Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I won!

I did it - I made it to 50,000 grueling words.  I promised that I would post the first chapter after I was done - and I wll do that next week after I've spent a little bit of time away from my opus work in progress.  Just wanted to share with everyone that I am DONE.

I will be celebrating tonight by recording a podcast - look for that later tonight!

Monday, November 29, 2010


I haven't posted on here since last Tuesday, mainly because I've been busy writing / doing other things.  I did mention that typing the novel gave me a lot more free time, right?  Anyway, now I'm at 45k.

I must admit, I finished the actual NaNoWriMo story I started writing on November 1st before I got to 45k.  I think it was around 44k.  What I'm writing now is a short story about the main character's grandfather when he was in grade nine.  I think I'm going to go the route I thought of in one of my last posts - turn the story I wrote into a short story, and write a few other stories about the time travelin' pocket watch.

Either way, I have less than 5,000 words until I hit 50k.  I'm so close to that benchmark, but the words are starting to get harder to churn out.  I thought that if I started a different story it might be easier to hit the 50k mark, but so far it hasn't.  I will find a way, though.

Just thought I'd update people on how things are going.  I hope to have it all finished soon, because I want to do a podcast Tuesday night instead of trying to finish the novel in the last minute (so to speak).;

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Give Up...

...handwriting, that is.  I was able to hand write 28,774 words of my novel.  That's about 58%, over half.  Unfortunately, I just couldn't keep up.  The only reason I'm so far behind is not because I'm struggling to find the story; rather it's because my hand can't keep up.

As an example, just now I typed out 1200 words in under 20 minutes.  To write 1200 words by hand, I would have spent almost an hour, if not longer.  Thanks to doing a quick 20-minute "sprint", I got to my 30k word goal that I wanted to hit yesterday.  In other words, if I don't do any more writing tonight, I'll still be satisfied.  Of course I plan on doing more, but I have a few other things to take care of first.

And that's the freeing part of all this.  I know that I can bang out a large amount of words in a short period of time, which leaves me more time to do other things (for instance tonight I want to take my dog on a walk, clean up the kitchen, and later will be seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1).  When I was handwriting, I felt slightly discouraged when I didn't hit a word goal simply because it took me too long to write the words.

The one thing I will miss about handwriting is the creative feeling that came with it.  I honestly feel a slight disconnect between my brain and my typing, while the connection was stronger when I wrote by hand.  I'm still going to carry around my binder, because I may find myself in situations where it's easier to hand write, so not all is lost.

I'm excited - I know that I will reach 50k for sure now, and I won't completely wreck my hand doing it anymore.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding Time to Write

As I type this blog entry, I sit at just over 27k for my NaNoWriMo word count.  I'm almost 10k behind where my NaNo stats tell me I should be.  I'm not really down about that at all, don't get me wrong - I have plenty of story left to tell and a lot of time coming up at the end of the week to do it.

But that's part of the issue, is finding time to write.  I want to get up to 30k by the end of today, but where am I going to fit that in?  I write at lunch while I'm at work, but I can only usually get just under 1000 words done.  I write after I get home from work, if I can fit some time in between grocery shopping.  Sometimes I just can't fit it in.

That's where my struggle is going to be for the next 8 days; I'm going to need to make a better effort to get this thing written and finished.  While I have a half day of work on Thursday and a day off on Friday, and will take full advantage of that free time to get some work done, that doesn't mean I have a free pass to slack off before that.

It's going to take a lot of balancing, and maybe some late / early hours, but I have to do my best to reach 50k because if I don't at least try, then it's not really worth it.

As a side note: I had small ideas prickling in my head that maybe this story I'm working on would be best condensed to a short story as part of a compilation of various stories about a time travelling pocket watch.  While I'm going to finish the story at hand, I will assess that possibility when I read over my story as a whole during the editing process.

EDIT: My side note also means that if I run out of story before 50k I will just start a new story and I feel that would not count as "cheating".

Monday, November 15, 2010


November 12th is the day where NaNoWriMo writers should be at 20,004 words (if they are following the general 1,667 words per day guideline).  Today however is November 15th, the half-way point.  My novel sits at 20,325 words, or roughly 41% complete.  What does this mean?  Superficially, that there are only 30,000 words left to write.  But I thought I would look back at my first 20,000 words so far.

The most obvious observation is that my writing style and narrative voice has adapted over 20,000 pages.  If you were to compare the first page I wrote with the most recent page I wrote, you would probably think two different writers wrote each one.  I've definitely noticed a growth in skill as I've continued to write, though I think I'd say that the skill was already there - I just haven't used it in a long time, so it took a few hundred thousand words to come back.  Oh also I changed from 3rd person to 1st person.  Go me!

I wish I could easily scan over the document and pick out all instances of alliteration, because I apparently love to use it.  Some day, if this book ever becomes anything remotely close to popular, I'll make the first draft available for people to read and have a chuckle.  There's even a direct reference to the parting of the Red Sea in there, but it's the most basic, obvious reference in the world and so therefore will not be staying in the final draft.

And that's another thing - I'm writing this story with a (very) basic outline.  I know that I want my character to go from Point A to B, and have vague ideas of how to get to Point B, but it's all going by the seat of my pants.  Unfortunately that means that there's a lot of meandering along and not always a lot of plot advancement, but it's giving me something to work with when I go back and edit later.  This is not the biggest problem though, as my main issues are keeping facts / different plot points straight.  This may lead to hair-pulling editing later.

I feel like a broken record though, in regards to editing.  I'm making a conscious choice not to edit as I go, or else I wouldn't be making very much progress.  As a result, I am very aware of areas in the book that need work (and let's not joke around, the whole thing needs work).  It honestly makes me dread the notion of editing this thing, and not want to do it.

But that is ultimately the difference between a writer who sells his/her books and the writer who doesn't: the writer that sells is the writer that puts the work into it.  And make no mistake, all of this?  This is work.  It's also a challenge, and one that I don't intend to give up on until November 30th.  I have to say, there have been points where I've thought about giving up and finishing on my own time; but that's why this is a competition against myself to win.  By giving up, I lose; I know for a fact if I don't finish it this month, the chances are low of me taking the initiative to go back and finish it.

One last thing: writing this has brought out my creative energy again.  Before October, when I decided to commit myself to this month-long haul, I had many misgivings about my own writing.  I was still proud of things I wrote, but that pride melted away like a snowman in October (oh yes, that was a terrible simile on purpose).  I had no confidence in what I was doing, and no motivating drive to do anything new.  I feel that after I finish the novel, that drive will stick and I'll have new creative output other than just this beast in the weeks/months to come.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fundamental Changes

I went for a walk with my dog Hank last night, and as it was a fairly quiet and clear night, it was the perfect time to do some thinking about my novel.  I had just gotten past the recommended goal of 16,670 words (I believe I'm at 16,775?  Sounds about right) and it was time for a well-earned break.

The thing I realized while I was walking was that my novel needs a fundamental change, one that will require a major rewrite when it's done.  While that sounds like a big job - and it is - it's not actually that much of a big deal.  The change I'm talking about is switching from limited 3rd person to writing the novel in 1st person, from the perspective of the main character.

If you recall, I posted at the end of October of my dilemma - what point of view should I write from?  I ended up choosing 3rd person limited, because it gave me more freedom of vocabulary to describe things.  Unfortunately, that has also led to some pretty flat characters that really aren't all that interesting.  It's fortunate that I've realized this during the writing process only a third into the novel rather than after I've written the whole thing and am in the middle of trying to edit the beast.

This is something I should have realized after I wrote my opening chapter; I felt it was weakly written, but I chalked it up to lack of practice (and it's true, my prose has improved immensely since then).  I won't deny that it is a pale shadow of the opening chapter I had in mind - one that was designed to be written from the first person and the main character's perspective.

While I'm going to re-write the opening chapter during my next writing session, I'm not going back and doing any other rewriting until after November 30th.  And, I'm going to keep writing the story from the third person point of view; the reason for this is because I've decided that this draft will also serve as a comprehensive outline.  That's going to make rewriting a heck of a lot easier and less daunting, especially since I will have a clear direction for the novel rather than writing on the fly.

I think given this revelation, I should at some point post an excerpt from the original first chapter and what I come up with in my rewrite.  I think it would be interesting to see the drastic difference.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Pitfalls of Handwriting a Novel

For some crazy reason, I decided before the start of NaNoWriMo that I would handwrite the novel.  I think the idea had something to do with being able to write anywhere, not just at a computer.  So far that's about the only practical reason I can think of.  Why was I so dumb to think that handwriting was a good idea?

After all, the biggest problem after I'm finished this thing is going to be typing it up.  I'm at 11k words right now - and let me tell you, my handwriting is not the easiest to read.  There are words that merge together in a messy jumble, and in some of the places where I decided to add a word, it's very hard to read.

As for the word count - at first I decided to update my word count by using an average word/page, which I determined after the first 5 pages of my novel.  I quickly threw this out the window after hand-counting some more pages, because my average number was way off from what I was fitting on the page.  That's not to say I'm so terrible at math that I can't calculate my average word/page, I just mean that I wildly fluctuate from lower than, same as, or higher than the average that I was missing a lot of words for my daily word count.

Surprisingly, what I thought would have been the worst aspect of all this has not been a factor at all.  I thought my wrist and hand would be screaming in pain, and that I would be jumping ship from the paper notebook to the electronic notebook.  That hasn't been the case at all, for which I am very thankful.  Otherwise I think I wouldn't even be this far in my writing.

I think the greatest benefit, the one that outweighs both of the negatives I mentioned above, is that the writing process is not being slowed down by the easy access to a delete key.  Sure, I can easily cross out words, but I find that I rarely do that unless there's a change I feel I really need to make.  I find that I'm thinking about what I'm putting to paper as I write - sure, the novel will need major work (see my twitter updates) when I'm done, but my creative output has never been as good as it is right now.

As crazy and sadistic as handwriting a 50,000+ word novel is, it is definitely working to my benefit.  I think it is the sole reason why I have the confidence to say that I WILL cross the 50k finish line and I WILL work hard to trim the novel into shape after November 30th.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Do You Cheat?

Hello out there!  I'm taking (yet another) break from writing my novel.  While I'm writing this ahead of time, I'm sure that I'll have deserved yet another break at some point in the future.

My question today is: do you cheat in NaNoWriMo?  I don't mean the little tricks that boost your word count (eliminating contractions, writing out full names every time, so on and so forth).  I mean really cheat.  The word count that you update on the NaNo website is never validated until the last week or so of the month, which means you could give yourself an extremely high word count if you chose to do so.

Of course, once you uploaded your file for validation, the proper word count would be reflected.  But I'm sure that doesn't stop some people from trying to "fit in" and keep up their word count when faced with other writers who are legitimately reaching different plateaus.

Personally, I don't cheat.  What is really the point?  The word count is really a competition against yourself, not other people.  Plus, as I said, you have to validate your word count at the end in order to be declared a "winner".  Sure I could enter that I wrote 100k words, but as soon as I upload my file the NaNoBots (those sound cool, by the way) would see that I really wrote 35k or 40k or what have you.

Of course there are ways around that too - NaNoWriMo even gives you a link to a Lorem Ipsum generator, for those that are handwriting.  That certainly wouldn't stop anyone from adding a few extra thousand words to their novel to reach the 50,000 word goal if they're just a little short.  Then they too would be able to claim the CreateSpace free proof.  Or the software discounts.  Or the flashy Internet badge.

And THAT is really the reason why I don't cheat in NaNoWriMo.  There are actually prizes on the line for people who manage to write 50,000 words, prizes that cost somebody real money.  So not only are you denying yourself the actual purpose of a prize by cheating, you're stealing.  Sort of.

I think in that case, I don't mind doing the little bit of word padding to legitimately write 50,000 words and earn my CreateSpace proof copy.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing "Crap"

I told myself I was going to stay far, far away from the NaNoWriMo forums this year.  I've kept that promise in part, because I haven't been posting.  Just reading.  And it is driving me insane.  That's where I found this nugget.

If you believe the posters in this thread, there are a lot of people participating in NaNoWriMo shitting gold bricks (if you'll pardon my language).  The entire thread is basically a bunch of authors saying, "Oh, I don't write crap.  My stuff is ALWAYS good."

I understand that they're trying to talk about authors writing in silly, random scenes into their novels just to boost their word count.  However, how it really comes across (and especially in the original post), is authors saying that because they edit as they write, the words they're writing are of the highest possible quality.  They likely think that their draft needs a slight grammar/spelling polish, and it's ready to go to press.

This is why publishers hate NaNoWriMo - a bunch of authors think their writing is good enough to submit as soon as they're done writing their book, because they think they're that good at editing on the fly.  I will note that I mentioned I would only be doing a quick edit on my novel, but that will happen AFTER I finish writing it.  And even then, I doubt I'll be sending the manuscript to publishers of any kind (electronic or traditional).

NaNoWriMo is about writing 50,000 words in 30 days - how you choose to do so is your own business.  Editing on the fly will speed up the process after November 30th, but at the same time that you're speed-writing, you're speed-editing.  You're bound to miss something, just as much as someone who is not editing as they write will miss a lot more.

Sure, damn me for writing a detailed account of how my two main characters cleaned up an attic.  But don't tell me that the words you write on paper are any better in your FIRST DRAFT than mine are.  We should consider ourselves on the same page after November 30th; you just have to spend considerably less time in the editing process.

EDIT: Some people have recently responded in that thread with voices of reason.  At least some people in that thread espouse the same view point about NaNoWriMo that I do.  *phew!*

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 4

What kind of benchmark is "Day 4"?  I should really be writing this tomorrow.  But who really cares?  I have the opportunity to write a blog post today, so I'm taking it gosh darnit!

I'm going to put my progress thus far in a side bar on the blog, but for now here's how I'm doing:

4188 words, or as it translates to my handwriting, 17 pages.  So far that represents two chapters, though those are being roughly defined at this point and will be fixed up in the editing process anyway.  In fact I am more than willing to bet that these 17 pages would really turn out to be something like 10 pages after editing.

Some things I've learned in the last 4 days: my wrist loves marathon writing with gel pens.  So far I haven't experienced any crippling pain from my writing, so I'll take that as a Good Sign.  Of course I haven't been writing for hours at a time, so that also helps. 

I also learned that the vision in my head is far different from what I'm jotting down on paper - what I envisioned beforehand is not getting written exactly on paper.  BUT again that's where the editing process will help.  I know that what I'm writing now is not doing justice to what I want to come across in my writing, so I'll be able to expand later after re-reading and seeing that it has room for improvement.

I am also, technically speaking, behind in my word count.  This is because Life Happened yesterday, and I only managed two and a half pages.  I just finished that half page, which means I need roughly 10 more pages to get caught up.  Hopefully I can do so, but I have plans tonight - so that may not be possible.  Maybe my friends will understand if I write the novel while we watch a movie.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

NaNoWriMo Artisans

The talk of NaNoWriMo is almost always restricted to the purpose of the competition itself: writing.  There's a good and obvious reason for that, and I don't feel that I need to explain it.  What's looked over most of the time are the artists who are generous enough to create book covers.

To the left you can see what one of the aforementioned generous souls created for my novel.  Her forum name is Lauraqua something and donated her free time to do this.  It exceeds the skill level I would have put toward it by quite a bit, and as I said - it was free.  The quality is pretty much all I could hope for, and this is something that a lot of people would otherwise charge for.

However, the spirit of NaNoWriMo seems to bring out the best in people, as Lauraqua isn't the only artisan to offer their cover design services.  There's also Radio-Nowhere, who on top of having a novel to write herself and working a full-time job, offered her excellent services to forum members a month ago.  You can check out her work in this thread, or her website.  Unfortunately she had to put a stop to any new requests, but the covers she made are pretty fantastic.

There's also the 30 Covers, 30 Days competition, which challenges 30 artists to design a cover for nominated novels.  It's a quieter side that doesn't really get much recognition in the flurry of scratching pens (does that metaphor even work?  flurry of scratching pens?), but it really should.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 1 in the Books

Day one is in the books.  The shortest way to convey to you how it's gone today, I started writing this post at friggin 2:45pm.  So not very well.  I didn't start writing in the morning, as was my intention.  I wrote approximately 671 words in 45 minutes at lunch time today, which in hindsight is not terrible.  It's just that I feel my prose is terrible and needs major work.

This in itself is not really surprising - I recognize that I am not primarily a fiction writer, and that this is simply a first draft.  Everything can be fixed when I type it up - worst-case scenario, I hire a ghost-writer and be done with it.  Worst-case for sure though, I mean I don't have any money / illusions of making money off this book.

As I said I began typing this in the middle of the afternoon, so please don't feel like I'm being all "doom and gloom" on you.  There's a positive message to this post, despite the negative beginnings.  The point is that I learned something, though its importance is as yet unknown.  For now it's "high" because there's nothing else on the list.

What Did I Learn Today?
I learned ... what the hell did I learn?  To try not to read the story as I write it.  And to describe every frigging thing.  And also to just "not care", which I sort of took from Wil Wheaton's playbook (I can't find the link, but basically he wrote a story entirely for the fun of it, without letting his inner doubting self tell him otherwise.  It was a good inspirational post).

Without really having read back on my work, I already feel that there is a drastic difference between the stuff I wrote between 12:30 and 1:15 and what I wrote after 6pm tonight.  So I'm going to keep on going with that vibe.  Mind you I'm sure half of what I've written is still crap, but that's for Stephen Gower, Editor to decide - not Stephen Gower, Author.

For the record, I am at 1,724 words (approximate number based on an average of 245 words/page).


Today is November 1, 2010, marking the start of (inter)National Novel Writing Month.  Naturally,I'm writing up this blog post rather than writing my story.  Don't worry, I will be doing some writing today.  Promise.  I just may not hit my 2000-word goal, which would be an approximate count anyway.

I have a series of blog posts planned (sort of) for the month, and things are going to start with the side of NaNoWriMo you don't often hear about: the cover artists.  That post will be coming later this week, because as I mentioned I have some writing to do.  Although I kind of have to do this thing called "my job" before I can get to any writing.

Happy writing everyone!