NaNo Update, Day 8

Let’s start with the bad news: I’m about 6000 words behind on my word count.

Of course, as I mentioned yesterday, I’m working with a couple different layers of goals.  When I look at where Mara’s Tale currently stands, I’m actually quite pleased with the status.  The story starts when she’s born, and follows her growing up.  Right now I have all of the gaps filled, plus some new stuff written, through her 6th birthday.  There’s also a fun new scene that occurs a few months later, leaving one more gap to fill.  (At least I know what goes in that gap!)

I hope that your NaNo adventure is going well, and that you are accomplishing at least some of your own personal goals.  For now, I’m heading back into Mara’s world – maybe I’ll get another few hundred words written before bed. 🙂


Cutting Myself Some Slack

Today I explained to someone who perhaps I’m behind on my word count because my heart isn’t quite into NaNo this year.  The advice I got in return was that perhaps I shouldn’t spread myself too thin, and maybe not participate in NaNo.

The reality is that I’m setting a couple of different goals with regards to NaNo this year.  The first is the obvious goal: 50,000 (new) words and a completed novel.  However, I have another, smaller goal.  I want to work on Mara’s Tale, and without the driving force of NaNo, that hasn’t happened.  Each time I fill in another gap, every day that I write (even a few hundred words) is a success in my mind.  Earlier this week I wrote only about 600 words, but they were important because they completed the last section I had left of a particular part of Mara’s life.  The word count may have been short for the day; the accomplishment was not short.

I think layered goals are perfectly acceptable, don’t you?

A Moment From Another’s Perspective

Something important occurred to me yesterday.  If a child escapes from a slave trader, after he’s invested six years in raising her, he’s going to be a little annoyed.  He’s also probably going to try to get her back.

This actually helped me with Mara’s tale, making it easier to answer a couple of questions that had been bothering me.  It helps with her introduction to a key adult in the next part of her life and also provides a logical reason for her to get new clothing.  There are people looking for her, and she needs to disguise herself.  I think I might also have her dye her hair, at least temporarily.

I’m also pleased that this helped me to put some shape to a new character, Granny Hazel, who teaches Mara how to read. 🙂


NaNo 2013 Advice, Part 1

I’ve already made some silly mistakes as part of this year’s NaNo adventure.  In the spirit of last year’s advice (“Let me tell you the things I’m doing that aren’t helping…”), I’ve decided to go ahead and do the same this year.  It’s not so much advice as admitting my mistakes, but advice sounds so much better.

Don’t turn on the television.

This should be common sense.  When you’re trying to write a lot, the TV should be off a lot.  Notice, however, that I said should be common sense.

I started this year’s NaNo with one advantage and one disadvantage.  As I’ve already mentioned, filling in gaps is setting me up for a limited word count, but I started off this year with four days off from work.  The disadvantage is working well to make life difficult, but I totally blew my advantage by turning on the television.

It will be fine, I thought.  I’ll just put on a movie I know by heart and let it be background noise, I told myself.  Really?  I can’t even listen to music and write successfully!  Why on earth did I think this was a good idea?

The honest truth is that somehow the television and my recliner are now linked in my brain.  Turning on the TV when I sit down in the recliner is reflex.  That means I need to either fight the reflex or sit somewhere else for the rest of NaNo!


In reading through what I had previously written in Mara’s Tale, I discovered this lovely little gem of a sentence:

The woman had been handed enough infants to know that they should be squally and messy, unformed things that had incessant needs and provided nothing but noise and trouble.  

My thought on reading that sentence was simple.  It was obvious that I had written it, since that pretty much sums up my opinion of babies.  (I’ve mentioned before that I like kids, but only once they are old enough to tell me what they need.)  I wanted to share that sentence with my friends, but I am not sure it would be well-received amongst my social media crowd.  Right now many of my cohort are growing offspring or raising them (or both), and my personal Facebook feed is full of pregnancy announcements and baby pictures.

It’s no surprise that I didn’t finish the section when Mara is an infant before.  While this part of her life is important as back story, it’s not that exciting for me as a writer.  I’m really glad that I finished filling those baby gaps over the weekend, so I can move on to the more interesting parts of her story.  I have two more major spaces left when she’s four, but at that point I can write from her point of view and let her developing personality show.

But What Does It Feel Like?

I decided to write a new scene today, set in a chandler’s shop.  It was kind of fun, creating a scholarly old man who teaches Mara how to tell the difference between beeswax and tallow candles, and how much he’ll pay for the discarded ends of each.  I made it a point to do a lot of description, too, of the shop, the candle maker, even the scales and weights he uses.

I also had to describe how the candles feel, since that’s how he teaches her to tell them apart.  Unfortunately the only candles I can recall feeling are the store-bought paraffin ones, which aren’t really helpful.  (Petroleum-based products are somewhat out-of-place in this fantasy story.)

Fortunately, I found a website that describes how to make tallow candles and what they look and feel like.  (This is especially good since I don’t know that anyone keeps tallow candles around much any more.)  I figured they’d feel a bit like the suet used to feed birds, and it sounds like I wasn’t too far off.

However, while I could find lots of directions for how to make beeswax candles, I couldn’t find a description of what they feel like.

I tried to find some actual candles, so I could feel them for myself, but the two stores that I checked failed me.  (They each failed me for different reasons; one didn’t have the candles, the other was closed on Sundays.)  I’m probably going to give at least one more store a peek tomorrow, but I also went to my friends on Facebook who actually helped me a bit.  The description of the difference between a beeswax candle and a paraffin one is at least enough for a start.

Filling Gaps

I’ve been trying to fill in some of the gaps in Mara’s Tale over the last couple of days.  There are a few challenges that come with this task.

First, the gaps are there for a reason.  Sometimes I hit a wall when writing the section, and couldn’t get past it.  Other times, I just ran out of creative steam and never went back to try to continue.  Either way, this means the gaps are often the parts I find less interesting, making them harder to write.

Another challenge is continuity (one of my big pet peeves).  If I jump into the middle of a scene, I have to make sure I know how far the story has gotten before I start writing.  I messed this up today and had to go back.  It was Mara’s first full day with the group of street kids; at this point she hasn’t really met many people in the area yet.  This means that when I had her recognizing a name, the story didn’t make sense.  It took a couple of tries to get the information I wanted into the scene in a way that kept it continuous with Mara’s current level of knowledge.  (I might still move it back a little in time, so I can go with my initial idea.  We’ll see how the rest of the pieces around it play out.)

The third challenge wouldn’t be a big deal if I wasn’t thinking about my word count.  So far the gaps I’ve been filling are not large, meaning that they don’t give me a lot of words.  (It’s mostly been finishing scenes and adding details up to this point.)  While it is very satisfying to conclude a scene and plug a hole, the pleasure is diminished when I look at the resulting word count.

I have a few bigger holes left to fill, and then I get to work on entire scenes and sections of the story.  Hopefully the word count will get rolling once I’ve finished the little patches and get moving on the bigger stuff!

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