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.

Changing perspective

I’ve been thinking recently about what I want from my writing. I want to get paid, obviously, but maybe that’s not possible. Certainly any traditional system of remuneration seems to be cut off from me and any non-traditional system relies on already having an audience. So what else do I want?

I want people to read my stories. I owe it to the stories. Right now they only live in my head and when I’m gone I’ll take them with me. They deserve to be read.

Maybe I should focus on putting more stories online? I have a whole novel that I could cut into installments and then put up on my fiction blog. If I get enough readers maybe it would be worthwhile going the Patreon route or upgrading my Ko-Fi account to a gold one?

Or alternatively I’ll have like 10 regular readers and that will just be soul destroying.

 

 

Sunday Update 30/09

This week it feels like I have got very little done. I’ve mainly been crocheting, playing Destiny 2, and working on my current novel.

Well, I say working. It’s mostly been staring at it, writing one new sentance, deleting that sentence, adding a word or two to an existing sentence, deleting those words and then reading the same fucking paragraph yet again. Everything I do to improve it just makes the next bit harder. I’ve now reached an impasse where I can’t transition from the scene I’m working on to the next scene because the ways I’ve changed this scene mean that the existing transition no longer makes sense.

As regular readers will remember my mother broke both arms and as a result has had a shoulder replacement. She’s now recovering and undergoing rehabilitation in a different hospital even further north. I’ve been crocheting a poncho for her as she’s having difficulty with sleeves. The first poncho should be finished tonight and I’ll post it tomorrow. Then I’ll have to find the money for the yarn to make some more. I was able to use some chunky yarn that I already had for the first poncho but I want to make her something really nice and that means more expensive yarn. Any donations made via my Ko-Fi link this week will go towards buying nice yarn.

I did get a post out this week on the subject of Destiny 2 and I have continued to play it. I’m sure I’ll stop having quite so much fun with it at some point but not yet.

My slow preparation for the Brexit stockpile continues. I’ve found a source of instant ramen noodles that are tasty and cheap. I’ll have to build up a stock of ingredients to go in the noodles though. We’ll need to add vegetables of some kind to ensure something approaching a balanced diet and maybe some source of protein. I’d love to make my own Kimchee to add to the noodles in the Korean style but I’m not sure that I can afford the home fermentation kit necessary and I don’t want to invest in something that I might not be organized enough to use.

You’re maybe thinking that it doesn’t sound like I’ve done much this week and wondering what else I’ve done with my time. Have you seen the news? I have and as a result I’ve spent most of this week seething. It’s hard to read the news without experiencing a horrible sense of panic and deja vu. Britain plunges on towards a cliff edge marked Brexit and the US discovers that the Republican party has completely forgotten what the Supreme Court is supposed to be (hint: impartial for one thing).

In my life I’ve had to learn over and over again that the world is not fair, that the rules that apply to me don’t apply to people with more money. power or status than me. People with less money, power or status than me face far stricter punishments for breaking those rules and have to deal with extra rules that I won’t even know about unless I make an effort to seek out their narratives and learn from them. Obstacles that I deal with every single day are invisible to the people who don’t have to deal with them.

I believe that our problems are fixable but we all have to admit that they exist in order to fix them. How is that going to happen as long as the people with the money and the power and the status have so little incentive to do anything about it?

What I’m trying to say is that I have no faith in the the government in either the US or here in the UK. The ‘due process’ that they are so fond of talking about is not some impartial system of justice. It exists to serve the interests of those in power. The people in power used to pretend to fear consequences but it was always largely optional and now they don’t even pretend. There may be nothing that we, the ordinary people, can do to ensure that our governments actually follow our will but at least we can try. If we don’t try we will regret it in the days to come.

Time to make a plan

For the last few weeks I’ve been drifting. I was stuck between writing projects. I couldn’t work out what I wanted to focus on and I felt lost. It’s time to pick a direction and start walking.

I haven’t heard anything from Bloody Scotland so I’m going to assume that they don’t want the story I pitched for Pitch Perfect. Frankly that’s a relief because I didn’t feel ready to finish it. For now Project Cecil can stay on the shelf.

I’ve decided that this year’s NaNoWriMo first draft will be of a story I’m calling Project Academy. It’s another attempt to write some YA (young adult) fiction so I’ll have something that I can share with my kids. I’ve already done most of the pre-November work on this story.

That means that I have until the start of November to work on something else. So I’m going back to Project Kindness, my tale of sexy spies and Celtic gods. I’m sure my beta readers will be delighted*.

I’m aware that for most of my readers this doesn’t really count as a plan. None of this is moving my ‘career’ along. It’s not going to solve any of my real life problems. I admit that I have no idea how to have a ‘career’ and that most of my real life problems are insoluble. I do have the beginnings of a plan for a small part of my real life problems but that is a post for another day.

 

*That was probably sarcasm.

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.

The invisible wall

It feels like there’s an invisible wall between me and my novel. Some part of me doesn’t want to work on it and I’m not sure what it is.

It’s not because I don’t know what to write, or because I’m having plot problems. I know where the story is going and how to write it. It’s not because I don’t like the novel or because I’m tired of the characters. I like it and them as much as I ever have.

It feels like I’m scared of something. Or at least reluctant. Could it be that I’m scared of finishing it because that would mean I’d have to query it and that would mean more rejection?

I’ve invested a lot of hope in this novel. I’m hoping that, because it has a better opening, it will have more chance of attracting an agent. I think the opening is good but it doesn’t solve the problem of writing that doesn’t fit easily into any genre. Agents just don’t seem to be looking for the stories that I write. I’ve been trying to build contacts but so far the contacts that I have don’t link up with the kind of stories that I write.

There’s also the problem of my, apparently, terrible grammar. I say apparently because every grammatical problem that gets pointed out is stuff that I can’t see even after it gets pointed out. I know there are rules to formal english but prose isn’t formal. In prose you’re allowed to break the rules. Unless I’m wrong. Unless I should be following the rules of formal English just so that agents will know that I know what they are. Are agents laughing at my terrible comma usage?

It’s tempting to just give up on the idea of ever getting paid, stick a plain cover on it, self publish and then try to find something else to do with my time. It is just so frustrating to put all this work in on stories that nobody wants to read. I believe in them but I don’t know how to communicate that belief in any useful way.

Reasons why I’m not writing

Ok, technically I am writing because I’m writing this blog post but I should be working on my novel and I’m not because…

In this case I have a very specific plot hole that needs filling. It’s not a plot hole in the ‘oh my God my plot doesn’t work’ sense. It’s the plot equivalent of a pothole in a road. It still needs fixing if I want my readers to have a smooth ride but it’s not major building work.

You’d think that would make it easier to fix, wouldn’t you? Just patch over it with the narrative equivalent of bitchumen and go onto the next scene. But the problem with this sort of fix is that it needs to be seamless. I have to slot a little scene-ette into an already existing scene without breaking the scene or losing the mood.

Specifically I need one character to call another character so that they can have the brief conversation that will signal to the audience that they are moving beyond a disagreement. I can’t skip the scene because it needs to be resolved. I can’t cut out the disagreement because other stuff relies on it. And I can’t work out why that one character would pick up the phone rather than fuming silently about it. She tends to be a self sufficient silent fumer. She needs a reason to call.

My mind is a blank. There are literally millions of things that could precipitate that call but instead of coming up with one my brain is doing the brain equivalent of turning circles on the spot while singing snatches of every song I’ve heard in the last month.

ME: Ok so could she have found something in the files?

MY BRAIN: the last, the last, the last…

ME: But seriously there’s bound to be stuff in there that she’d need to talk about

MY BRAIN: How big, how blue, how beautiful…

ME: That way I could set up the later revelations…

MY BRAIN: Somebody once told me…

ME: Oh for fucks sake

So… Chocolate? I’m thinking chocolate. And possibly booze. And maybe a brain transplant.

 

If you have enjoyed this pointless rant maybe you’d like to support this blog by buying me a coffee with Ko-Fi. Or alternatively today is the last day that you can buy stuff in the Shop of Doom.

It’s never just one thing.

So in my last post my laptop had died and I discovered that I’d wasted 3 months preparing for a nonexistent competition. How can things get worse?

The good news is that my laptop is fixable and for a reasonable fee. The bad news is that after paying for that and buying Scrivener for the iPad my spouse and I went to the optician to get our eyes tested. I need new glasses and my other half needs two pairs (distance and reading glasses) and my eyesight is so bad that my one pair costs more than both of theirs.

I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I dread to think what that’s going to reveal.

In addition to being impossibly broke yet again I also have to work out what my writing plan is. Until the debacle with the nonexistent pitch competition my plan was to prepare my current work in progress for the competition then when it failed to garner any interest I was going to query it while trying to fix whatever is wrong with the first one then pitch a third novel at Bloody Scotland in September.

I suppose I could still do the parts that don’t involve the nonexistent pitch but it’s feeling pointless. I can’t work out if it’s my usual terrible self esteem talking or if there’s something wrong with this plan that I’m not letting myself see. There’s this voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me that this can’t possibly work because that’s not how my life works. And it’s not wrong about my life so far. It is kind of insane to expect anyone to value anything I do enough to pay me for it. They never have so far.

I hope I’ll be back with a new blog post about Infinity War soon but it probably wont be until I get my repaired computer back. In the meantime if you want to donate to the fix the computer fund or the actually be able to see fund then you can do it via Ko-Fi. Yes it says that you’re buying me a coffee but I’m allowed to spend the money on something other than coffee. Also coffee is a vital part of the creative process.

There’s also the Shop Of Doom. It’s still closing on May 8th because nobody is buying anything. Which is a pity, I have a couple of the t-shirts and they’re lovely, but I get that they’re pretty expensive and not to everyone’s taste. At least I tried. Having tried is not as much consolation as you’d think. It really doesn’t ease the sting of failure much at all.

Dispatch from the editing trenches

I’ve reached the stage of editing where it feels like I’m trying to wade through treacle. My brain keeps rejecting the very idea of looking at the work in progress. I am not having any fun.

I’m a little surprised that I’ve been able to keep going. I think it’s because it feels like I owe it to the book. Which is weird. The book comes from me and I don’t feel like a owe myself anything. The book feels external somehow, almost like a child. It’s as if now that I’ve brought the book forth I owe it a continued existence.

Anyway here’s a thing inspired by one of my favourite bits.IMG_0189.jpg

If you have enjoyed this brief post and are feeling generous you might like to buy me a coffee with Ko-fi. Alternatively visit the Shop of Doom (closing May 8th) and buy yourself something nice.