My new favourite number is…

It’s just past 12 here in Australia. Ten minutes before midnight, my mum dragged me out to help change a light bulb. I almost died, and not from electrocution. At 11:55pm, I validated my word count for Camp NaNoWriMo with trembling fingers.

I’ll be coming up with a proper post later but for now, I need to say this: that was one bumpy ride.

Let’s just say I was not the diligent hamster sprinting at her blur of a wheel. I’m actually bummed to confess that while I wrote every word of what I submitted in this month for Camp, not all of it was pure novel material. There was an awful period where I was sick and skipped a full week. In the midst of it, I started working on a plot bunny that had blindsided me. Terrible, terrible mistake. Still, I counted those words.

A lot of thinking (and probably white hairs) happened, and suddenly I was back on track for my initial novel. But I had dawdled too long and wouldn’t make the count if I were to write the novel itself. I think and write much slower when it comes to raw material. I kept at it, getting up early before uni and getting home first thing afterwards. I managed 2000 words yesterday. It’s my proudest moment this month. Still, I was over 8000 words from my target, with one day left. I knew I was being unorthodox, but I couldn’t bring myself to let it end that way. I have a lot of pride!

So today, I sprinted 8000 words of creative reflection in 4.5 hours. I wrote about my writing perspective and what I envisioned Project Ark (my WIP) to be. Then I dove into analysing the biggest flaws in the story idea, spending about 1000 words on each. World-building was a big disaster waiting to happen. While troubleshooting that (and troubleshoot I did, very hard), I concluded that my antagonist was actually a tree. Well. After that, I was obligated to spend another 5000 words analysing ‘troubled’ characters in attempts to make them more evil. So I did. While doing that, the focus on character development led me to realise I still couldn’t hear my main character’s voice properly. So the last 1000 words were spent listening to what he had to say and jotting it down (also changing light bulbs and whatnot).

I’m glad I wrote that reflection. I didn’t realise how much I needed to let my thoughts flow. My brain and fingers did that amazing stringing-ideas-together thing, drawing my story tighter. My only regret is that it feels like I cheated a narrow victory out of my goal for Camp. It was all creative material but not all of it was written as solid novel material. Still repenting. But right now, I can’t help feeling ecstatic.

One month ago, I set a goal of 31,000 words. One month later, I laughed at my word count.

It was 31,002.

I looked back at the document to check what those two words were, even though I already knew. They weren’t just random words. I had beamed to myself when I wrote them, just because with those two simple words I finally saw my main character properly. I decided to share them with you in its original glory, the inarticulate mess that is my stream of consciousness brainstorming. I wouldn’t have lasted half the month if it weren’t for you guys. You don’t know it but just by reading my first Camp post, you gave me the resolve to take those steps. They let me hit the ground running, still am after the drama. I want to thank you guys properly after I’ve gotten some sleep, but for now I hope a huge THANK YOU!!! will do :D

Check out that conveniently spoiler-free and hilariously generic sentence!

“He is a boy with a burden and a painful history, who has never forgotten how to cry and smile: he feels.”


All packed for Camp NaNo!

You know I’m serious when I set my alarm for 7.a.m. Really, really serious.

It’s the last hour of June here in Sydney. It’s only been a little over a week since I shackled myself to the decision of doing Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s just hit me that this is as ready as I’ll get.

I’ve been good about my preparations. I trained myself into writing 1,000 words for the past week. I managed it quite consistently at first, hitting 1,500 a lot of the time. Using Svenja Liv’s word count spreadsheets kept my motivation high (I really recommend other Campers to check them out!). I haven’t been that good the past two days though. I still wrote but it wasn’t clicking. I was pacing a trench in my room. This can’t be real. Am I going to get blocked hours before Camp?

My writer’s reflection in the mirror rolled her eyes at me. “Does it really matter?”

Oh. Now that you mention it. No, I guess it doesn’t.

After all, wasn’t this the whole point of doing Camp? I’d get blocked, give up and never finish that story I want to bring into this world. Didn’t I want to go wild and return to the good old days, where I’d smash through writer’s block with obnoxious boldness?

So yeah, I’ve hit a rough patch. The scene is hard. Going from fanfiction to original stories, it is so hard for me to face the first chapters. But hey – that’s what first drafts are for! I’m not feeling good about the list of things I know I’ll have to come back and completely rehaul, but I’m not going to stop for them right now. I really have to train myself hard for this. My inner editor is as fussy as a mandrake.

But you know what? In spite of everything, I think I’ll be fine. Even if I’m not, well, I’ll have to be because I just announced it to you guys! My pride is reliable like that.

To my fellow Campers out there – there are days where we will feel terrible about our writing and our goals. When that happens, I hope that we can look back at the current me, forty-five minutes before the campfire starts up, and be comforted by the knowledge that at least you got stuck during Camp. This silly girl ran headlong into a wall before Camp even started. But it’s okay. She’s got a rock-hard head. She’ll get her 31,000 words done and with any luck, they might not be the worst 31,000 words she’s ever written. She’s going to remember what it’s like to love the writing process, word by word.

I’ve added a progress meter on the right for you guys to follow as I scribble away. Please feel free to prod me any time you think I’m slacking off, because chances are I’ll need it! I’d love to stick this tough month out with you guys, so let me know if you’re doing Camp as well. The writing life doesn’t always have to be solitary! All the best, everyone!

Now please excuse me while I set my alarm.

Doing Camp NaNoWriMo. For real this time.

NaNoWriMo and I… we’re like two acquaintances who always notice each other on the same train and awkwardly exchange glances, hovering between pretending we don’t recognise each other, and saying hi. Recognising each other would probably mean obligatory awkward conversation between two almost-strangers. Not recognising each other is awkward anyway, but it saves the talking. For years NaNo has smiled shyly (or is it slyly?) at me from across the carriage. Oh, it recognises me alright. But it waits; it waits for me to make the first move.

It knew I was scared of it.

Let me make totally legitimate excuses for myself, before I tear them all down and give my train self a good “Gosh, just woMANly it up and get over there!” throttling.

National Novel Writing Month traditionally chose November to be the month (I almost wrote Novelber…). That’s cool. I was born in November; it’s my favourite month. Only I live in Australia, down under. I’m nearly always in exam period when NaNo comes around, and even if I’m not I’m never quite prepared enough in October to tackle the monster head on. I’ve never done NaNo properly. I’ve never felt that rush or exhilaration of dashing madly for 1,667 words a day. To be honest, I don’t think I ever tried.

Then came Camp. And guess what?

It’s in July.

I just finished my final exam today.

I’ve got nearly six weeks of winter break.

I have a 5-book series idea that I’ve spent a year building brick by brick.

That’s right – it’s time to cross that carriage and chat up a relationship my boyfriend can be jealous of.

Camp feels a lot less intimidating because you can set your own writing goals, instead of standing in that mountainous 50,000 shadow from the outstart. You can count on me to wimp out. Instead, I’ve sold my soul to the devil for 1,000 words a day. That’s 31,000 words by the end of July. This feels a bit weird because I’m so used to NaNo as “30 days and nights of literary abandon”… July does have 31 days, right? Or are my knuckles a lie?

I used to write 10k of fanfiction in a school week. Then life happened. So this holidays, I’m slamming the door in life’s face. No matter what I’m doing that day, I’m giving myself a curfew to go home and write. I don’t think my boyfriend knows what he’s encouraging me to do. Sorry honey. Work calls.

I’m starting my novel from scratch – right from chapter 1. My previous attempts got me up to chapter 4 before I sighed and admitted it wasn’t working. Back to the drawing board. Scrivener got a workout, mindmapping happened, and so did this blog. I stepped into the writing community. And it’s pretty awesome.

Typing ‘writing’ into the wordpress reader and seeing so many aspiring writers out there with their own frustrations and joys is like tumbling through a certain wardrobe. I’d comment on fellow writers’ posts, cheer them on, whinge with them, and quite often just say ditto (in a more verbose way). Somewhere in between, it made me realise something.

“Dudette,” I said to the mirror, “You get so happy for other writers because you pretend you’re living through them. Let’s face it – you’re scared to bring your own story to life. You’ve been sheltered by the conveniences of fanfiction; original stories are hard for you. But until you do it, you’re just writing empty excuses for yourself in other people’s comment boxes. Can you really tell them to ‘write on’ when you’re not even next to them on the battlefield?”

My defensive reflection hid a wince. It knows I’m right. “And?” it asked flatly. It looked me in the eye and for just a second, I think I saw the naive writer we used to be. We’d written terribly and eventually we learned to write not-so-terribly. It was fun. At that moment I realised that my reflection was the writer inside me – it was that naive writer with simple desires. It still was; it had just grown up. Alone, neither of us can become that young happy writer again, and now I’m trying to remember when we even separated into two. But it’s about time we made up our differences.

My reflection crossed its arms like a final threshold. Stubborn. I liked that. We used to be good at it. “And?” it repeated with a glint of challenge. “What do you want to do about it?”

I stared back for a while, thinking. Then I grinned. My reflection blinked slowly. Finally, it began to smirk. It knew. We wanted to be stubborn again, naive again; young again. We wanted to do something that made us feel amazed by ourselves, all over again.

I crossed my arms as well. Now we looked exactly the same. Just like old times.

“Do NaNoWriMo,” I said. “For real this time.”