Brewhaha Book Cafe

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Novel in November

NaNoWriMo is OVER!!!

And I did it!!! And it’s not even midnight yet. I’m so proud of myself (you know, for not writing the 50,000th word at 11:55). I completed 50,264 of The Funeral Ghoul and…well…21,590 of Believing in Magic. So not quite what I wanted to accomplish, but hey, I’ll take it! I’m hoping to complete them both before the end of the year.

I think one big difference this year from last year is that The Funeral Ghoul is actually moving along very well. There aren’t any huge plot changes needed (yet) and I know mostly where it’s headed (and as I warned Mez, it’s going to be heartbreaking) though the details are a little fuzzy. Can’t wait until I get there!

As for Believing in Magic, it’s harder for me simply because it’s not really moving. It will, I think, in a scene or two. The main problem is that I’m trying to convey how hard it would be for someone with social anxiety to be whisked of to a completely new world with new rules and new ways of doing things. Which means that I find myself describing how hard it is for her to find her new classroom by herself and how she hides in her room instead of having to face the horror of the mess hall…and so the story itself creeps by.

So there’s how my NaNoWriMo went! Let me know if you participated and how you did and what your plans are now! Happy December, everyone.

Novel in November Update: Day 15!

Greetings, Friends!

I don’t know about where you are, but here in West Berkshire, it is most definitely mid-November! The sky is Charlie Brown grey (if you’re a Peanuts aficionado, you know what I mean), my garden grass has disappeared beneath a blanket of brown leaves, and it’s proper chai-tea-sipping cold out!

But what’s more, we are HALFWAY through National Novel Writing Month!!

Are you finding your groove? Feeling stressed? We’re here to celebrate with you and to commiserate with your stress, so leave a comment & exult or vent all you like. Either way, I promise you, you’re not alone.

And that brings me to business: My own NaNoWriMo update (drum roll…..)

Learning curves + new publishing tools

In case you’re not up-to-speed with these updates, I (Mez) decided to use this November not to write a brand new manuscript, but to launch the novel I wrote last year for N in N.

It’s been a bumpy road with many a sharp learning curve, but…

I’m loving it!

Here’s where I’ve got up to so far this month:

  1. Completed developmental edit to smooth out story glitches
  2. Have been (& still am) working with a cover designer, & I’m SO excited about his concept drawings. One this is certain, this is going to be a beautiful book!
  3. Am just finishing up formatting the ebook & print versions to send them off to my Proofreader (last polish!!)
  4. I’ve gathered an awesome launch team & polled them on potential title options. The winner? Katie Watson and the Painter’s Plot. 

What I still need to do:

  1. Create an audiobook version (any tips? Please share below!!)
  2. ORDER print copies from IngramSpark
  3. Market, market & market some more!

**I’m always on the lookout for willing & able reviewers. Do you review Middle-Grade books? Please get in touch– I’d love to send you a copy!

Like I said, indie publishing is a new world for me, and I’m learning tons at a crash-course pace as I race to Launch Day (10 December). I couldn’t have got this far without a few tricks of the trade, so of course I’m going to let you in on these little secrets…

Trade secrets/ tools that have been game-changers for publishing your book:

Scrivener is my new best friend — how did I ever write without it?! If you’ve not tried it out, you can trial the software for FREE. But honestly, it’s the best $40 I’ve spent this year! is an awesome online publishing market where you can link up with vetted professionals (these people work for the big time publishing houses!) & hire them for your book — editors, cover designers, formatters, you name it!

Vellum is a book formatting software, and my goodness, it’s amazing! Formatting has been the one thing I’ve most dreaded. I’m not super techy, and I’ve heard this can take even experienced authors days upon days. But Vellum does all the hard work for you! It’s actually fun to use! Not exactly cheap, but definitely a good investment if you plan on publishing in ebook or print!

So there you have it! My November journey has been an exciting one. Watch this space — I’ll be sharing links to get your FREE ebook copy of my novel very very soon!

*And next week, more from Bri! I can’t wait to read her TWO Novels. I know she’s behind in one, & a lot behind in the other, but still, she’s written a TON of words which are sure to be brilliant!

Happy writing (or publishing!) this week!


Novel in November Update

It’s November 8th! How are all of you doing on your Novel in November going? On schedule? Is your book a mess or making it’s way in a logical way? Hopefully you aren’t looking at a blank page, but even if you are, don’t give up! Still 22 days left and you can get a lot down in that time. Let us know how you’re doing in the comments!

As for me, I am miraculously on schedule, meeting my personal goal of 2000 words for each of my stories a day. I may have had to have a bit of a marathon writing session yesterday to catch up, but I’m there. That’s 14,000 words each, totaling 28,000 words in 7 days.

What on earth do I usually do with my time??

Seriously, though, I’ve found if things are going well and I really focus, I can write about 3000 words in 90 minutes. But that’s only when things come easily! So it hasn’t been terribly hard to meet my goals.

The hard part is actually switching from story to story. I have two very different character and two very different tones in the story. Cassie is confident, couldn’t care less that the town has ostracized her, and makes fast friends with Billie. On the other hand, I’m channeling every bit of my social anxiety into Anni, poor girl. She’s terrified of strangers and new situations and she’s surrounded by both.

I’ve found what helps the most to make sure I’m writing the right character and tone with the right story is background music. For Cassie, it’s Evanescence while Anni gets Bethany Dillon. Click on the names for youtube vidoes of their music! They go very well with the tones of the stories.

So hopefully I can keep up with the schedule! Stay tuned for Mez’s update next Wednesday and good luck to everyone writing away this month.

Announcing Novel in November 2017!

It’s that time. Can you believe it?

Camp NaNoWriMo is next month!

Which means that right now, all across the globe, tens of thousands of aspiring & already successful authors are getting in gear to write 50,000 word draft of their novels in the 30 days of November!

Bri & I absolutely Love this time of year. Like so many of you out there, we have become Camp NaNo junkies & true believers in the magic that happens when you have add a strict deadline & a sense of camaraderie to writing your novel. In fact, we love it SO much, we started our own spinoff called Novel in November last year.

This year, for Novel in November, our aim is to help you not only win at Camp NaNo (winning, by the way, simply means completing the challenge, not competing against other writers) but to wind up with 50,000 words you can be proud of… maybe even 50,000 words that you can brush up & send off to agents, publishers, or publish yourself in December!

But to do that, you’re going to need to do some preparation over the next 20 days…

Now is the time to GET READY!

To help you get yourself geared up & ready for success, we’ve put together a list of some of the best NaNo advice out there — from writers we admire & some from our own experience. Don’t get overwhelmed! It’s all about the baby steps. Aim to follow these, one step at a time, over the next week.

  1. Get intentional! Bri’s article Where Do You Start? will help you literally set yourself, your schedule & your space up for success.

2. Capture your idea & LOVE IT! Here are some exercises to help you with that.

3. Outline your story’s plot. Trust us on this. If you want to save yourself grief during NaNo and produce a coherent story you won’t spend months editing, a little planning goes a long way.

Not sure how to structure a story? Here are some great resources:

Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn shares 7 tips for writing your novel, including how to use classic story structure. She also explains the Snowflake Method of building your story’s structure scene-by-scene. And so many more goodies besides!

Nick Stephenson of Your First 10K Readers is co-hosting a webinar on story structure this Saturday. I highly recommend signing up to his email list for more details!

If it’s books you’re looking for, here are the two we recommend & why.

Finally, if you’d like to join us on this journey, you can sign up for Novel in November & get emails with our top tips & updates!

Happy Prepping, everybody!

Mez & Bri






Mez’s Top 5 Takeaways from Novel in November

It’s December 2nd, and I’m trying to sort out what to do with my life now Novel in November is officially over. I’ve concluded it’s worth taking a couple of days before the holiday rush and the editing process to reflect on what I’ve learned through this amazing, rewarding & rather gruelling experience.

And here’s what I’ve pondered up: It’s a pretty wonderful thing being a writer, because nothing you do is ever a waste of time. You might feel that the draft you’ve just produced is going nowhere & you’d like to scrap the whole lot, & therefore that the process of writing a novel in a month has been a waste.

BUT, my personal opinion & experience is that the process of writing is what polishing you into the Writer of better books. So even if this project you’ve just finished is not what you hoped it would be, YOU are growing, and you are that much closer to the book that you want to write each and every time you sit down to attempt it.

There really is so much to be said for trying & failing, and trying again. You can read blogs & books all day long about how to write a novel, Dos & Don’ts and all of that, but ultimately it’s all head knowledge until you try the thing for yourself. That’s what makes all those little tips and craft come to life & suddenly become applicable.

In my case, this was my second attempt at a full novel, and the second one was SO much easier because of what I’d learned from doing the first (which was, btw, a complete mess & I almost gave up on the whole dream because I felt there was no hope for me!). But only now do I see just how much I gleaned from that experience. A LOT.

So if you, like me, are wondering what to do with yourself now it’s December, let me encourage you to STOP, give yourself a breather & take stock of what you’ve learned from this Novel in November experience… SO THAT you can do it better next time!


***Now for my TOP 5 “Things I Learned from Novel in November 2016″***

1. Practice makes… better… & faster

No perfection here, but I have been amazed by how much I’ve upped my rate of writing! There’s nothing like a ticking clock to force you to crank the words out! It reminded me frighteningly of running sprints over the summer – every time you push yourself, you get a little stronger & just a little faster. Same with word sprints!

2. Don’t over-research!

Hard lesson to learn, because I LOVE research! I could do it all day. Problem is, I can do it all day in the name of prepping for my novel when actually not an nth of the fascinating notes I’ve taken will actually make it into the novel.

This was perhaps my biggest mistake with my last novel. I had gazillions of notebooks full of researched, thought out notes… but not much plot. In the end, I was overwhelmed & worse, my story was overwhelmed with trying to fit in ALL THAT STUFF! So take it from one who’s learned the hard way: plot first, then research what you need for the story. When you’ve finished your ms, you can reward yourself with day at the library or on Google researching to your heart’s content!

3. Planning really does work wonders!

Previously, I was on the fence about plotting over pantsing… after this Novel in November, I’m a BIG believer in plotting, using one of the many methods out there (see Bri’s blogpost on that!) Having Jeff Gerke’s book there as as guide was a tremendous help for someone like me who doesn’t know where to begin nor where to end the pre-planning (bc, see above, I tend to overdo it!). I still got lots of surprises with my plot along the way, but there was never that sickening moment when I discovered an enormous hole in my plot 2/3s of the way through… Save yourselves!!!

4. Got an idea? Write it down immediately!

With 1 month to finish 50,ooo words, you’ve got to write whether you’re feeling inspired, or feeling like a brick. No choice. BUT, should that magic feeling of inspiration come (& it’ll probs come whilst your driving or showering) don’t let it get away! And don’t count on yourself to remember that great plot twist or killer bit of punchy dialogue. Get it down on some piece of something ASAP!

5. Getting the 1st draft down quickly pays off 

Once again, before coming to this whole NaNoWriMo business, I was a bit of a skeptic. What, I thought, is the point of gushing out words for a month if they’re going to be rushed & rubbish & require the whole rest of the year to re-write?

But now I’ve done it, I am a true believer in getting your story idea down quickly. Why? Firstly, in the past I’ve over-labored my 1st draft, it’s taken a whole year, & in the end of that year, I never wanted to touch the thing again. With 30 days to do it, I kept my momentum, & my mind didn’t have time to get into tangles or explore all my options. I  just had to go with my gut… & my gut wasn’t so off!

Secondly, too much time on my hands gives my inner critic (negative little thing she is) time to rear her prim, nosy, despairing little head. BUT with only 30 days to work with, I simply did not have the time to entertain her. And when I do unleash her for the edit, she will be a much humbled critic who will NOT despair because I will remind her of this little piece of documentation proving that I am a growing novelist:


Tomorrow Bri will share her own reflections – can’t wait to hear them! And I’m so proud of her for finishing on time, against all odds & juggling 2 jobs & dozens of dairy goats! She’s my heroine! 

And stay tuned after that as we dive into December’s topics: Revision! and festive, wintery reads… 🙂 and, hopefully, you’ll be seeing our Sept. Story Chasers in London Vlog here in the coming days! 

How’s about you? How did you find the Novel in November (or NaNo) experience?

What did you take away from it for future writing projects? 

Novel in November tip – Stimulus & Response

Here we are, Novelteers. For better or for worse, we’ve reached the midpoint of our climb to the top of 50,000 words! Congrats for making it this far!

But let’s get real. This is the phase of the journey when those middle-section blues are known to kick in. So here’s a rather simple little tip to help you strike back & take back control (with baby steps), should you become infected…

Don’t forget the law of Stimulus & Response! 

Sound a bit too much like stating the obvious? Thinking, “Hello, Mez! I’m a fiction writer. I kinda get that stuff has to happen in response to other stuff in my story. That’s why I spent all those nail-biting hours working out my character’s background and motivation!”

I hear you. But first, let me clarify that by Stimulus & Response, I mean something different to background & motivation. Background gives us context while motivation provides the goal your character is driving at. But Stimulus & Response is more immediate, more nitty gritty that those broad (but necessary) ingredients. And it might just stop your tires spinning in the mud.

Here’s how it works:

First of all, it’s externalWe’re not talking about internal monologues or random whims. Stimuli need to be concrete & external for the response to be believable.

So, within a given scene, your character interacts with another character (or perhaps a setting). Wherever you’ve gotten up to in your story (*Don’t go back to correct – we’re moving forward, people!), pick up the action there, and let it play out simply on the logic of stimulus & response.

What will your character’s response be to A’s suggestion.On stage. Right now.

How will your character react to a sudden clapping thunderstorm. On stage. Right now. Think ping pong!


You are the theatre director here. Start the scene & let that ball ping-pong. It may sound painfully obvious, but you’d be surprised just how easy & how common it is for us writers to pass over the nitty gritty Stimulus & Response action because we are so caught up with the Big Picture plot. 

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with the vast, complicated mess that is the rest of your story, narrowing your attention to Stimulus & Response will help you take the next small step to moving forward. Also, it’ll bring your characters to life if they’re getting just a little blasé.

This principle applies to story telling on page or on stage. As I once heard the legend Alan Rickman tell an interviewer when asked his secret to acting,

“I watch what the other actor is doing. Then I respond.”

The beauty is in the simplicity. Now go & do likewise!

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: getting into your character’s shoes

Happy Wednesday, my writing companions of the world wide web! And welcome, as always, to the Writers’ Cafe!

I just had a moment. I looked down at my watch to check the date & experienced a just a teensy bit of a conniption when it dawned on me that Novel in November kicks off in a mere 19 days! But of course it was mostly a conniption of joy… obviously.

So Bri & I are making it our aim to distill all the hoards of writing exercises out there to bring you only the best, the most useful & inspiring to get the gears going on churning out your story in November. In fact, we feel a bit like Bilbo hunting the Arkenstone amidst the hoards of gems in Erebor! Only we haven’t got a dragon to reckon with… just a ticking clock, which is nearly as vicious

Anyway, earlier this week, Bri posted about starting points – ie. some stories begin with a character, others with a setting or a scenario or even a “what if?”. But wherever you begin your story, you want to set your rudder early on to writing the story that’s going to grab the attention & maybe even the hearts of your readers. And in order to do that, you must work hard at one crucial ingredient: your POV (point of view) character.

Why is the main character so critical? Because, fact is, readers (& most writers) are human. And the way we connect with a story is via shared experience & empathy with the the human or human-like character the story revolves around. Simple enough.

But creating that character that is both believable & interesting enough to get under your readers’ skin… not so simple.

But fear not! It is doable with effort. And here’s an exercise that’s going to help you out tremendously! Quick advisory note: If you’ve not yet filled out Bri’s character check-point list, you might want to do that first to set the foundations. Now for your assignment:

Spend 15-20 minutes  either 1) writing a journal entry as your main character, or 2) interview your main character.

You may wish to set the journal entry/ interview just before or after the inciting incident in your story (if you know what it is yet, of course… don’t worry if you don’t!).

When you’ve finished, read it back. Did anything surprise you about your character? Are there any little quirks you might build on in the story? Any shining character qualities you could build a scene around?

Now think about POV. If your character has a strong or interesting voice, maybe it’s worth considering writing in 1st person…?

Now off you go, and remember to ENJOY the exercise. You get to make a new friend of your very own creation. It’s like having an imaginary friend again!

And please, PLEASE let us know how it goes in the comments below. We’d love to meet your characters too!


“Wednesday” Writers’ Cafe: the best novel ever written

Friends, Countrymen, Fellow Writers…

I must beg your pardon on posting your Wednesday Writing prompt so late (so much so that we’re already greeting Thursday  here in the UK!). My feeble excuse is that my dear old laptop is at last showing its age this week. Wouldn’t you know it would kick in during our Annual Writing Retreat? Ah well… builds character, right?

But before it can act up again, here is a prompt that caught my eye whilst skimming the Jeff Gerke guide we’ve recommended to all you Novel in November participants, Write Your Novel in a Month. This one’s brilliant if you’re still searching for that spark of an idea that gives you tummy flutters of excitement & makes your fingers just itch to start typing. But even if you’re not quite ready to take the plunge of a month-long challenge, this exercise will get you dreaming about that perfect novel you hope to write…some day.

Hey, it all starts with a spark! So here it is:

Imagine you are given the key to the Room of Wonders and allowed to retrieve 10 items that you believe belong in the best novel ever written. What items will you collect?

Now go wild! Close your eyes and look around that Room. Then write down the 10 items that caught your mind’s eye & hang on to the list! It might just be the beginnings of your next awesome novel!

Oh yea, & need I mention we would LOVE to hear about your lists in the comments below? You know how nosy we are by now. 😉

Novel in November 2016 now open for registration!

Dear writers & aspiring ones,

For today’s Wednesday Writers’ Cafe, we are at last popping the cork on the long-awaited bottle of joy that is Novel in November. As of today, registration is OPEN for this year’s event (only just over 1 month away now!). Bri & I want to gently but exuberantly implore you to sign up right away. Success in finishing 50,000 words in a month will take commitment and a fair bit of pre-planning, so we recommend giving yourself a head-start to plan, muse, & get yourself mentally into gear. (Need help knowing where to start? Check out Bri’s top tips for setting yourself up for success before November here!)

So how do I register, you ask?

Registering for the event is a great way of nailing your colours to the mast; of announicng to yourself & the world (ie. us) I AM gonna write that novel, by golly, and ain’t nothin’ gonna stop me! Ready? Just head over to our Novel in November page or use this link to get on our special N in N mailing list. Fear not! We won’t overburden you with long-winded, newsy emails because, after all, we expect you’ll be busy WRITING in November. But here’s what you can expect from us:

  • Throughout Oct., Wednesday Writers’ Cafe will offer weekly writing exercises to get the creative juices flowing & help you think about all the aspects of your story.
  • Throughout Nov., the blog will become a forum for Novel in November – a place where we share our progress (and our frustrations) & invite you to do the same.
  • For email subscribers only: you’ll receive a bi-weekly “care package” in your inbox filled with select tips, resources and bits of inspiration to help you meet your goal.

If you’re thinking “Woe is me! How can I choose between Novel in November & Camp NaNoWriMo?” we say, do both! You can’t have too many resources… as long as those resources don’t cheekily become the means of procrastinating from actually writing…

Now without further ado, hop on over to registration, mark your diaries (or calendars, if you’re in the US) and drink a long drought of confidence. You CAN write a novel this November. Dreams do come true with a heap of hard work and friends to cheer you on.

So consider Bri & me your very own writing fairy godmothers, here to set you up with a coach and team of fast horses that will whisk you off to novel writing success before the clock strikes 12 on 30 November! Bon Voyage!


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