Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Lost in the story

Me. Yesterday. So focused on finishing that I forgot about blogging. Completely slipped my mind.

I'm out of one race. Best concentrate on the other one now.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Your NaNoWriMo Agony Aunt

Got a NaNoWriMo-related problem? Then you'll be pleased to hear that you can Ask Aunty MJ.

Every day, the fabulous Maureen Johnson solves the problem of one unhappy NaNo participant. With help like that, getting to 50k is a piece of cake.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

2k a day

I have written at least 2,000 words every day since Tuesday. At the moment, I'm more than a day's worth of words ahead of schedule.

And yet, I'm still trying to avoid writing things I know will not survive the first round of edits. I'm trying to keep the waffle to a minimum. No lengthy descriptions of meals. No inner monologues that don't have much to do with the story.

I wonder how long I can keep this 2k a day routine going.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The story is there

 Inner editor getting in the way? This is what I tell mine, then I send her away: 
"I can see bits of the story and I know the story is there. This is what I call draft zero. This is private. No one ever, ever gets to see draft zero. This is the draft that you write to tell yourself what the story is."
Terry Pratchett 

Friday, 4 November 2011

NaNoWriMo Inspiration (1)

Nova Ren Suma runs a series of What Inspires You blog posts this month. Every day, Nova and other writers share where they find inspiration for their writing. 

I know what I'll be reading when I get stuck with my NaNo project.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

My characters are waiting

Do your characters wait for you when you take a break from writing?

Mine do. They stay exactly where I leave them and start drumming their fingers on any available surface. They watch me. The less subtle ones may start pacing. No matter how different they are and how at odds their desires and ambitions are, they are unified in their impatience for me to come back and move the story forward.

So if you excuse me, my protagonist and her antagonist will start plotting against me if I don't pay them attention soon.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

No permission to write badly

Last year, I wrote: "Give yourself permission to write badly and you will surprise yourself."

This is still true in 2011. But I don't just write something for the sake of the wordcount. At the end of the month, I want a first draft I can work with. That's why I'm trying to cut the adverbs and most of the adjectives and every line I know is superfluous.

This year, I'm using backspace and delete.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Like a Newbie

Here it is. NaNoWriMo 2011. Number 10 for me.

First time with a little one depending on me, though. So even though I'm a WriMo veteran, there are so many unknowns I almost feel like a newbie. Only it's worse than that because I know what to expect over the course of the month. It's going to be interesting.

And because NaNo is always a welcome excuse for me to write lots of shortish blog posts, I'll attempt NaBloPoMo again this month, too.

Oh, the insanity.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

NaNoWriMo is only a month away

In a month today, hopeful novelists around the globe will take the plunge and try to write a novel in a month. I will be among them. For the tenth time, I'm going to attempt writing a novel in 30 days and, fingers crossed, win for the ninth time.

I love NaNoWriMo. When I discovered it on 8 November 2002 I didn't know yet that this challenge for writers with ambitious plans would change my life. What I knew then was that I loved the idea and even though it was already week two, I would join and try to write 50k words in three weeks and a day. It took me three weeks; when I uploaded my novel on 29 November and the counting bots declared me a winner, I got much more than just a winner's icon. It gave me confidence. It showed me that if I just sat down and did it, I could write a longer story. It made me think that being a writer might be a viable career path.

Nine years on, I'm a member of the editorial team for a travel website. I've written for quite a few other websites and blogs on a freelance basis. I don't know if I'd be able to say that had I not stumbled across NaNoWriMo.

Travel writing is fun, but fiction is still my main ambition. That's why I'll be starting to write a new novel in a month's time.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Ten things about NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, but it is actually an international affair.

It's only 47 days until NaNoWriMo 2011. Time to start planning this year's novel.

If it weren't for NaNoWriMo, I'd still be in the "One Day I'll Write a Novel" camp.

The first week, or the first four days at least, I wish it could be November all year. The story writes itself, the dialogue sparkles and I'm sure that my novel is a bestseller in the making.

The most important thing I learnt: Give yourself permission to write crap. You'll surprise yourself.

Write-ins are awesome. The accumulative creative energy helps keeping you going. Whenever I've been to a write-in, I've written much more than anticipated and some of it was rather good, too.

The NaNo forums are great. In November, before you've written you're 1667 words for the day, they are also dangerous. Before you know it, you've written half a novel's worth of forum posts but made zero progress on your novel.

Before I discovered NaNoWriMo, I hated November. Now, I love it. Even when it's going slow, the characters are misbehaving or writing the next word is about as enjoyable as a ride on a crowded tube train that is retraining to be an oven. I love November.

I also love writing about NaNo. There will be more NaNo-themed posts between now and November.

2011 will be my tenth NaNoWriMo. Where has the time gone?

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

August Fiction day 31

I would have liked to write a long, reflective blog post about my fiction writing experience this month. But I'm too tired again.

So I did it. I wrote a piece of fiction almost every day and I blogged about it. A month ago, when I had the idea for Fiction August, I imagined I'd have lots of interesting things to say about the whole thing. Wishful thinking, I guess. Some days I struggled to find anything to say at all.

So now it's over and I'm glad about it. But I'm also glad I wrote so many different pieces of fiction.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

August Fiction day 30

I am rather fond of writing in the second person point of view: You do this, you see that, you think such and such.

Nailing this POV is more difficult than either first person or third person narration and if it's not done well, it bosses the reader around. Done well, though, and in the right context, it creates a closeness between reader and protagonist that no other form of narration can achieve.

I reckon short short stories lend themselves to second person POV because they are so short. I'm not sure I'd want to read a story with this POV that goes on for several hundred pages but for 500 words, I'm happy to let someone tell me what I do and think.

Monday, 29 August 2011

August Fiction day 29

I'm keeping it short for the rest of the month, I reckon, and there's even a competition for short short stories up to 500 words. The Flash 500 Competition is open all year with deadlines at the end of each quarter. I reckon I might just produce something that I'd be happy to submit in the next couple of days.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

August Fiction day 28

I have said it before, I do like short short fiction. Today, I spent my writing time composing ultra short stories, the size of a text message.

The character limit forces me to be as economical with the language as possible. There's no room for fillers or imprecise words. It's training for writing longer fiction, too. The more micro-fiction I write, the better I become at choosing the right words. Byebye word waste and imprecision.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

August Fiction day 27

Is August over soon? I can't wait for the end of the month. Yes, it's good that I challenged myself to write every day this month but it's the bank holiday weekend, there's a party going on outside and I don't want to write.

But hey, I've come this far. No giving up now.

Friday, 26 August 2011

August Fiction day 26

"The first draft of anything is shit."

Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, 25 August 2011

August Fiction day 25

Developing an idea is wonderful. Best thing, it often happens while you do other stuff. Taking a shower, washing the dishes, going for a run. In my experience, the better the idea, the more details will come to me while I'm busy.

The tricky part is to commit all the little details to memory. Nothing is more annoying than the memory of a great new aspect of your story when you can't actually remember anymore what exactly said aspect was.

Whenever my muse hurls another bit of story my way, I make sure I turn it over in my mind, replay it and know where it fits in. Sometimes I repeat it a few times just to make sure it's been committed to memory. And as soon as I can, I write it down, thus building the story bit by bit. Wonderful, wonderful.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

August Fiction day 24

I'm doing this August Fiction thing not just to force myself to write. I was also hoping for my muse, the part of my brain responsible for ideas, would become more productive through all the exercise she's getting.

I hope I'm not jinxing it by writing this, but I think today the exercise paid off. I had a pretty cool idea for a story, complete with a strong narrator. I outlined it and while I was at it, the muse threw more ideas at me. It looks like writing this baby will be a lot of fun.

I didn't write a new story but this was a good writing day nonetheless.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

August Fiction day 23

What goes up ... you know. Yesterday was a great day for writing, today was not. And I think I've said that at the beginning, when things don't go as planned, I'm going to blame the baby. Well, it's the baby's fault. Fiction is important, but not as important as the baby.

Monday, 22 August 2011

August Fiction day 22

There are writing days like yesterday when all you can do is quote Dorothy Parker.

And then, when you don't expect it, you write something and it's easy and you love the voice of your character and at the end you lean back and you pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming. Today was such a day for me.

Today I loved writing even more than I loved having written.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

August Fiction day 21

"I hate writing, I love having written."

Dorothy Parker

Saturday, 20 August 2011

August Fiction day 20

I've run out of writing competitions, so I'm writing whatever comes to mind when I start writing at the moment. The results are mixed but I never said I was going to write quality every day. Moving is always so much more work than you think it's going to be and at the moment I'm grateful I'm keeping up the momentum despite physical and mental exhaustion.

But at least we've left the old place and even though there is still a lot of work to be done here, I'm hoping I'll have time to look for a few more writing competitions for the rest of August tomorrow.

Friday, 19 August 2011

August Fiction day 19

I didn't write any fiction today. Tried but anything I started died within a couple of sentences. I may not like to admit it but there is such a thing as too tired to write. Tonight, that's what I am.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

August Fiction, day 18

Sometimes I wonder why I keep doing this to myself. Why say I'll write a blog post every day when I know I may not have time every day that particular month? Because now I've started I want to keep going. But I am so busy during the day that I don't start writing until late when I'm so tired I can hardly stay awake.

Right now, I'd rather be asleep. Instead, I've just written a terrible piece of flash fiction and now I'm working on this blog post. August was definitely the wrong month for the double challenge of writing fiction every day and blogging about it. Today is the 18th, though, and I'm not going to give up.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

August fiction, day 17

Moving is a time-consuming business. It also makes you tired. Add to that a cranky, clingy baby and you have an excuse for not being keen on writing when you could go to bed. And you know what? I'll go to bed.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

August Fiction, day 16

Tonight I wanted to write about generosity but the start of the story I wrote petered out pretty quickly. There are days when I'm too tired to create great stories, and today I was too tired to create a story full stop.

Tonight, I'm looking forward to bed.

Monday, 15 August 2011

August Fiction day 15 - Swan Lake

I'm listening to tonight's Prom. It's Swan Lake, which is my favourite ballet. And somehow, swans, betrayal and heartbreak have made it into my story.

There is no particular competition on the subject of swans, I think, but there are a few open themed flash fiction competitions around. I reckon I could sent tonight's piece to one of them.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

August Fiction day 14

Here's why I think themed writing competitions or anthologies make good writing prompts.

They give us some direction and a deadline. Direction is good when we are stuck, deadlines are great even if we write regularly. We have our topic, we know how long it needs to be and we know when it's due. All we have to do is write our entry.

They might lead to publication and payment. Yes, we write because we love writing but let's be honest, we want to see our words in print. We want to be paid for our words. We are writers, we want an audience.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

August Fiction day 13

This weekend, I'm taking a break from fiction writing. Reason: We're moving. I'm writing my 750 words - not in the morning, mind you, but I'm writing them. There may be some fiction among them, but none planned. None written with a competition in mind.

This weekend, all that matters is that I write at all, tired and sore and not wanting to write at all.

Friday, 12 August 2011

August Fiction day 12 - Motherhood, take two

Today I had another go at my entry for the Mslexia Motherhood competition. The piece I'd written earlier wasn't all that good. This one looks like it could be good. Once I've tidied it up, pruned it, got it in the right order.

I thought about this one all day long. I had the beginning, it came to me during my walk with the little one earlier. Writing it was easy. That's always a good sign.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

August Fiction day 11

Wrote another 750 words about my Urban Wanderer character. She is a weird one. But in a nice way.

When I first discover a new character, I try to let them speak as much as possible. So I could file everything I wrote today under character development. It's my way of finding out who she is. This is definitely the fun stage of writing.

No idea what the story is yet but for the story to emerge, I have to know my character first.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

August Fiction day 10

I've had a bit of fun with the Urban Wanderer today. I'm not sure it's what the submission guidelines call for but who says I have to submit what I wrote.

A weird, interesting character emerged there. That's one of my favourite ways of creating a new character: I write something in response to a writing prompt and a distinct voice makes itself heard. Now I want to know more about her.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

August Fiction day 9 - London riots

I didn't really write a piece of fiction today and I didn't use anything to prompt me. I wrote about the riots. It's difficult to focus on anything else at the moment. It's difficult to ignore what's going on all over the city, when you can hear police sirens in the distance all the time and see the helicopters hovering in the sky. It's difficult not to think about the people who lost their homes and their shops.

It's difficult to turn the news off.

Monday, 8 August 2011

August Fiction day 8

Today, I wrote something which wasn't a response to a writing competition. It was an idea that struck while I was on the bus earlier. Nothing big, I think, but stories don't always have to be big. They always have to be worth someone's time, though. And this one, I thing, will be worth people's time when it's done.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

August Fiction, day 7

Today I gave creative non-fiction a go. The result is creative rather than non-fiction. I prefer making things up to sticking to the facts, so it's no surprise that my attempt was unsuccessful.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

August Fiction, day 6

It's more of the same today. I've had so much fun with Beatles-inspired micro-fiction that I wrote a few more today.

Friday, 5 August 2011

August Fiction day 5 - Keeping It Short

I'm a big fan of flash fiction. It's ideal when you only have a couple of minutes to spare, say while queueing at the supermarket check-out. As for the writing of micro fiction, it's great for a quick boost of confidence in your writing ability because you can finish several short short stories in an hour.

The competition I've chosen today is for the next themed edition of Short, Fast and Deadly: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Words Club. Stories submitted for the issue must make use of a corrupted or re-contextualized Beatles Lyric. I've written several just now and had a blast. Now I'll sleep on them and in the morning I'll see which of them are any good.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

August Fiction, day 4 - YA

I chose the WD Young Adult Competition as inspiration for my story today. The result is not entirely cheerful but I love the protagonist that strolled onto the page as if she'd been waiting to be let loose for a long time.

It's the first of my August fiction first drafts I'm 100 percent happy with. The deadline for the competition isn't until October 1st, so I have all of September for revision and editing. Yay!

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

August Fiction, day 3 - France

Today I took a fictional trip to France.

I love writing about places I’ve visited. It gives me a reason to relive my visit, look at holiday pictures and reread my diary entries from that time. Every time I visit an unfamiliar place, I try to gather as many impressions as I can because you never know which place may play a role in one of your stories. A few, well-chosen details will do a better job at establishing the locale of your story than page after page of description.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

August Fiction, day 2 - Memoir

My writing prompt today was the Leaf Books Memoir Competition.

Memoir writing isn't quite the same as writing fiction, I know. Then again, I often use little episodes from my life and turn them into fiction. I don't know if I will use my 750-word memory to enter the competition, but I'm sure that the experience I chose will make its way into a story sooner or later.

Monday, 1 August 2011

August Fiction, day 1 - Motherhood

The competition theme I've chosen for my first piece of August fiction is motherhood. I've been a mother for eight months now, and it's difficult to believe that my life a year ago belongs to the same person as my life as it is now. And that's where the problem lies. I want to say so much about who hard and how wonderful it is that I struggle to say anything at all. I started a story twice but I'm not even getting close. It's harder than I thought it would be.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Fiction August

There's nothing I like better to keep me writing than a competition. A writing dare, if you like. Like NaBloPoMo or, NaNoWriMo or, indeed, short story competitions. And this month, I'm going to combine a few of those.

The NaBloPoMo theme for August is FICTION. I'm going to (try to) write a piece of fiction every day - well, in some cases, I might work on the same piece of fiction for a few days. I'm going to use for the first draft, post my progress here every day and for inspiration, I'm going to check upcoming competition and anthology submission deadlines on Duotrope. It's an ambitious plan and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to stick to it (and yes, I'm going to blame the baby if I don't), but there it is. A Plan. Having a Plan is always a good thing. Especially if said Plan turns out to be successful. Like Hannibal Smith says, I love it when a Plan comes together.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Resistance to Writing

Do you know the feeling of having an idea for a story you want to write, planning it for a few days where everything seems to be coming together and then, when actually sitting down to write it, it’s not happening at all? The story is as flat as the screen, the words don’t gel and become something more than mere words?

This is what happened to me with my Summer Novel. I’ve not written a word for it for a week now. Every time I look at the file I feel paralyzed, overcome with resistance to writing. So I don’t write. That, in turn, makes me feel even worse.

That’s where the old Borg motto comes in: Resistance is futile. I’d better repeat it three times every time the resistance threatens to paralyze me. And then I have to follow through. No matter how much I want to resist it, I have to write anyway. Write despite the feeling of resistance, write in the face of it, write through it.

Friday, 8 July 2011

857 words

Here's another thing I've never done before: I never went back and read what I'd written so far while working on the first draft. Last night, I read my beginning and hated it. No surprise there. The surprise came today when I had the ideal way of starting this story in my head without warning. It was all there, and I knew it was good.

I just wrote it down and I still think it's good. Sure, a bit of revision will make it better, but it's got potential. It certainly is much better than the waffle I'd written last week. Yay!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

No More Breakneck Novel Writing?

I've been thinking about my writing process. Why I used to enjoy the fast-paced nature of NaNoWriMo and why it doesn't seem to work for me anymore.

I don't have any definitive answers yet, but one reason is seven months old now and about to start crawling. There was a time when writing until the wee hours of the morning meant I was not particularly likely to produce my finest work in the office the following day. No biggie. Now, I need my wits about me because the baby needs me. I can't disappear for an extended lunch break and take a nap in the park. Writing isn't the most important, all consuming part of my life it used to be. Someone else has taken over that role. I think sometimes it's still difficult for me to accept that. I can't remember a time when I didn't think of myself as a writer first and foremost. I don't think of myself as a mother first and foremost even though right now, that's probably what I am.

So maybe, maybe this is all just a glitch. Maybe I'll be back to breakneck novel writing again once the little one is not quite so little anymore.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Not All That Many Words

519, to be precise.

Maybe I've outgrown the write your novel at breakneck speed phase. This November will be my tenth NaNoWriMo, maybe it's time for a more measured approach. Dunno. But cranking out words in order to meet the wordcount doesnt' make sense to me anymore.

Getting words on the page for the sake of getting words on the page was important when I was just beginning to write. But I don't need to prove to myself anymore that I can do it. I know I can. I think I may reduce my daily quota to 750 words, which is considerably less than 1613. If the writing goes well and I want to keep going, excellent. But typing on just because I decided I need to write the first draft of this novel in one month, after all? No, I don't think so.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

762 words

After last night's post, I actually managed to write another 600 words or so. Tonight, I need another (almost) 900 if I don't want to fall behind. I think I want to fall behind.

Monday, 4 July 2011

1316 words

And I'm officially too tired to write another word.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

2104 Words

I don’t have much time to write during the day. So whenever the baby is napping, I write. I never know how long I’ll get which forces me to keep going as fast as possible.

Not a bad thing if you want to finish a first draft of a novel in 31 days.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

1984 Words

A strong beginning is important for a novel. I used to think that I couldn’t develop my story if I didn’t get the beginning right. More recently I found, however, that I’ll find the best way to start the novel while writing it.

As of now, my beginning is unremarkable. I wouldn’t pick up the story based on it. But it doesn’t matter. The best way to get the story started is in my head somewhere and the best way to uncover it is by writing.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Camp NaNoWriMo

Or: I’m totally not going to stop writing this summer

Camp NaNoWriMo starts today (find out more here: and I’ve written 877 words so far. That is more than half the 1613 words that are required every day if I want to have a 50k novel by the end of July. And, yes, that’s what I want.

Well, no, maybe not quite. What I want is this: Write the novel which has been gestating in my head for a while and which made a dramatic leap from the backburner to the forefront of my mind a few days ago. I want to finish the first draft over the summer, then go away for a couple of weeks and come back to it to edit it. I’m not hellbent on finishing it this month, but if I did, that would be an added bonus.

So here I am, 736 words away from the daily quota. Back to writing, then. That is all.