How I wrote 50,000 words in fourteen days for #NaNoWriMo #crazy

IMG_0015(1)IMG_0017

So as I wrote on here I decided fairly last minute to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I took part in it for the first time last year and won, you can read about that win here, so I did feel some pressure to do the same this year.

Now the thing that I have realised about NaNo is that you learn a lot about yourself doing it. Last year I surprised myself, I had absolutely zero confidence in myself as a writer and the fact that I was able to write 100 words surprised me. The win boosted my confidence, but I didn’t realise how much until I started NaNo this year.

Unfortunately I haven’t completed my book from last year, in fact since finishing NaNo last year I think that I have only written a few thousand more words which is a real shame. But I think that the problem with that book is that my lack of planning came to bite me, I just didn’t know where to go with the story next.

My book for this year was totally different to last years, a completely different genre and feel, and in many ways a far more complicated story. As I wrote on here when I started the idea of this book came from a competition that I wanted to enter (you can read that here) and when I started I really did have only the vaguest idea of what the story might be about.

Yet I found it so easy to write compared to my book last year and I think partly that was because I had less anxiety and doubt, I wrote knowing that I could always change it later so it didn’t really matter how good it was now. That really took the pressure off me and allowed me to just write, I even changed the tense that I was writing in after 12,000 words (blooming annoying now though that I did!).

Something that I really struggled with last year was writing conversations. Early in the book, the conversations that characters had were very short with one or maybe two sentences being spoken at a time. I hated writing it and it felt awkward to write and so no doubt it would feel awkward to read. This year writing conversations has been easy, I was a good way in before I even remembered how difficult it had been last year as that just wasn’t the case this year. Why? Well I’m not totally sure but I expect that part of it is that I didn’t worry about it too much and so that let it flow. And what it really showed me was that I learnt from last year and it made this year easier, perhaps once this book is finished I might go back and revisit the first one.

I have discovered that I am quite a fast writer, at least I think that I am but I really don’t have much to compare to, but I easily reached the daily word count of 1,667 words that you need to complete NaNo in the month of November. Currently my average words per day for the month of November is 3,500, so significantly higher. I guess that’s kind of that for the post then, as that is how I wrote 50,000 words in fourteen days, I made sure that my word count was much more than it needed to be.

Now in a way I’m lucky in that I have absolutely no social life, so I never go out and so can write morning, afternoon and evening if I want to. I am a single parent to twins though and that is definitely not easy but they really got behind me with NaNo this year, clearly proud of what I was doing and keen for me to win and ‘beat others’, they couldn’t understand that NaNo is not a competition where you try to beat others, everyone who gets to the 50K words wins, as long as they do it in November. But their support helped, it meant that they often told me to write more and so would leave me in relative peace to do so. Sure they have watched more television than normal but hopefully they have also been inspired watching their Mum do something like this. One day at school the teacher asked all the children who their favourite authors were, as you can imagine in a room full of six and seven year olds, most of them said Julia Donaldson, probably because she’s an author that people know the names of. But when it got to my son he said ‘my Mummy’ which really made me smile.

Something that I really learnt about myself this year doing NaNo is that I am competitive and that I hate failure. This spurred me on to write more. But there are other reasons that pushed me to write more and get NaNo completed as fast as I could. Firstly the reason that I was writing this book in the first place, I have to get 5,000 words looking ship shape and ready to impress for the competition by the 4th of December and I had that playing on my mind.

The other thing playing on my mind has been cake. Not eating cake, although that would be nice, but making cake. I am not a baker and I am most definitely not a cake decorator, yet I am going to attempt to be both. My children turn seven next week and have requested two cakes. One cake they want to be of our dog, Dotty. Um, ok. And cake number two they want a tree with the three of us sitting under it, with the dog too obviously. Now I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t sound very easy.

So I’ve been on Pinterest which has given me many ideas for the dog cake. Too many ideas really. Do I do a dog shaped cake, a cake with a sugarpaste dog on top, or a round cake that is the dogs face? Of course there are many other options too on Pinterest but I have discounted them. I haven’t even thought about the tree cake which will be worse in many ways as that will be eaten by adults, the dog one is for children and they are a far easier to please. But that has been pushing me to finish NaNo. There’s no way that I can make two cakes next week while doing NaNo. Nope, not going to happen.

So if you want my advice on how to complete NaNo in fourteen days I would suggest the following:

  • Have a huge pressure towards the end of the month. Something that will be challenging and stressful and no doubt exhausting (a child’s birthday is always exhausting for the parent/s, doubly so when there are two children involved).
  • Decide to learn a new skill with a huge deadline towards the end of the month that if you miss will mean that your children will stop believing that you can do anything.
  • Have something really important that you need to be completed at the start of the next month, something that will take a lot of time and scare the hell out of you (show people my writing?!!! AAGGGHHHHHHHH)
  • Just write. Don’t worry about what you’re writing and how good it is, just get the words done.
  • Don’t worry too much about minor details. Last year I spent a crazy amount of time trawling names websites looking for the perfect name for my characters, this year I gave them whatever name came to mind. If it doesn’t fit then I can change it (there is currently only one name that I am going to change, I just haven’t thought what to yet, but I’m not stressing about it).
  • Google is your friend, just hope that no one goes looking at your search history!
  • Join Facebook groups, or just one group, where others are also doing NaNo. Support from others going through it is priceless.
  • Get some NaNo buddies, it’s fun (and motivating) to check others wordcounts.
  • Post your daily wordcounts somewhere, Twitter is good for this if you want it to be a bit more anonymous, Facebook if you want to get your friends behind this.
  • Use your friends. If someone that you know knows something about what you’re writing then ask them if they will help, or post on Facebook and wait for the responses. One of my characters was going to Greece, I have never been so I posted asking for people who have been to give me tips and suggestions and things that would only be known by someone who had been. Twenty minutes later I had more information than I could possibly need. Who knew so many people had been to Athens?!

I think that NaNoWriMo is brilliant and if you want to write but need some extra motivation then it’s the perfect time to give it a go. Sure. it really isn’t easy but whether you end up winning or not, you will have learnt a lot.

Since I got my 50,000 words I have kept writing, I’m now on 58,640 words, my pace has slowed but I have written every day, today I have only done 780 words but yesterday I did over 5,000. I am really enjoying it and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to my characters, I love how they show me the way.

Blog Tour: The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World by Richard Daniel Curtis.

 

I’m quite excited about this blog tour, being a parent and facing a whole new world that did not exist when I was a child can be a bit scary so I am pleased to be able to share some Do’s and Don’ts for parenting in the modern world.

The top 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Modern Parents

Taken from The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World

By Richard Daniel Curtis, The Kid Calmer

The modern world is full of new threats that many parents never had to encounter when they were growing up.  It’s overwhelming at times and causes all sorts of parenting headaches, especially when your children can out-talk you on technology.  I talk to hundreds of parents each year and understand the dichotomy of trying to keep them on the straight and narrow, whilst also not ruining your relationship.  So here’s the top 10 do’s and don’ts from the book when it comes to raising a teen or soon to be teen.

Do’s

  • Be the friendly, non-judgemental ear for your child. They will encounter sex, drugs, alcohol, pornography, and bullying whether you like it or not – it’s far better for them to have you to turn to when they do.
  • Share your teenage experiences with your teen, without giving them all of the gory details; help them to understand that you were teenage too.
  • Only give your child a smartphone when they are mature enough to be able to talk to you about bullying issues.
  • When it comes to using the internet leave them with an understanding that even if they are on a dodgy site they can come to you for support or advice without being judged.
  • Get your child to check links on suspicious emails by checking the from address matches the company and also hovering over the links and looking at the link address (often in the bottom left of the browser) to make sure they match.
  • Be open to talking about how easy it can be to crack default passwords and why you should change them.
  • As your teen starts to use social media, teach them to always stop and think before posting comments, photos or videos.
  • Teach your child to report inappropriate posts or comments and to be able to ignore them.
  • Invest in tech insurance and protectors!
  • Finally make sure your child knows that you will never be angry with them and that you are there for them to turn to when they experience problems.

Don’ts

  • Compare the pressure your child is under to what you experienced; today’s world is very different.
  • Deny your child the emotions they are feeling as they experience social problems, your child is unlikely to have learnt that they will fade and they will feel very real to them.
  • Be judgemental, it’ll only make them move further away from
  • It’s impossible to block out the impact of terrorism on the modern world, it’s far better to educate your child so they don’t pay an unhealthy interest or become anxious.
  • Let your child take their phone in their room overnight.
  • Rely on your internet blocking set up. Education is far more important than dependency on software, as the moment they no longer have the software they will struggle to cope.
  • Avoid the conversations; your child will come across malware, trolling or pornography at some point online, it’s better to have given them the tools to choose to avoid it.
  • Be heavy handed with taking away tech as your child does their homework; if they’re used to flicking between things they’ll need a gentle approach to getting used to more focus.
  • Minimise the emotional and physical sensation of the experience of games, the technology is so advanced it can provoke the same reactions as though they went through it, your child may need your support to cope with the after-effects.
  • Assume your child will know when to use technology; they’ll want to consume it. Teach them to make decisions about whether it is the best thing to use.

 

The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World

Raising a child in the 21st Century is scary! There are so many threats to your adolescent that you worry about what they are up to in their bedroom, let alone when they are out with their friends.

The world is so different than when we grew up, young people nowadays have different expectations about life and use so much technology. It’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed at times. Even things that were simple have got more complicated, issues like gender identity or sex. It’s hard to know where to start with technology, every time you feel you have a grip on what your child is into, they talk about something else you’ve never heard of.

Life as a parent is overwhelming!

The Parent’s Guide to the Modern World gives you the answers to the worries you haven’t even realised you have. Starting with a section on how your child’s brain develops and explaining why their personality changes so much during puberty. It even helps you to structure any difficult conversations you need to have with your teen or soon to be teen.

The book then goes through over thirty different aspects of the modern world, telling you about the risks associated with each, plus the dos and don’ts for you as parents. Following this, part three focusses on the predictions for the world your child will be an adult in; helping you to understand the things you can do now to give them the best chances in life. Finally, the book contains a handy glossary of terms your young person might be using.

Worried about how to help your child understand these risks? Why not buy them the sister book The Young Person’s Guide to the Modern World.

Purchase on Amazon UK  here.

About Richard Daniel Curtis

Richard Daniel Curtis

Based in Southampton with his partner and their young son, Richard Daniel Curtis is an internationally renowned behaviour expert and futurist passionate about helping people understand mindset and psychology. A former teacher, and mental health support worker, Richard is known for his impact with turning round some of the most extreme behaviours and is consulted about adults and children around the globe, even having two assessments named after him. He has founded The Root of It -an organisation of qualified professionals available to support schools and individuals with behavioural difficulties- for which he was awarded the Gold Scoot Headline Award in 2015 and Best New Business in 2014. Most recently he launched The Mentoring School to train the psychology related to mentoring people of all ages. For his work and expertise he has been interviewed for the BBC,ITV and Sky News TV and various international print media and radio. His previous titles include: 101 Tips for Parents, 101 More Tips for Parents and 101 Behaviour Tips for Parents (2014) and Gratitude at Home (2016).

Website: The Kid Calmer

Twitter: @thekidcalmer

Facebook: #thekidcalmer

 

 

 

Blog Tour: Guest Post by Angela Corner Author of The Hidden Island.

hidden-island-blog-tour

I’m delighted to have Angela Corner, author of The Hidden Island on If only I could read faster today giving us some writing advice. As I’m still trying to finish my NaNoWriMo project I’m still really interested in getting all the advice that I can and I have to say that I found a lot of what Angela had to say interesting. I hope that you do too!

Writing Advice

Do you write every day or wait for inspiration to strike?

One of the things I learned for writing for soaps is that if you get up in a morning and wait for inspiration to strike then you’ll never finish anything.  There are days when writing feels easy. The ideas flow, your sentences seem to appear on the page as if by magic, you are ‘in the zone’ and it feels great.  But then there are the days when your mind is blank. The keys on your keyboard might as well be in Chinese. The temptation to eat cake and chocolate or even do some house work is almost impossible to resist.  It is those days when you have to battle and sweat and just write something. Anything. It will feel like total rubbish, and may well be total rubbish, but you have to force yourself to keep writing. It’s a habit, a discipline. And even on those bleak, painful days you may produce something worth keeping. Or the germ of something worth keeping.  

Where do you get your ideas from?

Everywhere. From the news, from family and friends, from eavesdropping on conversations on trains, in pubs and in shops.  There’s a thing called the creative bubble or the creative cloud.  It’s populated by everything going on in the world, locally and nationally.  Everyone can access it and draw inspiration and ideas from it. Sometimes people will reach into the bubble, pull out the same things and come up with very similar ideas at similar times.  It then looks like people are copying each other when in fact they’ve simply got the same ingredients from the bubble and put them together in the same way.

Using friends and family’s experiences – including the most shocking and upsetting ones – as a basis for stories can be difficult to reconcile.  Every time someone confides in you the writer part of you will be thinking of ways it could be made it into a story whereas the ‘human’ part of you will be sympathising and trying to help or console.  It’s a conflict that all writers have and it is essential to keep enough distance between real life experiences and what you use in your stories, either by time or by altering aspects of the story. Otherwise you may end up with no friends and lots of family conflict.

It’s a good idea to have an ideas notepad. You might be working on something else but have a new idea. Write it in your ideas notepad for future reference. It’s very easy – and tempting – to have a great new idea and abandon whatever you’re currently working on to start the new idea. It’s the grass is always greener phenomenon.  New ideas always seem better than the one you’ve been sweating over for weeks and months.  A bit like the excitement of a new relationship. But if you constantly move onto the newest idea you’ll never finish anything. All writers are guilty of it.

Do you plan or make it up as you go along?

All writers are different. Some plan to the nth degree. Others start at chapter one with no idea where they will end up. Most writers are somewhere in between. If you are a writer who has started many books but not managed to finish any then I think planning the structure and major events/turning points is a sensible idea.  It gives you a framework and keeps you focused with certain points to aim for.  With The Hidden Island I started with a fairly detailed plan of each chapter.  This did change to varying degrees as I went along with some aspects removed and others added in.  The original plan included lots of flashbacks to Beckett’s previous investigation on the Island but during the writing process I found this slowed the action too much.   The other big change to the original plan was the ending. This changed when I was writing the synopsis to send off to publishers and agents. In writing the two page synopsis (easily the most difficult part of novel writing!) I realised the original ending wasn’t working as well as I’d liked and a different ending popped into my head.  I put the new ending in the synopsis and then rewrote the final chapter.

My writing day

It’s important, or at least to me, to get into a writing routine. Most writers seem to have a routine that suits them and their lifestyle and mine has had to adapt to changes in my own life.  My preferred time of day to write is actually in the evening and on into the early hours.  However this routine is not conducive to a healthy relationship!  I also struggle to write if anyone else is in the house.  Complete immersion in my made up worlds requires no real world distractions.  So my writing routine now means writing during the day whilst the house is empty. I have a minimum word count of 1000 words a day.  If the writing is going well then I will continue on past 1000 words and keep going until I get beaten by the clock or simply feel too tired to carry on.  If it’s one of those struggling days I will write my 1000 words and then stop but I will make myself do a 1000 words however long it takes and however horrible those 1000 words feel.

Edit as you go or just keep going?

It’s tempting to start each new day by going back over what you’ve written the day before and rewriting it.  But this can really stall all forward motion.  I will edit as I go during the day but once that day’s writing is done, in general, I won’t go back over it the following day. There are exceptions to this – if something really isn’t working, or if I get a lightbulb moment that evening about a new way of doing things or an extra story strand to add.  It’s important to keep going and bury any self-doubt until you’ve got to the final full stop, of the final sentence, of the final chapter.  Then put the manuscript aside for a few weeks, or months. Work on something else. Start a new book, or at least the research and planning of a new book, before picking up your first draft and beginning the editing process.

The Hidden Island by Angela Corner is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

The Hidden Island: an edge of your seat crime thriller

Sex. Drugs. Murder.

Hidden behind the crystal seas and beautiful beaches of a Greek Island dark and dangerous secrets lurk. Beckett has had his fill of adrenaline fuelled criminal investigation and with a broken body and damaged career goes to the Greek Island of Farou to head up the Criminal Investigation Bureau. Serious crime is rare, the weather is great and the beer is cold but his ‘retirement’ is cut short when a pagan cult resurrects and bodies start showing up.

With doubts about his mental and physical ability to do the job, a British police detective is sent to help with the investigation. DI Lee Harper is everything Beckett is not – young, ambitious and by the book.

As well as tackling the new case Beckett must overcome the demons from his past.

Family loyalty, power and money are at the source of the investigation where appearance is everything and nothing is what is seems.

Can Beckett and Harper work together to find justice for the victims?

Will the idyllic island ever be the same again?

Sometimes paradise can be hell.

“This gritty thriller is a brilliantly plotted and refreshing read. Angela Corner is one to watch for those who like their books with a bit more bite” Betsy Reavley, best-selling author of The Quiet Ones, The Optician’s Wife and Frailty.

Angela Corner is a debut author who mastered her craft as a screenwriter on top serial dramas including Eastenders and Hollyoaks. The Hidden Island is the perfect read for fans of authors like Lisa Hall, Katerina Diamond, Kathryn Croft and Caroline Mitchell

Guest Post: Confessions of a self-published author by Oli Jacobs.

I love this guest post by Oli Jacobs about self-publishing. Many authors self-publish and I always wondered how it worked, and now I know! Thanks so much Oli for coming to visit us on If Only I Could Read Faster!

Confessions of a self-published author

By Oli Jacobs

 Hello. My name is Oli Jacobs, and I’m an alcoholic.

            No, wait, that’s not right. I’m actually a self-published author. Well, alright, it’s kind of the same thing, but not really.

Let me explain… I’ve been self-publishing my work since 2012, when I looked at the vast amount of unfilmed scripts and short stories I had hanging around my hard drive. Rather than let them waste away in a digital landfill, I decided to throw them all together, do a quick edit, and send them out into the big, wide world.

Hence, Filmic Cuts v1: Sunshine & Lollipops was born.

It was a proud moment, I may have shed a tear.

What it also was, was the beginning of an adventure filled with dizzying highs, crushing lows, and creamy middles. I’ve published a number of books since across a range of genres and seen good reviews, bad reviews, and general waves of apathy. And now, I pass onto you, the good readers of If Only I Could Read Faster, my Oli Jacobs approved steps to becoming a self-published author.

May God help you…

STEP 1: Write a book

This is the easiest part, I kid you not.

Obviously you wouldn’t want to get into self-publishing unless you wanted to write a book, unless you’re a curious sort who likes looking at things. Therefore, to self-publish you’ve got to actually, you know, write a book. Be it Fiction, Non-Fiction, a Graphic Novel or anything in-between, write it, type it, and get it done.

STEP 2: Edit your book

You’re not going to strike gold first time.

Trust me, even the best don’t bowl a perfect game. Once you’ve written your book, pass it to someone to proof-read for you, and make notes on what could be improved and how many times you’ve used “their” instead of “there”. Now, there are plenty of good proof-readers out there willing to look over your work. You can find them on various sites such as Fiverr (where a certain Mr J resides…), People Per Hour, or various other freelance websites.

However, if like me you are a poor, struggling writer, then search out a trusted friend. This gives you the bonus of having what could be considered an average reader look over your work, and also being able to pay them in resources like beer, or hugs.

After that, it’s a simple case of checking the notes, making the edits, and then polishing your work so it’s the best darn writing you’ve ever seen.

And seriously, don’t proof your own work. I made this mistake with Underneath and got the reviews to pay for it. Don’t be a jerk, get someone to proof-read your work.

(That sounded better in my head…)

STEP 3: Publish your book

It is time.

You’ve written your tome, had it looked over by someone else, edited it to within an inch of its life, and now you’re ready to push it into the big wide world.

But how do you do that?

Self-publishing has moved on tremendously since the vanity press of old. Not only do you have sites like Lulu.com and Smashwords, but big companies like Amazon are more than happy to create your literary baby. In fact, they are who I first went with, taking advantage of their Kindle Direct Publishing platform, where you can upload your book to sell via their Kindle service. In addition, if you want a juicy paperback, you can use Createspace as well and have everything wrapped up in a neat Amazon bundle.

Now obviously, publishing a book is more than just heavily edited words. For a paperback, you’ll need an ISBN, and while in the past you’d need to fork out some cash for some price numerical action, nowadays publishers like Lulu and Amazon provide an ISBN for you, meaning you can still save yourself some of that sweet, sweet whisky money.

Also, you’ll want your work to look dazzling, with a cover that speaks volumes. While the aforementioned websites offer cover design services, look out for independent artists who may be able to whip something up that is unique and visually sells your story. Personally, I use British graphic designer CM Carter and Canadian graphic novelist Elaine Will, who I shamelessly plug with a hearty thumbs up.

STEP 4: Market your book

Now here comes the tricky part.

Yes, everything up until now was easy. The writing, the editing, the publishing… all small fry compared to the big elephant in the self-publishing room: Marketing.

As good as your book is, it won’t get anywhere without people seeing it, so you’ll need to showcase it like a wonderful stallion. Social media is good for this, such as Facebook and Twitter, but also look into forums at Goodreads and, of course, Amazon. Here, you can meet likeminded individuals who will hopefully give you pointers and help you gain some of that dreaded exposure.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to give away freebies. Book Groups on Facebook are a great place to start, asking for reviews in exchange for a free copy of your work. Goodreads is equally as dandy for this, but can suffer from over-saturation at times.

Finally, if you have some cash to spare, look into sites such as eBookSoda and PeopleReads. Paid services like these can be hit and miss, while the more successful ones such as BookBub have a strict acceptance policy. Shop around and see what works for you and your budget.
And finally…

STEP 5: Believe in your book

You will not become JK Rowling or EL James overnight.

As I said before, self-publishing is filled with a mixture of highs and lows, and invariably there are more of the latter than the former. You may not get the reviews you want (if at all), and you may see a sudden surge of sales dwindle into nothing, but the low points are only chips on a road. The highs are wonderful, such as receiving a box of your first paperback, or hearing someone has enjoyed something you created.

Once you join the self-publishing world, you’ll see a lot of articles and features about people getting rich off of self-publishing. This may not happen to you. If it does, grand, and now I’m insanely jealous, but most of these people you read about either have great connections, experience in marketing, or have sold their soul to some sort of Eldritch Abomination.

Don’t do that. There are costly.

Most of all, just enjoy the fact that your work is out there. Once you’ve published your work, you’re no longer an aspiring writer, you are a writer, and well done you!

Now get out there, and write some more. And more. AND MORE!

*ahem*

Oli Jacobs is a self-published author from Buckinghamshire, England. You can find his work on Amazon, and “like” him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/OJBooks, or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/olijacobsauthor