Setting Self Doubt on Fire: Do NaNoWriMo Differently This Year

Hi everyone, I’m back with some more self-doubt fighting-advice. It’s October, and you know what that means—no, I’m not talking about my birthday. October is the month before NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

 

Yes, it’s nearly NaNo time already—I can’t believe it. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is where writers from around the world pledge to write 50,000 words of their novel in November. It’s a great way to motivate you to start writing your novel.

 

I had planned to do NaNoWriMo again this year—it would be my first attempt since 2014—but due to ill health, trying to write 50,000 words in a month would put too much pressure on my struggling brain.

 

But I still wanted to take part in NaNo, so this got me thinking. Why do I have to aim to write 50,000 words? Yes, that is the purpose of NaNo, but it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve done it differently. I have done NaNoEdMo (National Novel Editing Month) instead of NaNoWriMo, and instead of working on a novel, I worked on a novella and some short stories.

 

So I decided to do NaNoWriMo differently. Instead of aiming to write 50,000 words, I plan to write 10,000 words of a novella, but even if I don’t reach that goal, I still plan to celebrate any achievement I make, see my ‘My NaNoWriMo 2019 Goal’ post to find out more.

 

For many of you, the challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month is too much for you to attempt. It could be because of your health, lack of time, responsibilities or fear. And trying NaNo will do nothing but add extra stress to an already stressful life. So you decide not to take part at all.

 

Well, this isn’t the only option. If you still want to take part in the NaNo fun, there is no reason why you can’t tweak it to make it more suitable for you. You could reduce the word count (as I am doing), do NaNoEdMo instead if you have a novel to edit rather than to write or write something other than a novel, such as a short story collection or a novella. The choice is yours. So instead of missing out this year, do NaNo differently instead and join the fun. And if you don’t reach your goal, don’t beat yourself up, be proud of the work you have done so far.

 

If you decide to do NaNo, then read my other NaNo posts for more tips and advice:

 

 

And, if you do decide to take part in NaNo, I have created a Facebook group called NaNoWriMo for Self-Doubters. This group is for writers who suffer from self-doubt but want to take part in NaNo or anyone doing NaNo differently. So, if that’s you, then do join please join the group and let’s support each other.

 

That’s all I have for you today.

 

‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.’—Confucius

 

 

 

Guest Post: Embracing Failure: The Requirements of Growth

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Baby writers are never all the same. It is just the broad strokes–no sense of marketplaces or paths or realistic goals—that give new writers that patina of predictable and homogeneous. What a baby writer has to offer is, by definition, unique and as yet unrealized.

In my twenties, I spent years on journal writing, along with attempts at poetry and fiction that were all imagination—my imagination—but definitely lacked discipline and craft. I wrote boxes worth of notebook prose and MS Word documents that fizzled out long before I figured out how the hell I could make those mental images, feelings, ideas work on the page. 

Bravery or stupidity? I’m not sure, but for this essay, I decided to actually open some of those earliest documents. Dear Lord. A few were more than enough: recent memories parading as short stories, a partial novel liberally sprinkled with clichéd phrases. It’s not that the writing is bad, though it certainly doesn’t feel like the dance my fingers perform across my current keyboard, the really glaring issue is that my writing back then lacked the experience and confidence to burrow into my fleshy predictions, the creepy, augmented bodies, the rough sensuality and the anger, and, yes, the humor and the pain. Skimming a few stories, I remember the settings and characters I imagined far more than I ever expressed them on the page. Yeah, I most definitely failed.

And then after the gap of a few years and a newborn child, in my early thirties, I tried again. In a nod to bravery or extreme stupidity, this afternoon I dug through some of these files as well. But…but…there was a leap somewhere between my twenties and my thirties that I cannot quite pinpoint. I find my writing from this second period has a much deeper sense of “me.”

I still have fond feelings when I think of the vampiric Christmas tree that a couple of rather creepy characters maintained in the basement of a 1950s split-level. The tree and its guardians(?) acolytes (?) were part of a dark fantasy family saga that included the German art scene from La Belle Epoch through to the Expressionists of the 1920s, along with at least a dozen characters based on actual artists, writers, editors, and gallery owners. 

At around 80,000 words, that novel never moved past incomplete, but my failure stuttered in a different way from earlier attempts. It was almost five years of this baby writer’s work. And despite the historic Berlin photography books, the biographies and old travel guides, despite all that research and so, so many written words, I failed yet again—definitely and spectacularly. This time my stumble involved a years-long explosion of words. All that effort and I could not bring the whole damn project to a satisfactory conclusion. 

Thinking about my failures this afternoon as I write this essay, I have realized a different truth. It took away the wrong lesson from that experience. Allowing myself to judge my Storyman novel and decide that longer works were not within my purview—that, in fact, I was incapable of weaving the various elements of a longer story together—that was the real crime. 

Over those four or five years, I hijacked one of my strongest skills, obsession. I organized my research into categories and summary sheets. From a story perspective, I unwound my imagination’s tangle using spreadsheets, outlines, and whatever the hell else I could think of until I had a stable framework I could work from. 

Failure? Really?

For fucks sake. I did not give up when it got hard. I figured out a new tack to get me across the gap. Sure, the goal was not reached. The novel never came to light, but the way I managed that “failure” deepened my writing practice in a way that only hard-won experience can provide. All those spreadsheets and research notes? Turns out, they are exactly how I continue to manage all fiction writing: short and long. But it is not just the craft skills. Remembering the characters that make up the novel, Achim, Melanie, Theo, along with the Storyman’s contentious (imagined) painting, I feel a dreamy sort of satisfaction. Whatever I did or did not deliver, I clearly scratched a very deep itch. 

But lingering with the same story forever was never my game, which is part of the reason the story got so out of hand, I kept adding “more” and then “even more than that.” At some point, I looked at the unwieldy mess and decided to charge ahead and play with short fiction, a form I’ve always adored reading. As it turned out short fiction is a very different creative discipline and one that both suits my swirling imagination and my urge to experiment with structure. It is my sort of creative fun. In my forties, I have published dozens of short stories, and in 2018, seven years after my first published story, my debut collection UNCOMMON MIRACLES was released.

 But I like to try things. I like to play. It was not my love of short fiction that kept me from attempting another longer work after that first novel “failed.” It was that F word, failure, the weight I gave it, the way it made me flinch. My first longer work, a one-hundred-and-forty-page theological horror novella called THE RAMPANT was just released by Aqueduct Press. But it almost didn’t make it into the light of day. I wrote my initial incomplete draft more than five years ago and then set it aside rather than taking the most difficult of steps: slowly exhaling and continuing to try. 

Why did I finally pick up that partial draft of The Rampant and try again? Why did I allow myself to fail one, two, who the hell knows how many more times without tossing the project? Part of me thinks I finally had the necessary skills, but most of me knows that is not the answer. Somewhere along the way, I finally found the confidence to fail and keep going, fail, and ask for help, fail, and battle with myself until I fought through to the other side. On my best days, I learned to embrace failure. On my worst days, I continued to turn away from failure. But there’s a secret I uncovered somewhere along this writer’s journey; a secret some people find much easier to learn than I did: every day does not have to be the best day. Best days are like happy days, or sunny summer afternoons, you only need enough of them to keep picking yourself up, along with the work you are attempting, and step forward once again.

 

Synopsis: It’s ten years since the hordes of old-world Sumerian gods arrived in Southern Indiana to kick off the end of the world, but things have not gone to plan. A principal player decided not to show. Now humanity is stuck in a seemingly never-ending apocalypse. Sixteen-year-old Emelia Bareilles and Gillian Halkey are determined to force a change, even though it means traveling into the lands of the dead.

Publishers Weekly described the work as “Equal parts playful and heartbreaking, this apocalyptic novella offers one-of-a-kind answers about the end of the world. Gillian Halkey and Emelia Bareilles, both 16, have spent most of their lives enduring the nightmare of the never-ending rapture. It’s been a decade since the ancient Sumerian gods descended on Indiana, promising that the chosen people would ascend to Nibiru, but the terrifying entity called the Rampant—the last of the Evil Messengers heralding the destruction of civilization—seems to have missed the memo. Until he shows up, the rapture can’t happen. Meanwhile, bored gods are eating people. It’s up to Emelia and Gillian to descend to the Netherworld, using Gillian’s prophetic dreams as guidance, in hopes of liberating the Rampant so the judging can begin and the suffering can end. Mixing a coming-of-age and a second coming, the story is unmatched in its idiosyncrasy. Day conveys genuine empathy for the two young women, who are still learning about themselves (including a sweet crush of Gillian’s), while never relinquishing the archaic fear instilled by the presence of ancient gods and the televangelists who have smoothly pivoted into running the Sumerian Revivalist Church. This clever and surprisingly fun take on the rapture is the perfect theological horror story.”

Available on Amazon.

Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day’s dark fantasy novella THE RAMPANT was released this September by Aqueduct Press. She is also the author of the collection UNCOMMON MIRACLES released by PS Publishing in 2018. Her numerous short stories can be found in publications such as Black Static,The Dark & Podcastle. Wearing another, related hat, Julie is co-editor of the charity anthology Weird Dream Society due to be released May 5th, 2020. Proceeds from the anthology will go to RAICES.

Julie lives in a small town in New England with her family and a menagerie of variously sized animals. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program and a M.S. in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. You can find her at @thisjulieday or on her blog stillwingingit.com. Café writing and long baths with paper books are also a thing.  

We’ve Partnered With Commaful For A Halloween Story Contest

To celebrate the season, we’ve partnered with Commaful on a quick Halloween short story contest. Winners will be featured with a special post on the site and our standard inclusion into the yearly print anthology with a $5 upfront payment via PayPal.

The contest will run from October 16th 2019, 12:00 am ~ November 1st 2019, 12:00 am. The word count for the story should fit in the 900 to 2,000 word range.

Be sure to head over to Commaful today in order to see how to submit your work!

The company is run on an idea which I quite enjoy as it is one I would have loved to have attempted a few years back if I had any coding experience 😉 I feel that this form of short story content and delivery is “the wave of the future.”

About Commaful:

Commaful is a community of writers & readers sharing poetry, relatable stories, rants & more in a beautiful, visual format.

Am I a Paper Person? A Review of the reMarkable Paper Tablet

Disclosure: Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

In an age when artists and authors are constantly tempted to surrender their focus (I’m looking at you, social media!), the reMarkable e-ink tablet promises a creative experience free of distraction.  That’s a lofty goal, but the reMarkable crew of Oslo, Norway has made it their philosophy since the tablet’s crowdfunding campaign of 2016.  Now, after years on the market and several big firmware updates, consumers are finally able to gauge how well the company delivers in their commitment to Paper People.

Full disclosure:  my writing process has always begun with putting pen to paper.  Given this, I was intrigued by the idea of an e-ink tablet replacing the many stacks of notebooks lining my desk.  But is the reMarkable tablet really an organized and distraction-free creative experience?

My biggest gripe with the reMarkable came before I even purchased it -– the price.  At $599.99, the “Paper Tablet” would be a hefty investment, but the potential of focus and productivity was worth the risk, so I went for it.  Unfortunately, a few days after purchasing the tablet, it went on sale for $499.99, leaving me feeling a little defeated.  Fortunately, after a quick correspondence with the excellent reMarkable customer service, they refunded me the difference, effectively softening the blow of the price-point.

I received the reMarkable in under ten days.  The package included the 10.3” e-ink tablet, a reMarkable pen, ten additional pen tips, and a charging cable.  I was immediately impressed by how sleek and lightweight the tablet is.  And when they say the CANVAS display has the texture of paper, the company isn’t kidding.

After charging the device, I booted up Codex, the custom Linux operating system, and tried my hand at syncing the tablet to the reMarkable app on my phone.  This was a pain-free experience, though many users have had problems in this area.  With the tablet and the app in sync, anything I created would automatically be sent to a dedicated cloud and downloaded onto connected devices via the onboard Wi-Fi.

In my estimation there are four primary uses for the reMarkable tablet:  writing, sketching, reading, and annotation.  Writing and drawing on the e-ink device is surprisingly smooth with the battery-free stylus offering virtually no lag.  The interface offers a variety of options, from pencils to markers to pens, some of which are even pressure-sensitive.  Though the device is entirely in grayscale, there are enough style choices to offer a diverse writing or sketching experience.  Most impressively, though, the system now offers a writing-to-text option that converts handwritten words to editable text that can be e-mailed and further formatted in a traditional word processor.

The reMarkable tablet also doubles as an e-reader for PDF and ePUB files.  Text is stark and readable even in direct sunlight, though it lacks a backlight to read in the dark.  Even so, for a simple device on the go, the reMarkable serves its purpose well, especially for annotating text.  With such tools as a highlighter and its wide array of writing implements, the tablet presents a great way for notetakers to edit uploaded papers in real time.  In fact, a large part of reMarkable’s customer base are students using the tablet to stay organized in class or notetakers in office settings.

Still, though the reMarkable adds a simple approach to the creative process, the device can be slow at times, especially when loading or navigating particularly large files.  Uploading and downloading also requires some patience as the cloud synchronizes everything.  And that writing-to-text option?  Though it’s definitely a game-changer when writing longhand, the software isn’t exactly 100% accurate in its translation from handwriting to text.

Overall the reMarkable is a neat little device that boosts the creative process by stripping away the distractions plaguing artists and authors alike.  The feel of writing on the system is satisfying and has, indeed, replaced the many notebooks that occupy my office.  The battery life isn’t too shabby either as I’ve only had to charge the device once a week after moderate use.  Though the price is steep for such a niche technology (the reMarkable is currently $499.99 on remarkable.com), it is a dream come true for a writer such as myself who drafts in longhand.  There are negatives, to be sure, and many opportunities to further optimize the device, but the reMarkable offers a unique e-ink experience that delivers on its promise of distraction-free writing.

If you are interested in picking up a reMarkable, be sure to head over to Amazon today!

Epeolatry Book Review: Music Macabre

Disclosure:

Our reviews may contain affiliate links. If you purchase something through the links in this article we may receive a small commission or referral fee. This happens without any additional cost to you.

Title: Music Macabre (A Phineas Fox Mystery)
Author: Sarah Rayne
Genre: Historical Thriller
Publisher: Severn House Publishers Ld.
Release Date: 30 August 2019

Synopsis: Researching a biography of the composer Franz Liszt, Phineas Fox uncovers evidence of a brutal murder – and finds his own life in danger.

Music researcher Phineas Fox has been enjoying his latest commission, gathering background material for a biography of Franz Liszt. But although he has – as anticipated – uncovered plenty of scandal in the 19th century composer’s past, matters take a decidedly unexpected turn when his investigations lead to Linklighters, a newly-opened Soho restaurant built on the site of an old Victorian music hall, and unearth evidence of a possible murder involving the notorious music hall performer known as Scaramel.

Just what was Liszt’s connection to Scaramel … and, through her, to the infamous Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper? As he delves further, Phin’s enquiries uncover clues to a fascinating and extraordinary story – and plunge his own life into jeopardy.

‘Liszten for the Killer’

I have been reading Sarah Rayne’s thrillers for years and always await her next one with baited breath then devour it one gulp. This is the fourth novel in the series, starring music researcher and academic Phineas Fox, his girlfriend Arabella  in a more peripheral role than previously) and best mate, the hapless Toby.

This time Fox is researching a book about the composer Franz Liszt and it’s a piece of his strange eerie music which provides the lead in in to the mystery. Rayne often uses this motif in her stories. How did Liszt know a Cockney music hall performer, the luscious but scandalous Scaramel? Is she linked in some way to Jack the Ripper, who terrorised Whitechapel in 1888? And does the newly refurbished theatre café Linklighters, with its eccentric owners Loretta and Roland, hide deadly secrets both past and present?
Well you can probably guess the answers to these questions but this review doesn’t want to give away any spoilers.

As in many of her books Rayne uses mirroring time lines – present day and 1880’s London- switching smoothly between the two, bringing each set of characters (now and historic) to vibrant life. Linklighters and the horrible underground sluice gate which lies below the restaurant is the physical doorway to the past and as usual Rayne uses old letters, playbills, sketches (by a young artist known only as ‘Link’), programmes, and newspaper reports as a series of informational signposts for us and Phineas Fox to follow. The way she overlays all this is very well done. 

The scenes set in the sewers were dark scary and very unpleasant. Rayne has done some research on the ‘ghost rivers’ which proliferate beneath London. She is very adept to at depicting the smells, sights and sounds of Victorian London. The story hops over to Paris for a brief digression too 

(both in the past and present day).         

Jack the Ripper hovers over the narrative, a shadowy figure who haunts Scaramel and her feisty maid, Daisy) and Rayne’s fictional solution to why Jack stopped killing is interesting, possible and thought provoking.

There are some violent scenes depicted and if you like your crime cozy with a ‘z’ this may not be for you. 

I would say that this time Fox and Arabella are overshadowed as characters by Loretta (the current black widow style owner of Linklighters) and Scaramel the Victorian songstress, who leapt off the page for me. If you’re looking for loads about Liszt and his music this isn’t the right book for you. His role is peripheral.

A dark, elegantly plotted historical thriller romp through Victorian London and current day Soho.

Bonus Content

Sarah Rayne has kindly given us an insight into the research which allowed her to bring her characters to life so vividly:

‘Taking on the man who is probably the best-known serial killer ever – presenting an aspect of him that nobody had so far thought of – was a slightly daunting prospect.  Linking Jack the Ripper, via a music hall performer, with the eminent composer, Franz Liszt, was more than daunting – it was formidable.

There were, though, lighter sides to the research.  It appears that Liszt, early on, almost led the life of a modern-day rock star, mobbed and adored, his fans fighting to secure scraps of his garments, and fainting in the aisles at his concerts.  

One anecdote in particular stood out for me.  During a youthful affair with the infamous 19th century night-club dancer, Lola Montez, Liszt found himself forced to sneak out of a Constantinople hotel bedroom in the early morning while she was still asleep, since, he said, he ‘feared her importunities were starting to damage his sanity, his constitution, and his virility’.

La Montez, on discovering her lover’s absence, gave way to extravagant fury and smashed up the entire room.  Mirrors were angrily splintered, and what was delicately referred to by the hotel staff as ‘bedroom china’ was hurled out of windows.    

It’s these odd snippets that bring the past vividly to life – although it should perhaps be added that Liszt’s later years were quieter and more seemly, much of his time being spent in a monastery near Rome, where he composed many religious and liturgical works.

It wasn’t just the people that came colourfully to life – it was the places, too.  At various parts in Music Macabre, characters become trapped, lost, and generally menaced in the remains of one of the lost London rivers that lies beneath Linklighters, the fictional music hall.  

Working out this section of the plot, it turned out that there were far more of these ‘ghost rivers’ than I had realized – from the Westbourne to the Fleet, from the Black Ditch to Earl’s Sluice, to Pudding Mill River and Carbuncle Ditch and Mutton Brook. Their names reflected their origins – some of which were ancient – and there was no discrimination as to where they wended their way.  For the purposes of the plot, the dried-out Cock and Pye Ditch fitted the bill beautifully. It once circled an area of St Giles – now more generally known as Seven Dials – which meant that Linklighters could be sited to be directly over it.

There was, though, a touch of dark humour in the fact that the old Tyburn was – and still is – directly beneath Buckingham Palace.  As one character in Music Macabre observes, it’s tempting to imagine times when, if there was an overflow, royalty might have had to wade through sewage, complete with gumboots and mops and buckets, to help with slopping out.’

I’d rate this 4/5 stars and yes would recommend it especially if you enjoy history/mystery with some horror. Great title too.

Music Macabre is available on amazon.

Expect To See More Of reMarkable In The Near Future As They Just Raised A New Round Of Funding.

I’m sure you’ve all seen ads for the reMarkable. The writing tablet that looks amazing and likely we would all own if it weren’t for the high price point it sits at. We have a review coming up on the current iteration of the product this weekend and have just been given the news that we’ll all likely be seeing a lot more of the product. They just received a huge cash influx which will either lead to new designs, a lower price point, and more advertising.

I suspect that at least some of this money will be in the final option. Personally, I’d love to get my hands on one of these but my budget doesn’t allow for it. If you’d like to know more about how it is set to expand, we’ve got the press release below!
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