All posts by Natalie

Jan-No-Wri-Mo Week 3

Look, I’m not going to make the week 3 target either, but I’m still at a higher word count than I’ve ever managed for a WriMo before, so I’m not too worried. Also I know what I’m like; when I see the end I’ll make a run for it and push out a lot more words. With any luck we won’t continue to have as many days over 40°C in the next week and a half either. Okay, enough with the excuses…

The project I’ve picked to work on is a pantser novel (no plan).  I chose this because my previous experience with a pantser project was the fastest I’ve ever written a novel. But even then, it took nearly 3 months. Part of the reason why is that I was working full-time, but the other part is because I really turned stuff over in my head before I sat down and wrote. 31 days of January doesn’t give you as much time to do that.

My new way to counter this (only started this week), as well as getting a little more exercise, is to go for a dawn walk. It’s summer here, so dawn is the best time to walk because of the heat, but with all the birds singing around you it is also really inspiring to start thinking about what the novel is going to do next. I realise that I used to do this on the bus ride when I was working, and that was missing in my #JanNoWriMo equation.

So yes, the word count is not on track, but I always knew week 2 and 3 would be bad, so I’m not letting it get to me. I think I’ll get there in the end. I’m also getting to know my community a bit more; there are a lot of dawn walkers out there. I wonder if any of them are trying to write novels?

Jan-no-wri-mo week 2

I always knew that week 2 would be hard. This is when the excitement of starting has waned, the book can enter sagging middle territory and you see that even with all the hard work you have done, you have even more hard work stretching out before you. I felt all of that this week. I even gave myself two days off because I just couldn’t face the book a couple of times. There is a chance I might not hit my word target this week.

To add to the draw of not being at my computer, I bought myself a new toy; the Olympus Tough TG-5 camera. It takes super-close photos (along with about a million other things I haven’t yet worked out). So I’ve been out in my garden playing with it. This is a lot more fun that forcing myself to squeeze out story. It also doesn’t help that I’m not confident the story is going in the right direction. It took a turn I didn’t expect, and I don’t know if I’m up to taking it where it wants to go.

But I’m going to try really hard to have a big Sunday and see if I can at least get close to the word count, because I know this hard reality; the only thing harder than week 2 of a Wri-Mo is week 3. So head down, I’d better get writing.

See below for some of this week’s efforts with the new camera…

Bee
You have no idea how many bee photos I had to take to get his little face in the picture.
Slaters move a little less, so this guy was a bit easier.
Slaters move a little less, so this guy was a bit easier.
When the wind dropped this Hebe was even better at posing than the slater
When the wind dropped this Hebe was even better at posing than the slater
I love how the ends pop off to reveal the beautiful flowers.
I love how the ends pop off to reveal the beautiful flowers.

 

Jan-No-Wri-Mo Week 1

I consider the week as running from Monday to Sunday (and the year very conveniently started on a Monday to align with this) so I won’t update my weekly word count until I finish writing on Sunday night. Having said that, I am currently on track to meet my week 1 target of 11,000 words.

Despite having a visitor from Melbourne for a couple of days, I was always confident I would make week 1. I’m full of enthusiasm, I’m working on a new project, and I’ve put myself out there on social media committing to it. If I didn’t make week 1 then I’d seriously have to go back and re-read ‘Maximum Willpower’ by Kelly McGonigal -because that’s what a writing challenge is all about; willpower.

For me writing is not about inspiration as much as motivation. I need to really want to write the novel to be able to write it. Wanting means I will make myself get up early, turn on the computer and sit down and write. I’m also very regimented, so not only do I have a daily word count, but I have a break word count too. I can’t take my first break away from the computer until I have written over 1,000 words. That includes breaking for lunch. I can end up having some late lunch breaks on my writing days.

If you are trying JanNoWriMo and you’re finding it hard to hit your targets please don’t give up, get less perfect. Because I know I have to write, but I don’t always know exactly what should be happening in the novel, I’ve given myself permission to get it wrong. I’ve also given myself permission to write badly. This helps with pushing out words.

Think of this as your scratch draft of the novel which never has to be seen by anyone. It is the bones upon which your edit will layer the flesh of your proper first draft. As long as the beast can stand up on its own by the time you get to your first version of ‘The End’, then I’m sure your edit will later turn it into a living, breathing thing.

So don’t put pressure on yourself to write well, but do put pressure on yourself to write!

Good luck!

On your marks…

#JanNoWriMo starts tomorrow!

I’ve got my sketchy novel plan ready, I’ve got my writing schedule pinned on the wall and I’ve got my tea bags stocked up. I’ve taken such a loooooong break from writing recently that it’s embarrassing. I feel ready to write.

I’ve started a page here so you can track my progress (if you are interested). And if you are doing JanNoWriMo, I’d be really keen to hear from you. From my previous experiences with #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month (held globally in November) and #WriMoFoFo – Write More for Four (weeks) held by my writers group randomly through the year, I always start well and then tank some time toward the end of the second week. Then it is all downhill.

This year I’m more prepared and have more time off, so with luck and more than a little determination I hope to not only hit the 50,000-word target, but hopefully go over. But let’s not put too much pressure on.

Anyway, the other thing that is going on is that 2017 finishes today (and it is Val Kilmer’s birthday)! For me 2017 has been just another year, but for so many of my friends it has been awful. No matter how your 2017 has gone, I hope that the beginning of 2018 is kind to you and inspires you in whatever way you wish to grow. There is nothing like a new year to make a new start.

Happy New Year! And please be safe.

xox

Merry Christmas

The end of year is always a crazy rush, and this year has been no exception. But now I have 4 days off before the final run at work, and then it is time for JanNoWriMo (January Novel Writing Month). I’ve never done JanNoWriMo before, but I am very mindful of the fact that it is only one week away, so I hope the anticipation is waking up my writing daemon and I’ll be ready to hit the ground running.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat a bit too much food, and have a couple of wines and then settle down to read (from cover to cover) my novel for which I hope to write the sequel in January. That is my only writing requirement for this long weekend. Everything else is going to be friends, family and more food – because that is what the end of December is all about.

I hope you all find yourself in the company of good friends and family this Christmas long weekend. And if the family aren’t so good, then I hope that they are at least entertaining, or (for the writers reading this) inspirational.

Please take care, don’t drink and drive, or text and drive, or drive off after Aunt Mary said that particularly offensive thing. And if the chance presents itself, show kindness to a stranger. We shouldn’t wait for Christmas to do that, but it is a good excuse.

Merry Christmas!

Jan-No-Wri-Mo

NaNoWriMo is a global event that most writers have tried at least once. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is that you write 50,000 words over the month of November. The thing is, NaNoWriMo was invented by people in the northern hemisphere, where November is cold and everything is starting to slow down.

In the southern hemisphere, exactly the opposite is true. The weather is warming up, people start socialising and often we begin our Christmas catch-ups in November. The last thing you want to do is lock yourself away from the first of the beautiful weather and write a novel.

That’s why this year I’m going to do JanNoWriMo. January Novel Writing Month. January is hot in most of Australia, so staying inside an air-conditioned room to hit a word target is very attractive. January is also (for many) holiday time, actually giving us the time to write. And finally; January is 31 days long, giving us one more day than in November to hit our word target.

We are just over half way through December, more than enough time to plan your next project. I’ve got one in mind so I’m going to get as much of the pre-work done in the next two weeks as possible so I can hit the ground running on January 1st.

Can you think of a better way to start crossing off your New Year’s resolutions than by writing your novel in the first month of 2018? Who wants to join me?

#JanNoWriMo

Lonely occupation

Something you will hear time and time again is how ‘lonely’ it is to be a writer. I’ve always thought people said that because of the long hours you spend alone at the computer writing. This has always seemed a bit of a contradiction to me, because if you are writing you are spending time with your characters so you are not alone.

This week I got hit with the full brunt of the lonely occupation. After 329 days (and of that over two months spent in the ‘number 1 in the queue’ position) my novella got rejected. I really liked that novella and thought it had a chance. To really rub salt into the wound it was a form letter rejection, so much so that it went to my junk mail, and I opened it just before I started a particularly taxing day at work.

There was no-one I could tell. My work colleagues think I’m wasting my time with my writing, so it would just be confirmation to them that I’m being foolish, and my friends and family are all working through fairly serious issues at the moment, so I didn’t want to burden them with the ‘problem’ of my dreams not coming true. Instead all I could do was think to myself ‘that sucks’ and get back to work building intranet pages.

I have got a writer friend who I will burden with my disappointment when we catch up next week, but I know by then I will have gotten over it and integrated it into my reality. But I can say that this week I felt like a lonely writer. Then I felt guilty for not appreciating all the good things in my life. For me, writing and guilt go hand in hand so I guess I’m normalising already. But I’ll chalk this up as just another sucky week and move on. At least gay marriage was legalised, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Bald Baby Crow

Family of Criws

In early October I started getting a visitor in my garden; a bald baby crow. Still hurting from the loss of the Gardner, I didn’t want to get too close. But with his daily visits, and watching him grow, I couldn’t help but be drawn in. I noticed that other baby crows in the area looked normal, so why was this crow bald?

When I Googled ‘bald baby crow’ I got nothing besides a UK site which suggested my crow had mites and was likely to die. Given that Adelaide crows are not actually crows, but ravens, and they are nothing like the evil-sounding birds I’ve seen in the northern hemisphere, I decided to ignore their I predictions of doom.

His parents didn’t seem fussed and he seemed to be thriving in all other ways, so I decided to document his growth. Below, for anyone else who has a bald baby crow in their backyard, I want to give you hope that your bald baby crow can grow into a healthy, feathered crow (or raven):

Bald Baby Crow Week 1
Bald Baby Crow Week 1

First photo – sorry, this was taken on my phone, so not terribly close or clear. When he first arrived his legs were naked as well. By the time I got this picture he had feathers on his legs and a dark patch on the top of his head.

Bald Baby Crow Week 2
Bald Baby Crow Week 2

Now I’ve got the SLR out, so you can see him a bit better. The dark patch on his head has definitely turned into feathers.

Bald Baby Crow Week 2 later
Bald Baby Crow Week 2.5

SLR + Zoom. The feathers are growing, but his ears are still very exposed.

Bald Baby Crow
Bald Baby Crow week 5 (left side)

Above and below – left and right side; his ears are now covered and just a small patch of feathers coming in on his throat hint that anything was ever not normal

Bald Baby Crow Week 5 (right side)
Bald Baby Crow Week 5 (right side)

So now the little bald baby crow is not bald, not a baby and apparently not even a crow. He’s now a fine-feathered raven.

Who are you calling a crow?
Who are you calling a crow?

Top 10 Writer Things to Do – Make time for writing

Yes, it’s the last Top 10 for the year, and yes, it’s a pretty obvious one. Clearly to be a writer you need to write. To be able to write, you need time. Most of us don’t have much time, so we have to make it. That means cutting time from something else.

What you give up is not always going to be as easy as a few episodes of Master Chef, or the weekly vacuum. Sometimes it’s going to be fun stuff, stuff that you want to do, stuff that is a whole lot more attractive than sitting at your computer trying to drag words out of your brain.

Trust me, when you make this sacrifice you’ll feel like a writer.

I only tend to apply this when I’m in the middle of a project. I have large-ish breaks between projects where the fun stuff is likely to win out. So for me this isn’t an all-the-time thing, but I would suggest, if you want to finish a project, you need to do this.

We all make our writing time in different ways, but my way of doing it is to plan my week in advance. So I can book in that work Christmas party, but I’ll be sure to also block out writing time in the same way I’d book in a coffee with a friend. Once that time is allocated, it is booked.

Here I’ll give you a warning; as someone who is making almost no money out my writing, I find friends and family don’t really understand why I’m saying ‘no’ to them so I can write. So be prepared to be evasive ‘oh, I’ve got something on that day’ (which also helps to make you seem more mysterious) or if pressed, outright lie; ‘that’s the only day I can see <insert name of friend they don’t know here>’. Or if you have more guts than me, just tell them that’s how it is so too bad, so sad.

The key is you need to commit to a time, and then commit to that time. That’s how books are written, and that’s how you become a writer. Good luck!

Wants and needs

I want to publish novels that people read and enjoy. I need to earn money to pay my bills. Wants are born of passions and desires, needs are forced upon us. Isn’t it funny how easily we find the motivation to meet our needs but often only the inspiration to meet our wants?

I get up each day and go to work, not with joy and excitement, but acceptance. And I DO get up each day and go to work. So why don’t I use the joy and excitement of writing a novel to get me to the desk each night to write? I think it’s because it is a want not a need. So when I’m tired, or run down, writing gets jettisoned along with all the other optional wants (fitness, healthy eating, enough sleep, a proper cleansing and moisturising regime).

I’m a very pig-headed and motivated person, so I tend to make time to chase my wants, but even with that, I am amazed at how often I let them slip. I never let my needs not go un-met. It got me thinking about my personal needs and how I can change my wants into needs.

Food and bills are pretty frontline on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, so let’s ignore them, but let’s look at other ‘needs’ in my life. I’m over 40 now (sometimes) so I’ve seen some of my wants make the transition into needs already. I want to keep my teeth, so now I actually floss every night. Yes, every night. In my 20’s I’d be surprised if I did it once a month. The fluorescence lights in the bathrooms at work have made colouring my hair a need that I used to be able to let slip. Saying no to chocolate and wine has also become the norm for me in recent years, that was unheard of in my early 30s.

I think there is a bit of shaming in ‘wanting it all’, like we should just be grateful for what we have. Don’t get me wrong, I know that anyone who counts colouring her hair as a need is a very lucky person indeed, and I AM grateful, but I also think there is nothing wrong with wanting more. Or should I say needing more.

Imagine what I would achieve if publishing a novel became a need? There are so many silly little wants I could sacrifice to get it done. Think; if we could turn the desire to make this world a better place into a need to get it done, what might we achieve? Yes, I’m very grateful for my health, and home, and loving family, but I am also grateful to be able to want more. I think I need to publish another novel. It’s time to get this done!