The NaNoWriMo challenge

For years I have heard about NaNoWriMo – a month to write a 50,000 word novel. I have always been intrigued by the idea of it, by having to force yourself to sit down and write because there is an actual deadline to make an achievement by. Normally, I forget all about it until half way through November, by which point I decide there’s no point starting late.

But not this year. A few weeks ago, during one of my regular ‘I must think of some new ideas to keep my brain in shape’ sessions, I came up with the idea for a novel and I was really excited by it.

Instead of doing my usual; rushing into writing, quickly growing frustrated and giving up before the novel has even begun, I decided to hold on to it and save it for November. Safe to say, I am looking for to November 1st. However, there’s a lot to be done before then.

I don’t like writing without a rough plan. I won’t allow myself to write any words of the actual novel before the start date, but I need to plan out characters, a rough plot line and the core events, otherwise I know my writing will turn a scrambled jumble of junk.

With just over three weeks to go, my preparations have begun. I’ve join NaNaWriMo.org (Username: JenniferCW26 if you’ve also signed up and want to find me), created my novel and I’m ready to go. I’ll be sharing updates on my progress as I go. Here’s hoping by November 30th I’m celebrating hitting 50,000, not still staring at a blank piece of paper!

My NaNoWriMo Novel

NDA – After a whirlwind night of drinks, dancing and daring moves, Ellie wakes up in the bed of a stranger. A rich, attractive, very famous stranger.

But when Ellie discovers her celebrity one night stand is going to have a much longer lasting effect on her life, she is thrown into a world of secrecy and lies, and forced to sign away all rights to the truth through a legally binding NDA.

Ellie’s realises path to motherhood isn’t going to be easy.

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Trying not to skip ahead

This week, I figured out what I wanted to happen in the season finale of the script I’m writing. It’s all very exciting. Problem is, I still have 4 other episodes before I get to write that episode.

I found myself torn. I was so thrilled and excited by what I have planned, that I immediately wanted to write it. This has happened a few times across my two years of working on Hunters Ridge, but each time I have resisted, determined not to write ahead, because to me it feels like skipping chapters when reading a book, you’ll never really want to go back to those chapters you skipped.

But this is my season finale, it’s where everything is leading to and I found myself wondering if, for once, it was okay to break my rules. If I wrote where it all ends, then I can lead myself there easier. I allowed myself to write segments, including the very final moments. Then I forced myself to go back to work on episode 8.

It’s hard to believe that after two years, I’m coming close to the end of my second full draft. It’s still feels like there’s going to be a long journey to get it from page to screen, but for a project that started as something to do when I was bored on my commute, it’s come a long way. Here’s to the next two years

Finding Inspiration

On Monday, as usual on the train to work, I was reading articles about selling your writing and getting an agent. One after the other the articles spoke about having not just one very good piece, but a selection of other options. It makes sense. But having spent the last two years working on Hunters Ridge, I don’t have a lot of variety in my portfolio.

So I set a challenge to myself: each day this week I had to come up with at least one new story idea. It didn’t matter what it was: novel, script, non fiction. And very idea I had, I had to write down. Something’s I came up with were terrible, cheesy romantic with not real strong plot. Others were too complicated, I could tell they would just lead down a path of unintelligible muddled plot points.

There were a few I felt excited by. Ideas that could have strong potential. In fact a few I have been working on developing to something more.

I wrote all of these ideas on the notes section of my phone. This morning I was looking through them, surprised by the variety and number of ideas I’ve had in just one week. 14 in total (in 4 days).

Each of these ideas had different sources of inspiration: a song on Spotify, a storyline in a TV show, an overheard conversation or a phrase said by a coworker. Some were just there, in my mind, waiting to be discovered. It’s made me remember that there is a wealth of ideas inside me and that inspiration can come from anywhere and anything. And it’s reminded me never to instantly disregard an idea. Everything has potential. Keep your eyes and ears open, you never know what will spark that one idea you have to write.

Ageing of Amber: Age 5

Here you are – the beginning of my new short series. Enjoy.

Ageing of Amber – Age 5

Why does my mom insist on dressing me like this? Smile. Camera flash adjust, smile, flash, again. Every time we go out, it’s the same.

“You’ll want the memories” she tells me. I won’t remember this. Nothing about this is worth remembering.

My shoes are red. And sparkly. I like red. The glitter is okay. They’re pretty.

Off we go! Into the big car. Dad’s driving today, that’s different. Maybe they won’t fight this time, mom is better at directions.

The radio’s on. I don’t like this music, it’s old. I want to sing, but my brother says I can’t. He’s mean. He never wants to do anything with me and I don’t know what not. It’s not fair.

I don’t know where we’re going. It looks like it’s going to rain so I hope it’s not outside, I don’t like getting wet, it makes my curls go curlier and I don’t want them to, I wish I didn’t have curls at all. Mom says they make me look “adorable”, I’m not even sure what that means.

“Turn right” mom says. Too late, he turned right. It begins, the arguing and name calling. I get in trouble for calling my brother a ‘doo-doo head’ but mom says much worse and no one tells her off. Maybe I should…

“You’re not allowed to say that.” The words tumble out and now they’re staring at me, making me go bright red. I’ve said the wrong thing, again.

“Shut up Amber.”

“Don’t tell your sister to shut up.”

“Just said what you were thinking.”

Now mom and Josh are fighting, dad’s annoyed because he’s lost and I still don’t know why we had to go out in the first place. Everything was better when we were at home. I just wanted to stay there. I turn my attention to the window. Outside, cows sit in the field, birds float through the sky. The clouds look like the people in the show mom made me watch earlier. They were too cheery and allowed to sing whenever they wanted. They didn’t have a brother who always told them to stop.

“We’re here.” Mom declares eventually, with a much too pleased smile. Before I can protest I’m being pulled from the car and forced to walk across a muddy field. My red shoes aren’t so sparkly now.

We find a spot near the park and mom lays out our blue chequered blanket that normally lives in the garden. We sit, and mom starts to unpack food from the basket I saw her packing early this morning. Dad’s focus is on his phone. Whatever he is look at upsets him.

“You said you wouldn’t do that.” Mom complains at him.

“I don’t have a choice” He replies, not looking up.

Josh gets up and runs off to join a game of tag with two other, bigger boys. I wish I was like Josh, even if he does smell and tells me he hates me. He is much more fun than me. It’s easy for him. People like him.

“Why don’t you go play?” Mom suggests. Her tone is gentle and soothing, it makes me feel warm inside. But there’s a hint of concern that I hear a lot. She’s worried about me. She doesn’t think I’m happy.

I don’t reply, instead focussing on the cheese sandwich I had just picked up, pulling the crusts off and discarding them in a pile to the side. I know it will get me in trouble, but I don’t want to eat them. Josh once told me that if I ate the crusts, it would make my hair go curlier. I don’t want it any curlier. I don’t like it as it is. So now, I avoid crusts, at all costs.

“Go on Amber.” My dad chimes in. His voice is much sterner and I know not to disobey him. “Go play with the other kids, give your mom and I some peace.” Reluctantly I get up. I cross the field, carefully avoiding the really muddy bits, until I reach the playground. I look around, unsure what to do. It’s not as fun to play on your own, though I’m used to it.

The slide, I decide, is best. Carefully I climb each step one by one until I reach the top. Looking out over everyone else, I suddenly feel like I’m on top of the world. I watch as Josh trips whilst chasing the other boys. But he doesn’t cry, like I would, just gets up and carries on. He’s much braver than me.

I wait for my turn on the slide, but as the person in front of me goes down, I’m suddenly scared. It’s so high and steep and I’m not sure I want my turn anymore.

“Are you nervous?” A girl, who looks my age, her hair in two little pig tails with pink bows that I am envious of, squeaks. I shake my head, but also take a step back, away from the slide. “It’s okay if you are, I am too.” She admits, stepping closer. “Tell you what,” She is now beside me, in front of the slide. “We can do it together.” She takes a seat at the top of the slide, then turns to me, expectantly. “You sit behind me. Put your legs here” She pats the space either side of her legs on the slide and I reluctantly follow her instructions. Something about her makes me instantly trusting – she won’t let me get hurt, we’re in this together  “Now wrap your arms around me and hold tight”. Again, I do as she says. She’s confident it’s safe and I believe here. “Ready?” Silently I nod. “Go!” She pushes off and together we squeal as loudly as we can as we slide, collapsing in a fit of giggles at the bottom.

“I’m Tess.” She tells me, before I tell her my name, “Amber,” and we’re off, chasing across the playground, climbing on the jungle gym, soaring high on the see saw, our laughter barely stopping, our earlier nerves long forgotten.

“Quick, come with me” she instructs me, grabbing my hand and pulling me to the far end of the park, away from everyone else. We sit and huddle together.

“I want to tell you a secret” she whispers to me excitedly.

“I like secrets.” I admit, though I’m not sure I’ve ever been told one before. Tess looks around, checking no one is listening, before continuing.

“You’re my best friend!” I beam with joy. I have never been anyone’s best friend before. “And I’m yours too, right?” She asks, suddenly worried I won’t agree.

“Definitely.” I reply.

“Great! This is going to be so much fun.”

She was right, it was.

 

Chapter 7: Ageing of Amber

I know what you’re thinking, why start another project when I have so many on the go. Yes, it’s probably foolish, I’ll regret it and it won’t last. But it’s warm and I can’t sleep. I was inspired by another blog I read today (when I’m on my computer I’ll add a link) about issues with YA fiction and one thing they wrote about was characters never sounding their age. That got me thinking about this new project.

I’ve created a new character: Amber Thomas. She’s blonde, skinny, popular. But she wasn’t always that way, and she won’t always be that way. So what got her to that point,  and where will she go?

My new project will explore this. Whenever I get the chance (I’m hoping for once a week, we’ll see how that goes), I will write a new short story about Amber, each based at a different age, around a different turning point. Together we will see how she grows and developes with each story. I’m calling it The Ageing of Amber.

The first story is written (by hand, messily scrawled in a new notebook!) I’ll post it here tomorrow. We first meet Amber age five on a family day out. I hope you enjoy her journey through life, one short at a time.

The Ageing of Amber. Coming very soon.

Jx

My valedictorian speech

There’s be no time to write this week. My job has taken over all of my spare time and my characters are in my brain screaming at me to set them free, to let them live and develop their lives. In the meantime, I wanted to share what I had so far for my latest writing piece.

A few weeks ago on this very blog I wrote about the research I was doing into Valedictorian speeches. So here, for those of you who have been kind enough to keep reading my ramblings, is that very speech. Feedback is always appreciated.

Picture, if you will, a crowded graduation ceremony. The year: 2007. Our characters, Evie, Logan, Seth and Brandon, sit amongst their follow students, whilst Millie, a blonde cheerleader with something to prove, strides confidently onto the stage. She stands, looks out to her students and begins:

“Principle Harris, esteemed faculty members, family, friends and, most importantly, my wonderful classmates, I would like to thank you all for letting me speak to you today. I may be blonde, and a cheerleader, but I am not a stereotype. Standing here today, as your valedictorian, I feel it is important for you all to know that we are not what people label us as, we are what we can achieve. I hope that is one of the many lessons that we are able to take away from the four years we have spent here at Hunters Ridge High.

To our parents who are here today, supporting us as they have throughout our high school lives, through our best days and our worst, thank you for always being there, for standing beside us even when you may not have agreed with all the choices we have made. We wouldn’t be here without you.

To the teachers who have gotten us to this day, who have shared their knowledge and helped us learn all that we now know. To Ms Fields, who taught us to always read between the lines and to Mr Golding who encouraged each and every one us to see that it is more than knowledge we gain through our high school years, it is a better understanding of who we are as people.

And my fellow students. Every day for the past four years we have spent hours together, learning from our teachers, but also learning from each other. I will never forget what you have all taught me.

Logan taught me that love is not something you earn, but something you give with all your heart, to those who mean the world to you. Seth’s support and wise words, even in the face of his own struggles, helped me through the toughest times, for which I am more grateful than words can express. Evie made me realise that strength comes from those who are by your side, no matter what. And Brandon Parker showed me that it is possible to actually enjoy a game of football.

Above all else, what we should take from our experiences throughout high school, is that success is not something accomplished alone, but together we can achieve greatness. Our time at Hunters Ridge High has had its ups and downs, but it is these moments both difficult and joyous which we will forever remember. Our high school experience will help us to handle the complications that life throws at us in the future. Whether these are the best days of our lives, or just the beginning, is yet to be seen. But no matter whether your next chapter is college, or your own different adventure, we should all be confident that our time at Hunters Ridge High has prepared us to face anything.

Now as we sign each other’s yearbooks, take our diplomas and say our final goodbyes, I hope we can all agree that we will never forget each other, that the friendships and love that we have experienced over these past four years, will stay with us forever.

Finally, Douglas Adams wrote, in ‘The Long Dark Tea-Time of Soul’, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Our journeys through the halls of Hunters Ridge High may not have been those that we expected, but I am proud of where we have come to be.

Family, friends and faculty,  would you please help me in congratulating The Class of 2007.”

The crowd cheers as they graduate to the next stage of their lives.

Thanks everyone!

Jx

Chapter 6 – Editing

This week has been all about editing. I hit a stump in my inspiration to write anything new, so I took the opportunity to read back through the past 5 scripts I have written. It made me realise two things:

  1. There are always edits to be made. No matter how finished you think a piece may be, you can always find something to change and improve. As I’ve been writing these scripts over the past year and a half, I’ve gotten to know the characters as if they were real people. Now, when I read back through older episodes I realise that lines of dialogue I have written, no longer sound like the characters they have become.
  2. It’s important to re-read previous episodes before continuing. In a few of the old episodes, I noticed that some of the situations I had put the characters into, or the dialogue I had written, contradicts something that happens in later episodes. I have an entire scene I now have to re-write because almost the exact same scene already occurs in an earlier episode, I’d just written it so long ago I had forgotten.

It’s all well and good reading back through a script, but the real editing doesn’t begin until you’ve gotten out the red pen. There is something deeply satisfying about scribbling all over a piece of writing, in that lovely shade of red, knowing you are looking at it from a totally different angle. The editing process can be vicious, it can completely change a piece of writing, but it can hold that revolutionary moment when something that you have struggled to get right, suddenly clicks into place, when the excitement and thrill of writing is reignited by just one change.

So today I begin the  detailed editing phase of my current work on Hunters Ridge. I have six episodes to go through and I hope, after this latest edit, I will start to get to the point of having  piece of writing I am happy enough with to start trying to make something of it. That is my goal.