Posts Tagged With: writing

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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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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(When) Is a story set in stone?

Yesterday I started reading a novel, the third in a trilogy. In a ‘preface to the second edition’, the author states that in re-reading the novel he found some ‘structural weaknesses’ which he had chosen to ‘remove’. He basically stated that he doesn’t care what the novel’s ‘detractors’ would feel about this, but he hoped that the ‘admirers’ will approve of the changes. This is not the first time I’ve come across this phenomenon. Last year when reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, I discovered that there were several different editions, including one called the ‘author’s preferred edition’, which combined elements of the British and American editions.

This has got me thinking… when is a story set in stone? Is there a point, at the end of all the drafts and editing, when an author can really say, “this is exactly what I wanted to say, and I am completely happy with it”? Is there a point when an author just has to let it go?

Here’s another question. Can an author make major changes after a work has been published, or should any changes after that point just be cosmetic? I don’t have the answer.

Last year I wrote a short story that I submitted to a competition, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t completely happy with it. Obviously the judges agreed with me, I didn’t appear in the prizes. I knew the ending wasn’t quite right, but I still feel that there was something in it. What do I do with that story now? If I do figure out how to fix it, I will. I might even submit it to another competition (not the same one, obviously). But how do I know when to stop making changes? When is it time to just let it go?

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Word vomit…

I know… it’s not a nice title, but it describes this post so well.

I have big goals this year. I want to edit my NaNo novel, and get it to a point where I’m prepared to show it to publishers. There’s a bunch of competitions I want to enter. I’m already planning my second novel. Right now, a blank page is my worst enemy.

Don’t get me wrong… I love the feeling of starting a new story. As Beatrix Potter said, “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” Unfortunately, starting a new story is not always easy. Sometimes a story pops into my head almost fully formed. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is a character (or characters) that I love. I just have to put them all together and see what happens. Then there are the other times. The times when I’ve got nothing. Or worse, the times when a deadline is looming – and I’ve got nothing.

Those are the times when I have to give myself permission to suck. The most important thing I learned from NaNo was to shut off the inner editor and just write. Whatever comes into my head. Just get it all out onto the page and sort out what’s usable later. Kind of like what I’m doing now, in fact. I have a few very bad drafts in the pipeline right now, but sadly, that’s all I have. My goal for this week? To make at least one of these drafts into something readable… or come up with something better!

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Post NaNo Blues

This week has felt really weird. (I know it’s only Wednesday today, but it has been 5 days since I finished NaNo, so almost a week.)

  • It’s been weird not forcing myself to sit in front of a computer screen until I’ve churned out at least 1,667 words each day.
  • It’s been weird not having conversations with my characters in my head.
  • It’s been weird not having something interesting (in my mind) to blog about each day.

In mid-October I made the decision that I was going to start the whole crazy NaNoWriMo journey. I sat down and started plotting and planning, thinking that I was nuts and would probably flame out by about day 5 or 6.  I never thought that not only would I love every minute of it, but I’d miss it when it was over. I really do miss it. So much so that I’ve already started jotting down notes for next years’ novel. Wait… did I mention that in my last post? I think I did. See… I’m running out of interesting things to say already!

Apparently, whether I meant to or not, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about making writing a daily habit. Now I need to work on balancing writing with my other commitments (or maybe even getting a life?) This year I haven’t written nearly enough. Well, I wrote a novel (eventually) and a lot of blog posts, but only one short story… Now that NaNo is over, I’m energised and enthusiastic, and already researching three short stories… and I mentioned next years’ novel, right?

To paraphrase Ebeneezer Scrooge, ‘I *will* honor [NaNo] and try to keep it all the year!’

On a different, but vaguely related note, today I got through nearly 150 pages of a book I started reading in October. I only have about 100 pages to go, so if I go back to it now, I may just have a review to post tomorrow!

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NaNo’s over… Now what?

So, now that NaNoWriMo is finished, you might be wondering, ‘what’s next for Aspiring Scribbler?’ Funny you should ask. I’ve been wondering that myself.

  • First and foremost, I am looking forward to taking some time out to catch up on some reading. I’ve only managed a few chapters for the whole of November, and I’m very behind in the Back to the Classics challenge I started in January. I have 2 and a 1/2 books to read, and three reviews to write by the 31st of December.
  • During November I alluded to a history project I’ve been asked to work on for a local community group. Now that I’ve finished drafting my novel, it’s time to commit to some serious research.
  • This year I’ve been extremely slack about working on short stories and getting them entered in competitions. Now is the time to start picking some upcoming competitions for 2015 and brainstorming plot ideas.

That’s probably enough for December, but then there’s the 50,000 words I have sitting on my computer (and backed up on a USB!) What about those?

  • I’m going to take some time out, maybe a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, so that I can go back to it with fresh eyes. I’ll read it over and fix any glaring errors, before I give it to a couple of beta readers for opinions. It’s the first time I’ve completed a draft novel, so I’m guessing it’s going to need a LOT of work before it will be ready to query.
  • I’ve already started jotting down ideas for next year’s NaNo novel. I was originally planning to work on that plot this year, but as it’s a fantasy novel, I needed more time for world-building. I figure with twelve months of (relaxed) preparation and research behind me, I’ll be able to produce a better quality product next November.

What about you lot? Got any post NaNo plans yet?

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Wrap Up! (Day 28)

It’s done. This is the moment when my word count crossed the finish line.

NaNo2014goalHere’s a few stats:

  • 28 days
  • 49 chapters (at least that’s how it’s divided up at the moment)
  • 50,338 words (of very rough and definitely in need of serious revision novel, according to the NaNoWriMo validation page)
  • 26 blog posts (if you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know I missed a couple of nights)
  • About a dozen new followers

Most words written in one day: 3,598 (November 20)

Least words written in one day: 284 (November 9)

Meals eaten in front of my computer: Totally lost count. I’m still finding random cutlery mixed in with my writing tools…

Will I be going again next year? Hell yeah.

Now I just have to wait for the lovely winners t-shirt I’ve ordered to turn up… and face the hard work of rewriting and editing the damn thing so that someone other than myself might want to read it (or even *crosses fingers* pay me money for it?)

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 27

With any luck, this will be my penultimate NaNo post. I’m now only 2,000 words from the finish line, and hoping to finish within the next 24 hours. Today hasn’t been very productive – yet, but I’m starting to see all the pieces falling into place. The big question now is: do I stop half-way home and get a good night’s sleep? Or go for the marathon and knock it over tonight?

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NaNoWriMo 2014: Day 25

The end is now so close I can taste it… I have fewer than 5,000 words to go. I still only have one major event to add in, but so far I’m managing to inch towards it, where at one point I thought I was rushing towards it like Boromir’s funereal boat on the way to the falls at Rauros. (Did I mention I’m a nerd?)

I’m unlikely to get too much done tomorrow. I mentioned a couple of days ago that tomorrow is going to be quite a busy day, but I’m taking my tablet with me, and sometimes the seats on the train have those fold-down tables, so you never know.

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