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This Week on Writers Abroad - 5th September

Sue has written the blog "Motivator or Gimmick" about her experiences with Nano and three day Labour weekend writing push. She obviously found this motivational - would you? Is this the push you need to kick start your writing.

Maggie has given us this week's writing prompts, including a magic spell, a garbage collector and writing about a pet. She has already posted her Monday muse, a moving piece about a pet she acquired as a child. 

Sue and Laura maintain top spot on the bragging stool with entries to Ad hoc fiction and Lesley has a piece in  Chris Fieldings adverb challenge.

September challenges have been posted by Angela and are open for writing and comments.

A group of us were off the virtual site this weekend and meeting in person in Oxford. Crilly, Vanessa, Dianne, Jill, Angela and I, all had dinner together on Saturday evening and then several of us met up again on Sunday. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting these friends I've had for years and now know even better. Hopefully we can look forward to a report on the historical novelists conference from Dianne or Vanessa at some point since this was the prompt that brought us together. 

The date of the next informal chat is 11th September and the next formal chat will be at the end of the month on 25th September. 

Personally, I am moving house this week and should get my shipping this week and then hopefully  life should settle into some sort of routine after months of suitcases. 

Wishing everyone a successful writing week and apologies if I've missed anything.

Motivator or Gimmick Tags: NaNoWriMo 2DNC


Motivating or Just a Gimmick? 



Today (Monday) it is Labour Day in Canada, Labor Day in the United States. So a good time to resurrect this blog written a few years ago. Some of you know I thrive on challenges. Especially deadlines. And so, as a writer of poetry and very short/flash fiction, the 3-day Novel Weekend and NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November have become my motivators for longer work over the years - as a result I have a mountain of draft novels. And very drafty novels they are too. I am sure many consider such events gimmicky, but for me they work. I have produced writing that would not otherwise exist. I also have quite a collection of NaNo Winners T-shirts!




I Was In Labour for Three Days (2013)


For me, the International Three Day Novel Contest is akin to a surprise pregnancy. I say surprise because I am always shocked that I actually fall. Again.


3DNC is reported as being ‘not for the faint-hearted’. If that’s the case I must be a bit of a hard-hearted old biddy because this was my third time.


It costs $50 to put yourself through the roller coaster of joy, torture, euphoria, gloom, delight, exasperation and a whole host of other worthy emotions. It is also a commitment; you are not going to cough up the fifty bucks and then not do it. Are you?


It is always held, appropriately, Labour Day Weekend, so I can only assume it was first intended, in 1977, for lonely people as an alternative to a family/friends gathering for the last fling of summer. Don’t worry, I’m well blessed with family and friends which is just as well as you need the full support of your nearest and dearest. They’re the ones who make sure you’re fed and watered at intervals; when you’re sequestered away from midnight Friday to midnight Monday, writing your little socks off, you don’t want to die of starvation. Do you?


This year I signed up but had no inspiration. I had no clue what the ‘novel’ would be. Nada. But just over a week before, I was picking around in a local antique store and tripped over some old (very old) cancelled passports. There was a curiousness (sic) about them. A novelly smell. The fact they’d been kept in a box with old id cards and photos. And the fact that they had been issued in Valparaiso, Chile. I held the inspiration in my hands. The two passports cost me twenty bucks. I’d now spent $70 on this nebulous novel.


By midnight Friday I was champing at the bit, foaming at the mouth, spitting tacks: in short - raring to go. After nine short days of waiting, the labour pains kicked in. I couldn’t wait to write my opening sentence and to get to know my protagonist. So before I hit the hay that night, all I wrote was:



And with that I happily toddled up to bed and slept like a babe, unlike previous 3DNCs when my midnight oil-burners charred down to their final flicker. When I woke after eight the next morning, chapter one was already rattling through my head. The weekend was cathartic. It was a journey into chinks of memory, to realms of imaginary meals and illuminating conversations, to settings only possible with the help of ‘google street view’. I also had no idea that Gordon’s father would turn out to be a bigamist.


By 10.30 pm on Monday night I typed -The End - I was done.  A new draft novel, albeit a tad underweight, was born. The following morning it was emailed off with its witness statement to defend its future. Its sentence I will not know until next Spring. In a strange way, letting it go so swiftly has left me feeling bereft. At a loss.


Passport to Perdita wouldn’t exist without this challenge. If it were a NaNo novel it would certainly be different (having 30 days instead of 3 creates a different rhythm) - and there is no money to part with either, so - the commitment is not necessarily quite so acute. And unlike a NaNo novel which is a private/personal manuscript - the 3DN will be read.



So I now have three 3 Day Novels: Minerva’s Letters, Gecekondu, and Passport to Perdita. They are like my children, one (Gecekondu) has left home now and is doing the publishers’ circuit. 


You incubate them; these characters, these stories, these situations. You live intensely with them, always hoping they will take flight. And then when they do...



...of course, there’s always Nano kicking off in a couple of months. Do I really want to add another draft novel to the dusty pile? 


Battle of the Brain
Category: Writing

Angela's thought provoking blog last week made me think about how I get to that point of putting pen to paper. Definitely the seeds come from my subconscious but like Alyson, I often need to do some mundane task in order for the seed to bear fruit. Swimming is good for me. I give myself a time in the pool rather than count lengths and therefore, during my swim, I can think freely and develop the possibilities for a story or poem.

As to whether my subconscious is predominately the dark place or the place which shines a  light on my creativity is questionable. I know there have been times when I have not written using an idea that came to me in dream time. When that happens, am I afraid of exposing that idea to the cold light of day? Perhaps I should be braver and take the reins of that unruly horse.

Hamish's comment too, rings true for me. Whilst I don't always start with a character but rather an idea, I tend to plan and structure as an afterthought.  Ideas leap at me and I find myself rethinking to accommodate them when, if I am honest, a well prepared structure would eliminate the possibility of even considering adding many of those ideas to my work. They should be dutifully filed for future reference. Quite often my project becomes a runaway horse, so unruly I don't have the energy to rein it in and the venture is shelved.

Lewis Hou's results uphold creativity being alienated from planning, organisation and social inhibition. Many renowned works identify the authors as putting themselves on the spot, unconcerned by disapproval. Consciously or subconsciously? Probably the latter in most cases.

Having read Angela's blog and analysed my own approach, two things occur to me. Firstly, it seems I really can't help not being a planner once the creative juices have commenced their flow. Secondly, I reject some subconscious ideas because I don't want disapproval - strong conscious thought at play here.

The question is, can I use this knowledge to beneficial conscious effect?  And will it result in a best seller?


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