Final NaNoWriMo 2018 Update

I won NaNoWriMo for the 15th straight year. I hit the 50,000 word mark with 4 days to go but then slacked off the pace and had to scramble to make my personal goal of 60,000 just a few minutes before midnight on the last day. The story isn’t finished but I do have a workable first draft of a novel that I’m looking forward to working on. So that’s a double win.

I’ve taken a few days off since finishing, partly because I’ve come down with a virus and partly because my brain needs the rest. I will get back to Project Academy but not right away. I need to get back to the rewrites on the novel I was working on before, Project Kindness and at some point I have to take a look at the novel I tried querying and decide if I want to do anything with it.

In the meantime my spouse and I have been using Minecraft creative mode to build a replica of the setting for Project Academy. It’s slow going, partly because I’ve been so under the weather and partly because of the limitations of Minecraft. Also we’re pretty sure we have the scale wrong so that’s a problem. I can recommend it as an exercise for authors though.It’s nice to do something imaginative, that’s related to your novel, but is totally unlike writing.

The other thing I want to do this month is to clean up the first couple of chapters of Project Academy. My mother will want to read a bit of it just to see what I’ve been working on and for once I don’t have to worry about the sex, violence or swearing.

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NaNoWriMo Update 4

Five days to go and I’m currently less than 3,000 words from the 50,000 word target. I could hit it tonight. I still have another 10,000 beyond that for my personal goal of 60,000 words and it’s looking like I’m going to have trouble fitting in all my scenes.

I’m also having trouble actually writing scenes. I keep sitting down to write a scene that I have roughly blocked out and then realising that I can’t actually write it yet. That I have to write an earlier scene or three so that I actually know what’s going on. And I’ve discovered a massive plot hole in my plan for the climactic action scene that I don’t know how to fix. But it is NaNoWriMo so full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

No problems at all with my characters. They are wonderful. I love them all but I am a bit worried that I have too many of them. That’s the problem with a school setting. Even with a tiny school roll there’s still the pupils and the teachers and the support staff and my main character’s family and I’m starting to see why there are so many horribly under supervised orphans in YA fiction. It’s as much about keeping the cast down as it is about narrative.

My story keeps branching out. Tiny details of setting or character keeps leading to new stories that I definitely want to tell. It’s a little intimidating. It’s as if I started to dig a new flower bed, found a few Roman coins, excavated a corner of a villa, and now it turns out I’ve found a street and I have no idea how big the town is. I’m starting to feel preemptively guilty because there’s so much potential there and I’ll never have time to write it all.

Wish me luck.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update 3

I am continuing to write. I’m well ahead of where I need to be to hit the official target of 50,000 words but am slightly behind on my personal goal of 60,000.

My story is feeling really episodic. Not so much a coherent plot line as a series of scenes that don’t really connect to one another. That failure to transition properly from one scene to another is something that I can fix in the edit but I know that it’s going to be really annoying. I’d like to save future me from that soul destroying task but I can’t do that without slowing down. And I cannot afford to slow down.

I’m also having trouble with one of my characters. I have a character that I’ve described as a ‘trans boy genius’. Throughout the story everyone treats him as a boy and I always use male pronouns. How do I show the readers that he’s trans? My main character is meeting him for the first time at a point in his life where he’s already on puberty blockers and everyone he knows has got used to using his male name and male pronouns. You could argue that I don’t have to bring it up at all, trans boys are boys, but if I don’t then I’m concealing a part of who he is and denying my trans readers the representation they deserve.

I’m also having intermittent problems with my finger joints. Following my last appointment with the doctor I now have anti-inflammatory gel to apply when they start to swell and hurt but it’s not magic. It doesn’t work instantly and it’s not fixing the underlying problem. Can the underlying problem even be fixed? Is this just another example of life kicking me in the teeth? My continuing existence is going to be more unpleasant and there’s nothing I can do about it?

The worst thing about the finger pain is that it feels like a betrayal. I’ve never been pretty or fit or anything but I used to be able to rely on my hands. My hands were always steady and quick and strong. I could touch type, and crochet, and make jewellery, and I could learn new things to do with my hands quickly. My hands looked good too. They looked considerably better than the rest of me. And now my little fingers are crooked and the joints are swollen and it’s probably only a matter of time before the rest of my fingers look like that. Eventually I won’t even be able to paint my nails to cheer myself up.

I’m going to finish this post with some pictures of that time when I accidentally co-ordinated my nails with my iPad case. I don’t know how many more pictures I’ll want to take of my hands.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update 2

NaNoWriMo is going super well, thanks for asking. Ha ha. No, don’t look at Scrivener.

Damn.

Look I can totally explain all the red text. Those are just notes. About how badly it’s going and about how I don’t know what order things should be in or when things happen or which characters to use in which scenes. And also about how I’m not totally convinced by my own plot.

Joking aside, my word count is fine I’m just worried that this novel is going to take even more editing than my writing usually takes. Which is annoying because when I can work out what a scene should actually be the scenes usually come out pretty good.

I now have a new writing table which means I can sit on a comfortable seat while writing. Hopefully this will help. However I am deep in procrastination. Things that I have done when I should have been writing include manicures, mobile games, stress eating, online shopping for Xmas presents, multiple trips to the pharmacy and housework.

I finally got to see a doctor about the question of whether I have rheumatoid arthritis in my hands. Apparently my inflammatory markers are only slightly elevated so maybe not and if I do then it’s very early days. I’ve been prescribed gel NSAID painkiller to apply to my hands. It seems to work. Now I just need to remember to use it even when my hands are not hurting.

So good luck to all you other people NaNoWriMoing this year and my the writing gods have mercy upon our souls.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Update 1

For the duration of November I’m going to be focusing this blog on NaNoWriMo because I’m focusing everything else on NaNoWriMo and I like things to match.

As I write this it’s day 4 and I’m on track to hi 50,000 words early and hopefully get to the approximately 60,000 that I think is a good length for the first draft of the story that I’m trying to write. Things are going well. I don’t hate my characters yet, the plot still works and my body hasn’t started rebelling.

This year my support team (by which I mean those of my friends and family who are not taking part in NaNoWriMo) are being unusually supportive. So give them a quick virtual cheer. It’s pretty thankless being an unpublished writer’s support team. They get most of the hassle of NaNoWriMo but they don’t get the creative rush or the potential feeling of accomplishment and it’s not like there’s any money in it.

Good luck my fellow writers. May the words come easy to you.

Are my Wednesdays cursed?

Last Wednesday I had an incredibly shitty day and I wrote about it here. This Wednesday I spent the day in crippling pain. The kind of stabbed-in-the-hip-with-a-rusty-breadknife, 50-point-IQ-drop, can-barely-spare-the-brain-cells-to-speak sort of pain that people really don’t want to hear about when they ask you how you are. It was the kind of pain where sitting hurts, standing hurts worse, and laying down is by turns either much better or much worse.

And then my chair broke. My writing chair. The only chair in the house from which I can type and put my feet up. I was too tired and sore to work out what was wrong with it so I went to bed. This morning my other half tried to fix it and found out (by sitting on it) that the central post it swivelled on was completely sheared off.

So my writing chair is broken beyond repair. I have no money for a replacement. It’s NaNoWriMo in five days. I don’t even know anyone I could borrow the money from. I can’t ask my mother. She’s still in hospital and she’s gong to have to spend thousands on handrails and a stairlift so she can go home.

The most annoying thing is that I should have a chair. Local Councils are supposed to supply equipment to disabled people who need them. I used to have a rise and recline chair that was perfect for my needs but I had to give it back to the Council when I moved. In my new area there are so many people who need them that the Council only lends them to people undergoing end of life care at home.  You need to be literally dying to get a comfy chair.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just go and buy one of these fancy chairs it’s because the kind I need starts at £1800. That’s why I had to pay for a cheap and shitty one that lasted just under two years and now I can’t even afford a cheap and shitty replacement.

So here’s my Ko-fi link. But don’t feel bad about not clicking it. Even if every single reader clicked through and donated the cost of a cup of coffee I still wouldn’t have enough to buy a new chair. I’m only doing this so that when I complain and people ask me if I’ve tried asking for money on the internet I’ll be able to say yes.

Sunday Update 14/10

This has been a big week for birthdays. We celebrated the births of my spouse, my son and my mother. This week also saw a brief visit from the in-laws. I have been unusually social and as a result I am knackered. But not in a bad way.

My Mother is still in hospital recovering from her broken arms but she continues to make good progress. I’m still working on a poncho for her which means I haven’t done any more spinning.

My mother, in her usual ‘helpful’ way, has suggested that I start a new business selling hand crocheted ponchos to people recovering from shoulder and arm injuries. I don’t know how she thinks I’m going to find those people to sell stuff to them. I also don’t know where she thinks they’re going to get the money from. It’s at least £30 of yarn plus 10 to 50 hours of my time (depending on pattern). She’s still not ready to give up on the idea of me being able to make money at something.

Speaking of which, I am starting to give head space to the idea that If I want people to read my stories I’m going to have to give them away. I wrote a post about this that you can read here. I still haven’t come to a decision though.

November is fast approaching and with it NaNoWriMo. I have quite a lot of prep done for my own writing but I feel like I’m falling behind on my prep as a Municipal Liaison. I should be doing more to organise meetings and write-ins. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Perhaps it’s just that with such a rural region it’s hard to find meeting locations that everyone is happy with.

I’m continuing to work on the rewrites of my current novel. I might even have fixed that one scene that I just wasn’t happy with and that was keeping me from sending part Five to my beta readers. Maybe. I might look at it again in another couple of days and hate it just as much as before.

Just watched the new episode of Doctor Who and it was another belter. My only problem was the epic faff necessary to watch it. Our Tivo, which we have through Virgin Media, took multiple restarts to play sound. So we missed the beginning of the episode. So we tried to watch it from the start on the iPlayer app on the Tivo. Which would play sound but no pictures. Couldn’t get that to work even after a hard reboot and recalibrating the Tivo. Ended up watching it using the iPlayer app on the PS4. Worth the effort but I am not happy with Virgin. I pay a lot of money to them every month and I expect the kit they give me to work when I want to use it.

All hail the Internet.

There’s a lot of horrible stuff happening on the internet. It enables a lot of terrible behaviour. In the developed world most of us have come to rely on it as a distraction in ways that can’t possibly be good for us. The Internet also connects us to each other. We don’t always use those connections sensibly but they can be very powerful. So let me tell you a story about connections.

The other day a friend of mine posted a link to a music video on Facebook. He’d found the band online and been so taken with their name, The Church of the Cosmic Skull, that he’d checked out their music on youtube. He said that their music wasn’t really his thing apart from one song that had really got under his skin. I was intrigued (and it is a really cool band name) so I watched the video.

This video.

It has a gloriously understated note of all pervading doom. It’s like the soundtrack to the Scarfolk website.

Afterward I turned to my spouse (who I met via the Internet on the message board of the Fortean Times magazine back when meeting via the Internet was still weird) and I suggested that we listen to more of The Church of the Cosmic Skull. As we listened to the music I gave myself a gel manicure, using materials ordered on the internet and shipped all the way from China, and skills that I learned watching youtube tutorials.

We loved both their albums instantly and as my spouse was posting a link to the video for Black Slug to a Tumblr blog I returned to Facebook to thank my friend for his link.

Seriously though you should check this one out. It sounds like a lost Hawkwind track from back when Lemmy was still playing the base and the video looks like it they sneaked onto the set of ‘The Devil Rides Out’ and shot it when everyone else was asleep.

He replied “This is why the Internet is more often than not, the best thing ever,” and reminded me that if it weren’t for the Internet we would never have followed each other on Twitter and never have become real life friends. If there was no internet then there would be no NaNoWriMo and no Aberdeen NaNoWriMo group having meetings. I wouldn’t have been able to persuade him to come out to one and he would never have met the woman who is now the love of his life.

The internet allowed me to meet my spouse and most of my friends. The internet lets me stay in touch with friends I would long ago have drifted away from.The internet keeps me connected to my family. The internet lets me do detailed research for my novels. I don’t even have to stop writing to do the research. I can do a google search then read all the relevant stuff while I’m taking a five minute break to drink my coffee. The internet allows me to learn new skills.

Without the internet I might not be a writer and you certainly wouldn’t be reading this. So thanks to Tim Berners Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) and all hail the conquering internet.

I’m not dead I just don’t have anything to say

I’ve been so quiet recently because I don’t feel like I have much to say. This is unusual for me but then these are unusual times. It’s hard to find something to say when just looking at the state of the world makes you want to scream.

I try not to be distracted by all the horrible stuff that I can’t do anything about but I can’t pick something to focus on. I’m drifting. I was working on a novel but then I put that on hold to work on something that I could pitch at Bloody Scotland. I’ve submitted my short pitch but I’m not working on that novel just now because I don’t really expect them to want it. I started work on the prep for a new novel so I’ll have something to write for NaNoWriMo but shouldn’t I go back to finishing the one I was working on?

I suppose the real problem is that it all feels pointless. Everything seems pointless. I am one of the little people and there’s not much I can do about anything. I’m at the mercy of events driven by people with so much money and power that they don’t have to worry about the consequences of their actions. I’d be better spending my time learning more about growing vegetables and stockpiling cans so we can survive Brexit.

Performance review 2017

Since writers don’t have employers we don’t get handy annual performance reviews to tell us how we’re doing. So I’ve decided to do one for myself.

My primary focus for the last year has been to move toward getting published. So that’s a fail then. I have queried some agents. Not as many agents as I could have so that’s something that I could improve on next year. All the ones that have replied have said no. There’s still one I’m waiting to hear back from but I don’t expect to hear anything now until the new year. I did pitch my finished novel at Bloody Scotland and while I got some useful feedback to improve my query letter it hasn’t led anywhere.

Since my main focus is about being a professional writer rather than simply publishing one book I’ve also been writing. I’ve been re-writing and editing a sequel to my finished novel. I wrote the first draft of a novella and for NaNoWriMo I wrote the first draft of a straight crime novel. That’s pretty good but there’s room for improvement. I think I should aim to write at least one first draft and move at least one novel to the completed stage every year.

My secondary focus was to build the skills I need if I have to self publish. I’ve have been moving in the right direction but not nearly far enough. I’ve taken up calligraphy, which can be used to do cover art, and I’m improving my design skills. If I absolutely have to I could probably create a professional looking front cover.

I also wanted to build up this blog. I think that’s been fairly successful. There are more people reading it regularly, I’ve been posting at least 3 times a week most weeks since the beginning of April. Hopefully if I do publish a book at least one of you will actually be willing to pay to read it.

Since July I’ve been trying to get something, anything, done about my Lipoedema. After 4 Doctor appointments and 2 nurse appointments at my local practice, a trip to the leg ulcer clinic in Dunfermline and another to the Lymphoedema clinic in Kirkcaldy I may be only a couple of weeks away from trying on my first compression garments.

Since September I’ve been dieting because apparently you have to if you want to get your Lipoedema treated even though calorie restriction isn’t a treatment for Lipoedema. I’ve lost 11.5 kg and I’m hoping to get back into weight training. I’m just waiting for my equipment to be delivered.

So I haven’t been entirely useless this year but it still feels a bit unsatisfying. Perhaps that’s not surprising given that this year has felt like someone raised the corpse of 2016, decked it out in leather and spikes, stuck it behind the wheel of a steamroller and then pointed it at democracy.