NaNoWriMo

What sort of crazy word is that? It’s an acronym for National Novel Writing Month, that month being November. Of the history I don’t know much about it but it seems that by ‘National’ it refers to USA. It’s certainly a bit more global than that which is fortunate for me.

It’s a little known acronym but fortunately it’s very easy to explain to those not in the know. 50,000 words in 30 days. One novel in one month. That’s the goal and it begins tomorrow.

I stumbled across it a couple of years ago at Stanton Library in North Sydney, wondering what in the world is that nonsensical word with the jumble of upper and lower case letters? At the time I was not ready to tackle such a lofty challenge. Now it seems I am.

I had originally planned on taking the three months of the Japanese winter, mid-December through to mid-March, to write my first novel but upon arriving home in Sydney this October, somewhere, I can’t remember where, I saw that funny word NaNiWriMo. I thought to myself, that’s bad timing, I’m writing my novel in December not November.

Situations change and I’m no longer planning on spending three months snowboarding Japan’s wondrous snow. Bad timing becomes good timing and tomorrow I’m going to start writing my first novel.

There’s a lot of challenges to tackle and there’s plenty of reasons why I should not be writing a novel to begin with. But it’s November. It’s Novel Writing Month. And I’m the kind of guy who goes with the flow on these sorts of things.

Now I need to get back to preparing my plot.

Wish me luck

The Writer/Photographer’s Fear

This morning I had a small scare. For a long time now my laptop has been running slowly and having battery problems. For one, the battery wouldn’t charge beyond 1%. This alone might not have been a problem if not for the second problem. That was that the power adaptor plug connection with the laptop was very finicky. Small movements would mean that the electrical connection would somehow be lost. Without careful monitoring, the laptop would quickly run out of power and turn itself off. Terribly troublesome.

I’ve been meaning to upgrade my over-five-years-old computer for a long time now. The straw that finally broke the camel’s back came this morning when I carelessly put my laptop in my backpack. On the stairs down from my room it fell out with a loud crack and when I tried to start it up it just wouldn’t get past the start up screen.

Oh crap. When was the last time I backed up? Fortunately most of my writing is done on paper (which is a separate risk altogether) but the loss of photos had me worried for a while there. All those precious memories.

After some careful bashing and shaking I managed to get it to turn on again, and there ensued some hurried backing up of files. I still haven’t turned off the computer for fear it won’t turn back on again.

Time for a new computer methinks.

Scenes of Love and Death

These past two days have been exciting for me. I wrote my very first love scene. I’m not sure how good or bad it is but it still leaves me with a good feeling having gotten it down on paper.

Then yesterday I killed her.

I’m not sure if that was the first death scene I’ve ever written but I certainly went to a bit of effort to get the climax to that arc in a good place. Just need to fill in the rest.

What will I write next?

A Productive Weekend

I wrote another five and three quarter pages today. Got some nice momentum going. It’s been a good weekend. Well, it’s not technically the weekend but since I work on Saturday and Sunday, any days off during the week feel that way.

Another One In The Incubator

Well it took me six days to complete, writing an hour or two here, and hour or so there. I just moved to a new city Hikone in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, and as usual am in search of a good place to write. I’ve been strolling around town a couple of times and have yet to find a good espresso but I have been able to get some writing done. It’s just a short piece, a small part of a larger story but also kind of an introduction to one of the main stories I’m working on. Thus I’m in a bit unsure if I want to publish it here quite yet.

In any case it’s just a first draft and not ready as yet. But I’m happy to have pushed through and got the whole thing written start to finish. I started out with some good momentum during my couple of days off work but then had a tiring few days at work. I also wanted to do some Facebooking and start a new book in Japanese but I knew I had to keep my momentum and get the first draft done. I then hit a difficult patch in the story but as I said, I just kept plugging away. And now it’s done. Time to put it in the incubator and set the timer to six weeks a la On Writing.

Oh wait, I should probably type it up on the computer and do a word count. ‘White Mist. Red Evening’ took four days writing and weighed in at 5,389 words. This one took six days though to be fair some of those days I didn’t have time to write much, maybe nothing on some days. Hmmm a working title? Oh I already have one. ‘The True Hero’. Sounds a bit dramatic I suppose. I can’t say much about the main character but the story does involve a dragon.

I also suppose it is about time I checked in on White Mist.

Edit: typed it all up with only minor fixes. 3,634 words. A little lighter than White Mist. Okay, 6 weeks will be about May 29th. See you then.

A Walk in the Snow

Some people do their thinking in the shower. Some in the other bathroom. Me? It seems I get most of my brainstorming done on the streets. More specifically, when I’m out walking, trying to get from A to B.

A walk in the snowI, like anyone else have many places to go but I tend to get there not by public transport (which costs money!) but often on my own two legs. The biggest advantage that comes about from this thrifty mode of transport is the time it affords me to think. Of course I could do this thinking in the comfort of my own home but as I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get distracted by the computer and the internet while I’m at home. I need to get out of the house and away from my computer in order to get productive.

So why walk? Well, again it’s about those nasty distractions. When I take a bus or a train somewhere I usually use the opportunity to tune out completely from the task of navigation and read a book. When I’m riding a bike or driving a car I definitely don’t have the chance to tune out like that and reading and daydreaming are out of the question. When I’m walking, however, I can generally set my legs to autopilot to get to where I’m going. Assuming I stick to my lane and the cars stick to theirs, then it’s pretty safe to start mulling over plots, fleshing out characters and in general, the work fantasy, fantasizing.

So, like tonight, when I’m faced with a choice between taking the bus home from the supermarket or walking home with my grocery bags for half an hour through the snow, often I’ll be walking home, hard at work dreaming.

On A Roll

The past few days I’ve been able to write a consistent amount each day, usually for a couple of hours. The venue has been changing, earlier in the week at a temple on the open terrace, more recently in one park or another, on top of a hill. It’s something that I want to keep up while I have momentum.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about but I had a few things in mind. I wrote them all down in a rough list on the page. In the end I’m not sure why I picked the one I picked but it probably didn’t really matter. The main thing was just to start writing.

I only had a little idea of what I wanted to write about with the two characters but once I’d started writing about them it started to flow. Even when I came to a bit of a roadblock, not knowing where they should go next, something I’d written would guide me to where the story would go. It’s almost as if the story was writing itself, as cliché as that is.

And as I wrote it seemed that ideas would bubble to the surface, connections to other ideas I had floating around in my head. It seemed that my subconscious had been busy plotting while I wasn’t looking. Things that had been bouncing around my head for quite some time were finding their places and I am finally getting them down in prose.

Just a happy little discovery on the journey to become a writer.

Slaying the Hydra

There was a point in my writing career before which I had only one plan and that was to pen a mighty epic. This was my sole focus and to this end any and every idea that occurred to me was squeezed into a corner of the world I was building. Pirates, cowboys, angels; my main character would encounter them all.

I am very pleased to say that I am past this point. Mostly.

I think it was sometime during the last year when I realised that I had legitimate ideas beginning to flow from me. By legitimate I mean that they were substantial enough to be the seed for their own world. I was actually generating ideas worth writing their own stories about. I’m not sure if this was unlocked by my beginning to just write (this was the main lesson I took from the creative writing course that got me going: Just write) or maybe my reading certain stories caused me to change the way I viewed the world and how I could use it in my own writing.

Perhaps it was something else entirely or some combination of the above. In any case, with the realisation that I had more than one story in my head and that I was going to be writing more than my one epic, I no longer had the need to include every good idea in that one story. Trying to blend such a hodgepodge of ideas together would no doubt have resulted in a story with multiple personality disorder; the monstrous many-headed hydra of mythology brought to life. And just like in the Greek myth it would no doubt be in need of a good slaying.

Ideas should not be rushed. A good idea will still be good later and is best served by allowing it its own space to grow in good time. Patience is a virtue.

I once gave a summary of my epic to Big Risa and at the time she said to me that there were two stories there and that I should separate them. While I kind of agree with her even now I’m loathe to strip it out. I may have found an alternative to that particular problem though; not an original solution but it may still be the right one.

So now, rather than that singular focus, when I get a new idea I look to the many little baby hydras to see which of those I can graft the idea onto. Still, I suppose that is better than the one super hydra.

On The Ranch

Well, I came to Japan for an experience and I definitely think I’ve struck gold. It took a while but some ideas finally started flowing. In fact I think I’ve got too many ideas to write about at once; a great problem for a writer to have I guess. I spent about six weeks in Osaka and by the end of that time I was finally getting back into the writing groove. I’d found a cafe with decent espresso to write in and life was finally slowing down enough for me write again.

Unfortunately for the writing but otherwise fortunately, I’ve now up and moved to Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Kyushu. I didn’t ever imagine I’d be working on a horse ranch but I am and I’m quite loving it here. Everything is new to me, the people are great, I’m learning Japanese. There’s something satisfying about getting in and doing some physical labour too.

Perhaps the most obvious benefit is that I’m learning about caring for and riding horses.There are horses in fantasy and what better way to learn to write about horses than from experience, right? That’s my motto anyway. My first duty I learned was to sweep up the horse shit in the stables. At times I find myself leaning on my broom in the stables, phrases coming to me, some better than others. Thick as horse piss. Inured to manure. Okay, that one probably won’t make the cut but I’ve got others.

Maybe a fantasy based on horses will be the next big thing. Or maybe not. The Horse Whisperer has been done. Still there are possibilities and I’m excited. For me, the life and people on this ranch, as well as the surrounding countryside and city (not to mention the volcano) are constant sources of inspiration. There’s nothing quite like putting yourself in new situations for gaining new perspectives and generating new thoughts.

Writer’s Abyss

Many years ago I read a rant by Robin Hobb, bashing blogging by writers. The post has since been removed from her website but you know the internet. I’m sure a resourceful surfer could track down a copy of the post floating around the aether.

The gist of it was that blogging, while a good way to interact with the fans, is a blackhole for writers, a monster that devours all their time and energy that could have been spent on, you know, actually writing.

At the time I read it I could appreciate the points she made. Now I know them to be true.

Blogging, surfing, facebooking. It’s true that since I’ve only recently relocated to Japan that I’m still in a touristy mode, travelling around and seeing the sights. All good grist for the mill. I expect to not be writing while I’m so busy gathering.

But I take too many damned photos. Three thousand five hundred so far. Sorting, editing, uploading and captioning. Thank goodness there’s not too many faces to tag. This is my abyss. Time is spiralling into it like a silvery ribbon, sucked away into oblivion, never to be seen again. And like all good abysses they are endless.