Sunday, November 29, 2015

I'm done

I completed the Nano challenge and I'm now the proud owner of 50,000 words that I wrote myself. Plus 2,500 words of out takes that I haven't counted in the final score.

This year crystallised for me how I need to work when I'm writing a longer story. I don't do well with tightly planning the whole story in advance, but I need an overall idea of what kind of story I'm writing, who it's about, and where it's going to end up. Then I think through the first section until I know what happens and write that down. At that point I have scenes in my mind's eye and I just need to get them down in words.

Whenever I complete that section, I need to stop the scene-writing and spend some time thinking and working out the next section. Some of my thinking I do when walking, cycling, or showering. Some of it I do by writing out the next part of the story in non-scene form. Planning, you might call it. I've never thought of myself as a planner but I think that's because I've assumed I knew what planning looked like and this wasn't it. Well, now I know.

Can I do it without the impetus of the Nano challenge? I really don't know but I'm going to have to find out. Because Nano is no longer what I need.

I didn't go to any meetups this year, the first year since 2006 when I haven't. I met up with some fantastic friends from past Nano years, but these weren't official meetups and most of the others have moved beyond Nano now. I don't get much use out of the Nano forums because they really aren't user-friendly; I use my own spreadsheet which keeps track of my words with better visuals than the Nano site; and Nano has changed almost beyond recognition since I first joined.

It used to be about the excitement of the challenge, now it's about being an educational charity that supports young people's writing. I don't think I got a single communication from Nano this year that didn't include begging for money. Even the winner's congratulation message includes a request to become a monthly donor.

So, Nano and I are done. It's been a great ten years. I've learned a lot and had lots of fun. Now it's time to step out on my own. I just don't know where the motivation is going to come from.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Week Three Blues

It's week 3 of Nano. How did the time go so quickly? And I'm at the usual point of wanting to give up and go fishing instead. I've never tried fishing and I think I'd hate it but could it be any worse than writing my novel? I don't think so.

For the real deal on just how bad Nano gets, I've got permission to quote from a friend. You can see the original here or here but in case you can't get into those, here is the text that marienbad/parallax has written:

The 4 Weeks of NanoWrimo
The week before: Ooh, so excited, but filled with trepidation - Can I/Will I be able to do this, will I make 50K. Gosh, this is daunting, I really shouldn't have signed up for this... No, wait, yes I should - I want to be a writer and this is my chance to have a shot a writing something long form. Ooh, so excited...
Week 1 - ooh so excited, here we go... writes 1667 words a day - oh my gosh this is amazing, the words are flooding out of me, and these characters seem to have taken on a life of their own. Every day is bringing new scenes and ideas, I love my story.
Week 2 - wtf? where did my writing ability go? I can just about make 1667 some days and man even that's a struggle. And my story is full of holes, everything is cliche and rubbish, my characters are always grinning/smirking/smiling - why? This isn't going to work, I'm never gonna make 50K.
Week 3 - jeez Louise, this is the suckiest first-draft in history. I know they are meant to be shitty but this is in a league of its own. Yeah I got a bunch of plot bunnies but they all seem to lead the story in the wrong way, not where I want it to go. I am hacking out 500 words a day sometimes and it's like pulling teeth without anaesthetic! I am never going to win Nano, I wish I had never started this now. God, I hate myself and want to die!
Week 4 - wait, what's happening? The sun has arisen, and I can see the light. All those plot bunnies have enabled me to build a decent backstory, my characters seem to have come back to life, and I am easily getting over 1667 words per day. The finish line is in sight, only 12K left to write, and I can do that now, come on fingers, type faster, keep up with my brain for crying out loud...
End of Week 4 - woo hooo !! I did it - 52,091 words! But wait, the word counter here gives a different figure than my Word Processor - Oh man, now I've got another 2K to write to win...hacks out 3.5K of crap just in case - validates woo hoo - I've won - only just, 50, 051 words, but it's enough. woo hoo, I've won Nano! Fantastic. breaks down and cries.
Week 5 - what, where's everyone gone? Man, I'm missing Nano already, I feel so down, I wish this went on all year. And what am I going to do with all that novel I wrote? I feel so blue, what now? Oh I know, maybe I can edit... looks at manuscript - jeez, Louise, what a pile of crap, it's so bad it's not worth editing!

My only caveat is that at the end I always think, "But it's just so long I could never edit it!"

But that's moot, because it's not written yet, so back to the coalface.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Windows 10 - Finding System Restore

The latest update of Windows 10 left me without a working keyboard. I couldn't find System Restore and needed the help of a Dell technician using remote control of my laptop to take my system back to before the update.

In case it happens again, I want to set down the steps needed to get into System Restore without using Search. (Because obviously search won't work without a keyboard!)

1. Right click on the Windows icon in the Start bar, click Control Panel.
2. On the drop down menu beside View By click to choose Small Icons (upper right part of the screen).
3. Click Recovery (icons are in alphabetical order).
4. You can now choose System Recovery as the second of three items.

Of course, next time it will probably be the mouse that goes. I should really look up the keyboard shortcuts to System Restore just in case.

Edited to Add:

To get to System Restore using only the keyboard:

Windows key + X
Arrow keys to select Control Panel, Enter
R key to select Restore, Enter
Tab key (several presses needed) to select System Restore, Enter

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Money, money, money

I have such mixed feelings about NaNoWriMo. It's helping me write a story that might otherwise never have surfaced but it comes with so many demands for money, money, and more money. Recently it was "Double Up Donation Day" which generated five different private messages asking for money: before, during and after the magic day.

I posted about it to the feedback and suggestions forum and this is what I got:
Me: I would like fewer donation requests.

I always donate at the beginning of November to say thank you for the website. Repeated follow-up requests for more money are annoying.
Moderator: The donation requests go out en masse, and not everyone can donate at the start of the month--they may be on a fortnightly or monthly pay schedule, they may want to wait until they've written x amount of words, and so on. You're not the only one getting more than one request! I donated in October, plus I'm an ML, and I still get requests. I just delete 'em and move on.
Me: I didn't assume I was the only one. I was just giving feedback in case anyone is interested that I find the number of donation requests is too high and I find it annoying.

If Wikipedia asks for a donation, they also check if they are asking too often and are annoying. I assumed it might be the same here.
Mod: Well, it was just Donation Day, so I assume the higher volume of requests was due to that.
I feel so much better now. I nearly posted that but I doubt if the sarcasm would be recognised.

So I shall stay with the Nano groups on my favourite website, which is Ravelry, and just use the Nano site for updating my word count. Somehow the Ravelry owners manage a huge website* that is easy to use and very intuitive and their requested donation is only $5 a year. Plus the only time you see the option to donate is if you want to upload images directly to the forums and not through your project pages.

It seems like such a wasted opportunity when forum mods and owners ignore genuine feedback.

* 5,711,874 registered users, 989,706 Ravelers were active during the last 30 days (up to 10/11/15). In 2014 Nano had 325,142 participants

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Llama llama red pajama

Today I did story time at the local library for the first time. It's half an hour of reading aloud to 3+ year olds and I loved it.

I was expecting to just listen this week and see how it's done but the librarian said to pick some books and we'd take it in turns, then it got to starting time and she wasn't there so I just went for it. When she saw I was enjoying myself she left me to it!

Next week I need to get there a bit earlier so I can check out the books. It's much easier to show a picture book while reading the text if you've already read it, but I was busking it because it's a very long time since I've read to children that age!

Monday, November 02, 2015

So far so good

I'm up to 4000 words on my Nanonovel. It's not great literature. It may not even be readable. But I'm having fun with it!
The door opened and Jenny took in Em's face and gave her a huge hug. Em had the familiar feeling of coming home she always had in Jenny's presence and she felt the tears start at her eyes again.

"Oh look at you," Jenny said. "What have you been up to now?"

"I got myself thrown out over a boy and we didn't even do it," Em said.

Jenny laughed. "Trust you. Come on in. Mum's out but she said you can stay as long as you need to. Alfie won't be using his room till he comes back in the summer, so you can have his bed if we change the sheets."

Em let out a huge breath she hadn't realised she was holding. "So I won't be needing to put on my fishnet tights and hang around outside King's Cross Station," she said.

"What?" Jenny did a double take and then laughed. "You and your old-fashioned ideas. I don't know where they come from."

"They're not old-fashioned. It might be the oldest profession but I'm sure it's still around."

Jenny shook her head but she was smiling. "Let's get this bed made up and you can tell me how you managed to get thrown out of your house for not having sex with a boy."

"I didn't say that. We didn't do IT but.. it's complicated."

"So you can fill me in on all the gory details."

It was a mixed blessing having a friend that you could say anything to except the one thing you really wanted to say.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

How Can It Be November?

So, yesterday was Halloween and we had the usual hordes of kids coming to get their sugar rush. We're a detached house with a wide drive; we had all the outside lights on, tealights flickering in a pumpkin holder, a banner, and a big sign saying "Trick or Treaters Welcome". I like giving out sweets to all and sundry but this year a lot of them had masks so we don't know who came and it's entirely possible that some of them came twice!

We shut up shop at seven thirty because the sweets had pretty much run out and we were going on to a Halloween Disco in aid of Canine Rescue. I was worried we'd come back to some tricks as we'd had to leave the porch light on but luckily the local kids are mostly pretty wonderful and we were OK.

So after leaping up and down for a couple of hours answering the door, followed by a heavy evening of dancing to Monster Mash and Spirit in the Sky it was hard to settle down and get a good night's sleep and today is the start of Nano.

I had a minor panic when I realised that my lesbian main character seems to have slept with a boy in the first chapter, but I think I've got it covered. It's actually a space story, or meant to be, but my poor MC is a long way from getting into space yet. 

It's times like this I wish I'd done more planning and less playing with my Excel spread sheet but I expect I'll get through the month. I hope so anyway. It's never a foregone conclusion and that's what makes it a challenge.

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