“NaNotes #3” or “The Ending That No One Saw Coming”

For National Novel Writing Month 2012, I’m chronicling my novel-writing journey! Need more NaNo in your life? Follow along. (:

(Parts #1 and #2 here, for those who want catching up.)

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10:21pm, Cali time: Well, here’s a twist. My protagonist, Singer, got fed up with me making such atypically slow progress on his story, and so took over the laptop and started making up a brand new story as he goes along. This will be interesting (in particular because, the instant Singer loses interest in whatever he’s writing, he drops it and takes the plot somewhere else), but I can’t complain: He threw down more words in the last couple hours than I have in the last couple days. So, okay – it’s all yours, Singer. May your writing efforts go more smoothly than mine have, since “So Super Dead”s end.

The face of the man who hijacked my NaNo…
as seen from two angles at once.


9:52pm, Cali time: Random ridiculousness abounds, in this story of Singer’s. But it could be that we’re about to see a turn for the better. He is attempting, at least, to come up with some plot points that he can build upon, rather than just throw in and out with thoughtless abandon. And he’s actually taken time, in the last few hundred words, to artistically describe some things, rather than just skip over everything on the basis that it doesn’t matter (at all, or just to him). It could be that he’s beginning to take his story more seriously. I’m all for that, so long as it doesn’t slow down his creative pace; 5,375 words of questionable merit today!



10:54pm, Cali time: Just when I think I know what’s up, Singer changes the game again. The other day he surprised me by allowing one of his fellow characters to narrate a chapter of the book (the plot didn’t get furthered much, that day, though I must say that the character’s turn at the wheel intrigued me). Now today, that same character has talked Singer into abandoning his runaway novel and trying instead to write his real story – y’know, the one I was trying to write when I got hijacked. So I’ve spent the last part of today’s writing time typing up Singer’s version of about half of what I’d already written of his story for myself. Not a super interesting undertaking (been here, done that, y’know), though at the pace he’s been going, we’ll end up in new story territory sometime tomorrow, and that’ll be… weird. I’m really unaccustomed to writing “first drafty” first drafts, which I know this will be, because Singer’s not the writer I am. But, whatever, this is what he’s writing now, and it’s sorta, kinda what I was supposed to be writing at this point, so we’ll call this a win-win, for now. Time may tell a different tale.


4:26pm, Cali time: Well, Singer and I are waving the white flag. I guess the experience of trying to write a novel on his own has caused him to view my efforts at crafting his story with a more empathetic eye. Neither of us want to spend the last days of November racing ahead on a project that nobody’s happy with, so he’s calling it quits on his authorial career, and I’ll take the time to do his novel right sometime down the road. I’m a bit disappointed that the back half of my NaNo has ended this way; it would have been so supremely satisfying to knock out two novels in a single month. But I can hardly look back on these last three-and-a-half weeks as a total failure. I’ve got “So Super Dead” to be pleased with, and have done myself proud with the number of words I’ve been able to squeeze out of me on an almost-daily basis. And even Singer’s partial novel isn’t a complete loss; some parts of it proved quite entertaining to write, and it’s given me some ideas for future stories. You can’t put a price on inspiration, I always say. (I’ve never said that. I may start saying it now, just for some measure of truth after the fact.) So I guess this is pretty much it for my National Novel Writing Month, 2012, with a full novel, some novels to come, and 79,806 words to show for it. And with the double-novel bar still un-reached, I guess that’ll be my challenge again next year. In the meantime, I’m ready for a few days off from noveling like a madperson. Anyone care to take bets on how long it takes for the old writing mania to crash my word vacation? (My money says I don’t make it through December.)

“NaNotes” or “So It Begins”

For National Novel Writing Month 2012, I’m chronicling my novel-writing journey! Need more NaNo in your life? Follow along. (:

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2am: Three-way phone call of a kickoff party = a great way to ring NaNo in right. Waiting until my west coast buddy’s time zone hit midnight = all very fun and stupid. My productivity window had pretty much closed an hour ago. An hour and a half = 600-some words of frustration before calling it a night.

10am – 1pm: After a good night’s sleep (ha-ha-ha-ha…), I reevaluated my progress, scrapped what I had and employed a voice switch. 2,298 much better words. What’s to thank? The change of narrative tone? A writing shift more in time with my internal clock? Relocation to my bedroom? (I’d been in another part of the house before.) Could be any, all, or none of the above, most probably a combination thereof. (Yay, rhyming! And I’m not even working on a minstrel book, this year.) Breaking for breakfast before a hunger headache derails me.

2-ishpm – 6pm: 4,226 words, and explicable exhaustion is rolling in. Since I’m going for two novels, this month, 4K seems like a safe daily word-count minimum. Yay! I’ve past that! And I’m having fun with the voice I’ve chosen. (Thank you, 1 main character of 3!) Unless I catch a second wind, this will probably be it for today. I’ll take it, and go to bed substantially earlier than I did last night (barring character drama; it happens).


10:30am – 1:30pm: 2,207 words so far today. 2 of the 3 main characters have just met up; we’ll be introduced to the third when I come back in to start the next chapter. Both physically and mentally speaking, now’s a good time for me to take a break; body to care for, blog to post

3pm – 7pm (though it’s taken me ‘til almost 10pm to record this): I’m now up to 8,625 words all told, and tentatively feeling like a beast. I wrote a line towards the end of today’s work that made me honest-to-good laugh out loud. I posted it on my Ballad” Facebook page as the “line of the day”, a fun NaNo tradition I began while writing “Ballad” for my first-ever Writing Month. Some days there are a ton of lines I love to choose from; some days, none of them jump out at me; today, it was a no-brainer. …which is good, because I’d like to have my brain handy for tomorrow. Don’t want to lose momentum!


10:30am – 1:30pm: Hmm, only 1,975 words so far today. Gonna have to step it up for my second shift. I know I’ve got days coming where I’ll have stuff to do beyond writing and getting just enough food and sleep to continue writing, so I wanna make sure I’ve got a nice, safe word cushion before then. I left things on the brink of an important action scene, so let’s see how much fun, drama, and verbiage I can wring out of that.

2:30pm6:30: New total of 13,018 words! That’s what I’m talking about! Assuming this book truly does end in the neighborhood of 50K, I’m a little over a quarter of the way through, now. Writer buddy Tirzah pleased me, upon my sharing this day’s additions to the story with her, by saying that she’s enjoying “So Super Dead” more than she expected she would. Something about how she hadn’t thought it would be the sort of plot she was interested in, but I’m managing to thoroughly entertain her. To which I say, “Boo-yah.” (:


8:00am – 1:00pm: 2,773 new words. Why I was wide [enough] awake and ready to go at such an hour, I don’t even know. Then again, we did set the clocks back at hour for the end of daylight-savings, last night, so I guess my brain thought it was 9am. …That still doesn’t explain my being awake. Guess I just wanted to get up and write!

2:00pm – 4:30pm: 4,509 words today (minus a sentence from yesterday, but whatever, it’s still the best writing day I’ve had yet), 17,563 all told! I expect that I’ll add more sometime this evening/tonight, somewhere in between finally practicing drills for sword-fighting class (*cough* which I’ve neglected all week *cough*) and watching the new episode of “Once Upon A Time”. It would feel quite satisfying to break 5K* in a day!

(*11:00pm: 5,603 / 18,656 at the last! And Tirzah says she likes my characters! Whoo-HOO!)


9:45am – 1:30pm: 2,504. This morning’s was a challenging section to write, because it was pretty much all conversation. I don’t have trouble with dialogue in and of itself; my characters always have something to say. It’s just a matter of making sure that their important conversations stay on track. Entertaining banter and dramatic arguments are great, but if they don’t move the story where it needs to go, what’s the use? I think the words spoken between these characters accomplished what they need to. I’ll know better once I run them past the beta.

2:30pm – 7:30pm: And our pre-edit total for the day is 5,565 / 24,285. What’s that? Editing during NaNo? Say it ain’t so! Be chill, it’s nothing major. Basically I just read back over what I’ve done for the day and put in missing words for the sake of complete sentences, or take out words that no longer belong there after I changed my mind halfway through a phrase. Occasionally I’ll think of whole new words/sentences/phrases that didn’t occur to me to add during my first rush through. So no, I’m not doing a perfect job of keeping my Inner Editor locked in the cellar; but – in part since she’s been mostly helping me to increase my word-count, this NaNo – I’ve no regrets.

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And now to get back to my writing for Day Six…

Fellow Wrimos: How’s your NaNo going?

“67” or “When the Wordsmith Well Runs Dry”

And now, another look back at my pre-blog, behind-the-scenes writings, as posted in my “Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale” Facebook page’s notes during National Novel Writing Month 2010.

The Making Of…: “Those Last 67 Words”

Misanthrope. Dipsomaniac. Bivouac. Propinquity. Obstreperous.

What do these words have in common? A couple of things, really. Firstly, they were all recommended to me, out of the blue, by my mother, sometime over the last twenty days of my novel-writing adventure, just in case I ever find myself at a loss for words. Secondly, not one of these words, or any of the many others Mother Dear has been so kind as to stop by at random times to share, have found their way into “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”.

Just the same, I appreciate… Oh, look at that – this just in, I kid you not: “Miscegenation”. Thanks, Mom.

Trying to write a minimum of 1,667 words a day is no joke. …Or rather, that is probably exactly would be, if I didn’t give a hoot as to which words I were tossing together, higgledy-piggledy. (“Higgledy-piggledy” also having made an appearance as one of Mom’s words, FYI…) Quantity is easy enough if you throw quality out the window, but I would likely go mad if I did not allow myself to stop, go back, erase half of that, replace that word with a lustier synonym, change “he said” to “he reflected” or “spoke So-and-so”.

Call it my sense of artistry. Call it my deep-seated perfectionism. Call it my inner-editor, if you want to do like the NaNo people do. It all amounts to the same thing: Saying the same thing over and over again until, finally, I feel that I’ve said it right (or close enough to right to fly for now; I am still on a deadline).

But like I said – that number, one-six-six-seven, is just the technical minimum. And in addition to having a sense of artistry, perfectionism, and the compulsive need to edit as I go, I am also something of an overachiever. So my eyes see “1,667”, and my brain automatically tacks on something at the end like, “…Is the height that the bar has been raised for Other People; you, Danielle Shipley, must therefore aim higher!”

How high is “higher”? Not as high as it has been, I have to admit. Day One’s word total was, if I recall correctly, somewhere in the five-thousands or more. Fast-forward to yesterday, where I hit something around nineteen-hundred and said, “Eh, good enough.” Just so long as I pass 1,800, I allow myself to call it a success, though it takes leaving the 2,000-word mark in my dust to put a real smile of satisfaction on my face.

Quantity versus quality. Empty filler words versus the handful of gems that really make that run-on sentence sparkle. That’s a battle I face every day as the hours tick by and the word count creeps up and the story takes shape.

Sometimes, after fooling around with the same 800 words for the entirety of a morning, I may begin to feel a little edgy. Why isn’t this going faster? Why aren’t we on the next chapter yet? How can such a momentous scene take so darn few words to tell?

Sometimes I hit word sixteen-hundred, and the afternoon’s nearly over, and I’m starting to sweat (maybe figuratively, maybe not; it can get really hot in my room, with the door closed). Okay – just sixty-seven words to go… 67 and I can technically quit… Just scrape out those last 67 words…

“You owe me a shout-out in your novel’s acknowledgments.”

My characters have clammed up on me. That sight or sound or scent defies a descriptive paragraph. The dog is downstairs, wondering why his dinner is forty-five minutes late for the third evening in a row, and silently cursing his so-called owner and her so-called projects that are apparently so much more important than man’s so-called best friend. (Sorry, Max.)

What do I do at times like these? WRITE, dang it! Just keep writing! Stop looking at the clock, stopping double-checking the word count, do feed the dog, then get back there and write some more!

And I get there. Sometimes painfully. Sometimes easily. Sometimes painful for the characters but easy for me, sometimes vice versa. Whatever. We got there.

And how do I reward these daily accomplishments? How else? I turn around and fire off another half-thousand words a pop in messages to my NaNo friends.

There’s a word for people like me. I’ll leave it to my mother to tell me what it is.

*She’s still giving me words for this month’s Camp NaNo, by the way. This morning’s word was “didgeridoo”. Love you, Mom, but I very much doubt it’s going in.*