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Monthly Archives: November 2013
When I started writing in week one I knew there would come a day when my enthusiasm will eventually die, just like I know that after a high comes the terrible low. That is why I was so determined to write more than the average amount of words required to finish my novel on time. Well, that day came during week three, but truth be told it was more like days. I got to know the characters and they had no surprises left to reveal. The story moved forward but it happened slowly. Writing was not swimming in the sweet waters of inspiration anymore but more like fighting the currents while trying to catch fish with my bare hands. It got difficult. Just the thought that I had to sit down and fill the screen with words made me nervous. Suddenly, there were more interesting things to do, like checking email and Twitter and see what photos my Facebook friends had posted since last time I checked which was ten minutes ago. And time began to slip away, which made me even more aware of how much more work I had left to do.
Word races became a necessary routine. I showed up at the 10 p.m. sessions and began to type away. It felt great to work knowing that other people were doing the exact same thing at the same time. I even raced by myself one night when no one else was around on Skype. It did me good.
And even though most of these times I just showed up and began to type without the slightest idea of where I was going, one night I managed to write a scene that scared me so badly I had trouble going to sleep and kept looking at the bedroom door and imagining things. I have no idea how that scene got there but it’s one of my favorite parts of the whole story.
In an attempt to get more ideas I looked back on what I had written. And there, on printed pages I had typed just a few days ago was an entire section I had just written. That made me panic, so I put the pages away in a drawer and vowed not to look at them again until all this was over.
Read, read, read, and I say it three times just to show how important this is for me. From Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman (borrowed from a friend) to The House of Doctor Dee by Peter Ackroyd (picked up at a second hand book sale), to blogs and online newspapers. Without reading it would be difficult to write. I look for inspiration, for ideas that can help me dislodge that big boulder which stands in the way of my story.
I took up running again, something I’ve been doing on and off for years. But this year something was different, because my determination to write 50k by the end of the month had began to seep into other aspects of my life. This time I did not stop when I felt like I had no air. I slowed down a bit and kept going. All I could see was someone holding a big banner with 50,000 written in big red letters on it. And I pushed on and on and did not stop for 30 minutes. It may not be a lot for many people but it was something I hadn’t done in years and felt so good I almost cried.
The story is never far from my mind. I knew how to start it and the characters that would play a crucial role in the story, but now that the end is getting closer, things got a little murky. I have no idea how to end it so I keep writing. I began to add more details and I’m constantly thinking of new ways to make the story more gripping. I want to write the kind of book that would make readers say I didn’t see that coming, and turn the next page and the one after that because they just have to see what happens next. Will the woman with a secret get her wish? Will she have to die for it in the end? Is there hope at the end of it all, maybe a happily ever after, or will everything end in a bloodbath? I guess I’ll have to keep typing to find out.
After the euphoria of the first week, things began to settle down. I was dutifully putting in my 2000 words a day without looking back, moving the story forward, but something was different. Doubts started creeping in.
It’s weird to start writing with an idea in mind and then try to set a certain scene on paper and then have the main character turn around and say, I don’t want to do that, that’s boring. Instead, this is what I’m going to do. And then I begin to think, is he right, is this going where it’s supposed to go, but more important, where is this supposed to go? I have no clue.
After the 25,000 words mark I began to fear for my story. Halfway there, I thought, now what? There is so much yet that needs to be written. What if I can’t do it, what if the ideas will stop coming and my story will shrivel up and die? What if it was a silly feeble thing to begin with and only my enthusiasm made it bigger? And still I can’t think of giving up. It’s not an option. But now and then I find my courage faltering.
I began to look for different ways to keep me going. Whereas before I liked the silence, now I listen to music. Actually wrote a whole scene while immersed into Depeche Mode’s Should Be Higher. It’s got such an upbeat power, that song. And last weekend I got into “word races” on Skype, with a group of NaNo participants from Thailand. It was great. I wrote over 3000 words last Sunday, and that made me feel a little better. It’s good to have a little extra to fall back to when things get tough. The pep talks on the NaNo website helped as well. Here are some of my favorite lines:
“Write something true. Write something frightening. Write something close to the bone. You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here. What you heard. What you felt. What you learned. Any effort spent in that pursuit cannot be wasted. Any way that you can tell that story more truly, more vividly, more you-ly, is the right way.
So holler. Tell it loud and tell it bright and tell it slant and tell it bold. Tell it with space whales and silent films or tell it with quiet desperation or tell it with war or tell it with dragons or tell it with tall ships or tell it with divorce in the suburbs or tell it with dancing skeletons and a kraken in the wings.
Tell it fast before you get scared and silence yourself. You’ll never wish you’d held back a little more.”
Catherynne M. Valente
“Get into a writing routine. Think it’s hard to write every day during NaNo? Most professional writers keep this kind of pace all year round. Holidays, birthdays, vacations—you name it, we’re writing. The trick is making writing into a daily habit. Same time. Same place. Same hot beverage of choice. Every. Single. Day. Again. And. Again.”
I also have a writing buddy who has proven to be amazing. She may be living on another continent but that doesn’t matter. It also helps that she’s been through this before and won a few years in a row. And when I complained and said my enthusiasm was on the downside she said:
“The first draft of everything is awful.
Write as if this is the last day, and that will help you.”
Her words made me feel better so I kept typing.
The NaNo rules decree that I should write no less than 1667 words a day and so far I’m doing good on the word count but not so good on the quality. And here we come to an important reality about National Novel Writing Month a.k.a. NaNoWriMo: it’s not about quality but quantity. It’s about setting down the words as they come, without thinking about the symmetry of the sentences or the beauty of the words. The words just have to come out. Rough, ugly. Some of them might shine but most of them won’t. I look to some of them with pride and others fill me with disgust. Did I really write that? I did. But it will get better. I will make them shine, all of them. I will cut and scrub and polish and shift them on the page until they sparkle. But there’s still a long way to go until that happens.
And now back to writing. Somewhere inside me there are 2000 words wanting to come out. I’d better do something about that. See you next week.
The first week of NaNo has come and gone and I have had such a good time. It has been an incredibly exhilarating experience, to try and create a novel every day, working on it every morning and evening for an hour each time. The first few days I was in writer heaven, sitting on a soft comfortable cloud, surrounded by the characters I was trying to bring to life. They had faces, and a vague shape, and they smiled and waved at me and said nice things and I waved and smiled back and felt like this couldn’t have been easier. Indeed, why hadn’t I done it sooner?
At night I would go to bed thinking about the morning and how great it will be to get back to my fictional world and write the next exciting thing that happened. In the morning I finished my writing session with an idea firmly stuck in my head about the next step I wanted the story to take and would actually daydream about it throughout the day. Fortunately, with no bad consequences, although once I was almost run over by a car. Still not sure if it was me or them. Perhaps both. It has happened before.
The worlds blurred – real and fictional, and since I have never spent so much time on a writing project before, it was a strange feeling. It’s like being totally engrossed in a good book or a movie, and coming back to reality feels almost like a letdown. A bit of a challenge to manage both, but now it’s getting better.
Once, a few years ago, when I was starting running, I experienced the runner’s high. I felt happy, elated, I was beaming. It hasn’t happened since. I felt like that for the most part of the first week. I felt like Superwoman, Catwoman and whatever other super female character you could think of, all rolled in one. I was invincible, I had power, I was great. I conjured words out of the air and put them on the page, like beads on a string. They behaved. I was happy.
I managed to write at least 2000 words every day except one. And because I didn’t want to drop too far behind I made it up for it the next day.
I updated my word count twice a day. Because yes, now I do have an obsession, and also because seeing the numbers on the little widget to the right of the page really kept me going.
The second week has started and I have come back from the clouds. I still like where the writing has taken me but things are a little different. But more on that at the end of the week.
As always, your opinions and encouragements are very welcome.
November is finally here. The days are still hot (above 30 degrees Celsius) and the sun seems to burn a hundred times brighter now that the rainy season is over. The air is crisp and the humidity gone for the most part. That’s nice. It actually means I can go for walks outside and not sweat in the first five minutes. But the weather is not exactly what got me excited this month.
I’ve heard about NaNoWriMo some years ago – thirty days of writing abandon fuelled by the desire to have a book ready by the end of November. It sounded like a lot of hard work, and fun, and a task for courageous people with lots of time on their hands. In the past I told myself I had neither the time nor the courage. Especially the courage. But then something happened this year. I had a “now or never” moment and decided to see if I could be one of these courageous people and finally write that book. To prepare for it, in October I wanted to test myself and see if I can actually sit down and write every day, more specifically, for a certain amount of time every day. So I set the alarm on my mobile phone for thirty minutes and got busy.
I had a vague idea of a story and no end in mind. I managed to write for thirteen days, with two days off in between. I tried to make up for those two days by writing more the next day and it worked. And that elusive ending came to me as I was writing and made me really happy. Suddenly, I had hope, and so decided that the time for writing that book is now. I have no idea if I will finish but I will do my best and then some. Most of it will probably be nonsense but if I can excavate something out of it and work with those bits, I’ll consider myself lucky and quite content.
The story I’m writing is not new. A couple of years ago I had an idea that I really liked and started on the story but a few weeks later I abandoned it. Why, well, because I love to procrastinate and there were a million things that seemed more enjoyable at the time. Like a new TV series or a book or just surfing the net. So I’m giving it another go, keeping the main characters but rewriting it from the beginning. The story is going to have some horror elements, possibly some supernatural dust thrown in and a pinch of fairy-tale. That’s the plan as of today but by the end of the month I may end up with a different thing altogether. That’s fine, I don’t mind a bit, I’m actually very excited to see where the story will take me and what the characters have to say.
If you’ve taken part in NaNoWriMo before, feel free to chime in with your impressions. And if you haven’t, your encouragements are more than welcome. I may come back with more posts about NaNo and my writing adventure, but that depends on the available time I have – writing 2,000 words a day is my goal and it would be great to keep that up. It’s still a long way to the required 50,000 words but I hope to get there, putting one word after another, like Neil Gaiman said. Wish me luck.