Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail

Elaine Roberts has been thinking about what people do to motivate themselves and carry on when things get too much. She’s had a lot going on in her personal life so, consequently, has been feeling too tired and demotivated to do anything. 

When my children get those same feelings, I always tell them life is all about small steps, which lead to bigger steps that occur naturally.

NaNoWriMo Logo

I came to the conclusion I should practice what I preach, so to speak. As a writer, NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month) is a motivation, and the aim is to write fifty thousand words in a month. Straight away, the immediate and automatic reaction was “whoa, I could never do that”. Then I thought, what if I aim for fifty thousand, but not worry if I don’t make it because that way, the daily word count would increase.


That’s fine if you’re a writer, but what if you’re not. Here are some of the things that have worked for me, which I would recommend:

  • Have an overall plan. My plan is to be published, but my dream is to walk into bookshops and supermarkets and see my books on the shelves.
  • Set specific achievable goals that are measureable, with a realistic timescale for you and the life you lead. It doesn’t matter about how small the goal is, because it’s about stacking the building blocks, towards achieving the plan that you have decided upon.
  • Celebrate when you reach those goals, even if it’s only with a cup of tea and a happy dance around the front room.
  • Put yourself out there, wherever out there is for you. It can be intimidating, but there’s nothing like mixing with people who are aiming for similar things. With the Internet and social media, there are forums and groups you can join.
  • Be positive. I always say to my children, if it was easy everyone would be doing it, whatever “it” is. Don’t take on board other people’s negativity; that is their issue, not yours.
  • Give yourself time to serve your apprenticeship. Learn your craft properly. I have several written novels that I thought were great at the time. When the rejections came through, I was crushed, but now my knowledge has increased, I’m quite relieved they didn’t get anywhere.
  • Write a list. We all love a list. You can’t beat ticking things off a list, to make you feel you’ve achieved something.
  • Whatever the plan is, do your research. Look at what others are achieving and how they are doing it. I’ve come to the conclusion there is nothing you can’t find on the Internet.
  • Above all else, don’t give up. Whenever I feel like that, I remind myself how some of the best authors have struggled to be published, and I don’t put myself in the same bracket as them.
  • Remember it’s all about the journey, not forgetting where you started from and what you can do to encourage others to achieve their goals.

Be Positive

Whatever you want to do, go for it. Make time for yourself and your dreams. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

Good luck xx



Do You Take…

Elaine asks is life stranger than fiction?

crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76If you are a writer, established or beginner, than you may well be taking part in the National Novel Writing Month (fondly known as NaNoWriMo). For those that don’t know, the idea is to write fifty thousand words in the month of November, which breaks down to approximately one thousand six hundred and sixty words a day. Normally I would be participating in this because it is a good way of getting a rough first draft of a novel written or several short stories. Everyday the writer fills out their word count and a graph rises, giving the incentive to carry on. There is no time for editing, just writing.

I am not taking part this year because I haven’t done any preparation for it, although I have set myself a word goal to write during this month. The last few months were taken over with wedding planning and preparations. My daughter got married two weeks ago; you may wonder why I am sharing this information with you, well there were some unexpected twists and turns during the ceremony.

If you were reading a romantic novel and the end was in sight, would this be an acceptable ending?

The bride wanted to get married outside. The weather was good so the registrar gave his DSC_2084permission for it to go ahead in the hotel grounds, under a beautiful pagoda. During the ceremony, he kept getting the bride’s name wrong, although they were all names that related to her. After the fourth occasion, the groom smiled before saying he was getting concerned because he wasn’t sure whom he was marrying. Thankfully, the bride and her fiancé were laughing and the Registrar was very apologetic. He finally stopped the proceedings because he couldn’t concentrate, as the bride had a wasp under one of the layers of her dress and it was getting closer to her arm. Pandemonium broke out as layer upon layer was lifted. The bride turned to the guests and laughingly asked everyone to avert their eyes while they set the wasp free.

My question is could you get away with writing that scene in a novel? Is it plausible or believable? Is it romantic?

Is life stranger than fiction? This scene did actually happen to my daughter two weeks ago and caused a lot of laughter. Was it romantic? For some, probably not, but for my daughter and her fiancé it was the very relaxed, memorable and happy atmosphere that they wanted, although I’m sure they could have done without the wasp.


Using Building Blocks To…

Elaine chats about building her stories from the very beginning.

Last week, Francesca and I talked about what we automatically put into our writing and also what we leave out. That made me think about my process of working, so I thought I would share it with you.

First, it’s the idea of the story, which often starts off with something vague. As an example, Forgotten Love started as a mother who had wanted to return to education. That brought up a whole list of questions.

Scene Plan

Scene Plan

Why had she left her education early?

Why had she married young?

Why did she want to return to education?

What did her family think about it?

Did they support her, if not why not?

What issues did she come across on her journey?

What relationship issues did it bring up?

How would she cope?

These are only a few of the questions, but as you can see, my vague idea has given me a lot to think about. From these questions came the brain storming, or mind mapping, no matter how ridiculous the conflict might have seemed, it was written on there. You never know where one idea can take you.

Draft Chapter Breakdown

Draft Chapter Breakdown

Once I had chosen my preferred elements of conflict, I then wrote the synopsis, which proceeded to be converted into a chapter breakdown. Excitement buzzes through me as the novel begins to take shape. Obviously there are gaps in my chapter breakdown, but that’s what gives me the artistic licence for my story to evolve.

Part of my process also involves a scene plan. To coin somebody else’s phrase, you know who you are Elaine Everest, this is a shopping list of what each scene should include, as in what I want to happen and what senses could be used. My first draft begins. In the past, I have used NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in November, to write my first draft, mainly because it doesn’t need to be correct. My first draft is just about getting the story written, then I tear it apart and add in the obvious things I have missed out. The five senses, and often description, are the areas I’m usually lacking in.

Forgotten Love Synopsis

Forgotten Love Synopsis

After the editing process, which for me is the longest and most time consuming part of my novel writing, I revisit my synopsis. Maybe I should change that last sentence because my synopsis always feels like it takes forever to get right. To get my story onto one sheet of A4 paper always feels like a mountain I can’t climb, but obviously I do, eventually.

I am sometimes asked whether I enjoy writing and the overall answer is probably no. I enjoy the first draft, getting the story down, but getting it book shaped, as Julie Cohen calls it, I find to be painful. However, it’s like a drug, I can’t help myself. I have lost track of how many times I’ve said that’s it, I am not doing it anymore, but less than an hour later I’m back fighting the demons and getting my manuscript book-shaped.

The question is, am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not.


In the midst of life…

Francesca Burgess considers eternal tweaking and how life interferes with deadlines.

Seven years ago I started submitting short stories to magazines. Deadlines didn’t feature unless I was writing a seasonal story and needed to get it subbed within a certain time frame. Not having a deadline can be a problem where I’m concerned as I tend to tweak and hold on to a story far longer than I should. With competition entries the deadline is a definite cut off point which can be advantage if you’re like me.

When I started writing novels in 2009 I had no deadlines for them, no publishers, editors or agents to get them off to byNaNoWriMo 2009 a certain date. For someone who edits and tweaks ad infinitum, this can be an even bigger disadvantage than it is with a short story. My first good idea was to join in with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which takes place every November. I’ve done this successfully every year since. However, it doesn’t mean that I don’t go on to tweak and edit endlessly later.

My second good idea was to join the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2011. This was extremely effective at giving me a kick up the proverbial. Apart from having to get a manuscript in each year, there is the opportunity to meet publishers, editors and agents. If one of them shows an interest in a novel and asks to see the whole thing, this gives a deadline and a reason to stop ‘fine tuning’.

The cut off date for the NWS is 31st August. Every year it’s been my aim to get the manuscript off by the time I go to the Caerleon/Fishguard Writers’ Week, at the end of July. For the first three years I succeeded.

For the first time this year, my fourth year in the NWS, I took it to the wire. And I mean the wire. It was one of those times when, deadline or no deadline, life itself got in the way, quite literally in the birth of my granddaughter, Seren. But death also played a part as my much-too-young brother-in-law passed away with cancer. Hence visits and funerals to Wales and to the north of the country. In between all this we were preparing for my eldest daughter’s wedding in the West Country, brought forward in the hope her uncle would make it.

So writing and editing this summer – the new novel plus the last one which I’ve been editing twice over for different interested publishers – has been fitted in between the hatch, match and dispatch of human existence. Sometimes life is like that. In the midst of it we have to face all sorts of complications, both wonderful and terrible. Maybe, at some point in the future, all of what I’ve experienced this summer will itself go into a book.

The EndIn the meantime, my NWS entry at least did get finished and sent and both book edits have gone to the publishers concerned.

Now I have NaNoWriMo looming once again in nine days time. Life continues to be complicated but I am hoping to get my 1,667 words written each day.

Wish me luck!



National Novel Writing Month

Romantic Novelists’ Association:

RNA New Writers’ Scheme:






January is at an end. Did our team reach their goals?

Elaine E: Dear reader I failed. Dancing in the Dark has not yet been sent off to my publisher. It is now a completed draft but not yet in a fit state to show to anyone. However, I won two extra article commissions and I did manage to write two short stories that are ready to send on their way to magazines around the world. Two RNA events, as well as the first month working on the RNA blog with Natalie, kept me busy. A meeting during the month may well lead to exciting news that I can share with you in future months.

Elaine R: Having read the 25,000 words of my third novel, I have re-organised my chapter breakdown and the novel, so they are now in line with each other, consequently I have added a further 6,355 words. I have written a short story and submitted it to a woman’s magazine, as well as writing my blog article and answering the comments readers made. I finished the book I was reading and it has given me a fresh perspective for my own writing.

 Francesca: January’s been a little slower on the writing front than I would have liked. I decided on a plot change around for the current novel, which has meant rearranging other parts. On top of that, I’ve added another 3,000 words. I finally wrote out a chapter breakdown which I normally do before hand, but under the pressure of NaNoWriMo I didn’t get to do it. My previous novel, Ten Years Later, is doing a new round of competitions and publishers. I’ve also scribbled lots of ideas for new short stories, have been rewriting some old ones and currently have four stories ‘out there’

 Natalie: This month has seen a great start to the year for me. During the first week I sold two short stories with a third following on the 22nd January. I’ve added six and a half thousand words to my novel and submitted nine stories to magazines. Having undertaken this and the RNA Blog, neither on my own thank goodness, I’m finding it far less daunting and much more enjoyable than I’d anticipated. It could of course be something to do with the fact that I love writing.

 Vivien: Did I achieve my planned 10,000 words? Sadly my novel only progressed by a pitiful 500 – but I did complete two commissioned articles for a nursery magazine (3000), two brand new short stories (5000) and one article (1300) which have been submitted to women’s magazines, and rewrites of seven previously rejected stories (2000+ added). I won another commission too, for an article/children’s poem, and made two story sales on the same day! As to the fate of my characters and why the novel came to a halt – find out in my next blog post, coming soon.

 Well done ladies. Let’s see how February fares for our busy writers. Have a good month!

NaNoWriMo: A Useful Writing Tool

Francesca Capaldi Burgess tells us of her experiences during National Novel Writing Month  (NaNoWriMo) and how it can be a useful writing tool.




I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2009, and have completed 50,000 words every year since then (a total of a quarter of a million words, I have just realised!). I find it’s a really good discipline, and although I write all year round as a freelancer (mostly short stories), I do more words per day during this time than any other. It always gives a good boost to whichever novel I’m working on. One year I was half way through NaNo when I finished the novel, so used the other 25,000 words for short stories.

 NaNoWriMo, for the uninitiated, stands for National Novel Writing Month, and always takes place in November. It was started in 1999 in California, by freelance writer Chris Baty, and that year had only twenty-one participants. This year it has 308,035, spread over five continents. The idea is to write 50,000 words in a month, roughly 1,667 a day. If you sign up on the NaNo website, you can add your word count each day and watch your graph head upwards (hopefully). During the month you get regular emails with pep talks, often by well known authors. There are also local regions you can join to meet up with fellow NaNo members, who often have write-ins. Well over one hundred novels written during NaNo have been since been traditionally published.

For the past four years I’ve done a writing retreat during the last week of NaNo with four fellow writers, the self-styled ‘Ladies With Laptops’. I’ve found this very useful for that last push.

At the creative writing school I help run, we have many students who take part in NaNo. They don’t always reach 50K but end up writing more than they would have otherwise. We have a thread on our face book page to support each other, posting daily word counts and encouraging anyone who’s dropped behind. We make sure no one feels guilty if they don’t reach the target.

An editor from a publishing house has recently shown an interest in the novel I was working on during last year’s NaNo (Ten Years Later), and I’m waiting for a verdict on that. I’ve sold some of the short stories I wrote on NaNo a couple of years ago. The first two novels I worked on, Sea Angel and How To Handle Plan B are teen novels, but so far I’ve not had any luck getting them published. The one I’ve been working on this year, Windy Corner Café was inspired by a café in Whitstable, which was handy as our retreat this year was literally up the road from it!

I finished NaNo two days early this year, but I still have another 40,000 odd words to go on the novel. December slows right down in comparison, but I’ll be back to speed (though not quite NaNo speed!) in January to finish it off.