Posts

The Write Life: October 2019

October is NaNo-prep for many people. The last few years I’ve been working on the same novel, so prep usually consisted of me spending the month re-reading what I’d already written, taking notes on what was missing, and tweaking the outline. But this year that novel gets a break and I’m using NaNoWriMo for a major rebellion.

The main project I’m working on is drafting three to four sample chapters of a nonfiction book on writing communities. The outline was mostly complete before October, but I spent a little time cleaning up and refining the outline and confirming exactly which chapters I wanted to write during November. (I’m actually really excited about five chapters, so I might draft all five just to get them out of my head.)

A handful of chapters won’t get me to the NaNoWriMo 50K (also I’m in a challenge to write at least 100 words of SFF every day this year), so I needed to figure out what else I could write during the month to hit that final word count.

I’ve been playing with short stories on and off this year, and decided at least one thing I could do was put ends to some of the beginnings I have. I went through my collection of WIPs and picked which ones I wanted to work on during the month. I jotted some thoughts about where these stories were going and how many words it would take to get me there. In the end, I picked seven short stories, which should net me around 20,000 words.

(I also picked a handful of prompts from The Short Story Starter so if I feel inspired to start something new, I have a place to start from.)

Lastly, I have a blog project I’ve been wanting to draft in one fell swoop, which should be somewhere around 10,000 words. If I’m short on the 50K word count, or if I stall out on one of these projects, I’ll start writing character sketches and scenes to help me understand the world and characters of the next novel I’m planning to write. Will this material make it to a novel? No way! Except in the iceberg sense of novel writing, wherein I know 90% more than what I’m showing the reader, but it’s work I need to do in order to understand the characters and how they interact in their world. (Also it’s words for NaNoWriMo!)

So that’s my NaNo Plan-o. A little more complicated than in previous years, but extremely flexible in terms of what I’ll be working on day to day and how I’m actually breaking down my 50K words.

Are you writing for NaNoWriMo? What are you writing?

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

The Write Life: April 2019

Ever wonder what it takes to be an every day writer? It’s this: planning, determination, and prioritizing writing.

My friends and I decided it was high time we visit the Magic Kingdom for an epic 12-hour theme park day. I write every day and while I want to prioritize having fun with my friends and enjoying the happiest place on Earth, I don’t want to do that at the expense of my 1,200-day writing streak.

I came to Disney prepared to make sure I got my words in while having a rollicking good time. That meant: fully charging my battery, fully charging my back up battery, shifting an in-progress story to GoogleDocs and making it available offline, and brainstorming what happens in the scene I was planning to write.

Finding the time to write while we were in the park was a balance between knowing we’d have long wait times for ride queues and not being rude to my friends. I waited until the conversation lulled, or when everyone else seemed equally distracted (or exhausted) before pulling out my phone to write. Because I had thought about the scene beforehand, it was easier to turn a handful of disjointed minutes into productive writing time. In the end I wrote 387 words while at Disney, which is not a staggering amount—I didn’t even finish writing the scene—but my writing streak is in tact and I like some of the ideas that presented themselves in that land of distraction. (Also I will always think it’s funny to write on theme park rides.)

Many thanks to Lara Eckener for being my in-line and on-ride photographer.

 

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.

,

Why NaNoWriMo Works for Me (And Might Not for You)

The day after NaNoWriMo 2017 I saw a conversation from someone saying they haven’t been able to win since the November they were unemployed. I also saw confessions from people who gave up or from people who never started. Being a Municipal Liaison, it’s easy to forget that NaNoWriMo isn’t for everyone, that—in fact—writing 50,000 words in a month with everyone watching might be unhealthy for some people.

So before you sign up for NaNoWriMo 2018, consider these ways in which NaNoWriMo works for me, but may not work for you.

I’m a Plantser

Plantsing is the combination of planning and “pantsing” (writing by the seat of your pants). While I normally write with a planned structure and outline, I’m flexible enough in my plans to let inspiration take me off course.

This combo can save me if I get stuck in my outline or am having difficulty with a character or a scene. Because I have a plan, I can skip ahead and write a later scene that isn’t giving me trouble. Conversely, because I’m flexible, I can get “distracted” by an interesting minor character, or wind up inventing a new subplot because of something I discovered about the characters. Since I have flexibility, I don’t feel restrained by my outline, and since I have a plan, I’m not a slave to the muse. I can write forward by either following my plan or by following my inspiration. The ability to shift back and forth between those writing methodologies helps keep me writing throughout the month.

I Hate Writing First Drafts

I really hate writing first drafts. There’s a reason I’m an editor, and it’s because I like improving content that’s already written. Revising makes sense to me because it’s like untangling a ball of yarn. But writing a first draft is making the knot, and I’ve always liked creating order rather than chaos.

NaNoWriMo forces me to write the first draft as quickly as possible, and it forces me to keep working on the draft. While I could potentially spend November rewriting the same scene multiple times until it’s perfect, it’s difficult to hit 1,667 words a day if you’re only tweaking text. NaNoWriMo is full steam ahead on the first draft, which is a gift for me because otherwise I will relentlessly avoid writing a first draft. (Case in point: I’ve been working on the same first draft the past three NaNos because, without a deadline, I struggle with forcing myself to write it at other times of the year.)

I Can Write 1K in 30 Minutes

When I’m on my game, I can write 1,000 words in about thirty minutes. It’s a valuable skill for NaNoWriMo, to be sure. It means I can hit the pace-goal of 1,667 words in less than an hour. Since I don’t write at that pace year-round, I have to work to get myself back into that kind of writing shape (I typically start November around 700 words in thirty minutes), but once I’m into the stride of things, it’s something I can rely on to make NaNo easier. Spending less time physically writing means I’m more likely to fit writing 1,667 words into my day every day.

Healthy Competition Keeps Me Motivated

A little healthy competition keeps me writing. Most days I’m just competing with myself and the pace bar in the word count graph, but sometimes my co-ML and I pit our word counts against each other. Nothing got me writing more than when Brad was going to beat me! We kept all our battles lighthearted, which is the key to competition being a positive motivator.

I’ve had plenty of NaNos in which I knew I wouldn’t meet the 50K, so I used the month to write as much as I could without adding on the pressure of “winning,” But every time I’ve set out to win NaNoWriMo, I’m one of those writers who will kill myself to win. I find deadlines invigorating. They’re stressful and tiring, too, but pushing myself electrifies me and helps me actually finish. I thrive on that, and it’s a big reason why NaNoWriMo works for me.

 

Those are some aspects of my writing life that make NaNoWriMo a good match for me, but since all writers are different, it’s easy to see that the 30-day deadline or the suggested pace count or the feeling of falling behind could easily stress out or intimidate another writer. It’s sometimes hard to say no to NaNo, especially if it seems like all your friends are signing up, but if you know the challenge doesn’t work for you, keep this in mind: writing is hard enough without the added stress. Keep writing and keep working on a process that works for you.

No, Thank You, I Do Not Need Another Journal

Journals are pretty much the bane of my existence. There are so many beautiful ones out there. Ones with leather bindings, magnetic closures, fancy mechanical closures, embossing, foil embellishment, pages to track your reading, questions to help you write—THERE ARE SO MANY. But no matter how enticing they are, no matter how much I want to run my hands over their beautiful bindings and ingenious closures I have to stop myself because I don’t write in journals.

I have a desk drawer that is full of empty journals. Some of them I purchased, but the majority of them were given to me over the years by well meaning people who decided that the present you should buy a writer is a journal. I get where these people are coming from—after all, I have purchased an amazing number of journals on my own—but not all writers use journals and I am definitely a writer who doesn’t use journals. I like working on outlines by hand, and I love the idea of story bibles, but I can’t translate either of those things into writing in journals.

To me, a journal with a cover sets the theme of the content inside. That means a journal with say, Anakin Skywalker on the cover, should be used for Star Wars fanfiction, or at least something fandom-y, or Star Wars-y. A journal with frogs on the cover might be more generic, but I’m not going to use it to plan a sci-fi time travel story or start drafting my next steampunk adventure. So, if a journal I own doesn’t match a project I want to write, I feel like it’s the “wrong” journal to use. Thus, it sits in the drawer, waiting for the right project.

So when the right project comes along, I immediately go for that journal, right? Wrong. What if I “mess up” the journal? What if when you open that beautiful journal with the leather bindings and the mechanical clasp all you find inside is scratched out names and wrong details about characters or outlines of a book I abandoned? What if I wait until I’ve done the dirty work and start transcribing it into a journal to make a story bible, but change my mind while I’m writing? How will I live with myself knowing I ruined that book!? Thus, it still sits in a drawer, waiting for me to finish the novel and then write the story bible after the fact. (I’ve never done this, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would satisfy my perfectionist fears.)

It’s easier for me to admit that I don’t write in journals. I’ve tried a few times to force myself past my neuroses—and I do actually keep a bullet journal that is far messier than I would like—but using journals for fiction isn’t something I’ve been able to do. I finally started giving away my collection of empty journals, and I’ve repurposed a few, using one to keep track of editorial work and another to jot questions for phone interviews, but ultimately I don’t write in journals. So please, when you’re thinking about giving your writer a gift, ask yourself if a journal is really the right thing.