I’m Going To Do Nanowrimo This Year

A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most ass-kicking form.
—-Chris Baty, No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide To Writing A Novel In 30 Days

My android tablet and portable keyboard, I stopped my bike ride on the Bridge Park over the Trinity River to get some writing done.

I’ve seriously tried NanoWriMo three times – succeeding once. The two times I failed I wrote myself into a corner – my plot had nowhere to go. The one year I won, I picked a novel that couldn’t move into a corner – it was an old man in a beach house during a hurricane, with the water rising. He would think about his life in a series of reminiscences as death approached. That way, I could always find something to write.

The crazy thing is that on the last day of November, at about eleven PM, my Microsoft Word Document had me at about 50,007 words, so I uploaded the thing to the Nano website. However, its “official” word counter had me about thirty words short. No big deal, right?, I had forty five minutes to write thirty words.

It’s impossible to explain why, but those were the hardest thirty words I have ever bled out. I crossed 50K with three minutes to spare.

So this year…. I’m looking at my schedule trying to find a couple hours a day. One thing is this blog. For the duration I’ll post my daily word count, a photo from the past, and a paragraph of what I had written that day. I don’t want to upload the entire day’s work because it is a shitty first draft and nobody wants to read those. I should be able to carve out a paragraph of interest, though. A simple blog entry like that will save me some time every day that I can use for writing.

If anyone is in the Richardson/Dallas area and wants to set up a writing time, contact me at bill.chance57(at)gmail.com. I’m also thinking about setting up a Writing Marathon for at least one day (maybe the Farmer’s Market?), if that sounds interesting to anyone (if not, I can do it alone).

Yeah… that’s the ticket.


Sunday Snippet – from “Toesucking in Albania”

“Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy – in fact, they are almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

St. Vincent’s, New Orleans

Oblique Strategy: You can only make one dot at a time

Snippet from a novel I’ve worked on off and on – originally from Nanowrimo
Working title – Toe Sucking in Albania

Sanibar crawled up over the ridge, watching the handheld tracker that indicated the position of Boromech’s flyer. He had placed a remote bug on the machine a week before and now it was time to see it pay off.

He knew that Boromech and Wenwiki had landed somewhere not too far over the edge and he would be able to see them once he cleared the crest. He folded his flyer and wedged it behind a rock and pulled out the powerful pair of stabilized digital tele-binoculars that he had ordered from offworld.

Down on his belly, Sanibar wiggled across the scree and cleared the ridge between two rust-red ragged boulders. The rock was warm from the bright sun; Sanibar wiped the sweat from his eyes and looked down into the valley past the ridge. His eyes were shocked with the bright green he spotted there, and it took a minute to recognize the valley as Area 51B25, a spot he himself had discovered and explored a year earlier.

This part of the planet, surrounding the dessicated edge of the drying salty inland sea, was, for the most part, lifeless and barren. Only small pockets, like Area 51B25, were able to support verdant vibrant life. The last sliver of an ancient dying glacier nestled up between the high peaks to the south, sent a constant dribble of meltwater down into the valley where it pooled into a turquoise lake, protected by the rugged ridges on either side. The lake slowly leaked water into the shattered rock valley where the roots of the strange alien forest drank it up. This little isolated pocket of forest was an orphaned echo of the vast jungles that were killed off along the toxic edge of the wasteland they created with the mining.

Sanibar had found this verdant valley during his initial survey of the sector. Between the steep and rugged ridges on either side and the high peaks to the south, it was hidden and would never be spotted by anyone not going right down into the gorge itself. He recorded it on the official maps, then made sure it had been buried deep in the central reports and he never told anyone about it. He knew the Rest and Recreation Corps would go nuts about it. They would build a rec facility on the shore of the little lake, blast trails through the woods, and put up some cabins in the most beautiful spots. They would give out weekend passes to people that had put in the most overtime, shipped the most product, or, more likely, kissed the most asses. Sanibar didn’t want this – he wanted to keep the hidden little green valley to himself.

After plotting for a month, he finally managed to get Wenwiki to go there with him. He had everything planned to the smallest detail – he had hauled in some stolen furniture, making a nice table and a couple comfortable chairs – up on a flat, rocky spot with a drop-dead beautiful view. He had paid the cook off to make a special meal for two, complete with rare off-world ingredients smuggled in on a mail run from home. Sanibar lied to Wenwiki and said he had prepared the picnic feast himself. He was even able to procure a bottle of fine old vintage – something unheard of on a remote mining base.

When he asked Wenwiki to go on a picnic with him and she committed to an afternoon three days away, she seemed honestly and truly excited. The three days of waiting were both hellish and heavenly for Sanibar. Both enervated with fear and ecstatic with anticipation, time clicked by in endless slow slivers. Finally the chosen appointment day and hour creeped up.

His extensive, expensive, and exhausting preparations complete, Sanibar flew his cleaned and polished flyer, complete with sidecar over to Wenwiki’s quarters and rang and rang. She wasn’t there. A neighbor cracked her door and said she had seen Wenwiki down at the cleaning station, doing her weekly laundry. His heart sinking, Sanibar flew over to the station and there she was. Wenwiki had forgotten. Sanibar was reduced to pleading, and after finishing a load of clothing, Wenwiki finally agreed to go with him after all.

But the day was ruined. Wenwiki seemed distant, her mind elsewhere. Sanibar’s careful preparations were for nothing. She picked at her food, refused the vintage, and simply nodded when Sanibar pointed out the rare beauty of the spot. Though the forecast had been for perfect weather, a small rogue storm tumbled down the steep slopes of the high peaks and dumped a sudden, cold, sodden shower onto the picnic. They abandoned the outing after only a short stint and Wenwiki was adamant about finishing her laundry when they returned and insisted on finishing it alone.

Sanibar was devastated. Back in his quarters he was racked with compulsive sobs of disappointment. He hurled the vintage against the bathroom sink and cut his feet on the shattered shards of the bottle. A long, sleepless night, and the next day Wenwiki was at breakfast laughing and acting as if nothing had happened. Now, thinking back about it, Sanibar realized that was the first morning he had seen Wenwiki sitting in the cafeteria with Boromech.

And now she had brought Boromech to his personal spot. A cold, bitter, sharp lump began crawling up from his gut as he wiggled his way into a hidden spot along the ridge crest and feeling sharp shards of rock digging into his propped elbows brought his digital binoculars up to his eyes and started to scan.

There they were. Boromech’s flyer landed and the two of them standing in each other’s arms along the light rippled shore. They were both barefoot, their four black work boots leaning against the flyer. Sanibar couldn’t see any supplies except for a large padded packing blanket spread out between the flyer and the lake and what looked like a small pile of soft folded towels. After a few minutes Wenwiki pushed Boromech away they began laughing about something. Sanibar wished he had put a sound transmitter on the tracking bug he had concealed in the flyer… but he gritted his teeth… thinking they were laughing at him.

I Love the Whooshing Noise

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

My secretary setup

One place where the magic happens

Every year at the end of October I, along with every other wannabe writer across the whole wide world (and many others), is faced with a tough choice. To do NaNoWriMo or not?

To those of you that don’t know – NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. The idea is to hammer out 50,000 words (not quite a whole novel – but close enough) in the month of November. It’s a tough decision – you want to make an honest shot at it, but it is a huge commitment of time, energy, and pride. It is hard to do, easy to give up.

November won’t be the best of months for me. I’ll be in New Orleans for the first few days (Halloween in the French Quarter is not to be missed) and then off to Louisville, Kentucky for a week long business trip. I know it sounds easy to sit in a strange hotel room and hammer off a couple hours of work every evening – but in practice it doesn’t work out very well. I’m always really worn out after any work day – especially one on the road. Plus, folks always have extra work – want to go out to eat… that sort of thing.

I will almost certainly be behind right from the beginning – and playing catchup isn’t fun.

I’ve given this a serious shot about three times, and only succeeded once. My two failures were when I wrote myself into a corner and couldn’t figure out a way out. I know this sounds silly – the idea is to write, not necessarily write well – why didn’t I just change things up when stuck? Well, it doesn’t work like that. The characters take on a life of their own and sometimes they simply refuse to do anything worth writing about.

The one year I won I wrote a story that included a lot of flashbacks (the framing story was an old man in a beach house during a hurricane, the water is rising and he is taking stock of his life) so that I could always add another vignette if I was stuck. That worked.

The only problem is that at eleven fifty at night on the last day of November I thought I had finished. I ran my stuff through the word counter one last time and to my horror discovered I was about a hundred words short. Trying to hammer out that last hundred words in ten minutes with the clock ticking was unbelievably and unbearably difficult. I don’t want to do that again.

It helps to not be in this alone. A friend of mine is giving it a shot too – there are always some social events (there is something amazingly cool about writing in public with a group of strangers – all hammering away in silence) – maybe I’ll organize one or two.

My username is Chancew1 – if you want to write sometime. I can even post a snippet or two here, if the fancy strikes me.

Wish me luck.


Call Me Ishmael

Getting ready for NanoWriMo

Underwood Typewriter

Underwood Typewriter

November is approaching rapidly and I have the usual annual decision to make. Do I do NanoWriMo?

One thing is nice this year. Usually November is a nasty busy month for me at work, which makes getting the time… and especially the energy, up for the fifty thousand words extremely difficult. This year, October is the tough month and November will be easier – except for the first week. The first week is brutal – so I’ll have a slow start but should be able to catch up. I have to take some vacation time, so maybe I can even go on a bit of a writing trip.

As you may have guessed by now, I am going to give it a go. (my Nanowrimo page) I have tried four times and made it once. The other three I wrote myself into a corner and couldn’t get out. They weren’t total losses – I still had a few tens of thousands of words that I might be able to use someday. Probably not. Crash and burned NanoWriMo paragraphs are hoarder houses of writing – piles of useless mouldering crap that seemed useful once, but really needs to be chucked into the dumpster out on the front yard.

I will say the one year I made it was a bigger thrill than I thought it would be. That year I picked a novel idea that I knew had no dead ends. It was an old man, caught in a life-or-death situation, reminiscing about his life during lulls in his struggle. I knew that if I was stuck I could always come up with another memory.

When my word processor said I had hit the fifty thousand words, I uploaded it and discovered that by the official count, I was still about ninety five words short. It was amazingly difficult to write one more little cluster of paragraphs at eleven fifty on the last night. I almost couldn’t squeeze it out.

So this year, my idea to avoid the dreaded dead end plotting is to develop the ideas ahead of time. I want to have about a hundred scenes listed out so all I have to do is write each one, five hundred words or so each, and then I’m done. No possibility of sliding off into the ditch.

The other day I saw The Tempest at the Wyly theater in downtown Dallas. I had seen it before, but I was still impressed. What I think I will do is update the basic plot lines of this last Shakespeare play to modern times. I’m tentatively making Prospero a deposed drug kingpin named John Prosper. Starting from that point, most the other characters start falling in line.

I’m working on Ariel… that is a key character. Setting too…. Maybe an actual island is doable… maybe in a lake. Do I want a supernatural element? Haven’t decided that yet.

Of course, I won’t follow the Shakespeare plot too faithfully. For example, somebody, probably more, will have to die. I do have my writing station set up nice… one less excuse.

So much writing. So little time. Wish me luck.

My secretary setup

One place where the magic happens