Delight, despair, delight, despair: lather, rinse, repeat

Or: when it’s good, it’s very very good, and when it’s bad it’s the most torturous way to spend your time ever invented. That’s Nano for you. A real rollercoaster ride.

Things I have learned on this year’s Nanoing adventure:

— I use the word “stuff” waaaaay too often, even for a novel featuring a pair of thirteen-year-olds. And “that”. My God, if I had a dollar for every “that” in this manuscript, I would be writing this post from a beach in the Bahamas. Or possibly the deck of my new yacht.

— If Nano isn’t challenging enough, new levels of difficulty can be created by inserting a character into your work who only speaks in rhyme. All I can say is, thank God for online rhyming dictionaries. Sometimes my brain is just too overwhelmed to come up with a decent rhyme.

— It’s a lot of fun to read each completed chapter to an appreciative eleven-year-old audience. She’s following the story with great interest, and I enjoy listening to her speculate on what’s going to happen next. (By the way, said eleven-year-old has passed 3500 words out of her 5000. Demon Duck is languishing on about 1000 out of 4000.)

— I’m beginning to suspect I don’t have a good enough imagination to be a fantasy writer. This in spite of apparent evidence to the contrary: I have space-going whales, a tree as big as a planet and flesh-eating pirates whose ship is made of organic balloons. Sounds like a good imagination, doesn’t it?

The trouble is, I find those parts difficult to write, and it seems to me they come out kind of flat. Whereas the “real world” sections have voice and personality and I zip through them with (comparative) ease.

The writers among you are now probably chanting “that’s what revision’s for!” and sure, I know this stuff is fixable (ten points if you spotted that “stuff” – I swear that word is following me around). But surely a fantasy writer shouldn’t have so much trouble with the “making stuf things up” part?

But still, in spite of these quibbles, things are going well (touch wood). Wordcount today is up to 29,528 words, which means I’m a little ahead of schedule for the month. Story-wise I think I’m about halfway through, though it’s hard to tell when you’re writing by the seat of your pants. My attitude to outlining is a little like my attitude to dieting. I can see it’s a good idea, but I never quite get around to doing it.

But probably the biggest news is my new technological best friend – a Philips Voice Tracer, purchased for me at great expense by the Carnivore, bless his little cotton socks. In the old days this would have been called a dictaphone; I’m not sure what the proper terminology is these days.

Regardless of its name, it’s made a big difference. I’m a very slow writer. It can take me five or six hours (or even more with bouts of procrastinating thrown in) to write the required number of words every day. I’m not sure why, but even trying as hard as I can I can’t write much more than 500 words in an hour.

Desperate for a way to reduce the hours I spend slogging away at the computer, I decided to try speaking the story and typing it later. I tried this once before, years ago, and found it unsatisfactory – I was too selfconscious. But, longing for some free time and a bedtime before midnight, I decided to give it another go. We only bought it on Saturday, so the jury’s still out on it as a long-term strategy, but so far I’m very pleased.

Last night, for instance, I couldn’t start writing till 9:30 – kind of late if it’s going to take five hours to get the wordcount. But with my new mate Phil’s help I knocked out 2000 words in two hours. True, the prose is a little uninspiring – a lot more “she went here, he said this” than when I’m typing directly, but that can be fixed, and if it gets the story out quicker I’m all for it.

Because after you’ve found out what the story is, you get the fun of revising it till it gleams. Maybe with Phil’s help I can finish the whole story, not just the first 50,000 words, by the end of November. That would really be something to celebrate. I could face Christmas with a clear conscience.

Aaarrgh! The dreaded C word! Just don’t ask me if I’ve started my shopping yet …

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