NaNoWriMo 2017 Update – Week 3 and the Beginning of Week 4

Writing Progress

The final week of NaNoWriMo is here and three days remain until the clock strikes midnight and the magic of November is over. It has been a while since my last update and that’s because I’ve been busy. The number of social commitments I’ve had this last week or so has meant that I have had five days where I have written nothing at all. Indeed, in the first half of Week 4, I have only managed to write 984 words.

Fortunately, the situation is not so dire as to be irretrievable. Thanks to a period of writing 2,000 words a day in Week 3, and a day in which I wrote over 6,000 words, I only need to write a minimum of 1,711 words a day in order to win. It is more than the daily average you need to win, but it’s not a horrendous amount of words and, as far as I’m concerned, I can still make it if I try. I might just have to suffer a couple of late nights.

Writing Inspiration

It’s hard to write of inspiration when I’ve just had a four day break from writing. That being said, a four day break may have been what I needed to refresh my mind and return to the pages with a cobweb-free head, and enough energy to charge onwards into the final few days.

One the main hurdles I’m facing at the moment is just being too tired to write, particularly after a long, cold day at work. It’s hard to find the motivation when you just want to be asleep under the duvet. While having naps may not be the best idea in the evening, letting yourself switch off for an hour or so after a busy day is vital for letting the brain get into the creative zone. Some people enjoy a walk, others a long, hot bath. For me, it varies. Often-times, I find that just watching an episode of a show will suffice. Once that hour is up, I am ready to make myself comfortable (often with a blanket if it’s one of those chillier days), get a cup of tea and start writing.

Writing Plans

Today, my push for victory begins. As I’ve said, I need to write a minimum of just over 1,700 words a day in order to win and win I intend to do. It is possible, even though I do have plenty of other things which need doing this week, and it is going to be my priority. To achieve this, I decided to look back on the days I wrote the most.

On a few, the words came from having no words at all. I started writing about something which I had experienced, such as a headache or being cold, and those ended up turning into more and more words, all perfectly relevant to the story. On others, I wrote in focused time periods, using the Pomodoro technique. I’d put on some background sound and write for 25 minutes, then took a break to do something completely different, before starting the 25 minutes again. This technique helped me write 6,000 words in one day. Other times, it was simply the goal and the story which got me to 2,000 – I decided to write that many words and so I did.

So, this week, I am going to do a combination of those. I am going to sit down to an empty page, and let either the story or my experiences guide me. I will write in sprints, with regular breaks for both eyes and brain, with the final goal of the day being 2,000 words. Some days I will succeed, other days I may fail but so long as I write more than 1,700 words a day, I should be okay.

Let the final days of NaNoWriMo begin.

 

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NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week 1 Update!

Writing Progress

Week 1 of NaNoWriMo is over and, if I’m honest, I am quite proud of myself with my progress in the first week. My daily word count has been a bit varied (writing ~1,000 words on one day and ~3,000 words the next), but on average I have written 1,863 words a day for the last week. And I wrote every day. The biggest challenge for me was actually making sure I wrote a reasonable amount each day while also not letting general work and life-admin get in the way of it. As it turns out, the one week I have had more to fit in, I’ve been the most successful at getting things done than I have for a long time. As a result, my total word count at the end of Week 1 is 13,044 words. Only 36,956 words to go!

In terms of the novel itself, I started out by trying to alternate between my three protagonists each day. Each one has quite a different story, so I thought it would be a good way to keep myself interested in the novel if I kept switching between them. It worked, at least for the first four days when I was in the initial exploratory stages and excited to meet each character and those they associate with. For the last three days, however, I have mostly been focused on one character’s perspective and really enjoying getting a bit deeper into her story without having to step in and out of it. This particular character was always the most vocal in the planning stage, so I am not particularly surprised by her dominance at the moment. That being said, I am still excited to see what the other characters have to bring to the table.

Writing Inspiration – GollanczFest

Almost every writer has those moments where inspiration is slow to strike, or no muses are in town. At these times, writing can prove to veer on the difficult and it becomes an effort to get the words on the page. At times like this, I find one way to build up motivation and inspiration is to actually listen to other writers talk about their work, or the world of writing in general.

This week, I went to GollanczFest, a weekend of panels and workshops made up of the authors of Gollancz, a sci-fi and fantasy publisher. I only went on the Saturday, and only to the panel discussions, but the whole day was a lot of fun (although it did veer onto more serious topics a surprising number of times).

My favourite panel was the one where each author picked a weapon and were pitched against one another in an author death match (absolutely hilarious), but each one was great in different ways. From topics such as things that go bump in the night to where the authors get their own inspiration, it was fascinating to hear the different opinions from each of the authors (particularly when a near fight broke out on stage based on whether we’re heading into a dystopia or a utopia in the real world!).

Ultimately though, the most inspiring thing I find from author talks isn’t the advice they give, or their debates on if ghosts are real. Instead, it’s the fact that the talks humanise them a bit. Authors are real people, with their own lives and own challenges and, really, if they can do it then so can you.

Writing Plans for Week 2

Going into Week 2, I am feeling positive. Week 2 is notorious for being the most challenging and most vicious of NaNoWriMo weeks, yet after the success of Week 1, I do think I will be able to ride out the wave. That being said, I am going to make some slight changes.

A couple of days ago, I moved my novel onto Scrivener. In the past, I have always written a book in a fully chronological order, so writing in a word document worked reasonably well. This time around, however, I have found myself taking a completely different approach. Each writing session starts with a blank page and an idea. If the idea is slow coming, I take a glance at my rough plan (which consists of a list of key scenes for each character, with about 3 words to describe each scene – very broad), and pick the scene which grabs me first. As a result, I’ve ended up with a large number of word documents of random scenes. So, to keep track of them all, after writing, I’ve added the scene to Scrivener with the name format ‘<protagonist name> – <4 word scene summary>’. This has instantly helped me see where new scenes could be added, and where the scenes I have written fit in the book. I will still write on a blank Word document, but at the end of the session, it all gets copied into Scrivener which, in turn will help me decide on new scenes to write.

This blog post is getting a little long (the NaNoWriMo mode has hit) so I’m going to wrap it up now. Another one will be up next week, covering the battle that is Week 2 of NaNoWriMo.

 

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 – Let the Challenge Begin!

Today is the 1st November and, for many people out there, that can only mean one thing: NaNoWriMo, the month-long challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. NaNoWriMo is a non-profit organisation that has been encouraging writers across the world to, well, write for 19 years. I have participated in 4 of those years, winning in two.

This year will be my fourth consecutive NaNoWriMo and, after two years of failing to write those 50,000 words, I’m determined to turn the tables. I have a new novel plan on my desk, a new world to discover and new characters to breathe life into.

Unfortunately, the November I am going into isn’t a November of empty nights and empty weekends. I have, perhaps rather foolishly, turned it into a fairly eventful and social month. This is going to make the challenge a little bit trickier and will require a lot more perseverance and planning on my part.

So, after careful examination of my productivity levels over the preceding few weeks and a closer look at my calendar for the coming month, I have worked out a schedule that might help me win. This mostly revolves around planning to write more words on days where I have no plans, focusing the majority of my writing on the weekend and week-beginning (my post-work productivity drops from Wednesday to Friday). I am also resolving to write more towards the beginning of the month, taking advantage of that first week burst, so that I have enough of a boost/buffer to get me through week two and any slow days which come my way. I also have a spreadsheet to keep track of it all.

The novel itself is going to be a crime fantasy, told from three perspectives. Each PoV character will have their own story, but each will play an important role in the over-arching story-line. There will be magic (in the form of telepathy), there will be murder (multiple murders in fact) and there will be knives at a gun-fight (because, why not?).

As NaNoWriMo has already begun, I have actually started to make progress with this novel. My word count at the end of today is 1,825 words and those words have been spent meeting my least-defined protagonist, one of my main secondary characters and an entirely new character who popped up completely unexpectedly (and on the first day, no less).

I will likely keep weekly updates on my NaNoWriMo progress, although this may vary depending on how my writing is going. If I’m falling behind, the novel is the priority; if things are going well, then I may be able to sneak in a few more updates here and there.

My NaNoWriMo page: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/razka13

 

 

24-Hour Readathon Wrap Up

Last weekend was the 24-hour readathon and I just knew I had to take part. Not only was I about 9 books behind schedule for my goodreads goal of 100 books this year, but I was also looking for a good excuse to simply put life aside for a few hours to sit and read. The 24-hour readathon provided the perfect opportunity.

I started reading at 1pm on Saturday and, while the readathon itself did come to an end at 1pm on the Sunday, I’ll admit I continued reading. I think my favourite part of the experience was that, while it was a challenge, it was a good-natured one with countless others across the world taking part. I was sat reading, knowing that at the same time someone else was doing the same thing for the same reason. The readathon’s twitter hashtag also helped keep up the sense of community.

Getting fully indulged in a book with few distractions was also another favourite. Normally, when I read, there is always something getting in the way, be it life admin, work or just being social. Putting aside everything to read was a treat and one I will certainly be repeating. I also got a chance to read three books which have been on my to-read list for quite some time and fitted perfectly with a slightly creepy October setting.

 

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5

My first book of the readathon was Stalking Jack the Ripper and this was also my favourite of the three. I’ll be the first to admit that I find serial killers fascinating and Jack the Ripper is the most famous of them all. This book was a fresh, fictional take on the story, from the perspective of a girl secretly studying forensic science at the time. Obviously, she becomes embroiled in the mystery and works to find and stop Jack before he can kill anyone else. The book itself is great fun to read with a balance of light-heartedness mixed in with the macabre. It was the perfect novel to set off the readathon and I now cannot wait to read its sequel (which I believe involves Count Dracula).

 

Because You Love to Hate Me by Various (edited by Ameriie) – 3.5/5

The second book I read for the readathon was also the book I half-wish I had read at another time. It is a collection of short stories created by a partnership between a number of authors and booktubers – the booktuber would provide a prompt and the author would write a story based on that prompt, but from the villain’s perspective. As an anthology, it involved a number of different stories and it was very clear when one ended (each story was published with commentary from the respective booktuber). This made it difficult to get into at first and, the very nature of it being an anthology, meant I enjoyed some stories more than others. That being said, I loved reading from a villain’s point of view and it was actually quite inspiring for my own writing.

 

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – 3/5

While I read the first two books on the Saturday, Sunday morning was devoted to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This is where I think it had the disadvantage. After intensive reading the night before I had, rather foolishly, given myself eye-strain and was also rather tired. Even so, the third, and final, novel surprised me. I love the original (and was sorely tempted to, at the very least, watch the film adaption after finishing the book) but the addition of zombies help to liven up the story and, simply put, were a lot of fun. Some parts didn’t quite work, the zombie addition did conflict with the other storylines a bit, and a lot of the reason I enjoyed this was the familiarity of the original. This was also the only book I didn’t quite manage to finish in the period of the readathon, although I did tuck into the rest of it on Sunday afternoon.

 

Finally, some statistics! Over the course of the readathon, I read for approximately 11 hours (and slept for another 11), reading a total of 808 pages (roughly 73 pages an hour). I finished two books and read three quarters of the third. I also drank countless cups of tea and ran out of snacks on the Saturday, but we won’t go into that.

Now that the readathon is over, I am looking forward to the next one I can get involved with. Next time, I will probably aim to avoid anthologies as they are harder to get into; I’ll also try to move and rest my eyes more frequently and, most importantly, endeavour to ensure my cupboards are fully stocked before beginning. For those who also took part, I hope you enjoyed it. For those who organised it, thank you for setting it up for us!

Dewey’s 24-hour readathon: http://www.24hourreadathon.com/

 

Writing Update

 

I have been fairly quiet on writing updates lately and there is a simple reason for that: there haven’t been any. Life has been pretty busy lately and I have neither the time nor the energy to actually focus on writing. That is going to change.

Over the course of the next few months I’m going to gradually try and make writing more of a habit than a hobby. I have so many story ideas whirling around in my head, ones which I want to write and read for myself; yet, the way things currently are, they simply aren’t being written.

I have already taken the first steps on this process: I have a writing nook under my stairs (complete with desk, stationary and a biscuit barrel) and I have already started on the goal of trying to write a little bit each day. Essentially, rather than going all out from the get-go, I’m going to take a more gradual and fairly broad approach. Writing will cover anything relating to ‘author-dom’, so it will include all stages of the process to planning to pitching as well as these blog posts, and I won’t be aiming to write 2000 words a day either. I will have a weekly goal and that can be met by any kind of writing which I do.

At the moment, my main project will be finishing the editing of my current novel, as well as sending that out. Admittedly, this has been my main goal for a while, but I am now close to the finish – nearly two thirds of the way through edits and already starting to plan querying. You will also, hopefully, see more blog posts from me, about both books and writing. Reviews may be less frequent as a result, but it will mean this blog will be a bit more varied.

That’s the rough outline of the plan, it’s still an evolving process but, whatever form it ends up in, I’m hoping it will be a success. Let me know if there are any writing-themed posts you would be interested in seeing and on with the writing!

Bookish Would You Rather

For a while I’ve had it in my mind to do a bookish ‘would you rather’ post – something fun and care-free. The only thing holding me back was that it was something which I felt did not quite fit with the tone of my blog. I like my posts to mean something, even if they just mean something to me, and for a long time I was struggling to find a connection to the concept despite really wanted to do it. So, after much thought, I’ve tried to make the questions relevant to my bookish thoughts and reading habits, and here we are. Enjoy!

Would you rather:

 Read a kindle or read a print book

This question is difficult in that both are very different – each has their pros and their cons. I have brilliant books sitting on my kindle and not so brilliant ones on my bookcase, and vice versa. Ultimately though, I would have to say a print book. The feel of a print book adds to the enjoyment of reading and kindles are just lacking in that extra bit of personality for me, despite it always being in my bag, ready for travel.

Own a signed book or a first edition

This is tough but, on the whole, I think I would go for a first edition. As much as I love signed books and that, generally, if you have it signed you’ve probably met the author, there is nothing quite like having a pristine, first edition of a book, especially if no-one has read it. As well as being beautiful, it’s also an investment and a treasure. A signed paperback doesn’t quite mean the same thing to me. Although, if I did have it my way, a signed first edition would be glorious.

Professionally review books or write them

If I could afford to, I would write books, no question. As much as I love reviewing books, and I do, there is nothing quite like putting pen to paper and letting a story emerge. That being said, given I’ve had a few manuscripts rolling around in the attic-space for a while, it may be that I’ll be on just the reviewing side of things a little while longer. Again though, the dream would be to do both – review and write.

Lose your Goodreads account or your book database

This is a difficult one. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve had my Goodreads account the longest, and it includes a lot more of the books I’ve read. Yet, I’ve spent more time building my book database and, as well as including books I’ve read and own, it also includes the books I have to read, the books I’ve lent to other people and those I’ve borrowed. I think, having already lost my books database once and rebuilding it afterwards, I would probably say to lose that again. I have much more of a history with my Goodreads account and, to be perfectly honest, I actually really enjoyed putting together my book database for a second time. I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy a third as well.

Would you rather read a book adaption of your favourite TV show or watch a TV adaption of your favourite book?

I really enjoy watching adaptions of books (after I’ve read the book, of course) but then there is always the danger that it would be done wrong. I think, all in all, I would rather read a book adaption of my favourite TV show. It would be a different way of watching the show (and probably a quicker way to) and, if there’s a power cut or the apocalypse comes, I would be able to continue enjoying that show despite not being able to watch it.

Those are my five bookish would you rather questions and answers. I hope you enjoyed that, and feel free to let me know what your answers would be in the comments.

 

 

 

Q2 2017 Goals

Q1 of 2017 has come and gone, and, with it, the resolutions I made for that time period. I decided at the start of this year that, due the inflexibility of having year-long goals, I decided to create my resolutions on a quarterly basis, giving me a chance to reflect and set new resolutions accordingly. The reason this one is slightly later is because I decided part way through Q1 to shift each quarter by a month; this was to avoid the burst of energy which comes with new resolutions from clashing with the energy needed for all the quarterly reports and tasks at work.

These have been divided into three categories:

Creative Pursuits

  • My first resolution was to send off my manuscript to at least one agent.
    • This did not happen. I found that, in trying to achieve this, I was rushing what I was doing and not giving myself the time or space to get it right. This quarter, I am aiming to completed the final checks of the manuscript and complete the needed research before starting querying in the summer.
  • The next was develop my social media presence.
    • I have started picking up my social media a little bit – I try to tweet on a regular basis, although I am yet to reach at least once a day. I have also started picking up my YouTube channel again and building on my video editing knowledge. I will be continuing this at a similar pace this quarter, with the goal of bringing my twitter, YouTube and blog together into one central brand to work from.
  • The third was to get back into art.
    • My art did suffer a little this quarter. I encountered the problem where I would pick up one project, receive a burst of inspiration for another and so on and so forth. This has resulted in a lot of half formed ideas and projects. This quarter, I will take that list, determine which to focus my efforts onto and develop a plan for delving into them so that, by the end of July, I will have a number of projects completed; be it sewing, painting or general crafts.

Reading

  • Reading gets its own section because it’s a big part of my life, not least because of the sheer amount of books I own. The first resolution with this was to have read at least one shelf’s worth of books on my to-read bookcase.
    • This is quite hard to judge. While I am fairly sure I have read a shelf’s worth of books, very few were actual physical books I own and I am nowhere near clearing a space. Most of my reading the last few months have been kindle-reads, audiobooks and borrowed books. This quarter I am going to continue the resolution but with the goal of actually clearing a shelf of to-read books.
  • The second resolution under reading was to read more variety in genres and diversity, reading at least three different genres a month.
    • With regards to genres, this was a success. I have read and am still reading a wide range of genres each month and am really enjoying it. I’ve felt like my resolution to read more diversity has not been quite so successful, and this will be my goal for Q2 2017.
  • Finally, my resolution was to restrict my book-buying to only buying one or two books a month maximum.
    • I have achieved this, simply put. The only times where I have bought more than two books a month were when the extra books were gifts, and I don’t think that counts. Despite achieving this goal, however, I am going to continue with it in Q2 as it’s quite an easy way to save money and I want to prove to myself that I can continue the buying-restriction.

 Personal Development

  • Improving health, both by eating healthier and doing more regular exercise, was the first resolution at this point. This was also the one goal I thought would be the hardest to fulfil, and I was right.
    • The first few months were, admittedly, a struggle. It didn’t help that it was dark outside. However, last month, I successfully completed 30 days of yoga and that has given me the motivation to continue; that, and the decision that I will go and trek up to Machu Picchu in the next two years. I have started Couch to 5K, am continuing yoga and have also continued my walking although on a more regular basis.
  • My second goal was about learning code. I hadn’t decided on which code to start learning at the start of the year, but I knew I wanted to go about learning one.
    • This particular resolution has been partially fulfilled in that I have decided which code I want to learn and have started it. As well as continuing to learn Excel VBA, I am also starting to learn Python. These will both be continued this quarter, with the goal of applying it either at work or at home, depending on where it would be most useful.
  • Finally, my last goal was, simply, get out the house more. I do enjoy ‘me-time’, where I’m curled up with a book or in front of a movie; but I do know that getting out and about, meeting friends and experiencing culture are all really important for a fulfilled existence.
    • I will admit, when the winter months were still upon us, I did not do this as much as I would have liked. That being said, now that the weather is much nicer, I have started doing a lot of these things, with the goal of doing one social activity and one film a week (I’ve got a Cineworld Unlimited card so I don’t have to worry too much about the cost of film)

Those are where I am with my resolutions from Q1. As you’ve probably noticed, I decided to continue them into this quarter as I did not get off to quite the head-start as I would have liked. That being said, I am hoping to have a achieved a lot of these by the end of this quarter which would allow me to change them up a little in the second half of the year. I have found that this way of doing things has given me a touch more flexibility in my approach which I am enjoying, although I’m not quite full-agile yet.

Here’s to the next few months!