#NaNoWriMo – With Slightly Less No

If the title of this post confuses you, it’s probably because you’re familiar with the word ‘NaNoWriMo’ but not what the word actually stands for. If this is the case, I’ll put you out of your misery. No, not like that. I’ll just explain that NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, so my ‘slightly less no’ reference is to the ‘Novel’ bit of the equation.

I wasn’t going to do NaNoWriMo at all this year. Why put myself through the unnecessary stress during one of my busiest months of the year, I asked myself? What did I have to prove?

Well, nothing. But since my current quest is to prove that the first published novel wasn’t just an anomaly, and that I’m not a one-trick wonder, it seemed that a target to get on with fiction and not leave it languishing behind the non-fiction Might Be No Bad Thing. So, abracadabra… word meters have once again invaded the right-hand sidebar.

Nano 2015

However, you’ll notice that my goal isn’t to write 50,000 words of a novel, but to write 50,000 in total in November. I’m only aiming for 40,000 of them to be on the novel (although more would be great). The other 10,000 words will be offered at the shrine of non-fiction. I know they’ll get written because frankly, they have to be. It’s what I’m paid for.

Writing this had made me realise that not having a separate word meter for non-fiction is irritating me.

nano 2015 2

There. That’s better!

As of this afternoon, I’m a day behind on my total word count. That’s fine. I can live with that. Unexpectedly, tomorrow is going to be an all-day writing day, so let’s see if I can push that blue line eastwards!


I Dabbled in a Drabble

Yes, I dabbled in a drabble. That is, a teensy tiny story. And it was fun.

One of my fellow #100kwords100days members, Gerald Hornsby, mentioned an anthology that was looking for sci-fi and fantasy stories just 100 words long. As I had a bit of time on my hands that day and submissions were about to close, I had a go.

It’s amazing how much editing you can do on a 100 word story, which is ironic (you’ll see why in a minute). But I sent off my drabble, entitled Valhalla, and hey presto! it was accepted into 100 Worlds: Lightning-Quick SF and Fantasy Tales . I got the ebook for free but didn’t get a chance to look at it – anyway I fancied the paperback, which arrived today.

And after all that editing – I find that they’ve replaced a painstakingly positioned semi-colon with a comma,  changing the whole feel of the sentence. Oh, it’s a hard life…

My #100kwords100days and Other Challenges, OR, Why Do We Do It?

Everybody has heard of NaNoWriMo, haven’t they?

writer cat

Chances are, your aunt’s neighbour’s cat is sitting in his basket right now, licking the end of his fountain pen and making notes on his kitty blanket for November 1st, because this year he gonna be prepared, damn it.

We’ve all heard of the Kindle, too, but Other E-readers Are Available. Well so are other writing challenges. Currently insane self, and at least 361 other writers who should know better, are taking part in #100kwords100days. Organised by the lovely Sally Quilford, the title’s self-explanatory, and I say ‘at least 361’ because that’s just the writers who have joined the Facebook group.

relaxed dog

100k badge

Obviously 100,000 words in 100 days is a more achievable than NaNo’s 50k words in 30 days.

What’s that? 100k in 100 days is too easy? Hmm, well, if you want to go to the other extreme…

For those who can put everything aside for an entire weekend – and I mean everything; either book yourself into a hotel room, or bind and gag every living thing within 20 metres – there’s NaNoWriWee. The brainchild of writers on The Kernel magazine, NaNoWriWee requires you to write 50k in a weekend. Yep, you heard me. Two 15 hour writing days. I’m guessing they named it NaNoWriWee because weeing is precisely what you won’t have time for. So perhaps book a home help, a colostomy bag and a catheter whilst you’re at it.  It sounds crazy but people are signing up. Hell, I’m even considering it. And seriously tempted by the hotel room option.

So why do we do it? What IS the magic lure of the writing challenge – and are there any downsides? Who better to ask than my fellow 100k100dayers…

“For me it’s the daily accountability,” Sarah Little says. “Many’s the evening the past week where my last half hour is scribbling out words just so I know I’ve done *something* for the day, whereas usually I’d have the excuse of ‘too tired’.” Gemma Noon agrees. “It makes me write. I have someone other than myself to be accountable to.” This pace-pushing has a great side-effect for Paula Martin. “It helps me ignore the inner editor that usually slows me down. I always spend ages revising, anyway, so this kind of challenge helps me get the words down, ready to revise later.” “It helps keep me on pace and working towards a goal, and on largely one thing rather than a lot of random little things.” says David Sorger, and this is something Tracy Enright finds a definite plus point;  “it makes me focus on one piece rather than flitting around like a butterfly brain. I get a real sense of achievement when I meet the target.” Ahh.. targets. But can’t targets be scary?

Apparently not. It’s the targets in these challenges that drag writers forward – and drags the work out of us.  ” NaNo makes me write – come what may! I have a ridiculously busy job and a family so it makes me focus, and I have three 70k novels because of it,” says Phoebe Randerson. And word meters hold no fears for Gemma Noon! “I like stats. I like having a target to work towards and I like knowing that I am making tangible progress.” Awen Thorber confesses: “I’m a deadline girl… I’ve procrastinated for years about writing my novels and thanks to NaNoWriMo I finally have the bulk of one done… and thanks to 100k I now have plots for more novels, research for one, and many thousands of words towards a few other novels. Challenges are my push to succeed and along the way I have found like minded friends and support that I wouldn’t have found on my own.

The support of others is something everyone pointed to as a pro. “There is an incredibly supportive network both on line and at write ins and I feel very motivated at the end of it,” says Tracy Enright. Tracy was the only person to voice a downside of writing challenges, although it’s certainly one that many writers (me included!) can relate to – “I’ve found other work tends to get left by the wayside, I go short of sleep and the kids get more quick meals!

David Sorger told me he’s been “enjoying the camaraderie and encouragement from my fellow writers and group members. It’s really motivated me to keep up at a thousand word a day pace.” It’s not only motivation that makes companionship important during the challenge though: “it is having people who will encourage me and share their experiences. It makes the whole process less lonely, ” Gemma Noon told me, and it’s this support Vikki Thompson feels is vital. “For me, the thing about writing challenges is knowing you’re not alone. That other people are trying to do the same thing, suffering the same fears, concerns, highs and lows of the challenge.


Hmm. This all sounds rather warm and fuzzy… almost, gulp, noble… oh come on! Am I the only one who thinks we night all be a bit nuts? No, I’m not. “Until NaNo, I’d thought of writing as such a solitary pursuit,” says Sarah Little. “It was fab to find out there was a huge bunch of like-minded loons!” Er, thanks, Sarah, for proving my point. I think…




The Next Big Thing (In My Dreams)

It’s Wednesday so I am duty bound to stand up and be counted as the Next Big Thing. Or possibly be a handy target for passing custard pies -always a danger when you stand up, particularly on a peak. That’s why I moved to Cambridgeshire. There aren’t any peaks 😉

I was nominated by the lovely Teresa Morgan, whom I have never met but, comfortingly, she sounds as batty as me when we chat on the Wonderful Wide Web. So if you haven’t read her Next Big Thing blog post, you’d better jolly well hop over there and do so. (No, not right now! Sit down and read mine first).

What is the title of your next book?

Oh no. Fallen at the the first hurdle. I haven’t decided on a final title yet; its working title is Tamsyn, because that’s the name of the heroine. However, it may well end up being called Watch the Wall, My Darling, which is from the poem mentioned below.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

In 2010 we went on holiday to Cornwall and I picked up a fascinating book about Cornish history, traditions and folklore. Then last year while studying one of my final year modules – Children’s Literature -for my Literature Degree, I came across Rudyard Kipling’s evocative A Smuggler’s Song in the poetry anthology. Bam! It sparked a plot for a YA novel based around smuggling in Cornwall.

I was drafting an outline and doing research for it when I happened to spend a lovely day in Chesterfield at a Pocket Novel Workshop run by the delightful Sally Quilford (highly recommended. Sally is very welcoming and very funny!). So when I came to write scenes, not surprisingly my head was filled with windswept fishing villages, smuggling, boats, tunnels and mysterious lights. Not all those things have made it into this book – although those that haven’t might still make an appearance. The book is likely to come up too short, as the outline was designed for the original Pocket Novel length of 30k and hasn’t grown much since. I need to create another Event, which will probably take two or three chapters, and some of what Teresa Morgan calls additing too 🙂

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical romance. Hopefully well-balanced between the two!

What actors would you choose to play the characters in the movie rendition of your novel?

I think Keira Knightley (above) might make a good Tamsyn. She does a believable feisty. Or perhaps Natalie Portman.  Simeon was quite fuzzy in my mind for a long while – he kept changing – but now he is definitely Emun Elliott.

He’s handsome but does the desperate haunted look very well! Simeon would have to be quite gaunt and ill-kempt at the beginning, and I think Emun could carry that off. See?

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

A fiercely independent woman learns to compromise when she takes in a handsome lodger with a tragic past!

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well I’m hoping it will fit into the Easy Reads Caress Line (Easy Reads were meant to replace My Weekly PNs), because although the original pocket novels are coming back (see Sally Quilford’s post on the return of pocket novels), the new flyer says Maggie Seed only wants Second World War onwards. As mine is set at the end of the 18th century, I don’t think it qualifies, sadly! A shame because I had the impression that the historical pocket novels were popular.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m still working on it! I started the first draft during NaNoWriMo last year but had to stop after a fortnight, at 18750 words. I hadn’t touched it again until this NaNo; I’ve spent about 8 days on it so far, and it’s up to 27993 words.

What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?

That’s a tricky one. I would love to say E.V. Thompson’s Cornish novels – such a massive loss to historical fiction when he died this year, he is a hard act for anyone to follow. And perhaps Jennifer Donelly because she writes very determined feisty women.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I love historical fiction and women who are capable, and as I said above, the initial spark for writing about smuggling was A Smuggler’s Song. And Cornwall because it’s a fascinating place with a wealth of smuggling history. I love hanging fiction on a factual framework, whether it’s a mere skeleton or a really detailed event or character (to my mind one of the finest examples of this is Tracey Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures).

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Hopefully, like the novels of the much-revered EV Thompson, my finished novel can deliver a real sense of place and history without overwhelming the story – so that the reader feels they have painlessly seen and learnt things whilst still being entertained. But then for me, that is the job of fiction: to broaden our horizons by taking us on an entertaining journey which never involves leaving our chair.

So that’s me. Probably not the Next Big Thing, but hopefully a slightly bigger thing than I am now (admittedly this could be achieved more easily by forgetting the writing and eating the custard pies…). The next Next Big Thing will be another Twitter writing pal, Sinead Fitzgibbon. Sinead describes herself as ‘Writer, blogger and lover of books, history, art and food!’ and is the author of four History in an Hour titles.

*Takes off crown and lobs it in Sinead’s direction*  Over to you! 😀



The NaNoRebel Diaries – Week One

So here we are. 8th November. A whole week of NaNo lies behind me. And how many words have I written? *Cue drumroll* Tadadadadadadadada!!!!…..


Oh yeah. I rock…. sigh.

I always knew NaNoWriMo would be tough this year. Especially as it got closer and it became obvious that even though I’d got ahead with my degree, I was never going to finish my essay (due today) before November. And that I have several courses, extra sessions of work and meetings to go to – amazing how these things only come out of the woodwork in such quantity in November! Any other month, it’s a tiny single line formation of downtrodden woodlice waving banners that say ‘you might have to do a few extra hours this month’. But as soon as November comes into view it’s the Peabug Rebel Army: marching in multiple columns, wearing flak jackets and bellowing ‘Abandon All Hope! All The Free Time That You Clung To Has Gone!’ through a loud-hailer.

In true rebel style, none of those 3855 words are from a new novel started just for NaNo. 1665 of them are a story written by twisting an idea I used for a story in the first year of my Creative Writing Diploma. It’s no longer about the leading lady’s father, but her husband instead. Even worse, shock horror, it needs editing and polishing during NaNo because I want to send it off to Writing Magazine’s Marriage theme comp for the 15th.

247 words of them are a Flash Fiction story called My Medicine that I’m sending off  to another WM comp before January, in hopes of winning a book. 1210 are from the serial I’m writing to submit to JukePop Serials – the working title is The Box but I think that will change! 259 words are another Flash about Chocolate for another book-winning WM comp – that will need a major revise after November. And only 474 words, so far, are towards the 50k novella I started during the last NaNo and am determined to finish in this one, ready to be revised, polished and sent off to Maggie Seed at Easy Reads by the end of the year.

Today is my day off but of course I have that pesky essay to write (on Othello, in case you’re vaguely interested. Ok, stop snoring…)

The plan is to get the essay pinned down and begging for mercy by 1 pm, grab a celebratory lunch and then crack on with some writing. So why am I here? *shuffles feet* Good question. Off to the essay…

NaNoWriMo? Non! NaNoRebelo!

‘I’m not doing that again!’ I said to myself. And, if you’ll forgive that writing no-no, the adverb, let me tell you I said it to myself FIRMLY.

View details See? That’s how I looked. Determined. But without the ginger hair. Or the earrings. And admittedly I rarely wear that shade of pink, but then with that hair colour, nor should she.
So what was it that I wasn’t going to do again? I bet you’re all on tenterhoo-

What d’you mean, you’ve guessed?


Ok, so the post title might be a clue. But it wasn’t NaNoWriMo in its entirety that I was rejecting, just the concept of ever attempting it again before I finished my degree. Toooo stressful.

And guess what? The degree is still unfinished. I’m in my last year (although confusingly, not one of my finals years – there’s a certain degree of flexibility with the OU and I left the course I least fancied until last!). Also the other commitments that stalled NaNo last year are still there.  Naturally then, I won’t be doing Nano this year. Nope. NO WAY.

 Well that’s what I kept on saying… until a few weeks ago, when my writing was going well again after a long break, and I had managed to get ahead of my degree course by starting early and only studying what is necessary to get me through the essays (fear not, I’ll study the missed texts before the final exam. It’s not lazy studying, it’s smart studying!). Plus I knew the first few days fall in half-term – so I’ll be working but not in work, making my time more flexible.

But starting something new? Did I have to? I still had last year’s novel to complete, and I’ve been busy trying my hand at a serial and getting back in the swing of writing short stories. I didn’t want to start something new, or develop other novels I had in the note stage, until I had this one doneI’d promised myself it would be ready to send out by the end of the year, and that wouldn’t happen if I started something new.  But I didn’t want to cheat! What to do?

And then I came across this blog post on NaNoWriMo Rebels by Rachel Naquin…and realised NaNo has a legitimate home for me. I AM an Official NaNo Rebel – and proud of it!

If you’re not sure whether you qualify too, check out Am I a Rebel? You can hang out with other NaNo Rebels and tell them How You Are Rebelling.

And if the idea you can rebel and still be ‘proper’ has inspired you to join in -for the first time, or again – listen to this NaNoWriMo Pep Talk by Kristina Horner on YouTube. It made me giggle 🙂