Friday, November 18, 2016

NaNoWriMo - Hitting the Top Early

My eighth year of NaNo!
I posted about how I got a late start with NaNoWriMo again this year, but that I figured I could still pull it out because I usually get a few hot writing streaks during the month.  Well, I can't believe it, but I hit 50K words on November 16.  And that is considering that I only wrote for 12 of those 16 days.  This comes out to (what for me) is a blistering 4430 average words per day, on those days I was writing.  I'm pretty astonished.  This is the fastest I've ever reached the 50K NaNo goal.

So if you are a NaNo-newbie, maybe you are wondering how I did it ... and if you can, too.  First of all, I'm sure that you can do it!  What I'm not so sure about is if what works for me will work for anybody else.  But on the off chance that it might ... here are a few thoughts on how I'm cranking away this year.

1) Writing in all the spare moments.  I usually like to write when I can sit down and really focus, but that's not always an option.  I find this year I've been doing a lot of writing in 100 to 200 word bits and pieces.  A few lines of dialog here, or a brief description of a scene there.  I keep my computer open and ready to go, and whenever I have to wait around, I write - waiting for laundry means words, waiting for an email from a colleague means words, waiting four minutes for my tea to steep means words.  It is really adding up.

Wow - 50K on day sixteen.
I wonder if this graph is just going to flatten out
now, or if I'll keep on writing at this pace.

2) Having so much fun with the book.  This year, I picked back up on a piece of writing from the past that I really enjoyed.  It needed a lot of work, but I liked the way the first part of it came out, and wanted to finish it.  This is a book I'd want to read, myself.  It has vampires, zombies, battles, true love, and, well, it's not Princess Bride but you can't have everything.  So I say, when it comes to NaNo, don't settle for an idea you feel ho-hum about.  Pick something that you are really emotionally invested in.  That emotion will carry you through the dry times, and keep you going. 

3) Defining the characters.  When I do get times to focus and just write for a while, the words have been flowing out of my fingers fast.  Part of this is because I did a pretty good job of defining the characters in the first chapters.  Now all I have to do is put them in situations and write down what they say and do.  It is a total adventure for me.  Even though I know the ending of the book already, I'm not exactly sure how the characters will get there, or even exactly who will be alive at the end.  So it's all pretty exciting.  The characters are leading it all, and taking me along for the ride.  And they talk a lot (and spend time running from zombies, and fighting with a vampire war-lord, and on and on ...) - that's a lot of words.

4) Recognizing that writing is good for me.  I've been very distracted by the world these past weeks.  For some people, the reaction is to freeze up and not be able to write anything.  For me, I noticed that I felt better after writing, even if it was a very tough writing session.  So I pushed myself to write even (especially) when the world was pressing in.  My last post was to keep on writing, and I feel it is keenly important, now more than ever, that we do indeed keep on writing.  Give it a read for some encouragement.

Image Credits:  Particpant badge from the NaNoWriMo site, and a screen grab of my own data, also from the NaNo site, on my page.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Keep On Writing!

Sharpen up those quills
and get writing!
It can be hard to write when the world is pulling you in so many directions.  Many people feel their writing just isn't important in the larger scheme of things.  Especially for people who write fiction, their writing may seem so trivial to them, so much like it has no authentic connection to the outside.  And writing can be such a solitary endeavor, anyway, it can be difficult to see how it contributes to making a better world in the long run. 

"Write like it matters and it will." - Libba Bray
"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." - Martin Luther
"If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood." - Peter Handke

I've been struggling with some of these thoughts myself.  After all, most of my writing will probably never get published, and will never garner a big audience if it does.  And really, what good is my beloved sci-fi novel in the face of all the ills of the world?  What good are my little horror poems, flung out into the cosmos like darts at a dragon?  Even that essay I wrote about grad school, the one that I thought was oh, so crafty and writerly, what has it changed? 

"Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises." - Anne Lamott
 "Don't judge it.  Just write it.  Don't judge it.  It's not for you to judge it." - Philip Roth
"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
- Cyril Connolly

Well, it's changed me, for one.  Like now, when the world seems so very chaotic, I write and I find a place of focus and determination.  When I was my most depressed, I started my sci-fi series that means so much to me.  It may never get published, but it is a lifeline for me even (especially) now.  And even in the context of genre, I find myself writing about what matters to me - the nature of relationships, sacrifice, love, abuse, war, understanding, and more.  Not trivial issues by any means, as it turns out.

"I write for the same reason I breathe." - Isaac Asimov
"I admire anyone who has the guts to write anything at all." -  EB White
"Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now." - Earnest Hemingway

I want to encourage everyone to write, in whatever way works for them.  Get out those empty journals sitting on the shelf and start filling them up with quotes or whatever moves you.  Blog about your progress on your memoir, and then go write some more of that memoir.  Jot your poems down while commuting or drinking the morning's caffeinated beverage.  Scribble song lyrics in the margins of your class notes.  Fill your lunch breaks with introspective essays.  And if you are like me, huddle up with your computer in bed and pound out that fiction novel that you are just, oh, so close to finishing.  It may change more than you think.  There is no way to know - but certainly if we write nothing, then nothing will be the change we get.

Image Credit:  Sharpening Quill Pen.  Wikimedia Commons.  CC 4.0

Friday, November 4, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 - Getting Started

Pen, Paper, and Computer
The tools of the proverbial trade.
November!  Which for me of course means NaNoWriMo.  If you don't know about NaNoWriMo - that stands for National Novel Writing Month.  Many fanciful people like myself take November and ADD 50K of writing to their normal workload, along with feeding ourselves, and doing laundry, dealing with the day job, doing whatever other writing we said we do, etc. 

And a large subset of those writers so inclined and dedicated head over to the site.  At that site they can track their progress, interact on the forum, and keep in touch with other writers in their local area.  I love the word tracking tool - nothing like giving a nice data display to a scientist.  It's also the place to find out about 'write-ins' that happen nearby, which gives you a chance to meet other local writers and have some company while pounding out some words.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy NaNo so much is that I'm a terrible perfectionist.  I'm often stymied by trying to make everything I produce just so.  It was and is NaNo that gives me permission to just write those fiction words without the constant pounding of my inner editor.  In fact, I now have lots and lots of words drafted into novels that do indeed desperately need an editor ... but that's a different challenge!

Right now it's NaNo time!  That means just put pen to proverbial paper and get writing!   

I've had a slow start, as usual.  This year I'm only two days late, but this is a month packed with other commitments, not to mention, as always, Thanksgiving.  Getting words in over the T-giving holiday is always the major challenge of the month.  Still I recall I started one NaNo nine days late, and spent the entire month playing catch up.  So I'm not too far behind, and am very optimistic about my progress thus far.  Almost 1.8K of words a day will do nicely, if I can keep up the pace.  I have a tendency to write nothing for a few days, then pound out a few 3K and 5K days in a row.  But you don't want to count on the time to do that.  Better to keep that steady pace up to ensure reaching the goal.

How about you?  Do you have a book idea that is just burning to be written?  Did you take the plunge this year for NaNo?  Might be time to give it a try!

Image Credit:  Image - Writing Tools Creative Commons CC 2.0