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the nanowrimo diaries.

And they're off!

Today is day one of National Novel Writing Month, the thing that will be occupying my brain for the next thirty days.

Write a novel in a month? What are we crazy? In a word: yes.

Procrastinators such as myself need impetus. This is a kick in the pants. Like most of the population of Toronto, outside of the banking community, that is, I have a novel (well, actually three) curdling in my brain. It's been there for a while, just waiting for me to write it. I think about it, I turn it over in my mind, I wonder about it, I rework plots and am delighted to discover that recurring themes seem to have grown spontaneously in its inner workings, as though planned, as though somewhere deep in my subconscious mind, there is a huddled sentient being yearning to breathe free.

And so: during the month of November, I will be posting progress reports. Maybe even an excerpt or two.

National Novel Writing Month: Day One

Awoke at six o'clock this morning. Lay in bed for a moment, and then remembered: it's the first of November! Time to start the novel! And I hadn't fiddled with the computer last night like I meant to!

I currently have three non-functioning computers at home: quantity rather than quality (which is what NaNoWriMo is all about, although I think all participants hope that some quality will sneak in there somewhere). I had meant to see if I couldn't get one of them to at least run notepad last night, but hadn't gotten round to it, due to various telephone conversations etc. So this morning I picked up each of two identical boxes, and gave them a gentle shake, to see which was the plausibly functioning one, and which was the one with stuff rattling around loose inside. I plugged it in, turned it on, and - lo and behold! - it appeared to work. On a whim, I tried to start MS Word, knowing it had been installed incorrectly by the person who "fixed" (and I use the term loosley) the machine. No dice. I tried Wordpad. The system hung up. I turned it off, turned it on again (a classic technique). It made an odd "beep beep" noise that no machine should make. That was all it would do. I am hoping tonight, after a day's rest, it will be more forgiving.

So, we move on to plan B: pen and paper. I set the kitchen timer for an hour and sat down in a comfy chair.

The night before, I had figured out what my opening line would be, where to start. I know most of the characters, most of the plot. But this morning, oddly enough, although I started where I had planned to, I ended up spending most of my time working with a character I hadn't thought about at all, the mother. I just sort of ended up in the car with her. On her way home from work (Where does she work? Think fast - um, the mum of someone I went to highschool with works at a bedding shop now. That'll do. Hey, and coincidentally, that meshes perfectly with my main theme!). So far, so good. Six and a half pages - not too shabby!

Of course, I've no idea how many words that translates too. And I almost don't want to know. Maybe what seems like an impressive effort (to me, at least) now will turn out to be a disappointment if I count the words (which would be a bloody boring task anyway). Maybe it's better not to know, at least until I'm further along. A friend of mine who's working on a novel uses this technique: her goal is to spend x amount of time per day, rather than worry about the number of usable words she's produced. She rewards herself for the effort, and finds it works. So that's what I'll try for now. At least until I've got a significant enough stack of paper.

The other good thing about longhand: editing-as-you-go is trickier, so it's easier to avoid self-censoring, and just keep going, rather than triple-thinking every word and getting caught up in questions like, should this bit go first? Should I change that? No drag'n'drop here. Also, when I do get around to inputting it into a word processor, I'll have a chance to re-read it with a bit of distance, I can edit as I type and I won't have accidentally deleted the wrong bits - there's room to change my mind, to read through the cross-outs, to put back in what I might have taken out. And it'll force me to re-read it all at one go, to see if it flows or not.

It's an experiment. We'll see if it works. Right now, my only goal is to get the thing done.

updated 1 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Four

Well, I ended up succumbing to curiosity and typing in a chunk of my novel on Friday, instead of leaving it all in longhand till later. At that point I was ahead in my word count (assuming one ought to average 1,667 words a day). Whee!

But then Saturday arrived, and I was out of the house from eight-thirty in the morning till the wee hours. So did just about nothing.

Sunday involved a small amount of typing typing typing in the morning, but once again I was out of the house most of the day. Wrote a few pages (six?) In the evening when I eventually got home. I think the only way I'm going to get anywhere with this is to get up early and write before work, but this requires me to get to sleep at, say, ten o'clock if I want eight hours sleep so I can be not just functioning but lucid at six o'clock in the morning.

This does not happen.

I did, however, manage to scribble another three pages this morning, and then another six wee pages while waiting for and riding on the streetcar to work. So. All is not lost.

Tonight there is a get-together for us novel geeks at the Ancient on Queen West. One never knows what to expect when meeting up with complete strangers, although Melissa will be there, and she's not a complete stranger, although perhaps stranger than most.

I like the idea of the get-together - trading notes, cheering each other on, et cetera, but the problem is, it will cut into available writing time! And tomorrow I'm supposed to be going out for drinks with John! And Wednesday I'm supposed to be going to the opening of a play! Which leaves me Thursday, one night to stay in and write before heading off to my parents' place for the weekend. Hmm.

I had my tarot cards read on Saturday. One of the cards that came up was the Hermit card. I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something.

updated 4 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Five

Last night I got together with some of my fellow would-be novelists for a drink or two. It's amazing the variety of styles and genres we represented - everything from horror to historical. I spent most of my time yakking with Melissa about this and that and the other thing - she can be added to the list of people who say, "Wow, Whitney doesn't look at all like I expected." I gave her a couple of photos of a wannabe gay sailor of our mutual acquaintance, seeing as I had promised Shauna I would scan them and send them along, but then I didn't due to sudden lack of a working computer at home, and it's a long, angst-ridden story, and I am thinking now that I should have asked Mel to email them to me too when she scans them, must remember to ask her later. Did not think of it at the time. We were drinking Manhattans. Mmm. What can I say?

For me the big drama of the evening was realizing I had left my little notebook at work. Or so I hoped. It was either at work or lost. That is the danger of writing longhand - aside from the general confusion (I have one big pile of scrap paper and two little notebooks on the go now, different formats for different locations, and some that I typed in directly when I got near a computer on the weekend, which exists only on a toothpaste-coloured diskette that I should really stop carrying around in my handbag, as that is only asking for trouble) that I will encounter when I try to assemble the various bits into a cohesive whole, there is the whole where-did-I-leave-my-book factor. Fortunately the notebook turned up this morning, and I stapled in some pages from another notebook, in a vain attempt to keep it all in order. Hmm.

One of the other writers has a Palm Pilot with a folding keyboard. Man, do I want one of those. You could type anywhere! You could type till your fingers went numb!

Numb fingers are another problem with longhand.

updated 5 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Six

Well, yesterday I did it: bought a PDA with keyboard on eBay. I don't have it in my hot little hands just yet, but when I do, boy howdy!

In the meantime, I typed up some more of my scribbling last night, and guesstimated the remainder of scribbly bits to add up to about eight thousand words! Not quite meeting the quota of 1,667 a day, but close. Ish. Theoretically I should have ten thousand by the end of today. Oopsy. Well, hopefully I'll catch up when I get my new toy, or at any rate when I visit my parents this weekend.

If nothing else, once I get stuck into it, the novel is a great distraction from the stresses of everyday life. Feeling crumby? Feeling mopey? I just sit down and force myself to start writing about these other people, and in short order I'm more worried about their problems than my own. And, um, a change is as good as a rest, right? Right.

updated 6 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Eight

Okay, I'm dreaming about these people now. Very odd. It's really quite interesting (to me, at any rate), just forcing myself to put pen to paper and waiting to see what happens. Characters go in unexpected directions. I've plotted out basic character arcs (and a map of their town, and a floorplan of their house) so that I don't get lost or forget any of the ideas of thought of for their future.

And weird coincidences keep popping up, weird connections. It's really taking on a life of its own.

As always, time is the crucial issue. Who has it? Pas moi. Tonight I'll be heading up to my parents' place for the weekend - access to a computer! Whee!

And, I'm thinking I might be brave and post an excerpt on Nanowrimo. Their maximum excerpt length is only about eight hundred words, but I think the section on Keith will just fit (and make some kind of sense on its own).

Tune in tomorrow to see if I wimp out!

updated 8 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Eight-and-a-half

I did it. I uploaded an excerpt to Nanowrimo. Eek!

updated 8 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Nine

Here I am, at my parents' place in the country, where the parents in question have been warned that I will need time and space to work on this thing.

My goal this weekend is to hit twenty thousand words, i.e. double my word count. I figure I've got computer access, I'm way behind, I need to catch up, And if Melissa could write nine thousand words in a weekend, why not me? Of course, she had a slave driver pushing her forward. Hmm, I wonder if that's what inspired her to write in a dominatrix. Hmmm.

Snag one: the way this machine is set up, my back is killing me, and it's barely ten o'clock in the morning.

Snag two: Mother, bless her heart, doesn't have a proper word processor. I think she has MSWord for DOS on this machine somewhere, but I'm not going there. So I'm typing in WordPad. Fine. Except it doesn't have a word count tool. Grr. So I'm figuring, if ten thousand words of novel equals a 75k file, twenty thousand will be 150k. Right? Or at any rate, close enough?

updated 9 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Nine-and-a-half

It's not that late, but after a day of frenized typing (mixed in with some errand-running etc.) I have reached a guesstimated 15,466 words, thus having caught up with my Nanowrimo quota for today (we're supposed to have 15,000 by today, if we expect to hit fifty thousand by the end of the month). So yahoo!

Also, a couple of people (from Nanowrimo and elsewhere) have mentioned that they were unable to access this site, due to it being too busy. Geocities is pretty stingy with the transfer, if you aks me. Or maybe I'm just too gosh-darn lovable (ha). Ah well. Maybe I should look into a real web-hosting service or something.

Annyhoo, my eyes are square enough already. Nighty-night all, I need plenty of rest if I hope to write another five thousand words tomorrow!

updated 9 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Ten

Woo and hoo!

After moaning in the Nanowrimo forums that I was guesstimating how many words I'd written, due to my parents' woefully obsolete software, someone mentioned that I should be able to find a word count tool (and other text-editing software) online. So I googled, and lo and behold! Free Online Text Tools.

So my fear had been that I'd been over-estimating my word count and would be miserable on Monday when I found out the truth.

But no! I'd actually underestimated! Now, after this morning's session, I'm at 17,630 words (according to the powers that be, I only needed to hit 16,670 by the end of today to reach fifty thousand by the end of November). Yahoo! And I fully intend to hit twenty thousand by the end of the day, if not before!

After breakfast, though. I can smell bacon frying, oh, it's heavenly...

updated 10 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Ten-and-a-half

Okay, so it appears that the secret to being a prolific writer is having a computer and someone to cook for me and no real obligations on my time. Hmm. Any independently weathy philanthropist-types out there looking to be a patron of the arts, contact me.

It's amazing, even the internet connection isn't that distracting, except that I have to log on to use the online word count tool with which I am now obsessed. I had been doing so well thinking about quality rather than quantity, but now I crave those numbers, those lovely numbers. 19,258 so far.

updated 10 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Ten-and-three-quarters

I broke twenty thousand! I broke twenty thousand! Yay!

Now I get to print it all out, and drive four hundred kilometres in the rain, and go back to longhand for a while. Un-yay.

updated 10 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Fourteen

(Day fourteen? Already? Eep!)

How's this for frustrating?

I've had a busy week, with not much time for writing, not any time for writing really, since the weekend. But yesterday I did a bit in the morning, a bit before going to bed, and this morning too, I wrote another page and a half. All in all, only another sixteen hundred words. But I want them to count! I want them up there for the world to see. Also, I can't remember exactly where I was at, and that would be nice to know too.

It's interesting writing this way. In the past, I've tried to come up with some sort of narrative structure, some sort of plot outline on which to hang my prose, figuring, "Once I've got that sorted out, all I'll have to do is fill in the blanks. Easy peasy!" Or not. This time I have a sort of vaguish outline in my head, which grows as I write. I've made notes on the side, but there is no real organization (at least, not by my previous standards). There is an ebb and flow to the tension, as I write myself out in one intense scene, and then when I come back to it I say, hmm, I haven't said anything about old granny there for a while, better write a bit about her. So it's become a bit of a rollercoaster, there's a nice up-and-down feel, which worked its way in almost by accident. Fascinating.

Still waiting on the ol' Palm Pilot. Of course, I'll still need a functioning computer to download everything into. I've heard enough horrorstories of thousands of words - hours of work - being lost due to a power-outage or some other electrical mishap. So I've saved, and saved again, to Mum's hard drive, to a toothpaste-coloured floppy that is so ugly it won't get confused for anything else, I've emailed it to myself and printed it out and backed up in every way I can think. I worry about being able to do that with a PDA. Hmm.

updated 14 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Sixteen

My goodness.

The past week has been unimaginable. That's about all I can say. I did discover that, if one is waiting for hours in a government office, and the only available paper is the back of a flyer advertising free ESL classes, one can fit about a thousand words of teeny tiny writing on the back of that flyer, and one's hand will hurt after writing it.

It's snowing here, and I wish I were somewhere warm.

Think is, I could go somewhere warm, if I wanted to. It's a tempting thought. I'm tired of doing the right thing all of the time.

Hmm.

updated 16 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Seventeen

It's still snowing. It's been snowing for eighteen hours straight. I can't stand it.

updated 17 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Twenty

I have broken through.

I was stuck for a while, doing nothing, getting nowhere, doing other things to keep busy (I've knit mittens and a hat, made a coat, half-made a pair of flannel pyjamas for Nick - don't tell, they're for Christmas - but now I've gotten unstuck.

Finally.

Today I spent hours in a café drinking coffee and typing typing typing. I am now at a crazy sixty-three pages, and just getting rolling. It's fun again! My fingers hurt! Whee!

Now I am in café number two, one with internet access. And a crapola unreliable (my geek friends will hate me for saying this, but facts are facts) horrible horrible linux platform. Bleah.

But beggars can't be choosers, yes?

updated 20 november 2002.

National Novel Writing Month: Day Twenty-five

I broke forty! I broke forty! I broke forty!

I broke forty thousand words!

updated 25 november 2002.

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