Happy NaNoWriMo-Eve

31 10 2012

It’s that time of year again. While a lot of you are overindulging in pumpkin there are a few mad people waiting for midnight when the writing may commence. Okay, that’s more than a few but worldwide it amounts to a few. National Novel Writing Month starts at midnight tonight (local time) and ends at midnight on 30th November. The aim is to write 50,000 words of novel during November – that’s 1,667 words each and every day. More words are even better and a complete novel is wonderful.

I’ve been doing this for quite a few years now and I’ve never managed to start and complete a novel during the month. I have started several novels – two of them are finished. One was finished two years after I started it during last year’s NaNo. I’ve spent the last year poking at it, grizzling and editing out all the NaNo styling and a couple of days ago it was accepted for publication. More about that another time!

What is NaNo-styling and why do I want to edit it out of a novel? NaNo is all about word count and switching off the internal editor to produce that word count. For example: “it’s” is one word and “it is” is two words so for NaNo why use one word when you could use two? All contractions are to be avoided (or searched out on a bad day and uncontracted). Another NaNo rule is not to delete anything – if you don’t like it and want to delete it either format it as “strikethrough” or put it in square brackets and mark it for deletion, e.g. [delete this section: complete blithering rubbish]. The second option gives you three more words!

If you have some created words for items in your story or want to create some but are lacking inspiration then you can increase your NaNo word count by using those square brackets again: [insert name of skirt thing here] and there you have another six words instead of one.

So you can see that a NaNo manuscript needs a bit of work to get it into a more normal format. Using those square brackets means that you can find the simple fixes by searching for a starting square bracket. The driveling takes a lot more effort to fix.

So why produce a mucky first draft that needs a lot of editing? That has many answers.

For a first time NaNo-er the whole point is to prove that you can write a novel. It may be a very bad novel but you have written it. Many NaNo addicts don’t take that any farther just start a new novel the next November. Some take their NaNo novel and get it published – I’d be one of those!

Writing is a very personal thing and every writer has a different way of doing it. There are some broad similarities but there are an infinite number of ways of putting those words in your head down on “paper”.

I mentioned switching off the internal editor to do NaNo – we all have an internal editor who isn’t always very helpful. The internal editor can be a big obstacle to writing anything at all: the phrasing isn’t right; the spelling is wrong; the grammar atrocious; the whole idea is stupid; and why waste time writing anything else about these boring, cardboard characters?

NaNo isn’t about writing literary prose NaNo is about writing words one after another until you have collected 50,000 of them all together in one manuscript. You could just write the same word over and over (or write it once and then use the Copy function) to get 50,000 words, but that would be cheating; and the only person that you would be cheating would be yourself. That doesn’t mean that you can’t write some truly apalling poetry and copy that through the manuscript to boost word count!

Another word count booster is description: why use one adjective when you could use three? Why not wedge in some adverbs? Stuck for what to write? Describe the scene in depth with as many adjectives and adverbs and words as possible. Does the room have a carpet? What colour is it? What sort of pattern? Is it thick or thin, old or new, clean or dirty? You could write a whole paragraph just about the carpet – you could even write about the things that the carpet isn’t, e.g. “it was not an expensive, luxurious, antique Persian carpet and it certainly did not have any obvious magical properties that might make it more interesting, it showed absolutely no inclination for flying and swooping through the air, there were not even any tassles”.

Perhaps that gives you an idea of why there is much editing to be done on a NaNo manuscript!

If you want to know more check out the website: http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/about

I’m off to announce my presence for this year – Mad Mara rides again!


Half-past October

21 10 2012

The problem with having an author blog is what to write about when there hasn’t been anything writing related since the last post. Or even when there has been some writing but nothing significant to report.

Since I submitted Johnny Smith there has been no significant writing. I did dig out what I have of Shadow and read through it – only 20K not the 50K I thought I’d reached – I filled in the [insert correct term here] blanks that I’d put in during last year’s NaNoWriMo and maybe added a paragraph or two; so that means an overall reduction in word count.

I’ve had this week off work and did intend to spend the week in Wales relaxing and maybe writing. RL put paid to that plan (vet bills and car bills) so I’ve spent the week ‘doing stuff’. On a RL front I’ve achieved a fair amount (mother’s bungalow is up for sale after ten years of faffing around) but nothing particularly interesting to write about; unless you’d really like to know that I cleared six wheelbarrow loads of brambles yesterday and my hands are aching badly from using the long handled loppers for so many hours; or that laying carpet tiles takes longer than I anticipated (not to mention how long it takes to wipe down kitchen cabinet doors)?

I have been working my way through the UK Meet Swag Stick before collapsing into bed and trying to ignore the jealous pangs about those at GRL in Albuquerque (bet they don’t get a wonderful swag stick there). Most of my reading this week has been from the generous collection of wonderful short stories provided by Bruin Fisher. I can’t share most of the things on the Swag Stick but Bruin’s stories are available on his website if you fancy a short read – not romance as such but enjoyable with mostly happy endings – that mostly is there because I seem to remember a not-so-happy ending but it might not have been a Bruin story. Bruin’s website: http://www.bruinscave.org.uk/

Have a good week!


Johnny Smith is done!

7 10 2012

Well, maybe not completely done but done enough to submit to a publisher. I’ve just pressed the send button on the email sending Johnny out there into the wide world without me. Now it is a matter of waiting to see if he is accepted and deciding where to send him next in case he isn’t.

This is one of those good/bad moments of being a writer. Finishing a manuscript is a big high, tinged with sadness because it is finished and those characters who have been intimate companions for however long are now going to take a back seat. The rush of it being finished does outweigh the sadness most of the time. Johnny has been around for a long time though. The first draft was finished last November and I’ve been whining and whinging about the edits all year while not getting on with them. Johnny was actually started in November 2009 and had been sitting on the back shelf since then. So letting him go is a big wrench.

All that doesn’t take into account the waiting for the publisher to say yay or nay. The panic about whether they’ll see what a wonderful person Johnny is and how much he needs to be out there.

That panic won’t go away for quite a while. Once I find a publishing home for Johnny (and have done even more edits) then the panic will switch to readers and reviewers – will they love Johnny? Will they hate him? Or what’s maybe worse will they find him ‘meh’?

The only ‘cure’ for the panic is the distraction of another set of characters…

I have plenty to choose from. I’m off to consult the list of unfinshed projects and there are some unstarted ones on there too. November approaches and I have to decide if I’m going to attempt NaNoWriMo this year. Or I could just stare blankly out of the window…