Tuesday, December 1, 2015

I Quit NaNoWriMo

November is finally over. It's a little bittersweet for me this year. I'm happy for each NaNoWriMo participant that meets their goal. It just wasn't for me this year.

I still stand by what I said when I finally decided to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I knew I was not likely to finish. I tried anyways. Two weeks in, I made the decision to quit.


This past month has been a real crunch to get the upstairs apartment ready for my Mom to move in. Sweetie took off almost three weeks of work, people have been in and out constantly, and I'd been on toddler-watch without much of a break to write. Most of my writing got done late at night after everyone else had gone to bed. My sleep was suffering, and when my sleep suffers, so does my mood.

The first week was still awesome. I was meeting my daily word counts like it was nothing. Everything was going smoothly when we left on our trip to go visit my sister. I had compensated with my daily goals to account for taking a few days off for our trip and again for Thanksgiving, so I wasn't worried about that.

The thing you have to watch out for when you take a complete break like I did is the lost momentum. I tried writing on the trip back home, and only managed half the daily word count. I wasn't too worried, as I knew I could catch up easily still as long as I would sit down and do the work.

Then I got home and went through my mail. I had jury duty scheduled for the next week. That was the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. I decided to quit NaNoWriMo for this year before I became too stressed out. Sometimes when things spin out of control, it's kinder to let go of the things you can control. I've done it before, and that's what I did this time, too.

I still have all the benefits I've talked about that came with participating in NaNoWriMo. Meal planning is something I plan to continue. I got enough of the story figured out and out of my head that it's not plaguing me in quite the same way that it was. I don't regret my decision to write, and I don't regret my decision to stop.

Except I haven't really quit writing. It seems I can't. Sure, I stopped writing my fiction, but that just means I start writing in my journal more. And poems. And songs. I guess I'll just have to keep writing as long as my finger keeps itching.

***

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More about NaNoWriMo?
My Characters Won't Behave
NaNoWriMo 2014 vs 2015
My NaNoWriMo Essentials

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Characters Won't Behave

I know I'm not the only person that deals with this. I just feel like complaining... I started having trouble with a character being overly hostile. When I complained about it to my family, I was told to just make the character behave. I wish.



Non-writers seem to be under the impression that writers control their characters. For me, it's more like I rent head-space to my characters. Except I don't actually get the benefit of collecting rent.

When I was dealing with this particular character, I had intended for her to be rude, but the intensity of her behavior was unexpected, and told me there was more to it. So I took a day and explored why she was behaving this way. What I got at the end of the day was her character arc. It was important for me to know, even if what I actually wrote gets scrapped.

This is why I don't bother getting too detailed with my outlining. Things go off on tangents too often and I would have to scrap half of my outline. It's what works for me.

Before that I had a side character decide to tag along for the whole adventure...and become the love interest. I was not planning on including any romance in this story, but he's not going away. I'm trying telling myself that it helps add to the conflict.

So...only a week into NaNoWriMo and things are spinning out of control nicely. I've come to the conclusion is that if the characters are behaving perfectly, something is wrong.

***
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More about NaNoWriMo?
Four Benefits of NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo Prep Time
What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2014 vs 2015

Differences seem to be a running theme with me lately. Especially when it comes to NaNoWriMo. For that matter, the working title of my NaNo novel is "Osiyana". Which…according to Google translate…is "different" in Nyanja. (I'll have to share more about how I picked that title later.)

Differences are a running theme in my plot. Differences and changes. The first plot point that crops up for my MC is changes occurring all around her, and she's the only one that knows something has changed. Then, because simple isn't something that my brain does well, there are multiple versions of the same character in the story. The differences are what set them apart.

But it makes me think of the differences between my NaNo experience last year and this year. They're already drastically different, even though we are only a few days in.

Last year, I was a pantser. I had no plot. I had a few characters and a setting, and some stories that I knew occurred after what I was writing, but I was a week or so into November before I actually thought of a plot. My writing wandered and reading over it now is particularly painful.

This year I knew I was wanting to participate, so I started planning. I worked up a few character sheets, and did some basic outlining. I actually developed a decent plot and themes. I even went so far as to create a Pinterest board for inspiration and a music playlist.

Funnily enough, I haven't been using my music playlist much. Last year, I relied heavily on music to help set the mood for my writing. This year, I either hum to myself or type in silence. It's a weird experience for someone that almost constantly has music of some kind around them.

The stories themselves are different as well. I swapped genres. Last year it was fantasy. This year, I'm dabbling in science fiction. I've read a good bit of fantasy, but not a lot of sci-fi, so I'm approaching it differently. I don't know much of what is expected of the genre, so I feel less confined in my writing. It's a good thing.

Lastly, the writing this year seems easier. I set my personal daily goal at 2200 words instead of 1667. And I'm hitting it consistently so far without problem. I believe it is partly due to my preparation, but I'm also more in a habit of writing. (I knew having this blog would come in handy.) My "sit down and just write" muscle is stronger this year.

What's the same? I'm still writing, still learning, and definitely still enjoying the process of both.

***
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More about NaNoWriMo?
Four Benefits of NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo Prep Time
What I Did To Silence My Inner Editor

Saturday, October 31, 2015

My NaNoWriMo Essentials

NaNoWriMo has already started in some locations, but I sit at my laptop waiting for the hours to tick by until my time zone can begin.My fingers are itching. I've been imagining my first chapter rather vividly in my head all afternoon. I can't wait.

But until then, I thought I'd share some things that I've decided are rather necessary to keep nearby while trying to type out 1,667 words per day.

Snacks
If you get hungry or thirsty, going to the kitchen is just a distraction. Don't tell me you'll brainstorm while you pop popcorn, or while you wait for tea to steep. You'll get busy washing dishes or texting a friend and the next thing you know, your popcorn is stale, your tea is cold, and your word count is still sitting at only 300 something and it's almost midnight...for the third night in a row. Get these things taken care of before you sit down to write. An emergency chocolate bar is also a good idea.

Notebook & Pen
Sometimes you just need to scribble out an idea. Sometimes you get stuck while typing. I've heard a change in medium can help with that, so I'm putting a notebook and pen on my list of essentials. I do most of my writing on the computer, but I tend to brainstorm with pen and paper better.

Evernote
On the technology side, you need something that keeps all your ideas in one place that is accessible from anywhere. If you can manage to keep actual paper and pen with you all the time, use that. For the rest of us, we need something that can be accesses on our little smartphones--those are always in our pockets. Personally, I use Evernote, but you could use Google Docs, or anything else that lets you access from phone and computer both.

Tissues
This was something I didn't think about last year: tissues. Writing can be very personal, and if you suddenly realize that your plot or character speak to you, tears may ensue. Toward the end of last year's novel I hit some emotional scenes that had me in tears as I was writing them. You don't want to be scrambling for something to wipe nose and eyes if you're writing an emotionally charged scene.  Keep a box of tissues handy.

So there's four things that I consider essential to have near my while writing for this month. What is on your list?

***
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More about NaNoWriMo?
Four Benefits of NaNoWriMo
This Year's NaNo Prep
What I Did Last Year To Silence My Inner Editor

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Four Benefits of NaNoWriMo

I posted a few days ago about my NaNoWriMo prep time. The anticipation for November first grows daily. Personally, I'm anticipating a lot of fun.

But if you've checked NaNoWriMo out, you know that I'm attempting to write fifty thousand words in a single month. That's a little over sixteen hundred per day. That's more than quadruple one of my normal blog posts. What on earth am I thinking?!

Well...I'm thinking that I've done it before. But for you, who might be trying to decide if you want to join in the craziness for the first time, let me attempt to convince you. These are four benefits I have from participating in NaNoWriMo:


Community

NaNoWriMo provides a community of writers--each attempting the same insane goal. There's a huge community online on the NaNoWriMo boards as well as on Twitter. Personally, I use Twitter the most because it's what I use year-round. (Find me here.) If you're feeling discouraged, you have people readily available to cheer you on. If you're stuck for ideas, there's people that will help with that, too.

The writing itself, however...that's your responsibility.

Motivation

We all have our quotas to fill. That's another benefit of NaNoWriMo. You're staring a deadline in the face and the only thing you can do about it is write.

You quit thinking about writing. You quit talking about writing.

You write.

Your excuses get pushed to the side and you do what you have always wanted to do. It's liberating.


Organization

The knowledge that I have this crazy goal for November, and that it will take work and time to achieve that goal, has made me get organized around the house. I made out menu plans for the whole month...and a master grocery list...and printed recipe cards. I got it together for the first time in I don't want to admit how long. Plus I got a head start on cleaning chores. NaNoWriMo has already benefited these aspects of my life by giving me the motivation to take care of them now instead of procrastinating. It can do the same for you.

Relief

One last benefit I would like to mention is getting head space cleared out. I always have multiple stories simmering away in my head. It gets a bit crowded. NaNoWriMo makes me write out one of my stories,get it out of my head, and put it on paper. It was a relief last year to finish a story and know it was out. Not perfect, but out. It doesn't bother me like it did before because I still have it, it's just not taking up space in my brain. It's a wonderful feeling.

So have I convinced you yet? If so, join me! You can find my profile here.

***
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Monday, October 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep Time

October is fast coming to a close. Some folks are busy with last minute Halloween preparations, and others are already turning their attention to Thanksgiving--or even Christmas.

Still others are listening to a siren call with equal measures of anticipation and dread--the siren call of NaNoWriMo.

I tried to resist that call this year. I really did. I have two weeks that my schedule is going to be so messed up, I'm not sure I will be able to make time to write. Yet, every time someone on Twitter would mention NaNoWriMo, I would go back to second-guessing my decision to not participate.

I kept second-guessing until I changed my mind, and plunged into a short prep time before the month kicks off. I had so much fun last year, I just couldn't contemplate the thought of missing out. I decided that trying and failing was more important to me than not trying at all.

That meant a change of story. I was originally going to work on a complete re-write of last year's story. Over the last year, it morphed so much in my head that it's hardly recognizable. However, I would care too much about not finishing that story, so I had to pick a different one.

Do you remember The Phone Call and it's continuation? That became the inspiration for this year's NaNoWriMo project. I just can't leave the idea of tangent universes alone. There's so much to explore!

While I had no preparation done last year (I decided to participate sometime around 10 o'clock at night on Halloween last year.) I've done a bit this year. I've written about four different outlines and the plot has changed on me at least six times. Characters morphed and combined. I am loving this process.

This week I'm turning my attention to the house and food plans. Meal plans, grocery lists, and giving the house a good cleaning are what's on my list. I feel rather productive. It's a benefit of participating in NaNoWriMo that I'm already reaping benefits.

So how crazy are you feeling? Have you ever wanted to try writing a novel? It's an exilerating feeling to hit that 50k word count for the first time. NaNoWriMo could be the thing you need to get you started. Join me here!

For a few tips I learned from last year, check out what I did to silence my inner editor.

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Knowing Yourself

I've mentioned before that I used to think that I was a detail-oriented person. But I was almost literally nicknamed Miss Oblivious in the office. While I can handle detailed tasks, I'm actually much more focused on the big picture. I don't notice details. So how did I come to think I was detail-oriented?

I was raised to value the quality and so naturally desired to possess it. I thought I did. My family was detail-oriented, therefore I must be as well. I did not want to be different from my family in this regard.

I had a bit of trouble being honest with myself regarding this aspect of my personality. Not being detail-oriented isn't bad or good, but my perception made me cling to my skewed view of myself.

I have since accepted this. The main goal now is not to use it as an excuse when I know I could do better. Like leaving salt out of a recipe completely because I didn't read the instructions well enough...

Mentioning food--I recently discovered that I am a foodie. I basically love everything about food. I got excited the other day just because I found polenta at the grocery store... But I haven't wanted to label myself as a "foodie" because I associated it with the word "snobby." Perceptions again. Yet, "foodie" just means that a person is enthusiastic about food...and I definitely am that!

It's making me more aware of the fact that sometimes I really don't know myself as well as I think I do. Perhaps even those around me see me more accurately at times than I do myself. Yet I don't think that it's good to remain completely oblivious to who you really are.

How do you get to know yourself?

You could take all kinds of personality tests, but they only paint an incomplete picture. They're also only as accurate as your answers, and if you are either unaware or in denial about who you really are, the personality tests are going to give skewed results. They can be a fun game, but I don't put a great deal of stock in them.

The one person that knows us for who we really are...and loves us anyways...is God. Through His Word and His Spirit, He can reveal to us ourselves. The wonderful thing about asking God to show us who we really are is that He doesn't do it all at once. He does it kindly and slowly, leading us to better understanding and helping us to correct faults we didn't even know we had.

My prayer is that I will never shy away from the reflections in His Word.

***
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