Author Spotlight – Michael Cairns

Today, it is my absolute pleasure to welcome my friend, Michael Cairns to ‘My Writing Life.’ Michael writes science fiction, horror and fantasy novels.

13 Roses 1-Before

Thirteen Roses Book 1: Before – Michael Cairns

The flower seller sets up his stall on Embankment every day. Every day, he will serve only one customer. That person will be on the edge, teetering between heaven and hell, and it is up to him to steer them in the right direction.

But this week, it will be different. Because this week, someone is screwing with the flower seller. While he struggles to figure out who it is, and why they are doing it, something far bigger is occurring, something that will change the world forever.

A plague is about to strike mankind that will reduce them to mindless zombies, bent on nothing more than the regular consumption of flesh. The flower seller is charged with the task of saving humanity, a task he neither wants, nor cares about.

Without him, mankind is doomed. With him, they might just be worse.
But who is the flower seller? Why does he try to save the subjects? And how the hell is he going to save the world?

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

*****

Please read on to find out more about how Michael has built his amazingly productive writing habit.

Julie and I met through Twitter and she’s been lovely and super supportive of my challenge – no surprise there – so I jumped at the chance to guest on her fabulously useful and practical blog. I have some strong opinions about creativity and art, but I’ll try to rein them in today and just stick to the useful stuff.

First, a teensy bit of background. In the latter part of 2014, I met for coffee with a friend of mine. We both write, though she struggles with the first draft and I struggle with the editing. I mentioned, in passing, that I had 15 unedited manuscripts at home, idling away on my hard drive. Once she’d finished kicking my butt, she suggested I do something with them.

Over the following month I came up with the entirely suicidal idea of releasing all fifteen of them in 2015. It would mean a great deal of editing and a complete shift in my writing and publishing systems, but I decided to give it a go. To make things interesting, I decided I’d also write a million words of original fiction, publish a short story every week on my blog and vlog every day throughout 2015 to track my progress.

I’m still alive. I’m still sane, mostly, and progress so far, is good. But the challenge has only been possible because of my habit. No, not that sort of habit, though I’ve felt driven towards one a few times this year 🙂

Today I’m going to share my process for becoming a successful writer and creator.

This all begins with one simple step: Build the Habit.

I cannot stress enough how important this is. Habits come in many guises. Some authors will tell you to put aside a safe period of time in which to write. Others will assert the necessity of writing every day. I agree with both of them, but writing things like that down on a piece of paper doesn’t make them happen. Just like trying to get my four year old daughter to clean her teeth, I can ask her a hundred times but it won’t happen spontaneously until it becomes a habit.

So, begin with one month. You don’t have to choose the same time every day. You don’t have to choose a certain amount of time every day. All you have to do is sit at your keyboard/typewriter/cave wall and write something. You have to do it every day. For a month.

Easy, right?

Below are four key steps to making the above happen.

1. Enjoy it: So you begin to build the habit, but something’s getting in the way. Every time you sit at your keyboard, you want to bang your face against the desk until the blessing of unconsciousness relieves you of the terrible burden of writing.

There’s a really simple way to get around that. Write something you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be serious. It doesn’t have to be ‘literature’. It doesn’t even have to make sense. It can be that cosy murder mystery you’ve been secretly dreaming of. You won’t always be writing it. You’ll write many things in your life, but while you’re building the habit, make it fun. Enjoy it. There’s a hidden upside to this as well. You might have your heart set on a romance – sorry, couldn’t resist – but discover that you love writing something completely different. If all you write is romance, how will you know?

2. Start small and be persistent: As authors, most of us have grown up reading books, paper bound and of a certain thickness. We all dream of creating something similar. Few of us, upon deciding to write, have simply finishing as our greatest goal. And yet, for so many people, finishing is where it goes wrong. So, in this first, habit forming, month, start small. Start simple. Two people. A conflict. A deeper conflict. A solution. A resolution. Maybe a dragon. Okay, so the dragon isn’t strictly necessary, but the rest is all you need. That might take 1000 words, or 10,000 words or 100,000 words, but I’d aim for making it at the small end. Get to the end, even if what you’ve written feels slight and breezy. You’re forming a habit, not writing “Gone With The Wind”. And hey, if you do, you probably don’t need to worry too much about the habit.

So start small and finish it. The habit will be cemented through the sense of completion. ‘I have a habit and it’s led to me creating this.’ That’s a much more powerful statement than ‘I have a habit and it’s led to a bunch of half-finished short stories and the first three chapters of this mad Victorian/cyber punk mash up that’s gonna be awesome in a couple of years…’

3. SMART targets: Boring perhaps, but essential. Just in case you’ve missed the wonders of SMART targets, you’re looking to create a target that is:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant and

Timebound

You have a month, so your time limit is already set. As for the rest, my advice would be to remember point three. Start small. This isn’t NaNoWriMo. It’s a great idea, but for me it fails in execution. Why try to write a novel in a month? You’ve got all the time in the world. What NaNo should be instilling is a writing habit, but because everyone’s rushing so hard to reach that magic 50K figure, the joy is swamped by the pressure.

So how does 500 words a day sound? That’s just over a page in Word. It’s achievable, you can measure it simply enough, it’s specific and it’s entirely relevant. You’re writing every day and you have something clear to aim for.

I’ve plucked 500 words out of thin air. You can set your own target. I do somewhere between 4 and 5K each day, but I’ve been writing every single day since 1st Jan 2013. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have superhuman powers, I have a really militant, wonderfully fun, creative habit. That’s all.

4. Be militant: I know you have the willpower to achieve this habit, but do you have the necessary cruelty? 🙂 I’m kind of joking. What do you do when someone comes into your bedroom/workspace/classroom/cave and says ‘Can I just check something with you?’ How about when your child comes and says ‘Please play with me, I’m wasting away from a total lack of fun.’ That’s a tough one, but I say to them the same thing I say to everyone. ‘Can’t play, creating.’ Actually, I don’t say that at all. I normally manage a strangled cry accompanied by much hand waving. It’s that or, ‘I need a name, give me a damned name, any name that isn’t Dave.’

The point is, this is writing time. If they don’t get the message, lock the door. If they come at it with axes, flee to a coffee shop. Or the park. Or your car. Anywhere you can be undisturbed. That goes for phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, all social media, too. Be antisocial and write! Just to give you an idea, I write 500 words in about ten minutes, so it’s not long. To begin with, it’ll take you much longer, but not that much longer and it’ll get quicker. Be militant, be strong. Buy ear plugs if necessary. I couldn’t honestly argue against the purchase of a scary clown mask and a chainsaw as well, though maybe that’s just me…

Those are the key points. This will work for any form of creativity. Whether your dream is to be an author, a painter, a musician or anything else, building that habit is key to success. I hope it’s helpful, and thanks again, Julie, for having me.

I’d love to know what you think of these points and if you have any to add. Also, if you decide to start the process now, please let us know so we can cheerlead and send you virtual chocolate.

Cheers

About Michael

Michael-Cairns-headshot-low-resMichael Cairns is a science fiction, horror and fantasy author, teacher and musician. He was born at a young age and could write even before he could play the drums, but that was long ago, in the glory days – when he actually had hair.

Michael loves pineapple, chocolate, playing gigs and outwitting his young daughter (the scores are about level but she’s getting smarter every day).

Michael is currently working hard on writing, getting enough sleep and keeping his hair. The first is going well, the other two…not so much.

You can join his mailing list here: http://cairnswrites.com/sign/up

 

Find out more about Michael here:

http://cairnswrites.com

http://www.twitter.com/cairnswrites

http://www.pinterest.com/michaelcairns

http://www.facebook.com/cairnswrites

 

The Multi-Tasking Life of an Author

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Image courtesy of dreamstime.com

I bet if you ask any woman around the world how much she has to juggle in her 21st century life, she will roll her eyes before reeling off a list as long as your arm of things she juggles every day, from children’s lunches, school uniform, taking them to school, other appointments, doing the housework, looking after pets, sorting out home affairs like tax, insurance etc, liaising with husband/partner about most of these things and of course, going to work herself (either in the home or outside it)! The modern day woman is a superhero in the purest sense. I hope women reading this can picture themselves doing this every day. Some of us, like me, are lucky enough to have partners who help with all this stuff and can juggle along with the best. I’m going to come back to how great men can be at multi-tasking too in just a minute so please bear with me 😉

As if my life wasn’t already busy enough, I decide to write and self-publish my own book! Whose crazy idea was that? Well, yes, it was mine and this past week has shown me just how many extra balls I am now going to have to juggle as a result of making that decision. This week should have been a good week. ‘From Here to Nashville’ is with the proofreader and bar a few minor queries, everything was going fine there so I should have been all set to get on with finishing the first draft of book 2. You know there’s a but coming, right? Yeah.

During a quick chat with one of my writing friends, one of my beta readers, in fact, we started discussing potential names for my publishing company if I decide to buy ISBNs for my paperback version of FHTN. We thought that my main character’s record label name would be brilliant until my friend came back and said ‘You know that company name already exists, don’t you?’ Cue three nights of my life spent trying to get advice, thinking of a different but equally brilliant name for the record label, only to abandon it all in the end to just make a couple of changes to the existing name. I was a woman possessed. We’re not talking big-league names here but the law is murky on this and I don’t want to get into a mess over this issue with my very first book.

As a result of this spanner in the works, I have done almost nothing on my second book all week 😦 However, it has been a trying week in other ways too. My husband has been away at a music convention in Los Angeles and whenever he’s away, I realise just how much he does around the house. Not only that of course but he’s the one I turn to when I have something like this to sort out and only being able to talk to each other for a few minutes each day over Skype isn’t quite the same. By the way, I have two teenagers in the house as well but they are soooo not interested in my crises. So I had to try and sort it out for myself and I was lucky enough to have some help from some good writing friends.

During the week, I read the latest vlog by another author friend I have made on Twitter, Michael Cairns. Mike is a full-time teacher and a writer as well. He has two small children so he doesn’t get a lot of sleep either. On top of all this, he has set himself an enormous writing challenge this year. This challenge is to release 15 novels in 2015, writing 1 million words of original fiction and he’s also vlogging about it every single day! You can read all about it here. He writes and edits every day and I just don’t know how he does it. I do know that it is very inspiring to see what is possible when you set your mind to it and after chatting with Mike, I realised that I do have to change my mindset as I go forward into my published writing career.

Right now, my mind is flitting from one thing to another all the time. I am trying to finish off the writing and editing process for ‘From Here to Nashville.’ I am communicating with the proofreader and have just started contacting and liaising with a few lovely people who have offered to host me on their blogs around the time of publication. Preparing for these blog posts is important but it also takes time if you want to do it properly. I realised that I needed to have all this information ready to send in an email and on my web page, whenever anyone asks. Not only that but I have been trying to get to grips with a paperback version of FHTN. This involves a bit of research but I can’t really make much progress until I have the final copy back from the proofreader, yet I’m still fiddling about with it.

I’m trying to plan some marketing for FHTN as well and once again, this takes time and research. And last but not least, I’m trying to write! I have put pressure on myself again by re-joining the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme so I must have a completed first draft at least to send in for review by the end of August. But that’s months away, you say. It is still quite a long way away but I need to get some sort of better time management in place now if I am to get that done in time. I’d also like to be getting on with a novella to send out when people sign up to receive my newsletter so I need a plan and I need it now. Step one, I think has to be a change of mindset but how to do it?

If you have any tips to help me manage my time better (apart from getting a new brain 😉 ), please let me know in the comments as always. Thank you for taking time to read my blog today – we are all superheroes for what we manage to fit in each and every day 🙂

Update: Since writing this post, my book has gone up on Amazon for pre-order! This is earlier than I’d planned but I’m still very excited about it! Here are the links: Amazon UK and Amazon US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

5 Things I’ve Learnt from Writing my Debut Novel

strasbourg-90012_1280Now the euphoria of having sent my debut novel ‘From Here to Nashville’ to the proofreader has died down a little, I have no more excuses to stop me from starting the rewrite of book two. Just to refresh your memories, this is the book that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2013, yes, nearly 14 months ago 😦 After NaNoWriMo and a few more writing chunks some months later, it stood at 80,000 words. Not bad for a first draft, I hear you cry!

However, when I got to that point and read it all through, I could see that the story had veered off in the wrong direction and that I was really going to have my work cut out to get it back on track. So it has been really easy to put off doing anything to move book two forward, especially as I’ve been so busy with finishing my first novel and getting it ready for publication next month.

This weekend, I decided I had to get on with it at last. I have been thinking about it on and off for weeks and adding new thoughts to my outline so when I went back and reread it, things didn’t seem so bad. By the end of the day yesterday, I had almost finished my first rewrite of chapter one and I was buzzing with excitement for my new story, which was a great feeling. I could also see that I’d grown as a writer since the very first rewrite of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and it was a pleasure to implement some of the things I’d learnt from that experience as I was actually writing.

So here are some tips I’d like to share with you today.

1. You don’t need to write your characters’ names into every single line of dialogue. As long as it is clear who is talking, your reader will be fine without the reminder. When you think about it, you hardly ever say the name of the person you are talking to because it’s not necessary. I only use my husband’s name for example, if I’m calling him from afar. I certainly don’t use it in texts or on the ‘phone but my writing was littered with names. I have been really brutal about cutting them out and the result is much more realistic dialogue. Similarly, don’t put in too many examples of ‘er’ and ‘oh’ etc because they clog up the dialogue.

2. The reader does not necessarily need to have the timeline spelt out for them, even if you need to know it to make sure it’s consistent. I had put in dates for all my scenes in ‘From Here to Nashville,’ partly to help me keep on top of the timeline but also to show the whirlwind nature of the romance. I have now taken them all out because I could see that I had explained the timeline in other ways so the dates weren’t necessary. I have also put days into my second book which I’m going to keep there for now but as I progress through my drafts, I will finally remove them. As well as this, my scenes often started in the morning and ended in the evening to give me a structure to work through and to show time passing so I had to work hard to vary this and not start and finish the same way all the time.

3. To help with pace, it’s a good idea to check the length of your sentences and your paragraphs. A shorter sentence every now and then moves the action forward and keeps your reader reading and if you start a new paragraph every time a new action occurs, it makes reading easier and maintains the pace and excitement for the reader. You don’t need an empty line between paragraphs either, you just need to go to the next line. This formatting issue took me ages to put right. An empty line signals a new scene.

4. As a new writer, it is very easy to fall into the trap of over-describing physical movements. By this I mean, the ‘then I did this, then I did that’ style of writing. More often than not, you can cut this and jump straight to the action because that is what your reader will do and if they’re skimming your words, not reading them, they’re going to feel disappointed when they get to the end of the story. This is especially useful at the start of chapters, which don’t need to be bogged down with interior monologue like ‘The next day dawned bright with another beautiful blue sky,’ for example. Instead, jump straight to the action and draw your reader in.

5. Even by the time I sent my book to be professionally edited, I still hadn’t included enough detailed description of people and settings. Even my hero, Jackson needed to be better described the first time Rachel saw him. I think that I’d made it a glimpse for the reader like it was for her but the reader wants more than that so I had to rewrite that first sight of him to include a lot more detail. Similarly, I needed to develop some of my descriptions of settings, from quaysides, to weddings, to apartments and much more detail about Nashville and its iconic sights.

These are just a few of the things I had to deal with when I got my final edit back but they are all things I’m taking on with me to book two. The new book is set in France, in the picturesque region of Alsace which is near the German border (see the photo above). It is a story about self-discovery, as well as being a romance and I look forward to telling you more about it as I progress. I hope you find these tips helpful and I would love to hear your comments on them. Thanks for reading as always and have a good writing week 🙂

Time to reveal my cover and book trailer!

The time has finally come – I have finished my final and I mean, FINAL read-through of ‘From Here to Nashville,’ my debut novel. It is now ready to go to the proofreader and so, I feel confident enough to let the world (that means you, dear readers) see my new cover for the book. Drum roll, if you please…

And here it is! I am so pdfw-js-fhtn-cover-smallleased with the cover that Design for Writers created for me and I have had some good early feedback from subscribers to my newsletter who had a sneak peek of the book cover last Tuesday before anyone else. Sending out my newsletter was an interesting challenge but it seemed to be successful because by the following day, I had more than double the number of original subscribers. If you’d like to sign up to my newsletter, here’s the link. I use Mailchimp for my newsletters and if you want to have a go at setting it all up for yourself, here’s a post I wrote about it when I first tried it out.

I also managed to include the book trailer I have been working on in the newsletter. I created it using a website called Stupeflix, although I tried out a number of others beforehand, like Animoto and Vimeo. It took a long time to find suitable photos for it to go with the text I had written but once I’d done that, it was relatively easy. I found the music on a royalty free music site, called Bensound. Then it was just a question of putting it all together. If I had lots more time, I would probably still tweak a few things but I’m mostly happy with it. Once it was complete, I uploaded it to YouTube and kept it as ‘unlisted’ until all my subscribers had had the chance to watch it. It is now public so anyone can see it but here’s the video below if you’d like to watch it now. I’d love to know what you think about it so do leave me a comment below.

I have also started uploading my details to the Kindle Direct Publishing page so that I can be as close to ready for my launch as possible when FHTN comes back from the proofreader. This has led me to discover the delights of providing tax information as a non-US publisher. You may not be aware if you live in the UK that if you want to publish your ebook to Amazon and receive your full royalty payments, you will have to prove to the IRS that you are eligible for the waiver of the 30% tax rate in the US and would prefer to pay tax at the UK 20% tax rate instead. This may take some time so for the moment, I will have to pay tax at the 30% rate!

I would like to make my book available for pre-order so I put in the date I’m aiming for as my publication day and it then said that I have to upload my finished book by ten days before the publication day. That wouldn’t leave me very long after I get it back from the proofreader. I think I could upload a draft version but I’m scared about mixing them up! So this one may be a case of having to wait and see.

So, what will I do next? Well, I have signed up to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme again and I would like to submit my second book this year. The first draft is at 80,000 words but most of these are not right! I keep adding to my outline in Scrivener how I want the story to go but now I have to really knuckle down and get the actual story right, as well as finished. It will only be the very first draft that I’m able to submit if I can manage all that. Still, you have to start somewhere and at least I have something to go with. I will try and finish the outline over the next couple of weeks at least but then I’ll have to get back to FHTN and its publication and marketing. No peace for the wicked, as they say 😉

Thanks for reading, as always and I would love to hear your comments on my book cover and my book trailer 🙂

 

 

Face the Fear and Set those Writing Goals for 2015!

DSCN9096Having reviewed my writing year in last week’s blog post, I am going to set some new writing goals for the coming year this week. These were my writing goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’.
  • To have it professionally edited.
  • To work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • To finish the first draft of my second novel too.
  • To attend a writing course or two.
  • To take a proofreading course.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have achieved all but one of these goals and I am very proud of myself for that. Now, as I stand on the brink of publication next year, I don’t know what I’m more frightened of: the fact that I’m about to publish my debut novel or that I haven’t even finished the first draft of my second one.

Well, on our summer holiday in the French Alps this year, I went on a cable car ride with my younger daughter. This was something we’d both been quite frightened of at the start of the holiday but we went along and faced the fear. By the time I took the picture you see here, we were on a cable car on our own feeling super-confident and wondering what it was we’d been so worried about before. As we approached the top, we prepared to get out of the car…only to find that we were only halfway up and had a lot further to go up an incredibly steep mountainside. Sound familiar? 😉

Some of you will wonder what I’m worrying about, I know. If I’m self-publishing, I can set the schedule, right? However, I have signed up again to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme and I have to submit my book by the end of August for them to review. When I told my husband this, he laughed telling me that was loads of time! If you write, you will know how months have an uncanny knack of passing in what seems like only a matter of days and you will understand that I have a lot of hard work to do to get this first draft into some sort of shape. I wrote it in NaNoWriMo 2013 (!) and have fiddled about with it since then but made very little progress towards the story I want it to be.

This is partly because ‘From Here to Nashville’ has dominated my life and my time for most of this year. Yesterday though, I got my comments back from my beta readers and when I have dealt with those, my first novel goes off to be proofread and that will be that!

So what will my goals be for 2015?

1. Publish ‘From Here to Nashville’ in ebook form to Amazon, followed by a paperback version a few months later.

2. Finish the first draft of book 2 and send it in to be reviewed by the RNA.

3. Take part in NaNoWriMo with a full outline of book 3.

4. Keep blogging weekly about ‘My Writing Life’ and building up my ‘Cover Reveals’ feature for other writing friends.

5. Start sending out my newsletter to people who have signed up.

I think this is a manageable set of goals to be getting on with and I feel pretty confident that they are all achievable. I hope that you will stay with me for the next part of my roller-coaster ride and if you’re interested to know what’s coming up, just a bit ahead of everyone else, why not sign up to receive my newsletter? You can do this by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. I will be sending out my first one early in the New Year.

Thank you all for reading, as always, and thank you once again for your support. Wishing you all a Happy New Year and the best that 2015 can bring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Why I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo a miss this year

NaNoWriMoI have now been a NaNo or Camp NaNoWriMo winner three times in two years and each time I met my goal, I was ecstatic with the great feeling of achievement. However, I have had to take the reluctant decision not to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo and as much as it pains me, I know it’s the right thing to do.

Last year, I wrote 50,000 words of my second novel during November and I followed the suggested rules to the letter by just sticking to the very vague outline I’d written and by never stopping to edit. I wrote 1,667 words minimum every day and by the end of the month, I had virtually a whole story. I couldn’t come back to it until April of this year though but I picked up where I’d left off to take part in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and by the time that was finished, I was at 80,000 words. A couple of months later, I sent it to my Kindle for a read through. I was very pleased with the quality of what I’d written but the story was a mess and since then, I have been putting off getting down to sorting it out because I felt like I had no idea where to begin. And this is why I have decided not to do NaNo next month because if I do, I will end up with another messy story that I will spend most of next year trying to sort out.

Now that I have done three NaNos/Camps, I have realised that I am a writer who needs to plan first because when I don’t, I go off on so many tangents that the story I end up with is so far from what I wanted that I feel powerless almost to put it right. I just can’t go through that again. So instead, I am reading books and articles to help me do a proper outline for my second book which is what I should have done before starting it last November but I was impatient and the start date was looming. I feel just the same again. I have so many ideas that I’d like to get going on but I need to spend time plotting them out first before writing rather than rehashing the whole thing afterwards.

So back to book 2. I have a pretty good first draft which is a good start and the story idea is still a good one, I think. I have gone through all my chapters, summarising what I actually wrote in each scene as opposed to what I planned to write in my vague outline and I can see much more clearly now where the story has gone off the rails. I was reading an article on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog yesterday called NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel’s Beginning and it was so helpful that I printed it out to use as a checklist for what I have already written. Yes, I’m doing it back to front but at least I’m going to do it to help me check the strength of my story. There are two further articles on her blog about the middle and the end as well which I will also look at. I’m going to finish reading K.M.Weiland’s book ‘Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success’ which I’ve been finding very helpful and then I’m going to get on and finish this first draft. I’m aiming to do that by the end of the year so that I can send it to beta readers and the RNA (the Romantic Novelists’ Association) early in the New Year.

I hope then that by the time I think again about book 3, I will know how to write a decent outline before I even start to write the story. To all those of you doing NaNoWriMo next month, I wish you the best of luck and hope that this time next year, I will be ready to join you again with a detailed outline in my hand! Thank you for reading and please do leave me a comment about your NaNo experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© Julie Stock and My Writing Life, 2013 – 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Julie Stock and My Writing Life with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Why I’ve decided to give NaNoWriMo a miss this year

NaNoWriMoI have now been a NaNo or Camp NaNoWriMo winner three times in two years and each time I met my goal, I was ecstatic with the great feeling of achievement. However, I have had to take the reluctant decision not to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo and as much as it pains me, I know it’s the right thing to do.

Last year, I wrote 50,000 words of my second novel during November and I followed the suggested rules to the letter by just sticking to the very vague outline I’d written and by never stopping to edit. I wrote 1,667 words minimum every day and by the end of the month, I had virtually a whole story. I couldn’t come back to it until April of this year though but I picked up where I’d left off to take part in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo and by the time that was finished, I was at 80,000 words. A couple of months later, I sent it to my Kindle for a read through. I was very pleased with the quality of what I’d written but the story was a mess and since then, I have been putting off getting down to sorting it out because I felt like I had no idea where to begin. And this is why I have decided not to do NaNo next month because if I do, I will end up with another messy story that I will spend most of next year trying to sort out.

Now that I have done three NaNos/Camps, I have realised that I am a writer who needs to plan first because when I don’t, I go off on so many tangents that the story I end up with is so far from what I wanted that I feel powerless almost to put it right. I just can’t go through that again. So instead, I am reading books and articles to help me do a proper outline for my second book which is what I should have done before starting it last November but I was impatient and the start date was looming. I feel just the same again. I have so many ideas that I’d like to get going on but I need to spend time plotting them out first before writing rather than rehashing the whole thing afterwards.

So back to book 2. I have a pretty good first draft which is a good start and the story idea is still a good one, I think. I have gone through all my chapters, summarising what I actually wrote in each scene as opposed to what I planned to write in my vague outline and I can see much more clearly now where the story has gone off the rails. I was reading an article on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog yesterday called NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning Your Novel’s Beginning and it was so helpful that I printed it out to use as a checklist for what I have already written. Yes, I’m doing it back to front but at least I’m going to do it to help me check the strength of my story. There are two further articles on her blog about the middle and the end as well which I will also look at. I’m going to finish reading K.M.Weiland’s book ‘Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success’ which I’ve been finding very helpful and then I’m going to get on and finish this first draft. I’m aiming to do that by the end of the year so that I can send it to beta readers and the RNA (the Romantic Novelists’ Association) early in the New Year.

I hope then that by the time I think again about book 3, I will know how to write a decent outline before I even start to write the story. To all those of you doing NaNoWriMo next month, I wish you the best of luck and hope that this time next year, I will be ready to join you again with a detailed outline in my hand! Thank you for reading and please do leave me a comment about your NaNo experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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