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It's November, So Break Out The Wine

My life changed in 2013.

That was the year I finally landed my dream job as a romance author, after what felt like a thousand years of dragging myself up the corporate ladder.

It was all thanks to Harlequin’s brilliant So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) competition, which landed me contracts for two of my books: Here Comes the Bridesmaid and The Contract.

At the time, I was writing in something of a vacuum. I was a shockingly inactive member of Romance Writers of America, was not a member of Romance Writers of Australia at all, I had never looked at a Harlequin community board, I had no critique partners, no beta readers, and a social media presence that can only be described as woeful – we’re talking nine Twitter followers (three of them family/close friends!) I had some major scrambling to do, to become as au fait with the writing world as all the other SYTYCW entrants, so I was on the computer a lot – and as October inched its way towards November, I kept seeing one mysterious word pop up: NaNoWriMo.

A little bit of investigating revealed that NaNoWriMo was, in fact, National Novel Writing Month, during which writers from all over the attempted to get 50,000 words on the page in thirty days. Yikes! No way could I ever do that!

At least that was what I thought.

And then November 2014 rolled around. By then, I had four books out in the world and two completed manuscripts in the pipeline, but I still wasn’t sure I had found ‘my’ way to write, other than knowing I was a panster* not a plotter**, and had an exasperating tendency to go back over and over and over the first 50 pages because the characters and plot changed every damn day.

Since it was time to start writing my seventh book, in a moment of unbridled derring-do, I decided to challenge myself to do that 50,000 words in 30 days thing to see if that was going to be my 'thing', and boldly registered my intent at the NaNoWriMo website.

And here is how it went down...

  • I surged out of the starting gates strongly and surely, because one thing I did know at least was how my hero and heroine were going to meet and what their overall conflict was going to be.

  • And then, midway through Chapter 2, I hit my first snag when it struck me that I was writing utter crap. This did not daunt me unduly, however, because I’d been told NaNoWriMo was all about getting the words down in November and fixing them in December, and so I soldiered on.

  • By the start of Chapter 5, I was growing quite alarmed at just how crappy the words I was getting on the page continued to be. This prompted me to open a bottle of red wine for medicinal purposes, even though it was only 12 noon.

  • Thankfully, I was buoyed, soon after, by wtiting the first hero/heroine kiss scene written, which turned out to be very, very hot. I took this as a sign that red wine was good for my creativity, and thereafter bottles of the stuff being opened at noon became nothing to remark upon.

  • However, several chapters further on, I found things veering so wackily off course, a return to the beginning for a steadying rewrite was unavoidable – a process that lost me thousands of words, and caused me to contemplate opening the wine at 10am.

  • Somehow, I limped along to 25,000 words – and then it hit me that Chapter 5’s very hot kiss had lulled me into a false sense of security. In fact, my hero and heroine had enjoyed that kiss so much, they had been racing off to have sex ever since, when they should have been talking and getting to know each other! Was this their fault, or was their creator simply being a coward and refusing to tackle the hard stuff? Whichever, I needed to get tough with them and force them out of bed. Down, down, down went my daily word count – because let’s face it, those heart-to-heart conversations are bloody hard to write and therefore time-consuming.

Sometimes you have to get tough with your characters!

  • Serious drinking of red wine then commenced, so the rest of the month is a bit of a blur – but I had a slightly better social media presence by that stage, and through an alcoholic haze I have vague memories of moaning to other NaNoWriMo sufferers via Facebook and Twitter, all of whom kindly reminded me I was not alone in my teeth-gnashing desperation, giving me the fortitude to continue

  • November 30 hit, and smewhat miraculously, I found myself with around 51,000 words – about 50,000 real (if crap) manuscript words, and a thousand words of extraneous commentary, such as: fix this bit, it’s crap; rewrite this bit, it’s crap; they have to talk more about this crap.

  • And on December 1, I made a solemn vow to my liver never, ever to put it through the NaNoWriMo torture again.

Fast forward to October 2015.

  • I’ve just finished what’s a pretty polished draft manuscript of my eighth book and have parked it for a month before doing a final edit.

  • I have an idea for my ninth book that is marinating in my head but not yet revealing itself in detail.

  • That NaNoWriMo word has been popping up all over the place as my fellow writers try to decide whether or not to give it a try.

  • It hits me that November 2014’s 50,000 words of crap, which somehow miraculously evolved into 66,000 words that are now almost unrecognisable in their awesomeness, is coming out on January 17, 2016 and I’m feeling very happy about that.

Well, what do you think guys? Say hello to my project for 2015, which involves a virgin heroine, twin guys, and a very strange arranged marriage…

So for the writers, are there any other NaNoWriMo participants out there? For the readers, is there any month of the year that drives you a little insane?

* Pantser – flying by the seat of my pants

** Plotter – getting the plot points and structure worked out before tapping the words ‘Chapter One’

And if you’re game to read my 2014 NaNoWriMo project, I promise you a no-crap, sexy, funny, emotional read in Escaping Mr Right!

Sometimes Mr Right is Mr Wrong, and Mr Wrong is definitely Mr Right . . .

Television reporter Chloe Masters is a woman of cool control . . . except when Casanova rugby league player Nick Savage is around. Then cool control goes out the window. Her boyfriend, Marcus, is everything she ever wanted - but it's getting harder to deny her body's reaction to Nick . . .

Nick Savage has been head-over-heels since he first laid eyes on Chloe - just a moment too late to stop her connecting with his team mate, Marcus. But when the goalposts shift and he and Chloe are thrown together on a week away, Nick dares her to get physical in whatever way she wants - with a kiss, a punch or anything in between. And if Chloe claims to feel nothing, he'll leave her alone for good.

How can Chloe say no to a week of mindless passion with the man she hasn't been able to get out of her head?

Trouble is, a lot can go wrong (or right) in a week . . .

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