Sunday, October 7, 2012

My NaNoWriMo Journeys

Last year I wrote up a summary of all my previous NaNo novels - here it is:

I have been a participant in NaNoWriMo five times now, 2002 - I managed only 26k words before I ran out of story, 2003 I suceeded and went on to write a full 97k words (not all in November!) before setting the story aside for almost a decade. I promise one day I shall finish it! It now requires a bit of editting.  In 2004 I tried again, once more failing dismally (made it to 20k). Every year I had good intentions, but sometimes November would roll around and I would find myself burdened down with art trades, work or just general apathy.

In 2010, we had the first of our major earthquakes - a 7.1 centered out west of the city. It struck at 4.35 on a saturday morning, jotling us all rudely from our sleep. I still remember crouching in the door frame, eyes closed against the darkness - which seemed complete, as the house judded and danced around me and all I could hear was CRASH, BANG and the pounding of my heart in my ears. The only thought in my head "pleasestop, pleasestop, pleasestop..." I was dimly aware that my husband crouched in the other doorway near me. It was the longest 40 seconds of my life. What then followed was a mad hunt for a flashlight - eventually we were forced to use the laptop computer. I remember sliding down the stairs on my bum, feet before me, because Tim warned me to be careful - we didn't know what would have fallen over and what may have broken or collapsed. With the light of the laptop screen, I located my cellphone (battery almost spent, of course...) and listened to the radio in my car outside, before dragging the beanbags upstairs, where we huddled in the doorways until the dawn as aftershock after aftershock shook the house. It was a cold, cold morning and because of the nerves my teeth would not stop chattering and I could not stop shaking.

You might have thought that the continual aftershocks may have made NaNo 2010 almost impossible - but by the time November rolled around the rumbling and twitching of the earth was almost commonplace, and unless they were strong enough to knock the power out, writing proved to be a good therapy. Some people found being upstairs too nerve-racking after the quakes - but I actually preferred to be on top. I later worked out that there had been over 400 noticeable aftershocks during the month of November.

"Aroha's Grand Adventure" was a novel that had been fermenting in my brain for a while, and it figuratively poured out of my fingertips. This cheeky little bird came to life and took over my thoughts and heart. I was also undertaking a short course on "Writing for Children" and had previously written a picturebook narrative featuring the same character.

I work full time, and to fit NaNo into my schedule, I decided that the best way to go about it would be to get up earlier in the morning - so as to get it out of the way first thing. Thus, every morning I rose with the birds at 5 am and tried to get out my requisite 1,667 words before breakfast. Most mornings it worked quite well, but if I failed, than there was the evening to use to make up for lost time. The original intent was to write a 25,000 word novel, and then draw 25 pictures (because a picture paints a thousand words), but in the end the novel wound up at 46k, I managed a half dozen or so pictures and pushed the word count over the 50k by writing extensive appendices and a short story (which was actually part of the aforementioned course).

"Aroha's Grand Adventure" was an easy novel to write in part because it was very linear - the weka starts in Christchurch, and makes her way home to Greymouth - walking a route that we had driven on various occasions. To help me better understand the landscape that she was traversing, I used google satellite view to look for interesting landmarks, and my husband and I also drove part of the route. Whenever I got to a place that looked interesting, we would pull over and I would take photographs at ground level. These were later used as references for the backgrounds of many of the illustrations. Due to the hour of the day, we did not get as far as intended (Lake Brunner) and the final bit was done by memory - luckily I had been there only a few months previous, in August.

In June 2011, I undertook SocNoc - the Southern Cross Novel Challenge, which is essentially the same thing. I tried the same technique of the 5am wake-up, but in the middle of winter, this is less than ideal. The novel proved to be a real slog, with me forcing out the requisite words only because I knew my blog was going to be featured on the KiwiWriters website in the middle of the month. And I could not quit before than, could I? How would that look? By that point the story took off, and the first draft of "Fellowship of the Ringtails" was penned. Whilst I achieved the 50k with room to spare, I did end up deleting and rewriting the final chapters. This novel is still in its editting stage, but should be published next year. I began part two; "Tail of Two Scions" in November, but ended up deleting half of it after passing the 50k goalline. It still sits, incomplete, on my hard drive, but it is in good company!

So, how am I prepping for NaNo this year? Well, first and foremost, I am clearing myself of all other artistic obligations - getting all art trades out of the way, not committing to any swaps and also finishing up my entries  for the two storyline competitions. November will be for concentrating on writing. It would have been nice to take time off work as well, but in previous times I have written while working full-time, plus I've run out of holiday leave!

I am also conceptualising. I am not good at taking notes, I prefer storing stuff in my brain - which works well for a while, but I tend to forget things if they are left too long. I have the basic plot-premise set out, a main character and an opening scene. I have not yet written that scene, of course, but I do know roughly how it will go. With writing, I find the hardest bit is the first sentence. If I have not got that sorted out, then I shall sit and stare at the blank screen for up to 30 mins.

This year I have a laptop. This means that I can - if needs must - write at work, and also allows me to attend more of the social gatherings. In previous years, I had considered going - but the idea of going out and not writing, or writing on paper, made it less than desirable. I am using Dropbox as the place to do the writing - which means I can access it from both my computers without shifting files back and forth.

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