Raring to go

It’s almost here! November starts tomorrow! I apologise in advance for updating this blog less frequently, but the actual writing must come first. My goal this year, as always, is 60k or a completed first draft, whichever seems more feasible. Since I’ll be writing with a lot more of social life than usual, I am not as confident as previous years that I’ll actually be able to pull it off, but we’ll see..

Last minute tips:

– I know I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but please check out the NaNo-forums for support, random plots/characters/challenges, and procrastination celebration.

– Follow NaNoWriMo on twitter, or even better the NaNoSprints account, to stay updated and to get some sprinting action going. It’s amazing the things that writing fast for a couple of minutes can produce (personally I prefer to still write legibly but do whatever works for you).

Write Or Die. This website/software helps you to keep writing by either making it impossible for you to go back and edit, or (in hardcore mode) eating your words if you don’t keep writing! Fun times.

– Glow sticks! If you’re looking for something that takes a little longer than the word sprints, one thing to do is crack a glow stick and keep writing until it stops working. Warning: don’t do this with a really good glow stick, as it will keep going for days! =P

– Remember to take a break! Go out for a walk, take a shower, go out with your friends.. Give your brain a chance to recover. Can’t live on words alone, much as I’d love to.

I’m rooting for all of you taking part! Enjoy!

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NaNoWriMo 2013: Want to Write a Novel?

Ooh good tips and excellent summary. Must remember to add a Milestone widget with my progress.

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It’s just a few days until November, and you know what that means: National Novel Writing Month, better known ’round these parts as NaNoWriMo, is near.

Have you always wanted to write a novel?

We know some of you have been waiting all year for this month! For those of you who are new to this project, here’s the gist:

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Introducing Anna

In preparation of NaNo, I thought I’d write some posts about my main characters, giving a little bit of background. Hopefully this will get some people interested in what I’m writing, but mainly it’ll help me get into my characters’ skin, round them out in time for November.

So, I’d like to introduce you to Anna; feisty, powerful, and stubborn as hell. Anna is an only child, brought up by a single, slightly melodramatic mother; her dad died before she was born. She’s slightly shorter than she’d like to be, loves to run, has long brown hair and green eyes. Anna grew up in small-town USA, but moved to London to get her undergraduate degree in History.

It’s been 10 years since Anna moved across the pond, found out she could perform magic (I’m writing a sequel), and was nearly killed because of it. She’s since learned how to control her magic, no longer randomly having things catch on fire around her, and she is confident with who she is. She’s a lot more serious than she used to be, and doesn’t seem to have much time for relationships of any type.

Now, after years of living in the States near her mom, Anna is going back to London, and will be working as a teacher at her old university. She’s very excited about it, considering how much she loved her old teachers (except one), but also quite apprehensive. She did after all burn a lot of bridges when she moved away.

Aside from physical attributes, behaviour and personality, I’m still thinking about what kind of music she likes, what her favourite food is.. I’m not sure if this matters, but it can’t hurt!

Please let me know in the comments if you’d be interested to learn more about this character, i.e. read the story of their life. I know it’s only a short bio but I want her to feel rounded out, human.

Long versus Short versus Flash Fiction

My University is currently running a Flash Fiction contest. 500 words based on a visual cue. After years of writing 60000+ words in a month, that sounded pretty easy to me. But the shorter the fiction, the more condensed and coherent the story needs to be, the less time you have to get the reader interested and involved, the more you have to imply rather than state… In short, it needs a lot of editing.

In the past, I’ve put up one short story on Wattpad, and submitted another to an anthology, and though it was nicely rejected (i.e. I was told my submitted story was not the right fit, but please send more), I believe that changing things up has helped me gain a fresh perspective on writing long fiction. I have never had a problem with vomiting words up on paper, but stopping at any point under 10000 words with a coherent story line, now that’s a big challenge.

If you don’t have a specific goal, like a contest or anthology, which informs the kind of story you’re writing, then it can be quite hard to determine what kind of story you’re writing. Sometimes you can write thousands of words, only to find it works brilliantly condensed as a 400-word flash fiction. Sometimes you start writing with the intention of creating a short story, only to find your characters or story is so interesting it deserves to be worked out into novel length. As long as you recognise this, nothing is lost. All stories you put out there add good vibes. All stories, properly edited, will help your profile, get you some publicity, show your writing style to potential agents. Will this turn into book deals? I have no idea.

Writer’s block courtesy of Calvin & Hobbes

From a psychological perspective, people are often told to try a different medium when they’re stuck. If you can’t figure out what to paint, then draw or write or knit.. Since I can’t draw and am terrible at knitting, my main medium changes have to take place within writing. This leaves me very few possibilities for dealing with writer’s block; stop writing, switch genres, or switch length. Out of these, to stop writing is death, and I’m not very good at switching genres (sci-fi has turned back into fantasy in the past), so that leaves changing things up. Hence the short stories, and now the flash fiction. I hope this works for other people as well, but everyone has to find these things out for themselves.

For my part, I just hope that I’ll be able to get my short stories (self-) published at some point, and I’ll still be able to write long fiction when I get back to it next month.

Time – missing or right there for all to grasp?

I realised after my last post about NaNo-prep that I missed out on one of the key things we need to write: Time. And with good reason. You see, as any Dr Who fan will tell you, time is a tricksy thing. When we think we have oodles of time, things don’t always get done. Yet when there is no time at all, suddenly, magically, things work out. That’s where the magic of the NaNo-deadline comes from; with only 30 days, time is a limited resource, and this restriction creates a breeding ground for creativity.

Doctor Who?

From a Time Lord’s point of view, your entire life passes in the blink of an eye.. Don’t let it go to waste.

From a psychological point of view, it’s not at all easy to measure people’s perceptions of time in an objective way. Time is after all subjective. Yet there are some studies out there that have shown how time slows down when you feel frightened (by having people fall!) or how time moves faster as you grow older. And as the great Chris Baty himself wrote in my NaNo-bible, No Plot? No Problem, for some people it is a lot harder to write when they are doing it full-time, compared to cramming it into their busy lives.

As for myself, November is inevitably a busy month. Not only is work a bit hectic at the moment, but I’m also taking a trip to Venice, and my mom is visiting, so that’s at least a week’s worth of writing pretty much out the window. And yet I’ve never found that I’ve had to give up anything to do NaNo. An hour or two in the evening, and my daily goal is met, even with my favourite TV shows on in the background.

So, my advice, in case anyone wants to know, is to just do what you would normally do (including washing and keeping the house sort-of tidy), but find those moments, in the evening or in the morning (depending on when you’re most awake/rearing to go) when you’re not usually doing all that much anyway. Everyone has times like that, when you’re just hanging out on the couch, watching TV, checking Facebook, or waiting for someone else. Use those pockets of precious time to write like the wind, and you’ll find you won’t need to cancel (too many) social events or become a hermit for the month, or (tempting as it may be) write at work and risk getting fired.

Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey works in mysterious ways, but there is always enough of it if you look closely enough. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find you can keep your writing time even after the deadline has passed. I certainly wish I had the gumption to keep up my NaNo-habit the rest of the year.

NaNo Preparedness Programme

Over the years I’ve tried to recreate NaNoWriMo in my own time, outside November, participating in camp and going it alone. Never has this gotten me near the 50k. In this post, I thought I’d outline what I believe are the essentials for succeeding at NaNo:

1. The Forums. The main reason I believe NaNo is different from other months are the forums, teeming with life. There’s other writers around 24-7 for venting, celebrating, or cat videos. How can you not be motivated by that (and the occasional free shrimp dinner)?

2. Local support system. For my first year, I did NaNo ‘alone’, with just some virtual support. After that I moved to a region that actually met near me, so I ventured into the real world of writerly interactions. And I’m very glad I did. Now I know not everyone’s region has people they connect with, and some people prefer to just stay virtual with their support, but I can recommend everybody give it a try. No one can understand what you’re going through like other writers can.

3. Charts. I’ve already made my handy wordcount chart, and I’ve got another wordcount meter in Scrivener and on the website, and they’re a great incentive to keep writing. Every day I have to add to my wordcount, or the charts just look too sad. Can’t have sad charts.

4. Rewards. Next to the ‘reward’ of seeing my wordcount go up, I also use physical rewards for milestones. Chocolate for small rewards, stuff from the NaNo-store for the bigger milestones (30k, 50k, finished draft), maybe a pizza or other kind of treat. Nothing like a little Pavlovian conditioning to keep you going.

5. Glorious failure. Last but by no means least, I think the ability to fail is crucial to winning NaNo. In other months, I get bogged down in the plot points, needing things to be perfect, whereas in November I get that all first drafts are flawed. I let myself write nonsense (and sometimes this nonsense turns out to be good, sometimes it’s the other way around). I let myself fail at writing the perfect novel for the sake of writing a complete first draft of a novel. And that’s how I become victorious.

Anything I’ve missed?

Eureka(ish)

After much deliberation and not a whole lot of sleep I’ve finally figured out what I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo. As I discussed in a previous post, I am in the process of rewriting/editing an old NaNo-novel, and would like to at some point get it publishable. So, instead of confusing my brain with a completely different novel, I’ve decided that in November I am going to write the sequel to my NaNo ’09 novel. With the ending set, and this next novel set 10 years after the end of the last one, it shouldn’t interfere with the old story lines, while at the same time getting me back into the heads of my old main characters.

Now I’m not sure if this is considered rebelling or not, but I will as always only write the first word on November 1st, and I have no idea what kinds of danger I am going to put my characters in. All I have is a starting point, which as a pantser is all I really need (or at least that’s been the case in the past). I hope this will allow me to continue my November winning streak while also moving forward with my writing plans.

I don’t know about you, but all in all this sounds like a solid plan to me, at least until some plot bunny comes along and lures me in with its fresh, shiny idea. Now to celebrate with smoothies.