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 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!

 

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

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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

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!!

NaNoWriMo: Day four.

So today is the 4th November, meaning day four of NaNo. I’ve posted my word count on twitter and on my personal Facebook page each day, it helps to keep me motivated to reach my word count I find.

So, how has NaNo been so far? Well, day one started well, although I felt the reality of having done pretty much no prep and how aimlessly I was writing. I wondered whether the very vague book idea in my head would actually be enough to fill a book.

Day two was not so good. I had had very little sleep the night before, damn insomnia. This made writing difficult, and I didn’t meet the writing target of 1667 words a day. I have to admit that I felt deflated and somewhat defeated. I also felt incredibly stressed, there is a lot going on in my life and I couldn’t help but question whether I was expecting too much of myself by adding NaNo to the mix. But I talked about it to some friends and came to the conclusion that I had to put myself first and if it was too much then I would stop NaNo.

So, did I quit? Well no, of course not. I mean who quits NaNo on day two? So day three I started to write, and write and write. I enjoyed what I wrote, and I enjoyed pretty much everything about it, especially when I realised that I had just over two thousand words. It felt good, so good, and maybe just maybe, I was going to do this.

Today is day four and once again I have done just over two thousand words. Two thousand seems to be my limit though, it is like something switches off when I get to it that number and I can write no more. I would like to do more, of course, I want to be able to have days without writing and I cannot do that if I get stuck at two thousand words.

But I have written 7615 words of a book. A book that didn’t exist five days ago. I should add here for those that read my previous NaNo post that the 1000 words that I had done got deleted on day one!.

Today I got sent a survey to fill in, the survey was for readers and authors, and for the first time ever I ticked author (their criteria was that if you have written or are writing a book then you are considered an author), it felt strange. I never imagined that I would actually do this, but here I am, doing it. Will I make the NaNo target and finish it? Who knows. I certainly hope so but it is very early days yet. All I know is that I’m giving it my best shot.