Monday, October 29, 2012


It's almost time for NaNo and I can say with confidence that I am no closer to knowing where to start come Thursday than I was last week.

My grand plan to deactivate my facebook account came to a screeching halt when I realized that I couldn't access my Spotify account if I did that. I was deactivated for less than a day. Since then it has been a struggle to keep myself away from the website but I've done alright. Apart from scrolling through other people's posts and chatting via messenger with a few people, I've stayed away. It helps that I've blocked it from my home computer but I expect it will be a challenge for me all month.

I went to the NaNoWriMo kick off party! Going to places full of strangers isn't usually my cup of tea and that didn't magically change on Sunday but I met some nice people and as they say the first step is usually the hardest so hopefully now I'll feel free to attend write-ins and the TGIO party in December with a smaller degree of awkwardness.

The best part about it though, was the pep talk by Jim Hines, a writer I had previously never heard of. He talked about some of the usual stuff - it's okay to write crap, there's no One True Way to write a novel, don't rely on your mom for constructive feedback. He also spoke about publishing scams. Awareness of those kinds of things is so critical and I was happy that he was trying to spread the word. Anyway, I appreciated his talk. He was a great speaker, very engaging, and it's always encouraging to hear someone else's success story, particularly when the success story isn't "So I wrote my first novel and now I own a mansion on the moon."

I'm hoping to take some time this week to plan at least a starting point. I have several ideas floating through my brain, including a romance/mystery novel that opens with road rage and telepathy, a mainstream, regular joe work about a girl who gets dumped and has to put her life back together (fiction! I swear!), a re-work of my first NaNo novel to re-set it as YA, or a complete re-write of my second NaNo novel, which I've been dying to finish and haven't quite been able to.

I've been doing a lot of reading about the "rules" for NaNo and trying to decide what I would find acceptable for myself and I haven't been able to make a decision yet. I love my second NaNo novel but I've been wrestling with it for years. It would be nice to dedicate a month to re-writing it from scratch. Then again, I said that was what I was going to do two years ago when I bailed out of NaNo and I'm still basically in the same place.

I guess I'll see what happens on Thursday!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

November is coming!

I hadn't given a lot of thought to whether I'd pursue my fourth NaNoWriMo victory this year until a few weeks ago when a friend of mine brought up his plans. It's been a strange year of writing and not writing and writing and not writing and wondering if I even want novel-ing to be a part of my life anymore.

I've given it a lot of thought since that first conversation and I have decided now, finally, that yes I am in fact going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I have a couple of vague story ideas that have been percolating in my brain for quite a while. I don't know if I'll use one of them or not but I will definitely be writing something.

I haven't been writing much in the past few months. I turned my focus to tweeting about music and taking care of other things. Usually when I break from writing it is on accident (i.e. out of laziness) and I spend most of my time feeling guilty about it. It feels strange to have taken such a purposeful break and now to be preparing to return. But I'm glad about it.

I'm also going to try to blog about my experience or at the very least, post updates on my progress and maybe excerpts, if you're lucky. In terms of lessening distractions, I'm not canceling my internet this year but I am going to deactivate my Facebook and Netflix accounts for the duration of November. That should help.

One week! Are you ready?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Post-NaNo Thoughts

Well, stamp a big ol' FAIL across my efforts to blog my NaNo process.

But you can stamp a big ol' WINNER on me, because I did finish the challenge. With three hours to spare!

It feels good. It also feels weird. This is the first year that I haven't had someone watching me sweat through the process and waiting to celebrate with me at the end. It's sad, but it's also awesome because it was all me this year. I had the support of friends and family but getting through this NaNo was an intensely personal and private experience.

I wrote a blog about the things I'd learned by the midway point. Now I'd like to talk about the things that I'm taking away from the month as a whole.
  1. Live your life. I couldn't just cancel all my plans and dig myself a hole to sit in with my laptop. I am a shy, introverted person; oftentimes digging a hole to hide in seems like the best available option. But I can't do it. I have to find a balance between going out and about and being by myself. There's a steep learning curve, I find, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. 
  2. Do what it takes. Keeping #1 in mind, I realize that I do need to make sacrifices if I want to continue my life as a writer. Canceling my cable and internet was possibly the second best decision I made all month (this first was seeing The Airborne Toxic Event in concert). While I still managed to squeeze some Netflix time out of my tethered cell phone connection, not having the option to veg out in front of some long-canceled TV show forced me to make writing my go-to activity. It really helped. 
  3. Practice. That's what I consider this year's NaNo. The previous two that I completed are stories that I believe I have a shot at finishing and publishing someday. This year, not so much. This year's novel was more about getting to know my characters, understanding motivation, and accepting the fact that sometimes what comes out of a writing binge is just word salad. But maybe, just maybe, you re-read it later and find a nugget worth carrying around and ruminating on. I think I got that this year and I feel lucky to have done so.
Overall, I'm exceptionally pleased with myself for completing my third NaNoWriMo challenge. And so far, I'm keeping up the momentum by working on my previous project rather diligently.
Did you learn anything this November? How do you feel about your results?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thoughts as we near the end.

One week ago today, I drove myself to the store to buy a case of Diet Mtn Dew, then I shut myself in and wrote. And wrote, wrote, wrote.

It's not a method I would recommend trying to employ long term but if you're way behind on a deadline, it's surely effective. There's nothing quite like spending a solid 15+ hours immersed in your story. My dog hated it, of course and she's been edgy ever since, barking at me if I go too long without paying attention to her.

On Sunday I struggled to write anything at all, though I managed a thousand words or so. Yesterday it was the same thing. So there's that to consider as well before you go out and decide to write a novel in three days. I suppose that's why they give you a whole month.

My experience did reaffirm in my mind that bailing on my bad idea was the right decision. I don't think I could possibly have banged out 17,000 words in one day if I were still working on the first idea.

Now Thanksgiving has passed and I'm trying to get back into a steady writing routine, which is hard since I'm not at home and thus none of my other routines are in place.The deadline of November 30th is looming in my mind, terrifying all my muses into hushed murmurs but I know that I'll get there.

I wrote before about it being okay to edit while you write. I hold fast to what I meant by that but I've been experiencing the other side of the coin this past week. Wanting to delete instead of alter. Don't delete! Keep your words. You may completely abandon the scene later or you might find something you can salvage from it. In the middle of your first draft don't just go slashing and burning because you don't like something. Especially when you're participating in a word count challenge.

Clearly my thoughts are kind of scattered today and they have been ever since I fried my brain with my write-athon. I think there are important lessons to be learned from that kind of experience and I'm still trying to sort them all out and see how best to apply them in my every day writing life. Hopefully it will all make sense to me soon and I will be able to write about it with some coherency.

How's your NaNo coming? Are you going to make it?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Donation Challenge!

Hey kids, want to have some fun and support a great organization?

I'm holding my own personal donation derby and I'd love for you to participate. Here's how it will work:

For every donation you make between now and 8 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, November 19, I will write a certain number of words (above my daily target of 2778).

For donations between $1.00 - $20.00, I will write 1,000 words.
For donations between $20.00 - $75.00, I will write 1,500 words.
For donations above $75, I will write 2,000 words.

I will start writing at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning and by midnight will have met whatever word count goal you all set for me. I'll be checking in here and on Facebook and Twitter so you can track my progress!

To make a donation, click here. To learn more about the Office of Letters and Light, click here.

I'll see you on Saturday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I've learned so far

The decision I talked about in my last post was a good one. There's a possibilty that talking about it will jinx it but I think I'll take my chances.

Since said post, I have written over 8,000 words of my NEW NaNoWriMo novel and I'm still feeling really good about it. And since I'm feeling so blessed and inspired, I want to talk about what I've learned so far this November.

1. It's never too late to start over.
Okay, maybe November 29th is too late to begin a new novel for NaNoWriMo. As a writer though, I need to trust my instincts. There is no gain to be had in writing a book that doesn't work. If a project you're working on is a bust, give it up and move on. Note: it is not okay to use this lesson as an excuse to quit all your projects before you're finished with them.

2. It is sometimes perfectly acceptable to go back and edit what you've written before laying down more chunks of story.
I wrote a scene last night that on the first pass came out all dialogue. Instead of pressing on to the next scene, I went back and re-worked it, filling in the story around the dialogue. I also try to skim through what I've already written before I begin my new writing for the day. Then I can either flag issues that can be worked out later in the story or go back and change what really needs to be changed.

The difficult part of this one for me is not line-editing. I have a hard time taking in the big picture without adjusting all the minute details. Perhaps this is because I am a proofreader by day. It's hard to strike the right balance.

3. A healthy diet actually makes writing easier.
A healthy diet makes just about everything easier. I'm no health guru but I can tell you that eating a relatively balanced diet and not over eating (especially sugary things, for me) makes your brain work better. I've known this for years but it strikes me as a revelation every time I manage to reign in my addiction to ice cream.

4. Getting rid of television and making the internet a pain to access can really help increase productivity.
How many times would I have abandoned my writing for the night in favor of catching up on Castle or Modern Family? Probably a lot. But since I don't have a television and don't have a data package on my phone that will accomodate all of my guilty pleasures, I've been pretty much off television since I canceled it. The internet is a different story, because I can still get on Facebook and Twitter (and Blogger, clearly) and find other ways to waste time but a spotty 3G connection oftentimes makes it not worth the effort.

What lessons has November brought you so far?

Friday, November 11, 2011

the fork in my road

It’s probably obvious by the way that I haven’t been doing any blogging that NaNo isn’t going very well. (I suppose the alternative explanation would be that I’m doing so well I don’t even have time to think about blogging but that, sadly, isn’t the case.)

I’ve been trying to discern why. In 2008, I wrote my first NaNo novel. In 2009, I wrote my second with no more difficulty than I’d written my first. In 2010, I struggled and eventually quit. This year, I’m feeling about the same as I did last year. Why? 

I was reading [this blog] (recommended by @ashetler) and it resonated with me in a way that I’m loathe to admit because I’m such a NaNo cheerleader. After reading the blog and some of the comments, I had a lightbulb moment.

I love the book I wrote in 2009 about an amnesiac vampire trying to make her way and discover who she is. It’s the reason I quit last year’s NaNo. I couldn’t stop thinking about Jane and Wes and how I could make their story better. I’m running into the same wall this year. 

I have a lot of issues as a writer. I’m not consistent in my writing schedule. I’m not patient or diligent. I write in fits and spurts and I’m almost as terrible at revising and editing as I am at writing titles. I consider NaNo09 to still be in its infancy. But I believe in it. So much so that it’s difficult to purposefully put it aside to write something else that I don’t believe in nearly as much (or at all, as the case is this year). I thought I had my novel mapped out for this year. I thought I was ahead of the curve. 

I was wrong.

Now I see that I have three options.

1.       Forge ahead with my directionless and plotless YA novel in the name of doing NaNo since it’s practically mid-month and I’d be insane to try to start over at this point.
2.       Write a spin-off of my much loved NaNo09 novel, using the sub plots and back story that have been percolating in my brain for two years.
3.       Give up again this year, in the name of focusing on NaNo09 (and most likely end up deeply involved with the Ghost Whisperer or something stupid like that on Netflix)

After a lot of thinking, I’m choosing #2. Insane or not. 

So wish me luck, because my word count is now a big fat zero.

Edit: Since drafting this, my word count has actually reached 2,302 which is a far cry from the 22,000 I should have by the end of this weekend but it is better than zero! And I AM going to finish this year.