Sunday, 29 October 2017

Before NaNoWriMo

Don’t you just love a challenge? Well I suppose really it depends on the nature of the task in hand. If it’s physical violence you can count me out straight away. If it’s a crossword or a puzzle of some nature bring it on. But what if it’s a challenge that you want on the one hand to embrace and on the other to run away from, a very long way away from. Such for me is the nature of NaNoWriMo.

NoNoWriMo Shield
I'm loving the steaming
mug of coffee

For those who don’t know, this is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It happens in November and has done for several years now. The aim is to write the first draft of a novel. The target fifty thousand words. To save you doing the calculation I can tell you that equates with 1,666 words a day, every day. Take a day off and you have to make up the shortfall, though to prevent this happening it’s better if you can stack some extra words away in the first few days. Much easier than having a deficit and trying to catch up.

My first attempt at this challenge was in 2012 and I reached over thirty-seven thousand words before having to withdraw for personal reasons. I am happy to say that the book I began then went on to be published…eventually. There are many helpful pointers on the website so if you too like a challenge I’m throwing down the gauntlet. It focuses the mind and the feeling of achievement is well worth the effort involved.

If, like me, you write by the seat of your pants, with maybe just a few notes and pointers, then NaNoWriMo will suit you down to the ground. I have done some plotting but it isn’t detailed so perhaps I’ve got to the stage where I fall between two stools – neither plotter nor pantser but something somewhere between the two. There isn’t really time to refine the writing as you go though, as with my daily grind, I always read the previous day’s work before continuing. For one thing it takes you straight back into the plot and for another, well actually I can’t work without doing some editing as I go along.

If you are a plotter then I’ve left this post a bit late for you. However, it may be that you already have plans in place for your novel in which case go for it if you can. I only decided a week or so ago to participate again this year and I already had several commitments in my calendar for the coming month, but then it’s difficult to clear any month completely. I shall be scribbling furiously on my laptop – yeah, I know, doesn’t make sense – at every opportunity because falling behind is the one thing I really don’t want to do.

I sincerely hope that by 11.59pm on 30th November I will have reached my goal. That is my aim but even if I don’t achieve it I expect to have a large chunk to take forward that will eventually become my next novel. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Out of my comfort zone

A work in progress
We’ve been having our bedroom decorated this week and are thus sleeping in the spare room.
Nothing unusual about that, you might say, but after seven days I can’t wait to get back into my own bed. And then I realised it isn’t just the bed but the whole room (now in soothing tones of cream and mushroom). The bathroom is in a different place when I get up in the middle of the night. The window is on the wrong side of the room. So that all got me thinking. Are we always happy with where we write and does it have an effect on what we write?

We live in a traditional three-bedroomed house and some years ago the smallest of these was turned into a home office for me. I was SO excited. Bookcases lined the walls, a new desk assembled – not a posh one but perfectly serviceable. The printer was set up. I could look across the road into a field in times of reverie or when searching for inspiration. What could be better? 

Well, the temperature for a start. The room is north-east facing and has two outside walls. Even with the central heating on it never felt warm. With my back to the rest of the house, as it were, I felt cut off. This should have been a good thing as far as writing was concerned. No distractions, nothing to pull me out of my concentration. But it didn’t work. Not from the word go. Like my current experience in the spare room, I was out of my comfort zone. I felt a little sheepish when I told my husband that thank you very much but I would be returning to the hub of the home to work as before. Fortunately we hadn’t expended huge amounts on the transformation.

Writers often talk about their office or their garden shed or that place which is exclusively theirs. Some people dream about having their own space. But when it comes down to it we all have to go with whatever works for us. So I don't have white boards and pin boards and other such useful tools.

What I do have is a place where I feel at ease and can lose myself in the adventures, antics, activities, hopes and fears of my characters, all from the comfort of my armchair. My laptop sits on a cushioned tray. I have a table to right and left on which I stack the things I might need to refer to.

Do you have a dedicated office or writing space? Is it something you yearn for? Think twice before you take the plunge. Sometimes the things you most wish for are those you already have. I hope that by tomorrow night I will be sleeping in my own bed. But for now, as I write this piece, I am happily in my comfort zone. How about you?