NaNo21: The Final Countdown

I will admit it was a slow week, what with Thanksgiving smack dab in the middle of it.  Last Tuesday I dropped a couple thousand words, and then on Wednesday I hit 45k.  This was a big moment, because it meant I was in the home stretch.  Ideally, I wanted to be done by today’s blog post, so I could celebrate here…alas, Thanksgiving.

See, I didn’t expect to write that day.  We went to my mother’s in the morning for breakfast and I watched the parade and then I showered and ran errands and got dressed and it was back to mom’s for dinner.  That night was the Bills game, and I thought maybe I could get a few words in then, but I fell asleep…damn tryptophan. 

The next day, I picked K up early to come over and help me decorate for Christmas.  Then, I had lunch with Sahar because she was in town for the holiday, and then Mark, K, and I decorated the tree.  The house was bumping all night with visitors, from Bern and Erin to Carey, so we were busy, and so…no words.

On Sunday I woke up early and dropped around 800 words, kicking off the last chapter of act 2. In the afternoon, I took K shopping and dropped her home, then managed a few more that night, but not much as I was so tired.  Carey was over a few times as well, since someone she was close to had passed over the weekend.  So mostly, I just stayed on my sofa on Sunday night.

Now, Monday morning, my projected finish date, and I’m not done.  Yes, I have until tomorrow at 11:59pm, but I’d like to not be writing down to the wire.  Right now, I have a little less than 3k to go, which I can do on a good day, no problem.

But is today a good day?  We’ve yet to see.  I have a big cup of coffee, and I took a pain med for my back which gets sore in my desk chair, so I am ready to try and conquer this bad boy.  Wish me luck, and happy Monday!

Drug of Choice

Sure, my experience with drugs is fairly limited.  I’ve smoked pot, so I know what that’s like.  And I’ve gotten copious amounts of morphine and dilaudid due to my stomach condition, so I know what a temporary rush those can be.  Somewhere along the line, I stumbled across an article telling me that most people who have been on SSRIs for a long time cannot get the chemical high associated with most uppers and psychedelics.  So, that wiped all other curiosities off the table with the rationalization that trying anything else would be a risky waste of time and money.

However, there is one dragon I will chase until the day I die, and that is the writer’s high.

You’ve heard of a runner high, I’m sure, and I assume this is similar, though I don’t know because I only run if something Is chasing me.  I know it has something to do with a release of endorphins to the brain, but I’m not sure what triggers it all of the time.  But me, I’ve been getting high every day for the past week.

It happens when I finish writing a scene, and I edit it really quick.  I don’t do extensive edits during the first draft because the goal is just to get the words on the paper, but I will read it back and clean it up a little.  When I’m done, and I save it, and input my count on the NaNo website, I feel a rush come at me and the next thing you know I am literally dancing around the office because I can’t sit still.

I asked Twitter when they experience this, and folks said it happens once in a while, or when they finally publish.  Now, I know the publishing high, too, but this is different.  The publishing high is great because you can tell your family and friends about it and they get really happy for you, but the writer’s high is a little more personal.  I can’t very well call Kevin every time I write a scene and ask him to celebrate with me.  Instead, I celebrate alone, in my own little happy ways.

I wrote two scenes so far today, and both left me feeling on top of the world.  They weren’t even what I would consider good, they are just words on the paper, but that is enough for a first draft.  I am currently 5k away from my goal, and roughly 25k from the end of the novel, and I am dying to find out what the “completion high” will feel like again, especially with such a large work this time. 

Anyways, I don’t know about you, but I’m off to watch a parade and stuff my face with turkey.  Happy Thanksgiving!

NaNo21, Week 3

Yay!  No illness!  Only progress!

On Tuesday last week, I finished the first part of my novel. I did a literal happy dance around the office, because I felt like the Flippin’ Queen of the World.  This inspired a blog post about the “writer’s high,” but I’m going to talk to you about that on Thursday, because today is, of course, NaNo update day.

So, after I passed my part one, I rolled on in to the start of part two. I wrote a few words on Wednesday to start the chapter, but also updated my book playlist with some new tunes to pump me up while I write.  On Thursday I managed to cram in three sessions, and realized I was becoming addicted to the story (again…more on this in Thursday’s blog.)  On Friday I thought I wouldn’t have time to write all weekend, but then somehow I was able to run right past 40k last night, leaving me 8 days to write 10k words.

Right now, I have about 10 chapters, each coming in around 4k. I’m almost halfway through part two, and then there will be the epilogue, and then it will be done.  The full first draft probably won’t be done by the end of the month, but I am fairly certain I’m going to get the 50k by the 30th, and that is the goal of NaNoWriMo.

Anyways, I am off to pen some more words for the novel I am craving.  Come back Thursday to hear about how writing is like drugs.  Happy Monday!

NaNo21, Week 2

This week only yielded 5000 words, which was disheartening.  I was quite sick, however, which was no surprise to me, because honestly, I budgeted for this.  Maybe not an entire week where I was in the ER every other day, but alas I went hard during week one because I knew it would happen.  I sensed it.  I just can’t sense it in time to turn it off, I guess.

Stomach issues aside, it was a very difficult 5k to pen.  It’s a matter of wrapping up the action of part one and moving on to the events in part two.  New characters are being introduced, and plot devices are being thrown around to get us from point A to point B.  I finished up a great deal of research for a couple of my characters, and there was much planning for the lead-in of part 2, so as far as thought-processes go, it was a good writing week.  The thinking bit I was able to do.  The part where I actually sit down at the computer and type is slightly more difficult.  Even as I write this blog, I feel my wrists ache and fingers grow tired.  I’m just not functioning at 100% yet, and that’s fine, but it makes me feel behind schedule, which I hate. 

One of my NaNo buddies won last night.  She crossed the finish line in two weeks.  I won’t compare myself, because I know she doesn’t have the things in her life that I have in mine to keep me from writing, but I am using her as a sort of reminder to keep going.  In 2019 I finished early, by almost a week, so I know how proud she must be of herself right now.  I know I will be equally proud, whether I finish by Thanksgiving or at 11:59pm on November 30th.  Either way, I will be bouncing off the walls.

So, last weeks pitiful work did bring me up to the halfway mark 2 days early.  That was something to be proud of.  Now, here I am with half a month left and half a book to write. 

So why am I wasting time with you guys?  J/K.  You know I love my blog readers most.

NaNo21, Week 1

I’m starting to write this on Friday afternoon and will likely finish it Monday morning, but here’s how things are going so far:  I just passed 20k.  Really hopeful to crank out that extra 5k before Monday, because then I would be halfway done in a week.  However, I’m hitting some snags…some parts I’m not sure how to work with.

Firstly, my characters are getting out of hand.  See, when I write, I often feel almost possessed by some spirit who does the typing for me.  I don’t know where my ideas come from, truly.  I just let my fingers do the walking, and then I read back these pieces and wonder who composed them.  My characters themselves are the biggest spirits…I don’t know how I create them, they are just there.  They simply exist, and tell me their stories, and I oblige. 

My cousin Erin says it kinda freaks her out.  Kinda freaks me out, if I’m honest.

Anyways, my characters have been making several changes to the script lately and have forced me to go hard into research mode.  However, this has led me to some wonderful interactions with some wonderful people, so that bit I do enjoy.

Hi, It’s Tuesday.  I’m still at 20k, and if you can guess why, then you must be a constant reader of this blog.  Today I feel like death, of course, but better than I had, and I am pleased that I got out the first 20k as fast as I did, because I knew deep down that there would be a hold up. 

I, of course, didn’t blog yesterday either, so here we are, one week and one day into National Novel Writing Month.  I didn’t hit halfway in a week like I planned, but I did get almost the first part done so that’s a win.  Only another chapter or so to go on this section and then I can move on to part two, where the action really picks up.  That should be an exciting challenge, because my last little book was so introspective that there wasn’t a lot of outside drama…meanwhile, this tale is filled with it.  It has made it so much fun to write, that even when I was sick yesterday I was still thinking about it and wishing I could get to the computer to type. 

I’m thinking about it now.

I might end this here.  Might drop a couple paragraphs before I run out of steam. 

Happy NaNo, my friends.

Autumn Housekeeping

Originally, I was going to do NaNo updates on Thursdays like I did the past two years, but then I realized I already wrote about it on Monday, and also that’s when it started, so if I cover it on Mondays, it makes more sense.

So, what am I supposed to write about today?

I could write about the mayoral election which resulted in Byron Brown declaring victory before the votes were counted, which really plays right into what I expect from that guy.  Can’t accept that primary loss but will jump right in and assume he’s the winner after a write-in campaign that has yet to be certified.  Whatever.  I can wait.

I could write about my stomach, which has been quite good lately, knock on wood.  I’ve been on a new pill for about a month and have had few problems and am both optimistic and waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Overall, I feel pretty good and am trying to do things like live a normal life and eat the occasional cheeseburger.

I could write about writing, of course, in the non-NaNo sense…but not much there.  Just the blog, and the weekly Patreon.  Oh!  I did get a TikTok and you can find me @hamneggs716 (of course.)  I will occasionally read poetry for you, if you’re interested.  Other than regular old promoting myself (which I can’t stand, but do admit I’m getting better at,) I’ve just been doing research and work on my NaNo WIP.  Which I will tell you about on Monday.

So, that leaves nothing else to write about, so I will say goodbye and go back to work on my book and maybe make a fresh pot of coffee.

Happy Thursday!

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.)

Preptober, Abbreviated

The year got away from me, as it did with many of us, and so I found myself on the 15th wondering when it had become October.  The weather in the area was unseasonably warm, so I just kind of kept the summer going in my head, only to be blindsided by Autumn mid-month.  It wasn’t so much the seasonal change that bothered me, it was the fact that I wasn’t focused as I should have be

I forgot about Preptober.

Preptober is where you get ready for NaNoWriMo.  If you think I sound like a crazy person, read the next section.  If you know what I’m talking about, skip ahead one.

NaNoWriMo (NaNo) stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is in November.  The goal, though the website, is to pen 50k words in a month, leaving you a “winner” with a little bookie-book at the end of it.  It’s fun and pushes you to write.  “Preptober” is the month of October, when you prepare for NaNo.

Anyway, I did it in 2019 and ended up a winner, with a nice little novella.  Then in 2020 the world stopped, so I figured no problem!  I went hard in planning during October and was raring to go on the 1st of the month.  Alas, on the 8th I broke my finger, and dashed all dreams of getting a book out of it.  This year, I shall try again.

But I haven’t touched my outlines.

I’m so behind.  I have a workbook that helps me prepare and I have two weeks of exercises to look over.  On the up side, it’s the same project I worked on last year so much of it is already done, but I need to familiarize myself with everything again.  I have to get my head back in the book, so to speak.

I suppose the key to it all is to not stress myself out.  For instance, just thinking to myself that I already have so much more prepared for this novel than I did for the last when I started it makes me feel at ease.  I have a game plan; a script to work from.  It will make everything that much easier. 

So, for the next two weeks, I will be reacquainting myself with my book, and bonding with my characters, and dreaming of my settings.  Then, on Monday, November 1st, I will tap tap tap away on my keyboard, and hope I don’t smash my finger in a folding chair again.

Happy Preptober.

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.

NaNoWriMo, 2020

I am still down a digit, but I persevere.  Typing remains difficult, but I can’t not do it.  I tried.  My brain overloaded and spilled out my fingertips anyway, all nine working ones.

After about twenty minutes of typing, my hand gets tired.  So, this will be short.  This will also be my second and last NaNo update.

It broke my little writer-heart when I broke my little writer-pinky, just a week into the month I had been looking forward to all year.  I had already spent the first week sick as a dog, and I was not pleased about the circumstances that led to a splint on my little finger for the remainder of the month.

I topped out around 5k words on NaNo, 45k short to win.  I knew I wouldn’t win as soon as my doctor looked at my finger and said “ouch.”  The dream died in that moment.

I was feeling very ambitious on October 31st.  I was raring to go, all my prep work done and my fingers itching to begin the typing process.  But sickness.  Then injury.  Then nothing for two weeks.  Two weeks where I could barely even click a mouse because it irritated my hand, let alone type.  Two weeks of no writing, in a time that was not the dreaded writer’s block.  The ideas were flowing, but where to put them?  Little dictated notes here and there, pecking things out on my phone with my thumbs.  Fleeting thoughts trapped, yet not expanded upon.

I am almost done with chapter 2 of my novel.  I started typing again the other night, and even as I write this I am a little mad I am using my strength on the blog today instead of the book.   I am WAY behind schedule…so I tore up the schedule.  Instead, I will hack away at this lump of rock until my sculpture appears, no matter how long it takes.

I’ll tell you a secret.

I love The Second Before, the little novel I wrote last year.  I don’t know if it will go anywhere though.  The outlook on my current WIP is different.  If I can write it, I can sell it.  I know that, deep down like I know anything.  This faith pushes me to work harder on it.  I already have put in more time than I did on TSB, and it’s much more epic than that little piece.  It will be good, should I manage to get it out of my head.

Anyway, NaNoWriMo 2020 was a wash, which isn’t that surprising given the course of the year thus far.  Maybe next year I will try again, if another idea presents itself, but it is much more likely I will just take my 2019 win and go, and write this novel that has been taking up space in my brain for so many years.  I think that will be 2021’s project, and it will take more than a month, but it will be so worth it in the end.