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?
Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo
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.
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.
Week two and almost halfway there
Halfway pulling a tale from nowhere
Half baked plans with dubious inspiration
Now is the winter of our fermentation
Later to be baked boiled and spiced
Offered on a plate, sliced
Made tasty perhaps if not edible
With a slice of words incredible
The Photo Corner: The Flight Theme
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.