Countdown to Craziness

I’m not going to say much right now, just that in 2 hours and 20 minutes, NaNoWriMo officially starts in my timezone. Going in without as much prep as I’ve had the past two years – this could be interesting, or a complete disaster!

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When writing sucks

Remember that tangled mess of a short story I wrote about about six weeks ago? I fixed it. I was really proud of it. I submitted it to a competition…

It wasn’t even shortlisted. Finding this out has pretty much ruined my day. The rejection an author faces can tear your heart out if you let it.

I know I shouldn’t take it personally.  I keep reminding myself that there were over 200 entries, and the longlist was the decision of a single judge. (The longlist wasn’t published, so I don’t know whether I made it that far or not.)

I haven’t read the winning entry yet, but the way the judges described it makes it sound amazing. I wish people would talk about my stories with so much enthusiasm.

I’m submitting another story to another competition today. I’m really proud of it – at least I was. Now I’m secretly wondering if it’s worth the cost of printing and postage…and the dejection I might feel when I hear the results.

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It’s January 3rd

I’ve already finished two books this year. (Reading of course, not writing!) I think aiming for a third by the end of today is too much to ask…unless I find a really short one.

I’ve been meaning to work on a couple of short stories over the past few weeks. I’ve had very good intentions, but of course the silly season sometimes gets in the way, and a 2016 deadline feels like ages away when the calendar still says 2015.

All of a sudden it’s 2016, and the end of the month seems frighteningly close when all I have one half-outline and one half-draft, that I’m intending to enter into two different competitions. The half-drafted piece is due on January 31st – and thanks to our lovely postal service’s recent changes, that means it needs to be in the post by about the 25th (even with a priority label on it!)

The piece which is currently only a half-outline is due on February 1st, but thankfully only requires electronic submission, so I will have that last week of January to focus on it entirely.

What am I doing here? I have short stories to write!

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Happy 2016!

It’s a new year, and once again I’m reflecting on how I did with the goals I set for myself twelve months ago. In summary – not good.

#1 Back on the diet… again

I’m really good at dieting (although the people I eat with when I’m on a diet find it a pain in the neck). My biggest problem is that I have a lot of weight to lose, and when it doesn’t come off fast enough I get frustrated  and depressed, and start eating badly again. This year I think I’ll aim low and just focus on trying to minimize binge eating.

#2 Edit my novel, and get it ready to query

I tried doing this twice: neither time did I get more than a few chapters in. I still have hopes that it will happen though…

#3 Write another novel

If you are a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing, and I now have a second draft to edit in addition to my 2014 novel. Honestly, I think the second one has probably benefited from my 2014 experience, but it also has a lot of issues to iron out.

#4 Actually enter the competitions I’ve picked out

Hmm… I did better at this in 2015, because I actually entered a writing competition this year. (True, it was in the middle of December, but that still counts, right?) I have a massive list of competitions I’d like to enter in 2016, and a couple of drafts on the go… I just have to make sure I finish them this year!

#5 Spend some more time hanging out with people in the real world

Again, NaNoWriMo is a wonderful thing. I actually had a social calendar in November. Pity about the rest of the year…

2016 Goals

Umm… I’m not doing so well on the following through part, so I think this year I’m just going to try to do better at accomplishing 2015’s goals. I do hope to be more consistent with this blog though, even if it means scheduling posts in advance for times when I’m not going to have internet access. This year there was almost a six month gap between posts in the middle of the year – I don’t intend to let that happen again!

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How do you fix a tangled mess?

I have a story I’m working on. (Actually there’s about four, but this one is on the shortest deadline.) I started it about two years ago, but stuff happened and I forgot all about it. At that point it was basically an outline and the first paragraph.

A few weeks ago I was going through some of my old files, looking for another story that I felt needed to be re-written, and I found this outline. I read what I had done and loved it. It’s actually the perfect plot for a competition I had on my list, so I dug it out and started writing.

Here’s my problem. My original plan involves flash-backs, or maybe it’s a story within a story. Anyway…I’m happy with both of the past and present parts on their own, but I’m having real trouble making the two of them mesh together. When is the best time to throw in the tragic twist for the maximum emotional punch? How do I hide the clues that lead to the surprise ending without them sticking out like a sore thumb?

In order for this story to be considered for the competition, it needs to be postmarked by Friday. I have a lot of work to do to get it in shape by then!

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Post NaNoWriMo 2015: what next?

This time last year, NaNoWriMo ended, and I kind of burned out. I read a fair bit, and wrote a few book reviews, but writing fiction just didn’t happen. I missed a couple of short story competitions I really wanted to enter, because I had nothing ready.

I’m determined not to let that happen again. Last year, I decided that after writing 50,000 words in a month, I was entitled to a few days off from fiction. Those few days (with the exception of one aborted attempt at a short story inspired by my nephew) turned into almost 11 months. When I got down to NaNo prep at the beginning of October, I was excited, but out of practice… I started November with only half an outline – a beginning, and an ending, but no idea how the two were going to meet!

This year, I have a plan:

  • Last year my sister gave me a book of writing prompts for Christmas. I intend to pick one a day, every day, and write something (even if it’s only a couple of hundred words). I started doing this on December 1st, and I think it’s going to be a nice habit to get into.
  • I have a long list of upcoming writing competitions on a whiteboard in my room. I’ve been thinking about potential story ideas since half-way through November (some have themes or words/phrases that must be included in the story, some don’t). I’d like to enter at least one every two months in 2016, but there are more than that on my list.
  • Once I have a few of those out of the way – some of the deadlines are going to be quite a challenge – I’m planning to rewrite my 2014 NaNovel. I’ve had a few thoughts about some of the things that I know are wrong with it, and I think I’m ready to revisit it.

Does anyone else have any hints? How do you keep the momentum going once November is over?

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There’s a local writing competition that I’ve entered a couple of times in the past. It’s part of a small town festival that has been running for many years, and I’ve entered it twice before, so I knew to look out for it when I was drawing up my list of deadlines for the next few months.

Usually, this is an open themed competition. Write about whatever you like, as long as you meet the word count and other submission conditions. This year, one of the conditions is that the name of the town must appear in bold print, somewhere in the text.

Now, when I say this town is local, I mean that it’s part of the same local government area I live in, but it’s not a place I visit often. Apart from the existence of this festival, and a couple of the local amenities, I really didn’t know much about it.

It’s been driving me mad. I’m not keen on the idea of just slipping the name into the story as an afterthought… for example, ‘John was born in [town]’. I’d much rather write something inspired by the place, but my research wasn’t turning up any gems – until yesterday…

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went to one of the many ‘Centenary of WW1’ exhibitions which have been popping up over the past two years. Most of the items on display were fairly generic; objects from both sides of the conflict, pictures of famous soldiers and politicians, maps showing where famous battles took place… I think you get the picture. This was a touring exhibit, and at the end of the display was a section on ‘your local community’. Every one of the soldiers featured in this section was from the town whose name needs to appear in my competition entry!

By a startling coincidence, on Tuesday I opened a book of writing prompts at random, and the prompt was something along the lines of: ‘You are the person who is responsible for telling families that their loved one has been captured, wounded, or killed in action. Describe one of these scenes.’ Put the two together, and I think I have something I can work with.


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NaNoWriMo 2015: Wrap-up

I did it! 50,000 words in 30 days. You’d think it would be easier the second time around, but there were times there when I wasn’t sure I’d make it.

I’m officially a two-time NaNoWriMo winner now, but I’m not actually finished… well… either novel actually. I still have a few loose ends to tie up in this year’s plot, and then I think it’s finally time to go back and edit last year’s novel.

I’ve learned something really important about my writing this November. I suck at conflict. I’m too quick to resolve fights, rescue damsels and plant clues (which aren’t nearly cryptic enough). The struggles that make plots suspenseful might appear in my writing, but they don’t last. I plan to work on this in the next year…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a whole lot of old writing I need to go fix!

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 27

I’m going to be without internet for the next two days, but I just wanted to check in and let you all know that with any luck, the next post you will see from me will be one announcing my triumphant NaNoWriMo victory. I have only 3,790 words to go, and a bit over three days to write them.

My protagonist is in peril, she’s thinking on her feet to give herself the best chance of being rescued, and the man who loves her is going to be in the right place to find the clue she is planning to leave. Spoiler alert – there’s going to be a happy ending in their near future!

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Day 26

I’m finally on a roll. I’ve already written over 2,000 words today, and by the end of the day, I plan to have fewer than 5,000 words to go to reach the magic 50,000 target.

I may not even have finished the story by then. I have a very dramatic incident coming up, that could well take up 10,000 words on its own (by the time it’s all resolved). So far the plot has taken a few unforeseen twists and turns in the middle, but I’ve managed to bring it around so that the ending will work out more or less the way I had intended when I started writing almost 4 weeks ago.

Back to it then…

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