How I’m Surviving Nanowrimo

I’m just over half-way through Nanowrimo, and so far I am loving it! I’ve managed to write almost every day, or have done more on either side of missed days to keep to my target.

This year has felt easier than last year (which I finished but with a slightly stressful last few days), and infinitely easier than the years before that (which I didn’t finish at all). My story has expanded so much that I might not even need to start a new story at the end to make up the required 50,000 words. My original goal was 84,000 (to match my previous first draft) but I’m already up to 88,000 and I still have a few chapters left to write.

Recently, I have discovered a few helpful ideas and tools that I will now share with you on the off chance that they might also be helpful to you.

Continue reading

Nanowrimo 2015

It’s November, which means it’s National Novel Writing Month! I have decided to use the time this year to finish my third novel. Last year was my first ever successful completion of the event, and it turned into Dismissed. I have high hopes for this year.

The book I’m currently writing started off with the working title Perfume Therapy, but then as one of my critique partners pointed out after reaching the halfway point, ‘I’m still wondering why it’s called Perfume Therapy’. Obviously I had big plans for the second half to justify the title, and I had even already written it and proofed it. At one point, in my head, the book was ready for publication.

But after writing Dismissed and then coming back to do a final read-through of Perfume Therapy, I just felt that it wasn’t working in its current form. I loved the first half, and I loved the theme of perfume in the second half, but I did not love the plot in the second half. It almost felt like they were two completely different stories.

So! I split them up. I created an alternative second half for the first part, and I plan on using many elements of the original second half in my next book.

It has been going surprisingly well. This new second half is flowing much better than I expected. I am slightly ahead with my word count for Nanowrimo, and excited to see the rest of the story unfold.

It turns out that this year, you’re not even a Nano rebel if you’re continuing work on an existing story. Obviously you just count the words you write between November 1 and 30, but you’re not going to be declared an outcast!

Now my only problem is what to do once I finish this story if I come in under 50,000 words. Do I start another one immediately? Or declare a sort of victory and call it quits? I guess we’ll have to wait and see how inspired I am at the time.

Good luck to everyone else out there also participating. I promise it gets easier every year!

On Writing

I’m not sure what I could say about this book that probably hasn’t already been said a million times. This is my all-time favourite book on writing. If I had to pick only one book about writing to recommend to people, this would be it.

I have to admit, I haven’t read a lot of Stephen King’s books, but I enjoyed the ones I did. It’s just that I’m not much of a horror fan. I can appreciate good writing though, and I am very grateful that Stephen chose to write this book to give us an insight into how his career progressed from teenage amateur to the superstar he is today.

From this book I discovered that even famous writers have the same worries as the rest of us. Stephen’s advice for avoiding self-doubt is to out-write it. So essentially, figure out your story’s main goal or question and then start writing, and keep writing until you’re done. Don’t take days off unless you absolutely have to, and trust that it’s all going to work out in the end.

There are so many awesome anecdotes and pieces of advice in this book, that I can’t cover them all. But one thing that I never realised (maybe because I’ve never done a proper writing course) is that you should avoid using adverbs in dialogue attribution. This has been a game-changer for me, as I tend to be a bit light on the ground with descriptions in my writing, and leaving out the adverbs forces you to think of more.

I also like the idea of having a single person that you write your books for. Even if they’re imaginary, it can help you to focus your attention, and you can ask yourself if that person would respond favourably to what you have just written.

If you are an aspiring writer, I think you should buy this book. You will realise that even Stephen King got a lot rejections and lived on very little money for a long time before he became famous.

So hopefully there’s still hope for the rest of us!

Imperfect Chemistry

This was exactly what I was in the mood for when I discovered it – a cute romantic comedy featuring likeable characters and an easy-to-follow plot.

Lucy, the main character, is basically a female version of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, except I pictured her to look and sound like Amy Farrah Fowler.

Lucy has never been in love and wants to study emotions as a pathogen. Enter her good looking, newly heartbroken neighbour and watch the hilarity unfold.

There wasn’t anything ground-breaking in this story. It unfolded exactly as I expected, complete with zany sidekick friends and overbearing parents. But it was written well and I could easily pretend I was watching a movie.

My only qualms were the repetition of the phrase he scrubbed his hand through his hair and the word coursed (as in through someone’s veins). I also felt the ‘betrayal’ at the three-quarter mark was a bit weak.

It’s actually a great piece to analyse if you’re trying to figure out how write your own romantic comedy because the turning points were so obvious (and I mean that in the best possible way).

Overall, it was a fun, quick read and I’m thinking I will look up the next two books in the series.

Recommended for romantic comedy fans.

3.75 / 5 stars

Hector and the Search for Happiness

This was a quick, fun read. I have long been a fan of self-improvement books that are presented in the form of a quest, so this was right up my alley. When I first started reading it, I found the language a bit too simple, almost patronising. But after a while, I really got into it, and the simplicity actually made me consider the lessons for happiness a bit more deeply than I might have otherwise. I’m not sure I came away with anything brand new, but it was a good way of presenting information I was already aware of in a different way.

A Wild Sheep Chase

This is my third Murakami book, and probably the most confusing of the three (the other two being Norwegian Wood and 1Q84). I loved it, but I’m not sure how to explain why.

I am not the kind of person who can dig into themes and subtext and give everyone an insight into the deeper aspects of a story, so I’m just going to review the story in the only way I know how.

The protagonist is an almost too average guy. He doesn’t have a name. His wife just left him. He spends his days working at a PR business he half owns with an alcoholic friend.

And then a mysterious man shows up and wants him to track down a sheep in a photo that was used in one of their PR campaigns.

With the help of a girlfriend who has magical ears, they set off to the wilds of Hokkaido to find this sheep, which apparently inhabits people and then essentially tries to take over the world.

It all sounds really weird, and it is. But the interesting thing about Murakami’s books is how mundane the stories are, until suddenly they’re not. Apart from the sheep aspect (and the magic ears), the rest of the action is almost boring. There’s a lot of musing, and a lot of waking up, eating, walking etc. But I liked this because it reminded me of day-to-day life when I lived in Japan. I also love the descriptions of the scenery. Murakami has a deceptively simple way of writing things, which make abstract concepts easier to understand.

The last part of this book is quite dark and disturbing, although you don’t even really find out why until right at the very end.

I do recommend it, but I would possibly try something else by Murakami first to get a feel for how he operates.

I think this book will stick with me for a while.


A couple of my writer friends and I have formed an unofficial book club. So far, we have read Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (an awesome Sliding Doors type story), Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover (sorry, I just couldn’t finish it!) and now Horns by Joe Hill.

I read a lot of horror and thriller when I was younger, but I seemed to have forgone them in recent times for more light-hearted stuff. So when I first saw that Stephen King’s son was the author of our newest read, I was a little scared.

And I had a right to be so.

Joe Hill has a knack of lulling you into a false sense of security, making you think everything’s OK (despite the fact that the protagonist has newly developed horns growing from his head), and then bam! You’re suddenly sympathising with people exhibiting the darkest elements of human nature.

The interesting thing about this book was that as events unfolded, it became harder and harder to tell who the ‘bad guy’ was. I don’t want to give any spoilers away, so I’ll just say that not everything is as it seems, and it does make you question traditional religion in a way you might not have considered previously.

I felt like there was a bit of a Devil’s Advocate vibe throughout. Also Fallen – with its Rolling Stones’ references. Joe Hill’s descriptions were perfect at creating a grungy, small town feeling and a sense of bleakness to the environment. There was also just the right amount of confusion and dream-like quality to keep you from being pulled out of the story, even as things got as unbelievable as it’s possible to get.

I was really impressed with this book, and binge-read the last 40% in one morning.

Anyone who is a fan of Stephen King should really appreciate this book.

Finding Harmony (Katie & Annalise Book 3)

The third book in this series contained an incredibly tense plotline that kept me zooming through the pages so I could find out what happened next.

I both love and hate suspense, especially when it’s done well, because I can’t concentrate on anything else until it’s resolved. This book definitely did it well. A big part of the story opened up a whole other side of the island Katie calls home – and a sinister one at that.

I’m not sure how much I can reveal without giving anything away, but it concerns a missing person and Katie’s attempts to find them.

The only thing I had concerns with was that Katie had slightly odd priorities that I’m not sure I agree with as a mother. And I also found myself not liking Nick much this time around. But then one of Pamela’s talents is creating realistic characters who behave in realistic ways, so this was a testament to her ability.

There is a huge reliance on the supernatural in this book – moreso than the other two books – so if you weren’t a fan of that angle earlier, you will probably like it even less here – but I thought it was clever the way it was used to help Katie solve the case.

Overall, this series was awesome and I will be checking out some of Pamela’s other stuff soon. Her way with words is unique, and she has inspired me to strive to be the best author I can be.

Thanks Pamela! You rock!

Leaving Annalise (Katie & Annalise Book 2)

I actually started thinking about how much information I prefer to know about a book prior to reading, and I’ve decided all I need is the blurb (the shorter the better) and the average star rating. I actually really like reading full reviews after I’ve read the book to see if people agreed with certain aspects of the story to me.

Although with this one, I didn’t even need the blurb or star rating before I started. I bought Leaving Annalise because of the Nick factor from the first book. And thankfully all questions were answered very quickly in the first few chapters.

Then there was a rather sentimental chunk of the story that while written well, wasn’t quite my cup of tea… but then it got back into the drama and intrigue that we all know and love from the first book. I read all three of the books in this series very close together, so I’m having a hard time separating the events in my brain, but there was definitely enough going on in this second instalment to make me move straight onto the third.

I still love the author’s ‘voice’ and all her descriptions of the location and its characters. Rashidi was one of my favourite people, and I would love to see a whole book about him!

For anyone who loves a bit of a mystery mixed in with their romance and set in an exotic location, this is your book.

An awesome addition to the series.

Saving Grace (Katie & Annalise Book 1)

This was my first book from Bookbub and it didn’t disappoint. Saving Grace is set in the Caribbean and features an attorney named Katie who likes to drink. It’s romantic mystery, but there actually isn’t a lot of romance in this first book. At least not reciprocated romance. Katie is hung up on Nick, a private detective she works with, but he’s going through a divorce and isn’t forthcoming with his feelings towards our heroine.

After several issues at work, Katie heads to Saint Marcos and puts an offer in on a beautiful old mansion complete with jumbie (or ghost for those who don’t know Caribbean lingo).

I absolutely loved the author’s ‘voice’ and her clever way with words. This was a very funny book, despite dealing with the serious issues of death and loss.

The supernatural aspect might not appeal to everyone, but I think it worked well mixed in with the ‘voodoo’ vibe of the story. I haven’t been to the Caribbean, but I found myself reminiscing about a trip I went on to Vanuatu a few years ago and its wild tropical beauty. The setting is a character all on its own, and it carried the story when the plot slowed down a bit mid-book.

Not all loose ends are tied up by the end, so of course I had to get the second one straight away. I think I would have preferred one of the major plot lines to be wound up in the first book, but I was going to buy the second one anyway.

It’s been a while since I’ve read something that I couldn’t put down. And while I’ve enjoyed the last few ‘straight’ romance books I’ve read, the funny stuff is much more up my alley.

Highly recommend :)