Affirmation: My Year of Writing

I’m now two full months into my Year of Writing and I have 61,000 words. My biggest concern is that my storyline seems to lack sufficient ‘tension’. I know I can fix this with some clever editing, still…

Anyway, this is what I’ve learnt recently:

1. Don’t over-think a scene – write it down as soon as you can, then edit it on the page. Otherwise, chances are, your idea will never leave your head.

2. SHOWING is the best way to TELL, even in YA. (If you ‘tell’ something when you could ‘show’ it, you are mistrusting and excluding the reader.)

3. Reading other people’s prose with a critical eye is the best form of research that you can do… You can’t write if you don’t read.

GOALS: Trust yourself. Write more. Eat well. Sleep when possible.

N.B. I’m also having some issues transferring my draft between Word (on my Microsoft desktop) and Pages (on my iPad) – the iPad seems to mess up the formatting pretty badly. I did have it in docX format, so I’ve decided try RTF now and see if that makes a difference.

My Year of Writing

Progress: 16,393 words written.

This week I’ve slowed down somewhat; I spent time looking back at what I’d done and editing. I did that because I saw a great webinar on what should be in your first two pages (the two that end up in any potential agent’s inbox).

This was what I learned:

1. Your first two pages should demonstrate 3 things: your hook, the stakes, and your character’s voice.

2. Tighten your prose whenever possible (don’t use three sentences when one will do).

3. Tighten the ‘frame’ of any scene. This basically means don’t mix exposition and action – keep them separate whenever possible in order to keep your reader in the moment.

It’s so easy to give yourself a list like this, but applying it is harder. I’ve had to make some very harsh decisions in the last few days and I lost about 2,000 words in the process, but I think my novel is flowing better because of it – so I’m planning to keep these tips at the forefront of my mind as I continue on with my rough, rough, rough first draft.

Going forward I plan to do less editing and more writing, because right now I need to see my word count increasing not decreasing! There’ll be time enough for that later…

The other thing I want to do is read someone else’s writing this week – I need to pick up a book one evening instead of stressing about my own writing.

My November


November actually turned out to be pretty useless to me in the writing department, as I was too busy to partake in NaNoWriMo properly. Then in December we received some sad news at work: on January 11th our bookshop is closing down.

Which means… I am going to take a year long writing sabbatical in 2014 to try and complete my latest project and get it published. I am equal parts scared and excited!

So this month I reread two books which I absolutely adore – both on novel writing (and revisions) – and I thought I would share them with you today.

– Written by an editor and a ghost writer, this is very clearly written and will make you think about things which other books fail to mention. Also, surprisingly, it doesn’t claim that there are any hard and fast rules for writing (it’s even lenient on adverbs!).

– Written by 2 editors this is a straight forward revision tool which is much simpler than other more philosophical books on writing. It also discusses how a modern publisher might ‘edit’ a classic which I found rather fun!

I also read Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft last month which has a very good chapter on p.o.v. but is a bit flowery!

NaNoWriMo: Writing Software

Every year I struggle to find something to write in for NaNo.

My first year I used Word, but that got old pretty fast: It took me about 5 minutes to locate a scene I’d only written four days earlier…

The next year I used Scrivener, which I loved and still love.

Then came my third go around. This was the year I bought an iPad in October only to discover there is NO Scrivener writing app for the iPad. So I moved to Storyist, which had an app for the iPad and my Mac – and would sync between the two at the click of a button. I was happy.

Now my Mac desktop died in the Spring and I replaced it with a Windows machine which was MUCH cheaper… but Storyist doesn’t work on Windows.

So what will I use this year? Well, I’m going low tech and splashing out on WriteRoom. The designers of WriteRoom have apps for literally EVERYTHING – and they all sync with one another via Dropbox.

WriteRoom was designed to be a simple, clutter free app, that takes away any and all distractions a writer might encounter: email notifications, iTune’s icon (you know you want to listen to music instead of write…), active twitter feed – all of it.

WriteRoom – image from

The only thing which I think will really bother me is that you can’t italicize text in WriteRoom – I’ll have to go back and do that in December. Also, it lists files in alphabetical order and the only way around this is to number your scenes (1,2,3 etc).

WriteRoom (files/scenes listed on the left) – image from

I’ll let you guys know how I get on.

NaNoWriMo: Black Parrots

A friend of mine, Janni, likes to blame all of her writing doubts on ‘black parrots’ – these are the chaps who sit on your shoulder and whisper in your ear:

“You should delete that sentence, it’s crap.”

“You shouldn’t be writing, there’s washing to do.”

“No one will want to read it anyway.”

She came up with the name after reading the following poem, which I’d like to share with all my fellow NaNo warriors – ordinary people who will be joining me this year in the extraordinary bid to write 50,000 words each during the month of November.

Black Parrot by Dorothy Nimmo

Black Parrot by Dorothy Nimmo

I am going to need more determination than ever this year to get through NaNoWriMo, because my calendar for next month? Looks menacing. It’s choc-a-block with events. So I’ll need help – buddies – to stay on track and a major dose of confidence.

My goals this November: stay connected, stay confident, stay on track for a 50,000 word finish.

If you’d like to help this is going to be my 2013 NaNo user: