My NaNoWriMo experience

December 7, 2016
November started for me with the NaNoWriMo writing challenge.  I decided to go for a story that had been knocking around in my head for a while, a re-imagining of George Orwell's 1984 for a modern MG audience.  Great, I thought.  The over use of screens for the modern child is current and the possibility of them being used by an evil force to control the kids in an Orwellian way might be quite an interesting concept.
I got a few thousand words in, planned the entire thing in more detail than I've done before (there were story maps, spider diagrams, pages and pages of notes,) and then it occurred to me that I wasn't sure if this was a story I would legally be allowed to do anything with if I finished it.
Sure enough I e-mailed the very lovely Juila Churchill who works at the agency representing Orwell's estate and it was a very conclusive NO! He has not been dead long enough for 1984 to be in the public domain which means it can't be touched for another few years.  So that was that.  Shelve that one and start to panic as I had essentially wasted the first precious writing days of the NaNoWriMo month.
Fate tends to play a hand in life though I think and the need for a book made me pick up something else I had begun in the summer but only ever managed the first three chapters.  I had sent those chapters and a synopsis off to the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) for a competition and then forgotten about them.  Now was their time to shine. MIMA MALONE AND THE MAD BAD INVENTOR was the result and I really loved writing  that one.  The story flew and halfway through the month I had my completed first draft.  The only trouble was that, being MG, it fell a long way short of the 50,000 word count needed to finish NaNoWriMo.  In fact I was only halfway there.
So for the first time ever I had to put something I had just finished to one side and begin another project so that I could make the word count.
BROTHERHOOD (the second story) couldn't have been more different and the transition was really difficult at the beginning.  I went from writing 1st person, present tense, funny fiction to a story about homelessness and family turmoil written in 3rd person, past tense.  My brain didn't know what to do with itself when I began the second project so I had to leave it for  a couple of days and then come back when it had had a chance to re-boot!
For a while I didn't think I could pull it off but, literally hours before the calendar flicked over to December, I hit the word target.  Around 25.000 for MiIMA MALONE and a little more for BROTHERHOOD.
I put the whole thing into the official NaNoWritMo number cruncher and it came back with a very VERY satisfying banner telling me I was a WINNER!!! It felt brilliant, I had done it! 
The entire experience for me was such a positive one.  Not only did I end up with two new completed manuscripts I can work on but I proved to myself that I can step up to a challenge and find the perseverance to get to the end regardless of what comes along on the way to try and trip me up.  
I'm already looking forward to next year's challenge....Maybe I should go for three books next time?......


October 18, 2016
What a title! To those of you who thought I had just sat on my keyboard, no..! NaNoWriMo is a real thing. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and it is a challenge that I have just signed up for!  It means that over the course of November I will come up with at least 50,000 words of a brilliant novel.  Only in first raw draft but complete and ready to edit and polish.
That is a lot of words!!
Just need to decide which story to write.  Wish me luck.
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The Federation of Children's Book Groups

June 8, 2016
A couple of years ago I met a lady called Sarah Stuffins.  Sarah won't mind me saying (I hope) that she is a bit of a chidren's books nut......I think that is why we get on well!  Sarah is the chair of my local branch of the Federation of Children's Book Groups (FCBG) and has just handed over the role of National chair to another fantastic lady called Jane Etheridge.
And so my journey with the FCBG began.  To start with I joined as a family so that my girls would have the chance to vote for th...
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Total immersion in children's books

March 23, 2016
I think that if it's possible to overdose on children's fiction then I am currently in a bit of danger.
Yesterday evening I was in London for the monthly book group held at Nosy Crow. It is brilliant being part of a group that only discusses children's books (and its held at the Crow's Nest which is always an exciting trip!)
Today I signed my children and I up for yet another talk at the Oxford Literary Festival in April.....that makes 4 talks now but when you get the chance to be creative with...
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New ventures

March 1, 2016
Since my last post I have been spending rather a lot of time at my desk in the attic (which has luckily been converted into a bedroom for my smallest child with a tiny workroom as a bonus for me!)
I have finished my second book for mid grade children, aiming at an audience slightly older than Zachary Mackerel, around 9-12 years.
It is called Dog-Girl and tells the story of Lily Ritson, a twelve year old girl who discovers she not only has super powers but also the ability to morph into a border...
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Meeting the Children's Laureate

October 27, 2015
It is half term and what better way to begin than by letting my two daughters take me to an author event at our local book shop.  A tiny book shop but my favourite, (Chapter 1 in Woodley if you fancy going along to say hi to Mary and John there.) A visit to a book shop is never a bad thing to do and can be a very happy way to spend an hour or so.  Yesterday Chapter 1 had an added attraction, not one literary hero in our household but two.  A F Harrold, poet, author and very funny entertainer ...
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Agent whirlwind

October 19, 2015
You may have thought that I have been sitting at home twiddling my thumbs over the summer as my last blog post was back in June. Not so!! 
I have been busy meeting people left, right and centre in the hope of securing an agent to help take me to a main stream publisher.
I have found that agents are actually, on the whole, rather lovely.  When I submitted my adult stories to agents I sent cold submissions and my postbox was flooded with standard, two line rejection letters....thank you for your ...
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Play Script Joy

June 14, 2015
Last week I went to a Primary School to spend the day talking to children about creative writing.  This is always something I love as children's imaginations never fail to tickle me.  
This time though I had an extra treat as I was presented with a piece of homework that one little girl had done and wanted to share with me.  She had turned a scene from Zachary Mackerel into an amazing play script.  I hope she got top marks from her teacher, she absolutely deserved it!
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Writers and Artists

June 8, 2015
Last Thursday was my birthday.  Usually for my gorgeous (but not always quite on the right track) husband that means raiding my card box and stopping off at Tesco on the way home from work for a box of chocolates.  This year though I took matters into my own hands and bought myself a day out on his behalf.  
And so it was that on Saturday I spent a very sunny time in the heart of British publishing, Bloomsbury.  The Writers and Artists' Yearbook is a volume that I buy religiously every year an...
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June 2, 2015
WARNING; vaguely slushy mushy blog post about preciousness of family.
You were warned, so if you are still reading then I have to assume the odd bit of smush doesn't bother you too much.
Whenever I give talks to schools about writing stories I always begin by asking the children to consider purpose. (If you are at Birch Copse Primary then you have until Tuesday to come up with some really good answers!) Part of the purpose of story writing has to be to entertain an audience, so for that you mus...
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