N is for…

N is for NaNoWriMo

For those not in the know NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  It’s a yearly challenge that takes place every November to write 50K words in those thirty days.  I’ve done it several times since 2004.  I’ve won a few times but I’m lost many more.  Only not really because every word written is a win if you think about it.

NaNo has been great for me because it got me writing properly.  My first ever long piece of writing was a NaNo project, specifically a very bad Harry Potter fanfiction which before anyone asks was never posted in it’s entireity online.  I think I’d like to read it again but it’s probably better I don’t.

It’s also been great because I’ve made friends.  Some I just see in the group and the meet ups and several I’ve lost touch with over the years beyond sporadic tweets etc.  But I’ve got a couple of very good friends I met through NaNo – ones I’ve been to the paralympics with, and up the shard, for drinks and chat, theatre trips and breakfast in Giraffe (yesterday) and even to one of their weddings and that’s a whole lot of impact on my life and positivity that’s not to be scoffed at.

In many ways I’ve lost my love for NaNo now.  The year I acted as Municipal Liaison played a big role in that but I think it’s partially to do with maturing as a writer too.  I’ll still think of it every year and probably give it some form of a go.  I hear a lot about how it’s a bad thing and how NaNo ruins writing.  My suspicion is that some of those are valid points.  But I’ll always have a soft spot for it and think it’s a great thing.  Because for me it’s about more than the writing

The End of NaNo

So it’s the end of November and Nanowrimo ends at midnight.

I’m a nano winner in that I’ve written over 50,000 words this month.

I’ve not written a book. I’ve not even written anything vaguely like a first draft of a book. Some of my friends are talking about submitting for publication pretty much straight away. They are either much better writers than I am or totally insane. Or both.

What I’ve written is a mess. It’s a variety of scenes from the idea I had. Some I planned and some I didn’t. Some work and some make me cringe just to think of them. I suspect when I look back some of the ones I thought worked probably won’t and some that made me cringe will turn out to be better than I remembered. I hope so anyway.

I’ve also come away with the feeling that the idea I had is actually for two stories rather than two arcs in the same book. And that very possibly I’m using the wrong perspective and the wrong main character. I wrote a bit using the new main character on Thursday and again yesterday and I like it a lot. It feels like better writing. But I think I’ll miss the person I thought was the main character. Which is why I’m thinking this is two stories not the one I thought it was.

More importantly being able to lose myself in my writing has helped me deal with a very difficult month with major wheelchair problems, several very sad happenings and lots of stress.

Taking part in NaNo has got me back into the habit of writing regularly once again. And it’s reawakened my love of writing. I needed that.

NaNo for me isn’t about writing a book, or finishing a book or anything like that it’s about writing and the fact it makes me do it. And tomorrow I get to go drink cocktails with a couple of very good friends (one I met through NaNo and one I got to know better through NaNo but knew before) and a bunch of new friends to celebrate that fact.

Writing thoughts or tips

With it being November and NaNoWriMo I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I’ve also been thinking about writing a lot and I’ve spent some time with groups of writers. Some of these are published writers. Some write fiction, some write articles. Some are very experienced and have written novels for years but aren’t at the stage of submitting them yet. Some just write for fun, and some are just starting out.

Writing groups are interesting things. I’ve been part of several different versions of two very different writing groups over the years. One of those groups no longer exists. The other does but basically in name only because I am the only person still attending regularly from when I joined in 2007 and it’s set up is completely different. I like it but it no longer gives me what I would like in a writing group.

Anyway that’s a bit of a long winded way to say I’ve been thinking about what tips I’d give to people who are doing NaNo for the first time or who just want to get into writing.

Do it because you want to. Writing is not easy and it’s not going to make you masses of money. And certainly not anytime soon. At the last nano meet up I went to someone said Danielle Steel is quoted as saying it took her 15 years to become an overnight success. Most people think My Best Friend’s Girl is Dorothy Koomson’s first book. It’s not, it was just her first smash after being part of the Richard and Judy book club. Her first book was The Cupid Effect published several years before.

Pick the right people to talk to about your writing. I have several great friends I can talk to about writing in general. Tips, tricks, mechanics it’s all good. But with a couple of them I’ve learned not to talk about what I’m writing. One of them doesn’t like the sort of stuff I write and thinks it isn’t “proper writing”. The other does but if I say “I’ve started a story where XYZ happens” they immediately tell me everything that’s wrong with the idea. I’d happily show them a finished project for nitpicking (although probably not as my first beta reader) but not for new idea encouragement.

Read. Read lots. Read things that are like what you want to write and which aren’t. I’ve not been reading many books this month, I’ve mostly been reading fanfic. And I’ve been thinking there was something missing in what I’ve been writing. A few days ago I started listening to an audiobook and I twigged. It felt flat because it needed more descriptions of setting etc. I’m not sure my writing is much improved by that but it feels better.

50,000 words is not really a novel. It’s not long enough unless your writing kid lit or YA. Nor are you like to come out with a finished novel (hell I doubt I can ever call what I’ve got a first draft). Put it away and then go back to it fresh in a few days/weeks/months to finish it and give it a damn good edit. And for the love of god do not finish writing it in November for NaNoWriMo and submit it to publishers in December. Apparently that happens a lot. From what I’ve heard from a few publishing types they hate it and generally end up wanting to bitch slap people who do that for the sheer stupidity of it.

Rekindled

I’m reading a good book at the moment.  I hope to finish it tonight and I’ll review it for my blog in the next few days most likely.  When I flicked to the back to see how many pages it has I noticed that on the page after the end of the story there is the following quote.

“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”
Albert Schweitzer

I’ve had a tough year I think it’s fair to say.  And things are greatly improving and I feel like I’m not in the best place I’ve ever been in but I’m certainly in a much better place, possibly even a good place.

I love quotes as anyone who has read my blog for a while will probably realise.  This resonnated with me a lot.

I’ve spent time this year feeling as though I was worthless.  As though the ridiculous disablism I experienced at the hands of the NHS (something I don’t think I ever shared fully on my blog and I doubt I ever will) destroyed my self esteem and confidence.  It’s coming back but I still feel more fragile and a lot less confident than I used it in some ways.

Putting myself back together isn’t something I can do alone though – I’m only where I am now because of the people who “blew my light into flame” if you will.

My family.  My friends. The ones who get the problem when I explain it and the others who get my text and immediately text back “oh fuck.” because that’s all there is to say and they know I can’t handle being told not to worry. The ones who point out the bigger picture.

The people from the You Know You Have CP When… group for providing me with a sense of solidarity and understanding I’ve not felt in a long time (seriously, 300+ CPers – you know you can post and at least one other is there to say “yup, been there.” HUGE.).

The people who had nothing to do with what happened but tell me the way I was treated was unacceptable and they’re sorry and will see what they can do. The guys at one of my favourite Oxford venues who at a point on Sunday when I was about to lose it inadvertantly made me laugh.  Those who lurk in the background.  The ones who deny they’re doing anything special. And, sadly, the ones who show their true colours making me realise I can’t trust them as much as I thought I could.

Those who do things I would never expect.  On Sunday the Oxfordshire NaNoWriMo kick off meeting was at a venue I’ve been to once before but not since I’ve had this chair.  I’d forgotten that the entrance wasn’t properly ramped which meant I couldn’t get in as trying to go up it triggered the safety cut off thing.

My friend is one of the organisers this year and came over to see what was up. She said she was really sorry (to which I said it wasn’t her fault) and that next week we’ll go to another venue which has great access plus totally rocks. By this time I’ve got the cafe owner trying to make stupid suggestions of what I can do to get over it (it’s a mechanism which kills all my momentum if I try and go up something particularly steep to prevent the chair tipping and it can’t be overridden or pushed past  “Go as far as you can then stop and try again and “go backwards” won’t work). When my mate then asked what about now I said I was leaving because I couldn’t handle any more faffing and knew I’d cry if I had to.

10 mins later I was almost to the station when I had a call saying was I on the train yet because all 14 of them were leaving the cafe for the accessible venue. I went back to meet them and got there before them. Two of that 14 are my friends and three others I’d met briefly before. I was blown away that a group of mostly strangers would do that for me. Hell in the past I’ve had difficulty getting groups where practically everyone knows me to use venues I can access.

I try to always say thank you to those who prop me up and support me but I fear I’m not always clear or successful enough.  My light wouldn’t have come back anywhere near as quickly if not for all the people who surround me.

Thank you.

This is the story of…

We played Consequences at the NaNoWriMo kick off meet up today. It was pretty funny and I said I’d record them for posterity. I figured my blog was a better place for them than the forum as things get lost on there!

This is the story of how Bugs Bunny met Goldilocks on Red Dwarf. He said “I’d kill for a slice of that pie.” She said “Hush you!” And they got lost in the forest and found the witches house.

This is the story of how Reginald Harris met Marilyn Monroe at the circus. He said “Have you ever seen Mamma Mia?” She said “How RUDE!” And that’s why they don’t have a dog any more.

This is the story of how Lord Grantham met Queen Victoria on Platform 9 3/4. He said “make my day punk.” She said “that’s what?” So they went ice skating in George Square.

This is the story of how David Cameron met Miss Piggy in the GOL section of the phone book. He said “give me your toes, baby!” She said “that reminds me of the time I ate an entire buffalo.” And that’s why spaghetti is now illegal in France.

This is the story of how Jean-Paul Gaultier met Jordan in a booth of the London Eye. He said “I only speak French.” She said “oh ah just a little bit.” Then they went to the pet shop and bought goldfish.

This is the story of how Dangermouse met Shania Twain in Mornington Crescent. He said “don’t move! There’s a banana here somewhere and I’ll find it if it kills me.” She said “I’ve always wanted to learn how to whistle. They lived happily ever after.

This is the story of how Mickey Mouse met Eva Green on Jupiter. He said “Gold is my favourite thing, precioussss.” She said “Pandas are not lobsters.” So they had no choice but to eat hot dogs until they felt sick.

This is the story of how Mark Twain met Elizabeth Bennett in Churchill’s bunker. He said “do you like vanilla ice cream?” She said “I am going to call the police!” And then they jumped off a cliff.

This is the story of how Winston Churchill met Mary Poppins at the £2 book store. He said “can I buy a box of arsenic?” She said “I like old movies.” And they all won NaNoWriMo.

This is the story of how Gollum met Margaret Thatcher on the London Eye. He said “that’s the way the cookie crumbles, my dear.” She said “sometimes I think I can hear trees talk.” Aliens blew up the building they were in.

This is the story of how The German met Alice (from Wonderland) at The Jam Factory. He said “I’ve got a brand new combine harvester.” She said “I prefer golf clubs.” And then Frank ate bacon.

This is the story of how Ash Ketchum met Isabella Valentine on Betelguise 4. He said “your shoes look fantastic.” She said “ok, I’ll go for drinks with you.” Then they did vodka shots and ate cake.

This is the story of how Jonas met Doris at the Eiffel Tower. He said “I love jam”. She said “I think they’re writing novels.” And they ate fish and chips in a yellow submarine,

>”It’s my fault, I’m really sorry.”

>Someone made a pretty big mistake today. One that affected me pretty badly.

But then took the time to put there hands up to me and say “Emma, I’m really sorry.” and to admit to me that it was their fault. He looked me straight in the eye and went “I spoke to Julie and she told me she’d got you on the train but I just forgot to come help you off.” He told me he shouldn’t have forgotten and that it wasn’t good enough.

By the time I had been to Reading waiting for a train back and gotten to my sleepy little town he’d arranged for a wheelchair accessible taxi to meet me (no mean feat in my sleepy town where they are like gold dust) and it was there waiting. And he’d arranged for it to be paid for by the train company.

I live literally ten minutes walk from the station. I told him it was pointless, no need. But he was insistent that I took the taxi home. He stood there saying “it’s my fault” and variations on “sorry sorry sorry” as the driver clamped me down. And he told me that he wished he could do more to make it up to me.

I went “actually, you can. These things happen stop apologising and shut up!”

We laughed and off the taxi went.

I was an hour and a half or so late getting home. And I will complain about that. but more so about the fact that on that train type the “emergency call” buzzers are set in the ceiling and as a wheelchair user I can’t reach them when I need them.

I really, really, respect the fact that he had the nerve and the confidence to admit to me. To say that he forgot and that he’s sorry. And he meant it too.

I’ll tell the train company that.

And I’ll tell them about the train manager on the one I got stuck on. I never saw her until after I should have left the train. She got me sorted out and off of the train in Reading. And even though I was then with Gordon (who does journey care there and who I know well) and I was fine she insisted on waiting with me and traveling to my sleepy station with me to be sure I was ok. Her shift was over. I never got her name but hopefully if I tell them the train times etc they will know who it is.

Gordon waiting with me the entire time I was waiting to (they usually go and do other work). He told me it was great to see me but he wished he hadn’t. We laughed.

With both of them I insisted I was fine. She could leave me and as long as he came back so could Gordon. They refused and they stayed.

None of that makes what happened today okay.

But it goes a LONG way towards helping.

Particularly the person brave enough to own up to forgetting and to apologise. I’m annoyed but I also have huge respect for him and his honesty. I don’t think I could do that.