Blog for budding Sheikhspeares entering National Novel Writing Month 2006

November 04, 2006

Novel writing software

Previously I was writing my novel in one long Word document, and things were getting really unwieldy. After a few thousand words, it gets hard scrolling backwards and forwards. Unless you are one of those rare people that write from A to Z in a completely linear process - frankly impossible for something that needs extensive plotting and writing "backwards", like a thriller or detective novel when you have to work out how to reach the end.

So I did a bit of Googling, and found a superb currently freeware (it's in beta) programme called Scrivener. It lets you organise things into sections and chapters, which you can move around, and you can group things very easily. Scrivener is a Mac programme, but there is bound to be loads of similar software for Windows.

The best thing so far has been arranging my chapters into sections (I won't use these sections in the final novel, they are just for my organisational purposes now). I found that things divided quite naturally into five roughly similar sized sections, which I am hoping is a good thing. My sections look like this:

1. Arriving in Dubai
The main character arrives in Dubai, and gets to start work, and we meet various other character and protagnoists.

2. Settling In
The plot start to unravel here, more characters meet one another, and we learn more about Dubai and the general situation. The section ends with a Big Event (a murder!)

3. Weird stuff happens
Through various coincidences, the innocent protagonists get caught up in the main plot, as generally happens in a detective novel/thriller. It starts to affect them: they get burgled at one point, for example, and there are more key meetings between the heroes and the characters that they don't know yet are villains. This section ends with a Big Event (another suspicious death).

4. Investigations begin
In this section the protatonists have realised they are caught up in something, and actively start to investigate it. The tables are turned in a sense, as the people who hunted them in the previous section now become the hunted. The section ends with a Significant Discovery (the MacGuffin, if you will.

5. Final stages
In the final stages, the protagonists are now hot on the trail, and the danger is escalating. This is where we get the capture and the intrepid escape and such like, leading to the final denouement and conclusion.

I doubt all these sections will be the same length at the end, it may even be that 1 and 2 get somewhat merged, as they are less "exciting". But for now it's a very useful mental and physical way to organise things.

Another thing this software does is help with character continuity. While it may seem the easiest thing in the world to keep track of a few characters in one novel, the reality is that even experienced authors make mistakes. Having a place where you can create character profiles, and then cut and paste any significant details you later write about their life, or their looks, is very helpful.

sleep-deprived and it's only day 3

End of day three, and I'm at 6024 words. I know the ending, but not entirely clear how I'm going to get there... I've decided to write sections as I feel inspired, even if not necessarily in chronological order. There are lots of XXXX where I have to create names and lots of UNDUBAI where I haven't named the location. I've decided not to self-edit till about Nov 20, where I'll have to amend some serious inconsistencies!

Day 3 - 2024

So that's 6049 in total. Still on target, though tonight was a real struggle, I'm just dying to go to sleep. Can't post a snippet from the stuff I wrote on today's scene, because it's all a bit x-rated, but here is a snipped from earlier in the scene that I wrote some months ago:

"Rasha worked in PR by day and as a high class hooker by night. Not in a million years would she ever have viewed herself as a prostitute. She was a party girl who enjoyed appropriate presents and gifts for the extra entertainment she offered. Monetary gifts being by far the most convenient, though jewellery could always be sold in the gold souq."

I Feel Cheated!

I spent over 27 hours of the last three days in the sky! Working! I'm at about 2500 words when I should be over 5000.

I still don't have a plot, which I've heard is no problem.

Running off to catch up now!

November 03, 2006

How Important is Correct Grammar?

I'm curious to know how pre-occupied others are with correctness of grammar. Do native or absolutely fluent second-language speakers really have to be concerned? Does the reader really care? My take is that there are often more than one acceptable ways to express the same idea and some of these relate to different usages, each gramatically correct in different contexts. Good grammar, I feel, is no more and no less important than good diction. You just have to get the words right whether it's an article or just the right idiomatic expression.

Close is good enough

I've just approached the 5000 word milestone with 4992 words at the conclusion of my third chapter. My snippet for today,
Alas, there are no parks in the Marina, and the wide beach which fronts the Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR), a 40-tower complex, is likely to be inundated with sun-worshipers. It is billed as the largest single-phase residential property development in the world, a boast that seems credible. No doubt the JBR will also emerge as a distinct community--one of mostly expatriate, non-resident apartment owners and the European guests they hope to lure in for short-stays. It will be a beach culture of the exclusive and perhaps snobbish variety.
From A Walk in the Marina.

Hooray - 2004!

Yay! 2004 words of turgid rubbish, but 2004 nonetheless. That's a grand total for of 4025 so far. That's 1/24.7th of the way there, if my sums are correct. Here's today's dreary snippet for your enjoyment derision:

"We're hoping to get one of those proper fake Chanel bags before we leave," Margaret revealed. "And she says there's pearls very cheap in those markets, real pearls." She asked Phoebe how she found "the Arabs". "Diane says they're quite a handful, very much into the young English girls. But they look after them well at the airline, she's not had any real trouble."

1000+ a day and counting...

Its after midnight, 3 Nov, but for all intents and purposes its the conclusion of day 2 for me and I'm at 3330 words. I know it isn't all about word count, even though the challenge is based on that. No one among us I am sure is putting words on paper simply for the sake of word count. Though it all adds up in the end, what unfolds through the words is a little universe that we each create. It's starting to seem like fun!

November 02, 2006

under the radar

Not sure I can post any of mine - any resemblance to people, companies or places is entirely intentional.

Succintness and the Writer: Very Short Stories

Wired Magazine had a frankly brilliant idea: invite a bunch to writers to write a story in six words (as Hemingway famously did: For sale: baby shoes, never worn).

Some excerpts:

Failed SAT. Lost scholarship. Invented rocket.
- William Shatner

It cost too much, staying human.
- Bruce Sterling

Heaven falls. Details at eleven.
- Robert Jordan

Will this do (lazy writer asked)?
- Ken MacLeod

I have no idea if this is relevant to NaNoWriMo which favours production over brevity, but who knows, maybe people will find it gives them the genesis of a new idea.

End of first day: 2021 done!

Here's a snippet, featuring gossipy neighbour Beverley:

"I'll be off now, Shamsil will be back with my ciggies. Ta-ra and nice to meet you," she told Phoebe. "Need any help with the natives, you just give me a call. Our Dave's well in with a couple of sheikhs. Worcester they call it, like the sauce. Makes all the difference here."

What's your tagline?

To give one another an idea of what we're writing (and perhaps to clarify it for ourselves) what's the tagline for your book? Not the title - because that may change, or you may not have chosen one yet, or it may not be particularly descriptive - but the slogan that will accompany it. Here's mine:

"Intrigue, adventure, sex and terror in the United Arab Emirates."

It's all downhill from there, but at least that *sounds* exciting ;)

It will be interesting to see if and how people's taglines change as we progress with our future Nobel Literature Prize-winning novels.

Day one reporting...

Woo-hoo! Managed to get 1781 comprehensive words down and I'm actually enjoying the process.

For the sake of my fellow NaNoWriMo UAE writers

I have decided to be the slowest among you all. Over the next 29 days, my word-count will always be less than the one of the laziest aspiring writer of the group.
I hope you all realize what it cost me to commit to this decision. I dug in my deepest self to find the courage to do this.

No need to thank me now. The month is still young...

November 01, 2006

So slow!

I've only done 1024 words so far today, and it's killing me. As mentioned before, I'm working on a previously started novel that I'm already 10,000 words into. Or 11,000 now (yay!)

This is a snippet from some stuff I wrote earlier. No prizes for guessing what publications it refers to:

"Nick wrote for the Gulf Gazette, a newspaper whose main distinction was being marginally less ill-written and slightly less uninteresting than its bitter rival, the stalwart Trucial States Tribune. The Tribune, as famed for its illiteracy as its misplaced grandiloquence, regarded itself as the elder statesman of the UAE press, but was viewed by its younger, brasher tabloid cousin as a senile old fool."

How Fearless Art Thou?

Would anyone else be brave enough to post their novels as blogs as they go? I think it has merit in not only adding a bit of extra pressure--to write and to write well--but it would be fun and perhaps helpful to see what others are churning out. If there are any takers, perhaps SD could put up a running blogroll list in the sidebar.

end of day 1

Stopping for the evening at 2,336 words - need to pace myself as I'm committed to these damn 6am starts evvery day. I decided not to bother with sensible stuff like plot outlines and character descriptions, but to fly by the seat of my pants and start writing. Am having a ball so far!
Till tomorrow, kids.

How's everyone doing?

I'm at 1869 words! How is everyone else doing? I'm going for over 2000 
before the first day is over, which should hopefully give me something
 of a head start. It was very slow going at first but now I feel I'm picking 
up steam.  

They're off!

I have started here in Europe: will be setting my alarm at 6am every day to write before work and have set myself a deadline of a minimum of 2,000 words a day. Have written 1,677 in this morning's session, despite having arrived at work so early (eager beaver) that the office was still locked and I had to sit outside and wait!!!

My boss is being fantastic: even though this is the craziest month of the year for work, she's really excited and even said that she wanted me to publish the finished article (how's that for misplaced confidence!) and knew some literary agents in the States. Ummm not sure that my first line is high-brow enough for an agent : "Mixing sambuca and the YMCA was always going to lead to trouble."

If anyone has any ideas for what I can call my city (supposedly the next Dubai but I'm renaming to cover my arse) it would be greatly appreciated.

Halloween apples

It's still All Hallow's Eve here in the great white north and my two sugar babies are sitting on the living room floor with their fab stash of candy. Kids got their first 'real' Halloween outside the Middle East, complete with winter jackets under their costumes. [Oui, there is snow on the ground.]

No weird stuff - like shawarma gift certificates - this year. Just some expired salt & vinegar crisps from an old lady and some fortune cookies from the Chinese couple down the block. Otherwise, I now have access to this tempting hoard of sugar (choccies, gummies, rockets, tootsie rolls, lollies etc) when I'm feeling weak due to NaNoWriMo.

Either that, or I'll overdose on said sweets and you'll find me drooling and rocking in the corner with the laptop overturned on the carpet.

Goodby my life..

I am a one finger typist, make it two fingers when i'm inspired. So my 'normal' average would be around 350 words per hour. Deviding this figure by two, since I have no idea what I will be writing about, yields 175 words per hour. Humm.. lemme see, that's 285 hours for the 50000 words, or an average of 9 hours per day!
God help me...

Late!

I just woke up! I'm nearly 5 hours late! NoooooooOOO! 

Dubai Marina

I've thrown my hat into the ring. I know I may regret this. I've decided to do it live by posting my writing as I go along, in its own blog, Dubai Marina (A Novel). That's my story's title. I'm a bit shy about this whole thing, but it can't hurt to try. Wishing all of us the best of luck!

A pinch and a punch - it's NaNoWriMo month!

Well, so much for making an early start! I had planned to try and do 1500 words after midnight tonight (it's now 1 am in Dubai) but I am still stuck with work stuff and am absolutely exhausted.

So I will go by American time, and start tomorrow.

on your marks...

October 31, 2006

Game on!

I am confirmed to enter - and have warned my boss! She was very excited and asked why I couldn't start today, bless her.... I'm really psyched - had an epiphany on plot last night (this was what was holding me back as I just wasn't feeling anything so far) and have enlisted a few other people to keep me going ... All four of our offices around the world know I'm doing it, so I'll have nowhere to hide ....
(can also use it as an alibi for doing the cheeky freelance commission I just received gaaah)
GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!

Mixed nuts

I think I might be nuts. My boss thinks I'm nuts (I can't believe I even told her). My colleagues think I'm nuts. I can't even pluck up the courage to tell my boyf yet because it will confirm to him I'm nuts.

Even writing an email can be agony for me cos I go back and edit time and time and time and again for everything I write. Having said that, I wrote my 10,000 word dissertation in 72 hrs straight but even with that methodology that's 15 days on the bounce with no sleep....no chance!

If all else fails I'll quit my job and be a "novellist" for a month, but I'm determined I'm going to do it.

Echoing Snow White - good luck everyone! I'm so excited for us all!!!

I can't wait!!

Word processors are primed and ready. Typing fingers standing by!

Notes on the bus

It's funny how inspiration will suddenly hit you. Sitting on the bus to Dubai yesterday a few ideas came into my head on how to start my novel. An Indian guy wanted to get off the bus and Wasl hospital and while he was waiting at the door I 'clocked' his 'gold' watch(terrible, I know) and noticed that the time was wrong. This started me thinking that maybe it could be because he's crossed a time zone and that he hasn't bothered to change it yet or that maybe he doesn't even want to because his heart is still in that place. Then I looked again and noticed that the time was way out, India would only be an hour ahead so maybe he's come from Bangkok..hmm... Then I realise that maybe the thing has just stopped and he's wearing it as a piece of jewellary and it will be the right time for two minutes every day.

Me & the fat fighters

So there it is.

I signed up.

I'm legal.

It's like going to get weighed in a room full of fat fighters.

Sure, I can sit at home and lose weight on my own thinking, "nothing tastes as good as thin feels" while stuffing my face with bon-bons and watching soap operas.

But now I'm accountable.

I might end up dishing out 50,000 words of shite. But at least I did it. (Inshallah)

Y'all are my witnesses.

An "honorary" entrant

Because I already started this book, which I have been supposedly writing for the past year and a half, I am using NaNoWriMo as a way to disclipline myself to try and write 50,000 words on it.

This is against the rules and the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I know, but this is my first novel, and I am only ten thousand words in. So I'm not entering officially, but will take part in an honorary way alongside regular (legal!) entrants.

A big part of me would like to try the write-it-all-from-scratch approach, and I'm kind of envious of those starting with a clean slate who can create something entirely new, but on the other hand it's getting to the "now or never" stage for my book.

November is going to be a month of discipline for me in several ways:

1. 50,000 words on my novel
2. At least 30 lunges per day (gotta build up some skiing muscles)
3. A strict healthy eating diet

Let's see how many of the three I can stick to.

Lessons Learned Last Year

1) I didn't write every day. This was a mistake.

2) I persistently self-edited. This year I'll take my glasses off before writing sessions.

October 30, 2006

Two Things

Two things:

1) Last night, I timed myself for one hour, to see how many words I could write on an idea I had in my mind. The result: 1259. Number of words per day required to total 50,000 at the end of 30 days: 1266.

2) Sometimes, I try to write based on my own experiences, and it comes out very flat and uninspired. Last year, my narrator in my NaNoWriMo attempt was based on someone completely unlike me, and actual events I didn't know much about, and I was amazed where my imagination took me. I might never write autobiographically again.

Welcome to UAE NaNoWriMo

Welcome to everyone in the UAE, or formerly in the UAE, or other associates who are planning to tackle NaNoWriMo 2006, or National Novel Writing Month.

The aim is to write a 50,000-word novel from scratch in the thirty days of November. You can have come up with the synopsis etc beforehand, but you can't enter any previously-written prose. These are the rules if you want to be in line for an official NaNoWriMo certificate.

We are also encouraging people to enter in an "honorary" sense. This includes people that are already half-way through writing a novel, or that can't commit to 50,000 words but would like to write a shorter novella.

If you would like a member invitation here, please comment below.