Character Profile: Pippa

Digitally painted portrait of Pippa Banks, a stern looking blonde woman with short hair wearing a military uniform with a plethora of medals on her chest.

Story: The Maggie Celeste

Protagonist or Antagonist?: Protagonist (unless you ask Ethan)

Name: Hippolyta “Pippa” Banks

Age: 47

Country of Origin: Sweden

Occupation: Warship Captain

Loyalties: United Nations of Earth

Goal: Originally to take down a pirate captain, then to survive.

Morals: Always do the right thing, unless a superior orders you to do otherwise.

In unknown space and in the middle of a war, military hero Pippa “The Angel of Death” Banks finds herself the second-in-command aboard the very pirate ship she was sent to destroy. With no clue where they are or what’s going on, she must navigate life aboard the Maggie Celeste without being killed by the vengeful outlaws or losing any more of her already decimated crew.

However, as they spend more time in this new region of space, the hostility from both sides of this war has her questioning if they are truly as foreign there as they originally thought, and just how they ended up there in the first place. She finds herself in the middle of a grim plot and she needs the help of her sworn enemy, the Pirate Captain Ethan Doe, to uncover it.

That is, if she doesn’t strangle him first.

The 2023 Goal Post

Two tall, slim glasses of champagne surrounded by shiny gold confetti.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Another year, another list of goals. I knew at the start of last year that I wasn’t getting much done. This year though I am hoping to be able to get a bit more done because I should have less big life events going on. So, what are my goals for this year? 

Writing Goals:

  1. The Halfway House first draft completed – This one is quite close to being done to be honest but, with other stuff going on, I need to make sure I don’t lose momentum and stop when I’m so close to the end. I have a track record of doing this if I don’t intentionally set myself goals (see Goal 2).
  2. The Fairy Godfather with betas – Now that I’ve finally admitted to myself that traditional publishing isn’t for me, my original beloved trilogy The Twyned Earth is back on the rails. Book 2 was so close to being beta ready but I became disillusioned and stopped working on it. It’s time I fixed that! 
  3. Self publishing fund – Self publishing can be as cheap or expensive as you decide for it to be. My books are a complete labour of love and I want them to go out into the world in the best possible state they can be, which unfortunately can be pretty expensive! Thanks to the current cost of living crisis, I’m not giving myself a specific numerical goal but instead committing to setting aside at least a little bit every single month. 
  4. Website overhaul – I want to go over and refresh every page on the site and, in addition to that, I want to delete or unpublish old posts that I either don’t feel are necessary anymore or that I would like to rewrite and republish to be better. I’d also like to update the appearance if I can find a layout that I like!
  5. Turn my Twyned Earth encyclopaedia digital – This was a really fun project I started ages ago. Basically a world building bible for Twyned Earth to help me keep consistency throughout the books and series, and keep track of all the fun world details that either never made it into books or had to get cut. It’s currently on paper in a binder and I want to get it typed up so that it’s both easier to change and add things to and also so I have a copy if something happens to it.

General Life Goals:

  1. Consistent Duolingo – I don’t want to say “keep a streak for the whole year” because, while that would be great, if I failed at any point I’d be demotivated to keep going. Instead I’m going to aim to get the 1000 xp badge for every month. That way at least if I fail one then I can redeem myself the next month. 
  2. Health targets – There’s a few things that I want to get back on track with that help my physical and (especially) mental health.
  3. Talk on Discord again (again) – Last time I set voice therapy with the end goal of talking on Discord to my online friends, I actually managed it. I want to get back into doing that and be more consistent this time!

That’s me for this year! All in, I think it’s a realistic amount of stuff to do while also giving me a few solid things to show at the end, which are both good for motivation. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m done with “hoping next year will be better” and instead just aiming to get more stuff done. 

I hope everyone had a lovely new year and that you’re all looking forward to whatever challenges you have set yourselves (if any)!

Future Goal: Self Publishing

I’ve been thinking a lot this last year or so about my writing and what it means to me, and even more so what my goals for it are. Writing has always been a pursuit of passion, of fun, and I didn’t even think about trying to get published when I was a kid or even when I got “serious” again after university. Somewhere along the way though I realised that I wanted to put my work out there. If I was putting all of this time and effort into it, I wanted something tangible that I could hold in my hands and be proud of. For a while, I thought traditional publishing was what I wanted and even spent a good chunk of time querying. It was during that time though that I realised something.

I had lost a lot of my passion. I wasn’t writing what I wanted to and was worrying about what an audience would want to see in my books. My themes had changed and my characters flattened. I was thinking too hard on what an agent might want and not what I might want. This was all very subconscious, so subconscious that I would only much later realise that I was losing my love of writing and of my stories. 

Some of you may recall around the end of 2020, I decided to spend NaNoWriMo writing a story that was just for me, with no intention of ever sharing it with anyone. One with every trope and trash that I loved without worry. 

That was the easiest NaNoWriMo I ever won, and only the second time I had ever actually COMPLETED the story within the month (the only other time was my very first year). This was when I started realising that I was making a mistake. Yes, I wanted my novel to become something more than a private file on my computer, but I didn’t want to think of it like a business. I didn’t want to worry about markets and trends or anyone else even liking it.  

Now this may sound like a strange conclusion, given the title of this post, as self publishing surely means you have to be even MORE business minded, right? Not necessarily. The beauty of self publishing is that you can pursue it in line with what your actual goals are.

It can be for the most hard-core of career writers, who put in their hearts and souls, and who create amazing and fruitful writing careers from it. But it can also be for the ones like me, the ones who just want the joy of sharing their story even with a handful of people. 

There are a number of benefits to self publishing that have made me realise that it is right for me, specifically.

  • I can write what I like without worrying about the market
  • Complete creative control
  • No querying to stoke my anxiety
  • I can set all of my own deadlines
  • I just want to share my work with those few who might be interested

All of these things have made me realise that self publishing is the way forward for me. It aligns with both my end goals and with the way I want to enjoy writing. It gives me control over my work and also the process. And that is why I’m really pleased to finally say out loud, even though I know that there’s a lot of work ahead, that I’m going to do it.

I am going to self publish my work.

Long width-wise image of two stacked bookshelves filled with books.

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.

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!

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?

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…

A Waffle About Anxiety and Pitches

Creativity is difficult to keep up with when you’re struggling with health issues. This past week my anxiety has left me a total wreck, which has been great. There’s nothing wrong, aside from the fact that I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and sometimes get flare ups where things are really bad. That’s why there was no post this last Sunday. I knew one was due but I just… couldn’t. Even thinking about it made me want to throw up. 

Despite this being a rough week, I’ve still managed to make some good progress on The Halfway House, the passion project that’s still living firmly in my “fluff” projects folder for things I write purely for myself, without casting the expectation that this will be for any other audience. This is remarkably therapeutic and I’d highly recommend other creatives who struggle with mental health issues to have at least one project like this. No such thing as too tropey or too much banter in this novel. I can write what I like and soothe my soul that way without thinking “oh, this is bad”. When I am the target audience, I can be as awful as I want. Working on a project like this is one good way to keep at least a tiny bit productive and keep the mind distracted.

There are some things that can’t be easily worked around though. For example, this Thursday brings around another nerve wracking episode of PitMad, the Twitter pitch contest where authors put out their pitches and hope for some engagement from agents. It might not be the smartest idea, but I’m still intending to participate even if I’m still feeling like this by then. I don’t intend to let this hinder me any more than it has to, even if the way I deal with it is by scheduling tweets days in advance for when I’m going to be very busy at work and with a plan to be chugging Kalms all day. 

I’m going to cross my fingers and hope something good comes of it but mostly on the day, I’m going to try and pretend it’s not happening. Sometimes that’s the best we can hope for.

NaNoWriMo 2020 Post Mortem

So, how did NaNoWriMo 2020 go? Well, I’ll have you know that I actually wrote a (very brief) post to put up midway through the month but I was so caught up in writing my novel that I completely forgot, despite the post already being written. This year I had my best NaNoWriMo ever. I wrote over seventy thousand words and, for the first time since the very first time I did NaNoWriMo eight years ago, I completely finished the rough draft of my story. This has been the fastest ever that I’ve made it to 50k (made it on the 15th!) and all it took was stubbornness, a story I’ve completely fallen in love with, and bribery by food. 

At the end of October I made the decision not to continue on with the story I was planning on and instead switch to a different project. Given the year 2020 has been, I decided to switch to a project that was going to be pure fun. Full of tropes and nonsense, just something that I was writing purely for myself with no intention of ever showing anyone. This was how I started writing and how Twyned Earth came about all those years ago. I completely let go and just wrote whatever I wanted. I created the project in my “Fluff Writing” folder, where I keep my stories which I have no intention of ever doing anything important with. It was freeing. The project is still living there and yet I already have a bunch of revision plans for it and ideas I want to squeeze in. I’ve even done art of the main character (and have plans to draw his love interest next)! 

I think that at some point, after I had the realisation that I would like to become a published writer, I became too worried about avoiding things that were too tropey or self indulgent. If we can’t be self indulgent in our writing then what is even the point? I need to re-embrace the sacred art of not giving a crap what other people think when I’m drafting again because after just 30 days I have ended up with a whole new, finished draft and let me tell you – I’m in love.

NaNoWriMo 2020

Like so many other people, my year started out on a strong note, creativity wise. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that had gone more or less out of the window by the time May rolled around and the rest of the year has been like wading through treacle. Looking back at my original goals for the year, a lot of them are going to go unmet. Given everything that’s happened, I’m trying not to let that bother me too much but it’s not always easy. It’s been A Year.

No matter how bad things get though, there always seems to be one event that kicks my brain back into overdrive. That’s right, it’s the 1st of November and NaNoWriMo is back, baby! Given the nature of the year, rather than carrying on with a project that I’d already started as I had planned, I’m instead going to be starting on something new. Why, you ask?

This year has been hard and, while Monarch Necrotic is a story very dear to my heart, writing something that has a character severely suffering from the mental illnesses I share with him might have been a bit heavy. I want to have fun this month and pour out words with gay abandon, rather than dissecting myself on a deep emotional level. I want to write something invigorating, not exhausting. So that’s what I’m going to be doing. 

Trashy? Possibly. Tropey? Definitely. Banter? 98% of my word count this November. And I can’t wait!

Be kind to yourself, even if that just means writing disaster monster friends causing chaos in some rich dude’s mansion.