End of Nano, Winner!

I did it. I actually managed to finish NanoWriMo this year. This may not seem like a big deal, but having written 50,000 words and completed a story after two years of writer’s block is a huge one for me. I know I can write again, and that it’s definitely what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

I think a lot of my thanks can go to 4thewords.com for its weird RPG grindy progression letting me get ‘rewards’ for battling monsters with my words. It also auto-saved which helped a lot with moving from system to system and power failures.

Really though, it was finally getting a habit set for me that did it. I started on 750words.com, making myself write a blog entry every single day, and then once Nano started it was relatively easy to transition over to first Scrivener and then 4thewords (copy and pasting into scrivener after each writing session). Of course, coming up with what I should write about was a bit harder.

I had no actual story idea in mind so I started with a joke that made my partner laugh a few nights before as the first line and then ended up with a main character in a call centre, which is the environment as an adult which I know the best. Unfortunately. I immediately thought that my story was going to be horrible and boring but I kept at it. As I did, more interesting things happened and… well, I don’t want to spoil it in here in case anyone actually reads it one day. Plus, even if I don’t flesh it out, I’ll definitely be using a few of the characters, and situations, and jokes.

My main takeaway is that I genuinely had to force myself to do the writing. To be a writer you have to write. Even when I was writing all the time and thought of myself as a Writer with a capital ‘w’, I still wasn’t writing every day. Now that I am, I can feel there is a change in how I do things. It didn’t feel like I was just writing for Nano this time, it felt like I was continuing a habit that, hopefully, I can continue for the rest of my life. I’m way more confident as well in properly revising my synopsis and sending out my other novel to publishers again. Even if no-one accepts it, I feel great about sending it out there and seeing what feedback comes back to me. If none comes, I’ll revise again.

And I’ll keep on writing. Every day.

(If anyone wants to join 4thewords.com (and you should, it’s amazing) the first month is free and it’s $4 a month after that. They don’t take any payment or card details for the trial though so you won’t be tricked into keeping a subscription if you decide it’s not for you. Use my referral code UGOML59892 and you’ll get 20 Core Crystals, which are basically currency to get wardrobe items, weapons etc and also what you use to buy subscription time! So, with that first boost and a few of the early quests your second month will be free too. Happy writing!)


NanoWriMo 2018

So I’ve been doing NanoWriMo this year. This in itself is nothing new, I’ve done NanoWriMo every year for the past nine years. What is new is that this year I’m doing it with the solid goal of winning in mind. This year it really matters. I’m working out if I want to still be a writer and if that’s genuinely what’s been keeping me down lately.

What I’ve discovered is that, in making myself write every day, I can still write and I still take pleasure in writing. I made the decision to lead up to nano by writing a daily journal entry in 750words.com for a few days beforehand. I think this helped me a lot in establishing a routine to follow. I wake up, I get on my writing computer, and I write. My reward after is normally breakfast.

Also, yes, I have a dedicated writing computer now. It has actually been sitting on its own table in the corner of my kitchen for months now, but has barely been used until now. I have my mechanical keyboard connected up to it and rely on its touchscreen for mouse duty, which is really finicky and a bit annoying to use. This actually works in my favour as I’m forced to concentrate on writing rather than other things that might distract me.

Right now I’m on day five of nano and I’m actually still on track. This is better than I’ve managed the last few years I’ve attempted Nano. It’s better than I’ve managed in terms of my writing in the last few years full stop. I initially tried blaming this on the fact I was so busy editing my ‘Cat’s Guide To Being A Hero’ book, and then on the fact I was on medication. I blamed it on my self-worth plummeting (well, my perception of it) after my manuscript was rejected by the editor who requested it. I think all of those things did contribute, but they weren’t the real reason. Now I realise I genuinely could have written myself out of my dilemma. I was out of practice.

Today I got all my words for Nano done right after I woke up and now I have a feeling I haven’t felt in a very long time: I feel like the day ahead of me is truly free to do as I wish. I’ve had the cloud of ‘I should write’ hanging over me for so long that now that I’m actually writing, a great weight has been lifted off of me.

Of course, my writing isn’t quite up to the standard that it was years ago when I was knocking out writing constantly, whether through nano or writing workshops, but it’s getting better. My story isn’t really planned but it’s getting better. I have the idea for a story formulating now and as the days go by that will only get better too. Next week is ‘hell week’ for Nano and it will be hard but it will also be exciting. I feel like I can be a writer again. I feel once again like I’ve always BEEN a writer, that this is my true vocation. I feel good.

2 minute writing exercise

The flowers outside on the patio seemed to bloom only while my poor deceased wife used to look at them. I mean, not while she was deceased, but while she was alive. And when I say ‘poor’ I just mean, “oh the poor thing… she died.” Now that I think about it, that comes across a little patronising, doesn’t it? I probably should have thought of that before I described her like that.

Anyway, the flowers on the patio haven’t bloomed at all since she passed away. While she went on holiday when she was still here, they would stubbornly stay closed as well, until she was back and had her eyes on them and… well, probably she just took care of them properly. I’m not sure even how often I’m meant to water them and I’m not sure they get all the rainfall they need naturally under the verandah as they are. Maybe I just need to go ask a real gardener what I’m meant to be doing? Maybe I should have asked her. Damn it, even from her grave she still manages to point out that I never properly listened to her.

The mental health dilemma

I’m in a bind. I realised a couple of months ago that my medication I’m on for my bipolar type 2 is inhibiting my ability to write creativity. I haven’t had a true new idea in the time I’ve been on it. 

I used to have flights of fancy off the top of my head that I was proud of but now writing feels like real work. I used to know I could create creative worlds spontaneously in a way others couldn’t and make people laugh and now… I can’t. 

I don’t think I can continue being a writer like this. Not a writer of anything I’m proud of. 

As a counter-measure to this, when I started my medication after a couple of weeks I suddenly realised the underlying layer of melancholy I had felt since I was 12 years old had disappeared. I thought that it was a natural part of being human and then discovered I didn’t need to be sad any more. This was and still is a huge thing. 

I’m also not a great person sometimes off my meds. I was going to try an experiment with my partner’s blessing and support of going off of them for a couple of months to see if my writing and creativity came back but I ran out recently and didn’t replenish the supply for about 5 days. Even back on them, I still had mood swings and crazy reactions to small things that would make me lose my rationality and make me quite unbearable to be around. 

I want my creativity back. But I don’t want my sadness back and I don’t want to hurt and frustrate the people around me. So what is the answer? It’s probably not really answerable. I hate not being able to write like I did… Or think like I did. I’m no longer special. But I’m also no longer unhappy or unpredictable in a bad way. 

I might just pretend I never wrote anything and find a career… 

Panadeine Forte e Molto Forte

I went to a buck’s party the other day which involved weird sports-type activities. Mostly of the scavenger hunt variety, but we were also assigned colours to go with our teams. Each team got a balloon in their colour and were told to defend it because if it got popped, it would cost us points.

Of course, this led to people running after each other trying to pop each other’s balloons. Some with scissors, thus breaking the immortal rule about …well… running with scissors.

I ended up plucking my team’s balloon from the hands of my friend Simon when I saw him disappearing under the arms of two other participants. I took that yellow ballon (we dubbed our team ‘the cowards’) and I ran like hell. I weaved across roads and back again and around trees and felt that I was making some headway when  I found myself jump-tackled from behind. I managed to land hard onto my fist with my full body weight and as my fist was under my ribs, I completely winded myself.

The rest of the day was spent in pain, mostly in my wrist. I was genuinely really worried I had maybe strained it. The next day I found that, luckily, my wrist was completely fine. However, I couldn’t breathe properly. The doctor told me I probably fractured a rib so I got x-rays and discovered that I ‘merely’ had severe muscle damage.

This has led to me being prescribed Panadeine Forte, a mixture of paracetamol and codeine. The first couple of days the tablets allowed me to stand and sit without yelling out in pain. Today I took my tablets in the morning and found myself floating in a sea of half-imagined thoughts with a mouth full of cotton wool. It has been very hard to construct thoughts, but at the same time it means that I can’t risk driving so have actually been able to rest my injuries. Yesterday the pain spread to my left arm somehow, probably because I drive a manual and so had to put extra stress on that arm every time I changed gear to avoid stressing the chest muscles.

So please excuse this entry not being very funny or well – written… my mind isn’t cooperating with my cognitive anything. I feel a little like I stayed up for two days then smoked a joint. And got someone to hit me in the head with a rubber hammer. All I want right now is choc-mint ice cream. I think everything is related. In other news, still no contract offer for my book! I’ll give it three more weeks…

The 7 Day revision. Easy steps to insanity.

I have had a managing editor from Simon & Schuster request my manuscript after a successful pitch, which I’m pretty excited about. I have until the end of September to submit it, which I’m not as thrilled about.

My main concern is making it match my amazing and tight pitch! Obviously it’s nearly there but it also needs a lot of tweaking and a few missing scenes thrown in. For the last few weeks I’ve been revising at a pretty leisurely pace, marking down errors, problems with scenes and characters and generally making sure my tone is on-point.

Now however, it’s crunch time. I have 7 days to get this baby up to standard. I started this process at my local library yesterday but today I’ve realised I need to be able to wake up and start work immediately, without having to worry about anything else. My lovely wife is preparing my meals (that I don’t get delivered) and putting up with me generally being grumpy and unavailable.

Here is a look at my process :


That was at the library anyway. You can see the mish mash of slow revision and fast revision there. The scene cards are from the slow revision, the structural edit to the side is from months ago, the big pile of loose leaf manuscript I printed out that day and the other books are a copy of my manuscript with markings leading to my ‘slow’ revision notes and workbooks guiding me through my fast revision. Later tonight I’ll be starting my writing, going through both my fast post-its and my slow revision notes to get it ‘right’ on the fly.

Oh yeah, last nano I started writing the book again from scratch. That’s the printout with the yellow bulldog clip on it. I’ll be using that as I need it while doing my write-in. Everything until the last two days will be done in pen, after that it all gets typed up! Then my wife gets to read it and make notes, and I get to read her notes and alter the manuscript again based on her insights (where I agree that I was being stupid).

Here is my setup today, now that I’ve moved everything to my bed:


As you can see, it’s a little more cramped but I also have my cat with me (trying to stay out of shot in the upper right corner). Plus I get to annoy my wife by constantly brainstorming with her and getting her to reassure me I’m a creative genius.

It hasn’t been easy this past few weeks anyway, what with a hail storm partly flooding our lounge room and office causing the lounge to smell of mud and dry rot and our electricity to cut out for a day. My poor cat, who my book is about, got side-swiped by a car as well, and I couldn’t write a thing for the two days he was at the cat hospital and we were unsure if he would make it. Here he is being brave with his little bandage:


And here he is back home soon after being an absolute sook on anti inflammatory medicine and methadone patches:


He has the bandages and patches off now and is actually eating so I don’t need to feed him food with a syringe anymore. This has helped my ability to write greatly!

I’d better get back to marking up my manuscript; I only have sixty pages to go and then I can really begin to go crazy with the rewrite. With luck I’ll get it all finished on deadline and without being arrested for streaking down my street screaming about plot holes.

Seafood Allergy

“You do realise we’ll have to take off the whole leg?” The doctor looked at me with his concerned eyes. I looked back, then off to the side, then focussed on a little onyx Ganesha on the side table.
“Yeah. Um, yeah I know. But I’ll die if I don’t, isn’t that right?”
The doctor leaned back in his chair and sighed. He took off his glasses and began to clean them diligently with a cloth he seemingly produced out of nowhere.
“There is a high chance of fatality if we don’t proceed with the operation, yes.” He kept his eyes on his glasses now. I watched as he used his fingernail to trace along the edges where the lens met the frame. They must really get filthy in here.
“So that’s that then.” I said. The doctor looked up.
“Alright then.” He stood, using my bed as a balance as he got up from his chair. I felt myself tip to the side as he did so, and winced as a new bolt of pain shot down my leg. The doctor didn’t seem to notice. He checked the tightness of my straps and then sauntered out of there.
I tried to make myself comfortable. The room smelled like disinfectant, which I preferred to the other prominent smell in this place, excrement. I think I was happier to see the cleaners than the nurses, even though the cleaners weren’t dispensing my pain medication.
“Amputation”, I thought to myself, and couldn’t become comfortable with the idea. I knew it was for the best. I knew that if I didn’t go through with it, I’d probably die. I knew that before the doctor had even told me. “It’s worth it,” I thought to myself resolutely, “It’s worth it for this to finally be over.”
A horrible gurgling noise erupted down near the end of my bed. I bent my head up to try and see what it was but all I saw were the white lines of the bed linen over my legs. The noise calmed down into a series of what sounded like barks, then erupted again in gurgling that sounded a lot like… laughter. I began to sweat. No. The medication was supposed to prevent this. It was supposed to take away this part, the part that wasn’t real.
“This is real”, a horribly wet voice intoned, down where the gurgling laugh had come from. I strained to see and saw a dark patch appear over my right shin. It rapidly spread down till it was covering my foot, then darkened to a dull green. It was like the covers had caught leprosy. Caught it from me. I heard a soft thumping sound come from the end of the bed. It was constant, and rhythmic. Thumph, thumph, thumph, thumph. I saw the sheets move with every one and, after thirty seconds or so, the tail end of my bed sheet partially fly out of place.
A few seconds passed, then I saw movement. A slithering sound as a small object moved under the sheet to the new exit. I could feel a tugging on my hip. It was a little uncomfortable but somehow not as painful as the doctor getting up. The end of the sheet fell away slightly, and I saw a small eye looking at me. It had another eye to the left of it. In fact, upon closer inspection there were a full five eyes looking at me, each attached to a little green tentacle. They rose themselves up higher on their stalks and a larger mass appeared under the tentacles, also green, with a slit along it that stretched to a smile.
“Don’t look so surprised,” it said, still in that horrible wet voice, the voice of a deep sea diver with his foot trapped under a rock at the bottom of the ocean, “you’ve seen me before. You’ll see me again. I can’t just be cut away.”
“Have I gone…”
“Crazy? No.”
“The doctor said what I had was a gangrenous buildup caused by… caused by the veins.. umm.. a blockage which…”
“He saw what he wanted to. He saw the effects of our… co-habitation and drew his own medical conclusions.”
“He said I would die.”
“You will.”
I felt my mouth fill with acid. I swallowed it down and my head swam. The tentacle host smiled again. “Oh you misunderstand. Not from this. Later. From something else. You can’t avoid it. No human can.”
I swallowed, then swallowed again. I took a deep breath of the disinfectant and it made me feel like I would throw up for real. “Do you mean of na…natural causes?” I stammered. The horrible gurgling laugh began again, the five tentacle eyes squinting and curling with glee.
“No, I’ll still be the one to kill you. It just won’t be because of bad circulation.”
“Did I do something to you?”
“Not really. You’re just the start. You’ll be kicking off a mass infection of the human race. You should be happy. That makes you very special.”
“Lucky me” I said.
“Very. You should fill out that food form I saw them bring you before. You might as well enjoy your normal human pleasures like eating things. That’s something you get pleasure from, right? The absorption of fuel? We don’t quite understand it but there’s a comfort element I take it?”
“Not with hospital food. Not normally.”
“Do it anyway.” The tentacle mass grinned now, displaying a disconcerting lack of teeth. Normally this would be a good thing, but there was actually a lack of anything in that gaping maw. The abyss stared back at me from within the deliriously happy five-eyed calamari sadist.
I reached over to my side table, being careful not to roll onto my bad (evil, possessed, whatever) leg. I grabbed the menu and read over it. Sandwiches. Generic roast. Fruit cup. All things I just couldn’t stomach right now. Sometimes they had pasta though, I could do with some empty carbs. I optimistically turned the sheet over but no such luck. I screwed up the sheet in frustration. I couldn’t possibly see this week getting any worse.