NaNoWriMo 2015: the first two days

Oh god.

Oh hell.

What have I done?

Christ on a bicycle.

Using the third person has crippled me. I thought it would give me more freedom; getting out of just the one character’s head and into as many heads as I so desire.

Ha.

I’m barely in my own head. My characters can, frankly, whistle if they expect me to go exploring their craniums (crania?) right now.

Oh, I’m being too hard on myself. It’s not that bad, honestly. I’m getting to grips with the third person malarkey now; it’s finally starting to flow. Yesterday, November 1st, was frankly terrible. I had two main sessions of writing, one at midnight for a couple of hours, and one in the evening when I got home from a somewhat stressful shift at work.

It’s only been in the past couple of hours that I’ve really found any kind of rhythm, an actual voice for this third person narrator beyond “This happened then this so this but this blah blah blah”.

But the fact remains: it’s been two days and I’ve only written 6055 words.

6055.

My first day was 3760 words. That’s my worst first day of NaNoWriMo since I was at uni, and far more preoccupied with going out and getting plastered on Halloween than staying up for a midnight writing headstart.

Saying that, once again I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. My best November 1st ever was a heady 22,000 words, and let’s face it, I’d need a miracle to reach a number like that in one day again. Maybe later in the month when I’m not spending my days fannying about with packing for moving house, changing bills over to the new place, arranging for my beloved keyboard to go to a new home.

I should probably write this week off full stop.

No! That’s not the NaNoWriMo way. It’s not my NaNoWriMo way, anyway. If I write something every day, even just a little bit, then I’ll have succeeded.

And my first two days of NaNo haven’t been all doom and gloom and whining about third person. The procrastination has started already! And it’s fabulous.

I haven’t even written the book yet, and I have a perfect cover for The Hummingbird and the Timepiece.

Thanks to my lovely friend Tash for her photography/modelling/dressmaking skills (seriously, she made that outfit, how awesome?) I know what this book will look like if it ever sees the light of day.

If that’s not inspiration to carry on writing, I don’t know what is.

The Hummingbird and the Timepiece

The Hummingbird and the Timepiece

It’s just a matter of hours now until NaNoWriMo 2015, when writers everywhere will panic, procrastinate and caffeinate through November. And, hopefully, manage to write 50,000 words of whatever tickles their fancy. This is what tickles mine this year.

I should preface this by saying: I’ve never written anything like this before.

Shit’s getting deep, people.

The Hummingbird and the Timepiece is, above all, a story about obsession. It’s the story of what happens when one man tries to align both his passions, for a woman and for his self-appointed life’s mission, and how the two together destroy him.

Oh, and it’s also a story about time travel.

The idea for the story came to me while I was sitting in my usual writing haunt of the moment, Foundation Coffee House in the Northern Quarter of Manchester. I always sit in the window where the plug sockets are, and it’s a great opportunity to watch the never-ending parade of Northern Quarter hipsters strutting by. The hair, the fashion, the beards… it can be quite the show.

I started to imagine their stories, and being far too easily distracted (I was trying to finish another novel at the time) I started to throw some supernatural merriment into my imaginings. Then before I knew it, I was swaying along to Hole In My Soul by Apocalyptica, a plot almost entirely formed in my head.

Hummingbird Street is a practically an alleyway, too small for a car to pass through. But it’s just big enough for the dusty storefront of Hummingbird Watches, where the most hipster-esque of hipsters sits all day, tinkering with his watches and scowling at passers-by. His name is Lucian Ruby, and he doesn’t want to be friends. With anyone. He prowls into the Northern Quarter twice a day in search of caffeine, and that’s it.

Bethany Lovelace is a history student, bored with her life, working in a coffee shop and experimenting with Victorian cookery books in her spare time. She can’t stand most of her clientele – she’s not that keen on her housemates or her family either. When she meets Lucian Ruby, she’s certainly not keen on him.

Lucian Ruby, however, is captivated. This is the woman he’s been dreaming of for years – she must be the companion he’s been waiting for. An awkward family wedding throws the two of them together, and Lucian Ruby can finally reveal himself; not a hipster, but the genuine vintage article. Obviously, Bethany can’t help herself when Lucian Ruby’s handcrafted watches prove to be a lot more than simple timepieces – but is she really the companion he’s dreamed about for so long? And is he willing to give up the quest tearing a hole in his soul if it means he can keep travelling with Bethany Lovelace for just a little longer?

There’s my merry little blurb. I don’t think it gets across quite the hole I’m digging myself into this November – this is a monster of a novel. It involves travelling everywhere from Princess Diana’s funeral to the eerie asylums of Victorian Britain, from fifties greasers to the day before the Titanic sank. There might even be a brief foray into Civil War Atlanta, I’m still in two minds about that one.

This is going to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. Not just because of what I’m planning to do to my poor main characters – poor, poor Lucian Ruby, with whom I’m already a little bit in love – but because of the way I’m going to write this.

I’ve always been a first person kind of girl. I get into my characters’ heads and I stay there, speaking their words and rambling happily. This time, I need to get into multiple heads, look at things from multiple viewpoints. I need to keep secrets. I need big reveals.

I’m going third person.

As you can see from my clumsy blurb, it’s not my strong point. I haven’t written more than flash fiction in third person since I finished my first novel at sixteen, realising quickly that I worked a lot better when I could peep through a single character’s eyes and explore their world that way.

So long, comfort zone. Hello, omniscient narrator (who’s already getting on my nerves and I’ve still got nearly fourteen hours before we’re properly introduced).

Oh, and not to mention the built-in procrastination of the fact I’m moving house next week, and getting to 50,000 words will probably cease to be my priority, at least for a little while.

It’s definitely going to be an interesting November.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I hope you all just saw the title of this post and now you have that song stuck in your heads.

And I’m not even talking about Christmas!

There are now less than two weeks to go until National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, aka the one month of the year I can be relied upon to actually write rather than procrastinate about it. Yay!

I’ve blogged many, many times before about why I love NaNoWriMo – an online challenge to write 50,000 words throughout the month of November that has grown enormously over the years, from just a few people in the US to thousands of writers worldwide.

I’m not going to go into the numerous reasons why it’s fantastic, just go to the NaNoWriMo website yourself to have a look around and judge for yourself. Just hear this: I’ve participated in seven NaNoWriMos so far, and written 497,512 words during the challenge months alone. It’s all there under my NaNoWriMo profile, check it out if you don’t believe me.

The point is, there are two weeks to go. Am I ready? Am I buggery.

But the Folder of Doom says otherwise.

  20151017_162126

Isn’t it beautiful? It was actually a much smaller, purple plastic folder up until very recently, but the poor thing couldn’t cope with the sheer volume of paper it was expected to hold. There are reams of close-lined paper; actual dividers to keep it all in order. I know, this is most irregular for typically-disorganised me.

Usually I do all my novel-planning on the computer, either in endless Microsoft Word documents or on Evernote. It’s the one way I can keep everything coherent without losing everything in my somewhat messy house and even messier head. But this year I thought I’d be different; let’s face it, I thought I’d like a break from having to find plug sockets everywhere I wanted to sit down and ramble for a bit. My poor little netbook isn’t so hot on the battery front nowadays.

To my great surprise, this whole ‘writing by hand’ business kind of stuck. My novel this year is going to be very different from my usual efforts – third person instead of first person, far more of a literary drama than a chatty chick-lit or young adult sci-fi. Meticulously plotting everything by hand, no delete button or cut-and-paste in sight, has really helped me actually think about what I want to say this year.

I’m not going in all guns blazing, firmly in the head of my main character and ready to shout my mouth off in literary form. This time I’m being more tentative, more careful; I’m going to use my own voice to tell a story. It’s a story about fictional people, yes, people whose minds I’ll be dipping in and out of like a creator has every right to. But I’ll be the one telling their stories: they won’t be telling it themselves.

It’s hard to get that into words (which bodes well for the actual writing part of the month, I know). It’s a departure for me, and although I have my reams of notes, I’ve got a lot of trepidation whirring around. This will test me as an author, and I may yet get one week into November and decide I need to give up and finish off last year’s effort (which is still, of course, clamouring for attention).

I’m so excited for it anyway.

And what exactly am I writing? I’ll just leave you with a title. A working title of course, but a title nonetheless…

The Hummingbird and The Timepiece

(see, I can totally be enigmatic when I want to be)

NaNoWriMo 2014

Once again NaNoWriMo is over. November has been my favourite month of the year ever since I found out that National Novel Writing Month exists – 50,000 words (at least) of a new novel, being done in thirty days… 30 days hunched over my laptop, pounding out words while surrounded by buckets and buckets of coffee. Absolute bliss. No matter what else is going on in my life, I always, always make time for NaNoWriMo.

I was a little bit of a rebel this year. I’d already written 10,000 words of this year’s novel, my young adult epistolary story, Étouffé. I ended up reaching 94,581 words, not including those first 10,000 – I’m counting that as a success. Actually, it’s one of my best years ever.

The story is, of course, nowhere near finished. Halfway through at the very most.

The idea for Étouffé came to me years ago. Actually it was… oh, bloody hell, it was six years ago. Now that makes me feel elderly. I was working in France over the summer as an au pair for three tiny children whose parents ran a riding school. It was the furthest I’d ever been into the middle of nowhere, and I quickly came to realise quite how much I hated the countryside, I hated horses, I hated everything about the farming life. Everyone was so wholesome. To my not-quite-nineteen year old mind, it was horrifying.

What’s more, I had no laptop, no internet, and an ancient phone that could just about manage to text, but nothing more. I did think I’d come prepared for the summer, dragging an entire suitcase of books with me on the train through France, but it wasn’t enough.

I started to take out my frustrations in writing, creating a teenage character not unlike myself, thrust into country living. I decided it would be the other way round from me, though – a haughty Parisian beauty dragged to the English countryside to move in with her new step family.

That’s about as far as I got, though, in a bright green exercise book with squared paper, bought from the only supermarket I’d seen in about a fifty mile radius. I scribbled furiously while my charges were asleep, hiding in my bedroom from a giant, slobbery dog called Basil whose one mission in life seemed to be to lick me to death.

Of course, very little of that first few thousand words has survived. The main premise is still there, and the basis of the characters, and my narrator’s somewhat traumatic backstory (of which she is mostly unaware). But over the years I’ve come up with a decent plot and structure, and a cast of characters who have really come to life in my head.

I’ve got to say, this project has had the highest level of planning of anything I’ve ever written before. I had 20,000 words of plotting, characterisation, settings and timelines before I even started. I got so immersed in Tilly, my main character, that I even started to act like her. Not a good thing – she’s a selfish, self-centred bitch for at least a third of the novel. All this crazy planning meant that right from day 1 of NaNoWriMo, I was powering out of the gate; for the first time in years, my stats graph isn’t littered with big blocks of nothingness, followed by the occasional spurt. This time it was steady, but still leading to almost double the 50,000 word target. In fact, I think I would have got to well over 100,000 words if the last few days hadn’t fallen at the start of one of my most stressful weeks of work since I moved to Manchester.

I’m going to credit part of my success this November to having an actual physical writing buddy – my friend Sara happens to be in Manchester for uni for a few months, and we could actually have our own little write-ins in the best Costa in Manchester. It’s awesome to actually have company, to be able to bounce ideas off one another, to laugh about our occasionally dimwitted moments of sentence construction and plot idiocies. So thanks, Sara!

Now might be a good time to actually throw in the typical stats-graph picture…

NaNoWriMo 2014

Look! A steady incline! Makes a welcome change from years past…

So that’s my NaNoWriMo 2014 story… with so much going on in my life at the moment, I have no idea what my 2015 November will hold. I’ve put aside Étouffé for now, purely because I have other things that should be a priority, writing-wise. But it’s been a lot of fun writing this first half (or third, or whatever) of it, and I feel it’s going to be one of my most entertaining novels.

In case you haven’t heard my spiel yet, I’d recommend NaNoWriMo to anyone who thinks they might have a book in them. With the support from the forums and the healthy competition between friends, it’s the best way to churn out that first draft; maybe it won’t be perfect, but you’ll end the month with 50,000 more words than you started it. The other eleven months of the year can be for the whole perfection part: November is for your brain dump. If I can manage to sit down for an hour or so every day and churn out 3000 words at a time, then anyone with two fingers and a computer is more than capable.

Stasis

I just logged onto the laptop and it had thoughtfully saved the last tabs I had open – my Facebook and Instagram feeds, frozen sometime in June. Oops. Yes, when it comes to sitting down and writing, be it the ending of my never-ending novel, or blog posts, or even nice chatty Facebook messages, I’m afraid I’m out at the moment. My life has been taken over by a whirlwind of wedding plans, work, and washing. Hey, my cycle of busy has alliteration!

The key thing that’s been taking over my life in the past couple of weeks is that I’ve had a sudden mad desire lately to turn our little shack of a house into a decent home. This involved the soul-crushing realisation that I had to get rid of some of my old stuff.

When Kev and I moved in together, he brought a suitcase and a box. I believe that was it. I brought a full car-load of bags, suitcases, and boxes… and a decent-sized trailer attached to said car, full of even more bags, suitcases and boxes. I might have moved house approximately twelve times since 2007 (actually there’s nothing approximate about that) but I’ve not lost anything along the way. Indeed, the collection has just grown and grown. We’ve been in this house for two years now, and although we’re not going to stay here forever, we’re not going anywhere for a couple of years.

Therefore… we needed to address the issue of space and storage, especially if we plan on having a baby at any time in the near future. Our house isn’t the largest – just your standard two-bedroom Mancunian terrace – and it was just full to bursting with my rubbish. The spare room had a giant three-door wardrobe, rammed. Our bedroom had two single wardrobes that had been so overloaded they were literally falling to pieces, spilling clothes all over the floor like a messy second carpet. Plus there’s a small walk-in wardrobe, just big enough to hang a few things in. Of course, I’d hung a few things in it then stacked it up with as many pairs of shoes and handbags I could possibly squeeze in. It was my Narnia cupboard.

I just hate throwing things away. I always think – what if that comes back into fashion? Or, more to the point, what if I get a tapeworm or something and magically fit into it again? And those shoes have so many memories attached to them – so what if they’re caked in indelible French mud and have completely given way at the heel?

I had to be brutal. And this is the result.

Bin bags

That’s not even all of it, not by any means, That’s just the few bags destined for the charity shop. There happened to be a lot more bags than that, they just got binned. Plus, so did the two falling-apart wardrobes.

Our bedroom looks so much better now. We’ve moved the three-door wardrobe in there, to replace the two others, and with just that one stashed in the corner it looks so much brighter. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing of wardrobes, but we bought some new handles from IKEA and that helped, then I think I’m going to get some pretty postcards or something to stick on it, just to brighten it up. It means the carpet of clothes is now gone, and I’m going through the long process of washing and ironing them all – well, the ones that survived the purge, at least.

It does feel a lot better not to be burdened by years and years’ worth of old clothes and bits and pieces. Sad to see them go, but it felt like finally being an adult. I have to accept that even if I could fit into my size ten tops from second year of uni, I’d look laughable if I was to wear them out now. The word ‘mutton’ springs to mind…

Anyway, that’s all still ongoing. I also have what appears to be an ear infection, leaving me with waves of nausea and dizziness at really random, irritating times. So right now, with work and wedding thrown into the mix, blogging and writing aren’t really on my radar. Which makes me sad, because even this little ramble makes me realise how much I miss it. With only just over a month until the wedding, hopefully once it’s over I’ll have more time to sit down and write.

I will break out of this stasis eventually, I promise!