NaNoWriMo 2021

I don’t intend to write much here today because…well, it’s November.  Which means NaNoWriMo, which means hours in front of my computer, deep in my novel.  On Thursday, I will be updating with my progress reports that I do to hold myself accountable while I attempt to finish this challenge.  Today I am writing about it simply because it is 930am on November 1st, and I haven’t even opened my notes yet. 

I’m going to take a second to teach you some NaNo terminology.  There are pantsters and there are planners.  Planners have outlines and character development and notes and dialogue and concepts all on paper before they write a word.  Pantsers pretty much just say screw it, and sit down to write…flying by the seat of their pants, if you will.  I, however, am what is referred to as a plantser, meaning I have everything planned out way ahead of time but don’t really know what’s going to happen until I sit down to write. 

During my first NaNo attempt I wrote a novella called The Second Before.  It ended up vastly different on November 30th than it was on November 1st.  It was a surprise to me, and really made me think about my writing process.  Sometimes I get so caught up in my story it just falls out of my fingers and I wonder who wrote it in the first place. 

I recently published a short story on my Patreon called The Lucky Virgin, and the few who read it adored it.  This is one of those pieces that I honestly don’t remember writing…it’s as if some spirit took over my keyboard. I read some of it back to myself and thought “damn that’s good.”  God…I love that feeling.

Anyways, my fingers are already kind of tired and I have damn near 2k words to write today, so I bid you adieu.  I hope this month brings you joy and hard work, like it will for me.  (And maybe this year, no broken fingers.)

The Magic

All of last year, I planned for November: NaNoWriMo.  I was ready to go on Halloween, itching to start the writing process.  Then, I got sick.  Then, I broke my finger.  Then, nothing got accomplished.

This was followed by Christmastime, which was busy even with a pandemic, and also, I had a brace on my pinky until New Year’s.  So, it is only now that I am sitting down to rekindle my love affair with words.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that you can go on the website each time you write and update your word count.  It keeps me on track very nicely…accountably is key during a first draft, in my opinion.  I could still use the site for this, but I choose not to, because I write in MS Word and there’s a little tally right in the bottom left corner of how I’m doing.  And the truth of the matter is that this book is NOT the little guy I wrote in 2019.  I am over 11k right now, and I have only just started chapter 4 of what appears to be 20, so we’re looking at an easy 60k on the rough draft.  I only easily wrote about 48k on the last book, and then pulled a couple thousand more out of the air in the second go-over.  Your average literary fiction book is around 70k.  I think that’s where this will fall.

Since it has no title, I refer to it either as my WIP (work in progress,) or The Ten.  See, it started out in my brain in 2002 with ten characters who would band together and topple a dictatorship by staging a coup.  In 2016, I started to see striking comparisons to my book and reality of the United States, so I abandoned it because I wanted to be neither plagiarizer nor prophet.  Of course, last week, I was watching the news and a dark laughter bubbled out of me as I thought “Didn’t I write this before?”

Anyway, I trashed the plot, but I kept the characters.  I knew them so well, as well as I know myself, and when you’re a writer and you’ve got something so well-developed, you’ve got to save it for something good.

About a year ago, I decided The Ten would be my next big project.  There’s a lot of thinking involved in writing, so I spent several months contemplating new plots and situations I could put the characters I had into.  Eventually, I came up with a scaled down version of the original plot, something made-up and workable and not happening in real time on CNN.  Then, I started the prep work: outlines, character bios, act breakdowns, chapter breakdowns, scene breakdowns, etc.  And research research research: many thanks and good wishes to the Twitter folks who have helped me out with descriptions of the Bahamas or explaining to me how long it would take to row to an island 30 miles away, and why you wouldn’t be able to see that island because of the curvature of the Earth (things I learned yesterday.)  Also, I know more about guns now than I ever intended.  It was a year of research and thinking and planning.

Now is the year of writing.

I was afraid that there would be big gaps in my writing, that I wouldn’t be able to sit down every day and do it the way I did during NaNo ‘19.  Turns out, once I started, I couldn’t stop.  I want to know what happens as much as a reader, and I’m only going to find out if I write it…if that makes sense.  Because all the planning in the world doesn’t prepare you for the magic.

The magic is when you are writing and you are no longer in the room with yourself, as Stephen would say.  It’s when you can’t believe that you wrote the words you’re reading back.  It’s the little character details that you didn’t know you knew, or the tiny ways you describe the sunlight.  It’s the part of the writing that surprises the writer, and it’s the best part…seriously.  It’s like a drug-powerful and addictive and makes you feel like you can do anything. 

So, I will finish this blog and I will go read some submissions, and rest my finger, so I can drop another thousand words into the WIP later.  I don’t have the accountability mechanism that I had before, but I will of course use my blog as a vehicle to hold myself up to my standards, as I have done in the past.

And perhaps, even to catch the magic.

Preptober 2020

Well, it is October, so I am knee-deep in Preptober.

What’s Preptober, you ask?

Well, first, I have to tell you about NaNoWriMo. 

NaNo, as I will call it henceforth, is short for National Novel Writing Month, which is every November.  There is a website, where you sign up and log your daily word count throughout the month.  The goal is to write at least 50,000 words.  It is a daunting task.  I won by a nose last year, pulling in about 51.000 words. My first book’s first draft was complete.  It is short, likely going to be a novella or a serial or something, but it’s done and out of me and I was prouder of myself than I have ever been.

Now, when I wrote that guy, I had massive amounts of prep done already.  Outlines, character descriptions, dialogue snippets, and about four already written chapters.  I didn’t need to do a whole lot of prep, because I had already done it years earlier when I got the idea for the book.  It was just a matter of sitting down to write it.

This year, though, things are a little different.  I have an outline and character descriptions and a very rough first chapter, and only because I have been working on these things since Oct. 1.  See, the month beforehand is called Preptober, and it’s when we get ready for NaNo.  I have a workbook I am using, and it has been very helpful for streamlining my thought processes.  Everyday I complete a task from the book, then I work it into my notes or story.  It has really been useful. 

Last year, I wrote a little story that had lived in me for a couple of years, ever since Robin Williams passed away, actually.  That was the day I started it.  It marinated in my head for a while before falling out my fingertips.  This story is similar, but it has been soaking in my brainwaves for a much longer period of time.

See, I started writing a book about 18 years ago or so, when Bush was president and I thought the world was on fire (hindsight is 20/20.)  It was about a group of freedom fighters who topple a dictator who has taken over the USA and implemented many unjust laws to suit his own desires.  Then Obama got elected, and some of my fire died out, so I abandoned it for a while.  Then 45 got elected, and I reread it, realized I am either a plagiarizer or a fortune-teller, and scrapped the whole thing.

But those characters.  I spent so much time on those characters, and I loved them.  I love them more than Frankie, my lead from last year’s novel.  They have been living in my head for so long, just waiting to be put into prose.  Now is the time.

I scrapped the whole plot, of course.  I built a new one, and inserted my lovely characters into it.  And it’s already better than it was before…they are adapting to their surroundings quite nicely.

So, today’s Preptober assignment is about inciting action. When I do these exercises, I feel like I am back in Ms. Maloney’s 12th grade creative writing class.  Part of me is like “Oh, this is pointless, writing out these details that are already in my brain.”  The other part of me remembers that class, and the four-inch thick portfolio I left it with, and how each of those stories had a worksheet or an essay or something to help me understand the aspects of storytelling better.  And they worked, so I am leaning on these assignments the same way I did my English homework.

Anyway, we are almost halfway though the month, so NaNo is fast approaching.  As I did last year, I will be updating my blog on Thursday’s in November with my progress reports on the whole experience.  I have very high hopes this time around, because I think that A. my novel will be significantly longer…we’re talking full-length book.  And B. I think it is a marketable concept.  I really believe it will get published.  I really believe it will sell. 

Just gotta get it outta my fingertips.

The Steps on the Ladder

So, I hit a tiny milestone today and just felt like writing about it.

I decided a year ago that I was going to do something with my poetry.  I started sending it out places and got some positive responses.  I’ve had a few pieces published, and it’s made me feel good, like all those words I typed for all those years actually meant something.  Then a few months back I decided to put together a small book of poetry, also called a chapbook.  It’s about living with mental illness, and today I chose the last poem for it.

Now, of course there are a great many more steps.  I have to edit and format and get it ready to be sent out, and then I have to actually start sending it out.  That process concerns me, but only a little as I am very good at dealing with rejection.  To be honest, I think I would be more scared if it got picked up to be published.  Then what?  My thoughts and words out there for the whole world to see?

I have to remind myself that this is the point. 

Anyway, I am proud of myself today for assembling my pieces.  Next I will start the editing process, then I will choose the order of the poems.  I will have to learn to write a cover letter, (which honestly seems like something I should know by now anyway,) but after that I will be ready to send it out. 

One step at a time.  But first, a little celebration.  I’m going to get me a milkshake.

#WritingCommunity

In 2008, I joined Twitter.  I was one of those that came to the party fairly early, signing up when only a handful of friends used it and not really understanding the whole thing at first.  Like Facebook, but short?  Ok, I’m all for the spirit of brevity.  I also was able to do fun things like stalk celebrities and follow the news.  For ten years I had this account, and I kept it fairly small.  Then about two weeks ago, I started reading tweets from the writing community on Twitter, which is huge.  Many people were doing what was called a writer’s lift, and those participating seemed to be plugged into this community that I had been watching for a little bit.  I decided to give it a try, and within a week and a half I more than doubled my following.  Mission accomplished!  Wait…

With this came two dudes.  One was nice enough, though he lives across the world and we probably have nothing in common.  He was respectful enough when I told him I was married.  The other, not so much.  He begged me to meet him, promising that he could make all my dreams come true and insisting that he could make me happier than Mark does.  Sir, you don’t know me.  Even if I was single, a handful of tweets cannot possibly tell you who I am as a person.  And if I say I’m happy in my relationship, that should be the cue to step back and away.  Twitter is not a dating service.  You will not find your true love here.

The weirdo is nothing, however, compared to the enormous self-doubt.  I am now followed by published authors, which in theory should be a boost to my self-esteem but in actuality is sort of crippling.  I see these people write 1000s of words a day and talk about their agents and editing and how they’ve completed another novel and I want to throw up.  I look at my novel, which is pitiful in word count and will likely end up either being YA or a novella, and I feel sick to my stomach.  I thought that connecting with other writers would boost me, but I’m finding it makes me self-conscious instead.

When I finish something, I’m positive about it.  I’ve written stories and poems that have been published, and I have always been proud of my finished projects.  It’s the stuff I’m working on that gives me nightmares.  A novel that I am stuck on, trying to write about bargaining as a stage of grief.  It teases me, saying “Hey look!  Look how much you wrote, and look how far you have to go!  YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO GET THERE.”  I might get there, of course, but at the moment I am stuck.  A poetry chapbook, which needs a handful more poems and then will be completed.  That’s probably the easier of the two projects at the moment, but it feels insurmountable at times because I don’t have those few poems yet, and I don’t know when they will come to me.  I never know when it’s going to come to me, and that is what makes this calling so difficult.

I write in my blog every Monday, even if I don’t have much to write about.  It’s the one scheduled thing that I have, and I try to keep up with it as best as I can.  I love the feeling of my fingers flying over the keyboard, trying to keep up with my racing mind.  I wish I could feel this way all the time, just sitting at my desk and pecking out words and stories and tales of my life.  Alas, I suffer from terrible bouts of writer’s block and self-doubt, the latter being my own personal Achilles’.  I don’t doubt much, but I doubt my works in progress until they are complete.  I doubt people want to read my work until I have proof, like publication.  I assume it’s all garbage, no matter how many times I am told otherwise.

So, on one hand, I am glad that I’m getting so many new followers from the writing community, as it kind of gives me inspiration.  If they can do it, you can do it!  But on the other hand, can I?  Or is that just something I tell myself so I don’t completely lose my mind?

K is here, so I’m going to go do the mom thing for a while.  Hopefully later today I can sit down and get some work done, but truthfully, I’m not feeling it today.  I don’t know if it’s my own self-sabotage or writer’s block or just that the sun is out but I’m not inclined to spend the day at my desk, even though I crave that feeling of productivity.  Some days though, it doesn’t come.  And that’s alright.  I’ll just wait until inspiration strikes, then ride that mofo like the last train out of town.