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NaNoWriMo 2017 Aftermath

It is December first, and NaNoWriMo is over. Now we are all celebrating our victories, or licking our wounds. I am doing both.

For the second time in nine years I’ve failed NaNoWriMo, but boy did I come close. 4365 words from my goal, and I just could not go on. My brain, and my fingers, just gave out. I had been pushing all day long, and I managed to write 7284 words in one day, but I just couldn’t get those last four thousand words.

This was an incredible month, and I learned more about myself, and my novel, than I would have any other time. I threw away chapters, and rewrote a whole synopsis. I got stuck on the novel and went over to write some short stories for the day. I gave up on the original idea I thought I’d write because it just didn’t work. And I got that much closer to finishing book two and three of the new series.

Why did I fail? Well, I had a slow start. I fell into my stride about half way through the month, and finally found what I needed to say. That drove the story forward, and the words piled up. Had I found that story, and my perseverance, a couple weeks sooner I wouldn’t have had that epic writing day at the end.

However, that day writing 7k words was pretty exciting. That shows me that it’s possible, and if I keep pushing myself, and my endurance, some day I might be able to do writing days like that regularly.

I can make excuses about being distracted by life, children getting the flu, and feeling down the first week of this month, but ultimately they are all excuses. The truth is we all have those things happen. Life is not fair, life does not care if you’re trying to write every night. It simply is, and sometimes you have a bad day and you have to write anyway.

So I’m going to be brutally honest with myself, and you, and show exactly why I failed this years writing challenge.

First, for me I know that if I don’t write for a few days it is really difficult for me to keep writing. If I take a week off it takes me a while to get back into the swing of things. If something stressful is going on it’s that much worse.

So here is a chart showing how many words I’ve written every year for the last five years.

I have one month left in 2017, and I am 83,000 words behind my worst year out of the last five. And 48,000 of those words were written in one month. THAT, dear reader, is why I lost NaNoWriMo. Not because the kids were sick and we had to take them to the hospital. Not because I lost the story. Not because I had a couple bad days, or didn’t get enough sleep. It’s because I haven’t written that much this year anyway.

It’s not easy to look at this chart. Writing has been an incredibly important thing for me for as long as I can remember, and it’s upsetting to see how little care I put into my writing this year. Yes, I’ve written 65,000 words just on my new series, but that’s half as much as I wrote on the Witch’s Curse books each year when I was working to get them finished. And the question is why? Why did I give up? Why didn’t I push myself? Why did I choose video games over writing? Or a movie? Or a craft?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot these days. What do I want out of my life? Out of day job? Out of my writing? And I think that’s why I’ve been writing less. I wasn’t sure if it was what I wanted to focus on, because I wasn’t sure if it could get me the one thing I wanted more than anything.

Gregg, my boyfriend, started his own business this year. He works harder than ever, but he’s happier then he’s ever been. And he’s his own boss. No one to be accountable to accept himself (and maybe his audience) and….well no management to look over his shoulder, count the beans, and make sure he’s “doing his job right.” He’s accountable to himself, his art, and fans he’s gathering. And he’s so happy!

That’s what I want for myself, I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet. Writing seems to be the thing that I’m best at, but I’m still pretty horrible at marketing. I know that because I’ve tried a LOT of marketing this year with maybe okay results. But we live, we learn, and we try something new, right?

The world is a strange place. We have adages like “do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life” and “fake it till you make it” but no one tells you that someone has to weed the yard. Someone has to fix the plumbing. Someone has to pick up the trash. They probably didn’t want that for their life’s work either, but there they are. Supporting their family and doing a job so they can have a home, and set the table every night. But when you believe those adages and you aren’t doing what you love as a job you start to feel like you’re not good enough. And so here I was, feeling like I wasn’t good enough. Wondering if I should just give up and let writing be a hobby, like video games or crafts, instead of just working my butt of for the next novel, and trying to make a living on it.

And the truth is I don’t know. I don’t know if I will ever be able to make enough so that I can stop working for someone else. I don’t know if I will ever get a book out that strikes a cord with readers. I don’t know…if I’m good enough. But ultimately it doesn’t matter. I love to write, and I’m going to keep doing it.

So, this NaNoWriMo I learned to stop wallowing in my own self pity, and wondering what if, and just enjoy writing the story again.

And that’s what I’m going to do. Starting tomorrow. Today was a day for reflection.

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Posted by on December 2, 2017 in On Writing

 

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5min- Finished! 

Back in April of 2015 I got a fantastic idea for a story by looking at a lonely piece of art. The art was looking for a book to be a cover for, and it would be a fantastic cover. Unfortunately it was a pro artist and I can’t afford his rates. But that didn’t stop me from writing the story. 

So in. May of 2016, a year later, I started outlining the series. Five books. Five complete stories, each one with a valuable part to play in making one girl, Sybel, who she needs to be to save everyone from an unknown danger. I started writing  it during NaNoWriMo 2016. 

And tonight I’ve completed the first novel in that series! 

It feels so good to be done. I wrote the first draft, went through line by line to clean up any plot holes and add descriptions to some areas, and I’m finally satisfied that it’s ready to go to the editor. 

So happy! And I  can’t wait to share it with all of you. 

And that’s my five. 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in On Writing

 

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NaNoWriMo Aftermath

It’s December, that means holiday cheer, Christmas music, and reflecting back on NaNoWriMo, and what I learned this year.

Ifnov you were following my twitter you might already know that I failed NaNoWriMo this year. In fact it’s the first time in over five years that I’ve lost NaNo. I only got 38,309 words written. Still, I managed an average of 1200 words a day, which isn’t a bad showing. But I didn’t win.

This year was a very slow start. I remember being frustrated, and having to force myself to sit down and write for that first week. And even when I did finally sit down I didn’t have a lot of time. I often became tired, and just gave up after 800-1200 words with the idea that I’d make it up the next week. Only the next week didn’t come. Not really.

I had my moments. Days in which I hit 2200, one glorious moment when I hit 3200. But it was the small days in which I only got 300, or 400 words that caused me to fail. If I had written at least 1000 words a day then the other days, the days when I strove for better, when the story was hitting it’s mark, I would have earn my 50,000 words.

But, there’s a lesson to be learned from the failing, and that is why I do NaNoWriMo every year. Not for the win, not for the words I get ahead in my writing (though that’s nice) but for the things I learn about myself.

This year my heart just didn’t seem to be in NaNoWriMo. It was hard to write, hard to find the words, hard to follow the story at times. I think there were three things that lead to my inability to write as much as I would have liked.

My story wasn’t focused.

I am a both a plotter, and a pantser. I write simple beat style plots for my story (x did this, then did this, then this happened.) Then from those notes I do the actual story. Most of the time it works, but it really depends on how detailed the plot is. Sometimes, like this time, the story grows outside of the original beats and I have to completely rework the novel. This time I had a 2600 word plot exasperated into individual chapters, which a running story line going through it all. But after writing it I realized that pacing and character development weren’t completed. I needed more story. Whole chapters and scenes needed to be added in. More characters created.

I ended up having to rewrite the entire plot line to see what I had already written, and what was missing. That took a couple days, and I still need to do more of it for the last few chapters. The novel is 35,000 words at the moment, but I’m only about half way through the novel.

This plot shifting caused a huge hiccup in my writing schedule. I had to figure out what I was writing before I could even attempt to go forward. But once I did figure it out I had some really good word count days.

My family was more important.

My schedule changed when I got a new job a few months ago. The new schedule means that I go to bed shortly before Gregg (my boyfriend) is getting up. I often get home to find him already asleep, or headed that way. This means we don’t get as much quality time together. And, to be frank, that sucks.

We have had to consciously make time for one another. Adjust sleep schedules. Nap if needed. Anything so that we can spend a little bit of time with one another. My writing has suffered because I’d rather spend time with my boyfriend when I’m able, talking, laughing, and enjoying his company, than finishing my book.

Hopefully our schedules will be more compatible after January, but only time will tell for sure.

I was distracted.

Election day was November 8th, and like many people in the USA I was distracted, watching the debates, reading forum posts and news articles, listening to opposing arguments for and against. I was fascinated by everything happening, and disturbed in many ways. I’m a centrist, I like to vote based on facts, not feelings, so I was appalled by things on both side of this election. Some things more than others, but just because one side is more wrong then the other it didn’t mean I ignored the problem with the apposing side.

I tried avoiding stating my personal viewpoints most of the time online because there were so many people who were just being entirely hateful to one another, on both sides, and it hurt to watch friendships falling apart. One of the few times I spoke up I lost a friend over it. So I stayed quiet for the most part, listening but not saying anything very much except to a few friends, and my boyfriend.

Than one night my boyfriend said “you know what, you should write about these things. It’s clearly eating you up inside, and you need to get these thoughts out. Try writing it down.”

So I did. In the graph above you’ll see two sections. Blue for “The Half Blood Sorceress” series which was my NaNo project. Red for the political writings I started to do. You’ll notice I had a lot to say at first, and it lessoned over time. You’ll also note that as soon as I started getting all of those questions and ideas about politics, society, and social obligations out of my head….I finally started to really work on my book.

(Green is for blog posts and news letters. I don’t count them in my NaNo word counts, but I do keep track of them.)

Will I ever publish those words talking about social inequalities and observations? Maybe, possibly. If I do it won’t be under my name though. It’s too dangerous. People get really mad about politics, and lately it seems there are more people who think that if you don’t agree with them 100% then you’re wrong and they will attack you. I’m a centrist, so that’s not good for me. Both sides tend to attack those in the middle.

Conclusions

Considering my heart just wasn’t in NaNo this year, I still did damn good with my writing. I rarely write 30k in a month. The fact hat I was almost at 40k this month, even with my heart completely somewhere else, means I didn’t do that badly. I’m kind of proud of that.

But it also means I have no excuse for writing less than 30k a month (unless I’m incredibly sick, or my world is falling apart.) Writing is part of me, it keeps me sane. It lets me focus my thoughts, and discuss the world and what I see in it. Writing helps me to understand the world around me.

If I manage another 30k for the month of December than I will have written another quarter of a million words this year. If I can manage that then maybe next years goal will be half a million.

Time to get writing.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in On Writing

 

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What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for several years now, and “won” all but one of them. And every year I come away with a new understanding of myself, my writing, or something else.

This year was unlike any year in the past. The words came easily most days. I would sit down at my computer, spill out my two thousand words for the day in an hour or two, and then walk away to do something else. Play games. Watch TV. Go out with my boyfriend. This year, for the very first time, it is December and I am not burned out from writing.

 

wordsHere is December for the last two years. See how, after I write 50,000 words in November, the numbers are almost non existent? Many days with no writing, and on the few days I did write I didn’t write much.

I always thought this was the cost of NaNoWriMo… the December burn out. I thought that because I wrote so much in November my brain needed a rest. But no… this was the cost of not making writing a habit.

 

Think of it like swimming. If you are not a swimmer, and usually just dip your toe in the water, then take a day to swim across a lake, you’re going to be tired the next day. You might even fail in your swimming and drown on the way across the lake. If your only a part time swimmer then you’ll have a good chance of getting across the lake, but you’ll feel like “I’ve done my swimming for the month” and thew next month you probably won’t swim much.

But if you swim all the time, and your body and mind are focused on swimming, then you’ll just keep swimming. Swam across the lake yesterday? Okay, what about today. That was yesterday, this is today, I need to swim today.

Writing is something I do, almost every day now, and I am not slowing down because I swam across the lake last month. I feel like 1500 words a day is a great place to start, 2000 on days when I’m pushing myself. That’s another 45,000 words a month, every month. I’ll be happy with 30k for a while. But that is more than I’ve ever written in a month outside of NaNoWriMo before. And yet… it seems right to me.

Something’s changed in the way I think about writing. It’s taken a few years, and lots of encouragement from those around me. But I feel like a writer now. Like I’m incomplete if I haven’t written something for the day. And that attitude shift…THAT is everything. That is something HUGE and I can’t wait to see how it plays out in the next year.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in NaNoWriMo, On Writing

 

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Don’t give up!

It’s nearing the end of NaNoWriMo. Just five days left, and I have 9300 words to go. That’s less then 2k a day. I got this!

But it also means that I’ve been really hard at work, and sometimes when I sit down at the computer I fumble through about three hundred words (words that I will just be throwing out) before I can actually get anything good down.

On one hand this is good. It clears my mind and gets me back into the writing motions. I’m okay with that. And the fact that I can recognize good writing from bad writing so fast, and still realize that I need to get it out before I can go back and fix it, means I’ve improved dramatically over the last few  years.

On the other… I have to throw out a bunch of words I just wrote. It sucks, however you look at it. Every once in a while you’ll see a tweet from me (if you’re following my twitter) where I say “just wrote 600 words and threw out 600 words. A day in the life of a writer.” And it’s true! Some days you have a bunch of drek to throw out before you can get to the good stuff.

But that’s okay. EVERYONE has those days. We all have a day where we don’t feel good, or we don’t feel like being creative, or efficient, or even getting out of bed. Sometimes we even give into those feelings. It’s okay, it’s normal. As long as the job still gets done.

I’m starting to think of writing as a job more and more. A job I love, but a job just the same. One in which you still have to show up and do the work every day or you don’t get paid. It’s not a hobby anymore, it’s something I need in my life, and I keep doing. Even on days when it’s tough. Even when the ‘muse’ must be tied up to the chair and force fed coffee to get her butt in gear.

So don’t give up. I know it can be tough sometimes, but don’t give up.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2015 in NaNoWriMo

 

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Getting started is the hard part

Yesterday I wrote 1200 words just before bed. It took me about an hour and a half to churn it all out. I went to bed feeling a little giddy with how quickly the words flowed out.

Today? I sat down at the keyboard and looked at the words and my mind went blank.

I think starting is the hardest part. Once you get moving your mind just tends to flow. The words come, even if they are terrible words, and you eventually find yourself with a chapter. Then another chapter.

That’s the problem tonight. I chose a particularly tough chapter to write and my mind just kind of balked because I knew that every word I put down was terrible and would have to be rewritten. But that’s the purpose of NaNoWriMo. You just put down the words and don’t worry about them. Come back later and polish them up, or throw them out and rewrite it. I’m not very good at that, I like to get the words (mostly) write the first time and when I know I’m having difficulty with a particular scene or chapter my fingers just don’t want to go.

I suppose this is just another one of those learning experiences I need. Get the words down, and come back for them later.

Now to write.

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2015 in NaNoWriMo, On Writing

 

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The Half Way Point

It’s day 18 of NaNoWriMo and a little over half way through the month. I’m currently at 25,800 words. Just slightly over half the 50k. And at this point I know I can make it, I’m actually farther ahead then I’ve been most years. But I am behind. Partly because of a huge storm that knocked out power for a day and a half. But the rest is all me.

Every year I do NaNoWriMo for the words, but mostly to learn something about myself, and writing in general. The last couple of days I learned that I have created a pattern for myself to write, and that if I’m knocked out of that pattern it’s really hard for me to get back on track. This is a good thing in that with a pattern I am able to sit down and write more. It’s a bad thing because you can’t always perform the same ritual every time you sit down to do something and that shouldn’t stop you from doing it.

My ritual: Sit down at the computer, put on my headphones, turn on some chillstep, and open scrivener. The chillstep playlists I use don’t have words, and I’ve listened to them so many time that I can tune them out, but they also help me block out everything going on behind me. I write in the living room, so there are children on the TV, Gregg at his leather working station, and a general hubbub going on most of the time. Even when I write in other locations I will use my phone to play some chillstep while I write. The music gets me in the mood. (I highly suggest getting a musical soundtrack to anyone who wants writing to be a habit. You just have to find the one that suits you.)

The storm came through and power went out. I sat at work slowly watching the sun sink, the office getting darker and darker. About thirty minutes before the sun set completely the one loan emergency light in the office also died. The battery is only suppose to last long enough to get people out of the building, and no longer.

My co-worker and I had only one little flash light. My phone was on it’s last bit of juice so I couldn’t even use it as a flash light. I did manage to sneak out and get a couple candles, but two loan candles don’t really light up an office much.

When I got home to a dark house with no TV, no computer, and no chillstep, writing seemed the last of my worries. It’s amazing how much the lack of light really bothers a person after a while. At least it bothered me. We lit a bunch of candles, and started a fire, but after a while of sitting in the dark not even reading my kindles was enough to distract myself from the utter quiet.

I think that was the worst part. The realization that lack of sound really bothers me. Odd since I work in an office by myself and there is no sound except the near constant vehicles driving by outside for 80% of the time. Even odder since I spent most of my life separated from the rest of the world, with no sounds other than the wind whispering though the trees, and birds singing from the branches. I lived on a farm well before Pandora, MP3’s or even Walkman’s. Music was a luxury, not an expectation.

I like to think that half the reason I like noise when I get home is simply because I just spent eight hours in an office that was extremely quiet. It’s good to have some noise to remind me that I’m not alone. I have always associated noise with my children and SO being there in the house with me. When I went to bed alone I always slept better if I could hear the video game playing in the background because I knew where my husband was. Now it’s the soft “tap tap tap” of Gregg punching designs into leather. Noise reassures me because I know where my family is, and that everyone is safe. And I’m not alone.

So last night I tried to write. I pulled out a notebook, not unlike all the spiral binders I have tucked away in my closet with thousands of words written on them, and tried to write. I scratched out a couple of ideas, wrote down the names of a few characters and…nothing. No more then twenty words and my mind just kept focusing on the quiet. The emptiness. The darkness.

I had to get out of the house last night. We went to the supermarket and had some deli food, sititng in the little food court with a bunch of college students charging laptops and phones since the campus was out of power. The noise, light, and people made me feel better. But I still didn’t get any writing done last night.

So it’s the next day. The power came back about 1pm today, and I have my music and my computer. My family is behind me doing their individual things, and my music is half drowning them out.

So why is it so hard to write today? It’s a good question. Gregg said to stop focusing on the fact that I’m 4000 words behind, and just focus on the next 200. That’s doable, right?

200 words, here I come.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2015 in NaNoWriMo, On Writing

 

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