Hello November, one of my favourite times of year, not only because of the lingering high from Halloween and hurtling towards the festive feel of Christmas but it’s time for NaNoWriMo. The atmosphere of the writing community rises and there is always an explosion of support to keep people writing so it’s always hard not to get involved. Despite my success in 2018, the full challenge is out of my reach like many spoonie writers. The pressure of 1666 words a day is crippling and even with naps, it triggers flares and guilt. So I belong to the NaNoWriMo tribe of rebels and we all have our own ways of rebelling. I thought I’d share some things that have helped me.
My tipsto being a NaNoWriMo rebel
1. The key thing of rebelling is to make up your own target. I’ve chosen 15,000 words but know it maybe too ambitious – I’ve already lost days to migraines and exhaustion but if I manage it, my first rough draft about my ballet quartet will be finished and that will be the ultimate achievement. Can I eek my manuscript of 66,660 words out to stumble over the 75,000 mark? Watch this space!
The fantastic author and co-founder of the Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illness (ACCI) group Claire Wade has developed one of the best rebel goals for author’s with limited energy, chronic illness or disability – the #PostItNaNo challenge. Aiming to write at least a Post-it note a day can be a huge step in the development of a story or character, and the dopamine rush of making progress without the pressure of hundred’s of words is a good inspiration for the next day.
2. Find your tribe, if you have fellow writers to connect with it and share ideas, good news and disappointments it makes the writing process easier and more fun
3. Join in with the community on social media or the NaNoWriMo site. The podcasts, zooms and general chitchat inspires more writing and determination to keep going.
4. Find someone to do sprints with. Writing sprints whether they last thirty minutes or an hour have become my friend. I’m lucky to have friends in the RNA to join forces with, but I have also discovered The Writer’s Hour which follows Neil Gaiman’s idea of ‘do nothing or write’. You can hop on to zoom at predetermined times during the day for an hour of writing and accountability. It’s a friendly group and best of all, they start with a writing related quote to give you a kick in the right direction. Click here for more information. Maybe I’ll see you there.
5. Rewards for achieving small goals even a sticker or favourite hot chocolate are a great motivator. Books as rewards are even better.
5. Don’t fall into the guilt trap. It zaps creativity. Even a couple of words a day is a step closer to your goal. I find this hard to do because guilt and imposter syndrome seem to be my default thoughts when faced with an empty page or rough rough draft of a scene.
6. Just enjoy the writing progress and remember why you’re doing it. Writing isn’t just about word count. It involves so much more – thinking time to grasp the idea you want to focus on and let it brew while doing other things (okay this could be classed as procrastination but if the story and characters are strong enough the mind will be working in the background without you realising it) and plotting on post its, and research. Everything counts. And the variety of actions helps keep the spark and fun alive.
7. If it all grinds to a halt and target isn’t achieved, take what you have done and celebrate. It’s progress and still deserve a treat.
However you’re doing NaNoWriMo good luck, keep going and happy writing.
As you are aware September is dystonia awareness month which makes having my next author to meet on my blog more exciting. Karl Kiddy is a writer and dystonia advocate who published Warriors of Dystonia which I’m proud to have my story so far in.
Meet The Author: Karl Kiddy
A huge welcome, Karl. Please tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Karl and I am a Welshman living in Belfast, with my two amazing daughters, my wife and a cat named Willow. I have been an artist since I was a teenager and have dabbled in everything from Pyrography (burning pictures into pieces of wood), to photography, blogging, video editing and production, to writing, and dipping in and out of podcasting. I’m a heavy metal music fan, as well as having a passion for horror movies and pretty much anything in that genre when it comes to comics and books too. In my spare time, I as the whole reading and project thing, I am a gamer, and would play a lot of Xbox, I also love cooking and would do just about all of the cooking for myself and my ladies. I have self-published five books, with Warriors of Dystonia being my most recent book and project. Only one of my other books have been written under my name, with the rest of them, as well as many of my other projects, being done under a pseudonym due to the shamefully juvenile humour that I use throughout. About 14 years ago my journey with Dystonia began.
Q. The book released is a compilation of the stories of people with dystonia, what made you decide to raise awareness to this little known condition?
It’s difficult to really narrow this down as I believe that Warriors of Dystonia had been bubbling under the surface for a long time. Having dystonia myself and knowing that due to very little being known or understood about the disorder I had been plunged into a few scenarios where I struggled and I was left feeling humiliated. A combination of this and having to say that I had Parkinson’s for people to consider my limitations made me think, “enough is enough.” I want to be able to live in a world where we can say, “I have dystonia,” and for people outside of our community to have some sort of an idea of what it is that we are talking about. I knew that there was no way I would be alone with wanting this and so I thought about using one of my favourite mediums, writing!
So, my goal was to make a book where fellow people who have dystonia can see they are not alone and that they can handover to a person and say, “this is my world!”
Q How easy was it to get people together to share their experiences and bring it all together.
As a whole, it was hard work. I wanted the book to feel like you were having a conversation with the person or perhaps you were sitting in on a chat that they were having. No matter what anyone tells you, we are a nosy bunch us humans, and we are naturally very interested in the ins and outs of the lives of others. I’d originally been thinking of ways of directing the content that was share with me, but I am glad I gave everyone free reign now! Getting people to share their stories was the easy part. I won’t go into too much, as I will probably use the same methods again, but it snowballed to a point where I had to close the original submission date three months earlier than I planned. At that point, I had so many and at that point the book was four hundred pages! The hard part was the admin behind the scenes. I needed to set up a form which logged the names and details of everyone who contacted me either sharing their story or offering to share a story. The editing of the book was difficult. I had a file which was a mass of various length stories, terms, medications and treatments that I had never heard of and I then had to work out how I was going to compile it. This was before I even started to then format the thing!
Q. You are an active campaigner to raise awareness of dystonia, how do you fit it in with other aspects of your life?
Anyone who knows me will know that when I have my heart set on something I will do it. Whether it is work related or a new artistic venture I want to try, if I want to give it a go then nothing will stop me. Then, once I have set my mind on it, I will invest everything in it. For as long as I can remember, I have never really slept for long and so I work on Warriors of Dystonia in the early hours of the morning. It would also be these early hours that I would squeeze in some of my other passions too. By the time my girls get up for school I have probably already got a few hours of my actually job done, an hour on the Warriors of Dystonia or perhaps I have been out and taken photographs of the lovely sunrise. As I start my job so early, I often have a bit of time in the afternoons to work on my projects too. Then there’s the weekends, where I will still be getting up and out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning!
Q. Lots of stories must have been overwhelming to hear, do you have a support network around you?
Yes, absolutely. I have to be honest, when I knuckled down and began to really read the stories back-to-back I was struggling at times. Reading the book is different and there’s a bit of a barrier or distance between the reader and the storyteller. I was interacting directly with every single person in the book. Many of which we were in back-and-forth correspondence. Going through the story and knowing that person and talking with them was a very different experience. However, with that being said, it also made me so proud to be able to do this. There were a few people who I spoke with who have dystonia so bad that this book was their first opportunity to tell the world what it was that they were battling and dealing with every single day. The sheer determination was inspiring.
I’ve always been very open with my feelings, so have no problems of just saying, “I am having a crappy day.” You know, that feeling when you wake in the morning and you think to yourself, “I don’t know why, but it’s going to be one of those days.” I just warn everyone. That way, it isn’t a great shock to anyone if I am not my self.
I have a great support network in my wife and daughters. Just having a cuddle from them or listening to their stories about their little lives is priceless. I love going for walks, so I would often go for a long walk with my wife and talk at her about whatever it is that is going around in my head at that point.
Q. Have you found this project has impacted your life more than you expected?
Yes, definitely. I have made so many new friends and my faith in humanity has been restored thanks to the dystonia community being full to the brim with some of the most lovely and sincere people I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with. Absolute warriors and so inspirational! From the very start of working on the book, I was exposed to a whole world of forms of dystonia that I had not only not heard of, but wouldn’t have ever stumbled across if it hadn’t been for the work I was doing. It showed me that dystonia awareness is not only vitally important outside of the dystonia community, but within it too. Finally, I guess what I almost selfishly planned to be a one-and-done in regard to this project has lead to me wanting to champion and awareness as much as I can whenever I can. Warriors of Dystonia continues to grow, and I am proud to have started it.
Q. You are also a self-published author, can you say a bit about this or is it top secret?
Being a complete control freak means that the self-publish route suits me just perfectly. Whenever I have written a book, the formatting, layout, cover art and pretty much every other aesthetic as well as the writing must look exactly how I want. There’s a method and plan behind my madness! The downside is that you discover that writing a book is easy, it’s the getting it out there into the public eye that is difficult. Although it would be fantastic to see Warriors of Dystonia in books shops, the word Dystonia isn’t something that you just stumble across, so I would expect that most people who are looking for a book about dystonia will stumble across my book when scouring the internet.
Anyone going down the self published-route needs to be prepared to have a plan of how they will release their masterpiece onto the world, and this needs to begin before the date you plan of unleashing it. You need to drum up interest, use all of the tools the internet gives you, put yourself out there so that people get to know you and then talk to your audience. Warriors of Dystonia the book didn’t exist in January 2020, but by the time it was released, everyone who had been following the project knew exactly what it was that I was putting together, when it was coming out and knew a lot about me. Once the book is released, you must keep up that momentum. This is where I struggle, because I keep thinking that any time that I am investing in marketing could be time spent writing or working on a new project!
Q. What is your next project?
I have been writing under a pseudonym for many years and my plan is to continue something I started many years ago under that alias. When it comes to writing, my passion is in surreal, off-the-wall comedy and horror. As well as that, I have drafted a plan for a podcast that I will be hopefully starting this year, it will be another one-man-show, and will be a mix of reviews, random stories of the week and probably a lot of swearing.
These are regular questions I ask everyone, but you may want to skip some if you don’t want to discuss your other books.
Q. What is your favourite book?
The Pilo Family Circus and the Skulduggery Pleasant Series. Pilo Family Circus is one of the most unique horror stories I have ever read.
Q. Who is your favourite author?
Derek Landy, bit that’s because I absolutely love the Skulduggery books.
Q. Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
I would say not really. My writing is a messy amalgamation of influence from films, comics, music, with a splash of books. One of my biggest influences is life and the characters I meet along the way.
Q. Where is your favourite place to read or write?
I enjoy reading in my living room with movie soundtracks or instrumental music playing in the background. If I have music on that has lyrics my brain tends to start drawing me to the music.
Q. When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
I have been writing ever since I was a young teen, but I really got into it after I wrote a controversial short story about my secondary school, a killer bear and the carnage that ensued when that bear got to the school. It was over-the-top, completely inappropriate comedy mixed with horror; a printout of the story started to circulate around my school and I became a legend! I absolutely loved hearing about how funny people found the story. Years later, at university, I wrote a series of stories about my life and once again I found it fantastic to see people reading my work in the workshops and laughing. In 2006 I completed Nanowrimo and at the end of it I put the transcript into a book. Seeing an actual physical copy of the story in this way made me want to put more out! I then created my first writing alter ego and haven’t looked back.
Q. If you have a genre you write, how did you begin writing in this style?
I love writing comedy that is mixed with horror, occult and it always tends to be quite surreal and totally unpredictable. Some of my inspirations would be the unpredictable comedy of Reeves and Mortimer, the surrealness of Monty Python and the crude, horror-tinged shock tactics of League of Gentlemen. I also love to listen to paranormal and conspiracy podcasts too as they offer a writer such a diverse pallet of characters and stories!
Thank you so much for joining me for a natter and all you do for the dystonia community. More information on Karl’s book follows.
Warriors of Dystonia by Karl Kiddy
“Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder behind essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease, yet hardly anyone has heard of it. Little is known about the condition or what causes it, but what is certain is that it can affect anyone at any age, at any time, any part of the body and has no cure. Whether directly having dystonia or caring for someone who has it, Warriors of Dystonia shares the candid, emotional journeys and experiences of people from all over the world whose lives are affected by this chronic neurological condition.”
Thank you again Karl for joining me and good luck in your next project.
An update on my challenge for Dystonia Around the World, migraines and dystonia attacks have meant I’m slower than normal but I’m now on book 5 of my readathon to raise awareness and fundraise for dystonia UK. I will be updating my page here
September is here yet after a few days of autumnal promise, Summer has returned with the blistering heat. The kids must be back at school and the weather is teasing them that they should still be playing at home rather than sweltering in their new school uniforms.
Besides the beginning of Autumn, September is the month dystonians fill their social media feeds with articles and memes about the neurological condition to spread the word that dystonia exists. Raised awareness helps improve diagnosis, funding, support and research and for a condition rarely spoken about this is so important. My Dystonia Around the World challenge continues with walks but also a readathon over on From Under the Duvet. How many books can I read in the month?
Last year, I wrote my miles for the dystonia challenge and thanks to a prompt from Myszka during the Foxes Retreat Short Story course, I wrote The Ghost Writer. This tale based in an old Yorkshire cottage has been published in the Byline Legacies by Cardigan Press. This anthology is written by writers for writers and I feel privileged and excited to be part of the book. And even better, I can now say:
I’m a published author!
I even have a mug and T-shirt with my name on it to prove it, and soon I’ll have a physical copy to put on my bookcase. Holding a book with my name on it is one item ticked off my bucket list. Yay! It does not feel real. Now all I need to do is finish my current novel, tweak A Blend of Magic for submission and find them a home (if only it was that easy). The writers in the anthology share my pain and thrill of being a writer.
How is it August already? This year is galloping by and I feel I’m still stuck in March with a never-ending to do list and a WIP which is going slower than a garden snail despite my best efforts. Unlike last year when everyone was in lockdown and zoom calls to boost morale and word counts were the norm, being ‘good’ as a clinically vulnerable person is much harder and soul destroying. The world carries on outside and it’s hard not to feel left behind, trapped and bored. Even my imagination has got fed up with my sense of gloom and decided to scarper – not ideal when have a deadline to meet. Yes, you heard someone wants to read my WIP about ballet and friendship when finished. Time for a happy dance followed by a frenzied panic. How do authors write under pressure without sobbing in a corner with their inner critic shouting at them? Answers in the comments below, please.
The last couple of months have ground productivity to a halt with the unexpected death of Randall, the inspiration of many stories and dear friend, and umpteen other things life has colluded to throw at me at once. But it’s time to turn things around, take back control, get some writing done, wake up my brain cells, and encourage seeds of ideas and my word count to grow. To start living again. Accountability is key so the arrival of the Dystonia Around the World challenge email was perfect. I’ve signed up and ready to go with a new pen, paper and walking shoes.
Dystonia Around the World Challenge
Dystonia is a neurological condition affecting in the UK and can range from focal dystonias affecting one part of the body and linked to a certain activity, such as writer’s cramp or musical dystonia, to more general ones affecting many areas. All types create challenges throughout the day. After living with dystonia for over twenty years, the charity Dystonia UK is dear to me and supported me often. Last year I wrote several short stories but now it’s time to convert chapters of my WIP, catching up with my overflowing TBR and increase my dwindling mobility into miles. Every 10 minutes of activity equals a mile. The hope is as a collective everyone who signs up will manage to walk around the world.
Let the globe trotting adventure begin.
More information can be found here and on my From Under the Duvet blog. Or follow my progress on Instagram. If you would like to sponsor my efforts and help fundraise for Dystonia UK click here.
How have you all been? Are you out and about enjoying the summer weather or still shell-shocked from the last year and struggling to join back into society?
Over the weekend Cardigan Press released the title of the anthology I have contributed to and it will be called Byline Legacies. The reasons for the title and more can be found on their Instagram video here. My interview with them was also published this week. All of a sudden being a writer feels real. Nerve wracking as I hate being out of the shadows and real. The interview can be found below.
Contributor Interview with Kate Kenzie
Everyone, welcome Kate Kenzie to our Contributor Interview series, a routine blog feature that introduces you to the wonderful writers whose work will be featured in our upcoming anthology, Byline Legacies. Be sure to subscribe for email alerts so you never miss new posts! You are following this blog (manage). “Perhaps the scariest event for […]