Saturday, November 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo Week Four; or Winner, Winner, Turkey Dinner!

Since I was in the land of no internets for Thanksgiving (my dad still thinks dial-up is the be-all and end-all of internet connectivity), I didn't have an opportunity to post on Thursday. And since I spent at least part of Friday (the part between midnight and 4:00 am) suffering the consequences of forgetting that green-bean casserole is often made with cream of mushroom soup, and that mushrooms and I are No Longer Friends, I didn't get around to posting sooner. My apologies for that.

In the meantime, despite the distractions of the holiday, I've gone and crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line. I have accumulated 50,207 words as of just a few minutes ago. And yes, I know already that some of them are not especially good words, and will end up getting edited out of the final novel (like at least 5,000 words of rapturous description of an airship that can probably be reduced to a few sentences, if not eliminated entirely), and that I really need to tone down the angst between my two star-crossed lovers.

I am, of course, nowhere near finishing the story. I have no idea how long this one will end up being, and I'm very much afraid that I'm going to have to cut one of the two narrative lines out of it just to keep it to a reasonable length. However, I've also reached a point where I can skim through several weeks in a few paragraphs, and I intend to do just that.

So now I go from the mode of trying to accumulate as many words as possible in a given time-frame to trying to tell the story as economically as possible. It's going to make for an interesting first draft, as far as pacing goes!

Finding time to write on or around a holiday is always a challenge for me. On Thanksgiving, I found myself wide awake at 5:30 am, so I got out my netbook and managed to get in 800 words or so before breakfast. That seems to be an effective strategy for me; there's also something about the peaceful calm of a holiday morning that I find conducive to writing. Maybe it's just knowing that the day won't be following the normal routine, and that there are surprises and treats to which to look forward that makes it easier to focus on the story for a few minutes instead.

There were a couple of times when we were waiting on things to cook when I really wanted to whip out the netbook and start writing, but I had to be sociable instead. And honestly, being sociable is a good thing, most of the time. After all, new material for writing has to come from somewhere, right? How better to come up with ideas for dialogue and plot twists than by carrying on conversations with other human beings (instead of just the voices in one's head!)?

I could easily have gotten another 500 or so on the hour's trip home from my parents' house, but by then it was dark, and my Beloved Husband doesn't like to drive after dark. Which is unfortunate, since I seem to write well in the car. Sadly, we had no writing road trips this year. Maybe I'll plan one for next year.

At any rate, I've met my deadline for the month, though I'll continue to write every day for the next four days, at least. And probably after that, until the story is finished. Hopefully, that will be sooner than the March that it was last year, or the May the year before that!

Has anyone else met a writing goal this month?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

NaNoWriMo Week 3; or Now That We're Properly Warmed Up...

Lots of ups and downs this week. A good day of writing on Sunday, followed by a bout of stomach flu/food poisoning on Monday (which also yielded a higher-than-average word count, thanks to having to have something to do between acts of worshiping the porcelain god), followed by a couple of days mired in court intrigue*, and ending up today with a somewhat unplanned trip to the movies.

But in spite of all of that, I am well over 30,000 words into this story, and things are beginning to roll. There is no hope on earth of finishing the story in the next 20,000 words, but at least it will be well begun!

Sadly, this week saw several of my WriMo buddies drop out of the race, for various reasons. I understand that; life happens, and there's no shame in that (says the woman who didn't even try in 2007, because we were refinishing two floors' worth of wood flooring that month).

But in watching the various lists and communities that are part of the NaNoWriMo experience, this week also saw a lot of--to be blunt about it--whining.

I'm not going to post any specific examples here, but some of the common themes I saw this week were:

- I did okay the first day, but I haven't been able to write anything since.
- I get distracted too easily by my job/boyfriend/girlfriend/television shows/lifestyle.
- I just can't find the time to write.
- When I do write, I get bored with my characters/story after five minutes.
- I don't know where my plot is going.

Now, I could address each of these excuses/reasons for not writing, but after I thought about it, I decided that there actually is a common theme among them.

These people aren't writers.

Now, I will be the first to agree that the writer's journey is different for everyone. 1,667 words per day for 30 days is not the be-all and end-all. It's definitely not "The One Right Way To Do It."

But if you want to be a writer, you've got to write. And what struck me about all of these people was that they didn't really want to write. They wanted to sit down at a computer and have a perfect, well-written story magically fall out of the sky and into their keyboards, with little or no effort on their parts.

After all, maybe they don't have the muscle and footwork to be a star linebacker, or the skill and fine motor control of a brain surgeon, or the talent and good looks to be a movie star. But they passed high school English, so that should have taught them everything they needed to know about how to write. Right?

What they don't seem to grasp is that none of these people can do what they do without an investment in certain skills and plenty of practice. You don't just show up at a hospital one morning, put on a surgical gown and some gloves, and start carving away at people's heads. You go to school for many years, and you study and learn and practice.

And if you want to succeed at being a writer, just like those other professions, you have to practice. That means you sit and you write. Maybe you don't have a plot. Maybe your characters are boring. Maybe what you're writing right now will (and should) never see the light of day. Lord knows, buried in the depths of my storage unit are spiral-bound notebooks and floppy diskettes full of writing that no one but me will ever get to read. There's one particularly soap-opera-ish series of stories that I started in college and continued to add to for the next eight years or more that is truly dreadful. Plot? What plot? Characters? Seriously? Can you say, "Cardb0ard"?

BUT...after you do that long enough, then you start to see how bits of plot can come together, how characters can come alive and be made to interact, how pacing works. You might discover that the act of writing can be satisfying in and of itself. Once that happens, you will find the time to write. You will set the distractions aside at least once in a while. You'll learn that you can write even when you don't feel like it.

Maybe you won't write every day. Maybe not even every week, or every November. But you will write.

And that's what separates the writers from the wanna-bes. Butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, making the words happen.

Okay. I'll get off of the soapbox now.

Just get out there and write something this week. Okay?

* In the story. Not in Real Life(tm).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo Week 2; or, I've Got The Week Two Blues

Hello from Week Two of NaNoWriMo.

This week, things are going along less swimmingly than last. I was nearly two days ahead on my word count; now, if I don't get 1,500 words written before I go to bed tonight, I'll be behind on my word count.

Why? Well, as I see it, there are three -- no, make it four factors:

1) I've been thinking about where I wanted to start this story for the last couple of months. So I had already pre-visualized the opening sequences pretty thoroughly. That meant that when I sat down to write them, they fell out of my head in one big blort. Which was cool, and actually quite encouraging, since the scenes turned out even better than I had imagined them. But then ... well, the first few scenes ended up setting a sort of structure of scenes alternating between two main POVs, and I'm finding that harder to maintain than I'd expected. I will probably end up bagging that structure for this draft and just get on with the story as I know it now.

2) The chapter I'm currently writing is one that I'm pretty sure won't exist in the final novel. However, my lizard brain insists that I write it anyway. But Internal Editor is screeching at me to just forget it and move on. I know I should just write the scene and mark it for later editing -- after all , it will provide useful background information for me later in the story -- but it's hard to do when Internal Editor won't shut up about it.

3) I accidentally fell into Edit-head. My posting to my critique group got moved up two weeks, and I thought I had my next piece ready to go. Only when I looked at it, I kept finding another bit that I wanted to take out ... and another one ... and another one ... plus there was that whole action sequence that needed to be re-done (the mechanics of which will, I think, end up being a posting of their own in December). In the end, I shortened a 14,000 word section of the story by a full 25%, or 3,500 words. I'm pleased with the result, but the problem is that switching to edit-head let Internal Editor out of her box, and now she doesn't want to go back in. In fact, she's identified at least a dozen more changes she'd really like to make to that section of the story before we call it a second draft. Dealing with that has been a challenge.

4) Related to that has been the fact that I'm just a victim of my own poor time management skills. When I can roll out of bed at 6:00 a.m. and spend an hour or so writing before work, and then spend my lunch hour writing, that gets me a good jump on the day's word count. If I have a solid 1,200 words in the can by the time I get home from work at night, picking up the remaining 500 or to meet the day's quota is a piece of cake. But when, as today, I ended up hitting the snooze button instead of writing, and then since my Beloved Husband was off work for Veteran's Day, he came and took me to lunch, my word count for the day so far is, well, zero. (Too bad I can't count this blog entry!) Plus we've spent some time this week hanging out with friends -- which really is more important than word count in the long run, and which I certainly don't begrudge them, but it does mean that there is simply less time available for writing.

But not to worry. I've got a good, solid two hours left to write tonight, and maybe more if I'm on a roll. I'll make those NaNos happen, see if I don't!

Anybody else struggling with the morass of Week Two? What works for you when you need to up the word count but the words don't want to flow?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNoWriMo, Week 1; or, The Battle Begins

This week finds me already deep in the throes of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, or as some prefer to think of it, the time of year when tens of thousands of normally sane people abandon their grasp on reality and decide to do something irrational, like write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days.

I am, once again, among their numbers. I think I've reached the point where it would seem strange not to be pounding away at the keyboard while munching on the leftover Halloween candy, and trying to plan Thanksgiving so as to maximize the writing time I have available.

I love the first week of NaNoWriMo. I love crawling out of bed a little early each morning to try to get a scene written before work (though some days that goes better than others), and gulping down my lunch as quickly as I can so I can crack open the netbook and pound out a few more words, then stopping to grab supper on the way home so I can eat quickly and get back to the keyboard. All of those movies and TV shows in the To Be Watched pile will just have to wait until December. (Thank goodness we finished up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. last month!)

As I've mentioned previously, this year I'm working on the sequel to last year's story, "The Daughters of August Winterbourne." Until just a few hours ago, the title wasn't any more imaginative than "The Daughters of August Winterbourne, Book Two," but now I've added a subtitle: "The Skies of War." I think it's still more of a working title, and it may be that that is a more suitable title for the third book in the planned trilogy. And of course, it means I need to go back and come up with a subtitle for the first book at some point.

Book One was written mostly as a tight third-person POV around Celia Winterbourne, the main character of the story. There were a few digressions into other points of view here and there, but Celia carried the main body of the narrative.

This year, I'm trying something a little different. I'm planning to alternate between Celia's POV and that of her love interest, Nicholas Fletcher. I've rarely done a male POV character in the past, so I hope I can pull it off. Thus far, Nicholas appears to be an easy character to write, though he is a bit prone to info-dumping. I'm letting him have at it for the time being, but I've already earmarked a few passages for later trimming.

For example, does the audience really care that the Tarmanian language is a combination of Hungarian, various Slavic languages, all with a little Mongolian thrown in, and that it has two distinct dialects, High and Low Tarmanian? Nicholas seems to think so, but I'm not so certain. It does, at least, explain why anyone would have difficulty learning it, but perhaps that level of detail isn't necessary. Still, as they say, write now, edit later.

Which is always my biggest challenge with NaNoWriMo: Keeping my inner editor leashed and out of the way. It's especially difficult for me this year because I was working on edits to Book One right up until the beginning of November. Switching from "edit-head" to "writer-head" is always a challenge for me. After some discussion, we seem to have come to an uneasy truce: She's allowed to contribute to the process, but only if she adds to the word count, or at least does not cause it to decrease. If she really insists, we can highlight a section in yellow to indicate that it will be deleted later; and of course, if she thinks of something that really ought to be added, that's quite all right. We'll see how that works out.

Meanwhile, while I've done a pretty good job of keeping on pace so far, I've only written about 600 words today, so I have another thousand to go before I sleep. I'd better get with it.

Happy NaNoing!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bonus Blog: Ten Lies You'll Hear Before Pursuing Your Dream

Okay, I know it's not my usual day to blog, but I thought this was important enough to pass it along RIGHT NOW.

One of my co-workers posted this to Facebook. It's the Ten Lies You'll Hear Before Pursuing Your Dream. And each and every one of them -- and the reasons why you shouldn't listen to them -- applies as much to writing as it does to anything else in life. Some of them are things other people will tell you when you tell them you want to be a writer ... and some of them are things you'll tell yourself.

It's definitely worth a read. And even a bookmark.