Tag Archives: Nanowrimo

NaNoWriMo: Winning and Losing Some

Well, it’s November 27. There are three and a half days left in November, and I’ve written about 36,000 words since the beginning of the month. (Not counting blog posts.)

NaNoWriMo, of course, is an orgy of typing with the goal of writing 50,000 words of new fiction during the thirty days that November hath. At this point, I’ll be doing very well to produce 43,000 words by midnight on the thirtieth. So, I guess I’m going to lose.


I actually like the way the story is going. The characters are branching out and showing me new facets of their personalities that tend to get them into (and out of) more complicated problems.* The plot is barreling along toward the end point I want it to reach. The setting grows more detailed the more I describe it. I like it.

And beyond that, I’ve learned a few helpful things about my own writing habits. Iff (that’s not a misspelling; it stands for ‘if-and-only-if’) I write for several hours every single day, I can expect to produce between one and two thousand words of pretty good prose most of the time.

Yay! Whoopee! Happy dance! Pause while I turn a dozen or so cartwheels!

Okay, I’m back. So, all I have to do is continue pounding away for two to four hours a day, and there’s a good chance I’ll have this story finished – not merely up to a word count of fifty thousand, but finished – by Christmas. And at that point, with perhaps a twelve-day pause, I can plunge into the revisions that it will definitely need; but the basic initial cliff will have been climbed, and I can stand on top of it looking over the landscape of my very own creation.

Well. Enough bragging. But I am very very pleased right at the moment.

* And a note on the great NaNo debate between “plotters” and “pantsers”. Some people – the plotters – like to work out all the details of their story ahead of time. Others – the pantsers – prefer to let things develop organically while they write by the seat of their pants. (I’m a pantser by instinct, though I’ve come to realize that it helps to start with an overall structure in mind.) We pantsers tend to suspect that too much advance planning results in a dull slog of uninspired typing and a lifeless final result. The plotters, on the other hand, tend to accuse us of being delusional and thinking that our made-up characters and places and situations have some sort of real, independent existence outside our own heads.

And we do often talk that way. I’d say that what we really mean – at least, it’s what I mean when I talk about my characters “deciding” to do something unexpected – is that the problem-solving part of my mind has gone off incommunicado for a while and returned with a way of continuing the story which takes the more accessible part by surprise.

But it’s a lot more economical to just say that my guy Wilm is running into some unexpected problems because he can’t keep his nose out of other people’s secrets and has found out things he wasn’t supposed to.

NaNo excerpt – Making plans

While I mull over what to write for Friday Fictioneers or Julia’s 100 word challenge, I’m going to fill in today with 300-odd words out of my NaNoWriMo story.

This is a fantasy set in a world where there are several species (or maybe subspecies) of humans, including  an overmuscled and reckless bunch who specialize in escorting travelers through dangerous territory. In another context, you might call them ogres, though that doesn’t quite fit these folks.

My main character and narrator is what we might call an “earth-standard” guy. At this point in the novel, he’s been saddled with the job of escorting several other people through a dangerous piece of wilderness to get them back to their home town. He’s spent time in the wilderness himself – that’s why he was given this responsibility – but he doesn’t know much about organizing things so an inexperienced group will come through safely. He consults with some of the ogres, since he needs advice while he’s –

Making Plans

The guards didn’t believe in looking ahead more than a handful of days, or holding grudges overnight. And they organized the caravans, not the merchants. Once you adjusted to their view of the world, they were fun to spend an evening with, too – sometimes out of control and frightening, but a huge relief from being always on duty.

“But look, Vundesner,” I said to the biggest and friendliest guard one afternoon, “what I don’t see is how you can take charge of getting a whole caravan from here to there through the woods without ever planning anything.”

Vundesner gave me a sideways grin and scooped a handful of walnuts into his mouth. His huge teeth crunched loudly through the shells. After grinding away at them for a bit, he washed the nuts down with a swig of the herb tea he liked. “What we don’t plan,” he said. I thought, maybe, he meant something like “what do you mean saying we don’t plan?”. The guards have their own language, and once in a while what they say in our language can be confusing.

“You don’t look like you’re making plans.”

“Town is different. Other people worry about town. Not my problem.”

I thought that over. Rushing conversations with the guard people never turned out well. It annoyed them, and they considered it rude. Besides, I usually needed to puzzle over what they said for a while before I saw the real point.

“Away from town,” I said, “it’s quiet. Sometimes it’s lonely.” What I meant was, there aren’t other people to take care of the problems.

Vundesner ate another handful of unshelled walnuts. I waited. Grinning so that his fangs showed, he scooped up a few more nuts and sat there tossing them up and catching them. I waited. “Away from town,” he said at last, “a smart man knows nobody worries. So he worries before he leaves town. You’ll leave town soon.”

“I’d like to be smart.”


* * *

After which Vundesmer settles down to explaining how to organize everything ahead of time so you don’t need to make plans in the middle of a crisis. Not that this helps much when they’re hustled into leaving too early, and when an earthquake almost drops them into the ocean, and when…

What do you think of this snippet out of the middle of a much longer tale? Comments are very welcome.

NaNoWriMo, a third of the way through (more or less)

And once again, I’m participating in the collective madness called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, which has long since become international). The basic idea is to churn out fifty thousand new words of fiction during the month of November; not quite 1700 words a day.

How am I doing? In one word, fair. The actual writing is going very well. I’ve never in my life turned out two thousand words a day before; this month, I’ve hit and passed that mark over and over. And I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve written. The characters are taking shape nicely and what happens in the story feels like the kind of things these people would do, faced with those problems. Sounds like it’s going great, doesn’t it? But I ought to have produced a little over twenty thousand words by now, and I’m three thousand short.

Why? I lost several days last week – we had to visit my mother and deal with her bills and pills and grocery shopping, and most of Saturday was taken up by a friend’s wedding. Better yet, I have to expect that I’ll write little or nothing on the 22nd and 24th – I’ll spend those days cooking two different Thanksgiving dinners. (For those of you outside the U.S., the fourth Thursday in November here is always Thanksgiving Day – in principle a day to be grateful for our blessings, and in practice a day when families gather to feast on roast turkey and sweet potatoes and cranberries and various other odds and ends.) I’ll spend Thanksgiving itself in Pennsylvania making dinner for my mother (and husband and son and self), and then on Saturday do it all over again in New Jersey for the benefit of my father in law. Gotta be done – there’s nobody else within a thousand miles to make it happen.

So I’ve got a bunch of external roadblocks to deal with. Will I make the November 30th fifty thousand word goal? It all depends on whether or not I can write 2000 – 3000 words on all the available days left in the month. I’m not especially worried about it; now that I know two thousand words a day is possible, I should certainly finish this one by the end of the year.

What an amazing thought.

100 Nano Words

(I’m written out. I have no idea what to say in a post. So I’m going to inflict 100 words, more or less, from my Camp Nanowrimo effort on you, ready or not.

Situation: My main character Wilm and his lifelong friend have just made it back to their home town after being shipwrecked and spending weeks in the wilds. Wilm is tired, hungry, and filthy as he trudges into his family home and finds his grandmother playing with magic, as she likes to do.)


A green bat with blue wings fluttered out of the smoke and hovered in front of my face. It was one of Grandmother’s better color combinations. “Well, you sound like Wilm,” the bat said. “But you don’t look much like him.”

“You wouldn’t either if you’d been lost in the woods for weeks, Grandmother,” I said.

“Is that your story? You got lost? And you barely out of the harbor, from what I heard?”

“Grandmother, is there hot water?”

“Your father, now, he wouldn’t get lost in the harbor in a little rowboat.”

“My father’s dead.”

“Well? I’d like to see him getting himself lost.” The bat peered down its nose cross eyed. “Are you sure you’re Wilm?”

(copyright 2012)

Friday Fictioneers: Caravan

Here’s this week’s photo prompt from Madison Wood for Friday Fictioneers


We traveled light. There was nothing to take. Water is heaviest, but there was no water to spare. At least the people of the oasis let us drink our fill before driving us out with what we and our camels carried in our bodies.

It wasn’t their fault. Who knows why water comes and goes? No, the fault was ours for drinking so much when they had so little and needed every drop. We slept on the shady side of sand hills in the day and trudged forward by moonlight. Would we live to see the green places where it rains?

* * *

Speaking of fiction – I’m plunging headfirst again into one of those writing marathons – Camp Nanowrimo. The goal is to churn out 50,000 words of fiction between June 1 and June 30. And yes, I intend to keep posting here and going on with the rest of my life. And yes, I’m nuts. 😉 Wish me luck!