Saturday November 5th 2005, 2:05am:
Things that start in the middle of the week always confuse me. With November 1st falling on a Tuesday this year the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMO) started mid week, so even though we're really only four days in, it feels like the end of the first week. So I hope you don't mind me posting my first weekly update only four days in.
I have to say that I'm really nervous about saying anything about how it's going: I'm terrified that I'll jinx myself. Look at the word total; I'm doing better than 2,000 words a day, far outstripping the goal of 1,700 that would see me finish right on the dote of November 30th. If I'm able to maintain this pace I'll be done around the 24th or 25th of the month.
I've done absolutely no planning, I'm not working from any notes or outline, it just keeps falling off the top of my head each day. Even the characters just show up on the pages when I need them to appear. In an earlier entry I had talked about my pre-season training, where I had done some trial runs on opening pages; those were the closest things to an outline that I had to work from. Seeing as how I didn't keep any of them though, they weren�t much use except for helping me ordering thoughts.
I have to create little cheat sheets for myself as I go: character names and spelling have to be written down somewhere as each new one appears so I don't have to keep scrolling back through pages of text when I can't remember what I called them. The same goes for the names of races, places and anything else I've invented as I go along. I believe you should try and be consistent with things like that or the reader might get confused.
I've been trying to come up with a word to describe the style of writing that I seem to be doing; you know realism, naturalism, something along those lines. The best I can come up with is: atmospheric. Since I'm trying to recreate, sort of, an era, it seemed important to try and impart to the reader a sense of place, time and mood.
When the sirocco blew in the early spring it carried with it more than just the usual smells from across the water. Instead of the hint of sand, salt, and a trace of exotic spice that usually accompanied the swirling winds marking the end of winter rumours of unrest and disquiet were part of its baggage.
The air of unease had actually begun earlier, but with the rains and everyone hunkered down inside, or simply scuttling from home to place of business and back, there wasn't opportunity for it to settle. Perhaps in the back rooms of some of the wealthier merchants, around the fire over the spiced teas favoured by the Kafalah, or in the small tea rooms frequented by the wizened men past working age, some hint or taste of what the spring wind would bring had been heard. But for most of the populace little or nothing reached their ears. Richard Marcus (gypsyman) The Paths Life Takes 2005, p.1
I think you can see what I'm trying to do when you read the opening two paragraphs of the book. I've done that in each of the chapters so far and what I've found is that it makes it so much easier to do things with the characters. They have something to work with and play off besides each other. Of course it's also a great way of getting information out to the reader.
It's not a new idea or anything, but it�s a lot of fun to write. It's also the way I work. I have to be able to visualise what's happening, see my characters in their setting to be able to write about them. In an interview I did with him, the Indian author Ashok Banker likened his style of writing to reporting. Meaning that he places himself in the scene, and reports on what he sees, either through the eyes of a neutral observer, or the character that is involved at that moment.
I guess that is a fairly accurate way to describe what I'm doing as well. The thing is, it's not something I'm conscious of while I'm doing it. I don't sit down at my keyboard every morning and say to myself I'm going to go report on doings in the Kafahld Empire, it just happens.
Do you want to hear something a little weird, and it may even sound kind of trippy so you'll have to forgive me for that. But sometimes when I'm writing I don't feel like I'm directly involved. I feel like I'm merely along for the ride and some other force or person is in control. I feel sort of superfluous to the whole process, and the best thing I can do is just stand back and stay out of the way.
Maybe that's just because things have going well this week, and I've not run into any problems. Everybody seems to know what to do, and has their lives to live out, so I just let them get on with it. I'm sure the first time I run into writer's block that sensation will fly out the window.
Of course it doesn't hurt that I'm not fussing too much about editing. Aside from trying to keep spelling and grammar screw-ups to a minimum, I've relaxed my standards somewhat. If this ends up becoming something more serious than just a one off deal for the contest, than I'll obviously have to go through and tighten things up. I figure it's more important to let things just flow right now than get caught up in perfectionist details.
I've finally discovered the good thing about not being able to sleep for more than three to four hours at a shot. You have lots of time at your disposal. So I've set myself up a writing schedule that takes advantage of my sleep patterns. First thing I do in the morning when I get up is a post for Blogcritics. Depending on how things go with that, how I'm feeling, and what time it is when I'm done that, I'll either try to catch a nap, or do some stuff around the house and any errands that need running.
After that I'll do my first writing session on NaNoWriMo for the day. I'll usually unplug the laptop and hang out with my wife as she's starting her day at the desktop. So she'll drink her coffee, answer emails, and whatever and I'll plug away at the story. My goal with this slot is to try and get as close as possible to my minimum word count of 1,700. So far this has worked out great in that I've either only been a hundred or two words short, or I've gone over during this time.
That way the pressures off to produce anything and I can relax, have some lunch, and try to nap for an hour or so. (By this time if I didn't lie down earlier I've been up since 1 or 2 in the morning after going to bed between 8:30 and 9:00 the previous night) When I get up again in the afternoon I'll grab some coffee, check my email, and get back to writing again.
After four days I'm feeling pretty good about the process. I have no illusions that it will stay this easy; in fact, in a perverse sort of way I'll sort of be disappointed if it does. It would feel like I'm missing out on part of the experience if I don't have at least one day of panic because I come nowhere near making my word count.
Some of you have expressed interest in reading the story as it develops, and I would love it if people did. I had originally said that I would post its URL in this post, but I've started having second thoughts. Too many people have said things about theft and such that publicly displaying the address makes me nervous.
So here's the deal: I've got it up at an as private as possible blog site. If you want to read it just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a link as soon as possible. You may end up waiting a bit, but never more than a day; I check my email every morning when I wake up and usually every afternoon.
You'll be able to leave comments at the blog, and I'd like it if you did, but if you could do me a favour and tell what went into forming your opinion I'd appreciate it. One thing to keep in mind is that you are reading it before I am; I'm not planning on reading it until I've at least hit the 50,000 mark. I'm scared that if I do I'll start rewriting and editing instead of producing new pages, and that defeats the purpose. The grammar and spelling should be okay because I'm writing with Word's auto check on, so I'm correcting as I go, but that doesn't mean there won't be typos and I apologise for them in advance.
The link I'll be sending is to the first chapter, after you read that and if you decide you want to continue, just go over to the archives and you'll find anything else that's been published. I'll try and update it every time I finish a chapter, which might be on a daily basis, but don't count on it.
So far this has been a painless process for me, and I wake up every morning excited to be getting back to work on the project. I have to admit that after my opening day butterflies I've been having a hoot. I don't know what the next three weeks holds for me, but I'm hoping this first week was an indication of what's to come.
I'll see you next week with another report from the trenches. Nanu-nanu for now: back to NaNoWriMo for me. (I'm sorry is it just me, but doesn't the abbreviation remind you of Mork?)