Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

My Week In Writing (03/12/17)

20171201_171146.jpgOverheard at work this week: ‘this has been the fastest year of my life’. And it really has. I honestly can’t believe it’s December already – which is odd, because I’ve done a lot this year! More on that later, I suppose.

I finished NaNoWriMo on Thursday at (drum roll!) 104,074 words. Hopefully I’m more or less recovered, at this point – doesn’t help that I missed a couple of hours last week and the week before and had to work a bunch of longer days to play catch up.

I was pretty pleased with the result and now I have both parts of this novel in one document, which was very satisfying. Hoping to get back to it soon as it’s still a WIP and I want to at least finish the arc I was on.

Not surprisingly, I haven’t been doing much other writing this week, other than updating this blog. I also didn’t get shortlisted for the Shoreline of Infinity Flash Fiction contest – you can check out the shortlist here and it looks pretty great! I’m slightly relieved not to be there, though – I think if I made the shortlist it would have just stressed me out!

I also applied for a job with the Book Festival and sent a story to Pulp Literature (thoroughly recommended magazine, by the by).

In short, my week has been alternately hellishly busy (with NaNoWriMo) and very very quiet. And now I’m off to get some rest, and watch the new Dirk Gently.



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NaNoWriMo Diary 3: Rules

illusThe big news: I hit 100k today, a day early! I’m as confused and impressed as anyone else.

To celebrate, my final NaNoWriMo blog and something a bit different. I’m still building up experience – I’m always building up experience – but this is my third novel in the last two or so years and I’ve arrived at some noveling rules that I’m trying to stick to this month:

1. Everyone is the hero of their own story

On one level, this means that supporting characters should not revolve around the hero. I want to create the sense that everyone in this novel is at the centre of their own narrative, is living and existing when my narrators aren’t around to witness it.

On another level, more literally, I enjoy having my characters ‘cross over’ with other novels. There’s whole groups of characters having their own – clearly exciting – adventures that my characters encounter only occasionally. It’s a lot of fun.

2. Characters should not withhold information from each other without good reason

Naturally, what constitutes ‘good reason’ varies enormously depending on the character and the context and what the information is, but there needs to be an in universe reason. Characters should not withhold information simply because it makes it easier for me, the writer, or because it would be more dramatic to reveal it later.

Characters withholding information is irritatingly common in fiction and it’s tripped me up a couple of times already – I occasionally have this instinct that characters should keep quiet about important things till later on, but often that just doesn’t make sense – and often revealing things early sends the narrative in a new and interesting direction!

3. If there’s an obvious solution to a problem, take it

This, I think, is closely related to the above. If characters have an obvious solution available to them, they need a very good reason not to take it. They certainly shouldn’t ignore the obvious just because it’s easier for me, the author.

The flip side of this, of course, is that there can’t always been an obvious solution – and sometimes when there is, there need to be reasons why the characters can’t take it, ie, conflict.

So: that, I suppose, is what I learned from this month of intensive novel-writing! Double NaNoWriMo has been a great experience but I think in future I’ll stick to my usual strategy of ‘writing however much I feel like’.

Back next week with your regularly scheduled Doctor Who blogging!

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My Week In Writing (26/11/17)

stats26I’m going to be honest: I haven’t really done anything except work on my NaNoWriMo novel. I somehow managed to break all previous words per day records yesterday, so now I’m a day ahead for 100k. Feels good to have some breathing space but I’m not sure how I managed that! I was in Starbucks, there was red bull involved, otherwise I’m baffled.

I’m planning on hitting 90k tonight, to maintain that lovely one day ahead-ness. Which should make it a lot easier for me to make the Literary Salon on Tuesday!

Otherwise, I went to four write-ins, started my christmas shopping (thus far entirely books) and that’s really about it.

I’m pretty much past the point in my NaNo that I was most dreading (it’s been slow going tonight, to say the least) so it should be smooth sailing from here to the end. I have an end point planned for this NaNo (not the end of the book) and here’s hoping I can hit that, at least.

And today I had a brainwave about Annabel’s arc for book three so I think that’s going to be done over from the ground up and involve travelling to another dimension.

I’m going to wrap this entry up now, because I’m drowning in my own novel and need to hit my target for the night.

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NaNoWriMo Diary 2: World

I’ve been working on this story, one way for another, about as long as I’ve been making up stories. This world has evolved and grown as I’ve grown. It’s gone through a lot of changes and it’s become very complex and very real to me.

So: let’s look at some settings.

20171111_230257.jpgThe Great Temple

The second largest Ellanei Temple in existence. Bigger than it looks from the outside and essentially a town unto itself, with acres of gardens, miles of underground tunnels, and a lot of secrets.

The Ellanei practice magic for spiritual, academic and practical reasons and so as well as its shrines the Great Temple houses a library, extensive teaching facilities, and the only local hospital.

20171111_230218.jpgThe Town: Templestone

Templestone is built on a place where reality is a bit soft and squishy. Thousands of years earlier this is what drew the Ellanei, the witches who built the Great Temple that gave the town its name. In modern times, it made Templestone an ideal location for a World Lock, a facility for creating artificial portals to other dimensions.

A market town with the vitality of the city, Templestone has always been politically left-leaning and highly magical.

20171111_230726.jpgThe Country: The Islands

Although its physical geography is very different, it’s a lot like Britain (circa 1980). It’s home to two sects of magic users: the Ellanei in the North and the Wizards in the South.

The individual islands are partly self governing, partly run by a central government in Daire, the capital city.

Notable islands include: Temple Island, the setting of The Green and the Gathering Tide; Tovenar, the island of the Wizards; Sheep Island, where Leo hails from; and Wittering Island, the capital island and Annabel’s home.

ab32ea64503104c1a1d29f9ea65fde9e---years-apollo-The World: Earth A

Earth A is physically and culturally not far removed from Earth, but from the earliest time it’s been a highly magical place. Earth A has an unusually high concentration of natural portals and there has always been movement between it and neighbouring dimensions, leading to interdimensional cross-pollination of wildlife, people, ideas and magics.

In the days before World Locks Earth A was a crossroad world of sorts due to its many portals and it has retained its status in the new age of easy travel. Its governments are often pivotal in the doings of the Interdimensional Union.

starsThe Multiverse: The Interdimensional Union

The Multiverse of which Earth A is a part might be infinite and is certainly growing. There are thousands of known dimensions with intelligent life, all of which are part of an expanding and volatile community.

Earth A is part of the Interdimensional Union, a relatively young organisation of governments from different dimensions that aims both to unify dimensions and monitor movement between them.

However, the Union only makes up a small portion of the Multiverse. Nobody truly knows how far it goes, or what could be out there. Free interdimensional travel is less than a generation old and people’s understanding of the Multiverse is rapidly changing…

There are a lot of stories to be told here.




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My Week In Writing (19/11/17)

stats19Well: I hit 50k this week! I’m on track to finish at 100k but trying not to get too invested – 3,333 words a day is a big time investment on working days and doesn’t leave much time for anything else so I don’t know if I can keep this up till the end of the month. Staying focused, though.

I’ve updated my NaNo profile with a new (much better) title and an excerpt, so go check that out.

Yesterday I had a look through some previous drafts for this same novel. They were all varying degrees of painful to read. Hopefully this one will age better!

Annique is currently at 45k and I’m adding to it whenever I can find the time. Aiming for ten minutes a day which is enough for me to do 500 words so I probably ought to be able to add to it more often.

This week I got caught up on Steven Universe. Enjoying the most recent arc more than certain previous arcs but still nothing like as interested in this show as I used to be. Still hoping it’ll pick up again, given how good it can be.

I’m almost finished season two of Stranger Things, which as ever I’ve been finding a bit mixed but maybe I should save that for a full review sometime.

Plus I am, naturally, still watching and still loving Dirk Gently, which so far has kept on getting better and better. Should be able to watch the newest episode after work tomorrow and very excited!

I listened to The Ingenious Gentleman Adric of Alzarius, the newest Doctor Who short from Big Finish. My expectations were pretty high, given how good their last Adric Short Trip was, and it did not disappoint. Really creative, really poignant stuff. Where was all this high-quality Adric expanded universe material back when I was into the Peter Davison era, I ask you.

And yesterday I went to see Thor: Ragnarok which is an absolute delight (the jokes! The colours! Loki!) and I’d thoroughly recommend it.

Next week, I’m hoping to meet and exceed my previous NaNoWriMo record (80,000 words) and keep going. Got some big plans (Thor was unexpectedly inspiring). So basically, more of the same!


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My Week In Writing (12/11/17)

stats12This has been a mammoth week, writing wise. My NaNo is up about 20k since last Sunday and I’m planning on hitting 40k tonight – as soon as I’m done with this entry, I’m getting back to it. I’ve hit an exciting part!

It’s going so well that I’ve decided to do something really inadvisable and shoot for a double NaNo. I’ve always wanted to do one but before now I’ve always felt I didn’t have the time. If I hit 40k tonight, I’ll just need to maintain an average of 3333 words a day till the end of the month which looking at my current stats is doable. And might just get me to the end of this book, which would be amazing!

In other news, I’ve been enjoying writing so much this week that I’ve started working on Annique again after putting it on hold for NaNo. So, that’s currently sitting at 44k and climbing.

In non-writing news, I’ve been keeping up with Dirk Gently, re-watching season one of Dirk Gently (sensing a theme?) and listening to a lot of Queen, for both NaNo and non-NaNo reasons.

I went to Inky Fingers at Lighthouse Books on Tuesday and sadly had to leave early for illness reasons. Really sad to leave because the performances were so high-quality! I did however attend all of Event Horizon at Banshee Labyrinth, which also had some really high-quality acts.

And yesterday I gave blood. A lot more bleedy than I anticipated (failed my test the first time) but I got a tunnock’s teacake afterwards so no real complaints.

Next week I intend to write. A lot.

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NaNoWriMo Diary 1: Characters

This year’s NaNoWriMo is tentatively titled Preliminary Castings (I will find a better title for it). I’m swamped with it, so here’s the first installment of a (hopefully) three-part series of short entries about this weird novel I’m writing: Characters.


Samuel Smythe

“It’s like being very connected to the universe.”

Clairvoyant. Failed Wizard. Tells the future by runecasting. Loves books, divination, learning languages.

Socially awkward puppy desperate for approval. Raised Catholic now agnostic. Hopelessly in love. Questioning. Cut adrift and seeking a new identity. Over-dresses and overthinks.

tumblr_nx7o81EMJa1qkzjnzo4_250Annabel Stuart

“Not nice, just different.”

Shapeshifter, probably autistic, aromantic asexual. Loves insects, spiders, worms, zoology. Only reads non-fiction.

Raised by her older brother. Bullied at school and learning how to trust again. Bespectacled. Blunt but never cruel. Loves having wings. Deeply self-conscious, simultaneously doesn’t care what anybody thinks. A contradiction and an enigma to everyone but herself.

tumblr_nx7nhv6IVX1qkzjnzo1_250Leo Adrei

“I don’t have feelings like a normal person.”

Mindreader, autistic, bookworm. Loves Shakespeare, space, the music of Queen. Hoards books, wears headphones 24/7.

Orphan. Grew up in care. Tries very hard to be a good person. Describes both gender and sexuality with vague wiggly hand gesture. Over-identifies with fictional characters, under-empathises with real people.

tumblr_nxh0emdB3a1qkzjnzo2_250Bridget Geddes

“I’m not cold. Am I?”

Healer, novice priestess, bisexual. Loves her friends, her culture, plants and the sea.

Studies too much. Polytheistic and deeply religious with it. Raised on a shrine by the sea. Stickler for the rules and more ambitious than she lets on. Teacher’s pet and irritatingly humble. Mostly just wants to help people however she can.

Up next: World.


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My Week in Writing (05/11/17)

statsWell, I’m officially underway on my eighth NaNoWriMo. I’ve been off work all week, so I decided to try and get ahead before I went back to work… and may have got a bit overboard. I need to dial it back or I’m going to exhaust myself – yesterday was apparently my ‘wordiest day’ of all time, at a little over 5000!

And that… really is most of what I’ve done! I’ve been to three meet-ups with my local group and met some nice new writers (plus caught up with some old friends) and I’ve reacquainted myself with some characters who might as well be old friends.

This year I’ve picked up where I left off in 2015. I’m hoping to get to the end of book two of this trilogy, though that might be optimistic. So far not much has happened, but I’m still very much in the relationship-building stage of proceedings. There’s going to be some more character drama to come and then, hopefully, some more action before the climax.

We’ll see how it goes! I re-read my 2015 NaNo and I left myself some intriguing threads to pick up. I’m not too worried, given my stats so far and how easy these characters are to write.

Also this week: I finished listen to 1963: The Space Race from Big Finish, which was an interesting one but ultimately disappointing. I reviewed Anita and Me on Goodreads. And I’ve been watching the new season of Stranger Things – behind everyone else, I know, but I don’t have the time for binge-watching.

And now I’ve done my words for the day, I’m pretty much just sitting here listening to fireworks outside. Happy Bonfire Night!


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My Week In Writing (29/10/17)

20171029_135909.jpgAnd just like that, October’s nearly over…

I went along to the Edinburgh NaNoWriMo opening party today. Played some games, met some interesting writers and some NaNoWriMo newbies! I think I’ve officially achieved veteran status at this point, what with seven novels under the old belt.

I’m now in the process of creating my novel on the NaNo site. Slightly terrifying given how hard I found Inktober, but fingers crossed. I’ve got the first five days of November off work to get into the swing of it.

I was also out last night celebrating Halloween, so all in all this has been an odd weekend.

Speaking of Inkober, I’m up to date with 29 little stories written, including a couple of snippets from the world(s) of the novel I’m planning to write this November. Like I said, getting into the swing of it.

I have a job interview Tuesday! Which I really ought to have done some preparation for but I do have all day tomorrow so I’m feeling pretty chilled out.

And here’s the big news: my story has been longlisted for the Shoreline of Infinity Flash Fiction contest! Which means it’s going to be published in 2018 together with the other longlisted stories in a special anthology. I’m very excited – watch this space!

This week, I listened to Survival of the Fittest and Architects of History from Big Finish. I had some reservations about the trilogy but it turned out to be some really outstanding stuff and I’m looking forward to continuing the story with UNIT: Dominion. But mostly right now I’m just very pumped for The Morton Legacy.

I’m keeping up with the new seasons of The Good Place and Dirk Gently, both of which I have some mildly complicated feelings about and neither of which I can really talk about further without massive spoilers. Also, in both cases I really ought to wait for the season to pan out before casting too much judgement.

Up next, I’m going to start Stranger Things 2 and probably drink some wine.


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Here we go again: NaNoWriMo ’17

I can’t quite believe it’s that time of year again, but here we are: in seven days it’ll be November, also known as, National Novel Writing Month, also known as, why do I do this to myself.

And not only that: this year will be 10 years since I did my first WriMo! (Though not my 10th WriMo – more on that later).

I thought to celebrate the occasion – T minus one week! – I could take a look back at my previous WriMos, and see what, if anything, I learned.

I heard of NaNoWriMo some time around 2005 but I was reluctant, for a long time, to dive in. I was doing my GCSEs, I had coursework, I had homework, I was just like, super busy. But then one day I looked forward and realised… I was basically always going to be super busy. So come November 2007 I decided I’d just go for it:

NaNoWriMo 2007: ‘Untitled Novel’ 50,090 words

This was the latest in a series of attempts at the same novel I’d been attempting since I was about fourteen, and not the most successful one. I’m honestly not sure what I did with all those words, since best as I recall it was just magical teenager shenanigans, pages and pages of them. I think the idea was there was going to be plot, but I never got to it.

I finished on November 29th and didn’t have the energy to do another day just for the bonus words.

What I learned: the basics of NaNoWriMo; that I could commit to writing more than a thousand words a day; and also that I really love hitting targets.

NaNoWriMo 2008: ‘Summer’ 65,420 words

Now we’re talking! I had an almost entirely new project – I wrote the beginning of Summer in July 2008 – I had an actual plot and I had a determination to outdo myself.

Although if I’m going to be honest, I don’t remember much about writing this one. I suppose it’s just that I’ve revisted and re-writen Summer aka The Summer Masque so many times in the intervening 9 years that my memories of writing this initial, raw draft have been overwritten. I must have had a good time, though – look at that wordcount!

What I learned: how to write an actual novel, with a plot; how to improvise; how to worldbuild

NaNoWriMo 2009: ‘Autumn’ 80,250 words

Woof. I went a little crazy in November 2009. It was my first year of university, I was running my own affairs, my coursework projects… weren’t that important because you know, first year, and for the first time I had a local group to attend. I remember a lot of long hours in cafes, a lot of new friends, a lot of chips, a lot of cake.

The finished project was a mess that I’m still struggling to make sense of, but this remains my favourite WriMo. It was a truly great month and I don’t regret a moment of it.

What I learned: how to write and write and write!

NaNoWriMo 2010: ‘Phases of Being’ 50,000 words

Second year of university is when I learned how to actually be a student. I was taking my studies very seriously, I had a lot of coursework and was a lot more driven.

In the interim I’d made another more succesful attempt to write the Big Novel and I figured for WriMo I’d pick up where I left off. I wrote a 50,000 block from the middle of it and as you can tell from that, um, wordcount, I wasn’t putting in more time or effort than was necessary!

What I learned: how to manage my time, how to juggle projects, how to find & know my limits

At this point, I knew I wasn’t going to be writing any more WriMos for the forseeable future. Juggling second year coursework with a novel had been hard enough. Come November 2011, I made what was definitely the responsible decision and bowed out till I was sure I had the time… which was…

NaNoWriMo 2014: ‘Autumn (Redux)’ 70,034 words

Looking back, this one was a bit of a cheat. I was essentially just re-writing, from the ground up, my 2009 effort. But I don’t regret it. I got some good material out of it and it was a massive mental health boost.

In November 2014 I’d been unemployed for two months and was really struggling with job hunting, with motivation, and with general self-worth. Having a structured project to work on and twice-weekly socials to go along to was exactly what I needed.

And fortunately, come the start of December I started a work experience placement – and by January I had a job. It worked out okay!

What I learned: to believe in myself again, how to re-write, to re-revist.

NaNoWriMo 2015: ‘Here we are again (A Working Title)’ 61, 453

Would you believe… essentially the same novel as my first WriMo. Only this time, not a cheat. In 2015 I was stuck in a mindless job and really needed to dive straight into something, so I decided to go again and give volume two of the Big Novel a shot.

It got off to a slow start but ultimately worked out pretty good. I re-read it a few months back and it works pretty well! I’m considering picking up where I left off next week…

What I learned: to take the plunge, to take my characters further

NaNoWriMo 2016: ‘After My Mother Disappeared’ 70,484 words

Right up till the end of October I was undecided about which project to dust off… but then I had a dream, and in my dream were the bones of a YA fantasy. So here it is: my one and only entirely fresh start WriMo.

It was tremendous fun. I had very little idea where I was going with it, but I kept writing and in the end it came together beautifully.

What I learned: to take risks, to really write by the seat of my pants

NaNoWriMo 2017: ?

As you can see from the above: I’ve done NaNoWriMo 7 times and I’ve yet to lose. I take commitments very seriously and I can write fast, when I want to.

That’s why each year is always a little nerve-wracking: at this point, I don’t know if I could stand losing! I’d rather not try at all, which probably isn’t healthy. The fact that I’m struggling to stay on top of a goal of 100 words a day at present isn’t helping!

But I did it last year when I was working full time and I can do it again. It’s just a matter of making a decision:

Option A: pick up where I left off with 2015. Very tempting as I almost did this last year!

Option B: keep on going with Annique, my current project. Practical and responsible but I’m starting to hate it already so, maybe not.

Option C: start something new. I’ve been using Inktober to toss around some ideas for a sci-fi story based on a couple of short stories I’ve written. There’s some bones there. It’d be a risky move, for sure.

Well: the good news is, I have a whole week to make my mind up!


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