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Preparing for Nanowrimo

So I logged in today to get a load of the snazzy new Nanowrimo website. I am a sucker for new bells and whistles, so it was a treat to explore the new design. It’s very visually-appealing, and it looks as if there are new ways to track and celebrate writing progress that I am itching to try. If you are at all tempted, and I will try to give my own pep talk soon about how nanowrimo should not be a source of self-recrimination, check out the website here: nanowrimo.org. Even if you do not wish to work on a project in November, you might find some helpful tools or discussion boards there. It is free to use, free to participate, though they always appreciate donations, and they partner with librarians and teachers, aka heroes.

I set up my project on there with the catchy title of SF#3, which is code for the young adult/science fiction novel I hope to flesh out, drawn from the third in a series of short stories I wrote years ago.

I then clicked on a link for nano prep, and I found my way to a number of tools and prompts that I can use this month to get ready for November, hoorah. Which also may give me the excuse to post on here when I work on them as a way to celebrate progress. It’s all about progress!

I made baby steps yesterday on my revision of the time management e-book and related projects, but I think I may be able to start to build momentum there, too. So I will likely write blog posts on that topic, too, preferably celebrating progress rather than kvetching about doubts and imperfections… ahem. As I say (too often), fingers crossed.

Hope your writing or other endeavors go well today!

Just like a writer

So it is October now, which means November is coming. That is, National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo), my favorite time of year.

I love nanowrimo because it celebrates process, not outcomes. I know there are people who believe life is a zero-sum experience, but nanowrimo lets us all be winners. Heaven knows anyone who wants to write needs that.

I suspect I will be a hybrid nano writer this November. I love the traditional goal of writing a first draft of a brand new novel in the month of November because that is always be my favorite part of the writing process. But I am already in the middle of fleshing out a YA SF novel that has a few scenes written, but lots of holes and notes where the rest of the novel should be. So my goal will be to work on it, which makes me more of a rebel Nano then a traditional Nano, which means… not much. The key is to write.

I will probably talk more about Nano prep this month, but today I want to brag about two good moments in writing I experienced recently, when I felt like, well, a writer :).

Earlier in the month I was spending more time on the YA SF novel that will be my focus for November. I had several days of good writing sessions, but I woke one morning with a sense of dread, fearful that I would not be able to produce anything new. Usually I already have some momentum in my writing, but this time, I knew I had to find a new plot line and address some other challenges with this novel, and I had nothing yet.

But I made myself sit down to write anyway, and it turned out to be a highly productive writing session yielding unexpected and exciting insights into what could happen in this novel.

That was cool.

The second moment has to do with my historical/upmarket novel set during the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot in Wilmington, North Carolina. After countless revisions, I had announced this novel “done,” but in my research into how I might pitch it to an agent, I discovered that I had cut too much, and the total word count might not be enough.

So this month I went in and added 8,000 words.

It was a surprisingly positive experience. First, even though I could be forgiven for being a bit burned out on this novel after so long, I found myself happy to spend time again with some of my main characters. It coincided, fortunately, with feedback from a brilliant writer friend who mentioned one scene was a bit lean (it’s plumper now). I also added a new scene that had been percolating in my head earlier in the process that added some substance to a side character and may make more visible the wealth-stripping aspects of this terrible history. Finally, I surfed through various scenes to see if what might bring it more to life for the reader. At times, I felt like an artist adding extra depth and shading to a portrait.

So that was cool. Not only did it help me manage what I call my revision anxiety, but also the experience gave me more confidence that I really can make unexpected revisions if an editor were to request it.

Just like a writer would.

Done. Ish.

I reached my 50,000 word goal today, and thus won NaNoWriMo 2018. I love the idea that everyone can win :). It speaks to what writing can be–something for everyone.

And now that it’s over, I get to… keep going. There’s so much more to do with this series of mine. And of course, a December full of books to read. And my novel set during the Wilmington 1898 race massacre/coup awaits my attention for lots of line edits and the attempt to fix one or two unresolved issues.

Good things ahead. But also good to be here now.

5k to go

Only five thousand words to go to reach the 50,000 word goal for National Novel Writing Month. Of course, I only have three days to go, so I guess that makes sense.

This round of Nanowrimo has felt different both because of my commitment to blog daily and because I have been engaging in a hybrid approach to my Nanowrimo work, generating words, ideas, and revisions to the existing bits and pieces that make up my SF series. While I will have nothing readable after the month ends, I have gained far more insight and fodder into the world and plots of this series than I expected. And blogging every day has given me insight into what this blog might become, even if it might not be there yet.

Typically, my thoughts are now on December goals. I am looking forward to not feeling guilt if I don’t post on the blog every day. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I want to read more in December, so perhaps that will be the focus of the blog then. I will still make time every day to work on my SF series, but my focus won’t be on counting words or clocking my effort but just engaging with whatever makes sense to unpack or revise or draft anew. I hope to take my time rather than race ahead as I have been this month.

Who knows? It could work.

Halfway Point

15 days: 15 blog posts and 21k+ words on the novel

So we are halfway through Nanowrimo, and I am making good progress on my novel/series. A series set in a future filled with alien interactions and advanced technology is, probably by definition, unwieldy. But so much fun. I may not be racing ahead, but I am getting a grip on how to move forward. So that’s good.

Wisely or not, I also set a goal this month to post in my blog every day. This has been more challenging than I expected because I know how to phone it in with my daily NaNoWriMo goals, writing anything to make progress, but it is new for me to share my writing daily. One especially busy day found me at 10 pm (my bed time!) trying to come up with something I was willing to post, and I had multiple stops and starts before I settled on something. Late at night has never been prime time for me in terms of writing, so that was a good lesson to learn: Blog earlier in the day.

Posting daily on the blog has been very positive because I am feeling far more immersed in the writing life than I did when I was *just* working on my fiction every day. Posting on the blog involves a compressed round of writing stages—brainstorm, compose, revise, edit, publish. And there’s the huge perk that by engaging more in the blog, I am discovering how WordPress connects me with other writers in a flexible yet supportive atmosphere. Very cool.

Historically, participating in NaNoWriMo always improves my mood. I get to do what I most love (write), I get to celebrate progress without enduring the risk of negative feedback on my writing (ha!), and I know I am not alone in this otherwise lonely venture.

Blogging during this month has added a new layer to this experience in ways I did not expect.

For both, I am grateful.

Journaling as a tool for fiction-writing

Writing in my journal is almost a daily practice for me. Almost. At any rate, it comes easily.

This may explain how journaling has become a boost to my fiction writing process. Sometimes I journal right before I start to work on my fiction. I might set goals for what I want to write, kvetch about how I don’t feel like writing but I need to do it, or write about (or around) what I want to write. Little of this makes for interesting reading, but it almost always accelerates my transition into the actual work.

Sometimes I journal after I’ve worked on my fiction, something I call process writing. I reflect on what’s working, or what’s not, and I usually articulate a few next steps for the work.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m trying to post on this blog each day this month while I also work towards the NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words by the end of November. So some of that pre- or post-writing process is leaking into this blog, and I may just have to let that happen because there is only so much I can draw from the well. (Or is there? Good question). At any rate, I thought I’d share this strategy since it has been helpful to me, and I know there are others out there in the blog-scape who are nano-ing, too.

The fun stuff.

I will save a deeper topic for tomorrow’s blog because today has had a bit too much Monday going on. So I will simply celebrate that even though I’m a bit behind on where I should be in terms of average word counts towards the 50,000 goal, I am still putting in time every day on the novel/series, hence earning the Five Day Writing Streak badge, courtesy of Nanowrimo.org.

I took off from revising the past two days to work on the fresh draft of a new novel, which is still my favorite part of the writing process. Today I wrote two scenes where my protagonist (she of too many names) bumps into two of the suspects in this mystery. Mystery is a good word for it because I don’t know exactly what the mystery is (which may not work in the long run).

Yet for now it’s just fun to be surprised as I write to see what is going to happen next.

Day Guy/Night Guy in Writing Terms

One of Jerry Seinfeld’s monologues was about Day Guy and Night Guy, something along the lines that Night Guy doesn’t care about staying up late or being responsible because that is Day Guy’s job. As someone who never likes to go without sleep, I cannot quite relate, but I can in terms of writing. When I am writing a first draft, especially during NaNoWriMO, I definitely am First Draft Gal. First Draft Gal does not care about details, such as names of characters. In this morning’s draft, I actually named a character SUSPECT1. First Draft Gal doesn’t care if she repeats herself. She doesn’t even care if she changes the main character’s name. “That’s Revision Gal’s job,” she thinks.

This month, I’m moving between both roles, and I have to say that Revision Gal is disgusted with First Draft Gal. As I sift through various notes and drafts for this series, I have discovered that I have given the main character a total of FOUR different names. I can understand mixing up the random characters I invent along the way, but this is the protagonist, for Pete’s sake.

First Draft Gal just laughs. Hey, you wanted to write a novel, she says.

Yes, it’s a mess.

So for day two of Nanowrimo, I am digging back into my drafts and notes for my series, and I am still overwhelmed by how much there is. And also, alas, by how much isn’t there. I wonder why I always think I have written far more than I actually have? My memory claims I have written a full draft, yet when I reread it (in this case months later) I find only hints and gestures.

The good news is that I discovered notes for at least one novel for the series that I haven’t even started, so I will work on it this month to embrace the joy of first draft writing in addition to my so-called rogue goals related to revision. Unfortunately, revision may not be the right word. Verbs related to cleaning would be more appropriate. It’s a mess right now, but I’m going in.

Thank you to Nanowrimo for my image for today’s blog.

Happy Nanowrimo Eve, I mean, Halloween!

Happy Nanowrimo Eve! Oh, yes, Happy Halloween, too.

I am pleased to report that I have finished my novel. Um, except that I need to keep tweaking it here and there. And there is a risk I will realize that something major still needs reworking. But sure, let’s call it finished. I am pleased to have reached this point because today is the last day of October, which means, as you know, that it’s the eve of Nanowrimo.

I have observed that some writers are not drawn to what is known as National Novel Writing Month. Alas, they tend to be writers who strike me as destined for greatness. They understand at a visceral level that there are no tricks to writing other than engaging in the deeply reflective process of writing, sometimes one carefully chosen word after another…

To which I say, ahem, but did you notice the bar graph? Sure, I could work all month to write a few good paragraphs, or I could push to produce, on average, 1667 words per day, which adds up to 50,000 words (of varying quality) by the end of the month. Which means I would win. (What would I win? Don’t get bogged down in minor details. Focus on the win). It is satisfying to see that bar graph creep higher and higher. And they even have online badges you can earn as you go along.

I love writing first drafts, even if I know all too well that where there is a first draft, more drafts will follow. Nanowrimo has helped me more than once to move from “meaning to write” to “actually writing.” So I dive back in again tomorrow, returning to work on my SF series (targeted to YA or possibly MG).

In addition to making a commitment to write, on average, 1667 words per day, I have also challenged myself to post to my blog each day. Some days, the blog posts might be especially short… but that’s okay. As long as I show up to work on both goals each day, I will be on track. And cheers to anyone else out there who is giving it a try this month. Write on :).