So here I’m gently patrolling this quiet ad astra sector, waiting for my next orders from the admiralty, when from the officer at the tactical station gives the call “Long blog with pictures directly ahead sir,”
“Break out the Hot Drinks Yeoman!”
“Captain, I’m also detecting NaNoWriMo on long range sense, impact in T-minus twelve days,”
“All stop, shields full intensity and deflectors full intensity, Yellow Alert! Brace for impact!” is the only response.
I can already feel the vague worry starting to build that once more I must face this challenge. I’m sure Q is behind it!
Well actually there is one other response which is to ignore this strange writing phenomenon that is getting stronger year by year but what sort of writer would that make me?
“A sane one?”
“Thank you Jalke’i, as your sarcasm will help me to prepare for writing 1,167 words a days in November,”
Now while those Orion Pirates gag and carry Jalke’i off and lock her in a deep dudgeon for the next month, I can carry on with this Blog post.
NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month to give it the full name is something that happens every November since 1999, with the aim of encouraging more people to write a novel length story, but showing that it can be a fun also.
The full back-story and the briefing can be found on there website from here: –http://nanowrimo.org/about
In short it’s a daily short write that link together so something akin like tackling an Ad Astra Forum WFW every day. A mere 1,1667 words so it only about two and half side of A4, just how hard can it be?
Well I can only speak for myself on my past experience but it’s very hard. It does all depending upon how cooperative one muse feels like been on each day in November.
So let me explain my writing history with NaNoWriMo, so you know my road to this re-match.
I’ve personally tried NaNoWriMo since 2009, the first time I had no self confidence and so didn’t sign up official and just did some minor scribing and then after a week realises as I had hand written it all, I had no easy way to check my word count beyond a manual count and the thought of doing that on a week worth of writing combine with my lack of belief, fuel by the nay Sayers both real and my own characters lead by my inner editor kill off the first project. I did try typing it the following year but again my inner nay Sayers and a lack of time become the excuse to kill off project number two.
I realise something had to change for 2011. So I decide that I would be more serious with this project and thus took the bold step to sign up to the website and hold myself accountable for success or the more likely the failure.
So I sign up and set off on the story “2764 Ab Urbe Condita” as the synopsis still says on my NaNoWriMo profile this story was a steam-punk story in a crumbling Roman Empire, sadly this story only got to 27,437 words. Which isn’t to bad but it’s a long way short of 50,000.
So what did I learn from this failure and what lessons did I learn that I could now share with you, if you wish to tackle this challenge?
The first thing I learnt was that I didn’t sort out my research in advance, I should of at least re-watch TOS episode Bread and Circuses again as the struggle to come up with the right words and feel for this story. Having to stop and to research a new Roman name or title each time another bit part character walk on stage and then trying to decide which bits of Roman culture to keep and which to modernise while not lose the favour just slowed the writing. Then due to an under-develop plot line wandering off into different sub plots, which hinder my main plot development.
I guess it proves the old adage, write what you know and if you don’t know then ensure you have your notes ready and to hand.
Then the other delay was the dread real world kept getting in my way. I let work and travel to/from, plus the weekly shop and meeting with friends all eat up my time.
In short I didn’t make a plan and I didn’t stick to the writing. I let all the distractions win out, whether I should of or not.
Looking back now I feel like I’d try to run when I should have walked. So I came aware of the realisation to succeed that I need to do some prep work in October before November started.
So last year I decide to think in advance about what to do, I look at what I was writing with the most ease and enjoy writing, which back then were my mock Viking saga stories from the fantasy land of Okoumene. So I decide I write a story featuring my favourite two characters, the neo-Viking shaman Oweodry and the mysterious giant grasshopper Cardinal Theta.
Now both these characters like to run their mouths and I found there voices easy to write. Putting them together for the first time in what was intended to be the two of them having a simple go kill big bad evil giant wolf story which I would then back fill with lots of short story from them and the other minor character around the camp fire at night time. Plus if I was struggling to progress the story an Orc or something could attack and I then have a quick hundred words of the Viking fighting it off.
I then change my word count ideas, I would still try to do 1,667 but aim to increase up to 2,000 words on a normal week day, when the muse was flowing but I had to force myself to write on the train into the office, at lunchtime and on the train journey home again, now this at best only give me 700 words, but it did mean that I only had to write another 1,000 words after I cooked dinner.
Then at the weekends I would try to do double the normal amount i.e. 3,334 to 4,000 words. I would tell everybody this was what I was attempting and so I would be less available for other things and the pressure of others asking how it going to keep me on target.
Then Bizarrely last year I had a late camping fest weekend away arrange for November and so I had to come up with a solution for that lost time. As I would need to write longhand, cut off from the joys of technology. So what I did was take a big old fashion A4 pad and force myself to write just ten words a line to keep better track of my score. Then I would focus during my travelling and waiting for transfer time to keep write. I would get up early despite the hangover and write maybe a few hundred words, I knew I wasn’t near my daily word limit but I felt that as long as I did something I would be able to make up the difference in a future weekend.
In reality much to my surprise I did manage to make my word limits during this weekend but I don’t recommend writing with a hangover and no coffee in the great outdoors.
I also plan my weekly shop like military raids, to ensure that I got everything for the week ahead and wouldn’t run out of anything I need, and thus not lose writing time to wandering the store lanes or having to go down the corner shop for emergency supplies.
Then in advance of writing I set-up my small Viking cast and their enemies and on 1st of November set them lose.
I had great days, I had bad days but on 29th of November I was confident that I was now over my 50,000 words and so I submit Tales of Okoumene for Validation and it came back as a winner validate at 51,038 words!
Looking back now the story still has plot holes and some ideas that need to be re-visited and re-edited and I do hope to go back and tidy it up but I achieve my objective.
Was it easy?
No! There were times I felt like jacking it in but the characters would let me. So that remain my key thing for this year, I have to care about my central character and know they will insist I keep on to the end of the novel.
Did it require me to keep good discipline for once?
Did I get a great sense of accomplishment from finally beating the 50,000 words?
YES! It was party time for FalseBill the sense of accomplishment and the winner e-mails from NaNoWriMo felt like cream on strawberries.
Then it was over and I got back to my normal routine, but I still felt like I was on air. I had write a short novel, it wasn’t very good and being my first draft it has more grammar errors than you can shake a stick at but it was my work and I had done something productive to release my inner artisan.Then I realise having done it once I would have to try again, to prove it was a fluke, but now I face the dilemma what to write next?
So many ideas were fighting for space and time and each seems great but yet none of them were a novel. I mean each of my Star Trek crews was saying I should write them. However my other characters were saying that they hadn’t been getting to much attention since I join Ad Astra, thus it was now there turn. So I banished them all to the Brig and those that still didn’t get the hint were gagged and sent to the Orion slavers holding pen.
(O to point out that this is approximately the 1,670 word mark, i.e. your minimum day write target)
Is it just me or do other authors get lip from their characters, when they not getting story time?
Then I had an idea, twisting last year attempt I will write November tales a tale for each day, so I can write a series of little stories using all my various writing characters, so all I need to work out is what villain or events links all these stories together, the Chilo are trying to volunteer but I think they going to stay in the SLWalker/Ad Astra toy box this time around.
Anyway I’m not sure how much help this Blog will be to any of you who are looking to face this year NaNoWriMo Challenge, all I can say is I will be endeavour to repeat the feat again.
My top six tips are: –
- Know you need to make time to write, every day even if it not the target value.
- Ensure you know your main character, can hear their voice and they know their mind, even if you don’t.
- Be aware that there is a writing wall for novel writing, and so just like people who run a marathon warn you of the wall, it will hurt to hit it but you must push on or you have only half a story. So have some emergency plot twist ready for that moment.
- As we say in the forums Don’t Edit It To Death Just Write (DEITDJW), so follow the flow of the story and if your main star decide to stop to smell the roses, let them and see what they want to do, Your Characters can and will surprise you. Accept this it can be a great source of new ideas.
- You will suffer from writers block accept it, go have a drink, go look at a pretty picture for inspiration or check your NaNoWriMo messages.
- They no shame in failing to met the target.
All the Ad Astra Writers who are declaring that they’re taking part can be found via this link.
Don’t be afraid after all as Will Riker said long ago “fear is the only enemy,” so be bold and join this year adventure, after all they’re no shame in trying and failing, but winning is so much fun.
I would point out there are 2090 words before this point, i.e. this is the sort of length you might need to think writing on a daily basis to slay this monster, once you allow for lose word days.
Thanks for reading, as always feel free to comment and maybe I see you out here in the sector of space known only as the Land of Fiction.
Take care, till next time