During the 11 Other Months

Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him. – Stephen King.

For those of you who don’t know (and who are you if you don’t?!) Dumbo is a Disney movie about a baby elephant with very large ears. Dumbo is teased by the other elephants and befriends a mouse called Timothy. Timothy tells Dumbo he would be able to fly with his ears but Dumbo doesn’t believe him until Timothy produces a “magical” feather which will give him flying abilities. Dumbo flaps his large ears, and is able to fly. At the climax of the movie, Dumbo loses the “magical” feather, but instead of falling, he learns that the ability to fly was always within him and the feather was just the guide to get him to where he was always capable of being.

Think of NaNoWriMo as the feather. You have the ability to write a novel, it’s built within you. But it’s not always easy to start if you don’t know how. Sometimes it’s nice to have a guide, to have something taking you by the hand and showing you the way. That is what NaNoWriMo is. NaNoWriMo isn’t the novel, it’s the power that makes you believe you can do it.

Back in 2003, when I started NaNoing, I wrote all the time. I wrote (bad) poetry, and short stories. I had whole notebooks full of snippets of ideas, random paragraphs, and stanzas for poems. I had doodles as I worked things out and ideas mapped out for somethings. I loved that. I loved carrying around a notebook full of random creative thoughts. So what if most of them didn’t pan out to be anything – it was fun. (I still have those notebooks in a box somewhere. They’re great to read.)

But as I got older, and NaNo became an ingrained part of my life, I stopped writing so much. I no longer write short stories because I struggle to come up with short and sweet ideas that can be wrapped up in a few thousands words. (I definitely don’t write teen angst poetry but I feel that’s more my age than my writing ability.) My writing ability seems to be entirely focused on full novels. Considering I don’t plan that much in advance, it’s strange that that’s how my mind works. But not only do I find I’m more leaning towards novel writing now, I find if I try and write in any sort of depth or for length of time at any other time of year other than November, I fail. I find I don’t have the drive, the desire to write during any other month.

In many ways, NaNoWriMo is my magical feather

Of course NaNoWriMo is a nice little bundle of novelling. It gives you everything you need. You get a timeframe to write, a deadline to meet, supporting people from all over the world, pep talks from real authors, and lots of metaphorical cookies and poking (and real, if you go to write-ins and that’s how your region is inclined). It’s perfect! NaNo wraps you in this neat little writing world, and it’s amazingly awesome.

After 11 years, I find the rest of the year is a little less coloured when it comes to writing.

But sometimes I find myself saying “I can’t write outside of November”. Well, why not? Apart from the community, what’s really stopping me? I can obviously write, and I can obviously write a novel in a month. So I’m using the wrong phrasing. I “can” write outside of November, but part of is me choosing not to. I think part of me is scared of trying without the feather.

But you know what? Right now, it’s totally okay to cling to the feather. Cuddle it, name it. Embrace the feather. It is teaching you what you weren’t ready to believe. But in December, when it goes missing, you can still fly.

Just spread those wings.

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Angel Fever in North London

L.A. Weatherly

Have you ever met someone you admire and like, only to find they are a truely wonderful person and walk away feeling inspired and excited to achieve what they have achieved?

Today I did that.

L.A. Weatherly is the author of the ‘Angel’ series – Angel, Angel Fire, and Angel Fever. It’s a brilliant YA trilogy where angels are coming down from Heaven to Earth to live amongst humans. The catch? They’re also sucking the life force from the very humans who worship them, eventually causing their death. If you’re touched by an angel, you can only see them as true and good. Which leaves those who haven’t been touched by angels left to fight for the human race. Throw in some half angels, and a less than straightforward romance, and voila! One very thrilling post-apocolyptic trilogy. Highly recommended.

Lee has been touring the UK the last few days, visiting Waterstones stores and signing books. The great thing is you didn’t have to have bought her book from Waterstones to get it signed! She just wanted to meet fans, promote the series in store, and talk about her new trilogy (out next year). This was brilliant as I bought the last two books in Foyles.

Upon meeting Lee, I decided she was lovely. I’ve exchanged a few tweets here and there on Twitter before but she was genuinely lovely in person. We chatted for a minute about her new series, and she signed my copy of Angel Fever, and I got a picture.  She was giving away badges, and bookmarks, and chocolate. Definitely worth the 45 minute tube journey to get there. I left happy (and bought Neil Gaiman’s ‘America Gods’ from Waterstones as well).

Angel Fever

In another store I found a little Christmas badge. It was an angel made of tinsel with flashing lights embedded in it. I couldn’t resist. I bought it and went back to find Lee chatting with a staff member. Cautiously interrupting the conversation, I presented my find, we figured out how to get it flashing and she promptly wore it.

And then we talked for 20 minutes.

My original impression was spot on. She was absolutely lovely, great to talk to. I dropped in that I was a writer and she instantly asked what I wrote usually, what I was working on, how it was going, and how far along I was with editing. I explained the basic outline of We All Fall Down. (I’m not great at explaining it to normal people, explaining it to a published author who’s work I like is a lot harder!) But! she said she liked the sound of it, and that it sounded a great concept. WINNING!

I mentioned NaNoWriMo and how it got me started on novel writing, and we discussed the importance of having a supportive background. I’m very lucky that my family have always been supportive, and Boyfriend is too. As much as he jokes about distracting me from doing NaNo, he’s aware I’d be very upset if he actually prevented me from writing. And he’s super supportive of my editing.

We talked about non-writing too. She told me about the road trips she took for research and I talked about my job and working on a summer camp in the States (summer 2011, Minnesota).

I also got general advise. Lee suggested looking into finding a suitable writing group to get further support, help, and ideas. She also said how important it was to just keep going, even if you get rejected, to not give up. Which is absolutely right. Stephen King used to collect rejection slips on a nail on the wall of his bedroom. He used it to drive himself until it was successful, and look where he is now! If you want something badly enough and are willing to put in the time and effort, you will eventually get it. I fully believe this.

Overall, a great way to spend part of my Saturday.

Lee, it was an absolutely pleasure meeting and chatting with you. Buying that little flashing angel was a great decision. If I am ever published and get to do signings, I’m going to be as lovely to my fans are you are to yours. You’re an inspiration.

Have a good weekend everyone!

www.leeweatherly.com

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And They’re Off!

National Novel Writing Month - Press Start

For Cinderella, midnight signalled the end of the ball, for NaNoWriMo-ers, it’s the start of an adventure! For the UK, that adventure starts NOW!

Famous author, Tom Clancy who sadly passed away this month, said “The only way to write, is to write.” And that is what November is all about. It’s not about editing, it’s not about wondering if you need another layer of subplot, it’s not about spelling your character names right every time or knowing what their birth sign is, or whether they like carrots. It’s about writing and writing and more writing.

It’s about getting the words on the page and leaving them there. It’s about opening up the floodgates in your mind and watching the magic pour from your brain through your fingers and onto the keyboard or page in front of you. It’s about watching your ideas and your ideas only come to life before your eyes.

It’s about realising what you can do when there’re 100,000 people doing it with you.

It’s about taking a leap of faith and just going with it. Even if you are like me and haven’t really a clue what you’re going to be writing this November, it doesn’t matter. Because over the next few days and week, you’ll work it out. And you’ll watch yourself work it out and be amazed that it’s you doing that. You’re going to surprise yourself on many levels, and even on the days when the words won’t come, you’re still going to feel pride for what you’re doing.

You’re going to join in the word sprints online, or join the write-ins and social events in your local community. You’re going to discuss ideas on the forums, or procrastinate heavily with like minded people. You’re going to create fictional worlds with wonderful people whilst getting to know equally wonderful people in the real world.

You’re going to be caffeinated, sleep deprived, and prone to scribbling a few words here and there just to keep your word count up. You’re going to be on a month long roller coaster filled with highs and lows, sharp corners, and graceful gliding lengths. You’re going to feel a little crazy. But that’s totally okay. Because we’re all a little bit crazy with you.

This November, is your November. And you’re going to make it amazing.

Every year, thousands of people sign up to NaNoWriMo and don’t start. By writing even a few words, you’re already ahead of many people who don’t.

One of my favourite Stephen King quotes is: “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Well, right now, it’s gone midnight. The final moments of October have vanished. The final dreaded minutes of waiting for something to happen are gone. That scariest moment is very shortly going to be buried under piles of prose as soon as you type the first sentence.

So, what are you reading this for? Go write!

Happy Novelling Wrimos!

 

NaNoWriMo Countdown: One Week. Fiendish Fancies.

With only seven days to go (yes, you read that correctly), it’s time to make sure you are all set for the month of novelling ahead of you. In my three week countdown blog I talked about making sure you were fully prepared for November. One particular mention was that of snacks and drinks and easy food. With Halloween just around the corner (and a stolen title from Mr. Kipling’s Halloween themed French Fancies), I thought I would cover some of my favourite quick foods for this November.

1) Chocolate Mug Cake

Ingredients:Chocolate Mug Cake 1

– 4 tablespoons of self raising flour
– 4 tablespoons of hot chocolate powder
– 1 large egg
– 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
– 3 tablespoons of milk

Chocolate Mug Cake 2Equipment:

– Large mug
– Fork/whisk

Add all ingredients to a large mug and stir thoroughly. You’re looking for a smooth, thick mixture. One mixed, place mug in microwave for 2 ½ – 3 minutes (time depends on power of microwave). To test if cooked through, slide a clean knife half way into the cake and remove. If it’s clean, it’s cooked! If it comes out with batter stuck to it, pop the mug back into the microwave for another 30 seconds.

2) Pizza cupcakes

Ingredients:Pizza Cupcakes

– Pizza base mix
– Pasta tomato sauce
– Grated cheese
Equipment:
– Cupcake tray

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Add water to the pizza base mix to create a ball of dough. Add water carefully, kneading the dough as you do. If you add too much, have some plain flour handy to mix in. Once you have your dough ball, roll it out on a flat surface. Cut out circles of dough and place in the cupcake tray. (If you have cookie cutters handy, these would be ideal. We used the lid of a blender to mark out the circles.) Make sure you have enough dough for both the base of the cupcake, and the lid. Don’t be afraid to re-ball up the dough, then roll it out again for ease.

Pizza Cupcakes 2Add 1 ½ – 2 tablespoons of pasta sauce to each cupcake. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese on top of the sauce. Place the dough lids on each cupcake, pressing slightly along the edges to seal (use a dab of water around the edge of the cupcake to help seal the lid). Please cupcake tray in oven for 12 – 15 minutes.

Note: pizza cupcakes are HOT when they come out of the oven. Leave to cool for a few minutes before consuming.

3) Cereal

Ingredients:Coco Pops

– Your favourite cereal
– Milk

Equipment:

– Bowl
– Spoon

This is one of the most obvious but under-rated quick meals. A large bowl of cereal is perfect for when you’ve come in from work, have 1,667 words to write, and you realise that yet again you forgot to go shopping. I half lived off cereal last November. Stock up on a variety and don’t be afraid to heat up the milk first for that glorious warm feeling inside.

And as it’s NaNo, you’re allowed your favourite every time. Coco Pops is my choice.

So there you have it! Some say November is not the month to be experimenting with new things in the kitchen. I say – take a break from one creativity for another. Your brain needs food, too!

 

Please Write Me This November

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I, as I imagine lots of others did, received an email on October 16h from from ‘[My] Novel’. It begin:

“Dear Burgeoning Novelist,

I’m writing to tell you I need you. That’s right, I’ve been swirling around in the breathtaking labyrinths of your unconscious mind for a while now, and I’m itching to leap into the world. The only way I can come out, though, is if you commit to writing me in November.”

I think I just got guilt tripped by my not yet formed novel.

As a seasoned pantser (that’s someone who writes “by the seat of their pants” rather than planning it out) I don’t really tend to think about my novel much before November. I have a working title, a one line plot idea, and the first name of a character (not even my main character – just a character) which I gained from answering the question “What is the first sentence of your novel?” on the unofficial NaNoWriMo Facebook group.

Okay, tell a lie… as I wrote that, I decided said character will die in the first two pages. So definitely not my main character.

Last week I woke up in the night and my brain switched to NaNo. Probably because from the bed I can see my thick folder of notes and the printed version of We All Fall Down sitting on my desk. (Now that IS guilt tripping me as I haven’t done any editing in two weeks.) In my sleepy state, it began ticking over ideas.

I’m creating a fictional town in England to base my novel in. I’ve done fictional worlds before but never a fictional town in the real world. I decided I’m going to do this properly. Usually I just dive in, write, and then have the horrific task of remapping my novel to make sense afterwards. We have a huge whiteboard which I plan on accommodating for November and I plan on drawing a map of my fictional town as I go along.

When I woke up, I decided my town was going to be centered around a cemetery. I then decided it would be circular, and then my brain threw out that the plan of the town should be related to the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. I feel back asleep at this point.

I’m not even sure I could incorporate the Wheel of the Year into a town map, and if I could, it would take a LOT of planning and I don’t think I could link it to my plot idea. However, I did really like the idea of having the layout of the town related to my idea, rather than just a randomly built town.

(I was also impressed that I remember my thoughts when I woke up the next morning.)

Right now, it’s hard not to think about your upcoming novel – pantser or not. It’s hard not to feel it clinging to the edges of your consciousness, peering over the edge with wide eyes, giving you a nervous little smile. It’s waiting for your permission to climb up and run about in your mind. Come November 1st, you’ll be pulling that little novel up to your level and you’ll be running with it. Hell, you’ll be taking it sledging and rolling in the snow with it. This is your new best friend.

So, yes, please write your novel. It will be sad and lonely without you. Do this whether you know your only poor unsuspecting character will die soon or not. Listen to your mind when it gives you ideas, and listen to your novel when it calls to you on November 1st.

Eight days and counting.

NaNoWriMo Countdown: Two Weeks. The Zombie Apocolypse.

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The countdown continues! We only have 14 days to go until NaNoWriMo 2013 kicks off! SCARY! But then NaNo is all about a little bit scary. It’s all about being out of your comfort zone and plunging into the dark zombie infested alley with little idea of what lies on the other side but crossing your fingers there will be asylum – also known as November 30th.

Weird analogy? Last night I was doing exactly that.

2.8 Hours is a game (for lack of a better word) that takes places in the real world. It involves being in a group, having a map, and walking around parts of London which are infested with zombies and trying to find asylum without being infected. Sounds mad? It was. But it was also amazing fun.

On November 1st, you walk into NaNo feeling confident and eager. This is a challenge but you’ll enjoy it. You’re going to learn about yourself and reach goals you may not have reached before. You bounce off into your new world surrounded by like minded individuals and feel giddy and excited.

Last night, our group felt the same way. We left the base and headed to our first grid reference on the map. We went to several places and were told at each place the importance of having city passes to get through the safe zone. Finally one character said he had a contact in a car park who would give us fake passes. Arriving on level 7 of the carpark, we found his contact who explained she needed us to get medical supplies from level 8. Suddenly our confidence dwindled, our nerves began to show, and we no longer bounced along but began creeping wearily.

NaNo veterans will recognise this feeling as Week Two. For us last night, it was our first meeting with zombies.

And zombies, actors or otherwise, are freaking scary things. We crept onto level 8, saw several slow moving zombies around and began to look for medical supplies. Before we knew what was happening, said zombies were suddenly screaming and sprinting towards us. We screamed and sprinted too – but the other direction! Note: zombies are QUICK.

We survived our first encounter. Barely.

Our second encounter came a little later. We met a protester on the street (2.8 hours set up their protester to stand on a busy street with a sign reading “Honk if you hate the coalition!” All the cars honked, it was a brilliant touch, although I’m sure the neighbours in the nearby flats didn’t agree.) who sent us “down to the next set of traffic lights and go left”. As we neared our point of turning, I commented to my teammate that it seemed very dark up ahead. Little did we know how accurate that observation was.

By the time you reach week three of NaNo, unless you’ve planned very well, there’s a good chance you’ll be deep into the unknown territory of your novel. You won’t be entirely sure of what to expect, you haven’t got a torch to explore the dark shadows around you, and although you know there is an end to this madness, you’re no longer sure how long it will take you to get there.

When we stepped into the darkness of an abandoned path, it gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘beware the unknown’.

Almost straight away we saw two zombies lumbering around the path. We crept nearer, eyeing them carefully as they moaned and scrapped their feet on the gravel. In front of us, although our minds were filling in the gaps, they were nothing more than dark shapes blocking our way to freedom.

When they started to run, so did we.

I knew it was a game, I knew it wasn’t real, but that all goes out of the window when you have zombies running full pelt at you in the dark. There is no instinct to do anything but flee as fast you can and don’t stop. When we got past the first line of zombies, with one of our teammates getting ‘bitten’ in the process, we paused for breath and slowed to a walk. Digging out a flashlight we picked out the path immediately ahead. The light picked out someone lying on an abandoned sofa, prompting a comment of “Ah it’s just a hobo.”

Said hobo suddenly jumped up and ran at us.

By the time we reached the end of the path, we had dodged several more zombies (I fell over at one point and stared one down until it went away) and were delighted to see the flashlights of non-zombie life forms.

After a short bus ride, we were dropped off in the last stage of our adventure through the night. It was here I got infected.

As with any adventure or challenge, whether it’s NaNoWriMo or a Zombie Run, there will be moments when everything stops and comes crashing down, when the challenge to survive suddenly seems impossible. When I got caught, I saw her coming. I tried to escape but out of the corner of my eye, I saw her. When she grabbed me, I screamed. I was marked as an infected, with a zombie screaming in my ear. For that one moment, I was frozen.

As soon as she let go, I bolted for the gate.

By the time we reached the last batch of zombies of the night, I was knackered. But as Rudyward Kipling rhymed “…hold on when there is nothing in you, except the Will which says ‘hold on!’”

Come the last few days of NaNoWriMo, you will be feeling the same way. But the end is in sight, you’re almost there, you can almost taste the long sleep you’ve earnt. Just keep going.

We finally reached asylum. As an Infected, I was made up to look like a zombie, along with Boyfriend and two other teammates. We got to the bar, got well needed drinks, and high-fived our success at the night.

If that had been NaNoWriMo, we had reached November 30th mostly in one piece.

The moral of the story – don’t go into the dark without a torch, don’t assume the hobo is nothing more, and no matter if you successfully dodge the zombies or not, you’ll still be allowed into the survivor’s disco.

NaNoWriMo Countdown: Three Weeks. Preparation.

ImageRight now, there is only three weeks to go until day one of NaNoWriMo 2013. That’s 21 days. Or, if you prefer 504 hours. If we were 21 days into November, you’d have 35,007 words under your belt.

It’s getting close.

On the plus side, a lot can be done in three weeks. You can write ¾ of a novel. But in this pre-NaNoWriMo state, it’s always good taking some time to take stock of what is approaching, of the challenge you’ve taken on. Take some time to prepare.

So how do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? That depends on what exactly you want to prepare. For many, this preparation may involve extensive planning. For others, stocking up on tea and biscuits.

It helps to know your planning style. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Plotters tend to plan their novel in advance – working out character profiles, storylines, the beginning, middle AND end, and generally have an idea of what will be happening in November. Pantsers are the opposite. The extreme pantsers will plunge into NaNo head first with no clue what lies beneath them. (And that, my friends, never ceases to be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time.) If you’re not sure what your planning style is, go for the middle ground. Jot down a few notes to get you going. Come up with a location, a plot idea, and a couple of characters. Get hold of a map of the area you’re setting your story in – or if you’re making up a new town/city/world, draw it out! Even better, invest in a whiteboard so you can easily add and take away from the map as you work it out.

And it’s not only yourself you need to prepare. You should probably warn your friends, family, and co-workers that you’re suddenly going to be sleep deprived, be living more in the world of your novel than the real one, and your social life may take a  dive.  Last night  I sat down to edit my current work in progress. Our desk is in the bedroom and I hook up my netbook to the larger computer screen so I can see the text easier and research on Google with a split screen. Boyfriend came to bed at midnight and I was still working. He asked if I was coming to bed a couple of times, and I was like “not yet”, then I got frustrated because I couldn’t read my own notes and stared at the paper in front of me for five minutes. When he asked if I was okay, I was all “No! I can’t read my own handwriting! This is terrible!” whilst he looked on bemused. (I did eventually translate what I had written.) When I eventually stopped about 12:45am he asked if this was what November was going to be like.

It is.

After 11 years, those nearest and dearest to me are fully aware of what my November is like. They’d be more surprised if I said I wasn’t doing it. But if you’re new to NaNo, it may come as a surprise to them if you’re suddenly locked away (more than usual –  let’s admit, a lot of us writers are proudly hermit-ish in nature) every day. Be aware though, by telling people, you will be hit with “Can I read it?”, “What’s it about?” “What do you win?” and “When will it be published?” questions. Prepare your answers. It will help. Maybe invest in a big sign on your door answering them to ward off intruders.

Finally you come to non-NaNo essentials for November. The week before it’s wise to clear out your laundry basket, stock up on your drink of choice, invest in your preferred snacks and easy microwave meals for the days you haven’t got the time/energy/significant other to cook. Tidy your writing area and have notepads, pens, mascots in the immediate vicinity.

To sum up, come November 1st, you want to be as ready as you need to be.

Bring on NaNoWriMo 2014!

Read What Thou Wish To

Judy Blume Quote

I was brought up allowed to read anything and everything I wanted for which, when I look back, I was very lucky to have. My mum took me to the library every week (Monday night after school), to exchange my four library books for another four. I had books that I read and re-read – Enid Blyton to death, Watership Down, The Babysitters Club, Goosebumps – then as I got older Anne of Green Gables, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Point Horror, and Stephen King. My parents both read, although not as avidly as I did, and encouraged me greatly. My nana was a librarian for 45 years and adores reading as much as I do. Every time I go home to visit she asks what I’ve been reading, even though we both know she’s unlikely to read it herself, she wants to know where I am.

In case you’re unaware, this week is Banned Book Week. It highlights the great books of our time which have been banned in some areas of the world for various reasons. These books are usually already classics, or can become classics, famous for their storylines and plots but manage to outrage communities for their content.

Because of the freedom I had as a child, I was never aware if I read banned books. I had no limitations as far as I was aware. As I got older and bought books more regularly, I continue to have the freedom to choose what I wanted, and as I got older still and owned a Kindle, I could download anything which was available. For most of my younger life, I wasn’t even aware books could be banned. Why would anyone want to ban such incredible creations of worlds?

On this list from BannedBooksWeeks.org I have read three of them, without ever realising they had ever caused controversy. The Call of the Wild, Fahrenheit 451, and A Streetcar Named Desire. In fact, the latter was studied in school in English Literature. Knowing there are books out there which have been banned or censored in some areas of the world is enough to make me want to read them. I want to know what’s inside the covers that have caused such outrage.

Children’s booked get banned too. On Buzzfeed in 2011, there was a list compiled of popular children’s and young adult books which have been banned somewhere.  From this list I’ve read seven of them, many when I was a child.

In blunt honesty, I don’t agree with banning books. I think anyone who wants to read, should be allowed to read whatever takes their fancy, especially children. At the risk of sounding old, in a generation of the Internet, video games, and smartphones, children who want to read anything should be greatly encouraged!

I understand that communities have beliefs, and that some books may go against their beliefs and this leads them to feel that said books shouldn’t be read. But who gives them the right to decide what other people should believe and read? You think Harry Potter should be banned as it is based in a magical world and therefore affiliated with evil? Okay, that’s fine, you’re entitled to that opinion of course. But the person sat next to you may not feel the same way. So why ban the book from your local library?

We are all wonderfully unique people with individual ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and desires. What works for one person won’t work for another. If everyone had everything they thought was bad banned or censored from those around them, the world would be a very simple and boring place indeed. Books, along with other things, make the world continue turning. They inspire, they create, they evolve, they connect. We would be a very different place without them.

If you’re going to read a new book this week – make it a banned book.

“A word to the unwise. Torch every book. Char every page. Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.”
– Ellen Hopkins ‘Crank and Smoke’

Behind the Magic

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Last Saturday, Boyfriend and I had free tickets to go and watch ‘Catchphrase’ being filmed. For those not in the know, Catchphrase is a Saturday night TV show from the 80s which has recently been re-done. It involves contestants seeing an animation on a big screen and identifying the catchphrase. For example, we saw one where a guy was having a drink in a pub with a big cheque. Answer? Checkmate. (A mate who is a cheque!) Literally, “say what you see”. Simples!

The show is actually about 20 minutes long once you add in the advert breaks. We were in the studio for three hours. It was a lot more interesting than we expected. The set was a lot smaller than it looks on TV, and you get to see just how much is re-shot. Sometimes over and over. The presenter would say a sentence, pause, then repeat it slightly differently without missing a beat. Of course in the final cut, it would look seemless.

At the end, the presenter was filmed making puzzled faces at the camera, and pointing to where the contestants had been and saying their names over in various ways, and making random comments. This, of course, will be cut into the final edit and it will look like he’s reacting to the contestants in front of him, when he was really talking to thin air!

It wasn’t just three hours of watching bits be re-filmed. There was a lot of breaks and set checks and things, and we had a great entertainer to chat to the audience and keep us amused between filming. He would jump in any moment filming was over. It was great.

So, why am I talking about this? Other than it’s something different to do on a wet and windy Saturday afternoon, it goes to show just how much goes on behind the scenes that the audience never knows about. This is the same with other TV shows, movies, and even writing. How many times have you edited something, only to move whole chapters about? How many times have you inserted a character half way through and had to go back and enter the backstory afterwards? Have you ever written the ending first? This is all behind the scenes goings on that the audience (the reader) never sees. These are the secrets behind the front image. The audience doesn’t get to see the sweat and blood and rewrites and edits. They don’t get to see the swearing, the bad times, the times when nothing goes right. They don’t see the characters who just won’t behave.

The audience only sees the final product.

But that’s okay. It wouldn’t be as sexy if they saw behind the scenes. No-one wants to see an author slumped over a stained desk in their favourite oversized PJs, half a mug of cold forgotten coffee by their hand. They want to see the shiny prettiness when you’ve done the hard work.

And likewise you don’t always want to see what a mess your favourite TV show is before you get involved in it. But sometimes it can be fun to understand the effort that goes into something you enjoy. It can be enlightening.

If you have the chance, be nosey. It doesn’t always ruin the magic, and you might get an interesting insight into the unknown.

And if someone asks to see how you work out of curiosity, think about letting them. They might learn from you.

When Life Takes Over

Life gives you lemons

I had one of those days yesterday which was full of ups and downs. I walked into work to find an email from a parent thanking the company, but me personally, for her daughter’s summer experience, then got some bad news at lunch, then spoke to a friend on the phone in the afternoon who I haven’t spoken to in months, then my Friday night plans turned out to be a little disappointing and I got soaked on the way home. Then I had pizza and chocolate chip cookies for tea, which fixes everything.

On the days when life just decides that you need a bit of a rollercoaster ride (and I actually love rollercoasters, but they tend to make me sick), it can be hard to focus on what you want to be doing. After the bad news at lunch, I spent a couple of hours attempting work but kept getting completely side-tracked and then irritated that it took me five minutes to do a 30 second task. Luckily a friend appeared on Facebook chat and kept me company for the rest of the afternoon.

As we get closer to November (and therefore NaNoWriMo), I feel it’s important to brace yourself for Life. No matter how much you plan your writing schedule, something is going to come up and stand in your way. It could be something as small as walking home in the rain and getting in not wanting to do anything but curl up under a quilt with your favourite movie, or something huge that just blocks your mind of all other thought. But it will happen. Of course, something amazingly happy could happen which involves your schedule going completely out of whack as well! Last year, my boyfriend and I got together smack bang in the middle of November. There are few things more distracting than a new relationship. (This year he gets the delight of living with me during November.)

The big obvious distractions in November are the upcoming Christmas and Thanksgiving (for the American Wrimos). I learnt earlier this week that Thanksgiving is November 28th this year. I do not envy you, my fellow American Wrimos. I’m sure Thanksgiving is a wonderful time, and I would love to experience it, should I one day make it to the Night of Writing Dangerously one year, but at the same time I would not like to loose precious writing time that close to the end of November. And of course with Christmas comes the pre-Christmas parties, which for some reason aren’t always held in December.

My biggest Life distraction in November I can foresee, and plan accordingly. My birthday lands on November 27th. That night is already out, as we have gig tickets. The weekend before is also out as I’m going home to visit my family for four days. That’s basically five days right there that I either won’t write at all, or won’t write as much as I should do. Then November 29th is payday, and therefore will be my birthday celebration with friends from work. Essentially, if I’m not at the very least on target by November 21st, I’m going to have a frantic November 30th.

But not everyone has the luxury of seeing the big events coming up. I’ll re-emphasise this nearer the time, but plan for the days that you can’t see coming but will inevitably come. The days when you’re ill, the days when work or school dumps a major new project on your head, the days when friends or family need you more than your writing does. Therefore, write more than you need to when you can. That buffer of extra words will be needed. Trust me.

And just generally, when life smacks you around the head without warning, find the little things to keep going. The little things will help you get back on track.

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