Camp Nano – Day 7 – Beyond Chapter 3!

CampNanoDay 7 at Camp Nano…

Where have day 5 and 6 gone, I hear you say… Well, they have been and gone and I have met my target for both but being a weekend and all, it was a little harder to concentrate and I didn’t see the point of a post for them.

However with nearly a week since starting this, I am happy to report that I have broken the Curse of Chapter 3! Hooray! I think having this self imposed challenge is helping. Because I have to meet this final target for the end of the month, I am forcing myself not to go over what I have already written too much. Just enough to remind myself where I was when I stopped, even though in the meantime, I have had more ideas on how I could start the story better or change some interactions.

I make notes of the new ideas (wouldn’t wan those to be lost in the great vastness of my goldfish brain) but I still plough on, leaving the amendments for draft 2.

In the past, that’s what had gotten me stuck to Chapter 3. Because by that stage, you get a sense of your character and where she is going and suddenly you realise that how she started doesn’t fit any more and then you start re-writing the beginning over and over again…at least that’s my Groundhog Day.

As of yesterday…no more! Roll on Chapter 5!


Related articles:

Camp NanoWriMo, Day 5 | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

Camp Nano, Day 3 and 4 | Sleepy Book Dragon

Camp Nano – July 2014 | Kaleidoscopic Kites



A Camping We Will Go, with NaNoWriMo | The Novice Wordsmith

Camp NaNoWriMo | Dreamers Lane










Advance Creative Writing course: The End

Monday was my last class and we were all very sad to say goodbye to each other. This course runs every semester and most of the attendees are returning participants.

We had 4 readings that evening and I have found it very difficult to critic other people’s work for 2 reasons:

a) I feel that they are much more accomplished and advanced than I am. Their writing felt more evolved and less fumbling. Most of them have been quite far in their story already…

b) They were all in genres that I don’t particularly read (historical drama) and although I enjoyed what they wrote, I just didn’t know how it fared against other, more established writers in that genre. For me, generally it had too many descriptions and too much introspection.

Still, I enjoyed the exchange of ideas and the warm support that the group gave each other. Everyone was keen to keep the group going for the next term but unfortunately not all of us can or want to attend. It’s in October and on a Saturday afternoon. I have time to change my mind, depending on how far I get with the current story. I feel that signing up to this one if I don’t progress, will be a waste of my time and money. I probably would have benefited more from the class if I had a better formed story. So, this time, I will wait and maybe I’ll join the following class (January 2015).

In the meantime, I have started a mind map on mindmeister (free app with Google – I love free stuff and at this stage, I don’t want to buy software) to help my plotting and I have got quite a bit of material to work with now, which may change but at least I have a frame to work with – although I still don’t have an ending.
I have signed to participate to CampNaNo, which is the summer version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which has been held in November for the past ten years. It starts on 1st July and ends on 31st and you set up your own writing target (which is the difference with NaNoWriMo where the target is set at 50,000 words). The aim is not to edit as you write but to write daily. I have set my target at 20,000 for the month, which is roughly 650 words a day, which is quite achievable I think. I believe that I can do it (I am known for my unwavering optimism)…the problem is to write 650 words that make sense and work together in one story! If I manage it, I’ll try NaNo in November as well, which will then give me material to do the advance class again.




The One that goes round, round…


Ouroboros… This is just how I feel (Courtesy of Google images)

I am in the middle of a struggle. I have read 2,000 words in front of the class and was please with the feedback I got but that excerpt was not really part of anything. Sure it vaguely used the character I had in mind for my story but I had whipped in during my lunch hour so I didn’t think much on how it fitted in my story…actually, that is my major problem. I still don’t know what is my story. I have a sense of genre (urban fantasy) and character but I still don’t know what I want them to do. I think I made a mistake in signing up to this last course as it would most certainly benefit me more if I had a skeleton project on the go. As it is, I only have a shadow, a spark and I keep going round and round, circling, changing what my character is…I am not a patient person by nature so I wanted to jump right in but this really doesn’t work. Next Monday I have to read again. A new 2,000 words excerpt and I really don’t know what I am going to do. I can’t carry on from my last piece because it just wasn’t going where I wanted it to go…


Or maybe that? A lot less elegant  (Courtesy Google images)

Or maybe that? A lot less elegant
(Courtesy Google images)

I also would like to participate to NaNoWriMo this year and I have been researching it as well as I think I have to be prepared for that (procrastination anyone? You bet your ass!). I think I have to take a deep breath and slow down. Go back to the basics…again.

I came across Larry Brooks’ blog post on preparing for NaNoWriMo and what you have to have planned before you can dive in, called 10 Specifics on How to Plan Your Story. The section on Your Vision, is probably where I am stuck. Right now I still don’t know what’s at stakes for my heroine (at least I do know that she is a she) and what it is that she wants… Why will things happen to her etc. I have to had some of the questions sorted before Monday though as I can’t show up to class without anything, especially considering the high standard of the others’ writing. I mean they are all seriously good and well polished where I feel like a freaking elephant in a crystal shop, fumbling around in the dark! So here are the questions I have to answer before Monday and then right a 2,000 word scene/chapter that will fit in:

  1. Who is the hero?
  2. What is she doing with her life prior to FFP (First Plot Point)?
  3. What is the issue, problem, opportunity thrown at them?
  4. What is the opposition to that need or quest?
  5. What are the stakes?
  6. How does the hero becomes the hero?
  7. How is it resolved?

I have 1 kinda sorted so far. I mean I know she is a she and some of her basic background info…but I don’t think I know nearly enough about her, which would lead to 2. Then I have a vague idea about 3 and 4 but no clue on 5, 6 and 7… Oh boy, I have my work cut out, don’t I? At least I have somewhere to start…right?

Well, I have three days to figure it out…ish.


Sharing my writing

I went away on holidays so I missed class number 2 of the workshop and didn’t get to experience the “share your writing with the class” experience as a listener…instead, I had to jump in cold.

I had written something that was the right length already before I went away but as my slot (last Monday) was drawing near, I realised that I wasn’t happy with it.

At the 11th hour (as always), which reminded me of my school days, I wrote something new, still part of the same story that is circling around my head at the moment. I made no revision to it, I just poured out 2055 words, formatted them and printed 10 copies to share in class.

There were 3 of us reading that night and as I was the first one to get there, I got to pick when. I chose to go second. I wanted to see how it was going to happen before going and I didn’t want to be last. I am still happy with my decision.

It was still nerve racking though. As I mentioned before, most of my classmates (if I can call them that) tend to be more literary than me. Their writing sound serious and their language is very elaborate, lots of imagery. I think I am the only one who is going for a more pop culture genre. As a non native English speaker, my language is not as evolve, despite my fluency or maybe it is because I am more an action person than a long, evocative description type of girl (must I remind you? I hated Flaubert!)… However, according to my peers and lecturer, I had got the tension right…apparently they couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next 🙂

So I got through my reading, stumbling a bit a long the way as I hit passages that didn’t flow right or made sense when I wrote them but didn’t as I read them…the biggest problem I seem to have is to do with tone (inconsistently shifting between funny and scary – I have to pick one) and language issues when my character speaks…apparently she sounds like she is not native English…now here’s a surprise 🙂 They suggested that I made my character a non-native English speaker…which I will consider actually.

I also wrote a dog in my scene…I saw a sad YouTube video from animal rescue team in California saving a pitbull and it made me really sad to see an animal to have been treated this way, so somehow it made it’s way in my scene. It wasn’t something I had planned or thought about. It’s amazing how much attention my dog got 🙂 Howard, our tutor, loved him (Apollo I called him) whereas some people thought he got too much limelight… Funny the things that will get people talking! I was worried that the fact that I had my character staring at a naked man’s crotch would get more comments and yet, the dog stole the show 🙂

I am glad for the experience, and all the annoted copies were returned to me so I can go over everyone’s comments when it’s a little less raw (not that I was upset with anything they said). I will take some on board for sure.

As I had expected though, the two other girls were a lot more lyrical in their writing and serious in their choice of subject.


Advanced Creative Writing Course

Although I have been a bit quiet lately in there, this doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been writing as much as I would have liked, but I have been writing…although as usual, I am stuck at Chapter 3.

Yesterday I started the next level of my writing course, the Advanced one. Not that I think that I have the advanced skills already but the format is slightly different. It’s more about getting actual feedback for your writing and less about been “lectured” at, although there will be a teaching element to it.

Everyone at the course will have a chance to be “workshopped” twice. This means that twice, you have to come to class with at least 2,000 words (or about 12 mins reading time) of something you have written has part of your project. Ideally, something that isn’t working so you get can feedback from the tutors and peers that will actually be useful.

I am off next week so I won’t get to see how it works and then I am next up…I am a little nervous about this. Not that I fear I won’t have time to write anything, I already have enough material for my current project but mostly because everybody else in the class seems to be working on “serious” novels and I am going for pop/trash novel style. How will I be able to talk about freaking werewolves and vampires after others will have told semi-historical biography about their ancestors! Gulp! I feel a little silly already.

My project, if I dare sharing it, is an urban fantasy story. I can’t really call it a novel yet as I am not sure if I have enough material to write a full fledge novel. Maybe a short story or a novella? It will have romance (of course)…I like a good dose of sexual tension, although unlike some of the writers I see around the Kindle “playlist”, I am not automatically keen on raunchy sex scenes. No I am not a prude, I just prefer a kick ass fight scene. It will have action (see previous comment), it will have werewolves and some other supernatural races and it will be based in London. Write what you know, right? I would find it quite difficult at this stage to base my story somewhere I don’t know well (or at all). I could invent a new town I suppose but I have enough obstacles as we speak.

The plan is to write it using both my male and female lead POV….that’s the plan anyway.

I still need to work at my structure as I am not entirely sure what I want to happen, the how or the when…Yeah, tall order. I do have some nice set up scenes though…well, at least I think so…for now.

On another note…I have started to read Stephen King’s “On Writing”…it’s a mishmash of writing tips and autobiography…I am actually enjoying it more than I thought I would.


1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story – Part Deux

Last week has been a bit mental and I didn’t get a chance to post a single exercise. So much for a daily exercise. I might have rename this, Weekly Exercise, or Whenever-You-Get-A-Chance Exercise…


Based on the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter(NB: I choose not to follow all the exercises or to share only those that I found interesting).


Exercise 3 – Part 2Experiment with different types of openings (with a generalisation, with a description of a person, with a narrative summary, with dialogue, with several characters but no dialogue, with a setting and only one character, with a reminiscent narrator, with a child narrator, by establishing point of view) for the story you are working on. (Go here for Part 1).

With a generalisation
I remember hearing someone say that you didn’t always what you deserve in, but what you needed. I wondered at this exact moment in which category finding a dying man at the moment of the stairs, fitted.

With dialogue
‘So how goes it?’ said Chiara over the phone.

‘Why are you calling? Aren’t you supposed to be on a hot date with what’s-his-face?’ I replied, sticking my mobile in the crook of my neck as I was touching up my make up.

‘Bah. He is absolutely yummy to look at but not much between the ears, if you know what I mean’ she sighed. ‘He is gone to the little boys room to I thought I’d check on you. Do tell now’.

‘You were right’ I scoffed. ‘They are dull as rain. All they are interested in is who will  make the cover of HEAT magazine, like any of them would. I have no idea who half of them are and they pretend they know who I am.

Chiara chuckled. ‘Told you so’.

I was about to ask her about our next dinner date when I heard a crash outside the ladies room.

With a setting and only one character
I was hiding in the ladies room, which was surprisingly empty, when I heard a cry and crash which seem to be coming from the lobby. 

With several characters but no dialogue
After dinner, the lights been dimmed and a DJ had started spinning some Top40 tune I didn’t recognise. I thought it probably was the right time for me to leave as I wasn’t much of a dancer and I could see that my dinner neighbour, a guy with wispy blond hair and the worst case of halitosis I had encountered, was about to ask me to dance. Around me, women with outfits that should never have seen the light of day, let alone be worn in public, were stumbling towards the dance floor, giggling, trying to pretend it was all part of their moves. I discreetly looked at my watch. Nearly midnight…I really should go.


And here the way I actually chose to start it (which would fall under “with a generalisation” and “by establishing POV” I think):

Sometimes you really have to be careful what you wished for. I had envied my best friend Chiara’s lifestyle forever and tonight she had engineered it so that I would get to be her for the night. She had told me countless times that being the PR manager for a cable TV channel wasn’t all that glamorous but I hadn’t believed her. I envied everything about Chiara. From her fashion sense to her career via her incredibly good looks.


Next: We move from Beginnings and onto “Notebooks, Journals and Memories! – Use yourself and your experiences as a source of inspiration.



1.3 Beginnings: Ways to Begin a Story

Based on the writing exercises of What if? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. (NB: I choose not to follow all the exercises or to share only those that I found interesting).

Exercise 3 – Part 1: Experiment with different types of openings (with a generalisation, with a description of a person, with a narrative summary, with dialogue, with several characters but no dialogue, with a setting and only one character, with a reminiscent narrator, with a child narrator, by establishing point of view) for different stories until you feel comfortable with technique of each. – This is a fairly big exercise so I will only pick a three or four of the opening types for this one (the book gives example for each).

With a generalisation
Rosewood was one of those towns which was great if you were retired or raising a family with small children. It was quaint, quiet and safe. If you belonged to the sixteen-twenty four demographics however, Rosewood was the sort of town you couldn’t wait to leave behind, dull, predictable, boring. That is to say, until Elle Adams moved in.

With dialogue
‘We shouldn’t be here’ Lola whispered, looking terrified.
‘Oh come on, it will be fun!’  replied her boyfriend Mark, with a lot more enthusiasm than he actually felt.
‘Sure, when has that ever happened? A group of teens sneak in an abandoned house at night…that’s a recipe for the next Romero movie, not a fun night!’ said  Zoe Daniels who had tagged along on Lola’s insistence. Zoe was not as easily frightened as Lola but she wasn’t keen on the “fun” trip Mark had planned for the night. Mark was an idiot.

With a setting and only one character
The changing room smelled of sweat and mould. The paint, which might have been white once, was peeling off at random places, giving the room an air of neglect and abandon. There were rows of metal lockers, half of them with broken doors hanging off and most of them dented in a way that suggested they had been punched, often. Sitting on the wooden bench, earphones in, Matt wasn’t paying much attention to the decor. His hands were already wrapped with bright red wraps, his wife, Stella, had picked them. In less than fifteen minutes, he would be walking the long, dark corridor, in his red silk robe, black and red gloves on, ready to defend his title. But for now, he was getting himself ready in his head.

With a child narrator
My dad was furious with me. It was the first time he had taken us on holidays since the divorce and I had gone and ruined it already by closing the car door on my little sister’s fingers. Dad had no clue what to do with the sobbing and wailing mess that she had become. I felt really bad looking at her little red fingers and watery eyes. He was yelling at me for being so “useless” and the more he yelled, the harder Nina cried. I just stood there, head bowed down, making faces at her until she started to giggle again.

Coming up next
Exercise 3 – Part 2
: Do the same but for the story you are working on. Same opening, different styles.
Sorry I just didn’t have the time this week to do it all.