Tag Archives: nanowrimo

REVIEW- WRITING COACH-BRIDGE TO STORY

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For some time I had been wanting to have a coaching session with E J Runyon at Bridge to Story. One of my writing buddies had been coached by EJ while writing her debut novel, and told me how much the coaching had helped develop her work. I checked out the Bridge to Story website, and tried out a few of the writing exercises, which I found helpful.

Me being me, I kept dithering about it. I either didn’t have funds, or I’d get worried about having my work dissected and judged. Plus the added anxiety of having to Skype. I hate having my photo taken, or speaking on the phone. Having face to face video chat with another human being is a whole other level of awkward.

Then I was lucky enough to win a free coaching session. I took the opportunity to give it a go, hoping I would get a cure for my editing phobia, and improve my writing.

When it comes to writing, I love the adrenalin rush of the first draft. The process of extracting a story out of my brain and onto the page is exciting. The story seems to gain a life of it’s own, no matter how intricately I have planned and plotted. There’s always something new that comes out when I type or write the words onto the blank screen or page.

Where I falter is the editing process after. I reread my work and am overwhelmed by the huge task of extracting my story from the pile of cliché, rambling narrative passages, clunky dialogue and other myriad of bad writing.

I felt confident that I would get the best advice, having read my writing-buddy’s novel The Secret King: Lethao, DK Cassidy’s short story collection Spilt Milk edited by EJ, and EJ’s own novel A House of Light and Stone , all of which I loved. Spanning a broad range of genres from literary fiction, magical realism, to sci fi/ space opera.

20750611_296415600766290_1673828969_nWith a pain not unlike extracting a rotten tooth. I pulled an old word.doc of a short story I’d written for an Open University Creative Writing course some eons ago, and a god-awful first draft from NaNoWriMo  2017 from my files. Feeling sorry to inflict the jumbled mess of words upon my poor coach for the hour.

I was relieved that Skype was just a voice call (saves on bandwidth), with text doc displayed in chat window, so I could see the editing work as we progressed.

EJ was so warm and approachable, putting me at ease immediately. It was lovely to finally put a voice to the person. Her passion for writing and helping others to create beautiful words shines through.

Discussing my first draft, and writing process with EJ, she immediately identified the main issues I was having. Working through a section of my work, she guided me through the edit step by step. I felt that I was given tools to hone my writing, and practical advice on how to approach editing tailored to my personal needs.

Bridge to Story has an art for extracting the essence of the work, to allow the author’s voice sing out from the page, rather than imposing her own style, or a prescriptive formula.

After studying creative writing in an academic environment, the Bridge to Story approach was refreshing. I now am feeling confident that I can chisel something worthwhile out of the detritus of my pile of first drafts, some of which I have been meaning to edit for near on a decade. I feel excited to start editing.

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NANOPREPMO

Here I am again (only a week late finally getting this done).

With November fast approaching it’s time to have a look for some ideas for Nanowrimo.

During the year I’ve jotted down a few notes on possible plots and have got a few characters very sketchily sketched out.

While in years past I have pantsed it & still won, my finished novel was such a mess I didn’t even attempt at getting it past 1st draft. This year I want to have something at the end of November that has potential to be half decent and not another saved file left hidden on my hard drive .

However, reading back through my hodgepodge of ideas I’m in a panic as I realise I have NOTHING planned enough and am fast running out of time.

Thankfully our region’s helpful (co) ML has arranged  online chat sessions during this month of October (NANOwrimoPREParationMOnth) for us to map out our novels.

We’re studying the seven basic plots , first analysing a popular novel and how it fits into a particular plot structure, and then exploring how we can use the generic plot structure to create our own stories.

For our first session we looked at the plot  Overcoming the Monster’, studying how the first Harry Potter book fits into this structure.

As we went through the book, looking for main events which fitted into the generic form, I thought back to the story I had written for last year’s Nanowrimo. As we discussed the adventures and perils faced by Harry Potter and his friends; how each small battle fits into the wider story arc, whilst also preparing the main character Harry for the final big showdown (of this book anyway) against Voldemort, I realised the faults in my own novel. Whereas Harry had to earn his XP, honing his powers and gaining knowledge through the minor setbacks; my main characters stumble through the story by sheer luck and bumbling enthusiasm, never having learnt the skills to allow them to win the final showdown, or earning the right to their end reward.

All of my three main characters were the annoying types (apt to run off into the woods alone at night, or go down those creaking stairs into the dark cellar) that end up meeting a gruesome end in many a horror movie. They’re book geeks rather than cheerleaders, but they come off about the same level of stupid; characters that make you root for the monster to get them.

I had created not one, but three ‘Mary Sues’ . Luckily all is not lost, after all it’s only a first draft which I may not bother to rewrite. If I do decide to go back and tackle the triumvirate of badly written book nerds I have some good advice to help me on my quest; 6 ways to save a Mary Sue.

As well as giving me some pointers on how to improve my previous novel, our first story generating session was also a good kick start to ideas for this coming Nanowrimo. I have the seed of an idea based on the ‘Overcoming the Monster’ plot, where the roles are reversed; the ‘hero’ is a monster (vampire is overdone, so some other ghoul) and the ‘monster’ is human (perhaps a priest or necromancer).

A good start to the month. Roll on November.

End of Campnanowrimo & my boring Saturday.

Aargh! Where has this year gone already? I must be getting old.

Well, July has now past & my novel is still one hot mess. Seems I have been in a fug all month, overwhelmed with the horrific amount of editing and rewriting needed to get my long neglected (2005?) novel into some sort of order.

As the sparkly new month of August  begins I have decided to  shrug off the failure to reach my 50K editing goal for Campnanowrimo & start afresh. Yep, again… again… again. I’ve rebooted more times than my old Windows XP lcraptop.

I plan to get back to waking early enough to get some morning pages/ editing done (5:30 latest to give me time for all dog walking, washing dishes & work-out activities before work). My first task- in-hand is getting the Campnano project edited. I am hoping my rewrite has at least been a step forward & I can use the great advice from Bridge to Story to get it properly polished.

Well, there’s my plans. I didn’t mean to write this blog post, it sprouted from a rant I  decided was too boring to post on facebook.

Random Ramble follows:

Feels like I’ve such an unproductive day. I didn’t get up until gone 7:30am!!! Not sure why dogs didn’t nuzzle me out of bed earlier for their morning walk.

Did usual Saturday Body-Blast workout. I don’t have time nor money for the gym, so just making do with at home. I started weight/ strength training a couple of months ago, as I was feeling like a crazy blancmange after resting a rib injury for 6 weeks (flabby and insane, as lack of activity seems to affect my mental state worst). No extreme sport activity to blame-only extreme coughing after a bout of flu).

I went shopping (my most hated chore after ironing). Tried not to get stressed that clothes &  walking shoes I needed were either not on offer any more or not in my size. At least my hunt for a stock pot was rewarded, though meant drive to Squires Gate after unsuccessful trip into town.

I have been doing some writing research/ motivational viewing. Yes, I confess, I’ve been watching youtube all evening-while ordering stuff online that I couldn’t get on shopping trip (so got something done ).

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Here’s me failing to get to sleep at reasonable time for an early morning start ( tomorrow is Sunday. so all is not lost)

First week in February=FAIL

Recap on my week:

books read =0 I chose  my TBR list for month.

editing done =0 Read through zombie story, made mental note of edits needed, got all depressed & stressed over it.

writing done=2 pages/ days I tried to stop obsessing about ‘stuff’, which then leaked into my writing.

work=one day off (plus half-day I’d already booked) and I wasn’t exactly employee of the month/ fully present in mind or body (many breaks & nearly falling asleep at my desk) when I was there.

exercise= 0  I wasn’t feeling too well, I gave it a miss. Backfired as my brain doesn’t work properly if I don’t work out (hence crazy thoughts non-stop to the point I was having internal argument with myself that I needed to stop thinking). This explains my week of fails.

Feeling like ‘my own worst enemy’

Thank God It’s Over?

Sometimes the path of a writer can be a hard life, stuck in a cold and lonely garret, writing into the small hours. Luckily for me, Saturday it was back to Lancaster for a pub lunch and a meet-up with friends old and new.

After NaNoWriMo comes the TGIO (Thank God It’s Over) party. It’s a chance to talk through experiences with fellow veterans and celebrate  writing success; whether that’s hitting 50K, 100K,  getting a few more words written than you would have normally, finding useful contacts to network with, or just learning something new about your writing or about yourself.

After catching up with everyone’s tales of initial enthusiasm, woe, hard work and  triumphs of the last 30 days over drinks (a  seasonal mulled wine for me), we all looked through the  collection of novels we had all bought for the book-drive. It’s a great way to free up some space on your book shelves, donate to Nano (£1 per book), as well as snap up a bargain read (The Lost Army of Cambyses and Shadowmancer-thanks to whoever bought them in).

Our  ML had prepared a small editing exercise for us to do; examining an extract of  Isaac Astimov’s work to show how he  balances use of dialogue, description and action within a scene. Something to aim for? Or just to be aware of when editing your own work? Great if you’re writing to a formula. Though sometimes it can be good to bend or break the rules.

A few people read extracts of their own Nano novels, on diverse topics ranging from space travel, alternate worlds, to clowns. A couple of us asked one  very kind writing-buddy (thanks Richard) who has the most amazing reading voice, to read ours (I’m talking all day at work and hate the sound of my own voice). I think he just about made sense of my mangled mess of  first draft rubbish .

While I have yet to get any of my work to a publishable state, I was excited to hear other’s publishing plans for their present and past Nano novels, which I am looking forward to reading. It’s always interesting and informative to learn about their experiences of self-publishing and gain new insight into the process; get recommended contacts in the industry (such as editors and illustrators), as well as warnings of pitfalls  to avoid.

November has now passed, but many of us are already making plans for the next year. NaNoWriMo is a great way to get into the habit of writing, kick start new ideas and  motivation.

I still have another 600 words of the final scene to write before my novel is complete, then I plan to take a break from it before the rewrite and edit.  I wrote this story just for fun, but still there are scenes to be scrapped, characters swapped, and more action to add.

My big task for 2015 will be to finally get to grips with my 2006 (?) novel which I keep putting off as it is so daunting, partly because of the amount of work involved, mainly  due to it being part of an expansive main project, that I fear, I am too emotionally invested in.

I think it’s time for the Evil Editor to come back and whip me into shape.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 30: Goodbye NanoLand

I’m feeling pretty deflated. Yesterday was the last day of nanowrimo, I spent most of it curled up in my armchair feeling under the weather and not motivated to write. I lurked on facebook and in the chat room, watching & celebrating as fellow wrimos passed the 50K before the midnight deadline.

I had already ‘won’ I had hoped to finish my story, but am still a scene and a half from finishing my story. Sadly I’m out of NanoLand and back to reality and work this week, so if I can finish my story before the TGIO (Thank God It’s Over) party this Saturday I will be happy.

The November writing frenzy may be over, but there’s still fun to be had yet. Just hope I’m in a fit state to catch the train Saturday morning as I have a work’s night out this Friday.

total word-count: 54380

Day 29: Last Chance Write-in

The first venue for our writing-crawl (a bit like a pub crawl but with words instead of drinks) was good old’ Maccy D’s. My region’s ML sat writing towards her 100K goal, having smashed through the 50K barrier early on.  I managed to get to grips with a tricky scene at the climax of my story. I had been grappling with it  for the last three days, today I finally completed it, sending three characters to the graveyard in the process.lib

As my writing progressed over lunch,  I was still making new discoveries about my characters. Normally by now everything is pretty much locked down, it’s unusual for me this late in the process. So now I know one of my characters has links to a biker gang, while another one is on the run from a cult.

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Later we went on to a pub for dinner and even more writing. Without the distractions of wi-fi, but with a lovely sea view to look at, while I contemplated my next words to finish the scene over a glass of rose.

Now with only two more scenes to complete my story, I’m having issues with the concluding chapter. One scene had been planned from a particular character’s point of view, but they decided to get themselves killed in the final showdown. I’ve also realised the ending hasn’t turned out to be as final as I expected it to be. Whether I can be bothered to write the sequel is another matter.

word-count today: 3223