Nanowrimo losses and plans for 2014

Well, for the first time I’ve lost Nanowrimo…

Not so long ago, I would have counted that as a huge failure, but right now I’m feeling rather content. This November birthed a fantastic new novel idea, some fantastic characters and a spectacular setting that I’ve fallen in love with. What I did write, about 28 thousand, is well written and concise.

One of the many “tips” that inevitably rears it’s ugly head for Nanowrimo is to write as much as possible whether that means using prompts that serve no plot purpose, or create extravagant 4+ part names, or simply to explore every tangent. While Nanowrimo is about writing a lot in a short period of time, I do not believe that quality/content should be blatantly ignored in favor of more words. If your story is about aliens in outer space, then using a prompt which requires your characters to go to the store to buy milk and run into antagonists makes no fucking sense. Yet every year, people suggest equally ridiculous things in order to up word counts.

If you are writing just for the sake of writing something novel length, then more power to you. But I write with the goal of telling a moving story, full of characters you feel for, and content that makes you rethink your preset notions. Someday soon, I hope to be published. And not just once, but many times over. I plan to make a career out of writing so rambling for 50k is a somewhat pointless exercise for me.

To each their own of course, but I sincerely hope that those of you who participated in Nanowrimo feel accomplished, whatever your word count, and that you managed to polish some beautiful ideas over the course of the month.

 

So now that November is over, it’s time to get back into normal life mode. If you’re anything like me, January/the new year seems to be when I try out all new methods of being super productive/netflix addictions. Last year I tried milwordy from February-April, and subsequently spent the next several months recovering. I’m not entirely sure what my plans will be for this coming year, but I’ve got some ideas. Primarily I’m going to be reviewing what I read both here and on my new youtube channel, so stay tuned for links and lots of angsty YA reviews. And of course, I’ll be writing. If anyone has any suggestions for productivity or monthly/yearly challenges like wriye etc. feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Happy Scribbling.

Nanowrimo and brutal murder.

 

 

 

As you probably already know, it’s November, which means, if you’re a writer and you probably are if you’re reading this, then you should be around 35,000 words into your NaNoWriMo novel. And if you’re not… well.

 

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Then you’re in good company!

As you can see, I’m a bit behind at the moment, but never fear. I’m a somewhat consistently bad NaNoWriMo participant. What I mean by this is that I usually slack off/alphabetize my bookshelves/catch up on 6 years worth of sitcoms on Netflix/etc. instead of working on my novel until about the last week. Traditionally, I write about 20-30k in the first three weeks. And then I write 15 to 20k in the last two days.  -_-

I’m hoping to break with tradition this week, but only time/the frequency with which my youtube subscriptions pile up will tell.

So for those of you also participating in National Novel Writing Month, I extend to you my deepest apologies for your families, and my sincerest hopes that you survive the month and have a less than craptastic novel to show for it afterward. We aren’t all so lucky.

Personally, my novel is coming along rather nicely, but some other writerly friends of mine are struggling at the moment. The question of time vs. perfection, a typical NaNoWriMo debate, came up this morning and I awkwardly stumbled upon a metaphor for writing that I thought I’d share.

Writing a first draft is like interviewing witnesses of a brutal murder.

I promise this makes sense so stick with me!

Okay, imagine you’re a journalist and you’re talking with 10 witnesses just beyond the line of neon crime scene tape, a mangled body reeking in the distance. Of all the people you interview, perhaps two or three of them really saw something. But of course they didn’t all witness the same things, each noting the chain of events from their own perspective, location, and damaged mind frame. Between these two or three people you can get a very good sense of what actually happened between the victim and the assailant.

Now if you could stop your interviews here, you would be well off, but when you first look at your 10 potential witnesses, you have no way of knowing who’s who. So you continue the interviews. The next two people give you completely conflicting stories.  The he said, she said of it all doesn’t make any sense. But there are a few more witnesses left to interview and one way or another you’ve got to finish this piece or your boss/the editor is going to have your head. So you have a chat with the last few people gawking over the yellow line, making faces at the police. They turn out to be attention/camera whores. No real information to be had from them, but they’re good for a momentary laugh.

At the end of the day, you sit down with your collection of facts/theories that you managed to wrangle from the police, and a stack of interviews or transcripts of what the “witnesses” had to say about what happened. In order to make this into an article that will move people, while informing them, and entertaining them, you have to weave all these bits and pieces together. Some of what you found out is irrelevant, so you cut it. Some is unreliable, so you cut it, and some of it just isn’t interesting or has been said before.

But the point is, in order to make a good article, or even a good book. You have to have all the facts, the theories and the crazies on paper before you can really begin. See where I’m going with this?

A book isn’t written in it’s first draft. It’s created, brought out in pages upon pages of clerical mishaps, setting mistakes, unreliable characters and broken chunks of story. It’s what you do once you’ve got everything on the pages in front of you that matters.

I wish you all good luck in this coming week of NaNoWriMo. May your inner editors be gagged, and may your fingers be swift. Remember, we can edit in December.

Happy Scribbling.

 

TGIO-party or The how-to-write-an-ungodly-amount-of-words-in-a-short-period-of-time guide to life… and Nanowrimo.

Well about an hour ago, camp nanowrimo officially ended, at least in my time zone. All I can say is… Damn do I need a nap.

Now that I’ve officially failed my word count goal, it’s only fair I divulge just how poorly camp went for me. Which is actually a lie. I did a ton of writing and the month was great, I just didn’t hit the 85k that I had hoped to. I did hit 60 k however and that was good enough for me!

Funny thing is, I learned a little lesson about myself and my productivity this past week that I never knew before.  I am a beast!

That’s right.

I may have only hit 60k. But let me tell you something about how this month went.

Week 1, I wrote 12k. Not amazing, not terrible. So far so good.

Week 2, I wrote about 5k… Embarrassing I know.

Week 3, I wrote 10k… Do you see where this is going yet?

Week 4 (first 5 days) I wrote 3k. Yep. Truth…

Sigh. In 26 days. I wrote 30k.

And in the last 4 days I wrote 30k.

Like I said. I’m a beast.

I’ve never written so much in such a short stretch of time in my life. I don’t know that I ever want to again. But if I ever have to, or if you ever have to, here are some tips.

Caffeine!  I can’t even begin to say how relevant this is. I have had about 8-12 bags of tea a day and I should have had more. Stock up!

Short term goals! If you have 25k to do, and you sit down with the intention of doing 25k, you will look at the clock and realize you just spent three hours on youtube. Don’t do it. Instead, set yourself small goals. Say, “Today I’m gonna write 5k.” After your first word war or writing session. Keep track of how many words you have till you reach your goal. Pretty soon, 5k won’t look so huge, and you’ll be saying, “Why don’t I write another 2k or 5k.”

Know where you’re going! Even if you are not a plotter, you need to do this to some extent. Keep a white board or a pad of paper by you when you write and before you sit down for a session look at where you left off (no more than 1/4 of a page back). Think about where you need to go, or what you want to happen next. Take five minutes and write down basic information, dialogue or other details you know you want to include. Like:

Fmc and mmc meet unexpectedly, and their personalities clash

Knowing they have to work together they hash out ground rules for their quest

“Look, I know you think you’re totally awesome, but I’m in charge here and what I say goes.”

I promise I just made all that up and it is not in any way related to any book I am now writing or plan to write. But you get the idea.

Set timers! Whether you plan to have a word war with another writer, or it’s just you and your laptop, you should set goals. Even a five minute timer can get your brain thinking about a scene and before you know it, you’ll be so wrapped up in what you’re writing, you won’t need the timer. Also, if you find that you are paying to much attention to your word count goals and aren’t focusing enough on the story, set page goals instead. Sometimes if it’s crunch time, getting caught up in how many words you should be writing per minute or per half hour can get really tiresome. Take a step back and say, I’ll check my wc when I hit page 37 or 41.  That way, you don’t set unrealistic or outrageous goals for yourself.

Find a place/environment that keeps you on task! I find that a lot of different things go into my perfect environment for maximum writing output. When I’m tired, a raging beat in my music can keep me on task because instead of wanting to close my eyes, I bob my head to the music. If I have a serious scene to work on, I listen to movie soundtracks that don’t have singing. delirious or easily distracted? I need silence. Some people also find that being in public helps them keep on task, so think about going to a library or cafe. 

Utilize breaks! Breaks are so necessary, they may actually be more important than caffeine. Although, now that I think about, you make the tea or coffee and acquire the snacks during the breaks so… Anyway, if you are taking a break there are a couple of things you should do.

1. Refill the food and drink! If you get ten minutes into a 30 minute word war and your water bottle is empty, you’re gonna be pissed and your characters are going to wind up walking around a bone dry desert for 800 words. 

2. Go to the bathroom! Same principle as with food and drink. Except your characters will be day dreaming of waterfalls and gushing rivers. Also Pro Tip! using how bathroom breaks to keep you writing makes your brain suddenly short circuit into direct brain finger coordination. I have never written so clearly and effectively as when I have to pee and I’ve made my goal not going to the bathroom until I finish the scene.

3. Change positions! Move from the couch to your desk, from bed to a chair, even just changing whether your legs are under you or stretched out in front of you can make a world of difference.

4. Rock out man!  Blasting your favorite songs and singing along as loudly as possible for ten minutes can really restart your creative juices. Same can be said getting up and dancing around, doing a sun salutation, playing with your pets. Do something that you love that has nothing to do with writing, and in ten minutes you’ll be in a good mood, even if your last scene didn’t go how you’d hoped.

Finally.

5. Do the math! Count how many words you’ve done today. Count how many you have left to do. Look at how many it would take you to get to an even number, or if you have friends who are also working on a project, see how close or far away your word count is. The thing is that we may look at our first drafts as just a number, but that number can vary a hell of a lot. One word could be A or it could be SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALEDOCIOUS. I don’t even care if that’s spelled right… But seriously. Our mind makes a big deal out of numbers especially when we think about things like, 50k for nanowrimo, or 75k for the average length of an adult novel. These mind games that scare us into avoiding the blank screen for three hours can also help you get back to writing with a new perspective. So do the math.

I know I said finally but really there is one more super important, don’t you ever dare break this rule or you’ll be burned in the middle of town square with a slab of bolognia on your head…

6. A break is only a break if afterward, you go back to writing! It’s all fine and well to say, “Meh, I wrote 800 words, I’ll take a break, and write some more.” But if you don’t get back to your word document for five hours it wasn’t really a break. Instead, if you need/want to do something else, give yourself permission to fully enjoy that other thing and say, “This writing session is over for now. But I will have a second writing session in 6 hours time, after I catch up on the latest episodes of Dr. Who and Game of Thrones. I promise you’ll feel better about the gaps in your productivity if you totally embrace what you’re doing and don’t guilt trip yourself.

So there you go, hopefully, you will never find yourself in the position of having to write 30k in four days or some other ungodly figure, but if you do, you’ve got a game plan now so. Good luck and I wish you all the best on your Camp Nanowrimo word counts!

Goodbye April, hello May!

Things I hate about Nanowrimo…

I actually would like to preface this post by saying that I actually love Nanowrimo. This post is not meant to be a list of reasons why not to participate in Nanowrimo, because I think that most writers (would be writers) can benefit from Nano. That being said, I have been a participant for nearly 3 years now and I have taken that initial challenge of writing a book in a month, to writing nearly every day and writing books with or without it being November.

Now for those of you who know about and write during Nano, you probably are aware that this year marks the third year of CampNanowrimo.

While the months are a little different each year, this year the first month of camp is April and the second month if July. The silliness of having a camp in April aside, this means that writers everywhere are preparing to start another adventure in writing fast and furiously.

I myself have also been preparing (which is code for I’ve been in the nanoforums every day, since I write every day anyway). So this post really comes to you because of some of the really stupid/obnoxious/infuriating advice that I see on the forums each year before Nanowrimo and now before Camp. Bear in mind that I think there are far more reasons to do Nano, than to not do it, but still. This advice is just ridiculous all the time.

Also this post is a rant with detail and swearing. Just so you know.

Prompts

OK. Writing prompts can be really useful for both starting and un-mucking a plot midway through.

However, using a prompt that has nothing to do with your overall story just for the sake of words is stupid. So stupid in fact that it makes me want to smack people. Seriously.

A newbie to nano asked for advice in the forums and some moron told them to go to the prompts section of the forums and take prompts midway through their novel when they get stuck such as “Your characters have to run to the store in the middle of a rainstorm…” Or “Your characters find an abandoned kitten and have to decide whether or not to keep it.”  This poster also had the added advice of “if you do it right, you can drag those out to like 1000 words each.”

Are you kidding me?

This is why so many writers don’t take Nanowrimo seriously.

If your characters don’t need anything and just mysteriously decide that they need milk more than they are worried about being hit by lightening, then you have just wasted your own time. Time  that you could have spent writing something that would move your story forward and you have wasted your readers time if you ever get the damn thing published. Same goes for the kitten. Going to the store or finding a kitten will get you words, but unless your character really does get hit by lightening or the kitten turns out to be an alien or something, you aren’t moving your story forward.

… And now I want to write about a mutant kitten. Damnit.

So this issue with writing things just for the sake of writing something leads into this other huge problem that I have with Nanowrimo which is,

Quantity over Quality

This has, since nano’s inception, been an issue with nonbelievers of the process. Because the idiots who decided to send their characters out into the storm, only to return 2 pages later with the milk, aren’t writing. They are bullshitting. In real life and on the page. You are there to tell a story and your problems will still be there when your character returns from the store with a gallon of milk they didn’t need. So really you just put off the story telling for 2 pages. You did not solve any problems with your plot or characters.

Yes, you want to write 50k during Nanowrimo, and yes this is the magic (not realistic) number that signifies a book being completed. But the truth of the matter is, if you write 50k of strung together pointless word prompts or games, you won’t have a story at the end of Nano. You’ll have drivel. Plain and simple.

If you want to write a story in 30 days, then you have to be working toward some foreseeable end. Your characters have to have a goal, and your story has to have conflict and by conflict, I do not mean whether or not it’s a good idea to keep the fucking kitten.

It is totally possible to write a first draft of a story in one month (50-100k) and while it won’t be immediately publishable, you will at least have a story that you can work on in the months to come that can be polished and worked on. But you won’t have a story if you aren’t exploring something or reaching toward some goal. So leave the kittens and milk at home where they belong please.

Now one of my next biggest pet peeves of Nanowrimo participants is something that unfortunately happens every year and that I see all the time.

People who work on the same project year after year without fail

OK. Maybe your book would be better in the first person. Maybe it would benefit from being set in space instead of Alabama. But it you work on the same project year after year after year and you never finish it, you’re  selling yourself short. And you’re pretty much failing at life. Every project will have flaws no matter how long you’ve been writing, and no matter how many months you spend working on it. You will never be completely satisfied with your books. Fact.

Other fact. If you make it as good as it can be, then you can move on and start  a new fucking book. Stop being a pussy and just finish the damn book. Being afraid that it’s not good enough or that you could have done better isn’t going to get you anything but a stomach ulcer, so just accept that it’s not your finest work, and move on. You’ll do better on the next project. And the one after that.   You need to practice in order to advance at any skill, and for a writer, that means starting a new book.  Cut your losses and move on.

Which pretty much brings us back to my all time pet peeve of writers everywhere and I’m sure that there will be plenty of people who don’t agree  or whatever but I don’t really care.

People who write one month year and call themselves writers.

I’m sorry. If you take ballet classes one month a year does that make you a ballerina? NOPE.

If you read physics books one month a year does that make you a scientist? No.

If you dress up like Fantine for one month a year to put on Les Miserables  at school or where ever does that make you a whore in the streets of France? No, it fucking doesn’t.

Nanowrimo is a great incentive for people who think they might want to write a book to try out writing on a set schedule and writing for fun and writing for profit. You do it for a month and you can walk away from it and discover that writing isn’t for you. Or you can say, “Guess what I love writing, writing is amazing. I have all these cute little plot bunnies running around and I’m gonna be a writer.”

Grand.

But if you don’t write again until November when you have hundreds of thousands of people cheering you on, then you hopeful idiot, are not a writer. You’re playing a game.

Being a writer means that you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is What are my characters going to get themselves into today? Or How am I going to get my villian to give up the one thing my FMC needs more than anything? You go to work and you day dream about getting back to your laptop or your notebook and squirreling away ten minutes after dinner to work on your book. Being a writer means that you write on good days and on bad days. On holidays and on snow days and on days when you work a double shift. It means that even if you have a lull in your productivity, even when you can’t force the words to appear on the page, you are still thinking about writing. And if you were a writer, and had those impulses, you wouldn’t wait 11 months to fulfill them again. Asshole.

Sigh.

So there’s my laundry list of things that piss me off come Nano season. Enjoy.

Please feel free to flame me if you are one of these people, by the way. Go right ahead, I could use the extra  humor. Otherwise, please let me know in the comments why it is that you love Nanowrimo. Or why you hate it.

Happy Scribbling folks.

The aftermath of Nanowrimo and the best place to plan your next novel or short story.

Well, November is sadly over which means that either you wrote a novel in a month or you didn’t. I did in fact finish one novel and start a second, but I regretfully didn’t come close to my goal of 100k. As is often the case with my lofty goals. I did however reach 51k and have five days to spare. If you competed in the challenge this past November, I hope you reached your 50k and had fun creating your latest novel. 

National Novel writing month aside, I’m really here to resume active blogging. As the great men of clerks would say I assure you, we’re open. 

Open for business anyway. 

Today I’d like to ask you all where you come up with your best ideas and share a few idea of my own. Certainly, many writers find themselves, slouched over desks, or lounging in a recliner when they crack open their notebooks or power up their laptops. Others may lay in bed, sit inside closets, or settle under tables. These along with a dozen or more locations, may make your top five for jotting down ideas, or getting to the meat of a project. And I’m not about to tell you that any of these places are bad for your muse, though maybe your backside. I will say however, that one of the most common issues I see and hear from you, fellow writers, online and off, is the issue of concentration.

Now concentration for us can require a lot of “perfect” conditions before we can focus.
It may mean that you need a quiet place, or a place to blast your own music and get into your world. You probably need privacy, somewhere without a lot of foot traffic, though you might write in a cafe, what do I know right? But the real biggie across the board seems to be isolation from technology. With emails, facebook, twitter, and good ole web trolling, who can focus on anything but the next celebrity scandal or political goof. With so much information bombarding us at every turn, it has become necessary to employ programs that cut off the internet for a while, or possibly pay off your children to hide the smart phone until you’ve written two pages. 

I certainly am as guilty of procrastination on far too many occasions when I planned to write, but tumblr, text messages or netflix got the best of me. No longer. 

Ladies and gentlemen, the best place to plot out your new project, presuming that you don’t actually need to type up the work, is….. 

 

Your bathtub. 

 

Seriously. No joke. No one’s gonna walk in and demand anything of you. You can have music or not, mood lighting or no. It’s pretty fantastic. Now I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, Ugh. The bathtub? But my paper’s gonna get wet, my pen won’t work when I drop it in the tub. What’s the point, it’s such a hassle. 

 

Well. Hmph. Check this out. 

 

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That would be my giant metalic dry erase board which can pretty much survive anything, and balanced wonderfully along the side of my tub. The markers I used have little magnets on the end, so they stuck to it’s surface even if I happened to tip the board. 

Unfortunately, I was so comfortable and productive, that I very quickly ran out of space on the board. Enter space number 2.

 

Image

 

Yep, dry erase marker on my shower walls. And yes, it did come off. A little warm water on the edge of an old t-shirt and the wall was good as new. 

 

So there’s my own little perfect office, I hope someone will get a kick out of this and give it a go. It worked wonders for me. 

Please feel free to leave a comment if you like the idea, or if you have any other unusual places that help you focus and get to the important bit. Writing. 

 

Happy scribbles everyone. 

Lofty goals, life and Nanowrimo

Lofty goals lead to greater falls it seems. While I had intended to get quite a bit of writing done, both on personal projects, as well as my daily flash fiction challenge, the rest of my life had other plans. Stress, illness, and financial troubles are a poor combination and unfortunately they appear to have taken over my life. So here’s to lame excuses and getting back on track.

We are currently eight days away from NaNoWriMo/ November. For those unaware of this lovely tradition, November is National Novel Writing Month, wherein writer’s get together to jot 50k worth of a new novel. Or something like that. There are all sorts of variations in terms of length and content and whatnot, but essentially the idea is to throw caution to the wind and write your little heart out for four weeks straight. Whether you’re writing just for the pleasure of it, or in hopes of publishing, it’s a great exercise in daily writing, setting and meeting goals and pushing through the rough patches. 

So it should come as no surprise to anyone, that I’m currently gearing up for nano. In the past I’ve participated in seven different months of nanos (there are forums for people to do the competition any month of the year), I’ve won 4 times and written a total of about 255k. 

This year I’ll be rebelling and not working on a new draft, which is sad, because I love going into it with a fresh new project, but I really have to work on a series that I’m dealing with at the moment. For added fun, some buddies from my college writing group have issued a challenge to write 100k instead of 50k during the month so naturally, I’ll be trying that as well. It’s a very good thing that failing to meet incredibly high goals doesn’t seem to phase me… In any case, if you are planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this November and are interested in some new writing buddies or want to challenge me to some sprints or word wars, please feel free to shoot my a message and we’ll get that all set.

 

Good luck to those out there with lofty goals and dreams of 50k excellence!