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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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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2: Hunters Ridge

My current major project is Hunters Ridge – an American style TV programme that I have so far written 5 x 1 hour episodes of.

Hunters Ridge is my baby

My current major project is Hunters Ridge – an American style TV programme that I have so far written 5 x 1 hour episodes of.  It’s probably the longest I have spent on a single project without giving up or completing it, but I won’t give up.

The project was born after a trip to Los Angeles in January 2016. On the return to work, I was inspired following the holiday and had some down time in my office. For a while I had been wanting to start a new piece of writing. I took a notepad and write down every idea I could possibly think of. Most were terrible and held no promise, but one idea caught my imagination. At the time I called it ‘Never Be Alone’ due to an obsession with Shawn Mendez’s first album, but as the project developed and grew, it became Hunters Ridge.

Over the next year I wrote 12 x 1 hour scripts, sculpting this entire world around 6 core characters: Evie, Logan, Jeremy, Seth, Millie and Brandon. Their lives developed and filled my mind until I felt like there was no more space in my mind. With 12 episodes completed, something I had never achieved before, I began to re-write.

My house is now filled with notebook upon notebook of hand written notes, full character profiles, each 20 pages long with every character trait I could think of, whilst other notebooks contain the full back story, up until the start of the first episode. I have plans for 5 series of this TV show and my mind constantly races with new ideas.

When I had finished re-writing the pilot, my friends (who’s help I am so grateful for) gathered at my house for a read through. Each person had multiple roles and it took much longer than the 1 hour I had written it for. But what came out of it, was a revelation. My friends hated one of the lead characters, they felt no sympathy for him and they argued that a very core plot just didn’t make sense. These were things I would never have seen on my own and they started me on a new journey with Hunters Ridge.

I went back to the drawing board, right to the very beginning, to the very heart of the story. I tore everything apart and for possibly the first time I was very brutal to myself. I took a blank sheet of paper and re-crafted the very heart of the story. One tiny change to a key plot point and a whole new and much improved Hunters Ridge was born.

With each re-write, the characters develop, the story lines change and I feel like I’m a step closer to my ultimate dream of one day having a TV show I created picked up.

A lot of this blog will feature the developments of Hunters Ridge, extracts and moments of inspiration. Right now, I’m off to continue on Episode 6, which has been stalled for a few weeks but is finally moving again.

Introduction

Finally, I have started.

That’s something I say to myself a lot. Beginning is the hardest part when I’m writing. Ideas bounce around my mind for hours, days, sometimes weeks or months, before I put down the first words. I think through scenes, paragraphs, even imagine characters entire interactions before I reach the point where I’m brave enough to write those first words.

It’s the same with writing this blog. For a long time I have thought about it – creating a place I could write, and talk about my writing and about being an unknown author in general. Why today? After a month of travelling and a break from work, I was driving home when the idea reappeared in my mind. A blog title (Novel Unknown) and a free evening to set it all up, and here we are.

Who knows what this blog will, or won’t, one day hold. As of right now, it’s new, exciting and unknown, as are all my projects (of which there have been many) when I start. But if you’re ready to join me on the adventure of writing this, and my other projects, then follow me and we’ll go along together. I promise to try to keep it interesting.