NaNoWriMo one week on

NaNoWriMo word countIt’s over a week since I started writing this year’s NaNoWriMo, and it’s been rough going. Since my plot has veered markedly off-plan I’ve been frantically trying to keep one step ahead of my typing, but often my brain is slow in coming up with ideas. And the plot holes! My god, the plot holes are so large I could fly a spaceship through them.

One way I attempt to inspire myself into writing is to read books with the same kind of tone that I’m trying to achieve. Since my initial idea involved gothic adventure this has meant a lot of Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, and Henry James. I might re-read Northanger Abbey next to add some humour.

If you’re also writing this month, what have you been reading? Or are you all novel all the time?

Cover of Northanger Abbey Cover of Don't Look Now and Other Stories Cover of The Haunting of Hill House Cover of The Turn of the Screw

No plot? No problem!

NaNoWriMO participantNational Novel Writing Month started on Sunday, the 1st of November, or for the super keen, after midnight on October 31st. To the uninitiated, this is the month set aside for those of us crazy enough to attempt to write 50,000 words by the end of November (about 1667 words a day).

This isn’t my first time attempting NaNoWriMo — I first joined (and won) in 2003 — but the past few years have been flops, ill thought out ideas quickly dying on the page. This time I’m slightly better prepared, having characters and plot in mind before starting to write. I was all set to write a gothic science fiction adventure — you know, Jane Eyre in space, that sort of thing — but I’ve only written 2,000 words and already it’s heading off in a totally different direction. Sigh.

Never mind; this year my goal is simply to keep writing, no matter what rubbish comes out. While one of my writing buddies is already on 25,000 words (how?!) my style of writing is more like… staring in desperation at the ceiling after every sentence, kind of thing. Hopefully by the end of the month I’ll be more in the groove, but not the grave. Although, thinking about it, being buried alive is very gothic novel, so you never know.

Is anyone else mad enough to attempt NaNoWriMo this year? What are you writing about?

Cover of Bird by Bird Cover of Writing Down the Bones Cover of On Writing Cover of Everything I Know About Writing

NaNoWriMo – Woo Hoo!

I made it! I made it! And the air from the top smells oh so sweet. I have written 50,224 words of fiction in thirty days and I feel great.

When I look back over my blogs I realise I moaned during most of the process. NaNoWriMo is a bit like giving birth. It’s horrible while it’s happening but the results are worth every minute of suffering.

I haven’t had a chance to look back over my work. I don’t imagine much of it will be any good but I’ve created some characters I really enjoy and there are some moments in the plot that have felt ‘right’. NaNoWriMo receives criticism that it creates more literary rubbish than the planet can possibly want or need, but perhaps critics don’t appreciate that the creative process is organic. It’s messy and sporadic. No author starts at page one and writes smoothly to the last page. Just doesn’t happen. Wrimos know that. I believe there is enough wheat amongst the chaff ground in the past month to grow a good story – as long as I keep writing.

NaNoWriMo has shown me I have the desire, the imagination and the dogged determination to write a novel and I’d like to give my heartfelt appreciation to the folk at the Centre for Light and Letters for giving me that insight. As Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu so profoundly says, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ I feel like I have my feet firmly on the path.

NaNoWriMo – In search of a Trade Wind

I’ve totally run out of steam. The novel I started to write with such enthusiasm has turned dreary. I’m sick of my characters. They’re stuck in the Doldrums 5 degrees south of the Equator and it’s boring, boring, boring.

I just read Scott Westerfeld (author of the Uglies series) and his Pep Talk on the NaNoWriMo website. He states that writers can get stuck in a “childhood ontology” seeing the world in terms of cats and dogs rather than zebus, tardigrades and parasitic wasps. (Apparently there are around 20,000 varieties of parasitic wasps in the world – would you ever have guessed it – so which one would you choose to write about?)

I take his point. I realise I’ve been writing a cutesie ‘Famous Five go to New Zealand’ thing and I need to grow up and get real. My characters need more complexity, more grit, more acne. They need to smell a bit. They need to act maliciously or stupidly or bizarrely or in any way that takes them away from being so darn nice.

Sue Woolfe in her inspirational book on writing fiction, The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady, dares writers to tackle the subjects that scare them. She suggests writing the stuff that is almost impossible to contemplate. This makes me wince. I make a living out of being a mild-mannered librarian. Dare I delve into the deep, dark recesses of my psyche? Well, I believe I’m going to have to if I want to write a story that’s going to be of interest to anyone other than a twinkle fairy.

The whole thing sounds scary, but the wind’s suddenly picked up. I want to get to my laptop and start writing. I don’t think I’ll descend into splatter fiction or post-apocalyptic horror but you never know. It will depend on which way the wind is blowing.

To all fellow WriMos out there – may a creative gust fill your sails and blast you over the finishing line!

Nanowrimo – Wherefore art thou, Muse!

Phew! Being a Wrimo is hard work. What initially felt like glorious inspiration has turned into a full-on slog. I’m full of self-doubt at this stage wondering what on earth I’m doing spending my evenings tapping away at my laptop and sweating blood over the most boring piece of writing in existence – ever.

Last night I was so fed up with everything that I decided not to write but read instead. I picked up Kate Grenville’s Searching for the Secret River. Like Grenville, I am writing historical fiction so I flicked lackadaisically through the chapters looking for inspiration. The first page of Part Two hit me like a bolt from the blue. Grenville talks about her early attempts at novel writing in which she started at page one and tried to write the whole novel. She failed several times. What is a much better idea, she says, is to follow the energy instead. Write what interests you. Write the most interesting bits and the rest will take care of itself.

It was just the motivation I needed. An image of a fire came into my mind. I picked up my laptop and dived in. My story is morphing and goodness knows how I will link it to real history but it is becoming a lot more interesting. I’m following the energy and this is the only way I can see I’ll sustain this pace for a whole month.

I’ve just checked the stats and the Christchurch Wrimos have already exceeded the one and a half  million word mark. Well done, everyone!  That’s awesome. Happy writing and may the Muse never desert you!

NaNowWriMo – Setting the pace

NaNoWriMo Participant 2012National Novel Writing Month kicked off on Thursday and so far things are progressing well. I’ve set my characters in motion. They’re about to embark on a perilous journey across the high seas once the wind turns favourable.

Creative writing is an interesting process. You set the scene and the characters turn up to inhabit it. They’re kind of like self-generated Sims. You get to know them as the story unfolds. My main character is losing my interest at present as her excitement potential seems low – she’s just too nice. Her rambunctious sister has taken over and is demanding most of my attention. However, the mysterious servant of an eccentric doctor wants me to take notice of her, and then there’s the boy who hides in dark corners and talks to rats, and the woman with the child who has no past … Hmmm.

(I do realise I’m beginning to sound a bit like a crazy person. I think that’s a good sign. Apparently, it’s when you don’t realise you sound crazy that you’re really in trouble!)

I’m hearing comments from my fellow Christchurch Wrimos who are in turns excited, frustrated, on a roll, in the doldrums, drinking coffee, typing furiously, staring hopelessly into space and/or munching chocolate but they all have one thing in common – they’re all committed to writing and they’re in it for the long haul.

So, hang in there, Wrimos! The only way to climb a mountain is one step at a time and the view from the top is going to be brilliant. If you need some moral support or just want to get together with some people who truly understand what you’re going through, there’s a write-in tonight at Upper Riccarton Library.

I can’t wait to get home and discover what my character are up to. Looks like takeaways for dinner tonight.


NaNoWriMoJust when things were settling down in my life, I’ve gone ahead and done something crazy. I’ve signed up to NaNoWriMo!

On Thursday this week I am about to embark on a creative writing marathon and I’m panicking. 50,000 words in a month. That averages out at 1666.66 words a day. Eeek. Am I ready for such a commitment? Do I have the concentration? Will the muse even bother to talk to me? Have I stockpiled enough pencils and Arabica espresso beans to keep me going?

I’ve joined the National Novel Writing Month Christchurch Group and they’re a friendly, supportive bunch. There was a kick-off party over the weekend and we were encouraged to wear a crazy hat so you see can see that although writing is an introvert’s sport there is still a chance to get together and have some fun. The group will meet at Central Library Tuam and Upper Riccarton Libraries during the event so people can touch base and support each other. I think we’re going to need it!

Vanessa, who’s in charge of organising the group tells me that even NaNoWriMo veterans like  herself (this is her fourth year) have pre-event insecurities so I’m not alone. It’s going to be tough but if I manage 50,000 words I’m going to feel pretty darn pleased with myself. There is no editing or revision involved. There is no marking, assessment or prize giving. This is an exercise is ‘an experiment in pure output’. Bring it on!

I’ll be blogging about my experiences over the next four weeks. If you’re keen to join in, there is still time to sign up. For more information on National Novel Writing Month visit or to contact a Christchurch Municipal Liaison email Vanessa

NaNoWriMo – November is National Novel Writing Month

Write a novel in November! Join more than 250,000 people beginning a literary challenge of epic proportions: 30 days, 50,000 words, and one original novel.

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, the world’s largest writing event and non-profit literary crusade. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month, starting from scratch and reaching “The End” by the 30 November. There are no judges, and no prizes – just the satisfaction of having that “one day” novel down on paper.

More than 650 regional volunteers in more than 60 countries will hold write-ins, including the Christchurch region. Write-ins are hosted in coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries, and offer a supportive environment and surprisingly effective peer pressure – turning the usually solitary act of writing into a community experience. Although the event emphasises creativity and adventure over creating a literary masterpiece, more than 90 novels begun during NaNoWriMo have since been published, including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and Cinder by Marissa Meyer, all #1 New York Times Best Sellers.

What advice does the NaNoWriMo team have for budding novelists? The trick to getting across the 50k mark in November is about persistence and trusting yourself:

But I’ve never done anything like this before! I have no idea how to write a novel…
It’s okay not to know what you’re doing. You’ve read a lot of novels, so you’re completely up to the challenge of writing one. You may feel more comfortable outlining your story ahead of time – if so, do it! But it’s also fine to just wing it. Write every day, and a book-worthy story will appear, even if you’re not sure what the story might be right now.

How can I get to 50k when I have to go back and correct all my spelling mistakes and terrible grammar?
Do not edit as you go. Editing is for December and beyond. Think of November as an experiment in pure output. Even if it’s hard at first, leave ugly prose and poorly written passages in the page to be cleaned up later. Your inner editor will be very grumpy about this, but your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. It isn’t.
It’s a big commitment. How can I stay motivated?
First, sign up to the forums at It’s a community of encouraging, likeminded novelists who want you to win as much as you do. Second, come to a few “write-ins.” These are meetings of fellow Wrimos during November, either at a cafe, bookstore or library. It’s a time to meet, chat, encourage one another – but most of all, write! Finally, tell everyone you know that you’re writing a novel in November. This will pay big dividends in Week Two, when the only thing stopping you from quitting is the fear of looking like a quitter in front of all the people who’ve had to hear about your magnum opus.

For more information on National Novel Writing Month visit or to contact a Christchurch Municipal Liaison email Vanessa