Quoth the Raven

Wearing orange and black and candy corn socks. Carving pumpkins. Baking and eating pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Decorating the lounge with ghosts and bats. Dressing up in costumes. Reading aloud “The Tell Tale Heart” and “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe. Dancing at the Celtic Soc Halloween Ceilidh.

I’d say it was a very good Halloween.

Alas, I am not celebrating NaNoWriMo Eve. Best of luck to all of you brave writers about to embark on this mad, crazy adventure! Write like the wind!

(I only read one book this month: Miracle on the River Kwai by Ernest Gordon. So I’m not going to make a separate post for books read this month…)

50,000 words

At 50,077 words I finished my NaNoWriMo novel THE HERO, or THE KNIGHT WITH THE SWAN.

An excerpt:

“Is that my ward, Mellayne? Who ran away at the beginning of summer? Why, whatever has gotten into you? You used to be such a quiet child,” said the queen. She snapped her fingers. Mellayne gasped and one hand clutched her throat. She bent over, making choking noises.

“Your quarrel is not with Mellayne! Let her be!” commanded Lukas.

Instantly Mellayne stopped choking, but no sound came out of her mouth when she opened it. She leaned against his back, trembling, and gave a great sob.

“No,” said the Queen of Marschon. “My quarrel is with you.”

“Then come down and face me yourself!” shouted Lukas. The Pooka danced, its hooves ringing with his words. “Come, unless you are too much a coward!”

“I am not afraid of you, little knight,” answered the queen. She disappeared into a whirl of smoke and landed in front of him. The Queen of Marschon held a sword. “Now who is the coward?” she asked. “Will you dismount, as an honorable knight should?”

Mellayne tried to hold him back, but Lukas dismounted. He drew his sword, the one given to him by the Mistress of the Night. They started to circle each other. “I will fight you, false traitor, for you have enslaved my people,” he said.

Did Lukas defeat the Queen of Marschon? Did he survive his battle with the basilisk? Well, you will just have to find out.

This month was not without its ups and downs. This was perhaps the most difficult WriMo I’ve had. I was so busy that often my creative well was dry that when I sat down to write I couldn’t come up with anything. My stats page reflects this:

But I still won, because after a few days of resting the creative well would be refilled, and I would write up a storm.

A few more stats:

This is my sixth NaNoWriMo and my ninth WriMo since 2003. Since 2009, I have written four novels. More importantly to me, I have successfully written a four-book series, with interesting and different characters and stories in each. I’m quite pleased, if I may say so myself.

Now, something just as exciting in my point of view: because I finished NaNoWriMo today, and because tomorrow is a university holiday, I am taking the rest of the week OFF. Sleep, glorious sleep!

Quick update

Hello all.

Thanksgiving on Saturday was a success. I will post pictures later, when I have time. This is just a quick update to say that I love turkey and food, that it’s Advent already, and that I’ve begun the final chapter of my novel and, quite possibly, the series.

I have mixed feelings about this. I am so ready for November to be over. And yet, I am sad about saying good-bye to the Pooka. I suppose it isn’t good-bye really, as I still have to revise the four novels…

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are still 4582 words left to write, and three days to write them in. Can I do it? I think so.

Word count: 45,418


Last night, after a rather long writing session in which I wrote 3000 words, I finished Chapter Five. I have now written half of my novel. Huzzah!

And may I present to you, the Pooka:

A black shadow leapt onto the bed. When Lukas did not first acknowledge it, the small creature pounced on his feet, its claws pricking him through the covers. “Agh!” exclaimed Lukas, jerking his feet away. The black cat chased after them, attacking his feet even as they moved.

The cat stopped only when Lukas threw a pillow at it. Leaping over the pillow, the cat sat down gracefully. It proceeded to wash its face, winking its golden eyes. “Well?” asked the Pooka.

“There is a monster in the forest,” said Lukas. “Time and again Lord Cadigar has sent knights out after it, but they have never returned. The game has left his parks. Save for me, there have been no other travellers. They do not know what kind of creature it is, but they fear it.”

 The cat began licking its shoulder. “It is as I suspected,” said the Pooka.

“I told them I would ride out to meet it.”

The Pooka did not answer. The cat lifted its leg, moving on from its stomach. “Pooka!” Lukas tossed another pillow at the indecent cat.

“I heard you,” sniffed the Pooka. It turned itself in circles on the pillow before lying down. “They asked you about the gryphon and the chimera. I know. I was there.”

I’m fairly certain that the Pooka is the reason I keep writing these novels…

Word count: 25355

This crazy month

This is what November looks like:

  • 30 hours/week – PhD work
  • 20 hours/week – MUSA
  • 14-20 hours/week – Novel writing
  • 6 hours/week – Extracurricular (choir, dance, swimming)
  • 4 hours/week – Church/PGCU
  • 2-3 hours/week – Skyping

Now I know why I feel like I have three ‘identities’ — because I have three jobs and a life.

Word count: 17,267

Dancing dwarves

Cookies and milk and Princess Agnes for inspiration:

From Chapter Three:

            A dwarf pressed into his hand a sandwich of ham and cheese and another gave him a flagon of beer. He took both hastily and hungrily, and then he kept his own bargain. He played the traditional yuletide dancing songs first, following with a few he had made up of his own. The dwarves linked hands and danced, weaving in grand chains around in circles and looping under arched arms. Owls and robins swooped down onto branches around the dancing company. The owls bobbed their heads in rhythm.

            Lukas played himself breathless. After the dancing songs he played calmer ones as the dwarf children fell asleep in their places and the adults refreshed themselves with beer. The werelights dimmed with the first rays of sunlight. The dwarves packed up their children and their beer, leaving a basket of food for the mortal who had played for them. The grandfather dwarf brought his granddaughter over to thank the mortal knight one last time. “You are very welcome,” Lukas said to the dwarf girl with a smile.

            “The best dancing night we’ve had in years,” said the older dwarf. “I haven’t heard such music by a mortal since your grandfather’s day, or his father’s before that. Good luck, Prince Lukas.”

            The dwarf girl’s mother called and with the snap of their fingers the dwarves were gone.

Word Count: 14,015

Chapter Two

Today I finished Chapter Two and began Chapter Three of my NaNoWriMo novel.

I left Sir Lukas in pursuit of a chimera. In the snow. That will prove interesting tomorrow…

Word count: 10,363 words


In Chapter Two, Lukas and his aunt and uncle are attacked by a gryphon:

The gryphon bent its head to snap its beak at the boy as Lukas slashed his sword into the air, striking it across one red, bloody eye. With a terrible cry of pain the gryphon shook its head, tossing drops of blood across the clearing. Where the drops of blood fell the ground sizzled. Lukas stood in horror as the grass around him faded into patches of gray, with coils of magic rising as steam into the air.

He turned as the gryphon leapt towards him again. As he parried another blow from the gryphon’s talons, he was vaguely aware of a dragon circling overhead. Lukas struck the gryphon’s legs as it ran past him. The gryphon stumbled and fell. The boy ran across the clearing, leaping over the fallen trunks of trees. He slid to a stop beside the gryphon’s head. Beneath him the gryphon whimpered and coughed. When its one seeing eye saw the boy it struggled to rise again, to fight. Lukas drove his sword through the gryphon’s eye and into its brain. The gryphon fell, dead.

Lukas withdrew his sword, shoving its point into the ground. He fell onto the ground beside it. The gryphon did not move. It was dead, and he had killed it.

Word count: 6212

NaNoWriMo Prep, 3

It should come as no surprise to those who know me, or have read this blog for some time, that my ‘Life’ Pre-November to-do list is longer than the one used for coming up with my novel. For me, the story is the easiest bit. Making sure I keep up with everything else in Life during November is the hard bit.

So the last week of October I do a number of things: 1) do laundry; 2) clean/organise the main rooms of the house (at least November will start with them clean…); 3) finish any crafty projects I have going (else they will languish until December); 4) generally take care of House/Grown-Up Life stuff; 5) make sure that I’m well stocked with food.

The latter two actually take up the most time. This November will be especially manic: in addition to writing a novel, I will be continuing my work as a full-time PhD student (with a conference paper and a chapter of her thesis to write); working four days/week at the museum instead of only two; as well as keeping up with choir rehearsals, dance classes, and Bible study. To make life a bit easier for my immediate future, I have been freezing an extra serving or two of the meals I have been making in October. I sat down and wrote out my schedule for November, highlighting that I will have time/energy to cook only two or three evenings a week, when I currently cook at least four nights a week (to provide enough leftovers and variety to provide for lunches as well). So to make sure that one certain nights when I get home late from rehearsal, or have worked a couple of full days at the museum and can’t be bothered to cook, I have a number of frozen meals to choose from.

One must also take into consideration Writer Fuel — snacks! I prefer cookies, Halloween candy, clementines, and my special NaNoWriMo Trail Mix. The trail mix includes peanut M&Ms, dried cranberries, almonds, pretzels, and, the special ingredient, roasted pumpkin seeds. (It would also include Goldfish, except has to be an American import.) This weekend I will be baking cookies for my Halloween party, and you can be sure that I’ll bake a few extra to keep for writing…

Fortunately the weather has been cooperative this week, so I have been able to do some work in the garden (pulling up the dead plants, sorting out the compost heap messiness, and so on) as well as do a number of loads of washing that are hanging outside.

As for my crafty projects, I finished crocheting Thomas’s baby blanket today (finally!). The Halloween ghosts didn’t take as much time as I thought, so I got those finished last night. The only thing I have left is to finish my Halloween costume. Though I might at least make a shopping list for the Christmas crafts I want to do, so that I can have that ready first thing on December 1st.

Basically, the goal of this week is to get as much done around the house as I can so that I don’t have to do it (as much) during November.

How are you preparing for Life During November?

NaNoWriMo Prep, 2

Do you have an outline for your novel?

Every one of the 170,000+ participants of NaNoWriMo has their own way of preparing for the crazy month of November. Regarding the actual novel, my checklist includes: 1) A story (which I discussed last week); 2) A title; 3) An outline.

Being that this year will be the fourth novel in a series, I’ve developed a sure-fire process for outlining this particular type of story. Firstly, I know that I will have 10 chapters. Why 10? Because then I have 10, 5,000-word length chapters. Also, because if one follows the daily word goal of writing 1,667 words/day, then that means each chapter takes three days to write. (I must admit that it was not I who came to this realisation on my own, but Kelly.) With this formula in mind, I make my outline.

One of the joys of NaNoWriMo is seat-of-your-pants writing, adventures in prose, and letting the writing run away with you. So it’s best not to have a too detailed outline, in my experience at least. The first thing I do to make an outline is to number a list from 1 to 10, for each of the chapters. Then I write in the main plot points for about where I think they need to take place in the overall novel: for instance, first chapter is always my ‘intro’ chapter, with the protagonist leaving home for one reason or another by the end of the chapter; the last chapter is the ‘resolution’ chapter, so I have to make sure that I’m able to wrap everything up by the second half of the tenth chapter. I usually have a number of small adventures with the large, overarching adventure for my protagonist beginning somewhere in the middle.

Right, so once the major plot points are mapped out, then I have to fill in the rest of the chapters. Here’s my trick to writing a chapter in three days: I plan to have three episodes for each chapter. That way when I sit down to write each day I will always have an idea of what I am going to write about that day — as well as resolving the previous episode and preparing for the next one. This works really well with my knights & quests/fairy tale stories, because that type of story-telling lends itself well to being episodic.

For example, the outline from The Faerie King looked a little like this:

1 – Intro; Andrew’s tale; Silas prepares to leave

2 – Black Knight; Green Knight; rescue a maiden (sort-of)

3 – Selkie; dragon (loses his horse); attacked by knights while sleeping (steals one of their horses)

4 – Giants (loses his horse; held captive); escape

…and so on. As you can see, it is still not a very detailed outline. Sometimes the episode takes up an entire day’s worth of writing, sometimes it spills over into one or more days (such as Silas’s encounter with the giants). The idea is just to get the creative juices flowing when I sit down to do my writing that day, thinking, ‘Right, I have to get Character from X to Z. How am I going to do that?’ I’ve found that this type of planning is detailed enough to ensure that I will have something to write about each day, while still being vague enough for crazy adventures.

What about you? Do you outline before NaNoWriMo? How are you preparing?

NB: I actually do quite a bit more than just novel-planning to prepare for NaNoWriMo. Check back tomorrow for my post on ‘Planning Life during the month of November’.