Monthly Archives: November 2014

NaNoWriMo The Finale

Another NaNo November is coming to an end and unlike most Wrimos, I am not at burnout, probably because I quit after week one. I have instead been follow the progress of other writers and all their joys and woes. What I have noticed, now that its all over, is a lot of writers looking back over their monthly marathon of writing and thinking ‘what complete utter rubbish’. But the Writer is ever an optimistic creature and many believe they can salvage at least 20000 words from their expedition. For myself, even though I bailed out, I have also achieved something this year.

Some writers condemn NaNoWriMo as a waste of energy. How can anyone possible write a decent 50000 word first draft in 30 days. I really don’t know if it is possible, but NaNoWriMo is more then just writing a novel. A writer once told me that if I seriously wanted to be a writer then I would have to write everyday, my heart sank. So I signed up for my first attempt at NaNoWrimo alone, I don’t think I lasted a week, all inspiration dried up and with it my self confidence as a writer. It prompted me to join a writing course because I wasn’t giving up.

The following year I signed up again, this time I joined the regional forum and took part in events. The result was success of a sort. I had a 50000 word novel which was at best terrible but I had managed to write something everyday. I felt like a proper writer. And as a bonus I now have a circle of writing friends who are helpful and supportive. I didn’t keep up the writing though and my scribbling slowed down to once every two weeks.

This year I signed up again, determined to do better then last year and have something worth editing. So I planned out my novel first, from beginning to end, something I’ve never done before. Unfortunately I never got past the first chapter, because of personal circumstances I had to quit. But I have the outline for a good novel now, not just a vague idea. And I haven’t been idle during November. I’ve written a couple of articles for a magazine, done some more research for another novel, started a short story and I’ve been keeping up my blogs. I’ve probably written about 30000 words in total.

So NaNoWriMo is more then just writing a novel, it can also be a learning curve if you want to learn a lesson, which lessons you learn is up to you. For me, I’ve learned a few things.

Lesson 1, Learn Your Craft, it helps to have some idea about how to write.

Lesson 2, Don’t Go it Alone, family and friends are a great support but only other writers know the hell you go through when your MCs eyes are suddenly the wrong colour.

Lesson 3, Know When to Quit, my novel wasn’t ready to be written this month and I wasn’t ready to write it. I will keep it a while longer and continue with my other WIP.

And the writer who implied I wasn’t serious about writing because I didn’t write every single day, well he was wrong. I am a writer.

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Week 3 NaNoWriMo

We are now entering the final week of NaNoWriMo. I have not written anything more of my novel since deciding to quit. I have written some other stuff so I’m not worried. I just don’t think I’m ready to write this particular story so I will shelve it for a while and hopefully like all good things, (wine, brandy, cheese) it will slowly mature in my brain into something rich and full flavoured.

It’s about this time when wrimos find out if they have made it, or are going to make it to 50K. It’s also about this time that their inspiration dries up, their muse goes on holiday, they become immune to caffeine. I’m not going to give any advice, after all I quit 2 weeks ago, but I will say this. You’ve made it this far, further then most, whatever goal you have set yourself, you can make it. If not, then you can always let your story mature in your brain for a while and pick up the pieces another year. There are no rules against doing a rewrite.

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Lost in Translation

One of the highlights to travelling through France is the delight in trying to make you understood to the natives. This usually involves a smattering of secondary school French, a little sign language and lots of shouting (It is true that if you shout loud enough foreigners will understand). In recent years though, more French people are speaking English and want to speak English. I don’t think its due to a flux if British and American visitors, more likely it is due to the increasing populace of Chinese and Japanese. English is taught as a second language in Chinese, Japanese and French schools so it makes sense.

However like all languages which pass through two or three grammar forms and vocabularies something is always lost in translation. The receptionist at the hotel spoke very good English, bade us farewell and wished us a nice road home. Google translator, while a godsend when booking hotels and self catering apartments, also provides some funny translations.

Translations have always been a bit of a minefield over the centuries. One little known mistranslation spawned a whole era of science fiction literature. In 1877 Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli published a paper about ‘canali’ on the surface of mars. The paper when translated into English reported ‘canals’ had been found on Mars. Canals by definition are artificial water channels thus an alien race must have existed on Mars and the canals were created as a last attempt to save a dying race. A theme which inspired a number of sci-fi stories including H G Wells ‘The War of the Worlds’.

The actual translation of ‘canali’ is ‘channels’ or ‘trenches’, Schiaparelli was merely noting natural terrain differences.

Perhaps the most widely translated book in the world is the Bible. There are over 50 translations in English alone and another 2500 plus in other languages. The original texts were in ancient biblical languages of Greek, Arabic and Hebrew and this was where the first mistranslations started. The Hebrew word for ‘virgin’ and ‘young woman’ were very similar so the Greek translation wasn’t to careful about the difference between the two.

Another problem is metaphors and cultural differences. A shepherd in todays society is seen as a peaceful guide, someone who cares and protects but in biblical times a shepherd was a sign of might, ferocity and royalty. Taken in this context the Lord is my shepherd takes on a whole new meaning. Another metaphor used during biblical times was the terms for kinship like ‘father’, ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ which was used to indicate power structures, so in the Book of Solomon the term ‘my sister, my bride’ refers not to incest but a woman’s equal status to her husband.

Mistranslation is a common occurrence so be wary when you have work translated into another language or you may end up with a very different story.

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Week 2 NaNoWriMo

After a long struggle with my conscious I have decided to quit this years NaNoWrimo. I have not given up on my idea for my story or completely stopped writing but life has become too hectic to continue writing any substantial amount of words this month and still retain some version of health and sanity. I have bowed out gracefully to let those more determined and insane fellow Wrimo writers romp ahead to 50k and hopefully beat our Canadian and Scottish brethren, both of who we are currently at war with. Instead I have taken at short trip away with my family but without any Wi-fi, hence the late posting.

Sitting on the sidelines waving my pompoms is certainly an interesting way to pass NaNoWriMo. Usually I’m so wrapped up with my own story and its problems I rarely have time to take note of everyone else’s little dilemmas, apart from noting how much further ahead they are from me. Now I have the time to have a little nosy into everyone novel a bit more deeply. There are some really good ideas of all genres and its a shame some have been abandoned. I hope they have only quit because of an overload of work and other commitments and not due to lack of confidence in their story and their writing.

Writing is a craft, all crafts must be learned, the best way to learn your craft is to practice and I can’t think of a better practice run then NaNoWriMo. Michael Angelo didn’t pick up a paint brush and paint the Sistine Chapel straight off, he painted a lot of other stuff first. Gustave Eiffel, civil engineer and architect, built a lot of bridges before the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. We all have to do other stuff before the Big One and it all helps to build our confidence and skill. So don’t give up on your ideas even if you give up this November because each word, every paragraph is another bridge to the Big One, the one that will live on in peoples memories.

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Remembrance Sunday and Nanowrimo

Today we remembered those who fought and died for our country. Today is also day 8 of nanowrimo. You wouldn’t think these two events would have much in common unless you were writing a novel about war. My regional nanowrimo group is at war with Glasgow and Quebec. Its a war of words and we are currently losing. One of our members posted about the word war today and berated herself for being insensitive because it was Remembrance Sunday.

If it had not been for the those who have fought and died we may not be a liberty to write what we want. I’m reminded of Fatherland by Robert Harris, set in an alternative reality where the Nazis won the war. There are many countries which do not have the freedom to speak and write as they choose.

So as you write your cherished novel, your murder mystery, your romance, your political drama, your fan fiction and all the other stuff you will one day get around to writing, spare a few moments silent contemplation for those who live and died fighting for your freedom.
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Week 1 NaNoWriMo

It has been a week of not getting things done. I shan’t list the many things that have happened in the week leading up to November or the week just gone as I am resolved not too moan. Suffice to say it has all accumulated in to acute stomach ache today. Writing 1700 words a day has not been the last thing on my mind but it has been the last priority on my list of priorities.

I now find myself in a state of indecision, should I throw down my pencil and walk away, (I can’t throw down my laptop it’s got enough problems with viruses and error logs) or do I push on and hope to write at least a couple of chapters before it’s time to get the xmas decs out.

Then there’s the plotline of my novel. It’s cutting close to the bone and I’m wondering if I should turn my back on it and write something less personal to me. I’m worried I will not only fail to reach 50k words but I will also fail to tell the story true.

All these doubts have been plaguing me these past few days and I know they will plague me for the rest of the month. But tonight I resolved to try again and write this novel. I just hope my resolve will last until the morning because I really need to go to sleep now.

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