Saturday, 1 October 2016

A million words in 2016 (October)

I'm writing a million words in 2016!

Below is the progress diary for October (I'll be updating it as the month goes on). If you're interested, here's the intro, and here are the diaries for January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and September.

The red number in the right-hand column is the total word count. Please wish me luck in watching that number tick up to 1,000,000 over the rest of the year!

The Million-Word Diary: October

1st Oct869,827
The Poetry Swindon festival is in full swing and so that's my official excuse for not writing! Well, I am actually writing, but all the words I'm producing are being scribbled in notebooks during workshops, and that means they're pretty much uncountable.

Okay, I could count them... but then I'd be spending valuable festival-attending time counting words instead of, well, attending the festival. Plus, most of the writing I'm doing is poetry attempts, which means the word count is pretty low.

Never mind. I'll get back to writing once the festival is done. In the meantime, here are a few festival pics!

Hilda starts the festival!

Workshop with Maggie Harris

Giggling festival helpers guarding Poetry Swindon's Dog

Workshop with Susan Utting in the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery

Hilda as the Dada tin man

Dada madness!

10th Oct869,827
The festival is over and I'm broken! Workshops, readings, classes and a ton of socials and late nights. Such an intense 11 days! I'll have to do a proper write-up sometime (if I can find the energy) but for now here's a few snaps. And here's the link to the full facebook album (560 pics!)

The awesome Tent-Palace of the Delicious Air

Poetry Dog looking wonderfully spooky at 1 A.M.

Unexpected blackouts make for awesome pics!

Poetry Dog mug helps me recover from the festival lurgy

15th Oct870,492
Lovely day today! I attended the Bridport prize-giving! My "angel in the bathroom" finally found her home. She's on page 148 of the 2016 anthology. Full write-up here! :-)

Meeting flash fiction judge, Tim Stevenson

23rd Oct870,492
Okay, I'm finally recovered! Wow, I had a bit of a energy crash to be honest. Coming home from Greece was exhausting, and then there was immediately 2 days of rushing around (sorting out loads of stuff that I'd been ignoring for 6 months), followed by the festival, followed by driving to Bridport and back... it all kinda caught up with me. But I'm awake again now!

And that means it's time to start worrying about my word count again :-(

So... I have about 130k left to achieve my a million words. That's do-able, right? Surely it is. I just have to get started again!

But I think I broke my brain. I kept the word count going for so long that I don't think there's anything new in my head. And even on the days when I get some writing done, I keep getting confused which words are new and which were written ages ago - so I end up discounting all of them.

And I haven't counted all the new words I scribbled during the poetry festival. That's pretty awful for my word count. Y'see, I'm still merging several different versions of the same story... and that means I'm still failing miserably at managing to count all the new words I write. However the year is ticking on so I have to get better at counting.

Managed to count a few words today, so I can proudly announce I have 665 new words! Not sure if they're destined for book 1 or book 2, though. Probably book 2... which means Calvin's story (the story I'd originally thought was "book 1") is now either book 3 or 4. Maybe even 5. Christ, this is why I've been having trouble writing Calvin's story - it doesn't actually start for several books yet! No wonder I've been stuck for so long!

Okay, so today I wrote some words and did a ton of work towards preparing for NaNoWriMo. I'm counting today as a success! There's a week left of October, and I plan to write something every single day from now until the end of November. Do you hear me, Brain? EVERY SINGLE DAY.

My graph was looking so good! Now, however, the writing's been neglected so long that the "par" line (the red one) has nearly caught me up! I'm only 20 days ahead at the moment :-(

My once-awesome, now awful graph :-(

Current word count is 870,492. That means I have 129,508 words left to complete this insane task. There are 69 days left in 2016, so to hit the million word target I need to write 1,877 words per day. Difficult... but hopefully achievable.

Come on then, NaNoWriMo. I've ready for ya!

24th Oct875,572
Success! Today I typed words! Lots of words!

I needed 1,877 words and I typed more words than I needed!


Okay Brain, now just do that another 68 times and everything will be fine.

It was mostly all work towards Crimble's autobiography, which means I'll hopefully have the tricky "set up" bit finished before NaNoWriMo officially begins. Happy face, happy smiles, happy dance :-)

I also wrote a few blog posts. Not this one... ignore this one... this is just a diary... but I scribbled a few opinions/articles about writing (Brain-Stanleys and Naming Characters, plus another that I'll save for publishing later) and I think it's okay to count those words. After all, when I'm a massively successful author (if only!), I can use those blog posts as part of my book, "How to write an awesome novel". I will also write a book called, "How to procrastinate by imaging that one day you might be a massively successful author".

Not entirely happy today though. Had a bit of bad news this morning, unfortunately. A rejection. Okay, not quite a rejection - but there's a site I submit to every so often where they award prizes for the best story. I wrote a story that I was soooooo sure was the best thing I'd ever sent them and, although it got published, it didn't get picked as the best :-(  That kinda hit me hard - mainly because I really wanted it! Normal rejections are no big deal - but this one was quite painful. I guess this is the problem with submitting stories designed to appeal to a specific publication or editor - if you don't achieve the notice/accolade you're hoping for, and have really really tried for it, then failure hurts far more than just a plain old "no, thanks" type rejection.

Ah well. Nothing for it but to pick myself up and try again. Come on Brain - keep writing.

In other news: The NaNoWriMo daftness has begun! My internal editor is allowing me to freewrite, but is starting to suggest ways to increase my word count. Not good.

I should probably explain. But it's a daft explanation so I'll do it in a separate post, here: Brain-Stanleys.

Had a comical typo today. Someone nibbled on the end of a pork shop (instead of a pork chop). Well, it amused me anyway :-)

So... today was mostly a success. In summary: Brain-Stanleys are bad, and I got lots of work done on Crimble's autobiography. I have 5,080 new words and that means the total's now 875,572.

25th Oct 877,990
Bit demoralised today! Had plenty of time to write but somehow didn't manage to get started until 8pm. Didn't get much sleep last night so the words wouldn't flow today. It was a real blood out of a stone type of slog.

I seemed to be doing okay with Crimble's autobiography yesterday but today it just wouldn't flow. I think the problem is that I've hit an awkward part of the story. Crimble walks into a huge cave full of people (and dragons!) and they ask her to join them. Quite naturally, she asks what they're doing... and so I'm faced with trying to write a chunk of dialogue that basically sets up the rest of the book. And it's exposition type dialogue. You know - the sort that tells you a ton of background information that you need to know but is dull to read. Unfortunately, I can't think of another way to do this right now. Crimble needs to know a few things at this point of the story, and so does the reader. I've decided to just splurge out the "this is what's going on" dialogue, and then I'll have to break it up later in the edit.

God, it's dull though!

And that's the problem... I'm bored writing it, so the writing is difficult, and I know full well that if it's boring to write then it's boring to read. Obviously everything is fixable, but at the moment I'm struggling to get the words down.

Had to give up in the end and go write a few flash fiction pieces, just to get the word count up to the correct level. That part of tonight's writing went very well - I started two new pieces and they're wonderfully mad. One of them involves the characters stealing a necklace from the Virginia Woolf Museum while trying to hunt up ingredients for a spell, and the whole thing is going to go a bit monkey's paw on them. Looking forward to carrying on with that one... it might even turn into a short story rather than a flash fic!

Today saw 2,418 words and that means the total's now 877,990.

27th Oct881,110
Yesterday was a zero-word day. Annoying, especially when I'd resolved to write every single day from now on. I spent the day mostly doing things to help other people. Note to self: be more selfish! :-)

Crimble's autobiography is at a tricky stage so today - purely to make sure I managed a decent word count - I started a new story. It's a ghost story and I wrote it in a shed at the bottom of the garden. The story freaked me out so much that I was a bit nervous walking back to the house in the dark. I'm hoping that's a sign that the story is good, and not just me being a scaredy-cat.

The words are still fighting back, so writing was only achieved via ridiculous amounts of:
  1. cheap sherry,
  2. coffee,
  3. noisy techno music,
  4. toast.

Tomorrow I will probably spend the day moaning about the insomnia induced by:
  1. cheap sherry,
  2. coffee,
  3. noisy techno music,
  4. toast.

Hopefully I will also write some more words.

Malapropisms are especially amusing when you're hyped up on cheap sherry, coffee, noisy techno music and toast. Here's a silly one for you: Cheap sherry, Sheep cherry. 

Today's bonus: Zoé was kind enough to read out some of my 50-word stories on the radio. Zoé rocks. Thank you, Zoé!

So I pronounce today a double win :-)

Word count today was 3,120 so the new total is 881,110.

28th Oct884,238
Happy surprise today - I managed to write over 3,000 words with hardly any trouble at all!

Today I had three tasks/meetings scheduled, all of which could have stopped me writing. Thankfully the second of the three was a NaNoWriMo plotting session. NaNoWriMo events are probably the only environment where it's socially acceptable to semi-ignore everyone while manically typing, and it really worked for me today. I managed to achieve that weird state of mind where it's possible to hold a conversation (ish) while also writing. The session lasted for about three hours and towards the end of it I discovered I'd been counting my words wrongly and had actually done a thousand more than I'd realised. Nice discovery, but it meant I'd achieved today's minimum, so immediately stopped!

One of the local NaNoWriMo organisers has challenged us all to a race. She's a speedy typist and is planning to knock out around 3k-5k words per day, which means she's likely to win NaNo in less than a fortnight. Apparently if we beat her to 50k then we get a prize, which may or may not involve having one of our sillier lines worked into a cross-stitch pattern. I can probably survive without the cross-stitch, but I'm definitely taking this challenge on because it's yet another bit of motivation to push my typing speed :-)

Today's bonus was attending a pub quiz with my parents and WE ONLY WENT AND FLIPPIN' WON! :-) Yay us! :-) And the prize was a bottle of wine which will surely be set to good use (probably helping to fuel tomorrow's writing session).

Second bonus was discovering that other idiots oops, I mean keen writers are also doing this "million words in a year" project. There's even a hashtag (#milwordy).

Today gave me 3,128 words (weirdly similar to yesterday's count) so the total's now 884,238. Getting close to 90k now. Can't wait!

29th Oct887,007
Today I had no commitments whatsoever, so naturally left the writing until the last minute. I spent a while kicking myself because I really I should've used the day to get lots done, but luckily I managed to get going eventually and a reasonable amount of words appeared. Tried something new today. A friend suggested I try freewriting while listening to a bunch of radio plays by Samuel Beckett. It's a great idea to ensure you never stop writing (every time you go dry, just listen to the current line and use it as a prompt to continue) but it takes the story in some truly crazy directions... and so I now have seven new flash fictions that are all probably too mad to send off. I'll probably send them off anyway :-)

I aimed for only the bare minimum (2,733 words) today so the count was 2,769 and the new total's 887,007. 

30th Oct889,979
Splendid day at the library today at the NaNoWriMo Launch meeting with our Swindon MLs! (MLs are Municipal Liaisons which is the obfuscated-business-speak terms for "NaNoWriMo organisers"). They are absolutely awesome and gave us lots of pressies! Look at this!

NaNoWriMo pressies!

How great is this? Plot bunnies! An actual real plot bunny, complete with writing-prompt-collar. And a random inspiration quote from Roald Dahl! Plot ideas! Writing prompts! And a side characters to randomly throw in when things get confusing or slow or stuck!

We also did a fun exercise where we wrote an elevator pitch for our novel, then had to try and describe the novel out loud. As writers, we tend to be good at articulating our thoughts on paper but then bluster and blumble when trying to describe something out loud. It was good practice for when we reach the stage of trying to get someone to believe in our novels, and I now have a good elevator pitch sentence for my novel which is a pretty damn useful thing to have.

I'd planned to write lots in the Launch meeting but things went a bit wrong. Laptops are pretty damn useful when you take them to NaNoWriMo sessions but they're pretty damn useless when you forget the power lead. Oops! However a friend set me a writing exercise that resulted in a flash fiction called, "How to spoon a donkey". You'll be glad to know that it's not as weird as it sounds because, thankfully, it's narrated by the protagonist who happens to be... a donkey. Phew.

Word count today was 2,972 so the total's now 889,979.

31st Oct889,979
Gave myself a day off today. Brain was trying to push me into writing but I figured I'd have a snoozy afternoon and then attack the manuscript first thing after midnight (i.e. the start of November, when NaNoWriMo officially begins). This is a tactical play and may well fail terribly but fingers crossed! Happy Halloween, all! Spooky hugs to the lot of ya! :-)

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