33. Ways to deal with life interrupting NaNoWriMo

THE new novel went on hold today. Four days into the project and I officially hit a brick wall. It was all down to a bed.

When I say that I don’t mean I just couldn’t face getting up, going downstairs and sitting in front of a laptop until the words came.

I mean that my wife saw a bargain bed for our 5-year-old to replace the cotbed she has had since birth.

Admittedly the bed has been “upgraded” a couple of times. It’s not like she still peers at us through the bars.

But when your little ones feet are hovering perilously close to the end of the bed yet she is one of the smallest in her class, you know it’s time for drastic measures. Or, rather, my wife does.

So late last night we took delivery of the bed, and first thing this morning my little one noticed it and got all excited.

I was quite prepared to leave the assembly, plus rearranging of bedroom furniture and 15 boxes of seldom used toys, to my wife as a nice chore for the weekend. The rugrat was having none of it though.

So today, when I should have been firmly engrossed in my Nanowrimo story adding to the 5,000 words I had painfully eked out so far, instead I was performing back-breaking tasks of manual labour.

I’ll be honest. It’s not my forte. Infact, I hate it. Still, what I hate even more is seeing the look of abject disappointment on a 5-year-olds face when you tell them “Sorry, honey, daddy was just too busy to put your new bed together today”.

Anyway, the point of this long-winded tale of parental guilt is that the new bestseller took a back seat and I added exactly zero words to it today. I could, I suppose, be working on my masterpiece now but it seemed far easier to tell you the story.

I do, however, have a recipe for writers block and will aim to catch up tomorrow. I’ve already a plan in place for much of the book which I can follow, but as I am expecting to stumble tomorrow my first task will be to throw together some dialogue.

I have a few characters involved in the next scene – chapter 4 in a writing project I would loosely term “science fiction” which I’ve called State of Reality – and the way I shall endeavour to make progress is to construct a long conversation between them.

Like people in everyday life they will shoot the breeze, discuss the weather and – like certain people I know – enjoy the sound of their own voices. No doubt, while this frank exchange of views takes place some germ of a good idea will come about on how to progress the plot.

Even if it turns out to be poor material it won’t matter too much. Nano is about the first draft and you can include all sorts of crazy things, many of which will hit the cutting room floor when you start the editing process.

So don’t fear. If you are in the same position and life has already interrupted your best laid plans, adopt this catch up formula. Pick a couple of characters and imagine they are meeting up to discuss life, the universe and everything. You never know, they may just give you some very good ideas.

If not, well at least you’ve gone some way to understanding your own characters.

Happy writing and if anyone wants to touch base on NaNoWriMo feel free to look me up and become my “buddy” (a term that makes me want to put my fingers down my throat – I imagine the Americans are to blame!).

Best of luck.

30. Chip off the old Writer’s Block

My five-year-old daughter Olivia is a bright spark. She has already written her first book. She made up a story with pencils, some crayons, a few sheets of paper and a stapler. It’s about people on a train and it is very good, even if I say so myself.

Today she became even more adventurous and decided it was time to write some songs. I blame my eldest daughter Jemma for introducing her to X-factor while babysitting the other weekend.

That’s enough of offspring, though. The point is that almost anyone CAN write a book. Whether it is any good or not is the key, particularly when self-publishing.

Having written and published Crossing The Whitewash and spent the last month or so wallowing in faint acclaim while trying to get people to actually BUY the thing, I must admit I have neglected the writing side.

A couple of my reviewers have already raised the hopes there might be a sequel, though I must admit when I first wrote Whitewash I always envisaged it as a one-off.

Whatever I do though, it is time I started writing again. I’ve been putting it off and putting it off, struggling with the different themes and ideas in my head. Now, though, it is crunchtime.

Why? Because next month is the start of NaNoWriMo.

NaNoWriMo is the short form for National Novel Writing Month and is a great challenge to take on if you want to write but find every excuse to avoid starting that novel… from redecorating the bathroom to the ink running out in your pen.

I first took on the challenge last year. The objective is to write 50,000 words in November and the reward is not just a natty little online certificate but a host of useful discounts from professionals in the publishing industry.

Last year, for instance, you could get two free copies from your novel if you uploaded with CreateSpace, or a big discount on the writing tool Scrivener. The one thing I viewed as a huge bargain and haven’t regretted was enlisting the services of Bookow, who do a lovely job of formatting your work in whatever size you wish to publish, while also giving you the documents to download for Kindle and other eBook formats. Brilliant and Steve Passorious, the person who runs this little service, gave me all manner of help and advice when I took Crossing The Whitewash to him.

Away from freebies and bargains, though, the thing that NaNo really does is help you to get down the first draft. You cannot afford writers block because if you grind to a half you will run out of time to complete your task and make use of the offers. The worst thing is that you will have an overwhelming sense of failure (I imagine).

The key, for me, was to try to stay ahead of the game, get down as much as you can from the first day so that you are always ahead of the graph which tells you how much you need to write. I would suggest get everything possible down, use long sequences of dialogue between characters when you feel you are slowing up, and what you will find is that these spark more ideas inside you to enable you to carry on.

A big tip though would be to use the two weeks leading up to Nano to get a pretty good plan outlined and make sure you have an end to your story – a point to aim for. I know there are planners and there are pantsers, but once you have the outline you can veer off piste as much as you like, it just ensures you have something to go back to and remind you what your intention was when the words start to dry up.

I am still trying to complete the novel, Run Rabette Run, which I started writing for Nano last November. Having achieved the 50,000 words there was still a lot more to write to get to the end and I have been looking at it again this month. Hopefully it will be good enough to publish by this time next year.

On November 1, though, it may be the opportunity to begin a sequel to Crossing The Whitewash – at least then it will leave me with options.

If you are taking part in NaNo: Good luck!