Laughter and books make life a little easier


Soooo… Please excuse the ultra-descriptive title: I used up all of my words on NaNoWriMo.

Yesterday I said that I’ll talk more about my NaNoWriMo. Also, some people have asked me how I write. I have no idea why anyone would ask me, but I might as well reveal what I do during NaNoWriMo. If it can help anyone else, I’m happy!

Firstly, a few things about NaNoWriMo. I know that a lot of people criticize thisย endeavour. I know that a lot of people say that a good novel cannot be written in a month. And to those people I would say that you are absolutely right. A good novel can (probably) not be written in 30 days. However, this is not what NaNoWriMo is about. It is about sitting down and writing that first draft, while the experience of writing along with thousands of other like-minded people is your motivation to continue. NaNoWriMo gives you the freedom to write absolute crap and, believe me, a large part of my current novel is exactly that. For instance:

  1. The characterisation is extremely inconsistent. Yes, your people have to grow throughout the novel, but if they return after a chapter break with a completely different personality, I think there is a problem (though you might be able to argue that it is just the psychology of your character coming through :P).
  2. None of my characters have surnames, because I didn’t have time to think of any. I’ll have to add that later.
  3. I switched the words “hauberk” and “halberd” for a large part of the novel. I think you might have some trouble cutting someone’s head off with a hauberk, but that’s how I wrote it. I’m not sure, but maybe you’d have to sharpen it first, or something?
  4. I forgot the word for that thing you use to play the violin with, so I referred to it as “the stick-thing” several times, because I didn’t have time to stop and look it up. I still can’t remember that word.
  5. I forgot about several characters halfway through the novel. I got to the last scenes and suddenly realized that I’d lost a few people along the way. Not sure where they are stranded at the moment…
  6. One guy had a sudden sexuality change three-quarters of the way into the story. I do hope I haven’t given him an identity crisis! ๐Ÿ˜‰
  7. There are inconsistencies over key points across several chapters. There are even some flashbacks to stuff that never happened.

Yeah, that’s all I can think of right now. So, except for the large part in the middle that I haven’t written yet, can you see how much work this thing still needs? Am I still proud of it? Yes, I am, because I managed to get this story that has been turning in my head for ages now down and I know that I would not even have started without NaNoWriMo.

My point is that NaNoWriMo allows you to write at top speed, to write without worrying about everything you say, because NaNoWriMo kills your inner editor. You are not allowed to go back and edit during NaNo. Your inner editor is not allowed to come interrupt you by telling you that everything you do is crap (and if she does, pack her off on a holiday to the South Pole). This gives you the freedom to get that first draft down – which you can then edit at your leisure – without agonizing over your concord use (something I’m always agonizing about).

In the Day 28 pep talk by Nick Hornby that the NaNo site sent out, Mr Hornby talks about that great question “Am I a good writer?” and the uncertainty that surrounds it. Here’s a bit of what he said in answer to the question:

I’m afraid you will never know the answer to that one. No writer does. (Some writers think they do, but they are usually wrong.)

By contrast, it is easy to tell whether you are a good high jumper. If you knock the bar down every time, then I regret to tell you that you are not. You cannot be an underrated high jumper, or an unlucky high jumper, or an overpraised high jumper, or a high jumper whose reputation relies entirely on his or her connections to the wealthy and influential. Your high-jumping work cannot be trashy or elitist or obscure or sentimental. If you work in the arts, however, life can get pretty confusing. There is no bar to knock down, and as a consequence, there is no sturdy judgment to be made. Shakespeareโ€”he was good, right? Like, officially? Tolstoy didn’t think so, and neither did George Bernard Shaw.

I don’t know whether I am a good writer, but I do know that I have written one novel and parts of two more and that none of that would have happened without NaNoWriMo.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to make all of this about the worth of NaNoWriMo. So, on to the next bit! ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t think I could tell you how I write. I write. That’s it. That’s what you do to become a writer. To become a published author is a completely different hurdle, of course, and not one that I can talk about. I write every single day of my life. For the last year or so I haven’t written any fiction at all. I wrote about my own life and musings about stuff that I thought about, like why peaches have hair. It’s called freewriting and I think it’s awesome. For this, I use Also, if you want a creative writing book with exercises, try The Creative Writing Coursebook by Bell and Magrs. I read it and it basically changed my writing life. For writing during NaNoWriMo, I use, because I am a professional procrastinator and to write at my true capacity I need both a timer to race against and a punishment if I stop writing.

That’s it really. I use Scrivener as novel-writing program and I think it’s wonderful. yWriter is a good free alternative that I’ve also used. All that I can do further with this post is share some sites and links that help me in writing in the hope that they can also help other aspiring novelists out there. I found most of them via Pinterest.

The 7 rules of picking names for fictional characters.

Some great questions to answer about your characters to help you get to know them better. I did this before NaNo started and some great ideas came from it.

An absolutely wonderful site with editing tips. I specifically used this article and found out that I make 4 out of the 5 dialogue mistakes! ๐Ÿ˜‰

An exercise for stronger character relationships.
^^ By the way, if you’re interested in ever getting published, go follow Jane Friedman on Twitter. Right now. She tweets awesomely useful stuff about the industry and writing.

A great link containing better links for writers.

And for funnies:

Remember to break any of these rules if necessary or if you really want to! ;)

Remember to break any of these rules if necessary or if you really want to! ๐Ÿ˜‰

My last day of NaNo was everything this was meant to be about. I had 2,300 words to go to the end. I knew that meant about an hour and a half’s writing. Some Wrimos prefer short sprints, but I prefer to write my whole quota in one go. So, that evening, I went for a shower and came back to my laptop, only to find that the internet had broken. The Wi-Fi wasn’t connecting. The modem had stopped working. What now? NaNoWriMo says zero excuses. I would just have to make do without writeordie for once. But with all the messing about I had only about an hour and 20 minutes to go to midnight. There was only one way I’d still manage to verify my novel without that modem and that was by connecting my phone to my laptop and using that as a modem, but it’s so slow, I had to reckon it in. So that meant I had an hour and a quarter left to write 2,300 words. Challenge accepted.

I can’t say I’ve never written that fast before, because I have, but I’d certainly never written that fast all week. Things suddenly started to come easier again and I enjoyed writing the final scene, cheese fest or not. I just typed. I forgot how much my leg ached (I had this sort of spasm in my calf muscle for two days straight and it hurt SO bad. My mother’s opinion: serve you right for always sitting on your feet, instead of like a proper person.). Ten to midnight I had enough words. Then I still had to compile the full manuscript from Scrivener which took another couple of minutes. In the mean time I’d set up the phone-modem connection and by the time it was ready, I was ready to upload the full text of my novel. It seemed like an hour before it uploaded because of the slow connection, but at 23:58 the verification went through and I got the winner’s confirmation. So that is the story of how I finished with exactly 24 hours to spare. Both previous NaNo’s I finished with half an hour to spare, so I’m very happy with the PR!

Full word count: 51430
Hours to get to 50K: just over 28

My report card.

My report card.

My morale metre. That huge dip was the day I was sick. I find it interesting to note how it climbed through the month rather than slid, like usual.

My morale metre. That huge dip was the day I was sick. I find it interesting to note how it climbed through the month rather than slid, like usual.

Any other Wrimos here: how did your month go?

Remember, always write, always read and never forget your writer’s manifesto!

And now this post is almost the length of a normal NaNoWriMo entry and I should stop. Now I’m going to go read my new A Game of Thrones book. Yep, I’m starting this series. I just hope this isn’t the start of another addiction, because I have too many already! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Until the cartoons return!


PS: please note that no part of this post was in any wayย sponsored. This wasย genuinelyย the things that I use and enjoy.

21 responses

  1. elizabethweaver

    I love your quotes & stuff on this post and congrats on NaNoWriMo.

    December 2, 2012 at 06:23

    • I’m so glad you like them, and thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

      December 2, 2012 at 23:17

  2. Thanks for letting me know how NaNoWriMo sucks! What’s the point of writing so much without much sense? LOL! I’d rather write at my own pace without paying much attention to word count, but to details. Loved all the tips and quotes. ๐Ÿ˜€

    December 2, 2012 at 18:53

    • The sense? I now have 51,000 words more than I did at the beginning of the month. And I can work with these words. I can’t work like you can. I’m an editor, remember? That’s my job. I can’t stop agonizing over every little detail when I try to get the first draft down and eventually I cripple myself. I never get to explore writing because I’m too caught up in worrying. So then, fast and furious it will be to get all the ideas out that are usually stuck behind the agonizing. Now begins the slow process of fixing my mistakes, deciding what to throw out and what to expand.
      Glad you like them! ๐Ÿ™‚

      December 2, 2012 at 23:30

      • LOLOLOL!!!

        December 3, 2012 at 04:22

      • Sweetie, I work as an editor, proofreader and translator. Writing is a very slow process for me because I am constantly double checking myself as I write, so I know the feeling. I’m glad now you have 51,000 words to work on, but personally, I wouldn’t go for NaNoWriMo. I would hang myself and get stuck in the first paragraph forever, LOL! ๐Ÿ˜€

        December 4, 2012 at 18:18

      • Yep, I’ve done all those too. Don’t know how it got in my head that you were a teacher then… I’m thinking of someone else, I guess.
        It can be such a curse. It gives me a job that I’ve never needed to advertise, but I can’t stop being bothered by typos!
        I wasn’t trying to convince you. I know it doesn’t work for everyone! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        December 5, 2012 at 01:03

      • I used to be a teacher, but I switched jobs right after I got my MA. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know you weren’t trying to convince me, it’s just that I’m glad you pointed out the sucky bits about it.

        December 5, 2012 at 04:42

      • I used to be a teacher, but I changed jobs right after I finished my MA. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m just glad you pointed out the sucky bits.

        December 5, 2012 at 04:45

  3. Mon

    Good job, Elana! ๐Ÿ™‚ This is embarrassing but I didn’t know the “No” meant “Novel” in NaNoWriMo! This after I heard you mention it a couple of times. And I found out 3 days after the end. From some other blog. Then Wikipedia. Then I checked here and voila! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Anyway, it sure sounds like a great way to chase away the stern inner editor in all of us. I might give it a try next time (if I’m brave enough) ๐Ÿ™‚

    P.S. I’m also bookmarking this post and its quotes for future reference (i.e. writer’s block)

    December 2, 2012 at 19:27

    • Hi! Nice to see you again! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Hehe! Did you think it stood for ‘danger, keep out’? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yes, do it! Start preparing right now! ๐Ÿ˜€
      I’m glad it was useful!

      December 2, 2012 at 23:32

      • Mon

        Can we prepare for that? Or was it just an expression? ๐Ÿ˜€

        I thought all material must be created and put into words only during NaNoWriMo. ๐Ÿ™‚

        December 3, 2012 at 10:14

      • You are allowed to create worlds, characters, write some background myths if you’re doing the fantasy thing where you constantly refer to old legends and prophecies, do an outline… you’re just not allowed to write any of the actual story.
        But what I actually meant was prepare to become a high speed writer if you are not one already. Because… well, NaNoWriMo can be quite a shock to your system (both physically and psychologically), if you are not used to writing a lot and often.

        December 3, 2012 at 19:44

    • well, what I guess is that we do prepare a story every day in our life. We absorb different stories we read, see and listen and then all those stories mix up with new ideas in our mind. It is extremely hard to exclude, 100%, all the ideas of all the previous months of our life in a story we’ve to write, in a month, after those bundles of months. I think it is psychologically impossible as our personality and new ideas depend upon those old ideas.

      December 6, 2012 at 10:24

      • Yep, I think that’s why that rule exists in the first place. You can’t prevent yourself from thinking or creating outlines, even if just in your head.

        December 7, 2012 at 23:43

  4. I have been reading your blogs since months and I liked almost every post of yours. I am also your student at the Origami blog. The best posts of this blog were the book review series.

    This post was too nice that I saved almost all pictures used in it. I read your posts in my mailbox and so I do not come to your blog. The reason is that you send whole post in e-mail. This can might affect your blog stats. Although it is a comfort for readers but if you send only the summary or split your post through more it will take all of your readers to your blog. For this same reason, most of the times I wanted to press like button but there is no like button in e-mail. And, for the same reason, sometimes I do not comment when I want to. I think that is my fault because I think WordPress allows us to publish comment by directly replying the e-mail.

    The thing I learnt from you is that you write a lot and draw a lot and that’s what a writer and an artist is. I mostly wait and wait to learn the topic nicely and then start writing on it. That’s why I am a slow writer or, you can say, not a writer.
    The last time you told about NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t able to get what exactly it is. I thought it was just a month when you write a lot. I observed that when you do something alone, you sometimes fail or miss it. But, when you have a company, you are motivated automatically.This year, I came to know what NaNoWriMo exactly is. It is a month in which writers from all around the world write, and that is the thing that motivates you to write.

    After writing all of this, the one line I can describe you in is: you are a great source for learning literature.
    Thank you for your blog and writings.
    May God Bless you, Give you Success and Keep you on His Path.

    December 6, 2012 at 10:16

    • I’m aware of this actually and I know it’s affecting the stats. But I don’t really know what to do about it, because if I change the settings to send out only a part of the post, it also changes to display only a small part on the homepage and I don’t like that much. I should check the settings again. I can’t say anymore that I don’t have time to do it! ๐Ÿ˜‰
      If you write, you are a writer. Call yourself by the title. You don’t have to wait for permission or some kind of special award. By nature I am so slow that I never get started and that is why I do NaNoWriMo. It kicks me into gear when I didn’t know I had one.
      I think the NaNoWriMo community holds you accountable in a way, because if you are alone, no one will know if you give up or fail. However, if you are part of the larger community, they provide motivation, just by being there, for you to give your utmost at succeeding at your own goal.

      What!? ๐Ÿ˜† I’m just an English student, that’s all! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Thank you. ๐Ÿ˜€

      December 8, 2012 at 00:13

      • well, when there will only be summary on the homepage, it’d be easy and clean. It would give the reader the ease of scrolling and deciding what to read and what not to. On contrary, when a reader do not want to read the post, he has to scroll through looong post for reading the next.
        Secondly, as you have pictures in your posts, it takes a lot of loading. If a person is in Eastern Asia and the WordPress server is in America, it will take a long time to load. ๐Ÿ˜€ Last line just a joke. But if you have just a paragraph or two with just one picture at homepage, all the other pictures will go in full post and your homepage will load in just a second or two. It will also give the ease to those who makes your blog as their homepage. (Well, it’d be a great idea if you’ll request your readers to make your blog as their homepage. It is what the companies do).
        And, at last, when a reader will have to open full post in a different tab, you will know what your readers are reading and what most of your audience read. There are times when we see a high number in stats but most of them are in front of homepage and we are unable to guess what people are mostly reading on our blog.

        This was just what I feel. The final decision remains to you.

        December 10, 2012 at 11:09

      • Sigh. You have a point. Mostly I just need to stop finding excuses and do something about my blog’s problems! ๐Ÿ˜‰
        Anyway, I’m going to change the settings now and then upload my new cartoon. You just convinced me.
        I’m harassed by slow internet myself, but I never really thought loading was a problem, because my .png files are quite small. Well, it’s time for change. I need to do something about that sidebar too, sometime.

        December 10, 2012 at 23:20

      • when I opened my inbox after coming from the college, I saw your post and read “Read more of this post” at the end. I was happy and thankful to you that you accepted my suggestion. Thank you again for mentioning my name there when there was no need of it.

        well, your Origami post gave me an idea when I learnt the Peace Crane, there. I will be commenting there as soon as I get free time (might be in the evening).

        May God Bless you.

        December 11, 2012 at 12:16

      • I’m glad it looks like it was supposed to. Obviously I can’t see it myself, so I was just hoping the changes I made would have the desired effect. It’s okay. I like to give credit where it’s due and maybe my readers will be interested in your blog as well.

        December 11, 2012 at 19:28

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