Saturday, 15 March 2014

Take Over: Lisa D. Smith

Fairy Princess. Nurse. Fashion Designer. Writer.

When I was 9 years old, I remember my dad asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. They were my answers. Unfortunately, fairy princess was a no go from the start. The fact I can't even get a papercut without passing out ruled out being a nurse and my lack of any imagination when it comes to clothes wiped out being a fashion designer. And I very quickly forgot about those dreams.

Being a writer, however, was something that the older I got, the more I wanted it. Growing up I would fill pages and pages with short stories, and notes for full length novels. But then the older I did get, the more I seemed to struggle. In my early twenties, I took a creative writing course, hoping that would give me a boost. After completing it, I gained confidence, and sat down at the computer, tapping away at the keyboard for a few hours. Then I hit a wall, and nothing came to me. I had my characters, but for some reason the story just disappeared. That continued every time I sat down and tried to write anything. A story would come to me, I would sit down, outline everything - characters, plot lines, research - but then I would start to write it out and that wall would come up and I would stare at a blank screen for hours.

Writers Block is a very tabboo subject. Many writers will say it doesnt exist and that all you need is a break, something to boost your confidence, read a book to find inspiration... I tried it all, for years. Nothing worked for me. It was frustrating, confidence shattering, and upsetting to think that the one thing I really wanted to do in life was liekly to never happen. I remember reading a quote one day that said if a writer suffered writers block for more than a few years they should just give up. By that time it had been affecting me for about 7 years.

Last year I stumbled across a site called NaNoWriMo. It piqued my interest, and I wanted to try it out, but the site encourages you to write a novel in a month, and that month was November. I signed up in June and almost forgot about it. In October, a pep talk from a couple of authors encouraged me to go for it, and my head was full of NaNo and ideas. The joys of technology today mean I didn't need to carry around a pen and paper to jot down everything that popped into my head, and I installed a notepad app on my phone that quickly filled up.

NaNoWriMo is a website that is free to sign to and to participate in. It is full of forums to chat to other authors, and encouraging tools to help you write a 50,000 word novel in a month. There are many calenders available that give you a word count target to hit daily to keep you on track, and every day you write, you can update your word count target on the website and see a graph that lets you see how close you are to the end goal. It is a confidence booster, and a bit of a rush to watch the graph rise and see how close you are to hitting that target.

I won't lie and say it was easy, there were days I struggled when I sat down to write, and would draw a blank, or wonder how I would hit the days target, but with the forums full of encouraging fellow writers, and a Facebook page with people going through the same thing, I managed to get through it. The day I hit my target was fantastic, and even better was a few days later when I typed the final words of my first novel. The feeling of accomplishment and self pride is something I couldn't possibly put in to words. Even more so when you get to claim some of the NaNo winners prizes from some great companies, and a few months later, I was holding a proof copy of my very first NaNo novel in my hands.

That book has now been released, and I am currently working on two more novels. I also recently found out that as well as NaNoWriMo in November, there is a Camp NaNo which starts in April! I have already signed myself up and look forward to participating in both this year.

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