NaNoWriMo Odds and Ends

Thirty days ago I began NaNoWriMo at the base of one of the columns outside St. Peter's Basilica. The program ends tonight.

Right now I'm just aglow. I am in love ... throw-back-your-head, fling-out-your-arms, tell-the-whole-world in love with this book. I finished the rough draft last night and am thoroughly happy with the way it turned out.

Yes, it has plot holes; yes, it contains appalling sentences that I hope no one ever knows I wrote; yes, everything happens too fast; but far more came together than I expected and it wound up making itself the sort of story I don't want to put down because it gives me such happiness. It needs a little work, I think, before anyone else will get that feeling from it, but at least I've a start.

For your reading pleasure (or at least, my listing pleasure), here are notes on the experience and the story itself.

Worst things about the story:
  • The plot setups are awful--usually gave out way too much information so I wouldn't forget it myself.
  • Adjectives--not much better, they all got overused. Adverbs, likewise. I needed words.
  • Some of the action and romance scenes are a little cheesy owing to the hurry in which they were written, and perhaps to my own innate cheesiness.
  • A lot of them also happen too quickly.
  • The rule "Don't tell, show"? Yeah, I broke that one a lot.
Best things about the story:
  • The fourth character. I had a primary triptych with a clear protagonist, but the fourth--whom I had loosely planned going in--turned up much earlier in the story and played a far greater role than I expected.
  • The worlds. I had some pre-November input from my mom and sister on how I might structure the worlds, and they turned out lovely. In my head, at least.
  • The overall plot and theme. It stayed basically true to my main formula, even though a lot of times I just threw something down and told myself I'd figure out what that meant later. A lot of the things I threw down jumped up and made a decent structure out of themselves, without destroying the original direction.
  • The surprises. Maybe it's fun to try to surprise a reader; I'll probably never know. It's way too much fun when the story surprises me.
Most difficult things about the experience:
  • The temptation to procrastinate.
  • Having to rediscover my thought process every time I took a break.
  • Writing out of zero ideas, not knowing even how to end the sentence, let alone the scene.
  • Spending a solid week singing Kristina Horner's line "I just realized I have plot holes and my writing really sucks" and meaning it.
  • Not editing myself. I cheated on that many times.
Most fun things about the experience:
  • Starting in Italy.
  • Feeling serious progress come from my efforts.
  • Not stressing over plot holes and major difficulties/unplanned parts--or stressing less about them, at least. I could just say "Right, that's dreadful" and keep writing.
  • Falling in love with my characters, one after the other.
  • Getting surprised by really sweet moments. I'm sure most of them are desperately silly right now, but ... well, I can't talk about any of them without giving away spoilers, but one in particular just about startled me into tears of joy.
Final word count: 57,500

Number of cheats used: None, unless you count flinging around the adjectives and the passive verb and other comparatively useless parts of speech without discretion.

Great WriMo moment: Including Mr. Ian Woon. He lives on the Moon. I am inordinately proud of that fact.

What's next: My goal today is to make a quick scan through the story, highlight things I love and things I want to change, and then put it away for a few weeks before starting to overhaul. I am very anxious to do my best by my beloved little tale, and bad revision can kill off all the best parts of a story without fixing the problems, according to Holly Lisle. This absolutely terrifies me. But I hereby commit myself to making a full revision. That's a promise.


NaNoWriMo Win

Thanksgiving Day 11/26/09 8:53 PM
50,272 words

I had just validated and was staring at the winner's screen, grinning about as widely as is humanly possible, when my husband walked in with turkey, the good things that go with it, and pumpkin pie with whipped cream, courtesy of Mom and Dad St. Hilaire.

Lou heated Thanksgiving dinner for me and put on Beethoven's ninth symphony. I am basking in the glow.

Happy Thanksgiving

My husband, bless him, has spent the day taking care of me and sitting on the couch beside me; now he is off giving a little time to his parents. It's just me and my laptop for a little while.

I had thought about posting the customary list of things to be thankful for, which after searching my blog I find that I have never actually done. Like yesterday, however, I went to my story first, got caught up in it, and--by virtue of creating plot holes faster than I can fill them--just validated my novel at 49,021 words.

Giving thanks being more important than winning NaNoWriMo tonight, I finally took a break and came here. But I can't get into a listing mood. Every time I think about listing the things for which I owe gratitude to God and others, it really comes down to this: I am surrounded by love. So much so that here on my couch, coughing and feverish and alone for awhile on a holiday, I don't feel sorry for myself or even particularly alone.

I wish I could have helped my mom hack the turkey in half and cook it on the woodstove when their power went out this morning. I wish I could have talked with my dad and helped care for my grandma. I wish I could have sat at the table with Lou's parents, who have welcomed me as their own daughter. That I could have talked and laughed with our brothers and sisters and played with their children. That I could have made my pumpkin pie and the two green bean casseroles and been some use instead of burying myself under blankets while Lou made me hot tea.

It would have been fun, but I'm really just missing an event. Love itself has enclosed me behind and before, and laid its hand upon me.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may yours be as blessed as mine--only healthier!


Flu for the Win

For anyone powering into the last days of NaNoWriMo with the slightest fears of losing, I highly recommend the flu. Nothing will do more for your word count, even if sometimes you scrunch miserably down into the corner of the couch and type one-handed. Nine hours tête-à-tête with a laptop, despite fuzzy brain and one-handed typing, is opportunity itself. It might feel like cheating, but since it means running a fever and all sorts of nasty things like that, I figure it's fair. Of course, you could theoretically choose a more appropriate time to get sick than over the holidays, but oh well.

I got so caught up in story this evening that I almost forgot to blog. This is fun. Not being sick or missing Thanksgiving ... but driving myself to do something I love, even if the resulting product will need unbelievable amounts of overhaul in December.

If I miss you tomorrow: Happy Thanksgiving!


Bad Timing

I have the flu--with the works. Honestly, at this point I do not care whether it is swine flu or otherwise. I hear they are both bad.

Thanksgiving is looking a lot quieter than it did from the perspective of yesterday.

Even typing makes me feel lousy right now, but I will finish this novel. Or else.


Goals for the Week

Current NaNoWriMo goal: Get as far ahead as possible before Thanksgiving.

I also have a Silhouette article deadline for Thanksgiving day, which translates to Wednesday because with two families to visit (yes, that means two Thanksgiving dinners) there is not a chance I will be handling Silhouette anything on Thursday. The blog might be kind of thin for a few days. Never fear, however: I haven't finished posting about either Rome or NaNoWriMo yet.
If you need something to read, one of the NaNoWriMo forums is collecting math jokes. Apologies for the occasional crudeness therein, but I thought many of the offerings hilarious and might have added (heh) the joke about binary if kei8 hadn't beaten me to it.


NaNoWriMo Stream of Consciousness

"How many words have I got? Thirty thousand and some? How long have I been in the thirty thousands? Days? Weeks? Months? I've lost count ... Why does the count rise so slowly? This storyline has scope, dang it! Three primary characters and four worlds ... how can it seem like not enough to fill the word count? I have to get at least ten thousand words out of this world, and they simply cannot all be adjectives.... By the time I get done editing in December, will I have only half the words I do now? Ack! Kill that thought right now, or I will never finish.

"Here I am starting paragraphs that I can't see the end of ... I have no idea where this scene is going. Now when I get to that scene, I will have something to write about. Must get to that scene. Must ... get ... to ... that ... scene! I'll do like the Little Engine that Could. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. The Little Engine that Could always makes me think of the movie Major Payne. Distraction! Write, Jenna, write! I think I can. I think I can. I think I can...."


NaNoWriMo Song

My new form of procrastination: Listening to techno.

I love techno. It makes me throw-back-your-head-and-dance-in-the-summer-sunshine happy, which I needed today. I got in a virtual bar fight. I hate those.

The above song describes the NaNoWriMo experience quite well. Right now I'm in the "I need inspiration" phase. Ack.

Anyway, I liked the song so much I decided to check out some of Kristina Horner's other videos, and Mrs. Nerimon is especially fun. I'd be all right with losing a bet if it meant making a music video that likeable.

Right. I'm procrastinating. I need to go write a freaking book.


Something Old, Something New

Chesterton, if I remember correctly, referred to Rome as a "living city." It isn't just ancient ruins. But it has ancient ruins, and ancient things that are not so ruined, and the incongruity of the ancient things existing right up against the modern fascinated me throughout the trip.

Of course, the incongruities were not limited to Rome, nor to the juxtaposition of old and new. Everywhere I looked, I found something to boggle the brain.

Exempli gratia:

Cherub with the usual innocent baby face, clinging to the head of a gargoyle:

I have to admit that weirded me out a little.

In Siena, you could theoretically tie your horse at one of the iron rings in the walls and walk across the street to a svelte little boutique embedded in the old stone. You could buy your designer boots, while your horse dodged a lot of well-dressed Italians and the occasional Smart car.

A similarly interesting experience is standing next to the ancient Roman wall--right next to it, because the cars and buses go hurtling past about thirty inches from your nose. Lou and I didn't take any pictures of that. When you're afraid for your life, you're not necessarily thinking about pulling out your camera.

Slick colorful modern machines next to stones that have been in one heap for millenia are a natural progression of living in an ancient city. Less natural or comprehensible was the idea some overeducated artistic director had of placing hideous, formless white statuary amidst the ruins of the Roman Forum.

Very strange.

More positively, Rome contains another incongruity at its very heart; one repeated over and over, but never more obviously than in the great and glorious temple designed to reverence a carpenter in the name of a fisherman.


NaNoWriMo Day 17

I intended to write a real blog today. Unfortunately for my blog, I also wanted to get at least a day ahead on NaNoWriMo. And to get the laundry done.

I have succeeded at the latter two, thanks to a burst of inspiration and a (finally) working dryer. The former will have to wait. But I'll leave you for the night with my favorite pep talk so far, written by Maureen Johnson. It describes the life of a writer beautifully and precisely.


The NaNoWriMo Halfway Mark

At the end of yesterday, my novel contained just over 26,100 words. Yesterday being the 15th, and therefore exactly halfway through November, I felt very pleased with myself for being 1100 words ahead. (Today ... not so much.)

Lessons drawn from sixteen days' experience as a high-speed novelist:
  • Try, if at all possible, to save the creepy parts of your novel to be written in the daylight and with other people around.
  • Treats are a great motivator. One night at least, I have made my word count goal only by bribing myself with a bag of GORP with M&Ms.
  • Not sure which NaNo staffperson first said it, but they were right: It's very important to tell everyone you know that you're taking part in NaNoWriMo. Knowing that your entire acquaintance will hear about it if you succeed or fail is a powerful motivator.
  • Whenever possible, it helps to end a day's writing time in a place that makes going on sound fun.
  • Procrastination opportunities abound and must be battled with every available force. Most of the time.
  • Got a 12-hour plane ride? Use it. Who really wants to watch in-flight movies anyway?
  • Make yourself a banner or cover art, even if you don't share it on your profile. I made myself a banner using some stock photos I found online, and I look at it when I want a kick of motivation.
  • Stocking up on coffee is apparently traditional WriMo technique, but overdoing it is counterproductive: coffee jitters make typing and thinking unnecessarily difficult.
  • The forums are a lot of extremely distracting fun, when read wisely.


How to Cheat at NaNoWriMo

Lou and I spent some time looking through pictures of our Italy trip tonight. The pictures are still not on my computer. Maybe tomorrow ...

In the mean time, here's something to amuse you tonight (it amused me, anyway): Legitimate cheats for NaNoWriMo success. I don't know if those are officially endorsed by the program or not, but the rules are quite loose, so those "cheats" may well be legitimate, at least to a point.

While I haven't done a find and replace to change every instance of "it's" to "it is", I'll admit to thinking rather complacently of the boost in word count as my main character repeated her full name several times in a row some chapters back. But after all, she had just heard her name for the first time. Those are extenuating circumstances. :)


NaNoWriMo Daily Word Count Increments

Late night + up early + NaNoWriMo + writers' group + catch up on grocery shopping + reading for a friend on deadlines + make dinner + church = Jenna too tired for rational or even fanciful blogging.

Here, then, is a neat little helpful thing for NaNoWriMo. My husband made it for me. I presume that something very like it is available on the NaNoWriMo site, but old Jet Lag Brain here couldn't find it. I was worried about taking time out from my novel to use the Windows calculator and figure all this out, but my husband ... bless his computer-programming heart ... just said "Oh, it's only four or five lines of code" and had it to me in a very short time.

Today being November 11, I am just over my goal at 18,460 words as of this writing. Good thing I was nine hundred words ahead yesterday. I'm hoping to get a couple of days ahead, since Thanksgiving is coming up and even normal days tend toward unpredictability.

The NaNoWriMo Daily Word Count Increments (for pacing purposes only):

November 1: 1667
November 2: 3334
November 3: 5001
November 4: 6668
November 5: 8335
November 6: 10002
November 7: 11669
November 8: 13336
November 9: 15003
November 10: 16670
November 11: 18337
November 12: 20004
November 13: 21671
November 14: 23338
November 15: 25005
November 16: 26672
November 17: 28339
November 18: 30006
November 19: 31673
November 20: 33340
November 21: 35007
November 22: 36674
November 23: 38341
November 24: 40008
November 25: 41675
November 26: 43342
November 27: 45009
November 28: 46676
November 29: 48343
November 30: 50000


Wanted: Cappucino con zucchero

One of my favorite things about Italy: Cappucini. That's right. The plural of cappucino is not cappucinoes, or even cappucinos. (Surprised? I was, but I shouldn't have been. I still say it wrong sometimes.)

I tried to go cool and European and have cappucini only before lunch. By the end of the trip, though, my philosophy went something like "Oh well, I'm only in Europe for another couple of days. I'll probably never see most of these people again. Anyway, I am an American after all. Besides, it's healthier if I have a cappucino--I can drink straight espresso, but only if it's con zucchero, and it takes lots and lots of zucchero to make it drinkable. Milk is better for me than sugar." I believe I once had three in one day.

Yesterday was the first time in two weeks that I had no coffee. Hence, no blog-post. I had intended to write in the evening, but the only thing I remember after dinner and vespers is being so very tired and snuggling down in the couch. Lou woke me up at ten to go to bed, which I did, and I slept happily until just before six this morning.

No pictures yet--they're coming. I've been too lazy (if raking the yard and filling seven black garbage bags and a big composter with wet leaves can be considered lazy) to upload the pictures to my computer yet. It takes a long time when there are over five hundred of them.

NaNoWriMo word count (the widgets seem to be down at the moment, so the little one in my sidebar is just an x in a box): Currently just breaking the quota, which for Nov. 10 should be 16,670, but I hope to push that a little further tonight. I might need some coffee for that.

Writing in a hurry is getting harder. I'm having to make big decisions immediately after discovering they're needed, which is not something I like to do. It's good for me. :)


Home and Groggy


I am not feeling particularly coherent today. You wouldn't either if you woke up yesterday at 3 AM Central European Time (6 PM PST), spent 12 hours in airplanes and another three in cars, went to bed over 26 hours after rising, slept eight hours (till 5 AM PST) and spent most of the non-travel time in typing and doing laundry.

This is not one of my normal posting days and this post is therefore gratuitous, so maybe the need to be coherent is only moderate anyway.

Italy: Three cities, 26 churches, one school, several ruins, two gelaterias, about one pizzeria for every day of the tour, innumerable miles walked and two blisters to prove it, zero pickpocketing experiences, flabbergasting amounts of beauty and history, over five hundred photographs ... Reports coming. I journaled through the experience, even after starting NaNoWriMo (which made for a grueling combination).

NaNoWriMo: Began just after nine in the morning CET (12 AM PST) Sunday, November 1, at the front of St. Peter's. Amassed 32 pages in my little notebook over the next five days and wrote another 19 on the flight home. Typed it all up yesterday and this morning and discovered I'd written 10,386 words: 384 more than I'd needed to stay on pace.

I might be ahead on NaNo, but am rather behind on the Google Reader items and emails and catching up with people (and laundry and music practice and reading for book club and sleep). Do pardon me. I'll get there when I can.