ROUGH DRAFTS

Today is Day 5 of NaNoWriMo.  I’ve eaten a lot of gummy bears, drank a bit too much coffee, and written not nearly enough words.  But I’ve having a ton of fun and I’m falling in love with the story I’m writing.  I’m remembering why I’m a writer: I love writing.

However, there’s something I have to remember as I write a rough draft for the first time in, like, two years.  (I’m not counting the half-completed, abandoned writing projects I’ve worked on since then.)

Here’s the thing:  I’ve spent the last six months/ year working on EDITING a novel.  And the idea with re-writing/editing a novel is that you take this horrible lump of story and make it into something that doesn’t entirely suck.  You have a fairly high standard for the quality of the narrative, because it’s a SECOND or THIRD draft.

But when you write a rough draft of a story, it is supposed to suck.

So this is your reminder that you are allowed to have an awful, horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad rough draft.  That’s what rough drafts are.  I just re-discovered this video today by Actual Published Author, Maureen Johnson, and I thought it was a fitting sentiment for NaNo.  Enjoy.

 

In addition, my Brit Lit professor recommended this phenomenal article for us to read.  (There’s a tiny bit of language, but it’s well worth the read.)

I’m sending you all creative vibes as you write or edit or rest this month.  Remember that the rough draft is just you telling yourself the story.  Feel free to friend me on NaNoWriMo; my username is SharpieBeth.  See you all next week!

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Last Minute NaNoPrep

Hello, friends near and far!  I’m back from my October Hiatus.  It was really lovely to have some time off from blogging.  I didn’t get quite as much editing done as I’d have liked, but I have done a lot of plotting for my newest story!

Yes, that’s right: the story I’m going to be writing in November.  As November 1st is literally right around the corner, here’s some last-minute suggestions for NaNoPrep.  Other bloggers and writers and twitter users-have been throwing around NaNoPrep ideas all month long, so I thought I’d join before #Preptober was entirely over.  Ya know, for the writers out there who are frantically plotting and planning as the last hours before November 1st tick by.

the clock is ticking

 

1. Write a Synopsis

On the NaNoWriMo website, there’s a place for you to add a synopsis to your novel.  I found that writing a super brief (and not very good) synopsis helped me feel more prepared for November.  Here’s my synopsis if you’re interested:

Lewis Montgomery is fourteen hours from home.  He doesn’t know anyone, and he’s not even sure what building his first class is in tomorrow – and the lights in the bathroom keep flickering.  Transitioning into adulthood has enough challenges, but add in disappearances and creatures that only he can see, and Lewis begins to think he’s going mad.

Katie Atwood is psyched to be a sophomore.  She knows this campus like the back of her hand, and she’s ready for a non-eventful year full of studying and reading.  Then Lewis sits next to her in bio class, and the world goes to hell.  Strange happenings seem to follow this boy like a shadow, and Katie’s not sure if she wants to stick around to find out what’s really happening.

A college campus, some non-human beings, and a boy and a girl who remain platonic friends.

Okay, so that’s a very bad synopsis.  I haven’t written the book yet (duh), but that will give you a general idea.

 

2. Design a Cover

On the NaNoWriMo website, there’a also a place to upload a cover for your novel.  (Obviously, if you traditionally publish, you don’t get to create your own real cover for your novel.)  It’s a lot of fun to have a picture to go with your ideas.  It also helps you visualize your novel as an actual, completed, shelf-ready book – instead of just a bunch of random ideas floating around in your head.

book cover 8

 

3. Make a Playlist (or three)

Y’all know the drill.  If you write to music, a great way to feel ready for NaNoWriMo (that doesn’t require too much brain power) is to create a writing playlist or two.  Or three.  Sometimes it’s helpful to create a couple, each with a different mood.  (“Angsty music,” “epic battle sequence,” “sad music,” etc etc.)

hairbrush

[if you don’t understand this gif, then feel free to unsubscribe.  Just kidding, please don’t.  Rather, do a Google search for “Veggie Tales,” and educated yourself.]

 

4. Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

This is perhaps the most important.  There’s a snazzy writing book out there called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.  Confession: I’ve never read the book.  HOWEVER, I love the idea: each character needs a goal, a reason for wanting that goal, and something that stands in their way of achieving it.  The best characters are active characters: they’re working towards something throughout the story.  They make things happen.  (As opposed to passive characters, who just kinda react to events that happen to them.)  So part of planning my novel is figuring out what my main characters want, why they want it, and what is hindering them.  Goal, motivation, and Conflict.

Good luck!  Follow me on NaNoWriMo (username: SharpieBeth) and follow my progress!  If you’re also doing NaNo, I’d love to hear your last-minute NaNoPrep tips!

Do a Time-Sprint

Kinda a mini-post today.  Featuring overly excited words, Doctor Who gifs, and not a ton of content.  Enjoy!


GUYS GUYS GUYS!  Y’all know how much I love NaNoWriMo, right?  Well, here’s a reason to love them even more.

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They just launched a new feature on their website called Goal Trackers.  You know how in November, there’s this shiny graph and tracker that tells you your stats for the novel you’re writing? Well, now there’s a tool that you can use year-round: the Goal Tracker.  You can set your goal to be in either words or hours, and your goal doesn’t have to be just for one month – it can be anything from a day to three months!  Here’s what mine looks like:

nano tracker

So, since my current project is a re-write – and since it’s super messy to measure the word count on a re-write – I love the fact that I can have my goal be in hours instead of words.

Here’s the thing: If I only track words, that doesn’t count my brainstorming or plotting or editing or whatever else.  I like that the method of tracking hours give me credit for all my work – not just for the number of words I’ve written.  You feel me?

So.  The last several writing days, I’ve pulled out my phone, set my stopwatch, and started noveling!  Who knew logging hours could be so fun?

There’s just something really rewarding about getting to put in numbers for things you’ve accomplished.  Since novels are such big projects, it’s hard to quantify how much progress you’ve made in a day or a week or a month.  And this is especially true with re-writes.  But if I can log hours spent, that’s definitive progress and it feels like a little victory each day.

Also, I’ve overall just found that some way of keeping track of my writing is always helpful.  It keeps me more mindful of when I’m writing a lot and when I’m really not.  And I like it a lot better when I’m writing more.

So, if you can squeeze in 5 or 10 minutes today, set your stopwatch and get to work.  Say, “I’m taking 15 minutes to do nothing but novel.”  It’s a lot of fun.  The clock is ticking.

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Anyways!  Do you lovely folks use anything to track your writing goals or progress?  Do you find that it helps?  Let me know in the comments!  Also, let me know if you’ve checked out NaNo’s Goal Tracker, and what you thought of it.

P.S. I’m not actually sure how new this feature is.  It might be like 6 months old.  But it’s the first time I’ve seen it, and I really really like it.

P.P.S. Sorry for the Doctor Who gifs?  Sorry not sorry.

 

NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul (or was it the election?)

Just kidding.  I don’t have a soul.

Hahahaha…

See, this is the type of dark humor I’ve been reduced to.  Thanks, NaNo.

In the first 7 days of November, I wrote over 11,000 words.  I’m surprised my fingers aren’t bleeding yet.

In the first week of NaNo, some stuff happened.

  1. Before November, I plotted and planned for the story that I have mentally named The NightOwl Bookstore, which I have blogged about and bragged about here and here.  But THEN.  A few days before November 1st, I decided it was a great idea to start working on a story I have mentally named THE SEQUEL.  In other words, the sequel to The Sound of Color, the high-fantasy novel that got me started on this whole “writer” thing to begin with.  The one I’m trying to get published.  The one that is my precious child and I love dearly.
  2. So I’m writing THE SEQUEL and suddenly it’s November 1st, and I tell my brain that it’s time to leave my high fantasy world and come write the Contemporary about the bookstore that I’ve been plotting and planning.  To which my brain replies: um… no.
  3. So now I’m writing a sequel.  HOW DOES ONE SEQUEL?  HOW DOES ONE WRITE A SERIES?  HOW DOES ONE -?  How did I manage to write 10,ooo words in 6 days? Impressive.

And then it was November 8th.  The day the world kinda imploded.  You see, I live in the United States.  So I kinda spent the entire day focused on the election and not really on my writing.  And then the next day, I kinda spent the entire day on trying not to cry and not really working on my writing.

So.  If I was to “catch up” today, I would have to write 5,000 words.  Note to self: if you wanna win NaNo, don’t schedule an election skip two days of writing.

I’m not sure if I’m going to try to catch up with NaNo.  I’m also not really sure how to respond to the results of the election.  But here’s the thing: being a writer is about having good days and bad days, and learning to not let your bad days ruin your good ones.  It reminds me of one of my favorite Doctor Who quotes:

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I’m going to be wholly frank: I was disappointed with the results of the election.  But having a future president that I strongly dislike does not negate the beauty of the rest of my country.  There are still a million leaves around my university campus, each a different shade of red or orange or yellow or speckled with brown.  There is still poetry and music.  We are getting two more songs from the Hamilton Mixtape released this week.  Moana comes out in two weeks.  God is still good, and life will carry on.  (And if you’re excited about the outcome of the election, you are fully entitled to have your own opinion.)

Likewise, my two days of not-writing do not negate the victory of having written 11,000 words in the first week of NaNo.  Whether I catch up or not is irrelevant.  The important thing is that I don’t let my bad writing days ruin my good ones.

Wherever you are, election- or writing-wise, keep on.  Set your heart on the good.  Write like you’re running out of time.  And if you need some encouragement, put on some Hamilton.

Alright.  Gotta go do some noveling.

NaNoPrep – Part 2

Okay, so NaNoWriMo is three days away.  If you’re like me, and you’re a hopeless Pantser and Procrastinator, then these-last minute tips are for you.  (I like to tell people I put the Pro in Procrastination.)

1. Stockpile Halloween Candy.

There’s nothing like a Kit-Kat staring you down as you try to write the next 500 words.  My personal favorite for writing is Twizzlers.  I’m pretty sure I consumed like 100 Twizzlers in the first week of NaNo last year.  But hey, if that’s what it takes….

2.  Check out the forums.

I especially recommend this forum, which is for word sprints, challenges, and word-wars.  Pretty sure that word-wars are the greatest things in the universe.  My competitive nature takes over and forces me to write faster than humanly possible.  Word sprints are also great.  (Why do you write like you’re running out of time?  CAUSE I LITERALLY AM.)

But there are forums for basically everything nano-related.  Adopt-a-character, help with outlining, advice on life with NaNo… it’s a glorious black hole of information.

3.  If you can, find people in your area.

Join your region forum, and then see if anyone’s organizing write-ins near you.  I went to a bunch of write-ins last year, and they were amazing.  Like so darn cool.  And if no one’s organized a write-in in your area already, organize one yourself!  Otherwise, at least see if you can drag a creative friend to Starbucks for a few hours.  Their job is to make sure you write the whole time you’re there.

4.  Do SOME Planning.

I’m pretty much a Panster, but I do wholeheartedly suggest that you do some sort of planning.  Not necessarily plotting, but planning.  Maybe you want to figure out your main character’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.  Maybe draw what your characters look like with colored pencils. Or plan your opening scene.  Or maybe plan how you want your story to end.  Or stockpile names for characters, explore your magic system, or come up with your villain’s catchphrase.  Do something.  Get your creative juices flowing.

Here’s a good blog post if you need help with basic plotting: 5 Secret Steps to Story Building.

If you’re looking for an epic overview of different ways to outline, try this insane blog post: How to Outline… (warning: language in that post.  But worth it ’cause it’s awesome.)

5.  Stock up on Sleep.  Sleep while you can.  Get all the Sleep.  Because come November, you’ll need it.

 

Good luck to everyone embarking on NaNoWriMo, whether it’s your first year or tenth!  You are gonna do great!  See you in November.

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NaNoPrep – Part 1

Today’s blog post will be Part 1 of the last-minute NaNoPrep I’m frantically starting a week before November 1st.

Here’s some things I’ve done that I highly suggest:

1.  Create a Playlist

Complete with Two Steps from Hell, Audiomachine, LOTR soundtrack, and a touch of Hamilton, I have a playlist titled “NaNo2016.”  Also there might be a couple of Disney songs.  I mean, “Go the Distance” from Hercules, and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan seem appropriate for a month of noveling craziness.  You can check it out here if you’re interested.

2.  Get to Know Some Characters/ Places.

I may or may not have created Pinterest Boards for some of my characters.  And my main setting.  Ooopsy.  It’s actually pretty awesome, because now I can visualize them.  Being able to see characters dress is one of my favorite prep mechanisms.  Also, Pinterest is an amazing way to procrastinate when you have homework due in a few short hours.

3.  Post on Facebook, Instagram, and other places.  Annoy everyone you know.  Tell them all about your noveling endeavor.

2016-profile-pic

NaNoPrep Part 2 will be coming later this week.

Start stockpiling candy and caffeine, folks.  November is coming.

Puzzle Pieces and NaNoPrep

Writing is like assembling a puzzle.

Sometimes you have an idea of what the finished product is supposed to look like, sometimes you don’t.

But you’ve got all these different pieces whizzing around in your brain.

Plot pieces, characters, snippets of dialogue, setting details…

And often times you’re not sure how they fit together.

Well, this one’s a corner piece, but I’m not sure what that is.

Some people like to prepare before they start putting the puzzle together.  Arguably, the easiest way is to find all the edge pieces and put those together first.

Okay, this analogy is falling apart.

But writing is hard.  There are so many moving parts, so many things to orchestrate.  Sometimes it’s daunting.  Often times there’s a lot of procrastination involved.

Which is why I love NaNoWriMo.  It forces us to just start putting pieces together.

Okay.  Brain tired.  Here’s a video about why NaNoWriMo is brilliant.

And to all of you people out there prepping for NaNo2016, start flipping over the puzzle pieces and sorting them out.  Two weeks until November.