My NaNoWriMo Diary | Days 1-4

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for only slightly shorter. The aim of the game is to get down a legible 50,000 words, which means completing an average of 1,667 words per day for thirty days. I’ve failed (drastically) once before, but 50k would bring me past the finish line of the first draft of Novel No.2. Can it be done? I’m not sure, but I’m going to try…

Let’s do this thing.

Day 1 | Monday 1st November

My NaNoWriMo Bid 2010 gets off to a shaky start: I sleep in.

Last night I did the responsible thing and went to bed early. Alas, my head was full of sentences (and Christmas present ideas, and To Do lists) and I couldn’t sleep. After laying awake in the dark for an hour, I gave up and decided to read a couple of chapters of the next book on my towering pile, The Lost Girls. I finally got to sleep around two, but woke up about every half hour – it felt like – for the rest of the night. Officially the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had, and that includes my last night in Orlando in 2008 when between stumbling home after a drunken night out and heading for the airport to catch a flight to Guatemala, I enjoyed exactly 55 minutes sleep. But as I don’t have a job – amazingly, my parents refuse to consider Dreaming About Being a Published Novelist a full time gig – and have a clear schedule for the day, this is no excuse.

(Can you think of excuses for me? Answers on a postcard please.)

I wrote for about five hours (minus 45 minutes for lunch and every other minute of the rest for prolonged periods of staring out the window) and managed a slightly painful 1,758 words. I know I should be using this Start of NaNo Enthusiasm I’m supposed to have to bank extra words – before the “Why did I do this?!” ghoulish wails start in next week – but my brain just doesn’t want to do it. We’re on the minimum required, for now.

Day 2 | Tuesday 2nd November

Some people snort at NaNo in the same way readers of NME spit out “X-Factor”. “Novel writing takes years!” they protest. “It’s a craft. Encouraging people to write a novel in a month is distasteful at best and a mockery at worst!” But they’re completely missing the point (fun – have you heard of it?) and the benefits of taking part: a rock solid deadline you cannot waver from, and a gang of people – your NaNo writing buddies – who will dismember you slowly if you fail to pass the finish line.

(Or something less violent and grotesque. I’m asking mine to shout at me.)

Do I have a point? Not really. I was just telling you all that to distract you from the fact that today I was a naughty NaNo-er and wrote absolutely zilch. I was out all morning and by the time I sat down at my desk to crank out the 1,667 words required to keep me up to date, my eyelids felt like they’d tiny weights attached to them and my brain was devoid of thought. (Well, it did have one thought, and that thought was, Afternoon nap? Don’t mind if I do!)

I blame The Lost Girls for keeping me up past my NaNo bedtime for the second night in a row. How very dare they.

I’m testing a theory whereby writing abusive messages to myself on my word count tracker encourages me to write more words. You can also see where I wasted thirty minutes figuring out what days I was due to hit the milestones (10k, 20k, etc.) so I could color them in. Then I allowed myself a green box which symbolizes Lots of Editing Done, which means you only need to hate yourself half as much today for not making your word count.

Day 3 | Wednesday 3rd November

Not a good day. Despite having no interruptions other than those of my own creation, I only managed to squeak out 1,750 words even though with my current One Day Behind status, I should have done at least double that.

The problem is this no editing business. Writing without correcting myself just seeing where things will go is like walking across a woodworm-infested rope bridge hanging hundreds of feet above a pile of sharp rocks with your eyes closed – I don’t like it. And what’s the point of having 50,000 words if 49,871 of them are total rubbish?

So I’m revising my NaNo plans. Instead of trying to get down any 1667 words on any given day, I’m going to aim to get down any 1667 words before noon, and then spend the afternoon trying to turn them into something sensical. My novel’s plot is planned out already and I feel that’s the only way I could make my words stick to it. We’ll see how it goes. And how long it lasts.

I suspect until about 12.05 tomorrow.

Another thing that would be helpful: finishing that bloody Lost Girls book. It’s way too distracting.

Also distracting: finding out that if you’ve a Google account (like Gmail or Reader) you can set your own background image on Spent a good half hour trying different images out, even though I never visit the website but just type what I’m looking for in the handy Google search box of my Safari window. I settled on a picture of my favourite place, the town of Celebration, Florida, where I plan on moving to should I ever be lucky enough to make a living as a writer.

(The NaNo Overlords say: AS IF!)

Day 4 | Thursday 4th November

Today I gave myself a metaphorical slap across the face, grabbed myself by the shoulders and shouted, “Get a grip, woman!” I was stressing about the pressure of producing x number of words every day, and wondering if I really have enough time to not only write them, but make sure they’re not completely crap as well. Then I realized that I did, because I’ve done it before.

When I was writing Novel Number 1, I didn’t have a daily word quota. I only tried to get one chapter done per day, and these varied from 1,000 to 2,500 words. Starting the morning with a blank page, I’d write the a rough draft of the chapter very quickly – not so much writing the words as I wanted them, but sort of sketching the chapter’s layout – and then go back and rewrite until I was happy that although the prose might not yet be perfect, the story was going where it needed to go. I managed to do this without feeling like I had a panic attack coming on, which is how I’ve been feeling trying to get these NaNo words done. I need to start thinking more about what I’m doing – writing a book – and less about that awful number of 1,667. I want NaNo to help me write through the pressure of a deadline, but I could do without the shortness of breath.

Today’s distraction: these beautiful F. Scott Fitzgerald hardcovers by Penguin Classics the postman brought me. (There’s actually a set of six, I believe, but since I have no intention of ever reading them – just gazing at them – I figured five was enough. Maybe. We’ll see.) They are the equivalent of book cover porn for those of us who love our books as much as we love reading, and they’ll look great in my Fantasy Library of the Future, which will be in a light-filled, swanky apartment and stocked with white Billy bookcases.

P.S. This blog post is 1,265 words. So there.

Read all my NaNo posts.

12 thoughts on “My NaNoWriMo Diary | Days 1-4

  1. Rebecca Brown says:

    I am obviously inspired by you even more than I realised as that’s pretty much my NaNo so far. Even down to the 0 on Tuesday. Ah well.

    I like your chart. I may remorselessly copy that as well as your novel bible. You can pay me later (didja see what I did there? That was a topical joke, that was). Also, the Google thing? – well cool.

    Now, back to ‘writing’. Ahem.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      Wow – we really are NaNo buddies. I was sure everyone else would be cranking out at least 5k on Tuesday! Instead, I got distracted by shiny things.

      Feel free to use any crazed information you may find on my blog because, as we’ve all learned this week, the internet is copyright-free and public domain. (See what I did there? The topical jokes are flying here today!) I should say I’m not responsible for what happens though…

      I’ve actually been distracted today by this idea for plotting which – I don’t know if you’ve seen it – is AMAZING.

      All I can think about is buying loads of mini post-its. Might try it when first draft is done… if that ever happens!


  2. Emma Newman says:

    Oh my… those special hardcover editions are so thigh-rubbingly beautiful. Mmmmmm…

    Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, this bit struck a chord with me:
    ““It’s a craft. Encouraging people to write a novel in a month is distasteful at best and a mockery at worst!” ”

    That’s just snobbery imho. I agree with all of your reasons to do it, but I’d also like to add an observation of my own: Nano is actually a really good way of experiencing what it’s like to be a career novelist – i.e. someone who writes several novels and aims to be able to live off it (that’s our holy grail, right?) If you want that life, you have to write books – preferably more than one every ten years, and that requires dedication, prioritisation and the ability to write despite fear, the evil internal censor, a lack of mood and the house going to hell around you.

    So for me, Nano is actually something that encourages all of us to push our limits and taste what it’s like to be a real writer, rather than a dreamer. Does that make sense?

    Oh, and by the way, you are my hero. But enough of that. I am British after all, so that means I can’t lavish any more adoration upon you in the public arena with dissolving into a blushing, jibbering wreck. (clears throat)

    • Evelyn Walsh says:

      Hmm. NaNo is brill for sicking up a first draft and I do think you just have to go, go, go, go, go, forget plot etc and show your page your characters. December is for editing, and January right through to the next NaNo. Then send it off wait for 60 rejection letters, then someone asks to see it, off it goes, rejected. Again it is asked for about 9 months later they assign an editor – if- IF you will lengthen, shorten, change your title, your characters names and give the editor’s Aunty Marge a part in the film that you might one day make of your novel. From NaNoWriMo to publication is about 5 years, if you persevere. From little acorns mighty oaks etc, if you don’t plant the acorn the oak never grows. Oh I am So-o-o profound at this time on a Friday!

      • catherineryanhoward says:

        Wow. I’m not sure if that motivates me or frightens the s–t out of me! 😉

        I just can’t let myself wander in the wilderness, so to speak, and see where the path leads, because that’s not what I did before, and the one novel I finished (currently out on submission in the big, bad world) is the only guide I have to how I can possibly produce another one, and I did that – the first draft – in about 8 weeks. I kinda wish I’d taken a decade to it now – that kind of pressure would be far easier to handle! 🙂

      • Emma Newman says:

        We all approach Nano differently – I’m in fact a Nanorebel in that I’m using it to finish the last half of my third novel.

        The first is due to be published soon, and the difference between the first draft of that and what’s going to print is obviously vast, but the core of it remained in the finished novel.

        Funnily enough I wrote that first draft five years ago so you hit the nail on the head there! It’s had many revisions, so many that by the time it found its home the actual editor and the publisher made very few changes.

        The draft I’m writing as a nanorebel is the last half of a first draft of the last in the trilogy, but I don’t see it as sicking it up – rather just letting the story’s momentum carry itself onto the page without me and my crapness getting in the way. Yes, I agree about showing the page the characters – mine frequently rebel and I have to rework the outline accordingly – but I do think it’s possible to get a semi-decent draft down amongst the Nano madness.

        • Evelyn Walsh says:

          Ah well, November is the month of souls so y’should be scared!Everyone has their own way of writing and I just rattle it out, leave it for six months and then go back and see if there is anything worth salvaging in it. Sometimes a short story can be what’s left when you cut away the flab! Or sometimes you get a book out of a short story as in ‘Badlands’. Anyway according to the meejah and the government we’re all going to drown in this god-forsaken bog we call home this weekend. So survivors will be back to telling yarns about the fire and nobody in Ireland will be NaNoWrimoing.

        • Evelyn Walsh says:

          We’re all criss -crossing. What’s the blogging etiquette? Will we make one up? Sell it and make a fortune!!Sicking it up was a little flippant but I meander in my thoughts so tend to do the same when I write. The only published work (apart from a few stories) I have is His Name Is Rebecca’, I ghost wrote Rebecca De Havalland’s memoir for her. That was a totally different process but to be honest the plot of her life would never be believed if it was written a s a novel.She’s like Ireland’s Forrest Gump, many of Ireland’s turning points reflected in her life. Blogging off because I have to NaNoWriMo!

          • catherineryanhoward says:

            Well, the 6 news just informed me all the government can give the poor is cheese (literally), there’ll be an apocalyptic flood this weekend and a number of people equivalent to the population of Offaly will emmigrate next year – NaNoWriMo is all we have!


            P.S. Yes, let’s make it up as we go along. There are no rules here!

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      That’s actually an EXCELLENT point, Emma, and one I hadn’t thought of, and it makes perfect sense. I know that when I dream of being a professional writer, it seems to involve mostly lying on a beach in Florida, the occasional publicity appearance and meeting Aaron Eckhart at the Oscars (where, naturally, the screenplay of my book that I adapted for screen – despite a complete ineptitude for screenwriting – will be nominated. Or win. I’m not greedy.)

      We tend to forget that the professional writing life consists mainly of sitting in a room by yourself with your computer, struggling to stay off Twitter and eyeing the Outside World for means of escape. It involves deadlines, the regular production of thousands of coherent words and criticism that cuts to your very core (commonly called “the editorial process”). So NaNo is a taster – or a trial to separate the women from the girls. 😉

      Re: this hero business – sssh! Stop the likes. (But THANK YOU! x)

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