NaNoWriMo Thoughts

 

20160921_164639_29805381896_oIt’s almost October.  While all normal people are starting to plan their Halloween costumes, we writers are starting to plan our novels for November.

Or, if you’re me, you’ve just jumped into an editing frenzy.

(I seem to remember doing this last year as well.  Good job, Beth.)

With the leaves starting to fall, I think it’s time to have a discussion about NaNoWriMo that’s been a long time coming.

Last November, I won NaNoWriMo.  It was my first time truly participating, and it was 30 days of late nights and strong coffee and writing with strangers who became friends.

It started out with me loving the fact that I was finally getting this new idea out of my head and onto paper.  But then it turned into me abandoning all concept of “plot” in favor of meeting a wordcount goal each day.

The end result was a very quickly-written, but not very cohesive novel.

It took me only 30 days to write 50,000 words.

My previous novel had taken me 2 years to write 100,00 words.  (The novel’s about 80,000 words, but the first quarter had to be re-written mostly from scratch.)

So, NaNo’s great, right?!  You basically speed through the rough-draft process!  Yay!

Well, yes.  And no.

‘And it is also said,’ answered Frodo: ‘Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.’   -JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

NaNo is great because it gets you writing every day.  It connects you with other writers online and in your local area.  It makes writing fun again in a new and exciting way.  And at the end of the month, you will (hopefully) have 50,000 words of a manuscript done.

But here’s where NaNo fell short for me:  At the end of November, I walked away from my NaNo novel.

I was terrified to even touch it because I knew it was an utter train wreck.

I am just now brave enough (or curious enough) to have read through that novel and see if it’s worth salvaging.  I’m happy to report that it is, and that I’ve started the editing process.

But I think that for some of us, NaNoWriMo is too intense.  We burn so bright that we burn ourselves out.  We write something so fast that we lose sight of what we wanted it to be in the first place.

So while I am planning on signing up for NaNo2016, but I’m not going to beat myself up to meet a daily word-count goal.  I’m going to try to follow a plot of some sort while writing.  And I’m not going to sacrifice quality for quantity.  My tentative plan is to do a “half-nano,” where I write 25,000 words in the month.  They’ll be 25,000 words that follow and actual plot and make sense.

imag0539_27457904034_oSo, back to editing.  I’m finally working on last November’s novel.  For me, the first step in editing is reading through my novel and mapping out the plot points on index cards.  This first picture is the plot of The Sound of Color, and it was done on my closet at home.  The second one is for my 2015 NaNo novel, and it’s done on a wall of my dorm.

I love having the visual of what’s happening in the plot, and being able to see how one thing leads to the next.  I can also move the cards around or put up other cards with notes on them like “ADD A SCENE HERE” or “Come back and fix this!”

It allows me to focus on fixing the Big Issues with my plot before touching the Little Issues of chapters and words.

 

 

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Wherever you are, whatever your feelings are for NaNo, whether you’re editing or writing or working on query letters, or re-writing chapter 1 of your novel for the 18th time, just don’t quit.  You’re an amazing human being and the world needs to hear what you have to say.

And I hope to see you all this November.

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My Love-Hate Relationship with my NaNo Novel

Well, folks, I sincerely apologize for the lack of posts lately.  But the truth is, since NaNoWriMo ended, I’ve needed a break from anything writing-related.

But today I’d like to talk a bit about my feelings for this NaNoWriMo novel that I’ve spent the last week completely ignoring.

The first thing that comes to mind is burning hatred.  It is awful.  The plot makes no sense, and there are more plot holes than I can count.  The characters are flat, the dragons don’t get developed nearly at all, the first three chapters are in past tense instead of present, and just the whole thing is hugely awful.

Today, however, I made the decision to open up my MS and read some of what I wrote during November.  Just to see if it’s really as bad as I thought it was.

And guess what?  Some of it was.

But a lot of it wasn’t.

Okay.  So NaNoWriMo didn’t deliver a perfectly-plotted novel into my lap.  It didn’t drop life-like characters from the sky.  But it did do a lot for me.

It allowed me to write a rough – very rough – draft of a novel.  It allowed me to get an idea down on paper.  (Well, computer screen.  Same difference.) It allowed me to see where I need to go from here with this novel.  It gave me the chance to create some really cool characters, some incredibly amazing ideas, some scenes that make me want to laugh or cry or both.

And my favorite thing?  It allowed me develop this sarcastic, witty, informal voice that I am absolutely in love with.  My MC makes jokes and funny comparisons to herself, and it’s straight up awesome.  To show you how great it is, here are some examples:

I watch in horror as Brylee’s long, lovely black ringlets become choppy strands of limp, cheek-length hair. It’s like a pixie cut done by a drunk pixie.


 

“Alright!” she says when she’s done. “Now for Stage Two!”

I swallow. Stage One was just so much fun.


 

The hot pink lipstick makes me feel like a total weirdo. A pretty wierdo, but a weirdo nonetheless.


 

“Wait wait wait!” Brylee says. “Let me get a picture.” She pulls out her Iphone, holds it up, and waits. “Oh, never mind. It’s dead. Maybe we’ll buy one of those portable chargers while we’re in town, and I’ll get a picture when we get back.”

“If we get back,” I mutter under my breath.

“Right,” says Daniel. “Either we get captured and killed, or we have to face Brylee’s photography. It’s a no-win situation.”


 

I glance around at the shop. It is, by far, the biggest jewelry store I’ve ever been in. And – don’t tell Brylee – the first magic jewelry store I’ve ever been in. The store is actually two levels. That’s right. Because one huge floor of too-sparkly bracelets and necklaces isn’t enough.


 

The spiral staircase is like an escalator, just, you know, spiral. Man, if I’m shocked by a spiral-staircase-magic-escalator, I really need to get out in the magic world more.


 

I look at the blue earrings on the table in front of me. I do really want them. But it seems silly to want something as frivolous as earrings when our lives might end in about fifteen minutes.


 

I think I’m gonna break a rib from holding my breath this long.


 

“You’re awake! Good,” says Brylee.  “Here, I’ve brought you some clothes. You might want to, uh, take a shower…” She looks at the floor, like she’s trying not to be rude about my appearance/smell/the fact that it’s now been thirty-six hours, one fire, and two teleportations since my hair has been brushed.


 

I can’t help thinking about Eric on the way home. You’re pretty, he’d told me. He must have terrible vision.


 

I stroke Fangar under the chin, and he purrs a cute Dragon-Purr. You think your sister will get less angry later? I ask him.

She just wants to eat someone, he says innocently. I swallow hard.


 

Adileen is still staring at me funny. I wonder if she’s a bit afraid of dragons, or if she just thinks they’re gross and might mess up her dress.

Probably the latter.


 

So, even though there are a lot of things that are totally wrong with my novel, there is so much that I actually love.  And I think I needed to step away from it for a week in order to realize that.  To see that it might actually have potential someday.

But not right now.  I think I need a bit more space from it before I keep writing/ do re-writes.  It seems like a good project to work on while I’m querying TSOC.  Yes, you heard right.  I do indeed plan to start querying in the next couple months.  Just as soon as I get around to writing a super awesome query letter.  BLOG POST COMING SOON ABOUT WRITING QUERY LETTERS!

Priorities and NaNo Life

I would like to share a picture with you:

Graph NaNo 10-23.jpg

This, my friends, is the graph that I see daily.  The graph that rules my life right now. The graph that tells me whether I’m a successful human being or not.  (Well, not actually.)  As you can see, I’m still a little behind on my word count.  But I’m catching up a bit each day, and with Thanksgiving break here, I’m confident in my ability (through God’s grace) to reach 50,000.

So what have I learned?  Well, I think that my favorite thing about this November is that I’ve really made writing a PRIORITY.  Even if my novel stinks (which it often does), even if my characters are flat (I must have forgotten the baking powder), even if I never even attempt to publish this manuscript, I’ve still had a ton of fun with this writing challenge.  I’ve had a ton of fun making writing one of the most important things each day.  Whether it’s driving to Panera Bread for a Caramel Latte and an hour pounding out words, or taking my laptop in the car so I can write while my mom drives me somewhere, I’ve just gotten really good at fitting writing into my crazy life.  Which feels totally awesome.

So even if you’re not doing NaNo, or especially if you are, I’d love to hear ways that you keep writing a priority.  And either way, I encourage you with this: the only thing you need to do to be able to call yourself a writer is to write.

Now, since this blog post is pretty short (don’t give me a hard time, I wrote 2,500 words already today), I thought I’d end with a video of one of my favorite YouTube people.  It’s about NaNoWriMo.  How about that.

I think that it gives a pretty good representation of what us Wrimos face this month.  🙂

Disclaimer: she pronounces NaNoWriMo incorrectly.  It’s supposed to be wri like “write” and not wri like “ree.” But other than that it’s a super fun video.

Alright, guys.  Go out and write this week!

What Writing Doesn’t Have to be

For a lot of writers, November is all about unorthodox writing.  So, without further ado, here’s what writing doesn’t have to be:

Done Alone.

A lot of writers think that writing is solitary.  But actually, the best writing happens within a community.  And there ARE communities out there! I give you evidence:

  • Critique Circle
  • NaNoWriMo (and Camp NaNo), and sprints, and write-ins, and all the other glorious things that make writing a group effort.
  • Writers Clubs (there’s one at my local library.  There might be one at yours too!)
  • Friends who are currently doubling as Beta Readers

Perfect on the First Try.

Or even good.  Or make sense.  In fact, the moment that we realize that our first drafts are allowed to stink, we are given an incredible freedom to follow our imagination where it leaves.  This is part of the brilliance of NaNoWriMo, and it is something I’m still trying to learn.

Conventional.

  • I have a dream about a hashtag for NaNoWriMo called #NovelingInNovelPlaces – the general premise is that we post pictures of all the ridiculous places we take our laptops throughout the month.  So far, my list consists of The Car, a Pizza Place, A Tent, and Sitting Around the Campfire.  It’s all about getting in our word-count and starting conversations about writing.  The point is this: novel-writing doesn’t have to be done in a basement or at Starbucks.  But those places work well too.
  • Sometimes I reward myself with twizzlers.  Sometimes I write in my room.  Sometimes I listen to crazy music.  It’s okay to do whatever it takes to get the story down.
  • How about this guy who published a story that takes place in another person’s world?

Boring.

A lot of time when I explain to my friends that I enjoy writing, they look at me like I’m crazy.  “I hate writing essays,” they say.  And then they receive an hour-long speech about how creative writing is different.

Because honestly, I can lose myself when I write the same way I can when I read.  So that the words fall away before my eyes and my forget I’m sitting in my room, and suddenly the fantasy world is real.

Writing is exciting.  There are scenes in TSOC that make me cry when I read them.  There’s a scene where a character gets an arrow pulled out his shoulder, and I flinch Every. Single. Time. I read it.  There are scenes that leave me on the edge of my seat, scenes that leave me breathless as I write, scenes that whirl me away to another land.

That’s why I write.

Questions I Ask Myself During NaNoWriMo

Hello everybody!  The first week of NaNoWriMo is over, and I’ve stayed above the word-count goal every day so far.  I’ve been to two write-ins and they were both amazing in every way possible.  I love where my story is going [usually].

But I’ve had some questions during the week:

  • How many twizzlers can a normal teenager consume in one day?  (Quite a few, apparently.)
  • Why is it that it takes me an hour to write 500 words when I’m by myself, but only ten minutes during a word-sprint at a write-in?
  • Who invented the whole write-in idea?  Are they a billionaire yet?  (They should be.)
  • Where did the Viking logo come from?  And what does it have to do with writing?
  • What the heck even is happening with my plot?
  • WHY AREN’T YOU BEHAVING LIKE I PLANNED YOU, CHARACTER??!
  • Um, hello.  Who are you?  (Me to a character that just showed up out of the blue.  He’s cool though so I’m keeping him.)
  • How does one spell chauffeur?  (I had to google it ’cause spell check had no idea what I was trying to type.  I know, I’m pathetic.)
  • How does one spell dandelion?  (I didn’t have to google it; I got it right on my first try!)
  • What even is a plot?  Why does my book need one?  They’re not important, right??  😉
  • Why doesn’t every human being participate in NaNoWriMo?  THEY NEED TO!
  • How many times can I complain about writing to my friends before they decide they’re not my friend anymore?
  • Is “teleportations” a word?  My [engineering major] friend said yes.  My spellchecker said no.  So I added it to my dictionary.  HAH, NOW IT’S A WORD.
  • How hard is it going to be to change the first chapter of my story from past tense to present?  (I switched after one chapter, and I like it a lot better this way.)
  • HOW DOES ONE WRITE IN FIRST PERSON?? I mean it’s easy to do, but am I doing it wrong?  I guess that’s what edits are for.  The people at Critique Circle are probably going to tear my writing style to shreds.
  • Has anyone else ever gotten a blister on their finger from typing?  Mine’s mostly gone away, but, like, a blister.  From writing.  [PROOF THAT WRITING IS HARD WORK.  Or something.]
  • Coffee, will you marry me?

The Epicness that is NaNoWriMo

If you look up the word “Epic,” in Beth’s Dictionary (a little different than Webster’s), there will be this picture next to it:

The LOGO

Because NaNoWriMo is the pinnacle of all things epic.  At least in the writing world.  At least in Beth’s world.

It’s been two days so far.

Notable Moments of Day 1:

  • “Attending” the Live Write-In online and seeing the comments just flood the video and the writing just HAPPENING.
  • Sitting at my bea-u-ti-ful desk and eating twizzlers.
  • THE VOICE.  OH. MY. GOSH. I love this story’s voice.
  • Hitting 2,000 words.
  • I should have plotted the plot a little more…

Notable Moments of Day 2:

  • Writing in those 20 minutes before I had to leave for school and thinking that I might switch to present tense
  • Attending a Write-In at my community college (where I take classes) and WRITING with REAL LIVE people
  • Word sprint at said Write-In.  15 minutes.  650 words.  Wowzer.  (I got second place; the lady in charge pulled of 700+)
  • Chatting about characters and Plot Ninjas and killing characters and favorite sentences and wordcounts and all things NaNoWriMo
  • Hitting, you know, 3000 words
  • Hitting 4000 words!!!!!
  • Getting a button that says “I Novel,” a sticker that says “Contents Extremely Imaginative.”  I love them both dearly.

button nanowrimo-extremely-imaginative-sticker

  • Finally being home and doing some more editing on TSOC.  Because I’m still putting those nifty line edits back into my MS text document.  Yeah I didn’t quite finish before November.  Oooopsy.
  • I now have a blister on the side of my right ring finger.  ‘Cause apparently I type on the side of that finger.  Greaaaat.

If y’all are doing NaNo, what’s your wordcount?  Mine is currently 4,542.  And that number feels amazing.

And if you’re not doing NaNo, who cares!  Write like your chair is on fire this week anyways.  Okay, maybe that wasn’t the best simile I’ve ever written…  But NaNo is all about quantity over quality, so who cares.

NaNoWriMo explained in terms of LOTR gifs

NaNoWriMo is coming soon.  And for those of you who still aren’t quite sure what it is, let me explain.  But a picture is worth 1,000 words, so… have some gifs.

Getting ready to start on October 31st:

gif (2)

Word sprints with friends like:

final count 42

I myself sitting pretty on 43

Drinking coffee like:

this, my friend, is a pint

Trying to meet your daily word count goal like:

Leggy county kills on oliphont

Sleeping like-

Oh wait.  I forgot.

one does not simple sleep during nanowrimo

Your friends who drop out half way through November are like:

I would have gone with you to the end

When you realize you’re behind on your word count:

gif (5)

Finally typing the words “The End.”

gif (7)

You on December 1st like:

it's over it's done

Your friends/ family on December 1st like:

yes Mr Frodo

Your writer friends see that you’ve won:

you bow to no one

Reading some of what you’ve written:

gif (6)

Realizing that you’ve written an ENTIRE BOOK:

gif (8)