Planning and Mind-mapping for NaNoWriMo 2017

A woman is having a Skype call with her brother. In the background can be seen the living room and the door to the hall. Off-screen, the kids make a commotion, and the woman has to go and check on them. The brother is left looking at an empty living room. Then, in the background, a shadowy figure moves from the hall to the living room, then off-screen.

A mother hears her young son talking up the hallway. When he comes into the living room, the mother asks who he was talking to. “Just the man up the hall,” the boy says with a smile. She knows it’s just his imagination, but is still unnerved by the situation, and feels compelled to check.

An obnoxious, over the top celebrity superstar falls from fame when a prank he orchestrates causes the suicide of the target while millions watch. Disgraced and shunned, he has to rebuild his life. But maybe something from his past mistake is haunting him, and won’t stop until it has revenge …

And there you have it: my book for NaNoWriMo 2017, Haunted. Those three ideas bounced around in my head; years apart, but all inspired by real events or real people. When I decided I wanted to do a quick, stand-alone Continue reading “Planning and Mind-mapping for NaNoWriMo 2017”

NaNoWriMo 2017

Writing again, again.

This month, I’m using NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) 2017 to get back into the writing habit I seem to have lost. And the blogging habit. And social media, too.

There used to be a paragraph here talking about what I’ve been doing and why I haven’t been writing. But who cares? Let’s focus on NaNo for now. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo 2017”

Two Things I’ll be Changing during NaNoWriMo

It’s been great realising the most important things that I’ve learned so far when it comes to writing fiction. But there is one belief I have that I wish to challenge, and one skill I’ve always meant to improve.

The belief is something that I just came to accept about my process: I can only write in the mornings. The skill is handwriting: something that I’ve always planned to incorporate into my writing but just haven’t got around to it. Well, in November I’m going to look at changing these two things.

Production Cometh in the Morning.

Writing first thing in the morning is a theme amongst a lot of authors that have spoken about their daily ritual. The process of getting up at 5am, working for four hours and then having the rest of the day to do other things seems pretty common.

I’ll admit that I feel the same. After lunch time my willpower is drained, and usually that’s when I’ll slow down or do something else, like photography. Or play Xbox. Here’s the problem though: I wasn’t born with the drive to write in the morning. Being able to get up early and write for a few hours every day – that’s a habit that I’ve built up over time. I didn’t just switch it on one day; it took months of working a little more every week.

When I first started the habit, sitting down to write for half an hour took a lot of willpower. Now it takes a lot of willpower to take a break (if it’s before 11am). My point is, after lunch, I feel the same about afternoon writing as I used to about morning writing. For some reason I’ve accepted it because it’s something other people do. And for a while now I’ve wanted to change that.

I like the idea of working into the night. Of sustaining myself on coffee at 1 a.m. while I finish a chapter or frantically edit a scene. So in November, I’m going to push the limits of my working day, and build a habit of extending it out to the whole day.

Hand writing.

I have a love/hate relationship with hand writing. I love the idea of having pages of hand written notes to pore over, but my own hand written notes tend to look terrible. I know I cannot write a draft by hand. The faster I write, the worse my hand writing becomes. I have to slow myself down and pay attention to the way I am forming the letters so I can actually read them again later. However, for planning and plotting, this is ideal.

I’ve been wanting to make hand-writing a part of my process for a while, but have struggled to find a way that works for me. The question has always been ‘do I use just one notebook, or have a different notebook for each project?’ I’ve gone the one notebook route so far. I label the top of the page with whether it’s a blog post or a character sketch or a story idea. However, the only way you can sort through this is chronologically. For example, I can’t really see all of my blog post ideas in one place.

The solution presented itself to me when I was sitting on the bus the other day. A high-school kid got on board clutching the obvious answer: a binder! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. So I’ve got myself a binder for November, with little dividers and everything, and I’ll be making all initial outlines and character sketches in that, away from the computer.

I know. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about writing a novel, not cramming as much self development into the month as possible. For me, being under a stressful deadline is the perfect time to find out what works and what doesn’t. I won’t have time for anything that doesn’t feel natural or comfortable. A month is a very short time to put a novel together. If having that stress isn’t enough to get me working into the night then I’ll know for sure I’m a morning person. And if I don’t feel I’m getting any benefit from hand-writing notes, then I won’t have time to just do it because I like idea of it.

I have one more big change coming, too – I’ll cover that tomorrow.

The Most Important Things I’ve Learned So Far, and How I’m Using Them for NaNoWriMo

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone through a few ups and downs in terms of forming a writing habit. In this post, I want to cover the three things that have had the biggest impact on my productivity.

The rough draft is not the final draft…

This is the number one, fundamentally groundbreaking concept. Once I understood and applied it, everything changed. Three simple things:
1. No other person can ever read your rough draft, so it doesn’t matter what you write.
2. Don’t stop typing. Write what comes to mind.
3. No editing until the story is finished.

Continue reading “The Most Important Things I’ve Learned So Far, and How I’m Using Them for NaNoWriMo”

In Preparation for November.

November is National Novel writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. I don’t know why they still call it that, seeing as how it is well and truly international now. Maybe it should be InNoWriMo?

The idea is this: write 50,000 words in the month of November. The prize? You win 50,000 words that you would not have written if you hadn’t bothered to participate in NaNoWriMo.

Before I begin.

I think that some people spend time before November plotting out their story and planning their characters. I don’t want to do that. I want to see if I can put the whole process into the one month. There are, however, two steps that I have taken in preparation for the novel: one for the, and one for process.


When creating a setting, I don’t enjoy sitting down and figuring out things like the way that the spacecraft move through space or politics or anything like that. I like to discover that stuff while drafting, and then go back and flesh it out later.

So in preparation for November, I’ve written a short story set in the same universe that the novel will take place. I think the characters from the short might have minor roles in the novel, though I don’t know for sure yet. Anyway, I always prefer world building by actually writing stories in the world and exploring it through the characters, instead of sitting down and trying to figure out how everything works.


To prepare my process, I read Rock Your Plot and Rock Your Revisions by Cathy Yardley. Plotting and planning is an area that I need to strengthen, and these two books teach some fundamental concepts in those two areas.

To this day, I have struggled with editing. I never really had that much of a plan laid out. When it came time to edit, I would just get stuck in from page one and start editing everything. It was almost impossible for me to take a step back and look and the bigger picture to see the problems with my story. And that is where these two books come in. My NaNo novel is going to be tightly plotted, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this affects my drafting and editing.

Drafting I’m confident with. Remember, the one unbreakable rule that I have is that my first draft (or Zero draft) is never to be viewed by anyone other than me. This is what allows me to write so fast; changing that will drastically change my process and slow me down. The point is, I can’t just sit down and bust out 50,000 words then post it up and say “job’s done!” I want to be able to have at least 50,000 words I can share by the end of November.

The rough plan.

First two days: Plotting and planning. Writing out plot outline and character sheets. Checking over everything to make sure it all makes sense. Filling in scene plans and information.

Third day: Optional planning if needed. Otherwise, drafting begins!

Up to the 20th November: Drafting. By that date, I want to have drafted at least 60,000 words, assuming I’m going to lose 10% to editing. This timeframe is based on a few things. 1) I can confidently write 5000 words a day. 2) I don’t know how busy I’ll be with my day job over that period, so I may have a few days when I can’t write.

10% might not seem like much to lose to editing, but I’m assuming my drafting will be tighter due to the plot outline I will have written.

That leaves me ten days to edit. Again, I’m assuming that the editing process will be faster due to the tighter draft and tighter plot. We’ll see, I guess!!

Having deadlines makes me more motivated.

In the past, when people have asked me when I’ll have finished drafting something or editing something, or have something available for them to buy. I’ve always just shrugged and said “soon” or “when it’s ready.” Even though these numbers and dates aren’t really based on any hard experience, it feels better to actually put a deadline on things and work towards them.