Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The End Is In Sight

Sunday: 3,692 written
Monday: 3,030 written
Tuesday: 2,032 written
Total: 40,484

Seven days to go for this year's NaNoWriMo.  I have 9,516 words left to hit 50,000.  Well, I'm going to say six days, because I think I will most likely be taking tomorrow off.  Family coming and all that.  Even so, it leaves me with a minimum of under the 1,667 words/day, and I'll make it.  So, if I can get my own goal of 2,000 a day, I'll get there.  Phew!  I was really unsure for a while about actually finishing this year, but I think it's going to work.

Now, remember that "dog" of a story I started with?  And then abandoned because I couldn't figure out where it was going?  Darned if the thing didn't pop into my head on Monday with something that I think is going to work.  So back into that we go.  And yesterday, a new character walked up to the three main folk out of nowhere- almost literally, as they were out in the desert at the time!  A nice British fellow, no less.  It looks like at least he knows what's going on.  Now, as long as he keeps telling me....

Which is today's point, I think.  As much as I am one who likes to have a good idea what a story is about, and usually do a plot summary and at least partial outline, I know you always have to be ready to let the story take its own direction sometimes.  Good ideas come from all sorts of places, and there are times when the really good idea doesn't show itself until you actually start writng.  If the story really wants to go in a different direction, there really isn't much harm in letting it.  (Unless you are under a really tight deadline and can't afford to meander, or you are writing or re-writing with specific goals.  Like an editor's revisions for a sale, perhaps.)  You can always go back to the original idea if the new one doesn't work out.  I usually find that if the story is telling itself, that's what you should trust.  Because if you force it to fit your mold, it's going to seem just that- forced.  Give yourself- and your story- some space to breathe.  You might just be surprised!

Write. Now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Changing Yet Again

Yesterday: 2019
Total: 23179

Not quite caught up, but getting closer.  Feeling better about making it this year.

Well, the dog of a story I started has been retired.  Even trying to convince myself that it was going to be a good experience, and help me learn to write better, and build some of the skills I need work on, all that- nope, still hated the thing, didn't want to work on it, kept falling more behind because of that.

Had a short email conversation with a friend who pointed out that there is really nothing wrong with finishing up with a different story than you started with.  Took me a bit to let that sink in, but I've decided to put the dog down, so to speak, and write what's been niggling at my head for a long time now.

Ok, yeah, it's fanfic.  I write one or two a year, anyway, just because I like playing in other people's worlds!  Who doesn't?  And I've got other "real" stories in progress, or in editing, or beta reading, so I think I am just going to indulge myself in this month of frantic writing and go for it.

And y'know what?  I am enjoying NaNo again.  It's fun to write this now.  Characters are speaking to me, plots are unfolding, my brain is churning.  I have to be a bit careful with this one.  It's kind of an extension of one of the stories that has been written by the original author.  It's my version of what happened, because there are two (that I know of) variants on the story.  The original leaves things a little open.  So I don't want to leave out anything that is stated as fact in the original, and at the same time, I don't want to just rewrite all of that, either.  It's been done, far better than I probably could, anyway. 

Which puts a lot of it out of order, as I think of things I need to deal with and keeps me on my toes when writing.  All good things, because if you can't get excited about what you are writing, how can you expect anyone else to?  And that's my point for today.

Now, off to do a bit of research, and then get that word count up!

Write. Now.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Update Only

Yesterday: 2193
Total: 18134

Change of plan.  Writing today.  More tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Yesterday: 2047
Today: 2085
Total: 15,941

I'm making progress, but not very fast.  At this rate, I will be at 50,000 words in early December, which is not ideal.  The problem is, I don't know if I can mange to catch up enough to get there.  And the problem is related to today's topic: Pacing.

I don't mean the kind of pacing where you walk back and forth repeatedly, perhaps thinking out loud as you do.  I mean the kind where you try to keep up a steady, but manageable workload going.  And my "best" pace seems to be about 2000 words a day.  That's about all I can handle before my brain just starts to shut down, and if I push too much beyond that, all I end up with is junk.  Not that I don't write a fair amount of junk as it is, but if I push my brain beyond its capacity, it's all junk for the most part.

And I have to watch how much I do in one stretch, as well.  I find about 1000 words and then I have to get up- take a walk, play with the dog, whatever.  Just a short while, a nice stretch, and I'm good to go again.

This is why I don't participate in all night write-a-thons or word sprints or anyting like that.  I can't.  My brain doesn't function like that.  I think most people have a limit beyond which they shouldn't push themselves too much.  Not that I am saying you shouldn't try to work more, if you can, or that, on those rare days when everything is flowing like magic, that you should stop at 2000 words or whatever your goal is, but on a normal day, sometimes it's just not a good idea.  Because then you may find that the next day is impossible.  That you just can't dredge up the creative ability to write a thing.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Every creative person, whatever your discipline, has times when the mind just needs to rest, to recharge, to lie in wait for the next idea to present itself naturally, without forcing.  And that can be a very good thing.  It allows your creative self to become better, the same way a good vacation can make your working self more productive.

But NaNoWriMo is not the time to set yourself up for those "off" times.  We have a goal and a deadline.  Slow and steady is, for many WriMos, the best way to handle this month of frenzy.  So, find your pace and try to stick to it.  Your novel will thank you, and so will your brain.

Write. Now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sometimes It Just Ain't Gonna

Update first:
Yesterday: 532
Total: 9760
Way far behind!  But I've made peace with the story now, and hope that will allow me to move on more quickly.

Made peace with the story?  Now, what the heck does that mean?  It means I have decided what to do with it, and how to approach getting to the end of the month.

I had an idea in October for one story to write for NaNoWriMo this year.  I don't know, maybe I should have stuck with that.  But it wasn't gelling for me.  So when I had a flash of an opening scene for another story, and one thing that might appear in it, I decided to go that way.  Even though I am not a "seat of the pants" writer.  Generally, I like to have a decent idea of where the plot is going and what's going to happen before I start.  Maybe not every detail- ok, rarely every detail!  But at least the main points of the beginning, middle and end.  But, here I was, November 1st looming on the horizon, and I didn't have any of that.  So I started with that one scene and decided to see where it went.

Which is nowhere.  Yes, I have a vague idea what I want to write, but it's not coming out anything like I thought.  And it's been stalling me because of that.  I know this is never going to be a decent story.  It would take more years of work than I have to make it even readable, I think.  But I came to a conclusion last night.

I decided that I'm not going to worry about making this a usable (marketable?) story.  I have my novel from '08 that is partially through first edit, and I think that's a decent story.  I have last year's, which is not quite completed yet, but, again, it's a decent story (I think).  So this one can just be, well, kind of a mess.  Oh, I'm going on with a basic plot, and I hope it has some sort of coherence and story to it, but I'm not worrying about it being "good."  I'm treating it as an exercise in honing.  I'll use it to work on some of the areas I know I need work on: describing things, expanding characterization, background stories and sub-plots. 

I think that will get me back on track and give me the freedom to just put the words down.  And any practice is good practice, right?  Who knows?  Maybe it will even turn out better than I think.  Maybe.

Write. Now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Inspiration and the Late Nightcap

2:04 AM, Saturday, November 6, 2010

No, I'm not writing.  I'm not sleeping ,either.  Not sure why that is.  I was blazing tired when I went to bed a number of hours ago.  At any rate, I am sitting here with a drink (Oh,ok, single malt Scotch with two ice cubes, if you must know), thinking about the current NaNo project, and trying to figure out why I can't get a grip on where the story is going.  Oh, I have a vague idea of the main conflict, and a sub-conflict or two, but the charaters' progression, well, now, that's a whole other thing, isn't it?  And it came to me that this is the crux of the issue for me, as always.  I am character driven, whether reading or writing.  If I can't engage with at least one character, I just can't get into a story.  I've given up on some (reportedly) really good stories, because none of the characters got to me.  Heck, I've given up on one very popular series because I simply can't stand the main character, and don't give a #$%& what happens to him!

So back to NaNo: the second main character in my story was a ghost to me until now.  Not a literal ghost- those don't come in till later!  I just had no clue who he is or what he does or how it all connects.  I know he knows my main character's father, and the father will drive a lot of the main action conflict, but I couldn't get a handle on this guy.  Until tonight.  I was sitting here, sipping my drink, and hoping I'd get tired enough to go back to sleep, when it hit me.  I know what he does and how it relates to the story!  A little web searching and I've got him far more defined.  I also know how we get away with having the father in a sort of suspended animation state (research facility, you know), and how we link the paranormal, psychic aspect in.  Ta-da!  I feel progress on the horizon tomorrow!

Not that I endorse late night Scotch drinking as an everyday method of finding inspiration when the well runs a bit dry, but it worked for me!  Here's to a nice glass of Writer's Block to get the words flowing again.  Slainte!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Just Updates

A few days late, but the latest is:
Day Two: 1038
Day Three: 2041
Day Four: 0
Total: 5122

Yeah, you read that right. Yesterday, I wrote squat. Nothing. Not one word. 
Do I have an excuse? Well, yes.  My husband has been in the hospital with a bad cellulitis infection in his leg.  I've been running back and forth, visiting him, plus trying to make sure the dog, cats, chickens and fish are getting at least the basic care they need, and trying not to exhaust myself in the meantime.  The house?  A complete disaster.  Many would say that's a pretty good excuse, but is it?  Sure, I'm tired, but I could have squeezed a few more words out, I'm sure.  And nothing at all yesterday?  No excuse for that.  Just didn't feel like it, but if I'm going to take this seriously, then "didn't feel like it" is not an acceptable excuse.  It's just not. 

But then again, I needed that time off, because there was just nothing there to write.  No inspiration, no forward motion, no words.  And I have an idea why that is, but that's for another day's blog.

For now, I get back to it.  And with a little luck, I can catch up a bit.  I write, or is that eyewryte?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Do It

Update first: Day One Word Count- 2038.  Not bad.  My goal this year is the same as last year- 2000 words a day.  That gives me a little bit of a cushion for later in the month, I hope!

We've all heard it from people who find out we are participating in NaNoWriMo: "Wow! That sounds like fun, but I could never find the time to do something like that."  Honestly, the first time I tried this, in 2008, I wasn't sure I could, either.  But I think I've learned a few things in the last two years.  So I'm going to outline a few things that may help those who wonder how we get those 50,000 words down in the next 30 days.

1. Tell the people in your life what you are doing.
This sounds obvious, but if they don't know, they can't help you.  Tell your family, your friends, your roommate, your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife.  It's easier on everyone if they know why you are disappearing into your writer's attic for hours a day.  They may not understand, but at least they know.

2. Set aside time every day to write.
Again, sounds obvious, yes?  But it's important.  Figure out when you do your best writing work and block out that time on your daily schedule for writing.  Stick to it.  When it's time to write, write.  Don't fold that last load of lsundry, read that last chapter, watch the last half hour of Dancing with the Stars, don't even brew up another cup of coffee.  Get all that done before, or do it later.  If you have a schedule set up, you are more likely to get it done and accomplish your goals than if you try to write willy-nilly.

3. Set a goal.
Decide how much you want to get written every day.  Make it realistic.  I try to do 2000 words a day.  The minimum to get to 50,000 by the end of the month is 1,667 words a day.  I like going a bit over that because it gives me a cushion for the inevitable days when I just don't get as much (or any!) done.  You can, of course, go over your goal if things are flowing well, but don't go under unless it is absolutely necessary.

4. Realize that what you write is not going to be good.
In fact, it will probably be pretty bad.  To borrow a phrase from Mur Lafferty:  You are allowed to suck.  (By the way, if you have not checked out Mur's excellent podcast and blog, I Should Be Writing, ( you should!).  I would take that one step further for NaNoWriMo and say: You are expected to suck.  Face it, you're trying to cram 50,000 words into 30 days, doing something many of you don't do on an every day basis.  It's not going to be pretty, but that's not the point.  The point is to get a story down on paper (or in pixels) by the end of the month.  Don't worry about every tiny detail, don't fuss over words, don't go back and edit.  You can do all that later.  Now-- WRITE!

5. Use rewards
Hey, I'm not above a little bribery!  Even if it's me doing it to myself.  Give yourself a small reward when you reach your daily goal.  I keep a bag of chocolate in my desk drawer.  When I hit that 2,000 words, I get to take a piece.  Use whatever works for you- time on the internet, a little TV, an extra dessert.  It doesn't hurt to set large goal rewards, too.  Pick something to do for yourself at the halfway point, and at the finish.  It gives you something to work for.  Not that writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days isn't enough!

6. Go dark.
When it's time to write, cut yourself off.  Close Facebook, Twitter, instant messenger services, the door to your room.  We all know how much of a time suck the internet can be.  "I'll just look at this one thing..."  And an hour later, you don't know where the time went.  Close it all down.  Walk away for a while.  The world will not stop, and you will get your writing done at the same time.  I even turn my phone around so I can't see the blinking red alert light!

These are some of the tricks I use to make sure I get my daily goal in, and have that amazing looking 50,000+ word count on November 30.  I hope some of this helps a few of you get there, too, especially if this is your first NaNoWriMo. 

Good luck!  And- get writing!