nano validated


Finished november at 52,028 words. I validated as soon as it was available, on the 20th or 21st, I can’t remember.

Since I got to 50k, I’ve been adding 50-100 words a day, just to keep the 30-day streak going. I was skyping with Car the other day and she asked me how nano was going. “Or did you finish 2 weeks ago?” she joked, although she probably guessed I was done. Well, yes. I finished 2 weeks ago. The chart becomes meaningless once I hit 50k.

nano day 15 | 50213 words total


1640 words | 50213 total

I was out all day, lunch with King’s friends, setting up stuff at the flat for visitors, and meeting mm for drinks and walking around a department store that was having a sale. Home, showered and it was 10.30pm. So the dilemma was, write a few words so I won’t miss a day, or push on to finish.

Obviously, I ended up getting enough words to hit 50k. Yay!!! Finish on day 15 means my average goes from day 16 to day 15. It’s a meaningless statistic and is neither here nor there.

There are some discrepancies with wordcount, depending on tool. Scrivener is the most generous, which is the most dangerous because it made me think I’d reach 50k when I hadn’t. On the nanosite it showed 49k so I had to add a few hundred words to make sure I hit 50k. That’s always been the risk, it was never a good idea to stop at 50000. So, out of the various programs:

  • word: 50211
  • nanosite: 50213
  • google docs: 50236
  • scrivener: 50312

Like whether I average day 15 or day 16 finish, these are meaningless stats and neither here nor there.

There’s this badge for updating wordcount for 30 days, so I’ll add a few sentences a day to keep it ticking till day 30. The story itself is around half done. I was looking at the outline and there were good ideas that I skipped in earlier chapters. If I ever edit it, that’s an opportunity to add more interesting parts.

But to all intents and purposes, it’s another successful nano year.

nano day 13 | 44440 words total


4053 words | 44440 total

I was home all day, and I didn’t have to do a lot of cooking so there was time for nano and reading.

Steady progress throughout the day, with only one jarring incident. I caught myself writing your when I meant you’re. This is serious, because I never used to make this type of mistake. It’s only seeing way, way too many people misuse these two words that now my brain is fried and I’m getting confused myself.

[Yes, I edit somewhat during nano, mostly for typos. And my sentences are properly capitalised. I write I’ll instead of I will. I’ll type people’s full names out sometimes, and add I said instead of leaving it out to bolster wordcount.]

Someone posted on one of the nano forum threads (which I thought I saved but can’t find) that they love their story but not their writing. I’m not sure if they mean they’re not writing well or they think they’re not writing well. A lot of writers suffer from imposter syndrome. Anyway, that was how I was feeling a few chapters ago, that the story had potential, but I wasn’t doing it justice. Too much backstory, nothing much was happening, the characters weren’t interacting. The feeling disappeared soon, because guess what, it’s nano. In november, only wordcount matters.

nano day 12 | 40387 words total


4186 words | 40387 total

I’m at 40k. That’s always a good feeling. It’s like I’m driving home on the motorway and the first time the signs say “London” it’s a feeling that I’m closer to home, even though it can be over 100 miles away. Get to 40k and 50k is only a few days away.

The second sunday of november is also remembrance sunday. Regardless of how anyone feel about wearing the poppy or not wearing it, we must all take a moment to remember the war dead and thank our armed forces. And it’s now time to listen to I Vow to Thee My Country.

The second sunday of nano is traditionally when I do a massive backup of the novel. Every day I backup the scrivener file to dropbox and a flashdrive. I also copy to word and google docs; the word file also gets backed up to dropbox and the flashdrive. On massive backup day, all the files get backed up as usual plus to the time machine and 2 external hard disks.

nano day 11 | 36201 words total


4625 words | 36201 total

I have no idea what day of the week it is. I wake up in the morning and one of my first thoughts is to figure that out. Every day is the same. Weekdays there’s masterchef, weekends there’s strictly, that’s the extent of how I keep track.

Home all day, and not quite as distracted. Soft target was to get to 35k, reaching 36k is a happy bonus.

I have a new buddies on the nanosite this year, and there’s a publisher’s group on fb doing nano too. I keep forgetting to check in with them. So happy to see so many people reporting their wordcounts and making great progress. I’m probably a little ahead of some people, but it’s not a competition. I have to remember to participate in that group more.

nano day 10 | 31576 words total


2522 words | 31576 total

There are days when writing is difficult because of external influences and strains. Today was one of those days. I had wanted to go run some errands then meet the family for dinner. Somehow that didn’t happen and I was forced to make the decision to stay at home all afternoon. In theory that meant more time for nano but in practice I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.

Still, I managed to eke out 2500 words.


Anyway, it’s my niece’s birthday and we met for dinner at La Crèperie. I had a galette with ham, cheese and egg and shared a sweet galette with her. Independently we both came up with our choice–vanilla ice cream and salted caramel. Sis, Rob and I also shared a bottle of wine and another bottle of cidre. The cidre was very sweet, at 2.4% alcohol tasted more of apple juice.

nano day 09 | 29054 words total


4046 words | 29054 total

Yay, a 4000 word day. I was home all day, and mostly on my own so I didn’t have a lot of distractions. Spent a lot of time reading, but spaced it out so it was a reward for reaching certain milestones. Got to 28k before dinner and the usual 1000 words after dinner, shower and masterchef.

I was hoping it wouldn’t flare up, but it did. My wrist. Sigh. I just moved it up and down and it cracked like fireworks. Wrist brace for the rest of the night and when sleeping tonight. Necessary evil.

nano day 08 | 25008 words total


2715 words | 25008 total

Met up with mm in the afternoon and evening, drove out to the beach with free parking and sat at a bench taking in the sea air. She had some work to do so she took her mb, I brought my ipad and read, having failed in getting scrivener to sync. Dinner near her place, fish and noodles. She drove me to my flat to check the mailbox and to drop some stuff there. I got home, showered and it was 10pm. Instead of relaxing, I spent 2hrs writing.

Because I wanted to get to 25k today.

Halfway on day 8 projects to finishing on day 16. Off the top of my head my average is around 15, 16 days so I’m bang on target.

nano day 07 | 22293 words total


2113 words | 22293 total

I met sis for lunch and we went shopping for gifts in the afternoon, followed by a quick happy hour. I got home just after 5pm and was sooooo tired. I just sat at my desk and I had no energy to do anything. Eventually I napped for 10 mins.

Didn’t have a chance to write in the morning, so today’s nano was just under 2hrs before bed. I was determined to get at least my target minimum of 2000 words. Finished chapter 4, and our MCs still have not interacted. Definitely in chapter 5, I promise.

nano day 06 | 20180 words total


4057 words | 20180 total

This accurately describes my november: eat, sleep, read, write. Repeat, lather and rinse. We ate mostly leftovers since I went overboard with cooking late last week. I’m not sleeping well, but I never do. I sneak reading time and give myself proper reading time when I reach a milestone. And I write towards soft targets, the only hard target is 50k by the 30th. I’m not bothered by the exact day I get to 50k, although I’m sure I’ll do a little analysis like I do every year.

Since I stayed home all day, I was confident of reaching 20k. Not a lot of distractions aside from reading. Got to 19k before dinner, then finished off the remainder 1k in less than an hour after masterchef and shower. 40% in, and the MCs are finally in the same room. I’m thinking, they may get to speak to each other or at least have some interaction within the next few scenes.

nano day 05 | 16123 words total


2306 words | 16123 total

It’s Guy Fawkes’ Night. But no fireworks here. It’s sunday though, and I was out with mm all day. We had a leisurely late lunch at a new korean place near me. Then we drove out all the way to this fishing village that is supposed to have a good view of sunset. Without consulting each other, we both brought some whisky to share. She brought the macallan that we’ve had for years and years and I brought a hipflask filled with dalwhinnie. She even brought glasses! We didn’t have a lot, probably half a dram each. The weather was good, we could sit by the shore and it wasn’t too hot. We even got talking to a guy who had set up 2 tripods to take time lapse pictures of the sunset. Early sunset, the sun started turning orange at around 5pm.

Drove to another town for dinner, one of those hawker centre hot pot places. Lots of customers meant decent food. Soft drinks included, I had my fill of cream soda.

I managed to get to 15k this morning, before mm arrived. Not a lot of time left to write at night, just an hour or so. Quite pleased to get another thousand words.

nano day 04 | 13817 words total


3630 words | 13817 total

The first saturday of november is double up donation day and the idea is to double wordcount target and donate to the cause. The goal is US$125k 175k and 125 million words in 24 hours. Donate $25 and receive $50 donor gifts. I’m never bothered about the gifts, it’s the donation that matters, though having a halo is cute.

I also didn’t double up my wordcount. I was distracted. I got too involved in reading in the afternoon. I did get to 13k before dinner then after dinner I was flipping channels and there was Strictly.

This was week 5 which was originally shown in the UK 2 weeks ago. The most important bit of the entire episode wasn’t any of the celebs dancing, but Craig impersonating Bruno. I’ll take multiple clones of Craig over Bruno any day. There were still 12 contestants so the ep was long (we get both regular and results show at the same time). By the time I finished watching, showered and got back to my room it was 10pm.

Managed around 800 words. Yes, I can push on for another hour or so to get to 15k but why the unnecessary stress. On to chapter 3 now, a tiny step towards advancing the story.

Overall, didn’t double up my wordcount; 3630 words is okay.

nano day 03 | 10187 words total


3007 words | 10187 total

I had to go to the market and supermarket so lost a few hours during the afternoon. The soft target today was definitely 10k, and here I am on target on day 3. I’m still on chapter 2 and pretty much still backstory. Not filler, it’s just taking its time getting to the beginning of the core of the story. I had a rough outline of 15 timeline items that would take us to around the halfway point and I’m on item 3. Today’s research learning experience is about personal injury and how insurance companies try to get out of paying compensation to the victims. They seem to be particularly uncooperative compared with travel insurance, health insurance or home insurance claims.

9.30pm finish again, I’m not stress at all. I was skyping with Car this morning and I said one of these days it’ll be november and I’ll be like, “Why am I doing this again?” Will I ever get bored of nano? Will I get to 2025 and say, hey it’s year 20, time to hang up my boots. At this point, it’s very simply something that I do. It’s like when you get on a bus you pay the fare. Well, it’s more seasonal that that, it’s more like it’s Christmas so buy presents, order turkey, carols & mince pies at the yacht club on Christmas Eve.

nano day 02 | 7180 total


3812 words | 7180 total

Uneventful day. I made lunch, wrote a bit, hit 5000 and gave myself a small reward of reading. Reached 6300 by the time I had to go make dinner and got the rest in by 9.30pm. At this early stage, I’m introducing characters left, right and centre. I’m using a combination of scrivener’s name generator and behind the name‘s random name generator which helpfully gives basic stats and life story. This year’s nano takes place in a pretty homogeneous suburb, so I’m sticking with simple westernised names.

Update nano site, update website, save, back up, done. Reading time.

The only eventful event that happened today was I roasted some chestnuts and was unsuccessful in getting them out of the shells. I have no idea why. When I cracked the shell, the nut would break in two and I had to use a spoon to get the flesh out. So now instead of the expected whole chestnuts I have a container of chestnut breadcrumbs. I was going to use them in a stew but now I either have to make soup (I saw recipes for carrot & chestnut and cauliflower & chestnut soup) or a dessert or use as ice cream topping. I guess it’s not a huge disaster.

nano day 01 | 3368 words

3368 words

I was still up at midnight so I got 300-odd words in as a headstart. Title, synopsis and prologue.

Went about my usual morning routine, started writing in the afternoon. Progress was very slow but steady. Target was 2000 by dinner and I got to 2300. Watched masterchef australia and added another 1000 words. Saved and backed up. I’m off to read, not going to stress about getting to, say, 5000.

This video of a logging truck making a sharp 90-degree turn from a narrow road (more like a path) onto a tiny bridge was making the rounds today on digg and boingboing. The driver was so skilled and I bet this isn’t the first time. It also illustrates tangents. Note how when the truck was in the middle of the turning circle around the one-minute mark, the logs are actually on the curve and not the bridge. The position of the logs at 1:12 is the tangent of the corner. Good thing the bridge has low walls, if they were higher than the clearance underneath the logs, the turn would have been so much more difficult.



Less than an hour to go till november, and since I was out at dinner and just got home, I’m not in sleeping mode yet. May be I’ll stay up till midnight and make a start on nano.

I was reading an article on fastcompany about the non-profit Charity:Water that successfully raised US$260 million since 2006 using storytelling techniques. There are 2 charitable causes close to my heart. One is clean water in developing countries, I support folia water’s low cost paper water filter that provides one week of safe water for only 50 cents. The other is the star foundation that specialises in giving people with disabilities real life opportunities, like their award-winning restaurant where people with disabilities are chefs and wait staff.

Anyway, back to Charity:Water, their emphasis on storytelling seems fitting for the day before nano. They shared their 5 key lessons for success and I think it applies to fiction storytelling too

  1. good stories have more faces than facts — a non-profit may tell the story of how they helped one specific person or family, which will resonate with potential donors; in writing, strong, believable and relevant characters are essential to the success of a story
  2. good stores spark memories — non-profits try to make connections between donors and recipients; in writing locations, events, and personalities are useful tools to draw the reader in
  3. good stories combine head and heart — Charity:Water publishes success stories, like how clean water in Nepal reduced diahorrea cases from 6433 to 182 in four years; in writing I think the technique is show vs tell and using narration vs dialogue
  4. good stories give context — here’s where good research and a rich backstory comes in
  5. good stories empower people to take action — I guess this is more important with a non-profit than writing a book, but there is a similar idea, a good story will inspire readers no matter it is to support the author or make changes in their own lives

nano prep


Finally outlined this year’s nano. Tentative title is Running Tangents or may be Run the Line which gives me one extra word. In geometry, a tangent is a straight line that touches a point on a curve or a circle, but does not cross it. In races, a tangent is the line that touches the inside of a curve and is the shortest distance around that curve; in big races it’s marked by an actual physical line on the road. But in life, it’s almost never possible to take the shortest or easiest route. This story is centred on two MCs who were forced into each other’s lives when one ran over the other in a car accident. A radical punishment by the judge pushes them into constant contact. It’s about redemption but is also about forgiveness too.

I’m not sure I’ve fleshed it out sufficiently to carry through to 50k; I need more side characters and events other than physiotherapy, training and races. Anyway, there are tried and tested nano tricks and I trolled the dares thread:

  • one of your characters is really protective about their hair and is deeply offended / outraged at anyone mocking it
    BP: They have a really weird / unusual hair style (e.g. Extremely long hair, Pompadour, has thousands of curls [Even the curls have curls!], has a gigantic bow tied in it, Is very spiky, etc)
  • have your characters visit a train station (Either travelling somewhere or for other reasons.). Describe the train station in detail and some of the random travellers that pass by.
  • your group of characters now have a team pet / mascot
  • the next chapter you write is completely filler. It cannot advance the plot in any shape or form
    BP: the Filler Chapter is never referenced again within your novel
    DBP: if a minor character was introduced in said Filler Chapter, when / if they show up later in the novel, no one knows who they are and threaten to call the police if they don’t leave them alone!
  • your characters have gotten lost. Start the next chapter you write, in a completely new and unrelated location from the end of the previous one
  • reference every previous nano story you’ve written
    BP: work the verbatim titles of every previous nano into your story in a logical, coherent way
    DBP: include a cameo appearance of at least one character from every previous story
    Super Bonus Bragging Rights: this means 12 previous stories and characters
  • have a character who is addicted to their cell phone.
    BP: if their phone addiction forwards the plot
  • your character(s) explore an abandoned building
    BP: they find something important/of value
    DBP: they hadn’t realized they needed this object until they found it
    TBP: they’d never been in the building before, and/or had no reason to be in it
  • include the following line: “The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity”
  • use “hedgehog” in an insult
  • include a chicken, duck and a penguin in your novel
  • a character’s house is haunted
    BP: f the ghost leaves random messages around the house
    DBP: if those messages are things like “You’re out of milk.”

Next step in prep, start the scrivener file and update the excel template. Funny thing, I shared on fb that I have an excel template for keeping track of wordcount during nano and it plots pretty charts too. Something like 20 people responded that they’d like a copy. Some of them are published authors too! I’m usually flabbergasted when I get more than 3-4 of reactions to my fb posts, it’s not like I’m popular or anything.

I’ve been using this report card for so long, when someone thanked me for the effort of making it, I realised I had to clarify that it isn’t mine. Someone shared it on the nano forums and I made some changes–took out some features that I didn’t use and added a sheet to keep track of number of words by chapter. I guess I’ve made it mine over the years.


At first I thought that it’s been around since 2009 and in those days nano wasn’t that well known and mostly only geeks knew about it. I searched through my mba folders and found an earlier version from 2005. I think they had it in 2004 already, but I was a) so late; and b) so new that year I may have missed it.


Wow, 2005. Talk about longevity. I still love the simple progress chart. This was from last year, which bucked the recent norm because I kept on adding a few words every day even after I reached 50k. The novel’s not finished. Some time around 2008 I realised it wasn’t necessary to finish a novel at 50k words. Out of 12: 4 finished, 1 finished but half lost due to flashdrive accident, 7 in progress (aka stopped at 50k mark).

nano blank


I’m enjoying reading the Deverry novels so much I haven’t done much of anything. And there’s only 2 weeks to go till nano. I haven’t outlined anything. I haven’t even decided in which country the novel will take place, let alone city. No idea about the names of the MCs, their backstories, even which race they will be entering.

This is a dire situation. I must not let things fester and go neglected.

nano prep


It’s October, which means time to plan for nano. The website and forum are open and this year’s images available for download.

First up, the easy part, updating the spreadsheet. Change dates and clear data, took 5mins. Everything else calculates automatically, including the charts.

Next, the hard part, deciding on what to write. Nothing special stands out so far, there are 3 contenders:

  1. Running accident
  2. There was an article about a marathon runner who was hit by a car while riding his bike and then one year later, running a half marathon with the driver who hit him and the doctor who treated him. There was also an AMA from cyclist who forgave the driver who paralysed him in a bike accident.

    I’ve had a similar idea mulling for a few years, about a similar circumstance and the driver being forced by a judge to train and run a race with the victim. It’ll be about redemption on the part of the driver and forgiveness on the part of the victim, which is tougher.

  3. Impact of social media on small business
  4. Imagine a small restaurant or shop that suddenly gets famous whether it was positive after inventing an instagram sensation bakery product or negative after going off on a famous celebrity chef. The additional publicity, needing to re-train staff, possibly even a tv crew camped on your doorstep. The conflicts and challenges faced both professionally and on a personal/relationship level is worth at least 50k words.

    This can be part of the Party Planner series. #1 (nano2014) was about the OPs meeting, #2 (nano2005) was about planning the restaurant so this one can be #3.

  5. Spotter
  6. I probably need to read a few more dystopian books before tackling this one. I know what I want, and I practice spotting while out and about myself so one of these days it will get written.

I can’t decide between 1 or 2. May be I’ll go for 1 because it seems to be more fleshed out. I’ll give myself a few days, then start mindmapping.

two contests

A couple of contest winners, can’t be more different.

National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year

I can’t get into the natgo website, but the Atlantic has a great gallery. I’m also including the photographers’ captions.

© Sergio Tapiro Velasco, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

The Power of Nature – Grand Prize and 1st Prize Nature Category. Powerful eruption of Colima Volcano in Mexico on December 13th, 2015. That night, the weather was dry and cold, friction of ash particles generated a big lightning rod of about 600 meters that connected ash and volcano, illuminating the dark scene. In last part of 2015, this volcano showed a lot of eruptive activity with ash explosions that raised 2-3 km above the crater. Most of the night explosions produced incandescent rock falls and lightning not bigger than 100 meters in average.

Or as kottke called it, Mount Doom.

A couple of others caught my eye.

© Yutaka Takafuji, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

Forest of the Fairy – Honorable mention, Nature. This photograph was taken in the evening hours of a humid early summer day in the forest of a small remote village in the Tamba area of Japan. It beautifully captures the magical atmosphere of princess fireflies carpeting a stairway leading to a small shrine revered by the local people.

I love this, dream-like and surreal.

© Moin Ahmed, National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest 2017

The Man’s Stare – Honorable mention, People. The photo was taken on July 23rd 2016 at Tongi Railway Station in Gazipur, Bangladesh. I was there taking photos and waiting for a moment. A train from Dhaka toward another district stopped at the platform for 5 minutes for lifting passengers. It was raining a lot. Suddenly I found a pair of curious eyes looking at me through the window and on his left an umbrella has been put to protect from the rain. I got the moment.

This is almost like a painting.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

This is for the WORST opening sentence. Not in a real novel, but participants try to write the worst opening line. Kat Russo was the winner for:

The elven city of Losstii faced towering sea cliffs and abutted rolling hills that in the summer were covered with blankets of flowers and in the winter were covered with blankets, because the elves wanted to keep the flowers warm and didn’t know much at all about gardening.

Pam Tallmann, in the Crime/Detective category:

As hard-boiled detective Max Baxter ate his soft-boiled egg, he thought about the gorgeous dame he’d found last night lying in a pool of her own blood—it being inconvenient to lie in a pool of someone else’s blood—and wondered how she liked her eggs.

They even have a Purple Prose category. Tyson Canale won with:

A sweaty Hector threw off his shirt, passion burning, skin glistening, his deodorant congealed to little chunks ensnared among the matted jungle of his armpits like so many crumbles of pungent blue cheese over a bed of sprouts, moistened with a dressing of perspiration, and lustily asked, “Are you as hungry as I am?” to the confused busboy.

nano 2016 validated


Validation started. Scrivener says I’m at 50819 but the validator says 50727. That’s almost 100 words, not sure why such a huge discrepancy. No big deal. Green bar turned to purple bar, yay.

I’ve been adding 100 or so words a day and will do so until the 30th. I hope that when I come back and edit this one I can do better than have the characters constantly going to restaurants and have talking heads conversation.

I’ll wait till next year to activate my evernote upgrade. Disappointed that there’s no sponsor offer for Scrivener app, apparently they can’t use coupons or discount codes on the app store. Frustrating. Their price doesn’t make sense, you have to pay for different platforms so someone with a pc, a mac and an iphone will have to pay 3 times.

nano day 16 | 3306 words 50131 total


Done. Another nano. Yay. Took me less than 2hrs to get the final 3000-ish words to get to 50k.

I’ll probably continue writing small amounts up to the end of the month, to earn that update wordcount every day badge. I think after this, I’ll put this story to one side even though it’s far from finished. Probably only half done. The premise was good, the interactions between the characters was good but the execution or progression of the mystery wasn’t that good. I got more interested in the people than the mystery. Ah well. That’s the point of nano, to get a novel started. Hopefully it gets finished one day, I’d like to seek some help and bounce around some ideas with other people.

Validation starts on the 20th I think. Another purple bar. Yay.

nano day 15 | 3468 words 46825 total


Had some bank errands to run, then went to the market. Writing was done between 8-10pm. I’m getting a bit bored with the mystery. I have an idea of the outcome and now I have to lay red herrings and explore various people’s motives and action before I can go to the big reveal. We have a couple of suspects and a couple of missing people. I’m not convinced the suspects are suspects. They are not all aboveboard, but are they directly responsible for the friend’s disappearance? May be I should take the MCs in a different direction. The mystery is nowhere near close to being wrapped up.

The good news is, I’m at 46k. One, max two more days to go. So here comes the dilemma I face every year. Do I stop at 50k or do I continue with the story. Grr, I know what will happen. I’m disappointed at myself already.

nano day 14 | 3070 words 43357 total


Went with mum to the clinic in the afternoon and ended up having shabu shabu dinner. This was an ayce place and we could choose soup base and quality of beef. Usually with mum or mm I pick the second cheapest option, which comes with freeflow soft drinks. I splashed out today and picked the third cheapest option, of Australian beef. It turned out to be a great choice, the meat was tender and not fatty. The kind waitress gave us lean meat when we said we prefer it over fatty meat. She seemed surprise that I keep thanking her whenever she came to clear our plates or give us extra meat. Are manners that lacking in our society? Anyway another benefit was freefow Asahi in additional to soft drinks. May be this third cheapest is an option for next time I go with mm.

Wrote a little after lunch before we went out but the bulk of today’s writing was done after we got home from dinner. Wanted to get 3000 words for the day. The MCs are enjoying their alone time too much but I made one of the suspects call them up and arrange a meeting, so more to come and we can get back on track with the mystery in the next chapter.

Wrist update: under control. Foam rollering and wearing the brace to bed are effective remedies.

nano day 13 | 4072 words 40287 total


Target of 40k this weekend reached. More about machine learning, and description of MC1’s home. I didn’t go overboard with the description, one paragraph per room. There’s quite a lot more of the story to write about, especially about the mystery which has gotten neglected.

Non-nano stuff, themes from today’s readings and gospel were apt for these troubling times. We had a father visiting from Italy and he told us: for those who despair and there seems to be no hope, the sun is coming. There will be good shepherds to lead us. The gospel warns us that there will be people who come in Jesus’ name who will deceive and persecute and hate us, but we are not to despair:

by your perseverance you will secure your lives

It’s also Remembrance Sunday. I didn’t see any place that sold poppies this year (some people say m&s but I didn’t see it). Anyway, I guess it’s what is in our hearts. I kept listening to this moving I Vow to Thee My Country, from the festival of remembrance at the Albert Hall a few years ago. It’s a hymn I know very well, we sang it often at school.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

nano day 12 | 5002 words 36215 total

5002 36215


When I woke up this morning I had no motivation to carry on the story. Not that I was out of ideas, I just didn’t feel like it. The trick was to skip the section that was coming up, which I didn’t want to write about, and then onto the sections after that. That worked. It’s only 9pm, I could have pushed further but I’ll leave it till tomorrow. Another 5k Saturday, there’s a chance I can get to 40k tomorrow.

Most of the last 2000 words were filler. MC2 runs a startup that has a product in the internet-of-things / machine learning field. I was doing research on machine learning. (Yes, yes, I know no research during nano.) So fascinating. Sigh, what if I had taken computer science at school? I would have loved to know more about machine learning, neural nets and artificial intelligence. The famous google alphago algorithm that beat a professional go player, self-driving cars, the machine that raced a journalist to write a short financial news report, even the basic teach a robot to pick up pieces of legos, all examples of machine learning.

This is a great video of ten must see machine learning products.

nano day 11 | 154 words 30213 total


Office day, busy and didn’t get much chance to do personal stuff. Met mm for happy hour and dinner, so was home late.

Wrote a couple of sentences. Added a couple more sentences after getting home. It’s fine, I expected few words on an office day. I may not be able to get to 40k by Sunday, it’s also fine.

Had some time to do a little research today on machine learning. MC2’s startup is related to that. Fascinating topic. Don’t understand the technology or how the algorithms work, the concept alone is worth finding out more.

nano day 10 | 2682 words 31059 total


My niece’s birthday today, so we have dinner plans. I wanted to go out earlier to find a book for her, I already have her birthday presents, the book is an addition.

Nice dinner at a great burger restaurant. The adults shared a bottle of wine and everyone tucked into the starters and burgers. Mum and I had lamb, sis had cheeseburger, gis had bacon cheeseburger and Rob had beetroot burger. I told the server it’s my niece’s birthday and they gave us dessert on the house.

I worked hard to get to 30k words before going out. Too tired after coming home to add to it significantly. This is the part of the story that delves deeper into the MCs’ lives and secrets. Will they accept each other’s secrets or will the secrets drive a wedge through them? evil laugh

nano day 09 | 3260 words 28377 total


I woke up and found a livestream to watch the US election. Watched in horror as the results started coming in. It got too much, I had to go out to the park for a walk (and pokehunt). Coming home it was even worse. I tried to stay watching until I couldn’t take it anymore. First Brexit, then China meddling with our indepedent judiciary system, then this Trump. I feel like there’s nowhere to run away to.

I had no motivation to continue with nano. Then when I started I found it cathartic and somehow incorporated today’s dismal news into the story. Dark elements rear their heads. It wasn’t just the MCs’ missing friend, it was something bigger that involved organisations in other parts of the world that were up to no good. Terrorists, arms dealers, the alt-right in America that has declared war on their neighbours at home.

Target wsa 28k. I’ll be busy tomorrow and Friday but no plans at the weekend. Hopefully I can get to 40k by the end of Sunday.

When I updated wordcount on the nanosite, I saw that I’d gone over 600k lifetime nanowords. One tiny thing to smile about.

nano day 08 | 3012 words 25117 total


Went grocery shopping but detoured to the small park I used to do short runs, apparently it’s a charmander nest. I managed to catch 6 or 7 within half an hour; a couple ran away. Then it was as if they were taking a break and none appeared for the next half hour, so I went off to the market. Got home around 4pm. Was distracted by the NYT’s opening up access for free until Wednesday. Lots of articles to read.

Target was 25k. Just managed to get to 23k before dinner and added the usual 2k before bed. Getting to the halfway point on day 8 is right on schedule. Also right on schedule is pain in my left wrist. I wore the brace to bed last night, it looks like a bout of serious rollering before bed is needed.

This next chapter isn’t finished. I’m focusing more on the various characters’ secrets which get revealed as part of the investigation. Ultimately, whether the main mystery is as important remains to be seen.

nano day 07 | 3557 words 22096 total


No plans today. I should go grocery shopping, may be tomorrow. I also sorted out more bank stuff, online access is so convenient. Basically a lazy day that if I weren’t in the middle of nano, would have been spent reading.

Target was between 21.5k and 22k, so that I can aim at 25k tomorrow. I got to 20k before dinner and now I’m at 22k. I find I’m writing almost a chapter a day. In this next one, the MCs finally do some work investigating the mystery. All I can say is, oftentimes it’s the staff and domestic servants that provide the most information and insight. Oh, and bring cakes and pastries.

nano day 06 | 3350 words 18539 total


Homily today was about living in the present and not dwelling on the past which has…passed and not thinking all the time about the future that we have no idea what will bring us. Make the best of the current moment because that’s what we can control.

There was a lot on tv for a change. 5 episodes of TAR Canada, which I’d never seen before. Then Harry Potter 1 and 2. Argh. No time for nano. I watched the TARCANs and gave up on the HPs.

Target today was 18k total. The MCs are spending too much time hanging out with each other, going on weekend outings and sitting at outdoor cafés watching an elderly fisherman hauling crab pots. Not doing much work on solving the mystery of their missing friend. But hey, another chapter finished.

nano day 05 | 5163 words 15189 total


Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

Happy Guy Fawkes’ Night! Nothing is happening here but I always remember bonfire night even when I’m not in the UK.

Today is double up day. Things we can do include doubling our donation and getting, for instance, $50 gifts for $25. We can also aim at doubling our current wordcount or doubling our daily wordcount target.

I always try to get 5000 words a day at the weekends. Today I had no plans to go out but plans to make chicken curry for dinner so I split the writing into chunks. I wanted to get to 12k by the time I started prepping the chicken, which I did. I chopped up 4 chicken legs, on the bone. Mirepoix, garlic, ginger, potato, carrots, curry paste and coconut milk. While the chicken was cooking, I aimed at getting to 13k by dinner. Another 2000 words between 8.30pm and 10pm and I’m at 15k. Yay.

Chapter 4 is done, the MCs went to dinner and took a late night stroll along the seafront park. The beginning of chapter 5 is the next morning. I’m going through the days slowly. They are going about their day separately today but they made a date to have phone lunch together. Hahaha.

nano day 04 | 2246 words 10026 total


More bank stuff with sis. Lots of waiting and signing forms. This one bank is done. Lunch at a foodcourt, went with her to the supermarket, bus home by 2.30pm.

Did filing and other stuff. Long dinner and watched tv till 9pm so bulk of writing was done between 9.30pm and 11pm. The target today was to get to 10k to get back on track.

The MCs continued their investigation and met with one of the dinner participants. Originally the chapter was on their missing friend but I’ll tackle the secret of this other friend first after she unwittingly revealed possible motive. It’s interesting how the characters and the story takes on a totally different direction by themselves. The second half of the chapter is the MCs’ car breaking down and they spend some time chatting and getting re-aquainted. I have an idea of what MC2’s secret may be. Everyone seems to be having financial troubles.

nano day 02 | 4227 words 7388 total


Wrote on and off from 10.30am to 9.30pm. The first few years when I was giving myself too much pressure to get 5000 words a day I would have continued until bedtime. The last few years I’ve taken a more relaxed attitude. Since I’m in the office tomorrow, I wanted to get a decent wordcount today and 4000 is okay.

It was so easy to slip back to nano mode and deploy the tried and tested tricks. One of the MCs is called Sarah Jane, her name is never shortened to Sarah or SJ. Keep all dialogue tags, delete the extraneous he said, she said when editing. Padding in the form of weather and food description. Have the MCs drink sauvignon blanc not chardonnay; pinot noir instead of malbec.

In the early years, and even now, we are taught to just type. Never hit backspace, ignore punctuation, forget about capitalising the first letter of of sentences, use abbreviations (eg the aforementioned Sarah Jane would be S J when typing). I don’t need to do that.

Chapter 2 is done. The MCs meet up to plan their next steps. Make a list, make notes, do research. I could do an American Psycho and spend pages, or a whole chapter, talking about using evernote, onenote, google drive, dropbox. I don’t need to do that. I’ve made a start on chapter 3. More meeting up for lunch. The next part is where the investigation starts. I’m trying to plant clues about secrets. I know what MC1’s secret is, but I’ve yet to figure out MC2’s. I still don’t know the outcome of this story, it’s like writing a whodunnit without knowing up front who did it.

nano day 01 | 3161 words


It’s november again. Even though I don’t feel like writing, I know I’ll regret it if I DNS, like how I hate that I didn’t even try in 2007 and it’s too late to go back.

I procrastinated all morning. Read the news, bummed around reddit, played candy crush. Anything to avoid making a start. But I forced myself to open up scrivener at 10.30am. Mum was out for most of the afternoon so I made some progress. I haven’t been able to focus for long periods of time lately so I typed a few paragraphs and did something else. Got to 1667 mid-afternoon and 2000 before dinner.

Finished the first chapter at 9.30pm and it’s a good place to pause. Initially I thought this might be a prologue but it’s okay as chapter 1. Mostly backstory, introducing the cast of characters and the backbone of the storyline. Since it’s a what-if on what happened at the reunion dinner with my actual college friends, I’m using their real names in the interest of typing fast. I’ll change to fake names when I edit, it’s easier to have a picture of the person in my mind when writing. I really haven’t seen these people for years, so characterisation is perception, memory and imagination. Only the two MCs have fake names, since they’re made up people.

Most of chapter 1 is written as text messages as the group communicate with each other on whatsapp. At first I’m typing the texts like dialogue, with quotation marks, but it didn’t look right. I asked my JAFC crew and they said to use italics. It looks so much better. I’m also not labelling the texts with the person. Sometimes it doesn’t matter who spoke something. When necessary, I’ll have someone call someone else out by name. I wish I can layout the texts like how they look like on the iphone, it’ll be much clearer.

There are 12 people at the dinner and the idea is that all 12 have secrets and are potential suspects in the mystery. My aim is to focus on one person per chapter, then a wrap up at the end. Thing is, I’m not even sure that the mystery is, or even the final outcome. That makes it a very interesting writing exercise.



nano starts in 7 days. I struggled to come up with an idea; I still feel it isn’t the right year for spotter so I need a fresh one. Up to a couple of weeks ago I thought I’d do a collection of short stories based at an airbnb. All sorts of characters and stories. Probably not the most original and don’t really have any clue on what ties them together.

Then I had an aha moment after going to the college friends’ reunion. As the menu was fixed and there was no corkage, we knew how much the meal was gonna be approximately. The organiser took our contribution at the beginning of the meal. She rounded it up to the nearest 100 and suggested that any left over money she’ll go buy lottery tickets. She was super transparent and posted the tickets she bought to our whatsapp group. Needless to say we didn’t win.

But it got me thinking. What if the same thing happened to a group of college friends. Instead of posting the tickets, the organiser was silent and a few days after the draw, disappeared altogether. Did we win? Did she abscond with the money? Did something happen to her, someone stole our winning ticket? Like an Agatha Christie mystery, I thought about every character having a hidden motive for the money. The police wasn’t interested so that’s where the MC (or MCs) come in.


I asked mm about the idea last week and she came up with a few suggestions. As we were in toastbox and we didn’t have any paper, I used the tried and tested napkin method of brainstorming. I’ll copy it to a mindmap before I start.

I’m quite pleased with the idea. Not all fleshed out yet, see how it goes. So the graphics are downloaded, the spreadsheet template updated and finally I’m ready for this year’s nano.

#19 write a short story


Task #19 of 101.1001 is to write a short story. The idea came to me after seeing the call for submissions for a gcls fundraiser anthology.

Pretty standard romantic tale. For some reason I decided to write it like the narrator is telling the story back to the two MCs so second person pronouns are used. I don’t know if it works. I have no idea if I’ll even submit it because of possible conflict of interest.

2,871 words written between tuesday and saturday. That’s slow for my standard but I can’t compare with the writer!me of 10 years ago.

#16: finish LL


Task #16 of 101.1001 is to finish LL. Actually finished a while ago, but still not 100% happy.

I have a deadline now. I need to get it ready and submit it by next summer. One of the best publishers I’ve ever met asked me. Face to face. There is no excuse.

There are parts in the middle that need to be expanded and better explained. Probably need more character growth too. I should stop tinkering with it and let good editors take a look so I can learn and improve.

#17 outline book ideas



Task #17 of 101.1001 is to outline book / story ideas.

Since nano is done this year, it’s worth using some of the momentum for writing and related. I have ideas dating back a long time, yet I never get round to starting, let alone finishing them. It’s not good. As time goes by, I get more ideas and the backlog gets bigger. Definitely not good. Anyway, it’s all in Evernote:

lamplight universe

  • lamplight
  • lamplight follow-up with Kian and Anna in Albania and the Balkans
  • shep (nano 2009)
  • the house on the lake (nano 2013) — indy and pete building indy’s dream house with a green roof

melody universe

  • party planner (nano 2014) — melody is trying to organise a retirement party for her dad and meets restaurant manager samantha
  • melody on church (tight, nano 2005) — sam’s dream of starting her own restaurant becomes embroiled with melody’s strange obsession and sam’s own family weirdness
  • in pieces (nano 2006) — sam’s descent into insanity while melody decides she wants to be a nun, needs a happy ending

healing series

  • short story prequel, robot sheepdog project, how they met
  • short story ghost
  • the actual novel where MC1 goes to oxford to gain closure with joey’s parents and meets MC2 in bath

london stories

  • drive (nano 2011) — minicab driver and missing child
  • tips (nano 2012) — heir hunters at harrow road

work travel

  • work travel go (nano 2015) — tech startup CEO goes undercover at travel destination, meets volunteer
  • how the hosts met — 1990s story of how dee and sm met, why sm needed wheelchair 25yrs later

master will universe (obviously need to change names)

  • days of innocence lost (earth as a short story prequel) — may be expand to novella length?
  • days of innocence returned — 150 years from now, w has been a good vampire, reinventing herself every few decades, enrolling in universities to try to find a cure for cancer. and then t comes back
  • there was a third planned but I can’t remember what it’s about


  • summer into winter — inspired by david harsent’s book
  • bigtown — post apocalypse universe, hacker vs tyrannical dictator
  • magic — need to find the outline
  • 12 races in chicago (nano 2010)
  • spotter — what if the world’s most tragic person invented a time machine to go back to history to eliminate disease, disasters and wars? the world’s population has grown to the point where it is impossible to sustain, and going to the future reveals everyone dies of famine; spotters are sent out to mark people out for elimination or retention, what if a spotter spots the wrong person
  • unmasked — short story, starts in a blind restaurant


#15 nano 2015 validated

Task #15 of 101.1001 is to complete nano 2015. Got to 50k on day 15, but to truly complete means having it validated on the nanosite and getting the winner’s badge. Validation started today, and I validated at 52,219. Scrivener gives me 52,282 and google docs 52,199—there’s always a discreprency when using different tools.

There’s an achievement badge for updating wordcount 30 days in a row, so I’ve been writing a few hundred words a day to keep it going. I’ll try to remember to continue until the 30th. I think badges reset every year so I’m not entirely sure why I’m so keen to get the badge. I suspect it’s OCD, that I can’t bear to have one greyed out badge amongst the entire set. 

#nano day 15: 6297 words | 50345 total



Done. I’m surprised and happy about finishing on day 15. I barely managed the goal 2k during the first week (blue vs red on chart). Once I got some peace and quiet and am mostly over jetlag it got better (blue line growing exponentially). Did a big push today, and the characters helped. Resolved a big conflict and made a lot of progress in the relationship. These are good characters, I quite like them. There is a good crew of side characters too. Originally I didn’t think this story is publishable, now I think there are possibilities.

If novels were 50k in length, I can type in THE END. But they are not, so I’m giving the characters another adventure. A change in location, trying to find a little conflict, developing the relationship further, happy ending. I say this every year, that I’ll try to contine writing until the story is finished vs stopping at 50k, but I never do. Let’s see.

The traditional statistical part of the yay, 50k post:

  • 50,345 words in 15 days = average 3,356 per day
  • highest wordcount day = day 15 at 6,297 words
  • lowest wordcount day = day 03 at 1,305 words — I was surprised I got any words in, that was the day of my flight
  • dares used = 1 — Mr Ian Woon only, didn’t even look at the dares thread
  • total nano years = 11
  • lifetime nano words = 568,301
  • finishing on day 15 is the average finish day
  • quickest finish = 10 days (2004)
  • slowest finish = 23 days (2011)

Validation is from the 20th this year. Oh, remember the book I was reading? I got distracted by #paris news cycle, I finished nano before I finished the book. Wrist pain update: painful from the first day, relieved by wearing brace all day and using the smaller foam roller on hand, wrist and arm.



nano day 14: 3633 words | 44048 total


3633 words | 44048 total

Woke up to the sad news of the tragic terrorist attack in Paris. So awful. Spent the morning glued to the livefeed from the guardian and NYT (they took down the paywall) as well as twitter. Hence no writing got done.

The target was to get to minimum 2000, so am happy that I found more. It’s a day off for the MCs, They started the day with declarations of love (yay!) and then spent the day touring a chocolate factory (yay!) and more kissing. Going okay.



nano day 13: 5096 words | 40415 total


5096 words | 40415 total

For most of the day I had the flat to myself. Distracted with reading and cooking. Just managed to squeak past 5k.

The thing about the middle third of a novel is, there never seems to be enough material to go around. I can’t just have one conflict, one suspicious act, then it all gets resolved straightaway. Have to drag it out, have more discussions, more layers.

Today is also love your ML day. I have friend who was ML for a while, when nano was still small. Don’t know if she’s even involved anymore. #weloveML


nano day 12: 5116 words | 35319 total


5116 words | 35319 total

Some years I’m done by day 12, it’s my highest ranking finish day—4 times in total. Anyway another 5k day is worth feeling good about. I finished the book I was reading and immediately moved to the sequel. It may become a race, finish the book first or finish nano.

And finally at 35k we make a move to act 2. A little intrigue, some suspicious behaviour and look! first kiss. The story and characters are surprising me in how well they are coming together. I shouldn’t jinx anything though.

The next nano event is backup day, which falls on the middle sunday, I think. I hope I’m sufficiently backed up. I’m writing in scrivener, which gets copied every day to google docs and a word doc. The scriv file, the word docs and the xls tracker are saved on the mbp, dropbox and my flashdrive. Basically everything is on the mbp, somewhere in the cloud and on my flashdrive.



nano day 11: 5025 words | 30203 total


5025 words | 30203 total

A 5k day to get to 30k, it’s all good. Which is a relief because I started reading a book last night and: a) it’s a good book; b) I shouldn’t be reading during nano. It acts as a good reward system though—get to x and read a chapter.

For a nano that wasn’t well planned, the pieces are coming together quite nicely. I don’t just write, I do research and look stuff up as I go along. So far, I’ve have information not just on work travel but mapped out the past trips of MC2, who’s been doing this for 9 months. Other research include flight departure & arrival times, art exhibtions at airports, a brewpub beer menu, shower facilities at a beach, the nearest mcdonald’s to an airport, alaskan tribes, ATV riding on sand dunes, sunset times, rice & water proportions to make congee for a layman. I quite like this doing research as I’m writing, in fact I haven’t taken out my handwritten planning sheet yet.

Mr Ian Woon has made his annual appearance. This year, he is an outfitter ATV expert who takes guests from the ranch on four wheeler trips on the sand dunes of southern oregon.

Of course at 30k, my left wrist has been hurting for a few days. Hurting a lot today, I have the brace on almost the entire time.


nano day 10: 3958 words | 25178 total


3958 words | 25178 total

Halfway on day 10. Reasonable progress. I’ll be fine if I finish on the 20th; I hope I can finish earlier.

Chapter 4 is done. MC2 completed her long journey to the destination and MC1 was the volunteer who picked her up from the airport. The sign spelled her name was wrong so they had a humourous introduction. There’s already some mild flirting.


nano day 09: 3685 words | 21220 total


3685 words | 21220 total

I think this is the first full day I’ve stayed in, without going out. I suppose I have to start running again some time. Ah well.

Received some very sad news in the morning, that our friend had passed away. Lots of tributes and heartfelt posts on fb. She would have wanted us to carry on living our lives in full as before.

Took it easy with the writing, didn’t stress myself out too much. Around 1k in the morning, more in the afternoon and another 1k after dinner. Finished chapter 3, MC1 arrived at the destination and met a bunch of side characters. I took time out to create the side characters in scrivener. In chapter 4 it’s MC2’s turn to travel. A longer flight, with 2 layovers. They will meet at the end of the chapter.


nano day 08: 2500 words | 17535 total


2500 words | 17535 total

Went out to Jamie’s Italian for my niece’s birthday lunch, had a mussel pasta that was actually quite bland, the gelato dessert made up for it. Too full for dinner, just had a plum.

Got to an even 2500 words for the day and it’s a good point to stop. Not very often do you get even wordcount like this.

MC1 had breakfast at the airport, then boarded a flight heading west. There was a layover, which added words. It’s an actual flight, I got the details on departure, arrival times, layover times and even layover terminal map. She arrived, got a rental car and found a place to have a late lunch. Everyone is proceeding to the destination slowly.