NaNoWriMo Update Part 2

Tonight is the night! Wrimo’s in my area are going to collect our laptops, bring along some notebooks and start chipping away at the novel of the month. It’s my fourth year participating in this international challenge and I’m stoked! I can’t say I have much of a plot or story lined out, and I don’t know if I’ll manage to finish it (I want to but you know, you fail at achieving a thing for several years in a row and your confidence starts to waver) but this year FEELS DIFFERENT.

-I have no school responsibilities to interfere with my writing time

-I don’t have a job that works me late like years previous

-My travelling will be low this year

-I’ve got more practice at a daily writing habit than ever before.

All these factors make me feel very confident. For the rest of November, I’ll be posting word count updates on the blog, though sometimes it will just be a note at the end if the post for that day is non-NaNoWriMo related.

If you want to add me as a writing buddy on the site, shoot over a comment or email with your information and we can trade names. I’ll be on it at least once a day during the month of November to update word counts. Good luck to everyone and happy writing!

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NaNoWriMo Update 1: Meet and Greet

Last night I, along with several other local writers met at Java Werks, a local coffee shop and got ready for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

If you have anyone near you in meat space who is participating in NaNoWriMo, this community is a fantastic way to get ready for next month’s challenge.

While we were all situating ourselves at the coffee shop I was struck by how different we all were. We had entrepreneurs, single mothers, retail workers, academics, as well as writers representing the medical field. It’s amazing how writing will bring such fascinating and driven people together.

I heard about Horror novels, a few YA novels, a graphics novel as well as rebels who are trying to finish short stories and extended school assignments. This year is going to be different for me. I’ve got a plan, I’ve got a group and I’ve got gumption (and alliteration.)

I’m stoked for the NaNo! It’s not too late to join!

 

Sad Endings versus Happy Endings

Behind ever writer, there is a reader. These readers are devoted, hopeful, and imaginative. Not all readers are writers, but I don’t believe there are any writers who aren’t also readers. When you read, you start off small. Picture books, Dr. Suess, Religious studies appropriate to your age and you move up. Perhaps through your library or parents or other relatives. I found books through all these venues, as well as neighbors and friends. Then, there are the books you read in school.

I remember, to the minute, where I was when I first read Where the Red Fern Grows. On one of my twin beds, sitting against the wall, curled around Mr. Bear.

I was ten and it was the FIRST TIME a teacher had ever let us bring a reading book home. It was a new paperback, which I rarely got. Before Where the Red Fern Grows, most of my books were library books. I read at least 2 a day at that age so there was no sane way to keep me in reading material without the library. I remember how excited I was to finally start reading with a group. Reading was a very solitary activity, something I did when I was home. I’d sit quietly for hours, absorbed in these other places and around other people. All my stories had happy endings. The princess found the prince. The scared and shy girl found her friends. The boxcar children got an uncle, Nancy solved the case, Sparhawk the paladin knight saved the kingdom, Bilbo helped slay the dragon, and the monster was always slain. I almost never talked about these books with other people. And if you counted what we read in class, it was usually some excerpt from a bigger book. (I made it a habit to try and hunt down the bigger book in the library and read it. Excepts were for babies.) Finally, here I was, a REAL grown up person because I got to take home my own book and read it.

We were only suppose to read a few chapters a week. The book was meant to last the whole 9 week grading period for my teacher’s curriculum. The monday that it had been handed out, I went straight home, ignored my math homework, and read it all the way through.

I was excited for the hero as he saved up all his money and with such care and work, ordered his two coon hounds. I ran with him through the woods as he trained and fed them. In my head, I pictured Baxtor and Ginger, my grandmother’s dogs, who resembled the dogs in the story. I was so excited when he’d gotten to the hunting competition.

And then….

Well. Let’s be honest. You never trust a school assignment with an animal on the cover.

Because of course, those dogs died. And it wasn’t like Old Yeller, which I’d seen as a child on Disney where the dog is shot in the end and there is sweeping music and a crying actor. This wasn’t ANYTHING like that for me. Old Yeller was, Duh, an actor dog. My nine-year old brain didn’t connect the clearly fictional movie death of Old Yeller to anything like the anguish I felt when Billy loses Big Dan and Little Ann.

I went to my teacher the next day, threw the book on her desk and told her that it was the worst book I’d ever read. She was startled that I’d already finished reading it and asked me not to spoil the horrible-no-good-extremely-terrible ending for any of my classmates.

I sulkily agreed and then spent the rest of the period that we had to read the book with library books instead.

I went through middle school and high school with a dull anger towards these sorts of endings. I endured The OutsidersDeath of a Salesman, The Crucible and of course Romeo and Juliet. These works were rife with sad endings. I began to hate the reading that I was assigned in school. Everything I’d been taught was based around sorrow, loss and death. In Of Mice and Men, when George mercy-kills Lennie, I was so tired of school literature that I made it a habit to sparknote anything I read just to check for the ending before I had to read it. I’d still read the book, but only after I’d prepared myself for the end.

And then, thank goodness, there was college.

Now, college is also full of sad endings in a book. But unlike high school where all you do is talk conflict, theme and

Deadlines and Why they give me life

I am a professional procrastinator.

Well, I would be a professional but I keep putting off applying for the business license.

It all started in grade school when I would put off a ‘hard’ homework assignment in favor of finishing a coveted book. I hated that I did it, hated that I would put all this stress on ‘The Thing’ whatever it was. Usually ‘The Thing’ wasn’t just something that was tedious or time consuming, but something that I’d built up in my head as being difficult, when had I just sat down to do it, it would have been handled.

This evolved into a skill that I didn’t realize I needed: The ability to get hard things done in a short amount of time because I had no other option.

I mean, sure, I could have just NOT done the thing at all…but multiple punishments and consequences of not doing ‘The Thing’ made that option not just unpleasant but in some cases, unbearable.

Procrastination stems, I have come to figure out, from a deep seated need to be perfect in what we do. I tell myself all the time, “I can’t write that next scene because I haven’t figured out what happens next!” or “Well, Work In Progress number 3 needs to be done…but I’ve got a month before I have to submit anything to that place, so I’ve got time to do it.”

The answer to my bad habit? Self-inflicted deadlines with dire and horrendous consequences.

Don’t want to finish your rough draft for the Writers of the Future contest? Hmm. You’ve got until Sunday or no Walking Dead for you.

Won’t put your words in on this project this week? If you can’t get them done by Friday, I don’t really think you NEED those ice cream cones this time around.

Oh! Did a new Asimov Magazine come out? Oh…but you didn’t finish your second round of edits on the work in progress? Shame. You’d better get that story combed or your husband is locking away your eReader.

When I was in college, my projects were finished at a much higher percentage than when I graduated. I had DEADLINES. And knowing that something only had x amount of days to be completed gave me motivation and drive. When I work on a story for a contest, I do use all the days I have available, and maybe my submission slide in underneath the lowering door of that time limit, but it doesn’t matter. As long as they are SUBMITTED, I’m not going to worry that I only had 1 hour to get them done. They are finished and that’s the victory.

Now, as I mentioned, the procrastination hasn’t gone away. I still put things off. But giving myself a deadline for each step along the path gives me time to still get something done without giving up all together.

NaNoWriMo 2014

Participant-2014-Web-Banner

 

Well it’s that time of year again!

For the fourth year in a row, I am going to attempt NaNoWriMo.

In 2011 I tried and gave up.

In 2012 I tried and gave up.

In 2013 I threw my hands up in the air and said, “NOPE” due to my discouragement with my failures from years past. In fact, that lack of ability to even want to try lead to a four month long dry spell in writing. I had a crisis about it in January and tried to get back on the writing horse with very little success until in March, my friends and I started a March Madness Word War that has turned into a monthly pool where we toss in 10$ giftcards to a winner.

This is the year. I will not let NaNoWriMo go one more year past without a full manuscript.

So here it is dearlings, my challenge: 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s 1667 words a day and hopefully a complete or nearly-complete manuscript. If you send me an email we can become writing buddies. I am cheering everyone on in the month of November and will be posting periodic word updates during the month along with thoughts and musings about the process.

Happy writing!

Keeping your stories fresh.

Are there any original ideas?

Short answer: No.

Long answer? Well, of course there are.

Idea and stories…motifs and themes, they are everywhere. Yet we all are still talking about them. And each generation and group of people have something that they need to say that is different than their ancestors. And themes, while universal, still adapt and grow.

For example: Fairytales.

How many times have you heard of a girl who has a wicked stepparent who gives her inheritance to interlopers? The girl uses her connections to get her fairy godmother to hook her up with a great dress then she goes and catches the eye of the prince at the ball, thereby escaping her situation and getting the happily ever after.

Yet how many Cinderella movies have been made in the last 10 years? I can think of five off the top of my head. All were the same. Girl’s life sucks. Girl meets godmother. Godmother blesses girl. Girl gets boy.

Even though that idea, the concept of the magical salvation and happy ending is old, we still are seeing new inventions on it. How amazing is that? Is the idea original? Nope. But are the stories enjoyable? Hell yes.

Let’s take two opposite tales: The Phoenix and the Ashes by Mercedes Lackey and Cinder by Marissa Meyer and do some comparing.

In The Phoenix and the Ashes, Eleanor’s evil stepmother is a dark witch who traps her in her home so that she can continue to use her fortune to fund her daughters. The setting is WWI and we get to know the Prince and see not only the two of them interact and grow together but also get to watch Eleanor become a powerful magician in her own right, breaking her own spell against her horrible stepmother.

In Cinder, we have a Cinder, a cyborg missing a foot who falls in love with the Prince when she fixes his robot. Her stepmother isn’t a magical witch but the hatred and loathing is still real. Cinder is based in a futuristic society with space travel and horrific diseases.

Both stories are Cinderella…but they each have their own unique twists.

And that twist, that change of perspective is all the originality that  you need to tell a new story.

Writing for an Audience

I went to Dragon*Con in 2011 and met my hero and literary idol, Mercedes Lackey.

Well. As well as you can ‘meet’ someone who signs your book and helps you take a selfie. I remember the first time I saw her. She was in a “Women of Science Fiction” panel with Laurell K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon and several other lovely ladies whose names just aren’t coming to my mind right now. She was on the end of the panel and had been invited to introduce herself and tell about what she wrote. She leaned forward and said, “Hello, my name is Mercedes and I write books.” Seeing as she has produced a podcast series, written numerous short stories, over a hundred novels and worked with some of the greatest spec fiction writers of my generation, I feel that she has a gift for the understatement.

She and the other talented writers were doing the usual things that writers do at these panels: They were giving advice and telling stories from their own experiences. I remember they spoke about different styles of writing, who works best in silence (Hamilton) and who needs a busy house (Kenyon). The normal things were asked: Where do you get your inspiration? and Do you have advice for new writers?

Mrs. Lackey’s words have resonated with me since.

Writers. Write. They don’t talk about writing. They put their ass in the chair and they put one word in front of the other and ignore the blinking middle finger on an empty document page.

It’s taken me years to really internalize that advice, ignore the distractions that come with school, jobs and life in general and make that time to put fingers to keyboard and let out the voices in my head in a coherent form. And writers do write, as I’ve repeated and will repeat multiple times on this platform. But once you get past the process of developing the habits and discipline to get those words on the page, you have to ask yourself, ‘Who am I writing for?’

The obvious answer is: I am writing for myself. After all, I’m the one who has to deal with the words that come out of my fingers. I’m the one who has to look at the pages of re-writes. I’m the one who has to delve into character backgrounds and decide who is going to shoot who when my protag finally uncovers his or her dangerous plot. So my next question is, “What do I like to read?”

I like to read romance, science fiction, folklore, fantasy and adventure stories. Since those are the stories I like to read, those are the stories I am going to write. In short, I’m writing for people like me, who enjoy the things I enjoy and want to hear about cool stuff in that area of study. Writers can be arrogant that way. We put our words out into the world and are in many ways searching for those who agree and want to share our heads. It’s why almost all the writers I know are so nice to their fans. It’s not a matter of simply appreciating the people who liked your book, but it’s also appreciating the people who are similar to you. Those readers who go into the work you put out and see themselves in it. When you write for an audience, write for yourself.