Friday, November 30, 2007

NaNo 07: the aftermath

Final NaNoWriMo word count: 51,713
Current word count for book: 100,753

So, I achieved my objective of writing 50k words in November, and my other objective of getting my WIP past the 100k mark. And now I can sit back and ponder on whether the sweat was worth it.

And on the whole, I don't think I've done too badly - I'm quite proud of how my characters have grown their own independent lives, and some (much) of the writing should glint nicely once it's had a good polish.

However, one massive problem has emerged as I bring this behemoth of a first draft of a first novel to a close: I don't actually have much of a plot. I've been concentrating so hard on getting my characters to do things in various places, and I've unleashed such terrible grief on them, that all they seem interested in doing is surviving - which is a bit of a bugger because I now find myself struggling to bring the book to a close.

Without some sort of quest to achieve, I can't think of a way to finish the book with an adrenaline rush of triumph. Most of the books I've read seem to have a quest element: kill the ring; find the murderer; thwart the baddies. I've managed to get to a stage where the pay-off is going to be the leading female having to choose between two men, one of whom will go off to the Old City to revenge his brother's death and (possibly) become the next Emperor, while the other will head off into the jungle to escape the evil clutches of the empire and start a new society.

It's got human interest. She's pregnant by one of the men, but doesn't know which - and it will be noticeable when the baby is born as one of the men has horns. But that happens after this story ends.

Like it or not, I'm missing a quest.

Is my poor book doomed to commercial failure before it is even finished?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rik in shock NaNo Triumph!

You heard it here first!

Spontaneous celebrations break out in small areas of Hackney.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NaNo 07: Week 4 update

Watch Rik's scramble towards the finish line

Daily words:
2.0k words on 22 Nov
0.0k words on 23 Nov (big oops)
2.0k words on 24 Nov
3.0k words on 25 Nov
2.5k words on 26 Nov
0.8k words on 27 Nov (little oops)
2.4k words on 28 Nov

NaNo word total: 47,436
- leaving me to do around 2,600 words over the next 2 days
Book word total: 96,476
- and an extra thousand words to break the magical 100k barrier.

So, what have my characters been up to this week? Well, they've split up into two groups: the first group is sitting around recovering from the plague and discussing what new dangers the city faces and how to combat it. The second group are being far more active and have finally (yay! finally!) left the city and headed into the jungle following the bidding of the mad fanatic religious woman.

And that is really all that's happened action-wise. I've also been doing loads of infodumping and backstorying - well, it's about time I explained how come the golden dye has made the city rich (and how it's harvested), and why the various religious beliefs are so important to the story, and how exactly does a person walk with alien beasties and not get attacked.

Talking of attacking, my cat Mr Dolly made an appearance in the novel, though I wrote him as a dangerous beastie ten times bigger than a normal pussy, and 50 times more active.

2 more days to go. I'm feeling a little light headed with wonder that I might just succeed in this mad ambition to finish writing a book ...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More Special-ness

Can you see a theme emerging here? Can you sense a touch of word-avoidance in the air?

There's other versions of this song I prefer, but the Specials video is one I remember from my kiddie years, so the Specials version is what you get:

Rudy? Who Rudy, huh?

Desmond helps Rik avoid NaNo

... with a bit of you can get it if you really want ...

More anti-NaNo goodness ...

... courtesy of the Ramones

NaNo relief: Specials ska!

'Nuff said:

NaNo 07: Week 3 update

Rik's contemptible week 3 NaNo efforts:

3.1k words on day 15
1.8k words on day 16
1.7k words on day 17
0.9k words on day 18
0.0k words on day 19
2.8k words on day 20
0.1k words on day 21

Total for NaNoWriMo: 34.6k
Total for the draft: 83.6k

So not only have I managed my two best daily word totals, I've also managed to log 3 of my 4 worst daily word totals. For instance, yesterday's excuse for not writing was confusion about moons - I'd mentioned them in earlier chapters and wanted to mention them again, but suddenly felt the need to work out their current phases (for consistency, of course). Two hours of fun ensued, after which I couldn't be bothered to actually write more than a couple of paragraphs.

Then again, the storyline has entered a bit of a depressing arc. Plague rages through the city and characters are keeling over at an astonishing rate. I think some of this writing is of good quality - comparing it to the stuff I was writing before NaNo, I can see stylistic improvements in the dialogue. Bit there's no getting over the fact that describing death for three chapters can drain the spirit and will.

On the plus side, I've finally managed to force half of my surviving characters out of the city and into the jungle, and thus heading towards the series of climaxes I have planned out for them. I've also managed to weave some worldbuilding descriptions - the layout of the city, production of the dye on which the city's fortunes are based, the critical importance of goats - into the narrative. Oh, and one of my characters has finally had an encounter of the homosexual kind: huzzah for Shapeis!

NaNo 07: Week 2 update

(with apologies for the lateness of this report)

My report from NaNoHell (week 2)

Words written:
2.2k words on day 8
2.3k words on day 9
1.6k words on day 10
2.6k words on day 11
1.7k words on day 12
0.1k words on day 13 (oops!)
1.1k words on day 14

More importantly, I've: killed off a minor character and given him a very nice funeral; added a semi-detached myth-type story which explains the origins of some natural disasters; had lunch, and a very interesting conversation, with the Emperor's mistress; detailed various comings and goings at one of the city's classier bordellos; and introduced plague into the city, which is destined to kill off at least half of my characters, including one of the main ones.

And I'm still on course (just) to write 50k words in a month!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What doesn't surprise me ...

What doesn't surprise me about yesterday's data loss cock-up is the timeline of events:

18 October - Junior official from HMRC in Washington, Tyne and Wear, sends two CDs containing password-protected records to audit office in London through courier TNT, neither recorded nor registered
24 October - When package fails to arrive, second one is sent by registered post and arrives safely
3 November - Senior managers are told first package has been lost
10 November - Prime minister and other ministers are informed
12 November - HMRC tell ministers CDs will probably be found
14 November - When HMRC searches fail, Metropolitan Police are called in
20 November - HMRC Chairman Paul Gray resigns; Chancellor Alistair Darling makes announcement to House of Commons

Now, you're going to have tons of politicians running around like headless chickens (or turkeys, maybe, given the current bird culls) saying things like security must be tightened! But the truth is that all you need to know about such protestations is the information in that timeline.

For a start, why was the entire database sent through the post rather than just the information actually requested by the NAO? Probably the NAO sent a letter to the senior managers, who then delegated through the line until it ended up on the desk of the poor sod who is going to be blamed for this entire fiasco. I bet the instructions for security didn't travel with the order, and the work wasn't checked as it was carried out. Delegation is not a Civil Service forte: yes, all the managers have been on the training courses, but putting the theory into practice? Excuse me while I giggle inanely at my monitor for a few moments.

Now, as far as the junior officials are concerned, either it took them a couple of weeks to work out that disks going missing in the post might be a bit of a concern; or they were too scared to tell their line managers. Because what the Civil Service mostly runs on is not competence, or skills, or diplomacy: it's fear. At every level of the Civil Service, the first priority of the official is to cover their own arse, and those of their mates, before worrying about what the effects of their actions will be on others.

This isn't just a junior failing (and who can blame them for feeling that way?) Check out that whole week it took the senior managers to tell Ministers that there might be a bit of a cock up on the horizon. And even after telling them, they were still trying to "manage their Ministers" by telling them the discs would probably be found.

Talking of which, notice how TNT seem to be missing the flack. Years back, all interdepartmental correspondence was sent via a system called IDS. You put the documents in a "grid" (reusable envelope) and put it in the communal out tray and it was all sorted. The service got privatised (naturally) but essentially remained the same until now. IDS is cheap: couriers are expensive. Excessive spend can reflect badly on line managers.

The one thing that does surprise me is that the Chairman of HMRC has bitten the bullet and resigned. This is almost unheard of in the Civil Service, where incompetence - particularly at the Team Leader level and above - is more often than not rewarded either by level transfer to a team that hasn't heard of the idiot before or (and I've witnessed this) promoting the problem away.

Don't get me wrong. I worked for the Civil Service for 18 years, and I have enormous respect for many of the people I worked with (whether the feeling is reciprocated is moot). But when it comes to the more senior people, my respect rapidly declines. There's some sound people in the service, and there's some shits. It's a pity that shit tends to float to the top ...

Friday, November 09, 2007

NaNo Goodies

or even

The red blobs are the days I didn't manage to post my wordcount in time, not the days I didn't write any words.

This post was inspired by Scavella, who's managing to write too many damn words when she should be prevaricating and displacement activity-ing like the rest of us mortals.

With thanks to Ron

Ron Silliman talks about visual poetry in his blog today, and as a by-blow introduces me to the work of Peter Ciccariello, who combines typography and painting into a visual feast.

Typically, Ron doesn't want me to just gawp at the pretty piccies; he wants me to think about what's happening here. Unfortunately I don't have the knowledge nor even the lexicon to comment on the ideas Ron puts forth in his post. But he has made me think, which is a bugger as I'm supposed to be doing my OU coursework and writing more NaNo stuff.

Okay: visual poetry - what's it good for?

Taking refuge in my (badly out of date) knowledge of biology, I know that visual arts involves a visual input into the brain. Spoken poetry is entirely aural, and the parts of the brain where aural input gets processed are different to the parts where the visual voodoo happens. Language processing is again different; sounds that sound like words get routed to specific areas of the brain which handle language input, interpretation and output. I think it's also worth noting that language is a learned thing, and the aural learning phase usually comes before the visual (except for signed languages of course).

There's no denying that there are connections between these systems. Written language is a visual input into the brain, yet when I read something I hear the words within my skull. Listening to a story, rather than reading it, will often trigger visual images - a mental holograph in which I follow the story visually even though I'm only hearing it aurally. Bliss, for me, is when I'm reading a text and not only do I get the voice, I also get the visuals to go with it - a paperback novel is destined to disappoint me if it can't trigger this magic, and I'm happy to admit to a severe preference for written poems that can manage the same trick.

So, with purely visual art - sans type - I'm using just the visual parts of my brain and reacting emotionally to the art purely on the associations that the images and colours drag up from my memory (for surely visual representation has to be learned, too; I can't believe that my reaction to a photo of a snowy mountain is genetic). Adding typography to the picture - road signage, advertising hoardings, etc - should trigger the voice in my head, and possibly modify my interpretation of the visuals? I think that when I see a photo I tend to see it first and then read it's lexical content ...

A thought experiment. I'm viewing a picture of a pile of decomposing human bodies on a rooftop: my emotions are not strong (these are not bodies of people I know) but there's an edge of disgust? sadness? horror? in my feelings to the photo. Now within the photo is some signage, an embedded caption perhaps. Reading the words, I learn that this is a Parsi tower of silence - the place where the Parsis place the bodies of their loved ones to be eaten by vultures. It's their preferred way of disposing of human remains. Now I have a deeper understanding and my emotions alter - wonderment? I'm certainly thinking about how I would feel if a friend told me that this is what they wanted for their funeral.

Thus for me, the visuals seem to come before the text, and the text can change the emotional impact of the visuals.

Back to visual poetry. Let's assume there is a work of visual poetry where two images are superimposed on each other. One is entirely imagistic, the other is purely words. Through the magic of computing, I can adjust the merging of the two using a sliding scale from text-free:image-full to text-part:image-part to text-full:image-free. At what point on that scale does my brain start processing the words before the image?

Ron also talks about the work of Robert Grenier. Viewing his work, its clear to me that what I'm doing is looking for words in each poem - the colours are incidental, nothing more than an aid to the word-search. (I'm also struggling to see any poetry in the work: shoot me!). With the Ciccariello paintings, the opposite is true: the images are very definitely the main show; spotting symbols within the painting offers me a bonus of recognition - but again I'm seeing this as a painting, not as a poem.


One thing I learned at school was that for Chinese and Japanese poets, the typography is as important as the words - poems in these languages were often hand-painted on big strips of paper. A poet was judged as much on their calligraphic skills as they were on their poetic abilities. I think; I could be wrong about that. Chinese writing is a logographic script. It is, I feel, as much painting as writing. I have no idea how a logographic script is processed by the brain, whether it is different to my response to the latin alphabet.

I've got a bonus thought: English, written in the latin alphabet, is an essentially linear thing (does this have anything to do with Ron's discussions about the importance of the line in poetry?). I like to think of it as one-dimensional. Poets have been playing with lines and white space for centuries - the Beowulf poem is often reproduced with the second half-line dropped and indented. Yet the poem's existence within me is essentially non-dimensional, or at least the after-effects of a good poem are. There's the fourth dimension, of course, but even time can dissipate once my brain assimilates the poem as a whole, single unit within my head.

What happens when the typography breaks into two dimensions? I'm not thinking of poems where each line is offered to the reader at different angles and intersections - reading a poem like that is, for me, an exercise in reading discrete, one-dimensional lines and attempting to organise them into something that makes coherent sense to me. No, I'm thinking of a script which is two dimensional within itself. How can I describe this? Um, words branch from each other in various directions; one word can have more than one branch; the result is an entire clause or sentence which sits as a whole on the page - and maybe even branches out its own subsequent clause or sentence - and the direction of the branch is intrinsic to the relationships of the words. It's something that's been discussed a few times on the zbb, but not something I've actively engaged with before. How would such a script be read, processed? Would the eye want to follow the individual paths that the script would make, or could it be read in a single (rather long) glance without too much eye movement? Could such a representation look engaging? Beautiful even?

Would poetry written in such a script still be poetry?

Ack! Ack! Ack! Damn that Ron Silliman for making me think!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Stormy weather

There's a flood warning in force for a storm surge traveling down the east coast of England. My birth-land - at the very south eastern tip of England - is coloured blue, not surprising as most of the Romney Marshes are below sea level (between 4 and 10 feet below), protected only by shingle banks and the massive, and old, Dymchurch Wall.

I'm not too worried, as this is a well-known threat; very high tides together with a storm surge have been factored into the sea defence planning for decades, and work has been ongoing since the 1980s to heighten the Wall (prescient, given the more recent news of climate effects and rising sea levels). But what does nag at me is the fact that whenever you worry, Mothers always manage to not answer the phone ...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

NaNo 07: Week 1 update

I'm proud of my progress. I'm not racing away, but neither am I lagging behind. As of the end of today's writing, I am about 900 words ahead of schedule - if I continue at this pace I should have written 50,000 words by the 28th or 29th of November.

For the statisticians, I wrote:
1,777 words on day 1
1,714 words on day 2
1,966 words on day 3
1,378 words on day 4
1,693 words on day 5
1,569 words on day 6, and
2,441 today.

I have also managed to write through a betrothal ceremony, introduced some alien creatures, got the betrothed couple to have sex on a hillside, described the city where the story takes place, killed a man, have the captain of the guards and the commander of the Imperial army discuss how to dispose of the body using the alien creatures, and written a myth story detailing the death of the archetypal man and how plagues came to be. Oh, and there was a scene in a brothel that - miraculously - did not involve sex in any way shape or form!

Now I get to eat pizza. Yay me!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Monkey rats in NaNo shock

I think one of the most important lessons I've learned about bookwriting in my (extremely) short career to date is that good stories are about people. It doesn't matter how weird the setting - how disfigured the laws of physics, geography and biology have become in your story's world - the book only becomes interesting when you put "real" people into the scenery and let them deal with "real" problems such as gathering food, searching for sex and keeping their loved ones safe.

Now this is a bit of a bugger for me because one of my great pleasures in life (apart from food, sex, etc) has been the development of my constructed world within which I've always planned for my stories to take place. I have maps. I have alien biology. I have sweeping histories of nation building and the destruction of empires. But when it actually comes to writing the book, it all becomes background material - something mostly hidden from the reader as the characters get on with their everyday, ordinary lives in this alien, extraordinary world I have created for them.

It's a real bugger, I can tell you!

So when I do manage to work out a way of introducing an alien creation into the novel, you can imagine my joy. For instance, I blogged about monkey rats a couple of years ago - an alien creature which appears to have three separate sexes, and yesterday I finally worked out a way to slip the wee beastie into the NaNo novel.

The big trick (of course) is to get the characters to react to the alien creature as if it is something they've known about, and lived with, all their lives: it's not alien to them at all. Yet at the same time I have to introduce a completely alien "monster" to my readers, show them this beast, explain to them what makes it a proper, alien creation rather than some sort of chimaeraic creation - beak of a bird, pelt of a fox, tongue of a snake, etc. And I have to convince the reader that it could exist outside of the bounds of the story.

Why? Because for me the alien biology of my constructed world is real. If I can't write about this world as an alien place in which humans live, then I'm failing myself as a writer.

So then, how does my writing match up to the targets I set for it? That, dear reader, you'll have to judge for yourself. Say hello to the Giant monkey rats of Burramesh:

The track was well worn: in some places it cut into the surrounding earth and in the steeper parts steps had been roughly cut into the bare rock. In several places it doubled back on itself in its climb to the top. Loken took the lead, eager to reach the brow of the hill, not taking much notice of the vegetation as he strode by. Only when the path levelled out did he stop; he could see Delesse below him, holding the shrunken woman's hand as they negotiated the trickier parts of the climb.

"God's teeth! You've got monkey rats up here!"

"Don't go too far," Delesse shouted back. "They're dangerous!"

Turning around, he could see that the hill formed a massive Y shape, with the city below nestled between its outstretched arms. Northwards, the slope of the hill was much gentler. The ground was a flattened swirl of rusts and greys, littered with rocks and boulders but little in the way of vegetation. Nearby to his right a stone hut had been built – he could see two guards sitting in the shade of its over-large roof while a third sat on top. All three were watching him; he waved a greeting to them and felt a touch of relief when they raised their hands to acknowledge him. None of them seemed to be carrying weapons.

The only vegetation of note was the monkey rat trees. They were huge – the largest reaching almost five metres from the ground. He'd seen such trees before: monkey rats were quite common, even in Stal, but few grew above man-height.

"Magnificent, aren't they." Delesse had reached the top of the hill and was walking towards him. "The Governor before my Father had a monkey rat tree growing in the Reception Courtyard, but it was cut down when we moved in."


She gave him a quizzical look.

"No, I mean why did he have it cut down?"

"These aren't normal monkey rats. They're venomous – even the trees carry the venom."

"Can we get closer?"

She pointed over to a smaller tree growing near to the stone hut. "We can have a look at that one, if you like. I think the guards have developed an understanding with its queen. Are you coming, Maeduul?"

The shrunken woman had sat down on a small rock as soon as she had reached the top. On hearing the question she turned round to look at them, shielding her eyes from the sun's glare with a flat hand.

"No, no, little kitten; I've seen the barby rats before. Do you think the guards will have some water?"

"You ought to sit with them in the shade, Maeduul."

"Gyano-ten made me put some cream on – it makes me sticky, but I'll not burn."

Delesse shrugged her shoulders, then grabbed at his hand to lead him towards the hut.

"Who's gyano-ten?" he asked her.

"It's Maeduul's name for my mother."

"Do you allow all your Servants to talk to you like that?"

"Yes. Why? Shouldn't I?"

"It doesn't seem, well, right."

"Do you have Servants?"

"Well I suppose we do, but I rarely see them. You don't even put collars on your Servants!"

They were coming close to the tree, now. One of the guards had stirred himself onto his feet and was walking towards them.

"We do things differently in Burramesh. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable if I had to give orders to a Servant forced to wear a collar. I think we'd better stand here."

They stopped about 10 metres from the branches of the tree. Looking, he could see the four roots at the base, and just above their join what looked like a large, half-lidded eye set within the bark-skin. The main bole stretched up, the backbone clearly visible on either side as it helixed around the trunk from which emerged the great, black, pinnate leaves stemmed in their pairs to fan across the sky in search of the sun.

"So where's the – queen?"

She shaded her eyes with her hand, scanning the tree. "There!" she pointed. "She's sitting right on top of the growing arch."

He copied her actions, but could see no sign of the creature. Then it moved.

It was much, much bigger than a normal monkey rat. Rather than the sparse rust-coloured fur he was expecting, this queen had a luxurious pelt: alternate stripes of black and dark charcoal running slantwise across its flank. Two eyes, forward on its head, above a shortened snout and beak gave it a curious, human quality. He could see no ears; a row of stubby spines running the length of its back, coloured red, were visible, as were the claws terminating each of its paws. It was sitting as if relaxed on its throne, yet its black eyes were trained on the two humans as if to dare them to move closer.

"It's beautiful!" His voice was a whisper.

"She's beautiful," Delesse corrected him.

"How do you know its a female?"

"The queens are the big ones – each tree has its own queen. The princes are much smaller – no bigger than a common monkey rat."

He continued to stare at the creature. "One of my tutors once compared the Empire to the monkey rat: the tree was the land; the leader was the emperor; I was a guardian in this story. He said that when the leader died, one of the guardians would have to become the new leader, for without a leader the tree would die."

"And you believed him?"

"Oh yes, for a while. I was only seven at the time."

"I remember the tree that grew in the Reception Courtyard had no queen nor princes. I also remember it screamed horribly when it was cut down."

"These trees have voices?"

"Oh, yes. And eyes and blood. Can you see the eyes?"

He nodded.

"Velledue – he was my tutor – told me that these monkey rats were created specially by God to test us. He called them prison trees because they have eyes to watch our every blasphemy. I used to have nightmares that the trees would see my every sin and send their queens to hunt me down and poison me."

"He wasn't a very nice person, this Velledue."

She caught his hand in hers: "Oh, he has his little peculiarities."

Loken gave her a swift look; she had shifted her gaze away from the tree towards the northern horizon. He could see that some strands of her hair was beginning to work their way loose from the knot of plats pinned to the base of her head. He squeezed her hand.

"So why do you tolerate these creatures so close to the city, if they are as dangerous as you say?"

"They're very, very good guards. They'll attack any large creature that enters the grove. And the queens attack in packs, you know. I think they're quite intelligent."

"Ah," he said, looking around him. "That explains why the wall doesn't completely circle the city."

She smiled at him, returned his squeeze.

"But surely fire would destroy them?"

"They're very resilient – at the first sign of danger the trees furl their leaves up tight and the base sinks into a hole in the ground. The queens can run away of course, carrying their favourite princes. But they seem to make an effort to keep the grove clear of burning material. Anyway, they only cause us problems when they spawn; there's not much room up here for new trees so the obvious place to go is downhill ..."

"Straight into the mansions and compounds we walked past earlier?"

"That's right! Every second equinox we have a festival where everybody comes up here to clear our side of the hill. The little ones aren't as poisonous as the big ones. The person who bags the most monkey rats becomes First Citizen for the next year."

"My, you are a strange race of people! Where shall we go next?"

"Let's fetch some water for Maeduul, then I'll let you choose the next destination."

Friday, November 02, 2007

Somewhere down the crazy river

Another video to get me in the mood for writing. This Robbie Robertson classic is much more "in the mood" for my book, given that the story is set in a city in the jungles of an alien world, where the only passage in or out is by boat along the great, muddy, windingy, Taete River.

Plague's a-comin' ...


Edit: I've had to snip this because the version I linked to has been removed from YouTube. Which means if you want to watch it you have to visit the YouTube website for the "official" Universal Music Group video - the bastards. Yes, I know, performance rights and copyright violations and all that stuff, but then if I ever finish writing my book, get it sold and stuff, I'm only going to earn money from selling new copies of the books - I'll be getting fuck all royalties from the second hand book trade, savvy?

John Wayne is big leggy

For those embarking on the perils of NaNoWriMo, a little inspiration from Hayzee Fantayzee:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NaNoWriNo 2007

Forgive me father, it has been two years since my last NaNo failure ...

Yes, folks, it's that time of the year again. I have signed up to write 50,000 words during the course of November. If you dig through the entrails of this blog, you might come across the train wreck of a story I attempted in 2005. This time it will be better. I know this.

Actually, when I started on my mad endeavour to become a published author earlier this year, I decided that it would be a good idea to work on a book which didn't have great prospects - a sort of learning-to-write book where I could make all my mistakes and learn from them. The plan was that my second book would be the one I'd send out to agents and the like. So I chose to resurrect my NaNo 05 plot for the first book.

After working on that book, on-and-off (though more off than on), over the last 9 months it turns out that my original plan was stupid in the extreme. So far I have written (and re-written: I like to edit as I write) 49,000 rather good words and I reckon I only need another 50,000 to finish the book. So instead of writing an entirely new NaNo this year, I've decided to finish the first draft of my first book by 30 November.

I've learned a lot about writing this year (and I still have plenty more to learn). Possibly the most important thing I've learned is not to over-plan the story before I write it: it only leads to authorial depression when the characters decide to ignore the plotlines and story arcs in favour of doing their own thing. I know how I want this book to end, and I know which characters I want to survive to the last page; I am utterly clueless about how they (and I) get from the wedding ceremony I've just finished writing to a point where the survivors of the deadly plague and the city fires and the slave revolt and the crashing of empires reach a place of safety.

As they say on the NaNo website: No plot? No worries!