Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013 – be my guest, Catherine Z!

Catherine Zgouras is an English Language Teacher (ELT) who writes books for her profession and is presently trying to enter the world of children’s fiction. We first met through an on-line writing colony — — and now belong to the same closed, invitation-only, writing group on Facebook.

In Catherine’s words, this is what her novel-in-progress is about:

Ilda is a beautiful but very mean witch. She zaps everyone and anyone in sight. Somehow she manages to get stuck up a pole and becomes the star attraction of her town. Everyone refuses to bring her down because of all her past nasty deeds.  Her dog, Rottenbud, goes on an adventure to bring back Priscilla, their long-lost Siamese companion. On their return, they manage to get Ilda down from the pole, but has she changed for the better?

Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013: on your marks, get set, go!

Stepping into the unknown.

My hands are poised over the keyboard, the first sentence already in my head — not a proper sentence, some might say, as it doesn’t contain a verb, and, nightmare upon nightmare, it’s a flashback told in  second-person singular voice using the present tense. But this is the year for throwing the rulebook out of the window into the shrubbery at the bottom of my garden and going speculative.

You, in a glass case?

Possibly, those are the only five words I will disclose to anyone during the writing process — five words that will take at least 50,000 words to answer.

Are there any other NWW participants willing to share their trigger sentence, with the proviso that it need not stay as their opener in subsequent drafts.

Happy writing 🙂

For those who would still like to join in with NWW, you can find further info at

Novel Writing Winter (NWW) 2013: survival basics

We all have different approaches to writing. Some authors prepare detailed plot outlines prior to embarking on their novel. Others, like me, start with the characters, while only having a vague concept of the plot’s beginning, middle, and end.

The second approach is a more perilous path to follow as it risks the author walking into dead ends, but it can also prove a most exhilarating journey to place characters in situations of danger and conflict, and then allow them to take the lead and surprise you with their solutions.

Below, are a few pointers to help those participating in Novel Writing Winter to meet their goals.

  • Turn off the spell and grammar checker
  • Write the first page and keep going — don’t keep tweaking your opening paragraphs
  • Don’t obsess over the word count — just get the bare bones of the story down
  • Remind yourself daily it’s only the first draft — perfection not required
  • Avoid showing your work in progress to anyone, especially friends or family (trust your own judgement)
  • Only stop for research if you come up against a total blank wall
  • Remember to eat, sleep, exercise, wash, and not to turn into a total recluse
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers
  • Write the story you most want to tell and don’t try to second-guess the market
  • View the first draft in as relaxation, and the second draft as future work

I’d love to hear from other people about their approach to writing a novel, and any tips they have for thriving and surviving the process. 


Tanka #3: a brief guide to the 31-syllable poetic form


once crowned with a star
it glittered in the firelight
last year’s Christmas tree
dumped forgotten and homeless
its chocolate coins melted

Anyone else out there with a seasonal tanka in them, bursting to get out, if only they understood a little more about this poetic form?

Here are the absolute basics: a tanka is a five-line poem of 31 syllables shared 5-7-5-7-7, so it’s just a longer version of a haiku, which is three lines of 17 syllables shared 5-7-5. Lines 1 and 2 of the tanka usually represent a moment or thought in concrete terms. Line 3 is the pivot. Lines 4 and 5 are your reflection upon that moment or thought.

Sometimes I punctuate my tanka, but the one above called for me to leave it as bare and unadorned as the dead and abandoned tree. There is no hard and fast rule about punctuation.

For more on writing tanka, have a look at

There’s also a comprehensive history of tanka at 

Looking forward to seeing your compositions, and please do paste a link to them as a “comment” to this post.


And now for something completely unrelated to this post — today I received this message from WordPress:

Happy Anniversary!

You registered on 1 years ago!

Thanks for flying with us. Keep up the good blogging!




Novel Writing Winter (NWW): countdown to January 1, 2013


I hereby give notice of my New Year’s resolution for 2013

For further information, visit my new page, where I hope to encourage as many people to make the same resolution as me and join in with some hard work and fun, starting January 1 🙂