Last of the NaNo Prep


It’s October 31, less than five hours ’til the clock ticks over into November 1, and my NaNo prep is almost complete!

The photo you can see up there is of my desks ready for me to start writing. The only thing that isn’t there normally is my story bible – that would be the little black Filofax with the blue pen you can hardly see. Oh, and the Lindt chocolates, aka the things I get one of for every five pages written.

The books are:

The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg. This goes a step further from listing names and comments, and groups them together under categories like Surfer 60’s, African-American, Bell Tones, New Classics. My favourite naming resource, which is why I broke down in paranoia over my first edition’s scruffy and very well-used look and bought a fat new updated third edition copy.

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, by Sally Hogshead. This is an interesting book in its own right, but I keep it on the shelf as a quick reminder not to get too carried away with abstract stuff – one of my worst habits. The seven triggers (trust, alarm, mystique, power, vice, lust, prestige) basically bounce off the ‘keep it simple’ and ‘keep it primal’ writing advices I’ve seen so often, and the idea of being able to reach into a reader’s head and tap into something integral to the human experience is a powerful one for me.

The New Baby Name Survey, by Bruce Lansky. An interesting new take on the usual baby name book – this is the end result of research into what people think of different names… so if you’re ever curious about what people might think of your Cara or Oliver, this is one book to check out. But! As an added bonus, the impressions listed for the name are pretty much little character profiles. I admit I’ve raided this for a minor character or two…

Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Dr Linda Edelstein. You can pull this out for info on the stages of childhood, the different kinds of families, the common personality traits shared by people in the same profession, mental disorders, listing of different crimes and traits associated with them, character types, etc. It’s not perfect, but it can really help when you’re trying to figure out why your SMC decided to forge new identities and other un-fun papers for a living.

The other two books are an unusually descriptive thesaurus which is worth way more than the $5 I bought it for, and a Lonely Planet Czech phrasebook and dictionary… you wouldn’t believe how useful that thing is.

As for my computer, I’ve installed f.lux, a program which adjusts the lighting of your computer screen to make it easier on your eyes and brain (great for any purpose, not just late night/early morning typing). I’ll also be using OpenOffice for my writing – as awesome as other programs (yWriter, Scrivener) are, this is the one I end up going back to. It’s basically a Word clone, but no one price-gouges you for it (I miss Word, but the last time I bought it, it cost $160… and it could only be installed three times. How does that even make sense?!).

My NaNo playlist is a weird nice mash of Lindsey Stirling, Velcra, Serge Gainsbourg, Gods of the Underworld, Ice Ages, and A Perfect Circle, with Igorrr and Natalia Kills thrown in for good measure. And if that wasn’t enough (it totals 43 songs), I’ve also installed the Coffitivity app on my iPod. Productive noise! I wish Paris Paradise was available on the app, though…

Tonight’s perfume will be BPAL‘s Black Moon: a nice perfume with pungent florals and gentle background notes… oh, and most importantly, I cleaned and revamped my room. Not exactly thrilling, but it beats having it bug me all November.

And that’s my stuff for NaNo. The story bible gets its own post, because I have things to say about paring back a world, and the unsuitability of using 11″ ring binders for it. (Other things 11″ binders are not good at: KEEPING FINGERTIPS INTACT).

So, if you’ve actually managed to make it through my pre-NaNo ramblings, is there anything special you do or use for NaNo – a new pen, writing playlist, sleeping pills to keep the husband and kids out while you write (okay, maybe not the last one)…



This Year’s NaNo Plans

The National Novel Writing Month – 50000 words in 30 days. This is a writing challenge I’ve participated in (almost) every year since 2006. Never won, but… to be honest? It’s the energy, the community, and especially it’s the fun and pushing myself to see how far I can go and when the event is over, looking back at what I’ve written and feeling amazed because hey, this is actually pretty darn good that keeps me doing NaNo.

Okay, that’s a lot of ands, but I’ve never been the best at explaining how I feel about something.

Getting back to the point – I’ve picked up a bad habit over the years of only cottoning on to the fact that yes, NaNo is November and November is soon, in the last week or so of October. In one way, it’s a canny unconscious ploy to keep me from getting bored from with my idea and switching over and over (a huge problem), but in another… yeah.

This year’s a bit simpler for me.

I’ve had this world stuck in my head since 2011, and five years of it churning around, occasionally being written, changed, revised, and just plain coming together as a thing, pretty much means I’m beyond obsessive really dedicated stuck with this until I give it a home on paper. Which I’m happy to do.

Thing is, it’s not a novel… it’s kind of confusing what it is. Every time I write something set in this world, it’s like part of a serial. Flash fictions, all tying in together and hinting to other flash fictions… and I really want to see what this all looks like, strung together.

So a tiny piece of that is what I’ll be working on for NaNo. That tiny piece is the Dead Town Chronicles – mostly because the town itself is the only real constant in this particular part of the vaguely-defined timeline (five years and… you know? I am the world’s slowest planner. But hey, by 2050, I might actually have a name for this thing!). So my biggest problems with that are – pretty obviously – I need to consolidate my ‘facts’, and figure out what I don’t know.

That means it’s story bible time!

And writing a story bible is terrifying. Which is probably why I, uh, haven’t actually started mine yet. I have spent so long fiddling with this world that now I’ve got it pared back and identified what I need to know… the act of putting this thing that has existed and percolated in my mind for so long, down on actual, physical paper is – yeah, I’d better update my diary first, while I’m still in the mood. Fetch a Pepsi Max. Glue more writing prompts onto my pink pages. Daydream. Listen to the NoSleep or Russian Rulers History podcasts, check my inbox and online shopping orders, wait until I’ve got character portraits to add to their pages, oh, anything.

Most tellingly of all, the excuse of ‘I’m too tired/nervous/bored/want to do something else, better wait ’til I’m in the mood’… because then I won’t screw it up any more than I normally would. Perfectionism, the perfect cure for which is… just get on with it.

Did I mention that writing a blog post is also procrastination? And amazing motivation, too… I have these problems, and now people can see them. It’s a weird accountability thing I’ve had for as long as I remember. So, more on the story bible and the rest of my NaNo prep later… when they’re all nice and developing!

I’m Back, with a Flood!

After… what, six or seven months? It wasn’t supposed to be that long, believe me – but now I am settled in my new home, with my new Internet connection, and my new screen…and my new anti-virus software.

And now for a new renter’s pro tip: Never. Trust. Fresh. Paint. It hides a multitude of sins, all of them apparently perfectly calculated to start showing a couple of weeks after your first inspection.

On the upside: best. Location. Ever. Also, very handily out of range of the flood.


That was taken on the second day and shows only one small part of it. And please keep in mind, when I moved here five months before taking this picture, the river was a lovely pool on one side of the bridge.

(Yes, that is a tyre just behind the railing there. It started out at the dry bottom of the river and rose with the flood – then it was just stuck there, bobbing around but not actually going anywhere until the river went down).

That first day though, it’s really weird to walk down the street Thursday, and when you go for a second walk on Friday – the bridge is underwater. The park is underwater. The bus stop is underwater! And the flood is doing its damnedest to swamp the abandoned house on the main street. (Spoiler: it didn’t. But the weeds choking the backyard were unhappy for a while).


This was also taken early on – I don’t know who this guy is or what he was doing zipping and drifting around out there (testing the current, possibly? It was pretty strong), and I feel kind of guilty posting it, but this was pretty awesome.

A lot of things came out with the flood – galahs, mosquitos, a small flock of cockatoos that kept me entertained for a while trying to get pictures of them (they were really having a ball flying from tree to tree and calling to each other), a couple of lost-seeming magpies, and a guy who had a little drone flying around, maybe taking readings or just spying out the river – the area he was standing in was completely underwater the next day. Oh, and frogs.

Lots and lots of frogs.

At night, you could hear them all up and down the river – and I’m not exactly close, like a few blocks off – croaking and calling for mates. Some of them close to town didn’t even stop during the day. Beautiful chorus.

They dropped off with the flood and the rains, though… but they’re back now. The river’s flooded a bit again, so it’s the long way round into town now. Chinese wouldn’t have been ordered last night if I’d known.

Yeah! And we have a Chinese restaurant here too! I would’ve taken photos of my food last night if I wasn’t so busy enjoying it…

Also, NaNo is coming up soon… in 22 days o.O I need to get my prep on!

Already Behind on Day Five

Day One of Camp was a roaring success, and I will be posting that soon.

Day Two? Eh, not really… I wrote a bit, a part of a larger whole, but had to let it go. The idea’s very clear to me, but where I began it feels wrong. It’s basically jamming up my creativity, because I’m not sure where to go after the little Part 1, or how to express it without being clichéd. All I know is, we’re looking at short story territory doing it like this, and I want to keep it at flash fic – just don’t feel like wrangling a short story out of myself.

Day Three, medication making me tired (seeing my doctor about getting me off it) and was waiting, as I was to help paint. That happened finally on Day Four, and a little after that, a whole cluster of the sinews in my knee up and decided to migrate, before being clicked back into place. It really hurt, and my knee’s still painful and stiff from it.

Oh, and then there’s been all the packing. I’m nearly done on that, thank god.

The good thing is that with my knee complaining, I need to rest up. Good thing about this? It’s perfect for catching up!

(It probably doesn’t help that I walked halfway across town to get my Chic Sparrow parcel today. Hey, a girl’s got priorities. So here are my lovely new two-pen holder and my beautiful burgundy Mr Darcy Deluxe:

mrdd 002

You can’t really see my name on the bottom left corner, but it’s there 🙂 )

Camp NaNo Survival Kit

campnano 001


A biscuit tin of mixed-up prompts, for those times when inspiration fails.

Favourites chocolates, one for every 500 words (even if I set them aside and eat them later).

Two notebooks from the lovely PetalsPrintShop; the ones you can see are my spares.

Pen refills, because of course.

Uniball Jetstream with a 1.0 thickness; my favourite gel pen, and being black and thicker than I usually like them, it will stand out well on the coloured pages.

Ultraviolet, by the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab; its description has it at, ‘Electrifying, mechanized and chilly – the scent of crushed blooms strewn on cold metal. Lush violet and neroli spiked hard with eucalyptus and a sliver of mint.’. My personal review has it down as ‘a cold, razor-sharp scent with a dominant eucalyptus note’. Either way, this is one of my absolute favourites, and isn’t too bitey to distract me. (And you should really check out BPAL. Their scents are just wonderful).

The beautiful Walleedori from Hunkeedori, newly arrived and fully prepared! I bought this one expressly for NaNo and Camp NaNo, and the usefulness of Walleedoris really can’t be overstated: they have a zipper pocket in front and a file pocket at the back. Here’s an inside look:

hunkeedori 002

Isn’t it gorgeous? The card holders hold my storyboarding cards (I’m a fan of the three-act structure, and I sometimes do additional cards on setting, character and plot/subplot, so this is perfect.

Not Pictured

My Camp NaNo playlist, since I used my iPod to take the photo. Suffice to say, it has a weird mix of Lindsey Stirling, Giallos Flame, Psychemagik and Serge Gainsbourg… most of which I’ve only just discovered!

Pride and Prejudice, since I didn’t think to add it in. Reading as much of it as I like is my reward for finishing a story. This isn’t the kind of book I anywhere near usually read, but I’m really enjoying it (37% of the way through, according to my Kindle). The writing is lively, the dialogue makes me laugh with its wittiness, and it makes me curious about the time the author lived in. The way people act, some of the attitudes they all seem to hold – the superiority or inferiority of one’s connections being so important, the amiableness of women, marriage as a social and economic contract… at one point, wedding arrangements are described as ‘love-making’. It’s fascinating, and I can appreciate that Jane Austen isn’t afraid to lance her own characters.

My storyboarding cards, because if you need to plan something, you need to plan something.

My Dead Town Chronicles/Through the Ravening (dear god, I need to give that world a single unifying name) stuff. Because all DTC/TR stories are going in some lovely notebooks from BookfellStudio, which will themselves be in a gorgeous burgundy Mr Darcy Deluxe from Chic Sparrow, this is kind of a must for Camp. I just can’t shake this world from my imagination, and I can’t wait for my items to arrive!

Basic Chicken Noodle Soup

In honour of Camp – because I don’t know about you, but I tend not to cook anything overly complicated when there’s writing to be done – here is this easy, highly variable recipe:

Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 250g packet rice noodles
  • 2 cups liquid chicken stock
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • spring onion
  • baby spinach leaves
  • pepper


  1. Chop spring onion, however much you like, and tear up the baby spinach leaves – but not too much. Put to one side.
  2. Break off 1/4 of the rice noodles and put them in a bowl or container with enough boiling water to cover them. Cover the bowl. You’ll keep it like this for five to ten minutes.
  3. Put chicken stock and creamed corn in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir occasionally, and when it bubbles, turn the heat down.
  4. When your five to ten minutes are up, drain rice noodles and rinse them with cold water. Toss them a bit to help with draining, then put them in the chicken/corn mix.
  5. Add spring onion, baby spinach leaves, and pepper to taste. Stir to share the peppery goodness. Cook a little longer, until…
  6. It’s ready to serve!


To be honest: I created this quick little noodle soup from ingredients I usually have at hand and a few nearly-out-of-date items, which I like to think excuses the simplicity of the recipe (and let’s face it, baby spinach leaves and spring onions are kind of a weird mix in a soup).

But. As I said before, this is highly variable. Normal corn instead of creamed, actual onion instead of spring onion. Different types of noodles. Different herbs and spices and combinations of them. Added vegetables (never a bad idea). You get my drift. This is just a base and basic recipe: the best part is in experimenting…

Time for Camp!

This month has swamped me with various things – mostly to do with moving, appointments, and medication changes leaving me drained – but the best so far is this:

Camp NaNoWriMo.

You have 30 days to write a certain number of words – your own choice, or the traditional 50000 – on a project of your choosing. It doesn’t have to be a novel, it can be short stories, a script, a graphic novel… you get the idea.

This time round, I’m going for flash fiction.

I joined a lovely cabin and our goal is for one flash fic per day: we even have a forum! Which is a great idea, since we can post our work and comment on others’ – something I’m very much looking forward to doing. (Well-written flash fiction is a joy to read, but they’re not something I read often… unless you count listening to podcasts, anyway).

As far as prep goes, it’s the 26th, and I am kind of hoping that knowing what needs to be in my survival kit counts? Fingers crossed. Here’s what I’ve got (or rather, mostly don’t have yet):

  • Pens: A nice black Uniball Jetstream, with refills off ebay. Despite my love of thin lines, I went for the 1.0 rather than 0.7 – I own both, and the 0.7 has flow problems and is too thin to be effective on the coloured paper I have.
  • Notebooks: Got these from a wonderful store on etsy, PetalsPrintShop, which lets you choose paper size, thickness, colour, and you can upgrade to a patterned cover for AU$1.00 – $1.25 if you want it laminated. I also ordered in some gorgeous inserts from BookfellStudio for my Dead Town Chronicles/Through the Ravening work – it’s a world I’ve been writing in since 2011, so it deserves its own stuff.
  • Cover/s: I ordered a Walleedori from Hunkeedori to hold my notebooks. These are gorgeous, and so well made! (I have one I use as a wallet, diary and financial planner and am never without). Also, I got a nice Mr Darcy Deluxe in Burgundy from Chic Sparrow, purely to house my DTC/TR (I really need to give that world a unifying name). I can’t wait for them to arrive.
  • Prompts: I have a decorative, oblong biscuit tin full of these. Titles, quotes, snippets of lyrics and poems, emotions, phrases, character types, and various odd prompts I’ve stolen from different places over the years… they’re all in there. There’s no way I can possibly run out of inspiration.
  • Perfume: Call me crazy, but I like to pick a perfume for the month. In the past, I’ve used Black Tower, which weirdly reminded me of the burned atmosphere of my futuristic city, and 51, which is light, wacky and complex with a streak of more sombre notes. It thoroughly suited my FMC. As for this month? Eh, I’m thinking about it, but it’ll definitely be something from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. I love that place.
  • Playlist: Twelve songs in total, ranging from songs I can write to without getting distracted, to songs that give me vivid mental images or story or setting ideas. Mostly Lindsey Stirling, Giallos Flame, Psychemagik and Serge Gainsbourg.
  • Treats: Vanilla Coke and Easter chocolates!

So that’s that…

Is anyone else doing Camp NaNo this April? And if you are, how’s your prep coming along?