I'll be honest. I don't remember a whole lot about what went on during Week 4. I'm putting that down to heat-induced amnesia. What I do remember is that I went into Week 4 with a whole lot of word debt and not a lot of confidence. Until Sunday night, that is, when I was lying in bed trying to sleep and started doing some mental maths instead (not the easiest thing for me, even with fully functioning mental processes). Basically, I figured I could reach 50K by Friday if I wrote 4000 words for a few days and thn didn't slack off on the remaining days. Oddly, the thought didn't put me off. If anything, it made me more determined.
So I woke up on Monday, went through my usual routine and then sat down to write 2000 words, which I did. Later that day, I wrote another 2000 words. On Tuesday, I didn't write in the morning. I needed thinking time, if I recall correctly. But that night I wrote 4000 words in one big hit. Success! Over 8000 words in two days! I was walking on sunshine (almost literally, given the heatwave that was moving in during this time). Wednesday I don't remember at all but my word count tracker tells me I did a day's worth of writing that day, so that was good. By Thursday I was well on track. I had 7500 words to go (exactly!) and, if I wrote about 1800 words for the next four days, I would hit 50K right on target. Of course, that wasn't good enough for me; I wanted to cross the line early. At that point, the worst thing happened.
I sat down to write on Thursday and it was going okay. I wrote the scene I had planned to write but it ended sooner than I had expected so I started what I felt was the next logical scene, wrote a few paragraphs and then...nothing. Hands poised over the keyboard I had literally run out of words, 7000 words from the finish line.
"Okay!" I told myself. "Don't panic. Don't force it. There's still plenty of time." So I put the writing away for the day to give my brain some time to mull it over. Only on Friday, there was still nothing. Again, I forced myself to be calm. Saturday dawned and I was on the verge of panic. I was still 7000 words out and the deadline was now less than 48 hours away. Plus, Saturday afternoons are now scheduled for workshopping meetings, which take a number of hours, and Sunday's have never been good writing days for me, due to family commitments. To borrow a line from Glee's Kurt Hummel, the Titanic had hit the iceberg and I was on a sinking ship.
During this time I felt...just really bad. To come so close and then fail? It was the most awful feeling.
Saturday's meeting didn't take my mind off the problem, exactly, but I went home feeling like maybe I had counted myself out too soon. If you know me personally, you should know that I work best under pressure; the university assignments that get me the highest marks are always the ones that get written at the last minute, usually the day before or the morning of submission. So why should this be any different? I chilled out Saturday night, didn't stress about it, went to bed and got a good night's sleep. And then Sunday came.
Again, no stress. I made myself a cup of coffee, spent an hour on Tumblr, did some reading, and then I opened my Word document, put in a 'To Be Continued' under the scene that I had abandoned four days earlier and started a new page. I had no idea what I was going to write or how far it would take me so I just started writing about the scene developing in my head. That's when things really took off. I was flying and, by the time I stopped for lunch with my family an hour and a half later, I think I was about 2500 words in. Back to the grind after lunch and the words kept coming. Two and a half hours later, when I left for afternoon tea at my grandmother's house, I had written another 3000 words. By this stage I was sitting at about 48,300 words in total and I spent the whole visit stressing that I would get home and find the stream had finally run dry. But no. I got home at 5:15, checked my email and then started writing again at 5:30.
"Only 1700 words to go," I thought. "I can do that in an hour, easily."
And you know what? I did. At 6:35 last night I hit 50,000 words. I finished the scene I was writing which, as it turns out, closed out the chapter I had been writing all day, dropped my head into my hands and laughed hysterically. I figure it was that or cry. Because yesterday I wrote 7,132 words in approximately 5 hours, for a grand total of 50,022 words. Actually, my icon is a pretty good visual representation of how I felt once I was done.
In addition to crossing the finish line, I came away with a few ongoing problems solved; an understanding of how to work the main plot into the story I currently have; another POV character; a rough idea of how the rest of the book is going to be broken up (by my reckoning, I'm currently only about a third of the way through the first story); and knowledge of the how the first book will end and a general idea of the plot of the next book (!!!).
Here are the things I learned during NaNoWriMo '13:
- I really can make stories up on the fly and have them make some sort of sense.
- I'm a late-in-the-day writer. 5pm-8pm is my Golden Zone for getting shit done.
- my brother's bullying and disappointed-in-you face are two of the best motivators I've ever come across.
- colour-coding and cue cards work with my writing style.
- if I mentally break writing sessions into 1000 word blocks, it's much more managable than trying to think of the whole thing at once, even if the rest is only an extra 600 words.
No sneak peek today because there are major spoilers in everything I wrote this week. But this probably won't be the last you hear of this story; as I've said, it's a long way from finished.
Thanks for sticking with me. I'll keep you posted.
Apparently "Week 3" is synonymous with "slack off." Because that's mostly what I did this week.
In NaNoWriMo's past, Week 3 has been, for me anyway, the final slog after turn you a corner and see civilisation in the distance. You still have a few pit bogs to deal with before you get there, but at least it's there, in sight, so close you can almost touch it. This is usually point where I start sprinting ahead. Not so with NaNo '13! And I have a theory as to why.
All my previous NaNo efforts have been fairly easy to lock into around 50,000 words. I knew that, as soon as I reached that magical number, the story would be over and I could spend the next four weeks recovering. But the story I'm writing this year is huge and it isn't going to be anywhere near finished at 50K. Which means this isn't Week 3 of 4. It's just Week 3. And that's really hard.
Which is not to say that I don't want to write the 50K in four weeks! I would still dearly love to do that and it's still the goal but as of this morning, if my calculations are correct (and they may not be, given my poor mathematical ability), I'm about 3000 words behind! Which was a shock, seeing as I went into the last two weeks ahead!
Last Saturday, I only wrote 500 words (but I put that down to being tired after the first meeting with my new workshopping group and an hour long round drive); on Sunday I wrote nothing. But then on Monday I wrote 2 full days worth of words. And I was going to do the same on Tuesday, but I woke up still tired from the day before, so I only wrote one day's worth instead and figured I'd do it Wednesday. Except on Wednesday, I ran into another worldbuilding problem, which my brother solved only to create a bigger problem, and I only wrote a couple hundred. On Thursday, I was going to do two sessions to make it up, but the second session never happened and then, while I'm in the confessional, I wrote nothing again yesterday. *sigh* Look, honestly, it could be worse. Because most of the days this week, I didn't want to write anything at all but I forced myself into doing it. Really, it's a miracle I'm only 3000 words in debt, instead of 10,000.
So am I going to catch up? I want to say yes and I'm really going to try but I can't guarantee I'll make it happen. This is my last week of leave and then I'm back at work next Monday, which should be incentive to write as much as possible before I go back, but it's so exhausting actually doing it, that I really want to just spend the week relaxing instead.
On a positive note, while I was actually writing this week, I discovered that the character I thought was going to be a minor villain is actually a friend! And not only that, he's super fun to write and he has great chemistry with Melanie, so let's put a big tick in the smiley face column!
I wasn't going give you a sneak peek this week because I'm not particularly happy with anything I've written, but there is actually one scene that I like so you can have that.
See you next week (hopefully at the 50K pretend-finish line)!
32529 / 50000 words. 65% done!
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The bemoaning of Week 2 seems to be common to most, if not all, NaNoWriMo participants. Week 2 is when the plot starts happening (usually. If not ... at least there's still two weeks to go) and the the going gets tough. The leafy green foliage of creative energy has been left in the dust and you're standing in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a bunch of characters you've just realised you have no idea what to do with.
This year I was lulled into a false sense of security. After the success of Week 1, I went into Week 2 with an 800 word lead and my first writing session of Week 2 was easily knocked out in an hour. Not only that, but during the writing I had a revelation about my second POV character (Garron, if you remember him from last week's sneak peek): turns out he's gay. Or bisexual. I haven't quite figured out the exact parameters yet, but there you are. It sort of just hit me as I was typing and, I admit, at first I was thinking, "Really, Garron? Now you tell me? What about all my plans for the great romantic subplot?" But the longer I let it sit, the more real it felt to me. If you're not a writer, that won't make sense, but sometimes, something about a character will just feel right, even without me having given any conscious thought to it; it's just part of who that character is.
The second day was harder. I just wasn't feeling it (not helped by it being a Sunday; my Sunday's involve a lot of family time and I've always found it harder to get into the writing headspace on Sunday's) and I dragged my feet and kept putting it off altogether. In the end, my brother came through and bullied me into it. And, would you look at that? Again, another writing session gone in an hour, and I came out with a larger role for one of my supporting characters.
Day 3 was when things started to go pear-shaped (where does that saying come from? What's wrong with the shape of the noble pear, and who decided it was lacking?). For four days, it felt like I was dragging myself through a bog by the tips of my fingers. I honestly thought about giving up. Everything was hard. The getting down to write, the actual writing. The only thing that was easy was stopping, because I wanted so desperately for the day's session to be over. Admittedly, I was drunk when I did my words on Day 6; it was New Year's and my mum cracked out the champagne with dinner. I still have no recollection of what I wrote that day, but I'm guessing it wasn't great.
I've had people ask where this slump came from. I think it's down to a couple of things. First, because I'm making most of it up as I go, I have to write every scene in order because I don't know what's coming next until I write what happens first. That means no skipping ahead to write something interesting. I was actually bored by a lot of what I wrote this week; they were just filler words to make up the day's total. I hate to say it, but a lot of this week's words will likely end up on the cutting room floor. :( Second, I think I got too caught up in the worldbuilding. Again, there's a lot I don't know right now and I think I was so distracted by what I didn't know and how I was going to make the story work in spite of that, that I lost sight of what has always been most important to me: the characters.
Because yesterday, finally, Day 7 of Week 2, the heavens opened. I went into yesterday's session knowing how the scene began (always a good sign). I started typing, and it was bit slow at first, but then things started coming together and I just kept going. This isn't because I made some great worldbuilding discovery. No, it was because I went back to the characters. I let them talk, to each other, about their issues. And it worked, because I reached my total for the day and looked at my total word count and thought, "Only 600 more until I hit 25,000. I can do that easily." And I did. I pushed just that extra bit, reached the halfway mark, and now I'm almost 1700 words ahead.
So Week 2 ended the way it began. And, although I am exhausted, I feel good. Also daunted, because thinking about what I do know, I can see that I'm really only at the beginning. This story could easily end up being 100,000 words. Maybe even 120. And that's just the first book. So there's a long way to go but, for now, I'm going to celebrate these small victories. Surviving Week 2 really feels like one.
I'll leave you again with another sneak peek, this time from what I wrote yesterday.
See you next week!
25035 / 50000 words. 50% done!
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So, Week 1. In NaNo's past, Week 1 has always been my favourite. There's the burst of productivity as you charge through the gate, aided by the excitement of exploring new scenarios and meeting new characters, and the small pit of apprehension in your stomach as you wonder if what you develop in the first week will actually be able to sustain you over the entire month. This year was no different, though there might have been a bit more apprehension than usual, given that I'm "pants-ing" this year (that is, writing the novel "by the seat of your pants", with little to no planning), and I'm a writer who generally fails without at least a general guide of plot points. But I've been carrying this story around for almost two years now, mostly doing world building work on it since then, and I'd only written maybe two little scenes during that time, about 200 words each, to get a feel for how I felt about it as an actual story. The problem is, I have no patience for world building. Most of the fiction I write doesn't require it, at least not on a large scale. So I decided to just push it all aside and dive right in.
Going into NaNo this year, there was a lot I didn't know. Only one of my characters had a name, and I had no idea what any of the characters looked like or what their backgrounds were. Of the world building I had done, most of it was big picture stuff, on a worldwide scale, rather than small, specific details which would immediately affect the story. The plot was basically non-existant; I knew how it would start and had a general idea of what was going to happen but actual plot points were a mystery.
Despite all that, Week 1 went well. I finished Day 1 with a short chapter that was really poorly written but also a 200 word lead. I reserved judgement on how well the month was going to progress from there because I still wasn't convinced I could do it. Things took a nosedive on Day 2 when I sat down, wrote 50 words and then realised that I didn't actually understand enough about the world I had created to write the scene I wanted to write, so I took my notebook and went down to talk to my brother who is a much more logical, analytical person than I am (he's a math/computer person; my forte has always been English and the social sciences). We talked for three hours about my world and how it all sort of worked and, together, we figured out enough to get me around the wall. Of course, by that point I was exhausted and couldn't write at all, so Day 3 dawned with the prospect of two writing sessions before the end of the day which, I'm pleased and proud to report, I actually did.
Since then, things have been going really well. I've got two POV characters (I had expected to have only one, but the second occurred really naturally so I let him have his say); I've got a villain; I've got what looks to be the beginning of a subplot; I'm taking copious notes on the world I'm creating as I go; and I'm heading into Week 2 about 800 words ahead! My plot seems to be working itself out as I write. So, by the time I've finished a day's writing, I've got an idea of what I'll be writing about the next day or, at least, how the scene will begin. Even more importantly than all of that, the more I write, the more excited I get about writing more. And I really don't think 50,000 words is going to be enough. I mean, I always knew enough about the plot to know the entire story would need at least 2 books, but Book 1 is shaping up to be longer than I expected, which just makes me more excited!
To finish up, I'll leave you with a snippet of the scene I wrote yesterday. It's from the start of Chapter Four. All you really need to know about the story is that it's an urban fantasy, set in Melbourne, and that there is another dimension, parallel to our own, which is inhabited by demons. Teams of Warlocks (not wizards, I was very deliberate in my word choices) exist to banish the demons back to the other dimension.
See you next week!
12465 / 50000 words. 25% done!
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I was watching Inside the Actor's Studio the other day and was reminded of how much I love the questionnaire at the end, and how much I've always wanted to answer those questions for myself.
So that's exactly what I'm going to do. :)
1. What is your favorite word?
2. What is your least favorite word?
3. What turns you on?
Eloquence, intelligence and a good sense of humour. (Couldn't pick just one).
4. What turns you off?
5. What sound do you love?
The tapping of keyboard keys.
6. What sound do you hate?
Humming, especially tunelessly.
7. What is your favorite curse word?
Fuck. I don't use it often, but when I have reason to, I feel really good afterwards, like it was a huge sigh of relief.
8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Anything in the medical profession. Needles make me hyperventilate, and blood makes me queasy.
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
You did everything you could. Rest now.
That, or: We have an ever-updating library, chocolate that doesn't make you fat or rot your teeth, and Wi-Fi that won't ever cut out. Make yourself comfy.
...Well. I can try at least.
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Still, thought I'd pop in to let anyone who still cares know that I've dug out my sheep suit and created a Tumblr. Why, I don't know. But I've felt it coming on for a while now. I have a tendency to drag my feet for months, stubbornly refuse to jump on the bandwagon, and then I get sick of everyone else being all into it and just give in.
So here I am!
Friend me or whatever.
1) Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
2) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling.
How far in are you?
1) 146 of 310 pages
2) 210 of 223 pages
What's it about?
1) 2 teenage boys meet by chance in a place neither of them are supposed to be and find they have the same name.
2) Harry learns he is a wizard and goes off to Hogwarts, etc, etc
Are you enjoying it?
1) Yes. I love the way this book is written, and I love that the characters sound like modern teens. The moments when pop culture crops up are great, and the dialogue is sharp.
2) Again, yes. I've read the Harry Potter books before, multiple times, but I don't read the early ones as often as I do the later. There's a sweet, nostalgic charm to the first books in the series; not only am I reading the story, I'm remembering what was going on in my life when I first read it.
1. What’s your favorite time of day to read?
I don't know if I have favourite time to read as such, but most of my reading happens in the afternoon or at night.
2. Do you read during breakfast? (Assuming you eat breakfast.)
No. During the week, I eat at my desk when I get to work, and on weekends I just have a cup of coffee. I sometimes read during lunch, though, and I often read newspapers during dinner.
3. What’s your favorite breakfast food? (Noting that breakfast foods can be eaten any time of day.)
Don't have one. Apart from eggs and/or bacon, which I don't consider breakfast foods anyway, I hate breakfast foods.
4. How many hours a day would you say you read?
Hard to say because it varies. I read less during the week; maybe only a couple of hours. One weekends I can sit and read for hours. I've slept whole days reading if I'm really into the book.
5. Do you read more or less now than you did, say, 10 years ago?
Hmmm...I was...12...so I probably read less now, but I would say I read wider. At that age I tended to read the same books over and over again, and didn't venture far from the authors I knew.
6. Do you consider yourself a speed reader?
Yes, but I'm pretty speedy at everything, just in general.
7. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Does instant teleportation count as a superpower? I'd love to be able to do that; my life would be so much easier.
8. Do you carry a book with you everywhere you go?
Yes. Sometimes more than one.
9. What KIND of book?
Fiction, as that's pretty much all I read.
10. How old were you when you got your first library card?
11. What’s the oldest book you have in your collection? (Oldest physical copy? Longest in the collection? Oldest copyright?)
I have no idea. The first book I can remember receiving just for myself is Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone when I was ten, so I'll just go with that.
12. Do you read in bed?
13. Do you write in your books?
Not since my high school English classes. I never had a problem writing in those, I think because they weren't mine, per se; I wouldn't even have bought them if they weren't assigned. I never write in books I buy for enjoyment.
14. If you had one piece of advice to a new reader, what would it be?
What is a "new reader" exactly? I guess I'd tell them to not be afraid to try new things. Branch out, and don't read something just because everyone else is.