Tag Archive | nanowrimo

Weekly Update – NaNoWriMo Is Almost Here!

It’s that time of year again!

Late nights writing.  Endless supply of tea (or coffee, depending on your preference).  Sticky notes with plot changes stuck all over the walls.  A perfectly crisp outline suddenly becoming a scribbled and crumpled heap as characters do their own thing.  Becoming a hermit as you attempt to write a novel.

Oh, and this all happens in a month’s time.

Yep, folks!  It’s NaNoWriMo!  

I’m coming in as a veteran of about four years, and I’ve yet to finish a novel in a month.  (Edits are too tempting for me.). But despite the lack of finishing, I will say that attempting to write a novel in a month is not only fun, but also a good way to build a habit of consistently writing.  It’s not easy to take time out of your day to write, especially when you work other jobs and have other commitments.

So as we inch closer to November 1, I’d like to wish all my fellow writers good luck at NaNoWriMo this year!  There’s going to be lots of great stories being told, and even if you don’t finish by the end of November, don’t be discouraged!  Telling a story doesn’t have to be limited by time.

Have a wonderful week!

You Know You Do NaNoWriMo When…

It’s that time of year again!

November-the one month where writers come together from all over the world to create a novel in 30 days or less. It’s a time of creativity, discovery, and all-around coffee binges, and is probably one of the most fun (and a tiny bit stressful) events a writer can be a part of.

This is my second year of doing NaNoWriMo and my second time trying to write a novel in a month (I was in the July camp session this year which made for good practice.) After thinking back on my previous experiences, I decided to come up with a (mostly sarcastic, yet goofy) list of what I’ve discovered writers go through during the NaNoWriMo event:

  1. You plan your new novel with outlines and notes that tells the perfect story from beginning to end only to find out you change your mind three pages into writing, voiding every plot point you spent weeks or months thinking about.  (Seriously, I can’t be the only one who recycled an entire basket full of sticky notes.)
  2. The barista at your local coffee shop knows you on a first name basis and makes sure your little table by the window is ready for you and your laptop.
  3. You spend more time on Facebook, Pinterest, tumblr, and Twitter than you do in actually writing the story.  (You never know when you’ll find inspiration buried underneath all those recipes.)
  4. The first week of November is productive and confident.  The second week is just okay.  The third week shows signs of writer’s block and re-written paragraphs.  By week four, you’re scrambling for a sentence that makes sense.
  5. Friends and family start to wonder where you’ve been because you’ve been glued to the computer for 30 days.  The light also hurts your eyes when you finally go out of doors.
  6. When you do take a break from writing to be social, you find many fellow NaNoWriMo participants match the deer-in-the-headlights look you have.
  7. You celebrate your victory in winning by jumping up and down and dancing, followed by confused stares from onlookers.

Of course, I kid at the fact that us participants are book-writing zombies by December 1.  The truth is NaNoWriMo may be stressfull and a lot of work, but it’s also one of the most fun events for anyone who ever wanted to write.  It’s a time to get creative and tell a story, and it’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with other writers who share the same passion for the written word like we do.  Even if I don’t hit the 50,000 word count goal, the mere act of participating and getting a story going is a win.

So to all my fellow writers and NaNoWriMo participants-enjoy this year’s event and have a great time writing!

P.S.

I’m getting questions regarding a Kindle version of my book, “The Ripple Affair”.  A Kindle version is being created and I will post as soon as it’s available.  🙂  Thanks for the patience!

The Adventure Begins!

It’s the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I got to tell you…starting a story is tough.

Well, it’s tough when it’s midnight and you’re half asleep already, which is why (unlike many other hardcore writers) I decided to sleep in and start my writing at an hour when I was more alert.

But this time around I found myself at a loss for words when beginning my NaNoWriMo practice novel.  The words of the first chapter just didn’t “feel” like coming out today.  I found myself scratching my head as to why my computer screen remained blank.  I did the planning.  I knew who my characters were and the general plot of how the story should go.  I also had a nice ending, one I couldn’t wait to write.

So why was starting the story so difficult?

A couple of reasons popped in my head as to why this happening.  One, I’m writing in a genre that is still unfamiliar territory to me (I was going for one of those artsy-romance stories that would probably work better as an independent film instead of a book.)  Two, my “planning” consisted of a few daydreams and a character questionnaire worksheet that only concentrated on one character (who, let’s face it, will probably end up changing anyways.)  Three, it’s an extra story on top of another story I’m already writing.  The story I’d been working on before this one has been taking top priority for quite some time, so any creativity I had before camp feels like it’s just been spent.

So much for starting camp on a high note.

But with that thought, I decided to try something new.  I’m throwing out the planning.  I’m throwing out the statistics and word count averages.  This time, I’m just going to write.  Write and see what my characters do on the whim, write and see where everything ends up in the end.  I still plan on sticking to the original (planned) ending, but how my characters get there is completely unknown to me right now.

And that’s how I want it to be.  I’ll be figuring it out as I write.  In a way, it’s sort of an adventure, only this time I’m taking it with my characters instead of having them go alone.

I’m pretty excited about the prospect.  Writing on the whim, seeing what happens when the story (in a way) tells itself.  So far, the first chapter has already proven different from what I planned.  My main character was originally supposed to be charismatic and outgoing in nature.  Instead, he’s now shy and reserved.  He was also originally supposed to meet his best friend by accident.  Instead, they’re introduced by their teachers.  The story is certainly different from how I planned it, but like any other adventure, writing on the whim and letting the inspiration surprise you as you’re writing is certainly like treading into the unknown.  I don’t know where my characters are going.  I also don’t know what’s up ahead.  But like any other story, and adventure, I can’t wait to read (or in this case, write) what happens next!

 

Readying for Camp!

You know how you tell yourself, “Nope.  I’m not going to do this,” and then you go off and do it?

I’m not going to break my diet by eating that piece of cake.  You eat not just the piece, but the whole cake.

I’m not going to spend hours playing video games instead of studying.  It’s 5 AM when you realize you have a test in a few hours and all you’ve done is move up two levels and won a pretty sweet game of capture the flag.

I’m not going to do Camp NaNoWriMo while I’m busy working on my novel series.

Well, guess what I did?

After I put aside NaNoWriMo to concentrate on a novel series I was actually planning on publishing, I decided to throw in the towel and do the July camp session.  It’s not quite hard-core NaNoWriMo like what we see in November, but it’s still a month of writing, and my goal of 50,000 words in 31 days is still there, looming and filling my ever waking hour with word counts and daily averages.  

As if I didn’t get enough sleep while writing a series (ha!)

But as crazy as it sounds, I’m excited.  Yes, I know it’s going to add another busy thing to my already busy schedule.  Yes, I know reaching 50,000 words is more of a dream than a reality at this point.  Yes, I know I’ll be working on two completely different story sets at the same time and I’ll probably be confused by the time August rolls around.  But this is writing-writing-and I can’t help but get giddy when thinking I’m going to get the chance to create another story for fun.

And on top of that, I won’t be alone!  A friend of mine (who is also a fellow writer) will also be joining the craze with me.  It’s nice to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo with people, and I definitely look forward to being able to talk about word counts with someone who will know what I’m talking about!

So for all you fellow campers, good luck and have fun with Camp NaNoWriMo this July!  I’m going to try and post some camp updates during the upcoming month and I hope to have some updates on the series I’m readying to publish as well.  My sincerest apologies that this blog has been a little scarce lately (editing and re-editing takes up a lot of time), but I’m hoping to pick things up a bit with more posts in the coming months.

I’m off to pack for camp!  (I’m going to need a lot of s’mores for this!)

I’m Not Going to Win NaNoWriMo (and Why I Don’t Want To)

43,696.

That was my word count as of last Saturday, November 23.  I had 7 days left until NaNoWriMo was over-reach 50,000 words and I could be declared a “winner”.

But after Saturday night, I stopped writing.

I looked over my story and got some feedback from my beta reader (thanks, Mom!)  On Sunday, I started to question the story I was writing.  Did the main character fit my vision of how he should be?  Did the words flow easily so that readers could follow along?  Did the plot connect to the overall theme I wanted to project?

The answer to all three was no, so I decided to stop.

At least, I decided to stop writing the story to finish NaNoWriMo.

I came to the conclusion that even though I was reaching my word count goals and that even though I was writing a “good” story, it still wasn’t enough.  I wasn’t happy with the story that had been produced.  It started off strong, but as time progressed, it got off track.  It was no longer the “right” story.

But I wanted it to be.

And so I made a decision.  I decided to go back in my story, keep what was good, and re-write the plot from the middle.  More ideas came to mind and I started really analyzing where I wanted my character to go and how I wanted to get him there.  I decided to oust one villain in favor for another and realized that if I’m going to have a central theme to the story, the plot and characters need to connect to it.  

I won’t lie when I say I was a bit frustrated at first realizing I was going to quit after coming so, so close to “winning” NaNoWriMo.  But then I started to look at why I signed up in the first place.  I wanted to write.  I wanted to create a new novel to boost myself out of writer’s block and give myself extra practice at something I love to do and want to learn more about.  I didn’t sign up to win (although I admit I wanted to).  The goal of NaNoWriMo isn’t to race and write a novel in a month-the goal is to simply write.

And that’s what I did.  It got me writing more than I have in years.

43,696.  That’s what’s going to be my final word count for the “NaNoWriMo version” of my novel.  But now that I’m revising it and taking the story in a new (and more exciting) direction, I think the word count is going to be the least important part.  I have a character who is complex and unpredictable, a plot that is engaging, and a theme that is very close to my heart.  I started with the story I wanted, but now I’m going to finish the story with what I needed.

So thank you, NaNoWriMo, for helping me write again. 

The Importance of Rest

I’m on Day 20 of NaNoWriMo and I’m not going to lie.  I’m getting tired.

Not that I don’t enjoy working a full time job, prepping for a craft show, and coming home every day to write for 3-4 hours before going to bed.  Writing is fun, exercises my creativity, and gives me something to look forward to after my 8-5 schedule.

But yesterday I was tired.  So tired my eyes felt like they were going to fall out of my head- and a migraine was coming on.  And if you’ve ever had a migraine before, you know that’s no fun.

So after I came home from work my mom gave me a piece of advice: don’t write tonight.  Rest your eyes.  Take a break.

It was like she was asking me to give up my first born.

Not write?  No!  Never!  Especially not during NaNoWriMo.  50,000 words isn’t exactly a cake walk when you’re trying to fit life in, so writing comes first, right?

I decided I wasn’t going to listen and was going to force myself to write even though I was tired, drained, and about to fall flat on my face.

I went to the computer, turned it on, and pulled up my story.  I was going to at least get in 1,500 words in.

Five words later, though, I stopped.  My eyes were hurting worse.  I was so, so tired.  Whatever creativity I had was gone and didn’t want to come out.  It was like my body was saying, “Don’t want to listen?  Fine.  I’ll make you listen by falling asleep on the keyboard if I have to!”

So I made a decision.  I saved my five words, closed out the story, and turned the computer off.

After about an hour of relaxing and watching a little bit of Burn Notice, I was starting to feel better.  I even got in bed on time for once.

And now, after getting that rest, I feel like I can write again.

Sometimes as writers we think we have to push it to the limit, especially when there’s a deadline.  We write and write and write until we just can’t write anymore.  And though writing is fun and a great way to share our inner creativity, writing (along with any type of art) can be exhausting, especially when done for long periods of time or after a long day.  For many of us, too much of a good thing can turn bad if we’re not careful.  And in my case, writing for hours after work every day was starting to take its toll.  I got tired, my mind was exhausted, and instead of my creativity growing, it started to diminish because I was too tired to even think.

There’s nothing wrong with working hard and wanting to do a good job, but I learned I shouldn’t sacrifice my health for the sake of success.

I Don’t Know How To Write (And That’s OK)

I’m just now past the half-way point of NaNoWriMo.  Though I probably should be learning things like character development, plot progression, and how to add humor in an other-wise sad tale, I found my biggest lesson has come not in the form of how I should write, but how I am writing.

And I’ve learned I don’t know how to write.

I don’t know any magic formulas to make my story better.  I don’t have a one-size-fits-all character checklist that guarantees a well developed protagonist and antagonist.  I don’t have any special words or phrases that will hook my audience into reading more.

All I have is a story.  And for me, that is enough.

I started writing as a hopeful novelist about ten years ago.  I was in the middle of college and studying history and the theatre arts, both areas of which have little to do with creating novels.  My writing training consisted of two intro to college composition classes as a freshman, and that was it.  I had no formal creative writing training save that one week my third grade teacher had us write our own picture books.  

So when I first started writing seriously, my story generally followed this formula:

“Character A said, ‘Blah blah.’  Then Character B said, ‘Blah blah blah.’  Then Character C sat down and drank some tea.”

Yeah, it was captivating.

But as time went on, and I wrote some more, my writing style started to change.  I began to (slowly but surely) find what is called “the writer’s voice”.  It’s that writing style you really can’t learn from books or lessons but something most of us discover ourselves after writing for awhile.  It’s the style of writing that makes you unique-the ways you phrase your words and dialogue that lets people identify it as your story simply just by reading it.

After about five years of writing, I started to develop my own voice, and it’s been evolving ever since.

One of the biggest answers I get as to why people don’t write, even though they want to, is this: “I don’t know how.”  They’re not trained writers, they aren’t good at grammar, they’ve never been able to write anything before, etc.  I’m willing to argue, though,  that having that “I don’t know how” mentality can be a good thing.  When you write, and don’t know how, you develop your own style and voice.  It’s not something you’re taught-you develop it after trial and error-what works and what doesn’t work.  

I’ve seen some writers who have been trained in writing.  They’re good, don’t get me wrong.  They know lots of tips and tricks that make their writing phenomenal.  But I’ve also seen some phenomenal writers who aren’t trained, who haven’t taken the creative writing lessons or stuck to writing by formula.  At first their writing may be simple and boring (mine certainly was), but in time their writing develops into something unique and beautiful.  You can’t find the formula they used in their story.  It simply comes out of their heart, a story that is pure, untamed, and full of surprises.

I look at my writing from ten years ago and can’t help but laugh.  It really, really is bad.  But ten years ago I thought it was the best writing I could do.  Boy, was I wrong.  It had a long way to go!  But time and practice has taught me a lot.  I learned what sounded good and what sounded terrible.  I listened to feedback I was given by people who read my stories.  I read other stories and studied why I thought their stories were good or bad.  Was it the characters?  The plot?  The setting?  All of the above?  And I won’t be surprised if ten years from now I come across my current writing and call it mediocre (or even terrible).  As writer’s, we’re always learning and always growing in our craft.  It’s like that with any artist-with time, we become better.

So if you don’t know how to write, that’s OK.  I’m in the same boat, as are countless numbers of other writers.  But if you have a story in your heart that just can’t help but come out, let it out.  Write it down, even if it isn’t grammatically perfect or has a few plot holes.  Time (and spell check) can help.  That “mediocre tale” has a chance of becoming a story that can change the world.  Don’t let a lack of training keep a good story hidden away.

Signs You May Be a Writer…

Since I’m in full-NaNoWriMo mode (almost to the half-way point!), I figured I’d post some little something today just to let everyone know that no, I haven’t forgotten this blog and that even though I’m busy with work and NaNoWriMo, I still will make time for WordPress.  🙂

I was thinking the other day about how I saw myself as a writer .  What were the little quirks or funny signs that made me think, yeah…that’s something a writer would do.  So I started jotting some ideas down and thought I’d share them with you.  Feel free to see if you do these crazy things as well!  🙂

You know you’re a writer when…

  1. You write a paragraph, then erase, and then re-write and erase again.  About 10 times after you’ve repeated this process over and over, you decide the first paragraph you had was actually the better one and you just wasted an hour of your life.
  2. You panic when you get an idea in your head and you have nothing to write it down on.  You risk losing said idea forever if it’s not written, so you grab whatever’s nearest to you and start jotting it down.  Writing surfaces may include old receipts, your hand, gum wrappers, and toilet paper.
  3. When you’re writing a piece of fiction, you already begin thinking of which actors should be cast in the film adaptation.  (If my books were made into films, I’d love to see Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Jennifer Lawrence be in every film.)
  4. You find the characters you create are so lovable and adorable and awesome that you wish they were real.
  5. You find the characters you create are so realistic that you have to remind yourself they’re not real.
  6. If writing a romance, your ideal man (or woman) represents the main love interest for your character.
  7. You think of plot lines and characters instead of paying attention when someone’s talking to you.
  8. You daydream about 99% of the time and call it “pre-writing”.
  9. You know what onomatopoeia is and you use it often.  (And so did the original Batman and Robin.)
  10. You see a movie or read a book and think of an alternate plot that is waaaaay better.

What are some signs you notice that makes you feel like a writer?

Eat, Sleep, and Write: A Writer’s Life

Being a writer isn’t easy.

I think there’s this common misconception that writers do nothing but sit at a desk that overlooks nature and compose perfect sentence after perfect sentence while taking the occasional sip of coffee and letting out a relaxed sigh. Birds are singing, the sun is shining, and everything is peace and bliss as the writer sits back and watches the money pour in from royalties.

Ah, if only that were true for all of us…

The first day of NaNoWriMo was Last Friday. Like many fellow writers who have yet to have a novel published, my day was spent in a variety of places, all of which did not include a country cottage in the middle of spring.  In fact, it was spent driving across the county on one hour’s worth of sleep and squeezing in some writing time after dinner late that night.  Yeah, not your ideal writing conditions, let me tell you.  And though I can’t speak for every other writer, I’m willing to believe that most of the other people who wrote that day did not spend their time in a country cottage as well.

It’s a shocker, I know.

The truth is being a writer is often times difficult, busy, and downright stressful.  For those of us who can make a living as writers, there’s drafts, revisions, and long days staring at the computer screen.  Many of them are sitting in an office not just sipping coffee but guzzling it because they’ve been trying to meet the ever-approaching deadline.  For those of us who make our living elsewhere (myself included), we fit writing into whatever time we can-early in the morning, lunch time, late at night while everyone else is asleep.  We write wherever it’s convenient.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled a notebook from beside the bed in the middle of the night and write an idea down with my only light being a flashlight app from my phone.

The writing process itself is also difficult.  Though some are very fortunate to have the ability to create prose and poetry that is brilliant in a few hours, most of us go through countless edits and revisions of our stories until we have every bit of detail right.  My first idea for a novel has been a work in progress for ten years and counting.  Ten years!  When I first started writing, I thought it’d be finished in a few months.  Boy, was I wrong.  Writing is often a long process in which some projects take months, years, or even decades to complete.  Some projects never get completed at all.  The writing process is long, hard, and at times grueling.  It doesn’t just ask for patience-it demands it.

But even though writing can be hard and difficult, the rewards and joy it brings are worth every late night and revision.  Being a writer is not just work, but it’s an art-and a joy.  It’s our way of bringing our imagination to life or sending a message we normally wouldn’t have the words to say.  It’s a way for us to attain a legacy that can last for generations to come.  It teaches, encourages, corrects, and beautifies.  And for many of us who feel writing is our calling, it’s not just a part of our life-it is our life.

So even though I’m not sitting in that cottage, sipping tea (yeah, I’m not a coffee drinker-sorry), I’m still living the writer’s life.

Ah, bliss.

So a Writer and Protagonist Go Out to Lunch…

Most of you know I’ve taken up the challenge of completing NaNoWriMo 2013, an online event where writers around the globe try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  I’m happy to say that so far things are going well and I haven’t lost my sanity (thank you, chocolate) and I am well on my way to at least getting a few pages done in my novel.

Progress!

But I’ve come across a bit of a snag that I thought I’d share with the rest of you.  You see, my main character of my story-my protagonist-is unfamiliar to me.  I know him about as well as I know the neighborhood cat.

And that’s a problem.

It’s not that I don’t know his story-I know where he begins, where he’s at in the middle, and where he’s going to be in the end, but I don’t know him as a character.  I don’t understand his traits and why he’s the way that he is.  I don’t relate to him very well at all.

And that’s because he’s nothing like me.

Writer’s 101 dictates that you write what you know because, well, you know it.  What you know comes easy to you and you understand it better than others.  You write about your past, your interests, your areas of expertise…the parts of your life that you have the most knowledge about.

When creating a fictional character, a similar principle applies.  You can create characters based on certain aspects of your personality and have them go through experiences that you can relate to.  This familiarity by connecting your personal life to fiction bridges a connection between author and audience.  Readers will know you know what you’re talking about because your characters and details are “realistic”.

So when writing about my character-we’ll call him “G” for short (no spoilers just yet, mwa ha ha!)-it’s been a difficult task because one, his personality is very different from mine, and two, the circumstances he is placed in is something I’ve never had to deal with.

So how does a shy, history loving book nerd understand a suave, deceptive, tragically innocent jerk?  (I’m the book nerd, by the way.)

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) Look for outside opinion.  Remember my beta reader, Mom?  Well guess who got to read the first two chapters of the novel.  That’s right-Mom.  And guess who learned she had to re-write part of the first chapter because her character made no sense during one scene?  Yep.  It was me.  But I’m grateful that my mom was honest with me.  I wrote that scene not really understanding the dynamics of the character’s personality and how that would effect his relationship with others.  My mom, who’s known more people than I have, understood it better because she’s so great at reading people.

2) Work that imagination.  Put your character in different scenarios and write out possible outcomes.  For example, what if you went to lunch with that character?  How would he/she react?  What conversations would come up?  What food would be ordered?  Even little details can tell you a lot about a person and reveal deeper aspects of their personalities, so see which outcomes work best and build from there.

3) Give it time.  Sometimes understanding of a character just takes time to develop.  On another story I’ve been working on (non-NaNoWriMo related), one of my main characters started out pretty heroic.  He was dashing, brave, and could easily be featured on “Survivor” and come out a winner.  But as the story progressed and went through changes, my dashing hero went through a personality change.  He was still brave, but became more timid, secretly bitter over past events, and was transformed into an unsung hero who people tended to ignore.  This change certainly didn’t happen over night.  In fact, it happened over a period of about four or five years.  But the more I wrote about this character, the more I began to understand what quirks, actions, and traits connected his personality to the story at hand.  And because the story changed, his traits changed, and I learned what parts of his personality worked (and didn’t work) with the overall story.

So even though I’m still on the early parts of my novel and I’m still getting to know my protagonist, I feel like I’m at least starting on the right track.  Grant it, my character will probably go through a lot of changes (poor guy), but in the end, I’ll have gotten to know a character I didn’t know before.

And he’ll hopefully have a finished story by November 30.