Category: NaNoWriMo

On Not Completing NaNoWriMo and Why I’m Okay With That

On Not Completing NaNoWriMo and Why I’m Okay With That

November started off strong for me. I was getting my words in most days or catching up easily on days I didn’t. As with most creative endeavors, life can get in the way. Unfortunately, that was the case for me this year. I did not win NaNoWriMo, but I gave it my all and I feel good about the progress I did make, which was just under 44,000 words out of the 50,000 goal. I was close.

During the latter half of the month, I got a new job. It’s a job I wanted for a while. The excitement of that sort of took over for a while and I lost focus of my word count goals in order to focus on getting things ready, giving notice to my current workplace, and overall trying not to freak out too badly over a large life change such as this. After the initial swell, I got back on track for my word count. I had a couple of really hardcore writing nights where I spent hours doing word sprints through the NaNoWriMo Sprints Twitter and I got mostly caught up. I thought nothing would stop me from hitting my goal.

But then I got sick the last week of November. Right during the time I should have been writing the most and passing the finish line, I was emptying boxes of tissue and staring out at the world dumbfounded through watery eyes. My head was in such a fog that I couldn’t focus on writing, at least not good writing, so by that point I had resigned myself to the loss.

And I’m okay with that! Sure, I was a little bit disappointed. Winning was certainly my goal. It’s hard to feel too badly about my story at this point though. I made a lot of progress with my characters and the story is one that I think is really unique and interesting. I should be able to have it finished and ready to edit it early next year.

I worked really hard in November, and now that it’s over I want December to be a month of focusing on my new job, and relaxing throughout the holiday season. I have some exciting posts planned for this month including an unboxing and review of The Nocturnal Reader’s Box which should ship out to me any day now.

A huge congratulations to everyone who finished NaNoWriMo this year. I know it was not an easy task, and you should be so proud.

See you next time!

 

NaNoWriMo: Day 15 – Half Way There

NaNoWriMo: Day 15 – Half Way There

As the first 15 days come to a close, I still feel optimistic. I’m half way there. On November 1st, NaNoWriMo stood before me like a monster demanding words, and I’ve been feeding it more or less on time each and every day. What’s more is I like what I’m writing. I like it a lot.

The novel I’m writing, Suicide House, was one that I sort of, kind of, half-assed outlined in the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo. At the half way point, I’ve written many unexpected scenes. The story has taken some turns that were in no way part of the outline I cooked up, but at the same time, the overall story arc is very much intact. I’m getting to know my characters quite well. Hailey, Connor, Julien, and Molly have already been through a lot and when I’m done with the novel, I want to go back and add more character development for each of them. Especially Hailey, my main character.

Finding time to write has been challenging. Writing at home comes with the distractions of loved ones, and loneliness has always been my best muse, so Starbucks has been getting a lot of my business. In the evening hours, once I put my son to sleep, I go and enjoy the crowded anonymity while I write. I can be ignored. On my days off from work I go to the library; I find I’m able to be quite productive there.

My plan for the second half of the month is to keep doing what I’m doing. Right now, the characters are in the house and they’ve found some interesting and terrifying things. I can’t wait to see how they react to the further horrors that await them in Suicide House.

 

NaNoWriMo: Day Zero – She Comes Prepared

NaNoWriMo: Day Zero – She Comes Prepared

Here we are on day zero, A.K.A. the day before NaNoWriMo. For those unaware, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month: a month in which writers of the world enjoy an incredibly supportive and positive community as we all reach for that 50,000 words. That’s right, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month. If you reach that goal, you win.

Last year I won with my first ever novel Ravenscrag. Unfortunately, it is still being edited. I thought about making its second draft my project for Nano this year, but it didn’t seem like the right time for it, so here I am with a new idea and a new 50k to write.

I have a great feeling about this one. Last year Nano marked my return to writing fiction after a long absence. I was very much a “pantser” last year, which means I flew by the seat of my pants with no outline or real plan for my novel before starting. Now I have a year of writing short stories under my belt and a better understanding of writing fiction. I’m aiming for my second win in a row with a great cast of characters and a story that I really love and can’t wait to write. I have a very basic outline that I struggled much of this month to actually sit down and hammer out, but the basic story structure is there. Now I have a month to put meat on these bones.

Title: Suicide House
Genre: Psychological/Supernatural Horror
Synopsis: In Maple Hill, the suicide rate is 10 times the national average. After a young man takes his life, a group of friends vow to uncover the well-guarded history of the town.

Protagonists:

Brandon Fuller – Died by suicide.
Hailey Greene – Main character and girlfriend of Brandon. You don’t want to mess with her.
Julien Davis – Brandon’s asshole best friend with a heart of gold.
Connor Fitzgerald – The smart kid. He has a blog.
Molly  Westcott – So optimistic it’s disgusting. She’ll probably read your aura.

Antagonist:
Jack Harpe A.K.A. The Suicide Killer

Bring it on November! It’s going to be a challenge but I’m ready.

Another Novel Cometh

Another Novel Cometh

With my novel, Ravenscrag, still in the desperate throes of editing, this writer is in need of a fresh start; a new idea. National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner, and I’ve decided to set aside my work on Ravenscrag and start a new novel. I need a chance of literary scenery and this should do the trick nicely.

For those of you who aren’t aware, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as it is usually abbreviated, is an annual competition where the goal is to write a novel within the month of November. That’s 50,000 words minimum, which breaks down to 1,667 words per day. If you complete your 50,000 words on time, you win! It was during November of last year that I wrote Ravenscrag (why yes I have been really slow with the editing, thank you for noticing) and I had a blast doing it. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as getting to the end and realizing you wrote a book in a month.

I’m doing things a little differently this year. I am a “pantser” to my core, which means I tend to write without an outline and just see where the story takes me. This year, I am going to try my hand at this whole planning thing and see how it affects the coming together of my novel. Being new to planning my writing, I found a great online workshop with daily exercises and assignments that should help me get the skeleton of my story in shape, so that come November 1st, I can start throwing meat on the bones.

I’ll post more information on the novel I’ll be writing as I flesh it out my idea a little bit. All I can say for now is that it’s called Suicide House, and it will be a psychological/supernatural horror. Stay tuned for more Nano prep in the coming weeks.

Things I Learned Doing NaNoWriMo

Things I Learned Doing NaNoWriMo

With NaNoWriMo 2016 having concluded several weeks ago, I have tucked my keyboard (and my story) away for the month of December. During this most needed stepping-away, I have had ample time to reflect upon the experience and what I’ve learned post-Nano.

On the impossibility of the goal:
Writing 50,000 words in a single month is a daunting task. It’s almost self-defeating to look at it in all its full glory. When midnight strikes and November rolls 30 new days onto your calendar, staring that 50k in the face feels like looking up at Everest. It seems impossible. It seems like it’s something only people without kids can do. It seems like you will have no hope at all if you have a full time job. It seems like if you are successful, you will emerge on the other side a dusty sun-deprived hermit.

Like the ever-wise Vincent Van Gogh once said, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together”, and when you look at NaNoWriMo in the same light, breaking it down into manageable chunks makes it seem doable. A daily word count of 1,667 doesn’t seem so bad, does it?

On inconsistent productivity:
I stumbled and I fell during NaNoWriMo. I didn’t end every single day with my 1,667 words packaged up with a neat little bow of celebratory self-praise. Some days were only a few hundred words, and even getting those out was a struggle. It was easy on these days to want to throw in the towel. That was, until I looked at my total word count up to that point and realized that each day was just a drop in the bucket, and that of course some days would be more or less productive than others. Other days I had over 2,500 words, which more than made up for some of the less productive days.

On unfiltered writing:
My previous writings have come from a place of agonizing perfectionism. The reason I’ve struggled with fiction writing in the past is because I spend so much time refining and perfecting each sentence as I write it, that I essentially never get anywhere.

During the month of November, I struggled to keep my inner-editor turned the other way, so that I could just let the words flow pure onto the page. With a hefty goal of 50,000 words in a month, I couldn’t waste precious time messing around with word choice and bogging myself down in the details. My focus was on getting the story out and recognizing that this was not its final form; that it was okay to be imperfect because that is what the editing stage is for.

It worked. It hurt sometimes to leave a sentence looking like garbage but at least I got the story out, and that was what mattered most.

On letting the story breathe:
I started out NaNoWriMo with a rough outline for what my story was going to be. I knew the genre, I had fleshed out the characters a little, and I had most of a plot skeleton just waiting for me to put meat on its bones.

I spent hours prior to NaNoWriMo planning things out, sure that without a plan of action I would flounder and fail.

It only took about a week for nearly my entire plan to derail as the story took on a life of its own. Most of the little details that I wanted to implement were scrapped as the story unfolded. Antagonists became protagonists, the mechanics of how certain things worked completely flipped, characters took on a life of their own and I was completely at their mercy.

On making yourself write:
One of the biggest questions I’ve seen on forums filled with writers, and one of the biggest questions I’ve stared in the face for most of my writing life is: “How do I make myself write?”.

It’s easy to get caught up in looking for some magical formula to cure what is infamously known as “writer’s block”. It sometimes feels like all the prolific writers of the world have a secret they aren’t telling us, but do you know what I learned? I learned there is no secret; you just have to write. It sounds too simple, and I balked at the same advice before I found it myself to be true.

The only way to write, is to write. You just sit down and you do it. You do it even when you don’t feel like it; even when you are depressed, tired, and sick.  You do it even when you don’t have enough time. Speaking of time…

On having the time to write:
One of my biggest excuses during my non-writing periods in life has been “I don’t have time to write”. If you’re reading this and you’re a writer, I bet you’ve said this a time or two. It’s a cop out. You know it. I know it. We all know it. Now, instead of saying you don’t have time, change your wording. Say, “I’m not making writing a priority.” Feels different, doesn’t it? I bet it rings true though, because I guarantee once you make writing a priority, you’ll find the time.

I spent about an hour a day on my novel during NaNoWriMo. I made getting my word goal a priority and by working on it for a few minutes here and there, I was able to reach it most days.

On keeping your story a secret:
One of my favorite books about writing is the aptly titled On Writing by Stephen King. Whether you love, hate, or are indifferent to his work, one can’t argue with regard to King’s amazing work ethic. One of the biggest take-aways I’ve had from his memoir on the craft of writing is the closed door practice he enforces in his first drafts. That is, writing the first draft with no input from anyone.

This was one thing I was very protective of during my NaNoWriMo experience. It helped that I was, and am still self-conscious of my fiction-writing abilities. Even giving away a small idea of what my story is about has been difficult.

On stepping away:
Writing a novel brings you necessarily close to the work, which is why it’s important to take some time away from it before going back and judging/editing it. You’re still too close to the story to see it objectively right after completion. I decided to take a month away from my story to work on other things before going back to read it. In January, I will read the entire thing and start making some edits and then write the second draft.

On the experience:
This was the first NaNoWriMo that I ever seriously attempted, and I am both shocked and proud that I was able to complete my goal. The community is incredible. I had so much fun doing word sprints, connecting with other writers, and enjoying all of the positivity surrounding the challenge. I am walking away as a stronger writer with a finished novel that I can now spend time agonizing over and refining until it’s something that I would feel good about publishing.

Don’t be discouraged, either, if you didn’t quite reach the 50,000 words in one month. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you can create your own goal. Even if you set a goal that you don’t quite complete, you’ll still have more words than you did when you started, and that is something to celebrate.