Post NaNo Reflection

My spasmodic writing spells and stats

Although it is only a week since NaNoWriMo ended, it feels like an eternity ago that I typed “THE END” to my 50,000 word novel.

My first attempt at anything of the sort, I feel rather proud that I completed the challenge. After starting a day late, spending the majority of the month below ‘the line’, and being conscious of the fact that most of what I was writing was, well, rubbish, I nonetheless pulled through and stuck it out til the end. I even finished a day early. Who would’ve thought?

So, the month began with me, no plot, and a blank page. I wanted to write a fantasy novel, epic in nature, with the typical premise of chosen one, kingdom in peril, battle of evil. I had a pretty interesting character and some good world building going on, but 35,000 words in I realised something.

I was bored.

Now, I may not be a bestselling author or an acclaimed literary critic, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if the writer is bored, that’s not a good sign. If I can’t find it interesting, then how the hell is anybody else supposed to?

At this point I was still falling way behind the daily word limit goal and my motivation was wavering. I knew I had to do something drastic to get on track in order to reach my 50,000 word goal or I would find myself curled in a ball of despair come November 30th, never daring to try write a novel again.

What did I do? I started writing another story.

It came to me one moment, and the next I had all these ideas, a plot and before I knew it I’d written 7,000 words. I had been struggling to churn out the daily 1,667 words until that point, and here I was, 7,000 words in a day!

I abandoned the original story and continued with the new one until I fondly greeted that 50,000th word. Granted, I ended up with one unfinished story and one 15,000 word short story rather than one 50,000 word novella, but I like to think the point was that I finished.

This is what 50,000 words looks like...

I signed up for NaNo with one expectation: To write 50,000 words in a month. I wanted to prove to myself that I could be disciplined enough to write regularly over a longer period of time, and to break down my fear that it doesn’t have to be perfect the first time round.  I told myself that if one good idea, paragraph, character or sentence came out of it, then I would be happy. As it turns out, in that I was successful.

There are also a few things I learned over the month of November:

  1. I like to write in chunks. I’d rather write big chunks over a shorter period of time, than little snippets over a longer period of time. Over the entire month I actually only wrote 18 out of the 30 days.
  2. The NaNo forums are truly wonderful. I didn’t think in this little part of the world called Tasmania, that anyone would be participating in my area. As it turns out, there was a group of Northern Tasmanians keen to get their write on, and we ended up meeting each Friday to vent our NaNo stresses and challenge each other in word wars.
  3. I like graphs. Seeing that little blue line inch a little further every day was unbelievably motivating.
  4. I am incapable of writing a *good* novel in a month. NaNoWriMo may produce some stellar stuff for some, but for me it was 90% word mush. There were a few good lines in there, paragraphs even, but mostly it was just stream of consciousness writing. Even though I quite love the short story that came out of it, I feel it would be less work to start over again than to go back and edit it into something worthwhile.
  5. I would do it again. What a sense of achievement it was to reach that finish line, to receive my winners certificate and to be completely immersed for 30 days in a large creative project. Although it may not have produced any particularly wonderful writing for me, it was still an amazing opportunity to push myself to write every day with the support of all those other wrimos out there.

Congrats to everyone out there who participated in NaNo this year. Even if you didn’t reach the big five oh, I think you’re all winners. If the month of November saw you writing something, then you’re ahead of those who have not yet found the courage to write anything.

I leave you with the wise words of Chris Cleave, who was kind enough to give us Wrimos a mid-month pep talk:

It doesn’t matter what genre you write in. All literature is transformative. To make people laugh; to tell a light-hearted romantic story; to let intelligent readers forget their troubles for an hour in the absence of the politicians and the money men who make our lives hell – these are some of the hardest feats to accomplish as a writer, and some of the most serious political acts you can perform. You don’t have to be a Serious Writer to be a serious writer. I once read a beautiful paragraph about teenage vampires – teenage vampires, for goodness’ sake – that moved me more than all of Hemingway. You don’t need to be trying to change the world in order to change someone’s world. What you need is to be seriously committed to your work.

A fellow local Wrimo and I decided to print our 'manuscripts' in celebration of completing the challenge. A tangible memento.

~storytelling nomad~

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Book that is most like your life

30 Day Book Challenge – Day 12

What’s this? You expect a literary equivalent of my unique, quirky, yet oh so fascinating life?  I’m sorry, but such a thing simply does not exist.  There are those who have tried, to no avail, to fit me like a square peg into a round hole, but it just cannot be done.  I am an undetermined shape of infinite sides, curves and acute angles.

But all is not lost.  Fortunately, there exists a short story and an article that both accurately depict small slices of my life, written by yours truly and published on the Australian Reader website and in Biscuit Magazine’s July 2011 issue.  The links for both can be found on my Published Stories page.

Happy Reading.

Not so long ago I used Apple iPhoto to publish a hardcover book of my travel story Belonging, with accompanying photos from the journey, which my brother and I gifted to my parents. Not only did it make my parents very happy, but for a time, I felt like a real writer!

~storytelling nomad~

The money making part of my day

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It may come as a surprise to some, but on occasion I actually do work, of the paid kind.  It threatens to tear me away from my writing dreams but it also rewards me with cash that I like to throw up in the air with joy!  Well, to be honest, it is usually sent directly to my account and then swiftly spent on life’s necessities such as food, rent and books before I even see those colourful pieces of plastic…but no matter.  The important thing is I’m fed, housed and literate.  Today I will be working on a beautiful mountain, Ben Lomond, in the north of Tasmania, manning the ski lifts and selling tickets to the customers.  With little reception (read: none) and no electricity, I suspect my chances of blogging are relatively low.  How will I survive? What will this absence of posts reduce me to? Fear not, dear bloggers.  I am confident I can make it through the day, just.  In the meantime, take a look at the pretty slideshow of my Ben Lomond photos and imagine me there, in the fresh air, feet crunching in the snow, greeting the first skiers and boarders of the season.  Winter is here my friends, and it’s my favourite season.

Jacobs Ladder - This is the only way up the mountain. I took this photo only a week ago but now I am told it is covered in snow, with drifts in some places over a metre high. If you do not hear from me after this day you can safely assume I met my fate on Jacobs Ladder

~storytelling nomad~

Overcoming a fear of writers’ groups

Last night, with some trepidation, I attended my very first EVER writers’ group.  I’d say it has been nearly two years since I started flirting with the idea of joining such a group, knowing that deep down it would be greatly beneficial to my writing.  But rather than having high ideas of sipping tea with my pinky in the air, smiling coyly as this fictitious group of intellectuals throw their heads back in laughter at my quick witted genius as a writer, I kept terrorising myself with the following hypothetical scenarios:

a) Enter scene.  Group of teenage emos stare back at me (as best as they can considering the matted down hair that covers the majority of their central and peripheral vision), growl slightly under their breath and shift in their tight jeans before continuing their discussion over their latest compilation of pain induced narcissistic poetry.  I spend the meeting acutely aware of not making any sudden movements in fear I might be stabbed with a black biro.

b) Enter scene.  Group of young hip creatives welcome me to their spiritual endeavour to enhance their writing through intense meditation and prayer.  They smile a lot more than could be considered humanly reasonable and offer only encouragement, love and positive energy to every piece of overindulged prose that enters the room.  My short story on death is less than well received and I am assured by said group that as I read, the room became darker and negativity sparked across the walls.  I sit quietly amidst suspicious stares wondering if I’m a diabolical sinner.  I also frown a lot at the lights, cheeky buggers.

c)  Enter scene.  Group of high end novelists, script writers and multi-published authors look me up and down over the rims of their D&G glasses, before resuming talk over their latest book release parties and the celebrity guests that were rude enough not to rsvp.  They scoff impertinently at my lack of writing credentials and squint their eyes at me when I tell them I have not been paid for anything I’ve had published, as if they distrust me and the low end scum I’ve obviously been associating with.  I go home and burn everything I’ve ever written.

As you can see, I was fairly tormented by these visions.  Essentially it came down to wanting to fit into a group of like minded people.  I wanted feedback on my writing, but only positive feedback when it was warranted.  I wanted constructive criticism, but not so much as to be discouraged to never write again.  And I wanted to benefit from a group of people with more experience than me, but also be able to help those with less experience, and share hardships and success with those at a similar stage in their writing endeavours.

So terrorised and all, I grew some proverbial balls and decided that if I was serious about all this writing business, it was time to stop dipping my toes in the water and just dive in.  So I did.  And boy am I lucky I did.  Last night I met some of the most interesting, intelligent and varied group of people/writers I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  As we all introduced ourselves I was inspired by their experiences and their success, their sincerity and their enthusiasm.  Everyone was there for a different reason, but all were there to improve their writing, share their experience and be a part of a group of like minded people.  Jess, Ralph, Fiona, Peter, Marjorie, Josie, Penny, Chris, Liz and Ian, thank you for welcoming me to your group with open arms, for the support you offer each other in your writing aspirations, and for firmly squashing my comical fear of joining a writers’ group.  I can’t wait for the next meeting.

If any one is considering joining a writers group I would recommend just giving it a go.  Some of the larger towns have many to choose from, but you can usually (at least in Australia) track them down by joining your state or local Writers’ Centre.  The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre was where I found this little gem of a group listed, and they also send out a valuable fortnightly ecalendar with the various writing activities, workshops, news, competitions and awards happening across the nation.

Tasmanians aren't so scary after all

~storytelling nomad~

My favourite place: Planet Earth

I consider myself lucky to have been given the opportunity from a young age to see a bit of the world.  It has made me appreciate not only what is beyond my own front yard, but has also made me recognise that you don’t need to cross oceans to find beauty in a place.  It amazes me how often people are so keen to travel overseas when some of the most celebrated destinations are just around the corner from their own home.  Such is life, it seems, that we always want what we don’t have.  I have included below four of my favourite photos, from places I have been that have taken my breath away.

The first, in the motherland, also known as England and the place of my birth, was taken from the bathroom window of my Aunt and Uncle’s early one morning just after Christmas.  Everything – the ground, the trees, the sky – was white, and it was absolutely breathtaking.

The second looks over the water at St. Helens, Tasmania.  Tasmania is grossly underrated for its beaches, which are some of the most beautiful I have seen in Australia.  The weather may be cooler than say in the Whitsundays, but the pristine crystal clear waters, definitely give Whitehaven Beach a run for its money.  Considering Tasmania is so often recognised as ‘the island’, it’s beyond me why people are surprised by the amount of beaches it has to offer.

Moving on to Venice.  I love that place so much I’ve been there three times.  It really is the most unique tourist attraction in the world.  There is no one monument, place or exhibition that draws you there, it is just the city itself.  Simply walk down any street that doesn’t head directly for the Piazza San Marco and you won’t be surprised to find yourself lost and alone…which frankly, is the best way to explore Venice.

And, finally, a place very close to my heart is Amalfi, along the Amalfi Coast of Italy.  It has to be my favourite place in Italy, quite possibly in the world.  Although, be warned, I may be slightly biased.  See my travel story Belonging in the Published Stories section to find out why.

English Countryside (view from my Aunt & Uncle's house one winter)

St Helens, Tasmania

Canals of Venice, Italy

Sunrise in Amalfi, The Amalfi Coast, Italy

~storytelling nomad~