now let the story flow once more.

I think I might even throw a tangible item like this cork into the story and see what I can do with it…

Thanks for listening (reading). 🙂

NanoWriMo update! 20,000+ words!

So it’s day 13 of NanoWriMo.

Today’s total word count target is 21,671 words. I’m at just over 20k so I’m pretty pleased with myself.

I didn’t write on Saturday; I was exhausted, so spent two hours working on my web presence instead. Somehow that was easier than trying to dredge up words which didn’t want to participate in making something beautiful. I love writing. I love how a story can flow from the depths of your mind to the tips of your fingers and spill forth all over the spanking new page. But working under pressure is not easy, which is why I’m so incredibly proud that I’ve come this far. When the stats told me I have 29,746 words to go, something leaped inside me. I think it was excitement, to see that the end is in sight. I can see that no matter how terrible this novel may be; the novel which started with no synopsis, one character with no name and absolutely no prior planning – in fact it was called ‘Chapter One’ for the first ten days – has the very strong possibility of becoming a finished novel.
I have the plot outlined now, although I’m not quite sure how the ending is going to pan out just yet. I’ve had an antagonist walk in without an invitation, still unsure what his part is in the story, and I have written my characters into some difficult corners and wondered how they’re going to wriggle out of them. But I think that’s pretty good going for my second NanoWriMo. In my first NanoWriMo, I admitted defeat quite early on with a mediocre 14k.

The great thing about NanoWriMo is that it gives you several boosts. It hones your writing skills; it teaches you discipline; it forces you to set a target and stick to it. For me, the best part about NanoWriMo is having the bare bones of a story with which you can work, characters you can really get to know and explore a whole new world with, and if you don’t win (which I WILL this year!!), it’s ok. Because you have come this far. Because when you revisit it next month, or next year, you just might find a way to make your original idea spectacular. Without that, without ideas or foundations, we wouldn’t have stories.

So keep writing, Wrimos. Push yourself. Weave your story and get it finished. Just imagine the amazing sense of achievement you’ll be basking in when you reach the finish line.

After that inspiring blog post, I’m off to get some chocolate and flex my typing digits. I have a novel to finish.

NaNoWriMo… And other stuff

With the start of NaNoWriMo being 1st November, I dutifully wrote my first 3,335 words in the first two days of the month. Then Saturday 3rd saw me attending the Writers & Artists conference – Self-Publishing in the Digital Age – which was extremely insightful, inspiring, and buzzing with energy. I am on Twitter, I have a blog and I am considering setting up a Facebook page, however I had no idea how many other social media platforms there were available to me. There can’t possibly be enough time to maintain them all! I do have a self-published book on Amazon, 7 Simple Ways to Survive on a Budget, which I am not presently promoting, simply because I am focusing on other projects including NaNoWriMo.

In the previous week, I was concentrating on getting my manuscript for The Girl Who Had Nothing polished and sent out to a publisher. I have a lot of work to do, including increasing my online presence further, updating my author page on Amazon (if you haven’t already done so – do it, it helps people find your book, as Jon Fine – Director of Author & Publisher Relations at Amazon.com – demonstrated).

On another plus note, I did have an email reply from the aforementioned publisher, advising that my submission has been passed to the editor for consideration. I will have several weeks to wait for an answer, but any response is an encouraging one.

Back to NaNoWriMo, I have been faithfully banging out the words on the keyboard while Mini-Me sleeps and am pleased to confirm that I have covered more ground in catching up with myself. I’m only 5 day overdue now and forecast to finish on 5th December, as opposed to the 19th December which was yesterday’s estimation! I’m quite intrigued to see where this story is going, as I didn’t even write a synopsis before embarking on this journey; I just plucked an idea from a list and ran with it, no prior planning involved. At some point I will plan out the major plot points in the story, as I don’t want to find myself or my characters drifting aimlessly through the story.

Small Person is now awake and has progressed from singing to herself from her cot to shouting at me. Time to go for lunch, shape sorting and stories.

Good luck to all you other Wrimos out there!

Am I winning? I think so

I had intended to write this blog post earlier today, but as usual, time ran away with me. As such, what I would have written earlier will probably be totally different to what I’m about to write; a lot has happened in a day. I don’t have any news to broadcast from the rafters (although that would be nice), but I am celebrating the fact that I have actually submitted a MS to a publisher today, as I promised myself. I did vow to complete it and send it by the end of the month, prior to NaNoWriMo, but I was actually up til 10:50pm last night “polishing” some more until I decided that enough was enough. If I polish any more, I’ll wipe the sheen away and lose the next four weeks of my life doing so. Those four weeks are for NaNo time. It’s good to set a timetable, and stick to it. Certainly, some tasks from the To Do list have had to drop off yesterday’s list on to today’s; but that’s to be expected when you have other commitments. The life of a writer: when your true vocation must take a back seat to everything else – because that is how we roll.

Anyhow, back to NaNoWriMo. Today is 1st November. Today was the day when I was supposed to write my first 1,667 words. I argued with myself. There was/is too much else going on. I have articles to send out, markets to analyse, proposals to send. I have a toddler to look after, a house to run. The Writers & Artists self-publishing conference to attend on Saturday. Family to host for. I am running out of time. Yet, a little voice in my head squeaked ‘You can do it. It’s not impossible. Nothing is impossible. Stop putting obstacles in your way again.’ He’s right, old Jiminy Cricket. Always let your conscience be your guide. (Disney’s Pinnochio, for those of you who are wondering what on earth I am waffling about). So I put small person to bed and sat down in front of my blank canvas. With no prior planning (the perfectionist side of me is furious about this), I scrolled through some previously recorded ideas and picked one. Then added a twist. Where it will lead, the future only knows.

All I know, is that I have achieved so far this week that which I intended, and for that, I am already half way there.