Friday, 31 October 2014

Research and Nano

Ever wondered what a panda, fairies and a knot have in common? No! Nor me until I arrived in Sneem, County Kerry earlier this week on a research trip. I arrived with an empty notepad and an empty camera - I'll be heading home with everything I need to complete book three. Seriously, this trip was taken as a means to an end and yet it has proven to be invaluable. I'm a firm believer in writing what you know or can experience - I've certainly absorbed and experienced everything in the last three days. 

Why Sneem? I've been asked that question so many times in the last 72 hours. The answer: I opened a map of Ireland, closed my eyes and prodded the page - on Sneem! Within three weeks I was booked on a flight with a hotel reservation. In a curious way lots of little details match with my novel - but hey, I won't go into detail, maybe fate has played her role?

Tomorrow I return home having filled my muse with beautiful ideas and my heart with a renewed love for Ireland x

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31st October - there's just two hours before the fun begins for NaNo 2014

1st November - day one of the madness we lovingly know as NaNoWriMo - a crazy month in which writers attempt to write 50,000 words. A month where I scribble at every opportunity to avoid the midnight writing session to hit the daily 1667 words, or risk falling behind.

I'll attempt to blog my daily progress but forgive me if I lapse  - I'll be busy writing x

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Greatest Gift...

It may sound corny but my parents rationale of encouraging me to read from the age of four has been one of the greatest gifts given to me. In August, I blogged regards re-discovering my reading pleasure after a long stint of academic study had killed a life long enjoyment. I'm delighted to say I'm currently devouring books like never before - which has led to further self reflection.

Back in August, I named five books that I would read before the end of this year:

Hazel Gaynor - The Girl Who Came Home - have read and would highly recommend
Rowan Coleman - The Memory Book - have read and would highly recommend
Pamela Hartshorne - The Memory of Midnight - waiting patiently on my desk
Jill Mansell - Mixed Doubles - waiting patiently on my desk
Miranda Dickenson - Fairytale of New York - waiting patiently on my desk

I have been side tracked by other reads that grabbed my attention so jumped my reading queue:

Siobhan Dowd - Bog Child
John Boyne - The boy in the striped pyjamas
John Green - The Fault in Our Stars
Jo Thomas - The Chestnut Tree
Christine Stovell - Only True in Fairy Tales

My reading pledge has been phenomenal in lots of ways:

  • I've regained my love of reading
  • I've rediscovered the contentment of a quiet half an hour with a book
  • Recognised the daily need for a reading-come-meditation slot in a busy world
  • Have visited genres outside of my writing genre
  • Enjoyed reconnecting with other readers via Goodreads website
  • Completed my Goodreads Challenge 2014 - see widget in left hand panel
  • Plus have discovered a gem of a book The Book Lovers Companion

As pledged, I will read the three unread book decorating my desk before New Year but I'm currently stalling knowing that my dear friend Helen Phifer's new novel The Forgotten Cottage is released this coming Friday, 31st October.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014 - get ready!

It's nearly here folks, that crazy month that is November! For some blokes it means growing facial hair in support of charity, children hankering for bonfires and fireworks but for us writers, it simply means  the crazy 30 day challenge of NaNoWriMo.

Yep, I'm doing it again. But this year I will follow last year's experience 2013 and not the previous year of 2012.

My 2012 experience was my first successful completion year encouraged by my dear buddy Helen Phifer, who has succeeded for numerous years. Anyway, it was the ultimate learning curve for me. Come 00:01 on 1st November 2012 I began to write - all I had was a name! Seriously that was it. I hadn't a plot, I hadn't even thought through a viable idea, I had nothing! The entire 50,213 words simply flowed and took shape as I wrote each day. Some would say this was the true experience of NaNo - the freedom to just write and go wherever the tale takes you. At the time I agreed, as I knew nothing else, so on completion I printed the manuscript and stored in a document folder. This folder sits on a shelf in my writing room and in all honesty, will sit there for evermore.  In hindsight, I recognise that I have a 50,213 word document that I simply can't bear to open or peruse. There's a story in there for sure but... and this was my lesson learnt, I know that the effort and time for me to untie that bundle of unplanned knots equates to me metaphorically climbing Mount Everest.

By 2013, I changed tack; I plotted. It was a simple structure and outline for each chapter and character laid upon a time line - but the difference was amazing. I knew where I was heading, whilst retaining the freedom to seize opportunities and ideas as they arose. By the 30th November I had a part manuscript that was a viable draft one and not the knotted mess from 2012. It is this manuscript that has evolved in my third book.

2014 will be a repeat of 2013, for sure! My task for this week is to plot my NaNo onto index cards during my lunchtime slots. A gentle change of routine as my lunchtime slots will become part of my Nano writing routine, along with early get ups and late night sessions.

I've already signed in, donated and updated my profile on the official nanowrimo site. To the left of this blog you can see my word widget is ready and waiting too.

One great thing about this year's Nano is the five weekends in November, it might seem a small thing but if you're a working bod than it makes life a tad easier. I aim for the daily amount of 1667 words but if I fall behind or life throws me non-writing day I catch up at the weekend. Weekends during NaNo equate to a safety net - so use them wisely.

Another hint is to connect with your local regions NaNo events - it's amazing how much writing you can produce at a 'write-in' surrounded by other writers whose fingers are tapping away.

Final word of caution, don't be put off if your writing buddies charge ahead and you are plodding on the daily amount. Everyone has a different writing routine and it can make a huge difference to your mind set. It really doesn't matter how they complete NaNo, it's about how you complete NaNo.

Should you wish to buddy up simply search for my NaNo username: ODW11

To participate or for further details check out

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Being married to one of us

Ever wondered what it's like being married to one of us writers? I do, frequently. When I'm seated alone in my writing room, fingers tapping away and my mind chugging on towards a set word count. I frequently wonder what hubby's thoughts or feeling are regards my choices. So, today my blog is his...

Q. What's the best thing about being married to an aspiring writer?
Hubby: Don't call yourself that... you are a writer, you write. (Continue...) The best things are being part of all the things you do for your book... from the ideas to the away trips and days out. I think its funny how I'll be busy doing something and you dash in asking me to suggest a list of male names befitting a certain age and lifestyle. I'm not imaginative in any way but it's funny knowing that some of the names were spot on. We wouldn't be heading to Ireland in a few weeks if it wasn't for this current project, would we? I know you'll want lots of photos, lots of local information - that's nice being part of that research. Being proud of what you do... I know you don't mention it to many people but I tell people you write, some people at work, my friends know. I think it's funny seeing you get excited about word counts... funny but weird, and the stationery obsession - that's very weird.

Q. What's the worst part of being married to a writer?
Hubby: It can be restrictive regards weekends. I know you want to write as much as you can but it stops us going away, I suppose we do well working around it - we do what we can, don't we? You've got two jobs, I see as that. (What else?) I felt p***** off when that group couldn't be bothered - things like that aren't nice. I see what you do each week; then others just can't be bothered or are unkind about your efforts - that gets to me. I'm glad you said and didn't just put up with it. (What else? Do you mind the hours I'm writing upstairs) Not  really, I know it's what you want to do... and it gives me chance to do things I want to do... so I can't complain. I'd prefer you doing your writing than the stuff other wives seem to do. I think its unfair that the 'day job' stops you from attending writing events. I know you can't choose your holidays but given all the extra hours you do if they'd just let you leave an hour early you might make the midweek party in London or arrive at an event when everyone else does but you don't; you always arrive hours into the event - I wish that was different for you.

Q. What's your wish for my writing future?
Hubby: That's simple... that you get everything that you wish for. Honestly, I don't mind where the writing takes you as long as you're happy doing it. I'd hate to see you in a situation having worked so hard, and for so long, and you don't enjoy what you're doing. 'Cause in that case you might as well stay with the 'day job' situation, but I know you want this more than you want that. I'll be happy with that.
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After eleven years together I knew most of his answers but I'm glad I asked. I've often felt a little guilty regards the time I spend writing, when the reality is he wants me to succeed and recognises my effort. I can't really ask more than that... though maybe I'll ask him for yet another female name, one that fits a middle aged cafĂ© owner and see what he offers.

His answer: Suzy :-)

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Fighting the fear

Ever felt those nagging doubts niggling in your head? Or those stomach churning moments that prevent you from achieving? I think we've all experiences them at some point in our lives, and from what I'm hearing writers seem to have an endless supply of these experiences. The sad thing is the niggling thoughts and fears stifle their creative flow and hinder them in their craft.

On Wednesday night, I attended a writers' group meeting in Birmingham - in contrast to my previous visit the numbers were much lower. The reason: a workshop. The evening was a dedicated workshop on plotting - personally, I jumped at the chance to attend and had a whale of a time doing group work and I'm pretty chuffed with the plot our group produced in virtually no time. But, and here's the relevance, I reckon others shied away from the experience, stayed at home for the fear of having to work in groups, the fear of trying something new and maybe the fear of learning new methods.  How do I know this? Because there was a time - way, way back, when I'd have been one of them... honest, I would have been. I'd have kidded myself that I didn't need any more tips and skills on plotting, a night of writing would be more advantageous for my project and discussing various genres other than my own wouldn't help me in any way. But I'd have been wrong, the truth being I was squashed by fear. I continued to be wrong until I learnt there's a bigger enemy than fear, and that's regret!

For me this was an epiphany moment; my own self-constructed fears were stopping me achieving. And I, was the only one that could change that. Looking back fear had hindered me since childhood not just in writing but it's something I had to change. That may sound easy, it wasn't. You need to look at your mind set, the way you view/react to opportunities and on some occasions go against your natural instinct but face the fear you must! Having done it a few times I found it got easier, but hey doesn't everything with practise? After years of doing it, I don't give it a second thought now.

My advice to any writer would be 'just do it' regardless of the nagging doubts - because one day something wonderful will arise from your creative efforts and then neither fear nor regret will exist for you.