Tuesday, 6 December 2016

NaNo Winning

I try not to blow my own trumpet but sometimes it has to be done.
After several years of trying I finally won at NaNo! I wrote 50,000 words in November and that is so much more than I've ever managed before. I am mostly happy with what I've written - I know, there will be flaws to discover when I edit but so far, so good. I feel really proud of myself and that's not a feeling I have often.

So what have I learned from all this? The most important thing that I learned was that I can do it. I can sit and write for a few hours; I can put words on the computer and do it all again the next day; I can write and most of what I write is good. There, I said it, I can write well and it's something I enjoy doing. This is a big thing for me so it feels right to celebrate it here.

I also learned that I can write in a genre that is not the one I usually choose. The NaNo novel is a fantasy type novel which is something I have read before but never tried to write. I'm not sure I will write only fantasy from now on but it is interesting to do something different. And maybe that is why I won this time because I was doing something outside my comfort zone and it just seemed to flow.

The last thing I learned is that I want to get better and do more writing. I've always felt a little guilty at putting time aside to write - there's always something else I 'should' be doing, right?  Well now I've decided not to bother with the guilt! I'm a writer so I have to spend time writing. It's not a waste of time, it's what I have to do.

So as the year draws to a close I am still writing the NaNo novel and I intend to complete it. So at some stage I'll start worrying about whether it's any good, how do I edit it etc. Join me on that ride in 2017!

I'm sharing this on What I'm Writing.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Word of the Week - Words

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that words are very important to me. I have loved reading and writing for most of my life and spent many happy hours as a child making up and telling stories. More recently I have begun to take my writing more seriously and even dipped my toe into the dangerous waters of calling myself a writer. So words are the toolkit that I use everyday to tell the stories that crowd my mind. Words are also the vehicles I use to transport myself to other worlds through the writing of others.

I am once again taking part in NaNoWriMo this year and things have been going surprisingly well.
The words are flowing and I am really enjoying telling my story, even though it has sprung from a genre that I don't usually write. It's a bit of a fantasy novel - not The Hobbit but there are bits that have their feet firmly in the fantasy camp. I'm enjoying writing something so different and at times using words in a slightly different way - some of my characters have an idiosyncratic way of speaking!

But today I am thinking about words in the light of the death of Leonard Cohen. He used words in a way that I can only dream of. I was introduced to the music of Leonard Cohen by my friend Alison at college. I was into 1970's pop music and David Bowie, she was into Leonard Cohen and John Martyn, artists I had not heard of or listened to. As our friendship developed we listened to each others music and I learned to love Leonard Cohen for his poetry and the smoky quality of his voice. Today I am sad that he has left us but so happy that I have the wonderful songs and poems he left behind. On the radio someone compared his lyrics to Yeats and that pleased me greatly. I am a huge fan of Yeats and read his words regularly. Both Yeats and Leonard Cohen use language in a way that draws me in, challenges me and sometimes makes me weep.

So today I shed a tear for the passing of a great poet, a weaver of words and a thoughtful human being. The world is a poorer place for his leaving it but there is a wonderful concert starting in heaven as he joins the other legends we lost this year.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Day 5 NaNoWriMo

Just thought I'd check in after a few days silence.

Yesterday I smashed through the 10,000 word barrier! I am so happy. This story is flowing so well that it's scary. I'm pantsing through the story but that isn't holding me back. I did work out the basis of the story, the world it was set in and the main characters so it isn't a total surprise what is happening but the ease with which I'm writing is stunning me.

Here's hoping I've not jinxed the thing and can carry on in this vein!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

NaNoWriMo Day 2

Well this is encouraging. I'm pantsing this novel and it's romping along at a giddy pace.
I'm still ahead of the word count which is great and almost unheard of - I'm usually playing catch up even at the beginning of NaNoWriMo!

I'm especially surprised at how well it's all going especially as I'm writing in a different genre to my usual one (whatever that may be) This new NaNo novel is a fantasy type which is something that I rarely write or read. But all is going well so far ...

So onwards and upwards heading for the finish line.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Day 1 NaNoWriMo

I don't usually use text speak, even when texting, but OMG! and WTF?
Day 1 of NaNoWriMo over and I'm 1,000 words ahead of schedule, I am totally rocking this writing thing.

Now I know that there will be tougher days ahead but I'm so chuffed with my progress. I went to Worcester to visit my MIL yesterday and got plenty of writing time on the train. If nothing else it has shown me that I can get a goodly number of words written if I'm away from distractions. So I now need to put that into practice when I'm doing the rest of NaNoWriMo - and that may mean turning the TV off! Which is something I hardly ever do as I'm a self confessed Telly Addict ...

I'm also planning on a trip into Oxford for a writing meeting with fellow NaNoers in a posh library that's part of Balliol College. I'm really excited to meet some fellow writers and seeing a part of the University that is usually closed to the public (must be my nosey gene kicking it!)

I hope I can keep reporting great progress this month and that I get a fully formed first draft out of this - I must confess to feeling rather excited at the moment!

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Prompt - Trick

Fool Me Once

Bobby was a practical joker. He liked nothing more than playing a prank on an unsuspecting victim, reducing himself to hysterical laughter and his victim to red faced embarrassment. As a child he had spent all his  Saturday mornings and most of his pocket money in the joke shop on the High Street, filling his pockets with itching powder, rubber snakes and plastic flies. Throughout the week he would search out new victims, hunting them down with all the stealth and ruthlessness of a big game hunter, luring them in until he was ready to strike.
At school he had tormented his teachers with frogs in their desk drawer, rubber chalk, whoopee cushions and the like. He had spent more time in detention than any other child in his year and on one occasion had been suspended for putting a potato in a teacher’s exhaust pipe and causing several hundred pounds worth of damage to the car. His father had beaten him for that and threatened him with further beatings if he ever did anything that serious again. So Bobby learned to play less serious pranks, ones that would give him the thrill of fooling someone without the risk of causing any real damage.

As a teenager Bobby was often the centre of attention as he pranked the girls, reducing them to red faced screaming ninnies. He positioned a hairdryer under a desk and as they walked past he switched it on and blew their skirts up, affording the boys a flash of thigh and knicker. He put superglue in the keyhole of the head girls locker and watched as she wept with frustration when she couldn’t get her text books out for her lessons. He switched the soap in the girls’ cloakroom and shrieked with laughter when the prettiest girl in school emerged with a sooty black face. Not many people laughed with him when she was sent home in her father’s Bentley after becoming hysterical.

Bobby’s parents hoped that he would grow out of these tricks when he became an adult but they were disappointed. If anything the tricks got more cruel. He would play on the most vulnerable part of a person, finding just the prank that would sting them the most. A shy woman at his work was horrified to find a picture of her face pasted onto a naked body and displayed around all the offices one morning. She became hysterical and had to be calmed by the office manager before the paramedics arrived. He never saw her again. She was replaced by a fat woman who he tormented for three months with deliveries of pizzas and diet club application forms until she stormed out one day, throwing her letter of resignation in the manager’s face on her way out. The man with the stammer only lasted a day after Bobby gave him a list of customers to phone littered with names containing m’s and l’s. He had to retire to the toilet after that one, tears streaming down his face and unable to speak for laughing.

Bobby moved from the office job when he was outed as the one who put cling film across the gent’s toilet seat on the day the chairman of the board was visiting. He though he should quit before the internal enquiry began. He found a job in a warehouse and many fruitful opportunities to pull pranks. He stacked some empty boxes so that the next person through the door would make them topple. A few broken pots in the top one made a wonderful sound as they crashed to the floor. He’d never heard a man scream as loudly as John did. John was a wonderful victim, so gullible, so trusting. When he started work at the warehouse Bobby singled him out for special treatment. He sent him on wild goose chases for tartan paint, left handed screws and glass hammers. The look on John’s face when he came back empty handed and apologetic was priceless.

But it couldn’t last. John worked out what was going on and complained to the manager that he was being bullied by Bobby. The firm took a very serious view of bullying and sacked Bobby on the spot. All his pleading that it was all done in fun fell on deaf ears. There was a zero tolerance for bullying and he was to be made an example of. He was given such poor references that he found it hard to get another job, drifting in and out of dead end jobs like litter picking and collecting trollies in supermarket car parks. None of them lasted long as he was unable to curb his pranking ways and always fell out with his co-workers. On one memorable occasion he was sacked for surrounding the manager’s car with trollies so he couldn’t drive off. Bobby thought that was one of his finest but it cost him yet another job. Eventually the offers of jobs dried up and he settled into a life on benefits, living in one room in a bed and breakfast. He’d alienated all his friends and family so lived a lonely existence, drifting from one pub to another until he got barred for playing tricks on the regulars.

As an old man he liked to slump on chairs in cafes pretending to be dead. When a concerned customer or member of staff came to see how he was he’d open his eyes and wail at them, causing more than one young girl to burst into tears and getting himself barred from more establishments around town. He took to pulling the same trick in the park, slumping on a bench and lying very still until someone came up to him concerned for his welfare. Dogs would sniff him and he’d wait until the person was really close before he shouted in their face, making them scream or jump back in horror. He got a reputation in town and people would walk quickly past him or turn and head back the way they had come. None of the locals bothered with him and the trick was rarely played to its conclusion.

And that’s how Bobby the prankster, the master of the practical joke, the great trickster, came to be found stiff and cold on a park bench one Friday afternoon, having sat there, dead, for seven hours.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Losing confidence in my novel

So what do you do when you start to lose confidence in your novel?
I got some good feedback when I went to my local writer's group but as well as pointing out a few things that I hadn't thought of it put some doubt in my mind about the whole direction the novel was taking. The more I think about it, the more I'm not sure how this novel should pan out and it's not the way I planned it.

So I'm now left with a stranded novel and no idea if I can finish it. If the plan isn't working anymore should I write a new plan? Or should I dump the whole thing? This is worse than writer's block, it's paralysing my thoughts rather than my writing.

I've got a small plan for something I want to write for NaNoWriMo and part of me just wants to plough on with that and forget the troublesome novel for a while. But that feels like defeatism and not the way a proper writer behaves. A proper writer would beat that darn novel into shape and make it submit to my powerful will. But I'm struggling to feel like a proper writer over this. I feel out of my depth, confused and troubled.

So I face a weekend of worrying about what to do and probably doing nothing but worry. I can't even bear to look at what I've written or the plan. That's how much I feel disconnected with this whole novel at the moment. Here's hoping some distance and deep thought will give me much needed perspective ... and maybe a bolt of lightening will strike and the solution will present itself.