NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide

The clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and the supermarkets are full of pumpkins. It is almost that time of year again... For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. The goal is simple: write a 50,000-word novella in the 30 days of November. This year will be my fifth NaNoWriMo. I've participated in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2013. 2011 and 2013 birthed my two published novels, Binary Witness and Code Runner. If you are thinking of taking the plunge and participating in your first NaNoWriMo, I have a few words of advice to help get you through... Plot as much or as little as you need You may heard the question "plotter or pantser?" addressed to authors. Basically, do you plot our everything that happens in your novel or do you just write whatever you feel like at the time? I'm somewhere in the middle. I need to know how the novel begins and ends...
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Writing Battles: Making Death Personal

What do war films, comic books, high fantasy and epic poetry have in common? Their writers must hold our interest through long battle scenes. I love a good explosion, mech fight or horde of screaming orcs as much as the next geek. But I struggle with large-scale senseless violence if it doesn't make a point. Do I care about the giant who just swept aside fifty nameless, faceless barbarians? Of course not. It looks cool for five seconds, makes a nice trailer shot, but leaves no impact on me. SPOILER WARNING: This post uses examples from Edge of Tomorrow, Game of Thrones Season 4, Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire series), Avengers Assemble, Man of Steel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Iliad. These spoilers include major character death. You have been warned! So, how do you write an exciting, enthralling battle sequence, while marking the tragedy of death and ensuring...
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10 Writing Career Lessons from Disney’s Frozen

Frozen, as the highest grossing animated film of all time, has commanded the attention of filmmakers everywhere. There have been in-depth analyses of what makes a successful animated film and how Frozen hits those buttons. This is not that kind of post. Instead, let's imagine the characters of Frozen have turned writing coach - what words of writing advice can they share? What do their life anecdotes teach us about how to be better writers? How can we learn from their mistakes? Here are 10 writing career lessons out of the mouths of Frozen characters: Don't let them in, don't let them see - be the good girl you always have to be. Most writers start out writing for themselves, for the joy of it. Because they can't not write. However, there will come a point when someone will ask why you spend all your time with a computer screen and may ask to see the finished product... I have always been something of an exhibitionist,...
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The Writing Blog Tour

Writing is not a mystical process involving tea leaves and libraries of how-to books. At least, not in my (somewhat limited) experience. However, the choices individual writers make about what they write and how they write it can often seem inscrutable. I've always been interested in how other writers go about their business, mostly in the hope that their words of wisdom will somehow improve my own attempts. So, thank you, Mysterious Person Who Began "The Blog Tour". You are the reason why I am writing this post today. Because I am a glutton for punishment, I agreed to be tagged by Phill Barron, screenwriter extraordinary, and become part of The Blog Tour before passing the dubious honour of baring their writing souls to two more unfortunates - I mean highly-privileged writers. But first, let's talk about Phill. Phillip Barron is a UK scriptwriter who's had nine feature films produced. In addition to movies he's written for BBC3's BAFTA and Rose d'Or nominated sketch show,...
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Kites and Violence: my head in the wood-chipper

On Tuesday 30th April, I will contemplate my own mortality as I face that most savage of foes: screenwriters. This month's Kites and Violence features a reading from "A Modern Age of Murder", known on this blog as Steampunk Assasins. I am very nervous about this, not least because I've seen what wounds this lunacy of wolves has inflicted on other people with their acid tongues and their copies of Story. I'm also anxious because this is my baby, my first script - the one I've been toiling over for almost four years. And it's about to be eviscerated. But that's how we learn and grow, what doesn't kill you, etc. If you want to join in with this pillory of writerly humiliation, come to the Horse Bar at 7pm on Tuesday!...
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Steven Moffat talks “Sherlock”

I went to see Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue tonight. I made notes like the good little researcher I am, and I've picked out a few things that might interest my fellow writers: - They originally wanted 6-12 episodes of 60 minutes. The ninety minute format gave them the opportunity to write longer scenes – there were scenes of nine to eleven pages, which is very different from the short, sharp scenes of Doctor Who. - They had small living room focus groups for the early pilot drafts. Moffat said that you need to treat such things with circumspection and care – people try to be interesting when asked for their opinion. - The problem with adapting some of the short stories with the Granada version was that there were only really twenty minutes of plot. How did they solve it – "walking very slowly". Moffat said ACD would've just stuck in another bit of plot to make it work – their problem...
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Pause?

When writing a new project, particularly one about which one is enthusiastic, it is lethal to pause. Even if you only write a sentence, a line, edit a piece of dialogue, or plan your next scene, you must not stop writing, not even for a day. Losing momentum happens overnight, and before you know it, you can't remember the name of your protagonist and what exactly he was doing with a gold sovereign in the middle of the night. That's why, despite several important work deadlines, I stayed up to write another scene. Even if it was largely aimless. Even if it may well get cut in the next edit. It has kept my interest alive. As has blogging about it....
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I’m Batman

One of my oldest friends - a man who has the infuriating habit of knowing me all too well - asked me a terrible question on the weekend: if you could choose to be a published author, or if you could choose to be excel in your current career, which would you rather have? This is a dangerous thing to ask me right now. I'm in a period of upheaval, where my job is not satisfying me the way it should but is satisfyingly paying the bills. On the other hand, my writing is a quiet joy to me, with no strings and no pressure. It is not putting food on the table, therefore it doesn't matter whether I'm writing Shakespeare or Dan Brown. And this brings me to the crux of the matter - I want to be Batman. Batman saves people, and Bruce Wayne saves people, and it all works out quite nicely for him (we'll ignore for the moment that...
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The Artist’s Studio

The problem with being creative is that one rarely stops at one thing. So, I write. And I love writing. Writing is probably my number one hobby, and has been for some years now. However, tonight I started a new cross stitch. And tomorrow I have dance class, and I was meant to practise this evening. Also, I have Welsh on Thursday and I haven't done my homework yet, so I'll have to do that tomorrow before work. Obviously, my novel hasn't got a look-in. This is a terrible state of affairs, but I'm a writer, a stitcher, a dancer and a linguist. Oh, and I guess I have a job and a partner and other mundane things that should probably take up some of my time. Eating and sleeping would be good too. Bring on the 36-hour day!...
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