Camp NaNoWriMo – Final Preparations

That’s it! I’m all done. I just need to hit print on my notes. This includes my outline, character profiles, scene descriptions with goal, conflict, stakes and resolutions defined, as well as a crucial timeline of events. I’ve also learned my lesson from the first draft of my last project where somebody who had died earlier turned up at the climax, so I’ve produced a chart to show where/when/what everyone is doing at various points during the epic showdown. It’s the most detailed batch of notes I’ve ever produced. You can’t be too prepared, right?

I’ve also decided to up my goal to 60,000 words if I can get to 30,000 in the first two weeks. I’m aiming for a minimum of 2,500 words a day.

For everyone else starting at camp tomorrow, good luck!

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Dog’s Dinner

The rain spattered softly onto the stacks of bin bags outside the old terraced house. The summer downpour had driven away the flies and a lone spider clung to the underside of the windowsill as stubbornly as the flaking red paint. Cars sped by, spitting at the stray mongrel drinking from the gutter. The street lamp glowed orange against the darkening blue sky, its reflection bouncing across the wet pot-holed tarmac, like a pebble skipping across a pond, before settling on the roof of a battered Ford. The house itself was silent.

Inside, a lone man slouched, his sagging face illuminated now and again by the muted, flickering television. His peaceful morning in the shed had been ruined by an afternoon that brought him nothing but stress. First came a gas bill which he knew was twelve pounds too dear. Then he spotted last night’s dirty teacups sitting in the sink. He took his frustration out on the lawn. His mood much improved, he tramped back inside, careful to deposit his grassy gardening boots on the doormat. Newspaper stepping stones led the way to the kitchen, where the teacups had been joined by a glass and a plate. He ground his teeth. Would it really kill her to clean up after herself? He could hear her, on the phone, tittering away without a care in the world. He leaned forwards against the worktop, his hands gripping the edge. Sugar! She had spilled sugar and not cleaned up. Did she want an ant invasion? The sugar stuck to his fingers, coarse and gritty. He couldn’t stand the feel of it. He scrubbed at his hands, rinsing off the last of it under the tap.

The confrontation hadn’t gone well but it was history now. Peace reigned at last. After a thorough clean of the kitchen and a quick shower, he settled down in his armchair for his favourite programme. Somewhere between Gardener’s World and John Betjeman’s Metro-Land, his aching muscles had relaxed, his thoughts had stilled and he had drifted into sleep to the sound of the rain. He didn’t hear the hungry mongrel tearing at the bin bags outside, nor see its wagging tail as it dashed away satisfied, a woman’s arm clamped tightly in its jaw.

(377 words)

Notes. And more notes.

I had no idea I’d written so many notes for what has now become my project for Camp NaNoWriMo. I’ve been typing them up into some semblance of order over the last few days and there are thousands of ’em. Bearing in mind this is a story that started life as a badly-drawn comic and was reduced to a single handwritten page from an A5 exercise book in 1985, it’s grown into a monster. Perhaps even the abomination that ate the colossus that ate the monster. I’m almost done now. If it weren’t for the fact that the notes are largely comprised of drivel, random words and sentence fragments, the word count would make it a hefty novelette.

I’ve noticed two things about the way I write and the typing up process.

I don’t write in any kind of order. It’s obvious that I attempt to but when ideas strike me, rather than going back and putting them where they belong, I just write them in the next available space. This has made it a nightmare to type up. I really need a writing program to organise myself. It’s about time I stopped being such a Luddite and embraced the things that will make my writing life a little easier. I won’t love my biros any less, I promise.

The other is that my arms really ache when I’m typing, in a way that they don’t when I write. I’ve typed about 4000 words today and I feel like my arms have died. Writing by hand doesn’t feel like this and I don’t want my word count to suffer, so I’m going to have to find a way to balance this out.

If anyone has any ideas on how I can do this, I’d be grateful.

 

Jack

Jack enjoyed the quiet. For years he had sat, silent and immobile, praying there would be no interruption to his solitude. Of course, he knew the day would come, it always did. Sometimes it would be years between disturbances, other times, merely months. But when it came, it did not stop. Every day there would be noise. So much noise. The television, with its constant droning and buzzing, was a new sound for Jack, even muffled as it was by the walls of his hiding place.

He crouched, made himself as small as he could, hoping with all his soul that they wouldn’t find him. That they wouldn’t pull him about, throw him around or shake him. He was scared. It was so frightening outside, he had always felt it. On those occasions when he had been forced to go out, he had felt their hatred, sensed their violence. The ones with the big faces and dribbling mouths did not seem to hate. If anything, they seemed to have no control over themselves at all. They laughed and squeaked and shrieked. They shook Jack about, threw him across the room, tried to bite him and smacked him hard on his head. The abuse was intolerable. But the small-faced ones, with the blurry features, they held within them such hatred for Jack that he feared even worse abuse at their hands. Yet they had never hurt him physically. Perhaps they were scared too. They watched the big-faced ones constantly, didn’t let them out of their sight. Thinking about those times made Jack feel helpless.

Jack had stayed silent. For years he had endured the pain dished out by the grasping hands of the big-faced ones, but by the time he felt brave enough to say something, to do something about it, he would be left alone. He wouldn’t hear a thing and the noise would disappear. Until next time.

He could sense it getting closer. His hiding place had already been moved and the noises, though tolerable still, were getting louder. He knew that soon he would hear that chilling sound, the grinding of cogs, the metallic tinkling that would turn frantic, making his stomach lurch with fear and forcing the coils beneath him to propel him upwards into those big faces and grasping hands. Jack prepared himself. He checked his mouth still moved, that his teeth were still sharp. He exercised his jaw, his bite. Then it came, the eerie tinkling sound. Jack crouched, ready to be released from his box.

(422 words)

Camp Outline

Apart from spending two fruitless hours attempting to write some kind of blurb for my Camp NaNoWriMo project and half an hour driving from London to Oxford on googlemaps to ensure the journey is authentic for readers, oh, and tweeting my lungs out because I’m new to twitter and haven’t figured out how to self-regulate yet, I’ve been typing up the notes for camp next week. I stopped typing at exactly 5000 words. I’ve made the notes for the opening scene quite detailed so that I can jump straight in when camp starts.

I thought you might like to see them.

Scene of accident – Violet hit by car, noise, feel of tarmac, somebody’s hand holding hers, bright sunlight and shadows moving behind eyelids, holding breath, smell of burning rubber, grass, petrol, blood, voices, distraught driver, sirens, panic, traffic, sound of tyres on rain, wetness soaking through clothes. last coherent thought before accident – at least the rain has stopped. opens eyes to see boy from tube holding her hand and begs him not to leave her as she’s bundled into an ambulance.

I don’t expect my notes to make much sense to anyone else. Only I know who the boy from the tube is.

So, cabin allocation for me tomorrow. Very excited.

What’s your book about?

We’ve all been there. We tell someone we’re writing a book and they ask what it’s about. I should be able to give the thirty-second pitch but I really struggle with it.

It’s not that I don’t know what my stories are about, it’s that I don’t know how much to reveal and that makes me over-cautious. I want all the surprises to be revealed in the story but nobody will read the story unless I make it sound interesting. I don’t want to speak in generalities, I want to get to the guts. I know I need to give something but I just don’t know which bits to give. I don’t want it to be the literary equivalent of an advertising jingle. I’ve looked at book jacket covers to see how the pros manage it, but all I determined from that exercise is that I feel a fraud for having done it (which I know is nonsense). I have spent the last two hours writing absolutely nothing at all about my current project. I want a little blurb to put on my Camp NaNoWriMo profile. Why is that so hard?

There is another problem though. I have a terrible attitude to writing. Now, I’m not saying I’ve never been complimented on my writing because I have, but somehow the positive never seems to stick quite as well as the negative. I’m working my way through it but years of comments have hit my brain, loud and clear, and they’re still there, clamouring for attention and making assumptions about why I write.

Anyone can write. You can’t write. Writing’s a waste of time. You’ll never make a living. You’re writing about vampires? How very mainstream. You’re writing a coming of age story? How pedestrian. You’re not writing an intellectual opus about the physical manifestation of the soul in trauma? How boring! Oh, you’re (insert anything you like here – politics/gender/race/religion)? Remind me to never read anything you write!

Yep, I’ve heard them all and it’s wearing. It’s why I keep my writing to myself. I love to write and I don’t want somebody shitting on it just because they feel entitled to have a say. To me, it’s the difference between being randomly attacked with opinions and inviting opinion because either a) you’ve specifically asked for it, or b) you’ve put it in the public domain by publishing it (fair game).

I don’t want to tell them what my book’s about because it will be assumed that I am inviting opinion. I’m not. See what I mean? It’s not a very healthy attitude, is it?

So, leaving my bad attitude aside, I really do want to get this blurb thing nailed, preferably without revealing all the twists and revelations. How do you do it? Is it just me or do you struggle too?