A page a day… 300 words a day… a chapter a day…

It’s probably true that every one who writes, writes in a different way –

  • tools – whether it is on paper, with a ball point, rollerball,  or a fountain pen, and what colour – black, green, blue, turquoise, or something crazy, or  a pencil, an ordinary pencil or a propelling pencil, or writing on an old-fashioned type-writer, or a PC… or tablet, phone, or dictates and records…
  • setting – at a desk, at a table, on a stool, a chair, standing up, writing with your pad/laptop/whatever on your knee,  anywhere in the house, in a particular room, in a studio or shed, in a local café or a pub or on a bench in the park…
  • targets – a poem a day, a page a day, a chapter a day, so many words a day, writing until inspiration comes to a full stop or you fall asleep…

Thinking about targets, it’s useful sometimes to step back and think and consider and wonder if you should set targets if you don’t, or maybe think of different targets if you already do. However… however, I don’t generally set targets; I get up I write, I stop when I want to reconsider what I’ve written, – or want a cup of coffee or tea, – or am in a muddle, – or have got a bit lost in where I’m supposed to be going, – or have run out of writing energy… etc… and I have to say that this works for me.

However over the last few years, the last four in fact, in the month of November all changes as I have taken up the challenge of writing the beginning of a new novel in the month of November, 50,000 words of it, as part of the National Novel Writing Month.  50,000 words works out as about 1670 words a day – although because it is a monthly target, if you miss a day then the daily rate goes up! Last year I got off to a very slow start for various reasons and it was a battle towards the end as the daily number target kept rising!

This annual race to beat the word count is very stimulating, it really improves my writing fitness and makes me focus more on writing and not faff about and get distracted – but it’s exhausting! Although there is exhilaration when it’s done, and my stamina has improved, it’s not something I want to do as an everyday writer, even setting a lower target, once I get back to ‘normal’.

Maybe I’m just a bit eccentric and stubborn – because I do see the point and value of daily or weekly writing targets, and would recommend them to other people. Some writers even put up their daily totals on Facebook or Twitter…

So, instead of something so inflexible,  how about this:

  • work out my priority for the year, or the next twelve months, or set a different time-scale
  • set realistic targets (this gives me a little shudder of memory as I think about SMART targets which we were always supposed to set when I was at work, and usually forgot and never reached (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, timed)
  • keep track of what I’m doing – pretty impossible I think
  • assess whether what I’m doing is getting where I want to be

Actually, I think even if I do make myself a set of rules/targets, I won’t keep to them… absent-mindedly rebellious!

http://www.dailywritingtips.com

 

 

 

My 2017: November

November for me over the past five years has meant one thing… the National Novel Writing Month challenge – 50,000 words to be written during the month of November. I chronicled this pretty fully as I was writing, sharing my story, my anxiety about getting behind, my thoughts that this year I might fail, the growing sense that maybe I could push on and do it and then hurrah! 50,053 words!!

So how did that compare to previous years:

  • 2013: ‘Radwinter’  genealogical mystery. 73026 words
  • 2014: ‘Raddy and Syl’ – genealogical mystery: Thomas has traced his paternal ancestors to 1830’s war-torn Europe; he has followed his maternal line and found murder and betrayal. Now he needs to look closer to home, to discover the truth about the people who brought him up, Edward and Sylvia Radwinter, Raddy and Syl, in order to find out who he really is. 50,092 words
  • 2015: ‘Earthquake’  – genealogical mystery:  stalker stalked… maybe… 53030 words
  • 2016: ‘And the river’ – memoir: This is a meander, not sure where it is going or what will be seen, from it or in it… This began as a story of my life and that of my family, told through the rivers I have been connected with… as with real rivers, it went its own way and covered a lot of ground… and it hasn’t yet reached its end! 51282 words

And this is what I wrote on day 1 this year:

It’s November, and for some writers the  first day of the month is greeted with a mixture of excitement, dread and a sort of paralysing creative nervousness. This is the month that many of us challenge ourselves to write fifty thousand words, yes, 50,000 words in the thirty days of November.

It sounds at the outset as impossible… 1,667 words a day? Is anyone able to do that? Yes, yes they are, and yes, yes they do.  It is an on-line challenge, there are no prizes, only the satisfaction of knowing you’ve completed it – and if you don’t manage, well at least you tried, and if you don’t manage to write a single word, well at least you thought about it and probably ran through a few ideas in your head before dismissing them all. Those ideas might come back to you one day!

The challenge is called The National Novel Writing Month – the original idea was to write the first fifty thousand words of a new novel; however because there are so many different forms of writing, and the whole point is to inspire people to write and not put them off, it has been somewhat relaxed, and now it is fifty thousand new words.

The idea is that once you start writing,. Like in a timed exam, you just don’t have the time to worry about detail, you just have to get those words on the age – so if the main character’s eyes are blue or brown, or the farm is called Greenvale or High Trees it really doesn’t matter, all those little things can be sorted later, and with the challenge completed the decision-making may have been made without you noticing.

I have taken the challenge four times, plus a ‘Camp Nano’ and I am going to try again… I don’t know if I will make it this time… but I am going to try!

I really recommend it as an exciting challenge – have a go, you might surprise yourself – I certainly surprised myself!

 

A writing list

A writing chum told me has made a 2018 writing list – things he intends to tackle next year… I’ve got some priorities in my head, but as for a list, well, I hadn’t thought of it… so what would be on my list should I make one?

I think it goes without saying that I will continue to write here, sharing my thoughts, ideas, memories and my writing. I must also get back seriously or seriously get back to finishing my next Radwinter novel, which has been marooned three-quarter way through since the beginning of November when I tackled the national Novel Writing challenge of completing 50,000 words in a month. So finish Thomas Radwinter’s next story provisionally entitled ‘Saltpans‘, and I have an idea for another for later on in the year probably called ‘Alone‘. On the Radwinter front, I also want to publish as paperbacks at least two of my e-books, ‘Magick’ and ‘Raddy and Syl‘, and if all goes extremely well, then also ‘Beyond Hope‘.

In January and February I must prepare for a talk and two workshops I’m giving in February; the talk is on writing about family history, as I mentioned yesterday, and the workshops are on the process of writing and blogging.

I also have my unfinished stories – ‘Gus’, ‘Dancing in the Road’, ‘And the River…’, ‘Hamazasb and the Missing Shoe‘, and a couple of other bits of writing I started. There is also the story I began this year for NaNoWriMo, about Milla. Of those, I think there’s only a couple which I might actually tackle, others are very much on the back burner, as well as some I wrote many years ago which would need a total re-write.

I have completed five NaNoWriMo challenges, every year since 2013; they have been a great way to really get to grips with a new story, but they are also a great drain on time… the idea is also quite additive, though, will I be able to resist the challenge? Or maybe should I use it to get to grips with ‘Alone’? That actually is a good idea!!

I mentioned at the start my commitment to writing here; I also share another blog with two writing friends (which is actually open to anyone to contribute to!) From that we published an anthology last year and are hoping to publish a second next year. That is more a case of pulling together already written pieces rather than creating anything new but it still involves work. On our other blog we have challenged ourselves to write about subjects from a list we discovered with seventy-three suggestions of topics. We are doing really well with it, and have had a thought that maybe they could be edited and published – in three volumes!! There would just be too many words for one book!

So that I guess is my writing list… but then of course, something new, a whole new story might bob into my mind!! Inspiration happens in the most unlikely places and with the most unexpected ideas!

So, maybe like my friend I should write a list… should it be a calendar/diary/timetable?

  1. January – finish first draft of ‘Saltpans‘, prepare for family history talk and writing workshops. Begin to edit ‘Magic’ for paperback publication
  2. February – deliver family history talk and writing workshops, work on editing ‘Saltpans‘, also continue to edit ‘Magick‘ as a paperback – this takes much longer than you might think!
  3. March – prepare and publish ‘Saltpans‘, prepare first draft of seventy-three blog anthology, book I.
  4. April – work on ‘seventy-three’ maybe start thinking about next story for me – perhaps ‘Dancing in the Road’, but maybe something new will spring into my mind! Publish ‘Magick’ as a paperback’ and start of paperback editing of ‘Raddy and Syl’.
  5. May – publish ’73’, continue work on whatever new/old thing I’m writing
  6. June – writing, writing, writing, publish ‘Raddy and Syl‘ paperback, start preparing ‘Beyond Hope’ as a paperback
  7. July – more writing, writing, writing, continue with ‘Beyond Hope‘ paperback
  8. August – as for July but publish new paperback
  9. September – complete whatever I started new in April (maybe it will have got to the editing stage by now) Begin to look at second anthology with my two writing friends, to publish November/December
  10. October  – ditto September
  11. November – new Nano challenge, but also some light editing and pulling together of the April book, publish anthology II with friends
  12. December – maybe publish new book? Maybe continue what I started as Nano?

Writing it down like this makes 2018 look a massive challenge – however, a lot of it is editing and working on old things. This year I have felt that creativity has been pushed into the corner by other stuff I’ve been doing; I really want to make sure it isn’t the same in 2018. It’s all about balance.

2017 has been a great year, and I’ll write about in the next few days, but if I have any resolution for next year, it is what I mentioned above – find balance!

The handsome vicar and the runaway child

I didn’t realise four years ago when I took on the National Novel Writing Challenge that the 50,000 words i was attempting to write would become the start of the next six books… I began to tell the story of Thomas Radwinter and his three brothers, Marcus, Paul and John, of the ups and the down of their lives and their families. As well as their own lives, the stories also include ‘investigations’ which Thomas undertakes, seemingly harmless research into genealogical mysteries which lead him into all sorts of difficulties.

This is the beginning of the third novel, and here it seems as i the family are united and happy and all will go well for them… However, Thomas’s investigations into his own history cause upset, and his investigations into a woman who just disappeared from a busy street lead him into danger…

But this is the start – a very happy day for Thomas:

I looked up at the vicar standing on the steps of the nave, and he smiled down at me. He’s very handsome this vicar, and in fact he’s my brother. All my brothers are handsome men, and Marcus, the Reverend Marcus Edward Radwinter, is no exception; he has a strong angular face, and today his wild eyebrows and bushy beard and flowing grey mane of hair have been neatly trimmed. The most arresting thing about him is his eyes, his piercing blue Radwinter eyes, and as I looked up at him, they crinkled in a smile.

He glanced down the aisle and I looked at my other brother John, standing beside me; he was beaming too, and well he might. He is engaged to the most beautiful woman, Justyna, and they were expecting their baby in three weeks’ time. We’d had a few jokes about maybe it would come early and arrive today, and then there could be a christening as well as a wedding here in my brother’s church.

As well as a wedding… not John’s wedding, but mine. Yes, today I was marrying Kylie…

A little brown face peeped at me round John’s shoulder, my little man Kenneil. He was very excited, I can tell you, but being very good… so far. He looked so cute in his little kilt; my nephew Tom was holding him in his arms. John was my best man and Tom and Kenneil were my groomsmen…

“Ahem,” Marcus nodded towards the church doors and I realised that my other nephew, Django, was playing the bridal march; he and his band had been vamping some incidental music while we waited.

“Can I look?” I whispered.

“Of course you can,” Marcus replied, he looked so happy.

I turned and there, there was my beautiful bride.

Kylie was wearing a white and gold dress and she looked like an Aztec goddess… well, actually I don’t know if the Aztecs had goddesses, but she looked exotic and wonderful and she shimmered as she walked towards me, her arm resting lightly on that of my brother Paul who was escorting her. He looked very handsome, I thought once that he looks like a silver lion; he has that strength, that confidence and pride in his family.

Kylie’s hair was drawn back from her face and had been woven into plaits with golden ribbons and jewelled beads threaded through… She had feathers in her hair, gold feathers, and her veil came down just to her nose, and there were little sparkly stars on it. Behind her I could see her three bridesmaids, my nieces Paula and Sarah, and Kylie’s sister Reneasha.

Kylie’s dress was short at the front, not too short, and her long elegant legs strode out… in a way she looked quite fearsome… but these days I think she looks magnificent with that determined expression, not terrifying as I used to think…

There was fumble beside me, and I heard Tom say, “Kenneil, come back! Oh, sorry Thomas!”

Kenneil had somehow escaped and was running down the aisle to his Mama. We‘d gone to the suit shop to hire suits for John and Tom and he‘d spotted a kilt and although he has no known connection to anything Scottish, he is in fact three-quarters Tobagoan, he insisted…and he is so adorable, I just gave way. I could hear the congregation all go ‘aah’ as he sped towards Kylie.

Her face broke into the widest smile and she bent to him, and Paul leant over and picked him up and carried him on his arm as they continued to process down the aisle, Kylie and me grinning at each other…

I had never felt so confident and sure of myself in all my life; this really was the start of a new and wonderful adventure with my family beside me!

Here is a link so you can find out more, what family secrets Thomas uncovered and whether he found teh vanished woman:

http://amzn.eu/dgMp8bx

2017 NaNo update… 50,053…

So the national Novel Writing Month draws to a close, and although I fell behind and at points thought I might never catch up… I did!! I managed to write 50,053 words during the month of November.

I am now going to put my story to one side for a while , and finish off some other things, but I will come back to it and I will finish it!

Here is something to celebrate with:

Day thirty of NaNoWriMo…

The last day is here, the last day of the challenge… the target day which once seemed a distant speck on my writing horizon and then gradually began to loom… On November 1st I took up the online challenge to write 50,000 (yes, fifty thousand words) this month. This is my fifth year of doing it, and to be honest, although my writing has gone well, really well, this year it has been a struggle. It’s been a struggle because November has been a very busy month and lots of quite ordinary but nice things have come between me and my writing.

This is what I wrote here on the first day of the challenge, reporting back under a post tile ‘Went the day well?’

I was all set up with what I was going to do; I have a character called Gus and I’ve written about him several times, and I decided I wanted to pull his story together and NaNoWriMo seemed the ideal vehicle for my attempt. So… I had a busy day yesterday, lots of things happened, some planned some unexpected, some good, some really not good at all.
I sat down first thing and opened a new document… and blank… Gus had wandered off… he obviously didn’t think he was ready to share his story. There would be no point in forcing it I knew, that way difficulty lies! I have so many other things I am doing at the moment, probably too many, that I knew Gus would prove recalcitrant and reluctant.
I did have a back-up plan; after I finish writing my novels quite often the characters’ stories continue in my head and I sometimes actually write down what happens next – this doesn’t develop into a sequel, but some of the ideas might lead to something new (what happened to the characters in ‘Farholm’ resulted in an idea which developed into ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘) However, when I tried to find a couple of these ideas I wanted to pursue I couldn’t locate them; I have an awful feeling that when I was doing my mass clear out and tidy that they went into the recycling bin)
So at eleven o’clock last night, I addressed the empty page. I started something completely new, something which had just been a vague idea floating around… I don’t know whether it will work, but it’s started and I managed to write 1076 words before midnight!!

Well, I’m thankful that the vague idea took off with a mind of its own! So by Day 3 I was into the swing of it, but still very much feeling my way and not really knowing where it would all go… This is what I wrote here:

This is the gist of it so far:
A mystery woman with an undisclosed past has got a tiny flat in a small seaside town (my imaginary Easthope) it’s told from her point of view at the moment and I hope the reader (well, if it gets that far) will be wondering ‘why is she here?’, ‘why is she living in such a tiny place?’, ‘what’s she running away/hiding from’?, ‘is she escaping an unhappy relationship?’ etc, and then the reasons are gradually revealed. The woman is doing a lot of writing which is shared with the reader, and it’s about her past, but she talks about ‘the city’ rather than naming it, and ‘the river’ etc so even in her writing she is circumspect…
On day 1 she didn’t have a name – that’s how new the whole idea is! Day 2 and I knew her name was going to begin with a B or an M… and in the end it is M – Milla. I am a little behind – not quite making the 1667 per day = 3,334 words in two days – I am up to 3,152, so not too far off target, especially so early on in the challenge when I haven’t got into my stride yet.
Today which is Day 3 I am going to write some of her writing, which I think will be a memoir of when she was a student in the anonymous city…

By day 4 (in Milla’s story as well as mine) things were moving on, but slowly… This is what I wrote here about my progress:

On the first day a mysterious woman appeared, recently moved into a bedsit – or what is now called a flatlet apparently, and it was only on day two that her name was revealed, Milla. It has become apparent that she is trying to build a new life… and yesterday, day four, she became involved with someone who might later become a friend.
This makes it sound as if I am reading a story, rather than writing one… well, sometimes it is almost like that! A surprise on every page, a new character, a new scene, a new difficulty!
The new character takes a tumble…
She set off back to the steps to leave the beach. An elderly man had crossed the road, pulled by his dog, maybe the old man and dog she had exchanged greetings with a couple of days ago.
It happened almost in slow motion – whether the pulled, eager to run on the beach, whether the man tottered or slipped on the sandy steps, whether he had some sort of seizure but he fell, lurching towards her and she sprang to try and catch him but he went sideways. The dog dragged him, and then the man’s hand released the lead and he went down, the side of his head hitting the stone with an audible ‘crack’!
Milla went down on her knees beside him, calling out something to him, something silly, inane, panicky are you alright? Are you ok? Don’t worry, I’m here!

I thought I would write a daily update here… I haven’t had time for that! It wasn’t until Day 12 that I managed to write another NaNo blog:

So… how has NaNo been going? I’ve mentioned that I intended to write about a long-standing character in search of a story… however he has wandered off, and instead I am writing about Milla who has come to my imaginary town of Easthope. She is a woman with a mystery past, which has not yet been revealed to the reader. Over the twelve days I have been writing about her, her character is gradually developing, especially as she is coming into contact with other people – the other people who live in the house where she’s renting a room, people in a café where she’s been working part-time, other people from around the town.
She has created what amounts a set of runes, which she is ‘reading’ each day, by taking one at random and bearing it in mind as the day progresses. In order to do this I do have a made up set of images which I am randomly picking out – so in a way the writing of the story is guided by chance. I have got to a point now, where I feel as if something has to happen… there has to be some action and movement to keep the reader engaged because otherwise this will just seem like the diary of an uneventful life – and even if there is some strange secret in Milla’s past, by the time it is revealed the reader won’t be reading any more!
Another thing has struck me which I must have a good think about – if I have time to think as I pound away trying to reach my target… Milla’s character. To be sure she is mysterious, but she is gradually changing into a stock female character without an actual character – she has no personality!
So that’s my task for the next few days, to discover her character, and make sure she is interesting and different!

So day 30… the last day… and 2,938 words to write… I’d better get going!

Three of my last four NaNo journeys made it into print… here is a link to all of my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

25,000 done, 25,000 to go!

You may be a person who looks at the title of this blog and knows exactly what I mean – or you may be baffled!

The 25,000 refers to words – since November 1st I have written twenty-five thousand (and 42) words as part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenge… it’s an on-line challenge, there are no prizes except knowing you have completed the challenge and achieved the goal!

So I am halfway through, and as you may realise today is the two-thirds mark… so I have ten days to write the remaining 25,000 (well, 24, 958 to be precise) words… Can I do it? I hope so, but it will be head down!

The thing is, as well as writing my story – which is about a woman with a mystery past who arrives in the small coast la town of Easthope – as well as writing about my mystery woman, I am also writing here every day, and writing for the blog I share with two friends, The Moving Dragon Writes… plus other stuff as well, of course! To be truthful though, during this stressful and busy time (I’m also doing an on-line course on submarine archaeology) I have shared some blogs which I wrote several years ago, with introductions and added comments, but some of the things I’ve written have been quite long…

So supposing each thing I have shared here over the last month (sixty of them) and the ones I have shared on the other blog, (say ten of them) was on average 400 words long (a conservative estimate) then that make an approximate total of about 28,000 words… so if I added that to my NaNoWriMo total… wow! I’ve made it, 53,042!!!

Obviously, I am going to try to complete the challenge by writing 50,000 words about my mystery woman, but ti just shows how much i actually do write… No wonder i don’t have tome to do the dusting!!

If you want to read the fruits of my labours, I have published thirteen novels (one in paperback), three reluctant reader stories, one writing guide, an anthology with my Moving Dragon friends, then here is a link – I’m sure you will enjoy them, pleasae let me know what you think!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

and a link to the Moving Dragon blog:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com