In two months I wrote just under 100,000 words. And yet I still didn’t complete NaNaWriMo.
October was a rush of words, words and words. I slew dragons and wrote about freedom when I meant to write about fear, I completed a trilogy and novella and then, with barely a moment to draw a good breath, it was NaNoWriMo.
At first, it trotted along rather nicely and the story rolled out and away before me. Even after two days of no writing and much adventuring in Belgium I caught up soon enough. Until that last week of November I was on track. But then … nothing happened.
No blog posts, no writing, no editing.
I read. A lot. Mostly at irregular hours. But did I write? No, not a word. Inspiration had dried up and not even my own blog post could help me.
Right now, I’m – with many a stall and a false start – attempting to butcher and better Sandwiches, and after that I have all winter to complete The Many Trials of a Blacksmith.
I’m not disappointed that I didn’t finish NaNaWriMo, but I’m very glad that I attempted it. It boosted The Many Trials by a great deal and set the story rolling.
And for that, I’m grateful.
But whether you succeeded in NaNoWriMo (accept my congratulations!), or like myself, didn’t make it to the finishing line, I think we all deserve a hearty hurrah, a pat on the back and a nice cup of tea. Because we wrote, and I rather think that is what National Novel Writing Month is all about.
I caught a bus the other day and was chatting to its driver. In the course of our conversation it was rather disconcerting to be asked ‘if there was anything coming that way’ when he was at a junction.
He was a lovely chap though, even if I did spend the rest of my ride with my metaphorical heart in my metaphorical mouth. Below is a newly discovered truth:
You don’t expect to use public transport and be requested to help drive it.
… it’s not comforting, okay?
I’m away from home at present and have gazed upon a painting of da Vinci’s and a former Archbishop in the flesh! He has ferocious eyebrows, if you’re wondering.
(The former Archbishop. Not the painting.)
(I don’t think it is her eyebrows that the Virgin Mary is famed for.)
NaNoWriMo is trotting along well enough – currently someone is making a dramatic announcement in a rain drenched street. Don’t ask me why. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.
Also: commas. I’m struggling with them. I think I add them where they aren’t wanted, purely because my brain decides that a page needs buckets more of them then it actually does.
Around The World In Thirty-Days is a good book. I should know. I’ve just read it. However, Phileas Fogg needs to stop being so maddeningly impassive. Emote a little more, dear sir!
I suppose I’d better go back to The Many Trials of a Blacksmith and determine how this chapter ends, as always, I’m not quite sure.
When you want to write, but can’t – that’s writer’s block. When you can write, but can’t muster the motivation – that’s … also a bit of writer’s block, but with a pinch of ‘Alas-I-Don’t-Feel-Like-It’.
You can write, but you don’t want to. Motivation has dried up, vanished. You want to read, or get up off your chair and explore the world, and do Life Things. But alas, you cannot – you’ve got a word count to reach, and by golly, you want to reach it.
Have no fear, my friend! I’ve thrown together a few pointers that have helped me, and hopefully will aid you …
Exit Your Web Browser
I’m sorry, but it must be done. Bookmark tabs you want to keep, but by all means, exit. You have to. (And you can always Restore Previous Session should everything be Terribly Important.)
Sit Yourself Down
… if you weren’t already. But by this I mean, sit yourself down mentally. Stare at the screen or paper and be ready to write. Don’t fidget or berate your mind for coming up with a dry-as-bone story. Nope. Don’t do that.
One writer I know tells me that he sits down every morning and says to himself nicely, “It’s not like you don’t have a choice, because you do – you can either type or kill yourself”
-Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
All right, the above may be a little drastic, but my point in using it is this: don’t give yourself a choice. You are writing. Right. Now.
Put all thoughts of comparisons, word count aims and what you wish to eat for lunch out of your brain. Recall what sparked this story in the first place, remember what got you excited and whip yourself up into a state of perpetual enthusiasm.
Don’t wait for the writing mood to come to you, go and seize the little imp with your own hands.
… and lastly
Before you is the blank screen or the lined paper, both devoid of words. Don’t panic. Set that first word down, follow it by another and another … and trust me, soon enough, you’ll be swept up in a scene. And you’ll be writing.
I didn’t want to write. In fact, the mere thought of writing caused my brain to become violent in its objections. An iron wall was slammed across the realm of creativity, and I stared at it, perplexed.
As I clearly am now an expert on the matter *cough* I thought I’d better share my discoveries with you.
Put It Down, Step Away From the Bomb
Sometimes you can push through a block, other times you can’t. DON’T DESPAIR. Leave your desk and writing implements and do something else.
If your pen is plastered to your finger, then write someone a letter. If it isn’t, go for a walk, wash up, put your books in alphabetical order, go for a trip, or save the world from murderous pandas.
Don’t Read Your Genre
Seriously. Don’t. Pick up a completely different genre and read that. Your objective is to distract your brain; to fool it into relaxing. Because then … then we spring, my brothers. Then we fall upon these pitiful blocks with our battle cries and war pens and- ahem. Sorry.
Recall This Truth:
A first draft is allowed to be messy. A first draft is not a finished novel.
Vanquish Stage Fright
If you’ve built up your story in your mind as the story to end all stories, don’t. Push all pressure, awe and aspirations away. Cast ’em into the sea, chuck ’em in the dust bin or burn ’em with dragon fire.
These things can freeze your pen and hinder your creativity under the crushing weight of certain future greatness.
… and lastly
Don’t panic, for this too shall pass.
I managed to conquer my block the next day, the short story is now complete and is awaiting my butchering pen. Huzzah!
I’ve decided to join the Beautiful Books link up, hosted by Cait and Skye.
1. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
Oh it was yonks ago. My youngest brother wanted a book written for him, about a man snatching bloody vengeance. I took the idea, chopped it into a trilogy, made the protagonist a pacifist and gave the first volume to my brother for his birthday. Believe it or not, I think he enjoyed it.
Since then, years have passed and now it is time to revisit and rewrite it.
2. Why are you excited to write this novel?
Because I’ll be revisiting and revamping the first book I ever truly finished. The characters – oh the characters! I love them to death and treat them rather horribly. Robert – the protagonist – is rather battered, bruised and broken during the course of the tale, poor thing.
3. What is your novel about, and what is the title?
What’s it about? Like a house of falling cards, his life collapses about him. He seeks vengeance and finds an adventure – one which will change the course of his life.
There are conquering kingdoms, near hangings, spies, missing princes, friendships – wonderful, glorious friendships – sword fights, plots and the ever-present storm cloud of potential death and dastardly danger.
And the title?
Very well, I’ll admit it: it was entitled Knight of Destiny, and the story I’ll be rewriting was called Knight of Destiny: Beginnings. It had burgeoning prose and somewhat overtly dramatic moments.
Now, for reference I’ve somewhat tongue in cheek called it: The Many Trials of a Blacksmith: Part 1. (Because Robert becomes a blacksmith and he has many trials. I know, I’m a genius.)
5. Which characters do you think will be your favourite to write? Tell us about them!
Robert. Something awful happens to him in the beginning and his world is turned upside down. He has one thought: vengeance. As he grew up on a farm, he uses plenty of farming analogies which drives the people about him to distraction.
The Duke of Fordio – who is one of my favourite villains. I might change his name. It might be too poetic to be evil. Or perhaps it suits him. He’s evil but not for the sake of it, he has goals and woe betide any who get in his way – he will crush you with his booted foot and sip the finest wine whilst doing it.
6. What is your protagonist’s goal, and what stands in the way?
Robert wants vengeance. But soon he sees the bigger picture – why cut out a piece of a rotten apple when you can throw it away all together? Naturally, the government, the ruling nobility and the powerful army of his nation’s oppressors have a little to say about this.
7. Where is your novel set?
In the green land of Cade, in large cities and narrow alleyways, in dark inns and a blacksmith’s forge, in palaces and forests, in healer’s huts and along winding lanes.
8. What is the most important relationship your character has?
At the beginning? His brother. Their parents have long since passed and Ethan has practically raised him BUT THEN … [dun dun dunnn]
9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
He is older, more mature, more weathered. The protective bubble of his boyhood has burst and at the end of this tale, he’s learned that the world is a bigger, harsher place then he ever realised. Also, he has finally accepted that he is awful at using a bow and arrow. Awful I tell you!
10. What themes are in your book? How do you want your readers to feel when the story is over?
Hmmm … triumphantly wistful?
11. BONUS! Tell us your 3 best pieces of advice for others trying to write a book in a month.
If you set boundaries in your mind and tell yourself you can’t get passed them – you won’t. So be positive. Disgustingly, sickeningly positive. It’s the only way.
Don’t be frightened or in awe of the story you are going to tell. They are just words and it is just a story and you can do it. You are a writer and therefore you write.
Take it one step, one hundred words at a time. You can do it.