Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Guest post: StaceyM

Hi - I’m Stacey, a writing buddy of Mark’s from Authonomy and NaNoWriMo. Mark asked me to write a piece for his blog and I’ve leapt at the chance.

I love goals. Goals get me out of bed on dark December mornings (today being one of them); goals get the housework done; goals get me through each day in nice bite-sized chunks of manageability.

You see - from April 2008 to October 2010, I was a patient in a psychiatric hospital. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and, for most of my time in hospital, I had no goals. That’s a lie, my goal was to kill myself because I couldn’t see any purpose in continuing with life as it stood. A life without goals - not a pretty place to be.

From the age of 8, I loved writing stories, and it was my goal to write a book. At the age of 10/11, I did just that (30 pages of drivel half-plagiarised from the books I read at that time). Somewhere along the way, my goal of being a famous author turned into a dream and nothing more. We forget dreams after a while.

At the start of 2010, I’d had enough of a goal-less life and I dug out a notebook and pen and started scribbling. I suffered a few set-backs but I made it out of hospital and I scrimped and saved in order to buy myself a laptop (I’m one of those writers who does best with a keyboard instead of a pen). My goal for 2011 was to finally write that book. Then I heard about NaNoWriMo and set myself a deadline of October to finish Book 1, so I could write Book 2 in November.

My NaNovel sucks. I love to read chick-lit but I’ve learnt it’s not my writing style. I won’t scrap my 50953 words, but I will re-write the whole thing again at some point. Book 1 (Hospital Corners), however, well that’s a different story. My current goal is to complete the second draft by Christmas. By the end of 2012, it’s my goal to have published the book in some form or another. It might be “just” an e-book, but it will be out there, proving that goals are just dreams that need waking up.

Mark says: You can check out Stacey's blog here: The part-time writer I haven't been following her blog - we only 'met' during NaNo - but I'm now enjoying reading her posts and have bookmarked Hospital Corners on Authonomy to check out.

It is great to meet someone who is further along the road than I am - a couple of books written and now editing/rewriting one - and who has a clear goal and plan. Go Stacey!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Marriage in Scotland

I left this late but put my views to the Scottish Governments consultation on marriage this evening.

Scottish citizens have until tomorrow: Friday 9th December to also register their views at:

Care for Scotland have produced a briefing document on the consultation which some may find useful.

Goal 89: To change laws for the better

Saturday, 3 December 2011

NaNoWriMo - now it is over it has only just started

I signed up for NaNoWriMo at the beginning of September - exactly three months ago.

I signed up on a whim. I had wondered about trying it the previous year but was conflicted as I was still intending to get re-started on Fallen Warriors. I got nowhere with Fallen Warriors and after I finished the Open University's Creative Writing Course in June stopped writing altogether.

That was okay over the summer as I had promised my family I would take a break but the break was showing no signs of leaving me feeling like writing. I was dry; dead inside. My creative spark had gone damp. I figured I might as well give NaNoWriMo a go. I had nothing to lose and my Fortieth birthday deadline for my three life goals was only getting closer.

I got the welcome email and began to relax. NaNo was all about just getting on with it. Writing without worrying about which word was going to come next. Writing without a care. Writing - and it's been a long time since I've done this - just for fun!

Is that allowed? Writing for fun? Why shouldn't it be. Isn't that why we do anything we really want to. Because we enjoy it; for the buzz?

I started to buzz. I began to have ideas; made plans; stayed up late writing when ideas took me.I started three new stories, even finished one of them. I produced 15,000 words. I wasn't writing every day but I was building up stamina, proving myself, finding out what I was capable of.

Then November started.

The first week went well. I even managed 2,600 words in two hours at the end of that week. I had written out twenty potential scenarios and ideas that could kickstart me if I struggled but I mostly didn't need them. I found that the vague characters that I'd envisaged before began to take shape. Events needed to happen that I hadn't considered before and while they may not survive to the final draft - they gave life to the characters and helped me believe in the world I was creating.

The second week was tougher. I took longer - found it harder to write without considering the implications. I didn't have longer but somehow in the third week got by. Churned out the word count at all costs. It was too much. Before the third week started had to admit that I needed to reprioritise. I focused more on my family and work and allowed myself to ease up. It helped. I got through that fourth week still ahead of where I needed to be and even caught up the weeks target on the Saturday.

I knew that there were gaps in the story. Things I had wanted to say but which I hadn't had time to consider. It didn't matter. I can add them in later. Maybe in the second draft. Maybe in the third or fourth...

I was worried I wouldn't finish the story. Was I going to hit the same wall I hit with Fallen Warriors? I really wanted to bring the story to a conclusion. I knew how I wanted to finish it but it was the how to get there that I struggled with. In the end I just brought things forward; made the events happen and suddenly I was writing the ending. It was revalatory - I began to remember other novels I've read where the ending happens in stages: short reveals. So this is how they do it...

Then my daughter was sick. Literally. I had to take an unexpected days leave that last Monday in November and in between looking after her I somehow managed to write 4,000 words and ended the story. NaNoWriMo was over.

Cue anti-climax, what do I do now...

I took the rest of the week off. Well, from writing anyway. I read a novel on my Kindle: Lee Child's Worth Dying For. First novel I've read in over a month. Took me a couple of chapters to stop editing it...

Ever since I've been Eight years old I've told people I'm going to be a writer. I'm not going to tell people that any more: in the end no-one out there cares if I say I'm going to be a writer. I'm not a writer if I say I am - I'm only a writer if I'm writing. This is probably the most important truth I've taken from NaNoWriMo.

I am a writer - I write every day.

I've been reading the NaNo pep talks, reading other NaNoers blogs and planning out the next ten years.

NaNo has taught me I can write a lot every day. I now believe I could write 5,000 words a day if I was writing full time. Holding down a job and family - I think 1,000 words a day is more than possible.

My new yearly target is 200,000 words a year. A lot of that will be through rewrites but that is okay. Each rewrite takes me a step closer to the ultimate goal - getting a novel published.

NaNoWriMo has helped me remember why I love to write; has helped me believe in myself as a writer. I highly recommend NaNoWriMo if you have any interest in writing... You don't even have to wait till next November - any month could be your NaNo month!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Bethlehemian Rhapsody

Thanks to a Facebook friend for sharing this gem. Personally I feel it's an improvement on the original Bohemian Rhapsody...

What do you think?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Fifty Thousand words and change!

I did it! I completed my novel. Two days before the deadline.

I've validated it on NaNoWriMo's site - they actually credited me with three hundred words that Word didn't recognise but even without that I'm safely over. I even ended the story the way I'd planned.

I've written a novel... It's a rough first draft. Not publishable - not yet; but it is complete... Well. Mostly...

I'm sure I will write more about this in days, weeks and months to come but for now I just want to say a huge thank you to - you helped me write a novel. You helped me achieve my oldest and original goal.


By rights I should not be posting today. I told myself I would only post if I hit my daily target word count and I'm still aways off it.But I hit my weekly target on Saturday so that is excuse enough.

I wanted to share this post by another NaNoWriMo participant: lightonwings. She wrote it as an essay towards a university application explaining how working towards NaNo over the last few years has enabled her to learn how to better manage her time; to continue to value and spend time with family and friends; and also achieve her goals. She fully deserves to succeed.

NaNoWriMo Update:
Todays word count: 1,550
Total words: 47,676

I now have just a smidgen over my daily word target to complete 50K. I can do this! I will do this!

Friday, 25 November 2011

NaNoWriMo: A rough week

I scraped my word target today - the first day all week!

NaNoWriMo Update:
Todays word count: 2,310
Total words: 44,626

I cut back this week. Work needed to be a higher priority. I still got up at 5am every morning but tried to not stress when I fell short of my target 2,300 words. As a result, I kept writing and managed over 10K words this week and have managed to meet work targets as well.

It has been a hard week though. I felt like I was going nowhere with the plot. Felt I had gone off on a tangent. Wondered if I was only half way through the story and would struggle to complete it once November was gone.

I'm planning to keep writing. Bring the daily target down to 1,000 words a day and get up at Six instead of Five each morning. I want to reach a definite ending, to bring my main characters story to a close but don't want to spend too much longer doing that. I've got ideas for other characters. Other plot threads I want to explore but they are not essential to the core story and I know if I get started on those before the main story is finished - I'll struggle to tie it all together.

Tomorrow is catch up Saturday. I'll spend a couple of hours writing. I'd really like to spend the whole day and complete the [insert appropriate age related word here] novel but I have other commitments I've been putting off...

If you are writing, how has your week gone? If you are working on some other goal - how do you motivate yourself to keep going during your tough weeks?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Is this a bog I see before me...

My favourite sentence so far in my novel:

"If they do not have a bog, one will be provided for them."

Spot the spelling mistake in the sentence above - if you can...

NaNoWriMo Update:
Todays word count: 1,750
Total words: 40,286

It has not been going well. For the third day in a row I have written less than my target word count and progressively less:
Monday: 2162
Tuesday: 1860
Wednesday: 1750

I didn't have a sick cat (Link may only work if you are signed up with NaNoWriMo) but I did have a loose tap. Tried fixing it this weekend and ended up wasting most of Saturday and all Sunday; shutting off the water for too long; removing all the pipework under the kitchen sink; and in the end buying a new tap. B&Q did rather well out of us this weekend.

So much for a needed break...

I can still meet 50K by the end of the month but I won't be blogging again unless I hit my target 2,300 words in a day.

What obstacles are in the way of your goals? What is tiring you out or holding you back?

Friday, 18 November 2011


I feel like I'm already out of sync with my countdown. By the time I come to write this update, I've already written my target words and I'm now thinking about the next eight days...

NaNoWriMo Update:
Todays word count: 34,514
Total words: 2,444

I am loving the graph. Easy to love when you're on track but discouraging when you're not. I do find that measuring my progress like this helps me to keep going. How about you? What motivates you to keep trying?

And for all you parents out there who haven't yet seen this... and for anyone who remembers being ten... enjoy:

Thursday, 17 November 2011

NaNoWriMo - I've donated, have you?

Last of the big spenders I am: only $10 but still - if everyone who participates donates then National Novel Writing Month can continue to support us as we write our novels.

NaNoWriMo Update:
Todays word count: 2,300
Total words: 32,070

I guess this means a 30K shoutout. Pump fist in the air... I'm starting my ten day countdown now. If like me you are only writing on weekdays maybe we can shout it out together - TEN...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Follow me on Twitter...

...if you want to see a succession of links to my blog!

I'm not really getting Twitter yet. Seems like Facbook but without the fun. Is it something that can be explained or do you just have to get it?

My Twitter username is Frozbie - same as my NaNo username. It was once unique but now I apparently share this with a Mexican dog and someone who plays World of Warcraft... It isn't me, honest!

NaNoWriMo update:
Todays word count: 2,502
Total words: 29,770

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011

NaNoWriMo - day fourteen

NaNoWriMo update
Todays word count: 2,373
Total words: 24,908

Half way point so close I can almost smell it. Not sure what a half way point might smell like: blue-berry pie; marshmallow ice-cream, Shetland tablet... Got my sweet tooth on!

Beautiful sunrise this morning. Worth taking a short break to enjoy...

How are all you NaNo novelists getting on out there? Good to hear from Ruby - just keep writing and you'll make it!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest we forget to remember the fallen

NaNoWriMo Update:
Todays word count: 2,320
Total words: 22,535

A friend sent me the following text and images. I don't have time myself to fully consider everything I feel about Armistice/Remembrance Day - except to say that I support our soldiers. They sometimes get it wrong - but then, so do I. They do not choose the conflicts they will fight in - we do: either by voting in politicians or by our apathy and choosing not to get involved. Yet they fight for us, whether at home or abroad, to protect us and to protect our interests.


The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.

'Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you ?
Have you always turned the other cheek ?
To My Church have you been true?'

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
'No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.

'Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell.'
Author Unknown~

It's the Military, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It's the Military, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It's the Military, not the politicians that ensures our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It's the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for the military, please pass this on and pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

NaNoWriMo shoutout: 20K reached!

NaNoWriMo update
Todays word count: 2,320
Total words: 20,215

I've reached twenty thousand words! That is forty percent of the way through or two fifths if you prefer fractions. I only need another five thousand words to get to the half way point.

I'm starting to get some momentum going in the plot. My hero has been attacked and defended himself and, well, maybe that's enough for now. Part of me wants to share what I've got but another part of me knows it is just not ready. I am thinking that I'd like to put the first ten thousand words up on Authonomy but I will want to at least have a sense check and quick edit before I do.

How is life out there in NaNo land? Any stories to share?

How about your other goals? This experience is a real game changer. So many goals can be broken down into daily targets. Doesn't matter whether you are building something; repairing something; creating or even cleaning - if you set a target and work at it each day - you can achieve your goal.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Saying sorry to my bank

I admit it - I get things wrong. I make mistakes; I forget.

I forgot to pay my credit card bill last month. My online bank wrote to me after the deadline for paying was past to advise me - again - that I needed to pay.

I couldn't believe it. I went online, looked at the statement and saw a charge of £12 and interest of £6. Not a huge amount of money but things have been tight with a lot of large expenses recently for our roof and trying to pull money together for solar panels.

I thought the bank had made a mistake. I wrote an angry letter demanding a refund. They were very polite and gracious. They asked in response if their normal email reminder could have been filed in junk mail, or if I'd changed my email settings recently.

I had reformatted my laptop and restored my email but I didn't believe that I had lost any emails. Turned out that the reminder email was there - buried inbetween a horrendous pile of junk mail in my inbox. All of it unread. The result of a stressful few weeks when dealing with email was the last thing on my mind.

I got it wrong.

I ate my humble pie and wrote an apology to the bank. I was rude. I had falsely accused them. It was tempting just to try and forget about it but that would have eaten away at me. I expect the companies I deal with to act professionally and admit when they have made mistakes. I have a responsibility to do the same.

NaNoWriMo update:
Todays word count: 2,382
Total words: 17,895

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

NaNoWriMo - hitting the wall

Todays word count: 2300
Total words: 15,513

Another struggle. Just scraped together my word count taking half an hour extra that I don't really have out of this morning. Need to shovel down some breakfast and get ready for work.

Hope all you other NaNo'ers are doing well. They did say the second week was going to be tough.

Monday, 7 November 2011

5 A.M. Stop moaning and start writing!

Todays word count: 2347
Total words: 13,213

I took Sunday off and I would encourage all my fellow NaNo'ers out there to take a day off from writing each week. If I write every day I might get better at writing every day - but if I don't take a break on a regular basis then the quality of my work suffers.

Not that my Sunday was particularly restful. I slept poorly Friday and Saturday night. I took my son to a Judo competition Sunday morning and spent a couple of hours on the edge of my seat watching him fight. It's a scary thing - watching your child knowingly walk into a fight - even a supposedly defense sport like Judo. There wasn't a whole lot of defending going on!

He did himself proud winning five out of eight fights and gaining two silver medals as they asked him to fight in two groups to make up the numbers in the second group. He went in with the right attitude - telling me he was going for a gold medal. I'm sure that with that attitude and continual practice - he will get that gold.

If you are taking part in NaNoWriMo then I'm sure you will have days like me when anything seems preferable to churning out that daily word count. Whatever you have commited to - stick to it. Keep writing. You will get there!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Movie making on the cheap

Goal 81: To direct a movie

Spotted this BBC article: How to make a movie for just £15,000 this week.

Unfortunately it doesn't actually tell you how - more that it has been done. Still, that is a good thing to hear for anyone - myself included - who would like at some point to have a go at directing a movie.

NaNoWriMo update
Todays word count: 1,154
Total words: 10,866

I'm not writing at weekends, except for the Saturdays I do... My body clock is adjusting gradually to earlier mornings and I had a thought that if I woke early I might get a thousand or more words in before the day got really started. I'm pleased with adding another 1,154 to my overall word count. I'm now passed 10K!

Quick fist pump ;)

I'm trying not to think about the rest of the month. This week has been seriously stressful. Getting up at 5am week days and then working late several nights to bank some time so I could pick my son up from his return from a week away at an outbound adventure centre. He seems to have had a blast!

I had a fear yesterday that I'll hit my 50K target before the end of the month and realise I'm only half way through. If I can't keep the pace up at that point I'll lower my daily word target to 1,000 words a day and push on. This isn't just about a notional 50K target. I want to finish the story. I'll only achieve my number one goal of writing an enjoyable, bestselling novel if I complete one! The Great Scottish Land Grab doesn't have to be a best-seller but if I complete it, I'll have more confidence to complete another.

The more novels I actually finish, the more chance I have of publishing one. The more novels I publish, the more chance I have one will sell well. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I'm looking forward to Monday. Mostly ;)

Friday, 4 November 2011

What's your number?

To celebrate the news that world population has reached 7 Billion, the BBC has an amusing tool to help us find out how many people were alive around about the time we were born. My place in the grand scheme of things is below.

What's your number?

NaNoWriMo update:

Todays word count: 2644
Total words: 9712

Today was a good day! Managed my target 2,300 words in less than two hours writing. I had a flow going and could have kept writing. That felt very good after the struggles yesterday and the day before. Approaching 10K now. That will be 20 percent complete!

I'm buddied with StaceyM. Like me, she is blogging her way through NaNo. She hit 10086 words yesterday, go StaceyM!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

NaNoWriMo - day three

Todays word count: 2380
Total words: 7068

Over two and three quarter hours today. Thought I would never make the target. Woke at 4:15 and really should have just gotten out of bed then! Going to be a rush to get to work now!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

NaNoWriMo - day two

Todays word count: 2310
Total words: 4688

Found writing tough going this morning. Woke at 4:45am but could not get out of bed. Took me two and a half hours to hit my target word count.

Update on roof - we've been told our roof is non-standard construction and is not strong enough to take solar panels.Quite a disapointment.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

NaNoWriMo day one

Todays word count: 2378
Total words: 2378

Managed to get up at 5AM but took me until 7:30 to reach my target word count. I'm internally editing too much before I write. I'll need to lower my desire for perfectionism if I'm to reach 50,000 words this month!

If you are taking part in NaNoWriMo this year, how is day one going for you? What is your strategy to reach the goal?

Monday, 31 October 2011


Anticipation - it can be wonderful; it can be terrifying.

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow morning at 5AM for me. I went to bed at 9PM last night and was up at 5AM this morning. I've slept poorly this weekend - in part lying in bed recycling thoughts about my novel. I bought several note pads on Saturday and some wonderful Stabilo Fineliner pens. They write smoothly on my A5 project notebook at three in the morning when I can't sleep...

I'm not going to write any long blog posts in November but I aim to post a daily progress report. Template as follows:

Todays word count:
Total words:

A few words on how it is going?

I would like to encourage other NaNo’ers and might share some links.

Some people share their novels as they create them. I doubt that will work for me but I may occasionally share a passage.

Twenty two weeks days in November. 2,300 words a day. Tell my story. And that is it.

If I write every day, then I am a writer. 
If I keep writing then I will finish my novel. 
When I finish my novel then I am an author.

You break your goals down; begin working on them; make mistakes, fail; fail again; learn from those mistakes and failures; keep trying and one day you can achieve whatever you set your heart to achieve.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Going to war!

I have found myself getting quite militant over the Autumn.

I hate injustice. Hate it with a passion. I do not like seeing other people being victimized and do not like being in any situation where I feel an individual or organization has stolen from me or withheld from me something I was entitled to.

As a follower of Christ, I'm very aware of his teaching on forgiveness. I understand that when I forgive both I and the person who has wronged me are released from long term bitterness and suffering which I suspect - but cannot yet prove - can result in physical illness.

I do not subscribe to an interpretation some have made that all Christians should turn the other cheek and allow evil men to walk all over us in any situation where we are wronged. I see no evidence anywhere that Christ lived his own life allowing other people to wrong him or those around him - instead I see at the very end of his life: he lived up to his own teaching by turning his cheek as he was beaten by men who chose evil over good and he allowed himself to be killed in our place.

What Would Jesus Do about the petty injustices I perceive around me? I strongly suspect he is telling me right now to get a grip! I doubt Jesus would have a bank account or mortgage if he lived today. He would live simply and so avoid all the problems that many of us face.

As a follower of Christ - I often get it wrong. I'm not yet getting a grip and instead have gone to war with my mortgage company and an organization that gives interest free loans to enable people to install renewable energy products.

I will name no names at present - I'm conscious that the latter conflict may just be a misunderstanding, even though suspicious and irritating.

We signed up to get Solar Panels installed. The cost: £9,250. Money we do not have. We applied for two loans, one with the un-named organization, the other with a high street bank. The high street bank approved our loan for £7,500 and gave us the money within a week. Un-named took a month to tell me I was a credit risk and they had declined my application.

As I wrote, it may just be a misunderstanding but it has turned into a twisty saga just begging to be blogged about. More later...

The former conflict - I claimed back MPPI (Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance). I did so myself, ignoring the dozens of companys claiming only they could assist me. They were all wrong. Anyone who has paid MPPI can claim it back themselves as it was mis-sold for many years.

I've spent a lot of time writing letters this week that possibly could have been better spent writing or editing my novel. Or preparing for NaNoWriMo. I won't have time in November to fight these battles.

Dan, you asked what happened to our roof... After we signed up for Solar Panels I thought I better get the roof checked out. Turns out we needed a new one!

Cracked and holed tiles come off:

Tiles, battons and felt end up here:

 Somewhere in this chaos is hope...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

NaNoWriMo prep - Short novels

After I signed up for NaNoWriMo I quickly felt the need to justify what I was doing. A 50,000 word novel feels like a cheat. I had and still am aiming for 100,000 words with Fallen Warriors and I know many novels I enjoy reading come in at 250,000 plus.

I thought - why not see if I can find some recognised and celebrated novels that are less than 50,000 words?

To Kill A Mockingbird - everyone has heard of that, right? I remember it being an easy read; a short novel, right?

Wrong! Over 120,000 words!

I used Amazon Look Inside to allow me to count words on a page and then multiply by pages in the novel. Maybe the version I checked has been re-written...

Undaunted I checked another classic:
Of Mice and Men (Pocket Penguin Classics)
Average of ten words per line
28 lines per page
Paperback: 128 pages
35,840 words in total

Now we're talking! I studied this at school. I love the Robert Burns quote in the title and still get goose bumps thinking about the ending.

Time to check another one:
Enemy Mine
Average of ten words per line
35 lines per page
Paperback: 96 pages
33,600 words in total

Stormin! (I have to say I didn't enjoy Enemy Mine as much this summer when I re-read it. I have a memory as a teenager of deeply empathising with the characters but as an adult I found it quite shallow...) Still, that's two novels I have enjoyed (at some point in my life) that come in well under 50,000 words!

I'm hereby revising goal 36: To have written a 50,000 word novel in November 2011. (What's the point in having goals if you can't occasionally change them;)

Hold me accountable folks!

P.S. I wrote this last week, before contractors arrived to remove the roof from our house and the project I'm involved with at work hit new levels of stress. Is it physically, mentally and emotionally possible to complete NaNoWriMo while supervising construction work on your home and working full time, evenings and occasional weekends?

I can't quit now - I haven't even started yet!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

NaNo pep talks

I discovered the NaNoWriMo pep talks archive today. Some good stuff in there - some even by authors I've heard of and whose books I like!

"’s always best to write the story that is currently strongest inside you, the one that won’t go away, regardless of its genre or marketability. If you are true to your inner vision, believe in the reality of your story and write the book you want, you will bring it to life." Garth Nix

"You are the best audience for your own work. If you would absolutely love a character like the one you are writing about, if you adore books like the one you are working on, then you are going to know how to make the book appealing—write it like you were the person who was going to read it. Remember the fun bits, the juicy bits, the stuff you linger over in other books—the good stuff." Holly Black

"Polish your jealousy to a high shine—like the chrome of a well-loved Mustang.
My jealousy took the form of the phrase “two-book deal with Dutton.” My student, Sharon Mitchell, who went on to become #2 on the African American Bestseller’s list for her first novel Nothin’ But the Rent, had just gotten a two-book deal with Dutton. I hadn’t. I was her teacher. I’d been at this, seemingly forever. She was a psychologist, dabbling in the novel. This phrase haunted me: “two-book deal with Dutton, two-book deal with Dutton.” Luckily, I couldn’t shake it." Julianna Baggott

"Stop using a new story idea (or whatever excuse you’ve come up with) to avoid the work you still have to do on your current work-in-progress!" Meg Cabot

Uh - too late! Fallen Warriors will not end of the the milk crate of shame... but The Great Scottish Land Grab is currently my W.I.P.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Growing weed

I harvested my chilli plants a while back and have been drying them out in our kitchen. I finally got round to readying them for storing this month and decided to save some of the seeds to see if I could grow more plants from seed that I'd grown.

I took some of our home produced compost and planted a dozen seeds in the tray you can see below along with a plum seed and some lemon seeds - just to see what would happen. I've taken the tray into work and now have this sitting on my desk - far from a window but I'm hoping there is still sufficient light to allow the seeds to germinate. It has taken a few days but you might just be able to see some green shoots... It may just be weeds from our compost but if weeds can sprout - so can chillis!

I find this whole growing food to eat concept quite attractive. Our local Tesco had a sale of seed packets after the summer and I picked up packets of pepper seeds. We recycle a lot of plastic and tin containers and so I have kept some back to see if I can make use of them myself. This weekend I planted the remaining chilli seeds and the pepper seeds and now have them sitting on our window sill - warming in the winter sun :)

Monday, 24 October 2011

NaNoWriMo Perp

I was told this year to keep a note of mistypes.

Perp is a good one, completely accidental and yet it conjours up an instant image of US TV cop shows - "Got to find the perp' Captain, before he strikes again..."

Great link on the blog of the people who run NaNo last week on how important pacing is to a story.

Managed 1,190 words in an hour this morning - that's more like it!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Grinding The Crack

Goal 75: Successfully and Safely parachute jump

While I've said I may leave this goal till last, that was until a friend showed me this clip yesterday: Jeb Corliss - Grinding The Crack

I have no plan and no targets for this but at some point I want to try para-gliding and work my way up to jumping off a really tall mountain...

The stunning visuals in the above clip are tempered by this article. The section on fatalities and their causes especially...

Still, I have always wanted to fly... (Goal number 5)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

NaNoWriMo fears

05:30 I was awake but unwilling to get out of bed. Waking up before my 6AM alarm is a good sign though that my body clock is slowly beginning to adjust.

06:00 Out of bed at the alarm, put on my dressing gown, wrap a blanket around me and grab my laptop before heading downstairs. Frost on the shed roof this morning.

06:08 Laptop booted and I'm typing this... Decaf coffee made (Should I get Decaf filter coffee for November? Maybe I'm losing words by avoiding the caffeine kick?)

I have a problem - I have no idea what happens next... The story I'm working on this week - my original idea was inspired by seeing a strange rock formation that looked to me like a monster. There was no story, no characters, no plot. Just a memory - and a few photos - of a strange looking cliff face.

This week I've created four characters, introduced them and now, today, have brought some of my characters to an encounter with the rock monster. But I don't know what they will do or it will do or even if it is real...

When I've written stories before and hit that point where I didn't know what happened next I've just taken some thinking time. Left the story and got on with my life until I got inspiration. But I'm not going to be able to do that in November. I think I've only just realised that I somehow need to produce 2,300 words every morning - regardless of whether I know what happens next or not.

Sure I have a basic plot now and twenty or so potential chapter ideas - but I'm going to need to make each one work and am going to have to work hard to keep writing.

By 07:05 I had written 893 words this morning. Not enough. I still have to up my game.

Have you completed NaNoWriMo or forced yourself to write despite everything and anything holding you back? How did you do it?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

NaNoWriMo prep - whose idea was this?

Oh yeah, mine.

06:00 alarm goes off - Casting Crowns - The Word Is Alive...

06:06 crawl out of warm bed and carry laptop down to cold kitchen. Why? Why am I doing this? Oh yeah, I want to complete a novel. I'm in training.

06:12 Kettle is boiled - do I have decaf or full caff? Laptop is booted and I'm now typing - even if it is just procrastination... Okay, decaf - for now.

06:14 Story I'm working on this week is opened in new window. Time to start... Goal is 1,150 words in 45 minutes...

06:17 (Idea - put coffee percolator on timer - when I have to get up at 5am I really don't want to be wasting time!)

06:43 Okay, I've made a start but a slow one. My favourite youngest daughter has joined us for breakfast - oh yeah, my wife is now up too, getting ready for work. Maybe time to have some breakfast?
How am I ever going to write 2,300 words first thing in the morning?

06:53 Youngest daughter can talk for Scotland. Trying to write while I become increasingly aware of yabber proving difficult. Oh, wait, they've gone. Need to get back in the groove.

07:00 622 words in 45 minutes - not enough. Not nearly enough. So much for forced, speed writing. I seem to be getting slower every day. I need to speed up, not slow down!

07:17 907 words and I really need to stop now, have breakfast and get the kids ready to go to child care.

I've set up a new profile on the NaNoWriMo site. You can now see the name of my NaNo novel and read a short synopsis.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

NaNoWriMo prep - 14 days to go

Two weeks to go till National Novel Writing Month kicks off!

Have you ever thought or said you could write a novel?

Well, this is your chance! Sign up, buddy me (My user name is Frozbie) and lets get our novels written!

I spent last week working on my plot and doing some research. It felt quite weird not to be trying to write each morning. This week I've tried again to stick to a routine. Bed before 10PM, up at 6AM and then try and write 1,000 words in an hour.

I managed it yesterday: wrote 1,200 words towards a new story. This morning it was more of a struggle. Took me an hour and a quarter to reach 1,000.

I'm sure there will be hard days and good days in November. I'm going to need all the encouragement I can get. Look out friends on Facebook - NaNo spam heading your way soon!

I've already broached the thorny question of booking out the last Saturday in November as a 'just in case I'm 10,000 words short' day with my wonderful wife. I'm still aiming for 50,000 words written only using weekday mornings but it doesn't hurt to have a backup plan...

I have started exercising. Healthy body, healthy mind and all that. Went for a jog this weekend. Managed a mile before I had to switch to walking... I'd like to head out two or three times a week and gradually increase my distance. I'm sure it will help come November.

What are you doing to prepare for and help you achieve your goals?

Monday, 17 October 2011

This is my creed

We all believe in something, even those of us who deny having any kind of belief. My beliefs shape and influence what I write about. Your beliefs will likewise filter what you read and how you interpret it.

I believe you have a right to know what my main influences are - and they are summed up in the Petra song: Creed, from their album Beyond Belief.

I believe in God the Father - maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ His only Son
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the Man of Sorrows bruised for iniquities
I believe in the Lamb who was crucified and hung between two thieves

I believe in the resurrection on the third and glorious day
And I believe in the empty tomb and the stone that the angel rolled away
He descended and set the captives free
And now He sits at God's right hand and prepares a place for me

This is my creed - the witness I have heard
The faith that has endured
This truth is assured
Through the darkest ages past
Though persecuted, it will last
And I will hold steadfast to this creed

I believe He sent His Spirit to comfort and to reveal
To lead us into the truth and light, to baptize and to seal
I believe that He will come back the way He went away
And receive us all unto Himself, but no man knows the day

I believe He is the Judge of all men, small and great
The resurrected souls of men receive from Him their fate
Some to death and some to life, some to their reward
Some to sing eternal praise forever to our Lord

Words and music by Bob Hartman
(Creed Lyrics from
(Listen to Creed on YouTube)

Goal 31: To be and do all that God wants of me

Our beliefs will influence the goals we set for ourselves and even whether or not we achieve them.

If I believe that God made me to work and that by working hard I will honour him and fulfill my potential, this gives me purpose and drive. There have been times when I found myself wondering if there was any point to my existence. Motivating myself to do anything at those times was incredibly difficult.

I choose to believe God has given me purpose, that I matter to him. It's not always easy for me to believe this but it is worth the effort.

How do you find your beliefs affect your goals?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

My 100 goals now available on Kindle!

If you are one of the first people to subscribe to this blog through Amazon Kindle then welcome!

My 100 goals is a blog sharing my journey to complete my goals and encouraging you to set and achieve goals of your own.

In 2009 I was reading through Brian Tracy's book Goals!: How to Get Everything You Want - Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible and found a section where he discusses writing down 100 goals you want to achieve in your lifetime. He suggests that everyone he knows who has done this starts to see those goals achieved in a much shorter time than they thought possible.

I decided to give it a go and on 28 October 2009 I sat for two hours and wrote down 100 goals I want to achieve. You can read more about it here.

I'm a husband, a father; a writer and a Christian. I'm writing several novels and will be taking part in National Novel Writing Month this November - for the first time. I aim to complete a new 50,000 word novel. Maybe someday soon you can read it on the Kindle...;)

Do you have any dreams or aspirations that seem impossibly far from your reach? I'm not going to write that everything is possible but I have come to believe that we can achieve amazing things. You can increase your self-belief; develop methods to turn dreams into plans and action; you can set and achieve goals!

Using my head

I frequently take on too much. The title of this blog says it all: my 100 goals. I'm not pro-actively trying to achieve them all at once but sometimes I wonder if having so many goals does just sum up my character as having bigger dreams than my ability to make them happen.

Having completed my degree my next major goal is to finish a novel. Fallen Warriors was going to be top priority but I wasn't getting anywhere; wasn't even writing until I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Now my next major goal is completing NaNo: writing a new 50,000 word novel in November.

Along with that our family life has radically altered with my wife starting work again and adjusting my working pattern so I can drop our children off at school. It means I am working later; also that I am helping out more round the house.

It does not seem like the best time to be learning a new language!

Yet I'm determined to stick it out. Although it is a while since I last read it, Tony Buzan implies in Use Your Head that as people, we benefit from a rounded approach to learning and activities:

"...when people were encouraged to develop a mental area they had previously considered weak, this development, rather than detracting from other areas, seemed to produce a synergetic effect in which all areas of mental performance improved." Buzan, T. (1991) Use your head, page 17

Sleep and exercise are two areas I really need to work on over the next three weeks in preparation for NaNoWriMo. I need a plan.

How do you ensure you can achieve all you are capable of?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Acer means To Do!

Goal 27: To learn Spanish and speak it

I was struggling to learn the Spanish for 'to do' last week. I was up to CD seven of twelve in Collins Spanish with Paul Noble and while it has been good using commute time to listen to the CDs, I'm conscious that driving takes top priority and so I don't always hear or understand what is said.

Apparently the Spanish for 'to do' is Hacer, with a silent H. I was asked to use it in a question by removing the r at the end: Hace (pronounced, as far as I can tell, as assay.) So, to ask: 'what do you do?' I now - if I'm remembering it correctly - will say: Kay assay (phonetically - I still don't know how to spell what...;)

Anyway, I played the CD a couple of times and was still not getting it. I'm finding it harder each week to concentrate - NaNoWriMo starting to take its toll even before November... The course does continually repeat words and there is no pressure from Paul Noble to remember. It is quite weird to be told forgetting is a normal part of learning!

Then I heard the word again and realised - I have an Acer! Spelt differently but pronounced the same. I'm using it now to write this blog post :) Hacer means 'to do!' I do a lot with my laptop: I've written stories; blog posts; software applications... Hacer means to do!

Monday, 10 October 2011

NaNoWriMo prep - Plotting

I am serious about being a writer. About writing: going to bed early enough (I managed 9:30 last night) that I can get up at 6am and write, even though my eyes are struggling to stay open and I almost ignored the alarm – switching it off and collapsing back into sleep.

If I do not write, I am not a writer. It is only when I am bashing words out with electronic or real ink that I can legitimately say to the world – I write.

06:15 now – time to start some serious (but also hopefully fun work on plotting my NaNo novel...)

06:30 – There are twenty two week days in November when I am planning to write. It will give me a structure to follow if I can produce a basic plot that allows one chapter for each of those days. I have been noting down ideas since I signed up for NaNoWriMo so this morning have so far gathered these together to see what I have and where the gaps are. (One benefit of getting up earlier is that I don’t have to break off my flow of writing to make breakfast for my youngest child... :)

07:31 – Finally made myself some breakfast! My favourite youngest daughter has also been fed and is now playing with a Daffy Duck and cereal box...

I have 19 potential chapter ideas and...make that 20... which I feel is a good start to the week. I also have gathered a lot of websites that may prove useful in researching the story. I'm thinking I may extract some text from those websites; compile into a research document and upload to my Kindle to read over during the next fortnight.

Do you think you could write a novel? Have you signed up for NaNoWriMo? How do you plot your novel?

Saturday, 8 October 2011

An open letter to the Prime Minister

Goal 89: To change laws for the better

I find the only way I can comprehend Quantitative Easing is to compare it to theft. Theft of the value of the pound in my pocket; in my bank account; in my salary.

The only ones who appear to be benefitting from QE are the banks who are getting free money to invest with.

I decided this evening to contact our Prime Minister to express my views. The letter is repeated in full below. Perhaps if you would also like to share in the supposed benefits of QE you could also contact the Prime Minister. You may find his contact details here:

Dear Mr Cameron,

I understand that your government has this week decided to inject a further £75 billion into the British economy:

This concerns me as I still have not received any share of the previous £200 billion injected since 5 March 2009:

I am married and have three children and, assuming there are 60 million British citizens, calculate now that your government owes me and my family £22,916 ( I have rounded this figure down.)

This will adequately compensate us for the loss of value of our home; our salaries; our savings; and our belongings – all of which have depreciated in value as a direct result of your quantitative easing policy.

It may be that you prefer to pay each of us separately and if so I would be happy to provide names and/or bank accounts details.

Looking forward to helping the country spend and save more money,

Yours sincerely,

Mark Smith

Thursday, 6 October 2011

What NaNoWriMo is doing for me

Back in 2009 when I first started regular writing towards Fallen Warriors I was conscious I had little time. Planning another three years of study and work and family commitments all at the same time: 100 words a day seemed both reasonable and achievable.

But it was slow. Painfully slow. Okay, I wrote more when I could but I also consciously limited myself and forced myself to set writing as a low priority.

When I began struggling with the plot I stopped writing regularly and eventually stopped altogether.

I still plan to complete that novel but right now I'm focused on getting ready for November. NaNoWriMo has inspired me; has revitalised me as a writer. Two months ago I wasn't writing anything and now most days - I had a day off yesterday - I am turning out between 500 and 700 words in under 45 minutes. I have twice written my daily target for November of 2,300 words in two hours.

Orson Scott Card writes that a full time writer can discipline themselves to write 5,000 words a day and I am now starting to believe that is something I can attain to.

I love playing with the figures. If, after NaNo, I can discipline myself to write 1000 words a day - which now seems a highly realistic goal: to write for an hour a day and achieve 1000 words - then I could theoretically complete two 100K novels a year.

Okay I still need to factor in time for editing them so these would only be first drafts but that discipline seems like a worthwhile goal to aim for...

What is NaNoWriMo doing for you?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

NaNoWriMo - a day off

I won't be able to sleep-in during November but I took an extra hour this morning.

I have not been consistent enough or early enough in going to bed yet and I can't afford to become exhausted.

I reckon I'll need to get to bed for 9pm week nights in November and it looks like I might have to start that discipline sooner if I'm to keep getting up early in October. Off to work soon in a howling gale. How did Scotland miss the UK's heatwave last week?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

NaNoWriMo - why do I need a floppy to slipstream?

My three mistakes over the weekend:
  1. Choosing not to read the instructions
  2. Trying to improve something while distracted
  3. Trying to improve something while dis... oh. Yeah.
It took me quite a while on Saturday to retrace more or less the same steps I'd taken in 2007:
  1. Try and install new operating system on Laptop
  2. Install failed because Laptop has new SATA drive which old Windows XP doesn't recognise
  3. Find SATA driver on Acer's website
  4. Try installing XP
  5. Install fails because driver not on floppy drive
  6. Stomp around the room in frustration because I don't have a floppy drive
  7. Read the forums
  8. Discover nLite and how to 'slipstream' a driver into an XP installation CD
  9. Create my first cut down version of XP using driver file obtained from Acer
  10. Stomp around the room some more because the install fails - still not finding my Laptop's harddrive
  11. Do some more research - find that I have to run the 'driver' which is actually an executable designed to write files to - and only to - a floppy disk.
  12. Cue more stomping...
Although I understand why Acer provide an executable program which automatically installs driver files to a floppy drive, it irritated me back in 2007 and still does in 2011. Acer knew their laptops didn't come with floppy drives but I guess that five to ten years ago most PCs still had one.

Back in 2007 - the memories come flooding back at this point - I didn't! I had built our PC myself: speccing the parts; ordering them; and putting the whole thing together - from the motherboard up; without a floppy drive! I reasoned we would not need one anymore. DVD's were the new norm and we could save files to both CD and DVD without any issues. Until I tried changing the operating system on my laptop.

In 2007 my only choice was to abandon the upgrade or make a trip to a PC store. I chose the latter and
forked out a tenner for a floppy drive that I only needed once in the next four years. I installed the floppy drive, extracted the actual driver files to a floppy disk and slipstreamed them into an nLite CD.

I'm fairly sure I saved the driver files somewhere... But late on Saturday evening I found myself rooting about in a cupboard for the floppy drive I had removed almost as soon as I'd installed it four years before:

Having all the necessary drivers ready, I re-ran nLite and created a new CD, only to find it was around 50Mb bigger than the last time. This was irritating as a major point of slipstreaming is to reduce the installation size. I decided to start again but of course this entailed setting up the install and I quickly backtracked. After a couple more attempts at reducing the size of the CD, by which time it was past midnight, I gave up. Each time I tried - it added on 50Mb!

I know a definition of madness is retrying something that failed the last time but sometimes I just can't help myself! (Anyone have any suggestions why the installation kept increasing in size?)

In the end I used one of the early attempts and although it wasn't quite as automatic as I'd hoped, it worked pretty well. Half an hour later and I'd got Internet up and running, installed Microsoft Office and checked I could access all my backed up files. I was booting up in under a minute - quite an improvement over the plus five minutes Vista had been taking.

(Why did it all take so long? It was Saturday evening and the TV was on, what can I say! I'd recorded Fringe earlier in the week and between that and my wife's favourite hospital dramas, I struggled to concentrate.)

Once online, I used my blog page to check T'Internet and saw this:
I'm rather fond of my new Amazon carousel. I make a few pence from any sales of books I recommend. But even if no-one buys anything, I love watching those books spin!

New operating system equals no plugins. First up: Adobe Flash Player (Without 'Free! McAfee Security Scan Plus' thank you very much Adobe!)

And so it begins. A gradual progression of installing software that will one day cause my computer to run so slowly I'll want to re-install the operating system. Hopefully next time I'll remember where I saved those driver files...

Monday, 3 October 2011

NaNoWriMo - F6 driver needed!

I installed XP Pro on my laptop in 2007. Four years on and while I knew I had done this and vaguely recalled some issues I had completely forgotten the specifics. It made downgrading from Vista a teensy bit harder.

Turns out I've got a SATA harddrive on my now ancient Acer TravelMate. A few seconds into the XP install a message appears informing you can press F6 to install a driver for the harddrive. Turns out this was the specific I really needed to remember! Without this driver, the install could not even find or recognise the harddrive and failed.

Since the install failed before wiping the drive I was able to reboot and start googling. Installing XP on SATA harddrives is a common problem as it turns out. I quickly located the driver but then did my typical guy thing and failed to fully read the instructions. I had done this before so it couldn't be that hard, could it? That was my first mistake.

I used a nifty application called nlite last time which allows you to customize installing an operating system - slipstreaming. nlite lets you decide which aspects of XP to install and which to leave out. No more solitaire eating up disk space; don't like Internet Explorer - don't install it! It can also automate the install process: set it up with the software key and user names and passwords beforehand and you can create a CD which will install the same custom version of XP on any computer in your organisation. Oh, and it's free.

I wasn't happy with the slipstreamed version in 2007 and wanted to improve it. That was my second mistake.

Backing up everything off the laptop had taken me the whole morning on Saturday and that afternoon got hectic. The need for a weekly food shop and other chores took precedence but I kept working on a new version. Doing several things at the same time was my third mistake.

More about this tomorrow - I need to get ready for work!

760 words this morning. I found it difficult to get going and the pace was quite slow throughout. How is your preparation for NaNoWriMo going?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

NaNoWriMo - Downgrading

If Microsoft made cars it would take progressively longer to turn the engine on until we would have no choice but to replace the car if we wanted to get anywhere... You've probably heard the longer version of that joke many times before. I'm now at the stage where I need a new car, uh, operating system. There's nothing really wrong with the one I've got, except it irritates me having to wait so long from pressing the on switch to being able to do any work.

I've got nothing against Microsoft - without them I would not have been tempted to buy our first computer. Without Microsoft Excel, I doubt I would have found learning to program as easy as I did.

I enjoy the ease of Windows, prefer MS Office to the free alternatives out there and although I've flirted with Linux; occasionally secretly dream of being a hacker - it just isn't high on my list of priorities. There are other goals I would rather pursue - like NaNoWriMo.

I've used Vista Ultimate for the past couple of years. I found it okay though was frustrated at times by not being able to use all my legacy software. I bought the full version for the drive encryption it offered. But, I'm now downgrading back to Windows XP Pro.

I should be able to use all the software I currently use and I'm hoping, if I put off installing most of the junk I'm sure will eventually creep on my hard drive, I might get more writing in each morning.

I've spent the morning backing up and I'm now signing off and formatting my drive... I may be some time!

Friday, 30 September 2011

NaNoWriMo prep - killer hamsters and 31 days to go

Only a month to go till National Novel Writing Month kicks off. I'm simultaneously looking forward and dreading it at the same time.

Based on the last couple of weeks practice sessions I reckon I will need to be in bed by 9pm every week night and up at 5am. That should allow me two hours of writing each morning.

I'm averaging 20 words a minute which I know is enough to meet my weekday target of 2,300 words:

Date Words Time Words per minute
Tue 27th 754 35 22
Wed 28th 743 40 19
Thu 29th 725 30 24
Fri 30th 557 30 19

I do like my statistics!

I haven't done any prep on plotting or characters this week and will need to spend time in October doing that. I have a growing fear that I will reach a point where I've run out of ideas with thirty thousand words left to go and think - now what? I realise one of the benefit of NaNo is it forces us to face that reality. To train oneself to keep writing even when there seems like nothing is there. But still, I would rather have a general plot to aim for which hopefully will result in a coherent novel. On the NaNo forums I've seen some discussions around when the zombie space pirates are likely to appear... I'd rather not end up having to introduce killer hamsters just to meet the 50K target!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

NaNoWriMo prep - oranges and lemons and 32 days to go

I've been squeezing oranges and lemons to boost my vitamin C intake. I bought enough multivitamins and iron pills on Tuesday to do me until Christmas and have begun taking them. Been in bed by 10:30pm all week and up at 6:30.

I no longer feel like I'm coming down with a cold and while I'm still struggling with getting up each morning, every day I write is a day I get better at writing every day!

I've only managed half and hour of writing each day but have written upwards of 700 words in that time which bodes well for writing 2,300 in under two hours.

The story I've been working on this week is almost completed. It is not saleable but how many first drafts are? I'm just glad to be writing regularly.

Just over a month to go till NaNoWriMo. Have you signed up yet? What are you doing to prepare?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Key See-era ablar Espanyol

Okay, the spelling is atrocious but phonetically I think it's about right - 'I would like to speak Spanish.'

Do you want to learn another language? Do you believe you can?

I believe you can!

I've now completed five weeks of Spanish language learning using Collins Spanish with Paul Noble. My goal number 27 is 'To learn Spanish and speak it.'

One of the first things Paul says both on the DVD that comes with the course and the first CD is that he struggled to learn a language at school; that he left school believing he was incapable of learning a language and yet he found the problem was not him - it was the way he was being taught.

I was taught French at school and still remember a few words and phrases but as a teenager could not see the point of learning the words for orange or hot chocolate or many of the sentences we were asked to learn. I was not likely to travel to France at the time so it seemed like an exercise in futility. I was embarrassed when I made mistakes in class and this was even worse when others seemed to be coping well with the learning and were praised.

I was also lazy and distracted. Two goal killers right there!

How did you find language learning at school? Have you tried learning a language since then? How have you gotten on?

I currently speak two languages - my native English and also Tajik which I learnt while working in Tajikistan. I believed - like I imagine most people do - that learning a language while living in a country must be possible. I took language lessons while there but struggled to apply what I was learning. I was determined though and kept trying. I would speak to everyone and anyone. I forced myself to remember numbers and practiced adding and subtracting so I could shop in the local bazaars. I learnt key phrases; questions and answers. The local police had a habit of stopping drivers and I took the opportunity to say what I knew and try and hold a conversation.

I must have spoken broken/incorrect/unintelligible Tajik to a thousand people while I was there!

It is quite reassuring to hear Paul state that making mistakes and forgetting is encouraged while learning a language!

After two years we had a chance to get our progress in language tested according to LAMP standards. (Language Acquisition Made Practical) I still did not have a huge vocabulary and was quite nervous about taking the test - even though I was confidently conversing with dozens of people in ordinary situations every day. Colleagues of mine were much more advanced in their language skills and I was worried about how I would compare.

I was told by the examiner that I was demonstrating an intermediate grasp of the language. For me this was an amazing achievement. It didn't matter any more that my colleagues were doing better - I had achieved something. I achieved learning a language by being willing to try; being willing to make mistakes; by trying everything I could to speak the language. Both my methods and my discipline could have been better but I kept on trying.

I now strongly believe that just as all of us can learn our native language as children - we can learn another language as adults. If you want to learn another language - you can do it!

Let me know how you get on!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

NaNoWriMo - 34 days to go

My thinking about NaNoWriMo goes like this...

It is going to be tough. Worse maybe than the worst months of Uni.

To stick with daily writing at the level needed (I'm aiming for 2,300 words a day every week day) I will need to be fit and healthy. I will have to keep that creative buzz going all month. I doubt I will have that creative buzz all month and so will have to force it - will have to dig deep.

To dig that deep for so long will require discipline and strength and good health.

I really cannot afford to get ill in November!

As I write this in September - I feel like I have a cold starting. My head is buzzing and not in a good way; I feel weak and generally run down.

Solutions? What do you do to stay healthy and fit and keep working at peak performance?
  • I am thinking about what I eat - I need to be more consistent eating fruit and vegetables
  • I need to start exercising again - maybe try jogging for ten minutes each morning. Nothing crazy, just make a start
  • Start taking vitamin tablets
  • Cut down on TV
  • Increase my reading - actually read some of the research material I've begun collecting
I don't yet have a system for writing a novel. I tend to write in scenes. A scene forms in my head and I live it - am there - taking part as one of the characters and that is what I write - what I see and experience. Then I fill in the gaps.

I'm thinking I need to start thinking up some scenes. Not write them out but begin sketching out some scenarios. Things my hero will face: challenges; obstacles. How can I crush him and cause him pain? How can I enable him to overcome these obstacles and rise up despite them and come out the other end? Or do I allow him to survive? Do I take away all hope and then destroy him, risking everything, including my readers loyalty - just so they know - anything can happen?

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? How are you preparing? How are you finding it?

Monday, 26 September 2011

NaNo Prep - 35 days to go!

Day five in the big NaNo house... I got up.

That was about it for day five of my NaNo prep. If you missed the earlier post, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo - if like me you like your acronyms.

I've been very conscious since signing up that this is a very big deal. Writing 50,000 words in a month when I've got a family and a full time job is going to be tough. The job and family will take priority.

But, I really want to achieve the target - complete a 50,000 word novel.

My Goal 1: To write an enjoyable, bestselling novel!

That is it - my top goal, first thing on my mind whenever I start thinking about what I want to do with my life. I can't force anything I write to become a bestseller but I can keep writing and improving and someday...

So, what do you do when you know you've got a big challenge heading your way?

Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. I reckon that is an ideal analogy. I've been thinking I need to discipline myself, get myself in shape. I didn't know if I could physically write 2300 words a day (what I've calculated I will need to write each week day of November to hit my goal) when I signed up and so I started testing myself.

I started fairly small. I timed myself freewriting for a minute. I found I could write 43 words in a minute. I tried two minutes. I managed 83. My average was heading down. If I could write 40 words a minute though - that would be an hour a day! I could fit that in, couldn't I?

I suspected I may need two hours a day because I would flag and I want the novel to have a plot which will require some thinking as I write. A week past Friday I had a brain wave. One of those ideas that strike and I knew I had to write a story. I started writing with pen and notebook, in bed, at 11:15pm. I decided to push myself and see how long I could write for. I was tired but kept going. Seven doubled sided A4 pages later it was 01:20am and I collapsed feeling quite pleased with myself. I reckoned I had written at least 2,000 words. It took me a couple more hours over this last week to type up my story and I discovered I had hit my target - 2,360 words!

The story wasn't finished and so I decided to use it to further test myself, getting up an hour earlier and initially typing up the handwritten pages for a time before adding to the story. I managed to do this Monday through Wednesday and added another 1,000 words. Not spectacular but a start at disciplining myself. Then I had another brainstorm on Wednesday evening.

I had a completely different idea and speed wrote again for two hours. This time - while typing - I managed 2,800 words! I allowed myself to sleep in on Thursday:)

Day five - I managed to get up early but got distracted. I have 35 days to go and then the real fun begins except, I'm having fun right now! Signing up for NaNo has given me a real buzz and ideas are sparking again.

Do you want to write a novel? Have you signed up for NaNo?

Let me know if you have or just buddie me! My user name is Frozbie (don't ask - it's not that great a story!)

Saturday, 24 September 2011

My 100 blog posts

As the two year anniversary of starting this blog has gotten closer, I noticed I was also approaching 100 blog posts. It seemed like an opportunity to look back and review why I started the blog and whether I should continue.

Blogging has been at times: fun, exciting, a drag, foolishness, extraordinary, exhilarating and depressing. At times I’ve been self indulgent. Much of the time I’ve been self-centered. The title of the blog has said it all: My 100 Goals. All about me.

Blogging about my goals started as a fun idea. I was hearing more and more about blogs and as a writer it intrigued me. It was over a year later when half way through the Open University’s Creative Writing module that we started studying life writing and I had a crisis of confidence in my blog. I stopped writing the blog for over three months.

A succession of failures – poor investment decisions – had made me realise that I don’t really want to tell the world about every mistake I make. 

However, having started the blog, I couldn’t let go of it. Truth be told, I find it quite addictive. Maybe as a writer it’s just seeing my work in print, knowing that somebody else is ‘reading wot I wrote.’

So, why am I blogging? Why should I continue?

One reason I started was to give me a vehicle to advertise my novel, when I finally got it finished… Two years on and I estimate I’ve written 30,000 words on this blog and in the same time maybe 10,000 on my novel! I’ve been prioritising my blog higher than my novel which aint great!

But, by blogging I’ve opened my writing up to criticism and learnt a few things – like how not to use apostrophes! It has also enabled me to keep writing which deep down is one of the driving forces in my life.

I would like to keep blogging but I want to broaden the focus. I hadn’t clicked that Amazon offer a service to Kindle readers who can subscribe to blogs through Kindle which are then downloaded to their Kindle readers. The blog author gets 30 percent of the subscription fee. You just have to look at the hit counter at the bottom of the page to see that by offering my blog as a subscription on Kindle I’m not going to get rich but it did strike me off on a new train of thought - 

People can make money from their blogs! (To be fair and frank, my wife had told me about this months ago but sometimes it takes a while for my brain to catch up;) 

But why would anyone pay to read MY blog? So I thought about that. I thought, what if this blog wasn’t called My 100 Goals but rather – Your 100 Goals. Would that be more appealing?

What do you think – if you had the choice of reading My 100 Goals or Your 100 Goals? 

I could branch off, create a sister blog but I’ve grown attached to this and I am wondering, what if I simply change the focus; I can add a tag line: My 100 Goals; Your 100 Goals – a blog to encourage you to achieve your dreams…

Too corny?

What if this blog was more about you? What goals do you have? Have you ever tried writing down one hundred of them? What help do you need to achieve your goals? Are you actually put off by the idea of goals, let alone one hundred of them?

Let me know. Maybe it's what this blog needs.