Nano progress

What do maps, water sprites, miners’ tokens, flamestones and the tides between worlds have in common?

You don’t know? Well, that makes two of us. But I think they’re important – even connected – in my story. I just have to figure out how.

They’re what Holly Lisle calls “muse bombs” in her How to Think Sideways course: those little details that fall on to the page direct from the subconscious. You didn’t intend to put them in your story, they just appear, and then they catch your attention and insist on meaning something, making the story richer in the process than you consciously planned.

I’m having a lot of fun, though still regularly stricken by those panicked “but what comes next??” moments (just about every time I have to start a new scene, in fact). I realised today that I have about 6,000 more words written than I did this time last year, which pleases me. Still slightly ahead of the game at just over 31,000 words today. Once you make it into the 30,000s you start to feel you’ve broken the back of it, though in fact I know that story-wise I’m only about a quarter of the way through.

So I’ll end up having to do what I did last year, and write the end of the book as scene outlines instead of fully fleshed scenes. Chris Baty, the founder of Nano, recommends this approach, saying that it’s easier to come back later and fill out notes than have to dream up what happens next once you’ve lost touch with the characters and the narrative impetus. It certainly sounded logical to me and I was close enough to the end at 50,000 words last year that there were only about half a dozen scenes to outline.

The funny thing was that, by the time I got back to the novel to finish the first draft, I took one look at the notes I’d written and thought, “well, that’s not going to work!” and chucked it all. So it’s true what they say: you should put your manuscript away for a few months after you finish it and come back to it later with fresh eyes. You can view it a lot more objectively that way. I’ll be going back to that revision when I finish the current Nano project. Hopefully I don’t see by then that the whole thing needs to go!

Drama Duck’s caught the Nano bug and is trying to work out how she can do it too next year. Even Baby Duck is into novelling at the moment. His latest magnum opus is entitled Chickens From Space. He draws the pictures, we staple them together, then he dictates the text to me. In a world first, I give you a thrilling excerpt from this literary masterpiece:

Flapsy [one of the space chickens] laid an egg. POP! Out of the egg came a little chicken head and Stretchy [name-obsessed space chicken] asked what his name was too.

The chicken replied, “Bork!”

Stretchy said to Flapsy, “Is that his name? ‘Bork’?”

Flapsy said, “No, his name is John.”

Deathless prose! And he’s only five. Just think what he’ll be doing in another twenty years. Look out, Christopher Paolini!

Good luck to all the other Nanoers out there. Only thirteen more days till you can have your life back!

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