Tag Archives: WriMoFoFo

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!

NaNoWriMo 2016

Every November writers around the world take part in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you do 50,000 words in a month, or around 1,700 words a day. I have never stuck to a NaNo ever. This year is shaping up to be no different.

I don’t know what it is about NaNoWriMo that rubs the wrong way with me. I love a deadline, so you would think I would relish this, but for some reason it annoys me. Sure, there is probably a bit of jealousy that others can manage 50K in a month, but I think a big part of it is that I feel like NaNo’s only purpose is to get words on the page, and sometimes writing involves not putting words on a page.

Yes it is easier to edit words than blank-page write them, so you would think that having 50,000 of them would be a bonus, but I have heard too many stories of people rushing off in a direction they could feel was wrong for their story, however they were determined to push on so they could get their 50K for November. So come December they cut out 30K of what they had written. That is disheartening for anyone.

I am a big believer in going with your gut, and if it feels like the story is going in the wrong direction you can bet that it is. I think the best thing to do if you hit that feeling is stop and brainstorm. Think about where the story is going, think about where else it could go and think about where it might have gone wrong earlier. All these things take a bit of time and don’t necessarily get 1,700 word per day onto the page.

Then there is also the fact that in Australia November is always incredibly sociable. We get good weather after months of winter cold, and the build up to Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. So I’m going to skip NaNoWriMo yet again and think about doing WriMoFoFo (write more for four weeks) in the New Year.

Good luck to all of you giving NaNo a go!

WriMoFoFo – the final tally

I don’t think I’ve hit a WriMoFoFo target since we started doing them about four years ago. I’ve never even come close to hitting a NaNoWriMo target either, but I don’t think that’s the point of these things, the important thing is that I’ve written words.

I started slow this year with WriMoFoFo, and then got slower. And just when all was looking rather lost I set myself a cracking pace of about 1,000 words a day to race to the end. That’s how I handle targets. That’s why I’ve learned never to give up.

It would have been very easy when, after the first week when I was only on 13% and I should have been on 30%, to say ‘stuff this, I’m not going to make it, I might as well pull out.’ But 13% was still 2,933 words. I don’t normally write 2,933 words in a week. So it was still good.

I could have dropped off during week two when at 25% I should have been on 50%, but I could see there were 5,494 words in the ‘FoFo bank, so I couldn’t complain. Likewise at week three when my 43% was sadly far off the 75% it should have been, but the 9,357 words I had written still made me smile.

At COB last Sunday night I had only managed to get to 69% of my WriMoFoFo target. That translated to 15,124 words written in four weeks. That’s a lot more than I would normally manage.

Ask me if WriMoFoFo was a success and I’d have to say YES. I wrote more for four. I didn’t give up and I didn’t berate myself for the days I missed. I set my targets high because I wanted to write a lot of words. I wrote a lot of words, not as many as I hoped, but many more than I normally would.

Even better, I don’t feel burned out. If previous WriMoFoFo’s are anything to go by, I will now be in a habit of writing on Monday and Thursday nights, which is two more days of writing than I was doing before. So, while I may not have reached my word-count goal, I have got myself back into the swing of writing, and that is more important than hitting an arbitrary target.

WriMoFoFo – week 1

It’s been a week since WriMoFoFo started, and I have to confess I did not come out of the gates at a gallop, and actually managed to slow down after that. But as they say, it is a marathon not a sprint, so hopefully I’ll make it up nearer the end.

Firstly, I spent far too much time re-formatting and tweaking the ‘Nifty Spreadsheet’ on the first day (I am a bit particular about my colours and what should and shouldn’t be bold). You would be amazed at how much writing time such things can eat up.

Then I discovered I can’t remember the story upon which I’m basing my screenplay. A little alarming given that I’m the one who wrote the story and edited it nine times. I thought I knew it like the back of my hand, but apparently when they are finished you really do let them go. After all, the bits that haunt me of these characters now are all in the as yet unwritten sequel.

To hit my measly target of 733 words on Saturday I needed to sit down on three separate occasions, even resorting to counting a blog post towards my total. It did not bode well for the week to come.

Day two had me looking at my screenplay with only 27 words on the page and I was ready to give up. I went back to my abandoned novel to get my target and was amazed to discover the characters welcomed me back with open arms, despite my recent bailing on them.

Monday, I spoke to an old friend on the phone for two hours, Tuesday I went out to dinner with my family, Wednesday I spoke to another friend for a couple of hours, Thursday… well you see how my week went.

So now I find myself at Sunday with nearly a whole week’s worth of words to make up. At least I had the good sense to rip myself away from the glorious pre-spring day on Saturday to put some black on a page. I just wish I had managed 733 words worth.

Well, nearly three weeks yet to go, a lot can happen in three weeks, hopefully a lot of words.

P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and happy first day of spring to those in the southern hemisphere -it seems like it has been a long time coming this year!

Writing for the screen

Before I discovered Lois Duncan in grade 9 (at which point I decided I wanted to become a novelist) I wanted to write movies. I had always had ideas for stories, but thought I would never be disciplined enough to be able to write full sized novels, so to me it seemed that screenplays were the easier option.

Skip forward a few decades and I’ve completed two novels, have another five over half-finished, and about 20 in the first-five-chapters space (where I always hit a wall). I’ve completed exactly zero movie-length screenplays. I’ve written or co-written two pilot TV shows, each about 45 minutes long, and both nearly killed me. Screenwriting is hard.

I like writing flash fiction; short, sharp and shiny prose, get the story across and cut out all the guff. I thought screenwriting would be the same. It really is not. It is so much more.

Over the years I’ve bought and borrowed many books about how to write screenplays. They haven’t helped. They talk about story arcs, ‘finding’ ideas and making believable characters –all stuff I feel pretty comfortable with, but rendering and action scene on the page in a believable and understandable way for the director, they don’t touch on that. How that Int. Nat’s House – Night bit should be configured, they gloss over. I was ready to give up.

Then I started reading ‘The Da Vinci Code’ screenplay. I picked it up from the second hand books shop for $4. It opens with a forward from the novelist, the director, the producer and the screenwriter. I learned more in those 14 pages than I have in the equivalent number of ‘how to’ screenwriting books. The screenplay itself is fascinating, with extracts from the storyboards interspersed with the text.

Finally, I feel like I know what the end goal is! Suddenly it all makes sense. I want to hug the people who produced this book, it is like it was written to answer my questions. So I’m going to dust off my movie ideas (and some simply are movies, they never felt like novels) and try my hand at my first career choice.

That is my project for WriMoFoFo.

Fan fiction?

My novel and I are having a few issues. Two of the characters are working really well with me, communicating lots, handing over great ideas and really coming alive. The other two are being a bit recalcitrant, whispering their secrets to each other and sometimes seeming to disappear off the page altogether. I think it is the wrong time to write it.

But with my October 31st submission deadline looming, and the upcoming WriMoFoFo, I needed to find a YA novel to write. So I jumped into the plans I had uncovered a couple of weeks ago and among the many ideas I discovered I had gone through a fan fiction phase.

It wasn’t your usual fan fiction; borrowing characters from other authors and living lives in other people’s worlds, instead I borrowed people. As I read the old stuff I saw me, my flatmates, River Phoenix, me, my chemistry teacher, Keanu Reeves, friends, me, my parents, Johnny Depp, me. It was a bit embarrassing to read.

The odd thing is, now I never use real people in my stories, I may use a hand gesture or a nervous tick, but I never package a whole, real person. But I can’t work out when my fan fiction writing ceased and my character writing began. There is no archaeopteryx with a few real ones and a few fakes as I made the transition.

Interestingly enough, all of my publications are stories entirely peopled with made up characters. So I’m glad I made the move, because obviously the stories these unknown people tell me are much more interesting than the fantasies I put myself in when I was younger.

Now names, that is a different story! I’m sorry, but if you have worked with me, you probably have a character named in part or full, after you. Please don’t sue; I can honestly say that they aren’t actually based on you!

A strange thing happened on the way to my blog

I opened a blank piece of paper, intending to draft my Sunday blog post, and a story I have been flirting with for the better part of 12 months nearly knocked me over with its opening scene. I watched in my head as the beginning of the story unfurled (fortunately my fingers had enough sense to type what I was seeing) and next thing I knew I had nearly seven hundred words on the page and almost no conscious memory of putting them there.

Inspiration does not strike often, but when it does it is a beautiful thing. I don’t put a lot of stock in inspiration, it is a bit like love after the age of 30; ephemeral and cloudy, and upon reflection you see the dark smudges you were blind to in the moment. Having said that, when it does hit, there is nothing wrong with giving in and letting it rule you for a little while.

So now I have my piece to come back to each night and try to build on. It is my tale to ponder when I’m on the bus, waiting at the check-out, or in a boring meeting – and it feels wonderful to have one of these again. I have been away from my stories for too long, I guess my brain just needed the break.

Might be time for a personal WriMoFoFo?

Happy writing!

Heart or pocket?

LOVE OR MONEYI don’t think anyone in this day and age becomes a writer as a way to make lots of money, or if you do you just need to attend one writing convention or read a few blogs (thanks Lamellae for putting me onto that one) to quickly learn that there are easier ways to make your first million. But all writers at some point have to ask themselves, are they writing to make some money, or are they writing purely for themselves?

I’d like to think that ultimately the goal of all of us is to get to the second option. We will always be our first market that must be satisfied for us to be happy writers. Unfortunately being happy about what your write doesn’t always equate to being paid for what you write.

At the extreme end, you can write annual reports and business plans for companies and get paid for writing, but will you be satisfied? By the same token, you can write that story that has been bumping around in your head these past twenty years about a dog who can fly, and no-one else might want to read it, let alone pay for it.  

So with WriMoFoFo now started I’ve decided that for me a job can be the equivalent of my annual report writing. Typing out words isn’t what brings me pleasure, it is creating worlds and characters and flying dogs. So WriMoFoFo is going to be all about me this time around, and I’m going to have some fun.

After all, if my ultimate goal (as a writer) is to be able to write what I want to write, well then I can hand myself that goal right now. I’ll worry about publication later.


Finding new words

I’ve had a lot of time to write in recent months, but I’ve mainly spent the time editing – something I usually put off as much as possible. Recently though, I’ve had three deadlines which all required new words. Amazingly enough I made all three!

The thing that strikes me is that often I have wanted to write new words, but when I looked at the screen nothing would come. So I turned back to the editing, something for which I had hard deadlines which also counted as writing. What changed between then and now to see the new words flow; it was having externally set deadlines.

One of my favourite short stories was a competition entry (which didn’t win) that I started writing at 8:30PM on the night it was due. I entered the story at 11:45PM –apparently it was the last submission before entries closed. Yes it could have (and has since) benefitted from a solid edit and a 24 hour rest, but without that external deadline it would never have been written.

This led me to ask the question of why I respect my self-set editing deadlines but not the new word ones. Finally it came to me; I had committed to friends and family about when they would be able to buy my novel on line, so lots of people knew that deadline. My new words had no such external commitment, they were just numbers in a spreadsheet.

Lucky for me my writers group is about to start a new WriMoFoFo (write more for four) and while we run it anonymously, I’m going to use it as a way to make myself more externally accountable. I will publish my targets and my actual achieved figures each Sunday.

Please feel free to join me, it starts on June 11th –so you still have plenty of time to plan what you want to tackle. For more info about WriMoFoFo see my last WriMoFoFo post. Let me know how you are tracking, even just in vague non-numerical terms. Maybe we can all get a few new words written!


A terrific afternoon

Terrific is one of those words which can mean almost opposite things; very good or very frightening. I had a terrific moment by the Torrens River on Thursday, in both senses of the word.

The sun was setting, casting long shadows down the riverside footpath. A bunch of seagulls were huddling together on the grass, preparing for the night, and a young couple walked toward me, their energetic little dog bounding around their feet. A fish jumped from the river, landing with a splash that carried across the still water. It doesn’t sound like the moments preceding a potentially horrific experience does it? It actually sounds quite pleasant, and it was, but the terrible chain of events was already set in motion, and we were all helpless to avoid it.

Wondering what fish could possibly be living in the murky black depths of the Torrens, a river which gives up numerous bodies each time it gets drained (oh, I mean car bodies by the way), I decided to walk over and see if I could spot the piscean acrobat. At that same moment the little dog noticed the gathering of seagulls, and the temptation proved too much as he ran headlong into the gathering. The squadron of at least 60 birds took to the air, their flight path directly over the place where I was standing, trying to spot the fish.

Bird droppings rained down around me, inches in front of my face, my shoulders, my legs. I heard the thick *splats* as they hit the ground, the black and white goo spreading thick and smelly across the path. I couldn’t look up, I daren’t move, I just froze and preyed as the droppings kept coming.

And then they stopped.

I ran my fingers through my hair; nothing. Inspecting my legs, my jacket, my shoes -all were poo free! I couldn’t believe my luck, not a single dropping had made contact! So there you have it, a moment of terror, followed by a terrific feeling of relief.

And for those following my word count, I’ve edited 7 chapters since Wednesday, which is about 11,000 words! Not a bad effort in four days. I’ve also included (below) another nature shot of a mother and baby koala, taken just outside the house. It really is a zoo up here!
Mother and Baby Koala