Thursday, 29 November 2012

NaNoWriMo 2012: Celebrate or Sink without trace?

50,000 words is an awful lot of writing...but honestly, I knew that before I started.

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a challenge to write a novel in a month - or, more accurately, 50,000 words in November. I am not writing a novel but a memoir of my family's time living in Zambia. I have already completed writing the first book (In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree) but I'd always held plans for a trilogy, so I thought I would take this opportunity to work on Book 2.

Above all, what I wanted to do with the month was to reinstate writing into my life. To that end I had a private target of 30,000 words, or 1000 words a day on average. Achievable? Possibly. But I have learnt some lessons along the way.

Here is what I have discovered in the last month:

1  I love writing. When the subject matter flows it is the most enjoyable discipline.

2  It also appears I love editing, as all I am wanting to do now is go over all my writing and correct it!

3  I can maintain the discipline of writing 1,667 words a day for two weeks, then it rather goes to pot. I have excuses, with matters that have occurred within the family and other commitments that I have to fulfill, but after working at it very hard for two weeks my brain was a little frazzled and all I really wanted to do was to have a rest. So I did. (For about a week, which is too long!)

4  It is easy to get distracted, even by your own writing. I have spent a happy hour or two (ahem!) looking up information about railways in Zambia, maps of road journeys we took, and tried (unsuccessfully) to find the book I had about President Mobutu of Zaire/the Democratic Republic of Congo.

5  It turns out I can type drivel for hours, if necessary. If you have a word count to aim for then I recommend throwing in every adverb and adjective you can think of. The quality of writing falls, but you get nearer the goal! (Some sentences are really good - honest!).

6  I am itching to put together all the oddments of writing that I have done for this second book, to lay them in some sort of coherent order and try to develop a storyline that is enticing. At the moment I have a series of stories, each interesting in their own right but they don't drive the reading of the book. A lot of printing and cutting, copying & pasting are in order!

6  Above all, I'd like to get In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree published. One of the many NaNoWriMo distractions was to write the blurb for the back cover of the book, which I am so excited about. I need to double check my manuscript and tighten up on the layout. It is all so nearly, nearly there... but needs time devoted to it for its completion.

So, after 27 days of writing as if my life depended on it I have stopped.

Technically, I am a NaNoWriMo failure.

But I know I'm not a failure. Although I would have loved to reach their 50,000 word target I had set myself a lower target which I have achieved! When I put my pen down (figuratively: actually I walked away from the keyboard) on Tuesday evening I had completed 30,158 words - slightly above my private target of 30,000! I am absolutely delighted with this.

Furthermore, I know that if I combine that with the 23,000 words or so that I have already written I am well on the way to completing a book. Given the amount of editing I know needs to be done (referred to in point 5 above) I suspect that I am about on target. There are a few stories to flesh out, and a few to reposition. It is all very exciting!

And - as if all that is not enough - I am very excited about the prospect of giving my blog a makeover, since little has changed on it for a long time. Keep an eye out for it!

More news will follow about the publishing of my first book In the Shade of the Mulberry Tree in the new year. I'm not so impractical as to expect that I can organise that before Christmas as well as everything else. All I have to do is look forward to that long, relaxing holiday over the festive season when I have nothing to do but sort out such matters... ahem!

In the meantime I'm off to open up a bottle of something to celebrate my November achievement. So, put on your glad rags and pick up a glass -  I cordially invite you all to raise the roof with me at my NaNoWriMo Celebration Party!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Stopped mid-tracks!

It was a normal day, with my eleven-year-old son coming home from school just as I was finishing writing an email. He followed me up the stairs to go to his room to change, so I chatted as we walked.

"How was your day?"

"Oh, you know, fine," he replied. "Did some work, got a girlfriend..."

I spin round in astonishment.

"Gotcha!" he grins as he goes into his bedroom.

The swine!!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

My mother at 25

Actually, this is probably her at 22, just as she graduated, but it is the only adult photo I have of her from around that time.

Today is a sort of silver anniversary, 25 years since my mother died. When this photo was taken she had no idea that she was almost halfway through her life. She will have been full of hopes and expectations: career, husband, family. Twenty-five years ago my future felt less bright: everything thrown into confusion, as her cancer took over quite rapidly.

I remember so many details of that day: the early morning phone call, my father telling my sister and I, the very gloomy undertaker, going out to a play at school in the evening. I remember the visitors: my best friend's mum and her sister, my father's cousin and his wife, our minister from church. I remember it wasn't raining. I remember calling my godmother, and being allowed to sit on the table without being told off. I remember that my family watched 'Allo 'Allo, the episode with the joke about the candle with the handle. I remember that day better than I remember what happened yesterday.

It is a funny thing to think about, as no-one I am in daily contact with would have a clue about it; many wouldn't even dream that my mother would be dead at this age. Yet this evening I get a message from my best friend from school and I am reminded that my mother was not just important to me. My father, sister and I mark this date each in our own ways: this is mine. A brief recognition of a wonderful person whom I will always miss.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Dog days

Today our puppy (just turned 1) found a book at the bottom of the stairs and decided it was hers to chew and chomp.

That in itself is not uncommon for a dog her age. I remember that when I was 17 our puppy then chewed the bows off my lovely white shoes (honestly, they were fashionable at the time) I'd paid for them so it was a big issue!!

To date Poppy hasn't chewed much that we couldn't excuse. In fact, she'd only chewed one other book before.

So why is it the only books she chews are my bible study notes?!

Saturday, 10 November 2012


The other day I baked choc chip cookies - anything to take my mind off what I ought to be doing!

The recipe always makes a huge batch, depending slightly on how big I make them. Nevertheless, here are the cookies that went in the tin:

... and here are the cookies that I told my children we had:

Ah! The joys of being a parent!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Six days; 10,000 words

Writing Wednesday

I set myself the challenge and, after nearly a week, here I am in NaNoWriMo mode, typing away as often as I can to get the word count up. I must confess that the title reflects where I should be rather than where I am. For those who don't know, this is a writing challenge for the month of November, aiming to complete 50,000 words by the end of the month. The six days bit is right...

So what are the pros and cons (so far) of this adventure?

In its favour, it has certainly instilled a little writing discipline in my life. I sneak off to my desk whenever I can and I endeavour to write rather than watch something rubbish on television. (This is not strictly adhered to, as witnessed by my inertia when MasterChef was on last night.) The daily target - 1,667 words - is beneficial, as it can motivate me to keep going just a little longer. All too often I would have given up and had a cup of tea instead.

The writing itself is not of high quality and jumps about wildly from topic to topic. I've been a little stymied by needing to do some research about the places we visited in order to write. I wonder if writing a novel would be easier than a memoir in this regard: at least then you are making everything up in your head rather than searching for accuracy. Then again, even novels have to be placed accurately or they lose their resonance.

The downside is my fear that I ignore the children too much. That period after school when I should be encouraging them to do their homework or feeding them at least one of their 5-a-day is often squirrelled away by the computer instead. My husband gets an even worse deal: I just abandoned him to looking after them for hours at the weekend and he's lucky if his dinner is more than a sandwich!

From what I read Week 2 is the most difficult: it is the wall you have to go through. I anticipate loss of motivation and then despair and then giving up. But that is partly why I've set myself a lesser target than NaNoWriMo would like: to complete 1000 words per day.

And what have I achieved? As of last night, 9,439 words - about five hundred short of top target, but 50% more than my own. Perhaps it won't be so bad after all.

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