You DO have time to NaNo.

Yes, you do!  No, really, you do.  *Gives self a stern stare*

1.  Make time.  My mum always used to nag tell me that you make time for whats important, and while her advice was at times dubious (eating apple pips result in apple trees growing out of my ears?) this time, I tend to agree.  Turn off Facebook/Twitter/step away from the videos of kittens/stop obsessing over castles and country manors on Rightmove (just me? Okay, then) and get on with what is really important – your novel.  Go on.

2. Every minute counts.  In an ideal world, I would get up and head straight to my desk (turret?) and write.  I wouldn’t have to worry about pesky day jobs or cooking or cleaning.  This is not an ideal world, though and finding a few consecutive hours to write is not going to happen every day – if at all.  A novel is made up of single sentences.  Snatched minutes and half hours here and there all add up.

3. Plan.  No matter how understanding your other half/kids/friend are, life is not going to stop for a month.  I have a birthday party and a big OU deadline on the same day, so I know that for a few days, my priorities are elsewhere. Hopefully, I will be able to work around this and get a few extra words in before and after, so I’m not left with a huge deficit to make up.  I say, hopefully.

4. Prioritise.  If you are really dedicated to NaNo and completing your novel, then make it a priority.  It goes without saying, that some things are going to have a higher priority – working, kids and whatnot, but NaNo needs to be up there with the best of ‘em.

This post is as much a pep talk to myself, as it is to anyone else.  NaNo won’t be easy.  In fact, it will be damned hard, but another pearl of wisdom from my mum  – everything worth doing is!

Good luck to everyone else who is NaNoing! Not that you need luck, ’cause you can do this!

NaNo Time

downloadYes, its that time of year again – NaNoWriMo.  For any non-writers out there, it means that many writers you know, will spend November holed up, mainlining caffeine and sugar while they try to write 50k words in 30 days.  If it sounds like complete insanity, that’s because it is.

After taking a NaNo break last year, I am planning to attempt it again this year.  I successfully completed NaNoWriMo in 2011 and 2012.  This time around, I’m planning on a slightly different approach.

My first attempt,  I planned meticulously. Multi-coloured post-its adorned my walls and I had character sketches, mind maps and all manner of other plot aids to help me stay on track.  It didn’t work.  I wound up getting so caught up on the details that my creativity was stifled.  I ended up with major writer’s block by week 2, and I struggled to break free.  The end  result was a stilted mess filled with cardboard characters and dull plot-lines.

For my second attempt, I tried ‘pantsing’ (flying by the seat of your pants…no plan, no plot, make it up as you go along) which was an even bigger disaster.  The words flowed freely, but at the end of November I had an even bigger mess.  My main character changed profession seven times, murdered someone and then vanquished a demon…in chapter one.  Car-crash mess.

This year, I’m aiming for somewhere in the middle.  I’m drawing up detailed character bios and sketching brief chapter outlines.  I’m using the snowflake method I’ve read so much about, but never actually given much thought to and I’m hoping to know exactly where my story is going, without bogging myself down with too much detail.  Sounds easy, right?! Ha!

Have you/are you doing NaNoWriMo?  What is your strategy?  Do you have any tips?


Win a copy of Jessica Bell’s new thriller ‘White Lady’!

????????????????????To celebrate the release of Jessica Bell’s latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

Jessica Bell will only …

a. write with one particular type of pen

b. note ideas down on her mobile phone

c. write poetry in the bath

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.


*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

​Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.

Click HERE for purchase links.

black and white_Jessica Bell

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

Website | Retreat & workshop | Blog | Vine Leaves Literary Journal | Facebook | Twitter

I had a dream…

My writing has taken a backseat due to studies, life and whatnot and even since I finished my latest module (a whole month ago!), I’ve not been able to get my writing mojo back. I’ve kept busy catching up with friends long forgotten due to my never-ending cycle of assignments and exams and tackled the tip that my house had become. I’ve made a considerable dent in my to-be-read pile, but I haven’t written more than an email.

Until yesterday. On Tuesday night, I had a dream. I never usually remember my dreams, or if I do its only fragments. This dream, however, I remembered in detail. It was quite a scary dream; you know, the kind that wakes you up in a cold sweat rendering it almost impossible to get back to sleep. At 4am, I decided to write it down. I’m sure I read in some hospital waiting room magazine, that that’s what you should do. Anyway, yesterday, I couldn’t get the dream out of my head. I looked over what I had scrawled and decided it would make a good short story. So, off I trotted to my laptop to work on the first piece of fiction in almost a year. What happened next, I did not expect. As I typed, a dozen other ideas swarmed my mind. Different ideas, all relating to the original dream. I wasted no time in grabbing my pen and paper and scribbling all the ideas as they flooded into my head. I now have a fully fledged idea for a new book, which I wasted no time in starting.

So, thanks to my subconscious I am writing again! It feels great.

Where’s the weirdest place you ever got a story idea?

Remember me?

It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I blogged.  I have no excuse – actually I have loads, but none that are really valid.  Anyway, I have just finished my current OU module and have until October before my next one starts.  This is the first break I have had since starting my degree, over three years ago and I’m not entirely sure what to do with myself.

Actually, that’s not quite true either.  I have a Kindle and a bookcase filled with books I am dying to read, a massive reading list for my next module, a half completed manuscript to finish, the kid, work…oh, and my newfound love of free online courses, but that’s another blog for another day.  

I will try my hardest to blog regularly now (until October, at least).  


Lonely Libraries

Yesterday I took the kid to the library.  I asked him when we got up what he wanted to do that afternoon and he barely paused before announcing that he’d like to go to the library.  He loves it as much as I do. He never fails to sulk at the sixteen books limit. 

By the time as we’d run a few errands, it was past lunch time when we arrived at the library to be told by the librarian that we were the first people in all day.  Seriously.  In four hours of opening, noone else had been in.  Not a single soul.  This makes me so sad.

Libraries are being closed left, right and centre, but one of the few left within an easy commute is standing empty.   Libraries are a source of information.  Not only books, but local history, geneaology.  The larger libraries in our area host author talks and lectures.  There are kids reading challenges for the summer holiday.  Free internet access.  The list is endless.  If our library was to close, we would be distraught.  On a more personal level, libraries have acted as a sanctuary throughout my life.  At school, I escaped bullies by losing myself amongst the shelves.  One of the first things I did when I moved to Londin was join my local library.  The kid and I whiled away many hours in the local library during the breakdown of my violent marriage.

Saving libraries is something I feel very strongly about.  Reading and encouraging reading for pleasure is another.  I’m afraid that if we don’t make full use of our libraries then we are going to lose them.  I’m even more afraid that I’m among the minority who would genuinely care.





Obligatory New Year Post

Happy New Year!

I can barely believe that 2014 is here already.  2013 was a funny old year.  In some respects it was awesome:  I got engaged, we moved house, I published a couple of stories.  It was a happy year.  In other ways, it was the year from hell, with a cancer scare and quite a few worries.  There was lots of laughter and lots of tears.  There were plenty of ups and downs; a bit like every year, I suppose. 

I don’t usually make resolutions.  I think that to make a big change, be it getting healthy, losing weight or stopping smoking, your heart really has to be in it.  You have to really want it and be 100 per cent dedicated and I’m not sure the hanging of a new calendar equates with this.  That said, I love a challenge and there are those in abundance right now.  The new 100k in 100 days has started today, which I am taking part in.  It does what it says on the tin – write 100k words in 100 days.  I have signed up to the Goodreads reading challenge.  I was unsure whether to aim for 50 books not including university reading and book club books or whether to aim for 100 books all in.  In the end I went for the latter.  I am also going to take up Blipfoto again, documenting my year in photos. 

I will leave you all with this quote from Neil Gaiman which I think says everything in a much better way than I could:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”