Day One #nanowrimo

— 30 t-shirts, 50 000 words, 30 days —

NaNo1B
Words for the day: 5163 (across four sessions)
T-shirt: Little Red Riding Hood
Best song vibe: “Obsession” Animotion (1985)
Dares: first of Adam’s dares incorporated (the second brainstormed awaiting the slot in the narrative for it)

Today’s goal was to crack the 5,000 mark. In doing so I’ve effectively written for the 23rd and 24th of the month (my 40th birthday party and recovery). This is also the first time I’ve been this far ahead at the beginning. I laugh when the NaNo stats tell me at this rate I’ll be done by the 10th. Ha! If only every day had this many free hours in it to devote to writing.

First writing session was at midnight and I wrote almost 1800 words. Second was at 8:30am this morning, third at 2pm to coincide with the east coast of the US clicking over to the 1st (and my writing bud Rus starting his novel ‘Fossil Five’) and the last one this evening. Even though I only needed 800 words to get there, they were the hardest words of the day. Gratefully the dark, weird shit has started to creep in.

Tomorrow I get to write Tabitha’s first trip to Dalhousie. I get to rework the ditched email from the short story. Fun.

I’ll leave you with a little of what poured out today (some tiny gems amongst the VERY rough)

***

“So remind me why you didn’t apply for the residency. The one tailored for people who don’t have the time to go on one?”

Tabitha felt the smooth band of her wedding ring under her thumb as she ran if over it, and the sharper edges of the clasps holding the diamond of her engagement ring.

“It’s good with Christian. I… it’s just not a good time.”

“Hun, you aren’t making any sense.”

“Remember Joel.”

“How does this have anything to do with that creep.”

“He wasn’t a creep. Well, he wasn’t in the beginning.” Tabitha cleared her throat and started again. “Remember how things were really awesome with him and then you and I went away for a month to the UK and when I came back—”

“We were twenty. And he was a prick. What are you doing with Christian Tabby if it’s not about what didn’t happen at high school.”

“Finding myself again,” Tabitha said, staring her friend in the eye, believing every word.

“You don’t find yourself in a man. That’s how you got lost in the first place.” Mish looked at her watch and stood.  “If you’re not happy, leave Robert. Make a clean break.”

Why didn’t you tell me all those years ago that you hated Robert. I’d have listened. I think I would have.

“You can’t tell anyone about Christian, Mish. Promise me.”

“And who am I going to tell between now and when I get on my plane in 45 minutes.”

“I’m serious Mish, say you won’t tell anyone else. No one.”

Mish walked around the table and hugged her best friend tight. “Only if you promise me you’ll be careful.”

The only way she was going to be careful was to give up Christian and she couldn’t do that.

She hugged Mish hard. “I’ll tell Christian you said hi.”

“Sure,” Mish said collecting up her brief case. She kissed Tabitha on the cheek. “Love you,” the words were soft but the look that came with them was hard.

“Love you too.”

Tabitha watched Mish disappear down the concourse wheeling the small suitcase behind her, wishing she had the time to sit in the departures lounge until the call came for Mish to board. Wishing it hadn’t been so. Complicated. She wanted Mish to be as happy as she was.

Oh Hell, We’re Where?

or how to tackle plot impasses.

Dead End - close upSometimes We Take a Wrong Turn…

How often as writers have we emerged from the wilderness of our words to find we’re not exactly where we’re meant to be? It happens to plotters and pantsers alike. The story takes a tiny deviation and suddenly we’re in a whole (hole?) new place.

A Story About an Accidental Turn

Year Nine school camp took us to Apollo Bay/Ottway Ranges along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria for four nights. The same camp had been running at the school for years: two nights by the beach in Apollo Bay, two nights roughing it in the bush, sleeping under bivvies in preparation for Outward Bound in Year Ten.

Our group started with the roughing it bit and were dropped off, with our backpacks, to hike down into the camping area by the river.

Miss Dorman, our PE teacher, told us we were taking a slightly different route to other years, but it wouldn’t be much longer: two hours tops! One hour went by, followed by another, then another. The afternoon air cooled our shoulders, our backs ached from carrying heavy backpacks for the first time, and it became apparent we were “just a little bit lost.” It was okay, we were told–the gorge ahead was where we had to be.

On sunset we came out of the bush, on the edge of the gorge, several kilometres too close to the coast and without a trail down.

Gorge vs Dead End

It is a common writing topic: dead ends and writing yourself out again.

That night back in 1988 we weren’t at a dead-end. We’d simply arrived at a place which was much harder than anticipated to traverse. We hung tight and waited for morning and a new way out.

What if as writers we considered our plot impasses as arriving on the edge of a gorge facing a more difficult trip down, rather than being in dark, nasty alley facing a brick wall?

Are we really at the end? Or have we simply arrived at a place where there is a huge divide between where we are and where we want/need to be.

The metaphor of a dead-end provide two alternatives: give up or go back. Neither of these adds momentum to writing, in fact it draws energy from the writing process and pummels our confidence.

Do we really want to go all the way back… and how far do we go back? Is it possible to spot where we lost our way? Is it worth throwing the towel in? Not exactly an inspiring mindset.

The metaphor of a gorge gives hope, a way forward, albeit a more difficult one than we’d originally considered. But a way forward nonetheless.

A Light to Illuminate the Way

(Back to Year Nine Camp!) When night fell, the sky above the gorge erupted into a sea of stars, freed from the light pollution of the city, and below on the beach, emergency beacons sprung to life. We had no way of communicating our location or the fact we were all fine (it was 1988 and years before any of us would see a mobile phone). Seeing those beacons, gave me the fortitude to make the best of our less than salubrious circumstances. Someone and something was out there. And tomorrow night, we would be too.

The following exercise is the light to give you fortitude to keep on going. As an extra bonus, it has the potential to provides a rough map  off the edge and down into the gorge.

The PoV of Three

Several years ago I took a short story workshop with award-winning Brisbane author Trent Jamieson, (author of the Death Works series, Roil, Nights Engines and a bunch of amazing short stories). To date it is the best writing workshop I’ve attended. Trent made us write, and write, and write. And then made us read out what we had written!

The PoV of Three exercise I’m about to share, is based on one of the Trent’s exercises.

First

Think of a short scene, any scene you can dream up (not something you are currently working on) where: 1) something happens, and 2) it involves at least two people.

Second

Choose one of the characters present and write the scene from through their eyes in the first person PoV. Write about 250 words.

Third

Choose another character and write the scene through their eyes using limited third person PoV.

Lastly

Write the scene through the eyes of someone not participating in the scene–but who is witness to the scene. This may be written from the limited 3rd person or 1st person POV.

The 360 Degree View

The scene I wrote in the workshop focused on a midwife attending a birth (an idea inspired by the [Fiction] Friday prompt of hearing two heartbeats). When I moved into the second part and the limited third person PoV, the character I chose looked around the room and in the corner, in the shadows, was a man! The last thing I expected to see in a birthing room.

Intrigued by who he was, and why he was there, I selected him as the character in the third part. In 250 words I realised who he was, why he was there, and an entire novella* was born (no pun intended!).

The PoV of Three exercise gets us down off that damn edge and toward the cool, free-flowing waters of the narrative, by:

  • providing a panorama of a single scene–something we wouldn’t have in the normal course of writing. It allows us to see things we may not have seen, through the eyes of whoever is telling the story.
  • opening the narrative to alternate thoughts and experiences of what is going on.
  • keeping us writing–momentum begets momentum.

It is perfect for moving forward when the only options appear to be going back, or worse still, giving up. I dare any one to say they don’t find SOMETHING employing this exercise at a plotting impasse. Not the solution perhaps, or a clear-cut, gently graded path down, but a compass setting with the kernel of an idea to explore further. And for those attempting NaNo and finding themselves here, it’s a better option than the Shovel of Death.

So, next time you stumble out of the narrative and find yourself in unknown literary environs, don’t freak out and see it as the end of the world. It won’t necessarily be easy, but there’s always an evil plan ‘Z’ (for those Spongebob fans reading) to propel you across the wastelands of your plot impasse.

Happy Endings

That night in the Ottways we had run out of water, eaten everything that didn’t require cooking, and were a little freaked out about being ‘momentarily lost’, but… we had warm sleeping bags and George Michael. Yes! My friend Rachael jammed her battery-powered, pink twin-deck tape player in her backpack. Out into the virgin bush, the heterosexual version of George rocked out (amongst other songs) Faith to a bunch of fourteen-year-old girls who couldn’t sleep.

And several days later we appeared on the front page of the Colac Times–the only real claim to fame I have from my high school years! The photo showed us dirty and bedraggled, but with big smiles because word quickly spread that even though we were to continue our walk to base-camp, the SES had water with them and were offering to drive our backpacks to camp.

A version of this article was first published at Write Anything website on the 13th July, 2011.

* From that original novella idea came a novel that splintered into a cycle of five and then six novellas and a brand new sub-genre of fiction called #birthpunk (just in case you weren’t quite sold on the power of that one small exercise!)

9 Ways to Prepare for the National Novel Writing Month

I’m interested in creating supportive internal and external environments to facilitate writing during NaNo. To me, writing is the easiest thing about NaNoWriMo – just sitting there and putting the words on the page, because the month of November is no different to any of the other 11 months of the year where I don’t live in a vacuum. None of us are the proverbial boy in a bubble in November (though it would be nice to be sometimes). And as each year goes by the ability to slice off parts of life become less and less doable.

Like me, you have to juggle existing responsibilities and find time to write. You have fears, weaknesses and you get stressed? You may have a family, probably have a job of some description, as well as social commitments. On top of that you also have 1667 words to put down every day.

The good news is, NaNo is lots of fun, is most definitely worth it AND you have ability to anticipate and plan before hand. I strongly recommend taking time out to work out how you can best facilitate November to get to the 50,000 words.

This post outlines nine areas you may have not even considered important to your NaNo campaign – but believe me they are. I suggest you spend an hour over the next few days to answer and explore the questions posed at the end of each section. Team up with some other WriMos – compare answers and share coping strategies

1. Expectations

Our expectations have a great impact on us. Putting them down on paper can be a powerful exercise. It’s also a good place to start to conceptualise NaNo as a real life experience and not a fantastical (good or bad) idea that’s been floating around in your head.

  • What do you expect to get out of your NaNo experience?
  • What do you think will be the easiest part of NaNo?
  • What do you think will be the hardest part of NaNo?

If you’ve participated in NaNo before you might also like to reflect what has been the easiest/hardest part in previous campaigns.

2. Strengths and Weaknesses

Old hands and newbies alike will benefit from taking this inventory (also those not actively involved in preparing for NaNo!) Being able to play to your strengths and negate the impact of your weaknesses is important for any project you involved in – but first you have to know what they are.

  • What are your strengths as a writer?
  • What are your weaknesses as a writer?

If you have participated in NaNo before you might like to focus in on what you love about NaNo and aim to incorporate or focus on that during November. Being reminded you do NaNo because you love writing might be enough to salvage a (perceived) bad day because – well, you’ve been writing!

3. Knowing your habits.

Knowing you habits can help you create an environment most conducive to putting down large amounts of words a day. This includes what stops you from writing as well as what eggs you on.

  • When do you write most efficiently/effectively? (This includes time, location, atmosphere, emotional and mental state and other things like music.)
  • What are your biggest distractions?

You might also be interested in going through previous articles posted here about knowing your process!

4. Creatively Primed – Keeping the well topped up

Different people gestate ideas at a different pace. Some stories come to you quickly, others can take days, weeks, months or even years to brew and mature. Knowing how to maintain your creative energy and a creative space will help to keep your story following no matter what.

November is not the time to come down with a mortal case of writers block.

  • What facilitates/supports nurtures your creative life?
  • What drains/stunts/blocks your creative life?

5. Stress

No one will disagree November presents numerous challenges to each writer and with each of them comes the possibility of stress. Knowing how your stress manifests and how you cope positively and negatively, will enable you to plan ahead to deal with it.

  • What stresses you out?
  • How do you deal with it in positive ways?
  • How do you deal with it in negative ways?
  • What do you think might cause the most stress for you this year?
  • How might you negate it?
  • What helps you to relax?
  • How can you incorporate something relaxing into your every day routine during NaNo? (You may find it is something you can do which support your creative well and keeps the stress at bay!)

6. Time Management – Sharing November

My 1667 words a day have be shared with my parenting duties, maintaining a house, running a publishing house and finding time to be with my partner. For me NaNo is about being super organised – double checking my diary, writing lists so I get everything when I go out, creating menus for a week and only grocery shopping once, falling back on the simple routines which make life easy. In essence I make the most of every minute of every day.

If you isolate a time when you write best, do everything in you power (if it is logistically possible) to write then.

  • How would you break down a normal day – between work, family time, hobbies, community work etc? Where does writing currently fit in?
  • Where are you intending to fit it in?
  • Is there a time best suited to writing?
  • How will you (and those you live with) support this time slot?
  • Is there a fall back time?
  • What little routines can you develop before NaNo begins to support your writing?

7. What’s in you calendar for November?

Few of us can just pack a bag and go to NaNoLand for November. We have jobs, families, friends and other commitments which are no easily put on the back burner. Knowing what else is going on in November will assist you to make it over the line. Obviously not everything can be accounted for (I learnt this when my partner was taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack three days before NaNo finished in 07) but knowing, anticipating and planning will give you some breathing space and negate the worst of the nasty surprises.

  • How many days do you have at your disposal to write in November?
  • Based on your commitments, how many words a day do you need to write to have 50,000 at the end of November?
  • How can you be organised to fit everything you need to do every day?

8. Treat Yourself Kindly

I’m not necessarily keen on the idea of positive reinforcement, but there is something to be said for treating yourself after a job well done. Rather than making it the reason to do it (or the bribe), view it as a way of thanking yourself. Have your milestones and celebrate as you make your way through November.

  • What can you do every day to assist you in making your work count?
  • What will your milestones be? (make them increments rather than the 50K finish line)
  • What treats do you have in mind?

9. Support

While we like to think of ourselves as islands, because writing by nature is a solitary task, we’re actually not islands and we don’t necessarily perform well in isolation. We need support and encouragement – particularly when times get tough. While it is important to have friends who know what you’re going through and came empathise with you, it is also important to have those close to you supporting and encouraging you. After all they are the ones on the coalface when things get weird or when you have to say no to something they might really want you to do.

I make a contract with my family every year because without their support I can’t attempt 50,000 words in 30 days. The first year I promised to make sure the housework was up to date and dinner was on the table every night – and if this happened I could take one whole day off over the weekend. While November was the most organised month in our household, I still wasn’t able to ask for the time I had promised to me on the weekend.

  • What sort of support/help might you need?
  • Where would you find it?
  • How do you ask it?
  • What contracts might you need to make with family and friends for the month of November?

I encourage every writer doing NaNo to find an online or local group to join. For the past two years I’ve enjoyed the support and camaraderie of the Brisbane NaNo group and their weekly Write Ins at Milton, as well as the Write Anything and Brisbane forums on the NaNo website. And well – there’s always twitter and facebook (I belonged to neither when I set out for my first NaNo campaign in ’07 and man, it makes a difference).

At the end of the day, NaNo is about the love of writing. Being prepared gives you the best chance at being able to fully enjoy the experience, so give yourself permission to have fun. Love the words you write, and they will perhaps, love you back!

NaNo Check in: Day Two

  1. Up early – YES! It was 5:00am this morning and by 9:00am I had reached my word count (in between all the other things which happen first thing in the morning)
  2. Morning Pages – YES!
  3. No internet until word count reached – YES! It went on at 9:00am and I then spent the rest of the day writing other things
  4. 2000 words per day (or more) – YES. Clocked a little over 2000 words. Did 1000 in the first hour which included cooking and eating breakfast – then everyone else got up!
  5. No sugar – NO! The sad lonely choc chip muffin left over from KOP got me. Now there is nothing left in the house to indulge in.
  6. Walk where possible – NO! Instead we went for a swim and I floated and froze.
  7. Eat Sensibly – Pretty much so. Sensible breakfast, good lunch – need to find something to segue into evening.
  8. Maximise opportunities for creative headspace. I listened to the Rolling Stones again this morning while I worked. I also spent time at the washing line, taking laundry on and off, washed dishes, cooked veal and chilli pie for dinner. Also wrote my Write Anything article on thinking and creative head space!

Good parts:

It was all over by 9:00am which meant I had time and energy to focus on writing a guest post for Jon Strother and my Write Anything article.

I also got into the head space (speaking of head spaces) of The Empress and understood better her motivations for doing what she’s doing.

Bad Parts.
I’m not entirely sold on the turn my story has taken, but after some pondering while doing laundry etc, I think I can see the story is taking a bit of a wide arc to get where I want it to go. Other than that – it was smooth sailing puttting down the 2000 words.

Unexpected Parts
I continue to be a bit flabergasted by the political angle the story has taken. Loved the fact that I thought I was going to write a big pow wow this morning, but ended up just setting up the big pow wow. Things are in major shift in the colony of the Th’Urn. Nthing like lots of tensions to make things interesting.

The dream sequences I wrote last year have already come into play and compliments of editing Paul’s story for Chinese Whisperings over the weekend, I can see how it will all fit together.

Tomorrow
A little more of the same. I’ll get to that pow wow I think and an interlude with Baji as well maybe.

#41 First Day of NaNo

DSC02749

After being ridiculously excited about NaNo this morning it went pear shaped pretty damn quickly. Picking up a year from when I last wrote Blue Melissae was more challenging that I thought. The story took a turn which I had not anticipated which meant going back and getting my head sorted.  So here you see me on the bed amid CD cases (decided to update my iPod music which would have been the only truly productive part of the day if it would just bloody sync with my actual iPod – grrr!), index card (Ben would be so proud of me) and looking far less frazzled than I was about an hour later.

It all worked out for the best – six hours later. I’m currently positioned on a little over 2300 words. See my next post for my actual NaNo check in.

(sorry about the fuzzy photo – my partner can’t hold the camera still enough to get a clear photo)

#40 KOP

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31st of October and the closest I’m going to get to Hallowe’en is the pumpkin on my NaNo pass from the Kick of Party today (I’m making a conscious effort to bouycott the American buy in and instead raise a glass of Wiccan brew to celebrate Belatane instead).  The pass comes with some useful information inside including a calendar of November with all the write in listed for the Brisbane/Gold Coast area. It was also an excellent icebreaker and a way to remember peoples’ names.

I really enjoyed myself at the KOP this year. Last year I was just overwhelmed to be among so many strange faces – and so many young faces at that. I felt ancient. This year I didn’t feel a whole lot younger -but I found some awesome people to talk to – thanks Kegan and Lenny. I left before I had to stand up and share what my story is about. Not because I didn’t want to stand on the seat and share – but because I was mindful I was out by the good grace of my family and November is a LONG month for all of us.

So it’s the night before the big event. Last sunset before the madness. Last meal. Last sleep. Hopefully though not the final blog entry.