WriMoFoFo – the final tally

I don’t think I’ve hit a WriMoFoFo target since we started doing them about four years ago. I’ve never even come close to hitting a NaNoWriMo target either, but I don’t think that’s the point of these things, the important thing is that I’ve written words.

I started slow this year with WriMoFoFo, and then got slower. And just when all was looking rather lost I set myself a cracking pace of about 1,000 words a day to race to the end. That’s how I handle targets. That’s why I’ve learned never to give up.

It would have been very easy when, after the first week when I was only on 13% and I should have been on 30%, to say ‘stuff this, I’m not going to make it, I might as well pull out.’ But 13% was still 2,933 words. I don’t normally write 2,933 words in a week. So it was still good.

I could have dropped off during week two when at 25% I should have been on 50%, but I could see there were 5,494 words in the ‘FoFo bank, so I couldn’t complain. Likewise at week three when my 43% was sadly far off the 75% it should have been, but the 9,357 words I had written still made me smile.

At COB last Sunday night I had only managed to get to 69% of my WriMoFoFo target. That translated to 15,124 words written in four weeks. That’s a lot more than I would normally manage.

Ask me if WriMoFoFo was a success and I’d have to say YES. I wrote more for four. I didn’t give up and I didn’t berate myself for the days I missed. I set my targets high because I wanted to write a lot of words. I wrote a lot of words, not as many as I hoped, but many more than I normally would.

Even better, I don’t feel burned out. If previous WriMoFoFo’s are anything to go by, I will now be in a habit of writing on Monday and Thursday nights, which is two more days of writing than I was doing before. So, while I may not have reached my word-count goal, I have got myself back into the swing of writing, and that is more important than hitting an arbitrary target.

Chapter length

Yes, I know I’ve spoken many times about chapter length, but I’m mixed up in another conundrum about them so I’m posting again. I’m working on my fantasy novel at the moment, and the chapter lengths are between 2,500 and 3,500 words. It’s just how they have worked out.

Last week I wrote a chapter that was only 900 words. 900 words, as far as I’m concerned, is not a fantasy chapter. But am I being chapter length-ist? If I have said all that I want to say, and it came out at 900 words (well, 909 to be exact) shouldn’t I just chuck in a shortie?

A couple of years ago I studied a few action adventure novels and then tried my hand at writing one. Chapters were between 400 and 1,500 words, with most being around the 800 word mark. Studying these sorts of novels I noticed they were really easy books to read. I was also amazed to discover it was a really easy book to write. I had a first draft in four months, and that was done while working full time.

Compare that with my fantasy book; it has taken me about ten years to write 12 chapters. That is only about 30,000 words. The action novel ended up at 88,000 words. So I did 30,000 words over 10 years vs. 88,000 words over 4 months.

There are many factors that play out with how long it takes to write something; the fantasy book has lots of world building, the action novel was contemporary so did not require much, I’m sure that had an impact. But is it really as complicated as that?

I wonder if knowing you can blurt out a chapter in one sitting makes it easier to sit down and do it? When you know that you only need an hour to make it to your target for the day, instead of all morning, then I think it is more likely that you will sit down and get started.

There is a way to test this. If I made 900 words the norm for my fantasy novel, would I be able to get it finished by the end of the year? Would it be the same novel? Would it be embraced by fantasy readers? Or deep down, are we all a little bit chapter length-ist?

Superstition or super cautious?

Whenever I go to writer gatherings I’m amazed at how many authors open up about the book they are working on. I’ve had some conversations where I have had every twist, turn, back-story, overarching plot and undercurrent explained to me. I find these conversations fascinating, and I love the energy you get from the writer, but it is not something I can ever see myself doing.

Instead, when asked about my book, I’ll say something along the lines of; it is a fantasy/ comedy with a flying dog. When pressed for more details I might add that the dog is made of obsidian. I am actually afraid of saying any more. Until the book is written, I don’t want to let it out of my head for anyone.

For a long time I thought this was some crazy writer-superstition (we have many of these, it comes with the territory) but now I am not so sure. My driving factor when writing a book is to tell a story. If I can put down some nice prose and get in some memorable metaphors, well that’s a bonus, but what I want most for people to take away from my book is the memory of well rounded characters and an entertaining story. I don’t care if they don’t quote passages from it.

So if getting the story out into the world is the main reason for writing the book, then I think it follows that telling the story verbally to someone else has much the same effect. I’m worried that if I say what my book is about, I’ll no longer feel the need to write it.

Just the other week, when I sat down to write a finished novel as a screenplay, I was amazed at how much of the story I had forgotten. That story had been told, it had been typed out in full and got to the magic words ‘the end’.  It was out in the world and no longer had to haunt my brain. So could telling someone my story plan do the same thing?

Clearly there are a lot of writers out there who don’t feel this way, in fact talking about their book may even bring it more to life for them, but I don’t think that’s how I operate. So my book… It’s a fantasy comedy about a flying dog. He’s made out of obsidian. That’s all you are getting.

My movie

No, I’m not talking about the one I’m writing, I mean the one I’m living. I don’t know why, but I always think of life as being like our own personal movie. In my more philosophical moments I wonder if I have made all this up and you are just actors in my movie, but then I smell jasmine in the moonlight, or listen to Alison Moyet singing Only You, and I realise there is no way I could be that creative.

I just read (again) Illusions by Richard Bach. Every time I read it I love it and I want to start reading it again the moment I get to the last page. I love the idea that we live by our accepted illusions, and that changing our life is as ‘simple’ as seeing through those illusions. But to borrow a Matrix-ism, I am yet to take the red pill.

I do believe in fate, but I also believe in free will. I also think that all time is simultaneous, and therefore it follows that just because something was fated to happen doesn’t negate the possibility that you chose for it to be –it is just that all time and therefore all choices have already happened and therefore must be.

Okay, maybe I just squeezed a book’s worth of philosophy into a paragraph, but the point is, change only happens if we make it. I don’t know that I’m quite ready to take the red pill, I love chocolate and the good parts of family too much, but I’m ready for some change. So I will stop looking at my limitations and give more things a go.

If nothing else it should increase my word count for WriMoFoFo

P.S. A very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to my (almost) life-long friend Karen. I miss you very much and I’m glad you are still in my movie – I just wish we could be shot in the same scene a little more often 🙂

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WriMoFoFo – week 1

It’s been a week since WriMoFoFo started, and I have to confess I did not come out of the gates at a gallop, and actually managed to slow down after that. But as they say, it is a marathon not a sprint, so hopefully I’ll make it up nearer the end.

Firstly, I spent far too much time re-formatting and tweaking the ‘Nifty Spreadsheet’ on the first day (I am a bit particular about my colours and what should and shouldn’t be bold). You would be amazed at how much writing time such things can eat up.

Then I discovered I can’t remember the story upon which I’m basing my screenplay. A little alarming given that I’m the one who wrote the story and edited it nine times. I thought I knew it like the back of my hand, but apparently when they are finished you really do let them go. After all, the bits that haunt me of these characters now are all in the as yet unwritten sequel.

To hit my measly target of 733 words on Saturday I needed to sit down on three separate occasions, even resorting to counting a blog post towards my total. It did not bode well for the week to come.

Day two had me looking at my screenplay with only 27 words on the page and I was ready to give up. I went back to my abandoned novel to get my target and was amazed to discover the characters welcomed me back with open arms, despite my recent bailing on them.

Monday, I spoke to an old friend on the phone for two hours, Tuesday I went out to dinner with my family, Wednesday I spoke to another friend for a couple of hours, Thursday… well you see how my week went.

So now I find myself at Sunday with nearly a whole week’s worth of words to make up. At least I had the good sense to rip myself away from the glorious pre-spring day on Saturday to put some black on a page. I just wish I had managed 733 words worth.

Well, nearly three weeks yet to go, a lot can happen in three weeks, hopefully a lot of words.

P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and happy first day of spring to those in the southern hemisphere -it seems like it has been a long time coming this year!