Nanowrimo 2017 – the wrap-up edition

Ok, I know that there’s still one day left in November, but Wednesday is my day for writing posts about, well, writing, so we’re wrapping this year’s Nanowrimo …ok?

In case you missed it, I passed my 50,000 word target just after 6am on the morning of the 24th.

me typing the 50,000th word on Friday morning at Mooloolaba

Yes, I’m a nanowrimo winner.

The thing is, anyone who finished November with more words than they started it with is also a winner.

Nanowrimo – the Stats

 

I started slowly, with a grand total of zero words in the first two days. Thankfully I was able to pick the pace up after that and wrote daily until I got to target. That meant an average of 2400 words a day for 21 days.

How I did it?

The same way that I do anything – by planning ahead and doing the head down bum up thing.

There absolutely were challenges. I’m working on a project in my corporate gig at the moment that has meant some travel to Sydney to familiarise myself with a process that I’ve to date managed to avoid needing to be familiar with.

In the middle was also a long weekend in Wellington, New Zealand visiting with friends, plus I had to get all the family Christmas shopping done ready for our daughter to take to Sydney with her today.

Plus, of course, there was normal life.

Alongside those challenges though, were opportunities.

Some rainy mornings helped my writing – but not my fitness. I’d still get up at the same time, but write before work rather than go for a walk.

I worked pretty much anywhere – in bed at night, in my lunch break, waiting for flights, on flights – and made the most of the days I wasn’t at my desk doing corporate-ish things. On those days I’d take myself out of the house for a few hours at a time – I have a few favourite places to write at that I’ll tell you about another time – order a coffee, sometimes brekky,  and just write.

What now?

To be honest, I haven’t written a word in the manuscript since last Friday – and don’t intend to until December 1.

I have another 30,000 or so words to write before this is a passable first draft, and my goal is to finish that before Christmas. To do this I’ll set the same target of 1667 words per day – starting from December 1. If anyone else wants to play along, I’d love to hear from you.

What have I been doing with all of my writing time in the interim?

I’ve updated this site with links to travel posts that have previously been published on and anyways.

I’ve organised the web “pages” so it’s easier to navigate, with links from a single picture rather than having to plow through reams of words. There’s still more to do, but it’s looking ok.

What else? I’ve written and scheduled some content for the astro site which had been sadly neglected during my writing blitz, and also started doing some planning around production deadlines for 2018. I’ll share some of that with you over the coming weeks as we close out the year that was.

Did you do nanowrimo? If so, how did you go? Are you finishing November with more words than you started with?

 

 

Nanowrimo: Week 3 Update

words flying out of laptop nanowrimo

words flying out of laptop nanowrimo

So here we are, November 22, the start of Week 3 of Nanowrimo.

How am I going? If you follow my Facebook or instagram page you’d know that I’m doing more than alright.

I’d worked hard last week to get myself into a position where I’d be ahead of the game so that even if my weekend away in Wellington took the toll on my writing that I expected that it would, I would still be in an okay position.

The weekend ended up being the perfect blend of catching up, eating, drinking and touristing. I’ll tell you more tomorrow in the Lovin’ Life linky, but I mentioned to my bestie (and not for the first time) that I really do need to find the right story to showcase Wellington. It truly is one of my favourite cities.

Anyways, to the word count…

Nanowrimo word count

  • 15/11/17 2287
  • 16/11/17 2252
  • 17/11/17 1306
  • 18/11/17 1757
  • 19/11/17 3052
  • 20/11/17 2196
  • 21/11/17 2800

As at the beginning of Day 22 I’m sitting on a total of 44,123, which is a very comfortable total to be sitting on. I’m hoping to nail the 50k by Friday.

How have I managed it?

I’ll be brutally honest – the weather has been on my side. What’s the weather got to do with it? Simple – it’s been raining so I haven’t been up walking. I have, however, left my alarm on and been writing instead.

I’ve been doing the same in the afternoons after I log off from work – and again  when I go to bed.

I wrote at the airport on Thursday morning and again before my flight home on Sunday afternoon. I wrote on the plane – as best I could – and I’ve even managed 30 minutes here or there in the time I allocate as my lunch “hour” from the corporate gig.

Last weekend we had a couple of hours here and there where I dragged my laptop out, one time writing in front of an episode of UK X Factor, and another where I wrote in the sun on my friend’s deck. Just how beautiful a spot is this?

It’s meant that I’ve managed my words with my day job and my social life, but other things have had to be compromised – like TV and doing faff all. Not that it matters – it’s just one month.

What else have I let slip? I haven’t buckled down and finished the proofread or the blurb for I Want You Back, written any more of Tiff’s story or updated the content on my astro blog during November. I’ll get back into all of that in December.

What about the story?

It still feels as though it’s working. My characters created a twist the other day that I really didn’t see coming. I have no idea how I’ll write my way out of that one when it comes to tying it all together, but I’ll think about that over the next 30,000 words or so.

Given that this story is about grown-ups with grown-up problems, I’ve had to do some research as well – mainly about family law. I’ve told my husband to ignore any internet history that he finds a tad questionable. It’s something else that I’ll need to layer more through the next draft.

The plan for this week?

The finish line is in sight – 50,000 words – however I’m intending to keep going at the same pace with a view to having the first draft of this written by Christmas. The way it’s coming together that’s perfectly doable. Besides, it’s the perfect creative outlet after a day spent working on a project that, to put it mildly, is not filling me with inspiration…but that’s our little secret.

How about you? How is your word total going for November?

Nanowrimo: Week 2 Update

Imagination

Imagination

Week 2 of Nanowrimo has just ended and the words are still pouring out. I know that there’s a wall approaching – I can see it in the distance, but every time that I get close to it, it retreats…thankfully.

So, to the word count. It’s growing and, as I write this late on Tuesday afternoon, has just passed the 28000 word mark. I’m well ahead of the nanowrimo graph – which is a grand thing indeed, especially given that I’m off to New Zealand to visit a friend this weekend.

Nanowrimo Word Count – Week 2

Day 8              2178

Day 9              1268

Day 10            2025

Day 11             2780

Day 12             2061

Day 13             3013

Day 14             2094

How am I finding time to write?

Yes, I’m still working my corporate gig, and yes, I’m still fulfilling my social responsibilities. How am I doing it? The story I’m telling me has a grip on me and I’m making use of every single spare moment. I suspect that if I wasn’t enjoying the story as much as I am, the words would not be coming as easily as they have done. It’s still feeling as though it’s writing itself.

Thankfully we’ve finished binging on Season 1 of Designated Survivor, and we’re not going to start Season 2 until December. Even more thankfully, the next season of The Crown isn’t coming to Netflix until December. I don’t think that I could have resisted that sort of temptation.

I’m not adding any new content to the astro site for now, and I’m going a tad easy on myself regarding blogging in general. I’m also not walking as much as I usually do.

I’m writing at the beginning and end of the day and I’m sneaking in a quick thirty minutes at lunchtime when I can. It’s enough to keep the word count ticking over. In short, I’m pretty much writing and working….or working and writing…you get the idea.

Oh, and the herb garden needs weeding and mulching…badly.

And the story?

It continues to change from my original premise. I’m about to do something pretty dreadful to my characters, and because I like them so much I’m having second thoughts about it – and delaying writing that particular scene. I figure though, that if I like them and hate myself for what I’m about to do, my readers will also feel the same – and that, I hope, is a good thing. Besides, this one scene will take this novel from a romance more into the realm of general fiction. Unusually for me, I have absolutely no idea at this point about how it’s going to end.

Although I have a better idea of the motivations of my protagonists than I usually do at this point, I haven’t yet got a great sense of place. This story is set mostly in Sydney – on the North Shore – and partially in New Zealand. The NZ part is easy, but my Sydney chapters definitely need…more…something? More traffic perhaps? Seriously though, much of that depth will come through in the second draft. For now I’m concentrating on getting the words out.

What else?

On Sunday (day 12) I spent all day at a workshop about writing food into your story with the fabulous Josephine Moon. We didn’t just learn about food, we learnt about how food, flavour and fragrance – and the words we use to describe these things – can add layers to the story. That, and reading the current edition of Salt (a locally produced free magazine) gave me some light-bulb moments – including a possible career choice for my protagonist, Kate. Again, that’s the sort of colour that really comes through after the first draft is done – and provides a truly valid reason for disappearing down the rabbit hole of pinterest.

As the story progresses, so too does the playlist. To the early Midnight Oil and Goanna I’ve added some Vance Joy, Gotye, Ed Sheeran, and a little Adele.

What about you? If you’re also doing nanowrimo, how are you going with it? Will you have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning of the month?

Nanowrimo: Week 1 Update

Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo

Week one of Nanowrimo is now officially done. After a slow start I’m well and truly back on track.

My daily word count for the first week of nanowrimo looks like this:

Day 1  0

Day 2  0

Day 3  2211

Day 4  2818

Day 5  3225

Day 6  2252

Day 7  2548

More importantly, my nanowrimo graph looks like this.

Apart from the slow start – I was in Sydney for work and staying with my parents, neither of which is conducive for creative work – the words have been flying from my fingers.

Already, though, it’s a completely different story from the one I envisaged. That’s probably not that surprising.

This story, working title After The Happy Ever After, is a grown up book and my grown up protagonists have grown up kids and grown-up problems.

Is it a romance? You know, I’m not sure. It’s definitely got romantic elements, and there’s a bit of a second chance at love sort of theme. The idea I’m loosely working towards, though, is more one of reinvention – specifically the sort of reinvention that has a habit of being sprung on you in middle age as a result of life events. As John Lennon said, Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. That sort of thing.

I still don’t know how it will end, but I do have a beginning and a middle in my head.

There’s a little bit of me in every one of my books and for this one I’m giving Kate Spence, my protagonist, a some of my history – from the things you didn’t know about me file.

Kate and Neil Spence meet after a Hiroshima Day rally in August 1985. Kate is in her first year at university and is loosely involved in the Nuclear Disarmament Party – and pretty much any other cause that comes her way. She’s marching to make a difference – and because she’d heard rumours that Midnight Oil would be playing at the Quay afterwards.

Neil has not really heard of Hiroshima Day, but he’s at the Quay because he heard a rumour that The Oils would be playing. He’s also one of the lucky ticket winners who got to see them play Goat Island in January 1985. I gave him that because there was no way my parents would have let me go – even if I did win tickets.

(As an aside, does anyone else remember watching that on ABC or listening on the Js? Or is it just me? Yes, I really am that old.)

Anyways, I attended that Hiroshima Day rally – partly because I supported the cause, and partly because I’d also heard the rumours about The Oils and was a massive fan. In fact, I’ve often wondered whether it was some elaborate urban myth designed to help get the rally numbers up. Thanks to the power of the internet geekdom, in the process of researching this book over the weekend I found out that they were touring the US at the time so couldn’t have been doing an impromptu concert at the Quay. There’s one mystery solved. You can thank me later.

What else? I also gave Kate the story about how I quoted Midnight Oil in an economics essay:

The rich get richer, the poor get the picture
The bombs never hit you when you’re down so low 

And yes, I passed.

Finally, I sent Kate and Neil to the Wilderness Society benefit concert in December 1985. I can’t remember whether we were fighting for the Daintree or Kakadu, but I remember Redgum, Midnight Oil, and the Warumpi Band.

In short? I’m loving writing this book. Possibly as much as I enjoyed writing Big Girls Don’t Cry – that was another that almost wrote itself.

Having said that, it could be a very different story by next week’s update.

Nanowrimo – your training program

Last week I told you about nanowrimo – the equivalent of a marathon for writers.

Marathoners pull on their trainers each day and practice. If this is the marathon of writing challenges, the key to success is in the preparation. With November nearly here, it’s time to get started (if you haven’t already) on your Nanowrimo training plan:

1.Decide how you will be writing your novel.

I use the Scrivener app. Here’s 10 reasons why. I love how it sets session targets. I especially love the corkboard – so much that I might just manage a separate post on it.

If you’re writing your nanowrimo novel in MSword or freehand, simply  enter your word count daily into the nano website. You can stay on track, and the graph is cool. I told you about the graph, didn’t I?

2. Have a back up strategy…and use it

Be paranoid. I back up to a hard drive and also to dropbox – just to be sure.

3. Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. I use a moleskine. It makes me feel like a real writer.

4. Have coffee – or wine – on hand.

I tend to subscribe to the “write drunk, edit sober” theory… not that I take this literally, but you get the idea.

5. Set your targets

Dig your calendar out from wherever it is languishing and mark in your writing days for November. Decide how many days a week can you write? (Hint: be realistic)

5 days?

7 days?

This will determine your nanowrimo daily target.

If you intend writing 7 days a week, you’ll be heading for a target of 1667 words a day.

I go to bed an hour earlier and write there. It works for me – just don’t tell my chiropractor. Quite often I dream what happens next.

I also tend to grab moments wherever I can – in the hairdressers, waiting at airports, during lunch hours. Wherever, whenever. The year my daughter did the HSC I got heaps of words written waiting outside maths tutorials. I felt like I’d been called to the headmaster’s office.

While you have your calendar out, mark in all your commitments – places that you know you have to be. Be honest, and be realistic.

Maybe you can manage a half an hour in the morning before the kids get up and all hell breaks loose, or an hour at night after they go to bed. You might choose to fit it in on a weekend, or get together with friends for a marathon writing session.

However you schedule it, keep to it.

6. Schedule in your down-time

You have to. Getting out for a walk, or a coffee or whatever will help keep the creative juices flowing – and ensure you stay sane. If you want to stay inspired while you’re walking, listen to your favourite podcasts.

7. Expect life to get in the way- it will.

There will be some days where you can sit down uninterrupted at the keyboard and others where you’re clawing 5 minutes here, there or anywhere. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re doing this. Houses will still need cleaning, clothes will still need washing, gardens will still need weeding, and arguments will still need mediating.

In the same vein, there is no perfect year to do nano – it’s what you make of it.

8. If you really want to do it, you will make time.

I recall finishing my first nano experience in 2009 in the airport at Perth.

As well as the normal demands of home and my full-time job, the relocation project I was working on for Perth (and managing largely from Sydney) had blown wide open.

2010 was much the same, although this time the relocation was in Hong Kong and the final chapter was finished at that airport.

On both occasions I carried my notebook with me and scribbled during coffee and lunch breaks. Back in my hotel bed each night I’d transpose my scribbles into real words.

Somehow the word total grew. Having so much on added to the sense of achievement.

In 2015 I spent most of November road-tripping around England, and in 2016 I was climbing a mountain in New Zealand – or, rather, walking Milford Track, which is much the same thing.

9. Run your own race

I’Il go hard the first week of the challenge and, despite the session targets I set myself, usually end the first week well ahead of schedule.

This is good because I tend to hit my personal wall at about the 25,000 word mark – and things slow from there.

10. The middle 2 weeks are hard.

Most stories are abandoned somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 words. The story is often in the saggy doldrums – enthusiasm is waning and the end is still a long way off.

I find that the efforts of the first week get me through the middle two.

11. What if my story gets stuck?

When I get really stuck, I jump scenes – sometimes writing the end first, other times writing another scene that has jumped into my head. It works for me.

I don’t happen to believe in writer’s block – I’m way too busy for that. If, however, you feel that you’re suffering from this malaise, check out this post: 8 ways to beat writer’s block.

12. What if I don’t know if my idea has legs?

That’s what makes nanowrimo so great- it allows you to explore an idea and determine whether there is really a 85-100k novel in it.

My effort in 2009 was largely semi-autobiographical. It was 50,000 words that will never see the light of day (heaven forbid), but needed to come out of my head. Nanowrimo was the best time to do that. Once those words were out, other ideas started to flood in. I now have a board full of potential stories- most of which consist of a single line. If you want to write something, but need to clear some space in your head first, I’d urge you to use this years Nanowrimo for precisely that purpose.

13. Plotter or Pantser?

If you like to know where you’re going to go with the story and how you’re going to get there, you’re probably a plotter.

If you’re starting with the germ of an idea, maybe a character or two, and just seeing where it leads you, you’re a pantser.

Perhaps you’re a combination of the two? I’m definitely a pantser.

Nanowrimo is a great time to play with something different. If you’re a plotter, why not give yourself the freedom to see what happens? If you’re a pantser, why not experiment with a different technique?

14. Don’t edit

The point of nanowrino is to get the words out, so resist the urge to edit as you go.

15. What if I don’t make the 50,000 words?

So what? You’ll still have more words than you started with.

And finally…

Nanowrimo is meant to be fun, so try not to be too hard on yourself, or do the analysis paralysis thing. Just write.

There’s no judgment, or right or wrong. There are just words – and hopefully more of them by November 30 than there was at November 1.

Why you should write a novel in November

So anyways, November is around the corner…and if November is around the corner, so too is NaNoWriMo. Nano wtf? National Novel Writing Month.

Essentially the challenge is to, along with a few hundred thousand other people, get 50,000 words out of your head and onto a page – or a laptop -during the month of November. It’s a bit like a novel writing marathon.

By the end of November, our poor little novel writer’s wrists are burning, our eyelids need propping open, our body fluids have been gradually replaced by copious amounts of caffeine or alcohol, and most of us have hit a wall at some point through the process. In our case the “wall” isn’t extreme physical exhaustion (although it can be) – more often it’s a blank screen, or page.

The hardest part of the process by far is fitting writing a novel in around life – because, as we know, it doesn’t stop just because we’ve committed to writing a novel. For those of us with kids, November is the time of the year where end of year exams and end of year performances and presentation nights all start to fill up the calendar. In addition, most of us have jobs and other responsibilities. We don’t have time to add writing a novel to that list. Do we?

So, if it’s that flipping hard, why do we do it? To be honest, asking a writer that question is a little like asking a marathoner why they lace up the trainers to put their bodies through 42kms of pain, or asking a climber why they do Everest. The answer is simple – because it’s a challenge and it’s there.

I’ve done it most years since 2009. Each of my novels has started life during Nanowrimo. Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry were both managed while I had a full time job – with large chunks written in hotel rooms and airports during office relocation projects – and all the things that go along with being a Mum with a (then) school age child. The bulk of Wish You Were Here was written during nanowrimo in 2015 – even though I was on a road trip through Britain for the 2nd half of November.

I even signed up last year – even though I knew that I’d be on Milford Track with access to no technology for a week of the month. The first 30,000 words of I Want You Back came from that.

Should you enter? Yes. Especially if:

  • You’ve been talking about writing a book someday for ever and flipping ever
  • You’ve got a story in your head that needs to escape
  • You like a good graph

Need more convincing?

  • 50,000 words isn’t a full novel (unless you’re writing novellas, category romance or children’s books), but it’s a bloody good start.
  • It’s a great way to take a new idea for a test flight. By 50,000 words you’re going to know whether it’s got legs and, if it doesn’t, you’ve only wasted one month. In my view, that’s an efficient outcome.
  • It doesn’t need to be a novel. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about a non fiction project, a memoir, a collection of short stories or poems, a screenplay.
  • It never needs to be seen by anyone other than yourself. The book I wrote in 2009 was vaguely semi semi autobiographical shite. It will never be published – although I have used parts of it in everything I’ve written since. I’d had it in my head for so long that writing it down allowed all the other stories that had been waiting their turn behind it in my brain to come tearing out. (I think my brain is a tad like an air traffic control tower.) Anyways, that character – my runaway astrologer Alice – has her own story that I’ll be writing this year. And no, it’s no longer even vaguely semi semi autobiographical. Except for the astrologer bit.
  • It’s one month where you can experiment with different genres, different voices. Again, if it doesn’t work, you’ve only wasted a month. The year I drafted Big Girls Don’t Cry, I experimented with writing as if it were a project plan ie from the end backwards. The year I wrote Baby, It’s You, I wrote to a playlist. I wrote 3 different viewpoints in I Want You Back. Because it is only a month, you can try out different techniques to get you through the wall, through the saggy middle, and to have a little fun with the process.
  • Even if you don’t get to 50,000 words, you’ll have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning.
  • It’s great training. To be a writer you have to get in the habit of writing – every day.
  • If you’re a plotter or edit as you go, this is a great opportunity to just let the words flow. See what happens. No edits – not until December 1.
  • You get to see the graph on the nano site. It’s a great graph.
  • With nanowrimo, there’s no escape, no catch-ups. If you’ve been struggling to establish a writing habit, I can’t think of a better way to do it.

Am I entering this year? Absolutely. I have Alice’s story – or the The Book After The Book That’s After I Want You Back – to tell. It’s the last in my Melbourne Girls series and will tie up any loose ends – all the way back to Baby, It’s You.

If you’re up for it, you can sign up at the official site. You’ll find forums, events, cool widgets for your blog, emails of encouragement and a cast of hundreds of thousands of other people doing it with you. I’m Astrojo, so if you’re signing up, come follow me.

Nanowrimo: The Update Post…

Young desperate girl writing with an old typewriter. Conceptual

Ok, so we’re 11 days into nanowrimo. By the time this post goes live I’ll be on my way to the airport to fly to Queenstown, New Zealand. I have the weekend in Queenstown with friends and then start Milford Track – a 5 day tramp (if you’ve read Wish You Were Here you’d know that hiking is tramping when in NZ) – on Monday. I have the weekend after in Queenstown too. The plan is to come home with locations and ideas for an entirely new project.

Anyways, all of that has nothing to do with nanowrimo except to point out that for 5 days next week I’ll be completely off the grid – no cell phone, no internet, no access to media. It’s a tad like a self-imposed digital detox and I can’t wait to get the noise out of my head so I can hear what I’m meant to be hearing. Of course, this also means that I’ll fall further behind in my nanowrimo project – and I’m absolutely ok with that.

Where am I at the moment? I should be at 16,670 words and I’m at just over 11,000. That’s 11,000 more words than I had at the beginning of November. I’ll probably get another few thousand done between now and when I get off my flight this afternoon – I always find writing at airports and on planes particularly fruitful. It’s something about the noise and the bustle going on around me.

I’m still not sure where this story is headed. At this stage I Want You Back is pure chick lit. The voices are coming through quite loudly, so I’m really just going with the flow at the moment. Because it’s nanowrimo and I’m playing a tad, I’m taking it chapter about in terms of voices and perspective. One chapter I’m first person past tense in Callie’s voice, in the next I’m third person past tense. It will be a pain to tidy up come 2nd draft, but I’m getting a real sense of what works best.

The biggest challenge I’m having at present is to keep my mind on this project and not the next. I was supposed to be writing Callie’s story for nanowrimo last year and put it away to write Wish You Were Here. Wish You Were Here was always intended to be a cross-over book between two series:

The Melbourne Girls:

Emily: Baby, It’s You

Abby: Big Girls Don’t Cry

Callie: I Want You Back

Tiff: (Tentative title) I Don’t Believe In Love

Alice: (Tentative title) Love is All Around

Set in Melbourne, with side excursions to Bali and wherever else I feel like taking them (or they feel like taking me), this series is pure chick lit. The characters are loosely linked, but each story is stand-alone. Sort of like if Love Actually was a series of chick lit stories set in Melbourne, Bali and wherever else I feel like taking them.

The next series

This series is something completely different, where the romance is secondary, and the main cast of characters constant. I’m still playing with ideas, so won’t say too much now – except that it’s set in and around Queenstown.

How does Wish You Were Here cross between the two? We first met Max and Richie (briefly) in Big Girls Don’t Cry…and Brad (from Big Girls Don’t Cry) plays an integral role in Wish You Were Here. Most importantly though, Wish You Were Here introduces us to the main players in the new series.

Clear as mud?

Yeah, me neither.

Rather than giving up on Callie, I’ll persevere – at least until the end of November. I’ll have a better idea by the end of nanowrimo whether she deserves her own story, or whether she just needs to wake up to herself and move on already.

I’ll keep you posted.

Nanowrimo: The Update

shutterstock_176605295

Ok, so we’re 11 days into nanowrimo. By the time this post goes live I’ll be on my way to the airport to fly to Queenstown, New Zealand. I have the weekend in Queenstown with friends and then start Milford Track – a 5 day tramp (if you’ve read Wish You Were Here you’d know that hiking is tramping when in NZ) – on Monday. I have the weekend after in Queenstown too. The plan is to come home with locations and ideas for an entirely new project.

Anyways, all of that has nothing to do with nanowrimo except to point out that for 5 days next week I’ll be completely off the grid – no cell phone, no internet, no access to media. It’s a tad like a self-imposed digital detox and I can’t wait to get the noise out of my head so I can hear what I’m meant to be hearing. Of course, this also means that I’ll fall further behind in my nanowrimo project – and I’m absolutely ok with that.

Where am I at the moment? I should be at 16,670 words and I’m at just over 11,000. That’s 11,000 more words than I had at the beginning of November. I’ll probably get another few thousand done between now and when I get off my flight this afternoon – I always find writing at airports and on planes particularly fruitful. It’s something about the noise and the bustle going on around.

I’m still not sure where this is headed. At this stage I Want You Back is pure chick lit. The voices are coming through quite loudly, so I’m really just going with the flow at the moment. Because it’s nanowrimo and I’m playing a tad, I’m taking it chapter about in terms of voices and perspective. One chapter I’m first person past tense in Callie’s voice, in the next I’m third person past tense. It will be a pain to tidy up come 2nd draft, but I’m getting a real sense of what works best.

The biggest challenge I’m having at present is to keep my mind on this project and not the next. I was supposed to be writing Callie’s story for nanowrimo last year and put it away to write Wish You Were Here. Wish You Were Here was always intended to be a cross-over book between two series:

The Melbourne Girls:

Emily: Baby, It’s You

Abby: Big Girls Don’t Cry

Callie: I Want You Back

Tiff: (Tentative title) I Don’t Believe In Love

Alice: (Tentative title) Love is All Around

Set in Melbourne, with side excursions to Bali and wherever else I feel like taking them (or they feel like taking me), this series is pure chick lit. The characters are loosely linked, but each story is stand-alone. Sort of like if Love Actually was a series of chick lit stories set in Melbourne, Bali and wherever else I feel like taking them.

The next series

This series is something completely different, where the romance is secondary, and the main cast of characters constant. I’m still playing with ideas, so won’t say too much now – except that it’s set in and around Queenstown.

How does Wish You Were Here cross between the two? We first met Max and Richie (briefly) in Big Girls Don’t Cry…and Brad (from Big Girls Don’t Cry) plays an integral role in Wish You Were Here. Most importantly though, Wish You Were Here introduces us to the main players in the new series.

Clear as mud?

Yeah, me neither.

Rather than giving up on Callie, I’ll persevere – at least until the end of November. I’ll have a better idea by the end of nanowrimo whether she deserves her own story, or whether she just needs to wake up to herself and move on already.

I’ll keep you posted.

Finding time to write: 5 tips to beat the excuses…

Feather pen set of abstract color

Tomorrow is November 1, ie the official start to nanowrimo.

Just lately, I’ve spoken to a few people who’ve said things like:

‘I SO want to do this. Like, seriously, really want to do this- but I just don’t have time. I have a job, you know.’

Or

‘I’m ready this year, but November is when the shit starts to hit the fan with school stuff.’

Or

‘I don’t know how people manage it. I have a family, and a job. I really want to do it- I know there’s a book in me- but I simply don’t have time.’

Here’s the thing- I know. I know all of this. I’m busy. You’re busy. We’re all busy – in our own ways. Sometimes I think busy-ness is a competitive sport.

I have a family and work a stressful full-time job too. I’m out the door at 6.30am, and back home by 7pm. In the meantime, I have a heavy blogging schedule with the astro site, and like to keep regular posts happening on and anyways and here too. My house still needs cleaning, and clothes need washing, and shirts need ironing, and gardens need weeding, and social lives need arranging. There’s always something that has to be done. A couple of hours to sit down and write can seem like a guilty pleasure.

I used to say that I’d like to run a marathon. I said it so often that I had to enter a 10km event. Twice. Then it hit me that I didn’t really want to run a marathon- I didn’t really want to run at all. I hated it- so much I can’t put the words around it. Emily’s story in Baby, It’s You, is mine (well, the running bit is)- except that it took me longer to declare that I was never ever ever running again. Ever. A nice walk would suit me perfectly well.

The same analogy goes for writing a book. You might have been saying for years that you want to write a book. The experience of nano could help you decide if long distance writing is really for you. Or it will help you get it out of your system and convince you that the literary equivalent of a nice walk is more your style.

If you really (and I mean really) want to do nanowrimo, but have no idea how you’re going to fit it in, try these tips:

You don’t need to write 50,000 words

That’s right. You don’t. Any words you do write will be more than you had last month. Set yourself a session goal. It could be 500 words, it could be 1667…it could be somewhere in between. It’s all ok. This month I will be completely off the grid for 5 days when I’m tramping Milford Sound, and a further 3 days in the Victorian High Country. The likelihood of me making 50,000 words is slim – but, then again, I said that last year too.

Schedule your writing time

Get your calendar out and mark in all your commitments- places that you know you have to be. Be honest, and be realistic.

Maybe you can manage a half an hour in the morning before the kids get up and all hell breaks loose, or an hour at night after they go to bed. You might choose to fit it in on a weekend, or get together with friends for a marathon writing session.

However you schedule it, keep to it.

What’s my routine?

I tend to exercise first thing in the morning- at least a few mornings a week – so my alarm goes off at 4.45am. During November, I’ll use that hour to write and walk at lunchtime instead. I usually manage to write for an hour or so (in bed) each night. I write at the hairdressers, I scribble in my journal in the 15-20 mins I have every morning between getting off the bus and meeting my BMF for coffee. I grab every single minute I can.

I try and get next weeks blog posts done and scheduled on Friday evening and Saturday mornings before whatever maintenance appointment needs keeping. It’s mad, but it means I can spend time with my family on the weekend, and get my real writing done over the time that’s left.

Yes, it’s chaotic, and busy and all the rest of that, but I figure that one day (hopefully in the not too distant future) this will be my full-time job and I won’t need to fit a corporate role around it. In the meantime, I’m prepared to do what it takes to get there.

Schedule your down-time

You have to. Getting out for a walk, or a coffee or whatever will help keep the creative juices flowing- and ensure you stay sane. I tend to write to a playlist, so when I’m stuck, that music and a ramble often gets it all flowing again. If you want to stay inspired while you’re walking, podcasts are a great idea.

Limit your TV

Yes, yes, yes…but it’s only for 30 days. You can catch up on your favourite shows later. I tend to allow myself an hour a night. The same applies to internet.

Be kind to yourself

You don’t need to make like Superwoman. It’s ok if there’s a dust bunny in the corner, or a weed in the vegie patch, or leftovers for dinner or that New Moon post and newsletter. It’s ok to ask for help, and it’s ok to stand in the middle of the room when you get home and scream…or is that just me?

So, how about it? Are you in?

How to train for nanowrimo…

Hipster desktop with male hands

So anyways, I’ve given you some reasons why you should be doing NaNoWriMo- the equivalent of a marathon for writers.

Marathoners pull on their trainers each day and practice. So do writers. With November nearly here, it’s time to get started (if you haven’t already) on your Nano training plan. If this is the marathon of writing challenges, the key to success is in the preparation.

Decide how you will be writing your novel.

I use the Scrivener app. Here’s why. I love how it sets session targets. I especially love the corkboard- so much that I might just manage a separate post on it.

If you’re writing in MSword or freehand, simply enter your word count daily into the nano website. You can stay on track- and the graph is cool. I told you about the graph, didn’t I?

Have a back up strategy…and use it. Be paranoid. I back up to a hard drive and also dropbox- just to be sure.

Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. I use a moleskine. It makes me feel like a real writer.

Have coffee- or wine- on hand. I tend to subscribe to the “write drunk, edit sober” theory… not that I take this literally, but you get the idea.

Set your targets

Dig your calendar out from wherever it is languishing and mark in your writing days for November.

How many days a week can you write? (Hint: be realistic)…

5 days?

7 days?

This will determine your daily target.

If you intend writing 7 days a week, you’ll be heading for a target of 1667 words a day.

I go to bed an hour earlier and write there. It works for me- just don’t tell my chiropractor. Quite often I dream what happens next.

I also tend to grab moments wherever I can- in the hairdressers, waiting at maths tutorials, during lunch hours… This year I’ll be on a plane for about 30 hours- if I can’t knock a few thousand words out then, there’ll be something dreadfully wrong.

Expect life to get in the way– it will.

There will be some days where you can sit down uninterrupted at the keyboard and others where you’re clawing 5 minutes here, there or anywhere. Life doesn’t stop just because you’re doing this. In the same vein, there is no perfect year to do nano- it’s what you make of it. If you really want to do it, you will make time.

I recall finishing my first nano experience in 2009 in the airport at Perth. As well as the normal demands of home and my full-time job, the relocation project I was working on for Perth (and managing largely from Sydney) had blown wide open.

2010 was much the same, although this time the relocation was in Hong Kong and the final chapter was finished at that airport.

On both occasions I carried my notebook with me and scribbled during coffee and lunch breaks. Back in my hotel bed each night I’d transpose my scribbles into real words.

Somehow the word total grew. Having so much on added to the sense of achievement.

Run your own race. I’Il go hard the first week of the challenge and, despite the session targets I set myself, usually end the first week well ahead of schedule. This is good because I tend to hit my personal wall at about the 25,000 word mark- and things slow from there.

The middle 2 weeks are hard.

Most stories are abandoned somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 words. The story is often in the saggy doldrums- enthusiasm is waning and the end is still a long way off. I find that the efforts of the first week get me through the middle two.

When I get really stuck, I jump scenes- sometimes writing the end first, other times writing another scene that has jumped into my head. It works for me.

What if I don’t know if my idea has legs?

That’s what makes nano so great- it allows you to explore an idea and determine whether there is really a 85-100k novel in it.

My effort in 2009 was largely semi-autobiographical. It was 50,000 words that will never see the light of day (heaven forbid), but needed to come out of my head. Nano was the best time to do that. Once those words were out, other ideas started to flood in. I now have a board full of potential stories- most of which consist of a single line. If you want to write something, but need to clear some space in your head first, I’d urge you to use this years Nano for precisely that purpose.

Plotter or Pantser?

If you like to know where you’re going to go with the story and how you’re going to get there, you’re probably a plotter. If you’re starting with the germ of an idea, maybe a character or two, and just seeing where it leads you, you’re a pantser. Perhaps you’re a combination of the two? I’m definitely a pantser.

Nano is a great time to play with something different. If you’re a plotter, why not give yourself the freedom to see what happens? If you’re a pantser, why not experiment with a different technique?

Don’t edit

The point of this exercise is to get the words out, so resist the urge to edit as you go.

What if I don’t make the 50,000 words?

So what? You’ll still have more words than you started with.

And finally…

This is meant to be fun, so try not to be too hard on yourself, or do the analysis paralysis thing. Just write.

There’s no judgment, or right or wrong. There are just words.

So….are you in????