To NaNoWriMo or not?

Writing is such an individual thing. We all write in different ways, find inspiration in different places, follow a different writer’s journey.

IMAG5364For the past few years, I’ve spent my November immersed in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but this year I decided it wasn’t for me.

There’s a lot going on at home with kids finishing their last year of high school etc, and to be honest, I decided I didn’t want the extra pressure of being stressed about daily word count deadlines.

But most of all, the reason I decided not to do NaNoWriMo is because I don’t want to be checking in daily word counts or reporting on my progress, I don’t want to be distracted by how many words I’m writing (or not writing), I just want to write.

NaNo is great for people who struggle to find time to write. It’s great for people who need incentive, who need to find ways to fit writing into their busy schedules, who want to be spurred on.

100_1423But the truth is, that writing is as much as part of my life as having breakfast or cleaning my teeth – it’s something I’m compelled to do every day. It’s something I want to do.

My first year of NaNo was a blast. I joined an international Facebook group, and no matter what time of the day or night I was writing, there was always somebody to chat to, to encourage, to be encouraged by.

But for me, the pressure of producing 50,000 words in a month took something away from the joy of writing and to be honest, produced mediocre results.

I recently attended a fabulous writing workshop with Arnold Zable, and something he said, really resonated with me, “Don’t be in a hurry.” Pressure works well for some writers, but I write best at my own pace, when I can take my time to inhabit my characters, and to immerse myself in their worlds.

It’s still only early November and already I’ve changed my mind a few times about my November project – and that’s okay – I’m still writing. The advantage of working outside NaNo is that I don’t have to report it to anyone. I can just go on my merry way and write.

A manuscript assessor must be someone who 'gets' your book.

A manuscript assessor must be someone who ‘gets’ your book.

So far I’ve produced the first draft of a Chapter book of more than 5,500 words. I was going to work on a new adult novel, but After Troy, my sequel to Letters to Leonardo is drawing me back.

I am a big fan of NaNoWriMo. I know it produces wonderful results for some people and the camaraderie amongst writers at this time is amazing. But this year, I’m going with my heart, going it alone and loving it.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo I hope it’s working for you. If you’re not, then I hope you’re inspired by your writing and enjoying the journey.

We’d love to hear your NaNo experiences. In the comments section below, feel free to post your views on NaNo and how it’s working or not working for you, or whether you’re like me and have decided not to join the thousands of writers worldwide who are chasing that big word count this month.

Happy writing:)




pieces of Letters to Leonardo plot

Last week I added all the missing bits to my NaNo story, The Gathering, I fixed plot inconsistencies, scenes out of order and I developed a time line. You can read about it here.

This week it’s time to move onto plot. This is when I go right back to where it all started – when I brainstormed and plotted my novel before I’d even written the first word.

This is where I go back to my brainstorming on butcher’s paper and my rough plot arc. It’s where the notes I made while writing the novel also come in handy.

This is where I add new plot points and fix those that aren’t working right. Sometimes I remove plot points that are slowing the story down or complicating it too much.

At every new draft I re-examine the plot and try and be ‘objective’ about the structure. Having the whole plot on a piece of paper in front of me helps me get my head around the whole story and identify what’s working and what’s not.

I start to link my brainstorming balloons according to theme and this helps me identify whether my themes are coming through strongly enough. This helps me see the weight I’ve given to each plot thread/theme. I work on the ones that need more emphasis and scale back the ones that have become too prominent.

The diagrams I have shown relate to my book, Letters to Leonardo not my current work in progress.

Sometimes there is too much happening in my plot and I  realise I need to get rid of some of the complicating factors and look deeper into the main plot points and develop them more. Janice Hardy has a great post about looking deeper in to plot. It’s all about looking into how the action relates to your protagonist.

Adding more pieces to the plot during revision

In this week’s editing I will look at the main pieces of action and ask myself:

  1. Have I built up the tension enough?
  2. Do the plot points advance the story logically?
  3. Do the plot points reveal character and build towards the climax?
  4. Is the climax big enough?
  5. Have I thrown my characters deep enough into conflict? (I’m someone who avoids conflict in real life and I have a tendency to let my characters do the same.)
  6. Will the resolution be satisfying to the reader?
  7. As The Gathering is the first in a trilogy I need to also look at whether it stands alone as a story and whether it can lead on to the next book.

During revision I step back and look at overall plot

In future editing I will be looking at whether the plot reflects the motivations and needs of my characters – whether what they do reflects who they really are.

Next week in the editing process I’ll be looking deep into character and voice. Hope you can join me then.

I’d love to hear how you rework your plot during the editing process. Feel free to share your tips and experiences.

Happy writing and editing:)



Why do we set goals?

It’s so we can have something to strive for, something that makes us feel like we are making progress. Particularly for a writer, it’s important. We can labour for ten years on a manuscript that never sees the light of day, that never even lands on a publisher’s desk let alone a book shelf. So we need to have something for us to measure what we have achieved during the process, to reassure ourselves that it has not been a waste of time. We need to identify and celebrate the steps we have taken along the way.

I know I’ve talked about writing goals before but seeing as many of us are in the midst of NaNoWriMo, a massive goal for writers, I wanted to reflect on the topic again.

For a writer, it’s hard to find the balance between goals that offer incentive and ones that provide too much pressure. For some people, for whatever reason, NaNoWriMo is too much pressure. 1667 words a day for 30 days is a lot of pressure. It means if you don’t write for one day, you have to write over 3000 words the next day to catch up.

It’s okay to say to yourself, “50,o0o word NaNo for me this year is an unachievable goal. So what can I achieve instead?”

I’ve had two days already where I didn’t write. I thought I would never catch up. I thought, what if I don’t finish the 50,000 words for November? That’s when I realised that while it’s an admirable goal, the sky won’t fall in if I don’t achieve it.

That’s when I realised that for me, the real NaNoWriMo goal is not about numbers or word counts.
NaNoWriMo is to get people to write, to get writers back into the habit of writing, to develop writing routines. So if that’s what I achieve for the month of November, I will have succeeded.

Even if I only write a few hundred words a day or less, that’s still progress towards the ultimate goal; the finished novel. It’s still an achievement if it gets me back into the habit of regular writing.

So what are my tips for NaNo at this stage in the game.

  • Adjust your writing goals to what is practically achievable. There’s no satisfaction in striving for something you can’t attain.
  • Be kind to yourself. Don’t berate yourself for falling behind, just keep going.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone with more words and someone with less words than you.
  • Celebrate what you have achieved already
  • Have fun and enjoy the process

I’d love to hear how you’re going with your NaNoWriMo project and what tips you have to share.

I’m not going to state my word count here because as I’ve said, for me, it’s not about the numbers. But if you’re curious, you can find me on the NaNoWriMo site at DeeScribe:)

Happy writing and Nanoing:)


10 TIPS FOR NANOWRIMO – Good Habits & Motivation

Last year when I did NaNo, I got off to a flying start and had around 20,000 words written in the first week.

I was driven by the pressure of getting those words down. My mind was full of the writer’s greatest question, What if? But in this case, my “What ifs” had nothing to do with the story I was writing. I worried, What if I got sick and didn’t feel like writing for a week? What if my hands got too sore from typing and I couldn’t type anymore? What if I ran out of ideas? What if something happened to my computer?

So I felt like I needed to get it all done upfront just in case. It meant long hours, not much sleep, less family time and too much stress.

This year I decided to pace myself – to take the risk that something might come up, that I might have a bad week, that for some reason I might spend a couple of days writing nothing,

And I have to say it’s all working better for me. The ideas are flowing easier because the brain isn’t under so much stress, the body feels better because I’m not using caffeine to keep it upright. And although I’ve written way fewer words than last year I feel calmer and more positive that I will reach my goal of 50,000 words.


So what are my 10 tips for NaNo so far?

1. Set yourself realistic goals. Don’t go for ‘pie in the sky’. If there’s no way you can write 2000 words in a day then don’t expect it of yourself.

2. Don’t put yourself under ridiculous pressure. Don’t stress out if you have a nil or bad word count day. Remember there’s always tomorrow and the next day.

3. Celebrate the amazing word counts of writerly colleagues but don’t feel you have to match them – this is your race and everyone works at a different pace.

4. Rest when you need to, drink water and make sure you walk, jog or whatever you like to do. I find that moving about is really great for releasing the creativity.

5. Tell people you are doing NaNoWriMo. It helps strengthen your commitment

6. Allow yourself thinking time to work out where your story will go next.

7. Celebrate each word, Attempting NaNoWriMo is an achievement in itself.

8. Don’t count your words all the time. Back off and tally them at the end of the day.

9.  If you’re feeling sluggish, find a writerly friend to have a word war with – get the adrenaline going again.

10. Work around your commitments to set yourself a regular time of day to write. Treat your writing like any other daily activity – brushing teeth, having breakfast. Incorporate your writing in your routine.

It’s still early days for NaNoWriMo 2011 but I’d love to hear how your going and if you have tips you’d like to share.

Feel free to leave your comments on this blog.

Happy writing:)


P.S. This week my Writing Classes For Kids blog has more great tips about developing good writing habits and there’s also a post and writing activity about story problems.

10 ways to work through NaNoWriMo – plus the Melbourne Cup

There are two significant events happening in Australia today.  The start of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and the Melbourne Cup – the horse race that stops a nation.

I’m excited to be participating in NaNoWriMo again this year. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words per day.  I’m not so excited about the Melbourne Cup although I know a lot of people who are.

The reason I mention the horse race is that I see similarities. The Melbourne Cup is an event that people spend a long time to prepare for and then it’s over in a flash.

I know from last year’s experience that NaNoWriMo  month will speed by. So how do you prepare for either event? For me it’s all about trying to step away from other distractions and set realistic goals.

For jockeys, trainers, owners and horses, the Melbourne Cup requires complete focus, concentration and stamina. Which is pretty much what you’ll need to get to the finish line with NaNoWriMo.

I can’t tell you who’s gong to win the Melbourne Cup or how they’re going to do it but I can tell you the things that worked for me for NaNoWriMo  last year.

1.            Break the 50,000 words into manageable pieces. 50,000 words sounds a lot but it equates to less than 140 words an hour for a 12 hour day.  If you get up an hour earlier and cut out two hours of television, that’s just over 500 words an hour.

2.            Have an idea of your story in your head but let it find its natural course throughout the month of NaNoWriMo. Don’t try to force it. Nobody expects you to produce a bestseller on your first NaNoWriMo  draft.

3.            Know your character. If you get to know your main character really well they will be inside your head telling you where to take their story, helping you avoid the dreaded writer’s block, helping you cope with the pressure of 50,000 words in fifty days.

Find out

  • Who your character is
  • What their goals are
  • What they want more than anything
  • What their worst fears are
  • What obstacles stand between them and their goals
  • How they will overcome them
  • What they will learn along the way
  • How the character will change and grow from when they stepped onto the page at the start of your story?

4.            Stay on track. If you let yourself get too far behind you will never catch up.

5.            Remember, this is a short burst. You only have to do it for a limited time. You don’t have to sustain this pace forever.

6.            Seek support. If you feel your resolve waning, talk about it with other writers or loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

7.            Carry the story in your head everywhere you go so even if you don’t have time or tools to get words down on paper or screen, you can think about what will happen next for your characters. Writing is as much about thinking as writing time.

8.            When you finish writing for the day make a note of what will happen next for your character so that when you start writing again you won’t be sitting staring at a blank wall or screen. Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved that day.

9.            Drink lots of water, remember to eat and go for lots of walks. For me, that seems to free up my brain and allow the creativity to flow.

10.            Set yourself small manageable daily goals. If you have an important event you can’t miss, take a break for the day and don’t berate yourself.. If you divide the 1667 words by the rest of your Nano Month that’s less than 60 words a day you’ll have to make up.

Stay calm, stay focussed, have fun and you will get there.

Good luck with NaNoWriMo. Throughout the month I’ll be sharing my NaNoWriMo  journey on this blog. Feel free to share your experiences and questions too.

Happy writing and have a blast:)


p.s. if you’d like me to be your  NaNoWriMo buddy you’ll find me at DeeScribe.



Lately I have been thinking a lot about story atmosphere and how it can draw the reader into the world of your story.

It’s all those things that come together to make the reader feel a certain way about the characters and what’s happening to them.

Atmosphere makes a story compelling and hard to put down. It adds another dimension for the reader. It gives them a feeling of being part of the scene.

So what are the things that make up atmosphere?

These are the things I’ve thought of. If you have some other suggestions, please feel free add them to the comments section of this post.


  • Mood of the characters
  • Emotions that characters are feeling. Are they happy, sad, scared, worried? How do they show this in their speech and body language?
  • Actions of characters – how do they respond to the situation?
  • Time of day – lighting, temperature etc.
  • Setting detail about the location of the scene – where and when – sounds and colours
  • Situation the characters find themselves in
  • Who is in the scene? Which characters, and what is their place in the story? Are the antagonist and protagonist in the scene? Is the hero under threat? How big is this threat? How much is at stake?
  • Pauses/beats between action
  • Imagery
  • language
  • rhythm

Atmosphere is part of the bigger picture. The language you use has to evoke a feeling or mood. It has to create a strong sensation for the reader.

Think about the way your character speaks, the language they use, the beats in between. Their diction. This will reflect how they are feeling…their reactions to what happens.

Plots can be tension filled, characters can engage me, but it’s the atmosphere that a writer creates that leaves me with a feeling or sensation, long after I’ve closed the final page of a book.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you have any other tips on creating atmosphere please feel free to share them in the comments section of this post.

Happy Writing:)


P.S. NaNoWriMo starts in November and I have plans to write a 50,000 word YA novel for the month. Wish me luck:) I’ll be sharing the journey with you on this blog. If you’re doing NaNo, best of luck to you too. Have fun and shout out if you feel like you need some encouragement. Maybe I’ll see you in the NaNosphere.

12 Things I Learned From NaNoWriMo – Tuesday Writing Tip

Today, in Australia is the final day of NaNoWriMo so I thought it was a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned from the experience.

This post was going to be the 10 things I learned from doing NaNoWriMo 2010, but when I tried to write it, I realised that there are more.

I wanted to share them with you because I think they are principles that can be applied to your writing regardless of whether you are participating in NaNoWriMo or not.

They are 12 things that can help you develop great writing habits and achieve your writing goals all year round.

Here’s what I learned:

1.    It’s really worthwhile to set yourself a daily writing target. Even half an hour’s writing is better than none.

2.    Allow yourself thinking time. If you have already thought about ‘what’s next’ for your story, you’ll find that half an hour can be very productive writing time.

You can keep adding pics and notes to your planning cork board as you write

3.    Plan at least a rough outline of your novel first so you have some idea where you are heading.

4.    Don’t worry if your ‘planned’ novel changes direction. Allow your characters to take it where they think it should go.

5.    Have some idea of setting before you start. Setting can affect plot outcomes.

6.    Do character profiles for your main character/s before you start – so you know how they’ll react to things that happen to them

7.    Join a group of some kind. I found that the NaNoWriMo Warriors was a great group. It was full of wonderful people from all around the world so there was someone to chat to almost 24/7.

If I was up at 1.00am pondering over a dilemma with my writing, there was always someone ‘out there’ in cyber space to mull it over with and gain support and encouragement from.

8.    Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Writing is a solitary profession, and everyone has down days when the words just don’t come – when things seem impossible.   Having someone to chat with about this (whether it be in person or online) can be really inspirational.

People telling you that you CAN do this helps you believe that you can – helps you to achieve your goals.

You might also find that other writers have resources that can help you. For example, if you decide you don’t like your main character anymore, another writer might be able to offer you the perfect article or post to help you develop your character and become fond of them again.

Joining a group also makes you realise that you are not alone. That all writers have doubts and dilemmas and that it’s perfectly normal to have problems being mean to your main character (or not) and that doesn’t make you a wuss or a sadist, it just makes you the writer that you are.

9.    Set realistic goals for yourself. Everyone is busy and has different commitments in their lives. Realistically, you need to write about 1700 words a day to reach your 50,000 word target. If you know your characters and what’s going to happen to them next, this can be done in an hour.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t achieve a daily goal. You can always catch up the next day or the day after – and the worst that can happen is that you don’t finish by the end of November, but you’ll still have more words written than you had at the start of the month – and possibly would have written in that time.

10.    Don’t be afraid to post your word counts on Facebook and other social media and gain motivation from the congratulations you receive from your “friends”. This isn’t bragging, it’s a way of getting acknowledgement for your achievements and keeping you inspired. It’s a way of spurring you on.

11.    Get involved in Word Wars. I’m a pacifist generally speaking, but I found that Word Wars were great for getting your word count up. They usually go for an hour and there’s a moderator who tells you when to start and when to finish and then you compare your word totals with other writers who have participated in the war.

It doesn’t matter if others have written more than you. Word Wars are all about helping you achieve your own personal targets.

12.    Try and eat well and sleep well during NaNo. If your brain is well fed and rested, it will work better for you.

If you achieved your NaNoWriMo goal this year, that’s fantastic. Congratulations! If you didn’t, don’t worry there’s always next year and you can still keep writing your novel and working on getting it finished.

Congratulations on what you have achieved and remember that word counts aren’t everything. Even if all NaNoWriMo did for you was get you writing on a regular basis, that has to be a good thing doesn’t it?

What did NaNoWriMo do for you? I’d love to hear about it. So feel free to share your experiences in the comment section of this post.

Happy writing:)



Today’s post is dedicated to the NaNoWriMo writers around the world.

I am pleased to report that I am on target to reach my 50,000 words by the end of the month. I kind of knew it was achievable already seeing as I’d written 56,000 words for my month long May Gibbs Fellowship.

I hope you are all on target, and if you’re not, it really doesn’t matter. To me, NaNoWriMo is all about the journey, and if you achieve your word goal then that’s just an added bonus.

For me, NaNoWriMo is valuable on so many levels. For a start, it has brought some discipline back to my writing. How easy is it to “not write today” because you’re too busy? How easy is to be distracted by kids, work, school, elephants playing on the front lawn, a fly crawling up the window? Anything, really.

Some days at my house over the past couple of weeks have been so chaotic that I wonder where I’ll find time to brush my teeth, let alone write the 1700 words required each day.

Then a beep in my inbox reminds me I have mail – a notification from a moderator that the next Word War is about to start (Don’t panic; that’s “Word” not “World”)

Word Wars are something you can do with your own writer friends. Set a time, and write as much as you can for an hour. You can write a lot more than you think in that time. The thing about a Word War is that you commit to write at the same time every day; you commit to write with other writers; you commit to write full stop.

To start with, you might sit there looking at a blank screen, but I find that the pressure of a time constraint spurs me on. If the words don’t come, drag them out kicking and screaming. Later, you can decide they’re worth keeping. To me, writing is what matters – getting your manuscript to the publishable stage is editing – it’s something that holds you back. I never try ti get it right first time, I just try for words on paper – and the more words I get, the more that seem to come.

Every day I participate in at least one Word War and I average around 1500 words. Imagine doing this for a month and seeing how many words you have by the end. For me, this has been not just about bringing back discipline, but also about cutting my writing into manageable pieces. I don’t have to allow myself seven hours a day to write – so much can be achieved in a single hour – or even half that time.

Okay, I confess. There have been many times over the last couple of weeks when the words have not flowed smoothly. When in spite of a detailed plotline, I have thought “where to from here?”  I’ve had to do more research to take the story to the next step – and that has been loads of fun too. Last week I discovered how to saddle a camel, how to light fires without matches, how to cook and eat termites – and even what they taste like (woody carrots – apparently)

So if there are two things I’m learning from NaNoWriMo it’s to cut your writing time into portions that are manageable for you, and to be disciplined in your writing – even ten minutes a day is better than nothing.

And if you can’t write, sit down and do it anyway. Drag those words kicking and screaming onto the page. Don’t let them defeat you.

I hope your NaNoWriMo novels are going well and even if they’re not, try and work through the dark days and keep going.

If you have any tips or stories about your NaNoWriMo experience, I’d love to share them with my blog readers. Feel free to tell us your NaNo tips and troubles in the comments section of this blog.

Happy writing:)


P.S. The pics in this post, will give you a hint of what my NaNo novel is about.


If you’re doing NaNoWriMo like me, you are probably feeling the pressure of having to produce words on demand. Tomorrow’s post at DeeScribe Writing is all about not letting those words defeat you. Fight back!

Drag them kicking and screaming onto the page and worry about shaping them later. That’s what I’ll be talking about tomorrow at

Hope you can join me then and I’d love to hear about your NaNoWriMo adventure.

Happy writing:)



Make sure your writing space is set up before you start

Yesterday I started a new writing adventure. It wasn’t just a new novel, it was a completely new path.  I started NaNoWriMo – a kind of crazy name for a kind of crazy activity.

For the month of November, I have committed to writing a 50,000 word novel. You see it’s National Novel Writing Month and that’s where the NaNoWriMo comes from.

When I first heard people talking about it, I thought they were talking about some kind of horned beast (rhino). Little did I know that I was about to embark on something that’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

I know I can write 50,000 words in a month…I did it on my May Gibbs adventure, but that was when I had no other work or family commitments…in fact I was totally focussed on getting the novel written.

A great view from your 'writing' window always helps

And I never told anyone my goals or what I expected to achieve in that time. But with NaNoWriMo, it’s out there…everyone knows that I am going to try and write 50,000 words this month and if I fail…I guess they will know that too.

So, this is what I’ve decided. None of that matters – this is my goal and it’s up to me. Whatever I achieve in the month of November will be the best I can do.


I’m cheating a bit because I haven’t actually completed Nano so I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. All I know is that I’m going to enjoy the adventure and that I’ve done a number of things to help my chances of succeeding. So here are my tips:

  1. Join a group called NaNoWriMo warriors There you will find like minded people; writers facing the same challenge; people who want you to succeed – and they’ll have lots of links on how to plan your novel and how you can make this work.
  2. Planning ahead works for me

    Plan in advance – I have. My novel is set in The Great Sandy Desert so I’ve spent hours researching; finding out exactly who or what lives in the desert and what kind of threats they can pose to my characters. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the novel yet, because some of that will depend on what my characters do and where they decide to take my story.

  3. Interview your main characters and find out who they are so that these people are in your head when you start writing; so you know how they will think or react; what will motivate or inspire them.
  4. Set up a spread sheet to record your daily words.
  5. Don’t stress – if I achieve my 50,000 words I’ll be ecstatic, but if I don’t, it won’t be the end of the world – I will still be part way towards writing a novel – and as far as I’m concerned, ANY writing is an achievement.
  6. Don’t get hung up on how other people are working or if they have written more words than you. Every writer is different and works in different ways – some have more time on weekends, some don’t.
  7. Make sure your workspace is comfortable and permanent – so you don’t have to keep clearing room every time you sit down to write.

Have fun…embrace the experience. You wouldn’t climb Mt Everest unless you had a passion for mountains.

Enjoy your writing adventures. I know I’m going to enjoy NaNoWriMo…and I’ll keep you posted about my progress.

If you’ve done NaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear how it worked for you. Or if you’ve had or are embarking on another sort of writing adventure, feel free to leave your comments and tips.

Happy writing:)


P.S. My word count for day one (yesterday) was 5,030 words. I hope I can keep the  pace up. Wish me luck:)