30 November 2007

NaNo done

Well, it's official. After a couple of huge days -- I had to write 15,000 words in two days -- I'm a NaNoWriMo winner. I feel there has been a few things I've neglected in the last few weeks: emails, blogs, boards, but I've refound my focus. I'm sure I've written 50,000 words of crap, but I'll decide that in a little while when I come back to read over it. That's not for today, nor the next month, which is when I have to finish the rewrite of my novel. I've got about 50,000 words to go. And one month. Easy peasy. (Except I have to do an editing pass over it too, but that's the fun part.)

Anyway, tonight I'm determined to catch my blogs up a little, so this is necessarily quick. Tomorrow I'm hoping to blog about what I've discovered doing NaNoWriMo.

25 November 2007

What's in it for me: NaNo

I've just passed the 30 k mark. Usually when I write I get into some kind of flow, and the words flow. I'm a splurger, not an agoniser, and I reckon that's a good way to be for a novelist -- which is not to say that agonisers can't write novels, because of course they can. But I think a big, fast output of words is a handy thing...

So am I in the flow? No. Of my almost 31000 words, I reckon 2 k have been easy, and the other 29 have been some of the most stubborn, intractable, obdurate words that I've ever met. Does it matter? Not really. Because I haven't given up on them. I have till Friday now to write 19000 words. Might seem an impossible task, but I'm quietly hopeful -- if not confident. Nothing like a deadline to egg me on.

Deadlines are good, helpful things. Pressure is good. I'm not sure why I lost the plot in week two (maybe I literally lost "the plot"?), but at that point I could have said, to hell with it. I'm glad I didn't, because around about now I'd be looking at the 15 k I've done instead of the 30 k. I am going to have a good bash at it and see if I can't win this stupid thing. Already, I've gotten what I want out of it: a more effective practice. I used to have that. Before I started teaching. Now I'll have to keep it up. My December goal will be finishing my first novel -- about 45 k to go, and to do an editing pass, but we will be away four days. (Still I can take hardcopy with me and edit... Oh, happy thought!)

18 November 2007

Another island photo

This is my favourite photo from the other side of the island. I love casuarinas, and these trees feature heavily in my coastal scenes,  as as do their needles on the trails! 

NaNo on

So today I got up and wrote 1500 words before going out for lunch. Came home raring to write, to see whether I can resurrect my NaNo novel from likely failure to certain success -- only my laptop, which is where it is, has overheated and crashed, so now I'm waiting for the battery to run down (as it won't switch off). But looking forward to a night of writing! Yahoo.

16 November 2007

NaNo update

The words have stopped. Dried up. Is it the dreaded writer's block? Do I believe in such a thing? Yeah, I do, and often I think it's down to either not knowing your characters well enough or a failure of nerve. Am I suffering it at the moment? I don't think so. So why have the words stopped?

I think in part it's that I need to do a bit of thinking. A bit of refamiliarising myself with the alien society I've set up and their mores. I'll get to a point and think, how do they show respect? Or what are the other members of society likely to be doing now? Or what hair colour does that Myrad have? (They control their own hair and eye colour so have all kinds of fantastic colours.) Or who is he allied with? Or what did I say stickleberries were like earlier? So I have to go through my world building questions and hunt things out. I should just use the Claire-method and asterisk things to come back to.

On another note, though, is that everytime I try to write my eyes just grow heavier and heavier. I know I have been living on the thin edge of sleep deprivation -- and caught up beautifully at Phillip Island. There's something to be said about earlier nights and a bed to yourself -- ie no-one waking you early, or being restless. My husband might agree as I whacked him in the face the other night, quite by accident! Then again I hit him in the head with a shovel yesterday. Also an accident. (Oh, it was only the handle -- he was squatting down picking something up, and I wasn't paying attention. Truly!) But, back to my appalling sleeping habits: since I've been back from our long weekend away, I've pulled several nights after 2.30. Two am really is some kind of limit for me. If I go much later than this, I'm stuffed the next day. If I make a habit of it... Well, it's not conducive to writing, that's for sure.

I did have my eyes checked recently. I'm the only member of my family who wasn't wearing glasses by age 30. My father is legally blind, from glaucoma, which was the main reason for the eye check-up. Everything is fine, but the opthalmologist did suggest using hobby glasses to help with close work. And I know I used to be able to thread a needle, but now I struggle. Maybe this computer eye-strain is for real. I suppose the first remedy is more sleep and see how I go...

15 November 2007

Editing anthologies

The last few days I've been preparing an anthology for a competition. Now, while I don't want to go into too many details -- because it is meant to be anonymous -- suffice to say we were over the word limit and so I had to do some cutting. Now, perhaps the easiest part was that I had more pieces and longer pieces than anyone else, so it was easy to be ruthless. I didn't want to touch other people's pieces too much, except to fix punctuation, and iron out any inconsistencies. It's strange the small inconsistencies that creep in.

And it's always interesting trying to make substantial cuts -- in this case akin to removing a subplot. One small change snowballs throughout the manuscript. Interesting, too, trying to edit for balance. I cut one scene completely to get within the word limit, but couldn't take the one that would have made the least impact, because that was also the writer represented least. The trouble was that my scenes impacted other scenes, which therefore also needed parts stripped out of them, just so that they still made sense.

Cutting like this is a great way to learn editing skills. I think I learnt many of mine while trying to cut more than 10% out of short stories to get them within competition guidelines. I get my class to do this every year, and every year there will be someone who is unable to complete the exercise, and I'll get them to hand it to me. They're always amazed at exactly what they can lose, and how much more smoothly the text reads.

11 November 2007


Every year I've looked at this NaNoWriMo thing and thought, why does it have to be in November? Why not NaJaWriMo or NaFeWriMo -- months when I'm not marking. Last year I spent most of November wrestling with writes and rewrites (students') of Liberal Arts essays. I felt like my head was going to explode. This year I wasn't teaching over there -- our semester ends earlier and mine earlier still because of the Cup Day holiday, and so I really had no excuse.

I was 50 k from the end of my novel (in the rewrite) and it's a 50 k commitment, so I thought, why not? Except when I read the rules it's not supposed to be stuff you're rewriting. Originally, I thought that it didn't matter. After all, if it's my NaNoWriMo, it could be whatever I wanted, right? Right. Except that when I read the reasoning why it shouldn't be a rewrite, I thought they made a good point. So I decided to head into book 2. Now, technically, this is also a rewrite because I'm already 140 k into book 2; however, I haven't worked on it for a very long time and don't remember the ins and outs. Plus I wrote a lot of it so long ago that it needs to be partly rewritten, so I decided to tackle this and do it from scratch.

Now, this was the perfect project for my long weekend away, and boy did I make a great start at it. But I still wanted to be working on my novel too, so it became a juggling act. Normally, I can't work on more than one thing at a time, but these are both the same world and characters -- same headspace -- though there is this curious experience of writing 50 k to the end, and 50 starting at the end. Bizarre. And in book 1, I'm working on two storylines simultaneously: human and Myrad (alien), whereas for NaNoWriMo, I've restricted myself to just writing the one (Myrad).

But now I'm stuck. I was referring back to the original book 2 far more than I wanted to -- but, in any case, I've introduced a major new storyline that affects this storyline dramatically so things were about to diverge radically from what I had. I think for me that really what is needed is an hour of plotting. Sometimes, I like to write without plotting, just see where it goes, but sometimes I need more structure. I suspect this might be one of those times. Today, I'm going to spend half an hour plotting and then some time writing. I'll report back in later to say how I've done!

10 November 2007

Island photos

For days, I've been trying to load some images to my post on setting but to no avail. Blogger, it seemed, didn't want to visit Ithikal (the land of my novel). Finally, today, I loaded one into the original post, but it seemed silly scrolling down to put there there, so I've started a new post for that purpose. But I've left that one there -- if you want to scroll down and have a look.

Here are some that are in keeping with my characters beach ride, including the path at the end of the beach. I think bigger cliffs, less red volcanic rock (more sandstone), but with this Australian type of forest: casuarinas (oh, so coastal!), eucalypts, callistemons -- and, yes, they are flowering at the moment, beautiful red bottlebrushes everywhere, and acacias. In my novel, it's a little earlier in the year -- the acacias are out but not much else. Wilson's Prom was very much the setting I had in mind, but I haven't been back there with a digital camera in tow... Or since it was so badly burnt nearly two (?) years ago.


A few of the members in one of my writer's groups are into spiritual stuff in a big way. Anyway, so one of the members came in the other day with a book she'd picked up at a secondhand bookshop, and it was all quotes about writing. Would've been a great book if the writers (or compilers) had just acknowledged who said them, but they didn't. Anyway, the other spiritual member picked up the book and said, "It's telling me to open it here." And she proceeded to open the book and decided that whatever was on the page was obviously something she was meant to take seriously. Really, she couldn't go wrong because the whole book was full of useful aphorisms.

So, I picked up the book and wondered what it would "tell" me. And, really, it was quite fitting -- something fitting for all of us writers, so I'm going to pay it forward and send it on to all of you:


07 November 2007

Visiting setting

I have much to blog about but I'm not feeling like tackling it chronologically at the moment. My long weekend is too much in my mind. There's something about the fellowship of writing together -- two people tapping at keyboards, one groaning or laughing and the other pausing and waiting for clarification; something about knowing each other's stories and talking about plot and characters and knowing we're both glowing when we're talking about our own characters, and yet really interested to hear of new developments in the other's; something about getting out in the setting of our novels and experiencing it (well, all right, we're both writing fantasy so we can't actually visit these worlds, but, strangely enough, we were both writing coastal scenes and happened to have the island's east and west coast handy...); something about long walks discussing structure and possibilities for restructure, and the importance of setting being atmospheric versus the impact of too much setting on pacing; the long conversations about technique and about books and about films...

Bum end indeed

Apologies to anyone following this blog for the long stretch of darkness. I've been silent running. (I love that film!) Marking, marking and more marking. Compound this with server problems -- and even problems today and last night in getting onto this site! And I've been away for four days: writing, writing and writing. 13,500 words all up. Or around about. However you want to look at it.

But I have to dash off to writing group -- today's a writing day! And am I ever in the mood.

Will update shortly.