A Chronicle of NaNoWriMo 2014 – Days 9-14

Wooorddss... (Getty Images)

Wooorddss… (Getty Images)

Gack…ack… I promise I’m not dead.


So, this week has been such an interesting ride I thought I’d blog about it afterwards to get some perspective. Yep. That’s my excuse reasoning, and I’m sticking to it.

To my new readers (hi!), this year I’m attempting to write a novel in 22 days. For posterity, to record my trauma, and for your amusement, this is the diary of Week 2, otherwise known as Days 9-14.

To my loyal followers, settle in and grab some popcorn.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – DAY 9 (13 Days to Go)

Honestly, this day’s pretty boring. I go to work, do my 500 words, and then go to bed to dream about my plot imploding. Next.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – DAY 10 (12 Days to Go)

I wake with a sinking feeling, and knowledge dropped like an anchor in my brain: My plot is terrible. I don’t think I can do this.

I only have 500 words to do today. Only 500. But still. I try writing out conflict and it’s a hot, sticky mess of nothing. I try again and again until the keyboard starts blurring in front of me. I don’t know what I’m trying to do exactly, but every scene that I’ve drafted out so far looks like a steaming pile of @$#@#.

I give up after only 170 words and fire up Firefox to surf the endless waves of the Internet, trying to escape from my own self-loathing. I pour an hour or so into that sinkhole before I find hope in a very strange place.

A Guardian article about the 5 Best Writers’ Sheds. Go on, take a look (and then come back. Please).

Something about those photographs, the way they so lovingly captured every element on those desks, inside those rooms, strikes something in me. None of them are perfect. Indeed, many of them are messy. But each of them speak about a much-loved, much-used place, and it reminds me that there are other people out there, all typing away and getting lost in their own worlds and excited about fictional characters. And that’s enough to remind me that I’m not alone and I can do this.

Battle-scarred by myself, I limp towards the light.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – DAY 11 (11 Days to Go)

Right. 5,000 words. Go!

Go, no seriously. Go. What the hell is wrong with you?



Oh I see.

I’ve hit the middle.

Just like that, I realise something that I’ve never realised before. The reason I have never finished a novel-length story is because I always freeze when I hit the middle. I just don’t know how to deal with it. I know how to set up a beginning (I think), and I generally know what I want to happen at the end. It’s the middle I need to bash in with a baseball bat learn to become friends with.

So I pray to the great Google gods, and lo and behold, I get answers.

How do I write the middle of a story? I ask. I get a lot of awesome stuff back. Reading these articles triggers a memory. I dig up my copy of Dwight V. Swan’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. And as I flip through the pages like a madman, a refrain starts to beat in my skull.

Challenge. Act. Disaster.

Challenge. Act. Disaster.


I know they’re important, but I still don’t quite know why. So I open up a document, whip together a table, and try to figure it out for myself using one of my most beloved stories: the old classic game Baldur’s Gate II.

This... is pretty much my childhood. Right here. Yep.

This… is pretty much my childhood. Right here. Yep.

Once I start analysing it, I find myself re-appreciating the true genius of Bioware’s storytelling (my apologies to those of you unfamiliar with the game, I plan to try analysing something better known soon). It looks something like this:

This is all Bioware.

This is all Bioware.

Challenge. Act. Disaster. It becomes my mantra for the next three hours as I feverishly rewrite my plot to fit it. Linking each Disaster to the Challenge following. Managing to carefully inch my way over the gaping abyss that is the middle of my novel. Word by word, until I hit 5,000.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – DAY 12 (10 Days to Go)

CHALLENGE: Get through the middle of my novel.

ACT: Try out this structure.

DISASTER: Realise that everything is still terrible.

CHALLENGE: Write the damn thing anyway.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – DAY 13 (9 Days to Go)

I graduate today. Officially.

Between the photos and the sun and pretending I’m a wizard in my epic academic robes, I think about my story. When the keynote speaker drones on and on after one and a half hours of names being called and polite clapping, I think about my story. After the celebratory dinner with my lovely, patient, family, I write my 500 words and go to sleep, thinking about my story.

NaNoWriMo 2014 – DAY 14 (8 Days to Go)

I meet my bad guy for the first time.

I’ve hinted at him before – the hero walks into a trap orchestrated by him, and the Guardians of the Galaxy of the realm speak about him only as the Great Betrayer, but I haven’t met him yet and it’s actually really fun. Especially when I find out he’s a slick, smooth, heartless bastard who is dangerously Genre Savvy.

I will be honest, he and his invading army sustain me for pretty much the entire 5,000 words today. Words written in 250 words bursts because I’ve given up on being artistic and am pretty much committed to limping my way to victory. Writer’s Block? I don’t have time to have Writer’s Block - I need to get 250 words down before I get to eat breakfast.

The idea is to break the 5,000 words into 20 bursts of 250 words, spread out amongst the day. I start my first burst the moment I get up, and find that the pressing urge to, uh, relieve myself after the night, is an excellent incentive to write.

I end on 34,017 words. 2/3rds of the way through, and almost 10,000 words over my closest attempt. This may literally be the worst thing ever written in the history of mankind, but in the process I’ve learned so much about the way that I write that I think it’s worth it.

I think.

Thanks for reading! So my Achilles’ Heel seems to be the Middle. What’s yours, and how did you beat it?


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