Fourth Day of Blogmas - My NaNoWriMo


This year, after many years of thinking about it but never actually committing, I decided to do NaNoWriMo. That is, National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you sign up, and then write 50,000 words in the thirty days of November. That could be a finished novel, but for most writers it's a decent chunk to get started editing.

I thought this would be the perfect year, as I'm not working and after a fairly hectic October I thought I had November pretty free. I got a new computer as an early Christmas and Birthday present (9th February, thanks for asking.) so I was all set to go.

It didn't quite go to plan. My sister's partner was away for a large chunk of October, and my mum was making weekly trips to London to help her with her new baby, and that continued into the first two weeks of November, meaning that I was stuck at my mum's helping out her wheelchair-bound husband. No computer to write on, and because she's having major building work done there wasn't even a table to sit at with a notepad and pen. Because of that, I got off to a very slow start with my NaNoWriMo and left myself a mountain to climb in the last two weeks.

But I got there! I managed to write just over 50,000 words, and in true Liam style I finished at 10 pm on the last night, clocking up over 10,000 on the last day alone. It was like being back at University!



My story still needs an ending, a lot of work done on the beginning and big chunks of the middle, and it needs a whole lot of editing. It's currently in a pretty rough first draft. But as a good friend of mine told me, the first draft is just you shovelling a load of sand into a sandpit, so you can build a sandcastle later.

In my story, Mabel has lost her best friend, Genevieve. Genevieve, or Genny, has always been obsessed with gateways to magical worlds, and Mabel manages to find one and goes through it, looking for her to bring her home. Along the way she meets Siobhan and her family, who take her in and look after her for a few days. Eventually she'll end up in an enchanted mansion, which is empty by day, but there's a masquerade ball every night.

One thing that really helped to keep me going when I was starting to struggle is this fabulous aesthetic collage designed for me by Lia at LostInAStory. I gave her a few details about what I was writing and she came back with this, which I think is pretty much perfect. Go check out her excellent blog please. I've ordered myself a print of this through Boots Photo now, and I'll be framing it and putting it on my wall.



There was also a fantastic online community around NaNoWriMo, that gave me a lot of support, particularly on Twitter. Too many people to name, and I'll only forget some of them, but thank you all! You are wonderful! If you think you've got a novel in you but you've never tried to write it, I highly recommend starting during NaNoWriMo, just for the encouragement you get. Whether or not you reach the 50,000 word target, just starting is a huge achievement.

I'd like to share an excerpt of my story with you. It's just a first draft, so there may well still be mistakes in there still. This is the first time I've shown anyone what I've been working on, so any (kind) feedback would be great. This is Siobhan telling her two children and Mabel a bedtime story.




Come in and listen, if you like,” Siobhan calls out to me. The children are squeezed into a narrow bed together, under a window with purple wisteria flowers hanging down across it. Siobhan is sitting on the end of the bed, and there are no chairs, so I sit with my back to the wardrobe and listen while she tells a story to the children. “Right, since we have a guest with us tonight, I’ll tell you the story of Queen Mab of the Fairies.”

Is everyone comfortable?” she asks. We all assure her that we are, while Conor wriggles his way further under the blankets. “Alright then. Queen Mab was a fairy, in fact she was the midwife to the fairies.”
What’s a miffwife?” Conor asks.
A midwife is the person who helps mummies to have babies, dear.” Siobhan explains. “She’s usually a very clever woman, who knows a lot about medicines and how to help people.”
Like a witch?” Elspeth pipes up.
Well, not unlike a witch, petal. Many witches also practice a bit of midwifery, but not all witches are midwives and not all midwives are witches. But one thing that they both have in common is that they see a lot of life and a lot of death. Midwives are there at the start of life, and all too often they are also there at the end of it.”
Like” Elspeth starts, but Siobhan quickly interrupts her.
Yes, love. Now can I get on with the story?” she says kindly, and I wonder if there was a third child at some point in their past.
Now like all of the fairy folk, Queen Mab was tiny. In fact she was no bigger than a little agate stone. She was beautiful though, as all of the fairies are, and very proud of her beauty too, so they say. She had a little wagon she used to ride around in, pulled by a team little atomies.”
What’s a tommy?” Conor asks.
An atomie is a really small thing that pulls fairy coaches, love.” Siobhan explains. This seems to satisfy him, though there’s a look of puzzlement on Elspeth’s face. Siobhan quickly moves on. She had a little insect to drive her wagon, a gnat, all dressed up in a grey frock coat and a top hat, and the collars on the atomies were made of pure moonbeams.”
How did they work?” Elspeth asked, making me smile. She’s inquisitive, she’ll go far, I think to myself.
They worked very well, dear.” Siobhan tells her, a little brusquely.
What was her wagon made of?” She asks.
Well, it was made of an empty hazelnut, by a squirrel. Squirrels have always been responsible for making fairy chariots, for as long as anyone can remember.”
I found one.” Conor adds. “Last autumn, daddy and me, we were walking in the trees and I found a nut with a big hole through it.”
Very good, Conor. That was probably an old fairy chariot then.”
But” Elspeth starts.
Yes?” her mother asks her, sharply.
Never mind,” she says, and settles back down in the bed.
Good.” Siobhan says, happily, and rearranges herself on the bed.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes. Queen Mab wasn’t just the fairies’ midwife. She was also responsible for bringing dreams to sleeping people. She’d ride across their faces while they slept, and they’d end up having the most wonderful dreams. Or if she didn’t like them, maybe she’d bring them nightmares. There was one little town she liked to visit every night, and she’d ride her little wagon through every bedroom in the town.”
“What town was it?” Elspeth idly asks.
Goatham, it was Goatham, dear.”
The one down the road?”
Yes, Elspeth, that one. Can I continue?”
“Yeah,” she says, playing with her hair. I have to try hard to stifle my laugh, getting me a look from Siobhan.
So Queen Mab used to love riding her wagon around Goatham, and she’d bring different dreams to all of the people there. There was a priest there, in those days. He wasn’t a popular man, it was one of the rules of the town that people had to give the church a tenth of whatever they produced, and people generally weren’t happy about that. He’d been given a young suckling pig one day.”
“I thought they had goats in Goatham. Isn’t that how it got its name?”
Ellie!”
Sorry, mummy.”
He’d been given a little suckling tithe pig. Queen Mab used that pig’s tail to tickle the priest under the nose as he slept. Night after night he dreamed of a different parish, in a different town, until eventually he decided to follow his dreams and he moved away. He left his church empty, and all the people of the town were mightily pleased about that, and they all decided not to advertise for another priest. There was a young woman lived in that town, a really beautiful girl no more than sixteen. When Mab rode her chariot over her forehead she dreamed of love and kisses. She’d once kissed a young soldier, a handsome young man who was stationed in an army camp just outside of a town, and mostly it was him she dreamt of kissing and loving. Not always, for she was still young, but mostly.

But Queen Mab, she had a taste for mischief. She knew that the girl wasn’t just dreaming about her soldier, so Mab also drove over the forehead of a young goatherd who slept on the hills just outside of the town.”
“See!” Elspeth sits up and exclaims. “Goats.”
Yes, dear. Though it’s quite possible for a whole town to have both goats and pigs. Or have you forgotten how many animals we have in our own backyard? This goatherd also dreamt of love. In fact, he dreamt of kissing the very girl I’ve just told you about. He’d seen her when he’d been in town, and he thought that she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. One night he woke up in the middle of the dream, and he knew that he had to make it come true. He left his goats alone on the hillside, and he walked down to the town, to the young girl’s house. She woke up then too, and looking out of her bedroom window she saw the young goatherd who’d come to see her, and she fell in love with him there and then. She ran down to open the door for him, and they kissed each other, just like in their dreams. He didn’t stay long, for her parents were in their beds and there would have been strong words had, and probably more, if her father had caught him. But after that the young girl would often take herself walking up in the hills, and she’d often happen upon the goatherd while she was there, and they spent many a happy hour together up there with no one to see them but his goats.

Queen Mab didn’t just bring dreams of love though. She liked to visit the army camp while they all slept, and she’d drive over their necks and they’d dream violent, bloody dreams. They’d dream of marching victorious over battlefields, over their slain enemies. They’d dream of winning sword fights against enemy generals. Their dreams were dreamt to the sound of war drums banging in their ears, which would wake them up in the cool night of the camp. They’d curse Queen Mab, or say a prayer to her, and fall asleep again, back into her dreams. Mab knew the soldier that the girl had dreamt of, and she would ride her wagon over his chest. He’d dream of her, but in his dreams she was in someone else’s arms, sharing kisses with another man. His dreams made him jealous and angry. One day, after a restless night, he went looking for her. He found her with her goatherd, in a lonely valley, and he took his sword and he killed the goatherd. Then he demanded that the girl gave him kisses instead.”
Did she?” Elspeth asks, intrigued.
No, of course she didn’t. She was heartbroken at the death of her love. She ran back to town and told her father everything that had happened. Her father went to the boy’s captain, and the soldier boy was punished. He was whipped soundly and thrown out of his regiment. He had no work, no money, and ended up walking from town to town begging for food.”
What happened to the girl?” Elspeth asks, yawning. “Did she fall in love again?”
No, she never did. She went off into the hills and looked after her love’s herd of goats. He had a little cottage tucked away in that lonely valley, that’s where she buried his body and that’s where she lived.”
Wasn’t she lonely?”

Only for a little while. Nine months later she had a little baby. She raised her son on her own, named him after her lost love, and as he grew up he learnt how to care for the goats with her. And the best thing about living together in that little cottage in that lonely valley is that Queen Mab never found her, and never plagued her dreams again.”




thanks
Liam

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