NaNoWriMo Begins Sunday….But Not For Me

Few things are as divisive among writers as the mere concept of NaNoWriMo. You either embrace it wholeheartedly as a fresh kick to your muse, or you think it’s an abysmal experiment for people who aren’t “real” writers. I have always been very pro-NaNo, because I think it’s a good ceremonial event and rite of passage.

A lot of anti-NaNo people take it a bit too literally, as if us pro-NaNos think we can only write a novel during November. Or that we only consider ourselves “writers” in November, then forgo writing the rest of the year. Are people who run marathons only capable of running 26 miles the day of the event? Of course not. They train for months. They run a lot of marathons in their own time, with only themselves to notice. But certainly doing it in an official, public way makes the accomplishment all the more real. And accomplishment aside, isn’t it fun to cross the finish line with other people too? Likewise, you don’t have to participate in a public event to be considered a real writer/marathon runner either. 26 miles, or 50k words, is an accomplishment regardless.

But I will be sitting NaNo out this year, because it simply doesn’t jive with 2015’s interests. I do have my next book in mind. I have it fully outlined. I have some early drafts of it, which I may or may not pull from. But 2015 needs to be the year I finish Paradisa, and I am fully invested in getting it ready for a copyeditor by the new year. Sure, it probably won’t be ready to query until May, but at least the meat of it can be finished by January. At least most of 2016’s work will be proofing, polishing, query-writing, and agent researching.

As for the next book? I’ll probably write the first draft in January-March. I’m not going to kill myself trying to do it all in one month, as I have some other endeavors to focus on. And with any luck, this one will reach the finish line a little faster than Paradisa, as it’s a memoir and I can’t change the plot too much ;)

I probably will return to NaNo next year, as I already have my next NaNo idea in mind. For the rest of you – good luck, stay strong, and reach whatever goal you’ve set for yourself!

Camp NaNo, Here I Come?

Several of my writer friends are participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Camp NaNo is a laid back, set-your-own-pace version of November’s 50,000 word sprint. Unlike the regular competition, Camp NaNo encourages short story writers, and people revising a previously written novel, to participate along with those writing a novel from scratch.

I didn’t concern myself much with the news, as I’ve never participated before. To me, NaNoWriMo is a November thing. I participate mostly out of tradition, and to beat my previous goal every year. I also use it to kick off new projects, which isn’t of much interest to me at the moment. I’m still fully devoted to Paradisa.

But Camp NaNo actually showed up at a good time for me. After some serious thinking, I’ve decided to rewrite the first 40 pages of my book, which I estimate to be about 25,000 words. I don’t want this rewrite to take 7 months like the previous one did (although, luckily, this rewrite is not as extensive as that!). I know that if I put my mind to it, I can probably knock out 25,000 words in just a couple of weeks.

So I signed up. I set my goal at 25,000 words. That means for less than 1000 words a day, I can have my major revision complete by May 1! Of course, I was planning on writing these 25,000 words anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to have an extra fire under my butt. I’m all outlined-up and ready to go!

Some writers are pro enough to set such goals unofficially and carry them out. I was like that about a year and a half ago, despite having a full-time job, but I think my writing productivity tanked around the time I started cohabitating with my boyfriend. We’re now on the same sleep schedule  which leaves me less productive time to write (going to bed far too early, at 10 PM) and I’m naturally drawn to more collaborative activities rather than solo ones now. When I lived alone, I could plop myself in a chair for four hours and forget the rest of the world. When there’s someone else’s feelings to consider,  that’s basically impossible now. Hopefully when we move into a bigger place in the next couple months, we’ll have more elbow room to do our own things in our own time. He’ll be getting his own office in the new house, which he doesn’t have now.

Until then, I think I can set aside a half hour every evening and get 1000 words out. Little goals seem more obtainable than big ones, no? And having a sophisticated word count system (I could rave about NaNo’s statistics system all day, ya’ll. It’s probably the #1 reason I keep doing this) helps motivate me as well.

Feel free to become my writer buddy on the Camp NaNo website. I am under the moniker “musemorgan.”

 

When An Old Project Surprises You

It’s never fun to shelve a project. To admit temporary defeat. To say “all this work I’ve done isn’t paying off in the immediate future, if ever.” But in order to keep improving our craft and using our time wisely, it is a necessary part of being a writer. But the fun part is picking up such an unfinished story a year or two later and saying “Wow. This is actually really good.

The project I speak of is The Shadow of Saturn, a dramatized memoir about my time as a NASA intern. I cranked out 50,000 words of it for NaNoWriMo 2012, rewrote most of those 50,000 words (see Thomas, I do sometimes stop in the middle of a draft and go back! :P), then shelved it indefinitely. I just wasn’t ‘feeling’ it anymore. I was feeling Paradisa more, so I started Paradisa and didn’t look back.

This book was my first attempt at writing after a three-year hiatus. I cringed at every word. I hated writing it because I felt so self-conscious about my style. Which is why I was so delighted to pick up that unfinished draft yesterday, flipping through it, unable to stop reading, constantly thinking “This is actually a decent start.”

I already have a full outline finished for this book, although it is way too long. One of the reasons I never finished it is because the outline puts it at about 150,000 words. That is longer than this novel has any right to be. So maybe I’ll futz with the outline some this week. After my Paradisa edits, of course :P But I’ll need something to work on during my next beta round so…perhaps this is a worthy side project.

As I read, I just kept thinking, “I want other people to read this book.” And because it’s a memoir, I need to get it all down before my memory starts waning. I’m already three years removed from the experience. I don’t want it to grow much longer.

Anyway, thought I’d chime in with a happy Monday post ;) You can see my scene counter has gone down slightly in the sidebar. Just 11 more to go. How was your weekend, Pressworld? And have you ever dusted off an old project with delight?

I’m alivvvvvve!

I have a confession – I write my posts at work a lot, if not all the time. And work has been busy. Hence, why I have not kept this WordPress going in recent weeks. I’ve been a bad net-friend, not even keeping up with my reader much.

But hopefully that will calm down soon! Or at least, eventually! Work is just hectic as we’re trying to tie up some loose ends before the new year. When the next quarter begins in January, I hope to start some new projects and have steadier days.

Congrats to everyone who won NaNoWriMo yesterday! I hope your goodies are super nice this year. As you know, I ditched it around the 7000 word mark and went back to work on Paradisa. I’m proud to say that I’ve put quite a bit of work into Paradisa over the past couple days, and I feel like my momentum is building back. Just in time for life to get really hectic, eh? :P Listening to music has helped inspire me a lot this time around. Battle sequences are the hardest thing to write, and I’m currently doing a full rewrite of my Act II battle/seige….but the new stuff is pretty sick and has a very obvious “flow” to it. It’s not just action/fighting, it’s characters navigating their plotlines through a battle, so I have a lot more to say about it. The words come more easily. Figuring out fifteen inventive ways to say “she swung a sword” is hard, but this particular part hasn’t been….that.

Anyway, link me to any of your posts I may have missed! Like I said, I’ve been crappy at commenting this past week in addition to neglecting my own blog. And hopefully, I’ll be around more this month! I have a few “favs of 2014” list I plan on throwing together, if nothing else.

A Passion Project Is Hard To Find

It’s official: NaNoWriMo 2014? Just not working for me.

And I’m okay with that. I sort of knew going into this that I was fooling around. Experimenting with a story that had a very minimal amount of cook time in my head, that was completely out of my comfort zone as far as genre and construction goes. I’m a plotter. I like having a plot with the appropriate beats. I’m not usually into character driven “200 pages of me telling you about my life” kind of stuff. That’s a lot harder than it looks.

I got about 7000 words into Figments before I realized that I’m not ready for it. I’ve mentioned previously that stories have to stay with me for a while. They have to linger in my mind for at least a year before I grow comfortable with them. Sort of how you wouldn’t bring a stranger home to your mother, or go on a long vacation with them – you want to know them a bit better before you spend a long stretch of time with them. You want to know that you’re compatible.

Most writers have a notebook of ideas to pull from. I have over a hundred. But very few of those ideas are good enough, or familiar enough to me, to last me through the novel-writing process. If you’re going to finish a book, you have to be in love with an idea. You have to be willing to marry it, to work things out through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer. Otherwise, you’ll run out of steam. You’ll look at your characters like random acquaintances that you’re not sure how you ended up with. You’ll just…stop caring.

That’s not to say the passion projects are easy. We all hate our voice sometimes. It’s not turning out “right.” It’s not true to our vision. There are plotholes. But the great thing is that we say “we’ll fix that in the next draft.” Because we know there will be a next draft, and we know we’ll want to write that draft. Even when we get frustrated, it’s still a good thing. We know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel because what we want more than anything is for this project to be complete.

With that, I’m refocusing my energy on Paradisa. I miss the characters. I miss the world. I want to put the next beta draft in my readers’ hands. So while I’ve shelved the NaNo novel that just isn’t working out (yet), I’ve still got a real passion project to occupy my time. Even after a straight year of working on Paradisa, the story still excites me. Those sorts of stories are the ones truly worth writing. I’m not sure anything less could get me through this process.

And speaking of passion, my mother’s passion project manifested this past weekend in the form of AtomaCon. It was even more successful than last year! I was delighted to see how full all the panel rooms were. It reflected very well on us for the sake of our panelists and guests. I also received several compliments on my “2014 in Anniversaries” video that we showcased at Opening Ceremonies. :)

Thank you Leona Wisoker, for capturing what is probably the only pic of me during the entire convention.

Thank you Leona Wisoker, for capturing what is probably the only pic of me during the entire convention.

Mom and I are already cooking up some cool things for 2015, so maybe some of you will make it to Charleston next year. And to all of you NaNo participants – hope all is well! Good luck with writing your NaNo novel, or the novel you’d rather be writing instead ;) Follow the project your subconscious is telling you to follow, because that’s the one you will stick with.

A Writer’s Christmas List

Yesterday, I sent out my Christmas list to my immediate family. Yeah, I know, I’m probably too old for a Christmas list. But it’s a good way to clear up any confusion about what’s missing from my book/dvd/video game shelf, etc. I try to avoid getting those sorts of things for people unless I’m positive my gift won’t be a duplicate.

Several of my requests were books and other things a writer may enjoy…

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I don’t know much about this book. I’ve just heard that it’s a classic and it’s kind of terrifying.
  2. Anything by H.P. Lovecraft – so I can study up on my Cthulhu mythos
  3. Anything by Philip K. Dick – so I can study up on how to write science fiction
  4. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff – because it’s sort of similar to Figments*
  5. S by J.J. Abrams – because I love books that are a metafictional work of art
  6. Scrivener writing software – because Carrie Rubin made me do it!

* EDIT – Just realized that the book I meant to ask for was More Than This by Patrick Ness. That’s what I get from just going off the top of my Good Reads list. Also, I just accidentally asked for an incest book for Christmas, YAY.

I almost put on The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero, because I think Tommy Wiseau is an alien and I want to study him in a lab….but I don’t want to have to wait two months to get that book. I will probably buy it between now and then :P

Thoughts on my list? Any writer/reader goodies you’re looking forward to this Christmas? Any that you’re giving?

ANNNND Obligatory NaNo Update: Yet again, I lagged behind my word count. Only wrote 1000 words. I had a glass of wine with dinner, which was a mistake, because I always get headaches with wine and by 9:15 I was like “I am exhausted and my head hurts, I want bed.”

No matter. I’m comfortable taking this at my own pace. Gives time for the dust to settle. Truly, when I get to writing on this story, the word count jacks up in minutes. I still feel reasonably confident that the 50k will happen by the end of the month without any sort of organized pace. I’m just trying to write every day, although I’m going to put in some extra effort tonight and maybe get to 2500 words.

How strange for me, to not have a detailed plan.

 

A Slow Start To NaNoWriMo

The bad news? I only wrote about 1700 words this weekend. Cheers to a weak, hobbling start to NaNoWriMo, ha! But the good news? I knew I’d have some sick days, so it’s not like this puts me too behind.

However, starting this novel for real gave me a…perspective on how undercooked the concept is. I must have rewritten the first paragraph six times. And not just futzing with the wording, but futzing with the location, the atmosphere. At first I opened with my character naked on the floor of her childhood bedroom. Then I just put her in the bed, dressed, in her childhood bedroom.

Then I put her on the moon, and went from there.

It’s all so haphazard right now. So many sidebars and ramblings because that’s the sort of book this is, and I don’t have a great grasp on how much my protagonist remembers about before. It’s all sort of a mess, and I’m not fond of how I achieved the narrative beats in Chapter One but…I think the intro to this book was one of the hardest parts and I’ve crossed a hump. My fingers feel much more comfortable now that I’m in Chapter Two and the book’s path is clearer.

The hard part about this book is knowing that the dust hasn’t settled in my mind yet. Knowing that I’m still not sure what I want it to BE and how I want my character to discover it. It results in a lot of backspacing, not because I’m doubting myself or editing but because I’m constantly having better ideas that merit massive changes. I’ve told you before that my stories have to cook a long time in my head before I’m ready to write them, and this has not cooked long enough. Only last week did I make the eleventh hour choice to set most of the story in a desert instead of a Portal-esque puzzle lab, which massively changes how it all comes across.

So. Difficult new challenges, that’s for sure. Not sure if I’m going to win NaNo this year with this type of book on my plate, but we’ll see. I found that once I got going with it, the word count really poured out of me. It’s just finding the path that’s hard.

On the positive note, I made a book cover for it which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve only got the blurry thumbnail below, but I’ll try to upload a hi-res version later. I also changed the title from Wake to Figments, as I wanted the title it to be….less spoilery :P

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The NaNoWriMo Isolation

I have been fighting off some kind of illness all week. BLECH. Luckily it’s taking a turn for the better today, but I have just been plagued with exhaustion. I sleep plenty every night, only for my eyelids to droop around 1:30. By the time I get home at 3:30, I just want to sleep.

But, can’t do that tonight. It’s Halloween! And my friend Greg is in town for fall break. And it’s my fourth anniversary with Austin (when I got in my car this morning, there was a Cthulhu plushie waiting for me. DAW.)  And the annual fair is in town.

So, all that’s coming to a head tonight, because the three of us are going to the county fair. I’m still feeling wobbly so…not sure how much I’ll be Tilt-A-Whirling. But it’ll be nice to hang out and take in all the energy from it. Then I’ll sleep like the dead tonight, get up once I feel like a person again, and spend the entire weekend inside. Resting. Writing for the  opening weekend of NaNoWriMo.

I will also be working on a cool project for the opening ceremony of AtomaCon, which is in two weeks! If you’re anywhere near Charleston, come and see our 3-day convention. We’ve got something for everyone, truly.

And grocery shopping. I guess there will be grocery shopping.

Well, I’ll rest as much as life will allow me to, and hopefully get a good start on NaNo while I’m at it. Good luck this weekend to all my fellow Wrimos!

The Soundtrack To Your Novel

There are two types of music that I categorize when I write a novel – music that inspires me and music that I envision in the story.

For example, I use Bear’s Den music to inspire me for Paradisa, but I don’t imagine any of their songs played in the background during scenes. On the other hand, 80’s classic rock has nothing to do with my story, but I imagine Connor jogging to some of it in the opening scene of my Paradisa sequel.

More simply?  The inspiration playlist is about lyrics, and the soundtrack is about tone.

As I wrap up the outline for my NaNoWriMo novel, I’ve been futzing around with the soundscape. I’m basing my main character on someone I sort of know, and that someone was a big fan of Tom McRae, so I’ve been including a lot of Tom McRae in my thought process. But then a Beastie Boys song came on my shuffle yesterday, and I’m like “oh yes, this song would be so triumphant and defiant over the antagonist, it would be such a great turning point. It just makes you feel like such a BAMF.” Of course, Tom McRae’s folky droning doesn’t exactly match up with the Beastie Boys’ defiant punk in the sense of tone, nor does it make much sense that my main character would like both (due to the nature of the story, my main character has control over the music she can hear at any given time. So her preferences do sort of matter).

So, Tom McRae goes on the inspiration playlist. The Beastie Boys go on the soundtrack. And in case you’re curious, the song I’m talking about is So Whatcha Want :P

Does music sway or inspire your writing? I rarely listen to music when I’m actually typing because it’s too distracting. But the inspiration playlist usually results in some sort of mental montage while the soundtrack playlist makes me think of scenes in their entirety. Weird, I know. But we’re all a little weird when it comes to creativity.

Being Realistic About Tackling NaNoWriMo

I have spent the better part of six days in sick girl limbo. Not sick like…flu sick. Just sick with sinuses, lethargia, headaches, and a lack of coffee because my latte-making SO didn’t live with me for a few of those days. With the house to myself for a while, you’d think I’d get a lot done. But you don’t want to do much when a nail’s driving through your eyeball for two straight days, or when you just want to sleep.

I have chronic sinus issues, and the headaches are getting more difficult to deal with. Used to be, I could take two ibuprofen and knock it out. Now it takes about a day and a half and ~8 ibuprofen to kill the headache, and sometimes it’ll still come back the next day. As anyone who’s had a sinus headache knows, it’s not just about the pain. It makes you dizzy, nauseus, loopy. Like you can’t focus on anything and that you just want to sleep.

So, while I went home early on Friday and had a mostly empty weekend, I still barely sewed at all. And because I’m so behind on my cosplay and so swallowed by it, I definitely haven’t looked at my writing!

What does this have to do with the title – planning for NaNoWriMo? Because I know myself. I know my health issues. I know that at least 3-4 days a month are devoted to me clutching my skull and whimpering about how miserable I feel. And I know that on those days, I won’t be writing.

I also know that Thanksgiving is in November. And AtomaCon, which will eat three straight days from November 14-16. Another Saturday will probably be devoted to PlanitCon in Myrtle Beach. These are also days that I won’t be writing. I just know that I won’t. I’ve done this a couple of years now and I know that AtomaCon is WAY too busy to even look at my laptop, and sickly days are really hard to fight through.

I aim to write about 70,000 words (or a finished book – whatever comes first) this month. And I won’t be doing it in thirty days. I’ll probably be doing it in about 21 days, if I’m realistic about my busy schedule and my health.

So that means on the days I do write, I need to write more. I need to strive for about 3300 words a day instead of 2300 if I’m going to really finish in November.

Do you have your own personal minimum word count? Are there days you know that you won’t write in November, or are you determined to write EVERY day? Or are you just winging it, and what happens happens?