Friday, November 29, 2013

NaNo Makes Me Jealous

I had planned to participate in NaNo this month. Really, I did. I knew from the time I signed up for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo that I wanted to participate in November. However, like most of my plans, there was a kink: we were moving. Between getting everything out of our old house and getting things set up in our new house, I just didn't have the time--or brain power--to get organized and ready to spend a month writing as close to 50K words as I could manage. Even knowing that, I still started off the month being jealous of my friends who were able to participate.

NaNo makes me jealous because I want to be able to write 50K words in one month. And because I want to have the motivation and nagging sensation that I need to sit down and write. Between homeschooling activities, my crochet/knitting/sewing business, and general life happenings, writing takes the back burner. Always. But having that goal and deadline--like I did back in July--I actually get stuff accomplished. It’s just about the end of November and I’m still jealous that I didn't’t get to experience that. I’m also jealous that my word count is no higher than it was when November started. *sigh*

Because I’m trying to find an optimistic way to look at NaNo (while keeping the green at bay), I’m going to try to mooch the last of the NaNoWriMo vibes over the last two days of November and try to hit a goal of my own: rewrite the first chapter of the MS I’m revising. Maybe that will help me get past my envy. And more than that, maybe it will remind me that I’d rather not be jealous of all my friends next year. I’d rather be one of them and participate in my first actual NaNoWriMo.

If you participated in NaNo this month, how did you do?

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sometimes the universe says, 'No!'

It’s that time of year – thousands of would-be-wordsmiths across the globe are scribbling away, aiming to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month. Every year, I intend to take part but something, somewhere, stops it from happening. For the past three years, it’s been university work. This year, I’ve already fast-drafted four novels, so I thought I’d have a chance.

The universe said no. First, the start of NaNoWriMo coincided with the review tour for my book, Darkness Watching, so I began as a neurotic mess with a tendency to over-analyse every sentence to death. My inner self-critic was in overdrive, and I fell behind on my WIP within a day! I can always catch up later, I thought…then I planned an impromptu weekend away.

“I’ll write on the train!” I told myself. Two hours is plenty of time to get some words down, right? Unfortunately, the universe decided to intervene and make my train late, so I ended up with no seat and had to stand in the corridor for two hours. Even I’m not crazy enough to try and type on my laptop whilst standing in a moving train…

And then my boyfriend bought me a 2DS. Gaming is my biggest weakness, and try as I might, I couldn’t resist the lure of Pokemon. So I got absolutely nothing written over the weekend. I tried to catch up on the train back, but only managed to fall asleep. Then, the next day I woke up with flu. The universe strikes again! I battled the fog in my head for a week, forcing myself to get words on the page, but I felt sluggish and uninspired.

Then came the thing I’d waited for – and dreaded – for months. The Editorial Email of Doom, from my publishers, for the second Darkworld novel. I’d known it was coming at some point in November, but one look at the long list of things to change told me I’d have to put my NaNo project aside if I ever wanted to get it done. When I edit, I need to be fully immersed in the story’s world to the exclusion of everything else. So I locked myself in the editing cave for a week. I got no new words on my WIP done, but rewrote the best part of a 63,000-word novel.

By now, there was no chance I’d be able to catch up. So I willingly let myself get distracted, first by shiny new ideas, then by editing old projects, then by Pitch Wars. I had a YA fantasy that was almost ready to query (except I’d been putting it off due to my fear and hatred of query letters and synopses…). So I did the final polish and drafted the query. Once again, my poor NaNo WIP took a back seat!

And now I’m facing the last week of NaNoWriMo, and unless I get possessed by some crazy writing muse, I’m unlikely to ‘win’ this year. Strangely, I don’t mind. The main goal of NaNo is to get into the habit of writing, and for writers, every month is a writing month. The important thing for me is that I’m always working on something – be it drafting, revising or editing. Maybe next year NaNoWriMo will coincide with starting a draft!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

#NaNoWriMo isn't the enemy -- I am: Why I've never won NaNoWriMo

 I've been participating in NaNoWriMo (which up until last year, I'd been mispronouncing as nan-o-wreeemo) for five years-ish. And I've never won. Well, maybe I've technically won once. During Camp NaNo, I set the goal at 20K words. And that was totally doable by the skin of my teeth.

Here's the thing I've learned about myself all these past NaNos -- I need a plan. For me, writing 50,000 words on the fly is gut-wrenching horrendous because I have no idea where I'm going. Every word is a struggle because I feel like I'm just spinning around in circles and yet, I've made a commitment. I need to finish these 50K words because I signed up for NaNo and I'm part of a community, dammit.

The other thing I've learned all these years is that I love NaNo. I love signing up. I love meeting fellow NaNo buddies and participating in write-ins. I love the race against time and the promise of a brand new work. I love being part of the community. Writing can be such a lonely business. Being apart of NaNo makes it so much less lonely.

And yet, for me it's an incredible struggle. I've never come into NaNo with a plan, and by plan, I mean a detailed scene list because that's how I like to work. It's not NaNo's fault I've never won. It's my own. I should've spent October outlining, but November has this crazy way of sneaking up on me.

This November, I am out of the NaNo game. I'm working on edits on my debut novel and I'm writing my second book (with my scene list) at a pace that works for me. So, perhaps this is my breakup letter to NaNo. It's been a fun five years, but I've got to move on. No regrets. I've learned so much about my writer self from you. So, thank you.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

#NaNoWriMo: The Key to Success

What is the key to success for NaNoWriMo?

This is the second biggest question in the universe!! (The first is "Doctor who?" -- and okay, it's really only the biggest question in the months of October and November, and for writers, but go with me.)

Here's my answer. Ready. It's going to change your life! CHANGE YOUR LIFE I SAY. To show it the best, let's turn to this lovely picture:

There are thousands of people who write books daily -- and none of these people write the same way. Some of us are plotters and some pantsers; some analyze every single sentence before they move on and others power through a whole entire book filled with crappy words. There is no one single right way to write a novel.

And while we know this, there's something about NaNo (especially if you are like me and hate failing at a goal that you want to achieve, and even more so if a prize is involved and everyone else is doing it!) that makes us feel like less of a writer if you don't try to write 50k words. Or worse, you try and fail.

This is wrong. And that's taken me a long time to come to grips with.

Even though there is one 'rule' of Nano -- which is to write 50k in a month -- that's not an actual requirement for success. I've done NaNo four times (this is four right now) and I've only won once. Only once. But does that mean the other times I tried and didn't write 50k words I failed? No.

That's because I do NaNo my way.

I know what works for me, my life, my schedule, my strengths. I know how best to achieve the goal before me.  I often feel like the years I didn't win were more important to me as a writer than the one I won.

The first time I did NaNo I wrote a lot of words, but not 50k. I was a brand-new baby writer and this seemed like a great idea. I learned a lot about my writing process that year, and even though I failed, I gained something useful. It was a very big learning experience--and now that book lives in a closet (It's so bad!) but the things I learned from that year changed the way I did the next book, and the next year of NaNo.

The second time, the year I won NaNo, I was a rebel and started a book that I was rewriting. (Follow Me Through Darkness, actually, revision 2 or 3 of 8!) I had an extraordinary amount of time to devote to it. I had clear direction with that story. I wanted to win and I had something to prove (mostly to myself) and so I dove in with everything I had. It was really hard, but I did it. I was so proud of myself that year, not necessarily for winning a prize (though it helped) but for accomplishing what I set out to accomplish.

The third time (last year) I tried NaNo and I had just started a new job, and I was in a new place and working on the sequel to FMTD. I'd already had 20k words before NaNo, and I was going to finish it. I didn't. In fact, I wrote 30k but they were so bad. I failed NaNo. Was I sad? Yes, because I really wanted to finish that book. But later I ended up sending that 50k to my editor --and she made me through that whole sequel out because it wasn't working. It was the wrong side of the story. So in the end, I was happy that I hadn't wasted even more time trying to force a book to work just so I could win NaNo.

This year, I wasn't going to do NaNo.
Even though I wanted to.

I didn't have time. I didn't want to lose myself in it. I didn't know what happened in Salt 2 so how could I write it? I made it exactly seven hours into Nov 1 and then I signed up. Why? Because I love NaNo because I like the other people involved. It makes me feel like I'm not alone. Plus, I'm competitive, so I watch all the other charts go up up up and I want mine to go up. (It brings out an ugly side of me.)

But this year I went in with my own goals: write 25k words.

That's all I want. 25k.

Realistically, I knew I didn't have that much time to devote to getting 50k words, but I needed the words and, again, I like the charts/competition/community feel of it. So I went into NaNo wanting that.

It's day 17 when you're reading this (day 14 when I'm writing it) and I have almost 16k words. Good words. Words that I will probably get to keep! And I still have half the month to get the other 10k words. The best part is that when it's over, I'll have a portion of my book. I didn't have that 14 days ago. I didn't even have an idea 14 days ago.

I say that's success.

What's the key then? Do it your way.

Screw the rules! Use this time to reach your own goals. Write an outline. 10k words. 25k words. That revision of the book that you had to finish a month ago...whatever it is for you. Set a realistic goal and then be okay that goal. Be proud of what you accomplish because you know yourself, your life and your schedule more than those organizers of NaNo know it. Use NaNo as an excuse to write and then write! 

I really think there's something magical about doing NaNoWriMo. It's a powerful thing to think about how many people participate (a lot) and that for this 30 days every single one of us are connected, driven and working toward the same goal with the same passion. 

Being part of that community?

That's success.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Dear NaNoWriMo....

Dearest NaNoWriMo:

Oh, NaNo, you bright, shiny tease of a possibility. It pains me to write this, but alas, it must be done.

We first met back in 2011. I had been writing for hardly a year. With my shiny new agent and  shiny new idea, I was pulled in by your siren's song. And I wrote--oh, how I wrote! The crap that poured forth from my fingers, over the keyboard, and is forevermore a part of my computer's now-rusty memory was prolific. Dear, sweet NaNo. What a flurry of words!

What an ever-loving mess.

Every year since, you've tempted me. Every year I swore I would write.

And for the past two years my promises have been for naught. Last year, I had a new job--two, actually--and not even the temptation of "winning" was enough to sacrifice the luxury of sleep. This year, I promised, promised!, things would be different. I touted your brilliance near and far. I made plans. 

Oh, how I've failed! You are now one-third past, but I have written nothing new.

Do you know what I have done, gentle NaNo? Do you know what I continue to do?

Yes, that is exactly right--I continue to work on that bit of temptation that I first began two years ago with you.

It is time for the truth my lovely--but the fault does not lie in you. No, those wild nights of flailing words, those days of walking through a land of dreams instead of, say, feeding one's children--what luxury! What temptation! But it is simply not for me.

No, my dear NaNo, mine is not the path of words vomited onto paper (or screen). No, neither the call of your public declarations nor the shame-induced productivity your progress bar portends tempts me this year.

So I will continue on, as I have done for many a day now. And I will write, not words in the thousands, but words with enough weight to stick on my page.

And when you come again next year....

Oh, who am I kidding? I'm TOTALLY doing NaNo next year.

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Thursday, November 7, 2013

I think I made a mistake.

Today's post is probably going to be short and sweet. You see, I think I made a mistake. I signed up for NaNoWriMo. Yup, I did it. I signed up and... have written maybe 600 words. And it's the 7th. Already.

This was my first year signing up and I wanted to use it to mainly give myself motivation to really work on my half-way written work in progress. But, it seems life has decided to get in the way. Between work and kids, my word count has been pitiful. Add to that the fact that I'm pregnant and all I want to do is SLEEP right now, it's not looking good.

So I have no advice. In fact, I want to ask you all for some advice. How do you balance work and life with the intensity that is NaNoWriMo? When do you fit in the time? What helps you stay focused throughout the month? And, is this anyone else's first time trying it and realizing your time is being sucked away elsewhere? Are you sticking to your goals or, like me, falling behind?

Lastly, a happy NaNoWriMo to all you participating. Hopefully, I'll be able to find some time and play catch-up. Feel free to share your NaNoWriMo screen name and buddy up with some of us Tangled Girls who are participating. My screen name is Chrystal678, so feel free to buddy me and kick my butt into gear!

Is this a legit way to get my word count? :)

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Pressure is a Privilege

It's November and since I can't grow facial hair for Movember I'm left with the terrifying option to write a novel in a mere 30 days. I've made the decision not to jump off the cliff because I feel like the picture below from job overload (I have 4 paying jobs, a common twenty-something New Yorker problem):

But I do want to talk the joy of having a deadline and of having some pressure and accountability. A dance teacher once told me that pressure was a privilege and now that I'm done with college (for now) I understand her more clearly. 

As a writer, as a performing artist, as a human being--you have to set goals for yourself, else you stay stagnant. The pressure of setting a timestamp on a goal can often propel you to dig to depths you never knew were there in efforts to finish "on time". Yes, there's a certain amount of self-induced stressed that can come with that, but accomplishment just feels too good to label this as negative. 

But what about accountability? This was the beauty of being in school--I had outside forces that directly affected me and my goals if I didn't achieve the deadline. In my main day job, there's the threat of reprimand for not completing tasks. How do you get a more positive version in real life? Find yourself an accountability partner, someone to bitch to over the phone and to also remind you that you have 4 hours and 23 minutes to finish a draft of that sci-fi dream you had the other night and wanted to share with the world via short story. 

National Novel Writing Month is just that. It offers a community of professional and amateur writers the opportunity to be accountable for each other. It's a unique support system that has a wonderful result: you've created a novel.  

So while I have to abstain to keep my own stress and anxiety levels down, if you can, if you're teetering on maybe, do it. Take the leap and even if you don't finish, you'll have started something and that's beautiful. 

To get in on the action, click here, it's most certainly not too late. 
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Saturday, November 2, 2013

NaNo: The Alluring Bitch

You know what I love about having friends who completely and without-question understand the need to write?

I get to hear/see comments like this that really and truly just make sense:

"NaNo is an alluring bitch and she takes a new victim."

These writing friends are also the very first to jump in line and tell you to DO IT. WRITE THAT BOOK NOW. Even though you have absolutely no time to do so. Even though you seriously need to finish the last book you've been revising first. Even though you now live in cramped quarters and have virtually no alone time for the foreseeable future.

And you know what? I appreciate that. I appreciate the craziness that NaNo creates, because, well, I like crazy.

So here we are, one year removed from when I very nearly finished my last novel and I'm itching to do NaNo once again. Maybe I want to feel the rush of writing an otherwise nearly impossible amount of words in a single month. Maybe I just want to remember what it feels like to create a brand new story, to see those characters that have been living only in my head for months to finally have a place of their own. Maybe all I want is a break from revising a book that I'm still very much in love with, but just can't seem to finish.

Whatever  the reason, I've made my decision. I'm going to do it. Will I strive for 50,000 words? Absolutely. Will I end up writing that many? Probably not, but I'm not too worried about it yet. I think I'm just more excited that it's November 1st and I am actually going to participate in NaNo again.

Hello, my name is Cindy, and I'm allowing NaNo to, once again, make me her bitch. I'm a:

Bring on the crazy!

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