Day Twelve

Well, my writing today wasn’t nearly as impressive as yesterday’s sprint. I’ve fallen even further behind. And I was so hoping to make it to the 20,000 mark today. Curse you, Community, for your imminent distractability.

Today I rediscovered the joys of writing longhand. It’s particularly nice to catch a break from the furious typing I’m used to engaging in. The variation gives my wrists and fingers a break, though it’s no softer on my back. Plus, there are fewer breaks. My mind moves faster than my fingers when I write longhand, so I always know where I’m going next. Another great thing about longhand is that you can write and look like you’re taking notes, or write when a computer wouldn’t be viable – on the bus, for example.

The big detractor, for me at least, is that four pages of longhand condenses into less than a thousand words.  What looks so impressive when I’m flipping through my notebook turns out to be no big deal.

I remember when I used to prefer writing longhand. The nice thing about it is that I can really focus on what’s on the page. There are no other internet tabs, no skype messages, nothing calling me insistently away from my story. Unless I’m supposed to be paying attention in class, of course.

I’m hoping tomorrow will provide some nice catch-up opportunities. I should probably stop distracting myself. Maybe I can stick to just the notebook…

Mood: still good, I’m probably just in denial.
Word Count: probably around 16,400? I’m not really sure. That’s not as bad as I thought.
Music: Still Primo Victoria, as warbled by Van Canto. Seriously, that song is amazing. Very epic to listen to while completing boring assignments.

P. S. Does anyone else love the Recommended Tags category in the post-writing section? Right now my recommended tags include the Pope, Catholicism, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. I think this may be the first time I have mentioned any of those things in a WordPress post. Do you think the Pope is doing Nanowrimo? Think he’d run a word sprint with me? I’d totally put that on my CV. Though my nano name, which references Anne Boleyn, might hit a sore point.

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Day Eleven

The First Writing Funk of November is officially a thing of the past!

I ended my two-day unintentional writing vacation this evening by writing 2.5k. I am still 4,000 words behind, so there will be a bit more of that in the future.

I started feeling optimistic again after this writing session. It makes me wish I’d started writing a bit earlier in the evening, since now I have to get my wussy self to bed. I have a vague idea of what’s going to happen next, and a vague idea is all I ever need.

And I had fun during this writing session. It’s always more difficult when you’re not having fun, and even though I’m sure what I was writing was pretty bad, I enjoyed it. So at least I didn’t totally waste my evening.

The next big milestone is tomorrow! 20k. I don’t think I’ll hit it until at least Tuesday. How about you guys?

Mood: tired but positive
Word Count: 16030
Music: Primo Victoriaoriginally by Sabaton but I’ve been obsessively listening to the Van Canto cover. Seriously. If you like a capella music, go listen to this. If you like metal music, go listen to this. I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of these guys before now.

Day Eight

An excerpt from the novel. Don’t judge too harshly, this is a hastily-written first draft:

They fought their way through the underbrush until they found a smaller road, then they walked along it. Leva strode next to her with his head down, contemplating something. Probably how much he hates peasants, she thought. “So,” she said. “Can you do any magic whatsoever outside of the school?”

He smirked. “I guess I haven’t tried that much,” he said. He turned that well-known, cocky expression on her. A smile played around his lips – the same smile that he always had when he knew he had the upper hand.

Her hair burst into flame.

She couldn’t help the scream that erupted from her mouth. She dropped the rucksack and threw herself to the road, dislodging Cat as she rolled back and forth on the hard ground.

“Stop,” Cat was shouting – as loud as a cat could shout. “Stop it. Stop!”

Leva was laughing.

After a few moments Marian realized that she wasn’t in pain – and she didn’t smell burning hair. She stopped rolling and tentatively put a hand up to her head. Her hair was as long, as lush and as curly as ever. It was a bit dustier now, but otherwise undamaged.

Leva was almost on the road himself. His face was red and tears glinted at the corners of his eyes as he snorted with laughter. “It was an illusion,” he gasped. “You should have seen yourself -”

What she was seeing was red. She scrambled to her feet, ready to punch him in his smug, upturned mouth. Cat was shouting something but she couldn’t really make it out. She didn’t care.

She opened her hand at the last moment so that her punch turned into a hard slap. Leva’s laugh became a choke as he was thrown off balance and onto the road.

 

Today’s lesson for me is: if you have personal problems, write them right in to your novel.

When I started writing today, I was behind by almost 3000 words and I was not in a good mood. I’m currently having some personal problems with my best friend – my ex-best friend, I should say, since our friendship is a bit on the rocks these days. I had just finished having a totally unsatisfying non-conversation with him and was (and still am) unsure of how to proceed along the road of our relationship.

This novel, and the interactions of the two main characters in it, has become an outlet for my frustration with my friend. While I didn’t come up with the idea with him strictly in mind, he soon became the jumping point for the easy, arrogant Leva, and the problems and flaws we both have were easy to make the starting point of an argument that got out of hand.

When I started writing I didn’t think I would make that many words. But I managed to make up for yesterday’s lack of writing, and keep going. And I could write even more – but I’m going to go home and make some dinner, instead.

Mood: frustrated but in some ways satisfied.
Word Count: 13,358
MusicThe Host of Seraphim, by Dead Can Dance.

Day Six

I made it to 10,000 words!

Yesterday, after I bemoaned the fact that I wouldn’t reach my word goal, I wrote a little more – and ended up less than 100 words shy of the par. Just goes to show you. I managed to make that up and instead of falling further and further behind, I’ve managed to keep on track.

To mark the 10,000th word, I decided to put in a wordle. How have I been doing?

Wordle: 6th November

 

The largest word is of course the name of my protagonist, Marian. Following that seems to be a host of nouns that aren’t terribly interesting, though I suppose if the word obsequious or something similar were popping up all the time, I would have a whole host of different problems to be dealing with.

Another thing I noticed was that of the 10,000 words, I think around 300 are listed on there. If wordle really does chronicle and analyse every single word we use, I’m not using too many. Obviously conjunctions, articles and pronouns are not included.

Maybe I should try more variation in my novel. But if I’m spending all my time thinking about which words to use, I won’t get as many put down.

Mood: tired, mostly.
Word Count: 10035
Music: the dulcet tones of the election coverage – happy Election Tuesday, Americans!

Look! A Nanowrimo Forum!

Let’s be honest, no one can resist a good nano cat.

The title of this blog is hopefully exciting for those of you who are doing Nanowrimo, but it also happens to be informational.

Back in September or the beginning of October, when the blogosphere was just becoming acquianted with Nanowrimo Venn diagrams, Nano cat memes and so on, I took a look around, thought, Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have a blog forum for all this? and wrote to a couple of other bloggers saying something to that effect. Their reply was, “Sure, get a forum going and we’ll all take a look.”

Well, someone more charming and clever than I has done exactly that. Meet Val and Ben, who are already near and dear to my heart as fellow foreigners in a Scandinavian country. They created a forum for Nano writers to get together here and blog about their experiences, tips, tools, and more. The blog is aptly named, “Look! A Nanowrimo Forum!!” and I was invited to participate there.

It is just the place to cogitate over character motivation, find a good writing programme, bitterly complain about word count or give (and receive) inspiration.

So come on by and take a look. If you’ve written something cool about Nanowrimo, link us to the blog post (here or there) or comment. We’re always looking for new resources.

The Artist

artist: cabecadaShe hadn’t known Stephen long; he’d come into their lives a few months ago. He had emerged from that mental twilight that always separates the us from the others and had joined their friend group with all the ease of a cat settling onto its perch. Even though he was the youngest of them – only seventeen – sometimes he seemed as though he were the most adult, the only one among them fully formed and ready to take on the world.

He had always been so comfortable with himself. It was what made the funeral so strange – the stiffness and awkwardness with which he lay in the coffin. He seemed ready to leap up at any moment, straighten his tux, and go play the part of best man for some older friend’s wedding.

Did he really look so solemn in life? she wondered as her hand skated across the page. Should she look just as solemn? Most others did. Anna was seated across the room, sobbing into a black lace handkerchief. Then again, that numb and callous part of her brain reminded her, Anna had a flair for drama. She was probably the only person in the city who even had a black lace handkerchief.

Anna had also been Stephen’s girlfriend.

She hated funerals. She hated the way that no one seemed comfortable in their grief, and that no one seemed to know what to say. And she was no better than anyone else. She only knew how to talk with her hands, and she did so now, sketching without really thinking. Because thinking would make her just as uncomfortable as the rest of them.

No one noticed her as she sat with her open pad. Or if they did, they pretended not to. They wanted their time alone with him to seem real, perhaps – as though they were in a little bubble around the sarcophagus, and only they could speak, and only he could listen. They murmured and they cried, and they said goodbye. And as they left the church, she heard many of them say, “why?”

As if the corpse would sit up and reply, or the church would split and some angel would emerge from the steeple to tell them. Maybe they wanted reassurance, that this death had some grand significance and the young, brilliant man had been taken for a reason. Whether the reason was there or not, it was an answer they would never get. And if they could, she wondered as she drew, would they have been able to handle the answer they got? Would they even have been able to understand it?

Drawing was the one thing she had really shared with Stephen. She was always a little too quiet, a little too off to the sidelines while he seemed caught in the spotlight on a regular basis. But they were in art class together, and it was the one place in which she seemed to outshine him. He wasn’t jealous of her talent, just admiring. He’d asked her once to make a portrait of him.

“If you don’t think it’s too weird,” he’d said with the half-smile that seemed to get him anything.

Well, she was making his portrait now.

She became aware, suddenly, of a presence just above and behind her. She picked up her pencil and half turned to see who it was, and found herself staring into the red-rimmed eyes of Anna. She still held that ridiculous lace handkerchief and she leaned over to scrutinize the sketch. Her eyes wandered over the shape of his head, his eyes, the bridge of his nose. Then she hissed with all the venom of a rattlesnake, “It looks nothing like him.”

Anna stalked up to the coffin, looked down for a moment on the last expression of her beloved, and burst into a loud wail, throwing herself down over the upper half of his body. The artist held up her sketch and compared it to the corpse that was now being given the extra burden of his former girlfriend, who didn’t seem inclined to let go or even muffle her shrieking.

Anna was right. It looked nothing like he did now.

It looked the way he used to, when they sat together in art class. Pensive, focused, iconic. And with a strength hidden in him that couldn’t be expressed through that stiff stillness.

The artist closed her sketch pad and stood. The others could mourn their dead comrade in his wooden box. She, at least, would leave with something living.

***

Thanks to cabecada for the inspirational piece of art, which was originally brought to my attention by bwthoughts. I wish I could have done it better justice but sometimes I guess you just have to put out what’s on your mind.

If you’re interested in getting some of your own art exhibited on this page, why not send it on over, or link me to its location? Visit the Call for Art page for more information. And, of course, comments and constructive criticisms are always welcome.

Maybe This Time…

I try to participate in Nanowrimo every year.

By that I mean, I get at least one hour down the pike before giving up. Sometimes I get a couple thousand words in. And a few times I’ve gone all-in, and finished that novel with hours to spare.

I’m subscribed to the OLL blog and last year I was pretty active in my little writing group here in Copenhagen. During (and after) the Big Event, I kept hearing about these amazing people who had not only managed to write a novel in a month, but had managed to rework it, polish it, edit it, send it off to an agent or publisher, and sell it. Some of the people in my writing group were preparing to self-publish their work.

All this made me take a long, hard look at my previous novels. What I found was – lack.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 1: I seem to recall I started on this one rather late. A young man receives a very rare book from his dead grandfather, along with a note saying he has to protect it at all costs. In finding out what, exactly, the book is, why some people want to destroy it and others want to protect it, he ends up getting into all kinds of trouble.
What it lacked: Substance, really. While my main character did a lot of things, I don’t think I ever clearly explained why it was he had to do them, who was after his book, or what it was all about. It was an entertaining story but I’m not sure I’ll revisit it.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 2: It took me four years to complete a Nano challenge again. I’ll admit I was a little surprised, since I had no idea what I was doing and had absolutely no plan until November 1. My story centered around a vampire protagonist who was the main villain of a gothic novel – only she didn’t want to be the bad guy. The book followed her efforts to become self-aware and change the plot, with the help of some (and hindrance of other) secondary characters.
What it lacked: Although I enjoyed writing it as a humorous piece, I don’t think this will make it to a publishing house in its current incarnation, because it lacks originality. A vampire we can sympathize with? Been there, done that. Characters of a novel becoming self-aware? Likewise. It was fun to write a mock gothic novel, but the angle isn’t enough. I’ve got plans for changing this one, but not this Nanowrimo.

Nanowrimo Novel Number 3: Emboldened by my success the previous year, I decided to try re-writing the second novel I ever completed. When I was 16, I produced an irritating, plotless adventure that even I didn’t really understand. It focused on a young girl who had a singular magical ability, and forged an unlikely and disapproved of friendship with the nearby magician’s son. I then spent the next six years trying to figure out what to do with it. I always liked the characters, but needed something more substantial for them than the wandering adventure that I had. So I made her the subject of an early-teen marriage to an older man, had them placed in a powerful position at some foreign court, and put in some mystery. Oh, and then I killed her.
What it lacked: I liked the way the manuscript started. Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do from there. The decision to add in a little murder came towards the end, and then I realized what I really wanted – my novel was supposed to start with the murder. That led to something entirely different that won’t resemble, in any way, the mess I began six years ago. This manuscript lacked certainty. It’s something I hope to bring back to its latest incarnation – and maybe I’ll finish it this time.

This year’s novel: After a little tribulation, I decided to go with what I described in my book blurb # 1. It’s not the most original premise of the ones I posted, but I picked it because it has strong characters. That means they won’t be waffling around while I’m trying to figure out where the plot goes next. I have a clear picture of them all in my mind, so I won’t have to force actions on them or think up a reason or two. The plot doesn’t really have an unsolved mystery, which I’d have to figure out before the end, and it doesn’t have complicated magic, science or world views.

I’ll be blogging daily during Nanowrimo, in an attempt to stick to my word count. I’ll probably vent some frustrations about writers block, the cafe where I’ll do most of my morning writing, balancing Nano and thesis, and so on. I know that there are fellow Nano’ers out there in the blogosphere; maybe we can all put together a support group of some kind.

Anyone interested in Nano support, let’s hear it. Problems in previous years, trends you’ve noticed, suggestions for some kind of group…