Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Prep Rally!


It’s that time again folks. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is affectionately known, is around the corner, peeping back at us from beyond the weekend. 50,000 words of first draft in 30 fun-filled days.

It can be a time of wild desperation for some, unbridled imagination for others. For me, it’s a bit of both.

People have been planning, strategising, outlining – some plot every single step of the way. Others don’t. But everyone preps in some fashion, even if it’s only in stolen thoughts of the month to come, thinking, Wow, I should have done more prep by now…

Either way, when the flag falls, I’ll be there. I’ve finished (and therefore won!) three years in a row. This will be my fourth endeavour.

It’s such a good time for me creatively. Watching a graph of your word count take on the ideal diagonal line is a statistical carrot on a stick (/whip) that drives me to succeed. It makes me prioritise my writing and rally with other authors doing the same. Everyone’s on the same side with a common goal, cheering one another on. No one wants anyone else to fail and you don’t win over the fallen carcasses of your foes, so it’s a special kind of competition with a special place in my heart. Like craps.

Publishing The Night Butterflies came out of my first NaNo skirmish, and this year I’m going to complete the first draft of the final book in my fantasy trilogy in progress, The Luminosa. There is so much work to do when the month is done, but that month is so important. It’s a battle cry that echoes through infinite fictional worlds as well as this one, and sets the intent for success.

So wish me luck! And good luck to you if you have a book of your own to bring home this November – be bold! I’ll see you on the battlefield…

A Roam With A View


Giant’s Gate Falls, Milford Sound

I’m all over the place at the moment – up hill, round coast, down dale – hitting highlights of the south island of NZ before heading to the north, and thence home to the UK for Christmas (if anyone missed the memo back there – Hey! I’m coming home for Christmas!).

Working on the road comes with its unique set of challenges – locating pockets of signal and persuading my phone to tether to pick up email the most perfidious. Often the most beautiful spots are the most out of touch, and while it’s wonderful to be lost, I can’t be too free-range or I won’t be able to afford the road user charges. Which don’t half rack up.

But despite any drawbacks, it’s a delight to embark on a life that reminds me how much joy there is to be found in the simplest of pleasures. A year ago, I couldn’t have contemplated too much time solo, but after a winter season of unsurpassable social activity, through ice hockey, snowboarding, and playing with the best pals Queenstown has to offer, I’m due a hiatus – a pause to get back to the more creative side of life and get more writing out in the world.

I love waking up smelling of campfire and dreams, and I love seeing friends after a spell in only my own company. I love exploring new horizons and witnessing the wildlife there. And I love being free. But I also love to create something out of nothing, and that’s what I’ll be doing this November.

‘Tis the week before NaNo, and all through the house….not a writer ain’t prepping and using their nouse.

For the uninitiated, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) involves writing a 50,000 novel in 30 days. My debut NaNo led to the publication of my debut novel, The Night Butterflies. Usually, my prep involves wishing I’d done more prep. But this year I’m writing the sequel to last year’s manuscript, Luminosa, half of which blew out the window of the van in a gale, but which I’ve still managed to look over this month (life on the road eh, you can’t make it up).

I’m a pantser not a plotter, in all walks of life. But I’m planning to succeed. And I’m looking forward to taking the next step in this story, the next step in my writer’s wanderings, and seeing what lies over the waterfall.

Are you gearing up for NaNo or just readying for the next step in your journey? What lies over the waterfall for you?

A Little Bit O’ Fan & A Wee Smidgen O’ Fare

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 7.36.07 PM

(c) 2013 NKW-Illustration. All Rights Reserved.

I feel torn into two people at the moment: Personal Me and Professional Me. They could as easily be called Whiney Me and Writer Me.

Whiney Me still has what’s left of her heart weighed down with an anchor. She wakes and huddles in the covers, limbs heavy, takes a peek into the cavity in her chest and continues to feel sad that she doesn’t miraculously feel better post break-up. She holds out hope, though, that one day she’ll wake up grinning again.

Writer Me has much to do, gearing up to win National Novel Writing Month at the end of the week and trying furiously make sense of her story, all while watching last year’s effort spread its wings and working to see opportunities blossom and scratches ratchet up in the ‘win’ column.

Of course, despite a little duality, Writer Me and Whiney Me being in essence the same person – they each have a little say in each other’s lives. Writer Me can’t help but at times find her pen a little woebegone, her protagonist a little weak, her work-in-progress a little wistful. But, meanwhile, Whiney Me can’t help but smile at some of the surprises and delights cropping up for Writer Me, and it’s those I’d rather focus on today.

So, in the spirit of cheer, here are some raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens in the form of five pieces of Night Butterflies news:

1. I had my first author interview with the lovely Sara Letourneau over at her brilliant blog. 

This was a lot of fun. Sara is one of the people I’m most happy to have met during Project Get Published. Take a peek for a look into my messy mind and some insights into the story. Sara’s also interviewed Mary Weber, author of Storm Siren – so I’m already keeping good company!

2. A short-story prequel to my novel has been published in the ‘Secrets’ issue of New Zealand magazine The Source.

This gives me thrills because it’s awesome to appear in something I always read myself, and it’s my first published magazine piece!


3. My book is breaking into libraries.

As with all books published in the country, two copies of The Night Butterflies sit in the collections of the National Library of New Zealand. But approaching a library I frequent as a reader was a completely different experience and getting onto the shelf was such a brilliant piece of news to receive. I’d been so nervous for my first meeting as a published author when I went in to speak with the buyer for The Queenstown Lakes District Library. She kindly arranged for The Night Butterflies to be reviewed, with the result it was purchased for their collection. As far as milestones go, it’s a *big* one for me, made all the better for so many lovely people being delighted about it as well.

4. My book is having a party!

Upon reading one of Anne R Allen’s (always) valuable posts, on talent perhaps being overrated, I arranged for The Night Butterflies to be listed on Bookbzz.com. Little did I realise that posting about it would lead to the wonderful opportunity to have a virtual book party next week! And you’re all invited 🙂 It will be hosted by the lovely Nicole Grabner at The Whole Plot Thing (Facebook invite here). If you can’t make it (a little on the late side for my UK friends, sorry!), do pop over & visit Nicole’s lovely site anyway! Her book parties are just spreading their wings and I’m so happy to be a part of it all – The Whole Plot Thing is going to be a brilliant place to visit for news on fresh, engaging reads and their authors.

5. The Night Butterflies is starting to get some reviews.

So far I’ve had the book picked up by two wonderful book reviewers at Through The Wardrobe Door and A Bibliophile’s Reverie. I can’t wait for their feedback! And so far reviews are off to a promising beginning on Amazon. Garnering reviews is such a boost and so, so valuable for an independent author. If you can add to the collection, please oh please do!


And there we have it – five things to backflip about 🙂 It’s so easy to focus on the negatives in your own life and the positives in everyone else’s. It’s wonderful being happy for your friends, but, with a little effort, I think you can find value in celebrating your own successes too.

Have two sides of your life ever taken drastically different trajectories? I think it’s important to focus on the one that’s looking up and find cause for a party where possible 🙂 On which note, do RSVP

30 Observations On Turning 30


Last week, it was my birthday. And I wasn’t where I’d planned to be, because I was no longer with whom I’d planned to be with (hence hopping over the water for a while). But the best of it was made for me, with a handmade surprise mad hatter’s birthday breakfast tea party (just amazing – pics below!) and then a trip to a beautiful winery for a delicious, long lunch with much wine. My friend here has taken cheering me to heart and single-handedly saved what otherwise could have been a day of sorrowing. I also received several touching presents and cards that lifted my heart.

I’ve never been down around my birthday. I love to celebrate, and a number’s just a number after all! When I think of some of the things that have happened by the time I’ve turned this one: releasing myself from an occupation of reluctant accounting, starting my own business, travelling the world, publishing my own book, meeting the people I’ve met and seeing the sights that I’ve seen – I can say I’m happy with how I’ve got here.

So, to celebrate having turned thirty, here’s a list of thirty observations I’ve had upon doing so, in the order that they came to me.

1. Who doesn’t love a list?

2. Don’t heed the snake within (& that’s a sneak peek quote from my current NaNoWriMo work in progress, fantasy novel Luminosa).

3. If it is at all possible, find something in any given situation to laugh at.

4. It’s always tea time.

5. ‘Tis better to catch on late than never.

6. Smile at everyone and see what happens.

7. Patience is a virtue, but the really, really hard-to-find kind.

8. No matter how low you feel, someone’s suffering more in Game of Thrones.

9. Persevere.

10. See beauty everywhere you look.

11. I love books. But I can appreciate the Kindle.

12. Friends are treasures; guard them.

13. If something’s not okay, try and try and try to make it better.

14. It is better to love.

15. Never take a good shower for granted.

16. Be bold.

17. You can move all over the place, but it’s where you’re at inside that matters.

18. Say what you think; sometimes you’ll be surprised at the support from unexpected corners.

19. If you can’t help but lose something, remember it fondly.

20. People are kind.

21. Sending & receiving postal love changes the value of a stamp into something priceless.

22. Thirty years is a long time (I never said they’d all be meaningful).

23. Keep having adventures.

24. You can’t control what you can’t control. But you can control your occupation, your location and your outlook on life.

25. Regret as little as possible.

26. If something ain’t sitting right, alter it.

27. It’s possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days, whatever else is going on.

28. You might not know what’s next, but there’s probably something good involved.

29. Anything is possible.

30. Be you.

How do you feel about birthdays? Raise a glass with me and be merry, if you haven’t already. There’s nothing wrong with getting older and wiser. 


Off with their heads!


Mad hat


Drink me


Eat me


Down the rabbit hole


Cheshire Cat


Curiouser and curiouser


Open me


Welcome to Wonderland


Six impossible things before breakfast

Queenstown, So Long And Thanks For All The Fish


Fly away from Queenstown and you leave this view behind you…

Friends and neighbours, sorry for my silence. I’ve been up and down, round and round… And now I’m in South Australia. Adelaide to be precise. It’s transpired that I’m going to be here for the rest of the year. I came via two other states. In Victoria I stopped in Melbourne, where I gained two hours, then I headed to Western Australia and spent a few halcyon days in Perth, where I gained three more (though my good friend’s 30th birthday celebrations may have stolen a few years of my life). I then hopped down to Adelaide via Melbourne, where I lost three hours but then managed to claw back a measly half. In summary, I’m quite confused. I’m not entirely sure what the real time or date is. But I do know where and who I am.

I also know what I am. I am no longer even a part-time reluctant accountant. I am fully freelance. I am a published author and managing director of my own book editing business. I am a wandering writer and renegade rover of this oyster of a world we live in. I didn’t choose to be cut adrift. But we can only make choices when it comes to what we can control. When it comes to ourselves. Our location, our occupation, our outlook on life and love, lost and otherwise. We can choose not to be beaten, not to be broken, whatever happens. We can choose to bounce back.

Of course, when we’re coming back from being knocked down, it helps to have friends, all around the globe, offering their support and inviting you into their homes. When you’ve lost your own, someone else’s home can be a sanctuary. And that’s how I come to be here, in the beautiful eleventh floor pad of an apartment block in the centre of Adelaide, with a balcony looking east out onto the hills and showcasing the sunrise, fitness facilities shared with the Crowne Plaza next door, and incomparable company.

I know what I’m doing here. I’m writing my second novel (here we go again, National Novel Writing Month!). I’m convalescing. I’m seeing old friends and new places. I’m firing up to gain more business. And I’m becoming even more who I want to be – just in time to turn thirty come Sunday (twitch, twitch).

So I said so long to Queenstown, but it won’t go anywhere, and I’ll be back. It is, without doubt, one of the most beautiful places in the world, where I’ve had the time of my life with some of the best people I’ve ever met. I went on a wee pilgrimage before I left to take shots of some of its highlights away with me. I’ve included just a few of these below.

Have you ever left somewhere with a heavy heart? Did you ever go back? Carrying a heavy heart is like flying with excess baggage – expensive and frustrating. I’m terrible at packing, but I’m aiming to reorganise things and travel lightly into the future.


Rum Curries


Lake Wakatipu


Basket of Dreams, Queenstown Hill


Lake Hayes


Queenstown Hill Summit


Bob’s Cove


Glenorchy Road




Arrowtown to Macetown Track


12 Mile Delta


Have you read The Night Butterflies? Grab your copy here! Would you recommend it? Support your friendly indie authors – leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads 🙂

002.5_Night Butterflies

Why Life Is Good, Even When It’s Not


So, a few things have inspired this post.

1. I’m facing the fact that I *am* going to win NaNoWriMo and will have written a novel in a month. Earlier this month, with big bad happening, it didn’t seem possible. I didn’t give up. I had to figure out what my plot gaps were that needed filling in my last 10k, so a post-it party happened near the dresser:


This piece of procrastination pleased me

2. Moving into my dream house has already had its catches and I was reminded on the weekend that life isn’t always fair. We even made movements to leave Arcadia (how I love the X-files), but were convinced not to by people who reminded me that human beings can be angels in disguise – kind, considerate and caring, even if they are near strangers.

3. I had a phone call with conscious branding company Thought Cloud‘s founder, Kat Kinne, who has already done so much for me, personally and professionally.

4. I had an email from Be Free People – a ‘Truth of the Day’ that read: ‘What are you sleeping with? What feelings are you taking with you into your bed, what feelings are you waking up with? So much is still being processed in your mind while you are sleeping, be very aware of how you feel before you close your eyes. What if it was the very last time you were to close your eyes, would you be happy with what you’re closing your chapter with? If not, change it, by changing your mind about things, end every chapter of the day and start the very next chapter of your life with gratitude.’

5. I read a guest blog post from the amazing Aussa Lorens, at Black Box Warnings: This Can’t Be My Life.

Now, I’m not always in the right mood to receive a ‘truth of the day’ or a ‘moment of happiness.’ (I’m always in the mood to read anything Aussa Lorens has written). Some quotes and platitudes can come across empty and meaningless when you’re going through a bad patch. You have to be in the right place for some things to speak to you.

However, when you’re off-kilter, there are people who can bring you back into balance; bring you back into yourself.

Often, when I feel stressed, I feel sick. My mind and body are very in tune. I posted something of the sort on Facebook and as usual felt awful when people commented, offering comfort and consideration. Sometimes you can post self-serving statuses and deserve it when people remind you they care! Why did I feel bad about it, really? Because I know deep down that life is good. I shouldn’t be complaining about it.

On the worst of days, whatever’s happened, if someone stopped me still and asked, ‘But, are you happy to be alive?’ I would halt, probably feel bad (it’s a habit), and realise that yes, I am. Always.

Many would agree there are key elements to a happy life: your love life, work life, and home life. There are more things to life and variations on the themes, obviously. Not everyone needs or wants a partner, but relationships with other people, be it family, friends, or lover, are commonly a source of happiness. Not everyone cares about a career, but what is done to earn a living, and what is earned to sustain a lifestyle, can be a big focus. People disagree on the definition of home. It can be about location, or about family, or about who shares it with you. It doesn’t have to be one place, or a house, maybe just where you hang your hat. I heartbreakingly read it described today as perhaps, ‘just wherever you end up when you get too tired to run anymore.’ However, as I responded, to me, home can be anywhere, but it’s the place where you’re loved, where you’re at peace with the fact that you deserve to be loved. I felt humbled reading what I’d written, because I’m lucky enough to have it. Overall, love life, work life, and home life are all wonderful.

Bad things happen. It’s a fact of life. I’m writing a novel for NaNo in which a lot of bad things happen. And I try and put myself in my characters’ shoes. One of them, who’s been through unutterable trauma, comes to realise that she is still happy to be alive.

If I can imagine someone who’s been through so much being happy to be alive; if I can meet, as I have, people who have been through so much in real life being happy to be alive – then the least I can do is gain some perspective. I’m going to make a push to remember how happy I am to be alive, and start and end each day with gratitude.

Life is good, even when it’s not. 

Who’s going through a terrible time and feels awful? But who feels even worse with guilt when they realise other people are going through even worse times? It’s ok not to cope, but please ask yourself, despite it all, am I happy to be alive? Things can change for the better as much as they can change for the worse. Don’t give up. Be happy just to be alive.

Finding My Muse Rather Than Finding Excuses


Illustration by Nicola Whetstone © 2013 NKW-Illustration 

‘The dog ate my homework’

– Unknown

This time, let’s start with a question – who first claimed that their dog ate their homework? And who among you has ever claimed the equivalent? The saying sure caught on and is still a lot catchier than, ‘My computer didn’t save it, even though I pressed save, and backed up, and emailed it to myself, and threw my computer out the window‘ (we’ve all been there?!). Wikipedia calls it the ‘sine qua non of dubious excuses,’ which I enjoy, because what’s not to like about a bit of Latin?

Anyway, I’ve become increasingly aware this week that I’ve signed up to write 60,000 words in a month, completing the first draft of a novel in November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). More and more of my favourite blogs have been offering up tips and treats – plotting techniques, craft lessons, general approaches – the theme of which, I think, is the unsubtle warning: Fail to plan and plan to fail.

I like writing lists and crossing things off them. I often do that nifty trick where you add items onto your list that you’ve already done, just so you can cross them off (who exactly am I kidding? Only I read the lists!). I’m a spontaneous person, mostly, and I’ve definitely not done enough planning since signing up in order to face Friday 1st with joyful anticipation rather than abject terror. I do intend to rectify this situation on Thursday 31st (if you leave things to the last minute, they only take a minute!). However, I already find myself presenting myself with excuses for failure – not only my failure to plan but also my failure to succeed in something I haven’t even started yet. It’s been a black October, but there really is no excuse worthy of allowing myself the indulgence of excusing myself. It’s as much an indulgence as creating chores I can complete in a minute so I can cross them off a list and feel like I’ve done something today.

I’m amazing at articulating excuses. I have a sheaf of them for every bad thing that’s happened since, well, ever. I’m constantly vindicating myself and seeking vindication from others involved. I then tell 10 people who aren’t even remotely interested and try get vindication from them as well (witness my last post!). This is because nothing is ever my fault. The dog ate my homework. I had no control over this dog. I deserve pity, not blame.

But for NaNo, I need to buck up my ideas. And saying that, I really ought to buck them up across the board. NaNo is like any challenge that needs facing or problem that needs fixing. Excuses won’t help change anything, only action will. Effective action is boosted by help, support, guidance and advice. Well, I have a whole inbox of that for NaNo – it’s time to take some of that advice and see what works for me (better late than never); make more time (my go-to excuse is not having time); find my Muse (she’s been reported missing, I need to stop finding all those excuses and find her instead); and get the job done. Oh, and enjoy it.

There’s no time‘ is probably my favourite excuse. Let’s rearrange some things and find some time hiding under the sofa cushions (that’s hopefully where my Muse is hiding out, keeping Time company). Let’s also find some better words: There’s no time like the present; there’s no time for excuses; and there’s no time to lose! Who’s with me?! 

Why I Went To WanaCon


Image by Cellar Door Films sharing in WANA Commons

‘Let us be grateful to people who make us happy,

they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom’

– Marcel Proust

In November I’m participating in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Before this weekend I hadn’t even heard of it. On Wednesday, I’m meeting with Laird Sapir of Memphis McKay and Jay Donovan of TechSurgeons, neither of whom I knew of before this weekend, to help me achieve a professional business/author website, something my technically-challenged self has been struggling with for a while. I’ve attended craft lessons from best-selling authors and technology lessons from social-media experts. I’ve started a brilliant new book – Firelands by Piper Bayard, which wasn’t on my radar. I’ve laughed. A lot. I’ve made new friends on Twitter – but most importantly, in real life. I’ve met Kristen Lamb. All of this came from the best last-minute decision I’ve ever made – to sign up for WANACon, a digital worldwide writers’ conference. 

My return on investment? More than taken care of in the first half an hour of attending well-structured, easily accessible sessions and meeting the presenters and attendees. Over the last year, I’ve been reevaluating many of my old romantic notions. My previous (and unrealised) imagining of Sara The Writer was someone sitting loftily alone in an attic study, quill in hand, writing beauteous prose and bestowing it upon the world (and the world loved it). Sara The Writer would attend writers’ conferences, but in person and would never have thought to travel to one when not yet published by a big name publisher. Wow, what a turnaround. I’m pre-published, I’ve embraced the digital age and the indie age, and I’ve learnt this last month exactly what WANA stands for – We Are Not Alone. 

How amazing how much so many want to share – their time; their wisdom; their support. Writers here aren’t acting as rivals – they are cheering each other on, with words of encouragement from their own experience. I think a strong network can be the difference between success and failure. After discovering the ‘WANA Way’ and attending WANACon, I think I’m on the right path. 

But before I knew all this, why did I go? It’s because I practise what I preach. I believed in the idea as it was presented to me, so I followed through. It wasn’t just for published authors so being pre-published shouldn’t stop someone. If it had been a physical conference I could have travelled to, I would have. But if it had been a physical conference in the US, I couldn’t have. So being online was a bonus. I went because of posts like this one, from Kristen Lamb’s blog – Doubt, Fear, False Alarms & “Giving Birth” To Our Dreams. I lost sight of my dreams and have piles of unfinished masterpieces lying around. At least I started writing again. Now, I’m actually going to finish something! And I’m going to do it surrounded by inspirational people actively motivating me to do so.

Do you feel alone? I’m not just talking to writers, but everyone, whatever it is you do.  Don’t be an island. There is so much more joy and comfort in joining up with people who have the same loves and the same struggles. With the wonder of the internet, we can now connect with such people, even if they’re nowhere to be found nearby. We can all help each other. We are not alone.