This post was originally published on murderiseverywhere.blogspot.com.
Have you signed up for NaNoWriMo? I just did!
What–writing 50,000 words in 30 days doesn’t sound like fun to you? It is, I promise you–admittedly more fun in retrospect than in the moment. But several of my books were conceived in previous years’ NaNoWriMo’s and the crazy writing schedule definitely led me to come up with unexpected characters and directions.
NaNoWriMo is free to play (but they’re also a non-profit that supports people finding their creative feet if you’d like to donate) and while what you come up with might not be ready for immediate publication, it’s a definite start!
Yes, I’m still
wrestling editing my way through the last chapters of the next history tree mystery, but I’m pretty sure I should be finished by the end of this week and I’m promising myself that next month I get to play NaNoWriMo!
I love NaNoWriMo–for me it’s probably the only time I get to switch off my internal censors and play on the page, experimenting with all the fun stuff that I haven’t yet found a vehicle for.
As Chris Baty (NaNoWriMo founder) says, “Write first! Ask questions later!”
This year I don’t want to outline what I want to write (and anyway it doesn’t look like there will be time) so I’m going to try the Economy Rice style of writing.
For those unfamiliar with Economy Rice or Cai Png, these are hawker stalls that offer a variety of hot dishes to be eaten with rice or noodles–I’ve also heard them called ‘Mixed Rice’ or ‘Self Pick Rice’ stalls. They’re a hawker centre/ food court staple because most meals I’ve bought at these stalls come under $4 (Singapore $4 = just under US $3).
The lady who runs the stall pictured above was embarrassed about the photo I took because ‘today my vegetables come late. Still preparing’.
It wasn’t her fault at all–I went early, before 11am, to get these photographs before the lunch crowd descended.
You can see the gaps in the layout where her long beans, french beans, cabbage & wood ear, bitter gourd, winter melon, eggplant, mushrooms, kang kong, broccoli & cauliflower and spinach would go.
(I promised I’d mention the veggie dishes I’d seen at her stall before)
For those of you unfamiliar with the Economy Rice style of writing, that’s not surprising because I’ll be making it up–like my NaNo project this year–as I go along.
If you go to any other stall at a hawker centre, you’ll have to decide what you’re having before you even start ordering: chicken rice or laksa or fish ball noodles or claypot rice. But when it comes to ordering economy rice, I don’t have to decide anything until I’m standing there and looking at my options.
And that’s how I hope to tackle NaNoWriMo this year, without planning in advance!
But I’ll still need a base for
today’s meal / this project.
Usually I ask for rice–brown rice if I’m feeling virtuous, white rice if I’m needing comfort food. In writing terms, that would be deciding whether I want to write a traditional mystery or a cozy mystery.
But then there are options like rice porridge (not shown–it’s in a big metal pot behind the counter) or the fried noodles, fried rice and fried mee hoon you can see on the left of the middle row here.
These already have stuff mixed in and are tasty in themselves.
For me, in writing terms I’d say:
Fried noodles = historical novel/ mystery. Lots of strands and tasty incidents already there. I’d pick a year or incident or person I’d like to know more about and use this as a chance to explore.
Fried rice = working in things I’ve been thinking about/ people I’ve been irritated by / events I’m trying to figure out, so that I can use the writing to work out how I feel about these things.
Fried mee hoon (mee hoon or rice vermicelli is lighter than noodles or rice) = really playing with writing in genres different from my ‘safe’ white rice/ brown rice daily routine.
And maybe that’s what I need to do to make the most of this writing challenge time!
This is something I’ll have to decide before the November writing month starts. Will my project be:
a) White Rice
b) Brown Rice
c) Rice Congee
d) Fried Noodles
e) Fried Rice
f) Fried Mee Hoon
Then from there on, I’ll just choose what appeals to me each day:
Since I’m not outlining/ plotting/ continuing a series, I can skip the green veggies (the fibre of continuity threads etc) and just decide whether it’s a day for writing a comforting steamed egg scene (clockwise from top left), or putting a little hot chilli and onion on flaky white fish, or something deep fried and covered with crunchy sesame seeds, or for some good old char siew…
For me I’d say:
steamed egg= comfort writing. Childhood memories, recent memories of time spent with friends, my darling dogs, places that no longer exist (I just learned–when I went on my annual visit to buy next year’s calendars and diaries that the Music Book Room on the ground floor Bras Basah Complex that’s been there for 43 years closed this February. The space is now a Toast Box.)
Maybe that’s what I’ll write about. The 71 year old owner said she no longer has the energy to carry on, neither of her children wants to take over and she hopes that having an F&B outlet replace her shop will rejuvenate Bras Basah Complex.
steamed white fish with chilli & green onion = some firm fleshed issue with a bit of kick. Oh dear, but this sounds serious and I want to play.
deep fried crunchy shrimp/ chicken/ pork = pick something current or that I’ve read about and play around with it, turn it on its head and do some crazy extrapolations.
char siew = write my take on a traditional form I want to learn more about. Right now I want to learn more about so many things — yoga, pilates, swimming, kayaking, crocheting amigurumi, tap dancing, aquascaping, orchids, air plants and bonsai, drawing and painting by hand and on Procreate… writing often helps me figure out what I know and don’t know, so giving myself a month to learn all I can and using NaNoWriMo to record my learning journey might be a double win. Or at the very least I’ll get a humorous failure (hopefully standalone) story out of it.
But like I’ve said–I’m going to play and have fun with this!
If you’re interested, please visit Nanowrimo.org and take a look!