Long time since we’ve had a catch up and it’s July already. I swear time is speeding up or is this normal once you get over 40? It feels like it should be in the depths of February not in the summer past Solstice.
So what’s been happening? Personally, a lot but writing wise not so much. I’m plodding on with my Silver Swan novel and looking for a home for my witches of Whitby novel, A Blend of Magic.
With the witches of Whitby in mind, they have their own book review blog and Instagram account. Amber and Willow became fed up of my procrastination at telling their stories so they’ve gone rogue. The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf will showcase their favourite books with a fantasy or paranormal leaning, give small insights into their lives and hopefully, share interviews from visiting authors, bloggers or anyone else they fancy talking to who stumble into Black Cat Alley.
Rosa, the only non-supernatural member of staff doesn’t want to be left out and as a fan of romance novels, she will periodically choose a book from her Rosa’s box of Romances to chat about.
To give myself a final kick over the finish line of my second draft of the Silver Swans, I’ve joined Camp NanoWriMo or as the aim is to finish a novel NaNoFinMo. This is much needed as I have agents and publisher waiting for the finished product – maybe this is why procrastination is rife, once it’s out there the fear of rejection is unleashed. The high of wow someone in the industry want to read it crashes into full blown imposter syndrome.
I’ve just read Stop Worrying, Start Writing by Sarah Painter which has helped with facing my writing demons and self-doubt but it still creeps in when faced with an unformed chapter.
Time to stop procrastinating and let the fun commence.
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.
Today I am excited to introduce Catherine Rull, the Australian author of paranormal romance, Guardian: Recruit as a guest on my blog. Her book is about guardian angels that watch over a psychiatric facility in London. She’s here for a quick chat to tell us more about world-building, and hitting those word counts.
Hi, Kate. Thanks for having me.
Hello. Shall we get started? Okay, so first up: how did you come up with the world for Guardian: Recruit?
Well, it actually came to me in a dream while I was pregnant in 2008. In my dream, I was driving and saw some small things flying around. When I got out of my car, I realised they were pixies. One of them was someone I knew as a child, but he’d died. And he told me, children’s souls got to grow up but as pixies. When I woke up, I wrote down the idea. But of course pixies aren’t really sexy so I went with angels.
Good choice. Was there anything else from your dream?
No. That was it. The rest, I had to figure out myself.
Well, the world in Guardian: Recruit’s quite fleshed out. Do you have any advice for other paranormal writers?
I think there are probably five things you’ll need to do to build your own world.
Base it on something real. Any novel requires a certain level of world building, regardless of the genre. I think the more you can ground your world in reality, the more believable it is. The setting for Guardian: Recruit is similar to the hospital school where I worked in London. Of course, it wasn’t creepy there at all but that’s the beauty of creating your own world. You add your imagination to the mix and hopefully create something vivid and realistic for your readers.
Research. Researching different aspects of your story (eg. your character’s job; angels from different cultures) often leads to more ideas for your books.
The new character. Another important tool in world building is to have a character who is new to the world. This allows you to explain some of the rules of the world to the reader in a more organic way. You see this all the time, including in Harry Potter. As someone who didn’t know he was a wizard, Harry had to be taught the way the wizarding world works and the reader learns about it with him.
Layering. If you have the time, I suggest editing the book with some breaks in between. This allows you to notice things you may not have realised before, or come up with new ideas to add to your world. This gives the book its many layers.
Series Bible. It’s important to keep track of the rules you’ve set for your world. I keep a “Series Bible” for all my books (not just the paranormal ones) to ensure continuity.
Thanks, Catherine. That’s a handy list. Did it take you long to write Guardian: Recruit?
I wrote about five pages in 2008. Then, in 2014, I picked it up again and set myself 800-words minimum a day until it was finished. And it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, I would fall asleep at my laptop trying to hit my word count for the day and I would wake up to find a row of “bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb” where my hand rested while I was sleeping. But then I’d wake myself up and keep going till I reached that word count. There were times when I felt like what I was writing was absolutely terrible, but when it was time to edit, those parts were never as bad as I thought. Sometimes, they were actually quite good! Either way, it’s better to edit bad writing than to have a blank page.
I completed the first draft of Guardian: Recruit in about 8 weeks, and then I edited it lots of times. I’m a “pantser”—that means I like to write “by the seat of my pants”. I find that this gives me space to surprise myself. I personally find plotting very restrictive. “Pantsing” allows the characters the freedom to get themselves into trouble, instead of me plotting their challenges 😊
Anyway, after writing the first draft, I print out my manuscripts to edit on paper, input the changes to the digital copy, edit on the laptop and print again. I usually edit books between five to ten times in this way. But I editing is all part of making a tight story and a clean manuscript. In 2015, Guardian: Recruit was shortlisted in the UK’s Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition.
That’s great. Congratulations!
So, do you already have other books lined up after Guardian: Recruit?
Yes. I’ve already written Book 2 of the Guardian Series and have the basic premise for the third book. I think the sequel will come out some time in 2021. I am currently working on other projects as well—some sequels to the chick lit and rom com that have already come out this year: The Fat Chicks’ Club Series and my Swim Bike Run Series.
You sound very busy. Do you have a set routine or favourite drink while you’re writing?
Not so much a routine. Like most writers, I have a day job. Plus, I have young children so I fit my writing around my other responsibilities. However, before the lockdowns, I sometimes used to go to my local library to get away from the distractions at home. That was usually when I needed to write or edit something in time for a competition or a submission to an agent or editor.
As for a favourite drink. I’m a big kid, so I like cold drinks like bubble tea and frozen Cokes. I like to keep it fun. Writing brings me so much joy, and I hope my readers feel that in my stories. You know, even though Guardian: Recruit has a seemingly sombre premise, you’ll find there’s a lot of humour in it as well. I don’t think I’d like to write anything too sad or depressing—I like my characters to have a sense of humour. It’s important to be able to laugh at life.
That’s good advice. Well, all the best with all those projects!
Guardian: Recruit is the first book in the Guardian Series. It’s available in ebook and paperback from Amazon, Book Depository and Barnes & Noble.
September flew by and October has arrived with falling leaves, dark mornings where you can drink your first cuppa while stargazing and chilly evenings. It is my favourite time of year for reading, writing and world building. The run up to Halloween conjures up many stories and plots with witches not far away.
Dystonia Around the World News
Thank you for supporting my fundraising and spreading awareness for Dystonia Awareness Month.
I raised £205 and and wrote and stumbled 350 miles. I am pleased Dystonia UK have extended the time to complete the challenge until the end of October. If you would like updates or support this valuable cause follow this link.
NaNoWriMo is calling
NaNoWriMo is also just round the corner making it ideal time to build a world for my current WIP. November and the support offered is my most productive writing time. Let’s hope life allows the headspace to increase my wordcount.
December is here and NaNoWriMo is over for another year. After succeeding in writing 50,000 words – yes I did it if did not already know – I thought I would reflect back on what I have learnt.
The main one is I can surpass my own expectations with the support of others and determination.
I can prove naysayers wrong.
I can not emphasise the importance of support from others. Having people behind you, believing in you when you do not believe in yourself gets you through the slumps and allows you to celebrate the highs. I can not thank those who have been with me enough, especially my daughter for the endless cups of tea and encouragement.
Accountability is an important factor. If I had not had Megg Geri checking in to see how I was doing, expecting 2000 words daily – not achieved often – I would have faltered in week two. Words would have fizzled out and I would have given up. On days when only were written 200 words by lunchtime and I was tired, grumpy or dystonia was giving me a hard time, before I would have said “that will do”. Not wanting to disappoint Megg I would go back in the evening and write some more, sometimes surprising myself with the amount or content.
Rewards matter! Knowing I could buy a Kindle book if I completed 10,000 words spurred me on because I needed Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. The reward of a coffee and catch up with a friend on a Friday if I survived the week gave me the boost I needed at times too. Thank you, Kris and Jennifer.
An excel spreadsheet was my best friend towards the end. Seeing my percentage progress on the screen helped me push through the last 10,000 words.
I discovered I am more of an evening writer than morning one. Ideas are better in the morning but bulk writing is an evening thing.
Dialogue between characters when it comes to you must be captured and written down. Trying to think of dialogue in front of a blank screen is useless, for me it has to come organically from the players, usually when half asleep or doing something boring not related to writing.
Writing daily is a joy (except on “I can’t do this” days) and routine matters.
It is amazing what gets done if people leave you alone to do it. My writing room became my haven. The writing room is also known as the spare box/junk room with a bureau squeezed in just in case I am seen as pretentious as in the J.K Rowling and Arron Banks row.
It is hard mentally. It pushes you to work beyond tiredness, life experiences and forces you to give priority to writing. As a mum and wife this was one of the hardest things. Putting myself first rather than others is not natural for me but they are old enough to look after themselves. I am in awe of people who can do it with a young family, work and other responsibilities.
I can get through the slumps to get to a better place.
It has pushed my health to its limit. I think I have got a way with it. I’m not in hospital which has happened before when I have pushed myself too far but I rattle more with more pills, have accumulated more consultants this last month and slept for seemingly days since Nano has finished. Is the pain payback worth it? Yes but I’m glad it is over. I could not keep the intensity up in the long run.
I need to get my head around dictating, my hands, well hand as I am a one handed sometimes one fingered typist, is painful and is on the verge of going on strike.
Knowing your characters well helps, but it is great when they throw surprises and unexpected ones turn up.
I love writing and need to continue. Having a few days off I miss it.
I can achieve when I believe.
Now I need to finish the draft so the joy of editing can begin.