20 December 2011

Bits and Bobs: NaNo Numbers, My Scene Layout and a Kiwi Christmas

First, I forgot to comment last time on the NaNoWriMo wrap up stats. It was a boost to my confidence to find out that the average word count per writer was only 12,000, and only 14% of participants got to 50,000. Suddenly my 40,000 seems pretty good. So take heart, fellow NaNa-not-quite-winners, we still did well!

It's interesting looking at their map - it's mainly only English speaking countries, with basically no-one from Asia, Africa or South America. It would be cool to see NaNoWriMo grow into other languages in the future, don't you think?


After my last post about writing on my scenes on notecards, I laid them out on the floor to see how many scenes are in each act. And here's how it's playing out so far...

So Act 3 needs a little work! And Act 1 is only supposed to be 1/4 of the total, so that speaks my need to build in more plot complications in the middle. It will be interesting (for me anyway!) to see how this looks when I'm done.


And for my followers in the northern hemisphere, here's a fun little video which illustrates what it's like to enjoy Christmas in this part of the world.

Surf and sand by day... Christmas lights by night!

The only downside is that you have to be seen in your swimming attire after eating all the yummy seasonal food!

I will probably take a break from posting over this period, so Merry Christmas everyone! Remember the things that matter.

13 December 2011

NaNoWriMo Follow Up: Taking Stock

Well, I should have written nearly 10,000 words this month if I'm to get to 20k... but I have written *cough* 1,100 *cough*. It's been a mix of recovering from sickness, catching up on housework and gardening, and booking some more things for a big trip we're taking next year. I have been thinking about the novel, just taking a break from writing like a mad woman.

What I have done, which I've never done before, is note down every scene on note cards. Well actually they're a mix of memo cube paper and little rectangles I tore up when I ran out. I've read on several writer blogs that this helps with plotting and structure.

I ended up with 52, which I found pleasing in a geeky sort of way, because that's the same as a deck of cards. It also means that if I write an average of about 1,000 words per scene, and I want to finish with about 80,000 words, that I am well over half-way. I still only have 41,000 words, but there are still quite a few scenes in note form.

What I can do now is lay them out and try to see how they fit into the three act (four part) structure, and see where the main gaps are. I've noted whose POV each scene is in, so I can see if one of the characters is getting too much air time. And when I'm trying to figure out the order of things, I can physically move them around as I ponder without having to cut and paste the actual words.

It also meant finally reading through everything I've done, which I didn't have time to do during NaNo. And I like most of it, which is good :-) My hope is that one day someone else likes it too.

I still have a few key plot elements to uncover (Stephen Kings "fossils") which should help to make up at least half the remaining scenes. I had three new scenes burst into mind (which made up the 1,100) after I'd turned the light out the other night, so I know the spark is still there. It would be so easy to keep resting from it, now that I'm probably past the most 'fun' parts of crafting the book. But I'll persevere and drive myself forward, because I know I can. The fear is that I won't do justice to my idea, that the scenes I've written that I love, and I'm pretty sure are good, will be balanced with mediocrity or worse. Time will tell I suppose... onward!

Do you use any techniques to help plan or chart your novels? What works for you? Will you finish your NaNo novel?

09 December 2011

Critiques: Vital Information or Ego Crushers?

Yesterday Angela James (editor at Carina Press), posted her regular edit report tweets, which you can read here. During the tweets, someone asked Angela whether the rejectees would see any of the comments, and she replied in the negative, stating that authors' egos are too fragile for such frank comments.

During the night I received my form rejection from Carina for my previous MS. Frankly I don't know why they bother with four paragraphs. It's a form rejection, so there's little point reading it. I have to say I disagree with not including any feedback, particularly as Carina has a freelance editor read it and make comments. It's a golden opportunity to receive some insight into my areas for improvement.

I found myself combing back through the edit report, trying to figure out which comments might apply to me. I don't think they're too harsh, and I'd love to know which ones are mine, if any were. I'd long given up hope of the novel seeing the light of day, but it would have been nice to know what the editor thought of it.

The best rejection I ever got was on a full, for my first completed MS (I have two). In a few brief sentences it told me I had problems with pacing and character development, but that I had a strong voice and feel for the genre. (It was a little more specific than that.) At the time I struggled to understand, but now I can clearly see what the agent was telling me, and as I began to understand it pushed me to develop in those areas.

I know that with most rejections agents don't have time to make any comments. However my worst rejection came this year - a form on a full. I'd hoped for even a little personalisation. And the form had the standard paragraphs about subjectivity and fit, etc. I wish they would just say "this is a form rejection" and leave it at that. When you don't know if it's a form, you pore over the sentences, looking for something that seems relevant to you, before the final realisation kicks in. If no actual feedback is to be given, I think the rejection should be as brief as possible. Otherwise there's the danger that we try to read something meaningful into those painful paragraphs.

What about you? Would you like to receive any and all feedback, regardless of how harsh it seems? Do you appreciate the multi-paragraph form letters agents send?

05 December 2011

A Little Diversion: See which Ancient Hero you are

I love quizzes, particularly when they give me an answer which is fun yet accurate. This is a quick little quiz based on Greek mythology. Here's my result:

See which Ancient Greek Hero you are, and share your result :-)

01 December 2011

The End of NaNoWriMo: No Cigar This Time Around

Well, it's over. No more feeling that niggling constant pressure to keep up with the 1,667 words. No more mounting inadequacy as I watched the gap between the goal and my progress yawn wider apart. And now, more time to ponder my story rather than having to frantically plow forward.

Shortly after I posted my week 3 update, I decided I would try to reach 40,000 rather than 50, and even so it was a bit of a stretch for me given my illness. This was still a great personal achievement, given that I thought 30,000 was what I'd probably get to at the start of the month. I'm also proud of the fact that I didn't just keep writing drivel for the sake of it. I want to keep most of what I've done. I worked seriously on scenes that move my characters and the plot forward.

I worried that I'd run out of steam because of not getting ideas fast enough, but that didn't happen. It might have happened if I had managed the time to get nearer 50,000, but as it was I always had something to write every time I sat in front of my laptop. Necessity forced me to think of more 'what ifs' and 'when thens', at a faster pace than I normally would. And there's still a lot of thinking, planning and writing to do. I'm only half way through the word count for the book, and I didn't succeed in writing chronologically either, so it's a case of filling in the blanks and discovering more about my minor characters and plots. I already have lots of questions and plot problems I need to solve. I'd like to think I can manage another 40,000 in December to have a finished draft by the end of the year, but I think 20,000 is a more realistic goal. The second half is always the hardest for me.

While I registered with the official site, I didn't use many of the tools. I didn't use the forums, but I did read the pep talk emails and watch some of the videos in order to feel some solidarity. Many bloggers I follow cheered me on (whether they knew it or not) and I was heartened when some revealed they weren't keeping up, either. The best part of the official site for me was updating my word count and seeing the graph inch closer to the goal. I smiled last night when it told me I had to write an average of 9,600 words to finish on time.

My actual average was 1,344, but if you take out the days when I didn't write at all, it was 1,493. Not too shabby, especially prior to this last week.

If you NaNo'd, how'd you do?

Week 4 summary:

Day 25: 0
Day 26: 2707
Day 27: 626
Day 28: 850
Day 29: 177
Day 30: 964

Total word count (MS Word): 40,157
Total word count (NaNoWriMo verified): 40,331

And here's the official stats: