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30 Nov 2012

NaNo Update 5: The End

It's the 30th and the last day of NaNoWriMo.  It's been great this year to share with some of my blogging friends (Shout out for Cole, Sara, Laura, Colin, Jaime, and Juliana!) who have all done amazing.  It was really motivating this year to share it with friends and see how everyone else was doing. :)

It was easier to write this year than 2011.  Last year was the first time I ever participated but I had started my job and was just getting used to early mornings and have little time to do anything so I was shattered when the 1st December came around.  This year I'm used to early morning and not enough free time at home.  But this year I started November in the half term holiday which meant I had 4 days of getting well ahead and writing as much as I could. 

Things I learnt:

Daily word count targets of at least 2000 words really helped me to keep me writing going.  I didn't try to push myself into writing tons each day like I did last year.  I wrote more at the weekends and if I could write an extra 1000 or 2000 words on a weekday I did.  But if I didn't I told myself to not get stressed over it.  2000 was my goal and it was always enough to stay on target.

I didn't plot in detail like I did last year.  I had a summary of what would happen and I just went from there.  It felt like the plot moved itself instead of me forcing it to go wherever I wanted it.  Scenes came to me as I wrote and they always fitted in nicely with the plot and events.  It definitely felt easier to write without a detailed plot that I had to follow.

Wrong MC.  There are still a lot of P.O.Vs from Scott who turned out to be a little passive and pushed away from the events that were happening. So I let Darren take the lead in some parts who was quite happy to move the plot and let his curiosity and impulsiveness lead all the characters back to the haunted hotel.  Something Scott would never have done.  But in the end Scott did willingly get involved and I'm liking the two male characters battling for MC status, especially when they're the complete opposite on some things. 

I'm taking it as a good sign if I can creep myself out when writing this WiP.  The hanging ghost scenes made me a little jumpy.  And then there were quite a lot of times when I would pause when writing and the word count would end in 666.  No lie.  =/

Will I NaNo again?

You bet! Camp NaNo and NaNo here I come! Is it too early to start planning what to write next year? I already miss NaNo. ^^

How did your NaNo experience go? Anyone new to it this year?

28 Nov 2012

RTW - Book of the Month

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:
Best Book of November
With NaNo I didn't get through tons of books.  I was quite slow and managed to finish three and have just started a new one which I doubt I'll finish by the end of November.  Those were:
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
And the best book for November...
A fantastic sequel to Anna Dressed in Blood that still leaves a few questions open that I hope the author will continue with in the future but manages to wrap up everything nicely so if Girl of Nightmares is the last Anna book it still finishes the story perfectly.
My favourite aspects:
1) The mix of characters.  Carmel, Thomas, and Cas were so different.  The Queen Bee, the unpopular Wallflower, and the Loner.  All differing personalities yet together they have formed such a close knit circle and have come to really care for one another and are also ready to stick by each other in dangerous times.  The best group of friends I've seen since the Scooby gang in Buffy.
2) The horror is still chilling.  There's a scene with ghosts in a forest who only seem to move once your back is turned.  Reminded me of the Weeping Angels so that had me hiding behind a cushion while I read it.  The Weeping Angels terrified me as statues but ghosts who move like this? *shudders*.
3) Jestine.  A fantastic addition to the character list.  She was feisty and brave and I'd love to see more of her journey.  She was an interesting little character and it would be great to see a Jestine spin off.
I'll be writing a proper review of this but for now this sums up why I loved this book.  Kendare Blake's got me hooked!
What was your favourite book of November? :)

26 Nov 2012

NaNo Update #4

Word Count: 50,124

Next Week's Target: Nothing.  I'm sleeping for a week! *collapses*

So I literally just finished writing and I've made it up to 50,124.  Short for a first draft but I was barely half way adding in extra scenes and stuff when I reached the 50k mark so I'm going to casually cruise through the rest and still add some more stuff in.  But I've achieved the target so adding in these little extra snippets and stuff can be a more chilled out process.

If I wasn't full of cold right now I'd be doing this:

I love this story.  The writing's a bit meh but I've enjoyed writing it and I've enjoyed writing about these characters.  I knew who they were from the beginning but there's been some little surprises in their personalities.  Worries as well.  But in the end I love this little group.  They're special to me.  When I was thirteen and started writing stories for me and my friends Scott, Chelsea, Darren and Riley were the characters I used back then.  There was also a character called Ashley who has now ended up in another WiP and Riley's twin Jessica who is more of a secondary character now but they were this small group of friends who saw the paranormal in their home town and faced it.  Very Spooksville meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The characters at the time were the same age as me but they faced dark stuff even then.  So for ten years I've known them like they were my own friends and writing this WiP was almost nostalgic.  I loved writing about these characters again and I loved it even more because I've taken ten years to properly get to know them and develop them. 

I was freaking out last week because I finished the draft and I had about 8000 more words to write before I hit 50k.  So I was just sitting there thinking: 'CRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!" but fortunately I have an amazing boyfriend who kept me inspired and gave me a great idea for a whole chapter that gave me quite a few thousand words.  So he's one of the reasons I made it today.  I would still be panicking over what to write without his suggestion.  And there was Marissa Meyer's pep talk as well.  Here's some advice she gave for this exact problem I had:

Dilemma #1: If you find yourself realizing that, 35,000 words in, you’ve just about hit the end of this story and are convinced you’ll never make it to 50K…

It sounds like your book needs a hearty injection of The Unexpected. So unexpected that not even you could have seen it coming. The trick to landing an excellently unexpected insertion is to not go with the first idea that pops into your head—too often, that is the domain of clich├ęs and the all-too-expected. Rather, try making a list of at least twenty things you would enjoy writing about right now. It doesn’t matter if it has anything to do with what you’ve written so far (you can always drop in some nice foreshadowing during revisions), and the whole point is that you’re about to insert something fun, unique, and exciting into this draft.

Maybe you’re being called toward eye patch-sporting pirates and buried treasure. Maybe you’re dying to write about a hitchhiker with aspirations of being the world’s greatest baseball player. Maybe your dystopic, plague-ridden society is bringing you down and you’d love to send your characters on a romp through a whimsical wonderland.

Make your list, choose what’s calling to you most, and drop it into the next chapter just as if you’d been planning it all along. Watch as your plot and characters scramble to make it work, and the words once more begin to pile up.

It helped me so much.  I started thinking of what I could add in randomly and just started adding in extra bits.  I had a whole new opening for the WiP which really helped in showing what the character's differing personalities were like and also showed much better voices for each one as well.  It was a nice, fun and chilled out scene before it jumped into the ghostly stuff and I love it.  It works as an opening. 

I'm looking forward to getting into the editing with this WiP.  I know I've been working on Beast Inside for a year now but I'm starting to think it's not the novel I want to start out with.  I still worry over letting slip the word 'vampire' and having it immediately turned away.  Maybe it is time to let vampires rest even if mine are of the evil and creepy variety.  But I have this ghost WiP with the characters I wrote my first ever novel with and it feels like this is the one I want to try and get published first. :) I'll write up more about these characters another time.  I really want you to meet them properly! =D

We're in the last few days of NaNo.  How is it all going? Any pep talks you found incredibly helpful?

21 Nov 2012

RTW - Holiday Writing

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic is:
With Thanksgiving on the horizon we want to know how you balance hectic times like the holidays with your writing schedule.
We don't have Thanksgiving in England and the only holiday we have here in November is Bonfire Night.  Literally one night of standing around and watching fireworks in the sky and getting toasty warm by the bonfire that's lit up.  It's not a major holiday that people tend to take time off work or school for.  So there is still plenty of time to write and if I'm not going to a Bonfire event that night I'm just taking some time away from the computer to look outside.  There's a field outside my flat so usually people come and set off their own fireworks and I watch that through the window.  Whatever I do, I can always write on the day and I don't usually see family for it either. 
I don't think there's a lot of major holidays in my life and in the UK where I struggle to balance family with writing.  We have a lot of one day holidays that we don't take time off for and always spend it with family.  There's Pancake Day - for a non-religious person that's just a day of making our own pancakes.  I don't tend to celebrate St George's Day but again that's not a huge family celebration type holiday.  And then there's St Patrick's Day which I do celebrate (Proud Irish ancestry! =D) and that's just a night of drinking.  Again, families don't tend to get together.  No-one wants their parents to see how much alcohol they're having. And if anything, Halloween always gets me writing.  That day is pretty much... well, dead here in England.

I guess there's only Christmas time that requires family time and a lack of writing.  For me that's purely a holiday of spending time with family and watching Christmas TV.  I just give myself a little break.  Depending on where me and Pete are for Christmas I may take a notebook to scribble down notes or write by hand when there's a chance to just sit and chill out.  The same goes for New Year.  We'll have a family meal, again whether we're in Leeds or Darlington, but it's a chilled out day and night as we wait for the new year to roll in.  Although we're in Leeds this year for News Years and I think I may have been unwillingly volunteered to cook the traditional roast dinner. So maybe I won't get any chance to write that day. =/
Pete and I do actually have to go up to Darlington this weekend for his mum's graduation party.  It's not a holiday or anything but it does require spending time with family.  I'm on 42K at the moment with NaNo so I'm hoping I can get to 50k by this Friday.  If not I'm taking my netbook with me and I'll be able to fit in writing at night when we head to bed and in the morning.  There's also Sunday morning when his family go to Church and we usually have the house to ourselves.  I would write on the coach but I'm quite funny about writing when there's a stranger sitting next to me.  I don't like anyone seeing the first draft that I'm writing.  When it's edited that's fine but not the terrible first draft!
What are the holidays like for you? I'm especially interested in hearing how hectic Thanksgiving can be. :)

19 Nov 2012

NaNo Update #3

Word Count: 40.049

Next week's target: 50,000

Last week was a slow writing week.  I could tell I was starting to feel the exhaustion I felt last year when I hit 30k.  I had headaches every day and took hours to write just 2000 words.  Thursday I couldn't write at all because my head was seriously killing me and Friday I only cranked out another 1000.  Saturday was much better.  I rested in the morning and had a nap.  By the evening I had managed to write 4000 words which made up for the lack of writing. 

I'm glad I had that nap and I'm also glad that I just left it on Thursday to rest and again on Friday.  I really struggled to concentrate.  That was a sign telling me to rest.  I was well above the daily target anyway so I knew I could get away with a small rest and enjoy spending some time watching films and reading. 

On YA Highway's Carpool Lane I got a great email on rejuvenating exercises.  One Highwayer suggested to leave the computer and write by hand instead for the evening or day and when you're ready to go back to the computer you have to something to type up.  This was my favourite piece of advice because I'm prone to headaches when I've been working on the computer quite a lot each day.  It happened last year too.  This would give me the chance to keep writing without having a bright computer screen glaring at me and making my head worse.  If you haven't signed up for the Carpool Lane I really recommend it! Even if you're not officially doing NaNo or getting ready to write in a different month the advice and motivation you get is really helpful.

So next week let's see if I can get this WiP finished.  It's a short draft and I do expect to finish once I get to 50,000.  But there's plenty cooking in my head for the editing process to add in. :)

How did the third week go for everyone? Is exhaustion starting to kick in too? What helpful advice have you come across? :)

14 Nov 2012

RTW - Writing Inspiration

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic is:
Tons of writers are in the midst of NaNoWriMo, trying to stay inspired as we reach the dreaded middle. Share your most inspiring and/or motivational video, book, or quote on writing!
My inspiration changes with whatever book I'm writing.  For my NaNo project this year I tend to have my Pinterest board open for visual motivation and these two books nearby in case I want to check something out:
I mainly keep going back to the fiction that's inspired me to write this NaNo project in the past.  At the moment I have a lot of Supernatural as well as watching an old disney film Tower of Terror that involves a haunted hotel - my ghostly setting.
But there are a couple of non-fiction books on writing that generally keep me motivated about writing:
Breathing Life into your Characters: How To Give Your Characters Emotional and Psychological Depth by Rachel Ballon, Ph.D.
This is a fantastic book for anyone who can be character-driven writers.  The blurb says that it will help you get into the head of your characters, knowing their thoughts, feelings, and overall psychology whether they are the protagonist or the villain.
There are chapters on helping you shape a characters back story and then moving on to knowing their motivations.  Conflicts and how characters might react differently to them.  Quite basic to start out with but the chapters go deeper into the mind of your characters.  Dysfunctional families, personality disorders, phobias, dialogue and body language. 
Nothing has helped me more than this book in creating characters.  There's just so much you don't tend to think of when writing your characters and this book give you loads to work with and think about, overall helping you develop that character in your head that's itching for a way out and a story.
Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L Going
My go-to book for writing YA.  I loved the presentation of the book with the chapters being linked to high school classes.  English: Writing Convincing Characters, Social Studies: Studying settings, Science: Experimenting with editing techniques and so on.  This book really helps me get inside the mind of a teenager.  I never thought it would happen so soon but at 23 I'm actually starting to forget what it was like to be a teenager and being emotional and confused with friendship drama being the biggest problem of my life and making silly choices and mistakes.  I loved the inclusion of a teen panel who answer questions in each chapter on YA reading and they give their opinions.  The answers show you just how different teenagers can be and what they look for in books.  At the end of each chapter there is also a little 'homework' to complete.  A little motivation and writing project to do and get you writing.  There's also help on what to do in the revising and querying stages.
Any writing books that have motivated you in the past?

12 Nov 2012

NaNo Update 2

Word Count: 25,029

Next week's target: 40,000

I could make it really easy and have a target of 30,000 by next Monday.  But if I keep to 2000 words a day like I have been doing I'll hit 30k by Wednesday.  40K is more of a challenge.  I've stuck to writing 2000 a day and with a bit more time at weekends I think I can make it.

The story is still flowing nicely and the plot is easily coming to me as I write.  What I did figure out this week was I have the wrong MC.  I won't bother to go back and switch things now.  I can wait until the editing.  But I'm switching when the time comes.

Originally I loved Scott as the MC.  A level-headed, sceptical character who has never believed in ghosts and simply humours Darren and Riley's obsession with ghosts and investigating them.  And then he comes across the haunted hotel and his whole perspective on ghosts and the afterlife completely changes.  He's gaining some curiosity but still he'd rather stay in the background.

That's where my problem lies.  It's out of character for him to suddenly start investigating ghosts.  As far as he's concerned seeing these ghosts for the first time scared the crap out of him and he'd like to keep away.  He's still quite passive.

As for Darren he's a leader.  He actively goes in search of ghosts with Riley and leads the plot.  What happens is a consequence of his decisions and the plot isn't moving him like it does with Scott.  Darren already believes in ghosts but this is the first time he's ever experienced something worthwhile that would be great for his blog.  He really acts impulsive and reckless as a result and this will lead to the climax where he puts all his friends in danger. 

So, sorry Scott but Darren may have to take your place as MC. 

How are your NaNo novels going? Any changes you've realised you'll have to make too?

7 Nov 2012

RTW - Best Book of October

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
This Week's Topic is:
What's the best book you read in October?

This October I devoured horror books.  After Anna Dressed in Blood I also got through:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Ten by Gretchen McNeil

My favourite of the two:

Ten by Gretchen McNeil

A fantastic thriller with a clever slasher stalking and murdering ten teenagers one by one who have all done something the killer believes they need to be punished for.

My top favourite things about the book:

1) A capable heroine.
2) The isolated setting.
3) Tense narrative.
4) A sneaky, well-planned murder.

For a full review click here. :)

What was your favourite book of October?

5 Nov 2012

NaNo - The first five days

Word count:13,228
Next week's target: 20,000 words.

So far it's been going good.  I started November when I was in the middle of my half term holiday the first four days gave me a chance to do as much as I can and get well into the WiP.  Now with work starting I'll have less hours but I'm sticking to a minimum target of 2000 words each day when I get in from work unless I have a driving lesson straight away.  I also need to use the rest of the night to revise for my theory test, which I'm close to booking.  Eeek! The stress alarm is quite close to setting off. 

Still, I can write more at weekends. :)

Do I like what I've written? Meh.  It's okay.  The inner editor already knows what will be changing but the plot's flowing, the story's coming out easily and I'm just happy about that.  That's the main focus.

This year I didn't obsessively plot.  I've been using a notebook to sum up what I wrote for a chapter if I finish it.  I add in any notes about history, setting, character background etc to keep with continuity and write the word count in for that chapter.  So while I have a basic beginning, middle, and end I haven't planned what each chapter will be about.  It's helpful because the insane detailed plan I had for Beast Inside changed so much I had to rewrite the notes due to all the scribbling in and crossing out I'd done.  The plot's changed so much as I edit so this year I've passed on writing tons of notes.

I finally have a song for this WiP.  Usually I have a playlist and there's always at least one song that's inspired the WiP.  For this one... nothing.  I was inspired by the characters who I used to write about when I was a teenager.  They're who brought this WiP to life rather than a song.

But then I heard this:

It fits so perfectly into the WiP.  After Scott (MC) sees a ghost for the first time and is now taking shelter in a haunted hotel he's paranoid.  He's expecting ghosts everywhere.  He think he's being watched by them all the time.  I love the tune as well.  So creepy.
A huge shout out to my NaNo/blogging friends who have also made an amazing start to NaNo! Cheering you guys on all the way! :) Everything looks like it's going brilliantly!
How have the first five days been for everyone? :)

1 Nov 2012

NaNo time!

November 1st means it's time for NaNo! =D

I haven't done much in terms of prep this year.  I'm usually filling a notebook of plans and detailed chapter by chapter outlines.  But after doing NaNo last year and then starting the editing on that WiP it slowly became quite different to the first draft I had planned.  As I edited new plots came.  New twists, new directions, new characters etc.  Totally for the better but it meant I had a notebook full of notes that weren't even going to help with the writing anymore.

So this year I just have a summary.  I have my characters all planned like always but I'm trying to stick to a basic summary.  I know in general where the story goes but I'd like to see if it can lead itself as well. 

My goals are also different this year.  Last year I tried to do tons of writing in just a few hours after I came home from work.  I ended up tired, totally ignoring family and Pete, and sometimes feeling like it was a chore.  This year I'm aiming for at least 2000 each day.  If I do more then great.  If I don't, I'm not letting it stress me out. 

I won't be blogging as much this November.  I'll do a Monday update and RTW so I'm not totally abandoning it.  Maybe TTT if I have a great list for the topic.  But I'm ordering myself to take the time to have a blogging break and focus on the writing.  I also need more time to revise for my theory test.  My instructor thinks its time so that's another thing I need to replace blogging with this month.

Right, November 1st.  Fingers at the ready... snacks right by my side...


Fellow NaNo-ers... let's write a novel! =D