Every year as November rolls around, I think about joining in the National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo for short.
The idea is to challenge yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. That’s an average of 1667 words per day. That is quite a challenge to many writers, myself included. On an average day I am generally happy with 500 – 1000 words. On a good day I might stretch this to 1500, and on a fabulous – albeit very rare – day I can even get over 2000. I think my best day was a super 3000 words, but that mean about 10 hours of work.
I considered joining the challenge again this year, but realistically I just don’t have the time with my many responsibilities outside of my writing.
Poem a day
So instead I am going for an easier, softer and far more achievable goal: a poem a day for the month of November. So far I’m on track. I might even publish a few of them here on this site. (The first one appeared here.)
I have done this successfully before. On a six week holiday in Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain we were away for 45 days and I wrote 55 poems. Admittedly, some of them were haiku, but I achieved my goal. And I wrote some great poems as well.
Thought: perhaps I will create a new habit and write a poem every day of the year. Now that’s a challenge I can achieve.
Late last week our next door neighbour asked permission to enter our property over the weekend. He was planning to trim some of our trees leaning over his fence. Not only would this be much tidier, it would reduce the fire hazard on his property, something we have to be very aware of here in South Australia, especially as another summer is approaching rapidly.
As he started Friday afternoon I went over to chat to him, asking for more details on what he proposed to do. One of the tools he had hired was a chainsaw with a long extension arm on it. At full extension he could reach nearly 5 metres while standing safely on the ground. I immediately saw the potential regarding one tree in our garden.
I had forgotten the obvious.
A few months ago I had tried climbing up a ladder to lop the top two thirds of a tree near the house. From about two in the afternoon this tree shades our PV solar panels, diminishing their efficiency for the rest of the afternoon. Even cutting this tree to the base will not kill it. In fact, mallee trees thrive on this trimming and will regrow quickly. My attempt to trim the tree was unsuccessful; it was unsafe at that height.
I had forgotten the obvious.
The obvious solution was to hire one of those very useful chainsaws with an extension. Doh. I offered to help my neighbour in his trimming – if he would come over and trim my tree. In about ten minutes the job was done. I then spent the next few hours helping him in return, offering to tidy up after him cutting and getting rid of the cut wood. Next winter we will keep warm with this wood.
Forgetting the obvious
When we are writing we can so easily forget the obvious. We blaze away writing a story, poem, article or novel and then shoot the manuscript off to a publisher. Then we wonder why it didn’t get accepted when it returns many months later. Some of the obvious things we forget include:
- Proofreading for spelling errors.
- Checking that the grammar is correct.
- Rewriting repetitive or hard to understand parts.
- Checking the publishers requirements; don’t send a poem to a car enthusiast’s magazine – unless they specifically are asking for poems about cars.
- Check the maximum (and often the minimum) word count required; this is especially important in writing competitions.
- Get someone else to read your writing, checking for understanding, grammar and spelling. And typos.
- Keep a copy of your work.
- Check you’ve included your name and contact details.
- Keep writing. Don’t twiddle your thumbs while waiting for the publisher to reply; it could be months!
At long last I have returned to do some concentrated editing and rewriting of the children’s novel I wrote last year. This is the novel I am writing for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing degree. It is now in its 7th draft (and counting).
You can read about how I went about the process of writing it here, including some articles outlining some of the background research, some of the considerations I needed to address and some of the problems encountered.
I had attempted to complete the novel and hand it up for assessment late last year but illness got in the way. Continued illness has hindered my progress so far this year too. After a break of over three months I am finally in a position to make a run for the finish line.
At the moment I am going through my supervisor’s notes and making changes where necessary. In many cases this involves changing a few words here and there, eliminating unnecessary words and phrases (and some ponderous sentences) and paying close attention to punctuation. It is painstaking work but very necessary. Not only do I desire a good mark but I also want to impress a publisher so much that there is no option but to snap up my manuscript and publish it.
Today I have been looking at the first few chapters. I want them to be the very best I can do. In many cases you have to win over the editor and the reader in the first chapter – sometimes even in the first page.
Some writing hints:
- Pay close attention to all punctuation marks. Get it right.
- Get rid of unnecessary words.
- Eliminate anything which does not advance the plot.
- Vary the length of your sentences.
- Make the opening scenes and chapters memorable in order to hook the reader into turning the pages.
My short story starters remain popular month after month.They are the most accessed articles on this blog. You can access these ideas by clicking on the link below.
Also becoming popular are the articles in my writing prompts series of articles.
Today we have another 20 writing prompts. Use these as warm up activities, or for ideas for stories or articles or blog posts. Use them however you like. Let me know in the comments how you went using these ideas.
Twenty Writing Prompts:
- Write about your favourite fruit.
- Who is your favourite famous person in history (alive or dead)? Write down a list of questions you would like to ask during an interview.
- You are waiting for a bus. A public phone starts ringing and you answer it. Write down your conversation.
- You go fishing and catch your best fish ever. As you take it off the hook, it talks to you. Record your conversation.
- Describe the life of a clock – from the point of view of the clock.
- A small spaceship flies in through your window and lands next to your computer. Describe your reaction. What do you do next?
- Describe the worst disaster you’ve ever experienced.
- Write the first sentence of the novel you want to write someday. Make it great.
- “It’s not over yet.” Write down what you think might happen next.
- Write about the things you wish you had done on your holidays.
- “That’s what’s wrong with this organisation.” Make a list of the things that need correcting. It might be best if you don’t leave this list lying around at work.
- Write about the things you are not certain about.
- Describe what happened tomorrow.
- Imagine you are an ant living in a colony of ten million ants. How valued do you feel? Write about your feelings.
- One of your hens hatches an egg containing a small dinosaur. How do you look after your new pet?
- Imagine your best friend has died. Write an obituary for your friend.
- “I thought this would never happen to me.” Describe what happened and how you dealt with the situation.
- Make a list of things you could do when sick in bed.
- “My life is based on a true story.” Write about the things that you wish had happened in your life.
- Make a list of the highlights of your life so far.
Sometimes writers get stuck for ideas. This might just be a temporary blip on the radar screen. If it persists over a long period of time, the dreaded writer’s block might be the cause.
Whatever the situation, writers are left without ideas. This is where my very popular short story starters can help. Then we have this series of writing prompts to get you out of those writing ruts. Today I present the latest list of writing prompts.
Use these as writing warm up activities. Use them as jumping off points for stories, or magazine articles or even blog posts. Use them however you wish.
Twenty Writing Prompts
- Write about a career you have always dreamed about.
- Write a conversation between a cow and a blade of grass.
- What is your favourite household appliance? Write about its life from the point of view of the appliance.
- If you had a choice, where would you live and why?
- Write a list of ten things you would never write about.
- Write a list of menu items you would offer to an enemy who came into your restaurant.
- Choose an item in the room. Describe it without saying what it is and from the object’s point of view.
- Make a list of the ten greatest inventions ever.
- Write five things you would never tell your children – or your parents.
- You are alone in the house. Your cat/dog starts talking to you. Record your conversation.
- Choose a colour. Write about how it would feel if everything in the world was that colour.
- A stranger approaches you in an airport and asks for a thousand dollars. Record your conversation.
- Describe boredom. Make your description exciting.
- Assume that more ice creams are sold on Tuesdays. Write a short report on why this is so.
- Take on the role of your editor. Write the most devastating rejection letter you can imagine.
- What would you do if you could live for a thousand years? describe your life.
- Make a list of ten things that the world would be better off without. (“Things” – not people!)
- Describe the best party ever. Who would you invite? Where would you hold it? What would you have to eat?
- Describe what you would do if you found an elephant in your garden.
- Write down your thoughts about the most controversial current news item.