Blog for budding Sheikhspeares entering National Novel Writing Month 2006

November 25, 2006

it's getting harder

I knew the last week was going to be a nightmare - I am on massive work trip so very short on time. I only managed 400 words yesterday when I was in transit for an hour, but have taken advantage of jetlag to write 2k now. So, with five days to go, my total is 44,394. No excerpt today: it was set at an awards ceremony and is too cliched for words.

November 24, 2006

Why Barbara Cartland beats Shakespeare

Well there was me worrying about writing prose and wit more of the level of Enid Blyton than Graham Greene, and what do I find? She's the fifth most translated author ever:


1 Walt Disney Inc US
2 Agatha Christie UK
3 Jules Verne France
4 Vladimir Lenin Russia
5 Enid Blyton UK
6 Barbara Cartland UK
7 William Shakespeare UK
8 Danielle Steel US
9 Hans Christian Andersen Denmark
10 Stephen King US

The Bible comes in thirteenth place. If we discount Walt Disney (given he is not a novelist in the conventional sense, with predominantly retellings of other people's existing stories aimed at children) then that puts my all-time favourite author, Agatha Christie, in top place.

I wonder how many of us will be on that list in fifty years time?


No sleep for 36 hours

Well, after an actual night of no sleep - I now haven't slept for precisely 36 hours but that will be remedied within seconds - I have only managed to do another 2033 words in the past two days, bringing my total up to 44477, short of the 45,000 mark that I had really hoped to crack. What I have spent time on is extensive orgnisation and structural changes, because this being a mystery that relies so exactly on Person A knowing Fact X at a spccific time, and Person B meeting Person C because of Fact Y, that it had become impossible to write the later scenes without sorting out the earlier ones. I massively changed the start of my book, it's still dire, but thanks to snow white the first line is starting to take shape. Excerpt (from much further on, please excuse typos I can barely function right now):

Pat - definitely Pat, she was the more assertive of the two - got up and said she was going to find out what the "commotion" was all about. Before Phoebe could advise her to stay still and wait, a restaurant manager came over and instructed them to stay put. "This is a small dispute," he said. "It will pass soon. Can I get you more fruit cocktail, or some...?"

Gunfire cracked across his words. One of the men had fired into the ceiling. It was posturing, but the fact they had live weapons was enough for Phoebe. She took charge of the tour members on her table. "Everyone get under the table. It's probably nothing but let's not risk it." Oddly, she wasn't scared. Her heart was beating but it was with adrenalin. Any anxiety was only for their fear. Another shot was fired, this time ending in the tinkle of glass. The grimy chandelier was at last being put out of its misery.

There was more shouting, all in Arabic with the hotel manager also shouting Hindi instructions to some of the staff. Eventually the noise subsdied, though not the knife edge atmosphere. Margaret was clutching her handbag to her chest, white and terrified. Pat looked grim, and the Scots and Germans weren't much better. The Japanese girls were clutching one another. Only the Russian looked slightly bored by the whole affair.

November 23, 2006

Woooo, over the 40k mark

After a Herculean session yesterday, where I wrote 3k words after work, I have crossed the magical 40k line. The end is certainly in sight, and I no longer care about whether my story is good, bad or ugly - it's just nearly over. 7 days to write the last 10k words. An edited excerpt, again with a strategically placed * to keep the proxy happy.

Libby was dragging her heels into work. Somehow, the thought of another day of dealing with delinquent clients and facing up to Marina just didn’t feel like what she had signed up for when she joined a London advertising agency as a trainee copywriter. In those days, it had all been champagne and cocaine, with tales of creative directors frittering away huge location budgets on mischief in a foreign location. The advertising industry here was beyond backward. Talent levels were low while corruption levels were high. The clients were, on the whole, uneducated, unmotivated and rude.

She walked into the office, started up her Mac and got ready to check her emails. To her surprise, Jack put his head around the door. Subconsciously Libby checked her watch and Jack laughed. “What the hell are you doing in so close to nine in the morning,” asked Libby. “Have we got a client pitch that I’ve forgotten about? Or is my watch wrong?”

“Neither,” said Jack. “I thought I would get in bright and early to keep you on your toes – and also to tell you that my charm, good looks and amazing talent in the sack have forced our esteemed boss to give me some very interesting industry gossip. The information is worth a lunch, so you’re taking me out to The Westminster for a long, boozy meal today, one o’clock.”

then later ..........

Jack’s eyes were starting to glaze over, and his conversation was getting more risqué. They had always enjoyed suggestive banter, much as Libby had done with all her male friends. Suddenly, it was starting to move from suggestive into seductive. The waitresses were clearing away the tables and what was left of the buffet when she realised they were the only ones left in the restaurant.

“Do you want to go to the bar and have a couple more drinks?” asked Libby.

“No. I want to go and book a room and take you upstairs. Fancy a sh*g?”

She went to the bathrooms to check her teeth for remnants of lunch, and used one of the fluffy white flannels to try and scrub her teeth clean. She swilled her mouth out with the complimentary mouthwash, undid another button of her shirt, and fluffed up her hair.

November 22, 2006

Shaping up

Things are reallly starting to come together. I don't mean that the novel is any good, but the strands of the plot/mystery are starting to come together. There's quite a bit more work to do, because I need to weave another character story through the plot. I also have no clue how the denouement is going to take place, and I also need to go back and plant some clues so that the heroes can realise who master villain is just as he unmasks himself. "Of course! That's how you knew I had a button missing that day!" etc etc (not this obviously, but that kind of thing.

I will probably also use the good old Agatha Christie trick of; "She knew someone, somewhere had said something very important, but she couldn't remember what. She was missing something, it was buried deep in her memory. What was that critical detail she had forgotten? She had a feeling it was the key to the whole mystery." - blah blah - again not actually these words but this kind of device. So 2284 tonight, with the total at 42,444.

Can't post an excerpt as it was all rather filthy stuff tonight, as poor snow white will attest. (Although I've tamed it down a lot since then, it's not quite so gruesomely graphic and explicit!)

November 21, 2006

Going for gold

Tonight 2107, total 40160. I've just realised that I'm past the 40k point, which means the home stretch is near. But I'm ages and ages away from finishing, there are so many gaps, and I still don't have a clue how it ends. Tonight the gold souq made an appearance:

The yellow glare of gold was overwhelming. It shone through the heat, the crowds, and the endless hawkers offering handbags and fake Rolexes at every turn. Susie had urged her to visit, so Phoebe had travelled there, this time by taxi which felt a bit of a cheat. But the night was steaming hot and she now felt unsafe wandering around too much by herself. Here she could blend in with the tourists.

It was impressive, but it was not inviting. The gold was of a bright yellow colour, its high carat value prized by Indians for weddings, but unattractive on her pale Northern European skin. She didn't have the budget or the love of gems to do any serious shopping, but she loved the overall ambience and buzz of the ancient trade.

November 20, 2006

writing in sickness and in health

Good job I had some words "in the bank" as I was ill yesterday and could only manage 1100. So here is an extract from one of the big set-pieces from Saturday, designed to waste words. It is set in an upmarket "club", where the women are for hire. I have ****ed out some of the words that Etisalat might not appreciate.

They entered the club and Amber didn’t know where to look first. The club was decked out in red velvet with gold trim; rather than the smell of men’s sweat, she smelled money, and lots of it. There were numerous private banquettes around the room, and each was taken up by a man or two, accompanied by some of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. There was no PVC here: the girls were in little black dresses and looked classy. Amber felt underdressed, something she had never expected to feel when surrounded by pro**tutes.

High up on each side of the room up were little platforms with dancing girls, while there were two women pole-dancing in front of her behind the bar. This was like something out of Las Vegas: the women were wearing bikinis studded with diamante, and there wasn’t a spare ounce of fat on any of them. The music changed and two men came on to stage to dance. With a barely-concealed shriek, Robbie poked both Doug and Freddy in the sides. “Do you see who I see, boys? Bloody hell.”

Up there on stage, stripped to the waist and glistening with body oil was Heath, who was quite obviously supplementing his photographer income with a bit of erotic dancing. The three men turned their back to the stage, visibly cringeing. “What do we do about it, what if he’s seen us?” asked Doug.

That question was answered soon enough, as Heath came over to them as soon as the dance was ended. “Never thought I would see you boys here,” he said, with a laugh. “I didn’t think they paid you enough to get in the door, let alone buy a drink!”

Not sure how he was going to ask, Robbie opened his mouth, but the words wouldn’t come out. “It’s all right mate, I have no secrets, apart from keeping my earnings under the radar. I work here a couple of nights a week, doing a bit of dancing and sometimes I get booked by the ladies that come in to visit. I do it just for a laugh to be honest, and the money is great. I hardly ever have to put out because I refuse to do men, so most of the time it’s just getting free drinks. Sometimes, I get lucky and see someone in here that shouldn’t be, so I have been known to take the odd cash sweetener to prevent me ever mentioning it.”

Steam-railwaying along

Tonight I found myself researching mineral ores (geologists will just have to not read this book I'm afraid, I need a McGuffin so it's going to be sperrylite buried deep in the Hajjars, even if it is more geologically feasible that moonrock is made of pink cheese). Total is 2,143 with the running total 38,053. I also found myself writing a completely irrelevant dialogue about expat railway enthusiast societies. It will almost certainly be deleted from the final novel, seeing as it's utterly dull and pointless, but for now it's word count and there is nothing more precious.

"Because of the Mountain Railway Club," Ted told him. "Now sadly defunct, but it had over one hundred members in its day." Mark marvelled at how tedious expat life must have been in previous years to create so many railway enthusiasts. "The great split came over the funicular project. Some of the older members were more purist in their views, and they took the opinion that it wasn't a proper railway, in the conventional sense. I was rather more ambivalent myself, but of course once the divisions start, there's no going back. The Funicular Society became an independent entity for a while, but it folded after a few months."

"Were there actually any trains?"

"Oh no. But we had big plans. We wanted to establish a small tourist railway from Abu Wadi to Hatta. That's where Maurice comes in, he was president at the time, did all the negotiations with Sheikh Shakir's people. But then some members started saying that a funicular to Abu Wadi made better sense, as the road was always getting blocked with landslides, it was narrower in those days and not tarred, just a gravel track, and that's when it all started to come apart."

"The road?"

"The society. It was too big a schism."

November 19, 2006

Into the dawn

Well I couldn't quite emulate snow white's glory, but I've written through the night (again, god I miss sleep) and managed 3,530 words. Total is now 35,910. My research is so bizarre, today I found myself Googling "railway enthusiast magazines". (The main one seems to be called "Railways Illustrated", if any of you are interested. I doubt you are. I'm not). Excerpt:

She looked back through the rack of glossy mags. Some of them appeared to nothing but social pages, there were entire magazines dedicated to nothing but photos of glamorous people at glamorous events. One was nearly the thickness of a coffeetable book, and entirely in Arabic. She went through two editions of it, but found nothing. She went through Hi! Dubai, Lady Dubai, Emirates Scene, UAE Glamour. The faces and places started to blur.

The Scottish Society fling, the Oil Baron's Ball, the Jordanian Association Ladies' tea, a charity fashion show, a fundraiser for a local animal shelter, some Indian socialite's birthday party, the British Business Group lunch, the Manx Club supper (how many Manx people could there be in Dubai, for god's sake?) and endless clubs and discos and dance parties of shiny, grinning faces and exposed flesh. Then finally, in a dog-eared copy of High Life Dubai, she stumbled across a set of photos from some perfume launch. There, among them, was the girl from the party, the dying girl in the alley, the dead girl in the morgue. A name, a surname, and a company.