Archive for November, 2017


STILL ALIVE

It’s the season of Nanowrimo as I mentioned in my last post, I think. I’ve been juggling a weird work schedule so my word count has looked more exponential than linear, so that’s cool?

Look, my stats! Behold the not writing I did today.

I’ve had a couple of days where I got five or six thousand words done, and that felt really, really good. When I get to the point of writing like that, I fall into the story and it’s just like trying to keep up with the action.  It’s not always easy to do it, but usually after I sit down and actually focus I can get there. It might not always get done perfectly, but during nano I get the plot moving quite nicely and even when I’m feeling the characters despair or joy or confusion or whatever it is I feel hopeful. 

When I get into that groove editing I catch the mistakes and reweave it stronger. I

But I’m being here vaguely, and sometimes I forget the other things I need to do. Like blogging, or posting on Patreon, or emptying the catbox, or eating food. I think it I weren’t trying to do this on a 40 hour work week it might be easier? But I’ll get one thing or the other, and some things fall through and others get done (late at night usually). My fiance is being patient and loving and helping with the catbox and Chaucer has been occasionally calling me back to reality when he wants attention.

“Hey, I know you’re busy but feed me.”

He tried to pull me out of the bathroom a couple of different times this morning. Unfortunately he isn’t bigger and I don’t fit under the door.

I know I’m going to have a couple of days or frantic thousands of word to keep up and I’m looking forward to it, but I also wanted to make sure I pop up here and there just so you know I’m still here, O Reader. 

There’s a tradition of writers posting during Nanowrimo about how much they’re dying and drinking things with caffeine. I don’t know about the being overwhelmed – I’m not quite out of my initial burst of story confidence so I think I can make it and that sort of helps with the crazy feeling. But the caffeine part is true. I’ve been drinking quite a bit of Chai this month. Thank you to the people who keep supplying the Chai.

And thanks to my friends and family who keep supporting me in beautiful, wonderful, powerful way. I love you all. Thanks for waiting out the vagueness. 

I’ll leave you with a picture of my kitty being silly and comfy with my fiance. 

Stay safe, O Reader.Kitty-cat says mauw! Look at his toe-beans!

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The month of November is probably one of the crazier ones in the year for a lot of people. For students and teachers, there are tests and projects due and needing to be completed. For medical and other offices, it’s coming up on the end of the year leading to changes in policies and planning. Seasonally in the northern hemisphere, it’s even busy because it’s the end of summer and there’s the burst of last energy as the snow comes in before everything rests over the lassitude of a sort of enforced silence.

I really like snowfall.  As a side note.

But it’s also the time of year where a bunch of enthusiastic and slightly insane people get into the challenge of writing a novel in a month.

Please keep remembering that it doesn’t have to be a good novel. It just has to be done. The quality of goodness is…. incidental at best.

And the insanity mostly comes from the fact that there’s a lot that goes into wanting to write a novel. I’ve been taking part in the novel challenge for nine years. When I explain all this, I often get asked both, ” wait, so you’ve written nine books?” and “have you published any of them?”

And the answer is kind of no, and also no. I haven’t been published. Yet, I hope. I’m working on it. But, I also haven’t necessarily written nine novels. I’ve made the effort nine times, and according to my track record on the Nanowrimo site I’ve won three times. That means that out of the nine years I’ve done this, I’ve only made it to the 50,000 word count goal three times.

Which sounds slightly less awesome than I’ve actually found it to be. What I’ve figured out over the nine years is both that I have stories that I like to tell, and that people around me want to hear them; I’ve learned how to write and develop characters who have depth, motivation, intention, and flaws. I’ve learned about plot and momentum, and I’ve learned a lot of things that don’t work.

I have learned SO MANY THINGS that don’t work.

But not only have I gotten into a pattern of needing to write for a month, I’ve started realizing what a positive and needed impact it has on my mental and emotional state. When I write, and this is something also that crops up when I play tabletop roleplaying games, I can put my anxieties, emotional ups and downs, and uncertainties into the character and explore aspects in a safe environment. I see what happens when I work with different abilities, with different levels of capability, and empathy in different perspectives. It’s easier to understand motives when you play it out small scale and can ask the player. When you see it played out in real life, it’s much easier to step away from what you think you know and be willing to listen to a different set of information and experience. So with both the release of tension from day to day life buried in characters and the exploration of different ways of understanding, my brain seems to settle and relax which is great for my mental state and the way that I can handle real life.

And not only that, because I’ve been practicing how to write and tell stories, when people ask me if I’m published or how many books I’ve written, I have actually more and more seriously begun to work out how to make that pipe dream happen.

But during the month itself, and a little bit beforehand, I start to step away from the focus that other people intentionally or unintentionally demand. I start to claim more time to myself, I get more demanding about when I am going to step away and leave things undone; even when I’m around other people, the back of my mind is turning over where I left off, where I’m having problems, what I need to have my characters do or get through in order to get from point a to point b or even to just figure out what I’m supposed to do next. I feel almost selfish, but this is my month and I want to write this book, darnit, and I’m going to. It becomes easier to tell people I can’t do things with them or at all, or even that I need to be left alone, because I have a deadline and a word count both, and I’m not going to get either done if I don’t actually make an effort to make it happen. The permissiveness given to say, “go away, I want to do this and I’m going to” is not something I feel I can do except in November. Part of telling people to go away even comes with the reasoning that it’s for one month a year.

When I told someone that I’d be around vaguely for the month of November, they asked me how you can be around vaguely. You’re either there or you aren’t. Which is reasonable, since people aren’t as good as being somewhere and not being somewhere as cats are. But my fiance, who is used to this pattern by now, begged to differ. Before I could even say anything, he said, “nope. She’ll be around vaguely” in sort of an exasperated patience. He is supportive and understanding, and also is aware that for a month I’m going to sort of step out and be more interested in my computer and chai and being completely alone even from him.

This year, since I’ve been working full time and starting to try to find my way back to school, I’ve realized how burned out I am, and how much I don’t necessarily really want to be doing anything else. I like being able to tell people I can’t do things because I’m going to go shut myself away at Starbucks, and not do dinner or laundry, or anything that doesn’t help build me up towards creating myself a new world. My fiance thinks I can change the world with my writing, but I mostly just like to write things, and more and more, things that I think are important. I want to learn how to actually be as good as he thinks I am, and then do that all of the time.

When I go back to work, I think about writing.

When I wake up, and there are things that I have to be doing like applications and wedding planning and laundry and things like that, I sort of just want to go spend eight hours making a story instead.

It’s kind of crazy that this is people’s jobs. ONE DAY.

But I also realized that I can’t work at home. Or at least not in the same way. I can sort of push myself towards getting words on the page, but the productiveness is not nearly the same as I can get when I go and set down without distractions or people asking me things or pets… which are all things that I wouldn’t want to trade away any of the rest of the time, but which are for not focusing. I haven’t set up a good place for me to work. At home, I think I can usually set down and give up a few hundred words at a time, and the pace just crawls. When I’m in my space at Starbucks, I can get a couple thousand words in the same amount of time and still know where I’m going when I have to leave.

It’s not always easy, or inspired writing, but it’s intentioned and sustainable. And it’s hard work that I feel good about even when I have to rewrite and take out the same sentence seven different times because the words are WRONG.

Or because they’re right for a different story. I don’t know. I have collections of words the ways couches collect dustbunnies.

But I think also I’ve heard a lot this year that people sort of don’t realize why it’s hard to do. Life gets in the way, there aren’t a set number of hours or days you can specify if you’re like me as to how long it’s going to take you to get it done. I can’t say I’m going to spend three hours and get my word count done, because sometimes I do that and realize that I’m going to have 500 words done, and then sometimes I spend an hour and a half and I have 2,000 words done. Some days you have to work and then you’re exhausted and then some days you stay up far too late and deal with that the next day. Some stories you go back and work at and work at and work at and then have to cut those thousand words but the two are better that you replace them with.  Sometimes you were wrong to cut them.

I don’t know that I’m in a place to tell anyone how to write or how not to (since I’m not actually published) but I keep encouraging people to try it because if nothing else you find out if you can. Sometimes it’s good for me to realize how much work I actually am doing when I keep trying this, and sometimes it’s just good to see someone else sit down with me and see if we can work through the problems together. Good company who knows how to focus and then come back.

So, I guess if you want to try a crazy project that may or may not be good for your sanity and relationships, come try Nano. You’ll either get addicted or you won’t,  but since you already won’t get everything done in November that you want you might as well try a novel too.

https://nanowrimo.org/

Good luck with your novel!