NaNoWriMo, rambling, writing

Finishing my first draft. #NaNoWriMo #firstdraft #writing #amwriting #authorslife

So something pretty amazing happened yesterday. Not only did I write over ten thousand words in a day, but I also wrote two of the best words ever.

This is my third attempt at writing a book, the first was pretty rubbish but it taught me an awful lot. The second was better, I still think that the story is a good one and with a lot of work it might go somewhere but I’m not sure that I love it enough to do it.

The difference with this book is that it is a book that I know that I would love to read and I think that is why I also loved writing it.

I have never planned my books, I see photos that other authors post showing their boards or notebooks fully of planning, with each chapter outlined and every character thought through. I have no idea what it is like writing a book that is planned in such detail, but for whatever reason planning is just not for me. I have tried but I just can’t do it, my brain simply doesn’t work that way.

But I like it the way that I do it, I started this book with a vague idea of a plot and two characters in my head. I thought that I had a fair idea where the book would go but I was wrong, the book turned out totally differently to how I imagined. Well, not totally but very different. Another character appeared and demanded a bigger part in the story and that changed the book significantly. But I am very happy with the direction the book took and I love not knowing what is going to happen, it feels like the characters write the book and I am just the puppet that types.

I also had my first author lightbulb moment when the ending suddenly came to me, I’m not quite sure where it came from as I had had a different ending in mind, but the moment it came into my head I knew that it was the perfect ending.

Some of you may know that I had a busy November, not only did I do NaNoWriMo but my twins also celebrated their eighth birthday and anyone who knows anything about kids birthdays knows how time consuming and exhausting they are. I also squeezed in a bit of major surgery. It was a busy month.

So quite how I have managed to write seventy four thousands words in thirty seven days I do not know. But I did. And boy it feels good. I have no doubt that a lot of the book will be pretty rubbish, writing in a post general anaesthetic haze is unlikely to equal an amazingly written book and I know that I have made a load of continuity errors when my brain was too befuzzled (that so needs to be a word) to remember what I had written only a paragraph or two before.

But my enforced house arrest as I recover from the surgery has meant that I have had far more time to write, and it has been nice to think of something else too.

So my first draft is done, blooming amazing that I’ve got this far I think. But now the hard work starts…editing. This is foreign territory for me, I’ve never made it this far and so I’m more than a little scared because I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m going to give whatever it is my best shot! Any advice appreciated. Really, really appreciated!

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But for now, I’m am so happy that I got to write the words ‘The End’ and I’m proud of every single word that I wrote, all 74,311 of them!

NaNoWriMo, rambling

NaNoWriMo 2018. How did it go? @NaNoWriMo #NaNoWriMo #NaNoWriMo18 #HarryPotter #cake #twins #birthday #amwriting

Woohoo!! So yes, I managed to do NaNoWriMo this year and in fifteen days (one day more than last year but I’m genuinely not bothered about that).

In some ways NaNo was quite difficult this year, but that was because of everything other than NaNo that was going on in my life. The actual writing was actually pretty easy.

This was partly because I really enjoyed writing this book, it is different to anything that I’ve tried to write before and it is definitely a book that I would want to read. I enjoyed so much about it and seeing how my characters developed. The words most days flew out of me and I loved it. 

I had less doubt and worry that it was a load of rubbish than before too which was nice. But now comes the hard part. It seems that it is easy for me to finish NaNo, but it is very hard for me to finish the book. And the frustrating thing is that when I finished the 50,000 words for NaNo I really wanted to carry on, I was at an exciting part of the story and I wanted to know what was going to happen (I’m a total panster and the book goes where it wants to go). 

But for those that read my previous NaNo post, you’ll know that I wasn’t going to be able to carry on writing. First I had to make a cake for my twins birthday party, and turning eight is very important. And I also needed to prepare for an operation that I’m having tomorrow. I’m not going to be able to drive, lift, bend, reach, do normal things for weeks or maybe even months. 

As much as I love my children, at the age of eight they aren’t really going to be that much help. I’ve been trying to teach them to load the dishwasher, which it seems is a skill that is beyond an eight year old. Life is sure going to be interesting!

But I don’t know how much writing I will be able to do as I recover, I’m really hoping that I’ll get lots done but I’m trying to be realistic. 

And for those of you that would like to see it, here is a photo of the cake. The iced figures were made by myself and my children, I think that they did a pretty great job and I’m very proud of my golden snitch! 

NaNoWriMo, rambling

#ramblings #NaNoWriMo2018 To NaNo or not to NaNo? #amwriting #writerslife #NaNo #kidsbirthdays #HarryPotter #cake

So it’s the 31st October which only means one thing, tomorrow is November. Now that’s a good thing in a few ways, I can (finally) put the heating on, my twins celebrate their birthday which is very important when you’re going to be eight, it’s Black Friday when I can waste an enormous amount of time looking at ‘deals’ online that I can’t afford, I have to decorate a cake for said birthday which is never simple and it is the start of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.

The aim of NaNo, for those who don’t know, is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. If that sounds easy then I will assume that you are not a writer, as it is not all that easy. Although saying that, I have attempted it twice and have completed it both times, the second time in a slightly insane 14 days.

Doing NaNo has taught me a few things about myself. Perhaps the most interesting for me was that I do not like losing, I was going to finish NaNo and there was no other option. I was not going to fail. Now if you told me that you’d tried NaNo and had managed any words at all but had not reached 50K then I would never think that you had failed, but for me, I think of it as a failure. But that puts a lot of pressure on me and that is something that I really don’t need.

For this year’s NaNo, I have planned to start a new book that is completely different to anything that I have tried to write before. I’m quite excited about it although I am continuing my panster streak and haven’t done any planning. I’ve done a bit of research and my two main characters have names but that’s it. How I wish that I could be a planner but it is not something that I seem to be able to do.

So you might be wondering why I’m writing a blog post entitled To NaNo or not to NaNo. And that is because I am really worried that this year I won’t finish it. As well as normal life I am also going to be having major surgery towards the end of the month. Now maybe after that, I will be spending a lot of time resting and so I might be able to write, but it is quite possible that my brain won’t quite be in the right frame of mind to write anything that makes sense. Last time that I had a general anaesthetic it took me a good week to feel like I’d got over it, the minor procedure that I had was irrelevant.

But before I have the operation I need to get my life sorted for me being out of action for possibly a good few months. As a single parent, this is a scary prospect. I am determinedly independent and do not like asking for help. I have been trying to teach my children to do some simple household tasks, like using the washing machine or loading the dishwasher. The later of these is not going well, it seems that almost eight year olds are just not committed to stacking a dishwasher in the best way possible and cannot understand why plates need to be facing the same direction, for example.

Our dog, Dotty, and last years cake.

 

But the question is whether in nineteen days I can write 50,000 words, get the house clean and sorted, arrange for the animals to be looked for while I’m out of action, organise a birthday party, get birthday presents wrapped and sorted (for the actual day which is five days after the operation) and, perhaps most importantly of all, decorate a cake in a Harry Potter theme.

Time will tell but please wish me luck!!!

how to, NaNoWriMo, rambling

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

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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.

charity, NaNoWriMo, rambling

#NaNoWriMo Day 7 update. #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2017 #WIP @Gingerbread

So today is day seven of NaNoWriMo 2017. The target is to end today on 11,666 words if you were doing the 1,667 words a day.

I have to say that, so far, NaNo is going remarkably well! I can’t believe how well. My average daily word count is 2,714 which is fab and unexpected. My book has just flowed, I haven’t felt stuck or unsure of what to write next, as long as I can think of the first sentence in the morning then the rest just flows.

I’ve no idea what it’s like to plan a novel and write it according to the plan as I’m a pantser through and through but what I am loving about writing is how I just don’t know where things are going. I often think as I sit down to write that character x is going to do y but when it comes to it character x actually does something completely different and unexpected.

This book currently has one chapter told from each character’s perspective which is something that I’ve never written before. I also decided to change tense a couple of days ago so I am going to have to re-write 12,000 odd words which is annoying. A lot of my book is also set in the online world which I’m finding quite fun to write.

A couple of months ago I saw a post on Twitter by the charity Gingerbread. Gingerbread focuses on single parents and supporting them, they do a lot of good work and I know are a lifeline to many single parents. Together with publisher Trapeze Books, they have a competition for people with experience of single parenting, either by being one or having had one and to write a fiction book with a single parenting theme. I loved this, how great to set out to make books with diverse characters that represent the varied world that we live in and as a single parent myself I was immediately keen to take part.

I thought about it for a bit and talked to a single parent friend of mine and together we brainstormed and came up with a concept. Over the next few weeks, the ideas niggled my brain and I came up with various ideas before settling on my incredibly vague that I am now writing.

I need to submit 5,000 words in early September, along with a synopsis and short bio. So, while I’m doing NaNo I also have in my head that I have to have a really polished and fantastic 5,000 to submit which I have to admit, is more than a little bit scary. I’ve also never written a synopsis and as I currently have no idea what will happen past the point that I have written so I need to keep writing so that I know where the book is going.

Ok, I’m starting to feel my stress levels rising just writing about it!! Any advice or tips most welcome!!!

So, now what you have all been waiting for…my total wordcount currently stands at…19,000 words!!! Woohoo!!!! I have to say that I am really very happy about that!

If you are interested in the competition then you can find out more about it here.

NaNoWriMo, rambling

#NaNoWriMo Here we go again! #amwriting

NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-Cover

So, some of you might remember that last year I participated (and completed) in NaNoWriMo. NaNo is a crazy event where authors, or would be authors, from around the world attempt to write 50,000 words in the month of November.

If you think that sounds easy then trust me, it isn’t. Although based on last years experience it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I was delighted to complete it and be able to call myself a winner. Unfortunately, I have struggled to complete that book. I still want it finished but I don’t know when that will be.

So I’ve thought on and off about whether to do NaNo again this year and in the end, I decided that I would. Why not? I had the whole ‘if I only do 10K then that’s 10K more than I have now’ thing going through my head. I only signed up last week and figured that I would be relaxed about it this year.

So today is day one. The target is to write 1,666 words a day to get to 50,000 over the month. Last year I worked hard to get ahead so that I could take days off through the month, especially weekends when my kids are about, and I’d like to do the same this year. Especially as it is their birthday near the end of the month.

This year I have a very, very vague idea for my book. There is a competition being run by the charity Gingerbread and Trapeze Publishers, they want a book written by someone with experience of single parenting, either being a single parent or having grown up with one, to write a fiction book with a single parenting theme. As a single parent, I like the idea of the competition, of having fiction books with my diverse families represented. So, here I am. Writing a book with a single parenting theme.

I cannot tell you what genre my book will be, my complete lack of planning (no characters even had a name this morning) mean that I don’t know. The characters will take me where they take me. It’s kind of exciting to see where it will go, but I have to say that I’m going to give it my best! It seems that I am a teeny bit competitive.

Oh, and today’s word count? 3664 words!! I’m pretty happy with that!

 

author talks, book review, meeting authors, rambling

Jodi Picoult: Talking about her latest book, Small Great Things.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go and see Jodi Picoult talk about her latest book, Small Great Things. She is touring the world to spread her message of what she sees as her most important book yet, and the hardest book that she has written.

You can read my review of Small Great Things and it is out now to buy, and I hope that you do buy it, as it is an important book and one that I think people should read.

The timing of the release of Small Great Things is pretty amazing, given that the book focuses on prejudice, something that seems to be so prevalent in the world, with hate crime rising drastically in the UK after the Brexit vote and in the US after Trump won the election there. With France looking like they will also be electing someone who incites hate, perhaps this book is needed now more than ever?

Picoult kicked off by reading the start of the book, introducing the audience (the huge majority of whom wouldn’t have read the book yet) to Ruth, one of three storytellers that take the reader on a journey through Small Great Things. Ruth is a nurse in America, and Ruth is black. Something that two new parents won’t tolerate and so ask that she has no involvement with their care. This causes events to spiral in ways that none dreamed possible, but we follow Ruth as she fights for her job and then her freedom as a result of what happened that day.

When I read Small Great Things I was struck by how much research Picoult had clearly done in order to write the book, her terminology around Ruth’s job was spot on, she obviously knew her stuff. But hearing her talk yesterday about the research that she did totally blew me away.

She was very aware that as a white woman she did not understand what people of colour go through. I say people of colour as that is the term that Picoult uses, it is the current term that is used in America and apparently preferred by many as it includes not just black people but also latinos, Asians and anyone with a skin colour that is not considered white.

So knowing this Picoult set about doing her research. She spent 100 hours with ten black women, talking to them extensively about their lives and their experiences and prejudices that they had encountered in their lives. What she heard shocked her, and she says, changed her forever. Two of these women then read the book as she wrote it to make sure that her terminology was ok and that Ruth’s voice sounded authentic.

Picoult also did a course in Social Justice, she told us that after every lesson she would come out and cry. Her eyes were opened and she felt inspired to write Small Great Things.

The idea for the book came from a newspaper story about a labour and delivery nurse in America who was told that she was not to care for a family who were white supremacists. That nurse went on the sue her hospital for discrimination but Picoult decided to take the story further, in that what if something went wrong with the baby and the black nurse had been the only one present, torn between helping the baby or obeying her orders not to touch it?

In order to complete her research Picoult also met with two ex-white supremacists, to find out about their thinking and their lives. The stories that she told us about what they had told her were shocking and scary, especially given what is happening in the US right now.

When I read Small Great Things I often wondered what black women would think of it, and in fact, I pondered this in my review. So I was pleased to hear Picoult talk about this, she said that the response had been amazingly positive, that she had had fantastic feedback from people of colour. When an audience member asked Picoult what the reaction had been from white supremacists, Picoult smiled and told us that they were not going to be reading her book in the first place. But she had written an article for TIME magazine about her book and had received a number of highly offensive and threatening tweets on Twitter. I have just looked at that article for the first time and it repeats a lot of what I have written here, but no doubt in a far more eloquent way.

Before we went into the hall I got talking to a woman behind me in the queue, she was a black woman and had at the last minute decided to go and listen to Picoult talk. When it was finished we saw each other on the way out and she told me that it had been amazing, she was so pleased that she had gone, that it had been powerful and how, as a nurse in the NHS she felt that she had been passed over for promotions, and had felt that she had been treated differently because of her skin colour many times. This book really is so relevant today in this world. This book needs to be read, now more than ever.