Friday, 11 December 2009
So why was November so busy? Well it was NaNoWriMo - that's National Novel Writing Month - and with it came the challenge of writing a draft novel of 50,000 words or more in the space of 30 days.
From November 1 to November 30 thousands of people across the world were frantically writing away to get their manuscripts completed - or at least, get 50,000 words down on paper. And, I'm proud to be able to say, for the second year running I managed to write the full 50,000 words.
I found this year easier than last year somehow - I finished on November 25, rather than finishing on the last day like last year. And the story is one that I actually quite like - although it does need some quite heavy editing and parts will need rewriting and/or writing in the first place where I just wrote in the outline of a chapter.
The story, which at the moment is provisionally called Silent Tears, is about a 15-year-old girl called Jenna Watts. On the surface she seems to be a normal teenager, although her dad is often away from home with work and her mom has to work shifts. But the stress of having to look after her younger brother, working towards her GCSE exams, not having anyone she can tell about the often difficult home situation, and all the usual teenage issues as well, weighs heavily on Jenna and to cope with her feelings she turns to cutting - self-harm - as a way to deal with things.
In the course of the story Jenna makes new friends, learns surprising things about her family, and, despite going through some horrible situations when her brother is hurt and people at school find out her painful secret, she manages to come through still standing and better able to face whatever life throws at her.
Hmmm... I've just looked at that paragraph again. Maybe Painful Secrets would be a good title for the story instead?
Anyway, I'll be posting the progress of the editing process up here as I go.
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
I've heard mixed reviews from other people about this site, in particular about the amount you get paid versus the amount of work you have to put in, but I decided to give it a go.
In a nutshell, you agree to write 10 articles every three months (=40 articles a year) and in exchange you earn money every time your article is read forevermore. In my everyday work I get to interview a lot of people and visit a lot of interesting places, so I thought this site might prove an interesting and not too stressful way to earn more money as a sort of hobby income.
I'm not expecting to make a lot of money from the site, but I'm hoping it will bring in just an extra bit each month. I've heard reports from other writers of it bringing in about US$4 a week. Translated, that's about £2.50 a week, so £10 a month - not a huge amount, but enough to buy 150 miles of diesel for my car, or 48 pouches of catfood to feed my moggie - not bad for a hobby...
Sunday, 18 January 2009
One thousand six hundred and 67 words each day, for 30 days. I started the month thinking it would be quite easy. After all, I spend all day at work writing stories, so I didn’t think I’d have much difficulty.
But once I really started getting down to writing each day I discovered that fiction is a lot different from journalism. You have to rely on your imagination rather than having information fed to you, and it all has to be on the same subject.
I’d written short stories before, but never anything as long as 50,000 words. The most difficult part was trying to think of a plot which would stretch to that length, with plenty of meat in it to keep me interested enough to write.
The target for each day is 1,667 words – nearly three times the length of this feature – but if you miss a day you have to write more, and if you miss several days it can be quite difficult to get back on track.
To start with I really didn’t know who I was writing for – whether it was people my age, teenagers or younger children, and of course the language you use and your storyline changes with your audience. But once I’d decided on my characters - six young faeries called Columbine, Lavender, Poppy, Ginevra, Lily and Persephone - it was fairly obvious that it would be a children’s story, and probably for girls.
It was interesting once the story really got off the ground because there were times when I’d sit down and start writing, and the characters would just start doing things without any prompting from me. Ginevra and Lavender had a row of their own accord, and Lily decided to jump into a lake with rather nasty consequences, which then meant I had to rewrite later scenes.
On those days I never seemed to be short of what to write about, and the story almost seemed to tell itself.
But then there were other days when it was a real struggle, and it was really helpful to know that there were thousands of other people across the world, from Australia to the United States, facing the same problems that I was.
I could log into the National Novel Writing Month website, which included the official word counter and the discussion forums, and get inspiration from fellow NaNo-ers or take part in “word wars”, where you try to write as many words as you can in a set time.
NaNoWriMo started as an internet challenge in 1999 with only a handful of people taking part. Since then it’s grown enormously and last year more than 100,000 people signed up, with more than 15,000 reaching the magic 50,000 word goal.
The idea is that at the end of the month you’ve produced the first draft of a 175-page novel, but now you now have the challenge of editing and making it readable.
Most people do it as a challenge to themselves, some people do it because they have a story all planned out and just need the motivation to tell it, some already published writers take part for fun or as a boost, and several schools take part as a writing project.
Some participants have even managed to sell their NaNoWriMo novels to publishers, and the forums on the website now the month is over are full of advice on getting published, and people wanting their novels critiqued.
For me the next challenge is to finish the story. I still have a few scenes to write, including the final battle scene, and then I’ll start editing it.
After that who knows? But I’d love to try to get it published, and then maybe next year’s NaNoWriMo can be a sequel.
It's not quite that easy, of course. Daily life has a tendency of getting in the way of writing time, and on some days I found myself having to write considerably more than the 1,666 words a day which, in theory, would have taken me past the finish line.
But eventually, I finished, and the first draft of The Dark Lady was completed. It's now sitting in a nice ringbinder waiting for me to start editing it.
In the meantime I'm going to start another story - the new target is 30,000 words by the end of February. The lower target is for two reasons - it puts less pressure on me, and I write children's stories which are generally shorter than adult novels.
And the reason I'm telling you? Quite simply, accountability! I need to have somewhere to keep track of what I'm doing, because I know if I don't have that I won't stick to my writing goal.
So here's to 30k by February 28!