Real Life

When I was a kid, summer break was an amazing thing, an escape from school and a return to my real life.  After all, when you are a kid, what is more real, running around with your friends and playing baseball in the dentist’s parking lot across the street (because I am old enough to have once had free reign that way), or sitting in a classroom memorizing dates while trying to countdown until lunch?  Even though I was too embarrassed to admit it at the time, I liked school.  But I loved summer.

Now, instead of summer being my escape, it is a logistical nightmare.  There are new activities and schedules all the time, unusual eating and sleeping schedules, and mad dashes to try and squeeze in trips before school starts.  Summer is exhausting.

This last Monday, my girls returned to school, which means I should be able to return to my real life.

It’s not going well.

It’s hard to really put into words why this year has been tough, mostly because it involves analysis of my life.  The good, the bad, and the stuff I don’t want to think about.

First things first, I love Belgium.  This is a wonderful country, and for the most part I have met nothing but kind and fun locals.  It’s a great place to live.  For someone else.

I don’t talk much about my living here with my husbands job, because there isn’t much to talk about.  I don’t ask questions about his work, unless it is something he needs to talk about or if it effects the entire family and I tell others much less than I know.  It’s a security thing. Little details can mean big trouble.

This particular assignment has been hard.  Our last base was much bigger.  I was able to work, and while living there I began attending school.  I worked hard, and I have now earned three degrees.  Unfortunately there are maybe 10 jobs out here, and while most of them are in my career field (education), I have been unable to secure any of them.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why that is.  I mean, sure, there are about 50 unemployed spouses out here, but not all of them are attempting to work, and even fewer of them have Master’s degrees, or even degrees at all.  We don’t even want to discuss how many of those degrees are in a field that is even vaguely related to education.  As much as I try not to say it, it’s an open secret that out here there is a lot of politics in who gets the job.  You don’t want to make a big deal of it, because it’s not necessarily the fault of the person who gets hired, and they shouldn’t have to feel bad for getting the job.  But it’s hard.  It can make you feel bitter and angry.  And sometimes a little depressed.  Or a lot depressed.

It takes a toll on your sense of self worth to constantly hear that you are not what anyone wants.

At first I tried to tell myself this was good.  This would be my chance to throw myself in my writing.  I would finish a novel that would be amazing, get published, and fulfill my every dream.  Yeah.  I don’t think you need three guesses to figure out how that has gone.

To be fair, I haven’t attempted to send anything I wrote out in around a year.  My husband has reminded me that no one can publish my work if I don’t let them read it.  All I can think of is the fact that no one can reject my work this way either.  Let me tell you though, it’s hard to keep creative channels open when you have the idea that it doesn’t matter stuck in the back of your mind.  You just know, no one will ever read it, and even if they did, it will only be another rejection.

I’ve tried the little tricks.  Make rejection a goal, forget everyone else and write only for love, follow your muse, never let it get you down.  Whatever.

And I know, I’m suppose to end this on an upbeat note.  Blog posts like this are supposed to like an old sitcom.  Yeah, there is drama and heartbreak, but at the end of 22 minutes it’s all over and things go back to the way they were before.  But sadly, this is real life.  I cannot force myself into a better mindset simply because the post is over.  The best I can do is take a deep breath, go for a bike ride, and try again.

Advertisements

A Good Cup of Coffee

People drink coffee differently in different parts of the world.  Traveling though America, almost every shop you visit will make your drink in a cardboard cup.  Occasionally, you are lucky if the coffee in your cup came from real beans.  It’s not always consistent, but every coffee lover has their favorite shop.

Outside the states it is a little different.  Finding good coffee to go in Belgium is difficult, and not only because Starbucks are almost exclusively in airports or train stations.  This varies slightly country to country, but for the most part, coffee houses are an experience, not a simple stop.

It’s hard to determine which coffee shop style I like better.  I miss the quick stop to get a latte on my way to work, but I enjoy sitting and enjoying the atmosphere as well.  During my trip to Edinburgh last summer, I fell in love with their coffee houses.  Maybe it was knowing I was sitting in the exact same place where JK Rowling had worked on parts of the Harry Potter series, and the delusion that perhaps I was soaking up left over inspiration.  Maybe it simply the relaxation that comes with being on vacation.  Either way, I felt a fire lit beneath my creativity, pushing through the pieces of my broken heart, knowing I would likely never be able to visit again.

I wanted to return, or even better get my own local coffee house where I could occasionally work.  One month ago, that dream became a reality.  A short, five minute walk from my front door is a new neighborhood coffee shop, Brogela.

First off, I have no idea what the name means.  I assume it is a play on the name of my tiny town, but Google translate can’t help me.

Six months ago, this lovely little shop didn’t exist.  Instead, it was an open room with a variety of vending machines.  Looking inside now, you can slightly see the conversion.  Cement floors have been left, and imprints where machines used to live are on the floor.  However, they added a bakery, windows, and a variety of delicious coffees.

I can admit it, I was a little scared to go on my own the first time.  I had so many hopes for a place I could work when I needed to get out of the house.  There was a lot of pressure on this little visit.  My daughters were more than happy to accompany me to check the place out.

thumb_IMG_3162_1024

Now, I am not exactly a coffee purist, but I did choose to keep it simple with a chocolate cappuccino.  Sure, I could have gone with a plain cappuccino, but when you are in Belgium and they offer to put their amazing chocolate in or on something, you take it.

thumb_IMG_3161_1024

Big one chose a Mars Latte, delicious coffee with excessive whip cream, caramel, and miniature Mars Bars.  Somehow it still wasn’t sweet enough for her.  I try not to worry, but I think it’s warranted here.

thumb_IMG_3160_1024

Little One chose a similar option, the Snickers Latte.  It was kind of cool to see the caramel melting down into the drink in little trails.

Between the three of us, we all agreed it was a great place, one we will continue to visit.  On my own, I’m almost afraid to try to work there.  I want my coffee shop work space, but it is so different from what I already do.  Trying something new could be brilliant, or it could be a disaster.  Either way, I will only be living near this particular shop for another six months.  If I hate it, oh well, it was a failed experiment.  If I love it, it doesn’t matter, because it is temporary.  Sure, maybe I could write the best works of my life, but then I would leave and always wonder if it was me or the shop.  Maybe Dumbo flew without his feather, but we’re not all flying elephants.

In spite of the potential risks, I think I’ll have to try.  After all, big risks, big results, right?  Time to get me a good cup of coffee.

Searching…Again

My creativity seems to go through cycles, not only periods of inspiration and darker periods, but also times when I am more inspired in one way than another.  Sometimes I just go with the flow, writing when the words are there, sewing when the spirit moves me, whatever.  As long as something was created that day, I was usually all right.  Other times of course, I am not as relaxed.  I want to create using a specific medium and I want to do it now.  By now of course, I actually mean right now.

April’s session of Camp brought me about 75-85% of the way through the novel I was working on and I decided I wanted to get the other 15-25% done in May, giving me June to prepare for the July session of Camp.  Easy enough, right?  I know, famous last words.

Of course, the words have been stalled.  I’m not sure if it’s a story issue, or simply that I have been pressing too hard for too long.  The outline for the story is still there, but my inspiration seemed to disappear.

images

Even without my inspiration, I have been sitting daily, getting at least a few words in.  Realistically, 1000+ words a day isn’t even that bad.  It’s more of the feel of the writing that has changed.  Yes, I am still writing daily, but I don’t seem to be connecting as well as I feel I should be.  It’s a petty problem, but it still stalls me out.

I’ve mentioned before one of the ways I push my inspiration higher is through travel.  Overtime we go on a trip, preferably for at least 3 days, I come home feeling relaxed, renewed, and ready to write.  I think it comes from reconnecting with the world.  I am seeing new things, watching people and seeing how they live their lives.  It shapes my writing by keeping me in reality.  Yes, I am writing fiction, but it needs to feel as though it could be fact.

Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly the type of fix that is possible right now.  Instead, I decided to see what I could do to capture that feeling at home.  I started with a couple of realities.  First, I had to be able to walk to where ever I was going, and second, it had to fit into the time frame I had before Little One would be dropped off by the bus.

My town is small, mostly residential with a median age of about 60, though I think it is slowly getting younger.  We have houses, a small grocery shop, a butcher, a new coffee shop (I’ll get to that in another post!), and of course since we are in Europe, a large church.

IMG_3152

You may have noticed, when we travel, we go to churches.  A lot.  The churches out here are different from the ones I saw growing up.  These are not modern buildings with benches, pulpits, sound systems, and jacuzzis they claim are only for baptisms.  These old churches are works of art, works of art that usually hide even more works of art.  It’s beautiful.

I’ve never been inside this church, inspire of living in its shadow for two and a half years.  (And I do mean in its shadow, I can see it from my backyard.)  I took a visit today, but I still haven’t been inside.  Firstly, because I am still deeply uncomfortable visiting churches without dressing up.  I may have moved away from the religion I grew up with, but it seems disrespectful to enter a church wearing jeans and meditation beads.  Maybe a rosary would have helped, but oh well.

The real reason I visited the church today was the cemetery.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know there was a cemetery at the foot of the church until a few days ago.  I had past the church at least a hundred times, but never really paid attention to what I was seeing, and then poof.  It was there.

IMG_3153

The cemetery was small, with tombstones dating from the early 1930s to  the late 1960s.  My Flemish isn’t great, but it seemed to be a combination of priests who had served in the church with a few parishioners.  Some of the stones were old and worn, making it hard to even read the words.  Others  were shiny and new, as though they had only been put in yesterday.  There were plots with planters, where flowers could be growing, and others covered in marble.  Some of the graves seemed as though they had been forgotten, and others had clearly been visited recently, with gifts of flowers, wreaths, and even a candle (not lit anymore).  There was so much to see in such a small place.

I know, some people out there are instantly asking, why did I go there?  I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t leaving flowers, or cleaning.  Simply put, I went to visit those who were gone.  Each of these people had a story.

The priest in the back, who died in his seventies, and was born in the later years of the 1880s.  His plot was large, covered in white marble with a simple black cross above his name.  As a priest, he obviously did’t have a wife or children, but someone felt it was important to bury him with well.  Even all of these years later, the tombstone is clean and well cared for.  It seemed obvious that he was well loved in his time to get such a tribute.

There was the couple buried under the large tree.  The husband was almost fifteen years older than his wife, but she died within two weeks of his passing.  People talk about dying from a broken heart; maybe she just couldn’t stand the idea of continuing on without him.

In a tiny corner, a plain cross marked the grave where a four year old was laid to rest.  The plot next to him was empty, perhaps still waiting for his parents to join him.

It is said that no one who is remembered is ever really dead.  I don’t know these people, but how they were laid to rest tells me a part of their story.  It’s stories of love, and heartbreak.  Most of our everyday lives are filled with routine, the boring things that must be done for us to continue on.  When we die, everything we ever were becomes clear because that is how we are remembered.

If this isn’t inspiring, I’m not sure what is.

Editing

I worked throughout April on a new manuscript as a part of Camp NaNoWriMo.  This is no secret, and was actually a part of my temporary radio silence.  At the end of the month, I had met my word goal by writing 40,111 words, but had not actually finished the story.  I suppose I should have aimed for a higher word count, but based on the last couple I had written, my young adult first drafts tend to hit slightly on the lower side.

While I am still completing this novel, I am also beginning to think about the next step.  No, not publication and inevitable success.  (Okay, maybe occasionally.  I am an unapologetic dreamer after all.)  No, as I finish my mind begins to turn to the dreaded task of editing.

There are different views to editing, and honestly different needs based on the writer.  Many successful writers have made statements indicating that editing was a key part of their success.  True or not, Ernest Hemingway is credited with stating, “The first draft of anything is shit.”  Of course there are others who only edit for spelling errors, and are completely happy with their end results.  So who is right?  I don’t know, and I don’t really care.

For me, I hate editing.  It requires me to be objective about my own writing and my own story.  I begin to second guess everything and suddenly I not only believe Hemingway, but I realize that no matter how much you polish, a turd is still a turd.  I take everything about my own writing personally because it is technically personal.  This is something that came from inside me.  Even if it’s not actually my biography there are parts of me in every character and every choice.

It’s much easier to be objective and honest when I am working with someone else’s work.  I’ve done beta reading before, reading the draft of a story and giving honest feedback.  I feel like I can give constructive criticism without making it unnecessarily cruel.  It’s not about what I like or don’t like, it’s about what makes sense.  Occasionally, I even do it without thinking.

I recently finished a novel, a new adult story that at first seemed like a straight forward girl goes away to college and falls into the middle of a love triangle.  Instead it felt to me to be several books in one.  As I read I could not help but cut through the chapters mumbling to myself about what was unnecessary and what was distracting or weird.  To me, this book needed some severe editing and should not have gone to print without it.  But then, as far as I could find, the writer is at least reasonably successful so my opinion may be the unpopular one on this book.

I hate editing because at the end of the day it is going to arbitrary.  There are many books I have read and wondered how the hell they got to print through a major publishing house without someone saying something about editing the story in some way.   If I had been the agent, or publishing house rep, I would have sent it back and said redo it and we’ll try again.  But no one did, and the world (or part of it) thanks them for sending it through as is.  I can look at someone else’s work and whine about how they should have done things, and doubt all of my own work, but at the end of the day I am only one reader.  My opinion is not the one that makes decisions, and clearly I shouldn’t be the one to make those decisions.  I might have saved the world from some poorly written books, but I also would have saved myself and everyone else from a large quantity of money.

So what does this mean for my own editing?  Hell if I know.  I guess it means I will be one of those writers who needs someone else to help me sort through my own mess.

Silence

Today is April 1st.  In many places this is known as April Fools Day, but not in my house.  I have an absolute hatred of pranks as 99% of them are mean spirited at best and absolutely cruel at worst (if not criminal) and designed to have amusement with someone else’s pain.  Even the things that are considered harmless involve laughing at someone and then forcing them to clean up the mess of what you did.  Luckily for me, my husband was born on April 1st.  He spent years hearing the ever so witty joke, ‘Oh, so you ARE the April Fool,’ and agrees with me that this day sucks (except as his birthday.)

This year, in addition to celebrating his birthday, I am celebrating another day.  April 1st marks the first day of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo.  (Don’t forget to sign up!)  November was exhausting for me, but it was also effective, which naturally means I can’t wait to start again.  I have my story picked out, my outline done, my opening line. In fact, as soon as I am done writing this, I’m onto my next novel!

I thought that I should take a moment this morning and explain why I might not be writing as much this month.  You know, since I am pushing hard to write elsewhere.  Then I realized, I haven’t been writing much anyway, so you might not even notice.

When I first started this blog, I wrote much more frequently.  I actually had a schedule for myself, telling myself when I was going to write about what, and I often pre-wrote and scheduled my posts.  What it really came down to was an excess of ideas.  There were so many things I wanted to say, I felt like I needed to say them all, right away.  Sometimes I would have a random thought and start writing with it, other times it was a weird observation.  None of the things I wrote about at the beginning seemed like they were a big deal until I started writing.

I think with my fingers.  It’s something I’ve noticed about myself.  Something might be just a thought for a long time, and then when I sit in front of my keyboard and start writing a lot more can come out of it.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but either way, I don’t know until my fingers do their little dance.  Many of these random thoughts I had felt like they were something that might just be funny, and then I would start typing and everything would change.

Go ahead.  Go back to a year or so ago and read some of my earlier posts.  Somehow, no matter what I started with, typing it out seemed to give me some bigger or deeper meaning into who I am.  It wasn’t what I set out to do, but there it is.  Good for me, right?  Sigh.

It’s not like I don’t like learning more about myself, or realizing why I do the things I do.  It’s nice to occasionally realize that I was not just insane, some of these thoughts made sense, in some world, somewhere.  But the constant making something small into something huge felt incredibly pretentious.  I mean really, who wants to spend all of their time listening to someone drone on narcissistically about how the way they eat breakfast in the morning actually points to the greater issue of how to feed the world?  (Don’t bother looking, that isn’t one of the early posts.)  I didn’t want to be that person even more than I didn’t want to read about that person.

So, I started writing less.  If I wrote less, and concentrated, fewer of my posts would end on a pretentious note.  I started trying not to ‘wrap up’ my posts, leaving out anything that could be misconstrued as a larger purpose or thought.  Basically, I was writing worse, and feeling like less of myself was really here.

This was where I started to hit my biggest fear.  Was I writing pretentious posts because I am in fact a pretentious person?  First of all, to be pretentious is to, in essence, pretend.  A person who is pretentious is one who pretends to have knowledge or status when they really do not.  You pretend that everything you have is greater and better than it really is.  At least this is the technical definition.  Generally speaking, a person is considered pretentious when those around them feel like less, rather then when a person acts like they are more.  So, yes, sometimes my posts were pretentious, not because I was faking finding insight into who I am, but because I was attributing this knowledge of myself to the tiny moments which were not really that significant.

I stopped writing as many posts that could accidentally lead me to something bigger because I didn’t want to be that person.  Then I realized, that maybe I am that person.  Maybe I am just someone who will find deeper meaning in little things.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

So, yeah.  Writing for this blog has changed the way I write.  I don’t want to be the person who is the person who I am, but the more I get to know the person who I am the more I see the person I don’t think I am.  Is this a midlife crisis, or a middle school flashback now?  Either way, it is very confusing.

Now is when I would normally try to give this post a neat wrap up, almost like what you would find in a  sitcom.  Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed at the same time.  I give insight into why things are how they are for me, and realize that maybe I am smarter than I often give myself credit for being.  Then, I read through and realize I kind of like what I realized, but worry about how the post sounds.  Do I sound like a real person, the person who wrote this post while drinking their morning coffee wondering if they can skip washing their hair that day, or do I sound like a person who wears real clothing on a regular basis and leaves the house daily?  If someone who only knew me from this blog met me, would they think I was the person who wrote it, or would they be instantly disappointed?

And see, I am doing it again.  Maybe it isn’t the deeper insights I should worry about, but the fact that I care so much about what people think.  Ugh.

So, yes.  I am going to Camp, and yes I will post occasionally throughout.  Maybe it will have deeper meaning into my life, and maybe I will write a poem describing the way my toe nail clipping fly, because honestly, both posts would be very me.  But today, I have other things to worry about.

WRONG!

I have problem, one to which many of you out there might be able to relate. Let me give you a situation here.

You are happy in your life, experiencing a story.  It could be a book, a movie, or a television show.  It doesn’t really matter the medium.  The point, is the creation.  This is a story that was intentionally created, and you are now for better or worse invested in the outcome.  It happens.

Then, your world crashes down as you reach a part that is, simply put, wrong.  Somehow, the writer (or writers) planted the clues, created a structure, and did not see where everything was supposed to end up.  I don’t know how they missed it, when everyone else in the world sees what SHOULD have happened.  All right, maybe I’m the only one who sees what ‘should’ have happened.  The point is, they got it wrong.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?

Technically speaking, I know I should not say the writer got it wrong.  It is their story, but when the story is told well you feel like you are a part everything.  You become emotionally connected to every fictional character, and you know what you want to happen.  You know what should happen.  When the writer doesn’t agree it is hard not to feel betrayed.

This is more than a problem for readers (or watchers), this is a problem for writers.  Sometimes you know the outcome you envision will upset people.  Is it all right to keep going, knowing it will break hearts?

The problem seems to come in when the writer is telling a different story than the reader is hearing.

Sometimes I, as the writer, know exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling, but am unable to put all of it into words.  After all, much of human behavior is subtext.  For example, I don’t walk up to those I am close to on a daily basis and tell them, ‘I find you enjoyable to be around, and consider you a friend.  You rank #4 on my list of favorite humans in this moment.”  Honestly, I think most people I know would be frightened if I told them my feelings regarding them on a regular basis.  Instead, friendship is implied through action, and yes, occasionally words as well.  A person knows they are my friend because I make time for them in my life.  I ask them for help when I need it and am happy to return the favor.  For me, if you read a manuscript between myself and the people I consider to be the most important in my life, you might not think we liked each other at all, but insults and sarcasm are our way of showing affection.  So, when I write, I am not going to have my characters state their feeling outright at all times, but I know how they feel.

As a reader, I am able to see this subtext as I read.  Everything the author puts into the story, every word they give to their characters, every action right down to the smallest gesture, I see it all.  Not only do I see it all, but I am able to play it again and again, reading things as often as I want and seeing new things each time.  Every time I read, there are new words to find, new layers of subtext.  Because I spend so much time reading, I start to feel like I know more about the characters than the writers do.  It’s like the friends you have in high school.  Their parents gave them life, and sent them out into the world, but you, their close friend know things about them their parents never will.  I mean really, how many of us told things to our best friends that we would never tell our parents?

So, who is right?  The writer or the reader?  Do I, as the creator have the right to take the story in whatever direction I choose or does the reader have a right to expect a level of satisfaction from their story when they reach the ending?  Who can claim a greater ownership of the story?

I suppose at the end of the day it doesn’t matter.  When I write a story, I consider it mine and when I read a story, I consider it mine too.  Whatever others think of the story belongs to them, and that is their business.  When people get things wrong, I have a right to be angry, and I guess that means you have a right to be angry with me when the time comes.

(Quick disclaimer, I am not talking about the recent finale for Pretty Little Liars that I saw upset people.  I have not seen it, and I would really appreciate if no one told me!)

Camping Out

I hate camping.  I didn’t always, but over the years I have come to truly loath the entire process.

The beginning of the end must have come when I was six years old.  My father was long gone, and my Mom was moving up North where living was less expensive and she could go to school.  Finding a place to live was rough, and for a few months we called the campground by the lake home.  At the time, I thought it was a lot of fun.  We went swimming every night, cooked on a fire, and watched the stars.  It wasn’t until I was 30 years old that the facts fell into place and I realized why we lived there.

Since the reality of camping hadn’t sunk in quite yet, and after years of watching my older brothers go off to boy scout camp for half of the summer, I was thrilled to finally be allowed to go to on a camping trip myself.  Girls camp through my mother’s church was only one week a year, starting when you turn 12, but it was the only option I had so I embraced it.  We swam, learned to tie knots, practiced first aide, read scriptures, and sang stupid camp songs.  For five years I went for my one week, adding in extra time my fourth year to go on a three day hike with the other girls my age.

I suppose it is possible that this is what drew me away from camping; as I left church behind me, perhaps everything church related when with it, including camping.  Fortunately for me, I married a man who also hated camping, and no one has asked me to sleep in a tent since.  Now, I am getting ready to go to camp again.

I’ve been a little quiet about my writing lately.  After NaNoWriMo, I had a bit of a writing hangover.  I had consumed too much writing in a short time period and I was burnt.  Naturally I haven’t given up writing, I just slowed down. A lot.

I needed to recover.  I spent the time editing, and writing new outlines, but not trying to write a new story.    Now, it is time to start again.  April 1st begins the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo, another chance to push my ability to write.  This isn’t only about putting words on paper for me, it is about making a commitment.  I want to tell my stories, and the only way that will happen is if I commit to myself, commit to my dream, and take action.

This is the first time since I was 12 years old that I am excited to go to camp.  I don’t need to sleep outside, or dig a hole to go to the bathroom, but I can tell stories while I look at the stars.  Not a bad way to live.

After NaNoWriMo

Just over a week after NaNoWriMo ended, and I am sure there are many people who wish I would stop talking about it.  However, as my final checkin for the year, I have to acknowledge the aftermath.

Writing heavily for one month was great.  It helped me to see what I was capable of, and let me really push myself.  Now however, I cannot seem to write anything.  I tried to keep the momentum going, but it is not really moving yet.  After all of the work I put in, getting started all over again is not easy to do.

Perhaps I am stuck on the opening.  There is so much pressure put on the opening of a novel.  The opening line needs to be perfect, and if the first ten pages are not perfect, you will never hook the reader. At least that is what agents say.  Trying to sell your book, they only want a few paragraphs, so your opening has to be perfect.

Can you see where the pressure comes from?

Moving on, and moving past NaNoWriMo, is difficult.  When I had to get a lot of writing in a short time period, I didn’t have time to stress out.  Now, with a different time period, I can’t stop stressing.  More than that, during NaNoWriMo, I knew millions of other writers around the world were in exactly the same position.  Technically I know that there are many other people out there writing with me, but it is not the same.  I can’t seem to connect to them in the same way I did before.  Instead of being part of a larger team of writers, I am individual writer.  Writing is normally such a solitary activity, I didn’t realize how much  having the support and camaraderie of other writers made a difference.

This doesn’t mean I am out of the writing business, it just means I am needing to reevaluate my writing habits.

Okay.  NaNoWriMo is officially done here for this year.

NaNoWriMo Conclusions

Well, December 1st brings the official end to my first year of NaNoWriMo.  I wrote, I learned, I grew.  I was an experience.  As a newbie, I feel the need to sum it up before I move on.

First off, I’m probably counted among the many people who do not finish in the official records because I only completed 40, 774 words instead of the official 50,000 word goal.  I consider myself to have completed my novel inspire of the shortness because, I finished the story.  In the last few days I was trying to flush out the story a little, adding scenes I realized were missing and fixing problems I noticed during the first write.  I did not finish the first edit before the end of November, so I know the novel will get a little longer, but I’m not sure it will ever hit 50,000 words.  It will make it a little short for a young adult novel, but not excessively so.

I learned a lot about my own writing style as well.  In the past I have struggled with too much exposition.  In my attempt to un-exposition my writing, I created something that was very dialogue heavy.  I’m not sure if it is too dialogue heavy yet, I guess we’ll see how it reads.  I definitely have more to do to work on the balance of my writing.

Even more important than learning about my writing, I learned about my ability to write.  I have never written 40,000 words in a month before.  I have never written 3,000 words in a day.  I have never written a book in a month.  Until now.  I’m still not as focused as I would like to be when I write.  Beyond my wandering mind (which is currently wondering if a tea cozy serves an actual purpose or if it is just decorative), I have a weird tendency to get up and walk around in the middle of writing.  I make tea, I check the laundry, I take the dog outside, I make a snack, I check the fire; I am up and down every ten to fifteen minutes.  In spite of my concentration flaws, I can still be productive.  That is kind of amazing to me.

All in all, I am very happy I took part in NaNoWriMo, and I plan to do it again next year.  For now, I am preparing to start my next novel, trying to push out one more short one this year.

NaNoWriMo Week 3!

Wow.  I am honestly a little surprised I have made it this far.  I know a lot of this is thanks to blogging it.  If not for the fact that I am sharing my experience with you, I might have given up by now.  I know there is a very good chance I will not hit 50,000 words in the next week, but because I have pushed through, I will finish my story.

So, onto my progress over the last little while.

This last week/8 day period has been most likely the weirdest of the month.  I have had sick kids, random inspectors, a power outage, late homework, Christmas shopping (I know it it early, but it has to be when you mail stuff out), and of course trying to be healthy and not go insane.

I have had the two worst days of  the month, with 338 words on the 14th, and 330 words on the 16th.  I have also had the two best days, with 3105 words on the 18th, and 3475 just last night on the 22nd.  Overall, I think it balanced out to my average word count of around 1500-1700 words per day.  It has taught me something important.  Some days, you have to know it is better to step away from the keyboard and know that it will be all right.  The writing wasn’t great on those days, I was exhausted, it just wasn’t good.  Sure, sitting there anyway I did get something, but I also ended up feeling horrible because I didn’t get as much as I wanted to.

Oddly enough, I found my two really good days fascinating as well.  Writing 3000+ words for me is pretty much unheard of, and ended up being most of my day.  It’s not like I can’t write a lot at one time normally; I can sit down and write a few blog posts at once, or do a homework assignment, and crank out 5000 words in a couple of hours.  But when I sit to write fiction, the words are much slower.  I know how everything is supposed to go, but I don’t write it out quickly. I get distracted and wander around the house.  I second guess almost every word.  Basically, I am pitifully slow.

During this entire month, particularly as I started out a little behind, I have been pushing to hit 2000 words a day.  It felt like if I could hit that, I would make it on time.  (Officially I need 2227 everyday now to make it one time).  So I pushed, trying to get as many words as possible each day.  Most days, I crapped out around 1500-1800 words.  A few times I made it to 1900 words. Every time I would stop.  It would be late at night, I would be falling asleep, I just wouldn’t have anymore words in me.  That would be it, I would be done.

However, the two days when I did hit 2000 words, I went beyond.  I didn’t just hit my mark, I surpassed it by a lot.  I can’t tell if I should feel like I am doing well when this happens.  Yes, I am getting plenty of words, and doing better than I thought I could, but I am not hitting the goal I aimed for.  Does hitting the goal matter when you are able to go much further?

I guess the answer is probably no, it doesn’t matter.  I did what I set out to do, and hit my word count.  Now, I need to stop talking, so I can go and do it again.

Happy writing!  Let’s finish NaNoWriMo!