Monday, 29 October 2012

Two days to go...

NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us!

With just two days to go the annual NaNo nerves and excitement are building, and I'm itching to get started. Whether you're new to NaNo or an old hat, here's a checklist to make sure you have everything you need come the 1st of November:

  1. An idea If you'e falling at the first hurdle, try one of the story prompts on this blog, the ones at Writer's Digest, or trusty old google.
  2. A plan It doesn't need to be enormously detailed, if that's not the way you like to work, but some idea of where you want to be on the 30th November makes the 1st to 29th so much easier.
  3. Write or Die An amazing writerly tool. Set it to kamikaze and it'll start deleting words if you stop typing. Not for the faint-hearted, but brilliant for stopping procrastination.
  4. Plenty of tea Or coffee, or orange squash, or mashmallows, or wasabi peanuts, or ... You get the idea. Something nice for when you've hit your target, written your way out of a corner, or done something else reward-worthy.
  5. A NaNo buddy If no one you know in real life is writing this year, take to the forums and twitter to find someone like-minded for mutual support and encouragement. A little friendly competitiveness never hurt the word count either. 
Just a short post this evening as I'm hitting the books, trying to fit it as much research as I can before the madness begins! Please (no, really, please) share your NaNoWriMo tips and tools in the comments :)

Ellie x

Thursday, 18 October 2012

How NaNoWriMo is like knitting a scarf ...

No, really, stick with me here. It is.

When you start knitting, it's pretty hard. Finishing a row with the same number of stitches you started with is an impossible task. Extra stitches appear from nowhere; even though you could swear you'd knitted every single stitch, holes appear at random and with disturbing regularity. Unless you are some sort of knitting prodigy, your first piece of knitting will probably resemble a bedraggled and sorry-looking dishcloth.

For me, learning to write was exactly the same, and I guess I'm not alone.

Chances are your first draft of your first chapter of your very first novel will look equally bedraggled, with holes and diversions and a strange mess in the middle that you've no idea how it started and no clue how to fix it. So what do you do? How to remedy this mess? You keep going, because by the time you've knitted long enough to make a scarf, your stitches will be even and you won't have dropped a stitch for days (OK, maybe hours).

When you finish your first scarf, the only way to improve it might be to rip it back and start again. There are only so many dropped stitched that one can fix. Your second might still have a few holes. You might want to rip back some sections and put them right. Find all the dropped stitches and repair them. But by the time that you make that third scarf, it might just need a good blocking, and it's good to go.

I think of NaNoWriMo as a sequence of scarves. The first was/is a big, holey, patchy nightmare, which one of these days I'm going to sit down and rewrite from scratch (I love my characters and setting too much to waste - much like a lovely yarn). My second was better, but still full of scary moments. It'll take a lot of work to fix, but I don't think I need to pull the whole thing back. And the third? Well, it needed more than blocking. It needed rewrites and edits and critiques and more edits, but now, I have to say, I think it's a really rather lovely scarf, sorry, novel.

So, who knows, maybe scarf number four will just need a quick spin in the washing machine and be good to go... watch this space!

Ellie x

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Five reasons to sign up for NaNoWriMo

As November is rapidly approaching, and the research for my new novel is gearing up, I thought I'd take a minute today to remind myself of why I love NaNoWriMo. And because I hope that some of you out there are thinking about doing this mad, crazy, brilliant thing with me, here are five reasons to sign up this year!
  1. It helps you find time for your writing. It's the one piece of advice you'll find in almost every book, lecture and blog post about writing: you have to find the time to write regularly, every day if you can. The intensity of the NaNoWriMo month with help you to work out where your writing can fit into your life, and what your writing's more important than. Is it more important that that extra hit of the snooze button? Is it more important than EastEnders? The washing up? Hot food? Basic personal hygiene? Obviously (I hope) your writing can't be more important that all of these things, but it's surprising the time that you can find if you really want to.
  2. It gets you past the first chapter. I've written before about the possible dangers of writing and editing simulateously - namely having a drawer of perfect first chapters, but never having got further than that. Break the habit with NaNo. It may not suit everyone. There may well be a middle ground between editing too much and not editing it at all, but trying a new way of working could be just what you need.
  3. The pep talks. They're brilliant. When you're having one of those days where it feels like every word is being dragged kicking and screaming from your brain, a email will pop into your inbox reminding you that we all have days like that, that tomorrow will be better, and that you can do this!
  4. It makes your writing better. Okay, I don't actually have any scientific proof of this, but having finished NaNoWriMo three times, and having edited one of those drafts into an actual, proper, finished novel, I can tell you that the writing at the end was an awful lot better than at the beginning. It's like anything, yoga, baking, knitting, if you practice it for two hours a day, every day, you are going to improve.
  5. Because you love to write! What other reason do you need?! Every day, for a whole month, you'll sit down, start typing, and create people, places, smells and sights that didn't exist before you thought of them. You'll make your characters, and yourself, laugh and cry and probably, at some point, very cross. Frankly, what better way to spend a cold, damp dreary month (apologies to those of you in the southern hemisphere, I can't think of November in any other way) than in front of the fire with your notebook on your knee?
So there you have it. That's why I'm signing up this year. Will you be?

Ellie x

P.S. Have you read the first chapter of Hiding from Hollywood, and the other entries for SYTYCW yet? Voting's open for two more days!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Big Hollywood news

Exciting news on two fronts this week:

Hollywood now has a title (drumroll please...) Hiding from Hollywood. To me, it sums up the emotional conflict at the heart of the story, and sounds pretty snappy with some nice alliteration - what do you think?!

In the other major news this week, Hiding from Hollywood is officially entered into Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write competition. This means that you can read - right now, for free - the first chapter of the book :) You can click here to go straight to my entry, and here to go to the competition homepage. (By the way, you're not going mad, it is showing a different author name - the rules of the competition state no pen names, so there you go! You'll still find me on twitter as @EllieDarkins though.)

I really hope that you enjoy this first look at Abby and Ethan, and I hope I can share the rest of their story with you soon. Good luck to all of you who have entered your chapters in the competition too - please send me links to your entries so I can read!

Love, Ellie