NaNoWriMo Pointers


Two weeks ago, I took my first look ahead at November in Cunning Plan or Devious Plot?, and admitted that I was going to tackle NaNoWriMo again.

I revealed my proposed novel, “Fates Maelstrom”, and its cryptic blurb. During November, I will post interviews with some of the main characters – posts I intend to write and schedule in advance. And “Attempting to Blog amidst NaNoWriMo” will be my IWSG monthly post on Wednesday 4th November.

At this stage, that all sounds great. Well, I am a committed plotter – and plodder – so even the novel is plotted out with a detailed scene-by-scene outline.

In that post two weeks ago, I also gave a link to a useful post by Janice Hardy on Planning Your Novel’s Beginning, which I hope inspired you to delve further.

Here are a few more useful NaNo posts that I’ve read, and noted, in the last few days.

Where better to start than NaNoWriMo’s own Prep advice. If you haven’t committed yet, why not sign-up.

The month can look daunting, but it’s not an impossible feat. As I said, I’m a plodder, but I’ve achieved the NaNo goal three times – and even written a first draft novel in a non-NaNo month.

But read on with Kim Weiland. She always has great advice – and her fiction is great too. Here’s her NaNo take on Writing Goals, which has some fascinating infographics, as well as useful insights.

These few tips from Emma Darwin are valuable. Some perhaps are reminders of things that we should have already taken on board, but others could save us in the month ahead.

I suspect that a few of you might get stuck somewhere during the month, but Mia Botha suggests one possible solution. I don’t think it’s mine – I tend to throw a tantrum and go to bed. But this brainstorming worksheet might be perfect for you.

And where else should we close but with Janice Hardy’s crucial Planning Your Novel’s Ending. Delve deeper from here as her posts are full of useful links to other articles.

Just make sure that you make time to stop the research reading and conspire ahead to November.

Not convinced that NaNoWriMo is a good idea, especially for you? Then read how taking part changed Mia Hopkins’ life.

Never forget that everything is possible – even another Roland Clarke published novel.

Are you planning to write something during November? Have you any links to share?

The Fall

Autumn Forest (via whispering-n-winds)

Autumn Forest
(via whispering-n-winds)

Autumn is not here yet, and the leaves are hardly turning, so I had no reason to shout “Timber” as I hit the ground. Well, the floor of the bathroom – and my head and shoulders hit the shower.

Getting to the toilet is never easy, especially at night – or in this case at 7 a.m. in the morning, when it involves two wheelchair transfers. Multiple sclerosis drives me crazy. My body cramps up in bed, so I need to push, roll, and force my un-cooperative legs onto the floor. Then I have to push myself up off the bed and, using the bedside cupboard for extra support, swing into my wheelchair without falling. Stage One complete.

But then I need to reach the toilet before my bladder gives up on me – and it has a couple of times. And I need to do this without my legs going into a spasm, which makes it hard to turn the wheelchair through the bathroom door. The transfer onto the toilet relies on me getting the chair near enough to the grab bars on either side of the toilet. And then I have to swing myself across = Stage Two.

Multiple Sclerosis Fact #3 Spasticity

Multiple Sclerosis Fact #3 Spasticity

Except at 7 a.m. I failed to make it onto the toilet. I crashed to the ground lie a tree and screamed something. Fortunately, Juanita, my wife, woke up – as did the dogs – and tried to help the rigid body jammed between the shower and the radiator.

At least there were no canine surprises on the ground, and my bladder didn’t decide that this was the moment to use the floor.

However, we had major problems getting me up off the ground. Juanita tried helping, but at first she only strained her back and stomach. I only had the strength to struggle onto my knees with her help. But then getting up further proved impossible – until she manoeuvred a commode for me to climb onto.

Yes, a commode. Provided by the NHS back when it was impossible to get the wheelchair beside the bed. It had proved to have one major drawback though – it was a tight fit getting my personal bits inserted. Enough said. Move on.

Finally I moved onto the toilet, but by then my bladder had gone back to retaining everything, so couldn’t perform. Back to bed, but by then everyone was awake and sleep proved impossible.

Eventually, after an hour, I went to the toilet as needed. Then a few hours later, we rested our aching bodies. And yes I feel battered, but I’m glad that I didn’t break anything – hopefully not.

That was not the first fall, just the latest of many. My legs collapsed about a month ago and I needed the bed and Juanita to get back up. But I’m worrying about what will happen when I go down harder. Do we call the paramedics? There are no neighbours that could help.

And what happens when I’m taken to hospital. Juanita doesn’t have a UK driving licence, although we have one friend that might help there. That is one key reason why we are heading for the US where we have family – strong sons that can pick me up.

This Omar manufactured Park Home has serious design flaws, even though it was meant to have been built around my wheelchair. With toilets that had just one grab handle each? A shower with inaccessible taps? Basins that can’t be reached from a wheelchair? A cupboard blocking wheelchair access in the bedroom? We have had modifications made by another cowboy firm – modifications that needed more repair work. Don’t think we’ll be going the rebuild route next time.

So on the US front, we need to find somewhere that has the correct modifications, as well as great views, sociable neighbours, and a garden the dogs can dash around and around.

Except that brings us to the ongoing problem: when will my brother ever see the urgency of the situation? When it’s too late? My grand-mother died from complications caused by a fall. My mother had two severe falls before she died. How many does it take?

Will he continue with the blinkers?

Therefore, I may not be commenting on anyone’s blog today, but I have decided to post this today, as this has to be breaking news. Well, hopefully nothing is broken – and this is not going to make headlines or go viral. When did MS ever make the headlines? We are only pretending to be sick.

There are worse problems to report on – like the gossip about Kim Kardashian.

Now, have you heard about…


Cunning Plan or Devious Plot?


Time to look ahead and maybe concoct something. Now seeing that this is the UK and November 5th is creeping up on us, I was thinking something explosive and controversial. Fireworks?

Well there was a devious plot on 5 November 1605 that might have made headlines, if it was successful. But now it is remembered in a different way than intended. But what would have happened if Guido had succeeded?

On a serious note, our animals would be better off.

However my November is more likely to be more of “I have a cunning plan” – if all unfolds as intended. No I don’t mean the proposed return of ‘Blackadder’, although that could be more than cunning. What do you think??


Individual screenshots, copyright held by the BBC

No, I mean NaNoWriMo and my chance to recreate “Fates Maelstrom” with my female Goth detective and in Snowdonia. I’ve almost finished the new character profiles and interviews, and there is a new detailed outline – a devious plot that Guido might approve of, and even a cunning plan that Baldrick couldn’t disagree with. And I have a blurb:

“Did Twyla Locke kill her wealthy English grandfather? Is the nineteen-year-old gypsy woman a schizophrenic liar that could kill again? Or is someone impersonating her, in an attempt to destroy her dreams?

Detective Constable Sparkle Anwyl believes the Romani girl is innocent, but her superior, Detective Sergeant Mal Sumnor, thinks that the forensic evidence against her is overwhelming. Why should he believe his offbeat Goth junior? She’s only needed as she understands Romani.

Then American investigative journalist, Brogan Keyes, produces photos that prove Twyla’s innocence. But why is he in the Welsh village of Craig-o-Niwl? Who is he? What is he hiding?

Sometimes the truth can lie hidden in the past, and some ghosts wield power in vulnerable minds. And some people have reasons to fear buried secrets.”

Although I am hoping that my preparations help me in November, I wonder if I can write 50,000 words in a month. Okay, I did in 2011, 2012, and 2013, but last year was a total zero. In 2014 I intended to write “Fates Maelstrom” Mark II but my total was zilch…nada. Perhaps because I hadn’t got my head around Sparkle Anwyl, or because my health intervened. Having just written 43,639 words in 100days – the 100k in 100 days Challenge – I know my limits, although that was all done ‘pantster’ style.

Or is the secret in the planning stage?

There are some good guides to that stage out there, like this one by Janice Hardy, who says for instance:

“If you like to outline, you might break down your 12,500 words into chapters to get a feel for pacing and structure. To hit your 50K-word mark, you’ll need to write 1667 words a day, so let’s say you’re aiming for a chapter a day. That would give you 30 chapters at the end of the month, a reasonable amount for your average 60-80K novel.”

So what’s my problem? Did Guido achieve anything? Would Baldrick do better?


A New Library In Town: One Stop For Writers

If there’s one thing all writers agree on, it’s that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we’re passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry…and then start the process all over again as we realize there’s room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

Yet, sometimes it’s nice to get a helping hand.

Finding a good writing book, a helpful blog, a mentor or critique partner to share the journey with…these things are gems along the writing path.

And guess what? Maybe there’s another resource waiting just up the road called One Stop For Writers.

One Stop For Writers is not writing software, but rather a powerful online library that contains tools, unique description collections, helpful tutorials and much more, brought to you by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.

Could One Stop For Writers be the writing partner you’ve been searching for? Visit Writers Helping Writers this week (October 7th-14th) and see, where Angela, Lee and Becca are celebrating their venture with prizes and some pay-it-forward fun.


Critique partners and Beta-readers

InsecureWritersSupportGroup2This post arose because I have just given my first critique for a fellow writer in the Insecure Writers Support Group’s Critique Circle on Facebook. And it is the first Wednesday of October, so this is my IWSG monthly post.

I felt that it was the perfect time to look at what the experts had to say about the critique process. So where better than starting with a useful post at IWSG on what to look for in a critique partner:

“The manuscript is polished – huzzah! Time for another set of eyes to look at it.

Beta readers/test readers are often those who are just readers of our genre. They’re great for spotting flaws in the story. But we also need skilled writers to go over the manuscript and examine the plot, the character arc, the grammar, the structure, etc. Enter–critique partners.

What should we look for in a good critique partner?”


So what should we be asking our critique partners? Well there various questions, and here are the ones that K.M Weiland suggests:

1. Is anything confusing?

2. Are any scenes boring or repetitious?

3. Do you spot any general tics (repeated words, etc.)?

4. Do you spot any confusing plot points (let me know when and where I lose you and what needs to be clarified)?

5. Does the opening grab you?

6. Is there an appropriate balance of action with the other subplots?”

These are just the ones that she asks before the crit. partner reads the manuscript, but she has others.


There is an overlap in what one expects from beta readers and crit. partners, and Margaret Yang gives in an insight into her experiences at Jade Varden’s instructive website.

Of course we have to remember to treat our readers with respect. As Michael Kinn points out at Janice Hardy’s Fiction Workshop, there is etiquette involved:

“As beta readers we can all do with some critiquette to guide our feedback to the (hopefully) well-polished drafts writers send us. The seasoned beta reader will find out what type of critique the writer is looking for, shun infeasible turn-around promises and warn the writer of any delays. Of course, beta readers should always offer candid feedback and treat the writer with respect. These are sound rules for critiquing. But in guiding my own critiques, I try to let one piece of advice rule them all…”

How to Serve and Swallow Criticism’ is an art in itself, which Kristan Hoffman describes at Writers Unboxed. However, there may be reasons to ignore some of the advice from our critique groups, as Anne R. Allen explains, but with qualifications.

Those are some of the expert opinions, though not all by a long way. I have my own experiences, but, although I did belong to a writers group, I’m still near the beginning of my critique path. I tend to mix the praise with the constructive criticism. I also aim to not sit on manuscripts for ages, but realise that there are some busy readers out there.

UPDATE: Good guide to “How to Critique Fiction” by Victory Crayne at: 

What is your advice?

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of


Some of you might have noticed that I missed yesterday’s post. Or you think this has combined the two posts? Well, I did think that I could count this one twice. Dang, I could have posted it yesterday, then tweaked it for today. What a missed opportunity. Would anyone have noticed?

In fact, there will be another post this week as I will be posting about the launch of One Stop For Writers, which launches tomorrow October 7th


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with other writers – aim for a dozen new people each time. 

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group –

We also have a t-shirt now! You can purchase it here –

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are TB Markinson,Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar!