It’s been rather an, oh, how shall I put this delicately, annus abyssus? A hell of a year. At the end of last year, I threw caution and the dregs of childhood to the winds, quit my job, left home, and moved to one of the swankier suburbs of the big city. Once the wheels were in motion, there was no stopping me: one thing led to another, and in the space of a year, I have
- Found a flat, or rather, a bedroom and a landlady
- Found a part-time job, in which I got to use a hoist
- Broken my right ankle (walking on the beach, slipped on the rocks, rescued by paramedics, tide coming in, hopped up the cliff, true story)
- Entered a second Pilates training programme, and completed the first two stages of certification
- Been hit by a car, badly spraining my left ankle
- Rehabilitated two ankles
- Crashed someone else’s car, in a very minor manner, but still
- Found another part-time job, in which I get to drive cars
- Quit the first part-time job
- Found a full-time job, teaching Pilates
- Had another part-time job, lecturing in humanities at medical school; secured same gig for next year
- Done NaNoWriMo, winning by the skin of my teeth
- Started a blog, and posted more than five times (see previous blog)
- Watched Battlestar Galactica
- Done Balance Control Step Off on the Reformer
In order to round out the year, there are some things I plan to do in the next few weeks:
- Complete the Pilates certification — practical exam on Friday, mat test on Saturday, updates then.
- Turn 27.
- Fix the car.
Stay tuned, gentle readers.
You see the problem? Fortunately, for one thing, Betty is a go-getter when pressed; and for another, Betty quit a job last week and had the morning free. A few intimate hours with Write or Die and the thing was done and dusted.
Some not-so-good things, in no particular order:
1. Skidding into the Union Street traffic island in the rain and doing mumblehundredworth of damage to one’s very great friend’s car while he is in darkest Africa saving the world via welding
2. Getting to November 25 with less than 25,000 words of NaNoWriMo under one’s belt
3. Having the sole of one’s current favourite shoes start to peel off
Some mighty nice things, in no particular order:
1. The pleasing facial expression adopted by one’s current favourite shoes as their sole starts to peel off (sort of a cross between Audrey II and a greenlipped mussel)
2. Write or Die, srsly. One can do 1,000 words in twenty minutes
3. Having a boy person friend who allows one to perform minor surgery on him with tweezers
4. Reading one’s blog stats. A few weeks ago the only search terms were related to Angel and Buffy, but recently they have included searches for “steampunk”, “Claire Danes”, and my personal favourite, “streep teas preteen video”
5. Finishing one’s final Pilates certification written exams (total time, about 11 hours)
1. Life, on balance, is pretty much peachy
The thing about NaNoWriMo is that it is vital not to stop. Industrious bods who write every single day need only bash out 1,667 words a pop in order to reach their 50,000 by the end of the month. Lazy people who get sidetracked, on the other hand, have a harder time of it: their wordcount goal creeps up and up by the day until they write themselves — or, rather, fail to write themselves — into an untenable situation, and are forced to either give up in ignominy or chuck a sickie and do 18,000 words on the last day of November.
Neither of these is an option that Betty will have the liberty of taking, and consequently Betty has been forced to repent of her previous ways and start writing in good earnest. Fortunately, she has one more week of the cushy cable-watching job, which takes care of writing time on Mondays and Tuesdays; Wednesday nights has been free for the past two weeks, due to the rest of the student group having exams, and so Betty has managed to hunker down in the Borders cafe with a sizable array of other November novelists, which is terribly good for the wordcount; Thursdays afford a certain amount of time between leaving the studio and starting at the third job, which also has some free time built into it, hence all the blogging. Fridays are a little tricky. Tomorrow will include a lateish client, which will mean that writing will only start in the middle of the afternoon. The weekend involves the third job, and plenty of time between client visits and non-clinical notes.
For the readers’ amusement, Betty will hereby enclose the official NaNoWriMo graph widget as of this morning. The red bars indicate absolute slothfulness; the green bits are writing; and the grey bits are writing that actually fulfilled the wordcount. Note that the red bits get added to the wordcount goals in the future. Note also, in case any reader is alarmed, that the wordcount at the time of posting is 19,034, which means that the end is in sight: Betty can do it.
Kinda. I hope. Stay tuned.
The best NaNo writing–inevitably, given that the only requirement is volume of output–tends to happen in large spurts, and spurts, perhaps counter-intuitively, tend to happen in remarkably short periods of time. For both of these reasons, NaNoers are fond of organising write-ins: these combine the benefits of some congenial and usually caffeinated location with the motivational presence of other crazed writers, and they usually result in significant advances in word-count. Betty, therefore, spent a couple of hours in the Borders cafe, writing furiously, alongside an impressively large group of local novelists.
The happy result was an additional two thousand and something words, which brings Betty’s word-count up to the low 7,000s, and is not to be sneezed at. In addition, the plot is now kinda humming, which makes it all so much easier. Onward and upward.
The faithless can bite their tongues. Betty had her cushy cable-watching job today, and by the time her client called for assistance, the wordcount was 1,040. True, this should have been achieved by about 2pm on the first of November, but it’s really not that big a deal: delaying like this merely bumps the daily word target up to 2,500. It is perfectly possible to crack out 5,000 on a good day, if you find a cafe with a power-socket. The NaNo founder advocates what are technically called “nuclear weekends”, which involve three sessions a day, forty minutes on, twenty off, until you hit 1,500; this gives you almost 10k in only two days. At that rate, I could finish NaNo with ten days to spare. But we shall see.
By noon, Betty’s wordcount was 1,553. The first day’s official target, 1,667 words, was reached at 12.20 precisely. By 9.30pm, it was 2,800 words. Nothing to worry about.
National Novel Writing Month, as readers will know, is the highlight of Betty’s extremely tiny life, at least during November. That is to say, when she isn’t doing something vitally important like sleeping or walking to work, Betty likes to spend valuable stretches of time writing cobbled-together novels for her own amusement and that of — well, nobody else. The first one, readers may recall, was completed during the month that should have seen the completion of her thesis; the second helped to pass the time that should have been spent preparing for her move to the big city. This year’s one, for interest, will interrupt the time devoted to preparing for the final examinations of Betty’s Pilates career, but what the hey.
Trouble is, Betty had other things to do when NaNo kicked off on November 1, and, naturally, most of them are still waiting to be achieved; ones that cannot be put off, like turning up at work and so on, remain a bit of a hindrance. However, on the bright side, Betty did yesterday manage to achieve a word count. It is only 193 as of Day 6, but brave and fearless NaNoers would not even quiver at such a thing. Indeed, Betty’s first NaNo was won five days early, so suck it down; victory is, doubtless, close at hand.
If Betty may borrow a metaphor from the world of first aid, a project like this one, no matter how frozen it may appear, is not dead until it’s warm and dead. So shall it be written. So shall it be done.
So the National Novel Writing Month plans are coming along slowly. It was probably only a matter of time before the boy person friend, bless his tiny heart, realised that NaNo contributions don’t have to be individual affairs.
Boy person friend: Can we collaborate? Ooh?
BPF: But don’t you want to help me to succeed?
Moi: But I did Script Frenzy with Smokey last year and we wrote about a hunnerd words.
BPF: But Smokey has a child and a husband. I am unencumbered.
Moi: It would be like when we try to buy peanut butter together.
BPF: No, no. [Thinks briefly about that experience.] Your ideas are legitimate. You can decide things. You can decide the colour of the toothbrush the main character uses.
Moi: You see?
BPF: No, no. [A pause, and then he gives a rakish sideways look.] Will it be red?
He is a sweetie.
November, as all astute and diligent readers will know, is a month devoted to the frenzied penning of an original 50,000-word novel. No cheats like using the one you got a third of the way through last year, of course, though shameless padding is allowed. I’ve done two NaNos so far. In 2007 I wrote a dreadful piece of experimental literary fiction called Tasting Shadows: it was about a girl with gustatory hallucinations due to a tumour, and it was mostly blow-by-blow recipes, with cryptic passages of exposition in between. Perhaps I shall post a brief yet humiliating excerpt in a bit, as a sort of Opus Dei-type confessional ritual. Nonetheless, the thing was over 50k — in NaNoWriMo terms, a win.
2008’s goal was a manuscript that, while still inevitably cringe-worthy, could be shown to family and close friends with relative impunity. End of Summer, it was called; I read the first half in instalments to my wee sisters and mother, who were duly agog. (The boy person friend, by contrast, read a bit and decided that a taste was as good as a feast.) I reached 50k, but the novel remained almost-finished. I’ll get to it.
The trick to NaNoWriMo, unless you have sixteen free waking hours a day in which to pen a hundred and four words, is planning: rigid, bull-headed scheduling and flexibly fertile plot outlines. You need at least 1,667 words every day, more if there are days off; they can be good or not, as you like; and they must be original. It’s perfectly acceptable to plan the structure of the novel in advance, but you can’t write bits beforehand.
October, therefore, is for coming up with ideas. As the kids say now, I got nothing. Stay tuned.