Home Stretch

The finish line is in sight at last – you can see the banner stretching across the road, hear the roar of the crowd as they urge you on. You may be in the final sprint, or you may be stumbling, feeling like your legs are made of lead. Whatever the state of your NaNoWriMo word count, we all have goals we can reach by the 30th. A lot of writing can get done in four and a half days.

If you’ve had one of those months where everything conspires against you, and find yourself still in the doldrums of the measley ten’s, aim for the twenties. If you’ve only got a few pages, aim for a nice round 10k. Finish that chapter. Find your MC’s long lost twin sister (or brother). Destroy the world with a blazing comet, or haul it back from the brink of destruction at the last minute. Heck, why not jump to the end? You can always write more middle bits later.

Chris Baty’s mini-challenge for all those who are breezing along, and starting to feel that warm glow of anticipated victory: to be at 50K by bedtime on Friday, two days ahead of time. For those (like me) who are still lagging behind, the second mini-challenge is to reach 45K by bedtime on Friday. That means you’ll have the whole weekend to wrap up the 5000 words you need to win.

As for me, I’m going to be aiming for 3k today, which should get me caught up, and then a minimum of 2k per day after that. Wish me luck! See you at all the finish line on Sunday, if not sooner.


31672: Gene banks, coolers on Mars, and Oracle Errors

When, out of sheer procrastinatory foolishness, I Googled the number 31672 (the number of words we’re all supposed to have by midnight tonight for NaNoWriMo), the results were mostly dead boring – lots of bug and error reports, work manuals and bylaw entries.  Ugh.  But my imagination is a resilient and determined beast, and began to see stories in the oddest placest.  A particular phrase would jump out, and I could envision an entire story spooling out behind it:

Unigene’s EST ProfileViewer – Definitely a Gattaca-type future, where you can look up anyone’s gene profile.

Used Reach-In Drink Cooler Commercial – What, exactly, would constitute a used commercial?  I suspect it’s one of those that has been played so many times you are well and truly sick of seeing it (the kind that plagues you despite having the mute on, because it even looks stupid), and are bound and determined to boycott any product that company puts out from now until the end of time.  But for someone living on Mars, well, it might be fresh and new!  Yours for only $316.72.

An ad for China Massage Chairs, by a “Hairdressing Implement Company”.  Aside from potentially spawning interesting visual images for those in possession of a dirty mind, I found myself musing on the awkwardness of the phrase “hairdressing implement”. Okay, maybe that one’s just me.

And finally (ending, I’m afraid, on a rather tragic note)- Coming to us via Oracle Error 31672: “Worker process string died unexpectedly.”  The cause: A Data Pump process model worker process died unexpectedly, so PMON is cleaning up the process. (I picture PMON as some kind of sophisticated AI, in a future where AI’s are sentient and don’t always do what their creators tell them to; I mean, if you had a brain the size of a planet, and they kept relegating you to clean-up duty, wouldn’t you get restless too?)  A TRON-esque world comes unbidden to mind (and yes, I realize that dates me.)

See how easy it is to come up with ideas? Now, if only it were equally easy to weave them into something ressembling a coherent story.  Which reminds me, I should really stop fooling around and get back to my loom.  Keep at it, folks!  Only eleven days to go!


Meant to post this last night, but was distracted by actual story writing (which is a good thing, considering I’m still a bit behind).  This quote comes to us from Philip Pullman, via the weekly NaNoWriMo pep talk.

When asked, “Where do your ideas come from?”, he replies:

I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.

So get ye off the evil temptress that is Internet, and back to your writing desk – or wherever it is you write best. That’s where I’m off to now – the living room couch, with my trusty laptop and a fresh pot of coffee.  Remember, there’s really only one iron-clad rule when it comes to novelling – and that’s to KEEP WRITING!  Good luck heading into week three, everyone.

Forty percent

That’s how far we should all be along in our NaNoWriMo novels by the end of today – just over 20k, 40% of that magical goal of 50,000 words.   If you’re still lagging behind, and 50k seems like a distant, shimmering mirage on the horizon, forever just out of reach, take heart – lots of people lose momentum in the second week.  Plots start to lose cohesion, characters randomly wander off the path to see what that sound was in the bushes, while other characters mysteriously appear and demand to be part of the story.  What seemed like a perfect, shining idea has become a big, complicated mess.  Unfortunately, there’s really only one way out of the week two swamp – and that’s to write your way out.  If, like me, you’re still floundering behind, it’s time to log off the net, and get back to writing!  Which is what I’m going to do right now.

More NaNo tidbits to come later today, once I’ve managed to churn out a few more pages of novelly goodness (or at least, words that vaguely ressemble novel-like prose).


That’s how many words you should have by the end of today if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Since I am woefully far behind (haven’t even cracked 6k yet), I’ll keep it short for this week. For some added motivation, you can find all the latest NaNoWriMo desktop backgrounds here (including widescreen versions).  I find the calendars with the daily wordcount goals are the most helpful, but by far the most creative ones I’ve come across are those over in ScarlettArcher’s deviant art gallery.  Brilliant stuff. 

Warning: while having these handy motivational backgrounds can help give you that extra inspirational kick when you turn on your computer, the procrastination indulged in by browsing through them all can put a serious dent in your writing time. Best done after you’ve written your mimimum words for the day.  With that in mind (although it’s already too late in my case), it’s back to the grind for me.  Well, maybe after stepping outside again to enjoy the unseasonably lovely weather.  If anyone ever invents some kind of hoody type device for laptops, so you can actually use them outside (like they show in all the commercials), I want to be the first one to know.

Happy novelling, all!

NaNoWriMo Count-Down – The Final Three Days!

72 hours, and counting…

What, you thought you’d maybe try to sleep for  24 of those hours?  And perhaps, work for another 24?  Possibly even spend time with your family?  Wash some dishes?  Silly writer!  Sleep – and cleanliness – are for the sane.  Around this time, most of us are furiously hashing out last-minute plot ideas – in fact, I have it on good authority that a great many WriMo’ers are still in the “I’ve got a title – now what?” phase.   So if you’re still floundering for ideas, you know you’re not alone.  And if you’re among that rare elite who actually has a plan (a what now?), then you’re not alone either – just in a much, much smaller group (I bet you arrange your CD’s alphabetically too.) 

You may be surprised to know, that the only things you really need to have to write a novel in a month are:
(1) Something to write on.
(2) Something to write with.
(3) The ability to form basic sentences.

Although, technically #1 and #2 are optional.  You could, with the help of a great many throat lozenges and cups of hot lemon tea with honey, get by with a digital recorder and lots of spare batteries.  The only catch being, you’d have to find someone to transcribe your barely coherent mumblings, and send the transcription off to the NaNo-bots so your words can be counted at the end of the month.  But – doable!

 So you see, the only limit, as is so often the case, is within that bulbous cranium of yours.  Some particularly crazy people have, in one month, written two 50k novels.  Granted, I don’t think I’d be presuming too much to say, the prose was probably less than stellar, but that said – doesn’t 50k seem easy now?

There are, of course, a few extra things that can really help you stick with your new, shiny goal to the bitter end.  The most important being, some kind of support network – a cheering squad, if you will.  Hopefully you’ve found your regional group by now, and you’ve sat your family and friends down and broken the news to them.  But if you’re still feeling lonely, remember there’s always the NaNoWriMo boards, just chock full of people who are more than happy to cheer you on, root for you in hard times, and pat you on the back on days when it’s going well.  And if some of those words somehow manage to arrange themselves into surprisingly pleasing shapes, you can even post excerpts of your novel-in-progress in your author profile section.

To all the other writers who are, like me, still wide awake at midnight-thirty, billions of thoughts scurrying around their brains like hyper Skittles-fuelled ferrets, remember: This is only the beginning.  Once the writing starts, that’s when the fun truly begins!

See you on November 1st!

NaNoWriMo Countdown Continues

Less than ten days to go!  Got that plot outline yet?  It’s okay, a lot of people still have no idea what they’re doing.  In fact, a goodly portion of erstwhile novelists will be launching themselves into November with absolutely no clue how they’re going to write 50k in one month, or what they’re going to write about.  But that’s all part of the fun! 

If you’re driving yourself mad pacing in circles trying to come up with ideas, it’s time to take a break (because you’re taking this far too seriously).  There’s still lots of time – more than a week!  Which is plenty of time to get a head start on that oh-so-important aspect of frantic novel writing – gathering essential supplies.  If you’ve never done this before, you can find literally hundreds of NaNoWriMo Survival Kit suggestions here.

 When all else fails (or if you’re simply bored at work), you can always visit one of the many procrastination stations. You might even learn something along the way – like all sorts of interesting ways to save money (with potentially hilarious consequences).  Or you could browse the plethora of tips gleaned from the cumulative wisdom of previous NaNoWriMo winners.

Oh – and don’t panic if you go to the NaNoWriMo site for your daily fix and get one of those annoying  “cannot display the webpage” errors.  ‘Round this time in October, the forums are flooded with new arrivals, and the site can be a little glitchy.  Sometimes it might even sulk for a few hours.  But have no fear, there are many talented web-goblins working furiously in the background to get it back up and running at peak efficiency.  In the meantime, hey, I’ve got an idea – you could WRITE SOMETHING.  You may not be able to count any October writing towards your 50k, but it doesn’t hurt to get those fingers and brain cells warmed up for the Month of Madness.

15 days and counting…

Posting the Wednesday NaNoWriMo update a bit late this week, due to being out of town all weekend. 

If you’re already panicking before you’ve even begun, rest assured that there will be lots of people cheering you on during the month of November to help get you through those rough patches, including regular pep talks by well-known authors.  This year’s pep talk celebrities will include the likes of  Piers Anthony, Philip Pullman, and Jonathon Stroud.

In the meantime, you can read the uplifting missives from last year’s pep talk authors, Neil Gaiman and Sue Grafton among others.

Hooking up with your local region is another great way to get that much-needed moral support – and to give some in return – from people that you might actually meet in person, no less!  Hundreds of groups around the globe are already scouting out friendly coffee shops and setting up launch parties for the weekend of November 1st.  Yes, that’s right – this year the beginning of November falls on a weekend, so I anticipate a great many all-nighters being pulled, to get a head start on that word-count we’ll all be pushing valiantly towards 50k. 

If you’re one of those rare hyper-organized types who’s way ahead of the game (or even if you’re just bored), there are plenty of ways to procrastinate over at the official NaNoWriMo site.  You can bide your time with perennial favourites like the vending machine game and the useless powers game, or you might stumble across something truly odd, like giving a fellow author tips on how a were-melon might behave.  Whatever you choose to do between now and November 1st, remember, it’s all about having fun – and reaching 50k! 

Speaking of which, you can find the latest and greatest NaNo wordcount widgets here, various NaNo desktop calendars over here, and links to NaNo report cards (Excel) here and here. Hooray for technically minded people with too much time on their hands!

See you all next week (when we’ll aim to have our Wednesday NaNo post up well before two minutes to midnight, i.e. Thursday).

NaNoWriMo 2008

For those of you who haven’t heard of this fantabulous 30-day event, National Novel Writing Month is an annual writing challenge that brings together writers from around the world (despite its name, it’s really been the InterNational Novel Writing Month for some time now, but InNaNoWriMo doesn’t quite have the same ring to it).  The goal: to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.  50k in 30 days gives you an excuse to bind and gag that inner editor, and have fun writing with wild, mad abandon for the month of November.  Registration and forums are up for 2008, and you can find out all you need to know at nanowrimo.org.

In honour of this awesome sribatious event (especially given how many of our regulars will be taking part), Saturday Scribes is going to be an (un)official hub for all stuff NaNoWriMo for the month of November.  Don’t worry, we’ll still be posting the usual weekly writing prompts every Friday, but we’ll also give participants the option of posting novel excerpts and NaNo-related musings.  As of November 1st, I’ll be putting up an open invitation for all things NaNo every Wednesday, although you can feel free to respond to it throughout the week.  I’ll ask that everyone restrict their NaNo-related comments to the NaNo post, so we will still have Fridays and Saturdays dedicated to the non-NaNo-specific prompts, for all the poets and non-novelists out there.

Things to remember: Be sure to warn your friends and family ahead of time if you’re participating, lest they think you’ve suddenly gone mad and decide to call the men in white coats.  Stocking up on writing fuel well in advance is also a good idea (whatever your stimulant of choice may be).  And finally – having some kind of plot laid out in advance, while optional, generally helps to reduce the madness somewhat.  October is the ideal time to plan out what you’re going to do, before the insanity hits with full force.

Happy writing, all!