writers block

Writing atrophy

I haven’t written a word of fiction for more than three months.

Real life has been very busy, with work going into overdrive at my office and having to move.

Of course I’m sure it didn’t help that I launched an exciting and time-consuming new website only a few weeks ago, as soon as work resumed its normal level of business.

Needless to say, I’ve already fallen off the Get Your Words Out wagon. I tell myself that it’s because I don’t use LJ much at all anymore that I’ve missed reporting my wordcount so many months in a row, but in truth I’m sure that if I’d had anything positive to report, I would have been all over my journal posting about it.

I remember how excited I was last month to start writing again, and how much I relished the opportunity to dedicate a full afternoon to The Paradise Swarm. The afternoon came and I sat in front of my open Scrivener document for a good 30 minutes, typing and deleting sentence fragments over and over again. I eventually had to pick up a book of prompts and exercises and work on that for an hour or so to warm up my writing muscles, before I was able to produce a miserly and pretty useless few hundred words. Cue disappointment, lack of self-belief, and all that jazz.

I know this is all very ‘woe is me’ but I only mean to underline how much more daunting the prospect of writing regularly becomes when one doesn’t do it, or has never successfully done it. I love my story, and I want to make progress on it. However slowly I was writing last year, I want to regain at least that.

So, I’m going to keep trying, and keep looking for strategies to motivate myself, and keep the writing ball rolling once I’ve actually started again. Does anyone have tips or strategies to keep the mojo going when life or work gets in the way?


Introducing Many A True Nerd

As if life weren’t busy or exciting enough lately, I’ve just started work on a new awesome (and time-consuming!) project.

I’d been wanting to write about a whole host of geeky things for a while, but couldn’t find a home for my writing. There are many awesome geeky news sites out there, but the ones I liked & thought I had a shot writing for didn’t really focus on the subjects I wanted to cover.

Some would have TV and games, but not crafts and baking; some would have geeky things for the home but not boardgames; some would have books but nothing else, etc.

Add to that the fact that I know so many talented and nerdy writers, and an idea started to form. I’m obsessed with creating and maintaining websites, and I’m also a proud grammar pedant. In fact I’ve been editing @AlastairJRBall online serial The First 500 for some months now and I love doing that. I thought, if there isn’t a platform exactly like I want, I should just create it.

I could start a new site, dedicated to the type of geek news me and my friends are interested in. That could mean basically anything. Really silly or really in-depth things, from gifs to interviews, from reviews to let’s plays, from opinion pieces to recipes, in any and all fandom. I’ve heard too much crap about who is a ‘real nerd’ or a ‘fake geek’. I don’t think these distinctions are helpful or based in much truth. The geek world I know is varied and fascinating and that’s what I wanted to explore with this new site.

When I started telling my friends about this idea, they rose to the occasion even better than I had hoped. Jon wanted to try out new online marketing strategies and make Let’s Plays; @AlastairJRBall wanted to write about cinema, @NickMB about comics; @LorelaiSquared had just done awesome interviews of the Welcome To Sanditon cast and crew; @Jenepel wanted to help with a potential podcast.

I’m so, so excited to add another little brick to the big, bad interwebs, in the shape of our new online magazine, Many A True Nerd. Please check out the website, twitter feed and the YouTube channel and do all the like-comment-subscribe-follow thinggies if you do like it.

We are also looking for new writers, so if you are interested in writing for Many A True Nerd, email us at manyatruenerd [at] gmail [dot] com.


Writing Goals for 2013

As a great lover of lists, particularly To-Do ones, I love the New Year.

It’s time to look back over the past year (pretty good, all things considered), and set myself some goals for the coming 12 months.

I’ve started a list of Things To Do in 2013 over at DayZeroProject.com, including some writing goals.

Finish the first draft of The Paradise Swarm
This is my main objective for the year. As I currently only have 8,000 words done out of a planned 90,000, it’s going to be tricky and take some serious work, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. I’m hoping to write 2,000 words a week in order to finish the draft by October and be ready to start something new for NaNoWriMo.

Write 10 pieces of flash fiction
As much as I want to plough on with The Paradise Swarm, I’ve been wanting to write more short form. Ten stories of less than a thousand words (that’s one a month until NaNoWriMo) should be easy enough to manage in terms of word count, but still a good exercise.

Complete NaNoWriMo
This will be my sixth year entering, and hopefully my fifth win. I’m slowly but steadily getting better at balancing being a Municipal Liaison for a busy city and writing a first draft in a month, so I’m sure 2013 will be a great Nano.

Maintain blog and post regularly
I don’t write very fast and tend to second guess a lot of what I put down on the page as I write it. Blogging has been a great way for me to practice writing in a more fluid manner, so I definitely want to do more of that.

Also on my long list: Read 52 books (I’ve attempted it for the past couple of years and only barely managed it in 2011) and Attend writing group regularly (I’ve already started doing that, but I’m seeing the benefits so clearly I want to make sure I keep going).


Nano Status Report

We are nearing the end of Nano and I am behind – so, so very behind.

I am about 10K behind on my word count, I am writing this blog post about a week late and I don’t even want to start on the state of my living room. Chores are for December.

So far, so unsurprising – this just happens to be how I do Nano.

Every year, I try to keep on top of my word count and every year, I end up with stats going up in a very gentle slope for the first three weeks, and shooting up madly in the last ten days or so.

Last year was the first time that I lost in four years, so my main goal for this year is to win and I think I’m definitely on track despite being behind. I’ve got some time off work and I’m at a really exciting part of the story, so it shouldn’t be too hard to catch up.

So despite the Nano stats telling me I need another 3,176 words a day to finish on time, I’m quite happy with how this year is going so far. There are several things I’m especially happy with:

There have only been two days this year when I didn’t write anything (the weekday Mid-Month and Thanksgiving). In previous years, I’ve have had a lot more days off than that and writing every day has always been one of my goals for Nanowrimo.

I’ve stuck to my story even when I thought it really wouldn’t work out. In previous Nanos, I have: gone back and forth between English and French, switched story mid-way through, killed off the MC to make up the last few thousand words, written about five different beginnings, etc… This year is actually the first time I’ll end up with a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end – I may not get to the end of the story in November, but I’ll be a damn sight closer to an actual first draft than I’ve ever been before.

I’ve also really enjoyed writing these blog posts, even though I’ve find it really challenging at times to fit writing them around writing my novel. The blog posts may not be much, but they’re a few more hundred words to get out that don’t count for my word count, and I don’t normally write any more than 50K in November (I’ve validated between 50,000 and 50,500 on November 30st all three of my winning years).

I’m so, so happy with how NanoRilla went! Some of the locations we stopped at this year (the Millenium Bridge, the Globe) were actually spots we had been hoping to use in the past few years and didn’t manage to. I also managed to write more than 2,000 words during the whole afternoon, which I was so impressed with – I write really slowly and NanoRilla usually means sacrificing words for the fun of traipsing around London with other awesome Wrimos and getting weird looks from tourists. No so this year! People were awesome, tourists were weirded out and I wrote lots.

Finally, if you were at the Lock-In on Saturday night, how crazy was it? I am so impressed with how many people we managed to fit inside of the Big Green Bookshop. Once I recovered from the state of panic induced by my first two coffees and the steady arrival of more and more Wrimos, I had the best time and wrote about 5,500 words. And according to the word tally we kept throughout the night, I was towards the low end of word counts for the evening. Collectively we wrote approximately 366,000 words. That’s almost two of Karl’s novel, people!!

So there are things that I will need to improve on next year, but I definitely feel like this year is an improvement not only on last year when I lost, but also on all of my other Nanos. And now I have to go and write another 2,000 words before the end of today.

Catching-up Claire,
34,121 words.
Originally posted at www.nanolondon.org.


Coping With NaNo: Writing Sprints

At the beginning of November, when I’m enthusiastic and inspired, I write in long bouts of 45 minutes or an hour.

A few days before the end, when I’m way behind & madly scrambling to the finish line, I won’t let myself stop for hours on end.

In the dreaded Weeks Two & Three, however, a powerful combo of procrastination-inducing thoughts takes over:

  • The usual snippy remarks from my inner editor ‘You’re using THAT word? Really?’
  • The story isn’t exciting enough yet to carry over the slump ‘They’ve not warped yet? Really?’
  • I can still tell myself that there is a lot of time left and I’ll be just fine ‘I’m ONLY 10K behind…’

It tends to leave me much less eager to write and when I try to put my head down and write for a full hour, I just end up checking Twitter on my phone half the time. So instead of a long slog, I go for short sprints.

Writing sprints are my November lifeline and are the only reason I won three Nanos. If I focus, ignore the distractions and type like the wind, I can get 300 words down in ten minutes. I know some people will think that’s not a lot and some people will think they couldn’t top that, and that’s okay. We all have different paces, what I love about knowing mine is that I can organise my writing sessions around it.

If I can do 300 words in 10 minutes, I only need six ten minutes sprints to be over the daily word count goal. I could just write for an hour instead but I know for having tested the theory time and time again that it would be less productive for me.

For the people of the internet age who have ridiculously short attention spans, sprints are just perfect – it’s so much easier to set aside distractions (read ‘cat gifs’) for 10 minutes than it is to resist them for a full hour.

Approaching a mountain of words ten minutes at a time can also be a lot less daunting, especially when you’re quite a bit behind like I am.

Just set an alarm for 10, 15 or 20 minutes and write without pausing for anything. Switch off the wifi if you have to, or try writing full-screen (programs like Q10 or Write or Die let you do just that) and type until the clock ticks. You can alternate your short, concentrated bursts of pure noveling genius with getting a coffee, doing some plotting or interacting with the people you’ve been neglecting this November.

If you’re on Twitter, follow @NanoWordSprints, where MLs from around the world run regular sprints day and night, complete with mini pep-talks and optional writing prompts.

You can also hang out with fellow writers in the Nano London Chatroom: After you’ve registered here, you can log in to the chatroom here. Writing sprints, plot discussions and possible procrastination await.

10681 words

Originally posted at www.nanolondon.org.