Catching up with Sally!

 In November 2015 I interviewed Sally Bridgewater, Creative Writing Courses & Competitions Coordinator for Writing Magazine, who was about to embark on an extreme writing challenge of hitting the 50,000 word target for the NaNoWriMo Challenge – but in one day!

I thought I’d catch up with Sally and see what has happened since.

Hi, Sally, welcome back.  Can you share with us what has happened as a result of completing the challenge?
Doing the twenty-four hour wordathon was a fun challenge, but I wouldn’t class it as life-changing. I did really appreciate getting the chance to write a piece about it in the Writing Magazine, which is my first proper published article. It did really help me get the rest of my novel draft done back in November 2015, and getting a full draft down on paper gave me a lot more confidence that I really will finish this novel one day.
Have you submitted the finished draft yet? 
Nowhere near! I took a break after NaNoWriMo in 2015 – one of the downsides of taking on extreme challenges is that afterwards you usually feel in need of an extreme rest. So I only picked my novel back up in April 2016, when I started world-building and generally trying to re-plot the whole thing. I just aimed for twice a week as I’ve been pretty busy with other things, and that gave me a good stretch of steady progress on it over the summer.
Believe it or not, I have not yet gone back and re-read what I wrote in the wordathon or in the rest of that November – as soon as I started working on the novel again I knew I’d be changing so much that there wasn’t too much point in working from the draft outwards. I still don’t see it as a waste of time though – doing that really rough draft gave me a rough sense of the characters, the world, the plot, and most especially got me far enough to imagine what would happen at the end. All of that was crucial, and as I am a first-time novelist I don’t think there was any other way for me to work out a full plot from my first ideas. I’m hoping with my second or third book I won’t have to write completely discarded drafts though!
I hope not. However, I can see how completing this punishing challenge has taught you so much and given you a tangible first draft to build upon.
In November 2016 I wanted to do NaNoWriMo again, of course, and I was aiming for a complete rewrite of the novel with my new plot. Even though I was the most prepared I’ve ever been, with a spreadsheet of all the scenes I was planning, unfortunately life got in the way. I finally reached the top of the waiting list for a much-delayed jaw surgery during November so I had to give that priority. I thought lying on the sofa recovering would give me lots of time to write, but it turns out that healing is a lot more tiring than it looks! I didn’t want to push myself while I was obviously not at full health, so I’ve not given myself a hard time about it.
I hope you are fully recovered now. What are your writing goals for 2017?
Get this second draft finished! I have recommitted to writing 1000 words a day, and it’s really working pretty well at the moment. I use the Jotterpad app on my phone to write on the bus on my way to and from work, and I am genuinely surprised how much easier I find it to do that than to carve out a chunk of time to sit at my computer – somehow that just feels more like Hard Work. I am using all the psychology tricks I can to make it easier, such as congratulating myself just for making the three short taps it takes to open the Jotterpad on my phone. I know that’s all I have to do really, and then once it’s actually in front of me it’s much easier to contemplate doing the actual writing.
I am also using a site called to keep me on track – it makes a graph of a goal you want to achieve, so in my case I have one tracking the number of ‘days I worked on my main fiction project’ and I’ve set my target as only three days a week. This is because if you fall off the line on the graph of how many things you said you’d do, then Beeminder charges your credit card an ever-increasing amount of money. It is scarily effective at keeping you motivated, I’d seriously recommend it for anything you’re stuck on.
I’ve then got a great writing project I’m looking forward to in April – my friend Tonks and I (who helped with the Wordathon in the first place) have agreed to do ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’ and make it Editing Month. The real twist is that I will edit her first draft and she will edit mine. It’s a little scary but we trust each other and it will be so much easier seeing how to improve someone else’s work rather than your own. So that gives me a deadline to get the second draft done!
If anyone would like to follow developments, they can like my Facebook page at I could do with your support!
I wish you a very happy, healthy and successful 2017!

Congratulations, Sally!


Congratulations, Sally, for hitting the target!

Now you have reached your goal are you happy with what you have achieved as a result of your Wordathon?

I am very happy to have achieved my 50,000 words in 24 hours goal, and to have had the experience of doing it (although I don’t think I would repeat it – no-one should ever try and do just one thing for 24 hours straight!). It has also meant that I have achieved another part of my purpose in doing it, which was to reach a lot of people and tell them about my writing. At least none of my friends is going to forget that I’m a writer now… 🙂
I am even quite happy with the product of the Wordathon – you can view the raw manuscript here: It got a lot more messy than I expected – since I disabled the backspace key (which you can do in ‘Typewriter mode’ in the Write or Die program I was using), the typos and the gibberish words and the strings of letters increased exponentially around the 18-hour mark. Even so, I think it has helped me a lot to get a fair way into my plot and start to get to know where the story feels like its going.

What have you learned from doing this challenge?

I have learnt that I can really get a long way in a day, and I hope that I won’t find goals of 3,000 words a day quite as intimidating as I used to. I have also learnt in the aftermath that it took about three days for my brain to stop feeling tired (even with plenty of sleep), and my will-power to get anything done has taken even longer to return! In the end, doing something extreme and pushing my limits is fun (as long as it is a rare occurrence), but I can’t expect it to have a direct effect on my everyday habits or anything.

What is next for Sally?

Next – there is still the rest of the Newbie to Novelist challenge to complete! I set this up in two parts: first, the Wordathon, but second and more importantly, I want to get the rest of my first draft at least roughly sketched out and written by the end of the month. Since I just finished plotting the skeleton of the rest of the story yesterday, I think I have only done about a quarter of the plot so far… so in theory, I could be looking at about another 150,000 words by the 30th November! I doubt I’ll manage that, but I still need to get writing again, and I am still encouraging people to follow me and sponsor me. My website is