Okay, so November is over and I should be proudly showing off my digital NaNoWriMo winner’s certificate, but I’m not – because I didn’t win this year. By win, I mean I didn’t get to my 50,000-word target.
I was on track – right up until the beginning of the last week – and then life, or rather the opposite, got in the way with the passing of a close friend.
In any case, I finished November with over 40,000 more words than what I started the month with – and that to me is a win. (As an aside, if you attempted NaNoWriMo and have more words at the end of November than you did at the beginning of the month, you’re a winner in my book.)
On the whole, this November was theoretically much easier than previous NaNo months – there were no holidays, no work projects and no time away or off the grid as there had been in previous years. The day job hasn’t even been as manic as it usually is.
Despite this I did, however, have more trouble with the whole bum-on-seat-fingers-on-keyboard thing than I do when I’m actively juggling. It’s probably why my likelihood of getting it done increases the more that I have on my plate.
I did more procrasti-watching, procrasti-blogging and procrasti-baking than I usually do too. Plus I was struck with a brilliant idea that I want to write immediately.
Instead, I’m writing copious notes and hope that the idea will still appear as brilliant as it does today when I finally finish editing Careful What You Wish For and drafting It’s In The Stars.
It’s finally here – release day for Happy Ever After.
Release day is always a tad anti-climactic – especially when you’re an indie author and the book is in digital format rather than in print. Hubby and I did, however, celebrate with a few drinks – ok, quite a few drinks – last night.
My literary stable partner – is that even a term? – and friend Samantha Wood also helped make release day special by featuring me on her author interview blog today. You can find the link here. Thanks so much Samantha 🙂
That’s always the question.
I’m currently in the process of drafting It’s In The Stars – the 5th and final instalment in my chick-lit series; editing Careful What You Wish For – the 4th in that series; and writing the blurb for I Want You Back – the 3rd in that set behind Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry.
In the meantime, here’s a look at all my little book babies in a row together…
Happy Ever After is now available in all regions on Amazon. This link will take you to your region.
November is around the corner…and if November is around the corner, so too is NaNoWriMo. Nano wtf? National Novel Writing Month. Get it?
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 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 the 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 Want You Back – which I’m yet to publish – was 2016’s project even though I was on Milford Track with access to no technology for a week of the month. As an aside, that year I only managed 30,000 words in the month.
Last year’s nano manuscript, Happy Ever After, is about to be published. And yes, that was also written while working 4 days a week. My point? If you want to do it badly enough you can.
Should you enter? Yes. Especially if:
You’ve been talking about writing a book someday forever 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.
You might get to the end of November and decide that even though you’ve always wanted to write, perhaps long-form isn’t for you. You might decide you’re more suited to more immediate or short-form writing eg articles, blogs. There is no right or wrong – or judgement – associated with this…and you have a whole month to find out.
It never needs to be seen by anyone other than yourself. The book I wrote in 2009 was vaguely semi semi-autobiographical rubbish. 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. As an aside sometimes 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 – and possibly not even then.
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 each chapter using a pop song as a prompt. I wrote 3 different viewpoints in I Want You Back – and then started all over again in December because it just didn’t work for me.
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. In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get to 50,000 words.
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 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.
I’ll be keeping myself accountable with daily updates on my Facebook page, so feel free to play along there – the more the merrier.
This post first appeared here at this time last year…
With Happy Ever After ready to go back to my editor I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at the story and its setting.
Kate and Neil Spence met at Circular Quay after the Hiroshima Day march in August 1985. Kate was marching, Neil was not. It was love almost at first sight.
And they all lived happily ever after…or did they?
Over thirty years have passed, their children have grown and Kate and Neil have gone from being happily married to being happily separated. That is until Neil asks for a divorce – and another wedding brings up feelings that both had thought were long gone.
What’s it about?
Happy Ever After is a love story, but more than that it’s a story about love. It’s a story about how love changes, grows and is challenged over the years. It’s about the curve balls life throws us just when we’re ready to begin realising our dreams. It’s about living the better or for worse and richer and poorer thing and it’s about coming out the other side. It’s about family, friends, second, third and even fourth chances for a happy ever after. Mostly though, it’s about love.
Happy Ever After is set mostly on Sydney’s north shore. We also visit Queenstown and the Milford Track – in the rain when the mountains look like they’re crying silvery streams of tears.
A starring role goes to my favourite tree in Sydney’s Botanical Gardens. It’s the Moreton Bay Fig that sits above the Opera House. From here you can see across to Fort Denison. I’ve eaten many a sandwich under the shade of that tree.
Where did the idea come from?
I was listening to some of my old protest style music from the mid 80’s while I was cooking one Saturday afternoon– songs by Goanna and Shane Howard, Redgum and Midnight Oil. The music took me back to my first year at uni. Although I wasn’t involved in student politics, there was a rumour going around that Midnight Oil might be playing at the end of the annual Hiroshima Day march. So I marched…well, sort of. To be honest, it started off as a lark but got a tad boring and I bailed out about halfway down George Street.
Not that it mattered – Midnight Oil weren’t there. They were touring the US at the time. I got to see them later that year at a Wilderness Society concert for the Daintree Rainforest.
Of course, these days rumours like that couldn’t get properly started, but back then we didn’t have social media, the internet or mobile phones. Back then it was harder to stay in touch if you fell out of it. I had fun having Kate find coins and a pay phone to call and let her parents know she’d be home late.
Anyways, it started with the music and, just a week later Happy Ever After became my 2017 NanoWrimo project.
I realised this morning as I was drafting my post for tomorrow’s Lovin’ Life linky that I’d neglected to write anything about, well, writing, in months. I’ve completely fallen out of the habit of posting each Wednesday about something book or publishing related – and the last monthly newsletter I sent out was back in (gulp) October last year.
Sure, I was on holidays for a few weeks from the middle of April, and before that, I had some freelance astro deadlines, but since I’ve been back from France, I’ve had no such excuse. Other than the day job, of course.
Speaking of France, I’ve come back with a few ideas for new stories. A house, a garden, a village, a cake – even some characters have popped into my head. There’s still a lot of thinking to be done though before I even start drafting The Lilac Queen. Yes, I have a title. I suspect that I’ve found my NanoWrimo project for this November.
That’s more than I can say about my current novel. I’m yet to decide on a definitive title. I called it Happy Ever After because I intended to talk about what happens after most romance novels finish. I wanted to deal with what happens after the happy ever after and whether one is all we get. Sure it’s a love story, but it’s also about love – and how that changes and is challenged. To that end, the title works.
My husband and daughter, however, thought that it sounded clichéd.
Then I was listening to the playlist I’d put together for the book, and there was a line in an Abba song – Dance (While The Music Still Goes On) – that resonated with one of the pivotal scenes. The experts that are my family agreed that One More Dance was the perfect title and continues my tradition of using pop music lyrics in my titles.
I love it – but it doesn’t feel right either.
Then my editor’s structural notes came back, and she also said that she felt Happy Ever After worked with the content. I’m still undecided, but the more I think about it, the more I think that she’s right.
Speaking of the structural notes, aside from moving a few chapters here and there and adding a couple of new scenes, I’ve ripped through the rewrite in three weeks. It’s not due to be sent back to my editor until July.
I’ll use the time in between then to deal with the cover. I’ll also be picking up the second book in my Be Careful What You Wish For series. The first – I Want You Bank– is sitting there with the cover done and ready to be formatted and published as soon as the second is in copy edit. I’m due to have the draft of this to my editor for a read through in July as well.
It’s all a bit of a juggle, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Finally, I’ll be re-launching my newsletter at the end of this week and will be sending it out monthly. Truly. If you want to catch up with what’s going on, be the first to know when my next happy ending is due to hit the virtual bookshelves, be updated with any promos and maybe pick up a recipe or two, you can sign up here.
I’m writing this post outdoors. I’m at one of my favourite coffee spots in Buderim on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and my view (see the pic above) from where I sit goes across a lot of green to the coast. One of my other fave spots to write is at Mooloolaba Surf Club – with the ocean right there in front of me. I know how lucky I am.
Because I work from home for the day job I tend to do most of my creative work away from home – it helps my brain separate the two very different types of work so that I can jump straight from corporate into creating. That means I spend a lot of time in coffee shops and cafes.
There are, however, some unwritten rules around working in coffee shops that you should follow if you don’t want to wear out your welcome.
1.Don’t sit there and drink the free water. I have a general rule of a coffee (or whatever) at least every hour.
2. Try and avoid the rush times. I tend to avoid cafes that I know have the Mum rush straight after school drop-offs and usually also steer clear of the busy breakfast and lunch rushes. This is especially the case on weekends when many places here on the coast do brunch. And yes, most of my writing work happens on the weekend.
3. If you are there at mealtime, order something to eat – especially if it’s a popular café. Otherwise, you’re depriving the owner of being able to fill your seat with a paying customer.
4. Never spread out across a big table. If there is a counter, I tend to use that or will select a table for two. I also try and sit out of the way of general traffic.
5. I try not to take long phone calls when I’m working in someone else’s space. If you can’t avoid the call, keep your voice down. Oh, and pop your phone on silent – even if, like me, you’re secretly a tad proud of your personalised ringtones.
6. Don’t sing along to the music – even if you do so at home (although every so often I do find my shoulders bopping up and down). Also even if the music being played is not to your taste, resist the urge to ask the owner to change their playlist or station. If you don’t like it, then find somewhere else to work.
7. If you’re there to work, don’t take your kids – or your animals – as you won’t be able to focus on keeping a proper eye on them. There is, of course, an exception for those exceedingly good dogs that are content to lie still under your feet – but only in dog-friendly cafes…
8. Don’t complain or do the loud heavy sighing and tsk tsk thing if other people – who aren’t there to work – distract you. If you don’t like a busy cafe or loud voices or noisy children, find somewhere else that’s quieter. Or put your earbuds in and listen to music. Your choice.
9. Keep an eye on what can be seen on your screen – especially if there are children around. Also be careful of audio files on social media.
10. Don’t abuse the free wi-fi. Just don’t. And, if things get busy and you’ve been there for a while, it’s probably time for you to vacate your spot to allow someone else to enjoy it.
11. These days plenty of people find their favourite coffee shop via Instagram, so show a little social media love back to your coffee shop with a post or two.
One of the things that I’d decided to do this year was to try and work smarter. The key to that was batching – especially in regards to my astro site, the readers of which are hungry for new content.
What I’ve taken to doing is setting aside the first Friday afternoon in the month and getting all the content written for that month – short daily forecasts where there’s something interesting happening in the sky, and slightly longer do it yourself posts for sign changes, full moons, new moons etc.
So, that was last Friday. Then I remembered that I had a deadline on Monday for some (paid) daily forecasts that I’d committed to writing. So I sat down on Saturday and what should have taken me a couple of hours – 2.5 max – took me all day. Those 50-word forecasts were so painful to write this time! I know my stuff (she says without blushing) and these normally just flow, but not this weekend.
By the time I was done I felt as though I’d run the mental equivalent of a marathon. Why was it so hard? I have no idea. I suspect that it’s partly because I wanted to get back to the novel, partly because I’d had such a productive writing day the day before (3000+ words on the novel in the morning and a month worth of blog posts in the afternoon), partly because it had been a busy week in the partition job, partly because my back was killing me, and mostly because I just wasn’t in the mood.
That’s the thing with this gig though – you can’t just say ‘I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling it today’ and faff about. The bum has to be planted on the seat and the words have to be written by the date you said they’d be written – especially when you’re being paid to write them.
Anyways, I have half a day out of the partition job today, next week’s business trip has been cancelled, and both the novel and a guest post for a friend are on the agenda for this afternoon. First, though, it’s a run out to the airport – Ms T is off to Sydney to visit my parents and catch up with some friends.
I’m not long back from my morning walk. The surf has been spectacular over the last couple of days. It’s because of the Super Moon bringing super high tides, and a tropical low off somewhere in the Coral Sea.
I could have stayed down there and watched it for hours. Plenty were. I don’t think I’ve seen so many people (outside of whale season) just standing and watching the ocean – or quite as many surfers in the water at one time. There is, however, work to be done. And, as I have to log on later this afternoon into a teleconference for the partition job, a limited number of hours to do it in.
So, progress on the novel. I’m nearly done – with the first draft anyway. A couple of chapters will have it finished – hopefully by the weekend. I’ll be going straight into re-write mode with this – it has an appointment with my editor mid-March.
I also pulled out I Want You Back over the weekend and did another proof-read. It feels as though I’m missing something, but I don’t know what. Perhaps it’s because I intended releasing this as part of a three-book mini-series that I’ve managed to interrupt with Happy Ever After, I don’t know. At just 73,000 words it’s also much smaller than anything I’ve written previously – again because I intended it to be the first in a three-book mini-series. It’s not much longer than a genre romance. At that length, there’s very little room for sub-plots.
Anyways, I’ll write the blurb this week and send it off for formatting, but I’m still undecided as to whether I release as a stand-alone. The alternative is waiting until I’ve completed Tiff and Alice’s stories. I’ll need to think about that, but if anyone has ideas, please let me know!
Ok, I know that it’s not really week 7 – it’s more like week 9 or maybe week 10…but that’s just too confusing for my poor fried brain, so week 7 it is. I also need to apologise for not getting this out earlier, but due to unforeseen circumstances – ie I needed to work in the partition job today – it is what it is.
Ok, where am I up to?
On the writing front, I had to skip a couple of scenes. Why? Because I was sitting in a coffee shop on Mooloolaba Esplanade just after 6 am the other day rubbing tears from my eyes. And that’s just not done when the sun is shining and the sky is blue and the surf is dumping and it’s still school holidays.
All I can say is that I hope my readers have the same reaction when they read that scene…or, more correctly, those scenes. Anyways, I skipped some scenes to something I was more in the mood to write in public.
I’m pretty sure that I know how it’s going to end now – which is good given that I’m 60 odd thousand words into the first draft.
I’m aiming to finish this first draft now by the end of January. I’m booked in with my editor for a first read in the middle of March, so that should be plenty of time to do a second draft.
We’ve decided to do the structural work in two steps again. We did it this way for Wish You Were Here and I Want You Back and it seems to work for me. Essentially my editor does a read through and lets me know what’s working and what isn’t. I go back and re-write it and then send it through for a full structural edit.
That extra pass with her suggestions seems to make the full structural edit much easier. It also works for me given that I draft relatively quickly and by the seat of my pants – hence the term pantser. I often don’t have a good idea of my characters and their motivations – or the way that the story is headed – until I’m well into the second half. As a result, this tends to also be a cost-effective alternative for me – but only because I really take her comments and suggestions on board. Having said that, it wouldn’t work for everyone.
I’ve already booked in the first structural read for my next book, so absolutely have an incentive to get moving on this one. I’m still loving the story and am really attached to my characters so would be perfectly happy to spend even more time with them. But, I’ve set a deadline, so will need to bid them farewell possibly before I’m ready to.
Anyways, that’s your update…until next week when hopefully I’ve taken some cement and hardened the f$%^ up and finished writing those tear-inducing scenes…
This post was supposed to be about why I hate the gym (and why I’m going anyway), but I’ve since decided that it’s actually about self-care – self-care in terms of really looking after yourself. The self-care that’s often overlooked in the name of self-indulgence.
It’s a concept that has kept coming up of late. Debbish referred to an article she’d read in this post late last year, and since then that same article has kept appearing in my feeds.
Have a read of the article – it rang heaps of bells for me. The key message I took away is that true self-care often involves doing the thing that you least want to do:
Sometimes actual self-care, “has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot to do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”
It’s about putting in place those structures that mean you don’t need to escape your life as often as you might need to now. It doesn’t mean that every so often you don’t need to take time out or treat yourself, but rather that you don’t need to do it as often – or at the long-term expense of your health or goals.
I haven’t always disliked the gym…
I used to be quite the addict. You name a class, I’ve done it. I even used to double up – a pump followed by a step or combat…or vice versa. I can still listen to certain songs and will automatically know the steps from the old body step track or the rhythm of the pump track.
I stopped in my early 40s when a combination of injuries, weight gain, work travel, weight gain, work stress, weight gain, and chronic back pain took me away from the routine of classes. Actually, the chronic back pain started after I stopped – and stopped me from starting again.
I still moved. I walked and spent endless boring hours before work on the treadmill and cross trainer. The only time I had to exercise was before work and I decided that if I had to get to the gym by 5 am, I certainly wasn’t going to get up at 4.30 am to do something I disliked before heading to a job I disliked as well. So, I ignored resistance training – even though I knew that I shouldn’t – and my pain got worse.
As we get older we need to do more resistance training.
Cardio is important, but there’s also that business about bone strength and maintaining muscle mass and how metabolism slows when muscles lose their mass. Yep, it’s technical and it makes my eyes glaze over too.
Aside from those reasons, I personally need to do resistance training to support a wonky back that’s always been wonky but is now more so as a result of too many years of doing too little to help it and too much to hurt it.
While I’m in substantially less pain than I was in Sydney, my spine has structural issues that need to be managed. It’s curved in a couple of places and I’m missing a few ribs and a couple of half vertebrates. There’s also a couple of healed cracks in there from horse falls…don’t ask.
It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life and managed relatively successfully until my early 40s – which was, you guessed it when I stopped swimming and resistance training…and when I started putting on (rather than lifting) serious weight.
They say that the best exercise for you is the one that you love…
That’s absolutely true. Regular movement is what’s important. The problem is, I’ve spent the last 7-8 years doing only the exercise that I enjoy and ignoring what I know will be good for me.
While walking does my mind and my body a heap of good, I know that while it helps, it’s no longer enough on its own to keep my back strong.
That’s why even though I don’t enjoy it, in the interests of self-care, I’m adding resistance training back into my regular routine. I’m continuing to walk in the mornings – that’s non-negotiable – but I’m committing to the gym at lunchtime on at least two of the days I’m doing the corporate gig.
It doesn’t mean I have to like it, but I’m going to try and learn to enjoy it. I have a great playlist that I turn up very loud, and I’m just getting on with it. It’s a tough love thing and, while my mind might rebel today, my body needs it for tomorrow.