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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

NANO fail? Not really...

At the start of Nanowrimo I announced I would be partaking in the "Chocolate Frog Challenge" - one chocolate frog would perish for every 5000 words written.

At the end of Nano three frogs lived to tell the tale of an apparent Nano fail... Or is it?

The surviving frogs...

On Day 1 of Nano, I sat down with a premise, a couple of characters, a bit of a world build and an opening chapter. I could have frozen there and then but I stuffed the internal editor into a box with a brick on the lid and let the creativity go. A whole new world began to unfold for me as new characters jumped on to the page and  Singapore in 1910, almost unrecognisable from the modern, bustling city state, began to emerge.

Harriet World
It was inevitable that I had to pause now and then for research. As the characters came alive, I needed to know the city they were moving around. A fruitless search for a contemporaneous street map of Singapore ensued and I had to make do with a modern map and bits and pieces of older maps...and my own memory. I lived in Singapore for three years in the early "noughties" and as I dug through my notes and photographs, it was almost as if I had been subliminally challenging this un-yet-thought-about story. The result is a "Harriet World" on my cupboard door.

Then there was Scrivener...if I have not extolled the virtues of the love of my life, then that is probably a post for another day. I wrote directly into Scrivener, scene by scene, using a different colour label for the POV of my protagonists so I now have a lovely long colourful list of scenes. I set up character cards for each character as they entered stage left, grouping them in folders according to where they fitted. I have a folder labelled "Corpses".

Likewise the research - every little tit bit of research got squirrelled away in the Research and Locations folders and the best thing of all is that if there should be more Harriet books, I can save the information as a template and move it from book to book, adding to it as I go. I LOVE Scrivener.

I stalled at 37,000 words with maybe 5 or 6 scenes left to go before "The End". Why? I hit the last week of November and it was like hitting a brick wall. What is it with the last week of November? It's as if everyone wants to cram everything in to it, in the anticipation of December being busy. I had work, I had late meetings, I had daytime meetings, I had social events...I had no time to write...and so the 30 November rolled around leaving Harriet Rough Draft #1 unfinished so tantalisingly close to the denouement (but thanks to the magic of Scrivener there are cards with the concepts for the last few scenes scribbled on them so I wouldn't forget what came next).

Nano fail? Absolutely not! It was never really about writing 50,000 words or finishing a book - I already knew I could do that. What I have proved to myself...

  • I have most of the rough draft for a book I thought I would never have the courage to write;
  • I proved I could write a mystery while remaining a "pantser";
  • I have established a world that is just screaming for some more stories to be written;
  • I proved I COULD write the rough draft to a story in just 30 days!
What's more, I have characters I love, a setting that is just speaking to me and a fierce desire to finish Harriet #1 and move on to Harriet #2....

So thank you Nanowrimo, I will probably be back next year.

The author in Harriet mode...the Pith helmet arrived at the start of Nano

 PS The remaining frogs were put out of their misery on the completion of Nanowrimo



  1. Great post Alison. I got to 45,000+ and I'm happy with that. I'm trying a new genre, in a whole new world, with all sorts of weird and wonderful things happening. So to get that far is fine by me. I have read so much about Scrivener from other nano participants that I think I must give it a go...

  2. Definitely not a fail, Alison. It sounds like you're well on your way to completing a story that has your heart and soul in it. Well done!

    I managed to reach 50k words around day 21, however, as soon as I did, my internal editor that had been safely locked away, got out of it's cage and began taunting me. I still had about 20k words to go to complete the story, but I barely wrote another word for the rest of November.

    Thankfully, I managed to gather up the courage to open up Scrivener (yes, I'm also a huge fan) this week and start the re-write and editing process. I'm feeling much more positive about continuing, and am very grateful to have participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time as it's moved me closer to my goal of completing a novel.

  3. Well done! And I'm glad you put those frogs out of their misery.
    I hit a brick wall at the beginning of the third week and my final word count was just a shade under 30,000. But like you there are so many positives. I must write a blog post about it.
    I'm looking forward to reading Harriet!

  4. Hi you this was a dip into a new genre and I found the discispline of having Nano forced me into doing something I had been too scared to try.
    And yes, download a free trial of Scrivener and give it a go...but it does take quite a bit of dedication to learn it!

  5. Yay, Lauren! Win + win (word goal and nearly finishing the "damn book")but there is a danger in sitting back now and just letting it drift away. Hang on to the story and really and truly FTDB!

  6. Thanks, J.T. The frogs did not perish in vain ;-)
    I bet that was 30K words you wouldn't have written otherwise.
    Whatever you achieved I don't think there is such a thing as a "nano fail".

  7. Great post Alison! I love the sound of your new book. She sounds right up my alley and I love the idea of using an intensive month to really get into the headspace of a new world. What a great kick-start! I think I might try that next November. Best of luck with Harriet. I want to read her!

  8. Thanks, Imelda. I found it a wonderful way to kickstart the muse who has been slothing around getting fat and lazy and drinking way too many gin and tonics.