Monthly Archives: March 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo – April Edition



Camp begins in a week!  For anyone not yet prepared, here’s a last-minute planning list:

    • Set your word count – Check out your existing commitments and decide how much time you can set aside for writing.  It doesn’t matter if you can only manage 500 words per day over the weekend: set yourself a goal of 4,000 words.  50,000 words, the set goal for November’s National Novel Writing Month, breaks down to a much-more-sane-sounding 1,667 words per day.  Camp means you get to pick, so whether it’s as low as 1,000 words in 30 days or if you want to aim for a massive 100,000 words before the end of April, the choice is yours!  Once you know how many words you’re going to commit to, it makes step two significantly easier…


    • Choose your project – Camp is the time to rebel, whether that means finishing an existing manuscript, starting a brand new one or writing a series of interconnected short stories.  Or you could try your hand at an epic poetry collection, an exhaustive codex of your favourite video game, a book of Granny’s family recipes… the choice really is yours when it comes to Camp.  If you know you don’t have time for a full length novel, aim for a novella.


    • Do you Pants or do you Plan? – “Pantsing” (writing by the seat of your pants) is an adventure to me.  I go in with a brief idea to spark the story, like being dropped in the middle of a forest without a map, compass or GPS.  Signposts may appear along the way, but the path is certainly not one often travelled.Planning, on the other hand, can be as extensive as you want: mind map your characters traits or family trees; write a timeline for the story (or for the entire history of your world… why think small?); outline chapter sketches; fill in character interviews; get on a copy of The Sims and build your characters and their homes as you imagine them; create Pinterest boards of character outfits and other visual cues (locations; weapons; jewellery; heck, types of fabric, if that floats your boat!)  Anything and everything can be planned and prepared in the build up to Camp, and it can be a lot of fun to do so.


    • Get on the NaNo boards – Set up your profile and project information on the Camp NaNo site and get yourself over the NaNoWriMo Forums.  The Camp site is where you update your daily word count and find your assigned cabin mates.  The forums are a great place to find cabin mates, if you don’t fancy being sorted into a random one and to talk with your fellow WriMos.  Settle in, pitch your imaginary tent and join the excitement!  Campfire Circle and the Reference Desk are my top boards, the first for general Camp-related chat and the latter for those niggly questions that Google doesn’t really help with.  The joy of the NaNo sites is that you can be as involved or as uninvolved as you want to be.


    • Tell EVERYONE! – Keep yourself accountable by telling your family, friends, co-workers, neighbours, postman, that random woman in the street that you’ve signed up for Camp and you’ll be writing X words in 30 days.  Go on, I’ll wait…. Whether you’re a NaNo newbie or NaNo know-it-all, letting people know what you’re up to for the month will not only help them to understand why you’ve become a social recluse chained to your writing implements every free moment and will help keep you committed to your goal.  Get on Twitter, Facebook, forums, your blog… And don’t forget to sign up to NaNoWriMo’s Facebook page and Twitter feeds while you’re at it.  They post regular writing prompts, advice from staff and guest writers and other odds and ends throughout the month to keep your momentum going.


    • Select your writing tool – Personally, I prefer to type.  My hands can almost keep up with my brain (but when they can’t, voice activated software can!) and it makes checking your word count and validation really easy.  Others prefer to hand-write their entire project or to use a typewriter or maybe interpretive dance is more your thing.  I’m not here to judge.  (Note: If you’re not electronically word processing in some way, don’t try to count every individual word when it comes to updating your profile: use a selection of lines to figure out how many words you average on each, then multiply by the number of lines on a page.  It may not give you a precise figure, but at least it saves time!  I have absolutely no idea how you would figure out your word count in interpretive dance, though…)If you’re a typist, you have a multitude of software choices to make: Will a basic word processor suit you, or do you want something more comprehensive, like Scrivener?  If you’ll be working across multiple devices, how are you going to share your work between your main machine and your tablet or phone when out and about?  If you’re going to hand-write, you could build creating your own notebook into your NaNo prep (although perhaps not with a week to go…) or buy one in a style that you feel works with your project.


  • Get ready to cross the starting line – Whether you want to stockpile coffee and snacks, prepare a Camp playlist to inspire your writing, fill a sketchpad with how you imagine your characters look, stick up a Camp NaNo poster and a word-count target calendar on your wall, make sure you’re ready to cross the starting line as the clock changes from 11:59pm on March 31st to midnight on April 1st.


Farewell, Sir Terry

I lost my hero today.

At the age of 66, the literary world has lost one of its best and brightest, Sir Terry Pratchett, to the “embuggerance” of Posterior Cortical Atrophy.  He was not only one of my favourite writers, but one of those who inspired me to write and to become the best I could be.  Discworld was my crash-course in fantasy literature and the influence, not just on my reading preferences but on my writing, has been enormous.

Screenshot from

The link above goes to the Penguin Random House announcement on

I was nine or ten when I read my first Discworld book (Wyrd Sisters) and while some of the humour was entirely lost on me, I was instantly hooked.  I devoured every Discworld book on my mother’s bookcase (and those that she didn’t have, I found on my dad’s bookcase), then tracked down copies of The Carpet People, Truckers, Diggers and Wings at the local library.  In 1999, my mum and I queued for what felt like an eon or two with my four-year-old brother at a Waterstones book signing for copies of The Last Continent and Carpe Jugulum.  I was more excited to meet Terry Pratchett than I would have been to meet a movie star and the brief moment to talk to him and the effort he made to write something unique for each of us, was well worth the queue.,/span>

Like many fans, although I was saddened by the Alzheimer’s announcement, I also felt that the way Sir Terry dealt with his diagnosis and his resulting documentaries, Living with Alzheimer’s and Choosing to Die, were not only very brave but brought topics that are often considered taboo into public discussion.

As the man himself said in Going Postal: “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?”  In that sense, Terry Pratchett will live on in his writing for generations to come.

Farewell, Sir Terry. It was an honour to have the chance to meet you, to talk to you and to read about the wonderful worlds that lived in your imagination.