Promises and Wishes: 2017 Edition

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(Me in January and December of this year)

Once again, we find ourselves at the time of year where nostalgia and reflection overcome us! Every year on Christmas Eve, I round-up my yearly achievements and set some goals for the new year. To say I made a tonne of progress is an understatement!

Here’s my list from last year:

  • Learn to drive.
  • Go abroad again.
  • Visit Stonehenge.
  • Write another book.
  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

Let’s see how much I achieved:

Learn to drive.

Erm… the less said about that the better.

Go abroad again.

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(Dan, Brendan and Me)

Does going to Scotland count as going abroad? Some might agree, some may not. I didn’t use my passport, let’s just say that. But going to Scotland has definitely satisfied some of my wanderlust and has also given me the travel bug. In fact, Dan, Brendan and I are planning to go away in 2018 as well. We got to see a lot of Harry Potter and Outlander sites as well as some historical ones, particularly to do with Mary, Queen of Scots. (More on that later!)

Visit Stonehenge.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Write another book.

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Yes. NEARLY. I did CampNaNoWriMo this April and managed to write fifty thousand words of a first draft for a book titled The Elementals. I also re-wrote another draft of my mystery novel Losing Lola. A 100k word count for 2017 ain’t bad!

Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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Well, yes, Part Two anyway. I had a ticket for Part One but I couldn’t get the time off work, so I could only go and see Part Two, which I loved. Good job I knew what happened in Part One!

So, three out of five! Not too bad in my opinion.

Now, here’s my list for 2018:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.

I really, really need to get around to doing that. Really, really.

  • USE MY PASSPORT.

As I said, Brendan, Dan and I are thinking about going on holiday again together in 2018, and there are a few European cities on the list so who knows!

  • Get into full-time work.

I’m already working part-time in schools which I’m absolutely loving. Ideally, I’d be looking to move into a full-time teaching assistant position. Let’s keep those fingers crossed.

  • Write another book.

If I could write a book a year. I’d be happy with that. I’m aiming to do NaNoWriMo 2018 and have an idea still developing in my mind, so I’m sure this would be an achievable goal for me.

  • Read 100 books. 

I’ve read 100 books the last two years and I really want to keep this number up, even if I’m going to be trying to get into full-time work. Reading is my greatest passion, and I want to keep my favourite hobby going at all costs!

So, let’s see what 2018 brings! What’s on your bucket list for this year? Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo2017 – Week 3

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We have passed the halfway mark of NaNoWriMo and in theory, three-quarters of the novel should be finished! Let’s look at the stats and see how I’m getting on.

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I haven’t yet completed today’s word count, but I am hitting the target each day, still with difficulty. I’ve completely lost confidence in this project. Not as myself as a writer, I just am struggling with this project and what I want it to be. It feels as though the idea in my head isn’t translating to paper the way I want it to. I’m thinking that after NaNoWriMo is over, I’m going to put this idea on a shelf and spend a lot of time thinking about it.

I find that if I think about projects long enough, and really spend some time fleshing them out in my head, almost playing the story live action in my head, I can better understand the direction and purpose of what I’m trying to achieve. I think that’s what I need to do with this story. I’m happy with the characters, I’m happy with the basic plot, but something else needs to change.

In a way, I’m quite happy about this revelation because ultimately it’s going to make me into a better writer, and it’s going to make my project better. So even though it feels frustrating at times, there’s still a positive to be drawn from it.

How are you getting on with your NaNoWriMo project? Only one week to go! Let me know in the comments!

#NaNoWriMo2017 – Week 1

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So the first week of NaNoWriMo kicked off on a Wednesday this year, so I spent every night after work writing down those words needed to get to the fifty thousand benchmark. Let’s have a look at my stats!

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I kicked off this writing month completing almost 2,000 words in the first couple of days, which has given me a massive head start on my word count. As I said before, I’m reworking an old manuscript that I worked on last year for the Camp edition of NaNoWriMo. Having something concrete to work from has definitely helped give me a foundation, and I’d recommend it to anyone to enter into NaNo with as much material as possible, whether that be a thorough outline or a first draft like me, I’ve found it really, really helps.

Something I did struggle with this week, particularly on Saturday, was writing outside of my routine. I found that coming home from work and sitting down to write every day made it much easier for me to get into the groove. When I tried to write on a Saturday afternoon, I found it hard to get my head in the right space to write, so I’m going to try and keep it the same each day to keep with a routine. Whether I’ll be able to do that or not, I don’t know but I’m hopeful.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What’s your progress like? And what genre are you writing? Let me know in the comments!

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 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.