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!

October Hiatus? NaNoWriMo?

hiatus:

[hahy-ey-tuh s] 

nounplural hiatuses, hiatus.

1.  a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

(Thank you, dictionary.com for that fabulous definition.)
If you’re a person (like me) who follows any TV series, you know full well the definition of this word Hiatus.  For people who watch certain shows, it means a long wait between seasons that can be quite annoying. *Cough* Sherlock *cough*

Anyways, here’s a little blog post to say… this blog is going to have an October Hiatus.  I want to take some time off to focus on my actual book-writing projects (and on my homework) as well as on some other creative endeavors.

I hope to see you all on November 1st, where I’ll probably have a post up about how great the first day of NaNoWriMo is going and how excited I am for the month ahead.

Until then, keep your hearts in your story and your fingers on the keys.  Good luck.

P.S. NaNoWriMo starts in a month!  Are you lovely folks signing up?  If you’re looking for a buddy, my NaNo username is SharpieBeth, and I’d love you to friend me.  I’m always looking for more friends to sign up for that crazy adventure with me.

gandalf share in adveture

 

P.P.S If you’re super sad that I’m not filling your October with lots of posts about NaNoPrep, feel free to check out all my previous blog posts in the NaNoWriMo category right here.  You might find some inspiration.

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.

10 winks.gif

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.

the clock is ticking.gif

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.

 

Re-Writes & Happiness

writing in class
This is my notebook for my math class.  Only there’s about twice as much novel-writing as math notes in it, because I write in class a lot.

I’m once again finding myself in the vast green land of Re-Writes.  To be honest, I think this might be my favorite part of novel-creation.  The rough draft is hard because I’m not sure where the story is supposed to be going, and then later, edits are monotonous and they just take forever.

But in between those two, there are Re-Writes.  For me, this is the sweet spot of writing.  It’s the mysterious Wood Between the Worlds, where the real story starts to take place.

Right now I’m working on a fun, snarky, YA urban-fantasy novel that I originally wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2015.  After a year and a half of very little love, it’s finally getting the attention it deserves.  Because here’s the thing: in NaNo, I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted the plot to be.  I knew very little going into that November, and just hard-core ‘Pantsed’ my way through the month (in other words, behaved like a Pantser, or one who flies by the seat of their pants when writing as opposed to outlining first).  So then on December 1st, I was left with 50,002 words of cool characters, a great voice, a fantastic world, and very rambling plot.  So now I’m taking all those things and adding characters, tension, and a real plot.  In other words, I’m doing re-writes.

And it’s amazing.  I’ve already written the rough draft, so I’m that much closer to having a complete, ready-to-share-with-the-world story.  (Or at least share with my mom.)  The fact that the rough draft is already done gives me strength and hope.

done the impossible, that makes us mighty

But also, I’m still in the writing phase (I’m creating like 10 new chapters out of nowhere), which is the best because WRITING IS FUN.  And since I’ve written the end of the story (or a version of the end), I know where this needs to go.  I know (sortof) what needs to happen.  I have the bare-bones story, and I can then add in a plot: complete with conflict, stakes, and motivation.

So, yeah.  Remember this quote?

first draft

I love this quote.  I live by this quote.

For this novel, I’ve written the rough draft.  I’ve hauled in the sand.

And now, my friends, it’s time to start building castles.

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:

11.jpg

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.

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.

 

 

20160924_231737_29282125233_o

 

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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