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Tag: NaNoWriMo

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I have only been writing seriously for about a year and yet in this short time, I have made so many new friends through Twitter, through my blog and most importantly, through my writing. One of those friends is Sandra Danby who very kindly asked me to take part in this blog tour about my writing process (I still can’t quite believe it’s me writing that last sentence). I ‘met’ Sandra through her blog ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’ and we became friends through a shared love of rural Spain. Sandra is also a serious writer and is just about to publish her first novel. You can find out more about her writing by following this link to her writing blog here.

My hope in taking part in this blog tour is to help other writers, maybe ones like me who are just starting out and wondering how to go about things in this strange new world of writing 😉 Next Monday, 21st April, 2014, please take a look at the blogs written by my friends and fellow writers, Cat Lumb, Heidi-Jo Swain and John de Gruyther (find out more below).

What am I working on at the moment?
Nashville Book CoverI have just finished a second proper draft of my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ (FHTN), a contemporary romance about a music teacher who decides to pursue her dream of becoming a successful singer/songwriter of country music and finds love along the way. It has been a bit of a slog to get it to this point but I’ve done it! In January, I joined the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association which means that I can submit a manuscript to them for a professional assessment. The deadline for sending the manuscript in is the end of August but I’d like to send it sooner than that. FHTN is now out with my lovely beta readers and I await their comments on what I need to do next which I should have by the end of this month. I am then going to do a final edit in May and send it off to be professionally assessed by the end of the month. When I’m not working on FHTN, I am busy writing my second novel, ‘Seeking Approval’ which is also a romance but with a completely different theme and I’m about 60,000 words in.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
DSC_0886This is a really interesting question for me because a lot of the romances I read are chick-lit romantic comedies but I write more serious romance stories, which I can only refer to as ‘Contemporary Romance’. My characters so far seem to be on journeys of discovery about themselves and what they really want from their lives. I was inspired to write my first novel after watching the TV series ‘Nashville’ and discovering a hidden love of country music within myself! Since I started, I have seen two other stories come out with a Nashville setting so obviously, it inspires other writers too. I have always been a singer and it was great fun to include my love of singing and song-writing in the story. My second novel is partly set in France, which I have always seen as my second home as I have family there and took my degree in French many years ago. Whilst lots of romance writers set their stories in France, the background to my story is a bit different though with my character helping someone else to trace her family history and find her mother.

Why do I write what I do?
?????????????There is only one answer to this: I confess that I am a soppy romantic at heart! I have always loved reading romances and for me, there is nothing more enjoyable than a ‘Happy Ever After’ (HEA) ending. I enjoy all kinds of romance story too, from comedies to, dare I say it, more erotic stories like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I seem to spend quite a lot of time explaining why I liked that particular trilogy but whilst I like a bit of hot sex – who doesn’t? 😉 – what I enjoyed most about the story was the romance at its heart. I find it enjoyable to see all the different ways that writers come up with for bringing people together and the new boom in self-publishing has made many more stories accessible to us all, which in my view, has to be a good thing. The other good thing about romance stories is that they’re timeless in their appeal. Everyone has been or will be in love with someone else at some point in their life and I find it life-affirming to write about it.

How does my writing process work?
2014-Participant-Square-ButtonI wrote my first novel by the seat of my pants, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called at that point! I just sat down every day and kept writing until it was finished. I knew it would have a HEA ending but I had no other plan than that. When I got to the end, I realised that there were so many plot-holes, I might never manage to fix them all. With the help of Scrivener, the writing software package and an author’s advice about writing a synopsis, I had a go at rewriting the story and the result is what is now with my beta readers. It still needs a lot of work doing to it and I will do what I can in my final edit but then I’m going to hand it over to the RNA, for some professional advice. At the moment, I am taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo to continue my second novel which I started writing in November NaNo last year. I wrote just over 50,000 words then, at a rate of 1,667 words a day for the most part. The discipline is hard but so worthwhile and what my experience so far has taught me is that I need to outline, even if only briefly, before I get started. That way, I can write much more quickly when I do start. If I didn’t have a day job, I would try and write 1,000 words every day or edit for four of five stints a day with short breaks in between. As it is, I do still have a day job and I fit in what I can when I can.

On Monday, 21st April, 2014, it’s the turn of three more writers to tell you about their writing process. Please visit their blogs then to find out how they go about it.

Cat Lumb Cat is a thirty-one year old Yorkshire lass living on the wrong side of t’hill in Stalybridge, Manchester, with her wedding-phobic fiancé and a rescue dog who is now her shadow. She began writing again after being diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalitis (M.E) in 2009 and since then has written two and a half novels and a selection of short stories. In the past year she has blogged for Manchester Literature Festival, been short-listed in a Writing Magazine competition and is an active committee member for the Huddersfield Literature Festival. She can also read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. 😉 She can be found on Twitter as: @Cat_Lumb

Heidi-Jo Swain Heidi-Jo has always wanted to be a writer but was in her thirties before she plucked up the courage to tell anyone, enrol on her first creative writing course and submit a variety of short stories to the online writing community, Shortbread Stories. In 2013 having attempted to write one novel the urge to write another was just too strong to resist.

Now writing and blogging feels as natural as breathing and she is currently editing her debut novel The Cherry Tree Café in preparation for submission to the Romantic Novelists’ Association having secured a place on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2014.

Plans are already well underway with her next novel The Skylark Serenade and having almost finished plotting she intends to begin writing after submission to the RNA. Heidi-Jo blogs every Saturday about her writing week, her random list, her dreams of seeing her novels published and everything in between.

John de Gruyther Following a mild case of redundancy John didn’t want to return to the finance sector. So he took the time kindly afforded to him by his former employer and he started to write articles. This went quite well so he decided to call himself a freelance writer and finally commit to his long held dream to write a novel.
He is currently working on his novel, a book of poetry, an illustrated story and various articles for online sites and magazines, including his “A Novel Approach” features for Star Trek Magazine.

Camp NaNoWriMo Update – week 1

2014-Participant-Vertical-Banner Last November, I took part in National Novel Writing Month for the first time and wrote just over 50,000 words for my second novel, which is provisionally titled ‘Seeking Approval’. ‘What’s it about?’ I hear you cry. Well, it’s about a girl who splits up with her fiancé when she finds him cheating on her with her sister. This is not the first time her sister has betrayed her and just when she thinks their relationship will never be the same again, she finds out that she is not her sister but her cousin. Despite their differences, she helps her ‘sister’ to trace her family history and along the way, she becomes clearer about her own identity and what she wants from her own life.

Since the end of November, I have been concentrating on rewriting and editing my first novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ and so, now that FHTN is with beta readers, I thought I would use this month’s Camp NaNo to pick up with my second novel. I have set myself a goal of writing 25,000 more words this month because we’re off on holiday for almost a week and about 1,000 words a day for the remaining days of the month seems achievable. This first week, I have written just over 8,000 words so I am on target to reach my goal but it really has been hard getting back into it. Finding the time to write that much every day has taken real discipline on my part and even though I had created an outline back before November, it really isn’t detailed enough. I found this out to my cost when I was writing a long section all about a family tree and I had to take a lot of time out to work out dates and places of birth for numerous different characters. It all came together in the end and I wrote much more quickly afterwards but it has made me realise once again how important it is to me to know where I’m going. It would also have been brilliant to have a piece of ‘family tree writing’ software 😉

In fact, I’m still not really sure where the story’s going! I am thinking about it all more though in the time between writing and this helps me when I finally come to sit down at my desk and write my words for the day. I’m enjoying the research I’m doing as well because the story is partly set in France and in an area which I know very well because I have family there. However, there are so many little things you realise that you’re not entirely sure about, even down to where the nearest service station is to the town you’re referring to and I want those things to be as accurate as they can be. I’ve also been including some snippets of French which is what I took my degree in and because of my family, is almost as good as my English but I still find myself checking little things. I want to make sure my French is correct as well because I don’t like to see mistakes in other books with French in so it’s important to me to get it right.

All this is keeping me very busy as you can see but I’m enjoying it nevertheless. Before I go, I wanted to let regular readers know that I will be scheduling next week’s blog post for the very first time because I will be away on holiday but I have been invited to take part in a writing process blog tour. So look out for that post next week which will include the details of three other writers and their blogs which I know you will want to read more about.

If you’re doing Camp NaNo, how’s your first week gone? Do let me know in the comments and as always, thanks for reading and have a good week, y’all 😉

A review of the first year of My Writing Life

As the end of 2013 approaches, it seems like a good time to review what I have achieved this year and to set some writing goals for the coming year.

I started writing my first draft of my first novel in April 2013. I finally finished it in October and by this time, I had learnt that first drafts are usually not that good so I would have to spend the next several months editing what I had written. At first, I felt only despair at the mammoth task this would be but then, after a lot of research, I knuckled down and got on with it. Unfortunately, I had thought that I would be able to do this at the same time as taking part in NaNoWriMo 2013! Mad fool, I hear you cry. Well, I came to my senses pretty quickly and decided that I would just use November to read my WIP aloud and make editing notes as I went along. This became my first round of edits and I will have completed this by the end of the year. Yep, by tomorrow. I feel very proud of that, as well as the fact that I was a NaNoWriMo winner, writing just over 50,000 words of my second novel. I have also managed to find two critique partners to accompany me on my editing journey and I know their help is going to be invaluable next year.

In June 2013, I started to blog about my writing life. I wanted to write about my experience on this journey, sharing what I learnt along the way and I am amazed to see that I have managed to blog every week since then. Not only that, I have found new things to say and have made a few good friends along the way. I really enjoy writing the blog as well and I enjoy reading other people’s.

I also joined Twitter and started to build a following by following other writers and people dedicated to helping writers. I have found this much more fun than I expected, although it has also become a bit of an obsession!
It has been a year in which I have learnt so much and most of it from other writers, for which I am very grateful. I am looking forward to the new writing year immensely.
So my goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’, hopefully by April which would be a year since I started writing it. I would like to have it professionally edited ultimately and I have a couple of ideas about how to manage this.
  • I plan to work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • I would like to finish the first draft of my second novel too. I don’t have a deadline on this but it would be good to have finished it by the time NaNoWriMo 2014 comes round!
  • I would like to attend a writing course or two this year to help me progress my learning.
  • I am thinking of taking a proofreading course as a way of supplementing my income now that I work part-time. It would be great if longer term, the proofreading could pay for some of my other goals 😉 I am realistic about this though (honest!)

A good year then, all in all. I hope your writing year has been good and that you have set yourself some sensible goals for next year. Best wishes to you all for 2014 and thank you for reading 🙂

Fancy a Christmas short story?

Last week, I decided that I would have a go at writing a short story as a post-NaNoWriMo activity to try and ease myself gently back into novel writing mode. I’ve not actually written a short story before and at first, I wasn’t sure how long to make it but in the end, the story dictated its own length and it finished up around 2,500 words. It’s only a first draft but I felt quite pleased with what I had written and as it is a Christmas story, I thought I would share it with you today. I would welcome any comments on my story, as well as any constructive feedback. Hope you enjoy it!
and-the-band-played-one280a6short-story1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The End of NaNoWriMo is in sight

Just under a week to go now till the end of my first NaNoWriMo and I am on target to finish my 50,000 words by the end of November. I am so pleased that I have managed to achieve this but there have been a few ups and downs for me during the month, as I’m sure there have been for other NaNoWriMos.

At the beginning, the idea of writing 1,667 words every day seemed hard. Where would I find the time, especially on work days? However, it was the excitement of starting a new project that kept me going in the first week and despite having one day when I didn’t write at all, I still caught up and kept at it.

Then as I moved into the second week, I got into a routine and I was surprised to find that I was adding ‘Writing’ to my list of things to do each day, making time for it alongside all the other things I MUST do every day. Once it took on that importance, I suddenly found that I was getting faster at typing as well. I haven’t participated in any actual word sprints via Twitter but I have been completing some sprints of my own and the sense of achievement I feel every day as I update my word count on the NaNoWriMo site and I study my stats is so gratifying, it’s almost ridiculous 🙂

My story has flagged a little at times and I know I am going to have to do some serious work on it when November is over but I have kept writing and that is what’s important. So by this time next week, I will be back to editing my first novel with a  vengeance. I have been reading it out loud during November, as my first stage of editing and there are many, many chapters to go! I have also applied for a manuscript assessment to help me with the structural edit I know it needs so I’m really keeping my fingers crossed about that one.

The final thing I want to achieve by the end of the year is to sign up for and complete The Society for Editors and Proofreaders ‘Introduction to Proofreading’ course. This is step two in my plan for my new writing life and will start me on the road towards step three next year. If anyone else has done this course, I’d love to hear how you got on with it.

Good luck to all NaNoWriMos out there for this final week. Feel free to let me know how you’re getting on.

New York! New York!

I knew this title would grab your attention but it IS relevant, honest. Next year will see our 25th wedding anniversary and we have been pondering, with our children, where we might go for a special holiday break to celebrate. The thing is that our kids are now 12 and 16 and they’re looking for something a bit different these days and we’d like to go somewhere we’ve never been before. We’ve considered New York before but for some reason (mainly expense and timing), we’ve never managed to get there. Well, now the time seems right. It will be decent weather in April hopefully and if we plan this now, we might even be able to save up for a five day break between now and then. So I’m feeling very excited today and I keep bursting into song as I wander around the house, all Sinatra like, well as much as I can given that I’m female 😉

So how is this relevant to my writing I hear you cry? As you may know, my first novel is provisionally titled ‘From Here to Nashville’ and during the story, the two main characters, Rachel and Jackson, spend a few days in – you guessed it – New York! A trip to the city will therefore allow me to do proper research like a proper writer! Woohoo! I am really looking forward to going and we’re all buzzing with the things we want to do whilst we’re there. The only problem might be fitting them all in, oh and the fact that one daughter is vegan and the other would like to live on burgers but apart from that, we should be fine!

Otherwise, I have had a great NaNo week, keeping up with my daily word count and I feel quite pleased with the progress of my second story so far. My brain has also been constantly referring to my ‘Nashville’ story, putting right some of the plot problems I need to sort out in December when NaNo is over. I am also quite impressed with my own self-discipline today, writing this blog post so early in the day because I was inspired to do so and it feels good that this has become such an important part of my writing routine. I now feel warmed up to write my NaNo words for today and all before lunch-time too! I might have to go and have a lie-down after that.

Let me know how your NaNo week has gone or connect with me as a buddy. My user name is wood_beez48.

A week of incredible generosity from other writers :)

It has been a great week, this week and it really has all been down to the generosity of other writers. So I wanted to share that with everyone who’s writing this week but especially, with new writers like myself.

Firstly, I made contact with the lovely people at WriteStars and Rachel in particular. Rachel read the first chapter of my first draft and gave me some very useful and constructive feedback on it. She told me all about the courses run by WriteStars and advised me about the next steps I could choose to take from here. She did all this out of a generosity of spirit that was quite amazing to me and I really appreciated it. If I could have sent her a bunch of flowers, I would have done 🙂

Then, when my NaNoWriMo got off to a bit of a slow start, my new found buddies picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the confidence to carry on. Thanks to their kind words, I am now past 20,000 words and feeling much happier. I have set time aside every day to write, following the advice of pretty much everyone out there who’s done it before and I have put the editing of my first novel on the back-burner for a bit. However, I have found time to keep reading chapters aloud and making editing notes on the hard copy to see to in December, along with all the other comments I have received through one means or another.

Finally, this Saturday, I spent the day in Bedford (UK) at the annual Festival of Romance. This was my first time but it definitely won’t be my last 🙂 What a great day! I listened to authors reading extracts from their novels, chatted with them at the Romance Fair afterwards, asked questions of a panel of authors and received very positive advice from them and attended a workshop called ‘Getting Published’. What amazed me was how upbeat and open they all were about their journeys and how encouraging they were about mine. They were all so generous with their time and their advice and it was so heartening and gratifying to be helped in that way.
Since then, I have followed many of those authors on Twitter and received even more help and advice, when I would have honestly expected them to be too busy. The moral of this post then seems to be that writers like to help each other, wherever they are along their path because they remember how it feels to be starting out and they’re glad to give back to others.

So a heart-felt thank you to everyone who has helped me this week with my writing. I hope that this post gives you an extra boost to keep going through week two of NaNo or whatever writing project you’re currently engaged in and if there’s anyone you’d like to thank for helping you with your writing this past week or a website you’ve found useful, why not share it with us below? Have a good week 🙂

My NaNoWriMo nightmare – aargh! Lessons 1 and 2.

This week brought with it the start of NaNoWriMo 2013 on November 1st, of course. Having taken part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July this year and committed to writing 10,000 words for my first novel, I really wanted to do the real thing this November. Twitter went mad in the run-up to last Friday and little by little, I started to feel a bit daunted by the prospect of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. What had I been thinking?

Well, I got off to a good start. Firstly, I prepared a pretty good outline for my second novel, using all the fantastic advice about how to do it via Twitter. Then, on Friday, I concentrated on writing 1,667 words (the minimum daily word count needed to meet the 50,000 total by the end of November). I couldn’t believe it though when one of my NaNo buddies tweeted that she’d already written 5,000 words on the first day! I felt so inadequate and I told her so. She’s an experienced NaNo participant though and she knew she couldn’t write at all the next day so she had planned in advance to write twice as much on the first day. Lesson number 1 for me. However, I was in the same boat because I didn’t think I’d be able to write on Saturday either but I didn’t have time to write twice as much on Friday.

So, I am now one day behind and earlier today, I was feeling stressed and a bit miserable to be honest. Then, along came another NaNo buddy who couldn’t believe it when I said I was trying to edit my first novel at the same time as doing NaNo. She convinced me to let this one slide a little and to concentrate on getting the words down for NaNo this month instead and I realised I could give myself permission for this. I don’t have a deadline. The only person putting me under pressure is myself and I am working part-time as well as dealing with all the other stresses and strains of ‘normal’ family life.

So, lesson number 2 is to do what I can and to try and enjoy it. If it makes me feel miserable, it won’t be worth doing and I do so want to do it 🙂 My word count to date is 5,071 words which I’m pleased with and I will be back next Monday to let you know what progress I have made since then.

If you’re doing NaNo this year for the first time or the umpteenth, why not get in touch and share your ‘nightmare’ first week? I’d love to hear from you.

Is there such a thing as too much advice?

So, what have I been up to this past week, from a writing perspective that is? Well, I’ve read lots of advice about structural editing for one thing and to be honest, some days, it has left me feeling quite depressed. There is just so-ooooo much advice out there that I can’t see the wood for the trees – oh no, cliché alert!!! and too many exclamation marks too, aargh!!! Let’s get specific then:

  • I have dipped in to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and found that useful but will have to wait till I get to the end to see how I can apply it.
  • I looked at Alexandra Sokoloff’s site and tried to apply her method to my novel but although this is a useful structure, it just didn’t seem to work for me this time. I may use it for my NaNoWriMo writing this year though because it has a lot of merit and I’d like to give it a try. Have a look and see what you think.
  • I tried out the Snowflake method. The problem is, as you may have realised, I have already written my first draft and so I am trying to ‘impose’ these methods on to my novel after the event and that makes it doubly hard.
  • Finally, after looking at some really useful posts on this site, I found a method of plotting that seemed to work for me. Janice has a way of explaining difficult things in a really simple way that I understand, maybe it’s just me 😉 But judging by the positive comments on the site, I don’t think so. This method by Michael Hague – The 6 Stage Plot Structure – fits my novel really well and has left me feeling much more enthusiastic about checking my story for plot holes. It’s going to take me a while to carry out this editing stage but I do feel more confident about doing it now, thanks to Janice.

I have started to read my first draft out loud as suggested by many people on the internet as my first proper editing step and this has already helped me to pick up on some important points. For example, I write dialogue very formally – I always write ‘I have’ rather than ‘I’ve’ which is what we would say to each other of course so I have tried to correct that tendency wherever I spot it.

As this week is half-term week in my part of the UK, I am not sure how much writing I will get done with my own kids around but I wanted to keep up with my blog and I also intend to start NaNoWriMo on Friday, come hell or high water!

Another busy week then. Let me know if any of these methods work for you or if you have another suggestion for structural edits of your first draft. Good luck with your writing in the coming week 🙂

Attempting a structural edit of your first draft

Last week, I was overjoyed to have finished the first draft of my debut novel and was looking forward to the course I was going on to help me with the next phase. Then I found out that my course had been cancelled! Cue much disappointment and even despair on my part. What was I going to do?

As a beginner writer, I know that my first draft is going to need a lot of work on it and I don’t really feel equipped to do that on my own but I don’t have lots of money to spend on asking a professional to do it for me either.
So finally, after much hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing (not just figuratively speaking!), I knew I had to get on with it. I had come across a really useful website earlier in the week that someone doing prep for NaNoWriMo had recommended.

This got me thinking that I should apply this to my story to help me see where the gaps are and hopefully, begin to tighten things up. I found out that Alexandra has a couple of useful books too and I downloaded one of those today from Amazon, aimed particularly at romance writers.

I have spent a lot of useful time thinking about this today and it has helped me a lot but it is going to take me a really long time. I know that this is partly because I didn’t do all this preparation first and I truly regret that now but I have no choice but to try and get on with it. My aim is to make my novel better and so I am determined to plod on and do the best I can with the wealth of information there is on the internet and by buying one or two recommended books for writers as well. Wish me luck!

Are you doing a structural edit or have you tried to do one for one of your novels in the past? Have you got any tips you could share? Any comments will be greatly appreciated as always.