Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Into December and Beyond

November is over, which means no more frantic writing for me (hopefully just normal writing as I try to develop the habit).

I finished my 50,000 words one day early, so I only wrote about 100 words on November 30th, just enough to finish wrapping up the story.

Now the question is, do I jump right in to editing, or do I return to the poor project I abandoned months ago? I might have some new motivation for that, since it was a kind of processing project for me for my own life, and some situations really aren’t the same as when I started (and abandoned) that project. Maybe it’ll take me in new directions.

Maybe I’ll do a combination of both. Write some, edit some, and do whatever feels more fun every day.

Plus, I do often have to challenge myself: what’s the point in editing a book if I’m not going to do anything with it? Because, to be honest, I’m not in a mental position to go out there and start pitching my books. And sure, I can always self-publish, and maybe that would be somewhat successful, but I’m just not quite feeling at that place yet. But maybe soon. I’ve got to cultivate my creative confidence a little more.

The final countdown

As we start the last week of November, I’m ahead of where I need to be on my daily count to complete my story.

However, I’ve found I’m running out of steam, and out of ideas. I feel like I’ve exhausted my source of pet peeves and weird stories (though I was just recently reminded of one, that little can probably get some good words out of).

As I’ve been writing, I’ve found myself a little torn about what I include. After all, this story is supposed to be taking place in hell. Can there really be kind little old ladies? But, I’m not going to worry too much about it right now. For now, it’s just for my own personal enjoyment and decompression. I can worry about the flack I might get for it much later down the road.

As I’m ahead of where I need to be, I’m finding myself thinking a lot about the end. Some of my stories have simply ended. Some have been pulling teeth just trying to get to the 50,000 goal. Since I’m not behind, I have the luxury of thinking ahead a little. I think I know how it’ll end, I’ve been mulling it over for a while. And if so, I think it’ll be fun, and funny.

So for now, it’s about finding the steam to power through another 7,000 or so more words, until I get to writing the end.

NaNoWriMo: Halfway

We’ve passed the halfway point in NaNoWriMo, and I’ve managed to keep on track pretty much every day (or make it up the next day if I miss it by a little).

As a first this year, I’ve actually attended write-ins with some other writers in the area. It’s incredible what a little bit of accountability can do for a person. Sitting writing with others is fun and motivating, and it doesn’t hurt that I’m competitive, so a 15-minute sprint to see who can write the most is exactly what I need to get the words flowing.

I decided this year to write a story I’ve been mulling over for a little while, called Hell’s Bookstore. I didn’t really do a whole lot of planning for this month. I basically just had a list of things I wanted to include (mostly drawn from real-life experiences, I do work in a bookstore, after all), and I’ve just been writing them in. Honestly, there’s not even an overarching plot, more like a collection of anecdotes from the bookselling life. Everything from silly questions to mixed up book titles, irrationally upset customers to sassy responses.

And yet it’s been very fun to write, and cathartic, too. I can’t lie, it’s a lot of making fun of things people say and do in the bookstore. But, when in the service industry, one has to cope however they can. And if this book were ever to see the light of day, it would be dedicated to all my fellow booksellers and retail workers.

Flying by the seat of my pants has been an interesting change of pace from all my latest projects. Everything else has been pretty well planned. Most of the time when I sit down to write this month, I’ve got no idea what’s going to come out. And yet somehow I’ve made it past the halfway point.

I’m not sure what exactly it is about November that just somehow makes it possible for me to stick with a project, but I’m always glad of it. Now if I can just find a way to carry it over into the rest of the year.

Starting fresh

I don’t know if it’s that I know tons of other people are doing the same thing during the month of November, or if it’s just sort of become a habit that’s hard to break, but National Novel Writing Month in November seems to be the constant kick in the pants I need to get writing.

I wish it would last through the rest of the year, but maybe being refreshed every November will someday lead to a more consistent writing schedule throughout the year. After all, I’ve been able to keep it up for a few months throughout the last few years…

This year I decided to finally write the satire fiction about an employee working in a bookstore. Except the bookstore has a unique service policy–be sassy, snarky, sarcastic, and irritate as many customers as possible.

This gives me a wealth of ideas to draw from when I’m feeling stuck, all I have to do is think of my own day at work, and I’m bound to come up with something. It’s a great outlet for all the responses I have to swallow to customer questions and comments like, “where’s the nonfiction section?” And “I’m looking for a book.”‘

My bookstore employees also get to do all the things people assume we do in my store–like make up prices, hide political books we don’t agree with, decide how to categorize books, and create company policy.

Right now, the story is basically a collection of made-up anecdotes, snapshots from a day in the life. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t have a huge overarching plot. And while it kind of bugs me, because who’s gonna want to read a whole novel like that? I’m also just letting it go. I’m writing. I’m having fun with it. It’s engaging me and helping me feel grounded and connected. And it’s pushing me to get involved a little in the local writing community.

So we’ll see what we end up with in three weeks. It may never see the light of day. It may just be a little something I share with other retail workers for a laugh. Maybe someday it’ll be published and popular.

Either way, the process doesn’t have to be perfect, just creative.

Pantser or planner: Outlines

Ever have those weeks where you just don’t know where all your time goes? I’ve had two in a row. I’ve probably only written 10 pages between the two weeks. It’s a little discouraging, being tired and fatigued and feeling like I have no time. But I’m choosing to be glad about what I did get to write, and let go of the rest.

For this project, I’ve gone back to my former habit of just flying by the seat of my pants. I have synopsis of the book, a general idea of what happens, and I just go.

I’ve completed a couple drafts this way, but only ever while participating in NaNoWriMo. Though, let the record reflect that I don’t think I’ve ever finished a draft when it wasn’t in some way related to NaNo, so…

I go back and forth between planning  and pantsing, as it’s called in the NaNo world. While it’s fun to blaze uncharted creative territory, I think the more I get into it, the more I realize I like to have the outline. I like to know I’ve thought it through. I can still explore the story as I write, but an outline forces me to sit down and really think about the story.

When I fly by the seat of my pants, I think I use it as an excuse to be a little lazy with my thinking. I have an idea, and I just flounder along with it until I run out of motivation, inspiration, and creativity.

I hosted an event at work earlier this month, and during a panel on creative process (the little snippet I got to hear) one of the panelists said if you’re feeding your artistic side, the muse will visit you. I found it very encouraging. As long as I’m investing in my creativity, it’s progress. Sometimes I think I just need to accept that thinking about my work is equally as important as actually writing it.

So, I’m curious about your writing habits. Do you plan a lot? Make it up as you go? Somewhere in between?

Writing for a goal

I’ve long since recognized that I do better with some sort of deadline in place.

I can write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days doing NaNoWriMo, keeping a daily word count and racing to fill up that little bar to reach my goal, but set myself the same task nearly any other month out of the year, and I’ll flounder, unlikely to make it work, despite my intentions. It’s a mixture, I think, of the visual representation and the community that circles up around NaNo.

Another great way to get my butt in gear and get things done is when an opportunity comes up to submit work, and I’ve got nothing ready to go.

Last year I submitted work to and was published in the 2018 California’s Emerging Writers anthology. I whipped those two submissions up in like two weeks. I recently was invited to submit work for the 2019 edition, and I’m trying to give myself more than two weeks to work on some pieces.

What I like about this is that it’s a chance to write up some of the ideas I’ve got that don’t really feel full enough to be a novel. It’s a great way to just get writing, as well as a good way to see what potential an idea may have. I some feedback on the piece I had published last year, some people wanted more to the story. So I thought on it, and came up, loosely, with a way that I could turn that little piece into something fuller. I haven’t done it yet, but the idea is there.

I’ve got three ideas this year that I’m working on (slowly but surely).

  1. A girl is caught in a time loop, where she does the same things over and over again everyday, hoping to break the cycle. But it’s not until she tries something completely different and stops focusing on changing the unchangeable that she breaks out of the loop and discovers what else life has to offer.
  2. A woman took the position as keeper of a remote lighthouse to escape the chaos and stress of change. Over the years she’s developed as much reputation as the lighthouse, and people come from all over to see the beautiful scenery and to get her advice and wisdom. One day a young boy visiting with his parents poses a challenging question: she takes care of the lighthouse, but who takes care of her? The boy’s questions help her start to think about stability at the cost of community, and whether it’s worth it.

The third idea I’m not quite ready to share, having just come up with it over the weekend (OK, so it was really a dream I had, don’t laugh. I get good ideas from dreams, sometimes). But it fits right in with my recent theme of being overwhelmed and anxious about the future, trying to run away from everything in life, and realizing you have to eventually face life head-on and answer the questions and make the choices to get to where you want to be, wrestling with being active or passive in life.

I’ve made a good start on the first story, and I’ve got a pretty clear idea where I need to go to wrap it up. I expect in this next week to really set myself to the task of finishing that one and starting the second.

While I may not actually be dealing with any of the issues in my own life (writing is just another avenue of escape, at the moment, even though I’m using it to wrestle with those tough questions about dreams and hope and giving up), I think sometimes it can help uncover the true strength and courage that’s inside. Realizing that you know what you have to do, and if you can write compelling stories where little pieces of you triumph over the overwhelming odds, maybe you can triumph, too.

November: A Recap

I completely forgot to write a blog post last week. I think I remembered when I was going to bed on Monday night, and I just never got to it.

November is over (duh), and I’m proud to say I’ve got yet another first draft of a story done. The Thanksgiving week was tough but I pushed through and stayed on target. The hardest part, I think, was the last 5,000 words or so. And that always seems to be a struggle. My stories seem to fall into one of two camps: either I put off writing the end because I don’t think it’s time yet, or I have to drag it out because I didn’t plan quite enough to get my word count where I needed it to be. But that’s ok. This year, I finished. And I wrote just about every day (I missed November 30, I was done with my project and I needed a break.).

My story this year turned out to be very different than what I’d intended. While on the surface it stayed mostly the same, my characters surprised me. I didn’t mean to when I set out, but I wrote several misunderstood characters. But that made the process that much more fun, because I got to enjoy the journey of discovery as I went.

For December, I plan to try to revisit the nameless project I’ve been refining all year. Then perhaps in January I’ll be ready to dig into the hot mess that is my NaNo 2017 novel. But even if all I do this month are some writing exercises from my Writer’s Notebook, that’s ok too. I think I have earned a little break. I’ve worked hard this year.

Keeping the momentum going

November this year feels like it falls weird, in terms of weeks. I’m not even sure if I’m in the third week of writing, or where I am. It’s throwing me off, mostly just for knowing what week to reference in these blogs.

Whatever week I’m wrapping up and starting, I’m still, surprisingly, on track. Last week was challenging, my schedule changed a little and I got really behind. I managed to still write each day, which is more than I’ve managed in years past. And over the weekend, I managed to write about 10,000 words, so, that bolstered my confidence.

I got some additional planning done too, mapped out a few extra chapters, though the end is still ambiguous.

This week will be possibly the hardest to keep on track. With Thanksgiving, and the kick off of the busy season at work, I know I’ll be tired and busy with family. But, if I use the time I have and I’m intentional about it, I know I can stay on track.

And at some point, I’ll have to cast my mind out and decide on the ending.

This story has already changed so much from what I first expected it would be, I’m excited to see where it ends. And then January will be time for editing and revising. But, we’re not there yet. It’s still November, and still time to write with abandon.

And the good thing about Thanksgiving being early this year is that, after the weekend, I’ve still got several days left for binge writing. I’m confident that not only will I hit the goal of 50,000, but I’ll be able to write the ending too.

So, here’s to soldiering on, even through food comas and all the rest.

Nano Week Two

As week two is wrapping up of this magical writing adventure, things are going well for me.

I’ve been writing every day, which is a big success for me. And I’m on track to finish on time, so even though I haven’t been getting ahead like I’ve wanted to, I’m still where I need to be.

I’m thinking this week I’ll have to focus a little bit more on planning, as I’m quickly coming up on the end of everything I’ve planned out thus far. But, the good news is that in the last couple days, as I’ve been writing and thinking about where this all may lead, I’ve got some ideas, and some that I think will be surprising to anyone who reads my book at some distant point in the future.

For me, this is the exciting part about writing and always has been, that moment when the story starts to tell itself as you go along, and you start to uncover layers and twists that you’d never even dreamed of when you started. It’s when the hazy ending you thought you were headed for starts to clear up, and you see you were totally wrong. Some people might find that maddening, but for me, it’s exciting.

In just a couple days, I’ll reach that halfway point in the month, and in my writing (for the basic goal of 50,000 words, my goal in the last few years has been to finish my project, which is usually a little bit more than 50,000). As always, I’m hoping to store up a little cushion in the week to come so that I don’t have to worry if I don’t get so much written during Thanksgiving weekend (I’m having a hard time believing that’s already next week!).

All in all, the month is progressing well, and I’m struck once again at how much smoother things seem to flow when I’ve done even a rough outline of planning. I still get stuck at certain points, trying to figure out what else to add to a chapter to make it more than a page long, but I don’t find myself getting so far behind because I’m stuck and don’t know how to move forward. If I don’t know where to go, I move on to the next chapter. There’s the rest of forever for editing and revising, and now I know that’s something I’m capable of doing as well. It’s easier this year for me to tell that little voice inside my head to shut up and let me write. We’ll deal with the mess later. For now, there’s a story bursting to be told, if even just to myself.

Into the Wild

If you’ve ever done NaNo before, you know it’s wild. If you haven’t, I’m sorry.

We’re getting close to a week in to NaNo, and so far I’m caught up. I got off to a slow start with some long days that didn’t leave much time for writing. I steal as many moments as I can, but I really am most successful when I can sit down for an hour alone and just write.

But my story is progressing smoothly. I plucked names out of thin air, so I haven’t had to use fillers yet, which is pretty great. And even in these early stages, some of the upcoming unknowns are starting to hint at resolution.

I have not done any additional planning for the later portions of my story, which I’ll need to start doing fairly soon. Because although I’ve got something like 13 chapters plotted, those chapters will go by very fast. I never seem to be able to milk them for as many words as I want to. Oh well.

So to anyone else writing, we can do this. And to those supporting us, thank you. And the rest of the world, we’ll see you in December.