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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Guest Blog… Felicity Pulman… and a great opportunity…

October 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm (Guest Blog, Magical Places, Opportunity, Writing) (, , , , )

This week’s guest blog comes from Felicity Pulman, author of the wonderful novel I, Morgana and the magical Janna Chronicles, amongst many others. She has recently returned from a three-month writing adventure in the UK, after being awarded this year’s Di Yerbury Society of Women Writers’ Residency. During her time in England and France, Felicity wrote the first draft of the sequel to I, Morgana, which I’m so excited about. Read on to follow Felicity’s journey – and discover how to apply for the residency in 2016.

FelicityEver dreamed of having ‘a room of your own’, somewhere to plot and plan, to dream and write without interruption or having to cope with the everyday mundane minutiae of life? Read on and be inspired to make your dream come true!

I’ve recently returned from a three-month writers’ residency in Barnstaple, Devon (UK), where I was able to complete a first draft of the sequel to my novel I, Morgana. When you live in Australia, the joy of having a base in the UK is that you’re comparatively close to everything, so before I took up the residency I was able to do some research in France, and during the residency I took time out to spend a week in magical Glastonbury.

felicitybookMy sequel, The Once and Future Camelot, tells the story of Morgana’s daughter, Marie, who at the end of I, Morgana finds herself stranded in our world at the time of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (hence my visit to France). It’s a time-slip dual narrative between the poet, Marie de France, and the present day Morgan, a rebel and runaway, who fetches up in Glastonbury and then has to try to make sense of the terrifying visions that haunt her: visions of the end of our world that she needs to understand in order to save the future. It will take all her courage, ingenuity and knowledge of magic, along with Marie’s help, to fulfil an ancient prophecy about the return of Arthur – but also to find a way to love and happiness, both for herself and for Marie.

Glastonbury_TorI loved my time in Glastonbury; it inspired me on a personal level (I found my time there very healing) and it also helped to inform Morgan’s story and give it veracity. I climbed the Tor, I visited the Springs and the Goddess Temple, and I found the people I needed to find (and I truly believe the Universe conspired to help me there!).

Felicity_TintagelBeing in the UK was a blissful and very productive time, writing in the morning (I set myself a target of 2000 words a day) and going on a long ramble beside the river in the afternoon, making notes as ideas flowed, talking to myself (!) and also enjoying the beautiful scenery. There was also time for reading and research, and for exploring historic and beautiful Barnstaple, and meeting some lovely people there, including the writers who meet regularly at the library. Barnstaple is also very close to some famous seaside towns, including “Portwenn”, the setting for Doc Martin, and also Tintagel, the birthplace of King Arthur. (Photo taken on Arthur’s throne in the Great Hall there.)

The Society of Women Writers/Di Yerbury Writers’ Residency is open to members of the NSW branch of the SWW (Australia) under the following conditions:
* You must be a member for at least three months before submitting your application, due March 6th, 2016. (So you need to join the SWW by early December.)
* You must be researching or writing a work of fiction or non-fiction either set in or linked to the UK.
* You must be over 55 years at the time of your residency.
* Applications must be received by 5pm March 6th. The winner will be announced at the SWW meeting on Wednesday April 13th.
* The residency is available from June 20th to September 19th, 2016.

Further details about the residency and the application form can be found on the SWW website: www.womenwritersnsw.org. Good luck!

Find out more about Felicity’s books and her writing journey on her website, www.felicitypulman.com.au. You can buy her books in bookstores or from Amazon and other retailers, and for more information and to buy the beautiful I, Morgana and The Janna Chronicles, visit Momentum Books.

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