Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Books

How November’s NaNoWriMo went

Some readers may have noticed the loud turquoise images on the side of this blog during the month of November. They were titled “My NaNoWriMo Accountability Meter.” Right up where I could not fail to see them. And you, too. Must not embarrass myself by truancy….
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Most participants write fiction, in fact, most do fantasy and science fiction, but there is a goodly subset doing memoir. (I’d wildly wager that most first-time long-form writers are writing memoir in disguise.) I was writing memoir because, as Marion Roach Smith wrote in her clear, short, entertaining book The Memoir Project, it needed to exist.
The red days: I did zero writing. The orange day was 500 words or less. The yellow days were somewhere between 500 and 1666 words, and the green days I made my 1666-word quota. The end goal was 50 000 words in 30 days and I took a day off when I hit it, but considering how very much source material I had to work from, I set myself a higher goal of 60K. By the time I hit 40K, I could tell  that I had the material and pace to exceed even that goal. I considered 70 to 75K for about five minutes, but I was already befuddled and had enough to do. So I tried for 65K, but didn’t quite make it. That’s OK; I worked about 47 hours on a movie set this week, and that last red day was 17 hours on set (but as I publish this post, I just did a 20-hour day of film delirium). Writing 2000 words took between 2 and 4 hours per night – and I managed to get some writing underway on set. It was quite easy to get into the groove of it. That’s what challenges are good for. 
That coffee is mine.

My avatar has a halo because once I attained Winner status, I donated to the organization. Anyone who can focus me and make me perform beyond standard expectations deserves a reward.

The Memoir Project has a list of great tips for the whole process of writing a memoir or any form of book, starting with write with intent, with a goal and an audience, not just to practice. But it also says what every author has always said: the best tip to writing long-form is to write – five pages every day – regardless of quality. Just spitting it out is key to getting out the emotional truth as well as tenuous, but vital, connections between thoughts. If you do this, in three months you will have a first draft that should be around 275 pages of 350 words. It’ll probably take another year to two (or, like a friend’s PhD, ten) to rewrite and revise. 
In June, Camp NaNoWriMo gets underway. If you think you have something to say, you really have nothing to lose to add it to your calendar for 2013. The key to winning, as I learned from previous not-winning experiences, is structuring your work and transcribing your references.* I am hoping that I can use June to hurl up a new book, even a short one (50 000 words = 147 pages) based on facts and opinion, and I hope to successfully pitch it before then in order to have resources and an end in sight. After all, we all have something to say, but it is the pitch and the revision process that shows if you’ve got something the world wants or needs to hear. And that is where you make your living.

Until then, I’ve put the “how’s the first draft going?” meter on the right side of this blog. The goal, for now, is 90K. With 26K to go, I’ll get it done in December, but I’ll be flexible about how many words per day versus other priorities. I gave November to the book project. I’m glad I did so.

And I almost forgot: a key to winning is having what I have dubbed writer’s hygiene, where you have a set of tools for writing and you are consistent in using them. This means one place to stick your ideas (e.g EverNote, Notational Velocity), one place to stick your references (e.g. Evernote and EndNote), a document for the main writing (e.g. Word), and a structure to your document that makes navigation easier (which is where most people who don’t properly use Word fall down). The better option, especially for those who’ve used a coding or publishing development environment before, is to use an application for writing, like Scrivener


I am in a terrible state for clothes again, and having a will to use some sense rather than buy more on credit, I’ve gone combing through the fallow piles that I’ve gathered and not tossed over the past year. A pair of Miss Sixty pants, too small for me, given by a friend, another pair of pants I’ve worn out the seams on and needing repair on the waistband, a pair of checked slacks for work that unfortunately met the teeth of a very medium-sized, caramel-coloured rodent, ditto with a pair of purple cords. Pants are in limited supply right now, and so I went to the Grande Bibliotheque and found this book: Mend it!

What competencies we have lost by coming to rely upon cheaply made clothes in a whirlwind of fashion demands! Yet Canadian design is poorly supported, quite possibly because of this loss of competency. Canadians go for the established name brands, and not the new designers with interesting ideas. Having interesting ideas comes not from an image, but the skill to create something out of fabric. If you’ve never created something out of fabric before, how can you evaluate the idea, or fully appreciate the workmanship that goes into your workaday wardrobe?

Regardless of whether fashion is your thing, well-made clothes never go out of style, given that they are amenable to alterations. Most of us have to alter the pants we buy, anyway – shortening and hemming the legs, tucking a too-loose waistband especially on mid-rise (the best rise, nonetheless) pants; lately with stovepipe legs being in fashion, tapering your jeans and pants is necessary – even with the unfortunate side effects of making most legs appear short and butts appear either big or completely flat (and later on, increasing the wear at the knees).

I digress. I have now read up on the techniques to repair my checked pants, and will tackle that next week. But first I’ll tell you about the project I started last week:

I have split the inseams of a pair of khaki pants and hand-stitched them together in the form of a skirt. I then pinned an upward tuck, the name of which I don’t know (signifying a new skill to learn) so that it lies nicely over my behind rather than cling as pants are supposed to do. Once that is hand-stitched and the skirt is gently laundered and ironed, I will finish the inside edges on a machine and restitch over my handwork and finish the kick-pleat, which is not at risk of needing an adjustment.

Then, I may have to pick apart the waistband, reinforce it with new tape, and restitch the edge. Then iron it, try it on, and make little adjustments until the skirt is satisfactory, and then finish the seams.

As pants make for a mighty long skirt, I have a couple of styling options to use that will make the skirt a business/casual length, without cutting the fabric. It’s unfortunate I can’t show you the Before, but when it’s done, I’ll post the after.

A quote from Matthew Crawford’s “Shop Class as Soulcraft”

“What follows is an attempt to map the overlapping territories intimated by the phrases ‘meaningful work’ and ‘self-reliance.’ Both ideals are tied to a struggle for individual agency, which I find to be at the very center of modern life When we view our lives through the lens of this struggle, it brings certain experiences into sharper focus. Both as workers and as consumers, we feel we move in channels that have been projected from afar by vast impersonal forces. We worry that we are becoming stupider, and begin to wonder if getting an adequate grasp on the world, intellectually, depends on getting a handle on it in some literal and active sense.

“Some people respond by learning to grow their own vegetables…raising chickens on the rooftops of apartment buildings in New York City. These agrarians say they get a deep satisfaction from recovering a more direct relationship to the food they eat. Others take up knitting, and find pride in wearing clothes they have made themselves. The home economics of our grandmothers is suddenly cutting-edge chic – why should this be?

“…the new interest in self-reliance seems to have arisen before the spectre  of hard times. Frugality may be only a thin economic rationalization for a movement that really answers to a deeper need: We want to feel that our world is intelligible, so we can be responsible for it. This seems to require that the provenance of our things be brought closer to home. Many people are trying to recover a field of vision that is basically human in scale, and extricate themselves from dependence on the obscure forces of a global economy.”