Friday, October 23, 2015

NaNoWriMo: My top 10 tips from winning two years running!

My first ever win!

In just several days it will finally be NaNoWriMo time! And you know what that means? PREPARATION TIME!
Usually I would have a plan by now but due to work and university I am so behind that it's not funny! I've got numerous ideas floating around but nothing that I actually have the desire to look into further. However, winning NaNoWriMo for two years in a row since I discovered it, I have a few tips and tricks that may or may not work for you! Read on and try these out to see what suits you best!

My second year!
  1. Plan at least a week ahead. It's literally a week until NaNoWriMo starts and it's time to kick yourself into gear. Do you have an idea floating around? Several? Brainstorm, collate, gather some names for your characters and create your novel page on the NaNoWriMo website. Carry a notebook with you at all times (don't forget the pen!) and write down any ideas you get. Think of the genre, types of characters and time that your novel will be set in. What point of view will you be writing in? What is the strongest character to follow that can best communicate your story? Print out some character and world building worksheets. As you're relaxing at the end of a long day, stretch out on the couch with your phone or iPad and look up Pinterest ideas, worksheets, inspiration and any other stimulus that you find helpful in becoming creative! Collect spare sheets and clippings from magazines and newspapers.
  2. Speaking of clippings, store them in a folder! If you're a crafty person, buy a cheap folder and go on Gumtree and listings for items like material and cardboard and magazines for cheap or free to decorate your official NaNo folder with. I myself really want to do this idea this year. Use clean recycled thin cardboard and the tip of a sharp pencil to pierce binder holes if you're short of a hole punch. This way, you can separate your folder into sections such as character profiles and worksheets, world building, etc. By using recycled cardboard you'll be helping the environment and you'll be able to decorate your folder dividers however you want!
  3. Have your chapters planned, even in their most basic form. Even just "character a does this under this situation", it helps so much. This above all others may be an idea that just doesn't work for you. It may, it may not. It's all up to personal preference. Me, I need a chapter by chapter outline of what happens, what characters are going to be involved and I generally aim to write 2,800+ words per chapter. However, during NaNoWriMo I aim for the base of 1,667 words as this is the very least daily word limit required to reach 50k by the end of the month. Therefore, I have less within each chapter, but there are more chapters than I would usually write. This way, I can write a chapter a day and in 30 chapters it is generally slightly easier to pinpoint Act I, II and III as they're worth 10 chapters each. I usually change these up though so there are less chapters in the climax and more in Acts I & III to stop from hindering the novel's pace.
  4. Pinterest and WeHeartIt are great for inspiration. Whilst the NaNoWriMo website is excellent in finding support, other like-minded writers and help when you're lacking, I personally find Pinterest and WeHeartIt to be invaluable. Pinterest is the go-to app I use for when I don't have any energy to write but want to continue my creative juices. Looking up character and world building worksheets are great and the resources other authors - some self-published, others world-famous - are amazing and invaluable. Even if you don't look up directly writing-related resources, images that appeal to you or remind you of a feeling, character or event that are in your novel can be a great help. Often I find there are images and resources available that give me a fresh perspective and inspiration. Sometimes I just save images of pretty ladies and gorgeous men to use as visual references for certain characters. It helps in research for statistics and scientific and geographical references as well! WeHeartIt is more a visual application that can be downloaded on pretty much any device and online. I can sit for hours going through this app because while it's similar to Pinterest, all you see are pictures that you can 'heart' by double tapping your touch screen device. Locations, characters, worlds and plot twists can develop from these images. After all, a picture tells a thousand words!
  5. Update your word count every day. During NaNo it can be difficult to keep up but you'll be a lot more motivated if you actively update your word count every single day. Use rewards, whether it be food, yummy drinks, a break from your assessments or to sit down with a low alcohol beverage at the end of the long, long day. I like to update my word count once I've reached the quota and go on the Sims, watch a YouTube video from a favourite YouTuber or sit down to a yummy (but naughty) doughnut and warm chai latte! Whatever your weakness is, use it as your motivation to reach that minimum of 1,667 words every day!
  6. Use a calendar. Personally I keep a wall calendar on the door of my closet so I can glance at the month and see what I have coming up that day, week, month and year. It is so helpful and if I had the space, I would invest in a full year wall calendar. In addition, I set reminders using my Wunderlist app (free on Android and Apple) that keep me on track. I set aside a particular time of a night if I can just for writing and I plan break days where I write half that day's word count the day before and the other half the day after.
  7. Go to the gym (or exercise at home) to beat the writing blues. Now because I have recently joined up to the local Anytime Fitness in the past month, I find that it helps to increase my fitness (duh!), aids in minimising my stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia, and helps me to rewind. Whether you feel more awake before exercise, or after, plan to exercise around your writing time for whenever you feel most awake. I, for example, will be exercising after I write my word limit so I can rewind and go to sleep once I get home. Find what is best for you.
  8. Write a daily blog. This, I shall try. Not only does it help to get out your thoughts on paper or on screen, but it helps you to stay on track and also find like-minded people. Gain some followers and record your journey so when you succeed you can look back at all thirty entries and you can say, 'I did it.'
  9. Plan to have your snacks and coffee right next to your writing space during this time. Whether it means propping up a temporary table with a jug to boil your water and a mini bar fridge underneath to keep your milk cold, make sure that snacking and thirst are not a factor in stopping yourself from writing. Use them to your advantage. For example, for every 50 words give yourself a chip or sip of drink. If you don't have a mini fridge handy, find an ice box (esky here in Australia) or use long life milk that hasn't been refrigerated. Can't take the jug to your work space? Invest in a cheap thermos to fill up and keep it on the corner of your desk.
  10. Reached that daily word minimum but still have the energy and inspiration? Keep going until you're empty. Keep going until your fingers cramp and your brain stabs invisible needles into itself. Not really, but keep going until you run your inspiration dry and then some. Some days in the past two NaNoWriMo's I have gone days without writing because of either a lack of energy, motivation or inspiration and then I made up for it in one of those writing marathons full of energy and inspiration. Listen to your creative muse. Allow it to be released!
There we have it guys: my top ten tips. Not all of them will work, some will. Some won't. Just find your own path and find out what works best for you! Enjoy NaNoWriMo and keep an eye out for my daily NaNo blog!

Apple Versus Windows: The Ultimate Debate

I have only used a mac once - maybe twice or even three times - in my life. I have grown up using Windows simply because cost-wise, PCs pre-installed with Windows are both universal across many computer brands, but also this brings down the price. In addition, Windows is also easier to use in my opinion simply because it is so broadly utilised by schools, universities and workplaces. Yet if I am to undertake my design course next year I have to learn the ropes when it comes to the Apple interface.
So what do I prefer thus far in terms of novel writing?
Since writing the first draft of this blog post, I have ran into some issues with Apple Macs at my university and almost lost five hours straight of assessment work. Now, I was not happy at all. I had saved my work, shut down the photoshop application and started to open google drive when BAM! No response. We tried getting a computer expert to help and everything and one thing I will now be eternally grateful for with Windows is the ability to press Ctrl + Alt + Delete! This was a function that the Mac I used lacked in and a google search later returned the Apple equivalent but it did not work whatsoever! Thankfully, once we forced the computer to shut down and open again, it hadn't lost any of my work and I could relax.
Now whether this is just an issue with the university computers or not, I cannot stand that Mac doesn't have this function. As a windows-veteran I can say that while I appreciate the ease of use when it comes to the Mac generally, I love the ability to force closures of apps that aren't responding with a PC. Never have I ever loved my laptop and its lagginess but ability to be generally reliable than now.
Ultimately, I adore the look of a Mac. And if it had Windows (naturally, not forced if you get what I mean) then I would never look at a PC again. They're a style statement and in this way I am excited for when I get one for my course at university next year. However, this also means that if I am to prevent the issues I've faced at university using a Mac from happening again, it will be costly getting a processing system that is capable of meeting both my wants and needs.
Don't get me wrong. This post is generally about which I prefer to use for writing - and so far I still think that Windows is leading, but only by a slim lead. If Mac proves to become better once I am able to finally get one for university, then I feel that I will convert. However, at the moment I just love the ability to intuitively move through Windows because it is familiar, and I know its in's and out's from a young age - primary school, in fact.
Finally, I conclude that despite the downfalls I love the keyboard of the Mac when typing, but the interface of a Windows PC. Even though it's far less stylish than the Mac, Windows is reliable in such a way that I cannot fault it in comparison. I love my Windows PC. I will not convert (just yet)!

Friday, October 2, 2015

An Update: October 2015

It is less than a month until one of my favourite annual events: NaNoWriMo! And to celebrate how close this event is, I just wanted to hop on and write to you all about what's been happening in my life as of recent and what's been happening in terms of the Clarity Duology. I also wanted to explain some of my non-writing activities and the newest happenings in my life recently.

The Clarity Duology
I have been struggling, I will admit. I love my duology but the whole project has been as painful as pulling teeth. I am terrible at keeping at things at a regular pace and a writing routine so I go weeks and months without writing anything at all. I originally aimed to have the first book complete by November but I don't see that happening without it becoming a horrible jumble of forced words.
I have started working on it again recently though. It is difficult but I am determined. I keep getting exhausted all the time so it seriously impacts my productivity. I'm aiming to have book one finished by the end of the year though, so hopefully I can keep working toward that as a deadline.
I have also been putting together potential ideas for the second book as I have been working on the first book. I haven't put anything in concrete just yet but I should soon once the first book is further ahead than what it is now.

A New Job
I have been super exhausted lately and one of the reasons behind this is due to my new job as a delivery driver for Domino's. Basically it involves delivering pizzas to homes and I absolutely love it. I get to spend some quality time with my car (Sparkles) and speak to lovely families and make their evenings. This is the best job I could possibly ask for! The amount of time that I spend sleeping after work is terrible though because of the lethargy I feel. I put this also down to the fact that I probably don't consume enough iron but I'm working toward getting my life together.

Joining the Gym
After a long time coming, now that I have a job I can finally say that I have joined the gym. I did it about two days ago and I loved my first night. It's a 24-hour place so my housemate, her S.O. and I went at 1 AM. I've started making some healthier choices after letting myself go and I'm hoping that the combination of gym, returning to another term of university and work will help to put me back on the track to sleeping at a decent hour. The downside to this is that I usually spend my writing time of a night, because that is when I am most awake and most creative. But in the interest of my health, I will be trying to get some decent sleep.

My Sims YouTube Channel
I've also been struggling with keeping up with my YouTube channel, also due to my tiredness. However, I am planning a let's play and I have actually got some speed build videos that I'm in the process of editing. The builds are already available and are on the Sims 4 gallery under my username MSWatsonOfficial.

NaNoWriMo 2015
I am going to be participating in NaNoWriMo 2015, for the third year running. For the past two that I've participated in I have beat the 50k words that I needed and became a winner. So I'll be joining in again this year so keep an eye out for NaNoWriMo posts!

In conclusion, life is pretty hectic with me juggling my job, university, my channel, books and now the gym. I am making an effort though and I will definitely be doing NaNoWriMo for the third year running, coinciding with the same amount of years I have been with my boyfriend. In conclusion, I hope you all enjoy your day and thank you for bearing with me as I get my life and books sorted out.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Writer's Winter: Leek and Penne Soup Recipe

Leek & Penne Soup
This lovely soup is a concoction of my own design. I originally found a post on Pinterest of a spinach soup but I decided against it when my grocery store didn't stock any of the ingredients. So here is my first ever home made soup. It didn't taste too shabby! Not only that but it's awesome if you're on a budget or at university!

Black and gold Parmesan grated cheese
Oxo chicken stock cubes
One leek
Penne pasta
Salt & pepper (optional)

1. Bring 5 cups of water to the boil in a large saucepan with 3 chicken stock cubes. Allow to dissolve and turn to a simmer. Alternatively, if you don't use stock cubes, use 4 cups of liquid chicken stock and 1 cup of plain water.
2. Add 3 cups of Penne pasta to the saucepan. Allow to boil for 6 minutes or until slightly soft/hard.
3. Clean and chop off the dark leaves of the leek. Place the leaves in a plastic bag and freeze for future vegetable stock. Chop the roots off the remaining stalk. Slice the leek however you prefer. Prepare a large bowl of water and allow the chopped leek to settle on the surface until the dirt drifts to the bottom. Drip dry the leek in your hands and transfer the leek to the saucepan. Mix until combined and allow the pasta and leek to soften.
4. Scoop into bowls using a soup ladle. Sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan, salt and pepper to your taste. Place leftovers in fridge or freezer.

And there you have it. It's super tasty, cheap and makes enough to serve about 4-5 people in one saucepan. It comes in at around $8 in total, so I'm quite happy with how much I got out of it! I had it with my Mum and about half of the meal was put in the fridge for dinner tomorrow night. Some alterations I could suggest are carrots, different stock and whole grain pasta. I will certainly be making this when I head back to university. It could last me for a week!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Smashwords Sale - 50-75*% off!

Hello everyone. Today I have a small post that you should really love. From July 1-31 there is a massive sale currently on at Smashwords and I have offered two of my four books as sale items. Ice is already in the sale as it was already free and so I have offered my standalone novel Glass Bones and the final instalment of my Poseidon's Girls trilogy on sale. Tempest is available for 50% off if you use the code SSW50 at the checkout. Glass Bones is available for 75% off if you use the code SSW75 at the checkout. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Great Issue: Historical Inaccuracies

I haven't found so much in my published works, but with my old works that I posted on such places as Wattpad and Worthy of Publishing, I found there to be a lot of stigma surrounding historical inaccuracies. Some severely detest them, but what if they are the creation of the writer's mind in order to benefit the story? When do they become hindering components?
First of all, I am no expert whatsoever in this field and I tried my absolute hardest to stick by the book with the creation of my Greek mythological characters in my Poseidon's Girls trilogy. The downside to this is that it can make a novel difficult to write and I really struggled with Ice. I'm pretty sure my struggles came through in the writing as opposed to the consequential second and third instalments when looking into some of the negative feedback. I realise that Ice in particular wasn't my finest hour and I am going to go back over the work and try and fix these areas when I look into creating paperbacks.
Yet, is it the best thing to stick by the book and make sure that every single historical aspect is accurate? I think not. This is my own personal thought on the issue, not a solution.
Historical inaccuracy is often seen as something that can make or break a novel. If it doesn't go by the book, it isn't going to make it. I absolutely detest this stigma. I prefer to take historical facts and modify them to my own liking. Sometimes I completely rewrite historical texts, play around with mythology and laws. It makes writing fun. It makes writing unique.
Do you find that you enjoy a little bit of historical inaccuracy? What about in books you've read? Do you completely detest it or do you enjoy a little bit of give and take? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

An Update

Hello everyone! I hope that you're all well, wherever in the world that you are. Right now I am super exhausted, but on the upside I recently have been focusing on working on some more chapters of my Clarity duology. I'm getting stir crazy from how ridiculously long this is taking to write, but I'm taking my time and not rushing like how I did with Ice. Frost and Tempest were slower, but I didn't take the time and care needed to make them the best I could and it definitely showed.
So I'm taking the time to try and improve my writing. It's difficult because I am really, truly the worst with procrastination and I also have the added stresses of my university exams coming up. But I'm still making the time needed and I'm hoping to give my writing more attention. I've been so uninterested in my creative pursuits over the past year, suffering frequent and extended bouts of writer's block that I often think to myself if I should reconsider aiming for more, producing more books when I don't have the motivation any more.
But I love books at heart and I recently discovered some of my older, admittedly better works and I'm hoping that by re-reading through them, I will rediscover my ultimate love of writing. Needless to say, I often am bombarded with 'what if' and 'imagine that', so frequently that it reminds me that I really ought to get back into writing and on a frequent basis. I often am exhausted, more than I ever remember being early on in my writing journey and I am considering seeing a professional. Perhaps I'm running into iron deficiency issues again. I have no idea.
But overall, I am excited to relaunch back into my writing pursuits and to finish the few remaining writing assessments I have left for my romance course through Open Colleges. For now, I'll be calling it a night as I am exhausted and literally have been having blurry vision all day. I hope you all have a lovely time, wherever and whatever time in the world it may be for you.