Z is for Zero – the word count no one wants to see!

Filling the page is not always easy . . .
Filling the page is not always easy . . .

When writing, keeping a tally of your daily word count can be a great tool to keep up the momentum.

My first experience of this was last November, during NaNoWriMo where the aim is to write 50,000 words in a month. To achieve this you need to write, on average, 1667 words EVERY SINGLE DAY. The great thing about NaNoWrimo is that they have an easy to use online system which allows you to input your total every day. It’s really inspiring to see the various totals change – words written, words to go, percentage of completion, daily average etc – and as I described in the post that I wrote on completion of that challenge, I missed having that incentive and I am yet to find a method that works as well.

What are your Word Count Tools?

I did ask other writers if they could recommend any blog plugins or phone apps that have similar word count tools, but aside from creating a spreadsheet (I HATE SPREADSHEETS) there doesn’t seem to be anything else available. As I am about to undertake another challenge (15k in May) I thought I would use this post to ask again – do you have any suggestions as to online tools I can use to record word count, and get other useful data from?Β  I would love to hear your suggestions.


Of course, recording your word count seems trivial in comparison to actually achieving a word count! For me, the main consideration is to at least write SOMETHING every day. Overall targets and daily averages are good, because they allow you to break it down in to more manageable daily chunks – ever mindful that if a day is missed, it will only increase the amount you need to do the next day, or the next.

If you want to keep your writing momentum going, any daily word count is positive – just make sure you avoid that big fat zero, and eventually you will reach those 2 words you are longing to write . . . The End.

The End?

And on that note, I want to bring to a conclusion my A-Z Blog Challenge for this year and thank all of you who have got involved, written your own posts, commented, followed, liked and shared. If you missed any of my posts, or just want to see how the whole thing panned out, you can find an amended list of my A-Z content here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post, and your comments on the challenge as a whole. Did you find it useful? Will you continue to blog regularly now? See you all next year?

W is for WIP – Work In Progress

Will I ever reach the editing stage??
Will I ever reach the editing stage??

Yes, today’s short post seemed the perfect opportunity to tell you all about my work in progress.

In reality, of course, I’m actually working on several things at once – regular writing challenges from my weekly Writer’s group, a few short stories, songs when I get the urge and blogging just to fill out the time! But what I really class as my WIP is my unfinished first draft of my novel, Let Sleeping Gods Lie.

I started it for NaNoWriMo last year, managed to hit 55,000 words in the month and it currently stands at around 62,000. By the beginning of this year, I first slowed, then stopped, then took on the A-Z Challenge as an elaborate way to procrastinate for another month (ok, I readily accepted the challenge when suggested by Maria at First Draft Cafe).

Which means I only have a matter of days before I promised myself that I would jump back on the horse and get galloping on my word count again. I have even entered in to a pact with a couple of writing buddies to try to keep up the productivity. We haven’t decided on a title for our own little challenge yet, but I’m going with May The Words Be With You (#maythewordsbewithu?)

I’m describing the novel as part satire on big business and corruption, part paranormal comedy caper, but that will no doubt be refined by the time I’m finished! You can find a quick synopsis and short excerpt on my Nano profile here.

So what is your current WIP? Novel, short story, poem or prose, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

This was my 23rd post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – X for X-ray Music (song with lyrics)

K is for Keep Moving – Write or Die!

By Hermanus Backpackers (Great White Shark Cage Diving)  via Wikimedia Commons
Image Courtesy of Hermanus Backpackers

Today’s writing metaphor comes courtesy of the shark. In case you’re not entirely au fait with animal biology, many sharks need to swim constantly to stay alive. It’s all to do with passing oxygen-rich water through their gills, but the only reason I mention it, is because as writers we too need to constantly move to ensure our writing survives that elusive first draft.

We have all experienced that familiar lethargy that can creep up on us, half way through a story or novel. You may find you have written yourself in to a corner with a difficult plot twist. Perhaps your main character suddenly appears to have all of the personal charm of Piers Morgan. Maybe you just lost that initial spark of inspiration. It could be that you didn’t allow your idea enough time to cook (see post for the letter ‘C’) Out of nowhere a big pair of wet pants smothers your creative fire and you would sooner do anything but write. It’s just so hard, isn’t it?

So what?! Man up!

These are the times that you really discover whether you have what it takes to call yourself a writer. The first thing to realise is that you are not alone. Anyone who writes regularly will experience this at least a couple of times a week.

It wasn’t until I took on the NaNoWriMo challenge last year (see Nano Post), that I was forced in to finding a strategy to cope with this energy-sapping syndrome. During the challenge I spent a depressing few hours completely stuck on one particular chapter. I knew that I needed to come up with an event to move my character towards the next plot point, but drew a blank when it came to writing the actual scene. It didn’t take me long to realise that if I waited around much longer I was in danger of losing all of the momentum that I had built up in the previous days of the challenge. With this in mind, I typed a one sentence summary and moved on to the next chapter. Simple. Liberating. And it worked.

Momentum – keep the snowball rolling

But what about if you’re writing a short story, or other prose project and you feel that self-doubt is rearing its ugly good-for-nothing head? Maybe you need time away from that project, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up all of that hard-earned writing momentum. Keep writing, but write something else. Sketch out another short story. Write some flash fiction. Use some of the techniques I outlined in my ‘B is for Bananas’ post.

The point is: DON’T. STOP. MOVING.

Because, like the shark, if you stop swimming your writing will be dead in the water.

This was my 11th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and some songs with audio recordings – like the next post – L is for Lies (Go Home and Tell Some Lies – original song)

NaNoWriMo – Why Everyone Should Try Writing a Novel in a month.


This is the story of how I surprised myself by writing 50,000 words of a novel in less than 30 days, and why I think everyone with even a passing interest in creative writing should give it a try at least once.

I fell in love with writing as a child and even though it’s always been an on-off relationship, with life, work and family often coming between us, you never forget your first love and I always knew we would be reunited again some day.

Although I’ve always kept up a long-distance correspondance by writing lots of songs and the very occasional blog, it’s fair to say it has been quite a few years since I really set my mind to writing anything substantial.

That all changed a few weeks ago when I felt the old desire return, initially with a few short story ideas, and then I stumbled across something called NaNoWriMo and knew the timing was perfect to start from scratch on my failed novel – last abandoned a number of years ago with a wordcount of over 35,000. For the unitiated, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. To take part in NaNoWriMo you need only commit to the idea of writing 50,000 words of your first draft before the end of November. The use of the word ‘only’ being slightly misleading in this instance, as the reality means writing an average of 1667 words EVERY SINGLE DAY for thirty days.

I have a busy day job, a family and I’m a member of a cover band so time is not something I have an abundance of, but never one to shy away from a challenge I approached the task with as much gusto as possible. Whilst I wasn’t particularly confident of being able to reach the full target, I simply treated it as an excuse to get as many words written as possible, to get back in to the habit of writing every day and to kick-start my attempt to write a novel.

I passed the 50,000 mark on November 24th with 6 days to spare and it felt great. Not only because I had reached an arbitrary goal set by NaNoWriMo, but because I had re-engaged with writing again and found my passion for creating characters and worlds for them to exist in. I also found that I still hadn’t reached the end of my story, but having come so far I know I will keep going until I reach the conclusion.

Everyone works differently but for me I think there were a few factors that contributed to my success.

Write every day

Firstly, even on the days where I barely had half an hour to spare I wrote something, anything as long as I made a tiny dent on my wordcount. I think the most pathetic daily wordcount was around the 500 word mark, but it still meant that I wouldn’t have a little zero next to that date and that my novel was just that little bit closer to being finished.

Turn off the inner editor

Ok, so I know that it has become a writing cliche, but that’s for a reason. I realised that when it comes to the first draft, all that really matters is getting to the end of the story – just getting it all out. That means not stopping to finesse phrasing or grammar and not letting a little thing like a gaping plot hole slow you up either. For me, this meant skipping an entire chapter early on because although I knew the character had to get from point A to point B, I had no idea how he would get there and didn’t have the time to sit around waiting for inspiration. I simply jumped to the next scene and motored on – that will need taking care of when I begin draft 2 and the editing process.

Have fun

Again, seems obvious, but if you are not going to try to have fun when doing something as silly as trying to write 50,000 words in a month, then don’t bother attempting it at all. I found that the more I kept writing, the more life my characters took on until some scenes of the book just flowed – seemingly with very little input from me. Hours just flew by and all the time I was creating a story across lots of pages that didn’t exist before November 1st.

Before I started NaNoWriMo, my best case scenario was perhaps reaching 20-25,000 words before December and I would still be very satisfied with that. And that’s the best thing about trying something like this – whether you reach 5,000 or 50,000 words, you will have produced something tangible that wasn’t there before. You will have got back in touch with that wild side of your imagination that seems to become harder to reach as we grow older and more self-conscious, and you never know – you may even end up with a finished novel that you can release in to the world to entertain and inspire others.

So, in short, I will definitely be signing up for NaNoWrimo next year – who’s with me?

You can check out my NaNoWrimo profile here, which includes a synopsis and excerpt from my novel ‘Let Sleeping Gods Lie’.

I would love to hear from others that have found other ways to kick start their creative writing projects or have other NaNoWriMo experiences to share. What’s your story?

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