My #NaNoWriMo2017 Experience

My #NaNoWriMo2017 Experience

Yes, that’s right I managed to complete NaNoWriMo2017. And it was only my real first try. Over the years I’ve tried to enter, but November being on my least favourite months I’d always be down some emotional abyss too deep and dark to drag myself out of. NaNoWriMo always passed me by. The guilt of not committing and following through would throw me further into said abyss making the journey out only possible around mid-December. Hah, no regrets though. You live and you learn, right?

This year despite the emotional turmoil I was dealing with at the time (more about that later) I pulled my head out of my ass and finally gave NaNoWriMo a shot.  Boy, was it a disaster to start with. Bear in mind I hadn’t done a whole lot of writing this year (a couple of short stories, and about a million drafts of my YA novel) I didn’t have the stamina going in, and I knew this. But try googling How to maintain your stamina during NaNoWriMo, and see what comes up. I knew this, and self-awareness is essential for an endeavour of this magnitude. I am pantser by heart, so that only makes it even harder to maintain stamina basing on past experience. I’m not a word-count kinda writer, more like plant your ass on the desk and write till you can’t feel it no more—sometimes I can’t feel it no more after 200 words, sometimes 4,000 words. I love the spontaneity of that. NaNoWriMo though, gives no room for spontaneity. 1,667 words daily is the required goal.

My first weekend I wrote a combined 1,500 words. A week into NaNoWriMo I had penned 7,957 words and I abandoned the project. Started on a new, totally different novel.

My initial project was a YA novel, and I’d spent the better part of the year editing a YA novel – I didn’t feel up to it. My second project was a SF story I tried to write like three years ago but abandoned it.

Oh yes, gasp all you want, I know I know – switching projects is a no no. But I did it. Trust me when I say it was the most frustrating piece of writing I’ve ever had to do. I had maybe 15,000 words written from way back, but they were all pretty unusable. The way I planned to structure the novel from back then too was rubbish (I was in my non-linear narrative phase) The story couldn’t function that way. So I had to throw away everything, I mean EVERYTHING!!!! – premise, concept, character names – everything and start from scratch.

With about 22, 23 days left how daunting was my task? Extremely daunting. I hadn’t written anything speculative since writing a short-story that got accepted into the Imagine Africa 500 anthology. That was like 2015. I’d have to learn the craft all over again. Yeah, like I had the time. I work 10-hour days at my non-profit day-job, when I get home I’m pretty beat, then I’d run a couple of laps at the football pitch nearby – you know, to shore up some energy. Get back home, read till I sleep and wake up at 4:00AM to try and write minimum 2,000 words. Hmmn, I’d be lucky to get even 1,000 words before my internal clock screams at me to get my ass to work.

So how did I hit my targ—scratch that—how did I complete NaNoWriMo? I went back to my normal pantser, no word-count routine. I didn’t update my word-count for days at a time. My greatest struggle went from writing 2,000 words a day, to blocking out 4 – 5 hours of daily writing time – weekdays. And maybe 8 – 10 on weekends.

Remember, self-awareness is key.

I’ve never been the kind of writer who the moment he/she sits at their desk, the words start flowing. No. Not I. My muse requires a lot of coaxing. A lot. I usually have to stare at the blank page for a long, loooooooong while until she (my muse) feels sorry for me and eventually lends a hand. So out of like 4 – 5 hours I’m probably writing for three quarters of that, which depending on how my muse is feeling, can be quite a good writing day or very harrowing.

It was mostly a game of averages. Days when I’m feeling a little off, and nothing is flowing how I want it. I get to reading. Reacquaint myself with the craft. A mish-mash kind of work ethic but it did work out. By day 28 I still had maybe 6,000 words to hit the NaNoWriMo target. Which coincidentally was a crazy time at work, so I had to supercharge my writing. Stealing ten minutes here and there, cheating on my thirty-minute lunch break to write some (I learnt some unsavoury ways of wolfing down my meal in five minutes or shorter) I managed to complete my story on day 30, just barely. But I did it.

I have taken this same approach to completing my current novel – a project I’ve been working on maybe three years now. I’m about halfway with this epic story, but I’m going to apply the same NaNoWriMo principles that helped down the stretch, i.e. block out as much time as you can. Don’t focus on word-count – focus on getting words down on paper, be it 200 words or 4,000 words. Weekends are great days to chunk writing time. Be selfish with your writing time. Don’t speak about it until it’s done. Be diligent, and self-starter. Even five minutes are enough to write a sentence or a short paragraph – eventually if you stack up those five minutes the results exponentially multiply like compound interest.

Most of all, trust my gut. And never give up.


Goodreads Review of Martin Amis’ SUCCESS

SuccessSuccess by Martin Amis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I absolutely love Martin Amis, been a fan since I read Lionel Asbo, the only Martin Amis book I didn’t like was Night Train, a couple of books later, it’s good to see he hasn’t disappointed.

Success is a hard one to review, such mixed feelings about it, but not in a good way. I think reading Ian McEwan’s First Love, Last Rites kinda inoculated me for the subject matter in this book. Incest, and yob-phobia + class pretentiousness are a bit hard to swallow, but Martin is a skilled writer. This book reads well, its narrative style, the juxtaposition between Terrence and Gregory’s POVs of similar/related experiences gives the novel quite some depth.

It’s not as awe-inspiring as say Rachel Papers or Money, but a good read nonetheless.

View all my reviews

Review of CAGES by Dave Mckean

CagesCages by Dave McKean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I was thinking that, despite much evidence to the contrary how could anyone not realise that this is just the best of all possible worlds.”
These are the concluding words to Dave McKean’s wonderful graphic novel. It’s an impressive work of art, honest, a bit confusing and jumbled plotwise especially in the middle, but, Lo and behold does it finish with quite the bang.

Recommended for anyone looking for a multifaceted story that isnt in any way conventional, think Kabuki. Only Cages, deals with, well, cages… and how resonant its existential validations linger, how the question of God and our reduction of Him into some subjective figmented element is condensed into an understandable concept, or something like that… I don’t know, I’m rambling, existential ramblings require more mental effort than I can afford for reviews.

Read this, if not for everything I’ve written above, then for Dave’s insane artwork.

View all my reviews

Short Story: NOWHERE MAN

Have you ever looked at a staggering figure on a beach and seen someone so utterly alone: an anonymous man swaying to the waves with shoes slung around his neck, linen slacks rolled up to his knees, shirt unbuttoned to his navel?

Have you seen a man like that?

I have. That’s me I’ve just described – or, at least that’s what I think I look like viewed from, say, the bungalows behind the palm trees.

What am I still doing here, why am I not some place warmer, more settled? I ask myself.

It’s the off-season and the beach is dead, wrapped in a sallowness that makes you want to just give up. But this is Stone Town, there’s always something to do, even in the off-season, which this place has been in since October. Since the fire…

This short story was published in today’s Kalahari Review. Find the rest of it here:

Poem: Better Days

I woke up in a sad airless room, 
the smell was nocturnal – –  a lover unwashed – –
eyes as rheumy as the sun was callow.

My bed,  a pallet of sisal and dried tears, 
crawled with plagues and woes
I couldn’t abhor unless utterly sallow.

I was spared,  the desolate walls tell me, 
but I can’t make escape,
my blundering he never seemed so hollow – –

The famine of better days and easier childhood, 
is an illusion us orphans of motherless bastards
harbour as poison too thin to swallow.

The wet bodies,  dead remnant eyes, bemoan
broken biers, dry incense bowls,  wickless candles – – 
God’s meagre fallow.

A bloodied sandal, clipped toenail,
pale lipstick smudged on creaky floorboard,
the tongueless robber says,  hullo.

Poem: I Long For Distress

I admit, the thorn in my
rosy bush of desires
stifles me no longer.
Its prickling, uncompromising
disassembly of nerves
is nothing but brutal coquetry

Over time, with my thresholds,
winced and climbed over,
by ladders of tolerance, intolerable —
my longing for distress
has been cultivated,
and it’s no longer just a garden.
for, comfort is like a blanket
that doesn’t cover my feet fully,
even if it did,
I wouldn’t abide it.

My better self disowns my virtues
for, my baser self brings
the kind of satisfaction
that balms the craving. in my
marrow, my maw.

I admit, that the darkness
strays not from questioning eyes —
for what can they do me?
beyond shunning me and judging themselves
So I let this near-dark fright, fragrance
the impure air of my hypocrisy