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.



NaNoWriMo 2017 – Week 2 Update

Writing Progress

Today brings about the start of a new week of NaNoWriMo; more importantly (at least in the context of this post) it means that Week 2 of NaNoWriMo is over. I survived. As I mentioned in my last NaNo update, Week 2 and I are not on the best of terms and, so it was, I went into it with some trepidation. Admittedly, I did have some off days – including the first day this month that I wrote fewer than 1,000 words. But those were thankfully only one-offs and this week was also filled with milestones and achievements.

The main achievement being that, after writing 12,771 words this week, I am now over the half-way mark to NaNoWriMo’s final goal of 50,000 words. My new total is 25,815. NaNoWriMo isn’t all about the numbers though, or at least it shouldn’t be. There is also the story you’re telling. The first week was a week of discovery, exploring the ideas I’ve had and meeting the characters. This week, those ideas started to finally feel like a novel. This feeling grows more and more solid with every word I write. Admittedly, a lot of it still feels like a puzzle with only a few pieces in place and a lot more to find, but there is an end-point out there and the final image is slowly revealing itself.

Writing Inspiration – Beating Writer’s Block

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury is a short book, but an inspiring one. It’s a book filled with the passion of writing, all told through essays and anecdotes in Bradbury’s hand. What it isn’t, however, is a book of writing advice. Yet it is this book which helped me overcome the demon that is Writer’s Block (capitalisation intended).

In this book, Bradbury talks of experiences. Experiences, even the smallest or seemingly inconsequential ones, fuelled a large part of his writing. He would pick a moment, or a thing relating to a moment, that he had experienced and write around that. In the end, a story would emerge.

There were a few occasions this week where I sat at my laptop and just stared at the empty page, unsure of what to write. This was despite the novel plan that sat at my desk. I simply had no idea where to start or even how. The first time this happened, I remembered what Bradbury had written and was instantly taken back to earlier that day when I had sat, freezing, at my desk at work. I started to describe how it felt then, before long, I lost control of the story. It grew, expanding from a simple feeling to a chapter which would ultimately turn into a villain reveal. I used the technique twice more in the week, including on the day I had a migraine. Those three days were the only days I wrote more than 2,000 words and were the writing sessions I was probably the most happy with during Week 2.

It would appear that the masters do have handy tips from time to time.

Writing Plans for Week 3

For me, Week 3 is the big one. I’ve surpassed the half-way point and am now heading towards to the finish line. Unfortunately, towards the end of the journey are three days in which I will be away and have very little writing time. Enter Week 3. This week with be the big push towards 50,000. I want to get as far ahead as possible so that I can relax a bit while I am away and during the last few days. By the end of this week, I want to have reached and beaten 40,000 words. At a minimum.

This will be a challenge, not least because my writing session for today is going to be shorter than normal (a combination of staying late at work, exhaustion and writing this post). But I do have an entire weekend of very few plans in which to write, and I know that, if I push myself, I can get up to 3,000 words in a day. Given I need to write 2,000 words a day on average to reach that goal, it should be achievable. Although I may need that holiday by the end of it.




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:



Writing Fears

Most, if not all, writers experience it. Fear of the page. Fear of the words. Fear of rejection. The difficulty is knowing when that fear starts to get in the way, when if prevents you from writing the story you want to write. Not just knowing either, but admitting that you have that fear and finding ways to overcome it.

That’s what I’m going to do in this post. My writing updates have been sporadic to say the least and part of that is because I have it. Writing is something I love doing and something I want to turn into more than a hobby, but a big part of me is afraid of failing, of not being as good as I want to be.

Take my current novel for example. I have been thinking about this novel for around eight years. Eight years since the first idea came into my head, and the number of people I’ve told about it is fewer than 10. If you take the time I’ve spent actually working on the novel and it’s probably less than half that time. I have spent so long procrastinating, wanting to work on it but worrying about it will end up like, what people will think of it, that I’ve simply not been writing.

The fact is, the novel has been pretty much in a state of completion for nearly a year now. The trouble, however, is that it’s been in the nest for so long that, while the fear of writing has been overcome, I now have to face setting the novel free. I have to actually send it out. Steps have been made in this area – I’ve sent it to a couple of people to read and provide feedback and I’ve started thinking about querying; but, until I’ve actually started sending it out, I think there will be that part of me that just wants to no let go.

Everything comes full circle again when, now that I’ve finished one book, I start on the next one. The fear of the blank page, of writing that first sentence, rises again. Not least because I’ve got a number of ideas and I’m worried about choosing the wrong one or of a brilliant idea not turning out to be quite as brilliant. That being said, this time around the fear, it’s not quite as prominent. I have written a novel, it may not be published yet, but I’ve written one and I can do it again. It’s just a matter of reminding myself from time to time.

I think, on the whole, it is okay to worry and be cautious but, when it starts getting in the way of doing what you enjoy, then you need to take that breath and go for it. I’m going to try doing that more often and to try and not let the fear of failing get the better of me because, really, succeeding in writing a novel no matter how terrible is better than failing to write one at all.

Writing Wednesday: Writing Supplies

Last week, I talked about my plan to gradually get back into writing, to get back into the various projects I have started, as well as begin new ones which spark in my brain. Creativity feeds creativity, so the small steps I am making now should hopefully transform into giant leaps in the future.

However, as many a writer knows, part of being a writer is having great supplies (maybe that should be as every stationary lover knows instead…). In this blog post, I’m going to talk about the various supplies I use for writing purposes.

The first, and main, piece of equipment, is my laptop. This is where I write, where I edit and where I store information. It really helps having things in one place where I can just search for what I need and it is a lot easier to edit on a laptop than on paper. The words are clearer to read and, if I make a change later on, it is so much easier to go back and edit it elsewhere in the novel. Once I’ve started planning a novel, I start moving it onto the laptop so I can work on it in a more structured, clean format.

Brainstorming, however, is more easily done by hand. There is something freeing about writing by hand; I think the act of forming the words yourself, in any shape, size or position, rather than relying on the limited array of typefaces available on a laptop, really helps unleash creative thought. I own a number of notebooks as a result, trying to keep to one per project (although generally spreading over to countless other notebooks). In these, I scribble down any random thoughts I have, an inspiration, and lines, scenes or dialogue which strikes my fancy. While I do try and keep a structure in notebooks where the brainstorming has progresses into a fully-fledged story, that can feel quite limiting at times, so I’m still working out what works best for me. Regardless, notebooks are an integral part of my writing process.  

As well as notebooks, I also tend to use sketchbooks. I am quite a visual person so it often helps to try and draw out the image I have in my head before translating it into words. This is particularly true for characters. I find it so helpful to draw out characters in my stories; it lets me explore their personalities as well as setting their features in stone for future reference.

Finally, of course, you can’t have a notebook or sketchbook without pens or pencils. While it is very easy to work with just one and never have to change it, I do tend to vary it. I have different pencils for different things (writing, drawing, colouring) and I also like to work in one coloured ink for a section of writing, and then switching to another one if I swap to work on something different. Of course, it does get to the point sometimes where I have so many pens scattered everywhere, that I just have to grab the nearest one.

So, there we have it, those are the main supplies I use when writing (mainly it’s just a lot of stationary – any excuse to buy some). Let me know what supplies you use!

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!