On Being Stuck (Or: Another NaNoWriMo Update)

I’m extremely behind on my NaNoWriMo today.

And yesterday.

And the day before that.

In fact, I don’t think I’ve made any significant progress for days. Which is hard because I want to be doing well and I want to be putting those words in, but I am suddenly hitting all those road blocks that hit me every time I try and get through a project like this.

I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. Other than not writing which is always the wrong option.

My first trip up came with hardware. The tablet that I use to write away from home is called Winston because it, like the great Churchhill for which it was named, has narcolepsy and will shut itself down whenever it wants. This is also a busy time of the year at my day job along with the pressures that comes with the holidays.

I keep telling myself not to give up. Reminding myself that I’ve pulled off bigger wordcounts in less time before. But it, so far hasn’t been great.

It’s very tempting on this blog not to report my struggling. I feel, like Facebook or any other version of social mediums, that it’s best not to air your ‘dirty laundry’

But let’s be honest. All writers have these moments. Moments of sitting where the words won’t come or where we just type at ourselves and make no sense and get frustrated.

I recommend that if you are in this situation that you NOT follow my lead which is binge watching Parks and Recreations on Netflix while playing ‘Bejeweled’ on Zen mode for four hours. Or, as I did today, bake and cook for the entirety of the day. (Though, at least if you’re cooking you get bread, brownies, glazed chicken, as well as a side dish of rice and gravy). I think that’s why I turn to games and cooking when the writing gets hard. It’s a place where I can see tangible results instead of a muddy stream of words.

My plan for tomorrow is dictation. Maybe if I can speak the story and type it out, I can break through the string of no writing days. We shall see.

When you’re going through the muddy middle, don’t sit in the middle. Just keep walking.

NaNo Updated Part 3

We’ve had a couple write-ins so far and progress is going well.

I’ve added a word count widget on the sidebar of the blog for accountability sakes.

When I started doing my Word Challenge with my friends in March, there weren’t daily goals so much as there was the challenge to see what others were writing and the attempt to keep up the habit of the daily word work. Now, I’m running into the challenge of sticking with one project and only one project. Before I’d hop between two to three projects a month. Sometimes this short story, sometimes edits on that short story and a chapter here or there on a novel in progress. NaNoWriMo is much more intense.

Because I’ve worked on the same project for the last two days and it’s NOT a short story.

Usually, at least for me*, a short story has one to three talking characters with three try-fail/scene-sequel sequences. Then, there is a conclusion. Novels, on the otherhand, I set up more like this long rollercoaster.

Chapters 1-10 are the cranking chapters. I like to lay out my dominoes so that I can knock them over, explode them, or shoot them down in a spectacular manner later. Around chapter 20 or so, I like to dip you down to the lowest part of the story, let my main character hang naked over the volcano of her problems for a while then have her haul herself up, cut her feet out from the ropes with the knife she hid in her hair peice and climb her way back to the top and take out the figurative-marauders that put her in that pickle in the first place.

Well. That’s the idea and the plan. The truth is that I’ve never successfully completed a novel. I usually get the first cranked up chapters and then quit because the writing bogs or gets boring. :/

So here is to a year of breaking through barriers and not quitting. It’s Day 5 of Nano today and hopefully we’re all the word goal of 8335 or at least getting there. Hang with me dearlings, and we’ll ride this challenge out together.

*Please keep in mind that this blog is that of an unpublished writer who is documenting progress as she works towards full time freelancer status. I am not an expert. I just am creating a record of what I do in this business every week so that those who are learning like me have a place to reference or learn from.

Goals

I am, historically speaking, a procrastinator.

I think I’ve covered this before, but for today’s post it’s important to understand that reaching benchmarks and meeting goals is something I couldn’t do for a long time. Honestly, I have a hard time determining where in my life that changed. In college? Maybe? In High School I was the person who ‘never met her potential’ because she ‘never tried hard enough’.

A goal was something my teachers would talk about setting and meeting, like it was a homework assignment. Goal to get into college seemed far away when I was more concerned about if I would be able to afford the cute knee-high pleather boots that matched my pleated mini-skirt.

When you’re working about 25-30 hours a week to help chip into the family income pool, it takes away the drive to do much outside of school, even if a teacher tells you that it’s for your own good. I had very little complaints about work ethic from my employers and to this day I’ve yet to be fired for slacking.┬áSo I knew, subconsciously, that the possibility of working hard was there, after all I worked hard at the day job. It was hard getting my brain to accept that I also needed to work hard for myself.

Deadlines help but if you don’t know where you’re trying to end up, it makes traveling down your road a little difficult. After all, with no destination in mind, how are we suppose to navigate the path in front of us?

When I read a book, one of the things I marvel at is the way some authors can pace a novel to hit every emotional point during their try/fail sequences. These sequences are also known as Scene and Sequel. They happen when your protagonist starts their journey off with the assumption that their plan is going to go one way and then it all goes sideways. At DragonCon this year, Jim Butcher, author of The Dresden Files and the Codex Alera was a guest. Now, Butcher is, in my biased and young professional opinion, the best writer I have ever seen at Scene/Sequel-ing. He puts Harry Dresden through hell and back in each of his books and yet it always feels fresh. This is a hard thing to do! Especially when you have over 15 books in a series. I asked him how he did it? How he trained himself to pace his novels in such an exciting way.

To paraphrase, Butcher told me that you have to think of your novel as a roller coaster. While you have your climbing action and your loop-de-loops, your sharp turns and your angles planned into your plot, it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t know where you’re ending up. I was inspired.

For my next two short stories, I realized I needed to find my ending before I could really understand that horrible middle stage of writing. And once I did, all of the knots in my plots became clearly untangled.

Just like it’s applicable to writing, Life benefits from this advice.

I haven’t known what I wanted to do with my writing career for a long time. I grew up being told by everyone I knew that Writers Couldn’t Make A Living Writing Fiction.

Yet this year, I got the StoryBundle deal for NaNoWriMo and read Dean Wesley Smith’s books about killing the sacred cows of publishing. (Link HERE if you haven’t heard of this gentleman). Then I read his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s book, The Freelancer’s Survival Guide. Now, I currently am no where near ready to launch myself into a career with freelancing. I have some debts to pay off from college, my husband is currently IN school right now working on his degree as he worked full time while I was in college, and my body of work is tiny due to not buckling down to create until this year. Yet now, with these two writer’s advice, I feel like I understand what I want better. I understand my DESTINATION.

With NaNoWriMo started this weekend, I hope that you understand your goals. Right now, the goal might be short: Write a novel in 30 days. I’m moving on the working theory that while that is a good start, my goal should be to KEEP writing after this novel is in the can.

Writers Write and finish what they write. Then write something else.

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!