Nanowrimo reflections

The way I see it, Nanowrimo is almost over.

I've learnt a lot in 21 short days. I have learnt that I can write even when I don't particularly want to, and that I can do it well — something I think I had completely forgotten I have learnt that words can still surprise me, creeping up on me in the night and following me around through the mornings. I have also learnt to look after myself a little better. I have occasionally traded in chocolate for green things, and sometimes not only eaten gummy bears for three days straight. I have even managed to balance going to a gym where they do actual exercise and what not with writing every single day.

Occasionally, I have even gone outside on non writing related jaunts.

I have met people and made plans, and still been home before the stroke of midnight to dutifully type down those words in an effort to prove to myself that I do love writing. I do, and after this month I know I can say that with complete confidence.

I have enjoyed writing by fairy lights and then in darkness, the soft tapping of my keys keeping my companion (slightly) awake.

November is often a time of introspection for me; I happen to have a birthday three days before its end and everybody knows that when you're a grown up birthdays are less of a glorious cake induced vomit fest and a little more of a life crisis induced state of being. Different methods, similar results. This November has been made a little different for me not just because of Nanowrimo, but because of how I have approached it.

I have used it to come to the realisation that all of the above are things that I already knew somewhere deep down inside me. I have used it to pleasantly wandered along the Nanowrimo trail smelling the roses and enjoying their scents.

How is your November going? Is it snowing where you are too because omg I love it when it snows in November! It's like a winter wonderland here.

How to write a novel in 30 days

A month of words is upon us. This year I am using Nanowrimo to get back into simply enjoying blank pages, and the call of word sprints. I feel like I've been editing for far to long, so there's something very freeing about just writing for the love of words. I've been doing National Novel Writing Month for a while now, using it for whole books and sometimes just as a fun break so I figured this was the year I give out some real tips (not just my annual bad tips) about joining in with a little something called Nanowrimo:

#1 Get excited

This month is open to everyone and anyone but it seems to me to work best when, whoever you are, you get excited. Pump yourself up and feel enthusiastic! Understand that this month is full of possibilities and in under thirty days you will have something to look back on and be proud of. Join in with the fun (whether it is the 1st or 30th of November) and meet new people! Be the change you want to see in yourself! YEAH!

#2 Don't get the fear

We writers are hardy stock. We shall not bulk at the thought of empty pages. We will not falter in the face of word count deadlines. We are like rock against the coastline facing the ongoing storm. We shall not be afraid of our own inner demons.

#3 Except everyone gets the fear, so let the fear fuel you

We writers are also sensitive folk. We do get the fear even if we are as sturdy as rock on the coastline facing a tempest. Fear is what keeps us alive and we will use it to drive us. We will let our fear of falling behind push us to late night word sprints on days when we'd rather not be writing. We will fuel our hearts and minds with that nervous sweating you get when you realise it's 11:57pm and in 3 minutes the daily word goals will reset and you need to get ahead of them. We will write because it is all that there is left to cling to when we are afraid that, in fact, this novel has no substance.

#4 Be friendly

It might feel super competitive, but there's no reason you can't make friends in this race for the most words in November. And! There's no reason you can't go at your own pace. There's no reason why you can't wear hats backwards, dance outside in your undies, and eat catfood from the tin during November as well but there is super duper no reason why you can't be friendly to people! Nights of not sleeping, and constant caffeine drips, make Nanowrimo a great place to find friends! Their forums are full of the chats.

#5 Enjoy yourself

Imho Nanowrimo is not really for writing 50,000+ of absolute genius or becoming the next bestselling author. If you start November with a blank page and no idea where you're going accept that you might take the long route, or the confusing route, or a route with no plot or little character agency, enjoy the fact that your Nanowrimo doesn't have to be a finished product. I mean, sure, it can be and maybe you're editing your book during November and that's fine but if this is your first time... just enjoy yourself first Nanowrimo and let everything else happen second.

What are your Nanowrimo tips? I love that Nanowrimo is an introduction into writing for many people! It's great to see so many words being written in the month of November.

Writing: There will be bruises

I bruised my ankle while I was away.


Having taken only boots and a pair of runners on my trip, I had to forgo the boots because the next day there was a tree trunk where my ankle was supposed to be.

At one point I spent, like, twenty to ninety minutes in the darkest of night silently pondering what would happen if it was broken and I had to visit a foreign hospital explaining that it was all for the sake of a picture of a canoe. Not even a canoe, really, in the end, but of the water near it. At another point, I walked too far on it. I pushed it to its limits and it pushed me right back making me moody.

Sometimes, I made noises when putting on skinny jeans. Sometimes I make noises anyway, but these were mostly related to my ankle specifically. A week later, and it still hurts to lean on it but the pain is fading and with it the memory of my tumble off a boulder on a lake near Algonquin Park*

If you're accompanying me anywhere, there comes a moment you realise that bruises, and cuts, and perhaps even a few splinters, are all just part of the package. Most of the time I limit them to myself.

But despite being the clumsiest person I know, I never learn.

I throw myself into things with just as much gusto as ever not because I enjoy the pain, or because I'm hard as nails. I do it because I've never considered the injuries to outweigh the results.

I had a great time when I was away. I stubbed my toes on a dock after tripping in a lake I was swimming in. I got splinters in my bum, discreetly removed in the depths of the forest, after sliding off a not so super smooth porch deck to go kick some maple leaves falling like raindrops to the dusty ground. I managed to cut my pinky on the boot shelf thing our rental car had. I bruised my knee, hard, on a handmade wooden bed and spent an afternoon trying not to bend it. I bit the inside of my mouth. I cut my big toe on something that left a really deep cut but I never caught what it was. And, of course, then there was the boulder incident **

I do not regret a single thing: not the inadvisable bum slide; not the coldest water in the northern hemisphere lake; and most certainly not the picture of water with a tiny bit of a canoe in it capturing the exact moment I fell off that boulder.

They say you can't make an omelette without cracking a few eggs. I think the same is true for life, and writing. I think, like the bruises on my wrist, knee, and ankle, they'll be injuries along the way to something great when you're writing too. Maybe it will be an inexplicable gap, that you dare not talk about, when you can't really write at all. Maybe it will come in the forms of long drawn out maybes and definite nos. Maybe the suspense of waiting for it will be the torture that bruises you.

But all I keep thinking is it's never not been worth it.

I've never looked at a bruise inside or out and thought that I could do without the experience that came as a result of it (okay, apart from that one time I maybe put my pinky in a pencil sharpener because the draw of unknown was calling to my seven year old brain). I know that every mistake, bruise, cut, and splinter has gone someway to creating me. I know that every painstakingly rewritten paragraph, and injury to my pride, has gone someway to getting me here to this.

I hope one day to look back even further down the path and agree with my past self. Seeing how far I have come, and knowing how far I have yet to travel in the world of words.

I shared the pencil sharpener debacle, so what's your most regrettable experiment? Also, I know you're dying to see the photo captured during the boulder incident and honestly I'm happy to oblige. I give you: I Fell Off a Rock For This Photo, digital photo, 2015

* It's possible I bruise too easily and this injury was slightly less dramatic than I am envisioning...  at one point during our trip a toddler wafted his hands across my wrist on a bus ride to Niagara, squeezed the tiniest amount, and I had a painful hand shaped bruise the next day...
** I keep saying boulder but what you should probably keep in mind is that this boulder was maybe half a foot in diameter

Interlude: Canada

Recently, in a bid to leave my day job behind, I took a short trip to Canada.

The ride out was a little bumpy, the ride back was even more so. And, turbulence terrifies me. We didn't bring the right clothes for the weather, which was hot and then cold, and then wet, and then freezing because we were wet. And, I don't like the cold. I injured myself on twigs, car doors, beds, boulders, and docks. And, I'm prone to doing that. The roads were flat, and the nights were long. And, I completely fell in love with Ontario.

At first, we were in the middle of a second summer, and I basked in the sun's rays as Niagara threw up great plumes of water around me. Also we saw nuns with iPads, and I liked the way their blue clothes reflected the water. Later, we traveled into the heart of the wilderness, and chased the sun as it set around us.

And even later than that, I fell off a boulder by the shore trying to take a picture of the water. As a devout explorer, I got the picture before I limped away pretending to seven other people that the incident totally didn't happen.

I found something I thought I might have lost in Ontario. It started with enjoying simple moments, and taking photos of things that meant more to me than they could ever mean to anyone else. It started with breathing in air anew, appreciating every second. It has blossomed into a yearning to capture these moments in pictures and sounds and words. It has bloomed and I feel more myself than ever.

Desk jobs can drain you of that spark sometimes. And I never knew mine had been seeping out until the creativity started to return, and I began proclaiming how pretty everything was.

I felt a deep connection to Ontario, and I'm not entirely sure why. Could have been the canoeing, and peaceful nights spent in a cabin by the fire. Could have been the Autumn leaves and dry air. Could have been the moose we heard (and in my mind we almost ran into) on a night time paddle. Could have been the food. All I know is that the words of a famous Canadian, astronaut, and thinker caught in my mind a few days ago in a science museum thrumming with rain, and they've been clinging on ever since.

I don't intend to let life randomly kick me into the person I don't want to be, Chris Hadfield, and I have you, Canada, those closest to me and the simple beauty of outside to thank for reminding me of that.

Rewrites & New Ideas

I often find that when I am right in the midst of rewrites, battling plot holes, typos, and somewhere deep inside also my inner demons, that a new completely different voice surfaces and starts to tell its story.

I struggle to ignore this voice.

I battle in vain to focus.

And, then, when nothing else will temper it, I jot down its words in a notebook promising it I will return.

I'm not sure if this is the best approach to things -- invariably the voice hogs my pen, making the inner pad of my palm ache as it rattles on -- but its the best thing I can think of for now. I know to completely give in to the voice and take to my laptop would mean the death of my revisions.

Secretly, I hope that it never realises I hand-write the words to slow it down. To make it pause and get bogged down in ink for a moment. To halt the oncoming storm.

I hope that it never knows the lengths I do to in order to force it into pausing, to prioritise what I was working on before.

In some ways I'm scared that if it did ever cotton on it might wander off, and give itself to another, different, more responsive writer. In some ways I know that really, when it comes down to it, the words will always wait for me.

Good ideas fly in circles, I like to think, and sometimes letting them percolate is a good thing. A very good thing, maybe.

How do you focus on rewrites? Has a shiny new idea ever simply just taken over you? I sometimes let them override me for a bit. I like to have dalliances with new ideas.