Saturday, 31 October 2015

#NaNoWriMo - rolling blog post

Things I Learnt from #NaNoWriMo2015 ~~ 3 January 2016

It’s fun – it feels like a month long writers retreat. The Twitter NaNoWriMo dedicated accounts and all the participants make sure that the hashtag runs hot for the entire month with tweets and photos. Photos of writing spaces, writing food, writing inspiration. You get the picture, it is dedicated to everything that is on a writer's mind. 

I imagined my part of NaNoWriMo World was a large castle.  The dining room is open all hours and I was kept well informed of what people were eating and drinking. 

The grand estate had beautifully appointed rooms, gardens galore: landscaped, secret rooms, running brooks and shady passages.  Freshly brewed coffee was on offer by the gallon, copius quantities of cats (mostly) kept us company and I could read a blow by blow account from other writers via the hashtag of how the words were falling on to the page.

Will Self said recently, that a writer sentences themselves to 20 years solitary confinement. This is true, to some degree. 

Everything is about the writing. I am writing, or reading (and studying how the writer has constructed their story, how it sounds and feels) or I am thinking about writing.  It can bring great pain, it can shock me when an elusive idea suddenly resolves fully formed, and it can transform me when a story arrives, special delivery just for me.  Then it is all mine, while I wonder, can I trust others with my tender heart - will they get my kaleidoscope mind? 

Once a story is released it is no longer mine. Can I let it go?

All of these things can happen when I am among people, but the experience is more intense when I am alone.  It is the first thought, the last thought, it flickers into life and catches the mind.  I am not the only one who describes it as a projector, casting a story in light, in black and white, but I am the only one who will ever see what I can see.  

But I need people I've since realised, for the human stuff. With this in mind I've made other changes - signing up for some writers networks, following up invitations and just simply sharing the love of writing.  My writing room feels less like a cell these days.

In fact it is nothing like a cell.  Dissident writers locked in concrete bunkers who never see the sun - that's a cell.

I write in a beautiful room, in a beautiful house (if I half close my eyes I cant see the dust bunnies and the specks of mould).  Or I can switch places and write on a beautiful verandah and birds occasionally come perch on the edge and stare at me, while I fumble for my phone to take their photo.  So what if the most beautiful one of all, a red parrot only stayed long enough to crap on the railing?!  It's feathers were the reddest red and the greenest green I ever saw.

I have lots of friends who are writers and we get to talk about words and ideas all the time and it is our actual job.

I had plenty of jobs that I hated. Writing is not one of them. 

And I get to do fun things like NaNoWriMo.  I especially liked the bounty of inspiration quotes that flowed across the inter webs. Tips a plenty about writing flooded the hashtag, and signing up as a participant also gave me access to a dedicated chat room, a facebook group and a new twitter subgroup.

But did I write anything?

Yes – I hit 50,000 words on November 28, two days before deadline. The story wasn’t finished so I kept going and by months end it was all over bar a frayed edge.

A daily target is boot camp for the writing muscle.  I hit it easily.  But one calamity befell me early in the piece.

The daily word count is uploaded to a ticker so the analytics can be calculated over the month.  So far, so fascinating. But miss the midnight cut off and the glory that is a green box of achievement, becomes a brooding fires of hell red box.

My chat room members all had stories for how we had missed the deadline, and the pathetic attempts to trick the system into letting us make amends. NaNoWriMo is a cruel conductor and wouldn’t budge. Miss the train, it goes without you.

It upset me so much I couldn’t even look at the rolling blog because I had loaded the widget.

Yes, it’s the little things that will break my spirit. I still doggedly kept writing but the frippery that went with it no longer sparkled as brightly because I could see the big red box of shame.  I could have taken the bloody stupid box off my blog, but then I would have had no honour.

Oh yes, 50,000 words in a month will tell you things about yourself.

The writing itself felt luxurious. It was a new story, written free form and it flowed easily. 

Where do stories come from – are they from natural talent or is it a skill?

For me, they just come, and I work best when I don’t think too much about from where. Developing the skills to catch it and put it down on paper is essential, but the story itself, is a free spirit.

The routine of writing – which for me tended to be early evening was a break from my usual rise after midnight regime.  It felt like a holiday to a mystery destination, this world that unfolded populated with people who surprised and intrigued me.

I thought I would write a mystery, dark and foreboding. But it became a yarn about relationships that swung between love and jealousy, with a minor curiosity on the side.

What I can control is the size, and I think the discipline of the other writing projects I have been working on over the past year has helped my eye.

A tweet is 140 characters, a short story is 750, a website entry is 750, an essay is 1800 and a NaNoWriMo daily target is 1647.

50,000 is a novella which is a very particular type of story. Denser, richer than a short story, and deeper than the shallow swampy reaches of a full sized novel.
It is a big story in a small package. It can open into a universe upon universes but it must always fold down into a small, neat arrangement.

I will put Midnight Lane in a safe spot to rest and pick it up in a few months.  It was the best kind of storytelling: spontaneous, drawing on the air, the emotions, the memories and the desires.

It found places I had forgotten about and walled up the dead ends.

I think the interaction with other writers – just for the love of writing, had a lot to do with that.  Too often black writing is kicked to death by expectations and demands.  Once free, who in their right mind would go back to that?
11.58pm Day 3 November
Status:  on track, don’t look down

Writing takes flight and I am happy. The beginning is always the best feeling – I have created the world, with just enough detail and it is populated. It’s surprised me by the order that has emerged but it has a life of it’s own. And that;s when I have to tell myself, don’t look down.  It looks too much to handle in one novel surely?  But too late, the words are out now and have added nicely to my tally. 

So long as I don’t look down, I will be okay. I know where the door is, it opens and closes and I can walk all around outside it. I just don’t know what is inside it yet. I am excited to see what I find.
And now to sleep. This is tiring but I feel content.

I had a blast of excitement today at some good news and recognition for my blog.. All is well.

11.34pm Day 2 November
Status:  made my target for today hours ago
So why couldn’t I let go of today? I updated my words for today but I couldn’t close off with a blog post.

So what have I learned so far?

I can’t let go of my words. I hang on to them till the last minute. So is it the quest for perfectionism I thought it was that holds me back. This is a one draft marathon, which may never see the light of day, so why can't I even let that go?

#NaNoWriMo has forced me to line up everything I know about writing and knock them off one by one – I needed to plot my story, do a synopsis, make it seem real by making up a book cover, and then write to a target.  The difference is I have to do all of these things or gaps appear – my numbers wont click over, I have a void where information should be, I would feel I was falling behind, missing out, collapsed on the side of the road, DYING, if I don’t keep up.

And slowly my creativity has crept back. I want to write again. Before the darkness rose up and choked me, before the stench got in my nostrils and shook my words out of my hands before I could get them down…I couldn’t remember what it felt like to not be surrounded by death and lies, and rage and insanity. Now I am starting to find my way back and it feels good.

It helps that it is starting to get warmer and I can write at night – all the windows open, breeze blowing the curtains but not enough for the walking dead outside to see me at my desk.

I can let go of what I write. Words will find me in the dark.

Hugh Laurie pic taken from #NaNoWriMo feed

9.09pm 1 November
Status: surpassed min. words required for Day One

Realised too late I needed a book cover, so I quickly dummied something to post to my #NaNoWriMo page.

How does it feel typing flat out?
Surprised me, less swear words than I thought. Also like trying to drive with the hand brake on. But as anyone knows, you drive that buggy far enough - providing you can cope with the smell of burning rubber - and that hand brake loses it's stopping powers.

the #NaNoWriMo is a highway, full of jalopies heading to a end of month party! Lots of useful tips on offer, friendly people, a few blokes hoping to pick up a laydee and blocking me from their lane (no problem, I wasn't planning on taking the slow lane, I'm here to write)

My best wishes to fellow travellers!

5.46am 1 November
Status:  Resting as the sun rises
Have a nice little stash of words to update on the #NaNoWriMo website.  I have opened my story and looked inside and it is alive. There is something moving in there. Trepidation because these days I don't know what will come out, once stirred. I feel something, different, a slight tingle that I don't get from wine. I think it's excitement.  Last minute thoughts of backing out have been banished....

Posted 30 October
Last minute planning for what I am going to write during #NaNoWriMo 

Important questions:

Will it be loaded with profanity and littered with furious observations?

Quite possibly.

Working title ‘C***s I have Known’.

What’s that? Oh you are so right, I don’t want to read another book about someone’s personal journey unless they found a martian at the end of it, or some equally mind blowing revelation. Until that happens, I have read it all.

Some words of wisdom from the #NaNoWriMo website...
Trust your words - Your words are part of you. for better or for worse, they are there to accompany you on the treacherous journey speed novel writing. Trust yourself to write your story, and above all, give each and every word you write with the respect it deserves. You owe them that much, as does yours story 

Writing is a labour of love - It is. It just is. You wouldn't be doing this if you didn't love to write, so enjoy it. Have fun in writing. It is a challenge alright, but they don't have to be full of anxiety, worry and torment. It should be something that puts a smile on your face every time you create something of your world, of your story. Enjoy that love, and your story will love you back.


  1. this is very nice blog. reaaly i enjoy this blog.

  2. This Double spark whole team is an absolute pleasure to work with. Double spark whole team today can tell all the stories in the world but the proof is in the pudding. They assessed my online presence and gave me a few options. I was very impressed from the get are very excited to continue our journey with them.