Category Archives: Writing

NaNoWriMo: made it!

NaNWriMo 2015 Winner BannerAnd lo, 50,000 words hath come from my fingers into the keyboard. I reached the goal and validated on November 29, but I squeezed in a little more writing and ended the month with a final word count of 51,007. This doesn’t mean I’m done writing this first draft, alas. I’m guessing I’m about two-thirds of the way through my story, suggesting that the final word count will be closer to 75,000 words. I have written a little bit on the draft each day in December, although my daily word counts have been closer to 20 than to 1,667. (Hey, that’s still progress!)

It was an educational experience, as you might expect. I had thought that I would manage to do the most writing first thing in the morning. Maybe I should have done so, but I ended up writing in the last couple of hours that I was awake each day. I think that was probably because I told myself I could always stay up just a little longer to get a few last words in. I’m just not good at making myself write anything if I know I’m going to have to get up in a few minutes and do something else like go to work.

Planning the whole thing out ahead of time saved me. By getting myself and the story organized to the point that I had a scene list, I basically made myself a novel’s worth of writing prompts. If the story wasn’t flowing on its own—and most of the time it wasn’t—I’d go to the scene list, choose one, and just write words on it until nothing more came out. As I worked my way through the scene list, the story began to wander away from the plan. Generally, this wasn’t a problem. If I was desperate for words, I just wrote on a scene even if it no longer fit the story as a whole, knowing that I could throw it out later. And I added several scenes that I’d never thought of when all this began. It’ll be interesting to pull this all together at some point and see where the story wants to go now.

Next time—if there’s a next time, which I’m not promising—I will make a list ahead of time of all the meals I can make without much effort or attention. Why waste precious time trying to remember which cookbooks those recipes are in? I suppose if I were truly dedicated, I’d spend part of October making up meals ahead of time and freezing them, but I don’t think I have enough room in my freezer. Speaking of meals, how does anyone do NaNoWriMo and deal with Thanksgiving? I got around it by spending the day quietly at home, but if I’d had to travel anywhere for the weekend, I’m not sure I would have ever been able to make the writing up in time.

It’s been almost a week, and I’m still having trouble believing that A) it’s over and B) I managed to do it. Now that it’s over with, I’m delighted that I did it. It does feel good to be 51,007 words closer to getting this book out of my head. Now to get that draft done before revision starts in January!

 

NaNoWriMo: the first week

In a surprise move (well, it surprised me), I’m participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. That’s on the short end of novels, but let me assure you that’s still a lot of words when you’re trying to come up with them in a mere 30 days. The saving grace is that you’re not expected to write a good novel in one month. It’s mainly just to get a first draft out of your head and onto paper/into your computer.

NaNoWriMo 2015 participant banner

And why am I putting myself through this? Because there’s a Sailor Moon fanfic that has been bouncing around in my head for over two years now. I’ve played with it, plotted it, planned it…but have never gotten around to writing it. See, I’m one of those people who works best to a deadline. NaNoWriMo has provided me with that deadline.

Things I have learned in the first week:

  • I thought getting ahead on my word count would take some pressure off. Nope. I just obsess over maintaining my lead instead.
  • Having “writing buddies,” as they’re called, helps. The same competitive streak that nudges me into entering things in the state fair also pushes me to keep my word count up around everyone else’s. Plus, it’s nice to be able to occasionally rant to someone who’s going through the same hell you are.
  • It’s fun not only to not pay attention to all the rules of good writing, but to be able to deliberately break them as needed. You know how you’re supposed to eliminate as many adverbs as possible? Forget that. Adverbs are words, you need words: put as many adverbs in as you can stand. I’m also indulging in giant expository lumps as well as a lot of “As you know, Bob…”-style dialogue. Whee!
  • I’m going to develop a taste for Baroque music at this rate. Everything else I’ve tried has proven to be way too distracting, but dead silence is distracting in its own way.
  • I was five days in before I remembered that I’ve had good results in the past by using the Pomodoro Technique for staying focused. It’s working for me for this as well. That’s probably because it creates micro-deadlines. Me and deadlines: we’re an item. ❤
  • Anyone who does this by jumping in with nothing more than a story idea has my profoundest admiration. The first week alone has confirmed my suspicions that if I don’t map this sort of thing out ahead of time, I’m doomed.
  • This is cutting into my knitting time. I miss knitting. 😦
  • This has also eliminated my TV-watching time, and it took me the better part of the week to notice. This undoubtedly says something about the importance of TV in my life.
  • I won’t be reading fiction until December 1. I can’t afford to get lost in someone else’s fantasy world when I’m trying to put mine together. Luckily I have plenty of nonfiction on my to-be-read list.

And…back to the ever-growing draft. Still another 1,200 words or so before I sleep!

NaNoWriReMo

I know how easy it can be to see what you expect rather than what’s there, so I want to make it clear that this isn’t a post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). My November—and okay, my October as well—would more accurately be called NaNoWriReMo: National Novel Writing Reading Month. Which is to say, I’ve spent the past two months reading books on how to write novels. I know several people who tackled NaNoWriMo this year, and I’m cheering them all on. After reading all these books, I’m also overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task: I may have had some sort of hope of organized learning when I started all this reading, but by now, it’s just an indistinguishable ocean of writing instruction sloshing around in my head.

books about writingAround 2005-2006, I had my first burst of obsession enthusiasm for reading books about how to write books. So when I went through all these books this year, I figured much of what I read would sound familiar. Really, I reasoned, how many different things can you say about writing novels? Apparently quite a lot. For instance, back then I somehow never read any book that discussed three-act structure, probably because I was mostly reading about creating characters. Many of this year’s books have thoroughly analyzed it, while others have at least mentioned it in passing. Ignoring for the moment why I don’t remember it from high school English, I’ve found the whole idea fascinating. So the authors who accuse the three-act structure of being rigid, limited, and likely to stifle any actual creativity in your novel leave me marveling at our different reactions.

Coming off of that, I’m having fun seeing how quickly I can figure out if the author of a particular writing book is a planner or a pantser. Almost no author manages to be neutral on this point. Planners beg pantsers to at least try outlining their next work. Pantsers describe outlines as stifling and advise the reader that sticking to them will ruin your writing, similar to criticisms of three-act structure. I haven’t read as many books by pantsers. I’m not sure whether that’s just my luck in what I chose to read, whether planners are simply more likely to write writing how-to books, or an indication of my own preferences (when I learned there was a book out there called Outlining Your Novel, I had a flash of the sort of anticipation usually reserved for novels by your favorite authors). But all begging and pooh-poohing aside, I’ve come out of all this convinced that you don’t choose this temperamental difference. I “tried” writing intuitively way back when, and I’m using quote marks because it wasn’t an informed choice on my part. I didn’t know you could outline fiction and while writing the scenes that came to me was exhilarating, I was stranded when I needed scenes to tie them together into a story. Meanwhile, I bet all the promises of potentially faster writing won’t make outlining palatable to a confirmed pantser.

I was surprised at how the same novels came up over and over again as examples. The Great Gatsby. The Catcher in the Rye. To Kill a Mockingbird. At least the authors who play in SF/F often refer to Ender’s Game. I’ve decided The Godfather is the Most Referred to Example Novel, Is it really that superlative? If there are many novels out there that would serve as good examples, then I wish authors would use more than a few of them. No, not everyone will have read every book ever cited, but I don’t think that’s crucial. I haven’t read The Godfather or The Catcher in the Rye, and yet I understood how they illustrated the points authors wanted to make. (Praise and felicitations to Larry Brooks who used The Help and The Hunger Games as examples. Not only had I read The Hunger Games semi-recently, I’d even enjoyed it.)

Eighteen writing books in (and two currently being read), and a few questions remain. I’m not sure what the consensus is on a “successful” novel: well-written or a commercial success? Along the lines of the chicken and the egg, do you come up with characters first and let them bring forth a plot, or vice versa? Or start with the theme and use it to generate characters and plot? Or maybe start with your story world…? And none of this even touches on why people write novels in the first place. At some point, this obsession enthusiasm for writing books will die down again, leaving me free to read actual novels again. I look forward to seeing how much of all I’m reading about I’ll be able to find in real-life reading.

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