Andi Winter

Writer, Reader, Tea Drinker, Chrononaut

Month: November 2016 Page 2 of 3

Nanowrimo Day 10

One of the lessons I keep re-learning with writing is that you can’t force it. Muse will not be made to do anything. She will dig in her heels, bare her teeth, and flail her arms like the Tasmanian Devil if you try to make her do anything.

Now, if you give her gentle direction and let her play . . . well, then you might be on to something.

Even better is if you combine that gentle Muse guidance while embracing serendipity.

[If you have any interest in the creative process, or story details, keep reading.
Otherwise, skip it and know that I apparently lack any knowledge of Western World History pre-WWII.]

Case in point: I just finished reading War and Peace (it only took five months—thank goodness for the Kindle), and Tolstoy spends a fair chunk of time writing about why the French army, after invading Russia and occupying Moscow, up and decides to leave*. Sure, one could argue various theories, but I have another one: what if the Menace** had invaded Moscow and the French were fleeing it?

Then with some poking into Wikipedia, I find out that the British army was running about the world during that same time period, including the Caribbean, India, South Africa, China, and Egypt. Oh, and the Ottoman Empire was also trying to rule the world, and was facing in the 1820’s a Greek War of Independence while the Empire was occupying the Balkans*** .

And the previous day I had just set Crete as the location of the Menace’s secret weapons base without knowing any of this.

Hmmm . . . So I look up information on Crete (all I knew was that it was a Greek island that was situated perfectly between Egypt and Greece). Did you know the Venetians had occupied Crete between the 13th-17th centuries? Oh, and they  built massive shipyards and large warehouses there?

And the name of my novel is “The Vacant Ships”. I hadn’t quite figured out what ‘ships’ or how they were ‘vacant’ and what any of that meant.

Hmmm . . .

So, yeah. Serendipity. It’s a wonderful thing.

Writing sessions today:

20″ – 518 words

20″ – 536 words

35″ – 1099 words

Total novel writing time so far: 830 minutes (13 hours 50 minutes)

Total novel word count so far: 22598 words


*Mind you, my knowledge of World History is generally only in relation to Japanese history. If Japan wasn’t involved, I probably don’t know much about it. So pardon my ignorance on events like the Napoleonic Wars, but feel free to ask me about matrilineal politics in 10th century Japan.

**The Menace are the Big Bad of my Nano novel. Think mystical Chinese army run by an ambitious Emperor bent on world domination.

***AKA Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Slovenia, Turkey, small parts of Italy. This was news to me, but see my first comment above. I am much more familiar with Asia.

Nanowrimo Day 9

I wasn’t sure how today would go since yesterday went so well. Would the creative well have dried up? After all, I nearly doubled my word count in one day, so I could understand if Muse collapsed and said she just wanted to eat bonbons and watch Property Brothers.

But no!

Wrote 2091 words today in about an hour, and the story is continuing to chug happily along. Top tip: arguing couples (especially when they are two stubborn determined individuals) are great for advancing conflict on multiple levels (interpersonal & story-wise). And they are a heck of a lot of fun to write.

Surprises today: the Captain let his guard down and told Maddy (to a certain extent) what is going on and what the stakes are. Oh, and in the process of preparing for the stealthy recon mission, Maddy got a crossbow! Muse is rather tickled about this. Hopefully I’ll remember that Maddy has the crossbow, and not see it just disappear mid-story*.

Writing sessions today:

30″ – 1044 words

25″ – 1047 words

Total novel writing time so far: 755 minutes (12 hours 35 minutes)

Total novel word count so far: 20445 words


*This happens rather frequently with first drafts. Along with changing main characters’ names and eye colors, dropping minor storylines, losing characters (not killing them, mind you—just losing them from the page), and forgetting what genre the story was supposed to be. All of which I have inadvertantly done in various novels. Which is why rewriting novels is a Good Thing.

Nanowrimo Day 8

Ah ha! So perhaps having more structure is a Good Thing. Wrote 7316 words in 4 hours and was NOT completely wiped at the end of it. Got 3000 words in and took a time out to reassess all the metaphorical balls I have in play. Turns out there are ten (a mysterious stone, a presumably dead brother, missing agents, a secret weapon, etc.), so lots to play with story- and conflict-wise. Muse is quite delighted.

Discovered that Maddy needed a confidant/BFF/sidekick because the poor lass has absolutely no one to share her worries and hopes with, and voila! A new, and rather obnoxiously cocky, character appeared. I think he and Maddy will get along famously, once they can sort out their egos.

Writing sessions today:

20″ – 568 words

20″ – 552 words

25″ – 541 words

50″ – 1400 words

20″ – 562 words

20″ – 609 words

20″ – 704 words

45″ – 1714 words

20″ – 666 words

Total novel writing time so far: 700 minutes (11 hours 40 minutes)

Total novel word count so far: 18354 words


Nanowrimo Day 7

Day 6.5

So apparently the structure I created was still too lean. Spent what was planned to be a Catch Up Day (i.e. writing 7000 words) instead on developing a more fleshed out structure for the novel. Now I have a 7-point one-primary story outline, with two sub-plots that weave in. That only took, oh, about 6 hours, while viewing Pride and Prejudice (yes, the one with Colin Firth and his wet shirt) for inspiration.

Now that I have a much stronger foundation to work from, writing should go faster.

Day 7

Wrote 452 words in 15 minutes. Meh. I was planning/hoping to get more words in today, but alas, the day did not quite allow for it. And honestly, I don’t really remember what I wrote. It will most likely get scrapped in revision. <sigh>

In the meantime, check out John Scalzi’s The Dispatcher, narrated by Zachary Quinto. It’s not Regency or Steampunk, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Writing sessions today:

15″ – 452 words

Total novel writing time so far: 475 minutes (7 hours 55 minutes)

Total novel word count so far: 11034 words

Nanowrimo Day 6

Felt like the story was starting to drag, mostly because I didn’t know where it was going. Reread Rachel Bach’s excellent post on how to write faster (hint: know what you’re trying to write!). Took some time to figure out a little structure (like what was the point of the scene I was writing besides fulfilling word count). Worked out a few key characteristics for Maddy (what is so special about her?) and the Captain (why is he so non-communicative? what are his goals?). So with that and a couple beats to hit in the scene, I wrote 2084 words in 85 minutes. Still feeling like I need more structure, but it has to be somewhat loose since 1) my Muse often takes issue (i.e. stops talking to me) if the story is completely mapped out ahead of time, and 2) it leaves room for serendipity (i.e. Muse starts chattering away at me).

Writing sessions today:

25″ – 719 words

20″ – 544 words

25″ – 478 words

10″ – 243 words

5″ – 100 words

Total novel writing time so far: 460 minutes (7 hours 40 minutes)*

Total novel word count so far: 10582 words (broke the 10,000 mark! Hurrah!)

*Apparently when I’m writing a novel, numbers won’t add correctly. I’ll correct Day 5’s numbers accordingly. Gak.

Nanowrimo Day 5

Day 4.5

Hit an impasse where I felt like I needed to flesh out the story world, and hopefully get a sense of where the story could/should go. Spent two hours researching Regency era history and fashion, Napoleonic wars, British empire boundaries, steampunk, Industrial Revolution, analogue computers, lighter-than-air airships, Chinese Qing dynasty history, and Five Element Theory. It’s all good, but I needed some time to let the information distill, so I took the night off. Besides, there was serious distraction provided by the US election results.

Day 5

Wrote 2079 words, now that I have a better idea of how the story world works (or could work). Did some research on Regency era weddings, found some mistakes I made (they were morning ceremonies, solemn, with only family and close friends attending—guess I’ve seen too many Hollywood movies), then continued on with the story. Picked up Maddy at the altar, got her to the wedding breakfast (which is historically accurate!), then a mysterious person gave her an unseen object as she went to leave with her new husband. I have no idea what the object is, but that is something to deal with on another day. Now on to Chapter Four.

Writing sessions today:

20″ – 509 words

30″ – 863 words

35″ – 707 words

Total writing time: 375* 680 minutes (6 hours 15 minutes)

Total word count: 8488 words

*Corrected since the Muse insisted on the wrong number to begin with. I really wish she’d focus more on the story.

Nanowrimo Day 4

Day 3.5

Inputted the writing I did on Day 3 (about half of it was in longhand), and did some searching for potential actors to fulfill key roles in the novel. It’s harder than you would think to find actors that fit the age, physical description, and demeanor that you imagine for your characters. Tom Selleck would be a fantastic Captain Nathaniel Wright (tall, dark, handsome, can be stern and cheeky), if he were younger. And alas 1980’s Magnum PI isn’t quite the right personality needed (drat!).

Day 4

Back into the saddle after taking the weekend off. Wrote 2229 words today, finishing chapter 2 and starting chapter 3. I had in mind a rough idea for the Captain’s (i.e. fiance’s) best friend (Phineas, aka Phin), but was surprised at how he just showed up in the scene and started taking over (his joviality is a fun contrast to the fiance’s reserve). Got our characters from the ball to the church, with Maddy walking down the aisle despite serious misgivings. I left her at the altar (that doesn’t sound quite right), and will pick up with her there tomorrow.

Writing sessions today:

15″ – 333 words

20″ – 521 words

10″ – 244 words

20″ – 510 words

30″ – 631 words

Total writing time: 295 minutes (4 hours 55 minutes)

Total word count: 6409 words

Nanowrimo Day 3

Making progress: 2015 words written over five sessions and in four different locations*. Never let it be said that flexibility is not key.

The story is continuing to move forward, though slower than I had envisioned, but that may be a good thing. My goal was to get Maddy to the ball and have her meet her fiance for the first time. Well, I got Maddy to the ball, but then a new character arrived (that I had not even imagined) to throw some metaphorical fireworks, and only at the end of the writing day did the fiance show up—at a most inopportune time, of course! Writing the excitable and artless mother, and her daughters’ reactions, is a lot of fun.

Three things are helping me write this novel:

  1. A goal for each scene (e.g. “Maddy gets to the ball and meets her fiance for the first time”). This provides some direction, but leaves a lotof latitude for new ideas (and characters!) to crop up.
  2. A word count goal for each session (e.g. “500 words in 20 minutes” and “2000 words for the day”). Having a number to work towards helps provide motivation (“just 125 more words!”). I thought I had reached 2000, then discovered I was 125 short, so I went back to the last paragraph I had written and continued writing from there. Ended up with 140 words.  <happy dance>
  3. Writemonkey. Oh, Writemonkey, I don’t know what I would do without you. Your progress bar at the top of the screen showing me how many words I’ve written (without saying the precise number, you sassy thing) combined with the blinking cursor to show how much time remains, make writing a joy.

Writing sessions today:

20″ – 512 words

20″ – 563 words

15″ – 110 words

35″ – 650 words

10″ – 180 words

Total time writing: 200 minutes (3 hours 20 minutes)

Total word count: 4180 words


*I’m reminded of Dr. Seuss: Would you, could you, on a train? Would you, could you, on a plane (well, a bus)? The answer is YES!

Nanowrimo Day 2

Had a good day. Finished chapter one over the course of four writing sessions (15-35 minutes each). I was surprised by how the plot has already turned from the vague idea/plan I had (from Madalene coming out swinging at the intended groom to looking at the marriage as an opportunity to achieve her dream), and that there are three sisters (I was thinking there were five, but this could change again).

There are some things to go back and add (more/better clothing descriptions since the clothing will help with having Madalene doing something while arguing with her mother and show her interests, and have Madalene know about the ball but just finding out that her intended will be there), but the foundation is set.

Off to a decent start. Can’t wait to find out how Maddy and the groom interact!

Writing sessions today:

15″ – 253 words

15″ – 318 words

20″ – 444 words

35″ – 797 words

Total time writing: 100 minutes

Total word count: 2165 words


Nanowrimo Day 1

Day 0:

The idea for this novel started from:

  • I’ve been wanting to write a steampunk novel for awhile (2 years?).
  • I had an image of a young woman in goggles and grease, grinning.
  • A Random Title Generator came up with “The Vacant Ships”.
  • The current Plotto contest through Tin House Publishing had a prompt: “{A}, proceeding about his business and caught in a crowd, is confronted suddenly by a strange person, {BX}, who thrusts a mysterious object, {X}, into his hand and, without a word, disappears.”
  • Then I had a thought: What if Jane Austen met Steampunk?

What followed was some light research (aka Wikipedia) into Regency and Victorian eras, steampunk, and Pride and Prejudice (one of my favorite novels). So combining those, the idea turned into: a young woman is faced with an arranged marriage (due to family financial difficulties) to a dashing captain (with whom she doesn’t get along), when what she really wants to do is to fly with the air corps (she likes getting greasy). All of this wrapped in an adventure/mystery/romance package of Steampunky goodness.

Yeah, not a lot of details—no names, no character backgrounds, no charts, no family histories, no worldbuilding. Just a very rough idea.

Day 1:

After much procrastination (setting up Nanowrimo account, writing thoughts and worries into a journal, writing blog post announcing the start of all this, researching Regency era names, getting more tea), I sat down and wrote 353 words in fifteen minutes about Madalene Swinhope and her confrontation with her mother about being married off without her having any say in the matter.

It took awhile to get started because starting is the hardest part when you have nothing already written to work from. Where do I begin? What is happening? Where is it happening? What action are the characters taking? Is the language too stilted or just about right for Regency-ish writing? How do I convey Madalene’s outrage and frustration? Wait, what exactly is Madalene’s personality? Is she the oldest sister? If not, who is? What is that person like? Does that person enter in this scene? What are the characters’ points of view (i.e. what is their reasoning for their opinions)? When should I introduce the nominal groom? How close is this/should this be to Pride and Prejudice?

Letting the mind play with ideas like a child plays with a blocks (puts some together, then rearranges them or knocks them down to start over) is great—it invites the Muse to visit. Getting caught up in the mechanics of writing (how to portray something, fussing about language) is not so great—it allows the Editor to muck about and shove Muse to the side because These Things Are Important, which results in no new words getting written. We wants the words!

Overall, while I didn’t get the goal of 1,667 words written, I am off to a decent start (you have to start somewhere).

Total time writing: 15 minutes

Total word count: 353 words



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