Prior to the ‘off’, which for me is in just over six hours, and because I’m getting antsy – as I really have no idea what I’m going to write – I thought I’d post about the various things that help make the next month passably passable. I’m writing on a PC.
No matter how you’re going to novel (a terrific verb) – be in pen and paper, typewriter, computer, or dictating (for those with a copy typist) – you need a space to do it. The above is mine, which is a wide corridor on the top floor. Occasionally I get interrupted by holler from below, or a cat demanding stroking, or someone wanting a bath. But mostly I’m on my own, which is good for thought. However, there is a downside: it’s easy to fritter. By that I mean the lure of the internet, or catching a quick snooze which ends up being anything but quick. Still, It’s better than retiring to the car – which I’ve done in past years – and certainly better than trying to write in a recording studio.
The next problem is software. There’s a lot of it out there, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles. What you really want during NaNo is wordage, and that’s most easily achieved with a simple word processor. You don’t need a gazzillion fonts, or a corkboard, or a complicated file structure. You need to write. However, once NaNo is over and you come to re-write and edit, then it is good to have a corkboard you can re-arrange scenes on, and a file structure that’s easily tweaked without a major kerfuffle. Scrivener offers all this. It’s not expensive, and, if you get to 50,000 words and ‘win’, you get 50% off.
The wizards at Literature and Latte (the makers of Scrivener) have recently come up with another tool so useful I’m surprised it hasn’t caused a revolution. Scapple is … Oh, I’ll let them tell you:
Scapple is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does.
At $14.99 Scapple is ridiculously cheap and I’d use it NaNo or not.
If you fancy a more traditional mind-mapping program the open-source Freeplane is very good.
And then there is timeline. Every tale has a timeline and story arcs. Aeon Timeline lets you create a complete timeline (BC-AD or fantasy) for your story including multiple arcs, multiple characters, multiple locations, etc. It then allows you to zoom in and see what’s happening at every moment during your story. It sounds complicated and, to be honest, I haven’t entirely got my head around it. However, I think that once I have grasped it fully it will be invaluable … probably. It’s $40, and there’s 40% off if you’re a NaNo winner.
YWriter 5 was created by novelist Simon Haynes to help him write. Besides being a published author – the Hal Spacejock series – Simon is a a programmer. YWriter is a very good solution to a lot of the problems you come across writing a novel. But, as with Scrivener, there is a learning curve. It’s entirely free.
Page Four. I’ve been using it for ages. It’s like a paired down scrivener though it’s as expensive.
Writer’s Cafe is a suite of programs designed to help you write. I’m not entirely convinced. $40
Liquid Story Binder is another product that some love. I’ve never got on with it. During NaNo it’s 50% off and costs $22.98.
Q10 is a beautifully simple word processor that is both forever free and perfect for NaNo. It’s small, fast and makes concentrating on writing a breeze. You can also run it from a USB stick, so it’s perfectly portable.
Personally, I’m going to use Scrivener (without its bells and whistles), and Scapple (utterly brilliant). I’m also going to carry a copy of my novel along with Q10 on a USB stick as a ‘just in case.’
All of the paid software has a demo version available that lasts past the end of November and into December. What you use is obviously a personal choice, but take it from one who knows. Write during November; put the result away for at least a few weeks without reading it and then examine, tweak and organise, re-write and edit it later.
All the very best to those of you embarking on the NaNoWriMo express. Have a great time and enjoy it!
I shan’t batter myself, stand in the corner, sit on the naughty step, or curse my ineptitude and bone idleness. I shall just sniff and say “Meh. Next year, then.” After all, it’s not as if I haven’t ‘made it’ before. I have: several times. I’ve been taking part since 2006 when half of you weren’t even born … so there! 😉
In other news … I joined a writer’s site called Scribophile.com which, though seemingly useful in that it offers peer critique, has a very odd – and expensive – paid version that doesn’t really offer enough to warrant the $9 a month cost. That’s my view, though maybe I’m missing something.
Duotrope.com are going to start charging for their service (for writers searching for publishers) as of the 1st January 2013. I’m miffed, because I’ve only just started using it. However, if it’s as good as I think it is then $5 a month is well worth paying.
There is so much available for free on-line that it is a shock when you have to pay for something – especially when you’re brassic. I gave a little to Wikipedia last week and felt really good about it. That fact that I use the Wikipedia site everyday, and that it is my favoured go-to for info site on the net, didn’t cross my mind. Google is the same: I uses their services shamelessly, yet they’re still ‘apparently’ free. Lucky old us!
Percy, our wonderful black cat, isn’t very well. He seems to have lost his sight and is drinking a lot of water. So it’s off to the Vet tomorrow morning which won’t make him happy – poor chap. It’s odd when you consider how much we love him, and yet in some parts of the world they’d happily have him for dinner. Humans are peculiar creatures.
Where was I? Oh yes, heat and water. Writing the great novel was slid onto a back burner while there was suffering. Suffering, I tell you!
Sunday came and went with those visiting going home to their nice warm gaffs and their turn the tap hot water whilst we … well, I’ve mentioned suffering, haven’t I. To add salt and irony to the wounds of pong and shivers on Sunday night there was an advert on TV – the first time I’d ever seen it – for Worcester Boilers. An advert that … oh, watch it yourselves, do 🙂
Thank Worcester for that? I pondered the question, weeping into my soup, and decided to hold off on the cheery affirmation and thank you presents.
And then (yes, I know I shouldn’t start a sentence – and especially a paragraph – with ‘and’) came Monday morning. The same repair chap arrived along with the head honcho. There was a lot of muttering and finally the big dude called the manufacturers. More muttering and reading of serial numbers, then a request for my phone number. Odd, I thought.
“Why do you want my phone number?”
“So the repair man can call before he arrives tomorrow,” Head Honcho said, his expression indicating I must be daft.
“Umm, not today? You said it was only a fan.”
“It is, but they don’t have them in stock and they won’t arrive until tomorrow anyway. Besides, it’s under warranty.”
“Ah,” I said, “so when will he arrive?”
“Sometime between eight and five.”
“What great service!” I said. He smiled.
Today The Worcester Man arrived! A pleasantly pleasant chap who was genuinely amazed the fan had broken. So all’s well that ends well, as William S once said. I’m clean, washing up is a pleasure (that maybe a little fib), and all is roses in the hot water and radiator department. I pray it won’t ever, EVER, break down again.
I’m back writing, too! It’s so much easier when you don’t have to keep blowing on your fingers to keep them warm.
The caveat, that crept up on me during this debacle, is that I feel a tad guilty. Guilty that with the number of people on the planet who don’t have clean water to drink I have the temerity to complain about mine being cold. Guilty that I have a warm house to live in when there are people freezing on the streets. Guilt isn’t a good emotion, but pragmatically what can I do? Giving to charity assuages the guilt to a certain extent, but … but? Maybe the subject is best dealt with post NaNoWriMo and once I’ve finished my fantasy novel.
Sincere thanks to all those who have ‘liked’ my posts. I’ve visited some of your sites, but I’ll be dropping in on all of you, sooner or later. 🙂
Onwards and upwards! NaNo day 13 is far from over (almost four hours left), so I must buckle down and catch up.
Yesterday, the 9th, we had a brand new boiler fitted. It was truly wonderful to be warm and wallow in a hot bath!
Today, the 10th, the boiler broke down: it’s blue and steady ‘hi, I’m ready to keep you warm and clean, you wonderful, deserving human, you‘ light started flashing in panic and … nothing. I read the manual whose suggestion – after pages of intimate boiler speak and complex flow charts – was ‘call repair man soonest.’ Remarkably, seeing as it was Saturday, the repair man came. Overjoyed? I’ll say I was!
I moved the microwave and all the other bits from the counter top so he could remove the boiler’s cover.
Ten minutes, and lots of prodding with his multimeter, later:
“The fan’s broken,” he said.
“But it’s brand new!”
The repair man shrugged.
“I assume you don’t have a fan on your van?” I said.
“No. Monday’s the soonest,” he said, as he packed up and quietly left, leaving me sobbing in the kitchen.
As to NaNo: it progresses as I slowly get older … and now, inevitably, smellier. If I had a old tin bathtub I could put it in the kitchen and fill it from a kettle on the range. I could scrub my back with Lye soap, drink moonshine, dry myself in front of the fire and … nope. I’m too soft. Besides, there isn’t a range or a fireplace, and I’d end up in A&E.
Roll on day 12, a new fan and a working boiler, and breaking the 20,000 words barrier. 🙂
Welcome to day eight of the most fabulous show on earth. Erm, yes. I’ll split this into three sections, which, seeing as it’s gone 7pm isn’t good – you’ll see why later.
The boiler blew up last week and we’ve had scant hot water. Consequently, I’m beginning to look like a bit player in a Dickens adaptation, and certainly feel like one.
Went to bed late so got up late. Getting up late isn’t good and it’s lucky I’m self-employed. Not so lucky that the work I was expecting hasn’t arrived yet. Yea! thought I. I can write.
Haven’t written a jot … yet.
It’s a pity I can’t find a niche market for frittering as I seem to excel at it, and I’m also rather good at net research. The proof of the pudding being finding out that my Great-Grandfather would have been 157 this year! It’s a bit of a story so I’ll keep it short:
I accessed an email account I’d almost forgotten about and found a link to a website called Genes Reunited which I’d joined a few years back to try and discover my family tree. It offered me free access to the 1911 census. Now free is good, because census access can be expensive. I clicked the link (first checking it was legitimate and not spam for a ‘ penis enlargement’ scam) and arrived at the logon page. Luckily, I use a password program – otherwise that’s where this tale would have ended – and it logged me in. Colour me embarrassed but there was an email from a chap I’d last corresponded with four years ago. To cut a long thing short: the 1911 census gave me all the information I hadn’t been able to find out before. Seeing where my long dead relatives used to live and who lived with them in the house in 1911 was amazing! And, I remembered my Great-Grandfather was an author of children’s books!
I trundled over to Google, typed in his name and arrived at Project Gutenburg where to my amazement I found they had transcribed one of his books into .mobi and .epub: The Hero of Garside School. It was quite an emotional moment. 😉 Maybe I write because it’s somewhere in my DNA? My Grandmother was a journalist, too.
After lunch – because a sensible fritterer always has cheese on toast – I tried loglines again (see yesterday’s post). As a pantser – one who writes on the fly rather than having a plot to follow – I don’t think they’re going to be that useful for me. When I finish the first draft I’ll try loglining again. At that point I think they’ll help me to refine the story.
NaNo day 8
As it’s now nearly 8pm I’ve got to get my skates on and start writing. No point in spanking myself (a la John Cleese in Fawlty Towers) and no point in wailing as I rip out my hair. No, I’ll just toodle off and write.
Addiction is a terrible thing, especially when it keeps you away from writing. I’m not talking about drugs – though maybe I am as all addiction has to do with Brain chemistry – I’m talking about frittering away time on-line.
Luckily, today’s frittering fix found gold (argh, gold I tell ‘ee) in the form of ‘loglines’. If you’re a writer loglines are a very useful tool for clarifying your story.
A logline is a short, pithy, outline of your novel (or screenplay). It is short, as in twenty seven words (that’s 27 words for those who have fallen off their chairs in shock). Yes, I too thought it was a ludicrous idea until I tried it. Even if you’re not convinced do have a go, because then you’ll be able to say ‘Na, tried loglines and they did nothing for me, mate.’
This NaNo I’m writing the back half of a novel I started in NaNo 2008. I was having trouble with various elements of the plot until I stumbled upon the logline concept. It took me a while, but I managed to refine the basic premise to 27 words. Now, I’m flying! Okay, so not flying exactly, but my logline has helped.
A day before NaNo I joined a site called Scibophile (fun, free to join, and no, I don’t work for them). It’s a critique site where you crit, get points and spend them getting a crit for your own work. It’s a good concept, but I digress. One of the forums I discovered today was called ‘Loglines’. Here and here is more information.
Here is my 24 word logline – I have three words in reserve: Unknowingly chased by Nasties across the multiverse Davy has no idea of the trouble he’s in, or the trouble he’s causing his parents’ kindnappers.
Now, I simply must carry on writing … or … maybe I’ll spend another ten minutes frittering. 😉
Writing fiction is a strange and rather magical pastime. There are two types of writer: the pantser – who literally writes by the seat of their pants (or trousers if you come from the U.K., like I do), and the plotter – who outlines and plots meticulously before they begin. I’m a pantser. I begin with just the very vaguest idea and the story either quickly dies, or, it seems to write itself: characters arrive and are either minor bit players, who soon disappear, or major characters I get to know well. I can take those characters anywhere and they’ll bear it without too much complaint.
It is a bit like buying a magical ticket for a holiday without any idea of where you’re going or who you’re going to meet en-route. It’s big fun, but you still have to bear in mind that there will be drama and tears, love, and fantasy and death.
Today, on day six of this years NaNo, my story clicked and I became involved. Some characters are now more than acquaintances; they’re friends. Some characters I’m beginning to loath, and at least one (wipes a tear away) is going to die.
I’m a bit behind as far as word count goes, but I don’t think that’s going to last long. I’m invested in the story and I really want to find out how it’s going to end. 🙂
I’ve been plagued all day by thoughts of word count, why I’m slipping, and do I really care?
I write: ergo I’m a writer. I may not make a living at it: I may not get up at five in the morning and, bleary eyed, write beautiful stellar prose because that’s when the squirrels are cutely cavorting and it is just the way it’s got to be, darling. I may not even write a lot when I write … but I do write. So do I need the artificial kick in the arse that is NaNo? Yesterday I said:
NaNoWriMo is all about the 50,000 words. Write, write and write! Do not carefully construct each and every sentence while writing…
But that’s just not me. I’m not good at churning out pages and pages and then going back to edit. I prefer to try and get it right the first time. Besides, I write short stories, not novels as they seem to be an easier form for me.
The question I should probably ask myself is ‘why haven’t you finished one of your NaNo novels, then? Hmm?’ Honestly, I don’t know. It’s not that they’re bad, they’re just unfinished. Also, it’s more fun writing something new.
I’m beginning to think NaNo is a bit like Birthdays, Christmas, and Guy Fawkes: the anticipation is much sweeter than the reality.
I’ve ‘done’ NaNo every year since 2006–back in the days when participation hadn’t got near a hundred thousand people and the servers were so slow it was a miracle if you could update your word count. Then, it was an utter blast, and huge fun! But then I knew a lot of people taking part. Now, it seems, no one I know can be bothered. Maybe the global economy is partially to blame, yet year on year the number of people hammering away on their keyboards grows, and the whole shebang has becomes slicker and slicker and better orchestrated … which is not a bad thing at all, it’s just….
I don’t know what I’m trying to say, here. I’ll stop blathering. 😉
Oh, and yes, I do care my word count is slipping. It’s a cracking story and as I want to finish it I’ll do better. Honest, guv.