NaNoWriMo 2014

November 2014 is over and with it I have successfully completed my second NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). The following are my related Facebook posts and some commentary.

5000. Just humming along on target
50,000 words in 30 days means 5,000 words every 3 days. I kept this pace for about 14 days, which was actually slower than last year and thus was a little disappointing. When you start each day 1,666 words behind it’s a little discouraging and a buffer of surplus words would have been nice.

Cracked 10,000
This at 9pm on the 6th of November, just before my bedtime no doubt. This year I had a job to get to the next day whereas the previous year I did not. Which explains why I had more time and energy to write last year. Also my job is only part time, so massive respect to all the NaNoers holding down a fulltime job while writing.

Caught up. 15005
There was a day in there that I didn’t write one word. That’s why it’s nice to get ahead and have a buffer. But I managed to catch up by writing 2500 words in one day which was my biggest day’s word count to date.

20130. The going is tough but intermittently flowing.
I do hate slogging through scenes where nothing but crap dialogue is going on. Sometimes it just has to be pushed through. During NaNo I try not to skip ahead to juicier bits. It may not be efficient but I try to write in the order the book proceeds. And thankfully, sometimes I’m rewarded by something worth keeping, often something I didn’t even know about the characters or the plot or the world.

Wrote 5155 words today. So yeah, smashed 25k.
This was my most productive day. It started with a good patch early in the morning at the café. Followed by more writing in the arvo. And another session at night. It all came too easily. Again it was after a day of no words, a Saturday, which is the day I’m usually exhausted from working all day at the trapeze rig.

30k down. Building some momentum now
This is the period where I’m finally getting ahead of the curve with some word counts over 1666. This is where things start feeling good.

35,000.
Incredibly slow day. Then couldn’t stop writing. Maybe what I need is a video camera on me all the time.
This day the SMH came to film their article for their website on NaNo. We turned up in force at the Nerd Cave and put on our serious writer’s faces. I had planned on leaving earlier but as I said, I just couldn’t stop writing. When you’re in the flow you’re loathe to break it.

40206. Take that.
I’m 5000 words over the benchmark which means I have a three day buffer. Feels good.

Passed 45k. No where near finished though.
Approaching the end of the month’s race and yet it feels that my plot has barely begun. What have I been writing?

50,060. But it took me over an hour to damn validate the damn thing. Going to bed
I made it with three days to spare. Finished again in time for bed but then wasted an hour trying to get Word to change all the letters but keep the spaces so I could validate the word count of an essentially gibberish text document. Then it took some more time getting the website to work for me. But I had to get it done that day.

AND NOW…

During last year’s effort I asked other returners what they had written during the intervening months and most times the answer was a disappointing ‘Nothing.’ I thought to myself ‘they must not be that serious about their writing, not like me,’ and so the plan was to get at least my short story and another novel written before the next NaNo came around.

What I discovered is just how easy it was to let the year go by without reaching my goal, nay, even striving for it.
Will this year be different? I have plans for it to be. I have a friend who is a movement conditioner, which is like a personal trainer, but perhaps with a more intelligent approach to reaching our goals. With his attitude and approach I plan on getting the story mill churning.

For now I’ve got to keep the momentum up and finish this story. I feel like maybe I’m halfway through. Just another 50k, or a month’s work, right?

No Writing. No Time.

Not only has my café been taken away, so has all my writing time. I’m now working forty hours a week as a barista and I’ve got a sewing project for a friend, Rainbows, who is leaving the country. Next Monday in fact. So I have no time for writing. And no time for even reading.

Working six days a week I can only wonder at those that still find the time and energy to write at the end of a long day. Amazing.

Taking Away My Cafe

Of course nothing so dramatic as the title suggests has actually occurred. Or if it has happened then the culprit is only myself. If I hadn’t mentioned it before, I had finally found ‘my local’, a café close by home I would regularly go to write. Good coffee and good atmosphere, the two things I look for when renting out office space for $3 an hour or so.

I had been wandering around all of Sydney trying all sorts of places, revelling in the abundance of good quality espresso but still had not had found a regular place to write. When it finally happened I thought I had achieved some sort of milestone as a writer. Yes, now I have MY café. I am a writer.

The boss, Mr P and his barista John, run a friendly, bubbly service and were always happy to let me take up one of their tables, drinking a single short black over the course of an hour. Writing was progressing well there.

All that has changed.

Ahem. That sounds a bit dramatic. What I mean is, the coffee is still great, the guys still entertaining. The problem is I can no longer get any writing done while I’m there. I started volunteering as a runner there in the mornings, which means I help serving the coffee, occasionally pulling the espressos, though it is still a bit hectic during the morning rush.

I’ve been pulling coffees at church for a while already but working in an espresso café is a whole other ball game. The atmosphere is fun and the energy is great. And I get free coffee now. All at the low cost of losing my writing place.

Sometimes I go back in the afternoons after my other casual job finishes and though I’ve packed my laptop for writing, I often find myself chatting to Mr P about coffee if I’m not practicing pulling one myself. I can’t even think of finding another café to write in, so I’m going to need to discipline myself when I go to write there, maybe employ headphones. Or maybe do as I’m doing now, writing in my kitchen before I head out to face the morning coffee rush.

First Draft Complete

“Yeah. Woo. Woo,” followed by a fist pump.

That is the reaction of man who has just finished the first draft of his first novel. It took some sixteen days longer than the time allotted to it in November but I relaxed the pace a lot after November ended.

I was nearing the end with one last chapter to write. I suspected after I finished that final chapter, I would then find I had to write the real final chapter and I was correct. Then the epilogue. In the end I got there though and it’s time to put another one in the incubator. After it comes out, then the hard work will start. I can already envision throwing out a quarter of it and needing to rewrite large sections. But looking forward to moving the novel forward.

And that is what this NaNo has really been about for me. This was the next step in producing a novel. A big step for me. Prior to it I had been content to jump from story to story, writing whatever scene had captured my attention that day, not wanting to stifle my muse. That’s given me a hodgepodge of scenes to work with but that does not a novel make. NaNo has given me that, the first step in producing the story from start to end, something that a reader can read, theoretically without me needing to fill in the gaps from my mind.

Along the way the characters did things I didn’t know they were going to do but they solved their problems in their own ways and even solved some of mine, aka plot holes. That’s what you get from bashing words out on a keyboard. You can day dream all day and still get nothing to solve that problem with the plot. Writing is exploration and discovery.

That writing course I did years ago taught me that to write all I need to do is put pen to paper and write away. NaNo taught me that to write a novel all I need to do is sit down and write. Write. Write. Write. Keep charging forward until that ugly, hole-infested first draft is done. Worry about fixing it another day. Just keep writing.

I don’t think it is a miracle but I am still thankful that I somehow managed to not get stumped by writer’s block as some other NaNoers claimed. Maybe it’s because this thing has been brewing in my head for the last decade or so. Maybe it’s because writer’s block is just another excuse. Maybe there is a muse up there singing my song.

Final word count for the first draft of In The Service of the Queen: 111,983 words give or take. Forty-Six days well spent.

50,000 and Counting

Well I made it and in much better time than I was expecting. On day 19 of the 30 I passed the 50k mark. Do I have a novel however? No. I have maybe half a novel at the rate I’m going.

I have my plan of where I need to go but as I write it seems that new scenes just keep popping up to fill out that fleshless skeleton that I had begun with. This of course is a good thing but it seems to keep me from getting closer to finishing.

Of course that’s not true and scene by scene I’m getting closer to completion. And when I get there I hopefully won’t have to go back and add in too many scenes.

The scene that got me over the 50k was one that I hadn’t planned on writing. Of all things it was about one of my main characters buying a dress for the ball. Though I hadn’t preplanned any of it, I had so much fun writing it with the women bullying the poor tailor that the words just flew from my fingertips. And along the way I thought of a good line to finish the chapter and just like that I had reached the NaNo goal.

Fifty thousand words in nineteen days!

Whew. I pulled some long days and nights to get there including the weekend in Palm Beach where I didn’t sleep until 9am. That reminds me I should write about that.

When I think about what I’ve achieved so far, something I’ve  never done before, I feel very happy. I’m one big step closer to my dream.

Well I’m not done yet. Just another little milestone.

Big thank you to NaNo!

Half Way There

By the end of the day we will be half way through November. Yesterday I passed the 30k mark and I feel like I’ve really progressed the story. There’s a huge difference between what I’ve got on paper now and the less-than-framework I had in my notes and in my head before. That’s the difference between dreaming and writing. But I’m still not there yet. As I think about what I still need to write, all the scenes to go, I know that there’s still much work to be done and I’m glad I’ve still got half a month to do it in.

Lessons learnt? Nothing much. I did start using OneNote to type which is great for jotting down that note on the side for the first revision. It’s not as nice as Word for crisp and cleanly feeling, doesn’t auto-fix quite as many of my typos and does not have a word count function built in (and I can’t add one on my Surface RT). But since sending the fresh typed section to Word is not hard, I would say the ability to jot down notes is worth it. I still haven’t gotten around to playing with the ability to shuffle the order of chapters yet, but am looking forward to it, if and when I need to.

Though of course what I really want is Scrivener. But I can’t get it on my Surface RT!

For now I’m liking my writing tools. Count me as converted from my paper notebook. I like scribbling and drawing lines on paper but when it comes time for the second draft, reading my sometimes poor handwriting and typing it into the computer is painful and really just wasting my time. It’s precious enough as it is. That’s time I could be creating new stuff!

Plus I can use OneNote to scribble as many lines as I like.

Okay enough about the tools. What about the writing?

Last night I was typing away at a scene involving a major plot hole. Halfway into the book I decided to finally have my characters stop putting it off (me too) and had them tackle it head on. There was seduction and confrontation. Someone took her clothes off. And…

It hit me. I had my answer. Well I had half an answer, filling in half of my hole. And that still leaves a hole but a smaller one. Maybe. I was ultra-excited, as I have been lacking a plot for a long, long time.

You can’t have plot holes when you don’t have a plot right? Wait that’s not a good thing.

There was still something missing but I had an opening. A little brainstorm session and I came up with something satisfactory. It hasn’t exactly not been done before (what hasn’t in fantasy) but I think it’s okay. It might change later, though so far I am the kind of writer that decides on a route and lets that dictate the rest of the story. I’m yet to go back and alter such decisions and don’t know if I have the strength to do that. Cross that bridge when it comes.

So plots and brainstorming success. Got up this morning and went to my local café (the first time I can say that in Australia woot!!!) for a riz and got to writing with my new ideas.

Life is good.

 

A Minute of Silence

As I was walking to the inner city write-in in Newtown tonight I walked past a wreath laid at the foot of a war statue with the words ‘Lest we forget’ written across it.  The previous day I had noted it was Remembrance Day but 11:00am totally passed me by.

So rather than passing it by again, I stopped before the statue and decided that I would follow the spirit of the tradition if not the time itself(I actually think the Melbourne Cup stops the nation more effectively than Remembrance Day, oh well).

Looking down at the wreath I thought of the Aussies who had sacrificed their lives in war. I thought why do we have war? It’s usually because people wanted land or some resource that another people owned or were sitting on. It’s over some point over which neither side will budge. And so we threaten each other and fight to take what we desire.

How can we avoid war? How do we avoid fights? Talking, right? Communication is the key, right? But in war the sides have stopped talking. They can’t agree. They won’t budge!

Even if you try to think about the other side’s position, understand why they want to keep what you desire, somehow you can’t stop desiring it. You must have it.

But what if your approach was to imagine what your war will do to their people? Who will you kill? Whose body will you maim but leave to live? Whose families will you do that do instead?

And what if it was you in their place?

This is what I thought in my minute of silence (though I didn’t time it as I thought that was going against the spirit of it all).

Ahhh but the governmental/military types would call me naïve.

A Third of the Way

Yesterday marked 10 days into NaNo month, a third of the time allotted to completing the task at hand. My word count? 20,894 words. Woohoo, I’m ahead of the game. At least I am word count-wise. Plot-wise I actually do feel about a third of the way through. Considering how many words I’ve written I feel this is slow. My party has have finally, finally arrived where they are supposed to be. Almost.

It feels like the hobbits arriving at Rivendell. I’m not sure it’s good that it took a third of the book to get here but it’s a first draft and this is NaNo. Write write write. It also feels like this book will go over 50k words, maybe 60 if my gut feeling is worth anything (which I doubt it is).

So it seems I’m right on target.

As I think back over what I’ve learnt since my last entry, there’s not much new. It’s more like I’ve realised that by sitting down to type and type and type, you can actually get that lofty book in my head down on paper (electronic). It is actually possible to transform dream to reality. And this part of it is not glamorous but it is rewarding.

Incidentally, as of this typing I’ve actually passed the 25k mark, so I’m actually half way there. If I can squeeze out another 800 words I’ll have written a cool 5 thousand today but given the time I think that may be a little optimistic.

It’s been a good day. One good coffee, one bad. Lots of rain and lots of words.

5000 Words

Three days gone and I have 6787 words. 10% of the way there!

Had a horrible day playing basketball yesterday but came home and soaked the tired muscles. One and a half years in Japan not doing any running sports and as soon as I get back to Australia it’s the same old problems I had when I left. Oh how I miss Japan’s onsens.

After dinner I sat down to start the day’s write session. Somehow managed a couple of thousand words and without noticing it I’d hit the 5000 word milestone. In fact I’d completely leapfrogged it. No time to rest on that shallow bed of laurels however. I’m off to recharge my caffeine levels, my body is dangerously low after going without yesterday. On a Sunday! Crazy I know.

NaNo Days 1-3

Quick recap on my first three days of NaNo (can’t be bothered typing the whole thing anymore).

Day 1: Did my first day ever of sitting down seriously to write a novel…at home. It was horrible, with my mum going about the house cleaning in the background and sometimes not the background, hassling me, asking me questions, complaining about my diet, etc.

To make things worse I was really struggling to write. One of the scenes that I imagined years back being the trigger for events was so hard to write and seem interesting on paper. The scene was far too slow and boring I thought. And I have to go through thirty days of this torture? I want to quit already. Maybe I’m not cut out to be a writer after all. Doubt already and it’s only day one!

 

Day 2: Chapter 2 was even worse. I slogged through it and by the time I was finally done I was happy just to be done with it. Save and close.

Sometime during the day I figured I was missing a prologue so I went back to type in a punchy action scene. This was great as it reenergized my writing, reminding me of what was good about this story, giving me hope.

Later, when I went to update my word count for the day I discovered the bottom paragraphs of Chapter 2 which I’d struggled with were missing. Gone. No amount of trying to go back and tracking changes could turn up my deleted words. I’d already saved over the complete chapter with the one in which I must have accidently deleted those words. That’s what I hate about typing with a mouse pad on a laptop, when you accidently touch it and move the cursor around, sometimes highlighting and then replacing whole chunks of text with a single letter.

After much cursing, I bit the bullet and re-typed those hated couple hundred of words. The second time round they did seem less corny and I even think I added in some improved ideas, so I the end I’m happier. I guess I can look forward to that in the second draft. Overall a good result but I’d really rather not have to try to recreate any lost words again.

 

Day 3: Wrote a chunk of words, getting my character to where I want her to be. I really am trying to avoid travelogue as I hate reading it. Lack of detailed planning means that I was happy to discover a character interaction that both fills in some plot holes and was an actual pleasure to write. Need more of this.