Bisous, Tilly

It’s that time of year again – Camp NaNoWriMo! I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo challenges in various forms for nearly ten years now (pause for a slight age-related scream of horror) and my last couple of efforts haven’t exactly gone to plan. My writing in general has hit a bit of a stall – I’m brimming with story ideas, but finding very little connection to the characters I’m coming up with, making writing from their points of view very difficult. So, for Camp NaNoWriMo this month, I’m not setting myself a strict wordcount challenge: instead I’m going back to a story I’ve been writing on and off for even longer than I’ve been attempting NaNoWriMo, and I’m pledging to get it finished once and for all. That novel has gone through several titles, but is currently known as… ‘Bisous, Tilly’.

I’ve been writing this novel for so long now, I know its main character, the eponymous Tilly, better than I know myself.

I know, I know, that sounds totally trite and cliché as all hell. But it’s true. I barely know which way is up in my own life at the moment, but Tilly? I know her inside and out, every inch.

You’ll have heard me talk about this book under its various titles throughout the years. It’s spent most of its time as ‘Etouffé’, but I thought ‘Bisous, Tilly’ might be a bit more appropriate. It’s the journal of a sixteen-year-old French girl as she’s uprooted from her cosmopolitan life in central Paris, and moved into her new stepmother’s house in the depths of the English countryside. Tilly has to deal with the major culture shock of suddenly being surrounded by horses, dogs, and wholesome blonde step-siblings, while navigating a posh new sixth form and the uncovering of some unpleasant family secrets.

I started writing in a fit of temper while I was an aupair in France – the house was attached to a riding school in the middle of the countryside, and the adorable blonde children I was supposed to be taking care of were tiny hellions, determined to get in the workshed and find a saw or a drill to play with. To a lazy teenager fresh off her first year of uni, aching for adventure, the idyllic countryside was a stifling trap that smelled like manure.

Over the years, the story evolved from just a direct self-insert rant, albeit one that had swapped countries and situations, into an actual plot. I kept thinking to myself, ‘what if?’. More and more situations kept being added onto Tilly’s life, and more and more characters. I did bits and pieces on and off, then did a radical rewrite for the 2014 Camp NaNoWriMo that got it to nearly 100,000 words.

Since then, I’ve been adding and adding to it, and now (after some brutal edits and a concerted effort alongside another unfinished novel for the November NaNoWriMo 2014) it’s hovering around the 150,000 word mark and I can finally see the end. My target for this Camp?

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NaNoWriMo 2015: the halfway point

…or, you know. Not quite.

My NaNoWriMo stats graphs are always a bit erratic – almost every year, I have a massive word-cushion-making couple of days right at the start, then do sod all for a few days before another giant jump upwards.

I mean, last year I practically embroidered my word-cushion, it was so substantial. The same thing the year before.

*blows loud raspberry at the word cushion*

For the first time since 2011, I am running behind with my NaNoWriMo.

Good lord, it's not been going well

Just look at that for a crock of shite!

Nah, honestly, it’s not that bad. I’m miles behind everyone else, but I just did 4000 words right off the bat in two hours before my shift today, so I’m not that crazily worried. I’ve got a day off tomorrow with nothing planned but writing and dyeing my hair, so I think I can catch up.

No; I know I can catch up.

I’ve not got any problems with the actual writing part any more, it’s just been finding the time to write, with all this house-moving and working business.

Yes, I’ve beaten this third person business down, now. I am on it with the third person. The third person is my bitch, etc etc etc.

And I don’t half love my characters.

I was worried at first that I was turning Lucian Ruby (my main dude) into a creepy creep rather than a charmingly naive anachronism. But he’s got there, he’s worked himself out (and I’ve worked him out) and I think I can now get his parts written without making him sound like he spends his spare time hiding in bushes with a pair of binoculars. He’s not going to kidnap anybody and keep them in his cellar.

Ooh, maybe I should give him a cellar. That would be useful for other plot points about his past, actually… *blog post vanishes so I can scribble maniacally in my big folder of notes*

Anyway. Yes, I’ve got over all my third person blocks now. I’m getting into my characters’ heads just as well as if I was writing in my usual first person format. Their thoughts are still getting across. And for the first time in a long time, it feels like I’m telling an actual structured story, rather than just haphazardly following a fictional someone around and letting them ramble about their eventful life.

I’m twenty thousand words in now, and time travel wise, my characters haven’t gone that far yet. One of them went back to a Merseyside suburb in 1999 to prove a point, and now the pair of them have just landed in Hyde Park on the morning of Princess Diana’s funeral. Not the most inspiring of times to visit so far, but they’re getting there. In the next couple of chapters, the real adventures are going to be starting.

Tomorrow is going to be a very fun day of writing for me, let’s just say that.