nanowrimo 2014

NaNoWriMo Day 30 – Winner!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner!

At 5 PM on 30 November 2014 I validated my first draft manuscript and with a total of 50, 622 words and 130 A4 pages of typed text, I won NaNoWriMo 2014.

I’m very excited and exhausted, both from the sleepless nights and the exhaustion.

Things I would have done differently (because hindsight is wonderful):

  • been more proactive in September and October in developing a plot, and trawling through various name generators to develop a working list of possible character names and place names. Behind the Name, Fantasy Name Generators, and Last Name Generator were crucial in helping me when my imagination wasn’t fully functioning in the tense final stages of Nanowrimo.
  • I would have tried to ensure more variety in my characters by planning at least the personality profiles and descriptions of the main characters prior to the start of Nano. I had this idea that using a personality system like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator would be helpful in making believable individuals with distinct personalities. I will probably do that for my next NaNoWriMo.
  • I would have drawn a map and a timeline, because in retrospect I’m not sure that my descriptions of the location and timeframes in my story were consistent.
  • I would’ve tried to go into it with maybe a plan A, plan B and plan C story idea – because it is very hard to write a story you don’t like. However, on the other hand, the discipline of writing even when one doesn’t particularly enjoy it is, I think, I good skill. I found that as I pressed through and wrote anyway, my story started to interest me enough to want to find out what would happen next.
  • I would’ve been more deliberate about setting aside half an hour every day to go for a walk. When I don’t get enough exercise, I turn into a monster who doesn’t write very well.
  • I would’ve started the social media fast a lot sooner, keeping my updates to just this WordPress blog. It’s hard for me to find a healthy balance. I’m one of these people who has an existential crisis when they’re not using social media, but also falls apart when they spend too much time procrastinating on social media. I can’t win and I often reminisce about the good old days, circa 1996, when my rural town still didn’t know what an Internet was and we had to ride kangaroos to school and breakfast was the damper cooked on the coals with a hot tin mug of billy tea.

Things that worked well:

  • Deliberately writing on a near-daily basis. Even if only a paragraph or a few hundred words, it all adds up eventually.
  • Deciding at one point that, as hard as 50, 000 words is to write in a short timeframe, I actually really wanted to be able to look back on this month and say that I accomplished what I set out to achieve.
  • Getting the kids to write stories for the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program. As they came to understand how the process worked, enjoyed it, and realised what I was doing, I found that they were more willing to give me some space to accommodate my own writing when I asked them to.
  • Choosing to wash a load of clothes first thing every morning. Most of my writing successes can be linked to having clean socks available.
  • Logging off Facebook around the halfway mark and letting people know I wouldn’t be available, so I wouldn’t feel compelled to reply to messages unless I was free.
  • Admitting that even though something in me wants to be a good and proper science fiction or fantasy author, the reality is that there’s this weird part of me that is compelled to write stories about monsters and the supernatural. Rather than try to fight that impulse, I went with it.
  • Accepting that while this full first draft of my story might end up never seeing the light of day, it had a little potential and I think, with a lot of work, it could make a decent novella.
  • Having people around me that sent me texts and emails and messages of encouragement. Thanks for helping me keep my head above water, folks.
My final Nanowrimo statistics for 2014.

My final Nanowrimo statistics for 2014.

Nanowrimo Days 29 + 30

November 29 was so busy that it was 11.50 PM before I could sit down at the computer for the first time all day and start to tap out some words for my Nanowrimo story. In my part of the world we had a state election. In Australia, voting is compulsory so everyone has to carve out some time to vote. One of my kids had about 8 hours of ballet school concert sessions. Some friends had their engagement party (yay!). I’m certainly not complaining, but it’s a lot of work getting the family organised and moving and to all these different events on time in the correct outfits and with full stage make up and hair to top it off, while barely functioning after all the late nights spent writing.

Anyway, Nanowrimo. For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – it’s a writing competition spanning 30 days. From 1st November to the 30th November, the challenge is to write a minimum of 50, 000 words in a first draft novel manuscript. There’s also a junior version where the word count aims are calculated based on the child’s ability and typing speed. My own children participated in that. I guess “National” refers to the USA but plenty of us Wrimos are living and writing in other parts of the world (*waves hello from Australia*). To receive the title of Winner, one needs to copy and paste their 50, 000+word manuscript to the Nanowrimo website and have their counter verify that it is indeed 50,000+ words before midnight on November 30.

I won’t delay too long, as I now have less than 24 hours left to write. Nanowrimo works off your local time. I’m located in UTC+11 hours – in case any of my North American-based readers are wondering why I seem almost a day ahead! (Though if you want to know what happens tomorrow you might need to ask a New Zealander.) This is my second year writing in Nano and, like last year, it looks like it’ll be a last-minute writing marathon that gets me over the winner’s line.

I’m currently sitting on 47, 184 words out of 50, 000. Still no guarantees that I’ll win it, at this stage. This busy weekend has absolutely exhausted me. But I will give it a try.

Another thing: I noticed, mainly on my Instagram feed, that there are Nanowrimo competitors who are currently despairing or feeling like failures because they “only” wrote a few hundred or few thousand words. And I want to say to them – that doesn’t make you a failure! You gave it a shot. Sometimes real life gets in the way. The key thing is to realise that a little bit of writing every day, or a few times a week, or even just once a month, will get you somewhere eventually. So don’t give up writing – if 50, 000 words in one month is impossible for you (and it is freaking hard to accomplish), don’t stress. What you may have learned is that you are entirely capable of writing 100 words or 1,000 in a week, and that’s great. Keep going. Make it a habit to write one sentence a day, if that’s what it takes.

Nanowrimo 2014 – Day 28 + Currently Listening To

Current word count: 46, 608 words out of 50, 000.

I’m pulling another all-nighter. The thing with all-nighters is that they’re just not sustainable. It has such a detrimental impact on day-to-day life. But perhaps that’s part of the beauty of NaNoWriMo: for one month I can say, “I am going to write and that’s that.” It’s life on hold for one month while I set aside all the other priorities and focus on something I am passionate about. Every day of the year I am a frustrated writer. In November I can say that I am serious about writing. I set aside my prejudices regarding how much I dislike my own storytelling skills (my training is in sociological academic research and writing, and it’s a different realm), and I just sit there and give it a crack… so to speak. (Am I writing in Aussie-isms? I don’t know. I’m pretty tired and delirious right now.) The rest of the year I’m busy trying to put others before myself, trying to ignore my own dreams – especially those I gave up in order to be a “good” person. Writing is the one thing that has stuck with me, and I won’t let life steal it from me. Nano gives me a time and space in which I can say that I am going to write a story manuscript and I actually do it.

In the spirit of writing things in distinctly non-chronological order I am now going through the older chapters on Scrivener on my Mac Mini and adding in linking material. New characters are appearing. I had noticed a distinct lack of variety in the types of people represented in my story so I’ve been able to rectify that. The fact is, I live in a real world peopled with countless ethnicities and personality types, whereas in my writing there’s always that danger that my characters will be nothing but two dimensional representations of myself – Anglo-Celt, middle class, female, introverted, rural-centric, and somewhat eccentric (so I’ve been told). I wanted to confront that tendency in myself and explore the world from the perspective of “Others,” who may have different ideas and beliefs and values to me. In that sense, when handled well, creative writing can be a form of self-expansion. I want to be an inclusive kind of person. I can start with my forms of creative expression.

Anyway, I digress. While I’ve been writing tonight, I’ve been listening to classic alternative music from the 1990s. Please find attached at the bottom of this post a representative video clip of a song from the mix of bands I chose to write to tonight.

11.20 PM Screenshot - Nanowrimo Progress, Day 28

11.20 PM Screenshot – Nanowrimo Progress, Day 28

Nanowrimo – Day 25 of 30 + Mongolian Folk Metal

Current word count: 33, 758 words out of 50, 000, and not much time left to make up the remaining 16, 242 words.

But I know that I can accomplish this. I did last year and by all rights the external conditions ought to be more conducive to effective writing.

My story is starting to take on a life of its own. There are plot twists that are happening without me being able to anticipate them. It’s an exciting stage, one that I experienced much earlier on my previous Nanowrimo – but finally, it’s here, that moment when the characters turn out to be a lot more free willed and complex than I could anticipate. I have just discovered that one of the main antagonists, a female character who started out as a bit dramatic, is actually a whole lot more evil than I had planned. And that’s good for the story, because she’s about to do some crazy nasty stuff to one of the two main protagonists, where originally I had expected him to stroll out of there little worse for wear. This section almost has shades of Salem’s Lot in it. It’s funny, I can’t stand horror films and don’t generally read horror novels but there is something in me that is compelled to write in that style… When what I really wanted was to be a hard sci-fi author.

Screenshot of Day 25 Nanowrimo Progress, 10 PM

Screenshot of Day 25 Nanowrimo Progress, 10 PM

My writing is currently being spurred on by the inimitable sounds of Tengger Cavalry, a Beijing-based folk metal and death metal band that incorporate Asian spiritual throat singing and Mongolian historical elements in their music. It’s a brilliant soundtrack to write to, but it does leave me wondering – how on Earth did I reach the stage where I can say, “Sure, Chinese shamanic death metal with folk instruments, I’ll buy that!”? (On that note, we’re waiting to receive a shipment of their entire discography, which we bought a few days ago from Metal Hell Records.)

And speaking of Asian throat singing, years ago I got to hear these monks singing in person. It was like being hit by a wall of spiritually charged sound.

Nanowrimo 2014: Day 23 of 30

25,748 words so far. I’m halfway through my word count but there are only seven days left until the deadline. That means I’ve hit the stage where I’m crawling into bed at one o’clock am because I just can’t get enough words written in daylight. I have also logged out of facebook and am refusing to so much as peek at it before I have a final validated word count of 50, 000+ words.

It does make me think that if I ever want to become a writer in a more full-time sense, I will need to work on maintaining an effective work/life balance aspect. This weekend has been a busy one, though. Friday nights I did my fortnightly volunteer work at a youth programme. It’s fun, but it’s tiring, and the older I get and the longer I do volunteer mentoring work with teenagers, the more keenly aware I am that I just don’t have the intense energy levels I used to. Still, life is good and I’ve had a good weekend, so no complaints from me. The chaos makes life a little more interesting.

I started out this year’s Nanowrimo with a story I didn’t love a whole lot. But I have to say that, as the end nears, I find myself really vested in the characters’ lives. Yes, it’s a first draft and it’s a little shabby, but it has potential, and I can see that now.