Friday, 30 November 2012

Made it!

Phew! Finished my NaNo novel at 3 pm this afternoon. Soooo relieved. An entire first draft in a month, a new PB for me. I estimated I’d need about 60,000 words to tell the story, and it came in at 60,088. Not bad!

The ducklings all finished their novels too, though you will be shocked to learn there was some “cheating” involved this year. The girls both set their goals a little higher than turned out to be achievable. Not to worry – just change your goal to something lower! It’s not really cheating, of course, since that’s allowed in the Young Writers’ Program, it just feels like cheating to those of us who have to make 50,000 or bust!

I bought “Nano carrots” again this year – a much-desired book each, that they couldn’t have until they reached their “goal”. (Maybe next year I’ll have to specify which goal if they’re going to keep changing them to fit.) For a while it looked as though Drama Duck was going to have to wait till Christmas to get hers, but she put in a final effort this afternoon and managed to stagger across the (adjusted) line.

Baby Duck finished before any of us. His goal was 1,000 words, and he did more than that in Chapter 1 of his magnum opus, so he stopped writing and read his Nano carrot instead. It may take some effort to get him going again, but his idea is interesting so I’d like to see him finish the story.

All in all, a successful November. I hope, if you were doing NaNo this year, your novel went well too.

And now – oh joy! – I get to do something other than write again. Like maybe read some of these:

Or do some more of this:

Or even this:

Yay! So happy!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Life is full of purple satin

Let’s face it: there’s never a perfect time to undertake a large project, is there? Like, say, writing a whole novel in a month. Life will always get in the way, whether it’s family emergencies, dramas at work, sickness, or just plain old daily grind. We all try to fit so much into our lives, it’s hard enough to carve out time for another big project even if everything goes smoothly.

I lost a great deal of time this November to making dance costumes for Demon Duck’s class of thirty kids. It was my own fault - I stupidly volunteered, underestimating, as usual, the time it would take. Funny how I always think I’m some superhuman production machine when these things come up. Ten bubble skirts and twenty singlets with fake satin braces sewn on them? Sure, no problem!

In the end, with the dress rehearsal mere days away, I had to put my NaNo novel on hold. For three whole days I did nothing but sew *@#%^$!! singlets, till I was so sick of the sight of purple satin I could scream, with not a single word added to my wordcount.

But eventually even this torment had to end, after 17 metres of satin, 600 metres of thread and about 60 hours of swearing, and I had to face the novel again. The idea of giving up was hugely tempting at this point. After all, that was 6,000 words I had to make up, and time was already tight because I wanted to finish the whole novel by November 30th, which I estimated meant writing 60,000 words instead of 50,000. A big job, and one I’d never managed before. To have lost three days, when I’d been determined not to miss any, was a huge blow, but that’s life, isn’t it? Just chock-full of damned purple satin.

I’m hopeful there’ll be a happy ending to this story. I have three scenes still to write, and three days left to do it in. It’s tight – tighter than I’d hoped – but should be do-able. I’ve passed 50,000 words, which is kind of a psychological barrier, and feel the end just over the horizon.

I’m glad I forced myself to go on. If you have a goal, it’s no use giving up at the inevitable setbacks. Giving up seems so much easier, and so tempting. Maybe there’ll be a better time later, you think, and you’re desperate for sleep and sick of the whole thing anyway.

But there’ll always be purple satin, in some form or another, and you just have to pick yourself up and keep going. However much the to-be-read pile beckons, or however many tempting crochet projects you find on the internet in those too-frequent breaks from novel writing!

Writing a novel is only glamorous and exciting for about the first week. After that it’s work, like any other task that takes hours out of your life. Like making *&#!!%* purple satin bubble skirts. Often interesting, occasionally exciting, but still work. It requires some stick-to-it-iveness. (I’m sure there’s a real word for that, but my brain is too fried at the moment. Tenacity? Stubbornness? Something like that.)

Every time this month I’ve sat down to add more words to this novel, I’ve thought “I can’t do this”. The temptation to give up never goes away. But every time I push myself to do just a little more, and slowly the story grows. Tortoise-like, I inch my way toward the finish line.

Have you ever felt like that with a big project? What kind of purple satin has life thrown your way?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Imaginary medicine

Recently I took the ducklings to the dentist. In the grotty old carpark out the back is an equally grotty sign, advertising for a chemist shop that no longer exists:

CHEMIST: Prescriptions made up

This tickled Demon Duck’s sense of the absurd.

“Hey, look Mum – ‘prescriptions made up’. What’s this prescription do? We don’t know! We made it up!

In other efforts of the imagination, I progress with my NaNo effort. Yesterday I would have said I was progressing well. Today has been more of a struggle.

I’m trying a new approach this year. In the past I’ve started writing with no more than a premise, a handful of characters and a couple of scenes worked out. This can bring great delight, as your imagination throws up exciting ideas and connects elements in surprising ways. It can also, of course, create a huge amount of stress, as you struggle to work out the plot on the fly. I’ve never managed to write more than about 500 words an hour this way, and often considerably less, so it’s always been a stressful slog.

This year I have much more of the story mapped out – perhaps as much as three-quarters – with many scenes neatly noted on plot cards. This has meant a more cohesive story and a writing speed hovering close to 1000 words an hour, or double my usual. Go, me! This is more like it!

Sadly, today I arrived at one of the holes: “memory scene involving characters A and B”. I hoped by the time I got here something brilliant would have occurred to me. No such luck.

After procrastinating most of the day I decided to skip it and write the next scene I knew instead. Lord, it was like pulling teeth. Eventually I got something half the length of my usual scenes, that took twice as long to write, and lay limp on the page like cold spaghetti.

And I still have to write another 900 words to make the day’s quota. I’m well ahead, but I’m determined not to lose any of my buffer. This year I’m not stopping at 50,000 and outlining the rest of the book; I want to write my way all the way to The End.

My poor imagination is feeling bruised already. I could do with one of those imaginary prescriptions!