Blog for budding Sheikhspeares entering National Novel Writing Month 2006

November 18, 2006

better word count today

Could only manage 1500 words last night before I fell asleep at my keyboard. Today has been much better (I have no life) and the day's word count is 3,600 my best so far. Running total 32,110. I can sleep well tonight!

No cliche left unturned...

Tonight 2315, much less of a struggle than previous nights as I actually had some plot inspiration earlier today, and the scene kind of wrote itself, albeit badly. Running total 32380. (Horrifically, there are loads of people on the NaNoWriMo forums who have done well over 50,000 already. Tonight's excerpt, about as original and sophisticated as an Enid Blyton adventure mystery, but never mind:

Mark took them out, and in front of the bemused rugby player, he tried to get the soles out. "You haven't got a knife, have you?" he asked. "Just a blunt table knife would do. I don't want to wreck them."

He dug the lining out of the right boot, but there was nothing underneath. Even poking around didn't find anything. But the left was a different story. Underneath the thick insole was a lumpy, unevenness. Mark dug around and lifted up the leather beneath, into which a flap had been cut. Hidden inside was a folded piece of paper. Mark suddenly felt afraid. He looked up at all the windows, but there was no one there.

November 17, 2006

Light a fire in the Heath

27.050 words at the end of day 16, and I am still not sure where the other 23,000 are going to come from. SD is TOTALLY stressing me out that I have too many characters in my book, even though I have pointed out that it is an ENSEMBLE piece. Grrrr. But tonight's nonsense has seen the introduction of my favourite new character, and SD and I spent 10 minutes arguing about what he should be called. Our conversation went like this (complete with the unedited random comments to increase the word count!!!):

me: I am having to introduce new characters or otherwise no chance of filling the second half of my book
secretdubai: put in some amusing scenes with the existing ones, even if they aren't relevant
me: Superb, the prodigy has just come on my i-tunes
secretdubai: have one of the guys go to "Zyklones" and score
me: Yeah I have a couple of set pieces coming up. One of my character will be discovered moonlighting as a male hooker. I need to name him - he's a rogueish raffish but loveable photographer
me: I need a supersexy name or maybe he could go by his surname only like the photographer Rankin does. Am thinking of just calling him Heath
secretdubai: have him some guy whose wife is overseas a lot, who moonlights behind her back as a bit of rough-trade-for-rent
me: Might name him ****** after an ex of mine
secretdubai: Gary is much sexier, and rogue, but if it needs to be a bit snooty then Piers or Miles
me: no, needs to be more "street"
secretdubai: Oliver Heath is ok then
secretdubai: I swear every single excerpt I've read of yours has totally different names!!
me: They may have different names, it's an ensemble book. You've stressed me now :(

So, enter Heath:

Robbie's spirits lifted when Oliver Heath turned up. Heath – he went by his surname only for work, having been inspired by Bailey and Rankin - was a photographer, but really only as an excuse to chat up women. He was mid-thirties, with bleached blonde hair, and wore his clothes with a raffish air of glamour. He was a total rogue, and one of the most entertaining people Robbie had ever met. He never apologised for his outlandish behaviour and was a shameless player.

He had made his name as a party photographer, though never the type of pictures that you would see in the social pages of Tatler or Harpers & Queen. His photos oozed atmosphere and sex appeal, which was often due to the fact he had popped an E in the bathrooms beforehand, or snorted a line with one of his international DJ mates. And sometimes, if Heath felt the party was getting boring, he would take his turn behind the decks or do a spot of lap-dancing to liven up the evening.

He was the worst possible wingman though. Women were just capitivated by his peculiar blend of style and downright dirtiness. Tonight he had turned up in battered jeans, a white shirt open to the navel to reveal a taut surfer’s chest, and a black Fedora, which he claimed was homage to his Johnny Depp phase five years ago.

Into the thirties

No catch-up tonight, but at least I made my 2k. 2,039 to be precise, which brings the grand and glorious total to 30,065. The 30k milestone, if that is a milestone. The sad thing is I'm writing rubbish just to get the word count done, and I can already anticipate doing a savage edit even as I write it. Excerpt, some of the laziest, most cliched dross I've written yet. If I had the time and the energy, it would be so vastly improved, but for now it's just valuable for being x number of words of which I need every one:

She went up to the bar, a discreet distance away, but close enough to be able to catch his eye and make him aware of her. She was modestly dressed and covered compared to usual, but her clothes were figure-hugging. She had also had oiled her body with an expensive Arab scent that mingled with the natural aroma of her skin, seeping through her clothes in a way that she knew from long experience would intoxicate even the pious.

By her own inspiration she wore a poison ring on one glossily talonned hand, a silver creation from the souq with a hinged gem that allowed a pill to be stored beneath. She felt clever and powerful. Her confidence attracted him as much as her perfume and her beauty, and the coy smile she offered him through lowered eyelashes.

November 16, 2006

Word stats

My novel writing software, Scrivener (currently in Beta so still free) has a feature that counts the most commonly used words in your novel:

I swear my novel isn't really a long string of "the the a to the of was of was the to she the and and was the to a to the she" though admittedly some nights it feels about as coherent and interesting.

Wordcount widgets!

NaNoWriMo offers some cool Word Count widgets for keeping a check on your running total. If you haven't already signed up at the official site, it's not too late. Here's mine:

You can even have a "Word War" with another user:

Then this guy has made some even cooler widgets, one of which predicts when you're likely to finish your novel, and lets you use your own logo:

The only thing you have to do to keep it updated is go to your NaNoWriMo novel page and keep your current total updated. If anyone sets themselves up with these icons, we can put them in the sidebar of the blog.

important note

I was reading the NaNoWriMo main site yesterday (yes, book avoidance tactic no.483) and it points out that different computers have different word counts. If any of us should ever reach the 50k in the deadline, it must be the 50k on the NaNoWriMo word count - if you go on the site, it tells you how to check your current word count and see the margin of error.

NaNoWriMo site says:

It's November 25th, 2006. I've written 50,000 words and am ready to enter into the annals of NaNoWriMo history forever. How do I get the thing verified and have my name put on the Winner's Page?
From 12:00:01 am, November 25th onward, all participants who have written more than 50,000 words can have their winning word counts verified by our world-renowned team of robotic word counters.
Uploading your novel to the Validator makes your NaNoWriMo victory official, gets you listed on our Winners Page, and routes you to the secret spot where you can collect this year's winner's certificate.
It will also turn your word count bar purple and add a small celebratory banner to your Flash Profile.
The Word Count Validation tools are part of the My Novel page in the My NaNoWriMo section of the site.

What if there's a discrepancy between what my word count said and what yours comes up with?
Word counters rarely agree with each other, and there is a good chance there will be a discrepancy between our counter and the one on your word processor. Some people gain words and others lose them, and you can see how great the difference is by uploading your manuscript for counting at any point on the My Novel page. Our count will automatically appear in your Word Count box.

The link is

Broken the halfway barrier but too tired for a yaaay

Broke the 25,000 word barrier last night but I swear it has aged me 10 years at least. Due to a miscalculation on word count (why do you never get a pleasant surprise when that happens, like an extra 2,000 words surprise???) I had to write 3,000 words yesterday after work. I am finding I have to trick my mind and body by writing until I drop in the office after work, then driving home and hoping the 30 minute drive gives me a second wind.

I can barely remember what I wrote last night, and certainly have zero recollection of the last 200 words, but I think I made a seriously lame attempt at a seduction scene, which is on the tepid side of luke warm - no red-hot passion with my characters. Serves them right. So, an extract:

Marie was pretty grateful to Robbie for setting her up with Pieter. She had been in the country for eight months and hadn’t been on one serious date. She seemed to spend most of her time fending off the lecherous advances of some of the less savoury employees at the office, complete with leers and bottom-pinching. But she could barely face making conversation with most of her colleagues, let alone any more. Her mother was always going on about how she ought to get out and meet people and have some fun – though obviously not in a slutty “have some fun” kind of way – but she seemed to spend every waking hour in the office. She had no life, so there was no point trying to find someone to share it with.

She had never been the prettiest girl in her class and she was terribly self-effacing. She had no idea that her youthful enthusiasm and sweet nature were as appealing to men as her obvious lack of affectation. She was always blindsided when a man actually asked her out, and never quite believed he could be interested until her clothes were in a pile on the bedroom floor and they were
in flagrante, as her ageing grandmother would have said.

She had approached the IT department with confidence, knowing that she had a mission to make friends with Pieter, not the flustery feeling she got when she knew she fancied a man. After all, she had barely spoken to Pieter in her time at the company, other than the odd word of thanks here and there, as he calmly fixed her computer before she had the chance to throw it out of the window.

Trudging on

Did my 2k, now I am allowed to sleep. I am physically so exhausted that it has slowed me down;I actually found myself typing gibberish. Even typing this is very difficult, I can hardly get a singe word typed right. I'm just falling alseep at the keyboard. It's kind of scary actually. Must sleep. 2,128, running total 28,026.

Down But Not Out

Cheer up, Snow White, things could be worse. I'm at 15 thousand, 10 thousand shy, but I'm not despairing yet. I think I'm finally starting to make my way into the heart of the somewhat dry, economic digest of a story:
What is it that makes a truly charitable person? I suppose it takes becoming a bit of a Jesus Christ--willing ultimately to sacrifice it all. One gets into his head that some among his fellow human beings are being mistreated, and he resolves that this is wrong. He wants to make a stand; he wants to do something about it in his own small way. He has this great philanthropic drive, prodding him to do what is right.

Lurking in the shadows, however, is a voice that says,
You are a hypocrite. You act out of self-interest. When push comes to shove you will run. You are not ready to pay the price, and the only sacrifice you'll ever know is the one you chose not to make.
Dubai Marina (A Novel)

November 15, 2006

Despair and deportation

Due to some technical errors (I left my master file on the computer at work and had to write 2,000 words at home) I have managed to miscalculate my total word count. I thought I was on 23k as we head into the halfway day, leaving me with the daily 2k to write to clear the 25k at the halfway mark.

Sadly, I'm on 22,177 - and for some reason, the extra 800 words is making me despair. Not sure why it seems so insurmountable, but it is.

Meanwhile, I spent four hours writing the 2k yesterday which is much slower than usual, owing to some issues of the mechanics of deportation in an Arab city: would they be dishdashes or police that would come, and how much packing would the deportee be allowed to do?

Two small extracts from last night's ramblings:

Willard Kane’s offices were in the freezone area of the city, and Amber could barely stifle a sigh as she walked in to the chic reception area, which looked like it was replicated from offices in Manhattan. The reception was all cream leather, with accents of chrome and glass, and had the unmissable whiff of greenbacks.

Willard came through to meet them: Doug had been expecting a cigar-chomping Texan from the sound of his voice. Instead, he met a man in his mid-30s with a seriously sharp suit, and only the distinctive drawl to give away his origins. Doug liked him on sight and, by the way Amber was giggling, he guessed she had taken to Willard as well.

The man was a natural charmer, but there was no mistaking his iron will. Only the obvious twitch of a muscle in his jaw gave away his true feelings when telling them his story.

and, drum roll, the deliberately underplayed deportation scene (mainly because I was too tired to bluff):

Roused from a deep sleep – his first night in his own bed for the last five days – Doug answered his mobile phone. He could barely make out Amber's voice between the sobs. “They have found out about the story and are deporting me.”

Instantly alert, Doug asked her to explain what had happened as best she could. Amber had been woken in the hotel at one o’clock in the morning by the hotel general manager, who told her there were three men waiting for her in the lobby. She dressed quickly and went downstairs, to be greeted by three men in dishdashes, who showed their CID badges.

They did not waste time on explanations, flashing a court order in Arabic at her. They merely informed her that she was no longer welcome in the country and would be escorted to the airport to catch the first plane back to New York. She would not be allowed to pack her bags, and her clothes would be sent on after her. All she would be allowed to take now was her handbag – which they would search – and her laptop would be wiped along with any back-ups before being returned.

Reanimating a corpse

One of the problems with trying to write a mystery thriller is that you have to kind of work backwards and drop clues at certain points. Your heroes need to find out certain things so that they start gradually solving the mystery. Footprints and fag butts are easy, facts are less so.

In the case of my veryveryvery lame novel, the two central characters both need to have heard of the name of the Secret Evil Organisation without realising what it is. When they both realise they've heard it, pennies (or fils) start to drop. With Mark it was easy, he hears it early on. With Phoebe it was less so. I kept wondering if she might hear it in a coffeeshop in random conversation, but that was rather implausible, so I was really struggling to come up with something.

Then a brilliant plan struck! I would reanimate Rasha's corpse, literary-ly if not literally, and have Phoebe find her dying rather than dead. That way I could use that wondrous cliche of detective fiction, the Dying Words. This did sadly mean I had to excise a lot of very purple prose about the horror of finding the corpse with its distorted face and bulging eyes. It also meant I had to swap a length of piano wire (which admittedly is probably not that easy to come by in Dubai, it's hardly Philharmonic City - yet) for a nice little dagger, which I'm sure would be much easier to obtain. Then I had to go back to other chapters and swap "corpse" and "body" for "dying young woman", and tweak a few more things. So for tonight's excerpt, here's the original (written before nanowrimo started, so not part of my word count) with the new:

Phoebe had read of people's reactions to seeing a corpse. Of people weeping, fainting, vomiting. She just stood there, frozen, wanting to look and not look, needing to know she could bear to see it, but wishing she had never had to. The whites of the eyes shone in the darkness. The mouth was slack and a puffy tongue slightly hung out of it.

Her shrieking brain calmed a little, given data to process. Not asleep. Not unconscious. Lifeless. Dead. Corpse. Too late.

And having steeled herself for the full horror of seeing her first corpse, she was stunned to realise it was a young woman, who was still alive but barely conscious.

Quickly she knelt down and cleared more of the litter away. The girl's face was ashen and racked with pain. Her lips moved slightly. "What happened, where are you hurt?"

Paint-by-cliches through and through. But I've hit my word count for the night, and the magical 25k half way mark (2,385 tonight, running total 25,898). And besides if I could write Shakespeare, I'd be being wined and dined by publishers living on a £250,000 advance in some sumptuous mansion, not rotting in the sad squalor of Cell Block G at 5.30am in the bloody morning. So good night, though it really should be good day.

November 14, 2006

Mental constipation

I broke the 20,000 barrier yesterday and hit a brick wall. No ideas, no inspiration, no anything.

One thing that does worry me is my character's names. They are normal names so just seem so lame - any ideas? the most exciting I have are Marina and Tamara.

Approaching the half-way line

2526, and my, it's getting turgid! Running total now 23,513. Tomorrow with any luck I'll reach the half way point. That will also be half way through the month, which means that I have zero of the "buffer zone" one is supposed to have of extra verbage, in case of illness/writer's block/emergency in the last days of the month. So I still need to keep doing the catch up. Here's an immensely dreary excerpt:

That night she found it hard to sleep. The dead girl was there in her mind, her presence seemed near. Her two faces: the glitteringly angry beauty in the hotel, and the contorted horror in the alleyway. She doubted that if Rasha had lived they would have been in any way soul sisters, but her death had linked them. Her curiosity was growing. After the shock of the party had worn off, she found herself wondering more about those girls, how they slipped into that twilight world of debauchery, orgy, even prostitution. She wondered what Susie got out of it. Was it really any different to popstars and footballers and their glamour models and groupies back in London? Money, sex, fame, drugs.

Appointing an editor

snow white and I have decided to take on the task of "editing" one another's "books" assuming we complete nanowrimo. (I'm not sure which of those words is more in need of qualifying marks - to call mine a book frankly defames literature).

secretdubai (01:43:16): I think we should both do a "soft" job
secretdubai (01:43:31): avoid any proper critique, just make notes about stuff we don't understand
secretdubai (01:43:41): and tidy up errors
secretdubai (01:43:52): then if we feel brave enough, we may ask one another for very gentle criticism
secretdubai (01:43:54): kind of:
secretdubai (01:44:45): "this is truly the most brilliant work I have ever read, and I was moved to tears of wonder at nearly every page. I do just wonder though if the third line of paragraph four on page 55 is just very slightly cliched?"
secretdubai (01:44:47): like that
snow_white (01:45:11): I'm meandering and subplotting all over the bloody shop to pad out the wordage
secretdubai (01:45:19): lol at least you have subplots!
secretdubai (01:45:26): yours will be like Shakespeare
secretdubai (01:45:45): mine reads like poorly written dialogue interspersed with bad glurge from a Dubai tourist guide
secretdubai (01:46:00): and my characters keep being startled and shocked and surprised
secretdubai (01:46:25): as I bloody well would in their shoes, with all the "coincidences" (=desperately implausible plot devices)
snow_white (01:46:18): Like Shakespeare - unintelligible and boring unless made into a movie .... Yes, that was an excellent critique

November 13, 2006

Peaked too early?

It's been a tough week, and not even SD's goading has forced me to make up the lost words. I'm on 18,500 when my target was 24,000 at the end of day 12. *sob*.

But SD was inspirational last night as we created a slightly monstrous character, with no real purpose in the plot other than to set up a couple of lame gags. Here was a snippet from last night:

“Ohmigod you’ll never guess what,” screeched Libby, the words pouring out. “You know my boss Marina? Well, it turns out she knows Simon McAllister from the old days – and I’m thinking there’s dirt to be dug there! Good job we have an ‘in’ through Jack, who’s most definitely in Marina these days.”

Caro’s boss was Marina Potter, who was managing director of the advertising agency Potter, Powell and Callaghan.

PP&C was a fairly small agency, which was probably past its best. After a flurry of awards a couple of years ago, the agency had started to become a non-entity. All in all, they were solid, acceptable and a little boring.

The same couldn’t be said of Marina. She was an older woman, estimated to be about 49 though some recent Botox treatments seemed to have temporarily frozen the ageing process. She had long brunette hair, which was just a little too long to be chic, and which she tossed around like a schoolgirl, most noticeably when storming out in the office.

She was a great believer in the power suit, though sometimes misjudged the balance between looking appealing or looking slightly tarty, and also provided the occasional sartorial flashbacks to the 1980s. But she had an unmistakeable air of glamour about her, as well as a hint of mystery that came from never having married. The women called her Marina, where more boats had docked at her port than any in the Gulf, while her young male admirers referred to her as MILF, standing for Marina I’d Like to F………

Marina also had a chequered romantic history, which had become legendary in local circles: her preferred flavour was definitely married men, and Caro had her suspicions that a few of the clients on the agency roster had been won through some extracurricular pitching by Marina.

Her current plaything was Jack, one of the account directors at the office. Jack was the office slob. At 29, he had talent and laziness in equal parts. When he felt like exercising his creative streak, he would blow the other account directors away with the audacity and sheer brilliance of his concepts. But that happened about once a month, and the other 30 days were spent either in the pub, or asleep. It had taken Caro a couple of weeks to realise why he was getting away with it.

The rest of the staff were continuously struck dumb by Jack’s lack of effort and by Marina’s unwillingness to get involved. Jack had missed new business pitches (he was watching the Ashes in the pub), failed to turn up for a work trip (he was watching the rugby World Cup in the pub) and missed meetings too countless to mention (he was drinking in the pub). Most mornings, he would stroll into work after 11am, with yesterday’s stubble and his tie askew, and with a distinct smell of beer on his breath.

Yet there was something in his demeanour that made you forgive Jack. He was very tall and a bit lanky, and just looked like an overgrown schoolboy for whom the world was just a little too much. He irritated the hell out of Caro, but she couldn’t help liking him. They had lunch together on the days Jack stayed in the office for longer than two hours, and quite often met for a drink after work. As co-worker relationships went, Caro guessed they were friends.

Marina was too subtle to be overtly biased towards Jack, but he was definitely allowed to get away with most things in return for giving her a MOT (Marina Orgasm Test, as the office called it) from time to time. Caro could tell that Jack had no great feelings towards Marina, and she knew he could prise some information out of her during pillow talk.

Two days later, Caro called with an update. “Jack has agreed to do it – he’s rather turned on by the idea of screwing a woman and actually encouraging her to talk afterwards. He said there was a first time for everything.”

Biding my time, drinking her wine

I'm at 15,011 words. That's not really enough.
  • I've gone to New York and Uganda for work. Work really gets in the way of NaNoWriMo.
  • I went to Texas from the 4th to the 10th to meet an infant. Playing with infants in Texas really gets in the way of NaNoWriMo.
I think I'll pull through. But I've fallen in love with Mike Sierra. Why must he be fictional?

Mike and Shikashi were drawn together like two streams trickling downhill. They were mates practically before they had been introduced. Shikashi was at Nezumi's apartment, coaching her on a presentation she would give on "customer care," when Mike turned up with a bottle of rosè and a small bar of expensive dark chocolate.

Shikashi made much of the gesture, as if it were the first time a man had ever brought chocolate for a woman. "You're looking at five to life with this one," said Shikashi. "Ne-chan adores chocolate. She needs to have chocolate every day. Every day!" Here, Mike had thought, is a regular guy. Someone I can talk music with, have a beer with, and discuss females in a non-objectifying way, without the pervasive threat of conflict.

"Thanks for painting such a flattering picture of me, Shikashi." Mike noticed that she pronounced the name with two syllables, the final “i” dropped.

"You're just like me," Mike told her. "If the day is winding down and I haven't had chocolate, I have to - have to - go to the store.

"Ne-chan takes out the trash compulsively because she can't stand to see the chocolate wrappers pile up!" said Shikashi gleefully.

"I'm glad that my, um, disorder is so amusing to you,” said Nezumi. “I'm glad we can all laugh about it.”

Dude,” Shikashi addressed Mike, “When our dad goes to Kobe, he brings this amazing chocolate back. 'Namachoco.' It's stupid good.”

It is,” agreeed Nezumi. “It's undistilled evil covered in powdered cocoa.”

Chocolate is for lonely people. You know that, right?” Shikashi said, directing the remark more toward Mike than Nezumi. “It's a substitute for sex. We comfort ourselves with it, reward ourselves with it, and it becomes an obsession. Some people say that the only cure for chocolate addiction is a fulfilling relationship.” He was idly doodling chocolate squares on one of Nezumi's printouts. “Chocolate cravings mirror lows in our lives, and tend to follow temporal patterns. Most people eat chocolate at night.” He held the doodles at arm's length, admiring them. “Myself, I don't really like chocolate.”

Are any of you familiar with Murakami Haruki's Norwegian Wood? That's what this novel is turning into. Must do something about that before all my characters off themselves.

Struggling on

Well I didn't do very well last night, because I was so tired I actually starting falling asleep at my keyboard. I had intended to write until 5am, but I gave up at 4am with just 1012. That brought the total to 18,037.

Today I had hoped to try and make up all the shortfall. Yeah, right. I managed to do 2450 though, which is just over target. I really understand now why they nag you to write at least 2,000 a day at the start. As soon as you lose pace, it's a disaster. The missing words just hang over you like the dark axe of doom. My total is 20,987. It should be 24,000. That's one hell of a lot of catch up to do. Plus I'm losing inspiration and getting more and more tired. And it's showing in my prose, which is so tortured and turgid I can't even bring myself to post any here.

/sad lament over

November 12, 2006

catching up a bit

I managed over 3,000 words today to reach 17,450. I am trying desperately to claw back my missed days but would have done more if I had been enjoying my lie-in and just couldn't get my butt out of bed.