Let’s talk about writing tools

Thanks to my most excellent win from Camp Nano 2016 (let’s see how much longer I can milk that cow!), I got me a 50% on Scrivener. That’s the writing software for a mere £22 including tax. Now that’s a price I was ok to pay as I know I can be excitable about a new ‘toy’ and then quickly get bored with it.

There is also a 50% discount on another writing tool called Storyist which I had never heard of before I saw the discount but after doing a little bit of research, I decided that Storyist wasn’t for me. Although I use a Mac, I liked that Scrivener had more features and I have no intention of using an iPad to write.

So far, I have been writing in Google docs which is great to synchronise your file across devices although I often write on the same device (my netbook) which is easy to transport and when I want to sneak in a writing session at work, I can do it in the same folder. This might have to change as Scrivener is now on my Mac which I tend to leave at work (it’s BYO in my company and I prefer not to lug my laptop in and out every day).

My last Nanos have been written on GDrive and I know that there could be issue of security but I don’t imagine that the US Government is that interested in my little stories for now. Once I am published (note the assertiveness of that), it might be a different matter.

I am going to try to write my next story on Scrivener. I am being optimistic when I stay ‘story’ as I have yet to finish one but let’s not get ourselves bogged down by semantics.

When I have ideas however, I like to write them long hand in one of my gazillions fancy notebooks. I confess to a small addiction to notebooks. Some I get for free as marketing ploys (yay for free stuff) and some I buy because they are pretty. Then I find myself at a loss on what to do with them…too pretty for work (where I only keep to do lists). So I use them for my journaling and my ‘writing ideas’ notes. Writing all the ideas that I have with some excerpt as sometimes scenes come to me all ready complete, helps me keep my mind focused on the current story…otherwise, the new ideas would like earworms and would not leave me alone…

So to recap my own writing tools:

  • Google Drive
  • Scrivener
  • Long hand

I know some people publish their stories straight into their blogs for instant feedback but I am not that brave.

What about you? What do you use and are you happy with it?



So you won Camp Nano, now what?

That is a very good question.

Although I technically won Camp Nano by completing my self imposed wordcount goal, I didn’t actually finish the story I was writing.

I have now 2 options…well 3.

  1. I keep going with the story until I have a completed rough draft
  2. I park it for now and move on to another project to avoid boredom
  3. I park it permanently

I don’t think I want to do 3 as I still like the story. I don’t automatically love all the developments that sprint writing pushed me towards but I think there is something there.

I had some time last week whilst I was waiting for my train back home (from my most awesome holiday in France) and I jotted down some ideas for additional scenes. Some were to complete the story and some where to tie in the beginning plot lines with later ‘unrelated’ ones. Yet, I am still a little bored with it now that the momentum is over. I do however have an idea for a YA story with a much younger heroine than I am normally used to.

This stems from a few things:

  1. I have a 4 and half years old and a 18 months old nieces that I would like to inspire since I have spent so much time on a feminist FB group and realised that there aren’t so many options for girls
  2. I have started reading Book 2 of Skulduggery Pleasant series where the heroine is a 12 years old girl (I highly recommend this series even if you are a grown ass woman like me)
  3. I got reminded how much I used to love the French version of Nancy Drew books (Alice Roy) when I was on holidays as I have as many books of the series as I could find still lined up on my childhood bedroom’s bookshelves
  4. I just like the idea of a kick ass girl which I wasn’t

I also love adventure books and movies. The Goonies is still  my favourite movie and I would like to try a capture that with the added layer of the supernatural.

I wasn’t sure of what I wanted my girl to be able to do. I can’t have her be an Elemental witch like my last story and like Valkyrie Cain (Skulduggery Pleasant books) as it would feel too samey.

Then I remembered that one of TV shows of the 80s I really liked (despite being short lived and not that well acted) was a series called ‘Manimal‘ in which a playboy played by British actor Simon McCorkindale  transformed in various useful animals when in dire straights to save the day and the damsel (yawn on that part). I always liked that idea and have wanted to use this concept using a female character…I am not going to use the same background of course as it would be plagiarism but my kick ass girl will find herself able to transform into certain animals at will and not via a full moon curse like were-people.

I have a lot of research to do as I also want to add a Greek mythology layer to it…wonder if I am not trying to do too much too soon…

Oh well, if you don’t try, you don’t get anywhere, do you? And better have tried and failed than not tried at all!

Let’s see how it all pans out, shall we?



How to win Camp NaNo

One of my  most excellent cabin mates [Balladeer] from Camp Nano pointed out to me that I hadn’t mentioned the brilliant support I got (we all got) from each other in our cabin [Cabin McCabinborough].

I had briefly mentioned that it was a good idea to get a cabin with people in the same time zone as it helped but I hadn’t specifically talked about my cabin.

We all connected via the Nanowrimo London Facebook group with Balladeer leading the charge in organising the cabin for us. Thanks to his dedication, we had a very active cabin with almost daily interactions from a core group, bi-weekly virtual write-ins (VWI) with a Skype chat on and a weekly physical WI (which I sadly didn’t get to attend). I also missed the Nanorilla session which I think I would have liked and consisted of a full afternoon of writing together in a shared location.

For me, the support of the cabin has been invaluable. I am a lazy person by nature and without external commitment I easily let deadlines slip. After all, I am the only penalised if I don’t do my wordcount. Because we had daily catch up, I felt ‘obligated’ (I mean that in a positive way) to have an updated count which I easily did thanks to the sprint sessions during the VWI.

If it hadn’t been for the 2 weeks holiday that I knew I was taking with the family towards the end, I could have easily upped my target to 30K, maybe even 35K, which feels me with hope for next November.

So my number #1 tip for winning Camp Nano? Get yourself a good, supportive local cabin and put in the effort to participate. You will take from it far more than you have to put in.

Now that I have ‘won’ this year’s Camp, I need to finish my story (still) and then I think I am going to start another before I decide to edit it. I still don’t know how I am going to end it.

Why do you want to win Camp Nano? You get cool banners to show off, personal satisfaction and 50% Scrivener download! I am well looking forward to that.



Camp NaNo 2016 – The End

Although I haven’t written the fated words to mark the end of my story, Camp NaNo 2016 is over for me.

On Tuesday 26th July at 23:58 I validated my 25000 words commitment and earned myself the ‘Camp Nano 2016 Winner’ badge.

I could have carried on writing but I felt that it was better for me to validate now as I want to be able to enjoy the rest of my holiday without worrying about wordcount.

It was a much more successful experience than the one last year where I completely failed to even reached 10K.

I did my first Camp in 2014 where I gave myself the target of 20K and succeeded. Last year, I had raised the bar to 22K but my mind wasn’t in it.

I am pleased with my 25K and hoping that it bodes well for attempting my 3rd NaNoWriMo in November as so far, I haven’t been able to finish.


Camp NaNo 2016 recap

I was able to write 8 chronological chapters quite easily, then I hit a slump and a period of lackluster inspiration…I reverted to my book ‘No plot, No problem’ and followed the advice to jump ahead and wrote a scene I wanted to write which I felt should be much later.

I got back on track.

Then I wasn’t sure how to tie it in with what was coming next so I used the technique again. I now have 3 scenes which are much further in the story but not at the end.

I don’t know yet how I want my story to end although I have decided to kill off one of my darlings.

I will have to do some cutting and slashing at the beginning as the story takes too long to develop and the dead body we discovered in the first scene has kind of been forgotten which doesn’t make it such a great opening scene anymore.

Whilst I was on holiday I did most of my writing long hand as I didn’t always have my laptop with me and it was easier to sneak in a session whilst the kids were drawing than if I pulled the laptop out. I would then type it up first thing in the morning whilst they slept in or last thing at night when everybody gone to bed. I found that way that I would add some details to the scenes that I couldn’t think of when writing long hand. It was hard not to edit though as the instinct was to modify as I typed.

I was worried that I would get bored of the story as so far it’s always how it’s happened before but I still want to complete the story. I may write short paragraphs on the scenes I want to see happen till the end and then pad them up at editing.


Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: Surviving Week 1

We are well into Week 2 now but here is a quick update on how my first week went.

To recap, I have given myself the target of 25K words to be reached by 30th July (I have taken the 31st out). So my daily wordcount target is roughly 834.

That means that by Day 12 (today), I should be at 10,008 words…don’t panic, this is the extent of my mathematical abilities!
I am happy to report that as of last night I have racked up a wordcount total of 11,310! Let’s hear a ‘hell yeah’ from the back of the room.

I have had a couple of nights off too. One because I went to a podcast recording – well worth it ; and the other, because I was too tired to get my brain to focus.

In the past, my biggest hurdle has been to go past Chapter 3 which is basically when you start moving out of the setting up and into the story. I was always stuck because I never really had an idea of what I wanted my main character (MC) to do and it would panic me and I get myself distracted by another newer and shinier idea and would run with that instead, thus starting a new cycle of Chapter 1 to 3.
I am not even exaggerating. If I check my backlog of ‘started’ stories since I got back into writing (2014), I have 35 stories started where I stopped on or before Chapter 3 and not counting the one I am doing now, I have 1 story where I reached Chapter 5.
And I am not counting stories that I started on notebooks and didn’t bother typing up.
Do you know how many completed story I have? 0
Yep, you read right. Out of all those stories started not a single one went to completion.
That’s just too sad and upsetting.

This latest story, I have to finish. Even if I got an idea for a new story on my way to a shopping trip at the weekend. I am full of ideas. I am a great starter. Finishing though, is another story.

So I am now halfway through to Week 2 and it is believed to be the hardest week as the excitement of starting a story is wearing off and ideas are drying out and the burden of keeping a day job and writing in your spare time start taking its toll.
I am quite lucky that although work has been unusually busy (of course), I live alone and I haven’t had much of a social life  lately, so I don’t get any distractions once I can pry myself away from Netflix.
Because of that and thanks to the regular check ins  with my cabin mates, I am ahead of target.
I can’t recommend this enough by the way: if you have the opportunity to create a cabin with people in the same time zone or people you have been in contact with before, then do it. It’s great to have a sounding board and people who are keen to do virtual write-ins.

I am halfway through Chapter 5 and although I know there is probably a lot of unnecessary dialogue, I am happy things are moving along.
The one thing I have failed is to introduce one of the other secondary cast members, which I should have done by now…Editing is going to be fun.

Hope you guys are enjoying the experience and that you are also on target.

Until next time…Keep Writing!

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: Day 2 – So far So good

I am not going to bore you with a blow by blow of each of my writing days but I will try to keep some updates on the highs and lows.

Week one tends to be one of high as you are pump, it’s all new and you have potentially been thinking about this for a while so you have tons of ideas you are ready to commit to page.

I never know if I should plan or pants. In my real life, planning is essential but at the same time, I have to be able to adapt to last minute request so a degree of pantsing is necessary. I have mild OCD – nothing clinical – I like to have my books, DVDs and CDs (yes I still have a few of those) sorted in alphabetical order and I hate it when someone tries to put things back on the shelf. They always put it back wrong…and…no, this is not about my organisational hang ups. Moving on. Sorry.
I did some planning for the past few months: I had a backstory, a main character and a couple of secondary characters. I had some ideas of what was the plot but that was quite loose and was the thing that was worrying me the most.
I had a setting too. Contrary to the advice I found on books and online, I had chosen to base my story in San Francisco. I have been there once and although I was a bit disappointed by it (I had really high expectations on it and we entered through the worst part of the city after having spent a few days in the pretty city of Santa Barbara), I still think it’s a cool Californian setting.

All of that went out of the window on Day 1. I kept my main character’s name and some qualities but everything else has changed. The story is now based in London (write what you know) and all the other secondary characters are different and so is the backstory. But the biggest change in the story is the opening scene: my MC finds a dead body.

I wasn’t planning on writing a mystery but there you go.

My only advice for those who want to participate (if you haven’t already signed up, do it now!) is to try to find a good cabin. Over the past years I just let myself be allocated a random cabin and I often found myself with people in different time zones. It’s nice to have diversity but not ideal when you want to share support.
This year, as I belong the NaNoWriMo London Facebook group, we managed to coordinate ourselves our own cabin and we have done our first virtual write-in using Skype and that was really great as you share some of your frustrations and doubt but also set writing sprints which focuses your writing.

At the end of Day 2 I had reached 2,527 words which is over my target (yay). Of course this is the beginning and I am always prolific until Chapter 3…

I have planned to do a session later today and hopefully I will be disciplined enough to do a daily session.

Good luck everyone…see you on the other side.


Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 – Gearing up for July

After a first successful attempt in 2014 and a failed one in 2015, I am going to give this another shot.

I haven’t really written anything for a year. Little dribs and drabs and false starts andI have been quite slack at the old blogging.

For the last few weeks I have been thinking about it a lot. I have had about 3 different starts for a story I am thinking about and I have tried to read Story Engineering again to give me a boost. I have joined a Writing Facebook Group, I joined an active London cabin so we are all in the same time zone and I have every intentions on going to some write-ins.

July is usually a really bad month for me as it’s usually when I go away for 2 weeks to play cool Aunty to my nephew and a 7 years old doesn’t really allow you to get a lot of me time when he hasn’t seen you for a whole year…so last year I failed. This year, however, I am going away only on the last week of Camp NaNo so the plan is to have as much written as possible before I go to make up for the time I will most definitely lack at the end of the month.

I have decided to go for 25K words (half a NaNoWriMo count) to flex my writing muscles, be realistic but still do more than the first year I managed to complete the challenge. I have also taken the last day of July of to make my daily word count and rounded it up so it’s a very achievable 834 w/day. I am psyched!

I got the book ‘No plot, No problem’ from NaNo founder and veteran, Chris Baty and hoping that it will help me with my biggest challenge: plotting!

I always seem to have cool ideas for concepts or premises and even some spunky characters but passed Chapter 3 (set up) I don’t know what to do with them.

This time, I have done some mild prep and have few key points/scenes I want to see…whether or not they will happen I don’t know but it’s a little more than I had in the past.

My 2016 Camp NaNo entry is:

Title (working): Red Flower
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Synopsis: After spending most of her life trying to deny her elemental abilities, Sasha will have to consider unleashing her terrible powers in order to save the people she cares about.

Let’s see how close to it I will stay…2 days to go!