Nanowrimo Day #29: Captain Slayed the Dragon… meh

I'm done.

So that’s it… I’m done.

I had wanted to finish a lot earlier in the day, considering I blocked out the whole of the day to reach this triumphant goal, but Eskom – oh, monopolising power parastatal – had other plans. A 4.5-hour blackout later and I was a little irritated by the delay. At least I rediscovered my love of Sudoku…

Nonetheless, that’s it for 2014 Nanowrimo.

Unexpectedly, with the way in which this month had started in high gear, getting to 51000+ words just now was quite the massive anticlimax. Sure, 50k words in a month is great if they’re meaningful words, but the last week or so has felt like I’ve just been doing this to reach the word count… which was never what Nanowrimo was about for me. 50k words in a month is fantastic if you don’t need to go back to the drawing board and start again… which, unfortunately, I do. Outside of Nanowrimo, this month’s writing has just been a waste of time.

On the up side, finishing with a day to spare is awesome because I don’t ever want a repeat of last year’s 10 000 words in one day (that shit’s unnecessary unless I’m getting paid by the hour for it), and I plan to take my Sunday easy – starting with the Toy Run if the weather is favourable.

And in other weird news, can you even believe that it’s December on Monday? DECEMBER 2014.

This has been the fastest month of my entire existence (and that’s a LOT of months…)

Nanowrimo Day #23: The Captain is Behind… so what?

There’s a subtle yet pertinent difference between being distracted from writing because you don’t want to write, and being distracted from writing because a massive tsunami of inspiration sweeps you up in the tumbling chaos of new creative endeavours. I’ve put my writing on hold for almost a week because of the latter… and I don’t feel one ounce of regret about it.

The Instigator

The whole process is entirely the result of my AMAZING new art technique book arriving early last week. As an artist, there is an infinite fountain of new learning and opportunity in a book like this:

Color and Light by James Gurney

I am by no stretch of the imagination a “realist painter”, but the benefit of a comprehensive understanding of how colour is influenced by light and how to look at people and objects with a true artist’s eye, has already improved my painting. This book is incredible.

Result #1

My first painting under this brand new influence was a 6th wedding anniversary gift for The Husband, which looks like this, and which resulted in another friend commissioning me for his own spiritual art. How exciting:

Buddha and the Flower of Life

I’ll be posting soon about ordering spiritual art from me – this is specifically for people in Johannesburg – as well as another creative project I’ve got going on.

Result #2

Then, with a seed of inspiration suddenly sprouting in my creative brain (and with the encouragement looming a deep red in my wine glass), I decided to go against my assertion that I don’t do portraits and give this a tackle. Keeping in mind this newfound desire to teach myself about colour and light, I limited this portrait to only 4 shades – black, dark grey, light grey, and white – and this was the result:

Larry Bourgeois Les Twins

The strangest thing is that these 4-colour portraits (I’ve done one before) look particularly strange and flat… until the eyes are painted in. It’s the eyes that make them come alive, which convinces me that art is magic – breathing life into lines and paint. I love how this came out. I already have two more portraits sketched on their respective canvas sheets… I’m really looking forward to breathing life into them. Whoosh!

The Conclusion

I’m behind on Nanowrimo… and I don’t care. I’ll catch up during the week, but the high from this art (not just from the smell of acrylics :P ) is so worth it. Not only have I improved, but the benefit of spending these hours on my visual art (rather than my literary art) is that all the solutions to my plot problems have popped into my head and are ready to be applied to my half-arsed manuscript.

But wait, let me blog about it first…

 

Nanowrimo Day #12: Captain’s Snog [18+]

Working with fiction characters

Well, this is embarrassing…

Firstly, my victory: I passed the 25,000-word mark last night. This is a huge psychological win, especially because I’m past halfway and it’s only the 12th.

The reason my wordcount has been catapulted forward? Sex.

But it hasn’t been as… *ahem*… easy as you might imagine. I’m working with very stubborn characters. Two nights ago, when the action was supposed to happen, they were still on opposite ends of the city, doing their own thing and completely disinterested in each other. One motorcycle chase later and the lead character had ended up falling for a very secondary character – the literary equivalent of a monarch falling for a peasant vegetable merchant.

No, no, no! But I guess story is what happens when you’re making other plots.

To solve the problem, I highlighted a line in my manuscript. The words read:

[Solve plot problem later.]

Last night, I had to really force the hands (and other body parts) of these two characters who were supposed to hook up from the start… but by the end of the night (which is routinely becoming 02:00 for me), my effort was minimal and I just recorded all the kinky stuff they were getting up to. It proved yet again that you cannot control your characters when they take you on a tangent.

This happened very late last night:

“God, I want you…” pressing his mouth against the naked skin near her navel.
“I won’t stop you,” she said, coaxing him to follow through on his pursuits, as if he needed to be persuaded.
“You won’t be able to,” he whispered against a smile…

Nope. I wasn’t able to stop them either. Maybe they would’ve had enough of each other by the time I sit down to write again this evening… I hope so. Any more of what they were doing and I’m going to have to clean my screen with hot soapy water…

Motorcycles and painting progress

A few months ago, a rather large bee flew into my bonnet about painting a motorcycling scene. I tend to stay away from portraits, machinery and architecture because of the kinds of technical detail required (I have neither the skill nor the patience), but then I saw this image on Instagram:

Photo credit: Mr_Spade on Instagram (www.instagram.com/mr_spade)

Photo credit: Mr_Spade on Instagram (www.instagram.com/mr_spade)

It wasn’t so much the photo, but rather the digital edit/filter on the photo that caught my attention – this one:

Photo credit @ Mr_Spade on Instagram (www.instagram.com/mr_spade)

Photo credit @ Mr_Spade on Instagram (www.instagram.com/mr_spade)

My friend’s birthday was coming up and I figured… why the hell not?

It took me a lot longer to paint than I’d anticipated, and boy, what a difficult secret to keep, but it was well worth the wait eventually. I do love giving gifts (especially ones that I’ve made myself), but this is one I would not have minded keeping all to myself ;)

Valentino Rossi vs Jorge Lorenzo

Those are motorcycle riders, Jorge Lorenzo at the back and Valentino Rossi in the front.

And… to scale:

Valentino Rossi vs Jorge Lorenzo

Artist and hard-won masterpiece ;)

Nanowrimo Day 10: Captain’s Slog

Nanowrimo 2014, Nanowrimo

What a strong start to writing my way through Nanowrimo 2014. I’m still ahead of the planned daily word count, but can we just admit that the NOVELty of it has worn off?

The problem

Writing so quickly and seeing how quickly my characters fell into civil disobedience might be one of the main issues with the stuff I’m writing. It felt like I was still trying to plan their actions when they were, instead, going:

Hahahaha! F#@$ you – try and stop us now! Back to the drawing board? Not a chance! There’s no time! You have word counts to maintain, don’t you?!

Maybe that’s where Nanowrimo fails a bit – it’s that performance anxiety about falling behind that forces me to just keep writing, even when I know that I shouldn’t waste my time with quantity; that going back to the plot circle to figure out the quality is perhaps not a bad idea.

Then, of course, having planned to take the whole of November off and that scenario not materialising is part of the problem. Real life happens in spite of The Perfect Plan. Doesn’t it always?

The solution

By Saturday night, I was ready to dump my first 36 pages in the bin. It was a beautiful rainy evening and I did feel like making visual art instead… who cares about Nanowrimo when the spirit of it is what defines my life in the other 11 months of the year? So I stayed up on YouTube and browsing for piano sheet music and looking at pictures to upskill my art with… until 03:00 on Sunday morning. I slept in, had a brisk 3km run and then went to a fellow Nano’s guitar gig in Greenside until 16:30, then went to collect my SO from the train station. I took a – shock, horror – NON-WRITING DAY. Okay, I lie: I wrote for 30 minutes last night.

How will I solve my characters’ delinquent tendencies? I’m writing the significant scenes for now. When they’ve made up my 50,000+ words, then I’ll go back to the drawing board and come up with the golden thread that will tie those scenes together.

So, please tell me how your Nanowrimo is going and what you’re doing to break the slump… I need to know I’m not alone.

Nanowrimo Day 3: Captain’s Log

Nanowrimo 2014

I’m such a sucker for punishment. No, I’m not talking about Nanowrimo – I’m actually a little miff about work.

But you’re a freelancer, you don’t have to work if you don’t want to…

Yes, hypothetical person, I do. As an “independent writer” (I don’t particularly like the term “freelancer”), my USP is that I aim to help clients in any way possible to get their objectives met, to keep their overheads down and their revenue up. So, with the best intentions, I had wanted to take November off so that I could write my book with my full focus (and my fingers on a keyboard, hObviously), but as soon as my clients reckon they neeeed me, I’m there. How can I say no?

So, while I wasn’t able to spend the whole of today huddled in my pyjamas, over-caffeinated and writing my awesome new book, I must gladly admit that it’s a great story that seems to just be pouring out on the pages. And I’m not gunning it in typical Nanowrimo-style of write crap now, edit later. This writing is actually pretty good, so I am sacrificing a bit of speed for quality – just to make the editing process a little more enjoyable when I do get there.

It’s almost midnight and I made my 10 000 word mark…

Onward, ho!

Your Last-minute Guide to Nanowrimo

As I start writing this, there’s an hour to go before #Nanowrimo2014 gets underway in South Africa. I’ve just sent in an entry to a short story competition, proving once again that I really do rely on the last minute. However, this is something I want to change and I’m going to use Nanowrimo to do it!

Without any further procrastination, here’s your last-minute guide to Nanowrimo:

Writer

1. Be ridiculously productive at the start

There’s a culture of the last minute rush at the end of Nanowrimo to “make up for” words that were missed during the month. This year, write as much as you can in the first weekend. You can do this to either set the tone for the rest of your month and smash those wordcounts out of the park… or you can use high word counts early on in the game to make up for all the excuses you’ve got squirreled away for when you don’t make your wordcounts.

Uncomfortable, but true.

2. Tell people what you’re doing

Instead of surprising your friends with: “Oh, no… I can’t make the zoo today, I’m writing a novel,” rather tell them that you’ll be busy in November and they mustn’t bug you (unless they’re there to inconspiculously top up your chocolate supply, in which case, allow them in, but make it clear when you want them to GTFO again).

3. Be a pain in the ass

There’s no pussy-footing around Nanowrimo. It’s the one month of the year that more than 300,000 writers around the globe are entitled to being driven mad by their muses, to staying in their pyjamas for the duration of the month, and to drinking as much coffee as they desire. It’s the one month of the year that you get to be obnoxious and when someone calls you on it, you can mumble into your typewriter: “Shut up, I’m writing.”

Because it’s Nanowrimo… and you WILL write.

Are you participating? Good luck!!

#Nanowrimo: Jo’burg Kick-off

Writing is a personal, solitary process – usually undertaken in pyjamas and occasionally while subscribed to the golden rule of “write drunk, edit sober.” Fortunately, my freelancing experiences have taught me to write furiously around other people, so I figured I’d bring my newfound tolerance for writing in company to Nanowrimo 2014.

No more Ms Going Solo. No more OCD-will-write-at-my-desk-only insistence. It’s either now or not-now.

At the last minute, I cast aside my assumptions about what happens when a group of writers gets together and decided to RSVP to the Johannesburg Nanowrimo Kick-off at Cnr Café in Craighall Park. I’ll admit that the curiosity of what could possibly be in a steampunk goodie bag had something to do with it…

Thinking caps off to the Joburg Municipal Liaison, Fiona (santacruzrulz), for arranging a really relaxed and fun event and choosing a comfortable and accessible venue for our she-NaNo-gans (totally just made that up). The ice-breakers and games really jolted our collective imagination and got our chins wagging, but it became very apparent, very quickly that writers hardly need ice-breakers when the necessity arises to talk about their novel ideas! And Nanowrimo bingo? Genius!

Now… about the contents of that goodie bag…

Nanowrimo, Nano2014

The CAUTION: NOVELISTS AT WORK poster totally rocks and when it came out of the bag, I immediately knew where I’d be sticking it up at home. Then, there are the stickers (yes, stickers… such simple things, yet totally affirming of our participation in the craziness of Nanawrimo, okay), the chocolate and cappuccino – the cornerstones of survival for writers everywhere – and more goodies to keep the momentum and motivation going for the duration of Nanowrimo.

By the end of the month, that key is going to have some friends on its piece of string, and that Boarding Pass is going to be punched so bad, people will start referring to me as “Iron Mike”.

That strange, steampunky cog-like thing with the square cogs (SQUARE COGS… I can’t even…) will get some special attention in a follow-up instalment of this 2014 Nano journey, including the Nutty Professor who made them and how well they work to unclog the gunk of writing 50 000+ words in a month.

Thanks go to Joanne Macgregor for the reality check on being published in South Africa as well as answering our n00b questions.

The Kick-Off group had really good synergy and I – former lurker – am really glad to have been a part of it. The real reward for the evening was that I went from having a kazillion ideas for the book “I’m supposed to write” in November, to having the penny drop and realising that the one I want to write has been staring me right in the face this whole time.

Watch this space for a POV blow-by-blow of what it takes to do NaNoWriMo…

GO, JOBURG! See you at the write-ins!

Review: Lauren Beukes – “The Shining Girls”

Cole:

I read and reviewed Lauren Beukes’ “The Shining Girls” on my book review blog, but it’s stuck with me all week, so I’m reblogging here. READ THIS BOOK – it’s awesome. I’m starting “Broken Monsters” soon and will have an update about that one too. Watch this space!

Originally posted on Rautenbach Writing:

IMG_20140507_110053

On Monday, I was sitting outside of Lanseria Airport in Johannesburg when I closed the back cover of The Shining Girls and exhaled with the kind of satisfaction and relief only experienced when a derailed train comes to a grinding halt and all the saucer-eyed passengers realise they’re alright.

My mind was blown by the neat order of completion to which this chaotic story was brought. Hmm, that’s a terribly passive-voiced sentence, but it should adequately convey what I mean: Lauren Beukes is a writing rock star and I’m her newest front-row groupie.

At first I had my doubts – I’m one of the few people who didn’t enjoy Zoo City as much as I should (could) have, but before reading The Shining Girls, I cleared the canvas of any pre-judgements and, on a trip out of town, took The Shining Girls with me and started reading it with…

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My very own Toy Story…

Over the past weekend, the husband and I went to spend some quality time with my parents. Mom’s ready to retire and move into a smaller house, so she ordered me to tell her what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. By default, she’d be chucking out the stuff I didn’t ask her to keep.

There’s a wooden trunk in the living room that works well as a coffee table, but my heart rose up to my throat when I opened it up and discovered some old childhood friends hiding inside. The stories these guys could tell you about my little life…

How to write

That Pink Panther is 29 years old. Yes – twenty-nine years old.

The little blue elephant is easily 30 or 31 years old (Mom was pushing me in a pram through the supermarket and she only discovered the elephant in my hands when we got home), and when I picked out Snoopy Santa, I was acutely aware that perhaps I was getting too old for plush toys.

I’ve since realised that no one is ever too old for plush toys.

And Popples… do I even need to say it?

My first foray into fiction writing consisted of drawing storyboards on old printer paper, casting these characters in pencil crayons and black pen, then writing in the stories (ALL IN CAPS) in the remaining spaces on the pages.

The picture you see above represents the seat of the expression of my creativity. These inanimate things off which I bounced creative ideas and came up with adventures of conquest and betrayal, loyalty and trust, and fun and laughter, now need to be retired into others’ hands.

I had thought of strapping them all to my motorcycle in November and participating in the Toy Run, which ends with the motherload of toys being distributed to charity… but now I’m not so sure. These toys are nearing vintage status, but more than that, they’ve been so thoroughly imbued with meaning and sentimentality that I don’t feel right about parting with them.

This life is short, and no, I won’t keel over if my stuff is lost in a fire, but when that stuff connects me to the authenticity of myself as WRITER when I was 5 or 6 years old (and knew inherently why I’d been so ceremoniously deposited on this earth)… it becomes a little harder to let go.

It’s too easy get caught up in our fast-paced, modern, consumerism-crazy lifestyles – it’s too easy to throw away the things that really are meaningful to us. A part of me knows that attachment to things is silly, but another part of me knows that sometimes attachment to things is what makes us, us.

What should I do – keep the toys? Donate them? Sell them?

Reasons?