Saturday, December 1, 2012

Winning and Other Challenges


I'm quite relieved to post this, to be finished. All month my graph kept climbing steadily, but it always bowed out and away from the goal line like a stubborn sail,* never really closing the gap until a blur of 4-5K days at the bitter end.

Though of course I'm not finished, not really, not with this story. Sometimes I feel like I wasn't so much writing a novel during NaNoWriMo as I was doing a number of writing exercises meant to demonstrate just how much work this story was going to take in the long run, just how many plot threads would  need to be untangled, just how much I still did not know about this story even after writing over 50,000 words in its world with its characters. And all of that is okay, and I'm sure I'm not alone in it. There is a lot of excitement mixed in with the exhaustion and the overwhelmedness.** It's going to be an ongoing adventure, and I might not be ready for it, and I'm definitely not ready for it today, but I am eager to try soon, and that's enough.

I had a rather blind, overly optimistic faith that I would finish NaNoWriMo no matter how crazy it got, because I'm the girl who doesn't give up on a challenge, especially not once I've told other people about it. That characteristic would be a key item on my Character Sheet, assuming I ever used them. Or wrote one about myself. But yesterday I really thought winning NaNoWriMo was going to mean my giving up on another challenge, despite how very unlike me that would be.

All year I've been doing the monthly version of Write1Sub1, and I meant to have a story in my pocket all ready to go before the craziness of November... but I didn't. So I found myself at 9pm, on the last day of the month, having just validated my NaNoWriMo word count and consumed vast quantities of pumpkin curry and raspberry scones, without a story to sub. And I was going to give up on it, give myself a NaNo pass to not complete every challenge ever, because I refused to submit a story that wasn't ready for publication just to meet a voluntary, "fun" deadline. But it just kept bugging me: I'd gotten through 10 months, and now I was going to give up so close to the end? My husband saw that it was driving me and therefor him insane mildly frustrating me and asked if "those Nano things counted," meaning twitter fiction like on Nanoism. I'd written many before but never let them count for the month; but according to the W1S1 site, twitter fiction qualifies, and that was going to have to be good enough for me. So I spent the evening brainstorming wildly and writing concisely and having long discussions with my husband about Legends of the Hidden Temple (which, alas, never did make it into a story). Before midnight, I'd submitted two little things that I liked quite a bit. It's not my most impressive W1S1 moment, but it made me happy to keep the chain unbroken without lowering my submission standards.

And so now, of course, I'm all pumped up to take on another ridiculous challenge because I have a problem. I am very behind on my Off the Shelves reading challenge. As in, I now have to average a book a day to finish. BUT I'M STILL GOING FOR IT. While also continuing W1S1 and plotting out a novel revision after a short break, hopefully. I'm letting myself change up a few items on my reading list, but only a few, and no cheating with children's picture books or anything like that. I'm going for glory. And crossed eyes and sleep deprivation, possibly. And I will probably need to bring an extra carry-on just for books when we fly home for Christmas. But I LOVE challenges and I LOVE reading (which is much easier and less stressful than writing, after all) so I actually think I'll still really enjoy this challenge and not really want to quit.

Ask me in a week or two though.

And you completely have the right to consider me crazy. 

If you just did NaNoWriMo, are you being smart and resting up, or taking on something else right away?

*My NaNoWriMoBrain isn't really up to making logical similes right now. You understand. 
** It also makes up words. More than normal, I mean.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

'WriMo Update: What's Working (but will it be enough?)

It seems a bit silly to be sharing "what's working" for me during NaNoWriMo when I am… 

*does the math*
*wakes up again and types the numbers with tremulous fingers*

… over 10,000 words behind where I should be.  I have almost 17,000 words left to write with 4 days left. Counting today. Which is more than half over.

I’ll be honest: if anything carries me through to victory this NaNoWriMo, it will be my natural competitive stubbornness and inability to give up on any challenge that I've publicly committed to ever ever ever ever. You might not be cursed blessed with this kind of bloodymindedness, but that’s okay. It's thanks to some additional factors that I’ve been much more productive in the second half of November than I was in the first:

~ The Rachel Aaron Triangle: I’d already read her “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day” blog post (which you should definitely check out immediately, and it's now available in expanded e-book form, too!) a while ago and thought it sounded effective, but I never truly tried her method until I was floundering halfway through this NaNoWriMo. The data tracking part was right up my alley, but sketching out and visualizing the scenes in detail took a little getting used to… though now I love it! I haven’t hit anywhere near 10,000 words a day yet, but it helped me jump to 2000-3000 words on the days I really used it, when I usually average around 1000. Hopefully it can help me hit 4000-5000 word days too, because that’s what I need now!

~ Stealing Bits of Time: The only downside to Rachel Aaron's method was that, since I was tracking my productivity so exactly, I wanted to write in nice, solid blocks of time. After a few days, I realized that was NOT going to work for NaNoWriMo – I needed to steal time whenever I found it! If I had three minutes here or eight minutes there to add a few words, I did it, without feeling the need to track every second. Sometimes I need to be reminded that the writing is what matters most. #datanerd

~ Ignoring Chronology: This is very much a personal preference, since I know some writers have creative aneurysms if they try to write their story out of order, but I needed to give myself that freedom. If I had tried to write this book in order, I wouldn’t even have made it out of the starting gates. I needed to write the scenes I knew about, the scenes that excited me most. I did keep myself in the first half of the novel until recently, but I skipped around a lot within it, and I’m only now figuring out the links between many of those scenes. I’m sure some links will have to wait until December, and that’s okay, too. Related to this...

~ Knowing My Favorites: At one point I was really stuck and finally decided to switch to a scene from the villain's perspective and suddenly the words flowed. Let's not think too much about what that says about me... It's common sense though: when stuck, move to a scene you really want to write, and then make connections from there. A lot of people seem to like writing kissing scenes, for example. (I don't get it, but whatever works for you ;-P.) I've come to realize that in addition to liking dialogue, I'm a concept driven writer, so I started coming up with cool aspects of my world that I really wanted to describe and explore, and then I created a scene around them, preferably including an entertaining argument. Instant word count boost.

~ Motivation from Others, even outside of NaNo: In past years I’ve had friends doing NaNoWriMo at the same time, which is always motivating. (See my competitive drive, above.) But this year most weren’t able or willing to really participate, and for various reasons I haven’t gone to the local events like I did last year.  But I still have a good support system, people prodding and cheering me on, and that makes a huge difference. It's probably healthier than comparing myself to everyone else's progress bars, come to think of it...

~ Being stubborn and competitive is still pretty helpful right now though. Did I mention that I'm stubborn and competitive? Just checking. 

~ Not writing a super long blog post when I should be feverishly writing my story. Oh, crap. 

I'll leave you with two faces who have very much NOT been conducive to me getting any writing done, but they sure are adorable.

The one on the left is ours, the one on the right we took care of for five days while his owners traveled for Thanksgiving... because NaNoWriMo would be far too easy without such cute distractions :-D.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

'WriMo Week One: Wordcount vs. Worry

The first full week of NaNoWriMo ended yesterday, and I am… very, very behind, further behind than I ever have been before, like 8000 words behind and it's only Day 11. I can partly blame procrastination, self-doubt, and being in a confusing transition from pantser to planner. But I also have a much more interesting excuse:

We brought Karou home from a shelter in September, and she’s been a wonderful friend, companion, running partner, and source of entertainment ever since. I would never have called her a muse, however. She doesn’t warm my feet while I’m writing or inspire me to pen new stories about dogs. But the first weekend of NaNoWriMo I learned how hard it is to write without her happy and healthy around the house.

We’re still not sure what she ingested to cause the problem (and we will probably never know, which SUCKS) but on the first Friday of November, a neurotoxin invaded her brain and made her hallucinate and activate her flight or fight response constantly, so that she was skittish, twitching, and lunging at/from imaginary foes nonstop, regardless of what was in the way… it was terrifying and stomach-dropping and resulted in a panicked walk to the vet where even sedatives didn’t stop her from pacing and skittering an expensive overnight emergency stay, a scary mini-relapse at home two nights later… basically I spent November 2-5 stressed and depressed, either waiting for vet updates or escorting Karou everywhere and thinking everything in sight was a potential danger. I tried to channel it into my writing – my book is dark and does include some scenes of paranoia, worry, and helplessness – but I can’t say I made much progress. I don’t know how people with, say, seriously ill children or spouses manage to get themselves to a keyboard and churn out anything but despairing drivel. Catharsis doesn’t make for quality or even much quantity, at least in my case.
Sad Karou post-vet
BUT now she is all better, back to her goofy, energetic self, THANK GOODNESS, which means my mental state is a million times better and I have NO MORE EXCUSES TO NOT WRITE! I should be writing RIGHT NOW, ALL THE TIME to catch up. 

Seriously, why am I still talking to you guys? ;-)

Books don't write themselves, Mommy. Get to work!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Oh, NaNoWriMo

I wasn’t going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year, because (1) I have enough challenges right now with W1S1 (October story subbed a few days ago - yay!) and the now-almost-impossible Off the Shelf Challenge (seriously, I am sooooo laughably behind on that list!) and (2)  I’m not sure my current WIP is something that should be written quickly – there’s still a lot of plot twisting and world building to figure out, and I hate rushing into drafting and ending up with yet another frustrating mess-uscript. But the story won't be written at all if I never move from planning to ACTUAL WRITING, and I was feeling in desperate need of a jumpstart. So I gave into peer pressure and my addiction to progress bars and pep talks and jumped on the NaNoWriMo bandwagon for the fourth time. And you know what? I’m ridiculously excited about it. 

Newly painted office: ready! Writing travel mug from my awesome former boss: ready! Inspiration image board: ready! Plot board: um, well, at least there are several post-its and a bunch of questions on it. That's more than I've had any other year...

NaNoWriMo is usually a pretty sparse blogging time, but I’ll try to post a few impressions from the speed-writing trenches to make up for how little I’ve been around here in the past two months. And of course I'll grab a progress bar for the blog because I'm addicted to such things.

Who else is WriMoing with me? How’s it going so far? I’m "veryhungrybookworm" if you want to find and friend me. (Assuming the site isn’t overrun and spitting out 503 errors again, anyway. The first day always seems to be crazy that way.) 

Write On!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Crazy House

For the last month or so I’ve been rather absent from the blogosphere (and many other spheres, actually – my friends may be wondering if I'm still alive, and my writing has slowed down to the minimum crawl necessary to meet the requirements of my writing group, W1S1, etc. in the most pathetic ways possible) because my husband and I bought a house!!! 

While my husband was shopping for tools and other "necessary" materials for the house, I picked up the important things.
It's our first foray into home-ownership, and it's all very exciting but also very filled with boxes and dust and giant spiders (eeeeeeek) and a lawn so overgrown it could be hiding all sorts of monsters. While the house wouldn't really qualify as a fixer-upper, it's amazing how many small things need to be repaired, cleaned, and changed before it will feel like home. We're also trying to finish moving in while hosting family, because the schedule gods decided that would be amusing. What, you mean your guests don't usually spend their vacation schlepping boxes around and building walls of rocks in your garden? They're clearly missing out.

I'll continue to be fairly absent around here until the house chaos recedes, but hopefully I'll have some photos to post soon. And since I've been reading Laini Taylor's blog even more than usual in the hopes that her amazing house renovation and decoration skillz will rub off on me (or her writing skills that would be cool too), I'll leave you with a great post she did last year about (doll)houses and writing that I turn to whenever a manuscript is giving me the blahs.