Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Pushing Through

Phew!

Struggling now.

It was so easy last week. I just sat down and fired out words, characters, situations.

This week, even though I know where I want them all to go, it’s suddenly so much harder to get started.

I ended up not adding to the word count at all yesterday, even after being inspired in the morning. I struggled through this morning the same way, making notes about what I have so far, consulting earlier plans about what’s supposed to be happening in the story at this point, where I need to go in the next quarter of the wordcount. And then I failed to write.

In the end, I had to listen to an interview with Barbara Kingsolver, take some books back to the library, settle myself down at the coffee shop, drink a massive cappuccino, fire up Carmina Burana under the headphones, read the NaNoWriMo pep talk by Karen Russell and force myself to write dry, turgid prose for half a page, before I even got remotely started.

844 words later, I’m calling it a win and going home to get ready for the boys coming home. At least I have a partial scene started so that I can pick it up later on today.

Writing doesn’t sound hard, but sometimes it ridiculously difficult to get words on the page!

NaNoWriMo 2012 check in

I’m taking a moment this morning, on Day 8 of NaNoWriMo and 13000 words into my novel, to stop and go through what I have written, not to correct or revise it, but in an attempt to capture every character and fact that I have carelessly thrown into the great stew that is my manuscript.

It’s tempting to just push on to meet today’s wordcount goal 1, but I think that I will save myself a ton of time this way. I’ve written so much and introduced so many characters (the locations are taking on characteristics that I’ll need to keep track of too) that I need this. Rather than spending time scrolling back up the document to find out the names I hastily gave one of my main characters’ co-workers, I’m capturing that now and putting it all down on paper. The aim is to put it into a Scrivener document too, but I’m working with paper just now.

How I’m Working

I really do like Scrivener with all its clever tools for managing scenes and chapters and all that, but I think it’s really going to be most useful to me later, when I’m trying to wrangle this thing into some kind of proper shape.

For now, I’m trying to minimize the decision-making.

If I have the opportunity to decide whether to start a new ‘chapter’ file, or make a note of this character’s backstory, or play with a corkboard of scenes WHILE I’m trying to write the first draft, I’ll just end up doing all that stuff. I’m not disciplined enough to stop myself clicking on enticing little menu buttons every time I reach a knotty point in the narrative.

So I’m using IAWriter which is intentionally annoyingly bare as you work. It doesn’t have a search function, or much of anything really apart from a nice font, a ‘focus’ mode and the ability to see your word count (and how long it’d take to read what you have so far2. I just have one long, scrolling document. If things get out of order or if I don’t know how to get from one scene to the next I just plough on3.

But that does mean that things are getting quite unwieldy. In order to cause myself the east distraction possible I’m doing this kind of thing for each character.

Character Sheet for NaNoWriMo 2012

The notes at the top are about the character and the column down the side is full of names of the people in his orbit. Very basic stuff but it feels like the way to blast through this first draft. I feel speed is of the essence. Having recently gone back through my abandoned 2010 NaNoWriMo effort and realised it actually has some potential, I have decided that there is definitely something to this ‘writing with abandon’ model.

Anyway, onward!

  1. 2000 words a day, instead of 1667, in order to get ahead of the fact that I’ll have at least five days in the middle where it will be very hard to add any word count at all due to certain visits from certain siblings — woo-hoo!
  2. 71 minutes!
  3. Last night, for example, after spending hte whole day ignorning the book because I didn’t know how to get from this scene to the next thing tha needed to happen, I just skipped over it entirely and started writing a scene that wanted to happen, even though I wasn’t sure it was in the right place. And 3000 words later I went to bed.

Novelling Demon

I wrote seven thousand words on my novel today.

Seven thousand!

I feel great.

Apart from the slight ringing in my ears.

(Is it possible to break your brain?)

More importantly I learned a lot. But I’m going to have to get away from the computer, so you’ll have to wait to hear about my great epiphanies.

OK, only 5,500 words to go tomorrow, and I can call myself a NaNoWriMo winner two years in a row.

Quite a feat considering that, four days ago, my word count was only 34,000 and I couldn’t see any way to get to 50,000 in that amount of time. Pah. Just goes to show. What goes for running also goes for writing. We are often limited only by what we think is possible.

Yesterday, by the way, writing anything was impossible. Hope that doesn’t happen tomorrow!

Thursday Morning

Snoctober

Wow, winter has come quickly.

I mean, it’s November and we’ve had snow already, and its not that I’m surprised at having to scrape frost off my windscreen at 7:55AM, it’s just that that it’s so sudden. October spent a good part of its time this year pretending to be August (or at least early September) and then it turned around and dumped three inches of snow on our unmowed grass and previously-thriving tender annuals. I was still growing cucumbers — cucumbers! 1

 

So, November is here and I’m participating in NaNoWriMo again. I must have heard of NaNoWriMo for the first time just a couple of years after it started, thanks to Debbie (who, by the way, has a book coming out, of which she is the illustrator. She is a multi-talented thing, that Debbie and if she wasn’t so adorable, and hadn’t fed my neices and nephew candy at Halloween all those years ago, we’d have to travel to Toronto with a sack full of squirrels who had been carefully briefed.), but I didn’t ever pluck up the courage to try it until last year, after I had spent the previous May writing a story a day. At some point during the year it occurred to me that writing a little bit each day on the SAME story might actually be possible – and maybe easier than having to come up with a different one every day.

So I tried it.

I did write – fairly coherently – on the same story every day last year and what was more, I enjoyed it. It was the most fun part of my day, even when it was hard. It made me happy for the rest of the day, even when I was fretting about which words when in which order and how to get my characters from here to there at the right time so that they could bump into that character – who didn’t want to be bumped into.

 

I had planned out my characters and the major events in the story, so I was was pretty confidence of reaching the end. I did reach the end: the end of November, that is, with my 50,000 words and my “winner” certificate. And I felt great.

 

What I didn’t feel so great about, however, was the shape my story was in. I could tell it wasn’t quite working and that made it hard for me to push on, when November was over, and make it to the end of the actual novel. I couldn’t quite tell what I was doign wrong. I knew it needed a massive revision, but I didn’t know where to start.

 

I put it aside and spent the past year listening to other authors talk about their writing process in podcasts and lectures. I read about writing. I read books. I hosted StoryADay May again, and even ran a contest. I got lots of heart-warming feedback from other writers who enjoyed StoryADay. I failed to take part in the wonderful Write1Sub1 challenge, although I consider myself a charter cheerleader.

Lots of writerly information was swirling around in my head looking for a catalyst to start some kind of reaction 2.

I think I found it in Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering3

Happily for me I found it right at the start of October and have spent all of that month ignoring the crazy weather and instead sketching out the bones of my next novel. I had to fight hard to stop myself jumping back in time and revising last year’s NaNo novel which I really loved, but which was ugly and in need of a fix.

So this year I’m writing a simpler novel, with the idea of trying out Larry’s techniques. They’re based on screenwriting formulae. I’ve watched (and loved) enough TV shows and movies for the idea of a formula to seem normal and natural to me 4. This book has given me insights into what I was doing wrong last year and what I might do right this year.

My plan is to write, write, write and keep writing past the end of November, to get to a proper novel length (50,000 words is a little short).

I’ve started out with a plan, a knowledge of my characters, notes on what scenes have to happen when. On Oct 28 I was super confident. On Oct 29 I was still working on the outline. On Oct 30, well I think I spent that day going “huh?” as we got snowed on. On Oct 31 I was busy and on November 1 I was nervous.

Yesterday, Nov 2, I remembered that, even with all the planning in the world, writing stories is actually quite hard. Much time was spent staring at my screen, trying to wrangle the first 800 words of that day’s quota into shape.  Then I remembered that the first 800 words are always the hardest, every day 5. Which is why I’m rambling here.  Even though they’re not novel-related, I’m hoping these words will serve as my warm-up. Tomorrow I’ll write something that’s not about writing6.

  1. which, as it turns out is a lot harder to type than it should be. “Cumumbers”? “Cumcumbers”? Wake up, fingers!
  2. 17 years of marriage to a chemist finally makes up for not having taken any chemistry classes ever!
  3. This book spends wa-ay too much time on the sales pitch of why his method will work and why you shouldn’t resist it even if you’ve always resisted outlining. Speed-reading will be your friend until you get to the meat of the book, and even then, you’ll have to let your eyes slide over a thousand analogies that reinforce the point a thousand different ways. But the essentials of the book are really worth it. The editor, however? Should possibly be fired…
  4. in fact, part of my preparation for NaNo last year was to deconstruct a classic Trek episode and see where the high points and low points came – how far into the story. I just couldn’t quite figure out how to DO it in my novel
  5. It’s why 750words exists!
  6. It’s a pet peeve of mine, when writers write fiction about ooo, let me think, a writer. Especially a writer who is slaving away at a local newspaper when what she really wants to be doing is writing novels…wah wah wah, use your imagination!

NaNoWriMo Half Time Report

Well, here we are at the half-way point of NaNoWriMo and I’m still writing.

I’m slightly under a day behind on the word count targets and that’s only because a, I spent the day being sociable yesterday b, I’ve been fighting off strep/tonsillitis and c, I spent some time on Friday not writing by trying to untangle all the threads I have been spinning.

Demons in Buddhist Hell, Haw Par Villa (Tiger Balm Theme Park), Singapore

PROGRESS REPORT

In Week One the challenge was just sitting down and churning out that many words each day (must write an average of 1667 a day to meet the 50K word goal by Nov 30). I would write for three quarters of an hour and feel really proud of myself and then I’d check my wordcount and find out I’d written 358 words. Almost without fail. Getting to 600 words was torture. Then, somewhere around 750 words, things would start to flow and I would start to fly — and then I’d usually find I’d run out of time. A session later in the day pushed me well past my goal most days.

I am careful not to overshoot by too much because I know myself. If I ever sat down and wrote 5,000 words in one day I would feel so damn pleased with myself that I probably wouldn’t write anything meaningful for days afterwards (“Ah, I have a buffer. 358 words today will be fine!”)

In Week Two, which is apparently when a lot of people lose enthusiasm and drop out, I really started to feel like maybe I could do this. My characters and plot lines were coming together, I was starting to see how they interacted and what was going to happen to them. I was starting to find sitting down to write much easier, now that my mental muscles were warmed up.

DEALING WITH DEMONS

This is now, officially Week Three. I’m not sure what other NaNo-ers say about it, but I’m kind of wishing now that I had boosted my wordcount a bit in the past two weeks. I sense that things are going to go a little slower now. I’ve spend the past two weeks starting stories, setting my characters in motion, letting them roll along and explore their world. Now I need to start intertwining their stories. I have to make sure that timelines make sense. I have to get everyone to where they need to be, at the right times, knowing what they are supposed to know NOW and not a moment sooner or later.  Hmmm.

The demons I wrestled with in the earlier weeks were more of the ‘aargh, this isn’t perfect, the pace is faltering, this could be better’ type. I subdued them with a quick “Yeah, you know what? Tell me about it after the first draft is done” to the solar plexus. They were pretty easily vanquished.

This week I suspect I’m going to be wrestling a different demon and I’m going to have to find a similar move. How do i defeat the ‘you’re getting it all wrong. This is  a big mess AND you’re running out of time!” Demon?

Watch this space!

Which Creative Challenge Is Best For You?

"My Writing Life" by Olivander

My Writing Life By Olivander

Creative Challenges are great for shaking up the routine, forcing you to be creative every day or every week, and flexing those imagination muscles.

What is a creative challenge?

National Novel Writer’s Month is probably the most ambitious and famous creative challenge: write a novel in a month (November). The idea is to challenge yourself to create something and to silence the inner critic by putting a time-limit on the project. NaNoWriMo is fantastically popular for such an ambitious project (some authors have even turned their ‘crappy first drafts’ into published novels). But extreme novel-writing isn’t for everyone.

Other creative challenge stipulate that you create every day for a year, or on a certain day of the week or the month. Maybe you share it, maybe it’s private. It might involve public accountability (posting online) or it could work on the honour system. Sometimes there are forums, sometimes events, and sometimes it’s just something you commit to.

Tips for Taking Part

  • Decide on your own version of the rules before you start – if you miss a day of a monthly challenge, can you forgive yourself? Do you have to make it up? Do you quit?
  • Revise your rules as you go along – these challenges are meant to help you foster creativity, not become a chore. If, half way through, you realise it’s not working, or you’ve already got what you need, you can change your rules or drop out. If you need to be more strict, make more strict rules.
  • Do connect with other people taking part – they can inspire you, keep you honest, and cure some of the isolation artists often feel
  • Don’t get sucked into too much online chatter – the point of this creative challenge is to free you to create more, not find another place you can waste time
  • Make it a priority – most of these challenges take commitment for a small amount of time. (NaNoWriMo takes up a lot of time but only for a month. Project 365 commits you to a daily creative act for a year, but it can be as little as a few seconds a day.) Make the most of the challenge by making it a priority. You might have to drop something else during the challenge. (That’s why it’s called a challenge). If you have to skip your daily Simpsons rerun to free up half and hour for creativity, is that too high a price?

Here are a few creative challenges, but please comment with details of others you have heard about.

For Writers

100 Drabbles of Summer
http://community.livejournal.com/charloft/2125606.html

Hosted in a livejournal community, this is a group of writers who are aiming for 100×100 words stories this summer. Yes, each! Even if you miss the official start, I’m sure you can join in late.

Poem A Day (April)
http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides

Hosted by Writer’s Digest’s Robert Lee Brewer. Every day Brewer posts a prompt at his site. Poets post their poetic response in the comments. Fascinating reading, even if you aren’t a poet.

StoryADay in May
www.storyaday.org

Hosted by yours truly, this turned into a wonderful community of writers who helped each other through the Herculean task of writing A Story A Day. It’ll be an annual event, so sign up now for the newsletter!

100 Words.net
www.100words.com/about.php

One of my first and favourite creative challenge sites. Write 100 words a day for a month. No more, no less. It is surprisingly challenging, doesn’t take up great wodges of time, and still keeps you on the look out for inspiration every day.

National Novel Writing Month
www.nanowrimo.org/

The big daddy of writing challenges: write a 50,000 words novel in November. Why November? Because the originators thought it was a good idea to do this in a month with a long weekend built in. (I might have voted for one with a holiday that didn’t have lots of social obligations – Memorial Day, perhaps, or President’s Day – but I guess they were young and unmarried at the time).

NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month
http://nablopomo.ning.com/

Like NaNoWriMo, this challenges writers. This time it’s a blog post a day. You can join the network at ning.com or just post in your own blog. Each month has a theme and you can email the creator to be added to each month’s blog roll. I found some good blog friends by browsing the blogroll one month.

Script Frenzy
www.scriptfrenzy.org/eng/whatisscriptfrenzy

Write 100 pages of scripted material during April. This one has sponsors and prizes.

Writers’ Weekly Quarterly 24 hr Short Story Contest
http://www.writersweekly.com/misc/contest.php

Write a short story on a given topic in 24 hrs. This contest has a $5 (US) entry fee and takes place every quarter. First prize is $300. Limited to 500 participants and it usually fills up. The next one is April 24, 2010.

For Visual Artists

Illustration Friday
http://www.illustrationfriday.com/index.php

This was probably the first creative challenge I was aware of online, and I’d guess it has been running for at least a decade. They provide a weekly word/theme, you illustrate and send them a thumbnail and a link to your illustration. There are forums and interviews and lots of great art to look at.

Project 365
http://365project.org/

Take a picture every day. Photography site Photojojo has this article to help.

A Photo A Day
http://www.aphotoaday.org/

This one is actually a mailing list and a blog, with a picture chosen by the editors every day, but you can submit yours and keep your fingers crossed.

Art Every Day
http://creativeeveryday.com/art-every-day-month

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, Leah Piken Kolidas decided to declare November Art Every Day month for artists. She has a nice Rules (That Were Made To Be Broken) section, which appeals to me. Join her!

For Musicians

The RPM Challenge -Record an album in 28 days, just because you can.
www.rpmchallenge.com/content/view/844/1/

(Write and) record an album of original music in February. 10 tracks or 35 minutes of music. The creators say (and I agree) “Don’t wait for inspiration – taking action puts you in a position to get inspired… February will come and go whether you’ve joined in or not, but do you really want to be left out? ”

General Creativity

The “Create Every Day” Challenge
http://creativeeveryday.com/creative-every-day-challenge

Choose your creative outlet, use (or ignore) the monthly theme, browse the work of other participants, listed in the sidebar. From the site: “This is a low pressure challenge, with the idea of bringing more creativity into our lives. I will not be the creativity police. I hope that we can all find ways, simple and grand to express our creative selves. Have fun with it!”

"My Writing Life" by Olivander

Creative Challenges

"My Writing Life" by OlivanderCreative Challenges are great for shaking up the routine, forcing you to be creative every day or every week, and flexing those imagination muscles.

What is a creative challenge?

National Novel Writer’s Month is probably the most ambitious and famous creative challenge: write a novel in a month (November). The idea is to force yourself to create and silence the inner critic by putting a time-limit on things.

Other creative challenge might stipulate that you create every day, or on a certain day of the week or the month. Maybe you share it, maybe it’s private. It might involve public accountability (posting online) or it could work on the honour system. Sometimes there are forums, sometimes events, and sometimes it’s just something you commit to.

Tips for Taking Part

  • Decide on your own version of the rules before you start – if you miss a day of a monthly challenge, can you forgive yourself? Do you have to make it up? Do you quit?
  • Revise your rules as you go along – these challenges are meant to help you foster creativity, not become a chore. If, half way through, you realise it’s not working, or you’ve already got what you need, you can change your rules or drop out. If you need to be more strict, make more strict rules.
  • Do connect with other people taking part –  they can inspire you, keep you honest, and cure some of the isolation artists often feel
  • Don’t get sucked into too much online chatter – the point of this creative challenge is to free you to create more, not find another place you can waste time
  • Make it a priority – most of these challenges take commitment for a small amount of time. (NaNoWriMo takes  up a lot of time but only for a month. Project 365 commits you to a daily creative act for a year, but it can be as little as a few seconds a day.) Make the most of the challenge by making it a priority. You might have to drop something else during the challenge. (That’s why it’s called a challenge). If you have to skip your daily Simpsons rerun to free up half and hour for creativity, is that too high a price?

Here are a few creative challanges, but please comment with details of others you have heard about.

For Writers

100 Words.net
www.100words.com/about.php

One of my first and favourite creative challenge sites. Write 100 words a day for a month. No more, no less. It is surprisingly challenging, doesn’t take up great wodges of time, and still keeps you on the look out for inspiration every day.

National Novel Writing Month
www.nanowrimo.org/

The big daddy of writing challenges: write a 50,000 words novel in November. Why November? Because the originators thought it was a good idea to do this in a month with a long weekend built in. (I might have voted for one with a holiday that didn’t have lots of social obligations – Memorial Day, perhaps, or President’s Day – but I guess they were young and unmarried at the time).

NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month
http://nablopomo.ning.com/

Like NaNoWriMo, this challenges writers. This time it’s a blog post a day. You can join the network at ning.com or just post in your own blog. Each month has a theme and you can email the creator to be added to each month’s blog roll. I found some good blog friends by browsing the blogroll one month.

Script Frenzy
www.scriptfrenzy.org/eng/whatisscriptfrenzy

Write 100 pages of scripted material during April. This one has sponsors and prizes.

Writers’ Weekly Quarterly 24 hr Short Story Contest
http://www.writersweekly.com/misc/contest.php

Write a short story on a given topic in 24 hrs. This contest has a $5 (US) entry fee and takes place every quarter. First prize is $300. Limited to 500 participants and it usually fills up. The next one is April 24, 2010.

For Visual Artists

Illustration Friday
http://www.illustrationfriday.com/index.php

This was probably the first creative challenge I was aware of online, and I’d guess it has been running for at least a decade. They provide a weekly word/theme, you illustrate and send them a thumbnail and a link to your illustration. There are forums and interviews and lots of great art to look at.

Project 365
http://365project.org/

Take a picture every day. Photography site Photojojo has this article to help.

A Photo A Day
http://www.aphotoaday.org/

This one is actually a mailing list and a blog, with a picture chosen by the editors every day, but you can submit yours and keep your fingers crossed.

Art Every Day
http://creativeeveryday.com/art-every-day-month

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, Leah Piken Kolidas decided to declare November Art Every Day month for artists. She has a nice Rules (That Were Made To Be Broken) section, which appeals to me. Join her!

For Musicians

The RPM Challenge -Record an album in 28 days, just because you can.
www.rpmchallenge.com/content/view/844/1/

(Write and) record an album of original music in February. 10 tracks or 35 minutes of music. The creators say (and I agree) “Don’t wait for inspiration – taking action puts you in a position to get inspired… February will come and go whether you’ve joined in or not, but do you really want to be left out? ”

General Creativity

The “Create Every Day” Challenge
http://creativeeveryday.com/creative-every-day-challenge

Choose your creative outlet, use (or ignore) the monthly theme, browse the work of other participants, listed in the sidebar. From the site: “This is a low pressure challenge, with the idea of bringing more creativity into our lives. I will not be the creativity police. I hope that we can all find ways, simple and grand to express our creative selves. Have fun with it!”