Friday, November 23, 2007

How (not to) write a novel in a month (Part Two)

How (not to) write a novel in a month (Part Two)

For Part One visit here.

Day Four:

The plan for today had been to write approximately double my daily word count in order to compensate for the inevitable non-writing disaster of Day Five. Obviously having such a plan was tantamount to asking for my balloon to be popped. Instead of my novel I end up - to the strains of Dermot O'Leary on the X Factor repeat because I heart him - doing lots of typing that has nothing to do with NaNo and more to do with a Listed Building being accidentally knocked down.

At 5.00pm I settle down to write. I write a few words. My phone rings. I speak to Dean for an hour. Some of that time is spent discussing his cleaner. I write for two hours. More importantly I watch Top Gear and almost cry when Richard Hammond's car, gloriously named Oliver, almost dies. As is possibly all too clear I enjoy this slightly too much, though appease myself with the knowledge that one of the leading characters in Ilyria is named Oliver and therefore Richard Hammond and I are on the same wavelength. Less enjoyably I watch half of Long Way Down, and give up when I discover that I am moaning about how badly - and uninterestingly - it has been edited together.

I write a few hundred words before bed, noting however that I am now 500 words behind and Black Monday hasn't even happened yet.

Word Count at Start of Day: 4,873

Word Count at End of Day: 6,016


Day Five:

At 9.25am I am sat on a train in Leeds station. At 10.00am Dean rings me to find out what time I will be arriving in London. I am still sat at Leeds station and say I do not know. Eventually it turns out that a train has broken down at Wakefield and no trains are leaving Leeds station in that direction until it has been moved. I continue sitting on the train at Leeds station until 10.50am. When the ticket inspector comes round he hands out compensation forms. The couple in front of me do not understand why they are being given out. I think that this means their compensation should come to me. Just after we have passed through Doncaster a hat box falls off of the storage rack and hits the woman next to me on the head. I end up administering first aid on the train. Afterwards I consider whether I should have just stayed in bed.

Arrive in London and Dean and I whizz down to the V&A where we are keen to use our recently purchased membership to re-visit the Couture Exhibition (number of dresses I would like to have stolen: too many). We then attempt to find the mythical members only room, my pointing out the flaw in Dean's plan being that he is holding the map upside down. After climbing the stairs to the top of the building and making our way through a couple of exhibitions we are becoming slightly puzzled as to the whereabouts of the room. Only when we are in the final section of the glass exhibition do we notice that there is something special about the mirrored wall at the end of the room. There is a door! To the Members Only Room! We go through the mirror and I feel the expenditure was entirely worth it in order to feel like Alice. Predictably the members' room is rather beautiful, all comfy purple seating, squashy sofas, with a mezzanine level with tables and bookshelves. Automatically I decide that I want to come and write here. There is also a lady on hand to sell you cake and proper coffee, and because there are only four other members in the space, there is no queue! I feel very decadent, but also good because my membership is saving the world (or contributing to the V&A at least).

Afterwards we walk to Oxford Street (only briefly being distracted by the window in Ralph Lauren's Children's Store) where, after a quick poke around Borders Dean heads off to work and I meet Nik who is just finishing. We go to Hammersmith and find a very nice pub and a sofa. After dinner we go to the Hammersmith Apollo to discover that their cloakroom has a policy of allowing you to fill a black plastic bag and charging it as one item. Being from Yorkshire I predictably adore this idea, though resolve not to suggest it for the WYP cloakroom. On entering the auditorium discover that the Apollo is raked. Raise the possibility that this might be my favourite venue ever (even if they miss a trick by not selling ice cream during the intermission).

Unexpectedly end up enjoying The Fray's support act (The Days) rather a lot. Come to the conclusion during The Fray's set that they have two corkers of songs, a couple of good ones, and the remaining are much of a muchness. Nevertheless adore their 'Wonderwall' singalong, get tingles during the the unaccompanied audience choir of the final chorus of 'How to Save A Life' and feel that I might burst during 'Cable Car [Over My Head]', not only because I adore the song and they place it perfectly, but because all the memories it evokes of this summer, playing in the upstairs kitchen, rush down on me. Wish, for a second, I could bottle the moment.

Almost have an argument with one of the security men who will not let both Nik and I go to the cloakroom. I refuse to go outside without my coat and, in a combination of annoyance and desperation, he lets me through. Subsequently have a mini tube adventure getting from Hammersmith to Tooting Bec due to line closures. Resolve that I should not travel at all in future.

Do not write a single word.

Word Count at Start of Day: 6,016

Word Count at End of Day: 6,016

Day Six:

Have a bewilderingly easy train journey back to Leeds and wonder what the Gods of Travel retribution have in store as payback for this.

Discuss new hours and rota at the WYP, in place because Vintage Queen is leaving us. Realise that I will be working Friday and Saturday nights until the end of time.

Feel slightly grumpy about being in work - not to mention tired at all the travelling and travel related disasters experienced in the last 24 hours - and resolve to give myself a NaNo break to let myself recover.

Manage to find myself in a situation where, at 11.00pm, I am ordering ice creams.

Word Count at Start of Day: 6,016

Word Count at End of Day: 6,016

Day Seven:

Am lazy and sleep in. Subsequently greet the Postman with a towel on my head for the second time in less than a week.

Play about with word count and calculator to establish just how far behind I now am and how many words a day I would need to write in order to catch up with this. Stop when I realise that this is just anal and, also, a little bit scary.

Write a little bit like a maniac.

Word Count at Start of Day: 6,016

Word Count at End of Day: 8,504

Day Eight:

Set myself a target of 3,000 words for the day. Also decide to combine NaNo and my Facebook obsession by adding my tally to my status update, if only to shame myself. Instead of doing anything which will help either I blog about YouTube videos of people I know. And - then! - rather than just watching Neighbours I get sucked into what is possibly the best written episode of Doctors I have ever seen (not, of course, that I watch Doctors). Though I do get very, very irate when the Doctor fails to treat someone suffering from anaphylactic shock correctly because the last thing you should do for someone who is conscious but struggling to breathe is keep them lying on their back. Shoddy.

Start writing and realise that, now I've discovered something of a rhythm with my novel, I can, in a good hour, write 600 words. Consequently manage to finish my word quota for the day before I break for dinner. Finally start to make a dent in my word deficit and discover, in the process, a wonderful inner monologue from a background character that I really hadn't expected.

I physically have to stop typing because I have acute right arm ache.

Word Count at Start of Day: 8,504

Word Count at End of Day: 11,520

Day Nine:

Get up knowing that I need to finish my word quota for the day by 5.00pm or else I am buggered. Manage 400 words before lunch and mark this as something of a success.

Have an issue with the ballcock in the toilet which requires me i)to get wet and ii)to almost be a plumber. When the water has finally stopped pouring a proper plumber can be called. He resolves to come tomorrow. I realise that my ingenius plumbing solution means that the only way to flush the toilet now is with the aid of a bucket. It is possible that I may not make it as a plumber. NaNo is now surely more important than ever.

Post Neighbours do some more frantic writing. At 3.30pm I get an error message. Word must shut down, would I like to send an error report? I realise with a quick flash of what I can only describe as utter terror that I have not saved my writing all day. I am to lose 900 words. I almost cry as word shuts itself down.

I contemplate turning George off and leaving today as a no-word day. After a few minutes recognise this as being petulant and mildly diva-ish so decide to see how much of the writing I can construct from memory.

It turns out that this is much easier than just having to make everything up on the spot.

Hit my word quota by 5.00pm (though I am now hitting save even more frequently than I'm hitting 'word count') and am resolutely smug.

Put on a dress and go and see Noel Coward's Brief Encounter with Cat and Val, which not only features a trampoline and some comedy balloons but also rather breaks my heart and I end up sobbing, aware that my shoulders are about to start shaking if I continue in such a manner.

Word Count at Start of Day: 11,520

Word Count at End of day: 13,219

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How (not to) write a novel in a month

How (not to) write a novel in a month (Part One)

For anyone who missed my earlier post in a moment of insanity I signed up to take part in NaNoWriMo. In short I have 30 days to write a novel. 50,000 words. The first few weeks of October 2007 may not go down in my history as a time when I demonstrated brilliant common sense but some times common sense is overated. Whether I will say that in a few weeks remains to be seen.

But for now, welcome to NaNo, where I'm aiming to keep some sort of Writer's Diary both for my own interest and, maybe, to see where it all goes wrong...

So how should I begin? Should I stand up in the circle? Well, my name is Corinne, my novel is (currently) called Ilyria and it's about a touring theatre company who are putting on a production of - as its title might suggest - Twelfth Night. The novel - like Mrs Dalloway! And Saturday! And Ulysses! - is set on a single day; in this case the day of the final performance. Obviously since the age of 18 I have spent possibly too much time in theatres in a variety of guises and I have worked for a touring Shakespeare company so obviously it has no connection to reality whatsoever.

To set the scene I had allowed myself one day of research prior to NaNo starting. This research had consisted of:

1) Re-reading Twelfth Night.

2) Reading some criticism on Twelfth Night because though I will inevitably end up writing something approaching Chick-Lit I might as well get my literary pretensions out of the way and have a look at themes and whatnot that I might want to pretend I'm touching on.

3) Deciding the names (and roles) of all of the characters who are part of the theatre company.

4) Deciding where my opening chapter was going to be set.

Oh, and since I should probably be honest:

5) Pulling out my copy of On Beauty to see how Zadie Smith opens her chapters because the thought of a third person narrator scares me.

And that was pretty much it. No chapter plans, no character biographies, not even any idea of where I might ultimately be going with this novel. It struck me even then that November was going to be a long month.


Day One:

Get in just before Midnight after having seen and adored the RSC's production of The Comedy of Errors so am still up when NaNoWriMo begins. Briefly consider starting a new document on George in honour of this. However, I have had vodka and theatre so I am lazy and the idea is as far as it gets. Eventually go to bed.

Plod around, get rid of a couple of jobs that need doing, visit Facebook, check my email, have lunch, watch Neighbours, speak to Dean about his Cleaner for an hour. Start writing at 4.00pm after deciding that McFly are not perfect writing companions at this stage. Settle instead for an old Rufus Wainwright album.

Open word document. Write my name, the date and 'Draft One'. Put what I think might be the title. Click 'Page Break'.

Stare at blank screen. Type four words. Delete four words. Type another word. Delete it. Wonder if I am to fail NaNo without managing to write a single word. To calm myself go back to opening page and add dedication and epigraph.

After ten minutes finally get my opening image. Write sentence. Check word count. Thirteen words. Only 49,987 to go.

Keep writing. Keep checking word count approximately every 60 seconds. Discover that this does not magically increase the number of words on the page. Make a mental note to do a bit of reading on Art history when it becomes apparent in the first paragraph that one of my main characters has decided that she is cultured and therefore makes allusions to art. Want to poke her in the eye a bit for making me research when I'm already reading lots of War Poetry on account of another character's predilictions.

Realise at 5.30pm that I can quite comfortably, even with a margin of inner-Editor pernickityness, write 400 words an hour. Calculate that I therefore need to write for - on average - 4 hours 15 minutes a day. Every day for the next 30 days. Decide that it is both too early and slightly wrong for me to be drinking vodka on my own as a result of this.

Have a 45 minute break for dinner. Ponder the local Newsreader's increasingly orange skin.

Return to laptop. At 1,100 words - with the second Dawson's Creek album playing on iTunes - have thirty minutes where I struggle to string two words together. Remain unsure whether this is Dawson's Creek's fault or not.

Have, hopefully the first of many, minor breakthroughs. Power on and finish word quota by 8.30pm. Change title of novel to Ilyria. Eat a M&S chocolate as a reward.

Word Count at Start of Day: 0

Word Count at End of Day: 1852


Day Two:

First day of the process with the added challenge of actually completing a ten hour plus shift. Hmmm. No problem.

Indulge in general faffing (including being a nice neighbour and taking in parcels for those who are not home at such strange morning hours) and somehow manage not to write a single word before I go to work. Am not sure how well this bodes.

Decide on a plan of action of keeping my NaNo file open on my work computer at all times for the possibility of adding even a single word (for they all count) at any odd moment. Even amongst the gamut of jobs such as photocopying and franking mail (it doesn't cease to amuse me that I spend a chunk of my non-show working time doing the kind of admin that I took this job to avoid) I manage some wordage. Still checking word count in a vaguely obsessive compulsive manner though.

Deal with two shows, an actor in a kilt, three trays of ice creams, 150 programmes, 700 audience members, 15 latecomers, a show that runs 25 minutes later than advertised and some big red buckets (not, admittedly, all on my own because that would be silly). Some of Kneehigh's actor/musicians request that they be allowed to play in the bar after the show. I am Nice Duty Manager (even though a floppy haired actor has claimed that I am a Mean DM because I regularly chuck actors out of the bar) and say that would be wonderful. All my work done, and to the strains of an accordian, I get a chunk of writing done and get to go home smug

Word Count at Start of Day: 1,852

Word Count at End of Day: 3,255


Day Three:

After the somewhat unexpected success of yesterday I decide to try another experiment in the knowledge that there is no such thing as a spare moment during a Saturday evening shift. I have always considered myself to be a late afternoon/ evening writer. It was one of the reasons that I bonded a bit with Libby Purves for she said that she is jealous of writers who get up at 5.00am and have all their writing for the day done by 9.00am, whereas she gets up about 9.00 am and spends the next hour trying to find something clean to wear. I may always have clean clothes (I have a lot of clothes and could probably get away with not washing for rather a long time before it became a problem) but I do tend to spend my mornings faffing. I suspect this is something that has been honed by spending the last two years working evenings, though it was always there before - I vividly remember the August/ September where I'd watch reality television streaming in the morning [It was allowed! I was ill!] and wrote Some Sort of Beautiful in the afternoon.

So today I put this theory to the test and start writing at 11.00am. I know this is not exactly 5.00am but this is something of a leap for me, especially since I didn't get in from work until 12.30am [and then faffed about for an hour trying to work out if I should eat or not]. It is with something approaching extreme joy that I discover that I actually can write, managing a thousand words before I have to go to work.

By the time I am covering reception's break at 5.30pm I have almost written today's word quota. This shocks me somewhat. So much so that when some of the attendants who are doing a double shift come to talk to me I share what I am doing. Am pleased (and resolve not to make them empty the bins) as they all seem to think it is a good idea and wish to read the novel when it is finished (I um and er a bit about this, because, let me be honest, quality control is not exactly at its highest on my lovely Ilyria.)

This is, predictably, the peak of my smugness. I don't manage a single other word for the rest of the night as the shift turns into one of those that I file away with those I would quite like to be able to forget. Predictably everything takes longer than it should, I have to do two cash ups because the first one goes wrong and, just as the bar is calling last orders, I realise that I still have an hour's work to do. There aren't even any accordian players tonight.

Word Count at Start of Day: 3,255

Word Count at End of Day: 4,873

To Be Continued...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Banging and Bugles

Banging and Bugles

Without putting too fine a point on it I'm a week into NaNo and the terror has just about set in. So proper blogging will have to wait. But in the absence of such, and so you know that I am using my procrastination time well, I thought I'd share a couple of YouTube videos with you.

First up, you may remember that back in the days when I was an attendant I worked on the production of Bad Girls - The Musical. It is probably safe to say that I wasn't its greatest fan. Though I did end up knowing all of the words. A year and a bit later it hit the West End, I went to see it during its Previews and, erm, I still wasn't its greatest fan (though as they didn't charge me for my ticket I probably should say something nicer). Now it's closing on the 17th so I'm probably a bit late in flagging it up - but this is me, I work on Corinne Time which is not necessarily related to any other timezone.

There are a few reasons I'm putting this video up now: 1)This is actually one of the songs that I loved from the show in both of its productions [though my absolute favourite would be 'Life of Grime'] 2) Bad Girls seem to be embracing YouTube and t'internet and, y'know what, I rather like that. Good on them. 3) [Possibly most importantly] One of DA's reoccurring characters appears in the video and, quite proudly, sings in tune and everything.



The second YouTube moment features the Outdoor Shakespeare Company I worked for in the Summer. Filmed in Windsor [so before I joined the fun] by Former Soap Star it's worth watching even if you have no interest in theatre whatsoever just for the bugle playing at the start. This maybe points to a little bit of the chaos [and some of the lovely people and, erm, the bugler] that I seemed to live with for five weeks this Summer.



If you're wondering about the reference to the horse - originally there was to be a real- life horse in Henry V. Which, given that I was almost savaged by the real-life dog last year, didn't exactly strike me as a good idea. Predictably the horse caused utter chaos in Windsor and was never seen again. Phew.