Camp NaNoWriMo,Writing Goals and “Big Magic”

The beginning of April brings with it several thoughts.

One, it’s April Fool’s, which means I could technically end this blog here and leave you all wondering about the title and what I’m thinking…

Except, you probably won’t wonder for long, and I’ve never been a fan of April Fool’s, given that I completely stink at pranking people. Aren’t you lucky?

little brother prank GIF-source
(This GIF made me laugh so much, I nearly wet myself.)

Moving on: the second thought is that Camp NaNoWriMo kicks off today, and I’m participating this month with a word goal of 25 000. I’m so excited, because the project I’m working on is the Beinn Draken series, which you may have read about here, here, and here.

Just in case you don’t want to hop back to those other posts (I don’t know why you wouldn’t, cos Beinn Draken is AWESOME! and there’s a really long excerpt in the last one), here’s the synopsis as created for my Camp Project:

The Thabulayi have been at war for generations when scientist Micara, creates a weapon that could have unforeseen catastrophic results. Before she can decide what to do with it, Micara is forced to flee her country, along with other rebel Thabulayi.

Aboard a merchant Misyer ship, a storm runs them aground and the Thabulayi and Misyers find themselves trapped on an island that is home to the Clachers.
Full of folklore, and superstition, and with the “dragon” about to emerge from his mountain, the Clachers want nothing to do with the strangers.

Except for Ceither, a young girl whose insatiable curiosity leads her to a friendship with Micara as they try to find a way to save the island from the imminent volcanic eruption.

The “novel” is made up of a series of short stories, spanning several generations from Micara and Ceither’s time, to the island’s present. It combines South African culture with Scottish, and I’m just so excited about it, that I might actually burst and shower you all with sparkly rainbow goo!


Which brings me to the third topic: writing goals and Big Magic. For those of you who don’t know, Big Magic is the title of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book for creatives.

For those who don’t know who Elizabeth Gilbert is, think Eat, Pray, Love. Or watch her give a TED talk on some of the ideas that she shares in Big Magic. Go ahead, I’ll wait

That’s pretty powerful stuff, right?

For those who don’t know, I’ve been struggling with depression since the beginning of 2017. I didn’t realise it though, because it’s a silent little bugger that sort of snuck up on me, and (in my case at least), it’s not a constant all-encompassing feeling of wanting to die.

That feeling sort of comes and goes, and it was only when I nearly drove myself casually off a bridge last year, that I realised I couldn’t do this alone. I reached out to friends, and I got help. Because the thing is, I don’t want to die. I have a lot of plans, and a lot of living still to do, and I am doing it. I’m doing what I love to do.

The latter half of 2017 was a recovery period. A time of reevaluating where I was in life, what I wanted to do, and just figuring out how to look after me. It ended with me accepting a writing job at the end of December, and now I get paid to write.

But the problem with that, was I started unconsciously buying into the tortured artist, martyred-for-my-art belief system that so many creatives have. Because I wasn’t being paid to write what I wanted to write. I felt like I wasn’t making a difference with my writing. 

While 2018 started off well, it slowly spiralled back into that pit of despair. The feeling of suffering to be able to do what I claimed to love was overwhelming. I lost myself to fatigue, and sadness and constant, draining complaints.

And then, last week, my very best friend who knows me well enough to know what I need, gifted me with a copy of Big Magic. I had goosebumps the entire time I was reading it, because not only was Gilbert telling me what I’d been doing, she made sense of why I was doing it.

Now, obviously, it’s not the only reason. I have some underlying physical health issues that I need to look at, and fix. But a large part of it was exactly that: buying into the stereotype of needing to suffer for my art. And losing my inspiration because of it. Losing my motivation, and the ability to do what I needed to do in order to succeed as an author. Which is to write every day and put myself out there.

At the beginning of 2018, I had a daily goal of writing my own stories for an hour each day. I haven’t been able to keep up with that because of the above mentioned fatigue and issues, but I have at least managed about five to ten minutes each day, even if it’s just the odd one-liner or scribbled thought. I’ve now revised that goal to be five minutes of writing daily. I don’t want to add guilt to my already overwhelmed emotional jar of feelings, so if I manage more, great! If not, well, at least I got a sentence or paragraph out of it.

On the other hand, Jozi Flash 2018 is underway and will be published in January 2019! At this point, assuming that all goes well with all the contributing authors, the final anthology will have 108 stories! Oh my gawd! We also have a theme (but I’m not saying what it is just yet, because surprise!), and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with everyone!

Overall, 2018 has been a productive year so far. I’ve set myself certain goals and deadlines (something I’ve never done before), and that’s really helped keep me focused on the end goal of making a success of my writing, and of Chasing Dreams Publishing.

What does that success mean to me? At this point in time, it just means finishing my stories and getting them published; helping others to showcase their work through Jozi Flash; and various other projects. Big Magic also reminded me that it also means having enough time and energy to focus on myself, because no one else can do what I do (well, they could but it wouldn’t have my special touch), and I deserve to be happy and excited doing what I love.

So do you.




Tuesday Editing Tips on a Wednesday – Because what’s a schedule for if not to be broken?*

*And also because I started writing a post about Deep Point of View for yesterday’s post and realised that it was going way deeper (haha) than I’d anticipated and I needed more time to do it justice, so … that will be next week’s post.

This week you get … wait for it … drumroll please

Accents in Dialogue – Points to Consider.

(Shout out to Nthato for asking this question on our writing group and saving my life giving me the idea.)

The Question:

How do you guys feel about writing accents?
Like the typical “German/Swede” who pronounces “th” as “da”.

The Answer:

When writing accent in dialogue, there are first three criteria to consider:
  1. Does it enhance characterisation? Would the character be diminished if they spoke without an accent, or with the accent indicated in dialogue tags instead of speech?
  2. Will it engross the reader in the story? If the accent can be pulled off in speech without jarring the reader out of the story, then by all means, include it.
  3. Does it develop plot? If the accent is essential to the plot – for example, a German character who speaks with an accent at home, but in a volatile situation loses the accent, giving clues to the reader about secrets they may be hiding, the accent should be included.
Once those criteria are met, you then need to determine the following:
  1. Length of the story. In shorter stories, accents can be easily pulled off because there’s less room for dialogue, and readers are less likely to be annoyed by “Da” written instead of “The”.
  2. Is there a way to indicate accent in speech, without writing words differently? For example, the shift of “th” to “da” is actually a lisp. It’s an accent only because it’s created by the home language pronouncing letters and sounds differently in the mouth. In another language, the muscles of the tongue and jaw instinctively form recognised patterns, changing the airflow around certain letters and creating what we hear as an accent.
  3. Can you indicate the accent by changing only certain words, instead of the entire dialogue? In the case of a German accent, it’s more easily recognised by changing “th” to an “s” and “w” to a “v” as in the case of “with” becoming “vis”. This is less likely to jar a reader out of the story as they struggle to pronounce the misspelled English words.
  4. Does changing the spelling of the English word to show an accent, create a word that means something else? In the case of “the” becoming “da”, you have the problem of “da” meaning other things. “Yes” in Russian, for one, and a colloquial expression for father in English for another.
  5. Does the character’s situation require an accent? I’ve met Germans who have only been speaking English for a year, and the only way to tell they’re not native English speakers, is because occasionally they’ll mix up a tense or use the right word, in a different context. Likewise with other languages. It depends on the person, and their ability to hear sounds and mimic accents.
  6. Are you stereotyping a character based on your perception of their accent? This is a hard one to avoid, because stereotypes are easy to fall into in order to create recognisable characters. One way to avoid this is to search for videos of native speakers talking in a second language, and see how they actually feel about using a different language, and what they may have struggled with.

Regardless of what you choose to do with your character’s speech, the most important thing is to remain consistent!

How do you feel about accents in dialogue? Do you include them? Do you have a question about writing/editing that you’d like me to answer in a Tuesday Editing Tips post? Post it in the comments below!

Editing Tips Tuesday – Things you never thought need editing, but probably do.*

*FRIENDLY WARNING: This post is mostly perfectionist nitpicking. Read at peril of your sensitive souls.

The general consensus by writers is that editing is a pain in the *bleep* and they’d rather not. Just … not.

I get it. Editing is hard. It requires concentration, knowledge, and a certain skill in understanding complicated concepts such as the English language (if you’re writing in English that is).

As humans, we’re prone to making mistakes. It’s normal, common and even endearing. (When I eat all the chocolate without sharing it, that’s a cute mistake right?)

Anyway … moving on.

Not everyone is an editor by default. Spelling and grammar aren’t necessarily important to you, and while I may not always understand it, I can accept it. Mostly. (Every now and then I have to resist the twitches that occur.)

That being said, I feel it’s important that as writers/editors on social media we become aware of some things. Since I’m also a know-it-all, I’ve made it my job to share these things with you. You’re welcome.

Hermione Know it all

Things you never thought need editing, but probably do:

  • Your website. If you have one, and you’re a writer, a poorly edited website doesn’t really give readers a lot of confidence in your ability to write. I’m not talking about the design – I’m talking about the content on your webpages. When you create it, update it, or if you’ve been around for years and learnt a whole bunch of writing tricks you now decide to implement on your site, make sure to run it past an editor. Whether it’s your inner editor, a friend, or a professional you hire, making sure your website content is edited is what will help you stand out to readers.
  • Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. For the most part, these sites are networking platforms where we get to let loose and have fun. It’s also where we get to reveal a little more of who we are to our followers. Again, if you’re posting a meme on one of these platforms as a writer/editor, make sure that words like you’re/your, they’re/their/there, and of/off are used in context, and that those sneaky apostrophes are in the right places. Mistakes slip in (I will admit that I’m slightly OTT about deleting posts if I can’t edit them to correct a typo – judge away; I do), but if you’ve downloaded a meme to share, run a quick check for errors in spelling. As a writer and editor, nothing irritates me more than a brilliant meme that’s ruined by a simple spelling error. I won’t share it. I won’t retweet it. I won’t like it.
  • Blog Posts. I’m a little bit more lenient here. It’s super easy to miss errors as you type up a post in a hurry in order to keep up with that hectic blogging schedule, and I have a ton of respect for people who succeed in regularly posting on their blogs. I barely manage to come up with posts according to the weekly schedule I’ve set myself, and you can just forget about it going out at a certain time. When I post it, you know I’ve generally just finished writing it. I’m not a planner, people! Still, it’s a blog. It has an edit function. If you spot a typo after you’ve hit “publish” please, my inner editor is begging you, please go and fix it! ESPECIALLY if you’re a writer/editor posting something about either of those topics.

Am I too much of a perfectionist? Yes! I’m trying to make this my career, dammit, and if I’m being a judgmental ass, it’s because I care about not twitching and those last two points make me twitchy. Very twitchy.


Disclaimer: I have mentioned before that I hold myself to extremely high standards, probably too much so. The tips above should be read with a pinch of salt, and recognition of the fact that I am aware that not everyone is as picky (or twitchy) as me. Nor do I expect you to be. I need people who aren’t to balance me out and remind me that the world does not revolve around correct spelling and grammar. Like these lovely people:

deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are


What do you think? IS it important to edit the sites I mentioned? Did I skip anything that you’ve discovered that you feel could use editing? Are you twitchy, or can you happily ignore mistakes?








Editing Tips Tuesday – NaNoWriMo is upon us, pack that editor away! TTT Post

Most of the time, editing is an essential aspect of writing. I often reiterate how important it is to develop a habit of editing your own work before expecting others to read it.

However, with NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow (I can cue the panic now, right?), it’s equally important to stop editing so that you can focus on writing.

Today, I’m linking up with The Broke and Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday Hallowe’en Special with ten tips that will put the fear of the writer into your inner editor!

Ten Tips to Frighten Your Inner Editor Away for NaNoWriMo

  1. Acknowledge that your draft can give ghouls nightmares. It needn’t be perfect, it needn’t be pretty. You just need to write it.
  2. Turn your screen to darkness. What you can’t see, may make your editor run screaming in horror, but it will stop you going back to edit. There are several apps that will allow you to do this. (See below list.)
  3. Make ghosts out of each day’s writing. Start each day with a blank document, or the very last line of the previous day’s words. You’ll stop editing what’s already written, and jump straight into writing.
  4. If your editor is shrieking in terror at a word or sentence, highlight/mark it in some way so you can edit it later.
  5. Turn your sentences to slow, rambling zombies. For this month you’re allowed to ramble pointlessly – while your editor hides in a corner whimpering.
  6. Remind yourself that your editor is a vampire – it sucks the creative life force out of your writer. Garlic won’t help, but hiding the red pens and delete button might.
  7. Join in the sprints. Learning to run away with your words will give you the tools you need to escape your vampiric editor.
  8. Stock up on apocalyptic survival supplies. If you have everything at hand while you write, you won’t need to scavenge for food, giving your editor time to sneak up on you.
  9. Rest often enough that you are confident in your ability to keep up the flow of words. When you’re tired, you can’t stop the editor taking control, and it wants to suck your words, not your blood.
  10. When all of the above fails, lock yourself in a room with nothing but pens and paper and write as if your life depends on it. With vampiric editors, ghoulish first drafts, and shuffling zombie sentences, it just might.

The following apps will help with writing in the dark:

BlindWrite – Set your topic, your timer and start writing. Once your time is up, the writing reappears, and you can copy it to a word document.

Earnest – Like BlindWrite, an online writing app, that basically disables backspace, highlight, delete, and turns your editor into a gibbering idiot.

ilys – A paid app that costs $11 monthly, it shows only the last letter you typed and only for a split second at a time. You get 3000 words for a trial run.

Write or Die – Can be used online, or you can purchase and download the app to use offline. Use typewriter mode to disable editing. Also really useful for those word sprint training sessions.

NaNoWriMo kicks off tomorrow! Are you ready?*

*This is a trick question, because how is anyone ever ready for the insanity that is 50 000 words in a month?!

Share your tips for NaNoWriMo in the comments! Do you edit? Do you escape the vampires? How do you feel about Hallowe’en? It’s a recent development in South Africa, but it seems to be catching on. 




Editing Tips Tuesday – Editing plot based on a synopsis + a free printable!

This week, I want to look at editing plot. Making assumptions (again), I’m looking at completed first drafts. This will apply to any form of writing that requires a plot – flash fiction, short stories and novels.

Once you have your completed first draft, you should be able to create a synopsis. This is if you haven’t done that in your planning process, because – hands up – not all of us are planners. If you already have a synopsis, I commend (and secretly envy) your planning skills.

Flash fiction may not necessarily require a synopsis – let’s face it, it’s redundant in stories that short. However, it’s still vitally important that the story have a plot.

What is a synopsis?

  • It is a summary of all the events in your story.
  • It introduces all the important characters in the order they appear in the story.
  • It describes the main actions they take or events that happen to them.
  • It’s a giant spoiler of the entire plot.

What isn’t a synopsis?

  • It is not the story itself.
  • It is not the interactions between characters.
  • It doesn’t provide POV details about the actions or events.
  • It doesn’t spoil the experience of reading the final story.

Now that you know what it is and isn’t, it’s time to take your completed story and create the synopsis. For each chapter, or scene if you’re working with a shorter story, write a couple of sentences about what happens.

Once you’ve got the whole story in your written synopsis, it’s time to summarise it into bullet points. (I like bullet points because they’re quick and easy to refer to.)

Once that’s done, you’ll want to go back to your first draft and as you read, check off the bullet points of your synopsis. If important plot points don’t appear in your novel, you’ll need to decide whether you want to include them or if the story works better without them. Likewise, if plot points appear in your story, but not in the synopsis, you’ll need to decide whether to keep them or take them out.

As you’re checking your list, make a note about whether the plot point gets tied up at the end of the story, or if it remains a loose end. Unless you’re writing a series, you’ll generally want to ensure all loose ends are tied up once the story is finished.

Remember that this doesn’t have to happen all at once. Take time to rest between tasks or chapters. If you’re not a planner, this can feel overwhelming, and it’s easy to lose interest if you don’t give yourself permission to take a break when you start feeling your attention wandering.

Below is a printable that you can complete as you work through your draft:

Plot Edits Sheet

Have you got a tried and true method of editing plot? Do you write your story synopsis before or after the first draft? 

Editing Tips Tuesday – Repetition and when it’s not unnecessarily repetitive.

Last week, we looked at dialogue and some common mistakes to look out for and how to correct them.

This week, we explore repetition, how to use it effectively, and when too much is just enough.

The general rule of thumb while writing is to avoid repetition and a lot of the time, an editor will try to replace it. However, there are instances where repetition is necessary and even effective.

Repetition is redundant if it doesn’t add any value to the sentence, tension or atmosphere.

For example:

Mary came to see me yesterday and she was so mad, she kept going on and on about how mad she was.


Nothing actually happens in this sentence except you find out that Mary is mad and the narrator doesn’t seem to like her much.

Repetition has value when it creates, adds to or leads to tension.

When we edit the above example, we give value to the repetition:

Mary came to see me yesterday. She was so mad, and she kept going on and on about how mad she was. I tried to get a word in edgewise, but her madness insinuated itself into my mind and the handle of the butcher’s knife I was using to cleave chops for dinner became my sole link to my own brand of madness.

If you find yourself asking questions about the events that will happen next, based on the repetition, then it’s doing its job effectively.

It can also have comedic value by highlighting irony:

It was tradition, Ma always said. Keep the tradition alive, even though no one in the family really believed in it anymore. Never mind that the tradition was wearing underpants on your head to call the rain. It was tradition, and that was the important thing.

It can be a journey from one “place” to another:

She started her life innocent. She ended her life innocent. But somewhere in the forgotten middle, she lost that innocence, and that loss became the story of her life.

Or it can set the tone:

It could take forever or no time at all really. The important thing was that it was time. Time was all that mattered, and if it took seconds, minutes, or hours, the time would still pass and people would still age and eventually, life would take its toll and they would die. Time enough for all of that, no matter how long it took.


Essentially, repetition is a technique that should ideally be used consciously, rather than from habit. It’s easy for a reader to pick up the difference between the two, and to become annoyed with the latter.

When you’re editing your story, make use of the Find feature available in most writing software to search for words you know you use a lot. EditMinion is also a useful tool to run your draft through a check for repetition by noticing frequently used words. It works best with longer sections of text.

How do you deal with repetition? Does it bug you? Do you reach for your thesaurus regularly? Do you even own a thesaurus?

Crafting Incredible Characters – An incredible resource from Kristen Kieffer at Well-Storied!

I had intended to post a downloadable character creation template today… But then I received an email from Kristen over at Well-Storied, and I knew I had to share it with you instead.

really love what Well-Storied stands for – creating and sharing brilliant resources for writers based on a “pay-what-you-can” principle.

I understand that writing for a living is a difficult process, that putting time and energy into creating resources that benefit others has to result in some sort of benefit for the creator. We can’t all be starving artists, and let’s face it – our muses tend to go on strike when they’re hangry.

But! I also believe quite strongly in the principle that money isn’t everything. It’s the principle I founded Chasing Dreams on, it’s the principle I live my life by, and even though I recognise the importance of an even exchange taking place – that exchange needn’t be based solely on money.

I downloaded the Crafting Incredible Characters resource without making a financial donation because I simply can’t afford to at this time. What I can afford to do, is to share it with you, tell you that it’s a gorgeous in-depth template for creating characters that fit the tips I posted on my TTT this week, and that I highly recommend downloading it if you’re taking part in Plotober and NaNoWriMo.

We all have amazing stories to tell – it’s what drives us to write – but more than that, we have the ability to support and encourage the people who help us tell them while sharing their own.

Let’s not waste it.