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.

#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 Here we go again! #amwriting

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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!

 

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.

 

NaNoWriMo: I did it!!!!

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Look what happened!!! I am in shock, I cannot believe it but I also cannot stop smiling. And I’m so relieved that it is over!

Once I hit 40,000 words I actually started to believe that I might actually do this, I had a few difficult writing days, I think that I was in what seems to be known as the ‘soggy middle’ of the book. But once I got to 40K I felt energised and determined, so I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, my daily stats went up, as you can see from the graph above I started to pull more and more in front of the target.

Then yesterday I wrote and I wrote and I did 5,157 words, taking my total to 47,694. It was by far my highest word count for a day and my brain felt fried. I went to collect my children from school but I couldn’t shake the niggle of just how close I was and was I really going to wait until tomorrow to finish it? After a trip to the dentist and the barber on the way home we had dinner and then in the half hour before bedtime for my children they watch television, so I took to my laptop and started to write.

I guess that I was lucky that I happened to be in quite an exciting bit of the book, which made it easier to write. Normally once my children are in bed I struggle to write, I’m tired and want to do something else but there was no way that I was going to leave it there. As I was writing I did wonder how much of what I was writing would be edited as my brain felt too fried so I couldn’t believe that what I was writing made all that much sense.

Once I got to 50,048 words I stopped typing. It just happened to work that I was at the end of a chapter so it was a good ending point anyway. I sat and stared at the word count for a bit and then started the process of getting my words verified on the NaNo website. That took some time and strangely NaNo think that I wrote 50,034 words, so a small discrepancy to what Scrivener was telling me but it still meant that I was a winner.

I had the hugest grin on my face, I had done it, I was a NaNoWriMo 2016 winner AND I’d done it with plenty of time to spare. This is my first ever NaNo and my first ever attempt to write a book.

So what next? Well, my story is definitely not over yet. I am hoping to get it to about 80,000 words that makes a full-length novel, but before I even attempt that I am going to have some time off. On Friday my twins turn six, so I will be able to enjoy that and their weekend of celebrating and then maybe on Monday I will start writing again, I don’t want to lose the flow too much but definitely need a break from it, yesterday felt like a marathon for my brain and it is tired. I also need to concentrate on reading a bit and catching up with my review books as I am so so behind now.

I also want to say how lucky I have been, I have had absolutely amazing support from many places. Firstly I have bored friends with daily word counts on Facebook, my posts have received many likes and comments, giving me support and cheering me on on the more difficult days. I’ve also joined a few Facebook groups or writers, or for those specifically doing NaNo and they have been invaluable too. I am very lucky and I genuinely don’t think that I would have finished NaNo, or at least not finished it this early, without that support.

NaNoWriMo: Day sixteen.

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So, today is day sixteen on NaNoWriMo, six days since my last update. My wordcount now sits at a staggering 32,562 words.

As you can see from the graph above I am ahead of schedule which is hard to believe, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been ahead of schedule on something before. Seriously, I’m one of those people who normally never gets to the end and if I do it’s a last minute rush to make it. But I’m approximately 5,000 words ahead of target.

It feels good to have that buffer, although I do have a few days coming up where writing will be difficult, if not impossible. But I’m not going to focus on that right now.

There have been no major dramas since my last update, I feel like I’ve settled into a routine with it and although sometimes I feel like I have absolutely no idea where to go next, somehow words come and the story moves on.

Talking of the story I happen to think that it is a load of rubbish, complete drivel in fact. I think that I have far too many frowns in the book, ‘he looked at her and frowned’ ‘she frowned and said….’. I definitely need to look up words that I can use as an alternative to frown!

Another thing that I’ve been struggling with is animal related. It seems that vets are hard to find, and even more so vets that are willing to talk to you about the not so pleasant side of what some people do to their pets. If you’re reading this and are a vet and are willing to help then please get in touch! I promise that it is for my book and not something that I will be putting into practice.

Something elset that I think that I should tell you is that my daughter has been sick. In fact when she vomited my second thought was ‘oh no, how am I going to get my writing done now?’ which was a pretty selfish reaction when my five year old had just thrown up. She was sick twice and then absolutely fine, a little quiet the next day which meant that I actually got a lot of words done but then totally normal today. She’s spent the day telling me that she wished that she was at school and that she missed her twin brother, in fact she seems to have barely stopped talking all day.

In the end I took her to Costco, I wasn’t getting any writing done so figured that we may as well do something productive with our day. After we sat and had a drink and she sat quietly, I told her that she finally had my undivided attention so what did she want to talk to me about. Her response? A small shrug and she sat drinking her drink and for the first time all day, she was quiet. Typical. However, since getting home from school she has happily played with her brother and I have managed to finally get some writing done.

Under 20,000 words to go. I can’t tell you how much I want to get there. Although in general I’m enjoying doing NaNo it is exhausting. Today I promised myself that I wouldn’t do NaNo again, but I have a feeling that NaNo is a bit like childbirth and soon enough I’ll forget the bad bits and want to do it all over again.

Right, back to the writing I go…..

NaNoWriMo: Day ten update.

So the NaNo roller coaster continues! Today is day ten and I am still going. I just read my post that I wrote about day four and I was proudly telling you that I’d written 7515 words. That was not all that long ago and at the end of day ten I have written (drum roll here) 20036 words! Yep, I have done over twenty thousand words!

I actually cannot believe it. I was talking to a friend today who has been really supportive of me doing NaNo and has patiently listened to me vent and given her regular updates of my word count. She told me today that I need to stop saying that I can’t believe it and start believing in myself. I know that she is right, but it isn’t that simple.

I can tell you, though, that I do feel incredibly proud of myself. When I think of myself as a young child at school, battling with dyslexia, struggling to even learn to read let alone write, it is hard to believe that this is where I am now.

But it hasn’t been easy. Days 5-7 were ok, but on day 8 I felt tired, really really tired. Now it’s hard to know the cause of this, I do have dodgy blood and get very anaemic, so maybe it is that and I need an iron infusion (I had bloods taken this week so should know the answer to that soon), or is it because of the writing?

Writing is actually really tiring, well I think so anyway. Not only am I thinking and writing and concentrating, but I’m also using my imagination in ways that I am not used to. I felt like my brain hurt.

I posted about it on a brilliant writer’s Facebook page, there’s a few of us doing NaNo on there supporting each other, and I have to say that I expected a chorus of ‘me too’ when I asked if others felt tired. Instead, I got support and advice, I was told that maybe I needed to step back and take a bit of a break from it. Someone mentioned writer’s burnout, having had burnout from a job I did 15 years ago I certainly don’t want to be heading in that direction again. They told me that I was perhaps pushing myself too hard and to have a day off, then someone suggested that I just write 500 words the next day.

500 words? I have to admit that scared me, being a bit ahead takes pressure off me and to do 500 words in a day would mean that my buffer would be a lot smaller, but I saw their point and I couldn’t ignore their unanimous concern that I needed a break.

So, yesterday I had an easy day. I have to admit that the shock election results in America helped, it made it much easier to stop thinking about my book and characters and what was going to happen next. I felt for the first time since NaNo started that my brain had stopped whirring. I did no writing in the morning, and then after lunch I did an hour and wrote just over 1000 words.

It wasn’t much but it felt enough, doing that much didn’t stress me out but I knew that more would. So I stopped. It was my lowest word count so far, but I was ok with that.

So this morning, day ten, I have to say that I felt better and ready to get back to it. But the words didn’t flow so well and I was worried that my break the day before had broken something and that I was going to find it hard to get back into it. But as time went on I wrote more and more before I thought that I was done for the day. But I was just over a thousand words away from twenty thousand, maybe I could keep going?

And I did, and the words began to flow and soon enough I saw that I had written 3151 words today, that is my best day yet! And I cracked the 20k with a total of 20036.

So right now I’m feeling motivated and good. I desperately want to get to twenty-five thousand as then I will be half way through, and that isn’t too far away. I still have no idea whether I will actually finish NaNo, but I do know that whether I do or not I have given it my best shot. My main worry at the moment is that I don’t have enough story left to tell to give me another thirty thousand words, let alone the additional 30-50 thousand that I’d need to add to it to be left with a book-length book. But I remember on day two thinking that there was no way that I had enough words to get to ten thousand so I’m trying not to stress about that one too much.

So if you’re still here, thanks for reading my update! Words of advice and encouragement are much appreciated!!