NaNo, NaNo, only 30K to go…

An awesome Numskulls figurine from the ComicVine website

Lucian’s head, yesterday. Except with less hair.

…with a laptop and a pint and a story outline, NaNo, NaNo-NaNo-NaNooooo. Yes, I know what you are thinking: “Oscar-winning song-writing there, Lucian. Top hole!”

Yes, yes, yes. First of all I’d like to thank the Academy…

Anyway, hello you! As the National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is in full swing I’ve spent rather a lot of time recently hammering the first 20,000 words of my novel into this here laptop and thus keeping abreast of the dreaded daily word count. (Just.) Some of these 20,000 words, I’m happy to report, even form sentences.

My teenage horror fan self seems satisfied with the yucky bits and my (rather pronounced) puerile self has rubberstamped his seal of approval on the industrial-strength language thrown around liberally by my bad guy. Please be warned, however, that my smartarse self, the one that came up with the tagline to this blog, not to mention the lion’s share of the story, is also fairly pleased with himself. You can give him a slap if he gets too annoying. (All this talk of assorted selves reminds me of The Numskulls cartoon that appeared in The Beezer and, later, The Beano. Ah, memories…)

Anyway, so far, so spiffing, and there are only another 30,000 words to get down before I “win”. Or collapse. One or the other.

In my previous post I mentioned how the launch meeting for NaNoWriMo was something of an eye-opener, and the revelations continue now I’m 40% into the word count. For example:

1) A 10,000 word plot outline doesn’t necessarily make NaNoWriMo any easier
I’ve lost count of the times my characters have deviated from the plot outline I feverishly hammered out over the summer. Either way I’m taking this as a positive: either the characters have developed minds of their own, which will hopefully then resonate with the reader, or my characters’ original actions weren’t so well-realised, so the story benefits from a little tightening up as a result. Luckily the structure of my plot is fairly modular, so my characters’ actions should not affect the overall story arc, but I’m not sure I’ll be so lucky when I come to write NaNo novel #2 next year.
What a detailed outline has allowed, however, is for me to plant a smattering of in-jokes and other stuff into the narrative for those having a second read-through of the novel. See, you already want to slap that smartarse self of mine, don’t you?

2) Aiming to writing a chapter a day was naïve
It sounded good at the time but my chapters are turning out to be longer than 1667 words, often double that. As a result I’m unlikely to complete a first draft of Title Withheld by the end of the month, but should be most of the way there, and definitely more than 50,000 words through. I could be looking at 300+ pages, though I hope not many more. That said I’m now off work until the 29th (happy, happy, joy, joy!) so let’s see if I can’t eat up some of these stray chapters.

3) Missing two days’ writing is terrifying
I woke up yesterday with 13,250 words and had to somehow finish today on 20,000. Yikes! I guess I’ll have to move my birthday for next year’s NaNo.
I feel I ought to put this into context, however: 3,375 words per day for two days doesn’t seem so bad when compared to the regime professional novelists place upon themselves. US horror legend Stephen King claims in his book “On Writing” (very much recommended) that he gets down around 2,000 words a day, every day, without fail, however many hours it takes (usually a morning). UK horror legend Shaun Hutson goes nuts if he can’t get down his ten pages each day – by UK book standards that’s around 2,500 words. So for me to bemoan 3,375 is perhaps a little precious.

4) My main character kicks arse!
Now that my main character is walking and talking and getting stuck in I’m growing to like her a lot more than I thought I would. Looking at my plot outline it’s such a shame that she… well, you’ll have to read the story, won’t you?

5) It costs just over £20,000 to buy a full-page advert in The Sunday Times’ Books section.
Ah. Perhaps I’m getting a little ahead of myself here…

The important thing is that NaNoWriMo continues to surprise and delight (even if it does sap precious moisture from my eyeballs), because for me that means it also continues to be interesting and worthwhile. If you are taking part in NaNoWriMo then I hope the ideas are flowing from your fingertips, or you are at least engaging with fellow NaNo-ers through the write-ins, forums and Facebook groups.

Finally, if you would like a sneaky preview of Title Withheld I have pasted a short excerpt here:

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/lucian-poll/novels/title-withheld-184410

(10 Lucian Poll points to anyone that spots the goof. Don’t worry, it’ll come out in the second draft.)

Laters ‘taters.

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