NaNoWriMo and a ginger cat hanging on to a piece of rope

I shall attempt to type a suitable first sentence, having been absent from blogging since late September.

That wasn’t it, but for now, I’ll simply let thoughts travel down my bare arms and out through my fingertips – much like I did last month as I attempted the National Novel Writing Month. In 2018 I used the NaNo month to add words to the manuscript which I shall refer to in this post as Book 1 (Secrets Under A Tuscan Sun), but was unable to officially partake in the fun of unlocking badges along the way. In 2017 I laid the foundations of Book 1 during NaNo and achieved 17,000. It took a further eighteen months to create that first draft, while I pondered over what the weather may have been doing during Chapter seven, or what colour car a character was driving in Chapter sixteen.

I am delighted to inform you that during these past few months, it was been instilled in me that the first draft can be a very basic me-telling-me-the-story manuscript and hence last month I achieved the 50,000 word goal and now have the bare bones of a first draft for book 2.

I couldn’t be happier!

The reason for my success was, I believe, the correct alignment of each of a handful of criteria:

  1. I was physically well and suffered no colds or migraines (an awful affliction).
  2. I had planned this novel during October, based on the 15 beats suggested by Jessica Brody in her adaptation of Blake Synder’s screenplay bible, Save The Cat Writes A Novel. (While this worked very well for me, and highly recommend buying a copy, I’m aware there are a whole host of How-To books on the market.)
  3. My husband, children and immediate family and friends were all aware I was attempting this challenge, and kindly left me alone to do so (eliminating guilt previously felt when sat at a keyboard during the day).
  4. My sole trader business was put ‘on hold’ for the month, and I’m fortunate that November is a light month for work in any event, so it couldn’t have fallen better for me (going semi ‘public’ with a goal meant I had even more drive to achieve it).

This was me pouring over the chapters in this clever little number back in June, in Cornwall. I was then plotting a novel about an inter-generational friendship and what can happen when two characters who have been otherwise outcast, befriend each other, even when eighty years in age separate them. That novel is not the one I wrote for NaNo because I was advised I should probably consider writing a second romance-based story in case an agent comes back, interested in Book 1 and asks ‘What else do you have?’. (This possibility is one which still drives me, yet since my submissions during the last week of September, all I’ve received is two rejections.)

Save The Cat ensured I had no ‘soggy middle’ and each day I typed another scene as I saw it playing out. I knew where I was heading and kept in mind Stephen King’s tip that his first drafts are like unearthing the bones for what will one day be a whole skeleton. So I created scenes, including dialogue, so I could engage with my characters. I had no worries at all about adding bracketed instructions to myself for following up in subsequent edits, such as: (check egg boxes were available in 1911 New York) !!

I’ve given myself a fortnight ‘off’ from MADE OF STEEL since I finished the 50K, on purpose to let the story percolate before attempting first edit. And at least this time, I have a plan for those edits, having done the Curtis Brown Creative ‘Edit & Submit Your Novel’ six-week course. I shall go back through all the notes I printed and stuck into a ring binder and work my way through each section, ensuring it adds to the plot and drives the story forward. I shall also be creating more padding to each scene, hoping to bring the two main characters to life with further dialogue and expressive behaviours. Looking forward to getting stuck in to some deeper prose with carefully thought out metaphors or similes, all of which should help take this 50K towards the required length of a novel; somewhere between 75 and 90 for a commercial womens fiction paperback.

Having called it womens’ fiction, I would hope that some men would enjoy the story too, as it’s based on real events. Shall I have a brief go at pitching it to you now? (Sounds dangerous to me, without any planning)

Following a fire in 1911 Manhattan, factory worker Emma is recovering from physical scars but cannot escape the guilt that she was the only survivor. Her parents send her to Southern Ireland, away from the growing Suffragette movement in the city, worried she is too fragile, vulnerable and angry to become part of it. In Queenstown, Emma discovers how her grandparents lived, and how they escaped the famine sixty years earlier. She befriends Thomas, the owner of a hotel in the harbour; a quiet man who prefers life when his famous and overbearing wife is touring Europe on the stage. Their friendship threatens to turn into something greater, but morals and faith prevail. In the spring of 1912, Emma knows she needs to return to New York and a life without Thomas in it.

It’s a novel about love, about progress. A little politics here and there (which, spookily, mirror events this year) and some Royal mentions too.

(Queen – Courtesy of the wall art in John Lewis, Oxford Street, yesterday)

The Crown:

Where the hell was I when this Netflix series first aired?? It’s been my binge-viewing all autumn and I’m all caught up. Incredible storylines, and heart-breaking relationship issues throughout the monarchy over the decades. Riveting script and stunning performances. Whether you’re a royalist or a complete anti-monarchist, this series is worthy of your time from a drama point of view!

I mentioned bare arms because I’m sat here wrapped in a duvet, sitting at the desk at the bottom of the stairs, my only light a green glass desk lamp with brass base and small pull chain, which has always fascinated me. I couldn’t sleep and kept turning over to find a few seconds of calm before the insomniac vibes won over. Numerous times I’d move towards Man of the Woods and spoon against his back, my thighs following his and felt snuggly, but sleep refused to arrive. Then I’d turn the other way and hug the pillow, waiting again to drift. But alas, a cup of tea and a bowl of coco-pops won. That was 90 minutes ago.

I checked my WordPress statistics and learnt something rather interesting. In 2019, my total word count across blog posts has been a mere 18,518 compared to 2018 which totalled 132,641. The significance of this is not lost on me. While I’ve missed the interaction with you guys (and even now, I’m wondering if the algorithms will mean all my old regulars won’t even see this post until I start reading yours again) I have evidently been concentrating my creative words into novels.

I’ve lots more to chat about, but for now, I’ll leave you in peace and drag my duvet train back upstairs to see if the sleep Gods may grant me a couple of hours. I’ll schedule this to publish at 8am and look forward to touching base with some of you later.

Happy thoughts, peeps xxx