Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

I Have Failed This Story…

… and it’s a like an arrow through my heart. *chuckles*

Seriously, I think I’m way too far behind on my word count to catch up on NaNoWriMo. I was already behind before last week started, and I didn’t manage to write all week. We’re in a little bit of a rush at work, so my creativity is all focused on the February update of The Sims FreePlay. When I get home, the words won’t come out. And to make matters worse, flu has been going around the office. I think I avoided it because I felt very weak this weekend and slept through most of it (meaning: no significant amount of writing done.)

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not giving up. I’ll keep writing as much as I can as a way to get myself back into the habit of writing everyday.

When I started this blog, my first challenge was to develop a healthy writing routine, and that was why I wrote blog novels. I knew that if I had even one reader, I’d feel accountable. After a couple of years of that, I thought the habit was well-anchored. What I’m realizing now is that though I’ve done my best to keep writing a little bit throughout the tribulation of the past couple of years, I’m rusty. It takes me twice the time to produce half the word count.

It’s a question of inspiration (I have exciting ideas coming out of my ears!) It’s a question of habit.

I’m thinking of going back to the blog novel format to get myself into a new regular routine after NaNoWriMo is over. Would I rewrite one of my old ones now that I know better or start a new one? I don’t know.

Only one thing is certain: I need to train myself back up.

And that’s okay!

Despite my title (I just had to!), I don’t see this as a failure, but as a sign of the experiences I have lived through in the past couple of years. They’ve challenged me, strengthened me and given me more nuances to write about. I can’t really complain. I just need to get used to getting the words out of my brain again. 😉

What about you guys? How’s your NaNo going?

NaNo Playlist Block

My first week of NaNoWriMo has been a bit of a drag. Compared to the previous years (and their successful 100k written in November), it feels weird to fall behind on the daily progress towards 50k. I know why that is, though: this is the first year I use NaNoWriMo as an opportunity to rewrite an existing project.

The original draft of The Phoenix’s Wake has quite a few problems, which is why I’m rewriting it from scratch. But there are also things in there that I love, and these things that I want to preserve held me back from just pushing ahead with the new draft. Without realizing it at first, I held myself at a ridiculously high standard for a draft: it had to be better than the original, but not too different.

That’s nuts. I can’t walk that line and write 1,667 words a day. And the truth is: I shouldn’t even attempt it. The Phoenix’s Wake needs a new voice and identity. That’s why I’m rewriting it instead of editing it.

I figured that I should put together a soundtrack to help me steer myself into a new mind space for this story.

And I hit Playlist Block.

Wanna help?

I posted this of Saturday, and a couple of people have participated by joining the discussion in some way or adding songs to the Spotify playlist. I figured I would take the time to give a bit more context for the story here, in case other people want to help give The Phoenix’s Wake its new flavor.

The Phoenix’s Wake is an urban fantasy mystery that deals with themes of grief, independence/self-identity and racial segregation.

Drea Cente is the main character. She passes for Latina, but she’s actually Mayan. Since she’s a Gorgon, she looks and acts like a 30-ish year-old even though she’s 149, and she morphs from human to snake woman and can turn people into stone. She’s a bit of a hothead, fiercely loyal, and relying on others to keep organized. Without going into her personal history too much, she was born in 1866, went through a war and circus slavery until 1929, then enjoyed a few good years with Ramses. 1943 to 1963 was hell on her, and she basically quit human society. She has led a normal-ish life since then, and is now a detective with the Wilmington Myth Police. At the start of the story, she has lost Ramses and gets stuck with an untrained human on an oddly familiar case.

Keith Russo is said human and is as red-blooded American as they come. He has experience in human homicide, but has never worked with Myths before which causes him to have dangerous assumptions about how to interact with his new team. He’s stuck between doing what his superintendent wants (observe the Myths and learn better ways to control them) and what he knows to be right (protect and serve.) Drea tries her best to teach him the rope, but he tends to get in his own way (and she’s not the best teacher.) He’s 34, hyper organized and has two kids with his wife.

Ramses Cairo is an egg. I’m serious; he’s a Phoenix in the process of being reborn. Before that, he was Drea’s adoptive father and work partner. He rescued her in 1929 and took her under his wing until he spontaneously combusted in 1943. After being reborn in a Phoenix sanctuary, he exited the sanctuary, a 20 year-old version of himself with half the memories of his previous life, and rejoined with Drea (1963.) He combusted again the night before the beginning of the story, and Drea fears that he may forget her this time. She’s grieving, but trying to keep it together without him. He was the one with wisdom and social skills.

The world they live in is an alternate version of today. Since everyone started having a good quality camera in their pocket a few years ago, an increasing number of myths got photographed or recorded and posted on social media. Five years ago, the Grand Reveal happened; Myths announced their existence. Humans didn’t react very well. By now, all Myth politicians have been voted out of office, except for the governor of Delaware because the state has a high concentration of Myths. Human-on-myth violence is fairly under control, but the human public services won’t support them. Myths have their own lawyers, medical services, police, etc. but there aren’t enough of them to organize the way human services are.

Okay, I think I’ve said enough. If you want to add music to the Spotify playlist, I would recommend that you start adding tracks without checking out what others put in. This way, you won’t be influenced in your decisions, and I’ll have different takes on what my characters sound like to people. 😉

And what about you guys? Are you NaNo-ing? How is it going?

Lilac and NaNoWriMo Prep

It’s been spring for a month here in Australia, and while some days have been a bit cold, the weekends have been amazingly warm and sunny. This last weekend reached the high twenties Celsius, and I went out on a stroll at 11pm without a jacket.

This is highly unusual for little Quebecer me. I love it!

As I cracked open my windows yesterday to let the fresh air in, I realized that the tree growing in front of my bedroom is a lilac! Though the flowers are few and budding, I can already smell it when I stand at the open window. I’m pretty sure the wind will carry the scent into my bedroom once the tree is in full bloom, and I’m looking forward to that.

The other thing I’m looking forward to is NaNoWriMo. Now that October has started, I’m having planning jitters. I’ve learned over the years that I don’t do as well during NaNo if I don’t figure out the broad strokes of the story beforehand. Because October is going to rush by super fast (I have lectures to prep, too!), I may have to break my “write something entirely new” rule and settle for rewriting one of the shelved projects since the general plan for these is pretty much done.

We shall see.

It’ll be fun to meet the local WriMos. I made some awesome friends in the Quebec NaNo group, so going to write-ins here may be a good way to extend my social circle outside of work friends (not that these friends aren’t wonderful, but I have all my eggs in the same basket right now and that’s not the best.)

What about you guys? Anyone starting to think about NaNo?

WeWriWa – Lingerie & Guns

Hi everyone,

Sunday means I’m participating in the Weekend Writing Warrior, a weekly blog event during which writers share 8 sentences of one of their projects. You should check out the others right here: http://www.wewriwa.com/.

This week, I’ve chosen an excerpt from this year’s NaNoWriMo project, Tag, You’re Me! In this snippet, my main character just met the special black ops team he’ll work with and they’re prepping for a mission.

Note: Some creative editing to fit the 8 sentences requirement. 😉

Comments and critiques are welcomed! Enjoy!

“Jokey, stop stuffing my lingerie with your guns!” Kayla said, plucking a Magnum from her bag and tossing it over her shoulder.
“My bags are full and I can’t roll ‘em a little tighter.”
Leaning closer to Phil, I whispered, “Lingerie for a jungle environment infiltration mission?”
“I don’t question the methods if the results are there.”
Trish rounded up the guns and stuffed them in her own bag. “No one cares you had a one night stand so stop acting like children.”
“Did they?”
Phil shrugged and said, “No one cares.”

Lessons From the NaNoWriMo Trenches

We have now entered the last week of November and, like every other year, I’m amazed by the amount of work fellow NaNos and I have produced, and the intoxicating community of writers surrounding this event. From the daily support of fellow WriMos to the pep talks from professionals, this is an amazing experience. I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the non-profit coordinating this crazy venture (simply named National Novel Writing Month, formerly known as The Office of Letters and Light) and the Municipal Liaisons (volunteers who organize local writing events throughout November)  for their time and dedication.

I’ve seen a few negatives reactions about NaNo around the web, people complaining about the number of encouragement/bragging on social media or arguing that writing 50k in a month will only produce drivel. Sure, we get a little word count obsessed and some people only write random stuff for the fun of it and don’t care about the outcome, but that’s not true for everyone.

Fair enough, I concede on both arguments anyway.

However –you knew that one was coming, didn’t you?– by dismissing the whole event, detractors are missing out on some valuable writing lessons learned in the blazing trenches of NaNoWriMo. Because of the incentive to produce and the fast pace of the challenge, we learn a lot about ourselves and reflexes that can make us better writers. So, without further ado, I’ll present my top three lessons learned during NaNo, how to capitalize on them and why they work in favor of a first draft.

I’m stuck! – Kill Someone!

On the course of the month, it’ll happen quite often that someone’s shoulder will slump before he/she says: “I’m stuck.” Without missing a beat, someone else will recommend, “Kill someone!” or, alternatively, “Take their clothes off!”

There is a reason why this is one of the top advices heard during NaNo: drama keeps the story moving forward. When we find ourselves unable to write a scene, there’s likely a lack of conflict. If it is supposed to be a high-octane scene and yet the words don’t flow, the stakes aren’t high enough.

The “kill someone” advice causes us to ask ourselves what would be a huge wrench that derails our plot and gets us excited to write the next couple of chapters. That wrench needs to be in our story, not just for NaNo’s sake, but for the reader’s sake too.

Questioning the amount of tension when we get stuck is a reflex worth developing to avoid trudging through a bad scene, exhaust ourselves and hit writer’s block. It forces us to clarify the stakes and motivations which solidifies the plot. I’ve found that editing is much easier if the draft nails the core of the drama, even if it’s clunky.

So when you hit a wall, ask yourself: What are the stakes? Where is the drama? How can I crank them up? If this is a transition scene, how can I build in nods at the stakes and drama to make it interesting?

Slow Writing = Slow Reading

After a few days of NaNoWriMo, we ramp up to a cruising speed and such a routine makes dips in productivity unmistakeable. Every time writing is like pulling teeth, I ask myself if I’m tired, sick of writing in general or if the scene is especially tricky; these are valid productivity hindrances. If the answer to these questions is “no” yet the last thousand words took me twice the usual time to write, I make a note for myself and keep writing.

These notes come into play when I start editing: my first pass of edits on a NaNo novel is to read it while paying special attention to the marked section and questioning their relevance. Some of them are good and were just written on an “off day”, but most of them need some serious TLC or an axe in the forehead. The marked scenes fall flat, either because they lack drama (see previous point) or because, when I look hard enough, they’re useless.

I wouldn’t notice as many slowdowns without the imperative to produce.

[Insert Cool Science Thingy]

Research may very well be the number one source of procrastination for writers, and WriMos simply can’t afford to spend a couple of days researching the mating rituals of squids in captivity to write one 500-word scene.

In my experience, doing too much research while writing a draft caused me to get hung up on the details and overshadow the conflict with complex information that, in the end, isn’t necessary. I can fix it in editing, but I’d much rather be not spend energy on writing it in the first place.

Several WriMos use the [Insert blood pattern description that indicate a slashed throat] method to isolate the research that needs to be done for the scene. This enables us to pin point what we need for the plot and keep writing. We’ll do targeted research and fill in the blanks during the edits.

Yes, sometimes the research feeds the plot, so it may be needed, but the pace of NaNo forces us to question the relevance of stopping for that. Most of the time, we’ll keep writing.

It’s important to not get bugged down in the first draft and this technique can also be used to [add transition] and skip ahead to the next plot point. Once the core of the story is out, we’re more informed to make these transitions interesting during editing. 😉

Closing Words

NaNoWrimo makes us sit down and write a good amount every day, whether we feel like it or not. That’s already a good habit for a writer. The pace of productivity can also strengthen our first draft process, if we care to use the challenge to our advantage. Fellow WriMos are there for support and may become trusted critique partners for the rest of the year. The pace also helps us get to know ourselves as writers: how much outlining makes us more productive? Which time of day works best to churn out words? Coffee, tea or jelly bellies?

I encourage every aspiring writers to get through NaNoWriMo. You’ll grow, even if you only do it once.

Fellow WriMos, what is your top lesson learned from NaNo?

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