Prime time

On a day when I have complete control over my time, which does not happen as often as I wish, I am most focused, most inspired, and most productive around 9 and 10 am in the morning.

I can surprise myself and channel my inner busy bee at other times in the day, but really, by afternoon, I’m much more in an eat-chocolate-and-wish-for-a-nap kind of mood.

I have several important projects on my plate this month, so I find myself wishing there was such thing as a day full of 9 am’s—me at my prime, knocking out the words, drinking coffee (hmm, there may be a correlation, coffee in the afternoon is never worth it, sigh), living the dream.

Perhaps I can’t have that, but I can still try to channel that 9 am energy every hour–that feeling that the entire day lies before me, and I am off to a good start.

And perhaps keep the Ghiradeli out of sight.

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Nanowrimo, Day 7

Just a short post to say hoorah that I broke 10,000 words! I’m actually at 11,104 right now, which is about five hundred short of where I should be but life happened so I’m fine with where I am.

I finally tried out a new part of the Nanowrimo.org website. On the same space where you can update your word count, you can now click on a timer and set a timer for a writing session. I know timers are anathema for some, but I often find them a positive focusing tool, so I said, sure, I’ll put in ten minutes now.

When the time was up, a small pop-up window appeared where I could evaluate how I felt, where I wrote, etc. as well as my word count, and then that information also showed up on my stats screen. I love geeky perks like that, so I may try to use the timer more often. Maybe!

Hope your writing and your week are going well.

The writing streak

I promise that I will try to post on something other than my progress on NaNoWriMo, but the start is perhaps the most fun. Even though I have a lot of notes and drafts to guide me, I do not know exactly how my protagonist will move from point A to point B. Writing to discover what I’m writing is so much fun, especially at first.

So, ahem, hoorah for making progress on day three: 5,908 words! The old NaNoWriMo website had a way of making me push to write and update my word count on the website every day because otherwise I wouldn’t earn some of the badges for keeping up a daily streak. I realize that this shouldn’t matter, but I really like earning those badges.

Some of my Nano buddies have noticed that the new website, while lovely, still has a few glitches. One thing that has happened for me is that when I post my word count early in the day, I don’t earn any of the badges, such as the one you get for writing your first 1,667 words, or the one you get for 2 days of writing, etc. But I’ve also noticed that when I go back to update later in the day, those badges appear. I’m not sure why that is, but I thought I’d mention it in case any of you are having a similar experience.

Streaks are a bit of a theme for me today. I spent most of the day just thinking about what I needed to do rather than doing it, mostly caught up in family life of a Sunday. But this evening, I managed to squeeze in ten minutes or so on several projects. It gives me hope that maybe my NaNoWriMo novel won’t be the only project that I work on every day. I need to remember that a little can go a long way.

Which is why, ahem, I also wanted to update my blog. I know I said I wouldn’t be able to post on here every day in November as I did last year, but it turns out I want to keep up with this, too. If I can. If it doesn’t stress me out or discourage me.

It does seem to me that short bouts of writing every day on each of my projects could lead me to good places. At least, that’s the plan for now.

Write on, everyone.

Day 3 writing badge

Day one, done

I am not sure if I will be able to post on my blog every day this month because, as I whined earlier this week, it is going to be a busy month. I thought I could at least come here to say hoorah, I’ve had a good first day! 2,104 words written.

The prep that I’ve done so far has helped. It also helps that I’m trying to ignore the voice in my head that says, um, this isn’t as lively and engaging as you wanted it to be. Too bad, voice. I’m in it for the words.

I have enjoyed finding others on wordpress blogging about nanowrimo. Celebrating everyone’s progress is part of the fun for me. Or encouraging you not to worry if your word count isn’t where you want it to be–trust me, I am not sure any of the words I wrote today will still exist whenever I complete a final draft of this novel!

I like what they are trying to do with the new nanowrimo website, but it feels like there are still some parts of it that need work. That’s okay… it’ll get there.

To those of you who like to write, write on!

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Sunlight Press!

I am excited to say that Sunlight Press just published a flash fiction piece I wrote called All-Star. I wrote it many years ago in an online flash fiction workshop taught by Pamelyn Casto. Funny, or perhaps typical story: I wrote it based on a starting line provided by a writing contest, but when I workshopped the story with the group, they liked everything except the starting line, so I cut the first line and never submitted it to the contest.

If you are curious, you can read my short short at this link: https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2019/10/30/all-star/

Sunlight Press is a lovely online magazine, so I encourage you to check it out in general. I have enjoyed the stories and poetry I’ve read on there, and I know some of you may want to consider submitting your writing to them, too. Give it a peek: https://www.thesunlightpress.com

I actually found out about this online literary magazine from Pamelyn Casto’s helpful newsletter on flash fiction markets. She’s switching systems from the apparently vanishing yahoo groups, but once she has her new system set, I’ll share that information here in case you’re interested in signing up for it.

November calendar

November is coming…

I know I’m stating the obvious, but today is October 30, which means that November arrives in 2 days. It is suddenly occurring to me that the world will not brake to a halt to allow me to focus only on my Nanowrimo novel for the month. I know that it isn’t necessary for that to happen, but it would have been nice.

My life right now is made up of an odd set of commitments that are far less restricting than when I worked full-time at Appalachian State, yet still unexpectedly busy. I now have not one but two nonfiction projects that need attention, and it turns out that I will not be able to finish them in October, as I had hoped. Surprise, surprise. I take some comfort that I am better able to multi-task nonfiction projects than if I were to work on two fiction projects at the same time. Still, this now means that I will spend my mornings immersed in novel-writing, and then rather than enjoy the rest of the day in a happy “I wrote something” glow, I will have to return to the keyboard to work on the nonfiction projects.

On the other hand, I am starting to regain a sense of satisfaction in time spent writing, one that gets lost sometimes for inexplicable reasons. Perhaps I have nothing to fear in the month ahead. It will be a chance to spend time with the words, a joy in the act itself that requires nothing more than my willingness to start.

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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.

Creating character charts on Corkulous

Yesterday I went on and on about how much I love the Corkulous app, and I promised to talk today about how I use it for my novel-writing. Again, I would like to stress that owning this app (that works on iPad or IPhone only, and the pro edition costs 99 cents a month or $7.99 for the year, at least as I write this blog) is not essential—you can use pen and paper or real cork boards and post-it notes to do what I’m doing just as well, and possibly better. But if you like indulging in cool apps, Corkulous is fun.

I’ve taken a screen shot of the blank version of the character cork board similar to the one I am creating for my novel, which has one protagonist, one love interest, two best friends, and two half antagonists/half allies, and all of them deserve extra development on my part so I can bring them to life in the novel.

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You can see that I can add a photo, usually a screen shot of a stock photo or minor celebrity who looks the part of my imagined character (in this example, I just used a photo of my puppy dog Cisco). Then I can brainstorm different elements that might boost my descriptions of the characters as well as my understanding of how each one constructs their sense of identity. I find it helpful to associate senses with the character. For my puppy dog, let’s see, that might be the sight of the leash (always gets his attention), the sound of my husband’s whistle, which he can’t resist (he ignores my attempts to whistle for him, the stinker) (I mean the dog, not my husband, fyi), the smell of salmon and eggs, etc.

As for the other categories, the object prompt is one I did for a writing workshop where we wrote about an object that was somehow significant to a character or the story, and it was a powerful exercise, so that’s been helpful to me. It helps me build character and story at the same time.

As for the various favorites, I am working on a SF novel set at least a hundred years in the future (which I agree is very optimistic of me), but I actually assign to each character favorite songs, movies, and books from my lifetime—I won’t necessarily name any of them since one imagines that people will have moved on by then… though I’ve noticed that some of the shows I associate with the past are booming right now (Seinfeld, Friends, etc.). I just use those categories to help me think about what this character would connect with, to get a feel for types.

I have the advantage, being overly indulgent in owning various tech toys, that I can use a keyboard with my iPad, so I can type a bit more on the board than I would if I were entering it directly on an iPad or iPhone screen, but if you don’t have a keyboard, I would recommend just jotting a word or two at most, because this board is really meant as a pre-writing tool to trigger lengthier writing on the novel in whatever medium you use (notebook, word processor, etc).

I will also note that I keep changing how I create character notes for my fiction. I’ve used several templates that I’ve found from different sources, some more helpful than others. Sometimes less is better for these notes, serving as prompts for writing in the novel drafts but rather than generating a lot of writing for hours that I then completely forget when I’m actually writing parts of the novel (or that may just be me?).

Okay, enough about Corkulous and character charts. I will say that knowing I planned to write about this topic for the blog prompted me to move forward on this work on my novel, which was awesome, and now I’m filled with ambitions to use my blog as a tool or a kind of accountability partner to accomplish various tasks on my to-do list (I have, for example, multiple articles backlogged to read and reflect on for various reasons). So that makes me happy.

Hope your week is off to a good start. If you have the chance, let me know if you have any tools or strategies for character planning or cork board systems that you like.

Why I love Corkulous

I have decided to indulge myself by blogging sometimes about technology. I would like to start by saying that buying apps or technological gizmos is not the same as getting work done, nor does it mean you will even use those apps the way you imagined. Paper and pen are almost always the wisest choice.

So start with the assumption that this is an indulgence, not a necessity.

As a writer (and at times, a planner, project coordinator, and problem-solver), I have a special interest in apps that help with the writing or planning process. I also love apps that are pleasing in some visual or aesthetic way, perhaps because those aren’t my strong suits (I’m a word girl), so I appreciate what others can create.

I should also admit that I am an Apple product user, a slippery slope development that began with the purchase of the iPad 2 many years ago. I loved the iPad, but quickly learned it was even more useful if I owned other Apple products. I am now a total convert, but I realize that doesn’t mean you have to be.

I have a feeling I could write a very long post on Corkulous, but my new goal is to be brief in my blog posts (I’ve earned a C grade on that so far), so I think I will speak more generally today and then share an example of how I am using it on my novel later.

I bought Corkulous back when I got my first iPad. I loved it. I had almost full control to add a range of objects anywhere on the  corkboard. At the time, this app only worked on the iPad, and it could only be transferred as a PDF image (more or less), but that was okay. It was a planning/thinking tool, not a way to create a final product.

As happens in the world of apps, a few years later it vanished from existence, a discontinued, unsupported app, which is a risk we all take (and one reason it can be wise, especially if you do not enjoy indulging in app purchases, to build systems that rely first and foremost on apps with good odds for long life, which in the world of Apple, happens to be the apps they provide in increasing abundance with their operating systems).

Since then, I found a few corkboard-ish apps that were okay, but nothing brought joy to me like Corkulous.

Apparently someone else felt that way, bought the license, and re-released the app a few years ago. Here’s the website: https://www.corkulous.com

The new version offers the choice to pay once for the standard, or to pay a modest annual subscription for the pro, which is what I chose because I like all the extras and thought it might help lengthen the life of this app if I did so, though I am going in knowing that there are no guarantees of long-app-life, alas. I totally get those of you who resent subscription fees, but as an “old” who remembers life before “apps” when all we had were a few “Software Applications” that cost tons and were super crappy, I have a higher tolerance for some costs. (I have zero tolerance for the Adobe subscription fees, fwiw). Since this app can produce pdfs for me to store indefinitely for my reference (among other options now), I will use it as long as I can.

I’ve taken a screen shot of a sample of this app for you to get a glimpse of how it works. Later this week, I’ll share how I am using Corkulous to develop reference material for my characters in my latest novel.

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