Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Nano2018 – when a Pantster just has to Plot

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about how I’d worked out what made Bountiful so deadly. Flushed with euphoria, I thought I was home and hosed, and that the writing would now flow. Not so much…

Since then, I’ve had to acknowledge that the core of my Nano story this year is actually three-fold:

  1. What made Bountiful so deadly?
  2. How did Beaumont cover it up?
  3. How did James Milgrove, aka the Burning Man, discover the Beaumont cover up?

I thought I had the answer to no. 2, but I soon realised that if I went with that particular solution, no. 3 would be almost impossible to achieve. I say ‘almost’ because I could have fudged the solution. ‘Oh  look, I just found a memo that proves Beaumont were culpable. How lucky is that?’

Just writing those two sentences raises the hackles on the back of my neck because it’s such a cheap trick, and so patently unrealistic. I mean really, with billions of dollars at stake, readers are supposed to believe that Beaumont cares enough to send an assassin to Innerscape, but not enough to burn the evidence?

Fortuitous events do happen, sometimes. Most of the time, however, big events are the result of a cascade of tiny, seemingly unrelated events, and the decisions taken over each one.  And that’s where plotting becomes a necessity.

Although I call myself a pantster, the truth is that I’m a hybrid who does a lot of research and a lot of plotting to make the base mechanics of the story work. In the case of P7698, that core revolves around the pseudo-science of Bountiful. In the Innerscape trilogy, the core centred on the constraints of the digital world itself. In Vokhtah, it was the whole world vs the biology, culture and history of the Vokh and iVokh.

Science fiction may demand more, in terms of these core mechanics, than some other genres, but I know that the best fantasy results from the same, fastidious attention to detail. Characters have to react to believable events and circumstances or their actions will come across as ‘fake’, and none of us want that. So here I am, a little bit stuck on points 2. and 3. 😦

I gave up the idea of winning Nano almost a week ago, and I can live with that; the element of competition was just a little added extra to keep me going. But getting this stuck is seriously depressing as I know I’m going to have writer’s block until I find solutions that feel real.

Anyone else having this problem?


Yes! New music for writing

Nano took a back seat this morning as I’ve been searching for the ‘right’, writing music. I listened to new music by old favourites, but nothing really matched how I feel about this new story. So in desperation I went to SoundCloud and there, thanks to SoundClouds great recommendation engine, I found…

Jon Altino

This is the playlist I just put together. It’s a bit rough as I just grabbed songs as I heard them, but the very first one – A World Asleep – is glorious and should give you some idea of the kind of music I need this year.

Jon Altino? If you’re reading this, I wanted to buy the album, but iTunes only offered Superhero. Please, please put a new album up there!

Well, time to put this lovely music to the test and fire up StoryBox.  I have this feeling P7698 is going to flow a whole lot better today than yesterday.



Nanomini in June

Here in Australia, the end of June marks the end of the financial year, and the beginning of two weeks of school holidays.

A year ago I would not have cared, except perhaps to comment on how nice it was not to fight the traffic during school drop off and pickup times. This year, however, I decided to use the school holidays to stage my own mini Nanowrimo, [National Novel Writing Month].

Before I go on, I should explain that I now work as a trainer in the adult education sector. All the companies I work for are Community Centres that also happen to be RTOs [Registered Training Organizations]. The significance of this is that Community Centres are closed during the school holidays. Thus I have to take the same [unpaid] holidays as well. 

As teaching can be quite draining, even when you enjoy it, I was more than ready for these holidays. Nonetheless, after a day or two, I knew I couldn’t just veg out for the whole two weeks. Protestant/Catholic/Atheist work ethic?

Anyway, I was thinking about what a shame it was that I wouldn’t be able to do Nano this year when it suddenly hit me that I could do a Nano any damn time I wanted! From that stroke of genius it was a short step to realising I could hold a mini Nano every single school holiday. 

Wow!” I thought. “I might even be able to finish the Innerscape WIP!

As things turned out, I spent the first week of the holidays forcing myself back into the story, and it was not until the second week that I truly began to do some good work. One of the things I’m most happy about is that I solved the thorny plot tangle right in the middle of the story. I still have a lot of writing to do, just to finish the first draft, but at least I know where I’m headed now.

In hindsight, I think there is a very good reason why the original Nanowrimo lasts for a whole month – you really need that time to get into the story, build momentum, and slap it all down in pixels. So although my Nanomini didn’t achieve everything I had hoped, I’m going to do the same thing during the September holidays,  and of course over the summer break in January. With luck, and a lot of hard work, I may have another story ready to go by this time next year. 

In a curious twist of fate, I was deep into the Innerscape WIP when I got the idea for another book. Its working title is ‘Carry-over Food [or how to eat well on $xx.xx per day]. At this point I’m still just recording what I spend on food, and what I cook with it to see what the figures show. If the numbers show that the idea has legs, this may become my first non-fiction title. If not, I’ll just chalk it up as an interesting experiment.

Oh, and another benefit of my Nanomini is that the teaching side of my brain was thoroughly refreshed. Just in time too because I now have two more paying jobs. Both are with a tutoring agency that specializes in coaching secondary school students.

This new work is both exciting, and a little scary as I haven’t taught at secondary level in a long time. Luckily the boys of my touch typing class made me remember that a little humour can go a long way towards establishing rapport with students of any age.

And this brings me to my apology; I can’t promise to post as regularly as I once did, but I will continue posting articles when I have the time and energy. I will also visit your blogs as much as I can because good friends are too precious to waste. 🙂





If only novels could come with soundtracks!

3 4 time in musicI have forgotten most of the music theory I learned as a child, but I’ve never forgotten the meaning of 3-4 time because that is waltz time, and waltzes have made me want to dance for decades. Oddly enough, 3-4 time is also synonymous with lullabies, where the music is as soothing as a heart-beat.

But what does any of this have to do with novels and soundtracks?

Back in November of last year [2012], I wrote a post about using Jo Blankenburg’s music as the inspiration for my Nanowrimo novel writing. The story I began writing is tentatively called Innerscape, and is the closest I have ever come to writing something romantic. The climax [excuse the pun] to the early section was a scene at a ball where my two star crossed lovers-to-be are seduced by a waltz.

Now why did I pick the music of a waltz to symbolize sensuality?

It’s true that I love waltzes, but there are other sensual images/feelings I could have used – such as water. The feel of water sliding over the skin has always been a very sensual feeling for me, yet I did not use a beach scene, or a scene in a swimming pool, or a bath, or a shower. Instead my mind automatically reached for a waltz. Why?

The answer did not hit me until I went looking for my Nanowrimo writing music again last night. I started playing Jo Blankenburg’s album Elysium, and suddenly I was swaying from side to side. Not bopping up and down, or tapping my foot, or jiggling in my seat – swaying.

I was not yet into the story, so without meaning to, I allowed myself to be distracted, and began counting the beats. One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three… Oh my god, it’s a waltz!

Once my conscious brain recognized that distinctive beat, I began recognizing it in song after song. And somewhere between ‘Arion’…

… and ‘Theogony’ …

… I realized the music was the reason I’d written a waltz into my story!

I swear, until that moment I had no idea the music had had such a powerful affect on me. Now though, it’s obvious, and may explain why I have to have Elysium playing [on repeat] as I start work on Innerscape again. The music is the soul of the story.

As all this stream of consciousness stuff was going through my head, I suddenly had this idea – wouldn’t it be amazing if books could have soundtracks? By that I mean, having the music as an integral part of the reading experience in the same way that music is a vital part of movies.

Just as an aside, as soon as I saw the cinematic trailer that accompanied Theogony I knew it had to be for a game, and I kind of suspected it was for Assassins Creed, but I wasn’t sure so I did some searching and yes, I was right – Assassins Creed III is the game. I’m tempted to buy it just for that promotional trailer! -cough- moving on -cough-

As an Indie I know I could never afford to pay Jo Blankenburg for his music, but if I could, and if e-readers were capable of integrating the music that inspires me, I would do it in a heartbeat!

The only thing I’m not sure of is whether readers would appreciate hearing that music as they read. Would you? Or would it be too distracting? Or would it depend on whether you liked the music or not?

I know this kind of tech may never happen, but I’d love to know what you think.



p.s. Thanks for all your comments and extraordinary suggestions on the ‘evil corporation’ post. I’ll be writing an update shortly. 🙂

50,096 – and now a word about nanowrimo 2012

I guess the big news is that I passed the 50,000 word goal yesterday. I’m pleased I reached that goal, but for me nano is not over because the story is still unfolding in my head, and it’s the story that really matters, not the word count. Sadly a lot of people lose sight of that bigger goal in the hunt for the numerical one.

Every time I go on the nano forums I see threads about discouraged people giving up because they know they can’t hit the target of 50,000 words. The goal posts are too far and time is too short. The dream of writing a book and becoming a real author is fading.

I understand the disappointment, but I really wish I could reach out and tell all these unhappy people that word count is not what nano is really about. The word count, the time limit, and even the sense of competition generated by the hype, all of these things are just motivators to help us learn the most vital lesson about writing – that it’s hard word and requires both dedication and self-discipline.

The creative part of writing is important, I’m not denying that, but as Albert Einstein said, “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work”. And he should know.

You can be the most talented, creative person alive, but your talent will mean nothing if you don’t put in the hard work to translate your ideas into… something. Be it a novel, a painting, a piece of sculpture, a song, an invention, or just a new way of doing something better, none of these things will be real until they get out of your head and become something tangible.

When I first did nano back in 2004, I had been writing a science fiction story off and on for about three years and I could not see an end to it. So I felt very disillusioned with myself. Doing nano was an attempt to see if I could actually finish something.

At the end of November 2004, I had a story I liked so much I kept on working at it for another seven years. It changed from a simple, stand-alone story into a bit of a monster many volumes long and now there is very little of the original writing left, which is probably a very good thing  as I was still learning how to write. The most important thing that came out of that first nano however, was not the story but the self-discipline I learned. Writing is like a job and should be treated with the same work ethic.

I still haven’t published anything, but in October of this year I did cross another hurdle; I submitted to a publisher. I haven’t heard anything back from the publisher and I don’t expect to, but in January of next year I will give myself an extraordinary birthday present – I will self publish Vokhtah and then the apprenticeship I began in 2004 will finally be finished.

Becoming a real, honest-to-god writer was a journey that only began with nano. To all those who are just starting that journey I say, “Don’t give up! The dream is worth the effort”.



Harper Voyager & NaNoWriMo

Dear Diary,

I submitted my novel, Vokhtah, to Harper Voyager last night, and now I can sit and contemplate the enormity of what I have done. Not for too long though, because NaNoWriMo starts on November the 1st [more on that later].

So. In the last few weeks I’ve conquered my fear of failure, received my MS back from my editor, edited said MS, learned how to write a query letter and submitted my very first novel. Not bad at all. On the down side however, my house is a shambles, the weeds are going berserk, I’ve almost run out of clean clothes and our meals have been… basic. Oh, and I’ve neglected my blog quite a bit. 😦 Clearly, I’m going to have to fix at least some of those things. For today though, I’m just going to focus on the simple pleasure of not having a deadline hanging over my head any more.

As part of my winding down strategy I’m going to potter around in the garden, trying not to see the spots where Andy, the adolescent alpaca has dropped bits of poop. His mother has been rather slack in teaching him the finer points of alpaca etiquette. Well-mannered, adult alpacas poop in neat, clearly defined piles. Andy poops as he walks. 😦

I will also spend some time playing with the dog instead of constantly yelling at her to be quiet because I’m working. I may even decide to cook something half-way decent for dinner, but only because I’m sick of pizza and fish and chips. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

And in a very roundabout way, the word ‘tomorrow’ brings me to that other, rather peculiar word in the title – NaNoWriMo. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. Most of us just call it nano. Nano is a yearly event that begins on the 1st of November and ends on the 30th. What actually happens is that participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It sounds insane but can be incredibly stimulating. And fun. That’s why I’ve decided to participate again this year. I need a bit of fun. My brain feels tired and I just don’t have the mental energy to jump straight into book 2 of the Vokhtan series.

A change is as good as a holiday… right?

Anyway, I’ve signed up for nano so it’s too late to change my mind now. 😀 I have not the faintest, foggiest, vaguest idea what to write, but I’m hoping sheer panic and desperation will kick start my brain on November 1. That strategy worked back in 2004 so I’m hoping it will work again in 2012. If not, I may be writing some very depressed and depressing posts.

If any brave writer out there wants to keep me company during the month of November, the url for nano is here.

And now I really do have to go out into the garden. I have early roses to sniff, tiny figs to encourage and an irate dog to placate.



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