Preparing for #NaNoWriMo2017

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Yes, it’s that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month, also known as November, is upon us, which means all your author friends will drop off the face of the earth as they try to write 50,000 words in a month. I’ve participated for the last two years and once again, I’ll be tackling the big 5-0 this coming November.

My project this year is a second draft of a story I wrote during Camp NaNoWriMo 2016. Losing Lola was the name of the project, and although I achieved my 50,000-word goal, and although it was only a first draft, I’ve had time to think about what I want the story to be and the improvements I want to make on the story.

The narrative is set in my hometown of Bexhill and tells the story of Warren and Javi who are thrown into a whirlwind after Javi’s sister, Lola, goes missing. Her body is found and ruled a suicide but Javi and Warren are convinced that actually Lola was murdered.

The first draft was really the bare bones of the story, and I concentrated on getting from A-B, using very simple language of “this is the scene, these are the characters, where they’re going, where they’ve come from, and this is the dialogue”. It was useful to do it this way as I didn’t have to worry about how I wanted to tell the story, but only the story I wanted to tell.

So going forth, I’ll be working from the original draft I did back in April 2016, using the scenes I wrote as a structure and fleshing out my original ideas, adding in a few more and cutting others. I’m feeling confident I’ll achieve my goal of 50,000 words this time as I achieved it with my first draft on not much content.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Or are you taking a break? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days! AGAIN!

This last week has been a real uphill struggle for me, as I really felt like I was burning out, but I managed it none the less. At the end of week three, I managed to stretch ahead and get back on target as I was a day or so behind on my word count. It’s funny how just skipping out on one day can sometimes really make you struggle to get on target again, but I did it, and in the final week four, all I had to write was a further ten thousand.

Most of that ten thousand went on back story, filling in the gaps and structure. In my story, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes that the main protagonists don’t know about, that it’s important for me to get straight in my head what’s happening so I can correctly convey the story and how much information to reveal to the characters and when. Some of this information I translated into the story in different ways, some I left as “extras” for myself to refer to. I did consider a multiple POV at one stage, but firstly, I would have had to go back and interject the other points of view which seemed like a lot of work, and secondly, it really felt much more powerful and harrowing if we kept the characters, and to the same extent the readers, in the dark about the true nature of what’s going on outside of their circle.

My plan moving forward with this story is to be more ruthless with the structure, as I really just let the words flow without worrying too much about what was going in which chapter. I don’t know when I’ll be revising the piece, as right now I’m going to be taking a well-earned rest from writing, but hopefully soon. I also want to write in, and incorporate, lots of other short stories and creative works that really formed the foundations of this book. I had the initial idea in my first year of university which was almost six years ago now, and there’s a lot in what I wrote then that I want to rework into the form it is now. I’m really, really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve with this story, and it’s true what they say about never throwing anything away. You don’t know when it’s going to crop back up into your mind again, in different clothing or fully formed.

How did your April #CampNaNoWriMo go? Did you manage to complete your word count? Or did you find it as difficult as I did? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 3

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This blog post comes a day late due to technical difficulties with my WiFi and also with my laptop. I’ve managed to push through and so here we are! These are the stats for my week three stint of CampNaNoWriMo.

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As you can see I’ve been lagging about a day behind with my writing due to the day I missed. It was a simple case of life getting in the way and so my creative project suffered for it. I know lots of writers have a similar problem balancing those areas of their lives, and I definitely struggled with balancing mine last week. Having said that, I only missed one day of writing, and have continued on never the less.

Last night was actually the night where I had a break through with my piece. I was in the shower, which is one of the many places I find I have good ideas, and it felt like a light bulb had been switched on over my head. At risk of giving too much of the plot away, it concerned something that I had been struggling with for a few days. I knew what I wanted my characters to get, or achieve, but I didn’t know how to get them there, or really what “there” looked like. I got there in the end, and it gives me hope that eventually I’ll be able to work all the kinks out and have a really strong arc if I just give myself the time.

I’ve also been considering the structure of the novel this week. I had originally split the piece into three parts as I usually do to help with structure, but it the plot has presented itself in very straightforward “before” and “after” pieces. The “after” section that I’ve been working on has, for the majority, been made up of the part three section of the story, and so I’m thinking it’s going to be a much more fluid, and full of pace, if I move with where the story takes me and leave figuring out the structure to a later draft. At the moment, I’m only concerned with getting my characters from A to B, and getting the words down.

With my writing epiphany yesterday, I happily only have ten thousand words left to write of my piece, which is going to lift a lot of pressure from this final week. I feel like I’ve asked and answered a lot of questions, and I’ve really been smoothing out areas of the plot that were very grey, and almost invisible to me at the start.

I hope your third week of CampNaNoWriMo has been going well. Have you had a similar journey to me this April? Let me know in the comments!

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 1

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In April 2017, I’ll be embarking on my fourth NaNoWriMo attempt and my second of the camp edition. This year I’m working on a brand new story, and a brand new genre. My story, The Elementals, is a YA magical realism story, with a hint of mystery and adventure too. You can read about my preparations for this year’s CampNaNoWriMo in my blog post here.

My goal this time around is to write 50,000 words by the end of April. When I embarked on CampNaNoWriMo last year, I managed to write 50k without much of a plan. This year, I have an outline and much more of a clue which direction I’ll be going in, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to achieve it. Reaching 5,000 words in the first three days went well. I’ve been placed in a cabin with lots of other lovely people and cheering each other on was a great motivation to get moving. I mainly wrote for an hour or two after dinner as I found this was when I was the most productive.

Towards the end of the first week, my social calendar got a bit busier and so finding time to write was challenging, but I still managed to get the word count in every day, even if I was writing right up until my bedtime. Let’s have a look and see how my stats are at the end of the first week.

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So as you can see I’m over a quarter of the way done, which is perfect considering I have four weeks to complete my piece in. Tomorrow, the first day of week two, I’ll be tipping over onto the 15,000 word mark which is really exciting!

What I’ve been concentrating on this week is back story and foundation. I wrote three chapters of the third section of my novel, as there needs to be a lot of back story injected into the conversation between the characters, or a reveal of who/what/when/why/how as one might do when revealing a murderer in a who-dun-it. I then made sure that my characters were asking the right questions in the foundation section of the novel, which was mainly at the beginning. I had to make sure that the characters were held off from knowing too much too soon, and so crafting this balance was what has been my main focus this week.

Getting the words down hasn’t been too much of an issue so far, as once I got the ball rolling, I generally found I could keep going until I ran out of steam and gave me a good chunk of the word count for the day. I know that the second and third weeks¬†can sometimes be hard, so I’m preparing for that by having my outline on hand to keep me going in the right direction.

I hope you’re all having a wonderful time either participating in #CampNaNoWriMo or cheering on friends that are! Keep up the good work everyone!

Preparing for #CampNaNoWriMo2017

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I absolutely love participating in NaNoWriMo whether it be the Camp edition in April/July or the regular write-along in November. There’s something so infectious about setting time aside to write and celebrating the art of words with people all over the internet.

I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo for the first time last April and really, really enjoyed it. What I liked was that the Camp edition has the added bonus of cabins, which means you get put into a chat room with other writers where you can spur each other on, ask questions and get feedback. This is something that isn’t available in the November challenge.

This April, I’m going to be working on a brand new story! The last three attempts at a NaNo challenge, I’ve written completely new ideas. So I’ve begun to structure my first writing project of 2017 in preparation. As usual, I like to break it down, usually into three parts, and I give myself 20,000 words per part. That way, I have a 10,000 word grace period if I’m feeling stuck. (And sixty goes into three better than fifty does!)

Also, following the trend of my last few projects, I’ll be tackling a new genre. This time I’m going to try and combat magical realism, but it will of course be YA because I can’t stray too far from who I truly am as a writer. I, so far, have never written magical realism before, even though I’ve had this seed of an idea in my head for years. I’m looking forward to the new challenge.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot yet but it’s certainly going to be mysterious, because again, I can’t stray too far from who I am. I love mystery! And packed full of drama. I also have a working-title too: The Elementals.

I’ve also dedicated a new notebook to this entirely new project which is always exciting for us stationary fiends. I’ve been carrying it around with me and filling it up with new ideas for the book, letting my imagination run wild and really mulling over the story before I put it down into words. I’ve been dreaming it up before I go to bed, whilst waiting for the kettle to boil and whilst waiting for a train. In my opinion, it’s in those blank spaces of life where we write our best work.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to in the run up to Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ll be doing weekly updates here as usual, so I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about my (hopefully, fruitful) progress.

Are you going to be doing Camp NaNoWriMo this year? If so, what are you writing this year? A new project or an old favourite? Are you waiting until November to get your write on? Let me know in the comments!

Promises and Wishes: 2016 Edition

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(Me towards the beginning of the year.)

So, it’s that time of year again where I round up my yearly bucket list and see how much I have achieved. Looking at it, I would say a HELL of a lot. I’ll give you the run down.

Firstly, here was the list I made this time last year on what I wanted to achieve in 2016.

  • Learn to drive.
  • Get better at French.
  • Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.
  • Finish structuring/plotting the next big idea.
  • Begin volunteering somewhere, even if it’s just an hour a week.
  • Come down on my medication dosage.
  • Write more blogs.

And now let’s see just how much I’ve achieved this year.

Learn to drive.

Okay, still not gotten around to that yet, BUT I’m working on it.

Get better at French.

I am officially 30% fluent on Duolingo, and that’s certainly better than where I was this time last year.

Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.

I sent my first novel The Last Four Years out to around twenty five literary agents, and I heard back from almost all of them (if not all of them), and they politely declined. I wasn’t too phased by this, as I knew that it would take a lot of hard work and grafting to get my work out there, but I’m just pleased I started the process and got my name in people’s inboxes.

Finish structuring/plotting the next big idea.

2016 has been a good year for creativity. In April I took part in CampNaNoWriMo and wrote 50k words of a first draft for a story titled Losing Lola which is a mystery/thriller set in my home town. Then, in November, I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote another 50k words of a first draft for a story titled Beatrice, Queen of Karelia, which involved a lot of world building. This means I will have written about 100k words this year alone, which is mind-blowing.

Begin volunteering somewhere.

Since around May of this year I’ve been volunteering with an community based activity centre, whereby we aim to help underprivileged adults, children and families get out, get educated, get healthy and get socialising. I also help in a particular department that aims to help young children and families dealing with loss.

Come down on my medication dosage.

Yes in abundance. I started off this year on:

  • ¬†200mg sertraline
  • 45mg mirtazaphine
  • 2mg valium as and when I needed it.

Now I take:

  • 150mg sertraline

I’ve tried really hard and pushed myself mentally and physically to achieve this and I am so proud of myself! I’d ideally like to be down to 100mg by January.

Write more blogs.

Yes, yes, yes. I have tried to write a blog post a week, which is much more regular than what I was doing before, and apart from 2 weeks where I was on holiday, I managed it! Once again, I’m so proud of myself for kicking myself and getting motivated (pretty hard to do when you have depression) and even though blogging isn’t my strongest point, I gave it a go!

Okay, so that pretty much sums it up. The only thing I didn’t complete on my list was learning to drive, but that’s okay, it’ll just go to the top of my list for next year! Which reminds me:

2017 Goals

  • Learn to drive.

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Yeah, I need to get on this. (Not learning to become a taxi driver – this was the only relevant photo I had!)

  • Go abroad again.

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Even if it’s just to France. I don’t care. I need to get my wunderlust hat back on.

  • Visit Stonehenge.

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(c) English Heritage

It’s always been somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit, so hopefully I will.

  • Write another book.

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Let’s face it, I’ve got all year to do it which I think is pretty doable. I certainly have an idea and hopefully by next November, I’ll be ready to participate and write another 50k.

  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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After a year of waiting, I finally got to go and see the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre in London and it was brilliant! I so enjoyed seeing it come to life on stage and would love to see it again (and again, and again, and again!).

So that’s my plan for the next year. Let me know down in the comments what you’ve got coming up in 2017.

#NaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I actually went and bloody did it. Here are my stats now that I’ve completed NaNoWriMo2016.

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As you can see from the graph, I finished on November 28th and officially wrote 50,000 words. It was touch and go as to whether I made it to the word count because, not only was I really busy in my private life, but I also developed a chest infection in the last few days, which really hindered my ability to write. I’m thankful I pushed on through though, because now I can say I’ve won NaNoWriMo two years running.

I didn’t actually complete my story, which is the weird thing. I never think about my stories or novels to be particularly long. Even last year when I wrote The Last Four Years, my story finished, quite appropriately around 50,000 words. So when I realised I had only written half of my story at 50k, I knew that with the finished product, I was going to be in for some serious editing! That being said, I really enjoyed the idea that I was writing, but for now I’m going to put it aside and mull it over rather than push myself at the same pace.

I have started thinking about another project that I ideally want to work on this coming April for CampNaNoWriMo, but that is five months away! I’ve realised just how important it is to have a plan, but sometimes, even if you have an outline or a structure, sometimes it’s not enough. I’ve learned to write where my heart takes me and worry about filling in the blanks later, because those blanks might just end up filling themselves over time.

I can happily say that this NaNoWriMo was very educational and productive indeed. I would like to thank NaNoWriMo and the whole team behind the event and also my writing buddies who kept me going. You are the unsung heroes of a writer’s life!