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Thursday, 1 December 2016

A million words in 2016 (December)



I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for December (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro, and here are the diaries for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October and November.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: December


1st Dec993,187
Last year, NaNoWriMo worked really well for me, which is actually why I started this "million words in 2016" project. But this year, unfortunately, I didn't quite get into the NaNo mindset. The start was a big messy rush (thanks to me being dumb enough to take part in a race to 50k) and then I hardly wrote a thing until there was another rush at the end. That's a real shame because one of the best things, I reckon, that NaNo does for a writer, is to enforce a regular writing habit.

This little graph-gadget thing shows just how many writing days I missed during November: 


NaNoWriMo progress-tracking-gadget-thing-whatsit

The green squares show the days when I hit the NaNoWriMo target of 1,667 words per day. The orange and yellow represent the days where I wrote a bit but not quite enough. And the reds... well... they mean I did absolutely nothing.

There's a lot of reds :-(

Even though I managed 103k for NaNoWriMo this year, I only managed to write a decent amount on just ten of the thirty days. Ten out of thirty. That's a pretty terrible record!

I checked the NaNo forums and apparently it's quite common for people to attempt to be cocky by rushing to 50k. Many of them - me included - then find they lose motivation! Thing is, as you write your novel in November, you update your word count on the NaNoWriMo site, and the progress bar turns green when you hit 50k. That results in something the overachievers call the "green bar blues". When the bar turns green, it gives a real sense of accomplishment... and that means a little switch in the brain flicks over to "I have finished and therefore can STOP!"

Motivation was low anyway, but it took a nosedive after I hit 50k and the feeling of apathy still hasn't quite gone! Ah well, I guess the only thing I can do is try to learn from this for next year. I'll probably still try to race to 50k (mainly just to annoy the competitive people!) but perhaps this time I'll be more prepared for the green bar blues.

No words today (I think I deserve a bit of a break after yesterday's 22k!) so the total's still 993,187.

2nd Dec993,346
The plot of my children's novel is getting darker!




In my current draft, when Crimble (a dragon) meets Calvin, she finds that the poor kid has a nasty magical injury that's threatening to turn his body to stone. No one is particularly sympathetic to Calvin and, because the injury is seen as impossible to cure, they're basically all just waiting for him to die. And this is why I'm saying the plot's getting darker: I've just realised that in the scene before Crimble meets him, Calvin is digging his own grave. His teacher doesn't want to move Calvin's body when he finally turns to stone, so has asked him to dig the grave and use it as a bed in case he dies in his sleep. How's that for dark? :-) 

I really love it when a story reaches the point where it kinda tells itself. I'm not shoehorning this "digging his own grave" thing in - it's just a natural consequence of the current plot that naturally arises from Calvin's predicament and the relationship between him and his teacher.

One weird little flash fiction today (about a spaniel who likes eating frogs) gave me a tiny word count of 159 words, so the total's now 993,346.

5th Dec???
???

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Local fame! Hooray!

Turns out that if you get placed in the Bridport competition, they do an article in the local paper. Page 25 of the Swindon Advertiser, no less! Haha, this obviously means I'm now incredibly famous and rich :-)

The facebook post got lots of likes. Over 200! That counts as viral, right? No? Oh... :-(



And here's the picture in case the facebook-post-embed thing isn't working:


Okay, I know it doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it's nice to get a bit of an ego-boost occasionally! :-)

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A million words in 2016 (November is NaNoWriMo month!)



I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for November (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro, and here are the diaries for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: November (NaNoWriMo month!)


1st Nov900,770
I played a tactical game yesterday (31st Oct) by forcing myself not to work in the hope I'd have energy and enthusiasm for starting NaNoWriMo dead on midnight as the clock ticked over into November.

The plan didn't work very well. The words wouldn't come (mainly because I'm in a horribly turgid part of the plot where everything needs to be explained to Crimble before she can start joining in with the other characters).

But it's okay... the pressure of NaNo forced me to push through the explanation stuff, and I tried to find ways to intersperse a little action here and there. When I go back over it, I can break up the conversation with a bit more action. I think it'll work out okay.

The most important thing is I did actually manage to get words done today! NaNoWriMo has officially begun! As I say, I started just after midnight and managed to get 7,765 words done. Then I grabbed two hours kip (!) and headed off to a NaNo support class run by the awesome Jill Sharp. It's a friendly group in a lovely location (the Richard Jefferies Museum) and everyone's very supportive. Plus I ended up with a nice flash fiction about a guy trying to eat an apple tree. I must admit though, it was a bit frustrating to be at a class when I felt like I should really be typing! Anyway, I came home and grabbed a bit more sleep, then headed back to the writing shed to hammer out a few more words.


Final tally today was 10,791 which is also my NaNo total (seeing as it's only day one). However it's day 306 of my "million words in 2016" project, so the total for that is now 900,770. Woohoo - I'm on my last 100,000!

If NaNo works well for me then hopefully I'll be done with this project before December even starts! And that'll mean I don't have to write any more. Ever. Okay, I'm kidding... but it'll be nice to have a break from freewriting! I think my poor brain is a bit fed up with trying to give me ideas. It's about time I buckled down to a bit of editing!

Favourite line from today:

It looked like it was wearing a coat made entirely of squirrel fingers.

As you can tell, I'm producing some quality literature here!

2nd Nov912,743
The pressure of NaNoWriMo got to me today! It's hard to bash out a ton of words when you're also trying to craft a plot at the same time. I ended up having to abandon Crimble for a while and start another novel instead.

I chose to write another trashy horror novel. The concept of pantsing works very well with this genre, I find! Also, I had a title already prepared. It's probably the best title ever created for a trashy horror novel ever ever ever. Are you ready for this? The title is:

These things will EAT YOUR FACE

Admit it, that title is awesome. Especially because half of it is in capitals. If you were drunk enough, and in the mood for a bit of trashy horror, you would totally buy this book :-)

There's extra pressure this year because we have a bit of a competition going. One of our MLs types incredibly fast so we're all trying to beat her to 50k this year. Unfortunately there are a few of us who are massively competitive and it's all got a bit stressful! Not sure this link will work but if it does it'll show you my Swindon NaNo buddies sorted by word count. God knows why I'm including that link because it'll be out of date about ten minutes after I publish this post, but at the moment we have one person on 25k, another on 23k, and me on 22k. And it's only day two! 

I've never considered myself competitive before (even as a kid I would slow down to let other people win races simply because I could see they needed to win more than I did) but this time I'm joining in with this competition because the extra bit of pressure is helping me smash out the words. In fact I've just had two days in a row of over 10k! Million words, here I come!

Word count today was 11,973 so my NaNo total is 22,764 and my #milwordy total is now 912,743.

4th Nov940,257
Wrote nothing at all yesterday (very sleepy all day!) until about 8pm when I suddenly found some energy and powered through. Managed to get over 11k in the end! I used midnight as the cut-off point, then carried on typing until about 4:30am which gave me another 8k.

So I went to sleep with a NaNo total of 41k, then later managed to push on through and get to the 50k. So that's a NaNoWriMo win in only 4 days. Not bad! Kinda exhausted now though! Here's a screenshot from the NaNoWriMo website as proof! :-)


NaNoWriMo complete!

My spreadsheet graph's looking a lot healthier since NaNo started. Four days in a row of over 10k! I love how after all those weeks of doing nothing, the end of the graph is suddenly reaching for the sky :-)

Nearly there!

Word counts for 3rd and 4th Nov were 11,794 and 15,720. That means my NaNoWriMo total is 50,278 and the "million word" total is now 940,257.

12th Nov941,469
So much for the graph reaching for the sky! There's a progress bar on the NaNoWriMo site and, when it turned green (which it does when you hit 50k), my brain immediately said, "cool, I'm finished!" and I've hardly written a thing since. Oops.

Today was a "write-in" day with the rest of the NaNoWriMo-ers, and I think being around the other writers was enough to get me going again. It was hard work though. After 3 hours of sitting around chatting, I'd managed to hack together the beginning of a new flash fiction. It wasn't anything to do with Crimble though, which is a horrid shame because that's the project I really want to get done! However, words are words - and the main thing is to keep writing, even if you hate what you're producing.

The flash fic today was produced via this writing prompt:

"The sheep are lying!"

Thank you to Kat for the prompt! :-)  It gave me a new story for kids, in which the Big Bad Wolf realises he's been framed for stealing a farmer's flock. All the sheep in a field have vanished... apart from two who live on their own in a shed and, rather disturbingly, have been seen shopping for mint sauce.

In other news, I was invited today to give a little interview about writing on local radio! Thankfully it wasn't live (too scary!). I had a nice chat with Sam Loveless, the presenter of Rhythm and Rhyme at Swindon 105.5, and he's promised to edit out all my stuttering and stumbling! :-)



Today gave me 1,073 words so the NaNoWriMo total is 51,490 and the "million word" total is 941,469.

16th Nov943,250
Urgh. I really am staggering to the finish line. Can hardly find any motivation at all! Don't do the million word project. Repeat: do NOT do the million-words-in-a-year project!

Today gave me 1,781 words, most of which was a daft flash fiction about fingerling potatoes (which apparently are a thing). The NaNoWriMo total is now 53,271 and the million-word total is 943,250. Less than 60k to go! So close. So far.

24th Nov950,378
Forced myself to stay up late and blast out some words. Brain is not working too well at the moment so I'm finding it hard to focus on anything for too long, let alone writing. To combat this, I have several projects on the go at once. As soon as I get bored with one story, I leap to another. This technique results in a ton of unfinished stories but at least it keeps me typing.

Most of today's words came from using the lines from this article: 28 of poetry's most powerful lines ever written. I pluck out a certain idea from each of the poetic lines and use it as a prompt. For example, the line "Because I could not stop for Death, / He kindly stopped for me" gave me a fun little story about Death moving into the spare bedroom and sitting up all night drinking wine and playing cards with the ghost of my mother. Slightly surreal, but that's exactly what I like about flash fiction :-) 

Another bit of news... this Bridport thing is a gift that seems to keep on giving! They asked me to let them know a contact email address for the local paper, and that resulted in this lovely article! Okay, it's no big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's nice to get an ego-boost occasionally! :-)

Word counts for yesterday and today were 5,008 and 2,120, which means the NaNoWriMo total's now 60,399 and the "million word" total is 950,378. Woohoo, less than 50k to go!

25th Nov953,194
Am still pushing myself to sprint to the end of NaNo, so managed 2,816 words today. It was mostly just rushed freewrites based on random prompts, but I think it'll all come in useful eventually. I also added a little bit more to "Hands" (a freaky piece about a guy who fills his bath with pieces of dolls). I've never liked the ending of it so hopefully today's freewrite will have given me some new ideas. Anyway, the NaNo total is now 63,215 and the #milwordy total is 953,194. 

27th Nov969,030
Yesterday was a zero word day (ouch) so I was especially mean to myself today and just kept pushing. Brain desperately tried to resist but was pummelled into submission with insane amounts of sugar, alcohol, and coffee. All horribly unhealthy habits, but they definitely seem to help the word count. Managed 15,836 words and every single one of them was blood-from-a-stone difficult! Not a fun day. But it's a great total and has put me a bit closer to my ideal target of 100k for NaNo.

Motivation is very low but we're nearly there now. The NaNoWriMo total's now 79,051 and the "million word" total is 969,030. 

30th Nov993,187
Yikes, the end of NaNoWriMo was quite a rush!

I'd been promising myself all month long that I'd finish the million words during November. It didn't work out quite that well, but I was close!

On the 29th, just before midnight, I tried one last attempt to find some motivation by putting this message up on facebook:


An attempt at accountability!

As expected, the "accountability" aspect didn't work for me at all. I think it works best for people who are competitive, and thankfully I've never suffered from that addiction! However I do want to finish the million, and I did want to hit 100k, so I managed to push through. Yesterday earned me 1,604 words (not bad for the last half hour of the day - I didn't start until after I'd stuck that Facebook post up!) and today's result was 22,553.

The writing today surprised me today... it actually came quite easily! Luckily I'd managed to find a story I could stick with, and after that the only problem was forcing myself not to get distracted. In all honesty, I think I could have hit 30k if my concentration wasn't so awful right now... but that would definitely have been overkill. Next year, maybe?!

Here's the graph from the NaNoWriMo website. I did lots of words at the beginning of November, then nothing for ages (aargh!), then lots! I'm sure life would be a lot less stressful if I could just learn to write a solid 1,667 words per day, like the NaNo guys advise! 


The oh-so-fascinating stats (to me, anyway!) and a graph from the NaNoWriMo site


Final word count for NaNoWriMo was 103,208 which means the "million word" total is 993,187. Only 7k to go! Phew... please remind me never to do this again?

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Brain-Stanleys

No one knows what a Brain-Stanley looks like,
but this is probably pretty close

When freewriting, it's important to ignore the internal editor. However, the enforced word count on NaNoWriMo results in the writer-brain making some truly dumb decisions, all in the name of trying to squeeze a few more words into what you've actually written.

Some of the more obvious examples of this are things like always writing "Mr Ian Woon" instead of just "Ian", or not using contractions (e.g. always putting "I am" instead of "I'm"). Helpful for the initial word count, I guess, but really kinda useless in the long run.

But the writer-brain finds far dumber things to do - things that actually get in the way of freewriting. Take this for example:

She nodded for me to continue.

That's the line I was going to write. It's not amazing prose but it's perfectly acceptable, especially in a first draft. Anyway, it popped into my brain and my fingers obediently hammered at the keyboard. But as I typed the last word, a little piece of my brain woke up. For the sake of this explanation, let's call him Stanley. And remember, Brain-Stanley is a baddie in this story.

Stanley said, "Hey, if you type 'go on' instead of 'continue' then you get ONE EXTRA WORD."

The rest of my brain replied, "Oh come on, Stanley. Don't be a tit. What's the point of one extra word? Why can't I just put 'continue'?"

Stanley didn't care that the rest of the brain had just called him a tit. He stood there, with his tiny brain-hands on his tiny brain-hips, and said, "Because it's NaNoWriMo, you daft sod. We need all the words we can get."

There was a little bit of shouting, but Stanley won in the end. The line became:

She nodded for me to go on.

.... and I gained that one extra word.

So now I was a step closer to the end of my million words project. Hooray and hurrah?

No.

This is a worrying trend. If my internal-editor-dialogue ("ooh, we shouldn't write it THAT way; we should write it THIS way") is too loud, then creativity stops dead. The moment my various Brain-Stanleys wake up and start shouting editing suggestions, that's the moment I start struggling to freewrite. And all this 'second guessing myself' is what slows things down. It's hard enough to produce 2,000 words per day, let alone with a bunch of Brain-Stanleys shouting at me.

Dear Brain-Stanleys, I appreciate the occasional extra words, but they're really not worth the internal dialogue distraction. Shush for a few weeks, okay? Please? Pretty please with chocolate cherries?