Writing Challenge: Day 5

I’m 1190 words behind!!!!!

Okay, this is the first day that I’m actually irritated about this. Even though it was unavoidable. I spent the first half of the day taking my 9yo to the doctor’s office so that meant I only had 2 1/2 hours to actually write in the afternoon. I had a little bit of time after the boys were in bed, but my husband had the TV on (Will & Grace!!) which is not conducive to a productive atmosphere. So I fell very short of my goal, and even added onto the word count deficit.

And I’m finding it hard to get the words out no matter what. I read an article by John Scalzi about being a creative in the Trump-era, (view here) and it totally rings true: It’s hard! And Kaila Hale-Stern wrote a follow-up piece you can view here, so it’s not just one person’s opinion on this.

Now I’m not blaming all of my writing woes on Trump. There are several other reasons writing is difficult right now. But does his reign of terror and ignorance contribute to my overall drained ability to be positive and creative? Hell yes!

I know a lot of people have said that this time period will also generate a lot of socially aware art, and it will. I know I felt a renewed drive to create works of fiction that will impact teens in a positive way right after the election. But it will also be some of the most painfully difficult art to produce. Hopefully that will make it all the more important for future generations.

But it’s still hard as hell some days. So keep plugging away. We need to focus on the end game, not just daily goals.

Status Sheet 10052017


Writing Challenge: Day 4

I am behind 1060 words!!!

Buuut I’m okay with it.

So on my Day 3 post I talked about feeling like I “wasn’t in the groove” and that I wasn’t prepared. I knew that that feeling would haunt me making it difficult to fully focus on my writing if I didn’t do something about it, so yesterday I skipped my morning workout and cut into my writing time a bit to craft a backstory timeline and a rudimentary plot outline.

I actually feel relieved that it’s done! It’s going to make putting the words on the page so much easier. I could already tell during the little bit of actual words-on-the-page writing time I had yesterday that it was already working.

Having an outline (no matter how simple) helps me to focus on where I’m going and not worry so much about if I missed something important. It also helps that in order to make that outline I skimmed all my notes on this WIP, so when I came to a plot point I’d add it to the list with the page numbers where I talk about it! My notes are random, jotting down whatever I think when I think about it, so having page number references when I want to go over my original ideas about a certain plot point is phenomenal! Saves a lot of wasted time searching and missing information where I wrote about it on Page 89 of the notebook, but most of the notes are on Page 30-32.

Anyway, so despite losing a bunch of writing time yesterday, I’m excited to get back to it now (even though I lost the whole morning taking my son to the doctors!) Once again, I’m suspecting I won’t meet my goals, but strangely enough I’m still feeling really positive about this experience. My “failures” are unavoidable because like all of us I have a life to lead outside of my laptop, and they aren’t insurmountable either! I can catch up with a day or two of really focused writing. With an outline, I feel confident I can do that!

Staus Sheet 10042017

Writing Challenge: Day 3

Today I met my daily word count goal, but like yesterday, I did not recoup my total word count. I wrote 2751 words, but I have 119 words to catch up to my total goal. But just like yesterday, I’m not too concerned.

Status Sheet 10032017

I could have forced out those last 119 words if the word count was the only goal, but I ended at a point where I wasn’t perfectly sure what was going to happen next. And that for me is a problem.

Normally, when I write I am a planner. I know most of what is going to happen from the beginning to the end, which POV I’m going to write each scene from, and how it’s going to end. Before I start I will have done extensive research and end my research period right before I write an outline or start writing (I don’t always outline).

But with this novel I’ve been thinking about it, writing down plot ideas and character sketches since the end of 2015. I did a lot of research back then, taking notes and helping me to develop my plot.

But then life kind of got in the way. There were things I needed to give my attention to, and it is amazing how easy it is to fall out of the groove of a novel you have been working on, whether it’s the preparation or the actual writing.

So basically, I haven’t found my groove. This novel has a number of characters and a still undetermined number of POV characters. It has a timeline that stretches into backstory and through the novel itself with all these multiple characters so that I need to construct a reference timeline so I don’t screw up time references. And I have jotted down so many different things that need to happen and don’t actually know when they are going to happen. So I need an outline too.

And none of that has happened yet.

So I decided to stop for the day and work on some of the prep. Because I am feeling very anxious about not being prepared. I could keep pantsting this (if you can pantst something you’ve spent years thinking about). But I think I’ll feel better about writing if I’m not always anxious over what comes next. Maybe then I can concentrate on the chapter I’m in now, instead of worrying about the plot I haven’t figured out.

Which brings me to another good writing point. It’s okay to push yourself and write something that makes you uncomfortable, whether it’s the content of the story or the way you’re writing the story. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

But don’t be afraid to find your writing groove either. Your writing space, the method of writing, even the drink you have beside you while you draft, can be an important part of the writing experience. If something is impeding your productivity, go ahead and stop to adjust how you’re working. You’ll be more productive if you can fix the problem than if you continue to try and work around it.

Writing Challenge: Day 2

Today was a decent day. I met my daily writing goal, but didn’t completely make up for yesterday’s low count. I wrote 3431 words, but I’m still behind my pace by 128 words.

I’ve also decided to set up rewards for myself as I go. Maybe this seems a little childish, but I know it works for a lot of authors. Just getting that positive reinforcement, whether it’s a sticker or a candy bar, can be a solace at the end of a long hard day of writing.

For myself my first reward—and I have to not only meet my word count but make up for the words I’m behind—will be reading time. Moxie has been sitting on my shelf begging me to read it, but I knew I had to set up goals for reading or I’d spend all my time reading instead of writing.

Another goal I’m looking forward to is the time to paint my nails. For me the rewards aren’t just about stickers on a chart (though I’ve heard those work!) or momentary satisfaction like chocolate, but rather about time. I won’t allow myself to have the time to do small things I enjoy unless I’ve done my work for the day.

I could have slapped down another 128 words tonight, but I could tell I was done. I needed a break. And anything I wrote after that point I’d have to rewrite tomorrow. The number of words weren’t the most important part to me. I won’t write just to meet a goal. They have to be meaningful words.

Tomorrow I should have a full day to write so hopefully I’ll not only meet my daily goal, but make up for the words I’m behind!

Writing Challenge: Day 1

I will usually try to post my day’s writing experience on the day I worked, but as I was up until 10:30 pm last night and my husband was trying to sleep in the room where I write, I decided to hold it off until this morning.

Truth is, I did not meet my writing goals on the first day of my challenge. I am shooting for 2742 words/day to meet a 85,000 word count goal* and finish the novel, but I only achieved 1925. I’m behind by 817 words, bu I’m actually glad I failed to reach my goal.

Why am I glad? Because it gives me an opportunity to talk about goals, failing or achieving them, and how we talk to ourselves about it. There were a lot of reasons I didn’t achieve 2742 words yesterday. And here are my excuses:

  • I was really rusty. I haven’t written a first draft since February of 2015 and wringing those 1925 words out yesterday was really hard work.
  • It was a Sunday, so I had a limited amount of time without the family at home.
  • Starting anything new for me is a mental obstacle. I have to make myself feel prepared, so I organized my desk, made a spreadsheet to keep track of progress, made a novel template so every time I start a new novel it’s ready to go, and looked over a few notes before I began. I also sat there and stared at the computer for awhile because though I’ve known how this book was going to start since forever, I had a sudden brain bunny that said here are two more chapters to write before that first chapter. I may not use them, but I’m writing them anyway.

And you know what? Those excuses are okay. I wrote. It was hard, but I got words on the page. They may even be complete throw away words because I’m not positive I need them, but we’ll see. I’d rather write too much than too little to be honest.

The point here is, we all have things happening in our lives (and sometimes in our heads) that mean we can’t always meet that word count goal. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up for it. I know that on a good day I can bust out 5k words, so having an off day doesn’t mean the challenge is scraped for me.

And if you’re a slower drafter, then don’t expect too much of yourself. Set yourself a challenge that is achievable, otherwise you will just get down on yourself. If you can only get out 500 words on a good day, don’t expect yourself to suddenly write 3k. If you prefer to edit as you go, then maybe the NaNo style of just get the words out isn’t for you.

Personally, I used to be an edit-as-you-go writer. Then I tried a NaNo style writing to just get the words out. I liked both to be honest. So I do a mix. Sometimes I have to reread what I’ve written to keep my head in the writing space it should be in. Sometimes I reread a whole chapter and edit a little to get myself ready for starting a new day. Sometimes I need to do a small bit of research to name a character or select a city or something that helps me move on. The word count doesn’t have to be the be-all of your writing unless you want it to be.

Allow yourself the room to breathe and fail. Failure is okay. Because if even at the end of a NaNo-style writing you have 30k words, or 25k words, or whatever you were able to achieve, you still have thousands of more words than when you started to begin with.

* My word count goal is arbitrary. I want to finish a novel in 31 days and I estimate I need 80k-90k to achieve that. If I use the median number of 85k that gives me 2742 words/day, but as long as I have a finished novel by the end of the 31 days, I don’t care what the word count is.

Holding Myself Accountable

I’m writing this post strictly to hold myself accountable. I am going to start writing my next WIP on October 1st. It’s a date selected because it’s the first of the month and I’ve been finding every excuse (some very legitimate) for putting it off. I have to start now or it feels like I never will.

Sure, I could put it off for NaNo (which I’ve never officially done), but November is a terrible month for me to write. I can do it, but the sheer number of words I need to create would be difficult with kids and vacations and holiday prep.

I know, I know, we all have those and other things to do, and super great big kudos to you if you can do it (I am in serious awe!), but I know what I have to do that month so I’m going to make the decision not to overload myself.

So that gives me 31 days in my own personal NaNo. But I’m not aiming for 50k words, though. I’ve done 50k in 28 days before. I’m aiming to finish a rough draft in those 31 days. It could be 60k, it could be 90k. But I “win” if I finish a complete draft.

Yeah, I have no idea if I can actually do this.

I estimate that I need 2580 words/day (for 80k) to 2903 words/day (for 90k). Better to aim on the high side. Not only because I write thick 1st drafts, but even if I finish at 60k I’m inside my timeline.

So here’s the accountability. Not only because I’m declaring now that I will start on October 1st (and that’s going to be difficult in itself because we’re camping) but also that I will post daily updates (that no one will read 😄) because once I make myself start something I do it.

Just look at my weekly Letters to My Representatives that I write even though it feels like no one is listening. I’m pretty good at perseverance in the face of futility. 😏

I’ll post my daily word count, total progress, and whether I’m on track. If I have time I’ll try to talk about what slowed me down or how I got a boost each day. Research and plotting can drag you down (though most of that is done for me), but getting up early, inspiration, and free time from kiddos can boost that word count.

If anyone would like to do this with me, just let me know! You can keep yourself accountable in the comments, or write your own blog posts and I’ll link daily in mine!

Good luck to all of you whether you’re joining me, waiting for NaNo, or writing at your own pace!

It Feels Good to be a Winner!

Winning NaNo My Way

As some of you may recall, I decided to create my own personal NaNo challenge and write 50,000 words in 30 days. Just not in November. I wasn’t ready on November 1st to start a new novel, and I wanted the proper amount of time to prepare. That was supposed to be November and December. Which turned into November, December and January. Bleeding over into February.

Finally, on February 15th, I decided to start writing. I hadn’t even committed to really writing full force into this NaNo thing yet, hence the measly 208 words you see on the graphic below, but I started. After that, I figured, what the hell. I might as well go big or go home. So I did.

Word Count Spreadsheet Graphic

It was a strange way to write for me. I’m usually more about getting everything right before I push on. That’s not to say my previous work hasn’t needed copious amounts of editing, it’s just that the plot, story structure, character development, was mostly all there. If I needed to spend two hours researching something that would get a one sentence mention, then I did just that. I hated writing knowing there was a particular mistake hanging over my head that needed to be fixed.

NaNo forces you to do the exact opposite of that. You just keep writing. No matter what. No matter if a character has the name of Bob, but you know that’s not his name, you just need time to research. Or if the imaginary creature you haven’t named gets the letters XXX every time they come up, because you haven’t developed that perfect name yet. In fact, there are a lot of XXX’s in the MS, because there are quite a few things you haven’t imagined yet. That’s okay. They’ll hold.

And showing versus telling? Well, if you naturally write “showy” then you don’t have to worry about telling. But if you’re like me, there’s going to be a lot of telling I need to fix on the editing end. Along with filter words, overuse of adverbs, demonstrating emotion in effective ways, and a whole list of other things. But writing 50k in 30 days isn’t about getting it perfect the first time, it’s about getting the story on paper. To be honest, I’m betting the amount of editing I do won’t actually be more than my last non-NaNo novel, it’ll just be different. But as I haven’t begun to edit yet, we’ll have to see.

There was one definite benefit to the NaNo approach that I wasn’t anticipating, though it makes perfect sense now. I didn’t have time to develop this story into infinitesimal detail prior to writing, so it isn’t an over thought novel. Though it definitely needs more character development, and some scenes that I hadn’t thought about before to add more depth to the fictional world, I was able to get the core story “on paper” which I think was the best thing for me. This is the shortest draft I have ever written, I mean by a lot. So I won’t spend too much time agonizing over things I need to cut. It’ll be more like making sure the novel has everything it needs to be the story I want it to be.

So I’m pretty excited about this NaNo win. Even if it wasn’t during a designated NaNo Challenge time, I still wrote my 50k in 28 days, and that was with taking off 7 days for other things. It proves to myself I can write faster, and still do it reasonably well. The length of time it took to complete my other novels was a bit disheartening, and I was afraid I would always be a slow writer. Now I have another tool in my arsenal and will use what I’ve learned for my next novel. I may not do a full out NaNo approach, but it will certainly be more like that than my previous meticulous attempts.

Next up will be the editing. Not sure how that’s going to go, but I have confidence that when I’m done, I’ll have a compelling YA re-telling of The Last of the Mohicans. So, back to work!

Status Update on my WIP (or ME! ME! ME! Look at me!)

As you can see by my title, I might be a little excited about my current work in progress. Usually, I write a little, read it again, write a little more, read it again, fix some mistakes, read it again, write a little more, read it again, etc., etc. You get the point. It took me six months to write my rough draft for I Have No Name, and then months and months, and months of editing. I think it took me almost 18 months to complete that novel. I know some writers are faster, some slower, but that is a huge chunk of time to devote to a project that ultimately hasn’t attracted an agent yet. It’s not a loss, but I decided I needed to find a faster way to write.

So I’m going with the NaNo approach of not stopping. I might re-read a few paragraphs, just to get back into what I wrote the day before, but I’m not stopping. Not for research, not when I know there’s a mistake, not when I know that what I just wrote was complete crap. I push on.

The result is a rough, really rough, first draft, but it will be done. And really, all my first drafts need a ton of work, so I’m banking on the fact that the edits won’t be any longer than any other novel I write. At the same time, I’m keeping a list of things I need to fix as I think of them. For example, I realized I gave my MC a wound in chapter 3, and didn’t mention it for the next 10 chapters! And I need to name the alien races, the planet, the creatures and a whole lot of other things, but I put in a placeholder and highlight it yellow so I remember it needs some work.

This whole process is so foreign to me it feels strange. I am a perfectionist. So much so that I find it difficult to move on when I have things that need fixing. Hence why it takes so long to write. Because nothing is ever perfect. Ever! Especially not for me.

Working this way and forcing myself to let go of those perfectionist tendencies (for now) I’ve managed to write 24k in 15 days. For me this is nothing short of a miracle and I am so excited. Here’s a graphic of my daily numbers:

Word Count Graphic

And I’m reasonably happy with how things are working out. The story is taking shape and characters are forming. Sub plots are sprouting up (though some have to be written in edits because I only realized what they should be after I wrote a chapter.) There’s a lot of work to be done, but I am excited and confident I’m getting this where it needs to be. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take me another year and half to finish this one!

I’m a liar . . .

I feel I owe all of you a minor apology. Okay, maybe not apology, but explanation. I said on this blog that I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year by starting the second book in my series. I would never pants my way through NaNo, or any book, I’m just too much of a planner, and it’s the only book I have plotted in my head right now. But I’ve come to a realization over the past month or so since that posting. My YA Post-Apocalyptic may not get an agent and consequently a publisher right now. The sneaking suspicion has been loitering in my brain, being dutifully ignored, but those rejection letters have helped to make it loud and clear. Oh, and this:

I’m certainly not finished querying my novel. I’ve given it my heart and soul, so I’m not going to abandon it so easily. But I don’t plan to put all my eggs in one basket, so I’m planning a new novel. And since I haven’t planned it yet, I can’t write it. Remember, no panster here. So NaNoWriMo is going to be NaNoReMo fro me (National Novel Researching Month).

And by way of encouragement, well, encouragement for me, here’s a little piece of a pleasant rejection letter I received from one of my dream agents:

I really like the writing here—it’s punchy and clean. That said I think it’d be very difficult to sell a post-apocalyptic novel just now, as I’m finding editors are a still suffering from a bit of dystopian/post-apoc fatigue. I don’t think I can take this project on, but if you have more you’d like to share, I’d be interested to see your other work down the line.

Umm, he’d like to see my future work. My future work! This is all the encouragement I need to know I’m on the right track. Maybe not with this novel (though, once again, haven’t given up), but the next, or the next. I’ve managed to gain attention from some pretty amazing agents with a concept that has been declared well-done. I am by no means discouraged by my rejections. Writing is a long term commitment and not for the faint of heart. I am a stalwart rock!

Newbie Post #8: Writing Prompts Are One-Night Stands!

One-Night Stand

I think we can all agree that we writers have a world. Critique groups, writing circles, online forums, blogging, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter. We are inundated with ways for our traditionally hermit-like tendencies to branch out into social sharing, learning, critiquing and commiserating the woes of being a writer.

When I first started searching the online forums, reading blog posts and generally dipping my toe (then diving head first!) into the world of writers, I came across a lot of new information. For one, there a lot of acronyms. It took me awhile to catch on to all of these, and I might do a quick post in the future, but I did eventually get them. I still only use a few, because I’m a write-it-out kind of gal, but it’s helpful to know what other people are talking about.

And the process of writing and getting published was a huge mystery. I learned from doing and from listening to others talk about their process, until now I think I have a pretty good handle on it (says the woman without an agent or book deal.) What really has me confused are two things: Writing Prompts and NaNoWriMo.

Yes, I know what both things are, but I just don’t understand their purpose. They seem pointless to me. And for those of you who may be wondering what NaNoWriMo is, it’s National Novel Writing Month, held every year from Nov. 1 through the 30th. Pretty much everyone in the writing world has heard of this. If you haven’t, no biggie, but you might want to get out more. 🙂

So why don’t you see the point?, you say, your hackles rising in irritation at my audacity. I love writing prompts and NaNo is my favorite time of year! I will tell you why, but let’s start with writing prompts.

I have notebooks full of ideas. I have ideas from my ideas. I have kernels of thought buried in my brain so small and inconsequential I haven’t written them down. What do I need writing prompts for? The exercise, you say. The act of taking an inspiration and turning it into a short story. Many a novel has been derived from a short story derived from a writing prompt. I’ll give you that. But if you have ideas that are inspiring you, why do you need more? And if you’re writing everyday like a good novelist should, why do you need the exercise?

This may sound like I’m being detrimental and mean, but really I’m not. I get they work for other people, but they are pointless for me. And there’s a tiny, persistent voice inside me that says they should be useless for you too. It’s small, easily shouted down, because what works for one writer doesn’t always work for the next. I allow that, but I feel if you are taking the time to write shorts based on writing prompts for the fun or the exercise, or you are doing writing exercises of another nature, you are wasting time you could be working on that novel. Writing itself is an exercise and if you are writing everyday with an end goal in mind (completed novel) then you don’t need the exercise of prompts. You’re already doing the work of improving by simply writing. And then there’s the editing phase. You learn more in that than you do the whole time your plowing away to reach The End, because now you’re networking out to others. Your betas will tell you what’s wrong and hopefully give you pointers on how to fix it. You yourself will read and see that first drafts are crap. Beautiful, shiny, wonderful crap, but crap nonetheless.

So this is where I’ll leave writing prompts. If they work for you, okay. But ask yourself if all the time you spend coming up with short stories you’ll never use would be better spent actually writing the novel you’ve been dreaming about for years. If the answer is no, then by all means, prompt-away. But if the answer is I don’t know, or maybe, or yes, then drop the prompts and get with that guy, er, novel that will stick with you through the test of time. Make a commitment. Don’t be scared! What’s the worst that could happen? You write 30k words then lose interest? Maybe, but that sounds a lot better to me than 30k split over ten stories that just sit on your blog or hard drive and never go anywhere. Rome wasn’t built in a day, my friends, and your writing career won’t be either. So treat it like a long term commitment, not a one-night stand. Quit being a writing whore!

And on to NaNoWriMo . . .

By now your blood is boiling at my insulting attitude, but hopefully you’ve stuck with me. I’ll be a little gentler on NaNo, though based on his popularity, I think he can take it. So, once again for anyone who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo’s purpose is to write 50k words in one month. And I have actually heard of writers who have turned their NaNo-baby into a polished, published novel. I think Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was a NaNo-baby. Hmm, I like that term, NaNo-baby. I think I’ll keep it. And like your NaNo project, you may want to keep it too. At least here I can see the purpose. NaNo teaches you discipline, gives you goals, shows you how to track progress and takes those constant-editors and turns them into word-churning machines.

But I’ve never actually worked that way. I have carved out blocks of time in my life for writing. Very little interrupts that. I get done what I can get done and that’s enough. Unfortunately, I am a constant editor, and this is an area where I could use some improvement, but the discipline required to complete 50k in a month has never seemed like an asset to me. I’m in it for the long haul, the career, the commitment. There’s no short cuts to success and serious writers don’t need gimmicks to get them to complete a novel. In case you didn’t hear the sarcasm in that last sentence, it was there. I fancied myself above such silly games. I didn’t need to be tricked into writing a novel, I’ve completed two, by golly!

But you know what, I’m beginning to rethink that. No, I don’t need NaNo to complete a novel. I really have written two full-length novels. I know I can do it, and I have no doubts about my abilities to complete decent fiction. I’m no Hemmingway, and neither do I aspire to be, but I’m pretty sure my YA is better written than half the crap produced these days. Of course the other half makes mine look like cow dung, but still, middle of the packs not bad. So what can NaNo do for me? Well, like I said, I’m a constant editor. If I really look at the amount of time I’m writing, (this includes networking, blogging, etc., not just writing) I have a part time job of 18-20 hours a week. Some weeks more if I can squeeze it in. But I could write faster. I could force myself not to go back and correct every mistake, or re-write something because it “sounds” bad. That’s what the editing stage is for.

Like I said, I don’t need NaNo, and I’ve never participated, not only because it seemed pointless, but because I was already in the throws of writing (or in the throws of life!) when NaNo came around. Right now, though, I’m querying agents. So really, how much time per day does that take up? I’ve been networking and blogging (a very little) and generally spreading myself thin over Facebook, Twitter, Absolute Write and Pinterest. All of which has value, but I’m ready to start writing again. So why not? I have the second book to I HAVE NO NAME pretty much plotted in my head. It’s ready to go. I just have to pull the trigger, er, hit the keyboard. Why not turn it into a NaNo-baby? I’ve heard NaNo-babies have a face only a mother could love, but that’s okay. I’ll polish that precious bundle until she’s a shiny, sparkly manuscript.

And I have no illusions about winning NaNo. (You get to call yourself a winner if you complete the 50k, no matter how terrible they are!) Chances are good that life will prevent me from achieving that illustrious number, but it will kick start my writing. And for me, it’s more about teaching myself to push through and write than anything. Even if my NaNo-baby is a preemie at only 20 or 30k, I’ll have something to work with. So okay, I’ll give it a shot!

Newbie Post #9: Your Novel Is Not Ready To Be Seen By Anyone!

Newbie Post #1: My Humble Beginnings . . .
Newbie Post #2: Dreams Awakening . . .
Newbie Post #3: Yeah, About That Hobby Thing . . .
Newbie Post #4: Sally Green’s Acknowledgments and Why They Mean Something to Me . . .
Newbie Post #5: Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door!
Newbie Post #6: Sometimes you Win; Sometimes you LEARN!
Newbie Post #7: Beta Readers and Why They Rock! . . . Most of the Time . . .