If you know me, you know I love November. November is my chance to write a minimum of 50,000 words in one month alongside a global community of authors participating in NaNoWriMo. It might sound crazy, manic and totally absurd but it works for me. For one month of the year, everything which I love in life is forgotten in favour of the daily word count of 1667 words. Repeated 30 times it will deliver 50,010 words - that's half a draft 1 novel for me!
I have already planned (twice, in fact) a feasible plot line on post-it notes, my manuscript template is created and I am raring to go at midnight. I will wait for my local church to strike the hour and then, my fingers will begin.
This is my ninth NaNoWriMo - I intend to enjoy this experience but you never know what is in store for you. So, my fingers are crossed for a decent Nano experience. I have signed up many new buddies, some of them are first-timers, who I hope to support through the experience as well as Helen Phiffer buddied me back in 2012!
My plan is to write everyday. To aim for 2000 words each day to hopefully provide a safety net should the unexpected occur during the month. It pays to plan ahead for the unexpected, you know what life is.
I will be totally honest about my NaNo experience, my followers know I'll say if I'm finding it tough or dry-up partway through the month. Likewise if the words flow, I'll be chuffed to bits. You can never plan for the month ahead - you can simply try your best.
Good luck, folks! I'll see you on the other side of midnight!
Day 1: As always, I stayed up to begin NaNoWriMo at midnight. I managed to write my first thousand words before sleep took over. This morning, I've settled down to another writing session to complete my daily word count. I love the fact that so many writers around the globe are connected by one annual event. There are occasions when the act of writing can feel fairly insular but never during November. (2,178/50,000)
November is nearly here which means my annual hibernation is nearing with each passing hour. I've been a busy bee during October. Firstly, in finishing a novel and secondly, with my annual planning in preparation for NaNoWriMo. My usual October routine consists of ideas, plans and post-it notes but this year, my planning has taken a slight change of direction (that's an understatement)!
I was plodding along fine until ten days ago; Nano prep was complete - I knew what I would be writing 50,000 words on during November. But, this little brain of mine never stops, it simply churns away and throws up ideas whenever it chooses. I love it, because it keeps me on my creative toes but boy, when the NaNoWriMo planning is complete I don't need another idea, thanks.
Sadly, I couldn't ignore the idea either. So, I spent an entire day wrangling with which idea is the best one for me to pursue and yes, you've guessed it: the second one.
Back to square one and armed with post-it notes.
It's 30th October and I have a brand new writing project planned for November! The previous project will have to wait in line until 2020 to see the light of day - nothing is ever wasted in our profession.
I still have a day's writing to go finishing my current novel but it will be completed by 31st October, I promise. I couldn't possibly have two projects on the go during November - that would be sheer madness! Or could I?
I rarely recommend reading books to adults mainly because experience has taught me how different our tastes are. We may be good friends with weird and wonderful connections but when it comes to reading, it gets personal. I've lost count of the number of times people have suggested a great reading book to me, which they've adored and consumed in one day, and I've hated it. And, vice versa.
But, there are three books from my reading list of 2019 for which I am willing to put my neck on the line and suggest to everyone:
Greetings From Bury Park - Sarfraz Manzoor
Not That Kind Of Love - Clare and Greg Wise
This Is Going To Hurt - Adam Kay
Three very different topics but each provides an unwavering honesty, is rich in humour and provides an unique insight into a specific life or world. I've learnt a lot from each author, I cried at specific details in each though, I literally gagged and retched for ten minutes non-stop at one scene from Kay's book (clots - I'll say no more!).
Having portrayed some of my own memories in my novels, thanks to artistic licence, I know how difficult it is to be so brutally honest about our faults, our thoughts and our backgrounds. Each of these authors totally nailed it regards depicting their true life experience whilst providing me with a five star read. What more can I ask from another author?
On completion each book became 'a keeper' so, there's no one-way trip to the charity shop instead, they'll be kept alongside my other book treasures.
Morning folks, I'm as excited as excited can be ... I'm packing my writing desk up to attend a weekend writing retreat. And, we all know how much I love a writing retreat. This retreat is a little different from my usual treat, this retreat is similar to my self-imposed solitary confinement back in August but with four other writers. Though, the concept of write, write, and write is the primary focus despite having others around. Plus, it means I'll be fed properly by our hostess rather than existing on my usual chicken and avocado salad!
Many aspiring authors ask me if writing retreats are worth the time and money? Yes! If you impose the right mindset ('write mindset' - sorry, I couldn't resist :-) ) Writing retreats come in two formats: structured sessions led and delivered by a writing mentor or unstructured weekends where authors are free to do as they please. I do a combination as both have merits for my writing experience.
If it's your first writing retreat, I can highly recommend Alison May and Janet Gover whose retreats I attend at least once a year. Check out their website for further details here. They offer sessions tailored specificly to the attendees (plotting, novel construction, editing - there's nothing they won't cover/deliver for you, just ask) in a free and easy environment in which you can opt out and disappear to write, if you choose. They provide one to one feedback/critique session too - these are vital to any writer. Both are mentors to me. Both have encouraged and supported my journey towards publication. And, I trust their opinion about my work. There are a handful of people who are allowed to read a first draft of my work - these two lovelies belong to that group. Meals, accommodation and evening discussions are part of the package - which makes for a great weekend amongst other writers.
Unstructured retreats are literally a weekend away where a writer can disappear from every day life and work as they need on their writing project. There's usually a handful of people in one house and you each choose 'your writing spot' and away you go. You all come together for meals and such like but the aim of the game is for each to focus on their projects. It works, especially if you are with like minded people; you work all day and get to socialise intermittantly and chat on the evenings.
Remember that the networking element of retreats is vital, as it immerses you into your chosen career. I have learnt as much in evening discussions as I have during any specific retreat session. So, take an interest in your fellow writers - it is amazing how a tiny nugget of info changes something on your journey towards publication. If nothing else, remember my 'big break moment' came on a writing retreat: Bristol, 5th March 2017!
Today, I'm heading to an unstructured retreat. To make the most of the weekend, I need to set my boundaries and goals:
1. I am there to write my current project (currently standing at 66,447 words of 100,000 words).
2. My primary aim is to finish writing one character's story line (I still have 75% of her storyline to write).
I have the opportunity to walk the local countryside which will provide short breaks away from my laptop screen. That's it. My entire weekend is laid out, right there.
I'm always honest with my blog posts so, I'll update this page as the weekend retreat progresses.
Friday, 11th Oct: I arrived just after three o'clock and settled into my beautiful room. Christie, our hostess, gave us a lovely warm welcome accompanied by a glass of bubbles - which always goes down well amongst us writing ladies. After a gorgeous home-cooked meal, we all went our separate ways to write into the night. I chose to nest in the cosy reading room which feels like 'my writing spot' for the weekend. As I write, we have Bella Osborne in the lounge, Jenni Keer upstairs in her bedroom, Christie Barlow in her study and me in the reading room - it sounds like a strange game of Cluedo but we're all busy armed with our laptops and not the lead piping or a candlestick. We have a fourth author joining us tomorrow to complete the pack. What is the collective noun for a group of authors? Mmmm, now there's a question.
Saturday, 12th Oct: There doesn't seem to be a collective noun for a group of authors - which figures. I can hardly label us given our spectrum of genre, knowledge and creativity - maybe we should remain 'nounless' but a library of authors or a critique of authors sounds OKish.
Sorry, sorry, I was too busy putting words onto my manuscript page to stop and add to my blog page. But still, here's the update. An early breakfast on Saturday followed by a long day producing words. And, I mean long - gin o'clock wasn't called until 9pm when we all downed tools and meet-up in the lounge for a chat and a tipple.
I'm delighted with my progress for Saturday. A good run of writing with intermittent breaks naturally occurring where we all meet up in the kitchen for a coffee or was served a meal. I've managed to steam ahead with my character's story line and drip feed in a few unexpected ideas that popped up along the way. I suppose that's the beauty of planning; I know the story line and additional ideas simply arrive.
The others in the house are working on different stages of their projects: Bella was originally editing a manuscript but once finished and sent to her agent began planning her NaNo project. Jenni was planning a brand new book, Christie was completing her edits. A fifth writer arrived, Caroline who was writing her draft one, like myself.
Sunday, 13th Oct:
I was writing by half seven in the morning as I knew today was my last day. I planned to leave at 3pm so needed to capture the words. And, I did. By lunchtime, I had reached 10,087 words since my Friday arrival. Now that, is a huge boost for my current manuscript. I tend to hit around this figure on a weekend retreat so, it felt good to have arrived. The motivation and renewed energy that you feel on completing such a focused weekend is quite phenomenal. I know that the week ahead will follow a similar path and hopefully, this project will be written by 31st October, which is my self-imposed deadline.
I didn't quite reach my primary goal of finishing a character's story line but I am very near - so, as a brand new week starts, I'm raring to go!
I would highly recommend attending a writers' retreat: good food, good company and plenty of words written. What more could you want?
This morning whilst making my tea, officially the most important cup of the day for me - I noticed how rosy pink the sky was. Instantly, my tea was abandoned. Seriously, it was. I ran upstairs, scurried into clothes and was out of the door within five minutes. I was heading for my sunrise spot in the neighbouring village to where I live. I say 'my sunrise spot' I don't actually own it but I've claimed it as mine. Anyway, due to recent heavy rain and flooding the lane was too dangerous to enter so I had to seek another vantage point from which to capture a new day.
It might sound ridiculous that an author shots out the house, dashes up the road and stands in a country lane taking photos at sunrise but it feeds a basic need within me, that of being creative. Within seconds, my creative day had started. I'd captured a beautiful image, had indulged in the pure silence which only an early morning can offer and was back home within fifteen minutes.
It's images such as these which I draw upon whilst I'm writing scenes for my novels. My readers will tell you there are many significant moments in my books where the weather, sunsets or sunrises are included as a sensory backdrop to the action. I write about the things I love and include details which brighten my own life. This morning's sunrise will feature in a book, for sure.