Camp NaNoWriMo: My Experience

If you read my last blog, you’ll know that this is my first experience with NaNoWriMo and that my goals were to complete my novel and establish a daily writing routine.

CampNaNoWriMo was more challenging than I anticipated, but I’m so, so impressed with my progress! I documented my progress week by week, including my overall word count, capturing my ups and downs, and why I think every writer should try and take part in a NaNoWriMo at least once.

If you took part this month, let me know how you got on below! 

Week 1, 1st – 7th July

I started off this month feeling extremely productive and motivated, determined to smash out my daily word targets. And the first four days in a row, I exceeded my daily goals by decent amounts, earning my 5k badge on Saturday 4th! It’s times like this that make me wonder why I find writing so hard (a few reasons come to mind, but let’s just ignore them for now…)

Sunday, 5th July is the first day I didn’t meet my target; I’ve only written 334 words, but seeing as I’d gone over my target each day before that, I don’t mind so much. Still optimistic. 

Update: I’ve made up for this slump by exceeding my daily word count for the next two days!!

Word Count: 7,670

Week 2, 8th-14th July

Started the second week in a bit of a slump. I’m losing motivation as I’ve reached a point in my novel where I’m building up to a major plot point. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure of wanting to create the perfect build-up, or if I’m just losing motivation in general, but I can’t seem to write as much as my first week. I’ve also started my period and work is stressing me out a little, so not helping! Hoping things will be better by the end of it.

Also, I’m finding the website’s word count really depressing. It gives you a daily target, which can be different from what I’ve set myself. It makes me feel like I should be writing more than I am, especially on the days I’m too busy to write huge amounts. Trying to ignore it, but it can be hard to.

Saying that I earned my 10k badge on Thursday (!!!) and I’ve noticed that I’m finding it easier to prioritise my writing over other things. I would always clean and do general adult stuff before settling down, which wouldn’t usually be until late in the evenings, an hour or so before bed. But now, life waits while I get those words down! Just hoping that I can write some more by the end of the week…

Word Count: 16,352

Week 3, 15th-21st July

I’ve just taken part in a live NaNoWriMo Write-In. It was my first one and I loved it! I usually procrastinate so much when it comes to my writing; every 400-500 words, I’ll pick up my phone, start reading blogs, or even stare at the wall! But this time, I was able to stay so focused in the hour, and the short-timed sessions helped me bang out more words quickly. Looking forward to next week.

Also, feeling incredibly happy as on the 17th, I reached 20k words, halfway there!

I am starting to feel a bit nervous, as the last few chapters I need to write lead up to the end of the novel. Only two major plot points are left. That thought just terrifies me. I think it’s where I’ve been writing this novel on-and-off since university, so approaching the end after living with my characters for so long is simultaneously sad, daunting, and exciting. I’m still unsure if anything I’ve written is good or if anyone will like it, and I’m so scared to send it out to beta readers. I know I need to push those thoughts away for now, else it will put me off finishing, but that’s easier said than done, of course. 

If you’ve ever completed a novel, have you ever felt this way?

Word Count: 25,176

Week 4, 22nd – 28th July

An awful week this week. I haven’t had the time to write much, and when I do, I’m struggling to put anything down. I think it’s because I’m building up to the climax of my novel, and I want it to be incredible. I’ve concentrated on reading this week too, hoping that will give me a creative boost.

In case you’re interested, I’m reading Pride and Prejudice, an old favourite! What are you guys reading at the moment?

Word count: 31,317

Week 5, 29th – 31st July

So not technically a full week, but there we go.

I can’t believe the end is in sight! I’ve got 9k words left to complete my goal, although I’m still trying (and failing) to catch up with my daily word count. I’ve got a ticket to a virtual event with HarperCollins this week about getting your novel published with an agent, so hopefully, that’ll motivate me to finally finish my book. (Update: the talk was fantastic, so insightful!)

Just completed the final NaNoWriMo virtual write-in, and I think I wrote the most in that hour than I have all week so far! Closing the gap between where my word count should be and what it is right now, only 4,000 words behind, and 8,000 words to go for my overall goal. I’m busy Thursday and Friday, so I will be staying up late tonight and making the most of any spare minutes I can find tomorrow onwards.

Afterthoughts – did I reach my Camp NaNoWriMo target?

Final word count: 35, 311

Unfortunately, I did not reach my target. In the end, I had 4,689 words left of my overall goal, but I was busy the last few days of the month, so I didn’t have the chance to catch up in time.  

However, I don’t feel defeated. My main goals for this challenge were to complete my novel and establish a daily writing routine. About halfway through the month, I realised that I need a lot more than 40,000 words to finish my novel, so I stopped worrying about that goal and instead just focused on just getting through the middle of the story. And now, I am past that awkward stage and am almost at the end! The next chapter will be the start of the final climax – I never thought I’d get this far so quickly! I’m so pleased I participated in this challenge as it would have taken me ages to get to this stage otherwise. This challenge certainly gave me the push that I needed.

As for my second goal, I am proud to say that I’ve written every day this month. My writing streak is 31 days, and I’m hoping to continue that for as long as possible! Some days I wrote over 2,000 words, while others I barely wrote 200, but that’s OK because I knew this would happen. Everyone has those days where coming up with over 1,000 words every day can feel as painful as drilling a screw into your brain. All that matters is that I got something down every day.

I will definitely be taking part in NaNoWriMo in November, although I’m already feeling nervous about the target! I’ll be practising a lot between now and October. Will you be taking part?

My next steps are to write the remaining 4,000 words, probably using old NaNoWriMo write-ins to help me stay motivated, and then just focus on finishing my novel.

Did you take part in Camp NaNoWriMo? If so, what was your goal, and did you reach it? Let me know how you did in the comments!

“Don’t worry about it”

How many times in your life have you heard the phrase ‘Don’t worry about it,’’ or been told ‘not to worry’? I’ve heard it a countless number of times.

The thing is, I am a worrier. I always have been. I worry about the work I have; I worry that people don’t like me. I worry that my novel will be turned down by every publisher on this earth. I’m always wondering what would happen if I don’t finish that guest blog from last week, or if I forget to keep in contact with the people I freelance for? Or what if we don’t save the planet in time, or what if one day my boyfriend wakes up and suddenly decides that he doesn’t like me anymore?

I think I was told not to worry by pretty much everyone when I was applying for grad jobs near the end of uni. Whenever I mentioned that I had applied for 478783 jobs so far, but no one had got in contact, “don’t worry about it” was the go-to response. And I hated it. I never really knew what to say, as it was frankly a stupid thing to say to someone in that type of situation. We all worry about not having a job. Our lives depend on one; we literally cannot live without working at some point in our lives. When you’re searching for a job, you have every reason to worry, and we all know that. So what’s the point in telling us not to?

I feel that way with any situation. We all worry when something we’ve been working on for years doesn’t amount to anything. Imagine how stressed Tolkien would have been (presumably) sending Lord of the Rings to a publisher after spending an entire ten years (!!) on it? There’s always a slither of doubt creeping into the back of our minds, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even if we push it away, it’s still there.

Yes, some things don’t require as much worrying as others – there’s a difference between panicking over losing money and whether your hair looks good, but that’s up to use to be brave and just accept that that horrible little voice is right. Because sometimes, your hair doesn’t look good. No offence to anyone, but we’ve all been there.

The super cool product that you’ve spent aaaages making might actually be nothing but crap. You might not be as good at drawing as you think you are. Your novel might get rejected. That’s life.

We all consider these sorts of things, and that’s OK because that encourages us to work even harder. It’s your motivation, proving that dark voice wrong. And if you didn’t, that’s OK too, because you would have learned from that and got on with your next project – and it will always be even better than the last one.

So next time you’re about to tell someone not to worry, don’t. Yes, comfort them, make them feel better, let them know that they are doing an excellent job, but don’t tell them not to worry. Because if they stay super chill all of their lives, they are left with this false sense of security as nothing is going ever going to go drastically wrong. And when it does, they’re in for a shock.

review: The Librarian

SPOILERS AHEAD

I have been procrastinating with this review a lot, simply because, as sad as I am to say it, I was a little disappointed by The Librarian. I’m not saying that it’s a bad book, I still enjoyed reading it, but it’s not my favourite and definitely not as exciting as I thought it would be.

I loved Salley Vickers’ message throughout this book – libraries matter. I agree, I used to love going to the library when I was little, I still carry my first ever library card in my purse! I volunteered at the library for a few summers before I went away to uni, helping out with the Reading Challenge, organising events for families while encouraging children to read. So Sylvia’s plan to bring the children’s library to life resonates with me. It’s what made me buy the book. It was lovely to read how the children of East Mole acquired an interest in reading and fell in love with the children’s classics that Sylvia recommends, and reading about the beauty of children’s books:

‘Maybe [ . . . ] it’s because children’s authors can write about magic, other worlds, and be taken seriously’

The library also proves to be a catalyst for Sylvia. The theft of Tropic of Cancer from the restricted section, a dissatisfied boss and neighbour, an affair with the doctor – whose daughter regularly visited the library when Sylvia was working – risk Sylvia’s good-heartedness and her career.

I liked that there were so many different characters in this novel, all with a range of personalities. I found it interesting that Sylvia never quite fits in with each one, there’s always some sort of difference between the characters she engages with.

What I didn’t like about the book was how jumpy the narrative was. Not in terms of plot (although the last chapter jumps ahead about seventy years, something that I found unnecessary), but in terms of scenes and conversations. Usually, the speech is written without stating who’s saying what (which isn’t a problem as it’s easy to follow on’ but Vickers does not include the movements that the characters are making at the time. An example of this is when speaking with the doctor (I’ve completely forgotten his name, oops), he suddenly changes conversation by asking ‘Why are you laughing?’ This changed the narrative for me, as I had no idea that Sylvia was laughing – it was not indicated anywhere in this section – and I was not imagining her that way. So it took me out of the novel slightly. (disclaimer – I don’t have the book with me at the moment, so if that is not the exact speech, I apologise!)

This is not the only instance when Vicker’s writing put me off – I personally found some of the descriptions quite flat and plain at times. I was unable to paint a clear image from her words during some scenes, which is the most important thing when it comes to writing for me.

Finally, I really wasn’t a fan of the time jump at the end. I felt too disconnected from the characters (granted this is 70 years on, so they were different, but it was like they were complete strangers), and I just didn’t find much point to it. Once it mentioned that Sylvia had married (someone who we never met) and passed away, I wanted to put the book down. I felt like, after spending so much time with this lovely character, I would have liked a bit more detail on her husband and family life.

The Librarian is definitely not the worst book I read, and I loved so many aspects of it, the story itself was sweet. But I personally could not get on with Vicker’s style of writing. This book has been quite successful, so it appeals to other readers, clearly, but it just wasn’t for me.

review: The Familiars

SPOILERS AHEAD

If you’re following me on Insta, you probably know by now that I’m writing a novel. What I am yet to mention (I think?) is that it’s set on the witch trials. So when I first heard of The Familiars by Stacey Hall, I knew I had to get it.

A few months later, after being distracted by Christmas book stack, it’s now sitting closed on my bookshelf after spending a few days travelling everywhere with me. I couldn’t put it down.

The plot, characters and basically every aspect of this novel has been thoroughly researched (bar a few fictional embroideries), but none of that bogged down the story. Something happened in every chapter, the pacing was perfect, and I fell in love with two main characters, Fleetwood and Alice.

Fleetwood was my favourite character. I loved how determined she was, and that she was outspoken and didn’t hesitate to speak unless she needed to. There were many scenes throughout the book that occurred around the dining table – where Fleetwood would hear most of the news concerning the Pendle witches – and she always asked lots of questions and dug for information, even though this would not have been within her wifely role.

Even though I liked the character of Alice, I personally felt that there wasn’t much revealed about her. By the end of the novel, we know about her home and family, her previous job, little info on her mother, and the fact she can’t read, but nothing about her personality itself. She serves as a shadow throughout the book, popping in and out fairly quickly for such an important character.

Although, saying that, the scene where Fleetwood teaches Alice to write her name was one of my favourites. It was so well thought out, like how Alice questioned why Fleetwood’s name is longer even though it has the same amount of syllables as her own. ‘She smiled and took it from me’ was one of the few times that I could remember where Alice smiled in this book, so it was nice to see her doing something for herself, not being a midwife or working to provide for her drunken father. A moment of pure happiness.

It was also nice to see Fleetwood fulfilling the motherly role that she desperately wants. At this point, we’re unsure if she will survive the birth of her child, so this scene at least provided her with a small chance to have an impact on someone’s life.

One thing that I was disappointed about was that we didn’t get to see the trial of the Pendle witches. While witches are mentioned over and over, and we see the Devizes child who is alluded to be one, as is Alice, we don’t really witness any hangings or anything. We see the prison in which they are kept – which Hall described amazingly well, I remember feeling a chill when reading that section – but I would have liked to see the trial itself, especially as it’s such a significant historical event. Fleetwood was unconscious during childbirth so missed it, but Richard travelled there to rescue Alice for her, maybe we could have switched to his POV for a chapter and witnessed this ourselves?

This is only a small criticism though, as I still loved the novel and would definitely pick it up again. Books based on the witch trials are my favourites, so if there are any you recommend, please let me know!