Another NaNo win, another novel

ImageLast Friday, 29th November, I was delighted to cross the National Novel Writing Month finish-line at 10:50pm – on a Friday – when most other people my age were down the pub, or spending time with their families and partners.

Our kitchen was being decorated over the weekend, and I needed to keep little Miss Chapman out of the way in order for the painting to be completed, so I took the mischievous little munchkin away for a couple of days. As such, Saturday was not available to me for NaNo-ing, and I set myself the target of finishing my next novel by Friday 29th instead.

Thanks to some super-duper supportive friends on Twitter, we all got together every day last week and smashed those word-count targets, and as a result, I passed the 50,000 mark required to ‘win’ NaNoWriMo. The only problem was, the story wasn’t finished, and I hate to leave something incomplete. So I didn’t validate. I couldn’t. I’d written 50k, but I wasn’t done.

Bring on the beans!!
Bring on the beans!!

So, after a day of cleaning the kitchen in prep for decorating, I sat down with a very large cup of black coffee, and I wrote. For three hours solid. I don’t know how I managed to write another 3.5k in that time, on a Friday night, while I needed matchsticks for my eyes. But I did it. I could see the finish line and I began to get really excited about the ending.

As my last blog-post portrayed, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this story during week two. Which was strange, as I’d got really excited while planning the outline and story-arc. But, I told myself it was only because it was a first draft. And that first draft is now finished, which means I have the skeleton of another story.

I have my second novel – and I think I’m in love with the hero.

There are plenty of authors who have written more than one novel, and I’m just a little fish in a very big sea (as yet to be published). But, who cares? There are also plenty of people who haven’t even made it through their first novel.

That’s why NaNoWriMo is so fantastic, it gives you the drive, the support, the belief in yourself to get that book written, not to mention the amazing amount of support.

Here's to you, self-doubt!
Here’s to you, self-doubt!

It might only be a first draft, and I might still be working on my first book, but the important thing, for me, is that I am one step closer to publication, and still on the path to believing that I can do this. I stuck two fingers up in the face of self-doubt – and it felt very bloody good (although this cat only managed one).

How about you? Did you participate in NaNo this year? Did you win?

Any other wannabe ‘winners’ taking part next ?

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It’s only a first draft

For those that don’t know, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. 

It’s day eleven, and I’m currently at just over 18,000 words. Totally on target, and I haven’t even written anything today. 

So why am I not feeling the enthusiasm and excitement that I felt last year? Is it because it’s my second project, or because I’m still hung up on the story I wrote last year? 

After chatting with a Twitter friend this morning, I’ve decided I need to remind myself that It’s Just A First Draft. I feel that I should be bounding around with enthusiasm for my characters, that they should be calling me to write them every day. Except, it’s just not happening. Then I have to remember last year, when I found myself wondering what on earth I was doing, when I hadn’t even planned ANY of the story, just the basic outline. That was even harder. The trouble is, this new project has been planned with not just a backbone, but a rib cage and limbs as well, and although I’ve created plenty of conflict, it just doesn’t seem to be reaching the page. Then I have to remind myself that It’s Just A First Draft. And I have my character profiles sketched out too. 

I remember reading my first draft after last year’s book and cringing at how terrible it was, and now that it’s in it’s fourth draft and (almost) ready for submission, I’m still hung up on it. It’s a bit like trying to start a new love affair when you haven’t finished with the old one yet. Except, I needed to take a step back from it, to start something new and then come back to Time for Love with a fresh eye, having completed my second project. 

The point is, Time for Love (formerly The Gateway) has been re-written twice already and I need to keep reminding myself of that as I write my second book (as yet untitled). 

I’ve written this blog post with the intention of giving myself a pep-talk and to snap out of that “self-doubt” darkness looming over me (hey, it’s November, and it’s dark and wet), and hope that anyone else reading this will find some encouragement in it too. 

I might have written 18k so far and been a very good girl with keeping to target, but I can’t guarantee that it’s any good. But, hey. 

IT’S ONLY A FIRST DRAFT. 

Keep that in mind, and good luck all you other Wrimos. Keep rooting for each other. 😉

 

Time for Love – So You Think You Can Write 2013

Time for Love – So You Think You Can Write 2013

When I stumbled across this writing contest last year and met so many wonderful writer friends and mentors, little did I know I’d be entering my own manuscript into the competition this time around. The top prize in the contest is a publishing contract with Harlequin books, leading publisher in romance novels throughout the world. While I can’t see me winning first prize, I do hope that this entry will at least be a great opportunity to showcase my work. (Of course, I would be jumping up and down and screaming for about a week if I did win!)

The last few weeks have been spent polishing the first chapter and writing a pitch for the contest, while revising and editing the rest of the novel in its third draft. It’s a really exciting time, improving the story, fleshing out the scenes and increasing tension between the characters.

For me, the best part about writing is actually living the scene for yourself, and that’s when the best of my work shines through. It’s wonderful to be able to visit another world through a story, and trying my best to deliver that world to the readers. 

Now, three days into the contest, I’m keeping everything crossed that I can make the top 50 finalists with Time for Love. It’s a nerve-wracking time, and the only thing I can do to pass that time is to keep on writing. 

Originally entitled The Gateway, I feel this novel’s new title really sums up the story. If you haven’t already read the entry, please do have a look and let me know what you think – just click on the link above. 

Huge luck to everyone else entering the contest – anyone who has written a novel knows what a hard slog it is – so a pat on the back to all of us who have come this far! 

Fingers crossed 🙂 

Has it really been a year?

A year has passed since I gave notice to leave my safe, full-time, permanent position as a customer service executive, to concentrate on bringing up my young daughter and focus on building my writing career.

This morning, I’ve been looking back on what’s passed in this last year as I head towards the end of the rewrite of my NaNoWriMo novel, the first draft of which I completed in November 2012.

So, what have I achieved?

I wrote a novel.

I really did, from start to finish, just over 50,000 words. It doesn’t seem like much of an achievement now – as I’ve been spending the last year editing it – but it was back then. There’s not many (apart from those who have enough passion and dedication to finish one) who can say they’ve written a novel. Plenty of people are really impressed when I tell them I’ve written a book. Then I get embarrassed because I know that it’s nowhere near ready to be unleashed on the world.

I wrote and self-published a mini e-book. 

After I left the security of working in the corporate world, I threw myself into researching self-publishing – the revolution of the publishing industry – and spent the first month working on writing a little e-book about living on a budget, inspired by my decision to relinquish an income of my own. I surprised myself with the tips I came up with, and found myself wondering why we didn’t use our own advice more often. An article I’d read in Writing Magazine gave me the confidence I needed to go ahead and publish the book. It’s easy enough to self-publish, but what many probably don’t realise is the formatting involved – this took up a massive amount of my time as I played around with Word, Adobe and another e-publishing program. The book is now live on Amazon and I’ve sold quite a few copies, which I’m rather proud of. Not as many as I would have liked, admittedly, but I’ve since discovered that marketing isn’t my strong point. I’d much rather be writing and chatting with the wonderful group of writing friends I’ve met on social media.

I joined the group of The Rejected

After pouring my blood, sweat and tears into a proposal and partially written manuscript, I received a very encouraging rejection from a major publisher. Of course I was deflated, but I was also over the moon – a publisher had taken the time to read my submission and respond, even giving me some feedback. They told me it was quite clear that I’d spent a lot of time and effort on the submission however they didn’t feel the story was developed enough to be able to proceed with it. This gave me the excuse I needed to press on and make my work even better. I put that story away and decided to focus on my completed manuscript, to make it as good as it could possibly be.

I had an article published in Cat World

It might only be one article, and I didn’t get paid for it, but it was a huge achievement for me. I’ve had fillers published and am due to have another article printed in Evergreen –  sister publication to This England – this autumn.

I joined a Writers Circle

A lovely little critique group in Northampton. We all get together and read aloud our work and listen to each other, offer advice, then have a nice cuppa and a biscuit. If you haven’t joined a writers group, do it. It’s the best advice you could ever have. Writing is a lonely profession in the real world, and although I have made some wonderful friends online, sometimes we crave human contact and adult conversation. Especially us full-time mothers who spend the majority of their day with little people.

~

It’s clear a lot can happen in a year, and it’s been educational. So, what have I learned?

My first draft sucked

I wrote The Gateway (temporary title of my work in progress) in the first-person viewpoint. I sat on it for a few weeks. I read it. I cringed. So the whole thing is being re-drafted in third-person viewpoint.

The first draft is easy

It really is. You just have to get the words down on the paper. The hard part is the second draft. Bringing your writing to life. Getting rid of the cliches. Wondering if your work is ever going to be good enough. I have days where I bounce with enthusiasm over my writing. Then the self-doubt descends like a black cloud and I wonder how my work is ever going to get published.

Editors are very busy people

And sadly rarely reply to queries. I’ve lost count of the amount of emails I’ve sent with a proposed article, only to still be waiting weeks later for a response. It’s so disheartening. Imagine sending out several job applications and not having one reply? It’s hard, it really is. And definitely up there with rejection. Which leads me on to my next lesson.

I’m an eternal optimist

I’ve spent a year trying to break into the market, in both article writing and fiction writing. I’ve faced lots of rejection, I’m still writing my novel, yet I’m still going a year later. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.

The world of writers is a fabulously supportive place

I’ve discovered some great networks, made some wonderful friends and had enormous support from some really special people. Earlier this year I shared the news that I was expecting. Fate dealt a cruel hand, and our little baby girl couldn’t survive in this world. If it wasn’t for the wonderful support some of my writer friends have bestowed upon me, I’m honestly not sure when I would have picked up my laptop again, and I’m so grateful to them.

I’m not superwoman

I can’t do everything. Just like I couldn’t do everything when I was working full-time. Being a mother is a full-time occupation. It’s not easy to fit your own work in around looking after an inquisitive, demanding, hugely energetic toddler. Especially when you’ve spent most of the day (literally) running around after them as well as trying to keep the house clean, and cook a nutritious meal every night (on a budget at that). It’s a wonder I have any energy left. Actually, forget that. I don’t have any energy. I’m exhausted. 😛

~

So, what now? I still firmly believe this was the best decision I ever made. Writing is my dream and it might not be providing me with an income at the moment, but I love it and it makes me happy. A few months ago I was torn between choosing to self-publish, or try to get [The Gateway] traditionally published. I’ve read many articles and viewpoints on the debate and for now, I’m going to try the traditional route. I’m not saying I’d never self-publish, but I want to be sure my writing is good enough for a publisher to want to buy it. Several people have told me they love the first three chapters of this story and the concept, and that’s really encouraging. That’s what’s given me the confidence to proceed with this project and put the article writing on hold, so thanks to all those who have supported me so far, cheered from the sidelines and waved their pom-poms.

I have set myself a deadline to finish the second draft/rewrite of The Gateway by the end of this month (six days left!), after which I’ll be taking down the first three chapters, which are currently on the blog. I then have until the end of September to polish it, after which I’ll be submitting, with everything crossed, and my breath held in anticipation.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Progress update and news

I’ve been steadily working on editing The Gateway these past few days, now that things have calmed down on the home front. I’ve even been able to work a little on my studies, slotting in a bit here and a bit there. Although it’s quite possible I’ve overdone it slightly, trying to squeeze daily tasks and puppy walks and writing in, on top of everything else, including being pregnant. A few people have commented that I’ve been a bit quiet lately, and that is my reason. I’m now 20 weeks gone, and just starting to feel “normal” again (although slightly anaemic; but some iron tablets have rectified that). Since January I’ve been rather fatigued and was knocked sideways by a virus in February which my daughter and I both had, her bouncing back like Tigger on a summer’s day and me taking three weeks to recover from it. As I started to regain my energy, we welcomed another bundle into our home in the form of Charlie, who has certainly not been without his challenges. Patience is a virtue, they say, and I can’t say I’ve ever been the most patient of people. But when you become a mother something happens to you and you become instinctively able to cope with whatever stresses life throws at you, because you simply get on and deal with it.

We’ve had Charlie for five weeks today and I’m pleased to say that he’s settled in well. He’s nowhere near as calm as I’d like (of course not, he’s a puppy) but he’s happier to entertain himself now and with the aid of a baby gate and a puppy crate, we have a little more order in the house.

Anyway, as my father used to say, I digress.

A few more of you have been asking questions about where Chapter Four of The Gateway is. I won’t be posting any more chapters on here, as I haven’t decided whether to self-publish or try the traditional publishing route yet. However I did promise to deliver some snippets and deliver I will.

If you’ve read the first three chapters, you’ll be wondering what happens next with Emmeline and her ticket officer from the train station.

So here’s a little teaser for you…

Emmeline leaned back against the red padded leather of the booth they had chosen at the back of the club, and observed the setting before her. Round tables circled by bistro chairs were strategically placed around a modest stage, which was currently in the process of being set up for a function. Each table was covered in stark white table cloths with candelabras standing centrepiece. The club was empty of customers except for Jack and Emmeline.

‘So, you’re from the future,’ he sat back with one leg crossed over his knee, his arm resting across the back of the booth.

‘Or,’ she looked at him over her cup and saucer, searching for that glint of amusement on his features. It wasn’t there. ‘You’re from the past,’ she decided.

‘Well, Emmeline, I don’t think I am in your future right now,’ he gestured with his arm to demonstrate the very real establishment they were sat in, jazz music playing softly in the background in the absence of a live performance.

She drummed her fingers on the table thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps this is all part of your master plan to continue to mock my plight and this is actually a retro-bar, frequented ordinarily by the locals, who appear to be lacking at present.’ said Emmeline.

‘Please, excuse me for a moment,’ Jack stood and adjusted his waistcoat and jacket and disappeared to the Gentleman’s lounge. When he returned, he sidled into the booth and rested his arm behind Emmeline’s head on the back of the seat. His face was level with hers and she could hear the steady rhythm of his gentle breathing. Jack’s gaze rested on her features for what seemed like an age, until she tore her eyes away and focused on her coffee, desperate to break the intimacy. 

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask, I always love to hear from readers. 🙂

Read the first three chapters of The Gateway here.

Excerpt from The Gateway – Page 77, first 7 lines

A fellow author friend tagged me in a post today for us to help share our work. The idea is that you share the first 7 lines of either page 7 or page 77 of your manuscript, then tag 7 other authors to do the same. I can’t follow suit via my Facebook page so I won’t be tagging anyone, but thought I’d join in the fun and share a little excerpt with you anyway.
Below is the first 7 lines of page 77 of The Gateway (the NaNoWriMo 2012 novel):

I simply glared at her; feelings of fury and resentment building up until I felt as though I might explode. Then it came. I clenched my fists together and breathed quickly, trying to contain it. But the words spilled forth before I had a chance to stop them.

‘Yes, well maybe it’s time you grew a bloody backbone of your own,’ I growled at her, the tears threatening to spill down my cheeks. I gave her one last glare as she looked like I had just slapped her, and turned on my heel and ran down the corridor. I ran and ran and ran, not seeing where I was going at any point, my tears blurring my vision, then collided headlong into Joe.

Just for fun!