It was decided last month that each of the CWG admin would make a weekly post re: NaNo on our blog. Due to my claim that if I had to write it later, then I would be less likely to give up on my story, I scored the final slot. I believe this is now my designated week. Or possibly I’m a few days late.
As I mentioned on my earlier post, I’m a bit of a NaNo veteran – this is my seventh novel-in-a-month challenge, and my sixth NaNo. My success rate is around 50%. This is the first year I have participated socially in it, and that side of things has made it even more memorable – I am surprised at how many Christchurch people are actively involved in it – and even more who have heard of it.
Is NaNo hard? Sometimes – at times I just wanted to give up, to say “sod this story” and move onto finishing last year’s, or throw myself back into my art. But every day, I found myself back here at the keyboard, typing away, reading over what I’d written and thinking “that ain’t so bad”. By this stage in previous NaNos, I had either succeeded or given up. The twenty-fourth has been traditionally my day for completion. And today I have indeed completed my novel, but am still behind on the wordcount (by about 5000 words). Never mind, I have plans to beef it up and a short story to write as an additional.
For the last three NaNos I have worked full time, for the 2010 one, I wrote through 100s of aftershocks, and also through a course on “writing for children”. Last year I struggled with the plot. Writing is a time-consuming, brain-consuming hobby and it is all too easy to just throw in the towel.
But it’s worth it to persist, to get down those last words and feel the satisfaction of another story completed.
Until the editting begins…
We have less than a week until NaNoWriMo hits. I always love the first day of NaNo. We here in NZ get to start first, and we get the top spot on total words written for a few hours. How cool is that!?
This year I have decided that our trash room (aka spare room) should be better utilised, and needed to become my room: a reading and writing room!
So I set about clearing and cleaning, and here we are, three days later, my NaNo-ing space 🙂
Setting up the room as a writing room really made me think about what’s essential to me, and what isn’t. I don’t tend to use a desk, just my laptop on my knees. The key was that it had to be a comfortable space away from the pressures of life such as housework, and distractions of the lounge such as the toddler watching tv (valuable writing time). The other huge essential was an accessible spot for my mug, all set for drinking too much tea.
I love how nature meets literature in here. There’s frogs in the terrarium (on the right), and masses of books up on the dresser (on the left). With the window open right by the chair there’s bird noise and fresh air streaming in, and if I’d rather not have that then there’s a speaker set up on the dresser with my iPod handy.
I don’t want the room to become overwhelmed with paperwork, so there’s limited free surface area, but if I do need more then there’s a foldout table in the corner. I’ll peg up a few potential scenes to write on my noticeboard by the door so I have something to look to if I get stuck, and if I need to I’ll bring in my index cards which will have my characters, places and scenes on.
In the pantry I’ve got some Whittakers mini choc bars, and if I hit word count for the day I get one. I may place one next to my coaster each day so I’m driven to hit the 1667. Call it bribery or reward, either way it’s delicious.
I feel like I’m ready this year. The one thing I’ll be lacking is Time! Not much I can do about that. I’ll just have to chip away at the word count throughout the day rather than expect to get a block of time to get it done. (I also want some art on my walls, but I think that will have to wait until after November, though it’s not November yet and there’s still a few days open…)
As for the novel itself, it’s currently called Entangled Anecdotes. It’s mainstream-ish fiction, it’s set in Chch (NZ), and it’s not a new project but this is the first rework of it to make it into some kind of form similar to a novel. My 50k will all be new writing, rather than reworking scenes.
If you want to join in noveling pop over to nanowrimo.org
Greetings, I am Angela “LemurKat” Oliver, one of the co-founders of the Christchurch Writer’s Guild, and I am a NaNo veteran. I have participated in NaNo (or similar endevours) six times since 2002, and have a 66% “success” rate – in that four times out of the six I achieved 50k or more.
Here I am pictured with an earlier proof copy of my 2010 NaNo novel, “Aroha’s Grand Adventure.” Whilst the story wound up around 46k, the indepth appendices and a short story pushed it over the requirements. “Aroha” was written in the aftermath of the disturbing-but-less-tragic September 4th earthquake in Christchurch, and over 400 aftershocks were widely felt in the city over the month of November.
I believe writing actually helped me through what was an otherwise very stressful time, and yes, there is an earthquake in the books.
My other NaNo novels have been less than successful.
For my first NaNo in 2002, I wrote a commissioned piece (I was given a storyline, characters and $$$ to write it) entitled “Long Odds” that concluded at just over 26k.
In 2003, I tried again, penning my post-apocalyptic Furry novel, “Scavengers of the Deadlands”, which despite being derivative of Harry Potter and ElfQuest is actually pretty jolly good. I achieved the wordcount, and went on to write a total of 95,000 words before running out of steam – about 5k from the end. I have promised myself to finish that story at some point in the not too distant future (and make it a little less derivative).
I then took a break for the next four years, concentrating more on my artwork (and discovering Artist Trading Cards), before trying again in 2007, with a reboot of my story “Quest for Lemuria”. Once again, it fell flat, at just over 20k.
2010 was a far more successful year, with “Aroha’s Grand Adventure” which I later went on to publish (yay for the free proof copy code), and in 2011 I participated in both Kiwiwriter’s SocNoc (Southern Cross Novel Challenge) and NaNo, writing parts one and two of my Epic Lemur Novel. Part one went okay, with much editting and re-writing, but after achieving the 50k for part two, I then went and removed half of it.
For 2012, I am planning a follow-up/parallel novel to “Aroha’s Grand Adventure,” using the kea, Tiriki, that features in those books.
So, how am I prepping for NaNo this year? Well, first and foremost, I am clearing myself of all other artistic obligations – getting all art trades out of the way, not committing to any swaps and also finishing up my entries for the two storyline competitions. November will be for concentrating on writing. It would have been nice to take time off work as well, but in previous times I have written while working full-time, plus I’ve run out of holiday leave!
I am also conceptualising. I am not good at taking notes, I prefer storing stuff in my brain – which works well for a while, but I tend to forget things if they are left too long. I have the basic plot-premise set out, a main character and an opening scene. I have not yet written that scene, of course, but I do know roughly how it will go. With writing, I find the hardest bit is the first sentence. If I have not got that sorted out, then I shall sit and stare at the blank screen for up to 30 mins.
This year I have a laptop. This means that I can – if needs must – write at work, and also allows me to attend more of the social gatherings. In previous years, I had considered going – but the idea of going out and not writing, or writing on paper, made it less than desirable. I am using Dropbox as the place to do the writing – which means I can access it from both my computers without shifting files back and forth.
When writing my NaNo novel – I get up earlier – setting my alarm to rouse me an hour earlier than I normally would. That means 5 am most week days. This worked fine in November, when the birds were singing early, but when I tried it for SocNoc in June the results were less than stellar. My goal is to write 1000 words before breakfast!
The most succesful daily wordcount I ever had was 5000 words. Not only was the story flowing, but the internet wasn’t working. This meant I could not pop into the forums, or check my facebook, or spend two hours researching what would happen if a weka ate a cigarette, or watching people “fishing” for wekas on youtube.
And don’t forget to make back-ups. I’ve heard of people having their laptops stolen – and thus losing their entire manuscript. Once again, Dropbox is useful here because you can access it from any computer, anywhere, with a password. However, I would recommend also saving it to your harddrive in case something goes wrong with Dropbox.
I blog every day whilst doing these Monthly Writing Challenges, so you can follow my progress over on: http://lemurkat.blogspot.com (although now I have a wordpress blog, it’s tempting to move it).
This November we leap into National Novel Writing Month. To help you get excited and organised, throughout October we’re posting some interviews/guest blogs from people who have been through NaNoWriMo before, and what they’re doing this year to be prepared. First up we have CWG member Tammie, who has been searching for index cards. We wanted to know what for…
It’s nearing October which means Nano is just around the corner. Usually I wait until the last minute and hope like hell I can write 50,000 words in a month. This year though, I’m prepared. I’m sure I’ve had a few of you wondering why the heck do I need index cards for Nano? Well, I’m here to tell you. But first, I’m going to let you in on secrets in my nano prep. I’ve found these things invaluable in the past and I’m going to get my Nano kit ready in advance this year.
So here is must-haves for any person facing Nano, whether it be a first time or a repeat offender.
- Ring binders – for those pesky printed out pages and stuffs to keep them handy. Mine are covered this year with word finds. Handy for brain freeze, writers block and procrastination. They are covered with clear durasel and I have a whiteboard marker…
- A lolly container – Mine is a big one. I like sugar, it helps me think. Or something like that anyway. I frequent Kmart for their $1.50 bags or I grab them on special. Wrapped ones are best because you get an extra few minutes out of every lolly when you try and concoct something with the wrapper.
- Refil/Lined paper/Notebook – I don’t cart my laptop/netbook around everywhere with me, so I find having these in my bag handy for those on the spur thinking sessions. I also like hand writing stuff out so that’s another bonus (and another use for those ring binders!!)
- Index Cards – Ahh, now I’m getting down to why I need them. Every character/place/point of interest is assigned an index card. If it’s a character card I have as many details as I can possibly think of written down – everything from their description to their favourite thing to do to whether they fold or scrunch their toilet paper. For places I have written descriptions and sometimes a picture reference.
- Printer – It’s handy… To print out things. I print out everything I write. I find it easier to go through and edit, especially on the go.
- Pens – I have HUNDREDS of pens. I have red pens, black pens, highlighters, gel pens, pencils… basically I have a 10 litre container full of pens & writing instruments. And even though I have that, I still can never find a pen when I need one.
- Inspiration – I randomly write down quotes, whether they are from something online, something someone has said or something I’ve over heard and it goes into my ringbinders. If I find a cute picture online, I have an “inspiration” folder in my nano folder that it goes into there.
- Something to squeeze – I’m lucky enough (or should that be unlucky enough) to have gotten a black crocheted cat from last years Nano and it’s in my box for this year. I give it a squeeze or a cuddle for inspiration when I’m writing.
- Junk food / Caffeine – This basically falls along the same line as the lolly box 🙂 see above for more details.
- An idea – let’s be honest. You can’t write without something first to write about. An idea, a quote, a song lyric – anything to keep you going.
- Music/Tv Shows/Movies – These, while perfect distractions, are also great company during long writing sessions. I tend to watch tv series that I’ve seen before while I’m writing. The white noise in the background helps me think and write.
- Friends & Supporters – Join a Nano group, find someone else that’s doing it, anything to keep your spirits high. I had a rough year last year during Nano and if it wasn’t for the friends I made with the Nano group it might have been a lot lot worse.
I think that’s about all I have in my Nano box. It’s more like an open container that is continually added to, but keep an open mind. Let me know what you would add to yours too.
Thank you Tammie for your time and suggestions. If you want to post a guest post, or wouldn’t mind being interviewed about NaNo, just get in contact with a CWG admin member.