NaNoWriMo – Ten Years, Ten Wins

This post is a few days early considering it’s not quite the end of November yet, but I have the exciting news already so let’s go! As we approach the end of the yearly madness, let’s have a look at how I did.

First up – I won! Woo hoo! Ten years in a row doing NaNoWriMo and ten wins. I’m very happy with that! Feels weird to think that I’ve done this every year for almost a third of my life but I also couldn’t imagine my year without it. I look forward to it every year and always appreciate the challenge and inspiration that it brings me. Even in the hardest years (2021 being a prime example), I’ve still managed to get myself writing thanks to this event. So, to the NaNoWriMo team, thank you.

Yellow banner with drawn floral designs with the text: "Spoonwood for perseverence. WINNER. NaNoWriMo2022"

I anticipated this being a tough year but it actually went very smoothly, despite petering out a bit towards the end of the 50k. I was writing a story, The Maggie Celeste, that I had thought about a lot for several years and I was very hyped for my ten-year anniversary. Things slowed down around the middle of the month, partly because my ridiculous October meant that I didn’t have time to plan more than the first third of the book properly and partly because of Game Freak’s notorious habit of releasing new Pokemon games in the middle of November. That said, I made my way to the 50k mark fairly comfortably, which is nice since after That October I really didn’t want to burn myself out all through November.

A graph showing the date from the start of November to the end of November on the x axis, and word count on the y axis. A grey line shows the linear "on track" word count per day and a blue wiggly line shows my actual progress. The blue starts high above the grey and rising, until around mid November when it gets very close to 50k and becomes almost flat.

As for the story, I’m pretty happy with the start but as soon as I ran out of my plan it all started coming off the rails a bit. Still, I have a good thirty thousand words of it that I’m happy with and now I have the time to sit and plot out the rest. At the very least, I got some nice scenes and character development out of the latter half as well so even if I scrap a lot of it, it shouldn’t feel like time wasted.

What comes next?

Well after my last couple of years which have been rough, I’ve made some big decisions which I’ll talk about later but for now my priorities are as follows:

  • Finish getting The Halfway House beta ready. Pretty close to this one, just on the line edit stage for it.
  • Get The Fairy Godfather beta ready. Again, this one got close to done but I got disillusioned with the series a while back thanks to where my head was at. I’m in a better place now and I refuse to let this trilogy disappear into the depths of draft hell.
  • Do some Through the Black touch ups. Speaking of the Twyned Earth trilogy, there are a couple of things I want to tweak in this manuscript that I’ve noticed which I’d like to get sorted.

There’s a few things I’m working on that aren’t novel related too that I’ll be tinkering with in the background, the main one being giving my website a nice overhaul! It’s been quite stagnant around here since I set up shop in 2012 (oh my god, really?) and a lot of the pages need a refresh. This includes adding in some art galleries! I was originally planning on using InkBlot for this, which I still will, but I didn’t realise that unlike some other art hosting sites you need to have an account to view. Now that I’ve figured out how to make a gallery here without it looking terrible, I think it will be nice to be able to have everything all together.

And that’s it from me! I hope you’ve all had an excellent November. 

Anyone else out there doing NaNoWriMo? How did you do? Remember – any words at all is more than you had, and that’s a win.

Halfway There, NaNoWriMo 2022

Wooooaaahhh, we’re half way there!

Uh, I mean, here we are at the halfway mark for NaNoWriMo 2022! How’s it going you ask? Well, on paper, very good so far. It’s exactly halfway through and I am at 38,814 words out of the end goal of 50,000. Nice. I even got around to setting up my project’s page, though it needs some love when the month is done. However, there are two major challenges up ahead.

Challenge number one: I’ve run out of plan. Yup, not a good one for me. I’m not so good without a plan but thanks to how awful my October was I never got further than section two, which means a few days ago I ran out. Now all I’ve got is three sentences describing what happens in the last three sections of the book. It’s going to be rough from here. Oh boy, it is going to be rough.

So what’s the other issue? GameFreak, my old friend, is back at its usual tricks of releasing a new Pokemon game right in the middle of November. They really do make a habit of this though. It seems almost malicious at this point.

Still, I have set myself in good stead for the rest of the month. I’m at the point where I need less than 800 words per day to finish. This is certainly doable, provided I don’t run into too many problems with the story. The problem is that if I can do, it could really stall me out. This is year ten though, I am determined to make it and this head start has just got me even more encouraged.

I hope all my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers out there are having a good month! And the regular reminder that, even though I am determined to hit this goal, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. It’s just about getting yourself kickstarted. 

Got some words done this month? That’s a success right there.

Happy writing, everyone! 

(P.S. I’m going for the fire starter…)

The Ten Year Streak

This year marks my 10th year doing NaNoWriMo and, if I do well, it will end with a 10 year win streak. While exciting, I’m coming into it with challenges. October 2022 was unbelievably difficult for a multitude of reasons. It was just one of those months where EVERYTHING went wrong and there was no rest from the disasters. I’m really, really hoping that November eases up on me. God knows I need it.

Not only that, but this will be my first ever year without Twitter. As a platform, I could leave it any moment. The issue is I’ve made some great writing friends on there from the very first year, people who I’ve met in real life now, people who I’ve stuck with for 10 years. It’s going to be strange doing NaNoWriMo without those who were there at the start, cheering on my progress and sharing theirs with me. Of course I have other ways of contact but it’s not quite the same as having a live feed of everyone sharing their highs and lows, their WIPLines and their story teases. 

Still, I’m determined that nothing will stop me. This year, I’m working on a sci-fi for the first time in a long time! I’m also off to a strong start, which will hopefully give me the momentum to keep pushing through if things do get tough. I’ll make a proper page for my story at some point but, for now, you can follow my progress and read a (very hastily written blurb) here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/celuth/projects/the-maggie-celeste

For anyone who’s on there, I’ve also joined Mastodon to try and fill the void of similarly afflicted writers shrieking about their novels! You can find me at @CMSchofield@writing.exchange

Good writing, everyone!

The 2022 Goal Post (Finally)

Where have I been? The start of 2022 and the year’s goals.

I did, many months ago, promise an update about where I’d been and to come up with a list of goals for the year. Considering we’re already  over halfway through said year, they aren’t going to be anything to write (ahaha) home about. I’m sure that comes as no surprise, considering my last post. So, where HAVE I been?

Mentally, very low. And in and around all of that, I have been: job hunting, starting new job, moving cross country, living in a less than ideal situation for a few months, enduring the joy of house hunting, going through the process of buying a home (which they make far more stressful than it needs to be but I’ll save whining about that for elsewhere), trying not to mess up my probation at my new and very challenging job, moving again, getting the whole place furnished, and getting a cat. 

I now live in a lovely flat which has furniture and a small furry family member named Scone. I have officially passed my probation period at the new job, and slowly my brain is coming back around to being vaguely useful once more. How nice. Almost at the point now where I feel like I have time to breathe. 

Now I’ve already been doing a touch of writing here and there, but I now have my new office set up (words cannot describe how excited I am about this), and it is time to WRITE!

But what am I working on?

  1. The Halfway House – I really want to get this beta ready. Not sure it’s totally achievable since I want to be prepped well for NaNoWriMo and we’re already well through the year, but I’ll be aiming to at least have my line edits on paper finished by the end of December. 
  2. NaNoWriMo – This year will be my 10th year doing NaNoWriMo and, if I win, will mark a 10 year win streak. It’s happening, even if I’m mashed potatoes by the end of it.
  3. Reading – When my mental health is bad, I get into the habit of either rereading books over and over or not reading at all. As a writer, reading widely is one of the most useful things I can do to improve (plus it’s just really fun and I miss it), so I’m going to be focusing on getting back in the habit of reading every day like I used to, even if it’s just 20 minutes before bed. 
  4. Health stuff – A few things I want to do to help myself feel better. Mental health going splat has a great way of letting your physical health go splat too.

I wouldn’t expect blog posts to become regular again until next year at least but I’ll try and post things here as I can. Overall going to be focusing on the fun stuff though. I hope everyone has had a better 12 months than I have, and hoping things carry on the way they’re going now.

To cheer everyone up from my whining, may I present, Scone:

The beast.

Rest in Pieces, 2021.

It is me, the one who disappears randomly for long stretches of time! I made a post on Twitter at the start of January stating that pretty much everything was on hold thanks to life really laying it on for a while. I’m really glad I went into 2021 with the expectation that it was going to be more of the same shit as 2020 because that way it wasn’t too much of a shock to the system that 2021 turned out to be much, much worse. 

On the plus side, 2022 is off to a far better start, so that’s something. More on that and what I’ve been up to in my next post. For now, let’s finally put that godforsaken year to bed with the round up of my goals and how I did. Spoiler alert: not well. 

  1. Write 1 short story per month – This one never recovered and I can’t say that’s surprising. 
  2. Get something beta ready – Considering how my year was, I’m proud of how well I did on this one. I didn’t finish but I’m very close to being at the line edit stage and I can’t wait to carry on working on this. The Halfway House was one of the few things keeping me going last year, even when I couldn’t work on it. 
  3. Read new books – Another big flop. I’ve done better already this year than I did the entirety of last year. Not sure if that’s a tragic thing for last year or a good thing for this one. 
  4. Keep Through the Black on submission – This started off well, and it wasn’t until relatively late in the year when everything really went sideways that it stumbled. Another fail but again, it was a bad year and a bad time. 
  5. Keep up blog posts – I think we all know the answer to this one. 

Moving on to some non writing related ones:

  1. Draw 1 piece of art per month – My poor 2021 art folder didn’t even get 12 finished pieces for the whole year, never mind one per month. Pretty gutted about it but other things needed to take priority. 
  2. Weight goal – Ell oh Ell. 
  3. Voice Therapy – I technically succeeded at this one! My goal was to speak on voice chat to my gaming peeps and I did! Like twice. It still counts, and I’m planning on being more consistent this year. The first time is the worst time and that’s out of the way now. 

One out of eight is a new low for me, and I’m hoping this is my rock bottom for bringing myself back up again. Though I’m going to be cheating by setting myself way less than I normally would, especially since I’m expecting more disruption through the year (though if all goes to plan that’s going to be far more controlled and exciting disruption).

Here’s to 2021, may you rest in a ditch somewhere!

How to Write Without Writing 1 – Sketching!

Following my post on Seasonal Writing, there was a bit of discussion prompted by the fantastic Madicienne on Twitter on things that could be done in this time that aren’t as taxing as actual writing but still help with the creativity and the ideas. And that gave me the idea for a short blog series about how to work on your stories when you’re not feeling like actually writing anything, inspired by the fun things I do to play around with story ideas when I’m either not in the right head space to write, or just straight up procrastinating. 

This week I’m going to start with sketching! I’m not talking about working hard at producing concept art for your stories. I’m talking about rough and scrappy doodles. It’s a great way to think about characters, plan how things should look, or even just a way to keep your attention on an element in your story while doing something else. Headshots help give a feel for a character’s look or personality. Another type of sketch page I like to play around with is a character page, with expressions or items that are relevant to them. I find that doodling these things out can help me round out a character or even work out ways to incorporate additional character aspects into the plot. 

I’ve had a lot of good story ideas while sitting with my sketchbook. So, while I haven’t actually gotten any words on the page, I have given myself a bigger arsenal to fire at said page when I sit down again next. Plus, it’s just good fun, isn’t it?

Seasonal Writing

Have you ever thought about when your best time to write is? No, I’m not talking about morning or evening – I’m talking about which months, seasons, time of year. I hadn’t, and it took me a very long time to realise how much trouble I was causing myself because of it. The seasons have a profound effect on peoples’ headspaces. It only makes sense that it would effect their productivity too.

Every year, roughly the same time, I become almost incapable of being creative or keeping up with blog posts, and I’ll often disappear from social media too. Gone, without a trace. Beloved projects left abandoned and languishing, despite my love for them or the craft never faltering. So what gives? Until last year, I had never really put together that this always seems to happen in the summer. As soon as I did, everything about it suddenly made a lot more sense.

If you follow my account over on Twitter then you will have likely heard me whining about the heat during the summer months. Even when I was back home in the Highlands I would struggle with summer. I really don’t do well in the warm and am prone to heat stroke on the bad days and just general fatigue and headaches on the good days. As such, it makes sense that my productivity in terms of hobbies would plummet. As much as I love writing, it is unfortunately not my day job and I have a 9-5 I need to keep up with regardless of the weather. Using up all my energy for that leaves me with nothing left when I’m done during the summer months. I’m honestly shocked it took me so long to see the connection.

It brings me back to a point that I’m sure I’ve made before and will probably make again. One of the most common pieces of writing advice is “write every day.” I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment but not the phrasing. I believe that it’s perfectly fine to take breaks and often it’s necessary as well. So many times I’ve burned myself out over the summer by pushing too hard after expending all my energy at the day job and I’m sure others do it too, whether they are fellow heat-haters like myself, suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter, or any other slumps that occur internally or externally. Punishing ourselves for not keeping up with a set standard isn’t making us better writers, it’s just making the process harder.

So while it is my personal belief that writing often and consistently has made me a much better writer, I don’t think that writing every single day is essential. I also think it’s important to look at how you handle different times of the year and figure out which months are your downtime months and which ones you can push it. For me (excluding any big life things that might pop up), early spring and late autumn especially are where I shine. Figuring out when your best writing months are won’t only help you plan your work, but it’ll help you not beat yourself up when you need the break, help prevent burn out, and help make sure you’re ready when you get back into a good spot.

Do you know when your best time of year to write is?

The Halfway Mark 2021

Well. Halfway through the year already. My goodness.

This year has certainly been a strange one. I didn’t think there could be much more upheaval for me personally than Brexit drama and a global pandemic but life likes to keep things spicy. Who knew that going into lockdown would be a lot easier than coming out again? I mean I, as many introverts did, liked to joke about that a lot at the start but I truly wasn’t prepared for the emotional and mental toll it’s been taking. It turns out as well that there may be another issue contributing to that but I need to get to a doctor first before I’d feel comfortable talking about it (it’s nothing to worry about, just something that might explain a few a lot of things). It’s not been the easiest environment to focus on my writing goals.

So, in the middle of everything that has been going on, how have those 2021 goals been progressing?

  1. Write 1 short story per month – This has completely flopped. I managed two and then it all went wrong. Oh well. I tried! And I’ve not (totally) given up. The “per month” part might be dead and buried but I can still bash some out before the end of the year. There are a few old short stories that I’m planning on refurbishing and posting up here for your viewing pleasure and there are a few that I’ve got ideas for that I may eventually get around to scrawling somewhere. 
  2. Get something beta ready – Actually going well! No one would have expected at the start of the year (especially not me) that I’d stick working on one project for 8 months straight but here we are. Looks like The Halfway House just really speaks to me. I’m about three quarters through what is for me the slowest and least enjoyable part of editing, and then I’m on what normally feels like the downhill. I don’t want to jinx it but this one is currently ahead of schedule.
  3. Read new books – I’ve not kept up with my goal (and I’ve given up on hitting it) but I’ve managed to chalk up a few on this one. Hopefully without any big beta reading obligations for the rest of the year I might increase pace a little but I’m not holding my breath just yet.
  4. Keep Through the Black on submission – Technically yes. A few months I’ve left it a bit longer than was probably reasonable to hear back before sending it out again but I have kept up with sending it out, even if I’ve dragged my feet for a couple of weeks here and there. I’m still classing this one as on track, considering, well… everything.
  5. Keep up blog posts – Whoops. You haven’t heard from me since mid-May, so I think we know how this one’s going. That aside, I haven’t been doing too bad for me and I’ve got a backlog of ideas I just need to get on paper. Then hopefully I can post weekly for a while to catch up. So shaky, but I have hope on this one.

Moving on to some non writing related ones:

  1. Draw 1 piece of art per month – Failed this one too. Currently at four months out of six. However, some of the pieces I’ve made I’m really proud of and I can see a marked improvement on where my art was last year. A fail on paper but not one I’m too broken up about. Again, I’m hoping to ramp this one up again once things become a little more normal again. Just…  just don’t watch the news, okay?
  2. Weight goal – It’s gone in the right direction? That counts. Not enough yet to help with dysphoria but I’m taking that as a win for where we are in the year.
  3. Voice Therapy – I started it, just need to get consistent and then get the courage. I was even relatively consistent for a bit but fell off the wagon. Still, it’s a starting place and I’m building up my skills again. Gonna mark this one down as on course. 

Not the most hopeful midpoint of a year I’ve ever had but I like to think that I’m doing pretty well, considering. It’s been a rough year and I hope you’re all doing well. We’ll get there together.

Character Profile: Rheaos

Portrait of Rheaos at Leigh

Story: The Halfway House

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist

Name: Rheaos at Leigh

Age: 30

County of Origin: The Abyssal Plains

Occupation: Student/Prisoner

Loyalties: Friends and family

Goal: Freedom

Morals: Kinda shaky lately

Kidnapped as a child and imprisoned in Dr Bracken’s twisted zoo, Rheaos has always had a very narrow view of the mundane world. However when his worst enemy is forced back to the mansion they both call home and hell, Rheaos is forced to face the fact that he knows a lot less than he thought. As the feud between them puts Rheaos’ long bound away powers within his reach, he finds himself for the very first time with the promise of freedom more than a cruel dream. 

The only problem is that with his powers comes his natural instincts, and he’s starting to wonder if the humans are right when they call him a monster…

NaNo Update and Next Steps

I never posted an update from NaNoWriMo! For no other reason than I was distracted and forgot, so apologies! 

NaNoWriMo went well and despite having a tough time through the month, I hit my goal of 25K words. Not only that, but I’ve hit some big milestones on this manuscript which is inching it ever closer to a completed draft. Now, this raises some important questions about said manuscript. 

Throughout the time I’ve been working on this project (The Halfway House), I’ve been keeping it in my Fluff Project folder and treating it exactly like any other personal project, written purely for my eyes only without any concern over what would and would not make it commercially acceptable. This has been fantastic for stoking my adoration of writing back to a roaring fire and my productivity has shot through the roof. Not only am I doing loads of work on the manuscript but I’m also producing accompanying art and other creative ventures. It’s all very fun and exciting.

However, if I keep up the pace that I’ve been going, I’m probably going to have a beta ready manuscript before the end of the year (which was always the goal but I wasn’t particularly confident I would be achieving it with this particular brand new story). I know one person who is very keen to read, but it has made me acutely aware that this story wasn’t written for going through the whole process. It was really supposed to end once I had written it to a point that I liked it. The idea of cleaning it up properly through multiple rounds of edits has certainly been playing through my head, as well as the idea that I may not want this story to exist only on my hard drive forever.

I think for this one, I’m going to wait until I’ve heard back from this one reader (though if I have additional friends interested in reading about my disaster demons, let me know!). That way, I’ll get an idea of whether or not there might be other people out there who this story appeals to. If there is, I might consider upgrading this one from a personal project. If not, then that’s fine too. I wrote this one for me. I refuse to let that go. I think it’s important for creators to create for themselves as much as they can, and I’ll stick by that opinion for as long as I create.