I was chugging along nicely with the novel for a while – it had been around three whole chapters since I last stopped and reworked half the rules of my fantasy setting – when I ground to a halt and thought: Right. Shit. This may not be working.
Hate it when that happens. Happily, after only three hours of staring into space and 507 words of notes, I was able to get back on track.
This is the fourth time this has happened since I started the book, to be fair. A couple of pauses back, I ended up moving a chapter two spaces forward and writing its replacement out of order. Also decided to introduce some extra suffering in the beginning, which needs to be woven into the rest of it at a later stage.
For the first time in my life, I have started a document with changes I will have to make as soon as I’ve finished this first draft – holding them in my memory was getting unreliable. A number of times, I’ve wondered why I’m bothering continuing writing the ending, when I know I’m going to do dramatic rewrites on the start, which may will necessitate knock-on changes to the conclusion.
I’ve decided it’s important I finish the thing, basically. I’ve seen it as advice in blogs, had it delivered to me in real life, and reached the point of agreeing. It’s psychologically useful to get to the point of “This book exists and I am tinkering with it,” rather than “OH DEAR SWEET MERCIFUL LORD JESUS I KEEP GOING BACK TO CHANGE THE START AND AN END WILL NEVER COME.”
Or at least, I’ve decided it’ll be psychologically useful to me. Your mileage may vary etc. I did briefly wonder whether the inevitable changes are so severe that I should rechristen this as Draft 0.5, but no, fuck it. That’s just dissing myself pointlessly. I’ve spent six months writing this, parts of it are pretty good, the potential is there. Be strong, Nick. Finish the book, then we can move on to the editing.
If you’re anticipating a lot of weekly WriteBlogs about editing once this draft is finished, then you are a wise reader. For now, though: I still have no story idea I like better than this one, I’m still determined to get it as good as it can be. Remind me to re-read this in January/February when the editing is beating me down.
If you want a writing-related blog by me with less stream of consciousness and more lists/jokes/focus, I did a blog on the Tuesday Serial site recently about my adventures in awkward webserial marketing online – try that. Also, no, little mention of NaNoWriMo in this blog besides the title. Not worrying about word count much at the moment, sorry NaNoFans. Maybe next week.
You wouldn’t think I’d have time to dash off mid-length blogs about my writing process in the heart of the NaNoWriMo maelstrom, but I’m trying to treat this piece as a short warm-up for later greatness. However, if it seems slightly more rushed or badly spelt than usual, the month-long writing bender is my entire excuse.
So, I’ve been on the NaNo gravy train for nearly a whole week, I’ve written just under seven thousand words (so yes, I am pretty behind) – how is it going? Can I describe my experiences? Well.
I’ve been trying not to worry about word count too much, whilst simultaneously not ignoring it, and that doesn’t make a vast amount of sense. Basically, if I ignore the NaNo word-churning ethos, I just won’t produce anything, which isn’t helpful – but on the other hand, I also don’t want to churn out shite.
There have been a couple of days where I’ve thought – even as I’m writing something – “Fuck, I’m clearly just rattling that off to hit word count.” Case in point: I’m 99% sure that once I sit down to do today’s NaNo words, I’ll be deleting the final section of yesterday’s scene and rewriting it. This is arguably against the Sacred NaNo Spirit, but having worked on this novel all year and been surprisingly happy with it, I don’t really want to spend November grafting some kind of rotting tail onto it. Yet again, I’m trying to use the NaNo Spirit but only when it’s useful to me.
The good news is that despite my angst about quality, I’m just about on track to finish the book (if not the required 50K) by the end of the month, which will mean I’ve at least won my own personal battle. I’ve also been distracted repeatedly by my various other projects – Hobson & Choi will continue, of course, but if you’re a huge fan of my TV reviews, you may see a dip in those as the month goes on. Sorry about that.
Yesterday, I got the good news that H&C was #9 in the Jukepop charts for October, which is yet another personal best and one I might struggle to replicate/beat in future months, to be honest. Nonetheless, good to know people are enjoying it – the even more gratifying part is that I didn’t badger that many personal friends into voting during Oct, so those votes could be from real human interest. Score.
And #39 of H&C will be with you in a few hours, so that’s exciting. Right now, I’ve got to plug a blog post on Twitter (not just this one) and record H&C Podcast #11, then publish #39 – and only after all that can I get back to work on NaNoWriMo. Busy life but I like it a lot. See you all next week.
Tomorrow, NaNoWriMo starts and as I’ve said before, I’ll be working on the final third of my current novel in progress. This will probably not be fifty thousand words, although once I add on four Hobson & Choi chapters for the month and maybe improvise a short story about a man taking his dog for a walk, I might make it over the top.
But, regardless, that isn’t the point. I’m pleased with the opening 66.6% of this novel (even if it still has no title), so it would be a shame to bolt a load of slapdash verbal diarrhoea onto the end and quadruple my editing time.
So, with that in mind, I spent four hours (or three full plays of the new Arcade Fire album) in my regular writing-cafe this afternoon trying to produce a decent plan to keep myself on track.
Seriously, it took ages. I know a lot of people who are trying to write/start whole novels in NaNo, and that must be an epic planning task. Then again, they may not have tried to break them down scene-by-scene like I did. In the eternal NaNoWriMo debate of planning vs making it up (or “plotting vs pantsing”, if you like pants), I’m definitely a plotter. Writing the actual chapters is just fleshing out a skeleton.
Said skeleton is constructed using a tree of folders and documents in Scrivener, if you’re curious. Scrivener might not be for everyone, but for those of us who enjoy imposing a sense of order on the universe, it’s great. If you tweet using Tweetdeck, give writing with Scrivener a try.
Considering I’ve known where I was going with this story for a while, I was surprised how bloody long planinng took. All the cool scenes I’d imagined for the future were a bitch to engineer into place. That’s the problem with writing sci-fi/fantasy – you have to make up your own rules, than actually follow them.
I thought I’d have time to do this blog a bit earlier, but no, here I am at 8PM, just tapping it out before going for a few restful hours not thinking about NaNo.
And then start writing at midnight, obviously. Cleverly, I’ve planned myself into opening with the most depressing scene possible, featuring grim terminal illness goodbyes. On the plus side, the rest of November will be a merry treat in comparison. I considered writing scenes out of order to avoid this downbeat debut, but decided to just swallow it. At least my first real November daytime writing session will have that already done.
And on that note, going to go do something else. Good luck if you’re reading this and also attempting NaNo, feel free to share any angst below or buddy me up on the NaNoWriMo site if that’s your bag. Another writing post next week, unless I hit my head and forget I have a blog.
Today, the oft-hinted Satan novel hit exactly two thirds done, and even though I’m well aware it needs a lot of editing, this makes me immensely happy, because it’s the least troubled novel I’ve ever worked on. No huge gaps, no stumbles, nothing I’m convinced is shit. I live in hope that this is something I can either sell to agents/publishers or persuade myself is worth the effort of self-publishing.
Also, I haven’t hit the wall of telling myself I have no talent, because thanks to the reasonably successful antics of Hobson & Choi over at Jukepop, I’ve got a good strong round of positive affirmation coming in for my fiction. One of the big problems with working on a novel is that you get stuck in this inner world where you only have yourself and your book and the inner walls covered in your own dark scrawl.
The internet can help with this, as can a writer’s group if you’re so inclined, wherein you read them your work and they give you feedback, in return for your returning the favour. Yes, it’s terrifying at first, because exposing your work to other people always is – it might be less intimidating to just expose yourself, to be honest – but once I got past that initial fear, it became infinitely preferable to just slashing onwards and hoping it works out. Even listening and mulling over other people’s scribblings can help bring ideas out
.For more on why writing groups are a good idea, the excellent Chris Brosnahan (organiser of the group I attend) has written a blog post.
Otherwise, as I say, there is always the internet for affirmation via likes/retweets/votes/magic stars/whatever the kids are using nowadays.
Anyway: point being, even though it isn’t finished yet, two thirds seems like a lot of novel to me so I’m allowing myself this small celebration. The final glorious chunk, as I mentioned last week, I aim to write during NaNoWriMo – more on that in future blog posts.
But before that particular mega-storm kicks off, I get a couple of weeks in which I can work on some non-novel projects more intensively than usual, plus do some hard planning for the final third. Score.
If you enjoy the nausea-inducing November writing challenge of NaNoWriMo, maybe you’ve found yourself wanting to find other ways to turn writing into a game. Myself and a friend, both living in the Nunhead region of London at the time, once attempted a second 50k writing challenge in the month of March, under the name “NunheadWriMo”.
You may laugh, but it kinda works with the abbreviation. Without a forum to motivate us, we pushed each other by exchanging trash talk on MSN. For those of you without a kindhearted friend to hurl verbal abuse, though, how can you keep “winning” at writing?
Well, if a daily target and willpower aren’t enough, here are some other incentive schemes.
Camp NaNoWriMo – If It Ain’t Broke, Start It Up Again
Sensing an appetite for NonNovNaNo, the NaNoWriMo people have started Camp NaNoWriMo, where you can link up with other like-minded people to support each other through a 50k push outside of November.
There’s also some hut-based system that I don’t really understand, because they love that camping metaphor. Hopefully next feature is a campfire to burn unwanted writing. But anyway, 1667 a day is quite a lot, so let’s check out less masochistic targets.
750words.com – When 500 Is Too Little, But 1000 Is Too Much
The idea here is that you do 750 words a day, come rain or shine, and the website at 750words.com keeps track of them for you. This is based on a similar exercise called “Morning Pages” where you churn out a few pages of typing every morning, simply to get the writing muscles working.
So your 750 words could be journal dream-writey stuff, or they could be the mid-length building blocks of your novel. Personally, I have to do a thousand a day before I can relax, but 750 is pleasantly unintimidating, I can see the appeal.
Word Count Game – I Can’t Help It, I Have To Beat My Friends
If you want both the doable word counts of 750words and the satisfying friend-killing of NaNo, I’ve recently started playing a word count game with my writing accomplices Alastair and Claire. The aim here is to reward consistency as much as word counts –do at least 250 words a day, and you get daily points for your unbroken run of productive days (1 on your first day, 2 on your second, etc), plus points each day for words written (250 words = 1 points, 500 words = 2 points, 1000 words = 3 points, 2000 words = 4 points).
So producing intermittent huge amounts actually gets you less points than building up a long chain of days. It’s an interesting game, and 250 is definitely an achievable amount – it’s pretty small, in fact – I have to stop myself from clocking out after doing it. Still, this is the method I’m currently using to make myself write – the prospect of “beating” my two friends. (Currently boosting my points for said game by writing about it, and winning by 12 points as of this post, so feeling good.)
If you want to join this game, there’s a spreadsheet obtainable here. We’ve made our own copy and shared it between the three of us, rather than joining the communal pile-on. You may wish to do the same with your friends.
Has turning your writing into a game worked for you? Is there another scheme that has proven useful? Or does this kinda stuff cheapen the artform somehow? Thoughts welcome.