I finally hit the 50 000 words and as a reward I have ordered myself a NaNoWriMo travel mug. I have been looking forward to this for ages! Every now and again while struggling with my novel, I would open up a picture of the travel mug and gaze longingly at it; knowing that such a beautiful prize would be mine spurred me on. I have spent many blissful moments imagining my future with my travel mug: me and my travel mug on a bench in the park; me and my travel mug at a picnic on the beach; me and my travel mug winning the Nobel Prize for literature. Last night, I even dreamed about it! How nice that my dream is soon to come true (I mean ownership of a travel mug and not the Nobel Prize, of course).
There has been some serious cheating going on in the last few days as I try to reach for 50 000 words. Favourite things to do are to write gobbeldy gook when I can’t think of the right English word:
She had the height advantage but even so she felt overwhelmed by the aksjdf woman.
to write notes to myself amongst the text:
She imagined herself hitting him over the head with it (why? she doesn’t know that this is a bad guy).
and to redraft a sentence or a paragraph but not delete the original resulting in duplications:
He saw himself how Sophie saw him and he was disgusted. He saw what Sophie saw and he was disgusted.
If I keep this up, I should be finished in no time!
My head is just so full of stuff, yet I haven’t even managed to write 200 words of my novel today. The plot plan I started with has served me well so far but now I’m beginning to see more of a shape in what I’ve been writing. I’ve started to think of my plot as a vine with shoots coming off it. Everything I have written these last 17 days belongs to the shoots. The central stem that holds it all together is missing. I need to do some serious thinking so that I can wrap this thing up by the end of November.
Originally I was planning just to write 50 000 words out of the novel and not necessarily to finish it; however, Chris Baty of NaNoWriMo fame recently sent an e-mail advising us to get the endings down during November. As he pointed out, when the pressure of National Novel Writing Month is over, it will be easier to fill in gaps in the novel than it will be to write the ending from scratch. I think he is probably right, which means I have to work out my ending – fast.
So I need a central stem and some kind of spectacular blooming flower to top it off (or a bunch of grapes, whatever is appropriate for this metaphor). Hmmmm. Back to the drawing board.
Re-reading yesterday’s mishmash led to an epiphany. I’m going to try out writing in the present tense for a while. Before I started my novel, I decided that it was going to be in the past tense. I don’t know why; I just fancied it. When I write short fiction, I use the present tense quite often and I guess I wanted a change.
The last few days, as I mentioned, I have been falling behind with my writing schedule and am now about 5 000 words behind. After switching to the present tense today, things took off. There’s something about its immediacy that was just spurring me on to write. Also, I felt that I was really beginning to hear my character’s voice in the present tense, although that may be coincidental.
My narrative is full of flashbacks and when I was writing in the past tense, I had to adopt the past perfect (I think this is what it is called?) for the flashbacks. The result was loads of awkward sentences (she had had to do this / she had wanted to do that / she had not had a clue if the sentences even made sense). Nobody talks like that so it did not really come naturally to write “had had” all the time and I was never sure if the sentences were grammatically correct or understandable. Now that my main narrative is in the present tense, I can use simple past for my flashbacks (she had to do this / she wanted to do that) and the flow of the writing is improved.
It could be that tomorrow I will change my mind again and abandon the present tense but for the moment I’m just happy to be closing the gap between my current and target word counts.
How exciting! This morning I had an e-mail in my inbox from Philip Pullman! Not addressed to me personally, though. It was a motivational e-mail sent to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo to encourage us with our writing. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post on point of view, to write well you need to read. In his e-mail Philip Pullman wrote much the same thing: “Every novelist I know—every novelist I’ve ever heard of—is, or was, a passionate reader.” He also wrote that when people ask him where he gets his ideas from he replies “I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.” This is the gist of the Picasso quote I have stuck above my desk.
Despite receiving this affirming e-mail this morning, I was rather slow to get started with the writing today. The sun is shining again in Andalucia again so I spent a large part of the day on the terrace plugged into my iPod. It wasn’t until 6pm when the sun was beginning to set that I got back to my laptop and tried to get another 2 000 words hammered out. There was a moment there when I thought I wasn’t going to make it but the feeling of disappointment that overwhelmed me was so unbearable that I forced myself to carry on. I am so pleased I did because I reached the 20 000 word mark in my novel and can now go to bed knowing that I have achieved something wonderful. Perseverance is the key.
Last night I was stalking people – don’t worry, not for real – on a social networking site. You know, when you are looking at a friend’s profile then you click on a link to the profile of a friend of that friend who you vaguely remember meeting once at a party then you click on a link to someone else’s profile because they look fit in their photograph and next thing you know, you are perusing photos of complete strangers and reading comments exchanged by a group of people unknown to you.
Well, I was doing that and feeling very guilty about it because a) I was supposed to be writing my novel and b) you do feel like you have been caught doing something naughty when you click on a link and a message flashes up on the screen saying “You are not authorised to view this page”, when it dawned on me that I have Wasted My Life. Here were these young people (once again, don’t worry, not complete strangers but my mother’s friend’s kids) who were planning the most exciting things for their futures: going to university abroad, taking gap years, learning languages; and there I was reading about their wonderful lives and wishing I could be 18 again. For a few minutes I was very depressed.
Thank goodness I got my novel word count up to the 10 000 mark today otherwise I would have nothing to feel good about.
I thought I was so clever getting up at 7.30 this morning to start writing. All those extra hours to use when I would normally be sleeping! I munched on my cereal and drank copious amounts of coffee while typing away and had 2 000 words by 11am. This is when the flaw in my early-morning-start plan became clear: I was starving and had to have lunch at 11.15. Another 2 000 words after lunch and I had dinner at 1pm. I’m going to have to have a second dinner soon, then supper. If I carry on like this I will be the size of a blimp by the end of November.
As for the writing, it’s boring snoring. I have been writing out every footstep my characters take. They don’t just go to the pub; they get up, cross the room to the door, reach out for the handle, open the door, take out the key and put it in the lock, lock the door behind them, put the key back in their pockets etc. I guess when I am finished I may have to cut out 90 % of what I have written. It doesn’t matter just now. As we NaNoWriMo-ers know, the only thing we have to concentrate on this month is the quantity and not the quality of our work.