Tag: Writers Resources

The book is completed!

Reflections on the National Novel Writing Month.

On the 4th November, I published a post called The book! In the beginning. That post opened thus:

Well I’m underway!

Last Thursday, I announced that I had decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month.  Or NaNoWriMo as it is more familiarly known.

It’s clear that to achieve the goal of 50,000 words by the end of November, it must be all about writing; writing flat out.  Any distraction from writing will make it impossible to maintain the average of 1,670 words a day for 31 days!

So just warning you that as I publish each chunk of the book here on Learning from Dogs don’t expect anything like a polished result.  Given the miracle of actually completing the 50,000 words then December will be the time to edit, refine and polish.

Mind you, any feedback good, bad or indifferent would be fabulous to have from you.  OK, enough said, on with the show!

Well, unbelievably, I completed the initial draft of 55,976 words and in thirty minutes the last 718 words of that draft book will be published on Learning from Dogs.

Come the start of January comes the start of the editing and refining period, again ably assisted and supported by NaNoWriMo.

The wonderful support that so many readers and friends have shown me has been magnificent: thank you.  More than one person has encouraged me to both produce the final version and to self-publish.  Let’s see how things turn out.


The book Chapter Fourteen.

The book is completed; appropriately by Thanksgiving Day!

Yes, at 3pm yesterday, I wrote the last sentence of the epilogue: Back to the beginning. Sturdy followers will recall the prologue In the beginning published here on the 4th November.

Still can’t believe it, to be honest. A total of 53,412 words written in 27 days, or an average of 1,978 words a day.

Now the first thing that has to be said in bold: THIS IS THE FIRST DRAFT!  The professionals recommend taking at least two weeks off before starting the equal challenge of editing, refining and finishing.  There was another pep talk on the NaNoWriMo website that I would like to post here; it seems to illustrate the game of being a writer so well.

But before that, thank you to everyone who kept me going. It meant a great deal.


Dear Authors,

The Shining may be the best film ever made about being a writer—not because Jack Nicholson’s character went bonkers, but because he had the work ethic it takes to build a career. Sure, he just typed “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” thousands of times. But he worked every single day—even when the creative juices weren’t flowing.

I’ve never bought into the self-indulgent notion of writer’s block, a grown-up version of “The dog ate my homework.” The fact is that some people have nothing to say and will never be writers. But if you need inspiration, try perspiration. If you’re meant to write, you’ll write. Sure, we’re all stymied from time to time, struggling over how best to shape a character or how to bring a crucial scene to life. But the best way to confront such problems is to sit down and start typing. Things happen when you make them happen.

Sure, it’s gorgeous out, your friends are partying and there are errands that need to be run right now. Or there’s more research to do, or another urgent email that needs a response. There’s always an excuse not to write—but if you make a habit of grabbing excuses, you’ll never become a pro. Better to type up slop, throw it away, and start again the next morning, than to duck your daily battle with the keyboard.

There have been days when I just could not bring myself to sit down at the computer, but such days have been rare. More often, I may not feel like chaining myself to my desk, but I sit down and get to work, anyway. I’m a writer. This is my job. Often, I’ve wanted to quit but stuck to the mission… only to find, after many a barren hour, that I’d written something so good I asked myself the most satisfying question a writer can spit out: “Jeez, where did that come from?”

Many an aspiring writer is just in love with a glammed-up idea of being an author, but not enthused about the actual work. Well, the only way to learn to write is to write (and to write a lot). Sit down and get started. Even if you just type, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Writing is wretched, discouraging, physically unhealthy, infinitely frustrating work. And when it all comes together it’s utterly glorious.

In these last days of NaNoWriMo, get to work.


Ralph Peters is the author of 30 books, and has published extensively as a journalist and essayist. He pays the bills by writing.


Learning from Dogs

Chapter Fourteen

“Hallo, Jonathan, it’s Philip.”

“Philip, how are you?  Listen I heard about you and Maggie splitting up. I’m so sorry. Must all still be very raw in your life at the moment.”

“Yes it’s been hard. I’m very slowly coming to terms with all the implications of what will be a divorce in due course; without doubt.  Nonetheless, I think there’s a long way to go for me. At times it feels like more than I can handle.”

He paused, “To be honest, Jonathan, that’s why I’m calling you just now.  Over the last few weeks, going back over and over again about Maggie’s behaviour has been stirring up a whole pile of strange and often conflicting feelings.  I just wondered if there was any chance of us reversing roles; of me becoming your client?”

“Oh Philip, that’s a question I would much prefer you hadn’t asked.  Because fundamental to how a counsellor and a person adopt a counselling relationship is that they are not familiar to each other from previous times.  I’m really sorry but I have to decline your request.  It’s for your sake, you do understand.”

“Jonathan, guess I hadn’t considered that but it does make sense, even though I hate to admit it.  But there’s something about you, something about your, what’s the word you use, your mindfulness, that engages with me in a manner that previous counsellors have so lacked.  Is there any way that I could see you that was appropriate to our circumstances?”

There was quite a long pause.  It was clear that Jonathan was deep in thought.  Finally, he spoke, “Philip, the only way that it could happen is like this.  That is that you agree to let me be the judge of whether the counselling is working for you and that if I have the slightest question about that you will allow me to terminate the relationship, possibly at quite short notice.  Let me be clear.  If I decide that your best interests are not being served by me, then not only will I ask that we no longer meet but that you won’t do anything other than to gracefully accept that.  Plus, of course, you could no longer mentor me with regard to my own business plans.”

Philip had no doubt in his mind. “Jonathan, that’s completely understood and I give you my word that I would accept seeing you on that basis.  Plus our existing mentoring relationship is not continued.” He then added, “To be honest, we had covered most of what needed to be covered in terms of your own business anyway.”

“Philip, do you have a feel for when you would like to start coming to see me?”

“To be honest, Jonathan, not a clue just now.  Chances are that the house is going to be sold.  Then there’s the game of disposing of much of what’s in the house, finding rented accommodation, although that may have been sorted, then probably around May time, I’ll be going out to California for two or three weeks.”

“OK Philip, well just let your life run as smoothly as is possible in this difficult period and when you see the window opening in terms of coming to see me, something that will be very clear to you at that time, I don’t doubt, then give me a call and we can work out a schedule that is suitable for you and me.”

Came the following Saturday and Philip welcomed Jeremy Stanton who was accompanied by a Fulfords assessor, or so that’s what Philip gathered.  It was a dry morning so he walked Pharaoh around the garden two or three times before sitting on the bench in front of the house.  Not too long after, the Fulford duo came outside.

Jeremy came forward and spoke to him. “We’ve had a good look around and, frankly, we like what we see.  Yes, the floor area of the house is smaller than average but that comes down to the fact that it was once a barn, and that’s a huge plus. Nonetheless,it’s fully a three-bedroomed home with a nicely appointed kitchen and, of course, that wonderful living room area overlooking both the village in one direction and classic Devon countryside in the other.”

Jeremy turned towards his colleague. “Dick and I are of no doubt that your property should be listed at just a shade over five-hundred thousand pounds.  Was that in line with your own thoughts?”

“To be honest, Jeremy, I still can’t get my mind around how prices have risen in recent years.  How would a sale price in that region compare with other properties for sale in the village?”

“No question, we are pricing it a little higher than the few other properties for sale in Harberton.  But when you compare it to those others, your place is the genuine article, a real Devon stone barn converted into a good-looking home.  Then when you add good vehicle access, plenty of parking space on your property, a real scarcity in the village, no passing traffic, a very quiet location right on the edge of the village but just three minutes walk from the pub and the church then the price we have in mind is certainly not fairy-tale land.”

Philip and Jeremy kicked around a few other aspects of the house market, how Spring was just around the corner, and it was decided that Philip would come into Fulfords on the Tuesday to sign their agreement.

Later that Saturday afternoon, Philip wondered if he should brief Maggie, either directly or via her solicitor, about his likely intention to sell the barn. But just the thought of dealing with Maggie had his blood pressure rising and, thank goodness, while she had some of her money in the house, it was his name alone on the deeds.  He would do what he damn well wanted to do!

Thus on the Tuesday, a little after ten-thirty, Philip was poised, pen in hand, to sign the agreement for Fulfords to market Tristford Barn, Harberton, for the asking price of five-hundred-and-fifty thousand pounds. Fifteen minutes later it was done.  His home of the last eight years was for sale. Philip had requested that a For Sale sign not be put on the property; well not for the meantime.  There had also been discussion about the best way to handle viewings.  It seemed to make a good deal of sense for Philip to take Pharaoh for a walk, or out away from the barn, when Fulfords had someone who wanted to view the property, thus ensuring that Pharaoh wouldn’t be ‘speaking’ to strangers coming up the drive.  He would leave the barn neat and tidy, wood stove lit but closed down, flowers in the kitchen, and the rest.  He had already passed a spare set of house keys across to Jeremy at the time he signed the agreement.

Philip had no idea of the level of interest there would be in the barn. However, Jeremy had suggested that it was the sort of property that would attract quite a number of viewers in the early days; converted Devon barns didn’t come around that often, plus Harberton was a much sort-after village.

True to his prediction almost as soon as the sales particulars had been printed and distributed, appointments were coming in to view the barn. Philip did his best to leave the barn warm, with lights on, and as welcoming as he could make it.  Pharaoh was clearly puzzled at all this unusual activity yet didn’t complain about the walks he was offered, often at short notice.

He was out walking Pharaoh for just the reason of a viewing of the barn early in March.  It was a Thursday, Philip recalled, and he had taken Pharaoh to the beach at Torbay to allow him a dip in the waves, something Pharaoh never failed to enjoy.  He was just putting Pharaoh back on the leash when his mobile phone rang in his coat pocket.  It was Jeremy.

“Philip, good time to talk?”

“Yes, not too bad.  I’m over at the beach but can hear you pretty clearly.”

He signalled to Pharaoh to sit, pulled his coat collar closer around his neck.

“Well, I’m in my car parked in your driveway. I have just been showing a potential purchaser, a Mrs Fuller, Tristford Barn.  In fact it’s the second time I have shown her around. No question, she loves your place.  She’s single, no home to sell, has the cash, will pay the asking price but here’s the rub; she wants to be in by the end of April.”

Philip had sunk to his knees, oblivious to the wetness of the sand, his free arm around Pharaoh’s shoulders.  Pharaoh was licking his ear.

“Bloody hell! Sorry Jeremy, didn’t mean to be coarse. Just a lot to take in.”

“Understood,” replied Jeremy. “but clearly it was right to call you straightaway.  Mrs Fuller is still in the house. I said I would try and call you. Presume you are happy to go with with this and to be frank Mrs Fuller is about an ideal a buyer for you that you’ll ever find.”

Philip confirmed his support for the offer and Jeremy rang off saying he would call later once Mrs Fuller had been in to the office to sign the various documents.

1,575 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover 

All change for November

“At that moment I must have lost my presence of mind.”

November's cause!
November’s cause!

A couple of years ago, in a fit of ‘all mouth and no trousers‘ I signed up to NaNoWriMo.  For the uninitiated that stands for National November Writing Month.

Why do I write ‘all mouth and no trousers‘?  Because in both the previous two Novembers I didn’t even think about writing a single word, let alone actually write a word.  OK, a year ago we were in the middle of settling down into our home here in Merlin.  But still ….

So this November, I have committed to have a go.  Or as the NaNoWriMo blog post explains:

NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

It’s just a few days until November, and you know what that means: National Novel Writing Month, better known ’round these parts as NaNoWriMo, is near.

Have you always wanted to write a novel?

We know some of you have been waiting all year for this month! For those of you who are new to this project, here’s the gist:

Who: You — whether you’re a seasoned novelist, novice writer, wannabe author, or a blogger up for a challenge.

What: A project in which you work toward a goal of writing a 50,000-word novel.

Where: On your laptop. At your desk. In your favorite café. Wherever inspiration strikes.

When: Kicking off this Friday, November 1, and ending at 11:59 pm on November 30.

Why: You’re creative and passionate about words. You’ve got a story to tell. You want to participate in a fun, rewarding project and push others to stretch their imaginations, too.

How: Sign up at NaNoWriMo.org, where you can plan your novel, track your progress, and join a community that offers support, encouragement, and advice — online and off.

So that means that for the month of November I shall have my head down for quite a fews hours each day in the self-imposed challenge of seeing if I can actually write a 50,000 word novel in one month! To put that into perspective, it’s the equivalent of 1,670 words every single day, seven days a week, for the thirty days of the month!

Ergo, the time for writing posts for Learning from Dogs is going to be very severely restricted!

In fact, it’s worse than that!  I’m going to be sharing my scribblings with you.

As the NaNoWriMo site goes on to suggest:

While the NaNoWriMo website is where you’ll capture the magic, we hope you’ll use your blog to post updates, test your material, and share tips:

Connect with other participants on WordPress.com. Be sure to follow NaNoWriMo in your Reader to read what others all over the world are writing and saying throughout the month.

Test material on your readers. While diving into a novel is a solitary journey, know that you’ve got a support network in your readership — they know your voice, so consider trying out material on your blog. Not sure if a scene is working? Post an excerpt.

Reflect on your writing process. If you don’t want to share your novel-in-progress or get too specific with your readers, that’s fine. But consider taking time in between your sessions to reflect on your process: roadblocks you’ve hit, questions about your craft, and advice for other participants.

“Share the lessons you learn about your writing — and yourself — through your NaNo journey,” says Kristi. Then, tag these posts with NaNoWriMo so others can find them. There’s already chatter in the Reader, so dive in: you’ll find resourceful and inspirational posts by bloggers like Kristen LambRachel PetersonCristian Mihai, and E.E. Blake.

My idea is to post completed chapters here on Learning from Dogs every couple of days or so.  Aiming for the foreword In the beginning to be posted here next Monday, the 4th. Then Chapter One, Chapter Two, and, just possibly, Chapter Three by the end of next week.  Tomorrow, November 1st, I will share my synopsis for my novel!

NaMoWriMo stress the importance of writing; writing; writing and not losing the impetus of getting those words out by dilly-dallying in constant editing; something that I am rather prone to do over what is now more than 1,850 posts since July, 2009!

Thus the writings posted on Learning from Dogs will have many obvious errors.  So what would be truly fantastic is to have your feedback, both good and bad, also highlighting crap writing and obvious mistakes, plus any ideas as to how the story might evolve. Because at this moment in time, I don’t have much of an idea.  Mind you, I bet I’m not alone.  The NaNoWriMo website shows there are 186,437 Novelists up for it this November!

During the intervening days, in other words non-sharing days, I’ll try and find something quick or humorous to post or, perhaps, repost something that has previously been published in this place.

So if all this doesn’t ‘rock your boat’, I’ll see you on December 1st!  Assuming there is some level of creative sanity left in me!

Have a good month, people!

Return of the voyager

My fellow author, Jon, returns from a long journey into the interior!

Fellow author, Jon.

If you look at the right-hand margin of Learning from Dogs, you will see that under the label Founding Authors there are two names!  Over the past months Jon, as many of you may have noticed, has been absent.  Indeed, Jon’s last Post on this Blog was on the 2nd January.

Jon’s absence has simply been the result of the total focus that was required to complete his Masters degree in Core Process Psychotherapy, thus adding another string to an already very professional bow.  That focus included the writing of an extremely challenging thesis, all 16,000 words, then the total re-write of that thesis!  That is now all behind Jon!

So from next week, Jon will be participating again on Learning from Dogs with his unique blend of professional and personal experiences.  Indeed, one might argue that the challenges that face our global society need, more than ever, the insight and wisdom of such people.  Am I biased?  Yes, deeply so!

In the early part of 2007 I drew heavily on Jon’s expertise as I tried to make sense of what, at the time, was a deeply traumatic period.  The testament to that relationship with Jon was a greater self-awareness and contentment than I had ever known and, subsequently in December 2007, me meeting Jeannie in Mexico and our ultimate marriage and new home in Payson, Arizona.  As outcomes go, it doesn’t get better than that!

Back to that last article from Jon.  In it he wrote,

Plus I did want to expand, just a touch, on what Paul wrote yesterday, more or less reflecting on an article by Leo Babauta.  In that post, Paul quoted Leo writing:

The thing I’ve learned, and it’s not some new truth but an old one that took me much too long to learn, is that if you learn to be content with who you are and where you are in life, it changes everything.

In a very real sense what Leo is saying is that if you don’t love yourself you can’t possibly ‘love’ the world around you.  Now this is incredibly easy to consider, too easy in fact, because the truth of loving oneself first is, for the vast majority of people, a complex, confusing and unclear journey, as in ‘self-journey’.  Read that quote from Leo again and see how he writes, ‘an old one [as in truth] that took me much too long to learn‘.

I’m sure when Leo writes ‘too long to learn‘ he is, in effect, acknowledging the very individual circumstances that lead to a person developing the awareness that is expressed in that quote ‘if you learn to be content with who you are and where you are in life, it changes everything‘.

So if 2011 is going to be a challenging year then hang on to the only rock in your life – yourself!  Embrace the reality that you, like all of us, do your best.  Be good and kind to you.

So if 2011 is going to be a challenging year then hang on to the only rock in your life – yourself!  Embrace the reality that you, like all of us, do your best.  Be good and kind to you.

So to each and every one of you reading this, be good and kind to you!

Welcome back Jon.

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes.

But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller