NaNoWriMo in July: lessons from week one.

Cor blimey. I’m 1/3rd of the way to my 20k goal. How did that happen?

“The Radio Andromeda” is coming along at a steady clip. I’ve settled into the rhythm of writing already. Currently shooting for 1k/day (and more or less meeting it), with the hopes of increasing to full NaNo levels of 1.7k/day eventually. Provided that I can sustain it physically!

Software-wise, I’ve settled into WriteMonkey for actual writing, with the support of WikidPad (just as simple and powerful) as my world-building and note-taking repository. Both are simple and easy to adopt, but also immensely powerful — but this power is all under the hood and stays out of sight until you want to check it out. As for Scrivener? I installed it, opened it up, poked around the tutorial, closed it, and promptly uninstalled. I’m quite a good judge of software these days, and sometimes you just know it’s not going to work at first sight. Simple and flat text is the way I roll. Unfortunately, Scrivener seems the antithesis of simple, and those extraenous helper tools just obfuscated and confused. But WriteMonkey and WikidPad are right up my alley. Couldn’t be happier with them.

Starting to notice the authors I’m trying to channel: Ursula Le Guin for setting/mood/theme, Daniel Abraham for voice/theme, with bits of Leif Enger and James Jones strewn around. Incidentally, I had just been reading the latter three right before July NaNo started — all are excellent authors and I want to be like them when I grow up. (Vega’s Favourite Authors is quite an exclusive club; Enger and Jones are the newest members, which warrants a blog post. Will do that one day.)

Learning a lot too. So far:

(1) Pantsing — with planning once the next few steps get clear — is working surprisingly well. Early on I wrote to a point that seemed to suggest a zig (it works), and then suddenly decided to zag instead (no actually, it doesn’t work) and see where it would take me. Hmm. If anything, it gave me more time for character development and laying foundations. Building a structure — with the opportunity to knock it all down and throw things into chaos later. And indeed, that looks to be happening…

(2) The threads are finally coming together. Had a lot of disparate themes and ideas in mind, and just started putting down the words, and now I’m seeing the bigger picture and how to weave them together. The running themes are working themselves deeper into the foundations. The two main characters are in full flaming life. They are starting to exhibit unconscious similarities — which I can then contrast and oppose with each other. And differences — which will be linchpins for their coming conflict. Egad! It is coming together. I’m amazed, and seizing this opportunity. Grabbing all those threads and yanking hard, pulling to see where it goes.

(3) The world-building has faded into scenery. Into the backdrop of the world. A bit of a surprise, but this is GOOD. The kind of world-building that I like, the type that disappears into a reader’s assumptions and suspension of disbelief, but then pops up to surprise and intrigue every now and again. All the frenetic world-building I did for “Killing the Dragon” is paying off, because the bones of the world have already faded into the background of my consciousness, and I’m just pulling out details for flavour and novelty. (And adding to my world-building “bible” too.) Might need some fleshing out later, but this is just the way I like it.
Managed to throw in a FIFA World Cup reference in the narrative too. Oh yeah. Even in a world that has humans but otherwise bears no relation to earth… there is football. Truly the universal game.

(4) I had a huge brainwave last night and finally worked out the central conflict that is going to be the backbone for the rest of the story. No, I didn’t know what it would be from the start — in fact was a little worried that this would just be talking heads in a story that didn’t go anywhere. But the major conflict has now been confirmed. Oh, it will be hard writing it. Especially since I just wrote the high point of the friendship. And now it’s going to crumble apart. Had to mourn the coming loss last night. Now I’ll have to write the descent into darkness… not sure if there will be light at the end. Hopefully. Well, I’m pantsing — we’ll see when I get there.

(5) In the same brainwave, I saw I had set myself up for a foreshadowing opportunity. Quite by accident (ie. I had already written it earlier without that intent at all), which seems the best way to insert effective foreshadowing without sounding contrived or heavy handed. And it came about because I had laid foundations of tone, mood and theme already at the beginning of the story. Foreshadowing looks to be both serendipitous, and dependent on the author’s pattern recognition ability. Will see where this lesson goes. Seizing the thread and yanking!

(6) The inner editor is starting to take a sinister turn. It wants to mess with what’s already written. Have to put it back into its cage. Edit and polish later! Write new content now!

(7) I’m learning that I do have a story to tell, and I can actually find the words to tell it.

Will have more to say about everything later. Best get back to the novella.

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