#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.

week1

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.

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.

4

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!

5

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!

Franklin (Part 1)

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Franklin was originally a short story I wrote in my second year of university, and was my first assignment to achieve a First class mark. It’s a piece I am immensely proud of, and wanted to share it here in a serialised form for my readers to enjoy.

Franklin

by Clare Holman-Hobbs

My Mom always used to say “if you ever feel afraid, all you have do is come home.” I thought about her words long and hard as I stifled a yawn, the sun rising over the dusty hills of my hometown. Franklin wasn’t far now that I was seeing signs for Nashville. My cell phone vibrated on the passenger seat next to me but I ignored it, and kept my eyes on the road.

The UNC campus had been dark when I left, probably around midnight. I would be lying if I said I had made the decision to come home rationally, but I couldn’t sit in the four walls of my dorm room any longer. As I headed out towards my car with my heavy duffle bag slung over my shoulder, I glanced up at Haley’s window. I knew she’d worry about me, about where I’d gone when she knocked for me in the morning for breakfast like usual. I considered going back for that reason alone, but I didn’t want another argument.

I shook the thought from my mind, realising I had almost passed the turning. People were stirring on the streets of Franklin as I turned down Main Street, commuters passing by on their way into the city and shops owners unlocking their doors. I drove further into the suburbs, passing house after house until I got to mine. It hadn’t changed a bit since I left; only this time, the driveway was empty. I pulled in, taking the space where my father’s car used to be and shut off the engine. I sighed, looking at the worn out wood of the porch, the swing swaying slightly in the breeze.

I got out of my truck, slamming the door behind me and checking my watch. After composing myself, I rang the doorbell, reminding myself to breathe. After about a minute, the front door creaked open, and my mother emerged from around the dark oak that separated us. Her face was pale.

“Taylor. I heard your truck. I thought it was you,” she said quietly. “What are you doing here?”

In the shadow of the cold, empty house that I had fled from months ago, I asked myself the same question.

~

After I got back, my brother Tim and I met at the coffee shop in town. I had spent a lot of time in the basement; trying to make my fingers move coherently enough to play a decent song on my guitar, but it all came out in fragments of an un-tuned mess. Tim took one look at me and knew I needed a break, practically marching me out of the front door and into his car. In the café, he sat across from me, shaking the sugar packet between his thumb and forefinger.

“I couldn’t believe it when Mom called,” he said, breaking off the top of the packet and pouring the sugar into his coffee.

“I know,” I agreed, forcing a weak smile and picking up a packet of sugar from the bowl on the table.

“Little bro – back in town,” Tim muttered, sipping from the steaming mug.

I poured the sugar into the coffee and stirred it, taking a sip; beautiful and bitter, just how I liked it. I sighed and tried to relax.

Tim noticed my posture. “You didn’t bring Haley back with you?”

“Not this time.”

“How come?”

I inhaled deeply, trying to begin. Tim raised his eyebrows at me.

“We’re not together anymore; she doesn’t know I’m here.”

Tim’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah.”

“Taylor and Haley. Like Lennon and McCartney. I never thought I’d see the day.”

“I know,” I sighed. “I can barely believe it myself.”

“What happened, man?”

“Well, I can’t listen to Fleetwood Mac anymore.”

Over his shoulder, I saw a girl with deep chestnut curls. My breath caught, heart hammered against my chest, eyes transfixed on her as she turned her head. It wasn’t her. It couldn’t be.

I looked back to Tim and opened my mouth, but I couldn’t find the words, or the strength to begin to tell him of our downfall, of how everything had changed, and how I had lost the best thing to ever have happened to me. I had lost Haley. I may as well have lost a limb too.