Category Archives: Writing

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- How To Write a Novel in a Month

It’s November! And for us writers that means it’s time to draft an entire novel at breakneck speed. Is the end result always great? Hell nah, it’s about as draft as a draft can be. But is it fun, productive, and an epic way to tell yourself the story that’s brewing in your mind? You can bet your arse it is! If you have any doubts about signing up for NaNoWriMo, let’s squash them today, with my NaNoWriMo survival guide. Here a few tips and tricks for how to write a novel in a month.

Just Tell The Story

Encouraging NaNoWriMo survival guide badge, to help readers learn how to write a novel in a monthNaNoWriMo is all about challenging yourself to get your story down on paper (or screen) as fast as possible. Unburden those epic characters from your mind, and bring them to life through words. It’s about breaking the barrier of the dreaded novel, getting the hardest part (finishing) out of the way, so it has no power left over you. 50000 words sounds intimidating, but its not a hell of a lot when you think about it. You’ve got a main character, a couple of side characters, an antagonist, a plot to unfold, multiple character arcs, all drawing to a final showdown. You’ve got this. You’ll hit 50k in no time.

The First Draft is For you

In Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ he talks about how you write the first draft with the door closed. It’s for you, and only you. The first draft is like a foundation, upon which you build your novel. You’re effectively telling yourself the story, with the intention to polish it up, catch plot holes, weave in a theme or moral, and all that other pretty stuff, throughout your second draft. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Start writing your story, and let the characters pull you through to the end. The hardest part of this novel writing mumbo-jumbo is telling the damn story, so rush it down! There’s time for making it cohesive, polished, and epic after.

Let’s Do The Math

NaNoWriMo Survival Guide- Keep Calm and Write OnIt’s time to pull out the calculator folks, let’s dissect this baby and crunch some numbers. There are thirty days in November, that means, if we want to set ourselves a daily word count to achieve the goal, all we have to do is divide 50k by 30.

Run it through your calculator and you get 1,666.666 words per day. (Here we can see how the devil created this challenge and put his unique stamp on it.) So if you intend on writing every day of November, shoot for 1700 words per day. Simple.

But let’s be real here, are you really going to write every day? It’s unlikely. Whether you have work commitments, kids, blogs and social media to keep up with, or murders to go cover up, you’re gonna need some breathing room to deal with your personal shit. So let’s assume we can stick to a target of writing for twenty days out of the month.

50k divided by 20 is 2500

Now, 2500 words per day may seem a lot to some of you, but remember, that’s only twenty dedicated days to your NaNoWriMo challenge. While you’re pushing to write a novel in a month, it is only a draft. 2500 words of draft isn’t all that hard to get down once you get flowing, especially if you are following some kind of plot or structure. The trick is to write write write. Don’t keep checking your word count. Set an hour of dedicated, uninterrupted time, then check. If you’re done, then you’re done. If not, shoot for another hour, and go over if you can! You may save yourself another day of writing, or end up with an epic!

Remember Your ‘Why’

It’s easy to get caught up in the pressure and the challenge aspect of it all. Such demands can be stilling for writers and creatives. But try to remember your ‘why’ for taking up with NaNoWriMo. It’s not to win, It’s not to show off, and it’s not to write the most amazing novel that’s ever been written. It’s to tell yourself a full, complete story, and to break through that ‘novel completion’ boundary before it ever gets ahold of us. It’s a creative exercise to show us what is capable, with a little determination and consistency.

Exercises like this are great for an individual’s psyche. To have a positive end result at the end of a periodical commitment, reminds us that gratification and success takes time and effort. We are often disappointed and sunk into ‘lows’ due to our minds being wired to instant gratification in the modern world. Getting fifty thousand (or even twenty thousand) words down throughout a set period of time, where you are pouring in your heart and soul, rewires the part of the brain that expects everything in the now.

Look, we all have different reasons for doing things, but storytelling is an art in and of itself. It’s a beautiful element of human nature that we could scarcely live without. It’s been here from the beginning of time, and it’ll be here ‘til the end. Let’s not get lost in the intricacies of it all. Just tell the story, build the characters and setting, and enjoy the process. You’re a story teller by nature. Bravo! Now go do your ‘thang. Come back to this NaNoWriMo survival guide whenever you need a little nudge in the right direction.

Plotting Tools

Save The Cat Writes a Novel- Click to purchaseClick to purchase from amazon.com

I’m personally not a plotter. My work is pretty much exclusively character driven, and a plot tends to still me and crush my creative flow. That said, for a challenge like this, it helps to have at least a timeline of events you’d like to happen, so that you can easily work from one to the next without too much difficulty. You can always go off track and your characters can still surprise you, but the briefest of brief outlines offer a little guidance when you may be lost. Equally, if you don’t fancy writing at the point you’re at, you can jump ahead and write a scene that strikes your fancy. Win/win. It’s all words!

If you’d like a real structured plot to guide you, I personally recommend looking up the snowflake method. For everyone else, it’s worth checking out Save The Cat Writes a Novel. Even for us non-plotters, this book is novel-writing gold. It provides a guide filled with beats and moments for within your story, without tacking a rigid structure around everything. Do yourself a favour writers, and pick up your copy today. It really will help turn your novels from good, to great.

Amazon US | Amazon UK

(This is an affiliate link. I only provide links to products that I have personally used, bought, and love. I will never endorse a product I have no experience with purely for monetary gain.)

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

All this aside, there are a few things we’re gonna need throughout November to keep us sane and on track. Us writers are a picky bunch, and we need a variety of items in order to complete our work. Below I’ve compiled a list of handy items to have on or around your desk at all times, and cues on how to use them.

  • A pad of Paper- for doodling on and scratching out notes.
  • A variety of pens- for even more epic doodles.
  • Tea & Coffee- because caffeine.
  • Coloured pencils or markers- to colour our doodles and highlight stuff.
  • A cat or other stroke-worthy cutie- because we’re writers. We’re lonely.
  • Alcohol (if of drinking age)- this helps…
  • Slippers and a Dressing Gown- comfort is key.
  • A chair cushion- once again, comfort is key.
  • A cuddly blanket- to hide from the screen when we’re stuck.
  • A teddy bear- to cuddle when times get hard. And to talk to…
  • An alter to the creative Gods- complete with candles, incense, frog eyes and snake skin, and blood for ritual sacrifice.

That should just about cover everything. Of course, bring yourself, your laptop, and your charger, and be sure to disconnect all your devices from the internet. We don’t need any distractions!

Well, that just about brings us to the conclusion of our NaNoWriMo survival guide! Doesn’t sound that hard, right? Seriously, as long as you set yourself a daily goal, and commit yourself to completing the challenge, you will succeed. It starts and ends with you. You can implement the above advice to streamline your experience, but ultimately it comes down to your dedication to getting your novel down on paper. You know you can do it, I know you can do it, so go do it! And if anyone asks you how to write a novel in a month, send them this way!

Share this post with your friends and writing groups, to help them achieve success in this amazing challenge right alongside you! And if you’d like to stay up to date with my NaNo activities and connect with me personally, head over to my Facebook. I’ll be posting daily NaNo tips and inspiration.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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An Awesome World-Building Activity for Novelists and Writers! (#WIPWorldBuilders)

In a few weeks, I’ll officially start putting words to paper (or screen) in the creation of a new and exciting story. A character driven novel I’ve been concocting in my mind for almost two years, circulating the life of a reluctant demigod chosen by the frightening warrior Gods of the Norse pantheon. He’s an ordinary guy, that feels ostracised from the world around him. He is well and truly depressed, moody, cynical, and yet kind hearted, hopeful, and honest. He’s real, and multifaceted, as all characters should be.

I don’t want to give away too much too fast and spoil the excitement for myself and all who are coming along with me on this journey, but I stumbled upon an amazing community over on twitter, and their #WIPWorldBuilders tag has me all inspired. Being new to twitter, and thus new to this excellent exercise in world building, this post is going to go back through the month and answer each of the thought provoking questions so far.

To anyone building a novel, I’d recommend doing the same. The reader doesn’t need to know everything about the world your novel is set in, but you do, and this community offers lots of decent questions you may not ask yourself. If you’d like to make a compilation post like this one, please link to this post so I get a ping back! It’d be great to read all about other people’s worlds!

Right, let’s get on with this!

1: Introduce yourself and your WIP

Hi all, I’m Gary, a multi-genre author with a love for honest, character driven stories. Over the past few years I took a hiatus from my writing career—while I dealt with depression, separation, and family business expansion—and now am back writing flash fiction, short stories, and novels.

Official work on my first novel starts in November. It circulates around the life of twenty-something Danny, a young man who’s always been a little different. He has a gravity to him, a huge potential others cant miss. He’s a born leader, insightful: he says all the right things at all the right times to all the people that need to hear them. He has a gift to retain a lot of information, and turn his hand to multiple tasks without much teaching. Despite all this, he feels trapped, depressed, wasted.

On top of all this, he’s a demigod. Chosen, if you like, by the old gods of the Norse pantheon. They never leave him alone, haunting his life through frightening dreams and unnerving encounters. They try to steer him, but his hands are tied. He cant meet their expectations. He feels as if they simply torture him, over and over again, until he finally understands the message they’re sending. The novel is a dark story of internal struggle and transformation.

2: Do people believe in an afterlife?

Some people do, alongside various split beliefs in the metaphysical/supernatural. Feeling a natural pull to the old gods and ways of paganism, Danny has built up a small group of friends that are interested in tapping into those forces—though he is clearly quite different from the rest of them. I won’t tell you how… that would spoil a great scene.

3: Is there a holiday dedicated to honouring the dead?

Of course, Halloween! Though Danny and his friends celebrate this time as Samhain with other Pagans. Danny doesn’t put himself in the same category as pagans, new-age, neo-pagan, or any other modernised faith system based on ancient tradition. He’s not sure what his faith is. He calls it his Danny-ism. His theory of everything. His way of seeing things that he cant quite master putting into words, and even if he could, would likely cause confusion.

4: Do people bury the dead? If not, where are they stored?

People do bury the dead, and they also cremate them. The world I’m building here is mainly the world we live in, though the perspective we see it from offers a different side to it. The more interconnected, spiritual side, where Gods torment men and make bargains with them. Where power can be directed toward a goal through strong will and vision.

5:What are the common causes of death in your world?

Cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke. These things are like a plague. Danny sympathises with the world around him, but he sees a harsh truth that others may or may not respect. They are enslaved to their own comforts. Killing themselves slowly through their lifestyles. Danny is comfortable with (though resentful of) his mortality, and accepts that his problems are a result of his poor lifestyle choices, and his own eventual death will come as a result of those choices. That doesn’t mean everybody sees things in the same way.

6: How are the organs of the dead prepared? Or are they left in the body?

If people are donors, their organs go on to support furthering the life of others that need those organs. If not, the body is buried or cremated with all organs intact. Of course, there are weird cooky cults that like to use human organs in rituals and the like…

7: What happens to the belongings of the dead?

Some are buried with them, if they hold particular sentimental value. Others are distributed through family members, normally via a rushed open house, where everyone from estranged children to third-cousins show up and take whatever they can get their hands on, in a first-come-first-serve frenzy. Nothing like death to show the living’s true colours.

8: Are there organ thieves or body snatchers in your world?

Seriously, you’ve prompted this again? Right, let’s clear this up… If there is a frighteningly dangerous coven that unwittingly enact the work of an ACTUAL demigod with a few screws loose, and they take bodies and use organs as ritualistic items, I don’t know about it. And Danny definetly isn’t going to run into them… 🤥🤫

9: How are dead pets cared for?

Some bury them in the garden, others get them cremated and keep their ashes in urns. Some particular weirdos ask for some ashes put aside to do various bizarre things with… like eat inside a sandwhich. The love of pets does strange things to humans.

10: Is anyone immortal in your world?

I’ve answered this one on Twitter already, and the basic gist of it is, nobody is really sure whether or not even the Gods are immortal. Ragnarok does tell of their death, but by human standards, they definitely aren’t mortal. Danny looks pretty good for 27, has never broke a bone in his life despite his antics, but he’s mortal for sure. Painfully so. He attributes his various aches, pains, and problems, to being trapped inside a mortal body. It’s almost as if his soul wants to burst out of it.

11: Do people believe the dead can return either as a spirit or physically?

Many people do believe in spirits to some extent, others claim they don’t but have had a few experiences, and others still are dead against the idea. That said, the idea of spiritual intervention is unsettling for most. Danny has every reason to believe himself, but casually brushes it off as a non-thing. He’s not bothered by it.

12: It’s Friday, share and follow 3 other world builders!

World building is a fun and exciting activity for any novelist or writer. It’s also fun to watch others in the process, and learn about the world they are creating. I’ll post a few links to fellow world-builder’s over on my twitter account, and I highly recommend you check them out!

13: Are premature burials common in your world?

Outside of stuntmen and cruel torturous methods of execution, perhaps employed by disgruntled mobsters, no. It’s unlikely that anybody would end up buried alive by mistake.

Well, that’s it. I’d LOVE to carry on and answer each of the questions, but I think it would be unfair on the community. I will be carrying this on day-by-day on my twitter feed, now that I’ve caught up, so head over there and follow me! Failing that, I think it’d be fun to do this again for the blog at the end of October. It’s a dark, gritty story, and it’s refreshing to run through an exercise like this outside the tone of the novel.

Guys, this was fun and thought provoking! I’d highly recommend you complete the same exercise. And if you do, please, please link to this post so that I get a ping back. I would love to hear about the world you’re building for your novel!

So what do you think, shall I post another post like this one at the end of the month, or keep content like this solely on twitter? Have you a system of world-building, or inspired to start? Let me know in the comments!

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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Got five minutes for some quick online reads? Try these:

Colony 81- Quick Online Reads

The Fury Of The Godless- Quick Online Reads

The Man In The Hat- Quick Online Reads

Stephen King Tells Us to Take Writing Seriously!

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a huge Stephen King fan. And why shouldn’t I be? Not only has the man pumped out an incredible amount of fiction, It ain’t half bad. The Stand, It, Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, to name a few—all great stories, with memorable and alive characters. This is a guy—alongside other great novelists—to take writing seriously.

His writing style is perfect for a good page turner, cutting out all the crappy, pretentious, fluffy stuff, and instead focusing on the driving forward of the story at play. Being a loyal Stephen King reader, I feel his books have a lot to teach about the craft of writing. First among all his lessons, as stated in the title, is to…

Take Writing Seriously!

A lady showing that she can take writing seriouslyAbout this he is absolutely clear. If you’re serious about writing as a career, you’re gonna need to start taking your writing seriously. That means treating it as a job, and scheduling in x-amount of writing every day. Whether it’s 2000 words a day, a couple hours a day, or any variation of the above, you need to set a target, and sit down to it, without fail. No writers block, no lack of ideas, no excuses. You turn up at the same time each day, and eventually your muse will turn up to sit with you.

Equally important and along the same strand, is that you need to Invest in yourself and your craft. That means books, courses, and as mentioned above, time and practice. I cannot recommend Stephen King’s very own ‘On Writing: A Memoire Of The Craft’ enough. Seriously, seriously, seriously. My entire writing outlook changed after reading that book. Alongside being a great read and insight into his own life, schedule, and experiences, the book delves into some important writing lessons that we cannot afford to miss. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy today.

In that book, he talks a lot about ‘The Elements of Style’ by William Strunk, and highly recommends it. I do too. Combine the two books and you have enough of an education to get you selling stories and writing novels in no time.

I could end this post here and tell you that you now know enough to get going. Pat you on your back and send you on your way. But that’s no fair. There’s no fun in that, is there? So here’s a couple bonus lessons I’ve learned through my obsessive Stephen King consumption.

Character Driven Stories

With Jaime Lannister, George R R Martin proves that he can take writing seriouslyOne of the most immersive and engaging factors to any Stephen King story, is the care and attention given to his characters. If you’ve read anything by him, you can instantly see that his stories are—for the most part—character driven. He spends a lot of time getting to know them, breathing life into them, and letting them steer the rest of the story in whichever direction best suits them.

If you’re a plotter, you’ll have almost certainly come across times where the plot you laid out no longer suits the characters you’re writing about. It’s like they aren’t doing as they’re told, and if you try to force them, the entire novel loses its life. This is only natural. As you’re characters develop and come alive, certain elements of your plot may no longer ring true for them. As he states in On Writing, believability is key to writing a decent novel, no mater how fantastical or otherworldly that novel may be.

This Is A Tough Biz

Unless you’ve spent ten years on writing and editing the most perfect novel of all time, you’re gonna have to develop a thick skin, and an otherworldly determination despite all rejection letters. Because you’re gonna go through loads of those. Magazines will sit on your manuscript for months, to simply send a thanks, but no thanks. Others will tell you ‘resubmit, your story wasn’t for us, but the next one might be.’ With patience, determination, and a love for writing stories, you will break through.

From there, you’ll keep going, rejections, approvals, and all. You might start on small mags and obscure anthologies, but with each approval you’re picking up credits. Ignore the money, it’s not that important right now. It’s all about those credits. With each one, you’ll have a little more credibility in your cover letters, and start moving up the ranks.

This is assuming you write short stories, novellas, and flash fiction alongside novels. Personally, I do. Some stories simply don’t make it to novel length… others become a trilogy. Don’t force them into novels. Tie them up, and put ‘em in circulation!

If you’re dead set on novels and novels alone, then just keep on writing, keep on improving, keep on refining, and keep on submitting.

Don’t Be Afraid To Shoot & Miss

Stephen King is the perfect example of sitting down and writing what’s in your head, even if the story may end up a little shaky. After all, he did write Maximum Overdrive (LOL).

The point I’ll tie this post up with is this: you need to write what you want to write at the time. When inspiration strikes, when characters call, when a story starts to develop, you owe it to yourself to get it down on paper, no matter how bizarre it may turn out. In one of Stephen King’s most recent novels, Revival, we see one of the more bizarre conclusions a novel can end up with. It was a pretty good read, while some parts were arguably better than others. But the point is, it worked. If he abandoned the book because it took a strange turn, a lot of readers that LOVED that book would have missed out on it.

So don’t be afraid of a certain story being too this, or too that, or unsellable. Get it written, and submit to multiple publishers with all the rest of ‘em. If a simple rejection is enough to stop you in your tracks, you’re not somebody to take writing seriously. Write for the love of writing, and never, ever, give up.

Like this article? Don’t miss: 5 Simple Steps To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

What’s your favourite Stephen King novel to date? Let me know in the comments.

Tip The Author

If you’ve made it this far then I thank you for your attention span! If you enjoy my content, help me make a living by leaving a tip. Every pound goes toward creating more fiction, reading more books to review, and creating artwork, sketches, tutorials, and lifestyle posts for you to enjoy. I appreciate any and all help! A little really does go a long way!

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5 Simple Tips To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Today I’m over at Nicholas C Rossis’ blog, with 5 tips to take your writing to the next level. I hope you all enjoy the post!

Nicholas C. Rossis

Gary Holdaway | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's bookThis is a guest post by author Gary D. Holdaway. Gary is a young writer from the UK with big ideas, and an even bigger passion for words. A multigenre author of both novels and short fiction, Gary has a flare for the suspenseful, the frightening, and the unknown.

5 Simple Tips To Take Your Writing to the Next Level

Strip away the book sales, SEO, analytics, marketing, covers, editing, social media engagement, and publishing deals, we’re all here because we share the same creative passion—writing. All those other things are the unforeseen jobs we take on when we commit to the one thing we love, and they have a huge part to play in a writer’s success. But let’s put all that aside for a few minutes. In fact, for the duration of this article, I want words like ‘SEO’ and ‘analytics’ locked up in a box and chucked…

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