National Novel Writing Month 2002! (Part 1: Writing)

Emotional anguish on a daily basis, just for you.

The following log is now final; no new entries will be added.

Tuesday, Day Minus Three – 0 words – What this is all about

Yes, indeed, I will be attempting to write a novel in November 2002. As suggested by the fine folks at the National Novel Writing Month headquarters (, from November 1st to November 30th, I will attempt to write a (very bad) 50,000+ words novel.

Though I here make reference to the NaNoWriMo, please note that I am not officially registered with them for this exercise. Why?  Well, I’ll be cheating a little bit. While official NaNoWriMo rules do recommend a healthy amount of preparation (characters sketches, a lengthy outline, some thinking, etc.), I will be more or less novelizing an existing 120-pages screenplay written by yours truly some time ago. Is it cheating or merely depending on an unusually detailed "outline"? You be the judge, but I’m sufficiently uncomfortable with the transgression to avoid tarnishing NaNoWriMo with my plans.

But make no mistake; a novelization is still a 50,000+ words novel, and this will be a daily log of my progress, along with a description of the mental states associated with such an endeavour. Bookmark this page and check it on a (more-or-less) daily basis for word counts, descriptions of the writing process, unusually detailed fantasies involving red-headed public policy analysts and the occasional vicious political rant against the Bush administration. Or maybe just daily word-counts.

To avoid any potential misunderstandings, here are a few quick questions-and-answers about this project:

Q: Can you possible write 50,000 worthwhile words in thirty days?
A: Probably not. But the NaNoWriMo is explicit about the quality of the novels it’s promoting: It’s entirely optional!  The goal is to churn out a 50,000+ words novel in a month, no matter how bad. Experienced writers are advised to steer clear from the exercise: It’s strictly for amateurs who just want to get a novel out of their system.

Q: Are you going to write your novel on-line?
A: No. Only the word-count (and occasional musings) will be reported here. All the writing will take place safely behind a firewall, three padlocks, two or three Level-4 bio-containment units and a pack of specially-trained attack cows.

Q: So we can’t expect to read this anytime soon?
A: If the universe is merciful, you’ll never have to read any of it.

Q: What’s the story?
A: The script is a straight-ahead SF-flavoured action film wrapped around a few (hopefully) good ideas. It’s about knowledge and its corollaries (ignorance, omniscience), and the price we’re willing to pay in order to acquire it. It features exploding helicopters, submarines, a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles and the complete destruction of the Internet. Oh, and a female engineer/librarian protagonist.

Q: Red-headed?
A: Naturally. It’s my story, after all. If you prefer blondes, you go write yours. Shoo.

Q: We want technical details about the word-count!
A: I’m writing in Word 2002, not only because I’m feeling daring enough to trust a month’s worth of work to a software product with an uncanny (and evil) propensity towards meaningless crashes, but because it’s got a handy word-count toolbar. So all arguments about the validity of my word-count should be forwarded to my Seattle homie Billy G$…

Q: How will we be able to gauge your progress?
A: The relevant numbers are simple to remember: 50,000 word in 30 days. The script is 120 pages long, but I expect to be spending rather a long time padding the beginning and the middle of the narrative, given that the rest is all actions scenes, which don’t translate all that verbosely in straight-ahead prose.

Q: What’s that CST-tagged time below every entry?
A: Central Standard Time: My ISP is located in Saskatoon.

Q: Make God laugh: Tell her your plans.
A: Okay. I expect to be working on this approximately three hours per day. I expect to shun human contact for the month (More than usual, that is). I expect to exhibit deep crankiness for the whole month (Not that anyone will notice anything different). I expect to stop work at 16:00 at the very latest and head home immediately to write. (No writing at work!  Or at least, not before the 15th of the month. I’m allowing myself the possibility of doing research on my lunch break, though.) I expect to see fewer movies. I expect that at the end of the month, I’ll be done, even though it’s entirely possible I’ll be a bit under the 50,000 words threshold.

Q: Can we help?
A: Why would you want to?

Are you ready?  It begins… now:

Rockland, ON – 29/10/02 20:46:23 CST

Wednesday, Day Minus Two – 0 words – En français, s’il vous plait!

It’s decided: My novel will be in French. I was going to write it in English, but ultimately, some choice words by people here and there have tilted the balance back to French.

Arguments for English:  It’s easier: English is more or less my natural reading/writing language, what with the ~200 books I read per year. Plus, there’s the sobering realization that I could protect myself against the temptation to submit my novel to a French-Canadian publishing house I know well (codenamed "Toread") by writing in English.

But!  Arguments for French: Fluffier (it’s a translator’s truism that French takes 15% longer than English for the same content -no, it wasn’t just your imagination!) so I’d have less difficulty reaching the 50,000-words limit for an identical amount of plot. Plus, writing 50,000 French words will be good practice for my movie-reviewing gig, the very same one that causes my editor so much amusement (and re-writing pains) every three months. Then there’s the not-inconsequential argument that even though writing in French severely restricts my potential readership (both world-wide and in my circle of friends), most of my family can only read in French… if the novel has to be read by only one person, that person should logically be my mother!  Finally, as fellow NaNoWriMo participant (and Aurora-award-winning author) Eric Gauthier said to me, "Do you really want to write for the drawer?" Well, not entirely, no.

So there we go. In French.

Rockland, ON – 30/10/02 19:54:38 CST

Thursday, Day Minus One – 0 words – Anticipation

Today feels oddly like a 24th of December. I can’t wait to start. On the other hand, Eric Gauthier may also be entirely right in comparing this to the day before an exam. Or, in this case, a month long series of daily exams. Hmmm… have I mentioned that I’ll be writing something like three hours per day? Sounds about right.

Ottawa, ON – 31/10/02 10:09:50 CST

Friday, Day One – 84 words – And so it begins…

I couldn’t resist the impulsion to get up early and jot down the first paragraph of the novel before leaving for work. I’m now averaging .23 words per minute. Hurrah!

Here’s that infamous paragraph, loosely translated. The first few words are shamelessly cribbed from Everlast’s extraordinary song "So long", from the END OF DAYS soundtrack:

I think I’m going to die today, thought Mark. It wasn’t the first time the id
ea had occurred to him, nor the first time he had explicitly thought about it. But this time, he was absolutely convinced that he was right. She had played the odds for too long and probabilities were now catching up to her. Because of that, he would be dead within minutes.

Rockland, ON – 01/11/02 06:12:43 CST

Friday, Day One – 2,157 words – We’re off!

Wrote down half the prologue. It’s going well so far; I’m being reasonably verbose when writing down what is, so far, an action scene, more or less hitting my goal of a page-a-page screenplay/prose equivalency. I think I’m going to try to jot down two thousand words per day, just to build a buffer in case of an unforeseen social event. Okay, okay: When you stop laughing, at least appreciate the fact that I managed to put down 2K words throughout roughly three hours of comedy TV. Imagine what I could do if I was really paying attention!

Rockland, ON – 01/11/02 21:07:23 CST

Saturday, Day Two – 5,146 words – Prologue done

Woo! Excellent start so far: I’m done with the pre-credit sequence, and goodness –I’m such a wordy chump! What I thought would take me a page and a half ended up taking eight pages, roughly exactly the page count of the sequence in the screenplay. Even better; I know I have "forgotten" stuff here and there, so whenever I start revising, chances are that I’ll end up with an even longer novel.

But let’s start by just writing it, shall we? It’s still much too early to say if I’m going to enjoy this… but so far so good. This "7-to-10" writing routine might even be entirely sustainable. Now I’m off to sleep. To quote Ludlum in The Bourne Identity, sleep is a weapon… and I’m not about to screw up my sleep cycles only to crash sometime later this week.

Rockland, ON – 02/11/02 21:31:07 CST

Sunday, Day Three – 7,203 words – Filler, filler, filler…

First lump of explicit exposition done. Then I wrote a new (non-screenplay) filler scene that should be cut the first occasion I get –but on the other hand, it does pad my word-count quite nicely. Then I started (and completed) another lump of exposition, and stopped in the middle of yet another new filler scene.

Yep, I’m really getting the NaNoWriMo spirit!

Hopefully, I should get that second filler scene (plus a third lump of exposition) done by tomorrow, just in time for yet another third filler scene that just happens to be in the screenplay. Joy. Oh, who am I kidding: At this stage, even the filler scenes are lumps of exposition.

In other news, I have seen -with my own eyes- a chart that keeps track of my progress at my parent’s house. They’re reading this blog and jotting down the daily wordage, counting down the days until they get me back from this harsh mistress of a novel. It’s great to get parental support…

Rockland, ON – 03/11/02 20:47:18 CST

Monday, Day Four – 9,041 words – Call Me Mister Exposition. On second thought, just call me, willya?

[The entry for this day was eaten by a particularly clueless FrontPage 2002 file transfer, manned by an even more clueless wannabee-novelist. Which is just as good, because it was a bunch of whining by a guy stuck writing exposition scenes and then annoying you about it.]

Rockland, ON – 04/11/02 ~20:50:00 CST

Tuesday, Day Five – 11,765 words – Filler, exposition, yadda-yadda?

[The entry for this day was also eaten by the very same infamous file transfer, causing no little concern around the globe. Given that this entry also dealt with how boring it was to write filler and exposition, you’re still better off not reading it. Ain’t technology grand?]

Rockland, ON – 05/11/02 ~20:50:00 CST

Wednesday, Day Six – 14,010 words – Viewpoints

Had a most inspiring lunch with a polymath friend of mine during which I solicited his advice on a few sticky plot points. He gracefully obliged and in doing so recharged a few defective creative batteries. Today’s writing went well (look at that! I’m over a quarter of the 50K goal!) despite some uninspiring necessary filler/exposition scenes. I even found myself fascinated by the possibility of radically modifying Intellectual Property laws. (You can ask me about it, but only if you want to spend a few minutes listening to an argument about the finer points of copyright, patents, human capital, corporatism, authorship, print-on-demand, technological innovation and all sort of related issues)

I suppose it’s a good sign that I’m having more and more fun writing about and from my characters’ point of view. As I explained over a Montreal-style smoked-meat sandwich at Dunn’s, screenplays have to be objective, and let the camera describe faithfully what is happening. But prose has to depend on what a character sees and feels about objective event. (Yes, I know about exceptions to both cases. Shhh.) Someone with a strong tech affinity will see a Microsoft commercial far differently than someone with only a passing knowledge of e-mail. The fun is novelizing my screenplay is, partly, picking which character is best-suited to describe the action. This may amuse you, but I’m consciously avoiding my protagonist as a POV-anchor: A lot of the novel’s depth (did I just write "depth" without laughing? Oh my.) comes from seeing other characters’ reactions to her… and I’m not sure she entirely realizes the power she has over nearly everyone else near her.

Tomorrow, I take care of an office visit, a geopolitical exposition lump (the last, I think) and -hopefully- will send my characters to New York. They really want to go… but they don’t realize the trouble they’ll have there!

Rockland, ON – 06/11/02 20:54:59 CST

Thursday, Day Seven – 16,003 words – Tough Day

Mix my big weekly TV night (Entertainment Tonight, Friends, Survivor, Will & Grace and Good Morning Miami) with the obligation to write a singularly uninspiring filler scene and you get a boring writing session. I can’t wait to get back on script. But you know what? I still did the scene and put those 2,000 words on screen in three hours. That’s the NaNoWriMo… Tomorrow: New York! New York! New York!

Rockland, ON – 07/11/02 21:17:20 CST

Friday, Day Eight – 17,635 words – Lesson learned

The NaNoWriMo is not for sissies. It’s a Fight Club for writers. It’s an endurance event, a true test not only of sheer insanity, but of dedication and determination. One way to triumph is to stick to a schedule… and this leads us to the four commandments of Write Club/NaNoWriMo:

  • 1. You will talk about NaNoWriMo.
  • 2. You will talk to everyone about NaNoWriMo.
  • 3. You will write 2,000 words per day.
  • 4. You will not deviate from routine.

Today, I definitely deviated from routine… and paid for it. One deviation turned into two deviations, and that proved to be at least one too many. Oh, the diversions were fine (8 MILE is not a great film, but it’s good enough, especially for a vanity project) and I can’t reasonably say anything against eating at my parents’ house. But when the net result of both is to come back to my own home at 20:00 and then spend an hour taking take of essentials, well, there isn’t much time left for those two thousand words. Hence the lower word-count tonight. Well, that and the fact that I finally took care of the last exposition/filler scenes. New York is tomorrow, for sure! I even wrote it down: Astoria Hotel, New York!

But no more
deviation from routine. Oh no.

Rockland, ON – 08/11/02 21:56:38 CST

Saturday, Day Nine – 20,068 words – Back in the groove!

Much better day today. For one thing, I knocked out 2,700 words. Yes, that contradicts today and yesterday’s difference, but that’s because I ended up search-and replacing all double-hyphens (which count for one word in Word 2002) with "true dashes" (which count for none), temporarily decreasing my oh-so-important word count. I also fell back in the groove of routine, given that I wrote those twenty-seven hundred words in the usual time period. Finally (thirdly), I am once again following the script, getting past the infamous page 12 I’ve been stuck on for the past week or so as I was filling and exposing. Now everyone’s happy, including my characters. If you think in pages rather than words, I’m now at the bottom of page 40, with only 12 of my 120 script pages novelized. No, I won’t reach 400 pages, don’t worry. But then again, I’m working on single-spaced, 46-lines pages…

Rockland, ON – 09/11/02 20:58:09 CST

Sunday, Day Ten – 22,114 words – Taking it Easy…

When it’s not going well, you can slave away at the keyboard forever and barely come up with the minimum daily wordage. When it’s going well, you can just sit down for an hour, turn in the 2,000 words and walk away to do other stuff.

Rockland, ON – 10/11/02 20:44:41 CST

Monday, Day Eleven – 24,791 words – Rolling, rolling, rolling…

Not much to say here. I still can’t believe that I managed to turn in more than 7,000 words in three days considering how insanely busy was the rest of this long weekend (130 feet of new bookshelves, baby!). I’m slowly trying to rev up to three thousand words per day, but this just-shy-of-the-big-25K total happens to be at the end of what I call "Act One", so I allowed myself a break for the night. Tomorrow: We go from Austin to Los Angeles by way of Tucson and set up the second big action sequence of the novel. That’s when I’ll really start eating up those words-per-script-page. Ooh, fun!

Rockland, ON – 11/11/02 20:35:26 CST

Tuesday, Day Twelve – 27,028 words – Ever onward, but not that quickly

Well, on the negative side I didn’t write the three thousand words I had planned for today. A work-related headache, an after-dinner nap and "This Hour has 22 Minutes" all conspired to make me less productive tonight.

On the flip side, though, I did shatter the so-called 25,000 words halfway point today, and brought my narrative all the way to Los Angeles, where all sort of boom-blang-bang stuff is set to happen. (That’s where the exploding helicopters come into play, notably) I’ll probably spend the next few days in sunny downtown L.A., so don’t mind me if I cheerfully ignore our lousy Canadian fall weather while I write the next few chapters.

Rockland, ON – 12/11/02 21:07:10 CST

Wednesday, Day Thirteen – 29,115 Words – Catching Some Rays in Sunny Downtown Destroyed L.A.

I know, I know; no three thousand words for me today. This sucks, but at least I got rid of an unforeseen exposition sequence in which I got to describe the aftermath of an 8.8 Richer quake on downtown L.A. Fun stuff but hard stuff, given the required research. I also added an extra scene chez l’antagoniste, to assuage what was one of the most valid comments from the beta-readers of the screenplay: The antagonist used to just show up boo! and do nasty things. But suspense has to involve the reader, and that means allowing them in the bad guy’s mind once in a while. Plus, by doing so I get the chance to set up some really interesting stuff down the line that otherwise comes up as a too-big surprise. As Robert Charles Wilson once said, writing a novel is a lot like driving a car; at first, there simply so much stuff to master at once that it seems impossible to do. But after a while, it just becomes natural. (Fortunately, the NaNoWriMo ethos forbids me to even care about that stuff, let alone master it.)

Rockland, ON – 13/11/02 20:55:58 CST

Thursday, Day Fourteen – 31,037 words – Big TV Night, Tiny Novel Night

Well, it was difficult, it was slow, it was ill-written and it definitely wasn’t as much fun as usual, but I still wrote more or less two thousand words today. The rational thing to do would be to tape the Thursday TV shows and watch them later, but then I’d still have to waste time later and chances are that I’d come across major Survivor spoilers in between. It’s not as if I have oodles of free time outside of Thursday night… Oh well. Onward. Tomorrow, we start with harsh language, and end with an exploding helicopter. (If all goes well, because on Friday nights –anything can happen!)

Rockland, ON – 14/11/02 21:13:10 CST

Friday, Day Fifteen – 33,119 words – Even Harry Potter Can’t Stop Me!

Yes, saw the little English Wizard today. (Good film. But you already suspected that.) Yes, had my carefully-perfected routine consequently disrupted. Yes, took a long time to churn out those two thousand words. But -hey- still managed to do it, beginning with the promised harsh language and ending with the exploding (well; disintegrating) helicopter. Good day. Good day overall.

Tomorrow, the carnage continues with unusual uses for office equipment. I’m going to write "at the cottage", or so to speak. Meanwhile, my siblings will get to use my home theatre setup to watch the stack of DVD that is steadily accumulating while their big brother is driving himself insane with this novel thingy. Don’t be worried if tomorrow’s update is, er, conspicuously un-present.

Hey… it looks as if I managed to make it though half the month already. (I’m only on page 26 of the 120-page screenplay, though. This may become a problem.) I can’t promise anything for the second half except this: I won’t quit, and I intend to finish this thing in time, however many word it will require. (I’m currently contemplating 75,000 words, more or less. After all, that’s 50,000 American words if you factor in the exchange rate.) Consider yourself warned!

Rockland, ON – 15/11/02 22:32:42 CST

Saturday, Day Sixteen – 37,044 words – Notes from "the cottage"

For the edification of prospective NaNoWriMo participants everywhere and my own future self, here are a few useful hints when you want to go to a secluded place to write:

  • Don’t bring reading material: If, like me, you’re a reader far more than you’re a writer, I can guarantee you that you’ll end up reading everything before writing anything.
  • Bring your usual keyboard: Laptop; great idea. Quirky keyboard that drives you to suicide because you’re trying to find those damn accent keys: Bad idea.
  • Get there early: Yes, you’ll get a lot done. But the time you spend at the cottage is your only real limit to the words you’ll write. So get there early and squeeze in a few more thousand words.
  • Bring enough appropriate music, caffeine and snacks: But you already knew that, right?

All in all, a good (but not great; see above) day. Finished to read all three outstanding books and read the second Harry Potter novel in pretty much a single sitting, but still managed to churn out three thousand words despite an uncooperative keyboard and a late start. Now nearly out of L.A. Had great shivers of writing goodness by typing away late at night on a big table with only the laptop, my portable MP3
player, my screenplay and a desk lamp.

Thurso, QC – 17/11/02 20:50:07 CST

Sunday, Day Seventeen – 42,009 words – Out of L.A., back in doldrums

Woke up. Wrote three thousand words. Did stuff. Came back home. Did more stuff. Dealt with a snowstorm. Wrote an easy two thousand words. Will soon go to sleep. Pretty much the definition of a great day.

My big question these days is if I’ll have time to finish it all by the end of November, especially given a few planned movies to see next week. It certainly wouldn’t do to keep plugging at the novel in December after everyone else is done. Furthermore, I can’t really stop, right? The only solution would be to step up the daily wordage and give a big push next weekend. The big unknown, naturally, if the number of filler scenes I’ll have to write in the second half of the screenplay. (It’s pretty much a given that I’ll end up nowhere near 50,000 words.) Oh well… Get ready…

Thurso, QC / Rockland, ON – 17/11/02 20:57:00 CST

Monday, Day Eighteen – 45,037 words – Ploughing Through; Uppity Characters

I’m not sure how long this can last, but I did churn out the three thousand words that should be my daily regime from now until the end of the month. I don’t have much choice if I want to finish this thing in time: 45,000+ words (yay), but I’m barely on page 45 of the screenplay. Long nights and an even longer weekend in store for me, I guess…

The process of re-imagining my story in prose continues to surprise me. Though the result (at this point) is far less elegant than the thrice-revised screenplay, this newest version seems to be the best of the lot. Deeper, more logical and more controlled than any of the screenplay drafts. I miss some of the most visual sequences, but everything seems to be holding up fairly well so far. Characters are all much less stereotypical than in the screenplay. (The good guys are heavily flawed; the bad guys have a few moral principles, which will make a subsequent scene play much better) Some characters continue to demand more scenes, and I stopped myself today in the middle of a romantic scene between two characters who insisted that they were made for each other. I didn’t have much choice, really, not when all the other characters threatened to strike if those two didn’t smooch at some point. (Plus, we have to get back to the slam-bang action sooner rather than later. Might as well give’em what they’re asking for. They don’t have a clue what’s in store for them later on.) Hey, what’s that noise? Do you hear their voices too?

Rockland, ON – 18/11/02 21:01:33 CST

Tuesday, Day Nineteen – 49,059 words – Almost… there…

Despite the nearly four thousand words churned out today (in slightly less than three hours!), I consider the day to be a failure: Wouldn’t you agree, so close yet so far away from the original 50K words objective? At least I moved the plot a bit forward, now on page 51 of 120 of the original screenplay. (But don’t worry; the last forty pages or so are a non-stop breakneck action sequence.) Tomorrow: the Big Heist Sequence begins.

As I explained over lunch today to a (reluctantly captive) audience of one, a surprising aspect of this novelization is how I’m toning down the violence from the original story. Whereas the original screenplay had a body-count of three major characters and at least two dozen supporting deaths, I think that this novel will be much, much kinder: I send the people to the hospital rather than the morgue, and I’ve done pretty much everything I could (so far) to give the supporting cast a bunch of cerebral concussions rather than coffins. Part of it is an interesting reluctance to use real violence in my story; while I’ve got some rough play here and there (plus a bunch of very cool explosions, crashes and glass-shattering pistol shots), I’m very reluctant to actually do real harm to my characters. Wussy? Maybe. Canadian? Perhaps. Challenging? Quite a bit. Permanent? Let’s wait until the re-write. Plus, of course, there’s still a bit of confrontation coming up… and let’s not forget that Chapter Two does kill off half the human race.

Rockland, ON – 19/11/02 21:13:46 CST

Wednesday, Day Twenty – 53,506 words – Am I a winner?

According to accepted NaNoWriMo terminology, anyone who writes more than 50,000 words is declared a winner. Well, that’s me tonight, ten days ahead of schedule… A good day overall (~4,500 words! The full heist sequence!), especially when my time at the office ended in a way that made me wish for the power to make other people’s head explode at a distance. (Me, cranky? How did you figure?) But frankly, this exercise may have started with a desire to churn fifty thousand words as quickly as possible, but it’s now a honest race against the clock to see if I can finish this thing before the end of the month, however many words it takes. 70K? 80K? 90K? Who knows where it will stop? I’ll just keep on trucking until I’m done. Until then, I’m no winner.

Rockland, ON – 20/11/02 20:58:11 CST

Thursday, Day Twenty-One – 56,062 words – Blah, the usual Thursday TV Night

Well, whaddaya know: Back to the usual two-thousand-odd words today. No problem; still did four pages of the screenplay. (Now 62/120, never mind above counts) I took steps in order to be able to work "at the cottage" this weekend. Expect better mileage over the next three days.

Rockland, ON – 21/11/02 21:04:39 CST

Friday, Day Twenty-Two – 58,059 words – My Teeth, My Eyes, My House, My Novel!

Took care of a few urgent real-world things today: Dentist, Optometrist, Housework, Sauerkraut, and (later) the novel. Kind of a throwback to what my life was before I embarked in this crazy project. Didn’t feel particularly pleasant, which speaks volume about the fun I’m having thus far. Oh no, only seven days left. I stopped myself tonight just before another major action sequence, which I’ll write tomorrow at the cottage. Car chases, wanton destruction and a drive-by shootout! Oh my! 70,000 words by Sunday or bust!

Rockland, ON – 22/11/02 20:42:59 CST

Saturday, Day Twenty-Three – 67,349 words – "The Cottage" Redux

I learned from last week’s lessons: Left most reading material at home (only brought one short book, which proved to be a good idea because, hey, you can’t write all the time), brought my own trusty IBM keyboard for that unique "clicky" feel, brought music, brought snacks and got there early. Only forgot the novel.doc file I was working on, which didn’t end up being a major problem and may even have helped a little. The result, as demonstrated by the above word-count, was above expectations. For the record, yes, this is my best one-day total so far: almost ten thousand words, only stopped by the thought of having to write a torture scene next.

Still, I may have to end things catastrophically next Saturday (last day!) if ever I’m not yet done. So, to prepare for this contingency, I have prepared an alternate ending which I will now reveal to you:

And then an asteroid smashed into Earth, killing them all.

To be used in case of emergency only!

Thurso, QC – 24/11/02 17:48:14 CST

Sunday, Day Twenty-Four – 78,441 words – Best. Day. Ever.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Am I rolling or what? Let’s see: More than ten thousand words today alone. (That’s roughly thirty-three paperback pages, y’all) Now on page 98/120. Twenty thousand word on Saturday and Sunday combined. (nearly forty percent of that piddly early &
quot;fifty thousand words" objective). Now that I’m firmly entrenched in the third act and the endgame chase sequence, I’m writing nearly continuously, with scarcely any attention to such things as "character development" or "literary qualities". I jest, but on the other hand, it is true that the quality of this weekend’s writing hasn’t been as strong as I had hoped to, even according to my NaNoWriMo standards. That’s why editing was invented, mind you…

Tomorrow: We advance the chase sequence. I have roughly two big days’ worth of writing (six thousand words’ worth at most) ahead of me to complete the whole novel, so it would be highly surprising to miss Saturday’s deadline. Heck, if I do this right, I might have a whole weekend to myself!

Thurso, QC / Rockland, ON – 24/11/02 21:39:55 CST

Monday, Day Twenty-Five – 81,679 words – Less than thirty shopping days before Christmas!

After the incredible writing spurt of this weekend, this thing is obviously winding down. I should write the last action climax tomorrow and the epilogue on Thursday (no writing for me Wednesday – it’ll be my first movie night in ages!), leaving a comfortable two days for spell-checking and obvious editing. Final word count of this zeroth draft should weigh in at 85-87,000 words. Not bad. But let’s not cheer too quickly; it’s not quite done yet.

Rockland, ON – 25/11/02 21:09:57 CST

Tuesday, Day Twenty-Six – 84,347 words – Action’s done, now for the wrap-up.

As predicted in the above entry, I did an easy three thousand words today, wrapping up the last action sequence and essentially closing the loop on the novel’s main conflict. The book is essentially complete, though there are a few loose end to settle in a last chapter. Are the characters that I have sent to the hospital going to pull through? Will our heroine accept a potentially lucrative deal? Is our spunky sidekick going to get the man of her dreams? Is Nutty the Squirrel going to make a cameo appearance? The answer to these questions is obvious as soon as you realize that I’m an addict to happy endings.

Rockland, ON – 26/11/02 21:11:05 CST

Wednesday, Day Twenty-Seven – 84,347 words – Real Life Isn’t Like Fiction

For nearly a month now, I have been living in two worlds. One is the very-real Canada of 2002, the other a made-up United States in 2048. In order to spend more time in the second, I have deliberately stepped away from the first: Life during November reduced itself to a solid 7:30-to-16:00 workday followed by an immediate retreat home in order to write 2000+ words.

Day Twenty-Seven, as you may have surmised from the above entries, was planned to be a return to a more normal life: A workday followed by a trip to the theatre with a friend. Oh, and no writing for the first time in weeks. Simple goals? Harmless objectives? Alas, real life intruded everywhere

A hint of things to come was the morning traffic slowdown caused by a head-on collision on the highway. First time in months that there’s been an accident on my stretch of the 174 (and it had to happen on a dry, clear day!) but never mind that. Later at work, said friend calls and cancels. Okay. Sucks. We go on.

Things really start going downhill as soon as I leave work: a stop at one of my favourite places in Ottawa goes sour as the owner informs me that the place will probably close down in a few weeks. Any further attempt at a discussion leads to sarcastic remarks from his part.

It gets worse at the movie theatre, a small second-run operation run by a handful of people: The box-office opens ten minutes later than usual, the snacks counter is staffed by people who literally do not know how to operate the cash register and ten minutes in the first film, the image goes out and the lights go up. Another five minutes later, the film starts over again.

Of course, thirty minutes after the beginning of the film, a loud group of idiots has to sit down right behind me. The untimely delay makes everything end ten minutes later than scheduled, leading me to miss the bus (by one minute), leading to twenty minutes in -10C weather, leading me to miss a second bus by moments, leading to another ten minutes in same -10C weather, etc… Of course, the drive home was further hampered by an unusual string of red lights. By that time, I was past caring and well into giggling. I hit the bed at 1:00, woke up at 6:00, was in the office at 7:30.

Random and insignificant annoyances? Well, yes, but my conclusions are twofold: One; The Real World sucks and by focusing on the novel for so long, I’d forgotten how much it did. Two; Looking back on the day was a not-so-subtle reminder that the worst six months of my life happened (a few years ago) when I decided to quit writing entirely: Maybe I would have been better off at home, finishing my novel.

Ottawa, ON – 28/11/02 07:00:09 CST

Day Twenty-Eight – 86,200 words – It’s Over. Done. Finished. I won.

Yes, it’s finished. Wrote an epilogue, typed in "FIN", hit that recount button one more time and came up with the pleasantly roundish figure of 86,200 words. I am now, at twenty-seven years of age, a novelist. I have written an novel. Let me re-type this in with emphasis, as it has such a nice ring to it. I have written a novel. Oooh. Shards of shivers. Nice.

Rockland, ON – 28/11/02 21:38:32 CST

Friday, Day Twenty-Nine – 86,321 words – A few conclusions while spell-checking

Ever tried spell-checking a 184-pages document where you typed, typed typed without ever going back to correct the spelling? It’s even less fun that it sounds. Did you know that there’s an upper limit to the number of spelling errors Word 2002 can underline? That after that point, it just doesn’t underline anything at all? Blah.

On the other hand, all this time correcting trivial typos was spent reflecting on a few lessons learned during this whole NaNoWriMo exercise. Here are a few:

  • 1. Writing a novel is easy. No, really. Start with an outline, block off a given period per day, set yourself a daily word-count and settle down in a routine. That’s all there is. The truest thing ever said about writing may be Stephen King’s answer to "How do you write these enormous books?": "One [bleeping] word at a time, man."
  • 2. You don’t need to be inspired in order to write. Once the routine is established, it’s remarkably easy to sit down and type out the words. You may or may not feel inspired, but that’s why re-writes exist. Some of the stuff written without your so-called inspiration may, in fact, be quite good.
  • 3. Writing is fun. Addictive, even. There’s a real intellectual pleasure in bringing a story to life, through characters, events, dialogue and all that jazz. I’m going to miss it. Especially the self-imposed social isolation required to write that much.
  • 4. Characters are the key. As a reader, I can appreciate the need for interesting characters in keeping my interest while reading a story. As a writer, I can now appreciate their value in keeping me interested as a further incentive to keep writing.
  • 5. Support is good. Family and friends, once properly briefed, can become your greatest ally in this crazy endeavour. They’ll keep asking for your word-count, graciously make themselves available for technical consultations and occasionally even provide food! This being said…
  • 6. Family and friends may not care that much. According to my web server logs, this daily log was read an average of 4 to 6 times a day. Taking out myself, my siblings and fellow NaNoWriMo particip
    ant Eric Gauthier (all of whom demonstrably read everything on a daily basis), this doesn’t show a whole lot of interest. (Even worse are friends’ greetings "Hey, how many words?" Well, didn’t you read the log?) That’s fine, though; I wrote this for myself and my siblings first, and everyone else a distant second.
  • 7. Boy, does my French suck. I was reduced to having Word 2002’s English-French dictionary sidebar open at all times. That’s what happens when you write in the language you don’t usually read.
  • 8. It’s amazing how much you can write when you set your mind (and your environment) to it. I mean; twenty thousand words in a single weekend? How did that happen?
  • 9. Outlines are essential, but a looser flow has its advantages. On one hand, outlines will help you know what you’re going to write, day after day. On the other hand, the most boring moments I had while writing this novel were when I was just "hitting the targets", simply following the outline without opportunities to tweak, add or expand to the action.
  • 10. It’s fun.. I’ll repeat this twice just to show you that the NaNoWriMo is a worthwhile exercise. It’s worth trying. It’s worth doing. I’m sold to next year’s edition.

Rockland, ON – 29/11/02 21:13:03 CST

Saturday, Day Thirty – 86,321 words – Freeze! Monster in the Box!

The plan was to take a final look at the novel before printing it.

It turned out that I enjoyed "normal life" so much (ie; I had so many deadlines for other things) that I decided to heed various warnings not to attempt editing so soon. Complete Freeze: This is the final result of the NaNoWriMo experiment this year.

So I printed the novel and burned the file to CD, where it will remain until February or March. Then I’ll perform a "friends and family edit" with the goal of producing a readable version of the story for those around me who actually want to read the book. I’m actually optimistic that I’ll be able to turn out something worthwhile.

In the meantime, I have a boxed stack of nearly two hundred pages. It’s curiously satisfying to give physical form to something that has existed in my head for so long. In his 1991 film monologue MONSTER IN A BOX, Spalding Gray talks about the enormous novel manuscript he carries around in a cardboard box. Well, that’s a lot how I feel about the printed novel. A boxed monster. Ready to take over my life all over again whenever I start editing it.

Rockland, ON – 30/11/02 22:08:17 CST

Sunday, Day Minus Three-Hundred and Thirty-Four – 0 words – And so it begins… again.

This will be the last entry in this daily log. The novel is done, now dormant in a box where it will remain for a while. Now I have to start enjoying life again: A few other writing deadlines await, as well as four neglected web sites, a stack of unseen DVDs, a few friends left in the cold, several dozens of books to read and a house that requires some cleaning-up.

And yet… and yet… I have already started thinking about next year’s NaNoWriMo. About a contemporary conspiracy thriller that explains why conspiracies can’t exist. A thriller featuring an intrepid journalist and a beautiful research analyst. A thriller veering in Lovecraftian horror and slam-bang military action. A thriller that starts in the streets of New York, delves deep under the Vatican and destroys a large part of London. Yes, the little plot gerbil in my brain has started running again.

We’ll see next year if it produces anything fun.

Rockland, ON – 01/12/02 14:08:17 CST

Last Updated:
December 2002

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