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.

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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.

A Momentous Occasion

I reached a milestone the other day; I finished my NaNoWriMo novel.

Well.  Sort of. I completed the story arc I had outlined, and written all of the scenes I had planned, but I am still sitting at just over 35000 words.  Yes, I still have 15000 to write in order to ‘officially’ complete NaNoWriMo.

I am not at a complete loss as to what to do.  As I wrote I would occasionally make notes as to what I would need to add in later.  You know the type of things; change this fact, more build up on this relationship, more interaction among characters on this point.  It is not specific details, but is reminders on what I noticed as I wrote, which would help me in fixing things later.  I’m not entirely certain that it is 15000 words worth of add ins, but it is a start.

The biggest thing I have noticed in my writing this novel is my current focus on dialogue.  In the past, I have often been told I spend too much time on exposition.  I would tell details quickly, or include unnecessary details which would bog down the story.  In my attempt to avoid this pitfall, I tried to take out most of that, or present it in other ways.  Other ways read, mostly dialogue.  Seriously.  I have pages of dialogue at a time with little in the way of a break.

I am currently looking at four days of adding in and fixing this imbalance.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what should make a balanced novel in this respect.  I mean, let’s be realistic.  Good books are in the eye of the beholder.  Everyone likes something a little different.  There are bestsellers that I cannot stand, and little known books I am deeply in love with.

On top of the personal taste issue, is the emotional connection.  What makes this book resonate with the reader at this moment in time?  Timing is important.  I have read books which I considered only ‘eh’ at best, and then, months or years later had a strong pull to read the book again, only to fall in love deeply.  There are books from my childhood that will always be special to me, simply because they were there when I needed them.  Poor writing can be forgiven when the reader is really reading something they need at that moment.

That connection is not something you can count on when writing, and can occasionally work against you.  I mean, if the agent/editor/publisher/reader is just not in the mood at the time, then it will not be your day, no matter how good the story is.

It is a tricky business, trying to figure out when to break up the dialogue without losing the rhythm of the conversation.  In order to figure out if I had too much dialogue (I was really sure I did) I turned to my trusty friend the internet.

The first article I found, I actually liked quite a bit.  Ask the Writer gave the honest answer I already knew.  Maybe you do have too much, and maybe you don’t, it really depends on the novel.  Looking at your dialogue, you need to determine if it is important for story and character development, or if it is boring filler words.  It also recommends the reminder of what people would never say in normal conversation.  It might be easy for someone to drive by a house and say ‘My Mom died there,’ but it doesn’t mean it was natural.

The Creative Pen gave me recommendations that were more about keeping dialogue natural and productive.  They also pointed out that many readers like books that may have plenty of dialogue.  The white space it presents not he page can look less overwhelming to readers, even if they are not aware of that part of their screening process.

Of course Writer’s Digest is always a good resource, however in this instance not particularly helpful.  They recommend intuition as a guide; if it seems right to leave it as mostly dialogue, leave it there, and if it doesn’t add more narrative.  Hmmm.  If I intuitively knew, I wouldn’t be asking for advice, but I appreciate the affirmation that I can figure it out.

I finally found some clear numbers however!  When discussing dialogue as one of the seven deadly sins of writing, they estimate 40-50% of a novel being dialogue, with a potentially higher percentage for novels for younger readers. Finally, something I could quantify, and count.  Thank you!  Of course they were not really saying if this was a correct percentage you should have, they were discussing how to make your dialogue stronger.  I’m not sure if that means I am doing things right or wrong still.  Hmmm.

Okay, I have to be honest. I think the internet failed me on this one.  Or it told me what I already knew.  All books are different, and there isn’t an absolute formula for writing correctly.  There is no right or wrong, there is just something that works or doesn’t work.  Sigh.

I guess I am on my own with this one.  Wish me luck, only 4 more days!

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!

NaNoWriMo!! Week One

So, I don’t want to overpower everyone with my NaNoWriMo tales, but I am excited, so I have to talk about it, at least a little.

First, no I am not going to share my NaNoWriMo story here, at least not now.  Maybe when it is done, but I don’t usually let anyone read a work in progress.

Second, I am torn as to whether or not I am currently successfully completing my word counts.  The official goal, according to the NaNoWriMo website, is 50,000 words.  As of last night, the end of day seven, I had hit 10,026 words; according to their finish on time chart I should have written 11,666 words.  I have hit my word goal three days in the past week, with the worst day being day one, and the best day being yesterday.  It feels like a very brutal pace, but this may be because I am coming off of a slump and pushing to get a lot done.  I have heard that writing is a marathon, not a sprint, but this is definitely a world class runner speed marathon, not my slow, mostly walking pace.

No matter the pain, I am making progress.  I am currently on Chapter 9, though I am technically working on chapter 8, as I accidentally began a scene early and went back to write the previous one.  I have a few notes for revisions to make already, and I have added a few things in the spur of the moment that just felt right and I think I like them.

Third, I feel like the writing might be taking over my life.  Many things are being neglected, from cleaning to running as I push to get enough words in.  I am still a little bit of a space cadet when I sit to write, and I am having trouble focusing.  I think if I can get that under control, and be able to sit and write when it is time to write, I will get my life back.

Finally, and most importantly I think I am learning a little about my writing. I wanted to do this to prove I can, and I am getting it done.  But I am learning too.  For example, I didn’t know how much I shape my characters as I go.  I knew what was going to happen, and who was going to interact with who, but as I have worked, the characters have begun to represent something to me.  They are finding ways to speak about something more than just the silly plot I had worked out.

I am also realizing I rely too much on dialogue to get my point across.  I am writing from a first person perspective, and am trying not to have the entire view of the other characters come from this one persons thoughts, as well as trying to avoid spending too much time describing the mundane actions one does while speaking. Cutting a lot of this out, and letting the interactions speak for themselves seems to leave, well, a lot of speaking.  I can’t decide if it is a normal amount of dialogue for a YA book or not. This may be another point for revision later.

Oh well.  I have word counts to catch, and a weekend to live.  If I want to avoid spending the entire day on my butt in front of the computer, again, I should get a wiggle on.

Happy Writing NaNoWriMo-ers!

Make Something

I’ve spent a few weeks in a writing funk.  This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I sincerely doubt it will be the last.  It is an unfortunate fact, but there it is.  Sometimes my writing ability can be interrupted by life.  I’m still getting my story ideas, but I am losing my inspiration to write them.

It started a few weeks ago, when I was working on getting some critique on the beginning of a story.  I went in knowing my own story weaknesses, but feeling like what I was submitting was all right.  I left realizing that everyone else saw the same weaknesses I had. 

Suddenly I was hit with an absolute knowledge that everything I wrote was crap.  Seeing my own problems was fine; I could pretend I was just being paranoid, or maybe giving myself a little tough love.  When someone else sees the same problems it means they are actually problems and I should fix them.

Trying to make a go of a creative career is not easy.  You have to be sensitive enough to follow your creative path, and express real emotion.  You have to open yourself up in a way that feels almost wrong; a part of you is exposed to the world that you would normally keep hidden.  You put that part out there, and then allow others to pass judgment in the name of making things better.  You have to be raw and place everything out there, yet tough enough to shrug off everything negative.  As soft as silk, and yet as tough as nails.  I’m not even sure what material out there would come close to that, but I’m sure I am not made from it.

I can’t take the critique without suffering a few scars.  Maybe it means in a few years I will be out, or at least in a perpetual state of ‘revising’ before letting anyone read.  Hearing negatives hurts, even if it is for my own good.  Sometimes, it breaks my confidence down for a little while, and makes it hard to write more.  This is my fatal writing flaw, worse than any grammatical or spelling error I will every make.  I take the hit, and I will get back up, but I might need a little rest first.

I think the worst of it all, knowing that some of it was true.  Many of my own fears of the piece were exactly what was said back to me.  I’d feel better if I could laugh and say they were wrong, but they zeroed right in on the target, and sent their shot there.  Sure, some of it I will brush off, because I know the purpose of the little facts that were included early on.  I know the big picture thoughts behind certain things, and maybe they just missed my point.  It’s all right.  Other things I will have to change because I know it is for the best of the story. 

After spending some time on my pity party is it time to pick myself back up.  Just because I made a few mistakes doesn’t mean I should never try again.  Every critique is important, as long as I take it as a lesson for future learning.  The most important thing is to get back at it, and make something.

 

 

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Five Things You Experience When Finishing a Novel

1)Euphoria

Finishing writing your novel makes you feel amazing.  It’s more than just the simple accomplishment; it’s the end of a journey.  Whatever genre you are writing, romance, fantasy, horror, action, it doesn’t matter.  You have finished an adventure.  You have saved the world, fallen in love, killed your enemies, and learned the secrets of the universe.  Finishing your novel is like finishing a marathon.  It’s not just crossing the finish line; it’s the months of training that were put into getting there. 

2)Planning

After finishing a novel, you have some planning to do in order to get published.  This is not that kind of planning.  Here is where you are planning your future success.  You mentally plan your interviews, practicing how to describe your inspiration.  You practice your autographing technique, for the book signings.  You think about what you are going to wear to really sell your image in the perfect way to complement your story.  This isn’t about how you are going to get your book published.  This is still a celebration of what you have done.

3)Depression

Your journey is over.  All of the fear, excitement, passion, and love are gone.  You are now stuck in the real world without the ability to write people’s actions to suit your own desires.  You have returned to just your normal, sad, and ordinary life.  Consuming large amounts of chocolate and wine is normal at this point, but not healthy.  It’s time to get out in the real world again and find something there to love.  Go for a run, get a pedicure, or take a vacation.  Remind yourself that reality is not the worst place in the world to be.

4)Fear

This novel has been your baby.  Maybe you carried it everywhere with you for months.  Maybe you snapped it out in two days by forgoing eating and sleeping.  Either way, you have devoted your heart and soul to this novel and it is time to let it out into the world.  But what if no one likes it?  What if the critics pick on your baby?  It’s not actually that good.  No one will want to publish it.  Not only will you get hundreds of rejections, but also they will laugh at your insane belief that you actually wrote anything worth reading.  Your plot is full of holes, your characters are unlikeable, and you never should have tried to do anything so ridiculous as writing.

5)Acceptance

You have gone through the highs and the lows, and now it’s time to get busy.  There is no more time for premature celebration or fear.  Editing and revisions need to be done.  Research needs to be performed to find the perfect agent or editor for your project.  Query letters need to be written and sent.  The work is not over, it’s only just begun.