Monday, 30 December 2013

My 5 New Year Visualisations (better than resolutions!)

Once upon a time my husband interviewed the Mexican gold medallist, Maria Espinoza. She told him that she always visualised her goals. Back home after her victory, she stuck up the newspaper cutout which read Maria Espinoza Gold Medallist Beijing 2008. She crossed out Beijing 2008 and wrote London 2012.

I've always been a firm believer of defining your goals and writing them down. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen'. Maria didn't get a gold at London, she got a bronze, but that's proof enough for me that a bit of visualisation goes a long way. So instead of resolutions for 2014, I've opted for visualising a few of what I'm sure you'll agree are very reasonable and attainable goals.  
1. The Seven Figure Publishing Deal

2. The Dream Home
3. The Driving License
4. The Film Contract
5. The Epic Adventure

As I said, just a few entirely reasonable hopes for 2014. Now, over to you, what will you be visualising on New Year's Eve?
Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers
and may your visualisations be most effective!

Friday, 20 December 2013

Shopgirl Blog at The London Short Film Festival

It seems incredible that we filmed Shopgirl Blog all the way back in June 2009. I sound so young and excited in my post Take 1, Camera, Action!  It has been a long process and despite positive feedback, I had stopped expecting anything to come out of it. It was a real surprise when the director, Chloe Thomas, told me it had been selected for The London Short Film Festival. Now I can't wait to see it on the big screen!
Shopgirl Blog is in the #FunnyShit category, which includes 16 other short films.
It will be shown on Friday 10th January, at 9pm
at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall
Book your tickets soon! I really hope you can make it!

On set at Mum's lighting shop -
Annette Badland as 'Mum', The Real Mum, Me, and Katy Wix as 'Shopgirl'

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

A Chicken goes to Copenhagen (and crosses the road with ease)

I'm ashamed to think I almost said no to my husband's invitation to go to Copenhagen for the weekend. He was there recording interviews for a documentary on Noma but said he would have free time to meet me in between. In fact, I did say no at first, my pathetic excuse being, won't it just be another cold city? Well, I'm writing this blog on the plane back, feeling utterly invigorated after my trip.
The truth is I've always been such a chicken. I have never travelled alone or have ever wanted to. I have never roamed across a foreign city by myself, at least not for very long. Half the reason I went travelling around South America with my friend in 2007 was because I knew if I got into any problems, at least I could speak Spanish.
My first approach of panic came after my first couple of hours alone. I'd been searching for the National Gallery, but my map reading skills were so poor I'd managed to walk in a huge circle and had ended up back at the Botanical Gardens. I didn't want to see plants, I wanted history and art. Mostly, I wanted to find the place I'd set out to find so I wouldn't feel this lump of failure in my chest. Not knowing what to do, I walked a little way into the gardens, but I didn't get far before a woman stopped me.
"Is that the exit up there?" she said, in an American accent. I said it was. I also said I was lost and did she know where the National Gallery was. It turned out she wanted to go there too. Both her map and map reading skills were superior to mine and five minutes later we'd found it. The woman was from Chicago and one of those open, friendly people who laugh easily. We had a great afternoon and ended up drinking wine together inside a lively foodie market. I met my husband later that evening, happy that I had not retreated to our apartment early.
On Day 2  my map reading was more successful. I walked until my legs ached and felt triumphant every time I found what I had been looking for. It was like a huge treasure hunt! I had never thought about visiting Denmark before and here I was alone with my map, in its beautiful clean capital city full of vibrant red brick, tiled roofs, pointed church spires and people riding about on bicycles.
I got lost again on Day 3 and felt the return of panic. A walk to the little mermaid, which should have taken twenty minutes, took me over an hour. At one point, I thought I might hit Sweden. I found her in the end. She's actually very small and doesn't really have a face, but the satisfaction for me, was in locating her.
The bonus of taking an hour instead of twenty minutes was that I arrived for the changing of the guards, where a band played some beautiful music. I felt a surge of positivity. It occurred to me I didn't have to spend my whole life being a bad map reader, that I could and was getting better!
This is the first time I've ever gone to a country where my husband has been working on a job. I'd always imagined it was going to be like that film, Lost in Translation, me hanging about in a hotel too intimidated to go out. What a boring chicken I've been!
After this weekend I feel really excited about life and all the countries there are to visit. Of course, Copenhagen is a great place to start if you're a scaredy cat like me. Everyone speaks brilliant English and there's a green man at every crossing. But with a bit more map reading practice, I'll soon be ready for the next difficulty level. I just wonder where he'll be called to next...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

How to Write that Novel Faster

Image from Kittybloger
A couple of months ago I felt like I had lost all self-discipline. I had a new novel to write but I wasn't getting the words down. Instead I was wasting far too much time online. In that unproductive month I must have signed over twenty online petitions, clicked on as many cute kittens and tweeted enough words for a few chapters.
Two things happened to get me back in gear. Firstly, I was at a party with Alix Christie, the wise and brilliant author of the upcoming Gutenburg's Apprentice, and she said to me:
"you must be careful you don't waste all your creative energy on social media and have nothing left for the book." That really woke me up. Social media is brilliant if you have great content to share, but it takes time and energy to create that. What would I prefer? A hundred thousand words worth of random tweets or a novel?
The second thing to happen was I asked my agent for a deadline. "Before the London Book Fair would be good," she said. "March?" Until I wrote Spray Painted Bananas I didn't think it was possible to write a decent draft of a novel in three months. I do now. I've found a way.
Writing fast isn't for everybody and some books need to be slow cooked for years. But I prefer to bash a draft out and edit later. If you wish you were writing faster, these tips might help: 
7 Tips for Writing Faster:  
1. Decide what is your writing goal for the week - this might be a word count, a number of chapters or to finish a particular section.
2. Set a realistic daily word count - it doesn't matter if it's only 100 words, what matter is that it's achievable so you won't be put off, and you will feel happy when you've completed them each day.
3. Don't go on social media until you've finished your daily word count - this one makes a huge difference! As soon as you go on Facebook, Twitter or your Email you're guaranteed to get distracted. When I'm feeling weak, I'll write half my word count goal, check my social networks, then switch off again for the second half.
4. Write DRAFT at the top of the page - it will make you feel less self-conscious. It's okay if your writing is terrible, at this point you just want to get the story down. Don't worry about editing until later.
5. Use post-its and a corkboard to track your chapters - useful for getting an overview of the novel and keeping on top of what you have and haven't written.
6. Leave the chores for your break time - put off the washing and hoovering until you need a break from writing. Doing something practical and physical will give your mind some space. Often a solution to my plot problems will come when I'm washing the dishes.
7. Plan what you need to write the night before - that way you're ready to get stuck in straight away the following day.


Friday, 6 December 2013

Common Folk Against Death by Plastic

Packaged Croissant spotted in a Supermarket
It was an ordinary winter's day in London.  Rain swept the streets and good British folk took comfort in mugs of tea and talked, justifiably, about the weather.
I was in the vegetable shop looking forward to getting home. Behind me, another customer was in a hurry and pressing into my personal space. The cashier turned to her, 'Do you need a bag?'
In her hand was a single red pepper. She didn't think twice. 'Yes,' she said.

A few months ago I might not have registered this interaction let alone reacted to it. But on that windy winter's day her request flicked a switch inside me, and in my head, a voice cried 'murderers!'            
It took me by surprise. I even worried I might have said it out loud but her expression reassured me I hadn't. I watched her putting her red pepper in the little transparent plastic bag the cashier had given her while I waited for my change. The bag hadn't solved her problem. Next she asked for a bigger plastic bag to put the little plastic bag in since the little plastic bag had no handle. Two plastic bags for one single vegetable.     
'Murderers!' the voice cried again. It was the voice of millions of ghosts; the ghosts of countless marine species poisoned and suffocated by plastic. It was the Sperm Whale washed up in Spain defeated by 17kg of the stuff in its stomach. It was also proof that the message of Common Folk had hit me.            
If you haven't heard of Common Folk yet, that's because it only launched last month. It's the brainchild of Tina Ziegler, a Californian girl living in Spain from the art industry, and a woman I'm proud to call my sister-in-law.
Struck by how much waste she was creating in her everyday life, Tina sought to raise awareness about plastic pollution and created CO/FO to draw attention to our daily habits that collectively form part of the global environmental problem. Less than 10% of plastic worldwide is recycled, the rest goes to landfill, is burned or will eventually make its way to the ocean. The catastrophic effect this is having on our eco-system is captured in this powerful and beautifully shot video.
Although I had finally got into the habit of bringing my own bag out shopping, up until now I'd found it hard to avoid using those little bags for fruit. Responding to this problem Tina set about creating attractive and affordable 100% organic cotton bag as an alternative, and there is a range on her website available to buy.            
No one likes being preached at and Gandhi really got it right with his catchy line: 'Be the change you want to see in the world'. If it wasn't for seeing the founder of Common Folk in action, living the change she wants to see in the world, then I wouldn't be writing this blog and five times out of ten I'd still be forgetting my bag for life. I don't feel overwhelmed by the problem, I feel grateful I've been woken up to it so I can help.
Plastic Tina found at a beach in Palma de Mallorca
Connect with Common Folk:

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Article in The Writing Platform: "My Wattpad Experience"

Extract from my article in The Writing Platform 'My Wattpad Experience'
"I was stuck in a rut. My blogging was sluggish and I’d been working on a novel for two years with no end in sight. I was moaning to my brother over Skype about the slow path my career was taking, when he said: “So write a novel on Wattpad.” He told me his girlfriend was reading a book on the online platform which had racked up millions of hits and the author had just secured a three book deal with a big publisher. According to him, Wattpad was the way forward." Read More.

Read my novel Spray Painted Bananas on Wattpad.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

All I want for Christmas is an Rr

My nephew received a letter from Santa yesterday, reassuring him of his existence. He also received a certificate to prove he had made the NICE List.
"I am aware that you are now seven and other children might be telling you I'm not real..." Santa wrote. "But to keep the Christmas magic alive and help me get all the Christmas presents to everyone, YOU MUST BELIEVE... Christmas magic is like the wind, you can't see it, but it's real." At that moment, my nephew reported that a huge gust of wind had banged against the window, making the whole family jump. So there you are, proof that Santa exists.
My husband's nerd magazine (Focus) is a little more cynical. It says that to deliver presents to 200 million children in 800 million homes spread over 3x10¹³m² of land, Father Christmas would have to go at such a speed that the air resistance would vaporise him and all the presents with him.
Back to the magic! I say. Since magic is the only way I'm going to get what I want for Christmas. You'll never guess what it is, so I'll tell you. I want to be able to roll my Rs. Do you know how humiliating it is to be half Spanish and half Welsh, and be unable to roll one's Rs? I doubt it.
I want to be able to shout out: Rrrround the Rrrrugged Rrrrock a Rrragged Rrrascal Rrran! and Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rapido ruedan los carros, por los rieles del ferrocarril!
All my life I've avoided talking about perros. DOGS. And burros. DONKEYS. It was hard because sometimes I really wanted to talk about these creatures. If I wanted yummy churros... well, I just pointed. It's not that people can't understand me, they can, but when I was little the other kids laughed at me. And they laughed into my teens too. "Say dog, Emily! Say dog, Emily!" I remember bursting into tears because I was SO frustrated. I tried, but I just couldn't roll them. Years later I watched a YouTube video with exercises for my tongue. But after my mother in law happened to talk to a therapist one day, who said that at my age it was unlikely I'd ever learn, I gave up.  
To be honest, I thought I'd stop caring, until a grown up laughed at me the other day. Then it brought it all up. I felt stupid. I also felt sure I sounded stupid to everyone too. Why else would they find it so funny? Was I destined to sound stupid all my life?
So that's what I want for Christmas please, Father Christmas. I'd like to roll my Rs so when your sleigh lifts off I can shout ARRRRRRRIBA! And if the magic bit isn't real and the nerd magazine is right, please can you slow down a bit so you don't get vaporised. Thank you!
Other posts you might enjoy:

Friday, 22 November 2013

Blogging for Beginners eBook Launch

Blogging for Beginners is now available to download from and

About the Book

Whether you're an individual or a business, a blog is an extremely effective tool for developing your online presence and reaching a global audience.
It's a dynamic platform which you can use to share your creativity, advice, services and skills. You don't need to be technically-minded to have a blog. All you need is an internet connection and a couple of spare hours in your week. Anyone can blog. That said, you don’t want to settle for just any old blog that you'll get bored of!
Blogging for Beginners poses the questions you should ask before you begin and all the information you need to get started. The book is packed with tips on how to set up your blog, develop its identity, choose content, gain a readership and increase blog traffic. 

Extract from my article in The New Writer and my new e-book Blogging for Beginners:

"When I was 11 years old, I wrote in my diary, 'I've started a new novel today which I'm going to get published.' I believed that to get a book published all I had to do was write one. It was a shock to discover this was not the case.
I later learnt that the book had to be brilliant. Not only that but it had to land on an agent’s desk at the exact moment they were savouring a fresh cup of coffee, the sun was shining and they were feeling a profound love towards all humanity. Rejection was inevitable. If you were very lucky, you would receive a personal letter, and only then to tell you that your book was rubbish but your font had potential.
Patience is not my greatest virtue. By 24 I was fed up of waiting for someone to pluck my work out of the slush pile and bless it with their approval. All I wanted was to write and be read. So I began a blog about the only thing I really knew anything about; working in my Mum's eccentric chandelier shop. At first, my readership consisted of a few friends and relatives, but gradually my following grew. I took my weekly deadline very seriously and edited as ruthlessly as if it were to be printed in a national newspaper.
Six months after I began, Salt Publishing got in touch with me through Facebook and told me they loved the blog. More importantly, they commissioned the book Shop Girl Diaries. Since then I've contributed articles on social media to magazines and guidebooks and I run blog workshops in the UK.
My experience has been positive, however a successful blog doesn't happen overnight. Blogging takes time, perseverance and often won't pay a penny directly or for some time, yet, if you stick with it, it can reap wonderful rewards. Having a regular blog increases your chances of your work becoming visible while making you accessible to those who might be interested in it. You also become part of a huge interactive community which can stimulate and support you in whatever your blog mission is. Blogging for Beginners is not just aimed at writers. This is for anyone wanting to be pro-active and embrace the blogosphere."
My next Blogging and Social Networking Workshop will take place on Saturday 25th January in London, SE1.

For more details and bookings, visit my Blog Workshops Page. Places are limited!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Writing Platform - Authors, Alternatives, Books and Blog Tips #TWP13

On Monday I attended The Writing Platform mini fair and conference for writers. I think all writers should go to something like this once a year for an injection of energy and optimism and to be reminded of all the alternative ways of getting their projects off the ground. Alright, so Patrick Hussey did mention that crowd funding was a bit tricky... virtually impossible... don't embark on it lightly... but still, it's good to know it's an option! Just don't expect millions of pledges if you've only got 21 twitter followers. 22 should do it.
'My Writing Life' was the topic of the first panel and I was pleased to hear that discipline plays a key role in the authors' success. Better discipline than luck, right? I learnt that Philip Hensher writes between 6am - 10.30am to avoid interruptions, Nikesh Shukla scribes for two hours before his day job and Polly Courtney imposes a technical blackout in the afternoons to get her words down.

Can we learn to be disciplined? I think so, if we want it enough. It's just hard to know where to start sometimes. Personally I'm a big fan of lists and breaking everything down into manageable steps. Last week I made a timetable with a daily word count target and I wrote more than I'd done in ages without any extra stress. You could even use spreadsheets à la Polly Courtney. 
It makes so much sense to me that Polly uses spreadsheets. She's so productive and her drive is inspiring. She's mostly known for dumping Harper Collins over their 'girly covers' after working through a three book deal with them. What I didn't know until I met her at The Writing Platform is that her first novel Golden Handcuffs was self-published, and it was the success of this book that attracted Harper Collins in the first place. Polly's story is proof that it pays to be pro-active. These day publishers are much more likely to take a risk on a writer if they've already built a readership and gained credibility. For some writers, becoming their own publisher is a step worth taking.
The 'Get Noticed' panel was the last of the day. I was on it because the success I've had as a writer is the result of having a well-developed online presence. Shop Girl Diaries began as a blog, my online novel Spray Painted Bananas has racked up over a million hits on Wattpad and led to me signing with Laura Longrigg at MBA literary agency. I'm a big believer in putting your work out there and increasing your chances of getting lucky.
Nicola Barr, Anna Lewis, Emily Benet, Minna Salami and Donna Hancox
Our panel only lasted forty minutes but I could have gone on for hours, and I do in my Blogging and Social Networking Workshops! In fact, now that I'm not worried about hogging the microphone I thought I'd leave you with a few tips.
You might also want to read To Blog or Not To Blog, That is the question.

1. Decide on a clear concept for your blog -  just because you're a writer doesn't mean you have to write about writing!
2. Consider how your blog might add value to your readers - is it entertaining? informative? insightful?
3.  Be consistent - both in your theme and your voice!
4. Post regularly - once a week is great, once every two weeks might be more manageable.
5. Keep an eye on blogs you like - what do you like about them? what are they doing so well?
6. Visual appeal - use multi media, add relevant photographs, illustrations, videos  
7. Integrate your online presence -  make sure your blog link is on all your social networks and your social networks can be reached through your blog.
8. Spread the word - add your blog link to your email signature, mention new posts in your facebook status, tweet your posts using bite sized headlines and don't forgot word of mouth.

9. Don't spam - tell people about your blog but don't use social media solely for self-promotion. It won't work and you'll get on everyone's nerves. Engage, engage, engage!
My Blogging for Beginners e-book is coming out soon, sign up to my newsletter for updates and news of upcoming workshops.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Hits and Misses of Short Story Readings

Short story readings can be really hit and miss, can't they? Even if the stories are great there's always a mumbler who'll swallow one whole. Often the worst reader will have the longest piece, which could be a masterpiece, though no one will know because they can't hear it. A shopping list read by an engaging reader is more enjoyable than a well-written story delivered in a quiet monotone by someone with their eyes glued to the page.
Liars' League has avoided this problem by carefully selecting their stories and then getting actors to read them out. The result is a consistently entertaining short story evening which I would be happy to recommend to my friends, and I don't do that lightly because in the past I've had to buy a round of drinks as an apology for what they've been put through.
One such terrible short story reading was held in a pub in Charring Cross. It was years ago and I'd been invited to read an excerpt from my book so I was feeling upbeat. When I arrived I discovered the pub hadn't been reserved for the event. We just had a corner of it.  
As it was a Friday in London, obviously there were people coming in, loosening their ties, unbuttoning their top buttons, stretching their toes under the table, heels momentarily vacated; everyone generally looking forward to unwinding with a drink. People were in good spirits and soon the laughter from one group started to overshadow the reading. This time mumbling wasn't the problem. The reader, and organiser, incensed by their racket, which in my mind was perfectly justifiable, started to read her piece louder. And louder. AND LOUDER, until she was shouting. The group continued chatting and laughing oblivious of the great literary event taking place in their midst.
The reader was not happy. She circled the groups' table reading at the top of her voice. They were baffled. She was determined to punish them with her story. They just wanted a drink. By that point, three stories in, a drink is all I wanted to. Problem was I was blocked in by chairs with no access to the bar,  or the exit, which soon became more desirable than the bar. It went on for hours. Pure torture.
My faith in short story events was lost for a while after that. Fortunately evenings at Storytails and Liars League helped restore it. I never stopped writing short stories though and this Saturday 2nd November I'm taking part in the E17 Short Story Walk for Waltham Forest's festival Words of Waltham Forest. It involves six writers reading  a short story each in six different venues. The idea is listeners walk together to each venue, stop to listen to a story, and then continue on to the next venue. The best bit is there's unlikely to be any mumbling because we've just received this wonderful message from the organiser, Ken Barlow:
"I know this is probably telling you how to suck eggs, but please do try and practice reading your stories as much as possible, and when reading them try and do it as slowly as possible, with appropriate pauses.  Also, try and look up and engage the audience with eye contact, rather than just looking down at your piece of paper.  Sounds obvious, but I've seen a lot of awful readings with people mumbling, reading too fast and looking down, including from professional writers."
Perhaps he was at that Charring Cross pub all those years ago. The point is you can now expect great stories read loud enough for everyone to hear. Except mine. I'm going to be reading my story Fishy Business in Walthamstow Central Library so I'll probably whisper. Or mouth it. Maybe sign language. Don't let that put you off though... Come along!
Love Short Stories?
My short story collection SHORT STORIES FOR BUSY ADULTS  is available for the kindle (Cost £1.53 / $2.33) and includes 10 short stories  which have been either shortlisted, highly commended or performed at a literary event. It offers a variety of genres, mixing comedy and drama. There are characters in love, in denial, insane, in character and one who just can’t make his mind up.


Monday, 28 October 2013

#5 PatheticPitches - Highly Confidential

This spoof cover letter was submitted by writer, Ben Blackman, who blogs at Red Trouser Days and tweets as @Ben_Blackman

If you'd like to write a pathetic pitch or rubbish cover letter for my blog, please send it over to If it's funny I'll be sure to post it! (Word Limit: 500 words)

Read last week's pathetic pitch: BREAKING BAD EGGS.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

NaNoWriMo - How do they do it?

Next month thousands of people will be taking on the mad challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month for National Novel Writing Month. With 10 days left to begin, participants have started voicing their hopes and fears across the social networks while organisers and veterans are posting advice and tips on how to cope.
I'm guessing the top tips must include: 1. Quit your day job 2. Separate from your partner 3. Give up children / pets / friends for adoption. As much as I love writing with the proverbial gun to my head, even I can't get my head around how people manage to get that many words down in so little time. It's not just the word count either. It's the fact they must know enough about their plot to keep bashing it out. So how do they do it?
Laura Chapman is a writer, blogger and co host of the virtual discussion #ChicLitChat. This will be her 4th year doing NaNoWriMo. I got in touch to find out how she does it.
Are you a full-time writer? No. For the past year I have been a full-time communications coordinator at a museum in Lincoln, Neb. While some of that job involves writing, I also do social media, advertising, marketing, public programming, etc. During my first two years participating in NaNoWriMo, I wrote corporate publications, such as newsletters, website articles and employee manuals, for various industries. That job was also full-time and required me to travel about 20 weeks a year. I would guess that about half of my debut novel, which will be out this winter, was written in airplanes, airports and cheap motels.
How many words do you usually write in a month? It definitely varies. I typically post between 20 and 30 blog entries a month, which requires quite a bit of writing. I tend to do my novel writing in big binges. The word count on my books can vary from as few as 5,000 words a month to 50,000.
How have you managed to hit 50K every year? By making NaNoWriMo a priority and by sticking it out until the end. In my three years of passing the finish line, I have only once known I would hit 50,000 words by the end of the month. In year one and year three I submitted my word count in the evening of Nov. 30. The second year, I reached 50,000 words a few days early. Something I did the first two years, which I plan to do this year, is scheduling a few days off from work.
How much of your plot do you sort out before you begin NaNoWriMo? The first year I wrote a rough two-page outline on Nov. 1. The next two years (and this year) I put together my ultimate plotting kit. You can read about it more in this blog post, but basically I create character sketches, identify the 10 key scenes in my book and do a chapter outline of the book. I’m a planner and sorting out that crucial information in advance enables me to focus on telling the story when I sit down to write. That’s not to say I don’t sometimes deviate from that plan, but I like having one to start.
What's your daily writing routine for November? Again, it definitely varies. I’m usually at my best at generating word count during my first and last week of the month. During week one, I’m so excited to tell my story I wake up an hour earlier than usual and write before work. Sometimes that means going to work with dirty hair, but that’s a sacrifice worth making.
If I have an idea during work, I’ll jot it down on a Post-it and save it for later. I try to find about 30-45 minutes during lunch to do more writing. When I get home after work, I make sure to take some me time. I’ll make dinner, maybe do something fun for a bit and then sit down to write again for a couple of hours before bed. I do try to avoid reading any full novels or watching TV except at designated times, because I find it distracts me from writing. On weekends, I try to write in two or three two-hour blocks each day. I’m a big fan of American football, and November is a prime time in the sport. If I know there is a game I want to watch each day, I plan my writing around the game.
The first and last week of the month, I also find myself writing for long periods of time on Friday nights. Something that helps me do this is to find a writing buddy also working on NaNoWriMo. We’ll get together, put in our headphones and tell each other we won’t speak again until we hit a certain word count. I have a healthy competitive streak. Admittedly, after about eight days, I’ll find myself skipping out on a day of writing, but I still try to write for at least a few minutes – even if it only yields 250 words – because it keeps the story on my mind.
What do you do when you get stuck? During any other month, if I find myself getting stuck I stop to consider why I am stuck. Is it something wrong with the story? Do I need to change what’s happening to make it work better? During NaNoWriMo, I’ll skip to another scene.
Something else that helps me when I’m stuck? I step away from the computer and try writing out the scene with a notepad and pen or pencil. For whatever reason, I find it much easier to fill out a piece of paper than I do a blank screen. Once I get going (and I try to only write a couple of pages by hand), I’ll transfer it to the computer. By then, I’m so engrossed in the scene I keep going. I also like to pick a song that sets the tone for a scene. I’ll put it on repeat and it helps me get lost in the story.
Do you have special writing / brain food? Kind of like a person training for a marathon, I try to eat a protein-rich diet, because it helps me with my energy. To help me save time, I’ll try making a full dish, like lasagna or enchiladas, which I can re-heat and eat throughout the week. Here’s a recipe for the enchiladas I make at least once every November. I also try to drink more water, because I feel better when I’m hydrated. Admittedly, I also tend to bribe myself with candy and energy drinks along the way, but I figure the extra water balances out those sweets and caffeine.
What sacrifices do you make to reach the word count? Sleep is a big one. Not all of the time, but when I’m seriously invested in a story, I tend to stay up late writing and I’m willing to wake up early, too. I also cut back on drinking during November. I’m not a lush by any means, but I’ve found it’s hard to get much writing done if I’m spending every weekend night in a bar, not to mention recovery time the day after. The biggest sacrifice is time. While I still manage to spend time with friends and family, they know my main focus will be on my book, so we hang out in smaller doses. And they know there’s a good chance I’ll talk through any issues I might be having.
What will you be working on this time? I’m working on a stand-alone women’s fiction novel. I don’t want to say too much about the story yet, but it will be a romantic comedy that involves American football. I’m actually running a contest right now to come up with the names of the fictional athletes who will be mentioned in this book. Feel free to submit your own ideas.
What do you love about NaNoWriMo? NaNoWriMo fuels my competitive spirit. I see people around the world focused on writing 50K words in one month, and it pushes me to think I can do it, too. Both my completed novels are more than 50,000 words, but having that much done on them in advance motivated me to keep writing until I reached the end. Also, by doing so much writing in one month, it allows me to focus on other projects throughout the year while still writing a book a year.
What's your advice to people wondering if they should do it? Give it a try. I’m a big advocate for NaNoWriMo, and I think it’s always worth attempting even if you don’t reach the 50,000-word goal. Look at it this way: even if you write 10,000 words in November, it’s still 10,000 words. Every writer has to start somewhere. Also, keep your eye on the prize, but don’t drive yourself crazy in the pursuit. Make sure to celebrate milestones, like having a piece of cheesecake because you reached 5,000 words, or getting a manicure, because you’re at 40,000. NaNoWriMo is a lot of work, but you can also make it a lot of fun. If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll be sharing more of my advice in the days leading up to Nov. 1.
Laura Chapman found a way to mix her love of romance and humor as a women’s fiction author and blogger. A 2008 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Laura studied journalism, English and history. She travelled across the United States as a writer/photographer before settling into a career in communications. She also maintains Change the Word, a blog devoted to promoting women’s fiction and documenting her experiences as a writer.
Born and raised in Nebraska – in a city, not on a farm – she is a devoted fan of football, British period drama, writing in bars and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Her debut novel, Hard Hats and Doormats, will be published with Marching Ink this winter. Her romantic holiday short “Twelve Drummers Drumming,” will appear in the Simon and Fig anthology Merry & Bright, which will be available Nov. 15.

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