Children's writing

NaNo Update From Harriet

Jen’s confession: this is a few days old. My buttinsky comments in green.

Yesterday: 7513 words, a new record. Hurrah!

Hi there, you people in the real world!

I had to make a choice between writing my story or writing a journal entry to you. I cannot do both, I am so sorry. Here are different aspects of what I have experienced so far:

—1— Guess what happened on my third day of writing: I started after breakfast and was in a good flow sitting in front of a lap top. As you know already, it feels like my fingers go nearly as fast as my thoughts; I do not look at the keyboard or so much at the written text either. This machine has buttons / keys that are very silent, and I like that. The sound had really annoyed me, I think, and I would have to use earplugs at home.

My keyboard is loud, but it doesn’t bother me. I think of it as the sound of productivity.

This computer has a pad instead of the free mouse with a tail, and it has two buttons to click on just underneath the pad, I do not like it and so I ignore it.

I’m not a fan of touch pads, either, but I use them. Our laptop has one. I miss my old eraser head.

After about 365 words or so, I erased a whole block of words (a paragraph?). I did look for the undo system in the new program I am using, and I did not find it. But I found a “reload” button and the pop up text in English sounded very clever, indeed, so I pressed the ok button.

And guess what: all my text diapered. A-l-l-o-f-i-t-g-o-n-e-!

Oh, no.

Panic alert?


No, I just looked at the screen for a while, mumbled some words about bad weather and foggy brains (of mine). Then I shook my shoulders and thought that I just had to write it all over again. I know I lost some very clever statements (hahaha), but I was not angry. It was just very important to start on my story.

Truly, I felt a little nervous for the story to go on telling itself to me in real time, as if the erasing never happened. You know: it would like to continue its path without looking back and wait for me! Scary indeed, but that is the panic alert!

After this, I learned my lesson number 1: to press Ctrl S and SAVE a lot of times, all the time! If I ever want to try to reload something later, I am making sure I have something there to reload, right! Plus make a backup every day!

And the lesson number 2: turn off the mouse-pad-thingy at once! The fingers do dance over it and make silly things appear on the screen. (To English writers: A word with a hyphen or apostrophe counts as 1 word, so take away all the hyphens and apostrophes and write “I will” instead of I’ll to give you two words even if the word professor program protests!)

Conclusion: All I lost was time and energy, not the story.

—2— It is all about The Confusion in the days before it all started and after!

You mention that outlining and plots were not part of NaNoWriMo. But I read the forum blogs to look for what this NaNoWriMo was going to be like. There were the simplest rules of a game to play, just like you said in the blog posts! But this sounded too easy, just like the rule “There is no such thing as a free lunch!” I just had to be sure it was as simple as the nice people in the tiny films told me on the site.

I wanted to understand the forums and learn to find the theme and subject I needed answers too. There was a lot of talking going on in there, and too much was not what I needed to know. Sorry! I am not a lady of small talk when I am at work. And learning something new is work, fun work, but no small talk along the path. (Boring it may be for others nearby, but yes, it is so very time and energy efficient for me.)

I feel the same way. I’m lousy at small talk and get impatient with it. Sometimes, I think that makes me rude, but I am what I am.

I finally found two pieces of advice I thought I should look into (and I gave up all the rest, actually):

“To be prepared or not prepared, that’s the question”

  • From the thread for the newbies in the NaNo forum NaNo for the New and the Insane -A Guide to Surviving NaNoWriMo(sm) By Lazette Gifford (100 pages).
  • And from a comment about how to prepare for NaNoWriMo in the Norwegian Forum: Write a Novel, a resource created by Crawford Kilian.

Before reading the files I downloaded, I had a character I would like to write about and something that I knew could happen to her. But I had no idea if this would be enough to cover 50,000 words. I thought that I was to start with almost nothing and during the month build the story bit by bit and get to know all the characters that entered the story as well.

That’s exactly what I do.

But then I read two persons writing tips: You must know your character, and you must have a tiny outline at least before 20 of October.

Pshaw. The only “must” in NaNo is you must write 50,000 words in November to claim you have won.

But it was already October 26th.

Ok, so I just read their advice as fast as I could to understand the good idea they had given very freely and enthusiastically. I was turning very nervous because they sounded like real professionals and had truly very high hopes for my or other readers’ performance.
I liked what they wrote, and I will use some of their ideas for preparations and writing after November is over, I hope.

As a result of some of their advice, I tried to write down events that could occur to my main character. And I wrote something that could happen to the others that she is close to, and whose lives will affect hers in some way. But I never did get that far as to have a proper outline or a good understanding of my character.

My outline was very much on small pieces of white paper (I will take a picture for you) that fits into v-card pockets in my tiny binder. The main events are written on color cardboard. I jump between these elements and write what occurs to me.

I call that being very prepared. That kind of preparation is perfectly legal under NaNo Rules, but it’s not at all required.

To be honest, this is what I wound up doing that first weekend in November, when I tossed my first attempt and started over. The planning wasn’t extensive, but I did come up with a basic three-act structure and maybe half-a-dozen events that could get me started. It’s a handy strategy, to be sure.

It is demanding to remember what I have written, and I do a trick: I do not read it! I think that it does not matter if it goes a little bit wrong, because it is written in pieces and the pieces can be moved to new places in the story later when I edit it-right? (I need a secretary or a big wall for my papers!!!)

Exactly. I write scene titles on note cards and rearrange them as needed.

I just felt very little prepared, and a very high bit of nervous about this event!

But now you know you were actually very prepared!

Then, some days before NaNo started, I received the book “No plot, no problem” by Chris Baty and the workbook “Ready Set Novel!” written by NaNo authors. They were a lot more playful about the writing process.

I love Chris’s book! I love re-reading Chris’s book. It’s how I discovered NaNoWriMo.

The workbook I have used like this: Open it in a page at random, read the instructions, do it. It has helped me some. I did not bring these books to Paris, and I actually miss them.

—3— What a feeling!

When I signed up in July I could hear my critic from within loud and clear. I did think “Who do you think you are? Who are you to call yourself a writer? You are not even funny! What do you have to tell anyone? Do you even think anyone would read your scribblings?” and the song goes on. A day after all this bad music in my ears, I said “Stop! want to write a story that I like to read! That’s it. I am going to do it. What are you so afraid of? It is not dangerous!”

I have kept the critic under the carpet or outside in the garden. It wants to come back, but not yet. I do not miss it, but I know I need The Voice Of Criticism later!

It is all about love, love, love.
It actually felt like an old- fashioned crush, but it was a crush on a process. My book is about love, yes, but not like a romantic novel, not yet anyway. It has really been a writing-rush being-in-love kind of thing for me.

And then I felt so tired on Monday November 7th. When I returned to reality and got my head out of this happy fog of mine and the first rush felt over and done with. I did not know how to write or what to write or if any of it was going to be good.

The dreaded Week Two. I blew right through that this year. Huh. Wonder of wonders.

The pep talk mail was really helpful: “Don’t Get It Right, Get It Written!” I decided to write about a nice part of the story and think of how to connect it later. And, swish, by some Hermione wand, I was back in my good writing mood again.

Yes! You can figure out how to connect things later. This is exactly my approach. Just wake up and continue or start a new scene; don’t worry about how it will fit with the others.

My second week’s period of feeling down lasted 2 hours. That was it. But it was a good wake up call to remember that I have to take it all in small bits and pieces even if it is fun. No falling-in-love rush lasts forever, and everybody knows how exhausting it is after a while, but oh so fun!

It makes me want to cry! My Main Character experiences something awful!

In my mind, I make up things to happen, fact. I make things up, fact. When I was awake one morning I was thinking of what things could go wrong, looking for some bad events to make the story exiting and give the Character some trouble to deal with. And suddenly a very sad thing happened, and I cried!


It was like a film in my head, and tears ran down from my wet eyes. I could almost not believe it. Me crying over this?

Uh…I cry all the time when I write. And I laugh, and I get angry. I take it as evidence that what I’m writing is good. I think it’s good to feel whatever emotion your character is feeling. So, good job!

This is strange. I must be very exhausted. (And you know what, I was, yes. I had too much work to do in addition to my storytelling!) But it is interesting that things I like to keep safe in the story turn out to be big-time problems.

This is a good thing. Problems are what stories are all about. It’s what keeps them moving. I often have to consciously throw my characters under the bus (idiom alert) because I tend to be too easy on them, and that makes for a dull story.

I have not written that part yet. I will wait until the last week of NaNo. Then I can cry because the fun is going towards an end, right? I need an excuse to cry over my own words. (Turning red!)

Pshaw! Cry away. I grant you permission. And I guarantee you won’t be alone.

On the plane, I wrote another sad event, and I had to look out on the wing of the plane to think of something else and not start to cry. What strange things happen to those who write! And I also laugh when characters do things I think are funny.

Been there, done that. Crying on planes because I’m reading or writing something sad or moving. I can cry at the drop of a hat (idiom alert).

—4—The self-biographical aspects in the writing process.

It puzzles me that this is so much a personal journey, since I am affected emotionally as well as testing my brains on writing and plotting. Maybe it is because it is the first thing I write?

No, ma’am. This is the journey each and every time. I think if a writer were to outgrow this part of the experience, s/he would stop writing. I would say this is the primary reason writers write. I know it’s why I write.

But the scary people in the book also scare me off! I think I have a strong ability to imagine things, yes! Nothing wrong with me then, thank you, just headstrong tale telling going on!

I am also thinking of the things the subconscious is putting in the text: the abilities the people get to have, the things they dare to do, the things they avoid, the good advice that is coming from a person all the time. (I really should listen to some of this advices myself! They are actually clever things. I do not know where I have found it, or maybe I have been stealing it from a help-yourself book somewhere. Sorry then.)

There’s a great quote which I’ll mangle for you now. I think it comes from Mark Twain. It goes something like, “A good writer remembers everything he hears, but forgets where he heard it.”

Are all this abilities things I would like to have for myself? Are these talents I envy? Is this know-how I want to learn? Or is it just fun to make it up and has nothing to do with my wantings and needs, desires and wishes?

Is the oh-so-very-deep theme going on between the lines in this story something that is about me? My character does not belong anywhere, she socializes as well as it gets, but does not belong. She works hard and still gets nowhere on the ambition ladder because it is not for her.

But of course she has a secret. She does not know it yet, but I do! And that has nothing to do with me, or . . . ?

I have to think of this later, but it is very intriguing and vexing at the same time. I do not want to write a biography about myself! But I want to use the things that touch my feelings because it may touch others as well. What do you NaNoWriMo and writing and reading experts think of this?

You sound like a writer to me!

—5— More to learn and more to do.

I really am enjoying this!


I will do it again.

Double yay!

I am in a new path in my life. I am determined to learn to write good sentences, exciting paragraphs, and deep stories full of feelings and themes. I need to learn the craft. I will learn by doing it, by writing, and I will read books and look at what I like. I will read books and discuss them, and I will write—did I say that already?

It has been falling in love all over again. And I was so exhausted of all this eagerness, feelings of enthusiasm, and my head just going on about things to do for the characters.

It is all about love love love.

I have one word for you, Harriet: Hurray!

I feel the same way.

Categories: Children's writing

5 replies »

  1. Oh, Harriet, you are a most delightful person! I’d love to meet you.

    I’m not a writer at all, but I am an avid reader. Reading about your writing process and growth is most enjoyable. I hope you keep telling us more, because I truly enjoy reading about it. It’s a voyage of self-discovery, it sounds like.

    And Jen, your buttinsky-ness is most enjoyable, as well. I can hear Harriet’s voice (as I imagine it) and your voice (as I know it) as I read along. Together, the two of your make a fun blog!

  2. Thank you very much, Shelly! Your words is like a nice hug given to me ;-D

    I do feel very humble that you enjoy my reports!

    I really trust Jen to make the selections from my text: I told her to take what she ment was doing good on her blog. I do not have any experience of blogging. I like the way she made it whit both our voices.

    I must confess that I am still very – uncertain – about the content. I am quite honest in my writing, and perhaps I should be more careful, since the text will “stay out here in cyberspace” for ever???

    Since Jen put my thoughts and text on display here, and leves remarks about how common this is – some of my experiences anyway – and shares what she has experienced as well with us, I rest assure that I am not going crazy, or beeing bizzar or someone so stupid that “they all laugh” at me…

    Self-esteem and confidens is not plentyful in my garden, so I have to put new seeds in it every spring!

    To dare to show my nano book or other texts to anyone, I thought that I needed to practice in this blog with Jen 😉

    It helps very much that you like it 😉 Thank you.

  3. For the record, I like it, too. That probably goes without saying, but I want to say it anyway.

    I especially love the ESL (English as Second Language) angle, as I know the others here do, too. It illuminates funny things in our language that I take for granted, and you have a way of putting things that might be unconventional but is nonetheless perfect. Part of me doesn’t want you to improve your English because the flaws are so often good.

    I get a similar joy from learning Spanish, but it’s a lot less work for me to just read your English.

  4. Here’s a short segment from your note, Harriet:

    I must confess that I am still very – uncertain – about the content. I am quite honest in my writing, and perhaps I should be more careful, since the text will “stay out here in cyberspace” for ever???

    Please DON’T be more careful! In part, it’s your honesty and openness that are so endearing. We can see *you* in your writing. That’s what keeps me reading!