NaNoWriMo 2017

I will not be doing NaNoWriMo this year. I know, strange to hear an author say that, but here are the five reasons why I won’t be joining in the “fun”.

 

  • I Already Wrote Three First Drafts This Year – Not quite the four per year of more established romance authors, but I feel like it’s still an accomplishment. Maybe not the book in a month of NaNoWriMo, but clearly I already have the motivation to produce.

 

  • I have Five Books That Need Revising – In addition to the three new first drafts I produced this year, I also have two other books in need of revision. I need to be focusing on that as much, if not more, than producing new content right now.
rewrite2
Yeah, about like that.

 

  • Prep Book For Publishing – I am seriously considering the self-publishing route right now. I’ve been querying a completed book, and I haven’t found any agents interested. But this means I need to spend some of my writing time formatting the book and figuring out how to launch it rather than write.

 

  • I want My Family to NOT Hate Me – This is a big one. I have that full time day job, and November is one of my busiest times of the year. Even busier than year-end and tax season. Combine that with Thanksgiving, two amazing kids, and a wonderful spouse, and they just don’t need the crap. Seriously. Trying to churn out 1.7k words a day is hard. It’s daunting. And it requires a commitment from the whole family I’m not willing to ask.

 

  • Stress Kills Creativity –  For me, NaNoWriMo isn’t motivating, it’s stressful. That makes it even harder to be creative, especially in an already stressful time of my life.
stressed
Me starting mid-October to April 16th

 

  • I Want Writing to Stay Fun – The reason I write is because I love to create character and worlds. I love to see good triumph and get my happily-ever-after. I’ve loved reading since I was a small kid, and I decided I wanted to write after reading some books with crappy endings. I wanted control. To see things resolved properly. No control issues here. Nope. None at all.
control
Me reading a book. Yup.

The one thing I’ve learned is every writer is different. What works for me doesn’t work for them. So, if NaNoWriMo is something that helps a writer achieve their goals, great!

I simply haven’t found it helpful, and for things like work-life-family balance, I’ve found it detrimental. I’m much happier with my five-hundred words-a-day goal. A lot of days I get more, but most days I get at least the five-hundred. It works for me.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, I’ll still be here, but I’ll be cheering you on from the sidelines.

How about you? Do you find deadlines like NaNoWriMo beneficial? Do deadlines help motivate you? Or do you find the added stress actually makes it harder to achieve your goals?

66% Done

I cleared 40,000 words on my latest WIP.

celebrate

And yes, this is approximately 66% for me. As a romance writer, I like my works to come in around 70-80k words. I write a very bare bone first draft, so I leave myself space to go back and add in more during revisions. Things like scents and sounds to help the reader feel closer to the action. More description…or description at all.

My beta reader has nailed me for the number of sensory deprivation rooms I have in my early drafts. I’m much better about finding it and correcting it myself now, but that still means more words.

So, why am I celebrating the 66% mark? Am I that desperate for recognition? Maybe a little, but that’s not the point.

Why is the 66% mark important to me? Because at this point, I’ve conquered the dreaded middle.

I’m a pantser when I write. Yes, I’ve tried outlines.

outlining

Outlines simply don’t work for me. I’ve given up trying for the moment, and I’ve given myself over to letting the characters show me what’s going to happen.

I know where the story starts. I know how it ends. What I don’t know is the middle. How are they going to get there? It’s this middle part that teaches me a lot about the characters, what deeper internal motivators they have, their hopes, fears, etc.

The beginning, that’s really their face to the world. Their mask. To get them to reveal more, I have to throw some things at them. See how they react.

By the end of the story, well, you know me. There is going to be a happily-ever-after (HEA). That’s a given.

Sometimes, getting the characters to come clean in the middle is really hard. Either they have a lot to hide, or I am trying to author-plot and not let things evolve on their own. Me not stepping back and giving the characters agency is usually the issue, but sometimes the obstacles I throw at them are not significant to get them to come clean on their real internal struggles.

Does this mean a lot of revision later? You betcha.

firstdraft

Now that you know the characters better, you have to push all you’ve learned back to the beginning of the story. Let who they are peek around the corners of who they want you to believe they are. It requires changes to the beginning, and as I rewrite and delve deeper, it frequently requires a change in the ending as well. And lots more tinkering throughout.

But that’s revision. That’s later. Right now, it’s all about getting the electrons on the screen in a pattern that resembles words. Most of which will change later.

But if I can get through the middle, I have a really good shot of finishing the book. The end usually writes faster than any other part as we barrel towards the climactic resolution and our happily-ever-after.

Of course, I will probably have to rewrite the ending. The one novel I’ve polished and am querying had four different endings before I was happy.

Still, here’s hoping I can get that last 20,000 words and have another first draft waiting to be revised.

Held Together With Paperclips, Clothespins, and Craft Wire

I’m sure there are some people out there that can put together an amazing first draft.

I am not one of them.

Mine looks more like this:

image
Yep, novel I finished looks pretty much like this. If you look closely, you can pick out the knight and wizard. Look close. Very close.

Yeah, not exactly the image of the chivalrous knight in shining armor or the powerful prince in line to be king.

How did I end up here instead of with a smooth refined work?

It’s a first draft, and I don’t do much editing as I write because it slows me down. I need to write while my muse is whispering to me. Let the creativity flow. I managed to put together 60,000 words in 6 weeks following this method. Yes, it needs rewriting, but I have a starting point.

Revision pulls out my analytical side, and this crushes my creativity. So, when my first draft is done, my work is held together with a lot of paperclips, clothes pins, and craft wire.

Yes, I can already hear many of you now. Write an outline! Not sure an outline would help my first draft get better, but . . .

Outlines Don’t Work for Me

I know, blasphemy. Almost every bit of writing advice I’ve ever heard has included this. I have yet to make it work.

I start with an outline for a story. I’ll even do character sketches and map out their arcs, blurbs for secondary characters, the whole thing. But I’ve never finished a story I first outlined.

The more I try to force myself to outline, the more rote and dry the story feels until my creativity has abandoned me and my writing feels about as interesting as eating sand.

This is my analytical side shining through. Once that comes out, you aren’t putting it back without a fight. My day job demands I be analytical, methodical, and precise. That side of me has been well-honed.

If you invoke that analytical side, I will follow that outline at hell-or-high-water.

berlin
Maybe not that high of water . . .

I tried slogging through and forcing myself to stick to the outline on four different novels. I now have four half-finished books that will probably never be completed. Unless I run out of ideas and make myself go back to them.

I have since learned to let the story morph. To let it go places I never intended and watch my outline crumble.

Watch characters change in ways I never expected. Watch them reveal things about themselves that crushes my Author-God plans and means a rewrite must happen in the beginning to lay the groundwork for it. Or possibly a bigger rewrite as the character I planned to write is not the one that exists in the story.

I try very hard to turn the Author-God mode off and let things flow. Yes, it creates rewrites later. But at least there’s a finished version to rewrite.

I’ve come to accept that rewrites just are.

We’ve all got our process, and mine doesn’t have to mirror yours. It’s about getting it done, and I’m sure as I get more experience, my methodology will change.

 

How about you? Do you write polished first drafts? If so, what’s your secret? Do you write outlines? Do you stick to them if you do?

 

Me and My Big Mouth

Ever say something you wish you could take back?

Most of us do, and this happened to me the other day. Don’t even remember where it came from, but I said I had managed to put 50,000 words on the page for a new story in a month. I figured another 10,000 words should take me to the end of the first draft (I write skeletons, remember?).

My muse heard that, because of course she did, crossed her arm over her chest and flew away.

muse
In case anyone’s seen mine.

I am not sure what to do to convince her to come back. Perhaps she needs me to eat a bag of oreos while trying to finish the chapter I’m working on, knowing full well I don’t like oreos.

Not sure what her demands are as she’s made herself rather scarce.

It’s not writer’s block because I can still make some headway, but it’s not the magical page devouring progress I was making.

And no, I know better than to take a break and wait for her to come back. Uh-uh. Played that game and lost more than once.

So, time to apply bottom to chair and bleed out as many words as possible.

Perhaps when she sees I’m sincere, she’ll return. If she doesn’t, I’ll scratch out the rest of the words to the ending of the story the hard way. Even with her inspiration, when it comes time to edit, there’s no easy way about it.

Magic

But if you’ve seen her, please tell her I’m sorry. I’ll shut my mouth until the book is finished, and she’s booked her vacation to Cancun while I start the revision process.

 

How about you? Have you ever lost your muse? Why? What did you do to get him/her back?

 

Balancing Act: Left Brain vs Right Brain

Life is a regular balancing act of creativity and reason. Of balancing the left and right side of the brain. (And yes, I know this has been thoroughly debunked. And here’s Neil DeGrass Tyson doing it style. Still, you get my point.)

Whether you write stories, paint, sing, do performance art, make jewelry, or arrange flowers, most humans have a creative outlet. It seems to be wired into us, and there are lots of sites out there that will tell you how important creativity is, even in business:

While I think it’s important to foster this creativity in myself and others, I don’t really know how as I never had it fostered in me. As I was growing up, creativity was something for young children. When you reached a certain age, you put your imagination behind you and focused on the important and grown-up things like math, science, and tearing apart literary books looking for meaning rather than writing your own novel.

So, I’ve had to figure out ways to coax out my own creativity, especially when I’m writing a first draft of a story.

aa

This first draft is when I’m making something out of nothing. Piecing together electrons on a page to tell a story. Granted, my first draft is strung together with paperclips, duct tape, and pipe cleaners, but it has brought into being something that didn’t exist before. Something ready to be engineered into a coherent story driven by the characters.

Getting that first draft onto the page is hard. I’d love to say I’ve found the magic bean that lets your fingers dance across the keyboard as worlds, characters and plot fill the screen. Man, oh man, do I wish I had that bean. Mostly, my creative process involves butt to chair as I struggle to turn off my internal editor and throw words onto the page.

If I poke at those words too much, “edit as I go”, the creativity dies and I’m back into edit mode.

The magic bean is gone.

coffee-660394_640
So what if my magic bean looks a little bit like coffee…

But, like most things, if I practice turning off that internal editor, I get better at not listening to her and better at letting thoughts become words on a page.

Eventually, a story materializes. Then comes the editing to make those paperclips and duct tape into something I’d want to read.

And there lies my issue.

I have two books written and in various states of revision. But I haven’t figured out how to turn on the editor to get those books publication ready while not losing the skill of getting words onto the page.

I recently got some great advice from an editor, but I haven’t acted on it as I know I’ll lose momentum on the story I’m currently writing. I’ll forget, as I have so many times in the past, how to let the words fill the page.

This may sound silly to you, but my magic bean is a fragile little thing.

egg-583163_640

I’ve learned from experience how hard it is to write new stuff after setting it aside to spend time on revisions. I’ve also learned putting a story on hold to go back and revise earlier parts of that story or even revise another story altogether is a death sentence for the story in question. I simply won’t go back to writing it. Or if I do, it’ll only be after “revising” everything I’ve already written a dozen times (which will just be cut in a later true rewrite once the whole book is written).

I clearly haven’t figured this out.

But I have to find a way. I have two completed manuscripts waiting to be revised then queried to agents or self-published.

I need to find a way to squeeze this revision time in between my full-time job, family, and creation of new work.

I need to figure out a way that once the editor brain turns on, I can turn it off again so I can put new words to the page. I just don’t know how to do it yet.

 

How about you? How do you get in the zone to do your creative activity, whatever it may be? What’s lures your muse to you? What sends her running off and how do you get her back? Do you have any issues balancing your creative and analytical sides?