Books, Critical analysis and reviews, Writing

It’s been a while: NaNoWriMo 2021 and tackling my “to-read pile”…

Feck, it’s been a year since I last updated the blog. So, here’s what happened with my NaNoWriMo 2020 novel, what I’m up to for NaNo this month, plus a new challenge I’m setting for myself. Here we go…

I hated that story

I hated what I wrote and never went back to the story after I passed 50,000 words and “won” National Novel Writing Month 2020.

BUT wait!

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year and I’m not hating it this time round.

I’m just over 37,000 words in as of today and happy so far with the draft. Now, I might have seemed positive last year, but here’s the thing: last year’s story wasn’t dear to my heart.

Sunder is an idea I’ve been working on in terms of world building and planning since around 2018, maybe even earlier. I chose this year’s NaNoWriMo to give me the space and motivation to finally make a start on it. I can say even now that once I pass 50,000 words I will still have a ways to go, and that’s fine.

It will need editing but I’m enjoying this story and am positive that for me this will be the first NaNo story of mine I love. (My previous-previous win was in 2013 and again I hated what I wrote, but again it wasn’t a story close to my heart (or imagination) so here’s to hoping third time’s the charm.)

Anyway, all this talk of writing takes me to my next point…

112 books (and counting)

In October this year, my partner and I had a big sort out in our house over the course of a week. There were twelve trips to our local household waste and recycling centre and several more to a local charity shop.

During all this, I checked through my physical book collection and gave a bunch away to charity (though not as many as I did back in the start of 2019).

Anyway, this evening I was itching to fully catalogue the number of physical and digital books that are on my “to read pile”.

And it’s a lot, a 112 books a lot and those are the ones I can find.

Which means I think it’s only fair that I set myself a reading challenge that goes beyond something like whatever you find on Goodreads.

My to-read pile challenge

The challenge is simple, but I’m setting up some parameters that go a bit beyond “read the damn books”:

  1. I may only read books for fun that can be found on my to-read list or my currently reading list, the exception is re-reading previous books in a series in order to understand WTF is going on.
  2. I’m still allowed to take out and read books physically or digitally from my local library.
  3. I may not buy any new physical or digital books until I at least reach 50 books or fewer on the list.
  4. However, I am allowed to be gifted books or win them through competitions but these must go on my to-read list.
  5. I am allowed to give up reading a book if it’s not managed to hold my interest after I’ve attempted to read at least a third of it.
  6. I’m still allowed to read fanfic (though I will be reading with the knowledge that I have over 100 published books I could be reading).
  7. If I don’t want to keep a book after reading it, I should donate it to someone or a charity shop.
  8. I should write about the book on here once I’ve read it, and say how I got on, would I recommend it, and so on (post format yet to be decided).
  9. None of the above applies to books relevant to my role as a senior writer and editor that I need to read to help me stay skilled up for my job.
  10. All of the above is subject to change if I find this to be a completely terrible experience.

But let’s hope number 10 doesn’t come to be.

I’m using The StoryGraph to track my progress

Yeah, I’ve been using Goodreads for a hella long time but you know what? Amazon doesn’t deserve any more involvement in my challenge here than the few titles I’ll be reading via my Kindle.

So, I’m going with The StoryGraph to keep an eye on things. Two of the key reasons for this choice (other than feck Amazon) is that it’s “independent and black owned”.

If you want to add me on there: I’m emkingma.

I’ve also taken my annual reading goal over to The StoryGraph, and I’m hoping by tackling some of my currently reading, I can reach 10/10 for 2021. Currently, I’m at 8/10.

Should I actually find myself really liking The StoryGraph, I’m hoping to take advantage of their plus plan.

It’s late

I have been wanting to write the challenge part of this update for a while, and with no Nerds Assemble recording this week and cataloguing my books instead, I decided tonight was the night to brain dump this and run.

G’night and thanks for reading.


Resisting the urge to go back

Working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month, I am constantly resisting the urge to go back and start rewriting. That’s not the point of NaNoWriMo at this point, or any point in writing when you’re creating the first draft.

And so, even though I know that what I’ve written needs a lot of work, I am pressing forwards nearly every day and getting my words in.

I think knowing how much reworking is needed is in part due to limited outlining before I started to write this story. For much of it, I have been feeling my way through it while writing, discovering scenarios as I write and then going with them.

I’m still closer to completing NaNoWriMo than I have been in previous years, and by a significant amount.

Should I have outlined more?

Perhaps? There’s certainly an ease to be found when you know precisely what it is that you’re intending to write. And it would make editing take less time in some ways.

At the same time, I’m coming up with ideas as I write that I wouldn’t have been considering them so deeply during outlining. The biggest thing I will have to watch out for is consistency for character names and places, and beats when I do edit.

Just over a week to go

I am pretty confident I will hit 50,000 words by the end of 30 November, but I don’t think I’ll have a complete story. I think I’ll likely have about another 15,000 words for the story to come to some kind of narrative conclusion before spending time rewriting and editing.

At least one advantage I’ve found of writing in Scrivener (even if it’s the older version) is that it has encouraged me to not get hung up on writing things chronologically. If I need to go back and add something, then I can, and slot it in where it needs to go.

Or in the case of the one bit that’s sitting outside parts I and II on the manuscript container, just leave it there until I can figure out where the hell it’s going to sit.

Either way, the ability to move around without having to worry about where things completely fit, and being able to drag and drop scenes, has made writing a lot more enjoyable than it would have been if I’d been using Microsoft Word or LibreOffice.

First day I didn’t do any writing (yeah, I’m blaming Supernatural)

Despite all my progress, there was one day I didn’t write this week: Thursday.

The build up to the Supernatural finale was just so intense that I couldn’t get in the right head space to write, which, more fool me, because I then spent Friday trying to get into the right head space to write. The entire Supernatural fandom has obsessed over the finale in a multitude of ways since Thursday, and it has been very distracting as I try to consider what the hell happened in it.

I think the answer here is to almost completely cut yourself off from fandom or pop culture Twitter during NaNoWriMo if a big fandom event is going on. Or, y’know, not invest a significant chunk of your life in a TV show.


Either way, there’s this hole in my writing for the whole thing and I won’t be getting these writing streak achievements:

The hole in my writing progress:

Currently, we’re planning on talking about the finale over on Nerds Assemble Podcast next week.

Anyway, until next time.


First 10,000 words written

I’m currently taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)…

Like the title of this post says, I’ve made it to to 10,000 words, in fact 10,132 words, which means I’m slightly over the goal expected for today.

As you might see from the stats below, there have been several days this week where I haven’t been able to make the expected count, but today I was able to catch up.At the very least over this weekend, I plan to meet the minimum word counts for each day. But I am hoping that I keep my energy up enough to go past it and build up a buffer.

Since I last posted a blog post about my story, I’ve changed the novel from first to third person, decided to write some of it from a second character’s POV and further refined the overall plot. So, I have a better idea of the raw materials I’m working with, though not necessarily what’s happening scene by scene.

Why change from first to third person?

There was just something not sitting right with me after the first 1900 or so words. Rather than delete what I’d written or waste time converting it (not the point of NaNoWriMo, where you’re just meant to write and leave editing to after), I decided to move on and change perspective while continuing the overall story.

I also did a small poll on Twitter and this is what I found: 

People prefer their horror in the third person. Aside from a few books I’ve gotten in the Abominable Book Club, most horror I’ve read over the years has been third of some degree. The same goes for most fiction and fanfic.

And as noted when I was talking this over with a few people on Twitter, while most romance and erotica these days is written in first person, I certainly can’t stand reading it from that POV. The few horror novels I have, also make it difficult.

The Dresden Files, which is essentially urban fantasy, does manage a reasonable first person perspective, but I still struggle to read those novels.

So, third it is with some second person working its way in here and there. Mainly because I don’t want you to trust the narrator.

Goals for the weekend?

By the end of Sunday, the aim is to 13,336 words written to keep on top of progress for reaching 50,000 by the end of November. The 2013 edition of NaNoWriMo was the last time I made it to 50,000 words in a month.

Perhaps the main threat to my productivity is having succumbed and downloaded TikTok, and made an account for it (after checking over its device permissions). And all I’ve done so far is make a TikTok about trying to make my writing goal for today:

See TikTok @emkingma

All it’s doing so far is making me feel nostalgic for Vine. Like, big time. The emphasis on big sound and music on TikTok is kinda off-putting as someone with sensory issues.

Anyway, good luck to all word hunting this month. May your muse be with you.


NaNoWriMo 2020: Writing in progress


In September, I realised that maybe, just maybe, I had the kernel of an idea for an original piece of fiction kicking about in my head.

(It certainly made a difference from the fanfic ideas I normally have kicking about.)

And what with the November lockdown for England now coming in, spending time writing seems like a good idea… like I’ve done the rest of this year.

Seven years since my last attempt

I haven’t successfully completed National Novel Writing Month since the 2013 edition (and I hated that story), but this year I decided that it was worth me giving it another go. Why? The idea from September was, as I envisioned it, actually NaNo sized.

So, I’m working on a supernatural horror novel, with the working title “Haunted” and today I managed to write my first 1,919 words. I’ve done minimal planning for the story, so will be feeling my way through it a bit. (Despite the title, this story has very little (read: nothing) to do with ghosts.)

No real outline

I’ve found that with a lot other writing I’ve done this year, outside of work, I’m just not outlining much. The 80,000+ words of fanfic I’ve written this year have seen me do very minimal planning. I just don’t know what what it is about this year, but outlines and I just aren’t getting along. I do actually prefer writing with outlines, but I haven’t been able to pull one together for some months. So, this story has no solid outline.

Though I am taking advantage of using Scrivener this time round, which does make it a lot easier to keep on track of my writing alongside ideas I come up with as I write (like locations, character names and descriptions).

Getting to 50,000 words

I’ve also taken Fridays off from work this month, using up holiday, to help make sure I can reach the expected 50,000 words that makes a story a NaNoWriMo story.

In order to get to 50,000 words in a month for NaNo, it’s normally suggested you write at least 1,667 words a day.

What’s the story about?

The story is about death personified and the lengths someone might go to in order to bring happiness to loved ones. It’s set in Cornwall and is far removed from the usual idylls that are used to portray my home.

I’ll have an actual summary when I have a clearer idea of what’s being written (the other side effect of not having an outline).

Am I going to try and get it published?

If I’m at least happy about the rough draft once it’s done, I will edit it and get it in front of people.

But I am not envisioning chasing a traditional publishing route for this story. I want to try something else instead. As I explained on a recent episode of Nerds Assemble, traditional publishing has been especially weird this year because of the pandemic.

What I’ll do in terms of getting it in front of people? Not Amazon, but I have an idea. I’m just not comfortable sharing the how with y’all right now.

That’s it for now

I’m hoping to post on here as a degree of accountability while I write. Maybe not every day, but at least a few times a week.


I never really stopped writing fiction

A laptop keyboard

I haven’t updated in a while, I get that. I’m not about to make any promises here about increasing my blogging output, but I thought I’d come here and tell you all a thing.

I have written a lot over the past three years

I’ve written almost a million words of fiction in the past 3 years. It wasn’t commercial fiction, it was and is fanfic/fanfiction.

A couple of things led to this, in no particular order…

  1. Becoming a fan of Supernatural in 2015
  2. Pulling out of National Novel Writing Month in 2014
  3. My grandmother dying in 2014
  4. Becoming part of Supernatural fandom culture in 2015
  5. Stress

Fanfic writing, an activity predominantly occupied by people society would identify as female (while individual fanfic writers may not), is something I’ve previously described to myself as junk food writing.

This I’ve come to realise as I adjust to a major life change this year (I started at a new company this year, first switch in almost 6 years), is an unfair assessment.

Writing fanfic is more like the writing equivalent of stew. It’s filling and warming, making you feel good on those days that you need something to help you feel good.

And the feedback you get for posting fanfic is mostly like really well made suet based dumplings. I say mostly, because there are still terrible dumplings (commenters) out there.

But I’m not just writing fanfic

February saw me reach just over 10,000 words on an original novel. I’m hoping to have a complete first draft by the end of the year.

But I don’t think I would be writing it now if I hadn’t had the reassurance of my regular fanfic readers (yes, I have fans) who have really enjoyed what I’ve written over the past few years, and who have confirmed that my writing in general is enjoyable to read. Writing can also be a really lonely process, but fanfic writing is in this nice place where it’s as lonely as you make it. So I’m using some occasional fanfic writing to reassure me that I do definitely have skill and ability as a fiction writer.

Oh, and I’m not writing the next 50 Shades that is definitely not my kind of thing when it comes to something I’m writing as commercial fiction.

What’s the novel about?

It’s a sort of urban fantasy, southern Gothic thing set in Cornwall. I don’t want to get into specifics here as of yet.

I will also have to extensively rewrite the first few chapters after switching from third person limited to first person. Joy.

Will you hit a million words of fanfic this year?

Quite possibly.