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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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

Chapter 5: Random Research – A Valedictorian Speech

This week, I started a new job. That meant getting back to my daily train commute.

Each day I spend around 2 hours travelling to and from work. And each day, that two hours is the most inspired I feel. The notes section of my phone is filled with random thoughts, ideas, even chunks of writing. But by the time I arrive home, that inspiration has faded.

Why does the inspiration hit on the train? It’s the only time of day where I have nothing else to do, no distractions, no procrastination. It can be very dull to be sat in a carriage full of strangers with limited internet access for 40 minutes. And so, I fill that time with the writing and research I put off at all other times.

This week, I set myself one of the more random research tasks: How to Write a Valediction Speech. 

I’m British. In England, we don’t have graduation from high school, or valedictorians, so writing a valedictorian speech for a high school character in the latest episode of my script, is proving harder than I originally thought it would be. Having no idea where to start, I turned to the internet. A quick google (what did people do before google?) led me down the path to reading the valedictorian speeches of New York high school students I will never meet. I am grateful to them for their wise and inspiring words.

The words of these students made me realise just how useful this one piece of writing could be to the entire script. The one speech can not only provide the audience with background information that they need to know before the next set of episodes, whilst also hinting to future scenes.

My phone is full of notes containing things to include in the speech, but now on this sunny Saturday afternoon, my inspiration has disappeared. And I’ve realised that it isn’t a usual valedictorian speech I need. It is a fictional, scripted one that suits an American teen drama. That brings me to my plan for the rest of the afternoon.

There are shows I have grown up inspired by, hoping to one day make a show as good as those shows, a show that will one day help someone like me decide that they want to grow up and make their own programme, and so on and so on.

I have a plan to follow the valedictorian speeches of these great characters:

Hayley James Scott (One Tree Hill)

Rory Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)

Taylor Townsend (The OC)

Troy Bolton (High School Musical 3)

One day my character Millie Evans, will be added to this list. But for that to work, I have to actually write it. Stay tuned.

Cx

Chapter 4: The First Chapter

I realise the title of this post doesn’t immediately make sense.

After posting yesterday’s blog I spent my entire day writing. The first chapter of my as yet untitled project took the entire day, but by bedtime, it was written. I’m sure I’ll re-write most of it, that I’ll tear it apart being hyper critical. But for now, it’s done. I have started.

The chapter is 3000 words. It was a very start-stop process, I wrote a few hundred words, got distracted by something, came back a while later and added another paragraph. I found a spurt of inspiration later in the day, helping me to reach the finish line. And hitting that final full stop of Chapter 1 felt like an achievement.

Then this morning, doubt started to creep in. What if none of it was any good? What was the point? Would I ever really make it beyond my usual stopping point?

If I’m honest, after all that writing the bit I am most happy with is the opening. Hours of writing and the beginning was the best part. This is what I struggle with, that crushing disappointment that I can’t help but feel, when a story that my mind creates, never quite matches with the words on paper. Surely confidence in my own skills will come with time, with practise, with editing, at least that’s what I hope.

A plan for Chapter 2 arrived on a train this evening, it’s sitting on my phone ready to go. And suddenly I was refilled with confidence, excitement, inspiration. I walked home full of ambition, a plan to write another entire chapter before I go to sleep.

But as I sit here now, my fingers want to write, to stay up for hours and push on, give Marie Austen more in her life. Meanwhile, my mind is tired from the first day of a new job, the TV is playing and my resolve to write is waning.

As I try to decide whether to continue my story, here’s the opening for you to read.

Marie Austen lay staring at the ceiling, the soft blanket draped loosely across her curvy frame. She stared at the off-white ceiling, her curly brunette hair scrunched below her against the pillow, her own gentle breaths the only sound she could hear. She closed her eyes and sighed, already aware that she would regret her decision. 

Rolling onto her side, closing her eyes, Marie pretended to sleep. The bathroom door opened, her lover done with his post coitus shower. He pulled the cover back slightly, climbing under the blanket beside her. His muscular arm snaked around her waist, his legs intertwined with hers, she could smell the sweet scent of his watermelon shampoo. He held her close, softly kissing her shoulder blade as his wet hair left cold drops of water sliding across her skin. Together they lay silently in each other’s company. 

Chapter 3: Meet Marie Austen

Do you ever have a character who you keep returning to?

Marie Austen was born a teenager almost 10 years ago. She was created as a secondary character in a fan fiction I wrote. Based on what? The Disney Channel made for TV movie Camp Rock. At the time, I was a teenager, desperate for a writing project and for some sort of reaction and feedback from readers. FF.net was my place for that. What started as a short term project turned into 6 months intense planning and writing, over 94,000 words and created the lives of Marie Austen and her older, more successful sister Eliza.

Intrigued? The story still exists at Who I Am fan fiction

As I was driving the other day, Marie Austen popped into my mind. I could hear her voice, asking me to make a story about her life. Give her a chance in the spotlight. It’s been 6 years since I last wrote about Marie’s life – in a sequel to the original fan fiction, which I regret writing as it wasn’t as good as the original.

Who is Marie Austen?

Marie came into literary existence aged sixteen. She was her sister Eliza’s support system in the world of music. She was sweet, innocent and in awe of her sister’s career. I thought about Marie’s character. She deserved justice, she deserved a chance to have her story told. A story came to mind.

The story would find Marie in her early twenties, grown up. Having lived her life under her sister’s shadow, Marie was no longer the plucky, supportive teen she had once been. She was bitter and carving out her own life. If the story was to work, it wasn’t going to be a sequel to the fan fiction I wrote as a teen. It would be a stand alone, re-introducing the world to the lives of Marie and Eliza Austen. Marie wanted her own story, so a story I will write for her.

As Yet Untitled (I find coming up with titles is the hardest part) will feature on this blog. Hopefully this is the start of a beautiful story. Or it won’t. Let’s see.