Category Archives: Writing

One day of ‘normal’

I finished editing my YA novella on Thursday, so I decided to give myself Friday ‘off’. I went for a walk, did my washing and then read for a bit. That took me to 11am. I went out and took a lot of photos of different insects on the sedum in my garden (they love it), then I checked emails and paid bills. That took me to midday. Then I was lost.

It felt wrong to not even be thinking about a story. As much as I may only be spending a couple of hours at the computer (on the days I’m not working), I realise how much writing  infiltrates the rest of my day. It’s as if a little part of my brain is always dedicated to working out a writing problem. And when it doesn’t have such a task set, it feels empty, which in turn makes me feel anxious.

As much as I sometimes bang on about chucking it all in, I really don’t think that is an option for me. I don’t think it is an option for any writers. So I’ve started my next project; another YA novel, but I think this one is going to go a bit dark. I have returned to the day job after all.

P.S. Here are some of the visitors to the sedum…

Something-dart butterfly.
Something-dart butterfly.
Honey Bee
Honey Bee
Native Bees - these guys are fast!!!
Native Bees – these guys are fast!!!

The novel’s finished… what now?

Every time I’ve finished writing a novel (in recent history) I’ve always needed to keep writing over the next few days to slow down after such intense writing. Usually I throw myself into a short story or flash fiction piece. After this I’ll end up taking a break that goes for months.

The post-novel short story got written on Monday, and I’m really wary of taking a break. If I do, I know I’m at risk of not writing for the next three months. I don’t want that to happen this time.

So for the beginning of my ‘break’ this week, I researched writing resources: websites, blogs, videos and books. There is a lot of great and inspirational material out there if you put in the time to look for it. While I won’t necessarily learn something from all of them (though I’d be surprised if I didn’t) what I did learn was joining in with these things made me feel part of a community. In turn, this made me want to write.

Now I think I’m ready to start another big project. Maybe 2018 will be the year I write two novels? Possibly more? Below is from a great channel I stumbled across called ‘Bang2Write’ and this video covers the top structure mistakes writers make. I defy you to watch it and not want to go to your computer to get started on your next project.

YouTube Preview Image

Jan-No-Wri-Mo: Lessons

Well, I did it. 51,154 words in the end. There was actually no point at which I didn’t think I’d make it – I’m far too pig-headed for that. When I promise myself that I’m going to do something, I do it. Which is not always a good thing…

I don’t think JanNoWriMo (or any WriMo for that matter) is a good way to write a novel. It is a fantastic way to get a novel finished, but if you don’t know exactly what is going to happen in your novel (and even my most planned novels end up going in different directions to what I expect) then I think you can hurt the story.

There were seven days in the month when I did no writing at all, and all of them happened when I didn’t know what should happen next. I had nearly three days (the short writing day happened here) where I spent quite a few hours brainstorming all the directions the story could head in. Then I picked one. Was it the right one? I don’t know. In real life I probably would have ruminated over the decision for at least a week. I didn’t like JanNoWriMo on that day.

But it wasn’t all bad. I discovered that early morning walks are fantastic for drawing out ideas. I would set off and couldn’t come home again until I knew what I was writing that day. Some walks went for 20 mins, some for over an hour. All of them got me a little bit fitter too, which is always good. It’s something I’m going to try and keep up.

The other thing I learned was that when you get creative in one area, it makes you start getting creative in other areas. Now, I wasn’t working, so maybe that figured into things too, but I did more elaborate cooking, took loads of photos, was out in the garden, and even managed all my TotalGym sessions without the usual torpor. I know that is one of the tricks you learn in Maximum Willpower; that once you start getting motivated in one area, you get motivated in others as well, but I didn’t even know I wanted to do all these other things.

Now I’m feeling a bit bereft. I’m writing this on the morning of February 2nd because it feels wrong not to be at the computer. When I finish this post I’m going to head out for a walk and see if I can come up with a short story idea. I need to be writing.

And I’m sure novelists can relate to this; I’m also sad. I spent such an intensive month with my characters and now they are all gone. I miss them terribly. Sadly, experience tells me that editing won’t bring them closer in the same way. Maybe that’s why my brain is already working on the final novel in the trilogy?

So, I guess the big question is; will I do another WriMo? I am interested to try JuneNoWriMo, because it’s got to be easier to write in the cool weather. 40°C days are torture at the computer. But I’m going to have a range of projects to work on. I think I could bash out 50K of short stories without running into the same problems that I hit with the novel. Let’s see, I’ve got a few months to decide yet.

Statistics

Number of days out of 31 that I wrote: 24 days
Average session: 2,131 words
Biggest writing day: 5,198 words
Smallest writing day: 712 words

Jan-No-Wri-Mo Week 4

I might be going out on a limb here, but I think I’m going to hit this week’s target. I kind of have to, because even if I do get to 44K by the end of today, that still leaves 6K to write to get to 50K by midnight Wednesday. I think I might still be writing up until midnight Wednesday -which coincidentally is about what time the lunar eclipse is going total in Adelaide, so I wanted to be up anyway.

Will I finish the novel? I think so. Are there some gaps in it; yes without doubt. This will definitely be the scratchiest of any of my scratch drafts to date. It’s the first time I’ve written stuff like <describe the house in more detail here> in my manuscript. I’m cool with that. If something was going to hold me up, or I needed to research it to get it 100% right, then I’ve left those bits for the edit.

Would I do JanNoWriMo again? I don’t know. First of all, I am not sure if I’ll ever get all of January off work again, and there is no way I would have managed the 50k if I was working. Secondly, January is super hot! We had so many days either over 40°C or near enough to. It was awful trying to sit at a computer in those conditions, and probably not terribly healthy. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my previous novels were written over winter.

Finally, I don’t know that I did the novel justice. I suspect I will have whole chapters that are going to get cut. I also feel like I pushed the characters along in places they wouldn’t necessarily have gone if I had given myself a few more days to ponder. As it was I had to take a three-day break mid-JanNoWriMo to massively brainstorm to work out what was happening next. I don’t know if that was the right thing to do. I guess I’ll find out when I go back to do the edit.

Next week I’ll let you know some of the lessons I learned from JanNoWriMo, as well as letting you know what my next project will be. Besides finding a job, of course. I guess I’d better start thinking about that too!

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

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.