Each year in November writers go into hibernation mode, scoffing any caffeine they can get their hands on and pounding on their keyboards, hoping to each that golden word count of 50 000 before December starts (anyone who hits this number is considered a winner). It's now November 2015. So game on, once more.
I used to think I'd never be able to write more than a few thousands words. I liked short, punchy fanfics which I threw up onto the Internet for a quick review or two. But then one year I started writing. And writing. And kept going. And somehow I ended up with 60 000 words. I was so shocked and thrilled - and knew I absolutely could do NaNoWriMo.
Below are this year's stats so far. I'm quite chuffed with the breakneck pace I'm keeping, but 10k a day is hard to maintain, even for someone who's attempting to be a professional writer.
Some people have criticised NaNoWriMo, saying you can't possibly get quality writing when you're vomiting up as much as you can. No first draft is going to be perfect, no matter what month it's written in. I'm not disputing that. But it's a LOT easier to edit 50 000 words of dubious typing than it is a blank page.
I use the NaNoWriMo method all year round. And I've written five books doing so.
And if there is one question you need to ask yourself, it's this:
How do you know you can finish a book if you never try?
In my recent studies, I have learned there is actually a name for the type of writing I do - "organic". That means running in, guns blazing, writing hard and fast without any outline or planning whatsoever.
The most I do is write a few bullet points about each character - eyes, hair, build, personality. Sometimes I don't even bother with that and add it in later. I have a name, I have a "feel" for the character - that will suffice.
I like to use my characters like the toys and action figures I paraded in my doll's house as a child. I know my characters so well that if I put them into a new situation, they will show me how the scene will play out. Sometimes their character becomes known to me through their actions.
As someone pointed out, how can you foreshadow when you don't know the ending? When I was writing my first complete novel, I reached the fourth act and realised that suddenly dumping a surprise villain into my reader's laps was not going to be received well. So I scrolled back into much earlier places in my story and inserted clues. Until I knew what the conclusion was, I couldn't foreshadow - but that's what editing is for.
Whenever I try to outline, I fall into a pit, haunted by the thought that it's a stupid idea, no one will like it, etc, ad nauseum. I embraced the NaNoWriMo method because instead of being confronted with a blank screen after several hours, I would find myself with a buttload of text that I could then edit as I pleased.
There are events he refused to mention because they were uninteresting, events he misreported because of shame. But they were always there, and the people he interacted with had their own influence on the story, had their own struggles. I know what's going to happen.
I am writing with an outline this time - but strangely it is an organically written outline. Perhaps the methods don't need to be mutually exclusive.
It has been a shockingly long time since I updated this blog, which does not bode well for my purpose for writing these posts. My studies at in editing and publishing at UTS have warned that an author with a minimal online presence will fail to secure a publisher. It's all well and good to have a blog and a Twitter account - but you do need some eyes following your text every now and then (Hi Dad!).
My "very scarred" gallbladder is now gone and, along with it, my ability to have maple syrup. I can continue to eat everything else, including that important writing fuel - chocolate. Maple syrup, however, is Kryptonite and should be avoided at all cost.
Despite the fears of my previous entry and despite being unwell for 12+ days, I somehow - somehow! - managed to hit 50 000 words on the last day of March.
I used the Mac software "Numbers" (just like Excel, but with a less excellent name) to take note of each day's total. And then I made a graph that refused to be pretty. The word count consists of a sci-fi/fantasy/romance which began as a terrible tween novella when I was 13 - and creative university assignments.
To get back into things, I chose the easiest task - continuing Nanna's memoirs. A giant batch of lined notepaper, all scribbled upon, arrived courtesy of Australia Post (registered mail, of course) just before my gallbladder threw a tantrum so my work was left abandoned.
Words Learned This Week
(meanings taken from the Macquarie Dictionary - aka the only dictionary Australian writers and editors should be using!)
noun 1. the house and land occupied by a minister or parson, usually of nonconformist churches, as Uniting, Presbyterian, etc.
verb (t) (denuded, denuding)
1. to make naked or bare; strip.
You feel like a big fat failure now. But you're not.
The number 32 982 is haunting me.
For March, I set myself the task of a NaNoWriMo-style writing month (to "win" at NaNoWriMo, you must write 50 000 words in one month), in an attempt to bolster my word count and to better log my achievements.
I have, in my wardrobe, a NaNoWriMo winner shirt from 2013. That November was crazy. I wrote 60 000 words (while still working part-time) all in two weeks. I would have powered on but my grandfather passed and then I started using online dating which...well...it kind of stole my time. But I did end up with a fiancé!
So there I was in February 2015 thinking "oh, this will be easy!". I did not then go on to prove that black is white and get run over at a zebra crossing (thanks, Douglas Adams) but I did learn my lesson.
The muse packed up and abandoned me in disgust. Pretty sure she'd have slammed the door on the way out. So not only was I nauseous and sleepy, I was beating myself up because for frak's sake - you can still work in bed when you're a writer!! Gosh, stop being such a whinger!
I feel like a failure. Thing is, a sick day would never have bothered me if I was beholden to a full-time job keeping me out of the apartment. Back in the day, I used sick days to write because it was the only time I had!
But this is a job. And being sick does affect your performance.
Recently, I watched You've Got Mail for the nth time. And I am holding fast to Birdie's words. I feel like a failure. But I'm not. I'm human.
And also? I still have a shirt that says I'm a winner. :P
Alyce Caswell is an aspiring writer who apparently lost her mind, threw away a steady job as an office junior and entered the realm of imagination.
She has blamed her accomplice and husband for giving her this most excellent opportunity.
Alyce has written articles, poems, short stories, books
and several embarrassing blogs. She hopes this venture will avoid the usage of cat gifs.
Links of Interest
A Rambling Rover
Alyce's travel blog which features various castles, stone circles and bemused musings about the Northern Hemisphere.