CAMP NANOWRIMO

Radio silence has been because of this.

Yes, I have never done a writing month before but best pal Laz dragged me into it and I signed up on the day it started.

The website crashed repeatedly as there was so much activity but eventually I signed up and got my details plugged in.

I did cheat a little. I had 7k of my novel already written. I had done this just before I fell pregnant, then the pressure was upped at work with inspections and exams so dropped the project. Also, early pregnancy is DRAINING.

Now I am on maternity leave but I am still tired.  With a baby and a 3yo I did not feel I could commit to writing every day. Laz, has a habit of nagging me. She nagged me into my huge behemoth of a fanfiction Indebted. 526,621 words and counting… so I was wary of her!

I did not have time to get dragged into a writing coma. I had children to feed!

Laz is nothing if not persistent and kept dropping hints. In the end, I caved. I figured if I wrote from 9-11pm each night I could prob do 2k an evening with the odd word sprint on a Tuesday when firstborn went to nursery all day.

I set myself the very ambitious target of 70,000 words. I felt if I set the bar too low I would slack off.

The beauty of the camp is that you are not alone. You are sorted (though you can opt out) into “cabins” of eight fellow NANOers.  This can be random or you can request someone to bunk with, but there are no guarantees.

I requested Laz and waited for the sorting in 12 hours.

We ended up in separate cabins. Bugger!

My cabin had two other people in it, neither in my time zone and neither had created a profile. I waited a day and there was no response to my greeting in the cabin’s message box.

Frustrated I kicked myself from the cabin and went on the NANO forum, looking for groovy people to bounce off. Found other cabin orphans. Someone was writing erotic fiction in a cabin filled with 14yo girls. Another was a pagan who had ended up in a cabin of born again Christians who had immediately tried to save his soul.

Many had wound up in inactive cabins like me.

I found a likely crew and asked to hang with them for the month. We all requested each other and waited…. Most of us got sorted together… oh and through shear miracle Laz got shoved in with me, even though I did not request her (I thought she was happy in her previous bunk, text went awry, long boring story.)

So the message box started to fill up. We had Americans, a German, two Brits, one Swede and one empty bunk that got filled with a random half way through the month. (She introduced herself then never spoke again, she sounded like she was having a rough month.) There was one lassie of 13 that got shoved in with us but she opted out fairly rapidly, despite offers from us to keep the talk clean and make her cabin mascot.

If I was 13 I would not want to hang with a bunch of women who were twice, in some cases three times my age.

So we all got acquainted. Some were veterans, others were newbies. No one had a word count as high as mine. I began to realise I may have over stretched myself. Had I been an idiot?

So, the long haul began. I was fairly good at settling down every evening and typing… but starting was AGONY. I am so used to writing fanfiction and having a fixed world and characters in my head that starting with nothing was like pulling teeth.

The 7k I had written was tosh. I soon realised my story needed another starting point entirely or I would end up with too much flashback and explaining far too much rather than writing dialogue so the reader could get to know my characters. I managed to recycle the 7k but the first chapter nearly had me bashing my head against the keyboard.

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Still, after a forceps breech caesarean delivery of son two I knew I could take the pain! I kept my fingers moving and soon was out of the labour pains and actually had something resembling a beginning on the page, or an infant novel. This was 10k in.

I decided that some formal planning was needed. I got a roll of old wallpaper and did a massive brainstorm, splitting my plot into 3 and subdividing all my ideas under those three major plot arcs. This took HOURS.

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Glad I did it though. I was worried I did not have a conclusive ending in my head. The reason turned out to be not a lack of ideas, but rather too many. After the plotting session it became apparent…

This was not one novel.

It was three…

A little shell shocked I wondered if I should press ahead at all. I’ve written a trilogy fanfiction before but this is a whole different ball game. This is me, alone and the world I have built. Could I really stick with it for three books?

For better or worse I pushed ahead. The ideas much more clear and much more streamlined. I had plot points mapped out in my head and knew how to get there. My word count jumped up over the next few days, much to the dismay of some of my cabin mates who had almost caught up with me.

20k quickly became 30k. I was on a roll, but was still only just passed the first part of the first arc. (There are 3 parts and I have not even bothered to sub divide into chapters yet)

I seemed to have a bit of an advantage over some of my fellow writers. I could write without being tempted to edit. All the advice tells you NOT to over edit. Get your words out then edit when finished. Perhaps it’s because I am dyslexic and I am used to the little red lines all over what I type, or perhaps it’s the years as a fanficer, write first, pass it on for editing to a beta.

Whatever it was I had soon outpaced my cabin. I was smug about this a wee bit. There was a bit of friendly rivalry between me and the unofficial cabin leader (the one who put us all in a group in the first place.) It got our fingers flying and put a bit of ironic trash talk on the cabin message board. Most were very supportive of me however and cheered me on. It was humbling and made me want to hug people.

We also set up a Google group for longer posts and discussions. Two others from the NANO forum joined us. These two were machines. They had word targets above mine and were churning out 3-4k a day. I was jealous!

We shared a little of what we were working on and asked for advice when we needed it. It was so useful! Writing is a lonely pursuit and having likeminded folk to chew the fat with was invaluable.

I was confident I would make it… I should have known better.

Hubbie had a seizure… Everything stopped.

Was off the pace for about four days. It was hard to gain momentum after. I had forgotten my next immediate plot point even though I had made a note of it, it made no sense to me now.

I fell behind and even though I was still writing every day I was flagging.

I needed something to push me on.

When I write I normally have earphones on and a playlist on the go to suit the tone of the task.

I chucked that out the window and went for high energy dance music. Avicii to be precise.

I was a teen in the 90’s so I do have a genuine fondness for dance and electronica. It’s the beat I think, or the base line.

Anyway it seemed to do the trick.

A Swedish DJ saved my book!

I lowered my goal 10k and went for it, sometimes writing till midnight knowing my son would be up at 5am. My Husband became concerned at the lack of sleep I was getting but I begged him not to get at me. I now HAD to do this. Fingers flew across the keys- 40k, 50k final week and I had 10k to go. In my most productive day I wrote 4.5k

I was a slave to the word count and drinking A LOT of coffee to keep going.

31st of July with two hours to go I passed 60k

I was ecstatic. I’d done it, despite the pressure and the real life stuff I had still written more than a novel in a month.

Even with 60k down my first book is not even half finished. I was back writing the day after NANO was over.

I really believe I will finish at least the first book, where I will go from there I don’t know. I start back to work in October so time is of the essence.

Perhaps I can be a writer, at least to myself if no one else and in the end it’s really only my opinion that counts on the subject.

Thank you Camp NANO

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