Monthly Archives: October 2012

It’s the Final Countdown!

I just spent a few minutes trying to type out the little “d’d’doo doo” bit of the next part of that song and then I admitted defeat and gave up. It’s not easy! But now you all have it stuck in your head so my work here is done.

In some parts of the world, NaNoWriMo 2012 has started.

Isn’t that scary?

If you’re in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, China or nearby countries (sorry my world knowledge is severely lacking) how is it going? Reached 1667 words yet? Have you reached more? Are you still writing?

Here in the UK, we have just over two hours until kick off. That’s just over 120 minutes. That’s really not a long time. I’ve just set up my Scrivener project for my new novel. It has a title and I’ve made several blank files to split my novel up into and I’ve created a file for a character list and another for a timeline. I’ve decided that I’m not writing in chapters this year (I’ve always written in chapters but those chapters vary from 1,500 words to 10,000 and the chapter breaks tend to be in horrible places). Instead, I’m going to write roughly 5,000 words in one file, then move to the next one. It seems odd, but I’m essentially ensuring that if one file corrupts, I’m only losing up to 5,000 words, rather than everything. (I’d be backing up as well, obviously, but you can never be too cautious!)

I doubt that last paragraph made sense to anyone but me. I apologise. I’m a little giddy in anticipation of November.

I’m also in the process of doing a ton of laundry so I don’t have to think about it for the next week, and after posting this I’ll be tidying and cleaning my room. Especially my desk, which has become a general dumping ground for everything I own.

If you have time before NaNo starts, I recommend you do the same. Your Future Self will thank you most graciously when you’ve torn between writing or ensuring you have clean socks.

I’ve been watching the official @NaNoWordSprint team on Twitter go for it all day with Wrimos who are already writing. It’s made me increasingly excited. The wonderful people running that Twitter have given me energy to get through the day. If you’re reading: you guys are awesome. Truly. You got me through a long day and are keeping me eager to stay up until midnight.

I want to say “I’m ready” but are you ever truly ready? Even in my 10th year NaNoWriMo makes me nervous. It’s still such a huge leap of faith. Of commitment. But even with the nerves, I’m excited for the challenge of tackling it alongside a full time job. It will definitely be a different experience. I’ve told far too many people that I’m trying for 100,000 words this year. I’m going to reach 100,000 or lose a hand trying.

Remember, whether you write 500, 5,000 or 50,000 words this November, you will end up with more than what you started with.

You will be a winner.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. – Mark Twain

So, LETS GO WRIMOS!

Bring on midnight.

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Eat Your Heart Out (not literally…)

I thought I’d take a break from writing about a certain novel writing challenge that begins in a little over three days (*gulp*) and instead talk about what I did today (bear with me, it’s interesting I promise!)

Today, a friend and I attended “Eat Your Heart Out” at St. Bartholomew’s Pathology Museum. Now, that title could be taken literally (ew) or it could be taken as a sort of all-you-can-eat type deal, right? Well, both are wrong.

Eat Your Heart Out was a three day event where, how can I put this delicately, cakes resembling various body parts could be bought. Some of these were kinda gross. I should warn you, if you’re squeamish, I wouldn’t bother with the rest of this post.


“Rotting Flesh Cake”

Yes, they are maggots. Not real, obviously. I haven’t had the courage to try that one yet.

They had cakes resembling brains, hearts and limbs. Drinks included “stool sample” and “urine”. All this took place inside the Pathology Museum who’s walls were covered in jars and bottles preserving various dissected body parts. Nothing better than eyeing up an aorta cake whilst stood next to a piece of brain which is probably older than me.


“Stool Sample”

St. Bart’s is the oldest hospital in London, occupying the same site that it did when it was founded in 1123! Walking through only part of it, gave my friend and I the creeps. Even if you didn’t know it was old, you can tell. In fact, you can almost feel the age of the site it’s on. There’s just something about the empty corridors and locked rooms, grey skies and windswept walkways which makes you look over your shoulder when no-ones behind you. If they don’t go ghost walks in the area, they should.


“Leg Cake”

The event was hugely popular. We arrived at 2pm, having learnt it was one from 12pm until 6pm. They were already sold out of some of the cakes we were expecting to see and one of the helpers told us that yesterday they had closed early because they sold out completely!


“Poo Cake”

By the time we left 40 minutes later, the tables were looking distinctively bare. There were a couple of cakes I would’ve liked to have bought but I wasn’t quick enough. (Although I’m more than happy with what we got! People in work are getting a surprise present in the morning, mwahahaha!)


“Aorta Cake”

The aorta cakes make you feel like a vampire. The red gooey stuff gets everywhere and is sickeningly sweet! They’re impossible to eat without getting it all over your mouth and fingers. You look like you’ve walked out of a horror movie afterwards!


“Getting Messy”

It’s chocolate cake underneath, though! Yum!

I’ll stop with the pictures for the moment. What’s everyone doing for Halloween? I haven’t got any plans so far but I do have a back-up for no plans! Erin Morgenstern and Audrey Niffenenger are doing a spooky reading in a cinema in London. Erin is one of my favourite author’s and is one of my idols. For anyone who doesn’t know her, her highly successful novel ‘The Night Circus’ started out life as a NaNoWriMo novel! It’s an amazing read, as well and looks gorgeous in hardback. I’d go dressed in black and white with a red scarf. (The die-hard fans of the Night Circus in the book visit the circus dressed in black and white with a splash of red.) Basically, if no one comes up with a suggestion which doesn’t involve heading to a club/bar and getting horribly drunk, I’m going to the reading. It’d be great!


“Dissected Brain (not a cake)”

Happy Halloween!

NaNoWriMo 2012: Are You Ready?

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King

The pause before you drop down the big, almost vertical ramp on the roller coaster, the second before an examiner turns away from the oversized clock on the wall and tells you to open your papers, the quiet just before you open your mouth to give a presentation.

Staring at the blank page at 11:59pm on October 31st.

As this post goes live, there is just over a week to go until NaNoWriMo 2012 is officially on. And you may already be feeling the pressure. Last time you checked, there were three months to go. And now, seven days? What happened? I imagine those of you who are seasoned plotters feel the strain of The Week Before more than I do. I know I have no plot. I never have a plot. I have a vague idea and a couple of characters and I run with it. And yet, I feel it lurking on the horizon. I know that in just over a week, my vague plot and two unnamed characters are going to have to develop into something huge.

And that never ceases to feel scary.

Even though my work load is making me lose track of what day of the week it is, I can feel it in my bones that NaNo is coming. It’s strange but my internal calendar is keeping me aware. I struggle at the moment to know what date it is. I wake up working out what day of the week we’re on and whether I have anything on that night. I’ve been reminding myself all day that tomorrow is London’s first Kick Off party because I’m worried I’ll forget tomorrow when I wake up because I’ll think it’s Wednesday again. I have a diary next to my bed that I half want to carry in my bag and half want to leave there. I just need something I can view at all times so I don’t lose track of what I’m doing. (Clearly I need multiple diaries.) I regularly put the wrong date on the comments I make on files in our system without realising I’m doing anything wrong.

But even though all the confusion, I know in my soul that NaNoWriMo is coming.

It’s like a drug. I’m a junkie aware that my next fix is coming.

Part of me is seriously panicked. I can’t remember the last time I was panicked about NaNo. I’m mentally listing everything I have to do in November and my brain is growing big cartoon eyes that are getting wider and wider with distress. I have *never* had a November as full as this one. Do you guys ever see months as colours? My November is appeared a deep, dark, almost black purple. It looks like a very heavy, melodramatic storm cloud that isn’t going to break until December 1st. November is usually a sort of medium level dusty blue. The change unnerves me a bit.

But, d’y’know what? Yes, I am worried. But, I also know that everything will be nowhere near as bad as I imagine. I’m worried I’ll forgot about tomorrow’s Kick Off party, but I’m not going to. I’m worried I won’t have time to write, but I know I will make time. And I know that within a week of November, that storm cloud is going to lighten and shift because it’s not as bad as it looks from a week ahead. Once I start writing, everything will be fine.

However, right now, we’re in The Week Before. And it’s okay to be freaked out in The Week Before. That’s what it’s there for. Because all that pent up nervousness will explode in the first few days of NaNo, giving you a great head-start for the month.

So, how are you all feeling? Nervous? Scared? Kinda alright? Calm and relaxed? Eyeing up those distant hills and seriously considering running towards them, your arms flailing madly?

Are you ready to write?

07 : 02 : 53 : 45

07 days, 02 hours, 53 minutes and 45 seconds until the world ends NaNoWriMo 2012 starts.

Can you feel the clock ticking?

(P.S. Sorry about the gap in posts! It’s a combined excuse of a dodgy Internet connection and a trip home, which never involves large amounts of time online.)

Embrace Your Inner Rebel

As I float about the various NaNo groups I’m an active member of on Facebook (four, if you include the official group) and haunt the forums, I see the same sort of question come up time and time again.

“Can I write [insert type of writing here]?”

There’s a myth that goes around the NaNo-dom that you MUST be writing 50,000 words of ONE novel and one novel only during November. That you should finish said novel by November 30th, no matter what word count (as long as it’s over 50,000) you end up with.

Well, I say a ‘myth’… that kinda is in the NaNoWriMo rules:

The rules state that, to be an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must…

  • Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft.
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you’re writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!

HOWEVER! There is another way!

Anyone who doesn’t follow the official rules of NaNoWriMo can still be a Wrimo, can still take part and, gosh darn it if they can’t still be a winner as well! How? Easy.

Rebel.

Rebelling has probably been around almost as long as NaNo has. Not everyone wants to write a fictional novel. What about a non-fiction piece? Or fanfiction? What about a bunch of short stories? Or poetry?

And what happens if you’ve already started The Masterpiece novel when November rolls around and you don’t want to take a break from the flow to write something you may never look at again during November just for the sake of following the rules?

Rebel.

Don’t worry if you’re finding yourself in a position that doesn’t seem to be reflected in the post of those around you. Don’t feel pressured into writing a 50,000 word fiction novel if you really don’t want to do it. There are people who rebel year after year. There’s even a section of the forum for Rebels to come together and discuss their Rebel-y-ness aware from the potential glares of the traditional NaNoists. If anyone has a problem with what you’re doing, that’s only going to add stress to their November.

I have seen, more than makes me happy, people ask if they can write two stories in November, totaling at 50,000 words and replies saying ‘no, it must be one novel at 50,000’. And yes, technically, it should be, but if someone wants to be a short story writer or finds the idea of diving into a full length novel a bit daunting, then let them using NaNoWriMo to get their stories out without feeling like they’re the bit of fuzz you get stuck to your shoe after peeling a sticker off, or worse, make them feel like they’re not welcome to the community.

D’y’know what? Rebels are just as much as part of the community as anybody. They have the same goal, the same problems, the same low moments, the same high moments as everyone who enters into NaNoWriMo.

There’s a debate year after year about this: should Rebels “win”? Well, why not? No-one pays to do NaNo, there’s no actual club to be kicked out of and the only prize is self satisfaction. So, if someone wants to write 10 5,000 word short stories, and claim their NaNoWriMo winner’s purple word count bar and certificate, then why can’t they? Nobody can stop them from doing so as there is no way of checking, other than taking someone’s word for it, that they rebelled or not.

So, if you want to sit down and write your memoirs, or a day-to-day diary from the point of view of your pet dog or if you want to write 50,000 words of poetry in 30 days, by the love of the Gods go for it! (Hey, if Milton can write a 80,000 word poem over 10 books, why can’t you?)

I rebelled once. Last year, in fact. And, y’know what? I was an ML. *cheeky grin*

Embrace your inner rebel. NaNoWriMo is your November. Do whatever on Earth you want with it.

Why are Wrimos and Writers Awesome?

Well, ‘cause we are! It’s just that simple.

*pause*

Oh, that’s not enough of an answer? Alright then.

Wrimos and Writers are awesome for many, many reasons. Far too many to list in this blog post. 50,000 words could be written on why we’re such a radical bunch of people. But the reason I bring it up is for one thing and one thing only:

We write well.

And I’m not talking about crafting beautiful stories, producing intricate tales and creating intriguing characters (all of which are true). No, I’m talking about literally writing well. We spell correctly (or take the time to spell check if we’re a little shaky on spelling), we use proper grammar and good punctuation. We understand when to use a comma and a full stop. We can smoothly slide semi-colons into sentences making them look like they belong. We know that excessively capitalising your words and whoring out exclamation marks makes people judge you.

Without going into a ton of detail about my real life work, I check applications for a cultural exchange programme from people wanting to, well, apply. Now, this is effectively a job application. People can be rejected, dropped and even see the application season out without a placement being offered to them. (It can be harsh, but that’s life.) So, you’d think that with it being a job application, spelling would be checked carefully, punctuation rules would be followed and emoticons would be nowhere in sight.

Oh how wrong you’d be. It upsets me on a daily basis how many mistakes I find in applications, how many basic rules of writing are broken. Talking about yourself? Capital ‘I’. Not sure how to spell the job title? Look it up! Start of a sentence? Capital letter. Nice smiley face at the end of the paragraph? No! Gods…

And that’s just the start of it! I’ve seen double negatives (“I had a no alcohol ban” Wow, really? You were banned from having no alcohol? How drunk did you get?), the dreaded “of” instead of “have”, and phrases such as “I done this” and “my friend and me”.

These people are all at least 18. They have all at least gone through a high school education. And yet far too many are incapable of stringing a basic sentence together. It really does make me feel dejected. And, what’s worse, I simply haven’t got the time to be emailing these people and asking them to spell check their application. There’s just that many! It makes me cringe how many applications have gone through our system with the word “alot” alone. (Every time I see it, I desperately want to email the person this.) How will these people cope when they have to apply for a “real job” out in the “real world?” I dread to think.

Last week, I spent fifteen minutes firmly deciding I was going to become an English teacher. For the good the world and my own sanity.

And this, dear Wrimos, is why I love you all and why you are a truly awesome breed of people. You don’t cause me the stress and heartache that comes with the butchering of the English language. You naturally work with it. Your subconscious is trained to want to write properly and well and coherently in all walks of life. It makes you twitch to see “txt spk” and you’d rather gnaw off an arm than knowingly submit any piece of writing anywhere with errors in it.

You even add new comments onto the forums when you notice your own typing error because there isn’t an edit button.

You keep me from losing my mind. (Yes, I check the forums at work. What, you don’t?)

Thank you.

Hints and Tips: Second Year Wrimos!

Do you love NaNoWriMo? Clearly, because you’re reading this!

I Love NaNoWriMo

(Okay so my donor gifts arrived on Friday and I love the halo bracelet a little too much. So, naturally I spent time trying to take a photograph of it on my arm…)

Hello Second Year-ers! So, you’re back for more, eh?

Awesome.

(If you’re a first timer: click here.)

Whatever happened last year, you’ve made the brilliant decision to go for it again. Whether you reached 50K or not last year, you still achieved something great, something special and spectacular. You’ve likely made friends – either online or in person. And why wouldn’t you want to repeat that?

And then you’ve found yourself hooked. (After 10 years, I’m feeling there should be a NaNoWriMo Anonymous.) September rolls round and there’s that nagging feeling inside that you should be doing something. And it’s nothing to do with Christmas. Oh yes, the seeds of NaNo are sowed early.

So, second year hints and tips:

You may find your second year harder. Don’t look at me that way, I’m serious. But if you’ve done it before, why is it harder? It’s harder precisely because you’ve done it before. Suddenly, you have something to be compared too. I’m certainly not suggesting you ever compare yourself to even your own previous word count as you are a winner no matter what, but subconsciously, you’ll still do it. And somehow knowing what you’re getting yourself into is harder than not understand it at all.

Don’t compare yourself to last year. I pretty much covered this with the above point. So, whatever you got last year, was last year. Ignore it. It’s gone. Concentrate on this year. (And I realise the new NaNo site is showing everyone’s novel and word count and stuff from last year. It’s cool. You don’t have to look at it.)

Give advice. I know you’re reading advice, but you have a year’s experience under your belt, now. So, give advice to newbies. They will appreciate it and you’ll get the thrill of passing on your experience to people who have yet to know the excitement of NaNoWriMo.

Take on a mentee. Why not go one step further than advice giving? Go browse the Find a Mentee and Find a Mentor threads over in the Newbies section and give someone one on one advice and encouragement! I’ve been mentoring for the last few years and it’s awesome! And what’s more, you have someone completely new to the process who you can bounce ideas off two.

Learn from last year. I know it’s a cliché “learn from your mistakes”, but I’m serious. Did you skip a few days in the middle of November to “rest” and ended up frantically rushing at the last minute? Did you decide to “pants” it and found yourself flailing? Or, maybe the other way round – did you plan carefully only to discovered that following the plan was a nightmare? Remember what you did / didn’t do, and use that knowledge to help you this year.

Have fun. You had fun last year, make sure you have fun this year!

You’re not newbies anymore, second years! You are now experienced Wrimos. So, get out there, tuck another year comfortably under your belt and give the newbies of 2012 the support you had last year. Believe me, it’s a great feeling.

Keep writing, Wrimos!

The Forums Have Landed

Did you know that the NaNoWriMo website re-launched yesterday? Wait… you didn’t? GO! GO NOW! What rock have you been hiding under?

Ahem…

I woke up at 7:35am yesterday morning to find an email informing MLs that the new forums were live and they hoped by informing MLs first, any major bugs would be fished out before the hoards arrived. However, anybody who happened to wander through the website could clearly see it has been updated.

I was nearly late for work yesterday.

The NaNo forum re-launch is absolutely one of my most favourite times of the year. It’s like returning home from a really long holiday or coming back from university – everything is kinda different and there’s some new people around but there’s lots of familiar faces and threads and you settle straight back in like you’ve never been away. And seriously, yesterday, I was like a kid on Christmas. I dove straight in and ran around the forums happily squeeing and posting and definitely not getting ready for work which was why I was nearly late.

It’s really hard to explain to a non-NaNoer why it’s exciting. I mean, it’s a forum that looks kinda the same as it did last week but with all the threads wiped. Well, it’s more than that. It’s the start of the new season. Everyone knows that when the forums have relaunched, it’s NaNo time. By wiping all the old threads and clearing out the cobwebs, newbies who have never been on the forums before can join in just as easily as veterans because everyone is starting from scratch. Sure, you might not know who Mr. Ian Woon is or exactly what the Travelling Shovel of Death is, but you will very soon find out and you’ll find out with a whole host of other new people whilst the veterans delight in sharing their thoughts, memories and secrets.

NaNoWriMo really is just one big amazing family, when you think about it.

I’ve been a Beta Bugger this year and it’s epic to see all the things we’ve tested and broke and tested again come into play. Features which were turned off last year have come back in force! You can now jump straight to the newest post in a thread, hide the forums you’re not interested in seeing, have a signature and (all being well) an edit button! You know how much we desperately need an edit button again. I seem to make way more mistakes when there’s no edit button to help me out.

The forums are a huge part of the NaNoWriMo world. You can get literally anything you need on there. You want to celebrate? There’s a forum for that. Moan? That too! Need help researching? Yup, got that. Want to hang out with NaNoers your age? All there! Got an awesome novel but no title? Well, just ask! It is your one-stop-shop for all things writing. It’s one massive support network and the great thing is that no matter what time you step onto the forums, there’s always people around thanks to NaNoers coming from all around the world! You can even find people to chat to about anything but writing and to share fandoms with (which is a godsend when you come from a place where people think you’re nuts to have visited Cardiff to see Ianto’s shrine…)

If you’ve never been to the forums before, go now. Seriously. I’ll see you in a couple of hours. I couldn’t do NaNo year in, year out without the forums. They are my lifeline for part of the year, a drug that I only need for October and November.

Remember, my forum username is Kaleidoscope27. If you see me around (which, believe me, you will) feel free to say hi.

Drumroll Please!

A huge thank you to everyone who entered my competition last week! My little plot bunny is very excited to be going to a brand new home very soon, especially as it’s just in time for NaNo 2012!

It was lovely to read all your responses and to see what different people pick as their favourite thing they’ve written. I saw favourites range from soon to be published novels, to short-stories, to works-in-progress, from very recent works to something written a few years ago. I find it really interesting how different we are as writers and how it’s not necessarily the newest thing written which is your favourite!

To answer my own question, I think the favourite thing I’ve written is my 2006 NaNo. Don’t get me wrong, I love We All Fall Down, but Phoenix Rising has always had a special place in my heart.

But you’re not here for all that are you? No, you’re here for the announcement of the winner!

*drumroll*

First, I wrote everyone’s names on pieces of paper. If you had multiple entries, you got two pieces of paper!

Then, I folded up the pieces of paper and put them in my hat. (Told you I had a hat.)

I shook up the hat and actually felt nervous! I’ve never drawn a competition before! I was excited to see who  was going to win. I ended up shaking the hat for a good minute so I could enjoy the nervous excited feeling. Then I delved my hand in…

…and withdrew a name!

CONGRATULATIONS CATHERINE LUMB! You are my first competition winner! *balloons fall from the ceiling and glitter bursts out from nowhere whilst cheers fill the blog* Hurrah!

Cat, to claim your prize, please email me on lemonparade27 [at] ymail [dot] com with your full name and address and I will mail out the bunny asap.

And that’s all folks! I hope you keep reading, especially as we plunge towards November. You guys are really awesome people.

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