Check it, yo, check that swag.
|Such beautiful statistics. Whattay graph.|
Made it! What a crazy month.
For those of you who've been following this post - thanks a bajillion for your support and your comments, on and off the blog! Love you guys. I'll write a follow-up post soon, summing up the experience. Or maybe I won't. Because the word 'write' is giving me the heebie-jeebies right now.
And now, to have lunch and get back to real life. While I've been finishing, I think my husband's been busy moving our stuff to the new house, or something. Really ought to check...
Honeeeeeey? I'm hooome!
Thank God for yesterday, otherwise would've been in a real pickle right now. Today was spent shopping for stoves and electric ovens, booking venues for workshops, accompanying my son to his reading class, and rolling out the digital mock-up for Papercuts Vol. 15 print. I've done a bit of writing (I think about 2k words) but I'm genuinely finished for tonight. When the last 1,500-odd words are looking harder to belt out than the 10,000+ words confronting you on the last day of NaNoWriMo last year, you know it's time to give it a rest. Plus, my son is going to be representing his class in assembly tomorrow, and since I haven't made it to even a single assembly this year, I'm going to try and make it tomorrow. Which means gotta hit the sack.
Beautiful, beautiful writing day! 5,101 words, most of which I owe to my lovely friend Farheen, who apparently went off to sleep in the evening a normal person, and woke up a total word fiend! She started writing at 7 pm and by midnight she'd written 6,000 words! I don't think even Rip Van Winkle's nap was as world-changing as this one! So basically she just ploughed her way through those words, and I chugged along behind her in the slipstream. It was fantastic. Highly motivating. And it has put both of us within reaching distance of the goal - her a little more so than me, but it's still very much within the achievable range for both.
Now unless things go horribly wrong tomorrow, there's a very good chance that I will be able to finish NaNoWriMo 2016 successfully! *braces self for tomorrow*
Couldn't hit 5k, but did manage to make 3,946 words (could that figure get more annoying? Yes it could. It could've been 3,999 words).
So, definitely not out of the woods. But at least the asking amount hasn't gone up. Still need in the vicinity of 3,200 words a day over the next three days in order to make the goal. My main challenge at this point is knowing what to write about. Often, by this stage in NaNoWriMo, one suddenly hits a wall in terms of raw material to craft a story with. That's what's happening to me. The last two days of writing needed prompts. By the end of today's final sprint, my protagonist was repeating things in her head in order to reassure herself, and was responding to an actual voice of self-doubt that kept questioning her life choices in rather rude terms. Desperate times call for desperate measures, dear readers. The question is: can desperate measures help me tide over the next three days and win this thing?
Oh no, oh no, oh no, I was looking for a GIF of Graham Norton saying his signature "Hellaeo!" to open this post, and I started watching clips from the show instead... and now SUDDENLY, it's 3 am. I just... I can't... HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN EVERYSINGLETIME.
So, just to quickly bring you up to date with today's progress. At 9.30 pm I'd written zero words, and I was completely finished... FINISHED... because it had been a busy, busy day. ("We are all busy," you declare. Oh yeah? I managed a three-hour content writing workshop in which half the time we could either see the speaker on Skype or we could hear the speaker on Skype but we could rarely do both at the same time; went straight to the new house we're shifting to, to see whether the air conditioners had been fixed right; went back to the old house, which does not have air conditioners anymore, and had lunch at 7 pm; bundled my son in the car and went off to get his school concert costume; and then returned home to play with magnets and watch my older son practising his routine for his school concert, which this year is The Lion King. "We are all that busy and more," you say. WELL I'VE GOT HORMONES.)
So after I was finally reduced to the state where my son was saying, "Mama, can I sing another song for you?" and I was responding, "Must you? JUST GO TO SLEEP" - it was 9.30 pm. And I didn't have a single word written down for the day. And I was tired. So damn tired.
But you know how NaNoWriMo is. (If you don't, please read yesterday's entry.) Words had to be written. So between 10.30 pm and 11.55 pm, I did three 20-minute sprints. This is how the word count went: 1st sprint - 1,062 words; 2nd sprint - 1,017 words; 3rd sprint - 1,002 words. By the end I was like, "Huh. I think my productivity may be going down with each sprint... wonder why zzzzzzzz."
In that one and a half hour period, I also consumed: a giant molten-chocolate cookie, tea, cinnamon and ginger qahwa, cranberry juice and a Cyproxin tab. When I finally stopped writing at midnight, I was like, "Wrote over 3,000 words! Yeah! Wow, I think I ingested a lot of very diverse stuff... wonder how that's gonna work out..."
So far, so good. The only side effect seems to have been to binge-watch clips from Graham's show, and that's not a side effect at all, is it?
So there you have it: still about 9,000 words behind today's par, but I went from zero to over three thousand in an hour-and-a-half towards the fag end of the day. And they were important words that helped me finally figure out why my protagonist is the way she is. Tomorrow, I hope to do about 5k.
I am happy.
Twelve days and not one of you louts asked where the updates were! (Urgent note to self: do not call your readers "louts".)
If you were thinking during this time that I wasn't posting because I was too busy smashing those word counts out of the park, boy were you wrong. As of right now, these are the stats:
Total words written: 33,145
Words that oughta been written by now: 41,666
Words remaining: 16,855
Days remaining: 5
Words per day to finish on time: 3,371
Admittedly, it's not as bad as it could've been. Last year, I had five days left and 39,000 words to write! But I remember in painful detail what it was like to write those 39k words and honestly, I don't think I would ever be able to do that kind of sprint to the finish line again.
Technically, 3,371 words a day is not impossible, or even that difficult. Three 20-minute sprints every 24 hours could help me make the goal. The issue is, I don't have @$#*$&# time for three #$#%(*%& 20-minute sprints every #$(#*%($%& day. Right now making time to win NaNoWriMo is about as easy as making andaay ka tayl. (Do you know how to make andaay ka tayl? You burn eggs till nothing's left, and then you scrape your way through the ashes and get, like, one gram of egg oil. Great for the hair, except most of it's fallen out by the time you've harvested that booger-sized glob of oil.)
I am not exaggerating, seriously. About the time or the oil. Do you know how I met day before yesterday's word count? We were on our way to Azizabad to condole for the death of a relative. My husband drove and I sat in the back seat and managed to plug in a thousand words between Clifton and Mukka Chowk. Today, my husband went off to counsel a friend of his who's going through a truly horrible period in his life. I had to keep the children while he was gone, of course, which meant that instead of writing I was watching #mannequinchallenge videos and heating milk and brushing teeth in assorted stages of development. But hey, at least he managed to make his friend see the light at the end of the tunnel. All for a good cause, right? WRONG. I resented every moment that he was away, which could've been a moment spent writing.
We're shifting house right now as well. Amazingly, the deadline for both NaNo and house vacating are the same. Because life. But all I care about is making the 50k goal.
Having said that, at this point I am prepared for the possibility that I may not make the goal this year. There is legitimately too much else to do that is also time bound, and on which the fates of others rest (unlike NaNo, on which only my fate rests its sorry ass). So what happens if that's the end I'm looking at: basically, failure? Honestly, while I will be horribly disappointed to have come this close and then not made it, what I will have achieved during the month will remain. I will have added on around 40,000 words to my nascent debut novel. And not just any words. Words that wrote scenes that were critical to the plot. Words that connected previously unrelated parts of the story. Words that made my own characters' motivations clearer to me.
Even today, at this very moment, I'm that much closer to finishing this thing; by which I don't mean NaNoWriMo - I mean the zero draft of my novel. Is that worth it? It absolutely is.
Of course, it'd be lovely if I were to win, too.
*We don't have kittens.
I was close. So close. I had a head start on today's word count, for crying out loud. And then...
Okay, forget all that. I MET WASIM AKRAM. At the Farmer's Market, just as I was marching in, fully prepared to eat anda paratha. What passed between us will forever remain a private, cherished memory, known only to me... and to my friend Bushra, and in the future, anyone else who asks.
So today was a bad writing day, but there was a reason for that. I opted to dedicate more time to the online writing course that I'm doing simultaneously with NaNo. I'd been missing assignments, and with the course winding up in a couple of days, I would lose access to the community of over one thousand people who'd signed up for that course and who were commenting on each other's work. The first thing I did was to post an assignment. (I'd done the math and it turned out that people who don't put up work for others to read have a 100% chance of not getting their work read.)
And then, a large part of today was spent reconnecting with some wonderful people I've befriended on the course, commenting on people's work, and reading people's comments on my work. These people are the ones I hope to keep in touch with later as well, so we can all form a support group of editors and quality beta readers.
Today's epiphany: my friends may be expecting me to write a light-hearted novel. And why wouldn't they? This blog is mainly what they have to go on in terms of knowing my "writing". A friend whose opinion I value immensely (and who, come to think of it, doesn't take as much advantage of this as he could) suggested recently that I consider turning this blog into a novel. I think the idea has its merits. This is something I'll look into later, though. As I tried to convey to him, my novel is not just an exercise in telling a story. After years of leaving the development sector and academia, and opting instead for domesticity, motherhood and freelance work, I've seriously started doubting my own intelligence quotient. The novel I'm writing is my attempt at figuring out if I've still "got it". It's my last attempt to confirm if my previous idea of my strengths still holds, or if a re-evaluation is in order. And so, for now, literary fiction it is. And mainstream writing for the blog.
The novel is moving ahead quite fast, mainly due to a fantastic piece of advice I received on Saturday from my friend Slay Belle, who suggested that I now try writing the in-between sections rather than the major scenes. The stuff that knits together the scenes, as she put it. For some reason, this really got me going. And here I am, pounding away at those keys whenever I get a chance. The images are popping up dime a dozen, the dialogues are flowing, connections are being made. It's been great. Thank God for friends who write.
Day what??!! Where is the time going?? Where did the past four days go? May I have them back, please, because there's still stuff left that I have to finish, like, three days ago.
I'm exhausted, partly because it's very late, and partly because I'm overworked and overstressed, and partly because Trump became President of the USA and there is just too. much. hysteria. in the system right now. I mean the world system. Specifically the liberal, English-language media system. Which, if one thinks about it, is hardly the world system.
SO, I'm exhausted. Also a little pissed because the word 'trump' has just been unwittingly and yet so completely appropriated by Pouty POTUS that I can NEVER look at it the same way again. I can never play turup chaal with my family and call it 'trumps', I can never say stuff like, "Oh this totally trumps that" - AND THIS IS ALL REALLY BASIC STUFF ONE OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO DO, GENERALLY SPEAKING.
Anyway. This is all besides the point. I am here at... *checks clock* *stifles scream*... gneah, what is time anyway but a human construct?... I am here to share that in the past few days my word output had been steadily falling, and I was beginning to get very nervous about it, but that remedied itself spectacularly this evening. When I walked into the DWL NaNo write-in at T2f, I was about 4,000 words behind today's par. When I walked out, I was 387 words above today's par. That's right. Over 4,000 words in 2.5 hours. Those of you who're raising their eyebrows and thinking, "So?" - THIS POST IS CLEARLY NOT FOR YOU. Go away.
Anyway. I'm exhausted. Sorry, we already did that part. So I'm back on track, guys (whoever you are... honestly I think only Farheen is reading these updates).
I'm just... there's a lot going on.
In the midst of all the madness and horrifying thoughts of a Trump-Modi-Jinping-Putin nexus and (don't forget you read this here first) a new era of superpowers promising not to fight and actively colluding against the rest of the world *stifles another scream*... I forget what I had set out to say. Oh yes, I've decided that for the rest of the November, in order to preserve one's sanity, it should be about short-term goals. So for now I'm looking forward to anda paratha at Karachi Farmer's Market tomorrow morning... I mean, today.
On track. Too tired. Can't write.
12,217 words, bebeh. Against a target of 11,667. Oh yeah. Uh-huh. *dance dance*
This sprint thing is really working! Although the writing I've done is questionable in terms of topic. I've written over two thousand words on the background and specific situation of two women who're members of the yoga class that my protagonist and her (infinitely more interesting) supporting character friend are attending. Whaaaat...
I do find the histories of these two women in the yoga class interesting, though, and will be looking into whether I'll only use them to create more richness in their conversations and actions in the narrative, or whether I'll actually work their stories into the main narrative itself, as an aside. Reminded of David Foster Wallace's technique of putting entire pages of text into footnotes. Then reminded that I am NOT David Foster Wallace - I am just a comma freak with many (usually competing) thoughts on things.
Until last year, I could not possibly have met my daily goals through a couple of sprints. Now I can. Something has changed, and I think I have NaNoWriMo to thank for this training. So much win!
Here's the deal. November's going to be a very, very tough month this year, for reasons that I will not subject you to. So I've come up with a strategy. A NaNoWriMo strategy.
After Saturday's successful run at the write-in, I'm going to relegate my entire NaNo writing to sprints. Because that's literally all I have time for. So any thoughtful writing I was planning to do is officially going to be put on the back burner.
Which is what NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about anyway: it's supposed to be about spitting 'em words out, not about gently partaking of them, morsel by morsel, letting them rest on one's tongue for a bit, savouring all the flavours, and then delicately extracting them from one's mouth with a tissue and placing them in a silver-plated dish. No. It's about sudden and forceful departure, with no particular aim, knowing full well that half the stuff you're spitting out will eventually land up in the trashcan. And the assumption is that the other half that is left will be worth saving, and will keep pushing the writer to continue writing (albeit more thoughtfully) once November is over.
Word count update: crossed 10,000 words today, so have managed to stay on track! *high-fives self (which could probably also be called "clapping")*
I had an absolutely marvellous epiphany today about writing, and immediately thought that I must share this through the blog. But of course, I've forgotten what the dickens it was. Such is life. Doesn't matter. The sprint is on!
First half: Today's gonna be a good writing day. I can feel it in my bones.
7.18 pm: Success! Hugely productive write-in at T2f, organised by DWL. Did two 20-minute writing sprints (actually WON the first one!), covered the word lag and crossed the total desired word count level! I've written 2,349 words today, as of now, and my total stands at 8,586 words, which is 253 words above the word count par level for Day 5 of NaNoWriMo. Woohoo!
Still some hours left before the day officially finishes. Let's see... may just be able to add on some more words and increase the lead.
Midnight: Bas, bhai.
1.35 am: JUST KIDDING. Final count - 9,149!
They say writing is a solitary profession, and I imagine in the next few days this record will begin to show that I'm slowly but surely going down the path of other people who've been alone for extended periods of time (think Robinson Crusoe, or Tom Hanks in Castaway - yeah, didn't take him long to start talking to a football, did it?).
That is not to say that I'm alone alone - in fact, I wish there were an island remote enough I could go to so that I could get some frickin' writing done. Rest assured, my children would find me eventually, but it could buy me some hours of uninterrupted writing time.
Here's the thing, though: if writing is a solitary profession, then writing for NaNoWriMo is pretty much solitary confinement. For people like me (read: stay-at-home mothers), who have the unenviable position of literally everyone wanting a piece of them every minute of the day, meeting the NaNo goal of 1,667 words a day can be a challenge, to put it mildly. In order to make it happen, you literally have to shut yourself away.
Except most of us don't have anywhere we can shut ourselves away. Now, I don't have an office (there's seepage in the basement, okay), so I use earphones to create that wall of privacy. And because I can't work to music, per se, I fall back on listening to this composition that I put together recently, for hours on end. It helps to drown out noise, it helps to relax me, and I think it sounds just like Islamabad.
So basically I'm sitting in bone-dry Karachi, listening to simulated sounds of rain and crickets in order to block out real life, so I can make up stories... do you see where this is going?! The only good thing that can come out of this is that I make the 50,000-word NaNo goal. Oh, did I mention, btw: I'm really behind on my daily word count.
Anyway. Hopefully there will be one of those bonus days soon where the plot of my novel will suddenly and delightfully open itself up before me, and I will be so immersed in the sacred act of storytelling that my fingers will fuse themselves to the keyboard and even the inane screams and utterly transparent machinations of my children will fail to break through the rain- and cricket-free aura of genuine, unbreakable concentration that I will have surrounded myself with because I WILL BE IN THE ZONE, YO.
207 words today. 207!!!!
I am trying to tell myself at this point that everything else I did today other than writing was also extremely important.
It was our wedding anniversary today, but don't let that mislead you into thinking that the day was spent celebrating it, because it wasn't (it couldn't be, which is absolutely fine - I'm not one of those people who'll throw a hissy fit because [let's be honest] an occasion couldn't come up to the desired levels of social media shareability). We'll do something over the weekend, when the three males in our household have beaten the hideous strain of flu that they've all come down with simultaneously. And frankly, if one is to spend one's anniversary really meaningfully, then there's probably no more authentic way to do it than to spend at least part of it taking care of one's ailing spouse, right?
One truly lovely and meaningful thing that happened today was that our dear friend Fahad came over with chicken corn soup and a malt cake, which we cut and shared over mugs of tea.
The part that wasn't meaningful at ALL was the hours I spent shouting at or urging Solom to do his homework or prepare for his Urdu test tomorrow. I feel time was lost there - and energy too; time and energy that could've been channelled into writing, if nothing else.
Yes... "lost" is probably the right word here because I do feel a little defeated today. Not demoralised, necessarily, but aware that I couldn't beat the particular circumstances that presented themselves today - at least not gracefully.
Last night, I fell asleep on the laptop. Literally. The laptop was on the bed and I was sprawled out across the bed, likely with some portion of my anatomy on the keyboard. Last night's blogpost was posted this morning, in fact, because I couldn't stay awake long enough to hit 'update'.
So tonight I'm going to try not to go for a re-run of that scene, because I can't remember the last time this has happened to me - and believe me, I've spent a LOT of nights awake in the past many years. Time for lights out, I guess.
Chalo, ji. Tomorrow is another day.
In a battle that I am quite sure gives valuable insight into my psycho brain, consistency won over accuracy, and therefore I stand before you again at almost exactly the same time as last night, having yet again missed the midnight deadline, except this time on purpose.
First things first: still on track with the word count! My total now stands at 3,548, which is still above the average number of words you have to plug in daily in order to make the monthly total. Told you I have the best words.
In today's edition of Great Literary Masterpieces in the Making, we saw the man's aunt from last night calling her daughter to confront her. OOH! In other news, I think that even if I can't find a publisher for this novel (when it's done [if it's ever done (I mean, who can ever know for sure?)]), it'll definitely have enthusiastic buyers in the TV soap opera market. We've already established that most of it is dialogue, between an unnecessarily large cast of characters, leading to such convoluted situations that even I don't know where the plot's going -- I can see the money rolling in already!
Today's real writing epiphany, however, came in the hospital waiting room. As I got up to stretch my legs, a woman sitting two feet away suddenly spoke to me about something very mundane. She asked what I was doing there, and I said uh, waiting, and she said for whom, and I said my mother. At which she turned around to the other three women she was sitting with, and they all had this secret, silent, telepathic exchange between them (I picked up the waves... I'm sensitive that way) and I realised that they'd been observing me for a while -- long enough to have made some guesses as to why I was in that waiting room.
And then it occurred to me that I had spent the last 40 minutes in that same room watching the news, fretting over why I hadn't brought my laptop along so that I could write, and checking my WhatsApp every 1.5 seconds - basically doing everything except noticing where I was and who was sitting around me.
Poor observation skills, ladies and gentlejunglees, do not a writer make. Our obsession with being a part of every conversation in every group is strangling the casual observer in us, whose data collection is so vital to our stories. If video killed the radio star, then WhatsApp is definitely going to kill the writer.
Which is why, tomorrow, I will be taking extra special care to observe the women in my yoga group and will collect as much personal information on them as possible. Broohoohahaha. Don't worry. In the book they'll all have fictitious names.
The extent of my lalloopan may be determined by the fact that I decided to keep a diary for NaNoWriMo this year --- and then delayed the writing of this post just enough so that now the date will forever show that the first entry was posted on 2nd November.
So, mixed feelings this year. Being a NaNo veteran, and having completed successfully last year, I don't have the same fear of failure this time. This is brilliant. Extremely empowering. "Me staring the NaNo monster down with a steely gaze" type empowering.
At the same time, I'm not necessarily as stoked to win either (meehhh... been there, done that). This is stupid. Extremely likely to be my undoing. The "me sleeping under a tree while the NaNo tortoise inches its way past the finish line" type undoing.
Which of these competing emotions is going to win the day? I don't know. But for today, at least, it was the monster-slayer side that won. I posted 2185 words on the website! Hurrah! And wrote a four-page conversation between a man and his aunt! Erm...
This is what I'm taking away from today's experience:
1. It's not just the character's physicality that matters, it's the writer's too. Last year, when I found I wasn't moving fast enough towards meeting that word count, I cut my nails. It increased my typing speed tenfold (okay, whatever, twofold). Going to do the same this year, although it's nearly 2 am and I'm still typing with my beloved talons intact. They'll be gone within the next twelve hours, though.
2. The US presidential election has actually spilt over into my NaNoWriMo. Yes. It has. My document this year starts with the following quote:
"I have the best words." (Donald Trump, 2016)
It is a magnificently motivating quote. And possibly the best thing to come out of this election, imho.
3. (and this is actually meaningful) I discovered today that I am, far and away, happiest when writing conversations. I think I may be quite good at them, actually. Because honestly, nothing in my writing gets the kind of praise that the dialoguey bits do. I read out seven pages of dialogue to my husband today at 12.30 am, and he only fell half asleep and actually jerked his head up at one point and nearly shouted This is good. Very natural. So will my great debut work of literary fiction basically be surveillance records of private conversations between my characters? Apparently, yes!
It will become clearer with time how I feel about that.