Telling Myself: A Break is Okay

I promised myself I would do Camp NaNoWriMo this month and, although I’ve almost reached my personal word count goal, it hasn’t really felt like enough. I haven’t been writing every day. I haven’t been pouring coffee down my throat in order to JUST WRITE. I haven’t been locking myself in my room and writing for hours on end.

In short, it feels like I haven’t been focused enough.

But I have been thinking about my characters all the time. And this, I’m telling myself, is okay.

Even though I may not have been writing, it’s all still been there, just bubbling under the surface, working itself into something more tangible and detailed so when I come back to it I’m ready.

So I’ve been doing other things.

In my spare time, I’ve been going to literary festivals, doing fun writing workshops with other people I’ve never met before, meeting amazing authors like Liz Kessler, Anna McKerrow, Lu Hersey and Lisa Glass and even picking their brains about their own writing process when they write their novels.

Meeting Lu Hersey, Anna McKerrow and Lisa Glass

I’ve been taking long walks and sitting in the sunshine reading books and laughing with friends. I’ve also driven up and down the countryside in a couple of days so I could have an interview for a masters degree in writing.

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So I haven’t been writing my own novel per se, but I’ve been doing other things that count towards it. I know this might sound lazy, like I’m even making excuses, but in my eyes it’s not.

Because I’m realising it’s okay to take breaks. It’s okay to step away from your project for a little while, if only so you can see it a little clearer when you do get back to it again. It’s okay not to achieve ridiculous word count goals you might set yourself for the month, as long as you’ve written something.

Breaks are important. Just make sure you get back to your project.

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Because you might find something truly amazing by procrastinating.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Figuring it Out

So I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo and it’s all going fairly well. But as I kept going and going, writing and writing, I  realised I didn’t feel comfortable writing about characters who I didn’t actually know that much about.

Normally, I tend to start writing and my characters develop more and more as I write them. I love doing that, mostly because it means minimal work, also because I can just get right into the story without having to do loads of background research.

But, unfortunately, that just wasn’t going to cut it this time and, as my word count got further and further towards reaching my ultimate goal, I became less and less confident with this project and these characters.

Now, I love my premise and I love my idea. But I needed more than that. I turned to the Writing Resources on the Camp NaNoWriMo wesite and – tah-dah! – I found everything I needed. It has all sorts of tips and advice on how to implement your characters and get to know them better before you start writing.

You can see it here.

Now, usually, I hate this kind of stuff but, right now, I am actually loving it. As lame as this sounds, I’ve conducted interviews with my characters, written and planned out their entire back story and where they will all go in life even after the novel has finished (yes, some of them die). I’ve discovered things about them I didn’t even realise and, more than anything, I feel like I know their place in this novel a lot better than I did before.

What surprised me most is that I’ve developed new plot points.

I still need to keep going with this. I am in no way done. I’m writing the actual project alongside the planning stuff, so it is all still a bit wobbly.

But, hey, at least I’m getting things done – which is more than I was before. Reading all the inspiring blog posts about what people are doing this month – and how they’re managing it – is really prompting me to kick my ass into gear.

It’s a Monday, it’s 8am, and I’ve already written almost 1,000 words today. I definitely think this is progress. I know I just have to keep going, which is the hard part.

Laters.

Camp NaNoWriMo: Word Count Goals

Howdy, everyone.

Last night marked the first night of Camp NaNoWriMo this April and I stayed up well past 4am. This wasn’t even because I was stressing about the word count – I’ve successfully made it to just over 4,000 words (don’t fret, I didn’t do this all in one night!). It was because the excitement was too much.

I didn’t want to go to sleep. Not when there were writers all over social media spurring us all on – Twitter, Facebook, cabins – we were practically everywhere! And of course not forgetting that last night’s Virtual Write In was awesome, I think we’re off to a great start. I cannot wait to see how this April goes.

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Turns out that when you shut your brain OFF during editing mode and just concentrate on writing (amen to word sprints!) then writing comes to you a lot easier. A LOT easier. Even if half of what I’ve written so far is fairly awful and I eventually end up scrapping it, at least I have the foundations of something to grab onto, something to build on. I’m telling myself this is okay.

I pan to *hopefully* double my word count from last night today. Because how amazing would that be?

Unfortunately, my cabin is a little quiet and not as active as some folks’ in the last 24 hours, but I’m hoping that will pick up as we get going!

Right now, I’m going to have a shower, brew a cup of tea and eat some writing fuel for the day (most likely porridge). Then I’ll sit down and crack on with a bit more writing in between other bits like working from home and feeding my cats.

So if you’re doing Camp NaNo too, then good luck and please do let me know what you’re working on! I’d love to hear what everyone’s writing, whether it’s short stories, novel, poetry or scriptwriting, etc. Or if you’ve just stumbled across this blog post and have absolutely zero knowledge of what I’m talking about then, also, let me know. I’ll try and explain.

Happy writing!

Camp NaNoWriMo: Virtual Write In!

Howdy, y’all.

I’ve spent the day being out and about and busy. So I never got the chance to write!

I totally wasn’t reading Atonement and falling asleep in the back of my car somewhere near the sea at all.

But there’s a virtual write in coming up in approximately 20 minutes and I’m so excited. It feels like years since I took part in my last one, which was only in November and I’m really looking forward to it.

For those of you who don’t know already, a virtual write in is where us campers get together and see how much we can write within an hour, using word prompts and story scenarios to get started – I find this especially helpful if I’ve got a nasty case of writer’s block! They’re also hosted by the lovely NaNoWriMo team and you can catch it here –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53TUk1JRMWs

The countdown has already started!

If you’re new to Camp NaNoWriMo, or you just want to pop in and say hello, then feel free to come and join us. We’re a friendly bunch, honest.

Let me know if you’ll be joining!

Pent Up Energies

Tomorrow I want to do things. Actual things. Tonight I’ve just scrolled endlessly through my Twitter feed and changed my Facebook profile picture and cover photo. All this has, coincidentally, amounted to very little.

I want to change this.

So I’ve made a list and I want to stick to it! If only to stop me checking my Twitter newsfeed every five minutes.

1. Go for a walk

I want to go for a walk through the woods, across farmland, or simply just walk somewhere near the sea. My creative energies are all pent up right now and I feel like a walk – alone – will help me get what I need. Ironically, perhaps getting lost in the woods will help me find what I need right now, creatively.

2. Write a fresh post

I am guilty of not posting here as regularly as I could. Whether I write about my day, post a picture I took out on my walk, or tell you all about my new writing project I’m taking on for Camp NaNoWriMo, I want to do more. I don’t want to just let this blog die.

3. Write 1,000 words

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Here’s the tricky part. I’ve signed up to Camp NaNoWriMo again this year (which I am insanely thrilled about) and want a head start in the game. So I’ve promised myself to write 1,000 words of my novel, even if it’s a load of dribble. At least it’s something, right?

4. Do some work for Cornish Story

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I work for an online publication called Cornish Story magazine. We celebrate all things to do with Cornish culture. Although we have an academic background, we are always looking for fresh material on any subject from anyone who’s passionate about Cornwall. So if you’re looking to submit to us, just drop me an email! My email is emily@cornishstory.com. We’re really friendly, I promise.

And voila!

Of course, if I could get some more research done for my dissertation (which is on cowboys and country music, y’all!) then that would be marvelous. But, you know, I don’t want to take on too much.

Until this is done, I don’t feel like I’m going to be a very happy writer person. So I guess I’d better get started.

Emily Barr: Final Writing Workshop

Today marked the last day of the incredible writing workshops I’ve been a part of with many talented writers at Falmouth University. The writing workshops were taught by the fabulous Emily Barr, who is a bestselling (and very skilled) thriller novelist.

Even more exciting, she has a new YA book coming out early next year which is published by none other than Penguin, so watch this space!

These workshops have been amazing and a real gift to be a part of. I’ve learnt so much, from writing about sense of place through to writing about characters with amnesia and how to deal with that. Emily was also kind enough to bring her husband – also a writer! – to these workshops and having him there too was a huge insight into the children’s publishing world, as he’s also a children’s writer.

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The workshops were held over a period of five or six weeks and, inbetween this, I was lucky enough to have two focused individual sessions with Emily, where we talked about novel writing, what it’s like to be signed by a top publisher like Penguin and copy edits. What was even cooler was how she persuaded me to bite the bullet and follow my own writing dream, which is to travel out to Texas and do some research on the novel I’m writing – a YA novel set against the backdrops of the rural South.

I’m planning to go during Easter break but if that doesn’t happen then there’s always the summer. I’ve already saved up some money for the trip (I have been saving since the first year of my undergraduate degree: that’s three years). I just need to take someone with me, if only to make sure I come home and don’t run off with a cowboy, which is an actual true danger.

These writing workshops have made my writing stronger, they’ve made me listen to other people’s writing with more precision and clarity, and to be more confident about reading my work aloud. I always struggled with this before, so it’s great to have a balance between reading your work on the page and reading it out loud to other people.

To be a part of such a great writing community every single week has been really special and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sad that it’s over but feel so lucky to have been a part of it all. But it’s not over yet! We have one more last personal session with her on Wednesday and I’m excited about this. Afterwards, we’re all meeting for drinks, so now I guess I can say I’ve shared a few drinks with Emily Barr! Yay!

But, seriously, it’s been so wonderful. Even better, I feel like I’ve made some new friends as a result of this great workshop and gotten some awesome new skills!

Until next time.

Writing About The South

 

Right now I’m writing at university because it’s warmer than being in my house. This is a legitimate reason. I am not kidding. But writing on campus can be fun because:

  1. There are no distractions
  2. It’s a working environment (so I actually feel like I should be doing something instead of tweeting.)
  3. It’s really quiet here right now because it’s evening!

So I’ve set myself a deadline. By the end of tonight, as in midnight, I will have written 1000 words to the opening of my new novel-in-progress which is – ta dah! – all about the Deep South … as in Texas.

Because I love it.

This new novel is a project of mine which I have been striving towards since the very first year of my degree. I’ve been holding off until now to write about it and now it’s here it’s kind of terrifying. The novel project is a part of my dissertation, which is all about the Deep South and the ideology of the cowboy as a romance figure in literature.

So my novel is a cowboy romance set in Texas. *unbelievably happy about this*

I’m writing different beginnings to the novel so far and I’m going to keep writing until I hit the one which I know is right. So far, I have four different openings. I think I know which one I love best, but I know it’s not quite there yet. More work needs to be done!

But, like Hemingway famously said, “the first draft of anything is shit.”

I think I always come back to that piece of advice when I’m writing a first draft and finding it hard. Because if you can’t have faith in Hemingway as a writer, then who else are you going to believe in?

For research, I’ve been reading snippets of DEEP SOUTH by the wonderful travel writer Paul Theroux which came out late last year. (I don’t know how many times I stroked it in bookshops before actually buying it. Sorry Waterstones.)

I read this book in the sunshine today and it was bliss. I’ll probably write a raving reveiw of this book once I’ve finished it but I’ll tell you right now that this book is amazing. It really gets you into the mindset of the South and opens up a world perhaps not so explored in travel writing. It’s a world of vivid colour and backroads and thrift stores located on old highways, where “the past is never dead” and where “poverty is well dressed in churches, and everyone is approachable”.

It’s a world I can’t wait to get into and one which I find hugely inspiring (hence the idea for the novel). I’ve always loved the South ever since I was first pulled into country music.

So today I pored over its pages, ready with a bright pink marker pen to highlight certain passages, and fell a little bit in love with it all. So tonight, I aim to write about it. Or at least develop some ideas about it which I can one day turn into fiction.

I’ll try and keep you updated on how it goes along as I try and figure it out.

In the meantime, it’s back to writing!