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Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

#NaNoWriMo Progress: Week 2

We all struggle when it comes to writing, right? I think we hear and cry out more “Woe is me” during NaNo than any other time. As though the words that seek to escape the prison of our mind have suddenly realised it’s better inside their familiar cell.

SO imagine my surprise when 22,309 words later I’m still working through the first arc of my NaNo novel and there’s still more coming. As though my Word document has become an anthill and the little critters are coming home to roost. (Do ants roost?)

The Actual Struggle

I think I’ve said this before in my previous NaNo progress post that my struggle is not with the words themselves but the story. At first it was how to start, then for a while it was where it was all going. Now its pulling back from bearing the emotions my characters experience as they guide me through their journey. Becoming a conduit for their tales of woe.

It’s one of the greatest feelings as a writer (and reader) when these fictional people created for the sake of entertainment become more than just characters in a book. They manifest into living souls tugging at the heart and mind and making you scream, “Don’t go in there! It’s a trap.” then watching them fall into the trap to leave you hoping with all your might that they escape.

However as the author I not only set up the trap, but drive circumstances forcing my characters towards that trap, make them fall in and then deciding whether or not the escape. Sometimes these characters take the reigns and tug them away from me long enough to make their own choices before I can regain control. As though they were alive.

It also scares me how much control they have once I’m digging into the writing and the real world disappears around me. As though I’ve plugged into a virtual reality headset that brings my story to life and I live through it, watching it unfold while also guiding where, how, who, and why everything is happening.

Summon the Great Editor

I would but I’m not allowed to during NaNoWriMo. You know that right? Also, I have an aversion to editing but as I’ve been writing, I discovered so many things about the style I want to use. I think the first part of my novel is all first person, then I switched to normal third person, and now, as my good friend Ole would say (shout out to you dude) about my current writing style, “That’s some wedding floral arrangement level of floweriness”.

So now I want to go back and rewrite everything with that same style but… perhaps in December. Anyway, I have to get back to writing now.

Onward to 50K and more.


#NaNoWriMo Progress: Week 1

This is going to be a short one because I have to get back to all the writing. No tips. No advice. No words of encouragement beyond “Do the best that you can, and more.”

This is really more about how important the Prep I did before NaNo has helped me sit down and churn out 2K words in a two hours. Not an impressive Word Per Minute (it’s 16wpm) but in the end I was able to flow. My characters had been defined. The world had been built. The overall arc considered. It was just a matter of waiting for NaNo to come around so I can put words down and start working on the story.

The Difficulty of Starting

I struggled to start. I mean really struggled. Not in terms of word count, but in terms of how I wanted the story to go. I have these two main characters, the Innocent-yet-Tainted character and the Tainted-Seeking-Innocence character. Either one had a really good premise and backstory but I couldn’t decide which one to go with. So I did both. Hated both. Then I started a third draft right in the middle of each of their personal conflicts, guiding the story forward from each of their perspectives.

As it stands, between those three drafts I am on (13,289 ) words, though I don’t want to include the first two drafts into the word count. I feel like its cheating.

What idiot wrote this oh I did.

The Novel in Your Head

Once I started writing I could feel my characters come alive in my head. Their thoughts becoming my own, their emotions thrumming through me. The decisions they were making also mine to make. There are two experiences I want to share you with you:

The Diverging Path

As I was writing a particular scene, my character was on the way to doing something that would change their current situation. Only that change had two diverging paths and each leading to a different end for the scene. I knew this as I was writing, fingers too slow to catch up to the mind, the mind conjuring up new futures where the character could go and I had to choose one as I was writing. The words I was typing at that moment to alter the destiny of my character.

I have never felt so torn about the future of a fictional character. Seeing these two timelines stretching outwards and me choosing which one I think is best. Oh the thrill of writing.


The Movie Feeling

During my 2k writing sprint, I was writing a particularly emotional scene where the character makes quite an important decision. I was there with them through every moment, living vicariously through each word my fingers were typing to reflect this character I had become. And it was when I wrote the final scene and took my break that I realised I was emotionally invested into this character and wanted to know more. Like I had paused a scene in a movie and could press play to continue watching.

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in my writing for a long while, and its both disturbing and exciting.

Onward to week #2

As well as this story is going, I feel like its not moving at the pace I expected it to. There are too many transitional scenes which attribute to character growth, and world building etc. And I know not every scene is going to be a horror-fest. I just have to plug away, knowing that after NaNo I’ll be free to edit, change, and chop as I see fit. Until then, I continue.

NaNo Insights: Week 4


I stretched over the 30K line. Barely. Statistically I should be at 35K words by now but 72% of all statistics are made up anyway so whatever right? You may be asking the same question I ask myself every time I fall another 1666 words behind with each missed day; will I make it to 50,000 words.

The answer is as mysterious as the novel I’m writing. Would you believe me if I told you that at 30K, I finished the first of three arcs in the story? Yep, that was just the introductory section and if I wrote it right, when you get to the end of it you should be like:


Now the hard work begins.

I have to tie them all in during the middle ground, building the tension and drama and action that led to that (hopefully) shocking first arc. Answering all the major questions that would be running through the readers’ minds. The only problem is… I know what has to happen, I have no idea how. Most authors will know, sometimes your characters just jump into their roles and lead the story along a different path to what was initially planned. A lot of times I had to rope them in and at least let them run parallel to the plan which rounded up perfectly after all. The story is on track.

What’s really satisfying is the fact that I’m happy with my story so far regardless of word count. That quality vs quantity idea, of building a more a solid work to edit later, turning out better than just a rambling of words that I know I’ll probably delete later anyway. While others may be happy to say,

“It doesn’t matter, they added to the word count and that’s awesome!”

I’d rather say, at least in this point in time,

“They were worth adding to the word count and that’s great!”

I may be behind on but guess what:




Nano Insights: Week 3

Book with blank pages

I spent the weekend reading 11/22/63. This book has helped guide me through a lot of issues I’ve been facing through my NaNo novel. Considering that the actual plot only begins just past half way makes you wonder what the first half of the book was all about. It was world building. It was making you care about the character. It was spent making sure that when the plot begins, you know exactly what’s at stake. If there’s one thing King always gets perfect in all his books, it’s what I’ve been struggling with: Tangible characters in a living world.

Cardboard characters. White space worlds. Cliché’s. Lack of any action/drama. I’ve spent most of my time editing what I’ve written in my NaNo first draft. Filling in the spaces. Deleting scenes that don’t work. Giving more colour to my characters. I know NaNo is about writing 50 000 words but I’ve come to realise that I have no reason to be happy writing 50 000 words for the sake of writing them while hating everything about them. I’ll probably delete or edit most of them anyway so why waste that post-NaNo time rewriting rubbish?

What idiot wrote this oh I did.

What I’m really enjoying about 11/22/63 is how real the characters feel. None of them feel like they exist for the sake of existing. They are real and tangible. The main character Jake Epping/George Amberson interacts with them realistically. I don’t need to remember who was who again. They have their own personalities, looks, and feelings. You can feel that it’s back in the fifties by the brief yet detailed surroundings that the characters interact with. You get the sense of an entire town from both the characters within and the environment they live in.

This is what I’m trying to achieve.

Sure the 1st draft won’t be perfect the first time but I’d be happier if I was as close to perfect as I can get it. It will make the rewrite and editing less work. It will make me happier with the effort I’ve put in. It will make this NaNo not just successful, but worthwhile.

I want to make every word count.

make my writing awesome? Challenge accepted.

NaNo Insights: Week 2



It’s been horrible. I’ve written about 3000 words in total and they are all 1st drafts of the opening scene from different perspectives. In short, I’ve barely started. I’ve been feeling like an inadequate writer after my first draft. Everything I wrote just felt and read amateurish. I was sure I’d never write a decent novel for the rest of my life… okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you know what I mean.

I spent the weekend procrastinating. I didn’t touch my novel following an entire Friday attempt. Every time I thought of my novel I’d either think about starting anew or starting a completely different story. This morning, Monday the 7th, I decided to read the opening chapters to some of my favourite books. Specifically Whisper in the Dark by Robert Gregory Browne and The Program by Gregg Hurwitz. I then read a couple of short stories from a random site on Google. The conclusion? My writing wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

I’ve gone back to one of my more favourite drafts and decided to take a second bash at it. Perhaps bolster my word count up to 4000 words by the end of the day for this particular draft which is currently on 1701 words. That means I’ll be “discarding” the other drafts and not counting those towards NaNo. I know I know, every word counts, but I want every word that counts to count if you know what I mean.

Well, on wards to glory!


How’s your NaNo writing coming along?

NaNo Insights: Week 1

I am quite sure (like 120% sure) that you know November is all about NaNoWriMo. Since I’ll be participating again, I have decided to put Monday Book Recommendations on the shelf (ha see what I did there). Mondays will now be dedicated to insights, reflections, analysis and maybe an excerpt from my working novel.

Last Minute Prep

A day away from the month long event, I’ve spent much of my time reading. Unlike the usual reading for fun that I do, I have also been looking at how authors construct their characters, worlds, arcs, and storytelling. I wouldn’t recommend reading multiple books at once, but it is useful to see how different authors approach their novels. These are all old/rehashed insights but they are important to look over one last time.


They are the driving force behind your novel. Bilbo Baggins, Celia and Marco, Jake Epping, Twoflower, Katniss and the slew of characters we’ve met during our reading adventures defined the books we read. They are the reason we loved the journey through Middle Earth, fell in love with the mysterious Revellers, experienced the  arduous 60s trying to prevent an assassination, and so on. The story is told by your characters in their words and actions. So spend a lot of time getting to know your characters, inside out.

Example: 11/22/63 by Stephen King features a number of characters while Jake Epping traipses through the past. Each of them are unique. Each have a certain look, tone and personality. Minor characters but their realness gives more depth to the story, and greater emphasis on the main character.


Great characters need a reason to be. Why do they exist? What are they trying to achieve? Why are they trying to achieve that goal? Consider this for all your characters, even minor characters who do nothing more than greet your main character in the street. A backstory gives them a role and a personality.

The story must also make sense. Beginning half the book as the memoir of a pony loving little girl, and ending with a male focused sci-fi horror space opera with nothing connecting the two might do more than just confuse your reader.

The story must also progress in some way, correlate with your characters, and come to some sort of conclusion – hopefully one that makes sense and wraps up all loose ends. Even if you’re a Pantser, set objectives in the story for your characters. Trust me, it helps.

Example: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the story of Jacob, an average 16 year old who hears fantastical tales from his grandfather about Peculiars. He soon discovers that they are real, and embarks on a life changing journey, three books long, that links right back to his grandfather.


Lastly, your characters need a home. Your story needs a setting. Nothing happens in the obscure blankness of space. Take time defining the world and submerge readers in your creations. Also, don’t assume your readers will have the same picture in your mind if you generalise descriptions. For peripherals you can get away with it, but if your character is about to jump into a vehicle, you’ll have to be more descriptive so readers aren’t chugging down the fairway in a Prius while you meant cruising the autobahn in a Porsche.

Engage the senses as you build your world. Let readers feel the baking heat against their skin, hear the rushing waters pelting the rocky surface, smell the cloying stench of decayed bodies, taste the rich sweetness of strawberry jam, and see the jagged mountain silhouettes rising in the distance. Let them experience the world as your character does.

Example: J.R.R Tolkien’s works. Nuff said.

Enjoy it!

Lastly, enjoy the writing. If all these guidelines make you want to throw your laptop(please don’t!)/notebook across the room in frustration, then you’ve missed the point. Don’t bind yourself unnecessarily to outlines and guides to the point where you lose interest in your story.

Writing 50 000 words is difficult enough, limiting it to a month is strenuous – but not impossible. Enjoy the challenge for what it is, a challenge to sit down and write. We know it is not easy, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done and be enjoyable at the same time. Give it your all and most importantly, remember:



NaNoWriMo: Let’s get to it.


This cover image is popping up everywhere. Social media is abuzz with excitement, fear, confidence, empathy, anxiety and all other emotions in between. First timers are wondering if they can rattle of 50 000 words in a month, something not many of them have ever considered let alone attempted, even on their own. Old timers are either swimming in a sea of doubt from failing the previous year(s) and either anticipate another “failure” or hope to push past their “failings” and win NaNo. Other’s who have been successful can’t wait to add another novel/draft to their collection of successes – perhaps even rebelling by completing previous works or rewriting them. Others are watching on with mild interest and zero participation. Regardless of which category you fall in, or whether you don’t fall into any of these, you cannot deny that NaNoWriMo is a palpable presence among the online writing community. For the next month, a large number of writers will be ink deep in their writing, and this worldwide phenomenon is amazing on almost every level.

NaNo and I

This is my fourth year doing NaNo. My first two novels were a bust and re-reading what I wrote fills me with both disgust and fatigue. Strong words I know, but perhaps one day I’ll have the nerve to go back and explore those failed ideas again. The concepts were great but execution was terrible. Last year’s novel, my Historical Fantasy based on an African tribe of mages was so much fun to write, well planned and was definitely the easiest 50K I’ve written. I finished on day 22 and spent the next 8 days faffing about, and also encouraging others to push towards their 50K. Sadly I haven’t touched that novel since the 23 November 2015, a day after I got to 50k. I guess the next step once I’ve learned to complete novels, is to get into editing. *sighs*

This year I feel less ready but still quite psyched. I’ve learnt that planning takes you further than pantsing can. With discovery writing/pantsing, you are more likely to hit a wall, losing morale as you realise you have no idea how to climb over it, or if you even want to climb over it. Planning sees that wall, creates ways to progress past it, and all the while you’re gaining morale and momentum because you know where you’re going; planning allows you to enjoy the journey and blissfully anticipate the end.

What I wish I could do for NaNo

There are a few things I wish I could do for NaNo. Maybe one day I’ll employ them but here’s my list:

Live Stream

There are a number of things one can live stream. A write-in so others can see what happens during one, and let them (viewers) feel included in the process. We have word sprints, competitions, fancy hat days and other fun activities while getting that word count running. I could live stream myself writing so you can watch my writing process, get a glimpse of the actual writing (and have an exclusive look at the first draft). I could live stream a planning session, or some other writing exercise you can join in. I already have a YouTube and account so it’s not impossible. Maybe one day.

Write 50k in one day

I once wrote 4000 words in about two hours. If I wrote from midnight to midnight, I could probably pull this off. Although I would have to be locked in a well ventilated room, with no disruptions whatsoever, while taking a coffee-redbull mixture intravenously, and having prepared ablution solutions well before hand. A bit extreme, probably kill me, but I’ll have a novel and that’s all that counts.

Host a Travelling Write-In Road Trip

I like people. I like being around people, especially like minded people. I like meeting new people too. I also happen to like travelling. Sometimes people live too far out to be part of a write-in, or don’t have the means. So myself and a select few will jump into a nice caravan and host write-ins along the week, with a big one on the weekend. Then we get to meet new writers, we get to travel, and we get to write. That would be amazing.

Write by the beach

I haven’t been to Cape Town or Durban as an adult. It would be amazing to drive up to one of these fine places, find a nice beach house, and spend all of November writing and taking customary long walks on the beach. Waking up to sunrises and drinking mojitos to sunsets. Ahhh.

With a couple of days left until NaNo, and most of us gearing up towards it, what are your plans between now and the 1 of November? Is there any thing you’ve always want to do during NaNo, I’d love to hear/read it.

NaNo Haiku


The busy buzzing bees,

Patiently prep pollinating

Like NaNo Writers

Next week this time we’ll be knee deep in NaNo. Who’s excited!?

Back To Square One: NaNo Prep


Last week I wrote a blog post listing some of my fears for NaNoWriMo. Mainly the scope of my novel, the complexity of the story, the worlds where it all takes place, and the characters who would drive the story forward. If you read the post, you will know that I went back to mind-mapping in order to plan out my story. As I write this, I have seven pages of digital mind maps, and one drawn out mind-map detailing almost every aspect of the story. I would love to share images of them with you so you can see the interweaving lines and series of interconnected notes, but doing that would reveal my story; and I’m not one for spoilers.

Story Mapping

So the story involves multiple characters. It involves various dynamics. It is a jumbled mess of genres and ideas piled together to create a story I hope will blow your mind. Figuratively of course. It has been an ongoing desire to write such a story since I read Th3e by Ted Dekker and I’m still reeling from it a month later.

The real problem with the idea in my head was the simple fact that nothing was aligning in a way that made sense. I had no idea who the characters (their persona, looks etc) were. I had no idea how the novel would start. What the middle would be or how it would end. My head was comprised of epic scenes, intense dialogue, and a floating concept. Yet at the end of it all, it had gaping plot holes.



Out of the characters who will run the story, I have two of them figured out. Something I’m glad I did now rather than during the story as one of these characters suddenly has a bigger role than I had originally planned. Which means restructuring a bit of the novel to accommodate this change; and it’s not a bad change either.


A friend of mine asked me what the story was about. I then proceeded to divulge a convoluted mess that confused me as well. Which means I don’t know enough about my novel yet- also his mind wasn’t blown and that’s a big no-no. The contributing factor to this confusion was not the characters or the story per se, but rather the big WHY in the sky. So your characters do this and that, and your story is about this and that but why. Why are your characters doing that? Why is your story moving towards that goal? I had no answer.

Where to from here?

It’s obvious isn’t it. I need to give some serious motivation to the whole story, get my characters re-aligned to this ultimate goal and guide the story accordingly. Guess it’s back to the drawing board and there’s only 11 days left…


Map to the World: Nano Prep


As most of you will know, NaNoWriMo is around the corner. Initially I wasn’t going to participate considering the busyness of life and all the things requiring my attention. However, I was talking to Rachel Poli in one of her blog posts discussing NaNo participation and she reminded me that I could be a rebel; I could write my 50K words without starting a new novel. It was a great idea.

New Novel

Of course, my mind is a mysterious creature, able to conjure up the most outlandish ideas at the worst times. I don’t even remember where the idea came from, but I was suddenly struck by it for a new novel. Just in time for NaNo too. Only problem? It’s vast. It’s confusing. It’s massive. It keeps twisting and turning and writhing and squirming into a new form every day. It has more forms than a villain from Dragonball Z.



I’m a pantser. A discovery writer. A rambler. I get an idea, start writing and let the story, characters, and vague plot progress the story wherever it pleases. I’m as surprised by the ending as everyone else. Truth is, this doesn’t work all the time. It’s probably why I don’t have a complete novel by now. Why I hit writer’s block faster and harder.

Characters are core ingredients to a story. I sometimes forget this and realize much later than I have cookie-cut characters as thin as paper and more clichéd than an orphaned boy who finds out he has a special ability that makes him the chosen one. According to ancient prophecy. Guided by his mentor… who dies.

World Building is a massive part of the story. Yet I tend to forget this even though I wrote a four part series on world building. In fact, I read through that series and I realized that it’s all just vague waffling without getting into the nitty-gritty of world building. Even that is just another example of my type of writing. And I’m starting to hate it.

Depth of story, character, and world is my greatest obstacle. It is really difficult to write profoundly when you have no idea what you’re writing about. It is difficult to have significant characters when you have no idea who they are. It is difficult to have an expansive world if you don’t know what it is. In short, discovery writing hasn’t allowed me to explore all of these important traits and all I’m left with is lackluster drafts soon to be Recycle Bin material.



XMind is a free mind mapping software available for Windows, Mac, Linux and even has the cool function of working straight from a USB flash drive without needing to install it. My younger (sometimes wiser) self used to map every detail in a story. I’ve decided to go back to this tried and tested method to plot out my new novel. It actually needs it. There is so much detail I can’t imagine writing paragraphs of notes and trying to tie them all in as separate pages.

I’m actually struggling to plot this all out. The story has multiple-genres (horror, thriller, fantasy, and sci-fi, told as a mystery). It involves multiple characters. It involves multiple worlds. It involves concepts I need to figure out right down to the core otherwise my story will have more plot holes than all the Marvel hero movies (I’m looking at you especially X-Men). I’m already feeling severely overwhelmed and NaNo hasn’t even started yet.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew and I’m either going to choke, or pull a Golden-Snitch-In-My-Throat-For-The-Win-Maneuver.



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