Writing

Lessons Learnt from NaNoWriMo, 2016

typewriter-801921_1280Once again this year I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and was fortunate to make it all the way to the finish line. There were a couple of moments when panic began to set in and I wondered if I was going to make it at all! Looking back on NaNoWriMo this year, there were three very important lessons that I managed to take away from the whole experience.

Less time on social media helps you to focus.

The more time I spent writing and less time on social media, I became more focused on my WIP and found myself less distracted. From having only 30 days in which to write as much as you possibly can, every minute counts. Because I spent less time on social media, at the end of each day I felt I had achieved something – which was making more progress towards the goal of 50,000 words. Now that NaNoWriMo has finished, I continue to spend less time on social media, making me feel more relaxed and more focused upon my writing goals.

Writing is the No.1 Priority.

Doing NaNoWriMo and concentrating upon that one writing project made me realise that writing is my No.1 priority (as it should be). As I am easily distracted, social media shows me what other writers are doing towards their goals, while allowing me to lose focus upon my own. Doing NaNoWriMo has allowed me to re-focus, prioritise and work on my own path towards publication.

Writing 50,000 words a month is do-able.

The thought of writing so much is initially daunting, especially for those writers like me who are used to writing shorter works. When I participated in NaNoWriMo last year, I found some things which helped me enormously in getting the words down. The thing about NaNoWriMo is to get you into the habit of writing on a regular basis and trying to meet deadlines. These are habits writers must learn in order to become professional.

I have already decided not to participate in NaNoWriMo next year as I now have a couple of NaNoWriMo projects that need a lot of re-working (adding to the pile of all the other projects I want to get through 😉 ).

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and enjoy your holidays! I look forward to seeing you all again in the New Year.

merry-christmas-australia-1Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? What did you learn from the experience? Did you make it to the finish line? Do you plan on taking up the challenge again next year?

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Main image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

Pushing the Boundaries During NaNoWriMo.

early-morning-299735_1280This year I became one amongst the many people around the world who participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have undertaken this challenge a couple of times in the past; the first time a success, the other a complete failure, so even though I came to it this time around with an open mind, I was determined to see it through to the end.

It’s been an intense number of weeks; however, there were three things that I learned about myself throughout the whole experience that surprised me.

Genre:

During NaNoWriMo this year, I thought I’d try something completely different and write in a genre that I’ve never written before. Admittedly, the idea had been tinkling in the back of my mind for a few years, and despite certain aspects that remain fuzzy, I wanted to give it a go. I worked with a very basic outline; I knew my beginning and my end and one of my main characters remained very elusive (but then he’s supposed to be), but on the whole I let my characters ‘speak’ for themselves. From doing this, events happened that I did not expect and minor characters began to reveal their own, unique personalities. By writing in a genre I have read, but never written, I gave my ‘muse’ a free reign, which is just what NaNoWriMo is all about.

Focus:

I’ve always been one of those people that are easily distracted, which is why, whenever I write, I need to work in silence. I flitter from one writing project or idea to the next, which might also explain why I generally write in shorter forms. Therefore writing 50,000 words can be quite a challenge and yes, when I reached the half way point, I felt like throwing it all in; I didn’t like my beginning, my story was going nowhere and I was re-reading one of my favourite novels at the time in which to help me with my love scenes. At the midway point, panic had well and truly dug itself in. But when I stopped to really think about my story, about my vague plot outline in order to keep going, I thought I’d focus on my strengths and began writing those scenes I knew I could write. I began writing scenes that I could clearly ‘see’ in my minds’ eye, including the very last scene where I got to write ‘The End’. Sure, my NaNoWriMo novel is now a complete mess, but it allowed me to focus on the task.

Quotas:

I have to admit that during NaNoWriMo I did not write every day and do the recommended daily quota. I took weekends off to spend time with family and the odd day here and there between writing sessions. When I did write, though, I made sure I wrote enough to make up for lost time in order to meet the 50,000 word limit. There were days when I wrote up to 2,500 words and decided to push myself even further the next session; 3,000 words then became 4,000 words per day, until with 10,000 words left to write, I accomplished that in two days. I wrote 5,000 words each for two days, which has become my personal best. I kept telling myself that if I could write more words for the day, then I probably should – I pushed myself outside of my own comfort zone.

When participating in a challenge like NaNoWriMo, you can often surprise yourself with what you are really capable of. Writing a novel from scratch is certainly not as easy as it looks; it takes time, patience and an awful lot of hard work and determination. Whether you reached the 5,000 word limit or not, every word you’ve written is a step closer towards your goal; after all as the saying goes ‘you can’t fix a blank page’.

Did you participate in NaNoWriMo this year? Did you make it to the ‘finish line’? In what ways do you push the boundaries with your own writing? What have you found works best for you?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing

Beginner Writers: Finding Your Writer’s Voice.

Mr Men familyBeing a writer these days can be difficult; expectations are high.  As well as writing great books, we’re also required to be marketing gurus.  We can become so bogged down with too much noise that our muse can sometimes get lost.

When we’re new to writing and begin writing our stories, it’s exciting.  We’re so full of enthusiasm that we’re likely to try our hands at just about anything – even the latest trends, or the more popular genres.  I know; I’ve been there myself.  I used to see certain genres as my way of ‘making it’ as a writer.  But is all of this really to do with pleasing ourselves or with pleasing others?  We can spend our whole lives pleasing other people, but here’s the rub – pleasing other people all the time can become draining, physically as well as emotionally.  When we write, we need to please ourselves first and foremost; otherwise, where is the pleasure in it?

When it comes to writing we need to be true to ourselves.  Rather than imitate other authors, we need to dare to be different.  It will help our work stand apart from those other books upon the shelves and one sure way to make our name memorable.  Kristen Lamb has a great blog post on Steve Jobs and 5 Tips for Being a Successful Author which I highly recommend.

I had been writing for many years and the only pieces of writing I ever had published were either non-fiction pieces or poetry.  The problem was I had read so many different genres, I therefore wrote in such a wide variety of them that I didn’t have any real focus.  Yet, despite all of this, over the years the fiction writing I did not only helped me in my craft, but helped steer me towards my chosen genres.  I experimented with what worked for me and what didn’t; I stretched myself as a writer until eventually I was writing for me – I had lost all interest in trends and writing in genres I wasn’t comfortable with.  I had finally found my voice.

While watching The Book Club a few months back, guest author China Mieville said something that caught my attention and I just had to write it down. He said: ‘The job of a writer is not to give the readers what they want; the job of a writer is to make readers want what we give’. It’s a valid point and one that he has apparently been saying for years. He believes this might make the writers’ job harder, but it also makes it much more interesting.

Yes, our writing needs to be something that both readers and publishers will like, but it also needs to be something that we ourselves will like. Forget the latest trend; instead concentrate on your craft in order to find your own unique voice. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your writing, but write with passion. If you don’t feel that, neither will your readers.

Are you struggling to find your writer’s voice? Are you experimenting with your writing? Do you agree with China Mieville? Do you have difficulties with focusing on one task at a time?

Image by Debbie Johansson.