47,000 words. 25 days. 50 hours. 25 cups of tea. 22 pages of plot notes. 93 pages of typewritten draft. 1 Olympia Traveller. 1 Hermes 3000. 1 Smith Corona 5 (Eaton’s deluxe). 1 sore back. 1 case of nerves. 25 beers (dinner). 10 swims. 6 walks around the lake. Countless hours of pondering the plot. All just to say you wrote a book. A book you will publish yourself and that will not become a best seller, win the Booker, the Giller, the Pulitzer, or the Nobel or a million other prizes. Even if you think it should, which is ridiculous, but so what? Why else write a g–damned book?
Category Archives: NaNoWriMo
This is my desk and my reliable Olympia Traveller typewriter. When I am typing a novel I turn the computer screen off, but I thought it should have a pretty picture rather than the usual garbage. That’s Switzerland by the way. Where they make Lindt chocolate, and where my Hermes 3000 typewriter was made. Two things I am grateful for. I used the H3K today for a while, then an Olivetti 22, and also a Royal Caravan/Contessa/Tippa. The last is a machine with many pseudonyms! But a Hermes 3000 is always just that. Sublime, like the Swiss Alps.
This year’s Nanowrimo project, the 9th I’ve done, will be a sequel to the first three books I wrote, which formed a trilogy called Mates and Men. It’s been a few years since I abandoned the characters, so rather than rack my brain for an entirely new set of characters, I decided it was time to revisit the old familiar ones and see what they were up to. So far I’m on track, but nothing much has happened. That’s the easy part. The hard part will be when it’s time to get on with the action, which is still but a vague notion.
How many words should there be in a children’s novel? A scientific survey of one novel gave me the answer – 35,000. That was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. If that is a good number of words for Mr. Dahl then it works for me. I confirmed this number twice by different methods. Being an estimator for 10 years, I have a pretty good idea how to count, so the first test was this: I counted how many lines it took to get to 100 words on a typical page. I extrapolated the count for the whole page, and then went to the last page and subtracted that number from the number of the first page to get the number of pages from the beginning to the end. Then I multiplied that by the number of words on my sample page. From this I subtracted the pages with illustrations and blank areas by quickly flipping through the book. I arrived at 35,000 words. To check this, I scanned another random but typical looking page and sent it to OCR. I exported that to my word processor and got the word count. I then counted every page with text, leaving out illustrations and blanks, to arrive at a net total of pages with text. Not surprisingly that gave me 35,000 words. Enough already!
My novel-in-progress stands at 25,000 words, plus the 1000 or so I just finished typing this morning. I have been reducing the gross word count by judicious editing, if not ruthless, so the 25,000 words are all keepers. The question now is, how to wrap up the story in 9000 words? Easier said than done. The writing continues apace, but it is clear that I will not hit 50,000, so there will be no “winning” Nanowrimo. Shouldn’t there be a category for children’s books? Oh well, you can’t win them all.
While setting out various events in the book I realized that my choice of a 1939 Royal KMM typewriter didn’t fit the timeline, so I have revised the machine to a 1914 Royal 10 instead. This has worked out better than expected for numerous reasons. I prefer the look of the older machine, which in my opinion would be more attractive to kids of all ages. Here is a picture I downloaded of a 1914 Royal 10 (thanks to sevenels). Now if I can be so lucky as to find one in a thrift shop for $25….
Here is the last page written to date:
Did I mention there is a pony in the story? It’s a kid’s book! There has to be a pony. Or magic, or both!
Nanowrimo is here and as usual, I devised a cunning plan on November 1st. Of course we all know that the brain works in mysterious ways and so the whole thing was undoubtedly hatching in my subconscious before I knew what was going on. I had had several suggestions from my fans (all 2) that I undertake a children’s book for my next trick. Now that I am a grandpa I suppose the time has come. Regardless, the book is underway. It is being typed, as all great literature generally is, on a manual typewriter. It also features a manual typewriter, Royal KMM 1939, with magic powers. This is indubitably due to the fact that the word MAGIC appears on it. Also because my Mom used one when she was a typist at the CPR long time passed. I think it was a KMM, and in any case it had the same big Royal logo on the back of it, so I accept that as evidence enough for this jury of me.
Well, it’s going smoothly and I am enjoying the process. There really is no more gratifying experience than reading to a child, and this is kind of like doing that for a whole bunch of them. Hoping, naturally, that one day one child somewhere will actually read it! Maybe two or three… One minor glitch is that Nanowrimo has a 50,000 word target, and that is more words than most kid’s books. So I will try to write too much and edit it later. In actual fact – as if there are facts that aren’t (alternate facts aside) – I am using an entirely new method this time. I am editing as I go. This is often considered a no no, but I’m finding that it is improving my writing. I see so many things to rewrite that I’m avoiding repeating those sorts of errors whilst typing. Positive feedback loop through continuous iterative editing.
Lastly I wish to report that I am using one of my Olivetti Studio 44’s, mainly. I dug it out of the basement and have discovered to my delight that it is a pleasure to type on. It easily beats the vaunted SM9 or any other SM’s. I prefer the SF models anyways, and I have used mine a great deal. I now have at least 7 of these, from various eras. They’re all identical under the hood. But for now I am sticking with the 44. It has a soft touch and that makes quite a difference with muscle fatigue, believe it or not. There is very little recoil. Some folks don’t like the softness of Olivetti’s, especially the 22, but for me I appreciate that, for their gentleness on the fingers, hands and forearm muscles. Last year I got a terrible pain in my elbow after a month of typing madly, which may have been exacerbated by the snappy action of the typewriters I used. Some are worse than others, but the 44 and 22 are some of the softest machines you can find.
I just squeaked this in so I wouldn’t miss posting for an entire calendar month. I’m torn between writing a novel for Nanowrimo or doing some other creative endeavour, such as sketching. As of Hallowe’en night I have no plot ideas, nothing, so it may be sketches. You never know about this however, because all of a sudden – blam!!! an idea comes forth like a thunderbolt (lightning bolt that is – thunder has no bolt). I may secretly be hoping that the ___bolt doesn’t arrive, so I can avoid the whole thing of hours writing (typed double spaced) and then a year of editing. It’s the aftermath that ruins the fun. If I could be content with sloppy work that would be better. Some might say I am, and who knows but they may be right, and yet I like to think that my work is honed like a Gillette Blue Blade (not the rusty ones). Well here is my creative output for the day, in preparation for a burst of creativity in November… ahem!
Here are all four of my novels to date. The first three are newly published. All are available through the links under the BOOKS page on the header above, or by clicking on the book title image. Support typewriting – all of these were laboriously crafted on typewriters until my fingers were numb!
BRAINWAVES: Neuroscientist Robert Frank decides to experiment on himself when he discovers a way to cross the blood-brain barrier.
MATES AND MEN—A TRILOGY
The Sexy Synesthete: a rare medical condition leads Miles on a quest to discover meaning in his charmed but unfulfilled life.
The Short Fuse: the odyssey of Jerry, a man of little ambition sucked into a deadly game for which he is woefully unprepared and even less willing.
The Lost Friend: the sage ends in a package of thrills that carry on right to the final page.
AN ENGINEER’S GUIDE TO PARIS
Heller, a soon to be graduate engineer, goes to Paris for a short holiday before school is to commence. When his best friend doesn’t show up as planned, Heller is forced to face the fact that his life has been on auto pilot, and he doesn’t like where it’s headed.
THE GAME OF HEARTS
The lives of two young couples are intertwined when on the night of a full moon Helen and Joan, strangers, arrive at hospital where each gives birth to a son.
Well, I did it again. This was my 6th Nanowrimo. Six books x 50,000 words or more in 30 days. The first time it was murder. The rest were hard and every time I seemed to finish on the 30th of November. But this year I took a different approach. I didn’t exactly write a novel. I wrote about me, and my life. Again it was my son Robert who got me thinking about the subject. A few years ago he gave me a book about writing memoirs as a present, and a hint I suppose.
The novel I wrote last November I had edited down to about 47,000 words, but then spent another 7 months finishing it, which brought it to 160,000 or more. It started as a sequel but now I think it will just be one book. I was so busy writing it that I had no time to come up with a plot for a new novel for this year’s Nano. Then it occurred to me to try something different and see if it was possible to write a memoir. Turns out it was. I had some days of 4500 words and I had to stop because I got too tired to keep writing, even though my head was still full of words. I hit 50k today, but it’s not done yet, as I have a lot more I want to tell. It has been the easiest book so far, because the story is there for the telling. If I could invent fiction this quickly I’d write a book a month, a cheap best seller (in my dreams).
Here, for those of you who yearn for typewriter content, I offer my opinion on one of the best machines to write on. This after having collected over 80 or more typewriters and testing every one. The one I used most often this month and for the last part of my last novel was:
The Olympia Traveller! Yes, Traveller is misspelled in the name, maybe on purpose, who can say. But this is one great piece of engineering. I didn’t like it at first, a few years back when I got it for $20, but over the years I’ve got it out and kept testing it now and then. One day it started to feel just right and suddenly I got it, the whole feel of it and the touch and rhythm. Now I am a big fan. I’d say it beats the full size Olympias any day. The more I look at how it was made the more impressive it gets. I also have a script version but you can’t scan the pages, so I don’t use it for writing books, only letters. I also like the 11 character pitch a lot. I can get 600 or more words on a page without having to stop.
Here’s page one of my memoirs:
NOVEL #7 NOVEMBER 2016
The idea is this, every day write a journal, and from those thoughts will flow the story of one month in my life, during which time I will have spewed out a ton of interesting crap! So, here goes:
This is November. It sucks, mostly. There is nothing good about November that I can remember. It starts the day after Halloween, which for me was once a big deal, now not so much. Now in fact, I try to hide from it. This year we drew the curtains and turned off the light outside. Even so, one poor stupid sap rang the bell in hopes of goodies. Margie said “Don’t answer” but I felt some sense of responsibility, why I can’t explain, so I went down to the door just to see why someone was dumb or desperate enough to ring a bell when there was no pumpkin in the window and all was dark. I didn’t get to ask however as the kid, dressed as a cop, had already started leaving, no doubt intent on trying his luck at every door, no matter how dark or pumpkin-less they might be. He turned my way when I opened the door and said, “sorry, I don’t have anything”, by which time he was gone.
But then there were no more trick or treaters, and soon it was over, except for the distant sound of fire crackers which went on for what seemed like hours. Firecrackers used to thrill me too, when I was ten. After that, not so much. My kids never had them, as I refused to buy them, thinking by that time that they were a stupid idea. But they didn’t seem to mind, they were mostly concerned with candy. Halloween is in October however, so it is irrelevant to a discussion of November. October is a nice month, usually. This year it wasn’t. It rained a record amount, and there were no owls about.
So, Tuesday November began with a day of rain. All day I was bothered by the thought that I had no ideas for a novel. For the past 5 years every November has created a novel, which has taken me the entire month to write. It all began when Robert told me he was going to write a novel in 30 days, and why didn’t I join him? I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, but it seemed like a good idea, so away I went. That first book The Sexy Synesthete, was hard, I mean really tough going.
I started out with a premise that I had written in a small moleskine notebook about a month before, in which I observed a man at Swans who seemed to be nervously waiting for someone. Then a sexy woman arrived. She was ridiculously sexy in fact, which might explain why he seemed so nervous. So that became the first paragraph of my first novel. Later I moved it in the….
50,000 more words, etc….
Historically speaking I’ve always hated November. Everything seems to go poof and all at once it’s dark, cold, and generally cheerless. But NaNoWriMo came to the rescue. It gave me a reason to live in November! All I can say now is TGIO. I won, as they keep reminding me, by the mere fact of having written 50,000 words that will one day, with editing, be a novel. A short novel, to be sure. I do marvel at how they came up with 50,000 words, which if you are quick at mental arithmetic you will know requires 1667 words per day for 30 days. It just so happens that 50k is a magic number, at least for me, and I’ve now done it five times, so I can say that it has repeatable results. Is this statistically valid? Well it’s probably as good as most political polls these days.
Every time, as November wears on it always seems that the story I’m working on gets wrapped up around that magic number of 50k. Most novels are longer; that is my observation, but I presume they took longer to write. I’d heard that there are authors that write 200 words a day. And some that write a huge book in a month, a short one in a week. I guess these are the exceptions, based entirely on unfounded suppositions!
But my point is that having such a project, and it is all consuming, during this otherwise awful month makes November a little brighter, a little lighter, and a lot less depressing. Salutations to all of you who have tried, succeeded or failed. Rest assured that your book will probably not be read by more than five people, but so what? As the NaNoWriMo Pep talks constantly remind us, writing a book is an achievement to be proud of. Who knows why, but that’s what they say. I find it fun, especially now that it’s over.
On to more interesting things, like ducks.
On the 29th I was out for another walk around the pond. I have to admit that November has had more than its fair share of sun this year, so it wasn’t quite as detestable as some years. I was snapping away at birds, as you can see here:
Nothing rare or terribly exciting here, just the usual crowd. Until I spotted something that was definitely different:
It began to swim my way, and I shot a lot of pictures.
Not something we see every day. In fact we never see this. I didn’t know what it was, except I bet it was a duck. It is a duck. It’s a Muscovy Duck in fact. A Barbary Duck even. But where it came from I have no clue. Maybe it flew in from Mexico, where it occurs in the wild, or escaped from a farm? I doubt I’ll ever see it again, but who can say. Maybe it will stay here for a while, in which case I’ll be posting more pictures.
Nanowrimo word count, day 10: 15000 +/-
Bizarre coincidence department: I drafted the plot for this month’s novel two weeks ago. Not to give away much, but I swear this is true; I postulated scientists had figured out a way to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. If you’re not yet aware of the science news this week, some doctors here in Canada have just done that. If I could only use this power to do good in the world. Imagine no loud mufflers, no tattooed nose pierced clerks… and world peace!
But to think creatively one must prepare the body for the grueling task of sitting for hours, and this I do by regular swimming and a daily walk around the lake. It is the season for spotting birds, especially since there are so many fewer leaves on trees. I am diligently carrying my camera and telephoto lens, too. Here’s what I saw yesterday.
And now for something really good:
If I’m not mistaken this is no mere accipiter, but a falcon, such as Kings and Princes are wont to own, and even take on the plane these days…
Correct me if I’m wrong about this “falcon”, please.