Sunday, 9 November 2014

Coming To An End To Find A New Beginning

I didn't know how I was going to start this post. To be honest, it was something that I was toying with all day, trying to find the words to explain what I'm thinking.


The thing is, I'm going to be stopping this blog.


I'm not quitting blogging altogether, lord only knows that my rambling needs an outlet, it's just that after taking the commitment to sit down and write this blog I've realised something.


I'm not entirely happy with the content that I've been putting out.


It's not been my best work (I know it's not been my best work) and one thing that is vital to my writing is that I give it everything that I've got and that I push the boundaries- something which I haven't been doing with this blog.


So, I'm going to take some time away to think about what I really want to talk about. I want to create a blog that I can be proud of, rather than something that feels more of a chore than a pleasure.


Sometimes, we need to start again to get to where we want to be. It can be scary and feel as though you're diving into the unknown but to me that's what writing is all about: testing the waters, trying new things and seeing how far you can go.


This isn't goodbye but rather a bye for now. I will be back and I'm sure my blog and my writing will be better than ever.


Speak soon,


Mary Lou xx

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Should You Do NaNoWriMo: Yes or No?

So, unbelievably, it's that time of year again where many writers across the UK and beyond begin the annual challenge of NaNoWriMo.

Image from NaNoWriMo official site


For any of you that don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Writers who choose to take part have exactly one month to complete a brand new 50,000 word novel or else lose the challenge.


The one thing that's guaranteed? There will be blood, sweat and tears but if you do it you're in for a sense of great accomplishment.


Personally, I've decided not to do NaNoWriMo due to being in the middle of a novel already (where I have set my own deadline of having the first draft completed by 31st March) as well as a hectic personal and professional life. There is often a lot of debate over the usefulness of NaNoWriMo with both sides arguing the benefits and repercussions of the challenge and so I thought that I would list them here so that anyone who was considering doing the challenge, or who was considering doing the challenge next year, might get to see both sides of the argument and make their own judgement.


Firstly, I like to think of myself as an optimist, so here are the reasons for doing NaNoWriMo:


1) It gives you the kick up the bum to actually write a novel.

This is one of the key arguments to take part in the challenge. When you know that you have 30 days to get 50,000 words down, you'd better believe that you're going to get writing- how else are you going to meet that target? I don't know about you but I can't type in my sleep! Even according to their website it's all about 'valuing enthusiasm, determination and a deadline.'


2) It shows you what you're capable of.

Let me guess, when you first heard the idea of writing a novel in 30 days part of you went, "Pfft, yeah right!" The thing is a lot of people have. A lot of people have taken up the challenge and succeeded, showing that they could push the boundaries and that they didn't have as many limitations as they originally thought.


3) It's something that you can say you actually did.

Some people climb mountains, others trek across the Sahara Desert, you? You completed NaNoWriMo. It's something that you can look back on and say, "I did that."


4) It introduces you to a community of writers.

Whilst doing the challenge you can speak to other writers via the forums on the site to ask for advice or to give each other encouragement. What's more, the challenge is widely discussed in the writing community and you can often find posts or groups discussing the challenge on social media platforms such as Google + or Facebook.


5) The challenge forces you to establish a routine and focus your thoughts.

You don't have time to be messing about! Having such a strict deadline means that you need to learn self-discipline and quickly if you hope to win. This means knowing what you're going to be writing each day and working out when you can take the time to fit in roughly 1,666 words a day! Tricky stuff!


Now for some of the reasons why you shouldn't:


1) Personal schedule

Let's face it, November is a busy time. It's on the run up to Christmas (Thanksgiving for some), work naturally gets busier and a lot of the time is spent trying to juggle a lot of balls in the air. Do you really have the time to throw NaNoWriMo on top? Between trying to get the shopping in, trying to do X Y and Z and keeping up to date with what's going on with the family, can you fit in 1,666 words?


2) You are working on other projects.

If, like myself, you're in the middle of a novel or are working hard on a competition submission, you may not have the time or desire to drop it all to try and write a novel in a month. You may have your own tight deadline to work with which means that you can't be distracted from what you're trying to do.


3) You may not be willing to go through the rollercoaster of emotions.

While some may say that pushing yourself to the limit is all part of the fun, you may be unwilling to go through the stress of trying to complete the challenge in 30 days. Do you work well under pressure? If not, you may want to reconsider doing this challenge. If the thought of trying to meet the target brings you out in a cold sweat, it may not be for you. It's also important to consider how you'll feel if you don't complete it. Will it have a damning affect on your confidence if you don't win? Will it benefit you in the long run and inspire you to try harder next time or make you want to cry in a corner somewhere? Think about it.


4) How will you feel looking at your (let's face it) rushed first draft?

Let's be honest here. The first draft of anything is always awful. We read it whilst peeking through our fingers, grimacing at some of the embarrassing choice of words or cringing as a cup magically moves from a character's hands to the sink. It's never a pretty sight. Keeping this in mind, how are you going to feel when reading over your 50,000 words only to see all of the inevitable mistakes and clumsy spelling mistakes that are going to be in there? Will you lose that victory glow when the reality hits of what your month of hard work has churned out? Will the product of your hard work and dedication be receiving a one way ticket to the bin? Was your idea that good after all or did you just waste a month typing an idea that has a plot hole the size? Hm...


5) You're happier writing a novel at your own pace.

We're all different, what's more is that we all write differently. While the actual process of typing or writing a sequence of words down is the same, the way we get to that process can vary from person to person. Some people spend months planning every detail before writing the first word while others let the words run out of them and see where the story goes as they write it. The point is, no two people have the same way of writing a novel so to ask people to all write a novel in 30 days is a tall order. While some people may be perfectly comfortable with the challenge, others may want to take the time to chew things over during the time spent actively writing. I have often found myself having to mull a chapter over for a few days before finishing it or having to write the outcome in various ways before settling on what will happen to that particular character in that particular scene. We're all wired differently and so therefore there is no sure fire way to get every single writer to go ahead and write a novel at the same time, it simply won't work for everyone.


Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo or have you decided not to? Why? Let me know!