Camp NaNoWriMo is here!

It’s that time of year again! July 2019 Camp NaNoWriMo has officially begun as of Monday. Once again, I am taking part. Join me — it’s not too late!

Clicky to view my stats:

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2019 logo - a sun with sunglasses on overlooks a mountain range, tent and two fir trees, with a large pencil beneath with '2019 writer' etched onto it

Camp NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, is NaNoWriMo‘s less stressful little sibling where you set yourself a custom goal for the month — words, minutes, hours, lines or pages — and work towards it to ‘win’. It’s a lot less restrictive than the more well-known NaNoWriMo (50,000 words only).

This month I’ve set myself a goal of 1,500 minutes which equates to 25 hours. It’s my intention not only to meet this goal, but smash it! So, wish me luck.

My goal for Camp is to complete 10,000 words of my rewrite, a 400 word synopsis of my book, and then polish both up for submission to the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize. Lofty goals indeed — people on Twitter keep banging on about a Mercury Retrograde? — but I know I can do it!

Are you guys participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month? What are y’all’s projects and goals?

S.E. Berrow

S.E. Berrow On Hiatus

I’m sorry to announce that due to various life stresses such as house-buying, work and social commitments, I am now officially On Hiatus.

By this, I mean I can no longer fool myself that I have the time, will, or inclination to create. My mind is a hideous, carnival-like hellscape — a carousel of anxiety and despair, going round and round in my head; a house of horrors from which I cannot escape, where the worst possible scenario threatens to jump out at me around every corner.

My mind is so occupied with things that are not writing, that I cannot effectively edit The Mayor: Part One. I cannot churn out even a paragraph for my John novella. I can’t even maintain this blog — it’s not acceptable. I fall at every hurdle. I fail at every task and goal I set myself. All I succeed in doing is sitting down at a desk and staring at a computer screen. I type out maybe… 4 words over the course of half an hour? Then I cry. And cry. And cry.

Not being able to write is making my anxiety worse. As such, this is me accepting that it’s just not going to happen until I am in a better place, both physically, and mentally. Thus… hiatus.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I fully intend to pick everything up again as soon as this dark cloud passes. Also my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre, is drip-feeding me her own edits of The Mayor: Part One for me to read and absorb, and we have our writing retreat to look forward to in late November. Until then, I can still research. I can still world-build. I find these sorts of things are less taxing than editing or writing — they are true escapism. When I’m having an OK day, I can also stretch to adding to my outline of The Mayor: Part Two, which is definitely productive.

I’ve also commissioned some artworks from my illustrator Brettarts of some of my favourite scenes and characters from The Mayor to inspire me and bring me pleasure. Below is one such example of these depicting my characters, Melora and John. I can’t wait to have this incredible image printed, framed, and put on display in the office of my new house (when things eventually start moving on that front). I hope you like it ♥

JohnandMelora

I’m sorry to my friends and Beta readers I’m letting down with this news, but please know that it is absolutely necessary if I am to make it to next year at all.

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

‘Tis The Season to be Stressed Out, Fa La La La La, La La La, HALP

OK guys. Confession time.

I’m not going to make my end of year deadline to complete a first draft of The Mayor.

Here’s the situation:

In a previous post (see here), I explained how I still had 8 more chapters left to write, and was aiming to finish a chapter a week.

Well, this plan fell on the wayside pretty quickly, because it took me 3 weeks to complete just one chapter told from the POV of my villain.

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 23.52.21
Our writing retreat in the Cotswolds… Take me back!

Now, I’ve spoken before about how hard Kale is to write in the past; understatement of the century as I’m concerned. This particular chapter was even harder, because it dealt with long-awaited revelations, violent payoffs and a fuck-ton of allegory. Add that to real-world, catatonia-inducing stress (I decided that now, just before Christmas, would be the perfect time to sell my house for some stupid reason), and you can imagine how hard it was for me to sit down and force those words out.

As for the 4-day writing retreat with K.F. Goodacre? Productive as it was (I’d probably still be stuck on that Kale chapter if I hadn’t gone), it was only 2 days long, not 4.

So I still have 5 chapters left to write, and less than 4 weeks to write them.

I have shed actual tears over this. I have had anxiety attacks. I’ve felt like a complete failure and like I was letting not only myself down, but other people as well: my writing partner; my boyfriend, my friends who read what I write as I go along…

But the other night while I was having a shower (it’s amazing how much a nice hot shower clears my head), I had an epiphany:

  • I’m not being paid to do this. I’m not published. I don’t have an agent. I’m not locked in a contract. I don’t have any obligations beyond the ridiculously high standards I’ve foolishly set for myself.
  • It’s the festive season. I usually love Christmas, but this year so far, I haven’t been enjoying it at all, because I’ve been so wrapped up in worrying about how I’m not going to meet my deadline on top of work stuff, house stuff, money worries, and other things I can’t control. I can however control my deadline. Why? Because it’s self-imposed.
  • Most of my writing happens at the weekend… but I’m fully-booked from now until Christmas. I do not want to be resenting the fact that I’m spending time with the people I love — or worse yet cancelling on them at the last minute — because of a self-imposed deadline.
  • This last month has been a struggle. A real struggle, mental health-wise. This wasn’t helped by the fact I didn’t win NaNoWriMo, even though I knew there wasn’t a chance in Hell that I would when I started. WHY, BRAIN?! WHY DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?
    Throw a lapsed deadline and a failed 2017 New Year’s Resolution into the mix, and at this point I’m running pretty close to throwing in the towel altogether. My finger is practically hovering over the delete button, Guys, and that is not good! THAT IS NOT GOOD AT ALL. (I’ve actually done this before with a previous WIP, and have regretted it ever since).

If I’m objectively honest with myself, I’ve done amazingly well this year. I’ve written almost 75,000 words of my novel — more than I’ve ever written in a single year in my life — all while maintaining a household, caring for two cats, and holding down a full-time job. I’m within touching distance of the finish line, so to fall at the last hurdle would be an absolute tragedy.

Therefore I’ve made the difficult decision to extend my deadline by 2 months. Instead of 31 December 2017, I will now be aiming to have a first draft completed by 28 February 2018. (This is actually a pretty excessive deadline — I should in theory be able to do it in one).

I hope you guys aren’t too disappointed in me. I’m so sorry to have let you down if you were excited about the prospect of me finishing, but I think it will totally worth it in the end because I will actually have a story to share with you ♥

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


P.S. Just so this post isn’t entirely disappointing and depressing… here are some random things I’m really loving at the moment that I want to share with you!

Books: The Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo — a New Adult heist story set in a fantasy world based on 19th century Tsarist Russia. It has a wonderfully diverse cast with some great characterisation — and the story is so much fun! I just don’t want it to end.

Music: Kingslayer by symphonic power-metal band, Almanac — especially the opening track, ‘Regicide’:

On the morning after the king has lost his crown,
Only tears and laughter come together now.
When my senses fail us, I’ll fade without a sound.
When I see you fail I’ll break in to break you down.

Also the album art is great. It’s so, so good; currently tied with Arch Enemy‘s Will To Power for my personal Favourite Album of the Year, 2017.

Lipsticks:Naked Witch‘ by the lovely ladies at Necromancy Cosmetica. At last! I can now make myself look like a ghost without using my foundation as a lipstick! Their palest nude ‘Healing Stone‘ is simply gorgeous too. I love them both. Love love love.

I’m also super amazed at how — despite being without power for 90+ days (being based in the hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico) — they were still able to safely ship my order to me in a matter of days ♥

It’s official: I have The Fear

I have just over 2 months left to finish my first draft of The Mayor.

Sarah Andersen

Crap.

In an attempt to be positive about this, I’ve worked out the following:

  • According to my current plan, I only have 8 more chapters left to write.
  • Two of these ‘chapters’ are actually 1-2 page ‘interludes’.
  • I’m about halfway through one of these 8 chapters already.
  • I have a 4 day ‘writing retreat’ with K.F. Goodacre booked towards the end of November. The pseudo writing-retreat I took at the beginning of October resulted in 2 and a half chapters in just 4 days, so that bodes well.

So technically, that’s just 5 and a half more chapters I have left to write, plus 2 short interludey, epiloguey thingies… I’m currently aiming to complete at least a chapter a week so… that’s totally doable, right? I CAN DO THIS!

Positivity

Today I got back from the booziest family/long-weekend holiday ever, and I didn’t get any writing done at all. So consequently I’m feeling pretty low and rubbish at the moment. It could very well be the hangover talking.

PLEASE SEND ME POSITIVE, ENCOURAGING THOUGHTS, YOU GUYS. I NEED THEM ♥

Deadline-Induced Panic

Take care,

S.E. Berrow

P.S. Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust is now in my possession, I repeat, THE BOOK OF DUST IS NOW IN MY POSSESSION ♥ I picked it up from Waterstones today. Have you got your paws on a copy yet? Have you finished it? Ahhhhh, I’m so excited! I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life for this.


The ‘Deadline’ comic strip is by the wonderful Sarah Andersen aka. Sarah Scribbles. The other two graphics are sadly sourceless — please let me know if they are yours and would like to be credited, or for the image to be removed.

A Writer’s Best Friend: My Favourite Writing Tools

Today’s been a bit of a write-off (ha) in terms of story progression due to a rare hangover, so if I wasn’t going to be productive, I thought I might perhaps share with you a couple of the tools that I use for my writing instead.

For many years I relied upon good ol’ fashioned Microsoft Word for word processing, which I think is what most children of my generation were taught to use at school for absolutely everything from essays to short stories. Unfortunately, the thing about Microsoft Word is:

  • You cannot buy it individually and have to buy it as part of Microsoft’s Office suite with a load of superlative software like Excel, Outlook/OneNote and Publisher.
  • It’s bloody expensive, currently retailing on the official website at $149.99 for a one-time purchase, or alternatively you can shell out $69.99-$99.99 on an annual subscription for more products you won’t use and a household license.
  • It has far too many functions.
  • It’s far too distracting to write on.

So, here are a couple of alternatives (besides your bog standard pen and paper of course) that I have discovered work wonders for me and my productivity.

Please note that this post is not being sponsored by anyone and all my views are entirely my own. I’m just wishing to share the love!

Scrivener

I think many writers of today will agree that Literature & Latte Ltd’s Scrivener is a writer’s best friend. Whilst initially quite daunting with an absolutely massive tutorial to read through the first time you open it, you get to grips with it pretty quickly and now I cannot live without it. Scrivener doesn’t just let you store your words, it also:

  • Stores absolutely everything you can possibly think of about your novel in one place including your research notes, maps and inspirational images so you can quickly jump from one to the other at a click of a button.
  • Allows you assign labels to your writing e.g. ‘Chapter’, ‘Scene’, ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’, ‘First Draft’ so you can keep track of what you’re doing.
  • Provides a tree-view of your work so you can move bits of your stories around and drill-down into scenes within chapters within parts with ease.
  • Also provides a ‘corkboard’ view that does exactly the same thing if you prefer, with index cards for synopses or images.
  • Provides you with templates for designing characters, places and settings.
  • Lets you store all kinds of media related to your story, including images and music files.
  • Has an excellent distraction-free writing option called Composition Mode which removes all functions from the screen except for a blank page and your text.
  • Will compile your novel for you when you are finished.
  • Syncs with iOS so you can work on your project anywhere (the iOS app is sold separately to the main product; I personally don’t use it)

Scrivener Screenshot

Now for the bad news: Scrivener is not free, retailing at approximately £36-£41 depending on whether you’re a Mac or Windows user. However, I cannot stress enough what excellent value for money this program is and it comes with a generous household license, meaning you can download it on multiple computers that are using the same platform.

Worth noting: even if you do not take part in NaNoWriMo, you should sign up anyway because Scrivener are one of their sponsors and sometimes do extremely generous promotional deals for NaNoWriMo participants (I ended up paying just £29.61 for the Mac version off the back of one such deal).

If I woke up one day and Scrivener had disappeared from my computer, I think I would go into meltdown. Buy it!

http://literatureandlatte.com/

Evernote

Evernote screenshotThis handy iOS app is essentially the equivalent of carrying an extremely swish notebook around on your phone. I actually use Evernote for so many things other than my writing, including to-do lists, wish-lists, recipe storage, gym programs and reminders to myself. Most importantly though, I do use it for writing on the go. Whether it be jotting down an idea that’s come to me on the train, or writing out a scene that I just can’t get out of my head on my lunch break, Evernote is always there for me! It also has a great sharing function that I use with my writing partner, K.F. Goodacre whereby if we quickly need the other’s opinion on something, we just drop it in our ‘Feedback Wanted’ folder, sync up, and pick up. You never have to save anything either as it constantly syncing to the cloud. No more computer-crashing-before-you-could-save-your-file panic! Plus, because it’s cloud-based, you can view the contents of Evernote on all your devices and it’s cross-platform between Mac and PC. Yay!

Evernote is a partly-free subscription service with 3 tiers you can choose from depending on your needs:

  • Tier 1 – Basic (free): 2 devices and 60 MB (if you’re using Evernote for writing only this more than enough, so you could install Evernote on your phone and have it sync to your computer at home).
  • Tier 2 – Plus (£29.99/y): unlimited devices, 1 GB storage, access to customer support (I use this one because like I said, I use Evernote for everything, not just my writing).
  • Tier 3 – Premium (£49.99/y): unlimited devices, 10GB storage, access to customer support, PDF editing and lots more (not worth getting unless you’re running a business!).

https://evernote.com/

And, last but not least…

OmmWriter Dana II

By far my absolute favourite way to write is using the beautiful, completely distraction-free text processor, OmmWriter.

OmmWriter

It is essentially a stand-alone, more advanced version of Composition Mode in Scrivener, that fills the whole screen and removes all distractions, including clocks, formatting options and the pesky internet. What you see in the screenshot above is pretty much all there is to it. You get a text box  which you can drag around the page and make as small or as large as you want. You then get the option to change a very limited number of things to tailor your writing experience:

  1. Font style (4 options – I use option 1)
  2. Font size (4 options – I use option 3)
  3. Background colour/image (8 options – I use option 5)
  4. Background music/sound (8 options incl. mute – I use option 2)
  5. Keystroke sounds (8 options incl. mute – I use option 1)
  6. Save/load up a .txt or .omm file

And that’s it! The text box disappears and you just let the beautiful colours, music and sounds wash over and clear your mind completely for a distraction-free writing experience. Ah, bliss!

OmmWriter Example

I have never been more productive than when I started writing with OmmWriter; it just makes it so pleasant to write and easy to become completely and utterly engrossed in your work. Like Scrivener and Evernote, I cannot live without it.

The creators of OmmWriter have a ‘pay what you want’ pricing structure, meaning that you can get OmmWriter for free, but you probably should at least pay the minimum price of $5.11 (like I did) because it’s such a gorgeous piece of software; the developers deserve every penny.

http://www.ommwriter.com/en/

That’s all for now! I hope you will check some of these out if you were not aware of them already and that they help you as much as they have helped me. What do you guys use to write on? Do you disagree with some of my choices or have you some of your own to share?

Happy writing,

S.E. Berrow

Disaster Has Struck!

Terrible news, my dear readers! And no I’m not talking about the fact that 52% of my fellow countrymen decided to commit economic suicide last Friday, nor the fact that the Pied Piper, Boris Johnson, has led all the rats and innocent children out of the EU only to then never be seen again…*

No. I’m afraid it’s far worse than that, at least from an aspiring writer’s perspective. My adorable black and white ball of fluff, Baron Edgar A. Von Purrtrap, has chewed through my MacBook charger(!!!) the day before my writing partner K.F. Goodacre and I head off to Camp NaNoWriMo for 31 days of dedicated creativity. My computer is refusing to charge, and I will now be forced to fork out a maximum of £65 for a replacement.

Bad Edgar. Bad.

Fortunately, I’m a bit of an old-school writer who makes more progress with a pen and paper than on a word processor. That being said, typing up what I’ve written at the end of the day is a big thing for me, plus I am now cut off from my Scrivener project that holds a lot of my research and inspiration. If anything it’ll be interesting to see what sort of things I produce without this particular crutch, and I suppose it’ll be a lot harder to get distracted by the Internet.

There’s a fine line between distraction and concentration, and the chances are that your cat is sitting on it.


Take care,

S.E. Berrow


* In a rare expression of political affiliation on this blog, I wish to state for the record that I was completely and utterly heartbroken by Britain’s EU Referendum result (announced Friday 24 June), that I voted REMAIN, and that I totally and utterly condemn the Leave Campaign’s lies, underhand tactics and racist rhetoric. I actually cried when I heard the result. Like a baby. I still love you, fellow Europeans ♥

NaNoWriMo: The Halfway Point

NaNoWriMo bookcaseWe are now officially over halfway through NaNoWriMo 2015 and I am sorry to report that I have been a very bad NaNoWriMo participant indeed. I have hardly written anything, and I say this without exaggeration or irony because I have only written a rather non-spectacular 4,929 words. Whilst they are very good words (I really am genuinely very very pleased with them) it’s an inescapable fact that I’m running alarmingly behind schedule if I am to have any hope of reaching 50,000 words by the end of the month. To do so, I would need to write at least 3,219 words per day, which realistically is not going to happen.

Thing is though, I always knew I was going to ‘lose’ NaNoWriMo, and I never actually set out to ‘win’ it. I just wanted to use it as an exercise to get back into the habit of writing on a regular basis. Being the despairing owner of a 170,000 word-draft of pure unfinished ramble (my original draft of The Mayor shamefully amounts to only a 1/4 of the whole book), I’m not exactly the firmest believer in ‘quantity over quality’. I’m a very slow writer even at the best and most creative of times.

I have however, at this halfway point, learned a few things:

1) I don’t actually need long, extended periods of uninterrupted writing time sat behind my desk. All the words I’ve written for NaNoWriMo so far have been written on my morning train journey and in the kitchen on my lunch break. Given half an hour or so, I can churn out about 300 words. So if I wrote every day for a week, that’d be approximately 2100 words. If I wrote every day for a month, that’d be approximately 8400 words. If I wrote every day for a year, that’d be approximately 100,800 words i.e. at least one book’s worth. My train journey takes about 30 minutes, each way, so voila. I seem to have found some writing time.

2) The 170,000 words I originally wrote of The Mayor and have been tempted to burn many times aren’t actually that bad, just long-winded. In fact, they’re pretty good, and it’d do me well to perhaps spend some time hammering these into submission and rewriting great chunks of it rather than starting completely afresh as I originally intended. Don’t kill your darlings… recycle them!

3) Writing should be fun. I do find writing fun, most of the time. But NaNoWriMo’s word counts make it feel like a chore. It doesn’t work for everyone, and I think after several attempts now both at regular NaNoWriMo and also Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s time for me to accept that this sort of thing just isn’t for me and to not to feel guilty about it. Crippling levels of guilt and feelings of failure just stop me from writing anything at all.

So, with two weeks still to go on NaNoWriMo, here’s to hoping I can churn out at least another 4,929 words. After all, 9,858 words written over 30 days may not be as many as 50,000, but it’s better than no words at all! And better than just vomiting out words, if I’m honest…

How is NaNoWriMo going for you? Are you doing any better or trailing behind like I am?

Take care,

S.E. Berrow


 

Think you’ve got what it takes to pen 50,000 words in 30 days? Check out NaNoWriMo’s official websites below. Good luck!

www.nanowrimo.org
www.campnanowrimo.org