30 November 2010

Day 30: I choose paper, thank you very much (and: the Winners Circle)

I have a terrible cold and want to just lie prone in bed sniffing Olbas Oil, but I want to take a moment to thank all the Winners who supported my NaNoWriMo with their wallets: Jon, Robert, Andrea, JoAnne, Rebekah, Martin, Mom & Dad and my lovely Lichfield. Together we raised $330 for creative writing programs and resources for kids and teachers everywhere. Whether writing a novel is your dream or not, you've helped make somebody's day in a tangible way. Thank you, Winners Circle!*

Some people are hugely negative about those who do NaNoWriMo. There was even a piece in this weekend's Sunday Times, which is pretty lame of the Times considering it ran the piece two days before NaNo ended. Personally, I don't understand it. I'm not a novel writer by nature. I love books, but when I first started writing I had no idea what I wanted to write. I thought I should write a novel, but that was not where inclination or disposition led me. Nonetheless in the past ten years I've tried many different forms of this art, and eventually approached the novel. Not because I dream of my name on a paperback, but because of ideas for long works of prose that just won't go away. It's either keep hearing voices in my head, or get them onto paper. And I choose paper, thank you very much...

But I would probably not have pushed myself to finish a rough draft of this story if NaNoWriMo hadn't reared its little head. I could have gone on quite happily scribbling bits and pieces, and thinking I'd get to it later. So I am very very pleased that I have done this. Is it a finished novel? No. Is it ready to the point of querying agents? No. But could it be, with a lot more work? Yes. So there. That's what I wanted to get out of this month, and to the nay-sayers of the universe, I say, "See you at my book-signing, baby!"

*PS If you still want to donate, it is not too late: go to my fundraising page, and work your magic.

25 November 2010

Day 26. Onwards and upwards

I just went over 40,000 words so that means 10,000 left to go, in the next five days (I am counting today, it's still early).  I am SO TIRED. But some very wonderful people have hopped over to my fundraising page and kindly and generously donated, and I am so heartened by this support that I am pushing onward and upward. Want to help give me a push over the top? In case you missed it before, donations help the people who run NaNoWriMo bring free creative writing programs for kids and adults in over 500 cities and towns, 3,000 classrooms, and 200 libraries every year. In 2009, more than 35,000 kids and teens in 1,200 classrooms worldwide took part in National Novel Writing Month's Young Writers Program. Can you spare $10 on your credit card? Has a book ever changed your life?

And if you can't, well, I've been there and god bless you. And for those of you in the USA, Happy Thanksgiving! I already had my turkey and some kick-ass sweet potato pie curtesy of Jamie O. Come to think of it, there's still a bit of it leftover in the fridge. Did somebody say "second breakfast"?

23 November 2010

Day 23: Sometimes, thick is good

I was minding my own business, hacking my way through the last 14,000 words of NaNoWriMo, when what should show up in my letterbox but a mysterious plain white envelope. Reading the return address I remembered: I'd made a poetry submission back in the haze before November. I studied the girth of the envelope: definitely more thick than thin.

Bummer, I thought. They're returning my manuscripts. It's a rejection.

But I opened the envelope anyway and a covering letter slid out. "Dear Writer," the photocopied form letter read. "Congratulations!" It was not a rejection after all. It was an acceptance! And an acceptance of not only one but two poems – something I did not realize for a couple of hours.

The envelope was thick because it was stuffed with promotional leaflets. So let that be a lesson to us all: sometimes, the thick envelope brings good news.

19 November 2010

Sponsor me and support creative writing programs worldwide! (and make me smile)

I was all set to publish a post about how bleak things are looking. I am down on my word count, me and the girls still need to eat, and Helsinki's wallet was stolen (at school, by bastards) so there are trips to the police and the town hall and transit authorities to replace her ID and bus pass. It's busy at the office and I for some reason thought it would be fun to have Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, and even though it's a pot luck I'm doing the turkey and a pie and gravy.

But who needs to read a post like that? I'm in the 30,000s of my NaNoWriMo word count in spite of everything, which is more than halfway through, and learning a lot and loving my own personal blend of Illy espresso and Jacqmotte Moka Absolut. Aaaaah. But wait, there's more.

 I've discovered that there's a sponsorship option and have decided to sign myself up. If runners can do it for charity, so can writers. The organization that runs NaNoWriMo is called the  Office of Letters and Light, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity. Donations to the Office of Letters and Light help bring free creative writing programs for kids and adults in over 500 cities and towns, 3,000 classrooms, and 200 libraries every year.This is worldwide, not just in America. To learn more about where donations go, look here. So if you'd like the cheer me up and cheer me on to the 50,000 word finish line, please go to my NaNoWriMo fundraising page and make even a teensy donation. For those of you here on the Euro side of the pond, the exchange rate against the dollar is in your favour! So no excuses!

The idea of raising just a couple hundred dollars for a good cause has brighten my day considerably. If you decide to contribute it's tax deductible and you and I and everyone who goes to my fundraisising page will know what a good person you are.  And I will thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

image credits 1 and 2.

10 November 2010

Ed never said it would be this fun!

I was walking to the office this morning and thinking about my story and it came into my head that this one character has to be a certain way and want certain things and wouldn't it work so well to have him be a brave French guy instead of (as they are often portrayed) a collaborator or wimp, and then this would happen and that would happen and wow, where did all that come from? It happened with another character too. Things I had no idea about when I started, just started rolling in. It was like a row of dominoes falling, click-click-click-click-click. And it felt great! I thought, "I have no idea how this happening but it is so cool. Ed Dockx never said writing a novel would be this fun!"

Of course I have no idea if it will hang together in the end, or if it's ultimately all so obvious, or whether I can create tension and all that blah. Can't think about that now. Will deal with that later.

08 November 2010

Day 8: Rinse and repeat

Am up to 14 003 words. Tactics over the past few days:
  • Get up early.
  • Set the timer for 30 minutes.
  • Aim for 500 words.
  • Start timer. Start writing.
  • Stop writing when timer goes off.

Rinse and repeat.

Today it got hard so I played the third movement of Phillip Glass's third symphony as performed by the cello octet Conjunto Iberico (directed by Elias Arizcuren).

I wrote with the music. It's beautiful music. At one point I rocked back and forth with my head in hands. Then I took a deep breath, looked out the window, put my fingers back down on  the keyboard and started again.

This thing is endurance, sheer endurance.  Up until now the hardest things I've ever done were birthing two babies (one at a time, mind), and the bar exam. I'll let you know later how NaNoWriMo compares!

PS: an excellent riposte to an article criticizing NaNoWriMo, via Jane.

05 November 2010

Day 5, 8000 words

Still writing. More than 8000 words. The brick wall comes next week, or maybe the week after. I don't know. I just hear rumours. I wanted to go for 2000 words today instead of the 1666.66666 but I maybe didn't pick the best day. Got hijacked this morning by a completely unexpected email....But let's not go there. Let's think happy thoughts, encouraging thoughts, motivating thoughts. Such as, wouldn't it be nice if I wrote this thing and edited it and then sold it? Maybe I should put that on a sticky note and hang it over my head like the proverbial carrot...

Am I allowed to use this? Hell if I know. It came from here.

Meanwhile, there are 185,587 people participating in NaNoWriMo, and 3215 signed up for the local region which is The Low Counties -- The Netherlands and Belgium.  Very Dutch on the forum, with one lone Francophone looking for someone to write in French with. Lots of write-ins all over The Netherlands. Not so much action in Belgium - mostly in Antwerp and Gent, nothing in Brussels.  I am tempted to try to organize one. Maybe for the last week. I'll think about it.

03 November 2010

Day 3 - Not quite flying, but pedaling

Words, words, words.  Today and yesterday I did about 1000 words in the morning, before leaving for the office (I work part time and don't have to be there until late morning, which definitely helps). Does it get easier? Doing the 600 words at night was not so bad. Not as bad as I thought. I never had to write into the unknown quite like this before. What's funny, that I didn't realize, is that behind the words I have in mind to write are other words, waiting for action. It's like an escalator, or conveyor belt. Words arrive, get written, and  – oh, hello! – there's more. That's pretty neat, actually.

02 November 2010

NaNoWriMo and the Death of Harold

I signed up for NaNoWriMo this weekend after performing some astoundingly inaccurate long division. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is to write a 50,000 word story during the month of November. That's on the short side for a novel, but according to the NaNo organizers it is challenging but achievable. The math mistake I made was to divide 50,000 by 30 and come up with 1066. I even took it as a good sign -- 1066, Battle of Hastings, what the hell!  I realized Sunday evening that 50,000 words divided by 30 days is not 1066 but 1666 or even 1666.666666666 forever. 1666 is, interestingly, a significantly different proposition from 1066. You wouldn't think 600 would make that much difference. Oh but they do.

(source - section from Bayeux Tapestry, showing the death of Harold - the last English king. I saw the tapestry this summer by the way -- highly recommended)

By the time I realized my error, I'd mentally committed to the project.  I know it will be challenging but it is only for 30 days, and if I manage to get to 50,000 well, that will really be something. It won't be beautiful by any means, but what I hope to achieve is what Anne Lamott would call a shitty first draft. Shitty but a draft. A done one.

So, yesterday I did all my words and this morning I did about 1000. The challenge for me will be tonight and any other night, if I have to write then. I have already warned the girls that they might be cooking supper this month... They think I'm joking.