We need to talk about Nanowrimo

It’s only taken until the 3rd of November this year, but I’ve given up on Nanowrimo again (I think I lasted 8 days or so when I last tried it). Pumping out 50000 words in a month regardless of quality just doesn’t suit me, I struggled to just under the average required on Sunday, added a thousand or so more yesterday and today ran out of steam altogether.

It’s been useful in one respect, in that what I have done so far this month has suggested part of the plot, but the problem I had is that because I was just writing anything and knew that I’d come back and rewrite it, I had no urge to continue. I think what I need to do from now on is plan; write character studies, outline the plot so that I know what each chapter is about, then write a first draft that will be more or less the completed product, minus a tweak here and there.

I’m going to take a day or two out to think how to proceed, then carry on – I need to get into the habit of writing, which was one of the main reasons I jumped on the Nanowrimo bandwagon, but I can’t work to daily word counts. If it takes two months, three months or a year, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m happy with the finished product.

We need to talk about Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo 2015 Day 1

1630 words. A little disappointed it wasn’t more, I was hoping that writing without constant word counts would help me get away from worrying about the word count and ‘cut loose’ a little, however my first effort came in at just under 1000 and it took two further spells to bring it close to the necessary daily average count to bring in a 50000 word novel by the end of the month.

Obviously word count isn’t everything, but it will be helpful to give me something to build on once the first draft is complete. Part of the reason for doing this is to get away from the notion that the first draft has to be perfect or nearly so (which means some projects have been killed off before they’ve got off the ground) and that just writing for its own sake can bring its own rewards. Which it has – I haven’t plotted this one too much, just relying on the story to propel it forwards and did no character development, but some aspects of the characters are coming to the fore – and nods to the future storyline as well. Another interesting difference from previous attempts at novels is that there’s not a single word of dialogue. Whether there will be at all remains to be seen, but I’m seeing this exercise as a way to shape the outline and I’ll add dialogue in the second draft once I know how important particular passages are.

In short, I’m cautiously optimistic so far, (very) early days yet though. Watch this space.

Nanowrimo 2015 Day 1

Then there were two…

So, the Alphasmart 3000 arrived last Wednesday, then about an hour after it was delivered I got an alert from Ebay to say a Neo had been listed… I like the 3000 but find the keyboard a bit ‘sticky’ (to be fair, this had been pointed out in some of the reviews I’d read) so tonight I bid on, and won, the Neo. I’ll keep the 3000 as a backup, for just over a tenner why not?

Now all I need to do is use it to write something!

A few more links:
http://www.allisonmdickson.com/2010/02/alphasmart-neo-and-me-faq-review.html

http://jennifermack.net/2015/01/29/writing-with-the-alphasmart-neo2

https://munchkinwrangler.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/the-alphasmart-neo-a-long-term-review

Then there were two…

I’ve been to the year 3000…

…well, not quite but I’ve bought an Alphasmart 3000 on Ebay for the princely sum of £10.50! Apparently posted yesterday so should be with me any day now. I’ve been whiling away the time waiting for it by googling for links, so here are a few more:

http://kadavy.net/blog/posts/portable-word-processor/

http://www.upinthisbrainblog.com/p/all-things-alphasmart_25.html

http://apocryphile.org/jrm/articles/alphasmart.html

http://wikimotive.com/wikiblog/the-alphasmart-3000-hands-on-review/

I’ve also got an Ebay email alert set up so if a Neo comes up at a decent price I’ll upgrade. More on my new toy when it arrives.

I’ve been to the year 3000…

The machinery

One of the issues I’ve struggled with over the years is the physical process of writing. When I wrote UG and the first incarnation of TNK (see the introduction post) I did not have the distraction of always on internet. Much of UG was written at an admin job that gave me plenty of spare time to look busy at a computer, with no internet connection to the outside world (probably unthinkable these days). TNK #1 was written in the mornings before I went off to work (a different job by now) but before the days of widespread broadband, so the internet was still dial-up and therefore not so tempting.

Since then, whenever my thoughts have turned to writing I’ve looked for a machine that would just enable me to crank out raw text that can then be pasted into a word processor – no other distractions, no pinging emails or Facebook notifications. I bought crappy old laptops on Ebay, my main worry there being that if they suddenly died, so did my text. I found a word processor on Freecycle, I don’t mean a copy of MS Word or Libreoffice, but an actual physical word processor – an Olivetti PTP820 to be precise. I would link to an article but it’s so old all I can find are entries on sales sites! It ticks most of the boxes to be fair, all it does is produce text and if the power is turned off and back on you can pick up from where you left off, but it is big and cumbersome and even a simple action such as saving the text to floppy disk (yes!) requires a good deal of head-scratching and trying to remember which sequence of buttons to press. Plus the apostrophe is above one of the number keys and where that should be is a 7/8 character so I end up typing that instead. It7/8s very annoying.

While messing around online researching this morning, I found out about a company called Alphasmart. The machines they make seem absolutely ideal for my purposes and there are plenty of them on Ebay. I’m currently waiting to hear about a Best Offer I’ve put in for a 3000 (more on that here) but even if I don’t get it there’s another one finishing tomorrow afternoon and there are bound to be plenty more over the next week or two. It would be good to have one before the end of the month, but not the end of the world if I don’t get it.

I am aware that by concentrating on the tools of the trade rather than the trade itself I’m not far removed by someone who decides to take up golf, buys all the clubs etc, then plays one round and then leaves the clubs gathering dust in the garage. Time will tell!

The machinery

The unpublished novel

One of the stumbling blocks to my writing has been the notion that if your work doesn’t get published, it’s been a colossal waste of time, and I probably waste enough time as it is without wasting even more. Then I thought to myself, even if no-one reads even the draft, let alone a published book, do I still need to carry on jotting down ideas, working them through and (maybe one day) working them up into a full-blown manuscript? The answer was yes, I do, and this is what keeps me coming back to the idea.

I did a search online for information about unpublished novels; In praise of the unpublished drawer novel and On my unpublished novel are about individual authors’ experiences, and 12 unpublished novels we wish we could read looks at the unpublished works of various well-known authors.

In this age of the ebook and easy self-publishing it’s easier than ever before to get your work out there, whether it’s then read is another story, but the days of being at the whim of a publisher are numbered, if not over. I’d like to think that once I have a finished novel I’d be objective enough to not just put any old rubbish out, but my aim is certainly to be published, if only so I have something to point to, to prove I’m a writer.

The unpublished novel

Introduction

I want to start by explaining a little about who I am and what this site is for. I’m not going to say a great deal about myself at the moment – I’m aiming to stay semi-anonymous, or at least as anonymous as it’s possible to be online. This site (I’m not keen on the word ‘blog’ and will use it only as a last resort) was set up to track the progress of my writing “career”, which like many has stumbled and stuttered away for years – I didn’t want to make a big announcement that I’m writing a book then have it come to nothing. Again. I’ll also post links to articles on writing that take my fancy, more for my own benefit than anything else. My name is Jason, and my initials are (surprise, surprise) JW. I’m 46 and live in the UK. That’s all I’m saying about myself for now, but I might reveal more as time goes on.

I’ve harboured ideas about writing a book for about 25 years or so, for much of that time it’s always been one of those things I’ll do ‘when I get time’, but lately it’s been gnawing away at me more and more so it’s a case of making time rather than finding it. I’ve made several attempts – in 1997 or so (18 years ago!) I wrote something (I’ll call it ‘UG’) that looking back was a bunch of loosely connected characters in search of a plot, then about 5 or 6 years later wrote something a bit more cohesive but not very well planned, so I got to about 50000 words but ran out of steam (‘TNK’). It was a good idea, and I’m planning to have another go once I’ve worked on the plot a bit more. I still have UG and TNK, plus various other bits and pieces, lurking on my hard drive – reading them back I’m always surprised that they’re not completely terrible (although some passages make my toes curl), which gives me a bit of encouragement for my future endeavours.

However, in the mean time, I’ve decided to enter this year’s Nanowrimo. I’ve tried before, in 2005(!) but gave up about a week in. I’m determined not to do the same this year… or at least, if I do fail, I can just delete this and pretend it never happened! I’ve got a list of ideas; some are rubbish, some are just titles searching for an idea, but some do have potential so the next three weeks or so are all about deciding which to go for, thrashing out a plot and some characters, then on the 1st of November cracking on and doing it.

My aim is to have a completed novel on the 30th of November. It might not be particularly good, but at least I will have jumped the hurdle of getting a first novel completed and got (back) into the habit of writing regularly. It did cross my mind to use the time to write TNK, but I think that one deserves a bit more time and energy so I’m saving it for later.

I need to get out of the habit of overthinking things. This post, for instance, is currently just over 500 words and it’s taken me probably half an hour so far, with constant revisions and a few minutes here and there pondering the next….. word. With the Nanowrimo novel I want to sit down each day with an idea in mind and just write 2000 words (my target for each day, that way if I fall short I can make it up easily). When I was writing TNK the first time, I wrote it in MS Word, and would be constantly looking at the word count, adding in notes and footnotes… anything apart from actually getting the damn thing written! So next month’s exercise is just as much about changing my habits and mindset as anything else.

Introduction