sunrise over swamps

sunset over melancholy seas

Nanowrimo 2013 Journal – Days 29 to 30

A dragonfly I saw on a bridge. Taken on an iPhone 5C. November 2013.

A dragonfly I saw on a bridge. Taken on an iPhone 5C. November 2013.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday, just to keep this post looking pretty!

Friday 29 November. 10.55 AM.

I just had a quick read through my previous NaNoWriMo 2013 Journal posts. It is amazing how much growth one can go through in a month. In the almost four weeks I have worked on this project, I have nearly reached the end and am still in with a chance. I will try to do a follow-up “How it all affected me” post in early December; for now, I have just under 7,000 words to write before the cut-off time for novel validation. It’s been quite a journey!

Thank you to the readers who followed my blog during this time. I appreciate the support you have shown through the “Like” functions. I try, whenever possible, to follow up all the wordpress likers and followers and see what you’re posting on your blogs. I am humbled that so many excellent writers and lovers of good books have been kind enough to show their support. I very much appreciate it. Now, back to writing!

Friday 29 November. 2.30 PM.

Current word count: 45, 326 words out of 50, 000.

Listening to a mix of Eluveitie, Wintersun, Amorphis and Amon Amarth (most of whom have a viking/Celtic folk vibe). I will not apologise if my science fiction novel turns out to be nothing but a thinly disguised Viking adventure, with a few Celtic warriors thrown in for good measure. As it is, it’s already headed in that direction. Also, I’m pretty sure my lead male characters look like a composite of the typical lead singer of any popular Nordic heavy metal singer you can imagine. Let’s face it, that’s about as attractive as it gets. (Not sarcasm.)

I am being forced to take a break. Good mums don’t forget to pick up their children from school, even if they are deeply immersed in describing just how blue a person’s eyes are.*

*When I wrote that, just there, I immediately thought of the brilliant book How Not To Write A Novel , by Newman and Mittelmark (2008, Penguin Books) which has a section called ‘The Vegan Viking’ (pages 65-66).**  In light of that particular section, I should probably reassess one of my characters… Also, read that book. It’ll ruin every trashy romance novel you’ve ever read, and you’ll be grateful for it.

** In case you haven’t read the other parts of my blog, I should clarify. I like vikings, and I like vegans.

Friday 29 November. 9.23 PM.

Current word count: 47, 242 words. 

The Beatles album Abbey Road playing, got a glass of wine and less than three thousand words to go. Bring on an all-nighter and some intense writing.

I’m interested to see how music affects my writing. Especially after a month of alternating between progressive metal and Ludovico Einaudi albums (think classical piano and violins), just throwing a bit of The Beatles in the mix should make for some interesting subtle influences on the plot. I definitely just wrote the most upbeat, lighthearted bit of dialogue in the entire story while bopping to this latest set of songs. I might find that my dark brooding story about guys that look like vikings generally being dark and brooding, will suddenly result in them all getting bowl haircuts and singing love songs.

Friday 29 November. 11.26 PM.

I just copied and pasted the entire text of my novel into NaNoWriMo’s word count validation thingamajig. I am just short of 50, 000 words. On the one hand, I’m a little frustrated. On the other, I’m relieved. I have grown rather fond of my story’s characters over this last month. I will be sad to say good bye.

Saturday 30 November. 12.01 AM.

If we politely ignore the bit where I’m awake waaaaaay past my bedtime, I would like to say that at some point I actually managed to write more words than necessary. I officially just validated and won my first ever NaNoWriMo. I am so excited. I didn’t think I would manage it.

Final word count: 50, 255 Words.

…And counting – I haven’t finished with this story yet. It’s got potential.

NaNoWriMo 2013 Winner's Banner

NaNoWriMo 2013 Winner’s Banner

2013-11-29 at 23-54-11

Midnight screenshot of my NaNoWriMo profile. Preserved for the future’s sake! Also to prove to myself that I actually did this through sheer hard regular work.

My NaNoWriMo Profile

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My 2013 NaNoWriMo Journal

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Nanowrimo 2013 Journal – Days 25 to 28

Monday 25 November. 9.37 PM.

It’s been another one of those fruitless writing days: the sort where, the moment I have waved goodbye to the husband, dropped the kids off at school, and boiled the kettle, the neighbours are swamped with a heap of noisy workmen.

Now, I have to say, it is getting beyond ridiculous. The neighbours on either side of my house – not knowing that I am already ultra-sensitive to unpredictable noise (thank you to my ISFP / Introverted / Melancholy personality type), and that I am trying to write a manuscript longer than anything I’ve previously attempted in an insanely short amount of time – can’t possibly have planned between themselves to alternate loud renovation works on a daily basis for several months straight with almost no respite in order to ruin my life, my sense of peace and my creativity… but forgive me for being paranoid about the possibility.

So, as 10 o’clock approaches on what has otherwise been a gloriously sunny late-spring day marked by a surprise gift from some friends, and where I at least managed to get a few things knocked off the checklist (Christmas gifts and paperwork and getting some repair work quotes), I am trying to tap out some words… While trying to ignore the fact that the other neighbours’ children are still wide awake and practising their musical instruments. As they do when it is 10 o’clock on a school night.  (Perhaps my view is skewed because my children go to bed before 8 PM on school nights, otherwise there’s not a chance they’ll be up in time for school.)

Tuesday 26 November. 12.12 PM.

It’s a beautiful, sunny, peaceful, breezy end-of-spring kind of day. There is nothing to do but write. I don’t know that I rate my chances of completing the 50,000-word goal as being particularly likely. I am currently sitting on 29, 121 words and need to write another 20, 879 before November 30 ends, with enough time to submit and validate my novel. Will I accomplish this? I have no idea. But now, at this moment, while I have a moment of blissful solitude and silence, I will try to write as much as I can.

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27 November, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia. Photo taken on an iPhone 5C.

Wednesday 27 November 2013. 2.30 PM.

It’s a glorious 29°C  here in Melbourne, Australia today. (That’s 84.2°F for my North American readers!) Sunny weather and blue skies seem to trigger the thing in me that wants to write. Frustratingly it was shaping up to be another day of noise, but a coffee with a friend followed by some alone time at an arboretum in our end of Melbourne with me, an orange juice, and my netbook PC meant that I got some writing done. Being outdoors refreshed my imagination, too. There were little ducklings waddling around everywhere, flowers blooming, and it was just open and quiet and pretty. I need the refreshment of nature to tap into my creativity.

I have started resorting to writing non-chronological scenes in the story just to keep the momentum rolling.

I have until 11.59 PM on Saturday to submit and verify my word count. I don’t hold my chances of reaching 50,000 words as very high. I need to write 4,600 words a day, every day, between now and Saturday in order to accomplish that. It’s an uphill battle from here. I wish I could just copy/paste the development material I used to create the characters and their back stories into the document – I’d be past 50, 000 words in a flash if that were the case!

However, on the plus side, either way, in this one month I have developed a manuscript and story longer than anything I had heretofore accomplished. I don’t know that my story will ever meet the light of day, but at least I will have given life to some of the characters that were stuck in my head all this time.

Will I be trying nanowrimo again next year? I reckon I probably will. And between now and then, I’ve got plenty of fresh ideas rolling into my mind to keep me going!

Current word count: 31, 608 Words. 18, 392 words remaining.

Wednesday 27 November 2013. 8.28 PM.

I’m sitting outside to write. Summer is coming soon, and with it the longer days and warmer weather. Melbourne is a part of the world that is wet and cold for much of the year, so it really was lovely to enjoy a sunny, hot, positive day.  (I would have preferred it without getting sunburnt,  though.)

I am watching the last pink of sunset fade from the clouds. I can hear all kinds of birds and insects chirping a dusk chorus. Cicadas are quieting but the crickets have struck up their raspy song. Willie wagtails, blackbirds, magpies, currawongs, and wattlebirds add their voices to the avian cacophony.* I can hear frogs coming from the nearby reserve, too. I really, really love nature and it inspires me, in all its movements and colours and cycles, but if there is a time of year and day that seems especially magical to me, it’s the late spring and early summer sunsets, on these sorts of sunny days. I can easily explain it – Christmas is coming, and so is my birthday. Even if I am getting older, I still retain some of the childish joy about these times of year. This is a time of transition for us, too. A time of endings. This year, and this fortnight, marks one of the biggest years of my life in terms of soul searching, dreaming, and implementing massive life changes. And so, there’s a heightened excitement for me as I sit under the darkening skies and know that soon the stars will shimmer into being. If only I could get this wordcount happening faster! (Step one: log out of social networking websites.)

*Thank you, Museum Victoria Field Guide to Victorian Fauna App. I’m using the iPhone version.

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27 November 2013. Sunset. Melbourne, Australia. Taken on an iPhone 5C.

Thursday 28 November 2013. 11.37 AM.

Must keep writing.

Current word count: 35, 409 words.

 

Thursday 28 November 2013. 2.10 PM.

It is time to draw on the methods of frantic pre-deadline writing I used to complete my honours thesis two years ago:

Step One: Good bye, Facebook, Instagram, et. al.

Step Two: Good bye, social life.

Step Three: Hello, coffee, Scrivener, and a playlist of every Tool album I could get my hand on from 1992’s Opiate to 2006’s 10,000 Days (and 2000’s Salival thrown in for good measure!) It’s writing time.

Step four: type any disjointed idea that turns up in my head. I can always edit later!

 

Thursday 28 November 2013. 6.35 PM.

NaNoWriMo Profile: Work in Progress

NaNoWriMo Profile: Work in Progress

I’m pretty close! Only roughly 10, 900 words to go!

 

Thursday 28 November 2013. 10.09 PM.

Today was a good writing day. It’s such a relief.

Current word count: 43,322 words. 6,678 words remaining to finish nanowrimo.

Deadline to validate final word count of a minimum of 50,000 words: 11.59 PM, Saturday 30 November, local time.

 

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Nanowrimo 2013 Journal – Days 5 to 8

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The view from my “office,” in the passenger seat somewhere on the West Gate Bridge, Melbourne, Australia. Photo taken on an iPhone 5C. 5 November 2013.

Tuesday 5 November. 12.30 PM

I sat up late last night trying to write. It is clear that I don’t work well in noisy circumstances. It doesn’t matter what the noise is, I can’t multitask well. At midnight last night it was the television that proved to be the major source of distraction. This morning it became clear that the public holiday meant that the neighbourhood would be filled with noise. People arguing in their yards, using power tools, and radios turned up loud. Our plans to have a quiet day at home had to change.

So, I am now going to write by hand, in a notebook in the car, as we take an impromptu road trip to rural Victoria to escape the noise. I’ll have to type my hand written notes into my manuscript later – but I’d much rather do that than spend a fruitless day trying to engage my creativity in the ceaseless noise and mental clutter of my suburban neighbourhood.

It does dig up some concerns that have steadily eaten away at me since early 2005, when I moved to the suburbs for the first time in my life. Prior to that I had lived in rural Australia for more than two decades, most of that in a small farming community, and a few years in a town in a more industrialised but still rural area. I guess that because my formative years were spent in a place that is generally pretty quiet, with lots of natural aesthetic beauty and quiet and space between the houses, I’ve never adjusted well to the constant light, noise, and claustrophobia of suburbia. While it has its positive points – specifically, the friends that I have made here, and a surprising variety of native bird life – overall I am just not able to find the silence, space, restfulness and thinking room I need to draw on my creative side while I am living here. I hope that will change.

Ah, but I digress. This wasn’t meant to be my life story in the form of lamentations. This was simply a note to say that today my Nanowrimo writing will be taking place from the passenger seat in the car, by hand, in a notebook, en route to blessed peace in rural Australia.

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My writing view, 6 November 2013.

Wednesday, 6 November. 11.57 AM.

I love the spring sunshine. Warm weather, a nice spot in the shade, and the only noise is the bird song. Today should prove to be a fruitful writing day. At least, I hope it will, because I’m a fair way behind in my word count.

Current word count: Approximately 4,109 Words.

Thursday, 7 November. 8.18 PM.

I made a heap of progress yesterday. This is the first moment I’ve had to just sit down today, though.

I am enjoying the NaNoWriMo process so far. I think there is a big benefit to the short, though intense, duration of the month. It’s only thirty days. Writing approximately 1,700 words a day for thirty days is entirely within my abilities – as long as I can manage my time.

It seems to be about prioritising my time. Yes, there is a huge pile of washing needing to be ironed, folded and put away, but as long as everyone has enough underwear to get through the next few days, then I have to learn that I don’t need to make apologies for pursuing my own desire to write.

As a housewife and stay at home parent it is tempting to put my own interests and ambitions to the bottom of the laundry pile. The problem is, the laundry pile NEVER ENDS. I have had to push through a lot of pain to get to the point I’m at. The fact is, kids don’t stay small and needy forever. But dreams simmer away in the back of my mind and now, give them a bit of space, and the ideas and creativity come pouring out. All those years of day dreaming that one day I would write a novel is being effectively channelled through this useful system of  accountability. The fact is, it’s very hard to stop writing when you know that a bunch of people are cheering you on – whether it’s the people you have never met in real life and only know via their online avatars, or it’s those rare and wonderful friends who encourage you in your dreams and won’t laugh at you for wanting to be something more than the label your current stage of life has applied to you.

The fact is, I can do this. I can write. I can make up a story. I can develop characters, including characters who are different from me and not a thinly veiled variant on my own personality (this is a new revelation to me – I think the brilliant book A Novel In A Year by Louise Doughty deserves my gratitude in this area!).

I tend to dismiss my creative abilities. It is too easy to talk myself down, to refer to myself as “just” a mum (as if being a mother was ever just a thing). In the meantime, I have also been a volunteer worker, finished two university degrees, and occasionally sold my art designs. So, when I think that I haven’t done much, that’s not true. It might not always appear to be much in the eyes of the people outside me, but it is enough. It’s more than enough.

It’s funny that something so straightforward as a 30-day writing competition has brought all this other stuff to mind. It’s the realisation that I can do this, if only I just set aside the time to do it. On some days it might be ten minutes, other days I’ll get four hours, but the key thing is to take what time I can and run with it. Writing, in itself, is something I have always done. Writing is, for me, like breathing. What the NaNoWriMo experience is showing me is how to take my scattered ideas and channel them into something more cohesive, with a beginning, middle and end. Though I must add that in all practicality I seem to be writing it in chronologically scattered fragments. I keep track of these by means of several hand-written timelines!

There is every likelihood that my humble little first attempt at a complete novel may never see the light of day, but that’s okay. I really love this line on the NaNoWriMo website’s FAQ section, under the question, “Why bother?”:

Art for art’s sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and “must-dos” of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and fun, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous whimsy into our lives.*

I think that really sums it up for me. Writing is fun, creating is fun, developing ideas is fun, and it’s taken what would otherwise be a routine November and given it a sense of active purpose, with tangible results.

Another thought: the reason I am blog-journalling my way through this experience is to engage in a process called “reflexivity.” For me, it’s  not just about writing and developing a new skill set in the process. It’s about considering it’s effects on me, and how the process changes me and my view of the world by reflecting on my experiences. It’s a concept used in feminist forms of social theory, but ever since I learned about reflexive thinking, I’ve been applying it to most areas of my life.

Current word count: 7579 words.

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My 2013 NaNoWriMo Journal

*Reference: https://nanowrimo.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/topics/27085-national-novel-writing-month, “If I’m just mindlessly writing 50,000 words, why bother? Why not just write a real novel later, when I have more time?” Accessed 7 November 2013.

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