Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

or whatever wintry holiday(s) you celebrate :-D.

May your day be full of peace, joy, and the unbridled enthusiasm of our dear dog Karou opening her presents: 

If there's a problem with the gif, try clicking here:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Breaking Free From Word Count Tyranny (but only after winning NaNo)

I should have announced it earlier, but yes, I did it! My sixth NaNoWriMo win. Though my graph was decidedly, ummm, more exponential than linear:

That sad plateau in the middle I blame on (1) having an extra busy work week (2) getting quite sick and (3) finally getting my hands on the first season of Sherlock. (Sooo gooood!)

Thank goodness for holiday weekends. This year was the first time we weren’t either traveling home for Thanksgiving or hosting a Friendsgiving at our place, which seemed sad at first, but it meant I could use my days off of work just to write (and write and write and write until I caught up), including one marathon day where I wrote a PR 10,000 words (which still seems absolutely crazy). Also I could eat most of the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Win Win Nom Nom. 

I also think I did a fair enough job meeting my other goal, which was to write something less forced and random than I usually do during the NaNo frenzy. I’m not saying what I wrote is all careful and organized and polished and ready to be shown to the world (ha. haha.) but it is definitely closer to the mark. There were fewer throwaway scenes, less goofy padding language, and more realizations about where my novel should go. 

But HOLY SAVE THE CAT is there still so much work left to do. Despite the progress, so much of the plot still feels like a mess of decisions I don’t know how to make. 

So I’m very glad I did NaNoWriMo, but I also know it shouldn't be my model moving forward. I tend to get overly attached to quantifiable goals and chase the numbers at the expense of everything else, and right now I need solid ideas and connections more than I need piles of potentially unnecessary words. I still need some sort of structured motivation though. I think (hope!) I’ve figured out the right compromise: I’m sticking with the sticker calendar method, but changing the parameters. It’s not just about word count any more, but about having a solid writing day. 

I remember reading some advice from (I think) Raymond Chandler, who suggested setting aside a few hours each day for writing. You don’t necessarily have to write during that time if you’re stuck, but you aren’t allowed to do anything else. The idea being I suppose that if you stare out of the window long enough with little to focus on other than your story, any writer’s block you have will start to work itself out and your fingers will be back on the keys. 

So I can still earn a sticker for 1000 words, or from, say, figuring out a major plot point, but I can also earn it just by putting in over an hour of highly focused writing time. It can be brainstorming, outlining, drafting, or editing, so long as it’s just me, the story, and maybe some staring out of the window, but no tricksty web of the internets or any other distractions.

I’ll have to see how it goes and report back. How are your post-NaNoWriMo writing or revising strategies going?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Refrigerator On The Premises

I don't remember exactly when or how I stumbled upon the On The Premises website, but it didn't take me long to become a fan. They run short story contests and post writing tips and resources, and what's especially awesome is that they (1) never charge entry fees and (2) clearly care about helping writers improve. One example: make it into the final round of judging in one of their main contests, and if you want they'll send a full critique of your work for free.

In between their main short story contests, OTP hosts mini ones. Last month's mini contest was to write a 20-40 word flash fiction piece that included the word refrigerator exactly once. I was in the midst of NaNoWriMo at the time (which I guess I should post about next, huh?) but decided that a little fridge story could be a fun, quick writing diversion. Plus maybe I would finally learn how to spell refridgerator refrigerator correctly on the first go. Of course, I overwrote as usual and my first draft was a few hundred words, so it was a bit more of a beast than expected getting it down to a mere 40 without losing the story entirely. But I eventually pared it down enough to submit, and I was awarded an honorable mention. Woohoo! You can see all of the victorious refrigerators here.

Annnnd OTP is running one of their main short story contests right now! It's for a 1000-5000 word story of almost any genre in which a character attempts to learn something. Top prize is $220. Check it out here!