With thanks… November 30…

December 4, 2015 at 1:56 am (NaNoWriMo, With thanks, Writing) (, , , , )

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-Square
Tonight I am grateful that I made it! I wrote 50,789 words in November, for National Novel Writing Month, which is a huge chunk of the first draft of my next book*. It feels so good to be done, and to have my novel validated for word count…
I loved this from the organisers: “Every day of this past month, you chose your novel, your voice, and your story. You stayed up late or got up early. You stole minutes here and there. You created time…” Sure did! I snatched moments on the bus to work, and while waiting to meet a friend for coffee, and in that strange midnight time where I’m not quite awake but not yet quite asleep either…
And I’m grateful to, and so proud of, all my NaNo buddies this year – more of us hit 50,000 words together than any of my previous NaNos, and everyone else made amazing progress too! Thank you for sharing the inspiration, the motivation, the late nights, the trials and triumphs and slightly manic fun – you all rock!
I’m grateful that I have to unexpectedly be at the magazines tomorrow, on my day off, so I could swap my days and have today – NaNo deadline day! – free to stay home and keep writing… I would have stayed up stupidly late last night and finished it if I had to, but this was so much more relaxing 🙂
jill_kaabI’m grateful for an AWESOME Jillian Michaels workout – Killer Arms and Back, level two… I wasn’t sure I’d get through it, because it’s tough, but I did – and when it finished I figured I may as well do it again to make the hour. I think I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it keeps me sane,and mentally strong, and gets me out of my head and away from the computer and the book for a while.
And despite a bad migraine, I’m grateful for a quiet night at home with Juz…
* I realised that I’m not quite ready to leave Summer Hill and the sacred tor, and all the people who inhabit the mist-shrouded world I created, and so this book is Rose’s story – it will be an Into the Mists Chronicle…

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Halfway through… It’s not easy, but it is worth it…

November 19, 2015 at 2:01 am (NaNoWriMo, Writing) (, )

nano_25000I can’t believe day 15 is done, and I’m halfway through NaNoWriMo… I stayed up too late again, and blitzed through two thousand words in a slightly delirious state, to hit 25,095 words by midnight of the halfway mark. Hooray!

I’m not sure how much sense they all make, or how many of these words will end up in the book, but I’m making progress, and that’s the point of this writing challenge. To write, without stressing myself out with editing as I go, or worrying about the perfect sentence structure, or even knowing where the story begins and where it ends.

Each of my writing days has covered a different part of my main character’s life – I figure that by the end of the month I’ll have worked out what needs to be in the book and what doesn’t, and will be able to move the chapters around so they make some kind of sense.

I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy to write 1667 words a day. Many days I’ve wanted to throw my notebook across the room and give up. Sometimes I’d rather collapse on the couch and watch Arrow with my hubby than banish myself to my little purple office and painstakingly type out a bunch of words. There are nights that I get home from 12 hours at the magazines and would rather crawl into bed than force myself to stay awake and type in my hastily scrawled words from the bus, then add some more to hit the target. Most days I would much prefer to curl up and read a book than torture myself trying to write one.

I also spend most of the month thinking that my story is boring, there’s no point, it’s too much effort, no one cares anyway, and why am I bothering… Apparently, according to my hubby, I wrestle with these particular demons with every book, and my doubts seem to increase, rather than diminishing, the more books I write.

But, I do it anyway. I tell the “it’s boring” and “you’re useless” voices in my head to shut up, and force myself to get at least 1200 words a day done (while aiming for 2000 to average out the crappier days). If at the end I decide it’s crap, I can ditch it. Or rewrite until I’m happy with it.

Because it’s only thirty days. Thirty days is nothing. It’s half of one of my workout programs. One moon cycle. Four episodes of Arrow. You can do anything for thirty days. And at the end of that I will have fifty thousand words of a novel, which is way easier to work with and improve than a blank page is…

Life’s short. I want to live it with no regrets, and no excuses. Two years from now will I wish I’d spent more time on the couch watching superhero shows this month, or getting to bed a bit earlier, or will I be happy that I knuckled down and hit my word count targets and had the first draft of my next book finished…

Like most things that are worth doing, it’s not easy, but it is possible, and it is worth it…

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Happy Day 5 of NaNoWriMo!

November 5, 2015 at 1:00 am (NaNoWriMo, News and updates, Writing) (, , , )

nanoI can’t believe it’s already day 5 of NaNoWriMo*!

Four days of writing done, and 7333 words committed to paper, which means I have 665 words up my sleeve for one of those days that is more of a struggle 🙂 It fascinates me, how some days are easier – well, less difficult might be more accurate – than others, and it’s rarely the days I expect. On Monday I was at my day job at the magazines for 10.5 hours straight, but I still managed to write 2085 words – on the bus to and from work, in a few moments snatched as I waited for a meeting to start, while I quickly ate my lunch at my desk and typed a few words in, and then in a sprint after dinner that ended at midnight (the curfew I’m trying to impose so I can function the next day). Then on Tuesday, one of my days to work at home, I only managed 1333. Granted I went to a movie screening (He Named Me Malala, which was hearthbreaking, inspiring, devastatingly sad and wonderful all at once), walked 20,000 steps on top of my Body Pump workout, and spent the afternoon with a friend, but it seems I am often more productive the busier I am, and more easily distracted the more time I have…

I have stopped panicking quite so much though – this year NaNoWriMo started on a Sunday, and while I planned (hoped?) to get my words written early so I had the rest of the day free to hang out with my hubby, the bulk of them were written between 10pm and midnight, so I may as well have just given myself a break and enjoyed the day, knowing I would hit my minimum word count before bed… I guess it’s all just a learning process, about what works for you, when you’re most productive and how you react to deadlines.

I will also admit, as a life-long panster (the opposite of a planner and a plotter, as in writing by the seat of your pants, without an outline), that when I opened a blank document on Sunday, I panicked. There was a moment of fear, of what-the-hell-have-I-gotten-myself-into, of what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-write? But as my patient and long-suffering hubby pointed out, I think that with every book. (Along with this-is-so-boring, this-is-so-sh*t, who-would-want-to-read-this, I-can’t-write-to-save-myself etc etc etc)… Eventually I just took a deep breath and started to write. And write.

Not all of the words I wrote that day, or any of these thirty days, will end up in the finished book. While the published version of Into the Mists was pretty similar to my original draft, the next two were not – I wrote quite a few chapters that were cut altogether, especially with Into the Dark, killed off one character before he was even introduced, and changed one storyline all together. But none of that could have happened if I hadn’t written at least 50,000 words each November. After all, you can always edit a bad page, but you can’t edit a blank one, and you can always rewrite and add chapters and change the entire structure of an existing manuscript, but you need something to start with…

On which note, I’d better start writing for day five!

* National Novel Writing Month – the writing challenge that sets a target of 50,000 words of a novel written in thirty days. It’s how I wrote the first drafts of Into the Mists, Into the Dark and Into the Light – and how I will write at least two Into the Mists Chronicles – the tough deadline seems to work for me…

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Countdown to NaNoWriMo…

October 30, 2015 at 2:13 am (NaNoWriMo, Writing) (, , )

It’s only three days until National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – kicks off, and as usual I’m woefully unprepared. As in, not at all. Each year I think (hope?) that I’ll have some time to plan my story before November 1 rolls around, but as usual I haven’t had a spare second. But I did tick off three annoying things that have been hanging over my head for a while, including two years worth of tax, so at least I can leap in free of those stresses 🙂

And really, who am I kidding? After doing it three times – resulting in Into the Mists the first year, Into the Dark the next and Into the Light last year – I probably wouldn’t even know where to start with planning a book. Of course it terrifies me, having no idea what will happen, no path to follow, no back-up plan to fall back on, but in a way it’s liberating too. Who knows what magic will be woven, what inspiration I will follow, what challenges will arise? The only way to discover a story, for me, is to write it. To sit down and just do it – write madly, and freely, and fearlessly. Without second guessing or reading back over it or limiting where it can go or what it should be.

So, I have no idea at all what will be created, but I’m looking forward to the adventure… Do you want to join me?

And are you a plotter or a pantser? Some people plan meticulously before they start writing, plotting the storyline and fleshing out chapter outlines and character bios, which I very much admire. I had planned to do a lot of planning – but it hasn’t worked out that way. The first year I’d thought I would have all of October to spend on plotting and planning, but I didn’t end up finishing the launch and promotion and website for my previous book until October 31, so the next day I just started writing furiously and discovering what the plot was as it poured out onto the page.

The same thing happened the following two years, and looks set to reoccur this year, so I guess I’m a make-it-up-as-I-go-along type – a pantser as it’s known in the NaNoWriMo universe, for flying by the seat of my pants. I find the process of different writers fascinating – some plan meticulously, and I really admire that, while others don’t plan at all, which can be stressful (believe me!). After three years of NaNo, I realise that I’m firmly in the latter category, which makes sense I guess, since I’m a bit impatient, but I’ve also discovered that I really love seeing where the writing takes me, watching it unfold as I go and not knowing what will happen in the end. There’s a certain alchemy to the journey that I love, so although I always say I’ll plan next time, maybe I never will…

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Interviewed on NaNoWriMo Inspiration…

October 17, 2014 at 9:28 am (Interviews, NaNoWriMo, Publishing) (, , , , , )

I was interviewed by Canadian writer Dianna L. Gunn about NaNoWriMo recently, for the first of her Author Spotlight articles to celebrate the upcoming NaNoWriMo. She found me on the NaNoWriMo site on the list of participants who’d had some of their NaNoWriMo books published…

You can read the full interview here, as well as checking out other inspiration from successful NaNoWriMo-ers 🙂

Cover_Mists_smallHow much planning did you do before starting NaNoWriMo?

I planned to do a lot of planning – but it hasn’t worked out that way. The first year I’d thought that I would have all of October to spend on plotting and planning, but I didn’t end up finishing the launch and promotion and website for my previous book until October 31, so the next day I just started writing furiously and discovering what would happen as it spewed out onto the page. And the same thing happened last year, and looks set to reoccur this year. So now I’m wondering if I’m just a make-it-up-as-I-go-along type anyway – a pantser as it’s known in the NaNoWriMo universe, for flying by the seat of my pants (I relate to this blog, although in reverse).

I find the process of different writers fascinating – some plan meticulously, and I really admire that, while others don’t plan at all, which can be stressful, and it seems that I’m the latter. Which makes sense I guess, since I’m a bit impatient, but I’ve also discovered that I really love seeing where the writing takes me, watching it unfold as I go and not knowing what will happen in the end. There’s a certain alchemy to the journey that I love, so although I always say I’ll plan next time, maybe I never will. I also really love the forced nature of NaNoWriMo – I could have started book three already, and tried to find time to write it amongst my busy life, but part of me thinks it would take much longer that way, that I would procrastinate too much, and second guess myself, and get bogged down in editing as I go, and wait until inspiration hits – which is never a guaranteed event – so I think I’ll be the most productive if I just wait until November 1st and write it all then.

Of course I’ll spend months afterwards editing and revising and rewriting and the rest of it, but there’s nothing like the pressure of a November deadline to force you to bang out a first draft

What advice would you give people attempting NaNoWriMo this year?

Tell people you’re doing it, to make yourself accountable. I posted my word count on Facebook each day, and I would have been embarrassed if I’d given up – which is partly why I publicly stated that I was doing it :-) I also had a few friends who were doing it, and that definitely encouraged me to keep going. Not that I would have quit – I’m pretty stubborn – but seeing other people’s word counts in my buddies list definitely spurred me on (I discovered a competitive streak I didn’t know I had), and I know that me posting about my progress (and the triumphs and challenges and frustrations and joys) kept other people inspired too. Plus, don’t despair if you don’t finish – no matter what happens, you’ll still have a lot more of a book written than you otherwise would have.

Three of our group of ten got to 50,000 words (and beyond) by November 30 – which is higher than the overall average – another two passed 20,000 words, and everyone else made an awesome start, and had the beginnings of a tale for next year.

Don’t be discouraged, and don’t be afraid of the blank page. I absolutely love the process of NaNoWriMo – my first time I started with just the vaguest wisp of an idea – that a girl goes to stay with her grandma in England and finds a cottage in the mists she’s not sure really exists… That was it, and each day when I started writing, I didn’t know what was going to happen – I’d just start writing, without stopping, scrawling sentences one after the other, and words would just flow out of me, and a whole story eventually emerged.

Which leads to my most important suggestion – be fearless. I had to stop worrying about how good what I was writing was, and just write. With my non-fiction books, if I had a migraine or felt uninspired I would do some research, or edit previous chapters, or do something else related to the project that didn’t involve writing. But with the knowledge that I had to rack up 1667 words each day (and more if I’d slacked off a bit in previous days), I didn’t have that luxury – I just had to write. And that was really freeing. My inner editor was switched off, and I wrote without thinking, almost stream of consciousness, and I never looked back at what I’d written either, I just kept going forward. And I was surprised (and happy) when I realised that by just keeping on writing, I’d figure out how to get from one scene to another. Each day I’d start with no idea of what would happen, yet by the end of that session I’d worked out how to progress the plot. Writing so regularly helped too, because I was thinking about the story all the time, and I’d often solve a problem in the shower or while working out, when my mind was free to wander. I loved writing long hand too – even though it was annoying to have to type it in at night, it somehow seemed to flow better using pen and paper rather than a keyboard… I’m often asked what the secret to writing a book is, and they’re always disappointed with my answer – but it’s true. To write a book, you just have to sit down and write it. Day after day after day. Seems obvious I know, but people always hope for a magic spell, a shortcut of some kind, but it doesn’t exist.

You can read the full interview here, as well as checking out other inspiration from successful NaNoWriMo-ers 🙂

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Interview about Into the Mists…

October 9, 2014 at 1:57 pm (Interviews, NaNoWriMo) (, , )

I was interviewed recently about Into the Mists, about the importance of the mists to the story, as well as the importance of the two black cats, and lots of other interesting questions…

Below are a few of the questions and answers, and you can read the full interview here.

Into the Mists is a mystical magical novel that follows the journey of Carlie, a teenager who after her parents are killed in a car crash, struggles to find her place in life. She finds herself on a plane leaving behind her home country Australia to live with the grandmother she never knew existed in the UK. What was your influence when choosing the UK as your destination?
The British Isles are a place of myth and magic – and mists – and a lot of my own magical experiences took place there, so it seemed right to base much of the book there. The mists are almost a character in themselves in Carlie’s story, and I needed to ground her experiences within these mists in my reality, and that is where I have encountered them. One summer solstice eve I found myself trapped by the mists atop the tor in Glastonbury, England, stranded up there until the sun rose the next day; one pre-dawn autumnal morning I walked into the swirling mists as I wandered through the sacred stones of nearby Avebury; another time the mists descended on me while I was climbing a mountain in north-west Ireland, on a grey and truly Otherworldly afternoon. And I’ve danced in stone circles there, been licked by a calf as I sat meditating within one, entered sea caves and clamboured into ancient burial tombs, walked through green fields and ruined castles and places of myth and legend there, all of which wove themselves into the story somehow.

Are there parts of Into the Mists that resemble your own life?
My first response when I read this question was no – especially as my parents are still very much alive, and sadly my grandparents are not. But a lot of Carlie’s experiences did emerge from my own. Many of the rituals she takes part in are based on my experiences, her questioning and scepticism around magic and spirituality does echo mine, and she drinks her tea the same way I do. So while Carlie’s life-defining moment was very different to mine, I guess there is a little of me in her, or her in me, I’m not sure which way that goes.

Two cats play an important role within your book. Was there anything in particular that influenced the events involving the cats and their personalities?
I’ve never really thought about this, but they were very important to the story. In a broad sense, Luther is Rose’s witchy black cat, her familiar, but when Carlie arrives at her grandmother’s she feels very isolated and alone and out of her depth, and scared of this woman too, and angry at people and at the world. So Luther is her way to communicate – she can confide in him, without having to speak to her grandma – he is a sounding board she uses to understand how she’s actually feeling and what she thinks of things. He enables her to start feeling love and affection, without having to let her grandmother in, and the support of the natural world, without having to accept magic. Luther was a melding of two black cats I’ve spent time with – one was my flatmate’s cat Luther, who I loved (and hence the name), and the other was Mowsie, who resided upstairs from me for a few years, but who basically lived with me, just going home for meals. And Shadow was based on Mowsie’s sister Freckles, who used to jump up on the table when I was doing healings and put her little paw on the person too. In the book Shadow embodies magic, healing and possibility, and a link for Carlie to her mother. And she is perhaps less real, but still equally important to Carlie on her journey…

You started writing Into the Mists the day after you finished your book Witchy Magic, as part of the thirty-day National Novel Writing Month. Do you feel this had any influence on the writing of Into the Mists?
It influenced the book in so much as I had thought I would spend October planning Into the Mists – writing up a chapter outline and plotting it all out. Instead I was still working on Witchy Magic (and the book launch, the US release, the website etc) until October 31, so on November 1 I just had to dive in, and make it up as I went along 🙂 And it was fascinating, how the story wove itself together through the process of writing. I think in a way my first book, Seven Sacred Sites: Magical Journeys That Will Change Your Life, had more of an impact on this novel, as that included many of my magical experiences in sacred places around the world, as well as all my research on the history and culture and legends of those places, all of which threaded itself into Into the Mists in some small way I’m sure.

Read the full interview here.

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NaNoWriMo Countdown…

October 6, 2014 at 11:41 am (Interesting stories, NaNoWriMo) (, )

Less than four weeks til NaNoWriMo starts (yikes – it gave me a bit of a shock writing that!)…

Here’s an interesting interview with author Sophie Kinsella from the BBC, about her tips for writing – and finishing – a book. It’s different for everyone, but some might inspire you – and some might even totally disagree with, and make you realise an opposite truth about yourself and your writing. Either way, these ten tips are food for thought…

Read the article here

My favourite, cos it’s so true? “JUST GET TO THE END. It’s the hardest thing and it’s the most important thing because so many of us have ideas for books. The first stage is actually write it instead of just talking about it, and the next stage is to keep going until you get to the end. Everybody, no matter who they are gets to the middle of a book and thinks crikey, I’ve had enough of this. You get bored with your story and your characters, you hate them all, you can’t think why you started this wretched story in the first place. The truth is, every book is hard to write, everybody reaches a wall, whether it is a plot hole or a scene that you can’t get past. So you’ve just got to get to the end. Even if it’s not the greatest draft, if it needs rewriting fine, at least you have a book to rewrite…”

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