Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Starting new courses means more work. I've resumed my job, and now I have to co-ordinate my work and job and social life with writing. To put it simply, I'm juggling at the moment.

As I'm taking a two month break from writing in the run up to NaNo, my main focus for the two months was meant to be editing my novel. Suddenly, over half of September has gone by, and until yesterday I hadn't done ANY editing. After not editing for so long, admittedly, I am finding it harder to get back into the flow of it. Especially when I have other things to do. Many distractable things that can and will do everything possible to get in the way of my editing.

Time management is a very good skill to have. At the moment, it is something that I'm lacking, my brain still holding onto the last vestiges of summer. Summer's over! and I have work to do. Once again, it comes down to balance. I can't hope to do everything I want to if I don't find some way to balance my time, and fit everything in. Life has a funny way of screwing everything up. But it's getting around this that is the real skill. Hopefully, I'll have developed my sense of time management before November. Otherwise, things really will be bad.

So while I continue my juggling/balancing/time management act, I'll be working towards my goal of a redrafted manuscript, ready for my first test reader. And another publishing related blog post. Maybe another book review.

If only time would slow down for a few seconds...

Saturday, 11 September 2010


I know there are still a couple of months until NaNoWriMo, but I believe in being prepared. I also wanted to say why I think NaNoWriMo is an amazing idea for any budding writers.

For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. For the entirety of November, everybody is encouraged to write a novel/novelette for the month, which means 50,000 words in 30 days. I know what you're thinking. It sounds impossible. But it can be achieved. With hard work, effort, and a lot of writing, you can write a novel in a month. Or if you don't manage the 50,000, at least you have the makings of a novel to finish and redraft when you have time.

NaNoWriMo is a great experience. I only found out about NaNo a couple of years ago. Last NaNo, I had such a busy November that I could only manage 30k, and it was on a novel that was already in progress. But that was OK. Back then, I still had a lot to learn, and the month really taught me about writing. My limits. What I could do. How fun writing could be, how good it felt to have my fingers running across the keys like crazy and seeing the plot develop in such a short time frame. For that month, I lived and breathed writing. Put simply, I loved it.

That's not to say it wasn't stressful. It was. Hours spent at the laptop, watching the clock and calendar as my time ticked down, desperately trying to sort any plot holes, thinking of new scenes and creating sub-plots ... it was a massive challenge. But at the end of the month, I was extremely proud of myself, and I made a huge amount of progress, both in my writing skills and my novel. I ended up finishing that novel in January, and it became my first novel. Without NaNo, I probably would have taken a couple of months longer to finish, which meant I wouldn't have started my second novel so soon. NaNo set things in motion for me, and it will for you too.

It's not just the NaNo itself which is good. The website for NaNo has helpful articles and information in the run-up to November, the forums are a brilliant way to connect with other writers and participators in the event and have information on publishing, rewrites, plots, life after NaNo, literally everything you could need. Even if you aren't participating in NaNo I'd recommend it, you'd be hard pressed to get such a wide and informative forum anywhere else. It's a fantastic way to relate to other writers of any age. Nobody is exempt from NaNo, and you don't have to limit yourself to 50,000 words. Set your own target! You don't even have to write a novel. A script. Non-fiction. Memoir. Anything you want. It's your month, and you can do with it what you will.

This year, I'm aiming high. 70,000 words in one month. I have my plot, I have my characters, and I have an outline. All I have to do is fill in the blanks between the main points in my outline, then write the novel. And obviously, lot of redrafting. Writing in such a rush does not prompt the most coherent pages. But that can all be fixed later.

Personally, I'm excited for this year’s NaNo. I have a great idea, something I've wanted to put on paper (or computer) for a while now, but until now I haven't had the time or schedule to do so. I'm also taking a break from heavy duty writing for the next two months until NaNo, so I'm looking forward to get into the part of writing I love - writing itself. Rewrites can always come later. Plus, it'll be good to think that somehow this year I've accomplished five novels. Obviously, the main body of a couple of them were done last year. But I finished them this year. The first drafts are completely done, and I've even completed one of my series, which I'm thrilled about. But finishing first drafts means in no way that I'm done. I have a ton of editing to do, which I'll probably get to next year. I had my writing fun this year. 2011 will be a year for growth. But more on that in another post.

I hope you do participate in NaNo this year. It's such a great experience, even if you don't 'win', and it'll help a lot. Oh, and despite the stress, it is incredibly fun. Check out the forums too, they really do have good advice and help.


Wednesday, 1 September 2010


In writing - novels especially - there are hurdles you have to get over. Things that always trouble you, no matter how much you've written. It can be anywhere, in the beginning, middle or end.

For me personally, it's the 3/4 mark. I'm deep enough into the story that I know exactly where the plot is going, but sometimes it's hard to hash it all out in outlines. Or I'm close to the finish line, but not enough to sprint into the home run. Always, with every novel I write, I get stuck at this point. It's horrible to go from writing so much, to struggling to even write a page. Like running in mud, I just slow down. But this can be good. It gives me time to really consider what's going to happen, and see how exactly everything will play out. Being at the climax of the novel, it's much better to sort out little details here so you don't have to change everything later than go storming ahead with an incomprehensible climax to revise later.

The one thing that keeps me going during this stuck-in-the-mud phase is knowing how close I am to the end. Once I get past the mud, and get to what I call 'the home straight', my finger are flying across the page. I write, and write, and write, because I want to get to that end. If I had any sense, I'd draw out the process so I don't have to go back and fix silly grammar and punctuation mistakes later because I was writing so fast. But I just can't help it. Knowing that I can finally finish the novel I've been working on for long is irresistible. As well as this, the fast paced action usually keeps me writing at a fast pace. The deadlines I set myself help too.

Some people struggle with beginnings. While beginnings do unsettle me first, I quickly get into the pace of the story. But some people find it impossible to write beginnings, and I understand why. You have so many ideas circulating for the novel, but where to start? The one thing that helps with beginnings is knowing that they're not set in stone. When you come back to revise a novel, you might find you've started in the wrong place. In one of my novels, I had to cut out two whole chapters at the start to get to where the story should have started. But that's OK. Once you have a whole draft, it's much easier to go back and see where a story should start, or adapt the beginning you already have. Think of a beginning as temporary, in no way the be-all-end-all of your novel. It's a start, and that's what counts.

Middles can be hard for some people as well. You're far enough into the story that you want to carry on, but the ending is so far away, it seems impossible to ever get there. While there may be action happening, and the plot developing, it's not fast-paced enough to keep you writing, writing, writing. If you find this happening, don’t just struggle through it. If the story isn't interesting enough for you to want to write it, then it's not going to be interesting enough to read. So do something crazy. Throw in a gunman. A murder. An old flame. Anything to stir up some more drama and action, that will keep you motivated to get through the middle and towards the end. You might find it makes the story better in the long run.

Finally, endings can be troublesome. Just how can you wrap everything up in a way that satisfies both yourself and the reader? It's hard to see an end to all that work, even if you know the work isn't really over. First drafts are completely malleable after all. But the writing stage is always something special, to me at least. It's understandable to want to cling on to it for as long as possible. But all good things come to an end, and you have to trust that better things are on the horizon. When looking at the end, things like timelines and outlines really come in handy. You can see the direction of the plot, and this can help you establish just how to end the story. Remember to be true to your characters, and yourself. Don't make an ending fit that isn't right. You'll feel much better if you know you've ended the novel right than if it sits uncomfortably in your plot. Even if it takes that little bit longer to find.

Every person's style is different, and you can find hurdles all throughout your novel. The thing to remember is that when you get past them, you'll be heading towards something great. You will get there in the end. It just takes a little bit of determination, motivation, and work. Actually, a lot of work. But the results are always worth it.