Sometimes It’s Nice to Just Go with It (Some NaNoWriMo Thoughts)

We’re into week three of NaNoWriMo! While I’m a little behind the official marker, I did start  eight days late (Thanks, Disney World, I regret nothing) I’m clipping along pretty well, to the point that I think I’ll catch up by the weekend (just in time to fall behind over Thanksgiving, yes).

I’m following the outline that I slapped together before starting pretty well, and I’m pouring out words, plugging along forward. And the result so far? A big, steaming, snarled up mess. And I am so happy with it.

Sometimes when I'm on the couch, clacking away...
Sometimes when I’m on the couch, clacking away…

The whole point of NaNo is quantity, getting as many words out as you can before the month dries up. Quality, coherence, that’s not the point. This, of course, always feels really wrong. When I hit a snag, or realize I took a wrong turn in chapter two, or realize halfway through that no, this is a world where the Internet doesn’t exist, I’m tempted to go back and fix it. Or, if I’m really frustrated, I imagine stuffing the manuscript in a drawer and pretending I never had this awful idea.

But it’s NaNoWriMo. You’re supposed to keep pushing through, and so I do. And I’m glad, because when I keep going with it, I start to like it again. Yes, I keep finding things I want to change, or add, or snip out entirely, and it’s definitely not forming into its final shape. But this method, of just rolling through to the end, is a road of discovery. With each rambling paragraph or nonsensical plot turn I learn about the characters and the story and the world. I realize that one person’s motivations have to change because she’s not who I thought she was at the beginning, or that technology has to be different because it better suits the story and the world view of the characters.

Maybe my story doesn’t have a good shape yet, but writing in this way, not stopping until I discover my middle and my end, is helping me to plot through all the different bits so I start to see what that shape will be when I’m done.

 

Hey WriMos, find me and friend me! I love stalking other people’s progress.

 

It’s NaNoWriMo Tiiiiime!

As of this posting, it’s the third day of NaNoWriMo, in which a slew of crazy-crazies try to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. Time is limited, so every day matters…which means I’m in a little bit of trouble. Because also as of this posting, I’m in the middle of my Disney World trip, and I just know I am doing little, if any, writing.

To prepare myself for this, I decided to spend a lot more time plotting out this novel than I normally do. This way, I figure, I won’t get hung up on wrong turns in the story, and that I’ll know enough about what’s coming next to motor me through to the next scene. We’ll see if this helps me with my writing speed next month. But definitely one thing it’s helping me do: visualize my whole story.

I’ve generally been a pantser with my writing, coming up with a few vague ideas and then running with the story from there. I’ll scribble down future plot ideas in notebook margins as I go, but I rarely spend time figuring out the big twists and turns my character will take. I love doing this — I stumble across awesome ideas this way — but I’m also super likely to crash into a wall, or spend all day on a tangent only to scratch it all out and drop my head on the desk.

Not that I don’t think I’ll do some of these things with an outline — a couple of bullet points can look awesome, while the paragraph itself is garbage. And it’s not as if I plan on having every single detail hammered out; there’s still plenty of room for my character to walk into this house, talk to this stranger on the street.

But I know what my beginning is; my middle has a gelatinous form; my ending is a mountain peak that I can see in the distance against the sky. My story has a shape, vague as it is, and while I know I have the freedom to change every point on a whim, it’s comfortable knowing that I have a path, that I’m very excited about, laid out ahead of time.

Other WriMos: how do you do it? Do you write by the seat of your pants? Or do you plot out your novel meticulously?

NaNoWriMo 2014 Recap

On Sunday I finished this year’s NaNoWriMo, winning the thing with 50,027 words. An awesome thing, especially considering that I had weddings and power outages getting in my way. I hadn’t attempted the challenge in a few years, and I’m glad I did, because it helped me learn a few things about me and my writing. Here’s a quick recap of what I figured out:

  • I can write a ton in one day. In order to stay caught up, or get ahead to prepare for the days I would fall behind, I had quite a few big output days, nearly reaching 3,000 words on several of them. 3,000 words! I’ve mentioned before not knowing how to stretch beyond my regular limit, but now I know how far I can go when I push myself.
  • I can write amongst people. I’m lucky in that I get a lot of time to myself, but that still wasn’t enough time to reach my regular writing quota. So, I had to do some typing in front of the television, with family around, figuring out how to scare the pants off my main character while other people watched football. It wasn’t that bad. I could even break to involve myself in conversation. Probably not the best environment if I’m having horrid writer’s block, and the writing slows down immensely, but good to know it is doable all the same.
  • A lot of fiction writing pushes everything else out. Obviously I haven’t written much (at all) on this blog during November. And I have fallen behind on my reviews. When I finished with NaNo stuff, I either didn’t have the time, or the energy, to write anything else. It’s nice to know that my fiction can fill up my world so well, but I have to watch out for that when I take on other commitments.
  • One story doesn’t kill another. I had been working on another novel before I began NaNoWriMo, and had managed to get a good ways through the first draft before November began. I had hoped to be able to write a little bit of it throughout the month, but as with the last realization, I never had the energy for it when I was done with my NaNo-ing. I worried that the story might die on me — but it’s still large in my head, I’m still excited to get back to it, to write it and finish it and see what it turns into. I may have to go back and reread parts (or type it up) to get back into the correct mindset, but now I know if I put some effort into it I can get a decent output for this month.
  • I can write at any time. Morning is my thing. My brain is the correct level of awake to make it the best time to get the most writing done. But I can crank out words in the afternoon, sucking down coffee to silence the part of my body that wants to nap, and I can do it at night with a hockey game as vague background noise. Whenever I need to write, I can figure it out. (Well, maybe not when the dog decides to lay across my arms. That’s really difficult, actually.)

That was my NaNoWriMo! Did any of you participate? Did you win? What did you learn about yourself and your writing?

Writing Updates 11/13/14: NaNoWriMo (What Else?)

NaNoWriMoSo, obviously NaNoWriMo has been keeping me a bit busy over the last couple of weeks. I got off to a slow start with it partly due to a wedding I was in the first weekend, but I pushed myself to go beyond the daily minimum when I can, and as of last night I was a full day ahead! I’m going to lose some of that lead today and tomorrow, I think (stupid job) but it’s nice to have that buffer, so I won’t be scrambling too much if I have a couple of bad days in a row.

I have been working on my other novel that’s in its first draft stage still, though minimally, with only a few more pages added in the notebook. I want to keep poking at it through the month, though, since I really love the idea I came up with for that one, and I don’t want to lose my motivation and momentum with it.

On The Fandom Post, my contribution to the 10 Years Later anime series was put up. I wrote about the anime Beck (or Mongolian Chop Squad, as it’s also known), a show I really enjoyed when the DVDs were coming out, all the way back when I was in college. Take a look to see what I thought about rewatching it, or look at the other Ten Years Later posts.

Writers, what have you been working on?

Things That Slow Down the Start of NaNoWriMo

  • You’re jet lagged from a vacation.
  • You have no food in the house, requiring a long grocery store trip November 1.
  • Your best friend is getting married.
  • You have to leave your dog with family so you can go to said friend’s wedding, and now you’re sad about it.
  • You still haven’t unpacked, and really, you should.
  • You feel compelled to write blog posts about how you don’t have time to start NaNoWriMo.

What’s holding you back on NaNoWriMo? Or are you one of the motivated jerks who’s already ahead of the game?

Writing Updates 10/31/14

Back from my vacation! Gosh I’m exhausted.

I’ve mentioned before that writing on vacation is hard for me. Still, except for a couple of days towards the end, I made myself get up early, poured my coffee, and sat down to write, getting at least a couple of pages out each day. Basically I made sure I kept the momentum going, and because of that the manuscript I’m pushing through now is probably getting close to the end. I spent some time dwelling on the plot as well, and I came up with ways I may change it when I finally go back for a second draft.

I don’t know how much time I’ll have to work on that one, though, since NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and I actually plan on participating this year. (Maybe a page a day on the first story?) Adding to my stress, I’m not sure what story I’m going to work on yet: the one I spent time preparing but then wasn’t in the mood to write it a few months ago, or the one that is fresher in my mind but I’m not sure I have enough story to reach 50,000 words? I may just go with the first one, since I have buckets of notes for that already.

So, my writing friends: what are you working on?

Stolen view from a hotel.

Writing Updates, 10/16/2014

I mentioned this earlier, but after getting good feedback on a first chapter/short story (I wasn’t sure what it was at the time) I started expanding it into a full novel. This has been a little outside of my usual genre, fitting more into the “New Adult” category (who knew I had anything but middle school kids in my head) though the supernatural/fantasy bit is still a part of it. I’ve been really excited about how it’s been coming out. I’ve been getting something written almost every day, and even had a few days where I wrote several pages. There are still a lot of holes, things I want to add but not sure how to weave it into the story, and basically just a lot of filling out needed. I have to keep reminding myself that first drafts are never that great, all I have to do is reach the end. Which I think I will. Let’s see what happens.

New Hampshire Fall Sky

I’ve also figured out a story I want to try working on for NaNoWriMo. For now I’m figuring out a plot skeleton (I don’t want to get overly detailed, that only ever kills it for me) and maybe some alternate POVs, since I don’t know that the plot is full enough to last through 50k words. But I’m excited, since I haven’t taken part in NaNo in a couple of years.

For reviews, I’m finishing off a longer review/article on the anime Beck for a series on The Fandom Post. Meanwhile my review for Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan volume 21 was recently posted on the website.

So that’s me. Other writers, what are you scribbling away at?

Weekly Finds: 10/11/2014

This week I didn’t find something that particularly inspired me about my writing, but plenty that in some way got me thinking about what I’m working on now, and what I want to work on in the future.

On Kathy Temean’s blog, Erika Wassall wrote a post on the Right to Write What You Write. Basically, that you should write the stories that are truly in your heart, not construct, or reshape, stories in the hopes that THOSE will get you published faster than the manuscript you poured your soul into. This made me think of not only my current struggle with querying, but also a manuscript I started working on. Middle grade fantasy seems to be my snug little hole, and I’ve been researching agents that take that on–but the story I’ve been scribbling out lately fits more into the “New Adult” category, which not all the agents I’m looking into would represent. I could age my main character way down, for starts, but that wouldn’t be true to her attitude and life issues, or even to the themes of the story that keep coming clear as I muddle my way through the plot. So, I’ll keep dealing with this story as it is, and deal with it as an issue if it ever actually comes up.

from Wikimedia Commons

I also saw a raven, though I didn’t take a picture (left my phone inside, silly me). Though I (temporarily?) ditched a certain book idea, I did a lot of research for it on crows and ravens, and I think it was because of that I was able to recognize the bird for what it was: bigger than the crows I normally see, it’s partner flying off in a glide, not a series of flaps, and the weird sound it kept crying out, definitely not a “caw”, more like the “quork” I always read books describe (though in my opinion it was a much more musical than harsh sound). I had to move because my dog didn’t understand why I was standing in the middle of the parking lot, staring, but I watched it call out and ruffle its feathers for a couple of minutes. It was great.

Finally, I may have found a NaNoWriMo project for this year! I haven’t attempted the challenge in a couple of years, partly because getting submissions ready for my MFA was my own personal race against the clock, partly because I was always in the midst of another time consuming project. I probably won’t be done writing the rough of my current project by then, but I’m hoping I can figure out how to fit it all in together. For extra challenge, one of my best friends is getting married RIGHT when NaNo starts, so let’s see how devestatingly behind I am when this thing begins.

 

What’s sparking your imagination this week?

 

Reviews of Tom Sawyer and K-ON! :: Gearing Up for Grad School

Oof, I fell behind a little with updates!

Tome Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Only a few reviews have gotten done this week. First there was my review of the Campfire adaptation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I had a problem with the art in this one; not the cartoony-ness of it, but the absolutely dreadful colors.

I also reviewed Yen Press’s 4-koma manga K-ON! Big secret, I’m actually a sucker for moe, so I had fun reading this one. But it was still pretty bland, and character stereotypes were just pasted on.

Very! Very! Sweet
Manhwa, Very! Very! Sweet

I had also been sent the final volumes of three manhwa (Korean comics) That was nice and all, except I’d never any of the volumes in any of those series! So, I did a quick once-over of all three volumes in one post, Final Volumes of Three Manhwa Series from Yen Press.

Remember that reading blog I started? Yeah, I almost forgot, too. I remembered it, so this morning I finished up a post on how I used to be embarrassed to read a certain comic book in high school…

In NaNo news, my current word count stands at 27,374, making me over 2,000 words behind. Woops. I could catch up, but I’m becoming more and more indifferent towards the project. I’d like to finish, but I’m starting to not care about the story.

It also doesn’t help that I have so much to get ready for Lesley! I have a ton of reading I need to start, and I need to fix up my manuscript so I can send it in for in for intense scrutiny. So, NaNo may be abandoned in favor of things I just have to get done…

NaNoWriMo Word Count: 11,727

Woo, I actually caught up today! Maybe now I can stay on track with this.

I actually wrote quite a bit that I don’t think is super awful, too. Here’s one of he last chapters i wrote today, minus the crossed out stuff that doesn’t make sense.

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