Diary of a Writer

November 16, 2009

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Guest writer Martin Kelly is participating in National Novel Writing Month.  NaNoWriMo pushes writers to write a fully contained 50,000 word novel (this equates to about 175 pages) in the course of just a month.  This is quite an aggressive goal – a bit too aggressive for Kosmo!  Martin shares his writing diary with us:

11/1 – calculated the word count that I will have to achieve 50,000 words by 11/30: 1667 words a day if I work every day, 1352 on weekdays and 4054 on Saturdays if I take Sundays off. Today is Sunday, and I’m taking it off.

11/2 – signed up for NaNoWriMo. Easy enough to sign up. You have to declare a genre. I chose general fiction. I may have to change to Romance later, but I am trying to stay away from that. Got to work on first chapter. I want to complete a chapter each night, about 2.5 pages in MS Word at 11pt Calibri. 1313 words by MS Word (-39 words for the day), 1316 by the web site counter. You can copy your text into a box on the web site and it will calculate your word count so far. It is considered “beta” until the end when the official counts are made. I’m going to stick with the MS Word tool for now. Introduced the main character and his wife, a couple of nurses and a doctor. Dialog is hard, description is easy, I will have to work on that. Having just been in the hospital recently helped the descriptions. Having a doctor and several nurses in the family helps too (all on my wife’s side).

11/3 – Chapter 2 was 1407 words, so I caught up from yesterday (+55 today, +16 over all). We will have to see if I can keep this pace up. Started the interaction of the main character and his wife. Since he is still in the hospital and weak, I was able to avoid dialog for a while longer. I have to stop reading what I have already written and editing. I can clean it up after 11/30. My wife is worried that I am staying up too late working on this. There are lots of support options on the web page, but I haven’t figured out how to use them yet. I am more concerned about writing right now. If I hit a block, I will probably spend some time diving into the site to get help. Everyone else who is trying, KEEP WRITING!

11/4 – Chapter 3 was 1723 words, anther good day (+329 today, +355 over all). Tried dialog today, Mother-Daughter. I will ask my wife to read it over to make sure it is realistic. I reread the first two chapters again and probably deleted more than I added. Introduced the wife’s mother and father. Started the conflict of the main character and his mother in law. It is all one sided for now, until I build up the main character. A lot of this book is going to include farming commentary. I will be depending on my father in law to make sure I do it right. He grew up on a farm in western Iowa. I am a townee.

11/5 – Chapter 4 was only 1310 words (-42 today, +313 over all). My overall count over/under count is not accurate any more as I continue to edit the earlier chapters. I think I have stopped deleting more than I am adding, but I am spending too much time editing instead of composing. I added in two more characters today and I think I am doing better with dialog. Two older men (like myself) so a little easier to think of what they would say and how they would react. Tried to capture some future chapter stuff at the suggestion of Kosmo, but can’t do it. I can revise stuff I have already written, but writing ahead poses the challenge of merging. I am writing almost like a soap opera. It all flows nicely, but I do not know where it is going.

11/6 – Chapters 5 and 6 are in the bag. I started an Excel sheet to keep track of just my totals. I was right about hosing up the count earlier in the week. My total is now 8447 words or just 100 words ahead of schedule. I really developed the characters of the main character’s minister (Methodist) and his wife’s priest (Roman Catholic). I really like both of them. That probably sound strange as I created them. I added a list of characters at the front to help me remember who everyone is, I will not include that in my word count. I brought in the news reporter who covered the accident for the local TV station. I don’t know if I will use her again, but she could be useful.

11/7 – Chapters 7 and 8 are good. I am falling behind on the word count. I got the main character out of the hospital. He is meeting his wife’s family, father in law first. Before he got out, the priest and minister set up a video of him in high school. He had been a football starter, so they had gotten footage from the TV reporter. It is all part of their effort to help him heal. I realized that in this blog, I haven’t given a summary of the story plot, so here it goes.

The basic story is that a young man (about 22 years old) is in a major accident. He was drunk and the other driver died. When he wakes up in the hospital he cannot remember anything. He spends the first few days awake listening to everyone to try to piece together what happened. His wife visits every day, that helps him a lot but also presents a problem, he doesn’t remember her. He had been a pretty lousy husband up to this point, drinking and carousing with his friends instead of taking care of their farm which he inherited from his grandfather. Her mother asks her priest and his minister to help them with their marriage. The young man confesses his problem to his minister. The minister and priest are good friends and decide to try to help the young couple together, including trying to help the young man recover his memories. The video in these chapters is supposed to give him some positive commentary on his life to this point, since he has only learned about the bad parts so far.

The plot goal is to get him to overcome his memory loss, not recover it. Finally admit to his wife what has happened. Reform his life in general, and face down the bad influences he has been hanging out with. The romance part of this story is the two main characters restarting their love life together.

11/8 – I had to keep working to stay on schedule even though it is Sunday. Chapter 9 introduced the main character’s brother in law. I needed someone to teach him what to do on his farm. Basically, his brother in law is a guide both for the main character and the reader. He tours the farm, the house, the chores and introduces some more characters for later. I am getting close to having the main character and his wife in bed. I don’t know why, but I am nervous about that.

11/9 – I was on an airplane all day traveling for business. This turned out to be a good thing. I got most of chapters 10 and 11 done. I am well ahead in word count now, about 2000 words ahead. I was uncomfortable writing a sex scene sitting next so a stranger on an airplane, so I had my characters avoid it to. I will be in a hotel room the next 11 nights so I should get a lot of writing done. I joined a writing group on NaNoWriMo today. They have “write-ins” where local groups get together at coffee shops and such to sit, talk and write. I don’t know if I will join it, but it seems friendly. There are also dedicated people in each group who have completed the event in the past who are on call to help. Help could mean explanation of the rules or help on plot. They also have a tracking graph to let you see if you are on schedule. I will have to copy my effort in every day. There is a distinct plateau and jump up on my graph.

11/10 – Chapter 12 was all description. Also started the main character taking on responsibility. I explained why only his in laws are part of the story. Dad is dead, mother move off to be with one of his older brothers. He came from a very cold family, but the farm house suggests that his mother came from a very warm and loving home. She was an only child but our character had lots of brothers and sisters. Again I don’t know what I am going to do with that, but it is an interesting branch if I need it.

11/11 – Chapter 13 the main character finds out that he was kind of a pervert. He had a rather tall stack of adult magazines that his bother in law stumbles across causing great embarrassment. Then the minister drops by to check on him. He confesses that he feels like a creep because he want to have sex with his wife, but he doesn’t know her. That is just me avoiding the sex chapter again. I am getting more comfortable with dialog. Others will have to decide if I am actually good at it. This was a short chapter so I have lost some of my advantage in words. I am right at 20,000 words now, which is still good. I have to have at least 25000 words by Sunday.

11/12 – Chapter 14 and a lot of editing of the earlier stuff. I had the time passage all messed up. I am about 3000 words ahead of my plan, which is great. In the story, the main character’s wife is having problems believing that he has changed his ways. It is hard to believe that a drunk can change quickly, even if the drying out is forced by a hospital stay. He still hasn’t told her that he has lost his memory. He is worried that he is doing everything wrong, what just about every man in the world worries about when his woman is upset.

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