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!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 3

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Apologies for being slightly late with week three’s update. Life seems to have run away with me at the moment, but despite this I’m still making good progress. Let’s see how I’ve been doing.

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I’m yet to complete my words for today (23rd) but I’m confident that I will by midnight at the latest. I have passed the 30k mark, and even the 35k mark as well, and I am ever nearing the 40k mark with each day. As I said last week, I wanted to have 40k by the end of week three and I’m almost there, so only over 10k left to write in the last week. I’m confident that I can win NaNoWriMo again this year.

I’ve been continuing to jump around with scenes which has really freed me up and helped me get the words down. It’s also helped me flesh out the other scenes that I haven’t had at the forefront of my mind just yet. I’m still not even half way through my story and so I’m thinking my final product is going to be much longer than 50k. It will be the longest story I’ve every written, as the most I’ve ever achieved is 50k, which was last year’s effort titled The Last Four Years.

So we’re coming into the fourth and final week, and I’m hoping to just continue writing as much as possible each day. I don’t want to worry about writing loads and loads each day, as long as I can get the daily word count done, I’ll be happy. So 50k is the goal regardless of whether my story is finished or not. I’ll have plenty of time to finish it over Christmas.

Here’s to the last week!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 2

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We are officially half way through NaNoWriMo2016 which is a crazy, crazy thought. Let’s see if I’m on track to win by the end of the month. week2

I’m a day late in posting this update because I was consumed by writing last night. I have still been struggling with some scenes, and although I wanted to write the story in it’s linear timeline, I’ve decided it would be best if I jumped to the scenes that were burning at the forefront of my mind.

Whilst I’ve been mulling over this story, there have been scenes that I’ve had ready to be written, so I think it’s the best for my progress to write those scenes down first and then fill in the blanks. It certainly helps with my word count and it stops me from feeling blocked when trying to write other scenes.

I successfully reached 25,000 words on the 15th day which means I’m on target to win by the 30th. I’m not half way through my story yet, probably a third, so I’m expecting the finished product to be at least 60,000 words, which will be the most I’ve ever written for a manuscript. I don’t think I’ll complete 60k by the end of November, but I’m sure the story won’t be 100% finished by the 30th.

By the end of week three, I’d ideally like to have achieved 40,000 words, leaving a leisurely 10,000 words for the last week, but I’m not sure whether that will happen. I’ll strive for it though. That’s all I can do.

#NaNoWriMo – Week 1

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It’s that time of year again where we all hunch over our computers and try to bash out a novel in a month! Does it sound mad? Yes. But there’s method in our madness. Have a look and see how I did in my first week of NaNoWriMo2016.

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When I realised NaNoWriMo was coming around again, I knew for definite that I was going to be participating. I’d been mulling over an idea in my head for a few months and after developing it in a notebook, it was finally time to unleash it in a word document. I wasn’t at all apprehensive because I knew I had completed a 50k NaNo Project twice already, and so knew I could do it again.

The story I have decided to write this year is a futuristic novel set in a regressive society that mirrors Elizabethan England. World War three has destroyed the earth and the humans left over are rebuilding society from the World’s previous blueprint. Beatrice, the rightful Queen of the Republic of Karelia returns to her Kingdom to reclaim her throne since she has come of age, and must neutralise a threat of invasion from her neighbouring Kingdom.

My aim was primarily to keep to the word count for everyday and get ahead on words if possible so that on the days where I’m feeling less inspired I don’t have to torture myself into completing the required amount. I did hit a few issues especially during the middle of the week. For me the problem wasn’t finding time to write, it was typing the standard “housekeeping” scenes and and trying to push through to get to more exciting scenes where the action rose. I also have never written a story that involved world building before. It was a lot of fun building my own world in the preparation stage, but putting it into a story and making it work was entirely different altogether. I struggled not “info dumping” or leaving out the world building all together (and so thus confuse the reader), and have tried to keep it in a healthy balance.

This first week I completed nearly the first quarter of my book, which is brilliant progress! By the end of next week I hope to have achieved the half way point at twenty five thousand words.

#CampNaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I did it! I have officially completed #CampNaNoWri2016. I can hardly believe it. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t be able to, but as the word count got higher an higher every day, I fought to complete it. I constantly said to myself “I’ve come this far…” and that was what spurred me on. I found this week so challenging, mainly because I was writing without any real outline, just a vague idea of what I wanted to happen, and although that was kind of liberating, I found it extremely difficult. I think for future projects, I’ll make sure to have an outline first.

NaNoWriMo runs three times a year, once in November, once in April and once again in July. I don’t know if I’ll be participating in the July edition, but I’m looking forward to starting something new and creative again in November!

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Writing a Book: My Tips & Tricks

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I have written a book, which is a phrase I never thought I would say, no matter how much I wanted to. It’s always been a headliner on my bucket list, and last November after a grueling attempt at NaNoWriMo, I managed to tick it off.

I have not ever published a book, but I’m working on it, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to tick that off the bucket list too. But after four years of would-be-novel writing, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to a finished manuscript.

1

Make a list of genres/narratives/plot devices/settings you love.

I sat in front of my bookshelf, looked up at all of my well-loved books and asked myself “what is it about these books that I love?” Here were some of the answers I came up with:

The sea, lyrical writing, boarding schools, room mates/flat mates, no parents, freedom and independence, letters, philosophy, candidness of feeling, metaphor, living in sections/houses/districts/factions, snow, road trips, epic romances, being stuck somewhere, elements, magic, mystery, royalty, marriage, death/grief, group dynamics, history and many more.

2

Make a list of names for characters you love.

You can do this by either going on a baby name website, or for something more periodic you could always go and look at the gravestones of people from a certain time period. This may spark some thoughts as to the identity behind the name, or character traits. Some names I love and plan on using are:

George, Corey, Greta, Matthew, Sasha, Kendra, Laurie, Harry, Lisel, Brodie, Annalise, Catelynn, Ida, Lydia, Teddy, Karen, Shay, Daya, Torin, and many more.

3

Make a summary or short synopsis of your story.

Take the plot devices and the names you have just picked out and try to construct a story idea from the elements you’ve chosen. Don’t worry too much about your story sounding like something that’s already been published, some people believe there are only seven basic plots in the world. If we all worried about whether our story was original or not, we wouldn’t have much time for writing! See also: the thirty six dramatic situations.

For example, I could write a story about Laurie, a college freshman and History student, who writes letters to her future self about the lessons she learns from life, whilst slowly falling in love with her room mate.

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Buy a notebook, small enough to fit in your bag/pocket and big enough for your ideas!

If you are a writer, then there is a large chance you are also a stationary fiend. Writing a book gives you license to go to your local retailer and stock up on pens, post-it notes, highlighters, paper clips and a notebook (or a few). If you carry around your notebook with you at all times, you can write down an idea when the moment strikes, which is handy if you are particularly forgetful.

When I was working on my NaNoWriMo project, I had my notebook with me at all times!

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Write an outline, however vague or detailed.

My outline was similar to a script format. I detailed where the scene was taking place, who was there and important factors worth noting. I also wrote the bare bones of the dialogue between the two characters, or bare description of what a character was doing in the particular scene. After I had done this for the beginning, middle and end of the book, I went back through it and added in description, building the image of my scene from the ground up. The structure I had gave me something to work with, which really, really helped during my writing period.

And lastly, set yourself a goal. Whether you aim to write a hundred words a day or a thousand, it’s important to stay focused and disciplined.

I hope this little article has helped inspire a few of you to get writing. Let me know down in  the comments if any of these tips work for you!

Promises and Wishes: 2015 Edition

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On Christmas Eve 2014, I wrote a blog post titled Promises and Wishes, where I looked back on my university bucket list that I’d written three years prior. In the same post, I also made a 2015 to-do list of things I wanted to achieve by the end of the year.

As most of you know, the past year and a half has been very difficult for me. A year ago when I first wrote my Promises and Wishes post, I was five months into my recovery having been diagnosed with severe depression and an anxiety disorder. Since that post, I have completed 16 weeks of talking therapy and have just begun a cognitive behavioural therapy-based support group. I’m still on medication, I’m still struggling, but I’m winning the battle every day, and am that step closer to winning the war against my disorders and illness.

That being said, let’s look back and see what I wanted to achieve this year and whether I did or not.

  • Learn to manage my depression and anxiety.

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Sometimes meditating on a candle can be all you need to relax.

TICK. Although this is quite a difficult thing to measure, I’m beginning to know my own mind, know my triggers, not rely on safety seeking behaviours and find the courage to be more assertive, both emotionally and mentally. To be able to say that, and mean it, is a massive achievement for me.

  • Buy some trainers and take up running. 

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A photograph of the haul where I bought my trainers.

TICK. Well, half a tick. I bought some trainers and I TRIED to take up running, but unfortunately after my first run I conveniently had a panic attack afterwards. My energy levels are something I struggle with on a day to day basis, and I don’t think I’m at the stage of my recovery where I can successfully go for a run without doing some major damage. Regardless, I bought some trainers, gave it a go and saved the idea for when I’m a bit further down the road. (see what I did there?)

  • Do something that scares me. 

Wake up every day? Adult successfully? Do things by myself? Yes, I do things that scare me everyday. Once again, this one is hard to measure. Not sure if I have, or haven’t achieved it.

  • Learn to Knit.

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Mum’s scarf.

TICK. I actually learnt to knit. I knitted a whole scarf for my Mum who wears it with pride, especially now it’s winter.

  • Get better at French.

No tick. Don’t ask.

  • Pass my driving test.

Still, no. I have paused my driving lessons for the time being because my coordination isn’t good as a result of my medication (and is kind of a fundamental skill for driving), so once I am figuratively and literally further down the road of recovery, I shall pass and go on a road trip… probably… maybe not.

  • To finish The Last Four Years.

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The last day of progress on The Last Four Years.

TICK. BIG TICK. BIGGEST TICK EVER. Not only did I structure my story as a screenplay, I also completed NaNoWriMo and achieved 50,000. Doing NaNo was such an amazing tool to explore my story more and I found that I was really writing my best work. You can read about my progress here.

  • Get another piercing.

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The day I got my piercing done.

TICK. I got a labret piercing in February.

  • Get another tattoo.

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The day I got my tattoo done. 

TICK. I got a semi colon tattoo which donated money and services in aid of Mental Health charities and for the Mental Health Awareness Campaign.


So, I think it’s safe to say I had a pretty successful year in terms of goals. Now, let’s start as we mean to go on and look at what I hope to achieve by the end of 2016.

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.
  • GET BETTER AT FRENCH.
  • Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.
  • Finishing structuring/plotting the next big idea.
  • Begin volunteering somewhere, even if it’s just an hour a week.
  • Come down on my medication dosage, as I think it’s contributing, at least some, towards my lack of energy. (Although a hefty dose of depression is enough…)
  • Write more blogs.

I’ll probably make some more along the way, but for now that seems like a decent, achievable amount of goals to have. I hope everyone enjoys the holiday season and has a fantastic time full of food, family and frivolities!

#NaNoWriMo – Week 4

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I am so happy to say: I WON!

Yes, last night at approximately 11:50pm I reached fifty thousand words and won this year’s November writing challenge. Here’s the graph to see my progress:

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My aim was the use the last week and the ten thousand remaining words that I had to flesh out areas of part three of my story that I had glossed over in the linear writing process. This included clarifying extra description, dialogue, ironing our any errors or lump sentences, which I achieved. I also added a prologue and epilogue, just to amp up the mystery element to my story which I felt was lacking as I re-read through.

I found this last week incredibly difficult because I felt as though I had really run out of steam, and pushing myself to write every day when I had little mental energy was incredibly challenging, but I’m so glad I persevered because I can now say I’ve got a first draft of a novel and I won my first ever NaNoWriMo year. Cheers to that!