Five Things (13)

This is a different sort of five things … these five things are all about NaNoWriMo!


I don’t remember when I heard about NaNoWriMo, but according to my page I’ve been a member for about 5 years, so I imagine it was 5 NaNoWriMos ago.

Last year I decided that I was going to be a participant for the first time. I started off really well, my idea made me excited which was great, but then around day 13, with almost six thousand words written, I lost steam. This year, when I decided that I would do NaNoWriMo again I wanted to try to learn from my mistake from last time and do better. Now that I have completed my 50,000 words goal, I can say that I’ve learned a lot about what I thought my writing style was and what my style actually is, and I have to say that I’m a little surprised!

So, here are five things that I learnt while doing NaNoWriMo:

  1. I’m not a plotter. I have ideas, and most of them are half baked. I know how I want something to start, and I have a general idea about how I want something to end, but I don’t necessarily have a clue as to what happens in the middle of these things and I realized that it’s OK. Last year I tried to map the story out beforehand, this year I decided to write whatever came to mind and I found more inspiration when I allowed myself to have more freedom.
  2. Last year I tried to make my characters do what I wanted them to do and a lot of times that meant that I didn’t know what they wanted. I know it sounds strange, but this year I let them do whatever they wanted to do and sometimes they surprised me. Now before you check me into a mental institute, I think the idea here is the same as above, letting the story flow as opposed to controlling the story actually works better for me.
  3. The rule of absolutely NO editing was important in helping me move forward. There are people who can go back through their NaNoWriMo manuscript in November and move things around and add and remove things and still finish on time. I am not one of those people. When I do that the perfectionist in me takes over and I want to make the piece I’m editing perfect and that slows me down.
    There were times in this manuscript when I was cringing at my dialogue because I thought it was too cheesy or awkward and I had to stop myself from going back and re-writing large amounts of texts because, in the end, NaNoWriMo is about writing and meeting a goal, I would have 11 months to edit, to update dialogue and fix inconsistencies.
  4. I needed to talk to people about my story and what I’m doing. It was easy for me to keep last year’s project quiet. I don’t usually talk to people about my creative endeavors. I did tell a couple of writers what I was trying to do and they were encouraging but this year I went big. I told almost everyone I could whenever it came up in conversation. “So what have you been up to?” “Well, I’m attempting to write a novel in 30 days.” I found that this actually helped me. The more people I told the more real the task became until I knew that I would disappoint myself if I didn’t complete it.
  5. This year I wanted to finish it because I wanted to finish. I know that sounds strange but I’ve attempted to write down stories many times, but I never finished them. This year I decided that I wanted to finish something so that I can show myself that I can write a first draft – even if it never sees the light of day.

I think the most important thing I learnt throughout this exercise was that writing makes me happy. It was stressful, I spent a lot of time doing it but never once did I regret it, writing always brought me joy.  


And then I spilled the soup …

I stood there and watched as the bowl tumbled out of my hands, almost in slow motion. If I had a super power, stopping time would have been rather useful at that moment.

Total cooking time? Thirty minutes. This included five minutes of cutting carrots and opening a can or two. And twenty minutes of watching and stirring when necessary. Thirty minutes of work was lying on the floor before me, dripping down the sides of the fridge.

“Oh no.” The words escaped my lips unbidden. I stood for a second more, wondering what the appropriate reaction was for spilling one’s lunch all over one’s refrigerator and knowing that the someone who had to clean it up at 10pm was oneself.

One second more, perhaps if I close my eyes and open them again I would find that this was all an elaborate dream. Nope; still there. So I resigned myself to spending the next thirty minutes undoing what was unexpectedly done.

I studied the splatter pattern of barley soup dropped from a height of 4 feet to the ground and wondered what this taught me. Close the lid properly next time.

I became a contortionist as I tried to get under the trays*, I picked up grains of barley, carrots, corn, beans and peas. My tired mind brought me back a story from younger days of a spirit that would come into houses to suck the blood of babies**. The story goes that you could distract it by scattering rice in the house and you’d find it counting the rice in the morning, because it wouldn’t be able to hold it in its hand. Was the barley multiplying? Where was all this grain coming from? I’m pretty sure I only made enough for two days.

Then I wondered if the appropriate reaction was crying in frustration. But I reminded myself that crying over spilt soup never changed the state of the soup and kept on cleaning.

So there I was, at 10:20 wondering if I should blog about this experience. And here I am at 10:55  wondering if the words in this post can count towards my word count.

Don’t be surprised if my heroine spills her soup.

* Before you remind me that I could take the trays out, I should point out that the way the door opens stops the trays from pulling out the entire way.

** Not to be mistaken with Edward Cullen.


Other Random Things When I Should Be Writing

For the past month I’ve been in a strange mood. I have been feeling pensive. Perhaps it’s because winter has come and I’m missing the sun, perhaps it’s other things that I can’t quite articulate. Whatever it is it’s been taking me to the dark places. But darkness shows the stars* and stargazing is one of my favourite things.

Anyway, here is a poem to make you sad and a picture of trees to make you happy.


I am caged in by expectations,
Shackled by hopes and dreams.
My present and my future are planned;
My ending written.

I am artificial intelligence.
I speak the words encoded in my DNA.
I am the you you saw yourself to be –
A poor imitation of your aspirations.

We are entwined.
I am you.
I am nobody.


* The book For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund is a really great Persuasion (Jane Austen) retelling.


Random Things When I Should Be Writing

I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo, this is my second attempt. The first time I tried to do it was last year. I thought I had a pretty good idea, but I didn’t make it past 5,844 words and I stopped writing on day 13, mostly because I wasn’t motivated, nor did I have any sort of accountability.

This year I’ve told a lot of my friends what I’ve been doing – though I haven’t divulged the plot, just a basic overview – and I think that was pretty helpful motivation for me. I feel like someone might ask and I’d feel disappointed in myself if I can’t tell them that I tried my best. Right now I’m 10 days in and have written 13,635 words. I’m pretty proud of myself, and to be honest, if I quit right now I’ll still be proud of myself – but that’s not my goal, my goal is to write until I can’t anymore.


One thing that has been fun for me has been a daily Bitstrip that talks about my feelings towards my novel and shares my word count. I think Bitstrip is cool – wish they had more writerly strips, but I make do! Doing this daily helps me to be creative in a different way.

I find that taking my mind off novel writing and doing something fun and creative is helpful. I also find that I do my best bit of writing before bed and as soon as I wake up in the morning. Usually that’s all I need to bump up my word count for the day. Sometimes I do write on my commute, but mostly I play The Sims, where I make up a completely different story. (heh).

This weekend someone asked me about my progress and I was explaining how I’m a bit anxious with the way the story was going, but that writing it brings me a lot of joy, and I was surprised at how absolutely correct that phrase was. As soon as it came out of my mouth I realized that there was more truth in it than I originally meant. It’s not just NaNoWriMo that has brought me joy, but journaling and blogging as well. Writing things down, reading them, pondering them, I really love and enjoy it. This realization really energizes me and make me want to write more! Watch out November, I might just finish a novel before you end!