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 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.

2016-banner

It Seems My Antagonist Isn’t Good Enough

Sorry for a bit of a hiatus on the blog posts.  It’s still winter break for some, and for those of us on the East Coast, there’s been a lot of snow and a lot of snow days.  My time has been spent shoveling, reading, and shoveling some more.

But something of great magnitude happened this past week besides the unnatural amount of snow:

One of my great Beta Readers for The Sound of Color finally got back with me.  Overall, she gave me very high praise (which felt amazing).  But maybe even better, she gave me some really good insight into what the story lacked.

And what needed the most work?

My antagonist(s).  Both my Main Antag and my Sidekick Antag are characters that we THINK are good but turn out to be evil.  (*cue the menacing laughter*)

But this Beta Reader suggested that I needed to work on them a little more.  You see, I’d never really stopped to think about why my antag(s) wanted what they did.  Sure, power always looks good.  But why?  Why them?  Why would they do what they do?  And just as important, how did they get people to follow them?

In other words, my antagonists read as plot devices instead of characters.  They were an evil force instead of a warped individual.  The result was a fatal flaw in my story.

all my antagonists.jpg

In most of my favorite stories, the villain is someone with a distinct personality, a concrete set of goals, a thought-out plan, and – most importantly – strong motivation.

Part of the issue is that I never took the time to really get to know my antagonist.  I’d never given much thought to his motivation, his personality, his goals.  He pretty much showed up to cause some trouble and then disappeared again.  He wasn’t someone I know very well.

Voldemort, Loki, Darth Vader, Moriarty, the Joker, Saint Dane, President Snow – they are all people that I could describe to you better than I could describe my OWN antagonist.

So here’s to getting to know my Antag.  (I can’t say his name cause it’s a spoiler.)  To adding some scenes that show us his motivation.  To giving him more personality, more life.  To making him the hero of his own story.

If you struggle equally with writing a quality Bad Guy, let me know!  An antagonist always seems like an afterthought to me.  Or, if you’ve developed some tricks and tips to making your antag fabulous, I’d love to hear that too.

eye of sauron jif.gif

 

Getting it Write

This whole week, I’ve been working on one major plot point.

I knew where it needed to take the story, I just didn’t know how it got there.

So I thought.

And wrote some.

And thought some more.

And wrote some more.

But it never felt right.  I just wanted to give up.

Why write something if it was going to be terrible?  Why put effort into something that I was going to cut?  No, it was a better use of my time to check Facebook and Instagram.

But then I got an email from NaNoWriMo (even though I’m not doing July Camp, they still send me the emails for it).  It linked to a video title “How to Write When You Really Don’t Want To.”  I clicked on it.  And got motivated.  I needed to just sit down and write this scene!  Even if I wrote it wrong, I would know one way how not to write the scene.

So I sat down.

And wrote.

It was going wrong.

But then an idea struck me, so I went back and changed one part.

Then I kept writing, and another idea struck me!  So I changed that part, too.

Then I just kept writing.  Suddenly, BAM! It was like putting in the last few pieces of a puzzle – everything just fit.  The characters, the solution, the dialogue, the effect on the plot – it just worked.  And it felt so good.

So my advice to you?  Even if what you’re doing feels wrong, or is hard, or seems useless, keep writing.  Often times writing the wrong thing can act like a road sign that points to the right thing.

That’s what I learned from writing this week.  What did you learn?

An Explanation for my Lack of Progress

gravestoneLast week, my laptop died.

Gone.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to backup my work extremely thoroughly.  I didn’t lose any hard-earned writing, so that’s the good news.

The bad news is that I always write on my laptop.  And I haven’t written since it died.

We had a system, that laptop and I.  Comfy chair in my room, fuzzy TARDIS blanket, coffee, slippers, laptop, me, words.

The only other computer available to me is our family’s main computer.  There are several issues with writing on this.

1) I don’t have Google Drive installed, which is how I backup my documents.

2) The keyboard is awful, terrible, no good, very bad.  Clunky, slow, evil.  I’m currently laboring through a blog post on it, but the idea of having to write actual creative work on it – which, at its best, involves writing as fast as your fingers will let you – is torture.

3) It’s my family’s.  There are four other people in my family, three of which don’t currently have their own working computer.  So… I get to use it when no one else needs to.

At some point, I may buy a tablet (with a nice keyboard).  Or something.  But for now… no writing.

The other issue: I’m leaving.

This weekend, I’m going out of the country on a missions trip!  I’ll be gone for over a week.  And then there’s camp.  And family vacation.  And and and….

So much for getting this thing finished this summer.

Good news?  I’ve been reading a ton.  And it’s been absolutely wonderful.  (More on that soon!)

Plot Thoughts

This post is actually NOT about Camp Nanowrimo.  (Well, not directly.)  Surprise!

When I started writing, I was a die-hard pantser.

Writing was like reading a book: I never knew what the characters were going to do, or say, or be.  If one of them died halfway through, great!  If they felt like meandering through a forest for eight pages, great!  There were no restrictions to where my imagination would take me.  And when I had that bizarre inspiration in the middle of the night, it would fit perfectly into the thing I called a plot.

Sure, I had some idea where the story was going (eventually), but it was allowed to take detours or scenic routes.

No more.

no more

I’m doing re-writes.  And I’m finally wrestling this monster called Plot under control.  It’s going down, kicking and screaming (and biting, too).  But it’s going down.

I know where my story starts now.  I know what the turning point is.  I’ve created conflict in the beginning (that was previously nonexistent).  I know about the conflict in the middle and the climax and the resolution.

Okay, so it still doesn’t fit into the magical Seven Points of Plotstuff (aka the Dan Wells Story Structure, as referenced today on one of my favorite blogs, Am I Doing This Right?)  or the Circus Tent for Instant Plotting (as referenced here on another of my favorite blogs, Crackin’ the WIP).

Actually, now that I look at the Dan Wells Thingy, maybe the Inciting Incident would be when Star meets Irsong and Emmella… and Plot Point 1 would be when she gets the Item… and then Pinch 1 when they find out he’s evil and they flee… and then… Plot Point 2… then…

Hey!  My plot actually matches that pretty well!  *Applauds myself*

The point to all this?  I really enjoyed being a pantser.  It gave me incredible freedom.  But going back and re-writing while knowing where I’m going is pretty cool too.  I loved the feeling I got while writing yesterday.  It was pure Oh-my-gosh-I-love-the-plot-and-this-conflict-is-beautiful-and-my-story-is-amazing-and-I-could-publish-this-someday.

Will I pants my next novel?  No idea.  Will I at least attempt an outline for it?  Probably.  Will I always be a pantser at heart?  I’m 99% sure the answer is yes.