Thanksgiving. The holiday for, well, giving thanks. As usual, we spent it with family. This year was a bit different, however, since Krysta’s mother-in-law is visiting from Brazil. She is quite allergic to cats, and so the only places that would be big enough to hold all of the people coming both have cats, we decided to go to the Lafayette House in Foxboro, MA. It just so happens that Jill works there. She was on the service bar for Thanksgiving, so did not get to eat with us, but we all did get to visit with her at one point or another. There ended up being fourteen people, plus one infant. I had the pleasure of sitting next to our five-year-old grandson, Will, and we had the most excellent dinner conversation. We discussed wine glasses, eating bugs, turkeys, and a number of other topics. He would have been a much-requested dinner guest at those dinner parties in the past where one was expected to keep up a running conversation during dinner!
The only down side for me was that I was hit with an apocalyptic head cold this week. I got no sleep Tuesday or Wednesday night, as I was up all night coughing. You know that old saw about “hacking up a lung?” I went through both of mine, and I believe I was starting on other internal organs. I apologize to those I may have kept awake at Jill’s on Wednesday night. If I could have stopped, trust me, I would have. I wasn’t even sure, on Thursday morning, that I was going to make it to dinner. But since dinner was later in the afternoon, and no one was coming to the pre-dinner festivities until afternoon, I did manage to get some sleep in. That, and keeping well medicated, helped. I headed for bed early on Thursday night. Again, sorry to be such poor company, but I was pretty much exhausted by then. We came home on Friday. I did very little either Saturday or Sunday, and napped both days. I have been sleeping, also. By Sunday, I felt at least a bit more human, although still stuffy and coughing at times. It seems I may survive.
Saturday marked the end of November, which also meant the end of National Novel Writing Month. I hit the goal- actually a bit over, as I validated at 51,393 words on Tuesday, November 25. The story is basically finished. It needs to sit for a bit before editing begins. I did not do more after I validated it. The cold and being out of town for a couple days convinced me to let it be. It’s okay. I planned it that way from the beginning, so that I would hit the 50K goal early and be able to take a few days off, if I chose to. Good thing. I hate to think what I may have written, sleep-deprived and full of cold medicine!
What’s next? Well, there are a few things in the pile, but first, I am going to reward myself and indulge in some fun writing that is just for me. Oh, yes, I am planning on committing fanfic. I have had not one, but two, li’l ol’ plot bunnies hopping about on my desk for about half of the month, and I think it is about time to let them loose. There are other things to be worked on, as well. It’s back to the normal schedule, without the madness of NaNo.
And, of course, Christmas season is upon us now. Time for the festivities to begin. I may even start bringing decorations down from the attic this week. I will allow that, as it is December. I try not to do any Christmas before then. We rush the season far too much, in my opinion. I even frown on those who have their outdoor lights on before December 1. Put them up, yes- take advantage of the few warmer days we still get, but leave the lights off until December 1.
I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and Chanukah, and are looking forward to a lovely Christmas and holiday season!
Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy. Ebook available now:
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Today marks the first day that those participating in NaNoWriMo can officially validate their novels. It was possible to upload your work before this to check your counts, but the official winner status begins being awarded today. There isn’t really anything else you get, other than a cute certificate for completing your 50,000 words. It’s not about getting anything concrete. It’s about letting yourself do the thing that so many talk about, but never get around to doing. It’s about establishing the habit of writing every day, of realizing that you can find the time to write, even with all the rest of your life still there, too. After all, if you can do it during November, when there are major holidays for many people.
I hit (by my word processor’s count) 51, 015 words last night. It wasn’t always easy. There were a few days I didn’t get anything at all written, for one reason or another. The story is not finished yet, but it is almost there. I want to get another couple scenes written before I upload to validate. And then it will be on to finishing the thing.
And after that? Well, it’s time to set this one aside for a bit. That is usually a good idea, with any story. When you finish a story, you’re too close to it to be able to edit and revise immediately. You need to step back and let it rest. Otherwise, you will most likely decide the whole thing is garbage and be tempted to just scrap it. You need the perspective to see the good as well as the bad.
Of course, that doesn’t say what you do in the immediate days after NaNoWriMo. Here’s what you do- you write. Remember, you put a whole month in learning that you can set aside time to write. That is, if you did it properly. Sure, there are people who don’t set a plan. There are those who don’t write every day, and who play catch up with thousands of words on a weekend or pull all nighters. That’s the wrong way to do it, especially if you want to continue to write and perhaps, even publish someday. You can’t do that without treating it as work, as a job. And that means writing regularly. So, while you are letting that NaNo story simmer, you start something else. Or go back to something you started before. But whatever it is, stick to it. Keep writing.
On a personal level, I am going to finish the story, although I will take a few days off for Thanksgiving. And then, I am going to reward myself and indulge in a little personal fun. I am going to commit a little fanfic. Because everyone deserves a little fun now and then.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It took far longer to finish this book than I thought it would. Not only did the story drag in too many spots, but the language is difficult and hard to read. It is the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, and it tries to make her an interesting and redeemable character. She is born to parents who are understandably puzzled by this green-skinned, prickly child. She attends university with Glinda, who is a society girl and a bit of a snob. Elphaba herself never really outgrows the prickliness, and is so wrapped up in herself and her ideology that she never really comes to life as a character.
The story tries to be philosophical, with long passages discussing the nature of evil. It also touches on social commentary, and political intrigue. It just never settles into one or the other, and it all ends up being a bit confusing.
The book received quite a bit of hype, especially after it was made into the musical. I’m really not sure why, as I found it confusing and difficult.
As most who read this know by now, I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (http://www.nanowrimo.org). The idea is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. This the the fifth year I have done this. I have figured out some strategies to get me through the month without either killing myself or putting a strain on the rest of my life. I have posted about those before. I have adjusted a few things every year, and I have made the 50K each year.
What you end up with on November 30 is hardly a finished product. At best, it is a fairly messy first draft. It will need much editing and revising to make a coherent, readable story out of it. The point is to get you writing that story, and to give you some sort of motivation to actually do it. It’s intense, in its way, and fun. There are all sorts of people and stories being written every year. The original idea was to write a novel in a month, but there are plenty of rebels, doing non-fiction, or other things that are not strictly novels.
My original idea was to be a rebel this year. I was going to write a series of short stories, since I have been enjoying writing shorter forms lately. But I started outlining the plan for the first story and found it really wanted to be longer. So I’m going with that. It has been going pretty well. I will need to do a fair amount of research for this one after November, but that’s okay. My basic strategy for the month is to set a daily word count goal and try to get at least that much done every day. I don’t write hours and hours every day, I don’t ramp up on caffeine and junk food, I don’t really even participate in sprints and word wars. I get my best work done by the slow and steady strategy. It works for me. It may not work for others. I am on track for where I wanted to be at this point in the month, using this plan.
Now for some specifics. I have a spreadsheet that was put together by another NaNo participant a few years ago that tracks your words, percentages, hours, and other statistics. I have used it every year, and it helps keep me on track. Here are some of the numbers for where I am as of Saturday, November 9:
|Some General Statistics That Might Be Of Interest|
|Total Words Written So Far||20,174|
|Total Hours Spent Writing||14.57|
|Avg Words Written Per Day||2241|
|Avg Hours Writing Per Day||1.62|
|Avg Words Per Hour||1384|
|Number of Words Remaining||29,826|
|Number of Days Remaining||21|
|Number of Hours Remaining||21.00|
The spreadsheet is predicting that , if I stay on pace, I will hit 50K on November 22.
It’s interesting to me to look at some of those numbers. It also helps to keep me on track. Friday was a bit of a tough day. I’d hit a slow point in the story, and was having trouble keeping the flow going. But knowing that I had a specific goal and seeing the actual numbers keeps me from just stopping and losing momentum.
And now, for one of the problems I encounter. I know it is a problem for others, too, as I see online comments about the same thing. I call it the New Shiny Syndrome. We are just over a week into this project, things have been going along well, and you have a decent handle on your story. But, wait- oh, what’s that? A new idea? A better idea? Oh, yeah, much better, right?
But is it really “better”? Probably not. What is happening, from my experience, is that the honeymoon with your original story is over, and now you have to get down to the nitty-gritty of making this thing work day to day. And that can start to seem like work. The first week or so is a lot of fun. Even if you outline or plan like I do, there is still a lot you are discovering about your characters, your plot, and the world you are working in. It’s exciting. There are many “Aha!” moments. And then, things start to settle down. You have the beginning figured out, probably a pretty good idea where the middle is going, and how it will end. There doesn’t seem to be anything fun, anymore. So, along comes this New Shiny, and you are drawn to the promise of fun and discovery again. Don’t do it. Don’t let it distract you. Put it away while you work on your current story. Otherwise, all you will end up with is a pile of starts, and no finishes.
Why do I bring this up? Because I have been the victim of New Shiny Syndrome this week. Yep, suddenly, there it was, dangling it’s shiny goodness in my mind where my NaNo novel should be. And this one is (*gasp* *horror* *choke*) fanfic! In case anyone doesn’t know, fanfic is when you take a known world or story, and write your own piece of it. An example would be taking the Harry Potter universe and writing about some vacation time that wasn’t in any of the books, and some adventure Harry had while he was home with the Dursley’s. There are a lot of people who deride fanfic. I like it. I have committed fanfic in multiple worlds for many years. Of course, you respect the original creator’s rights. Some don’t mind fanfic, as long as you don’t try to profit from it, which is perfectly understandable. I would never do something like that. My fanfic is for me, because I enjoy something, and writing is my way of expressing that.
So, what to do? I have 2,000 words a day, four days a week, and 2,500 words, three days, planned for this NaNo. One of the things I do with an intruding idea like this is to write out the basic idea in a file I call “Ideas” (of all things! LOL). I tried that. No go. There was this one scene that kept playing out in my head, fully formed, over and over. Just jotting the idea did not make it go away. But I was not going to let it interfere with my daily NaNo goals. Shoo, little plot bunny!
I am a big believer in rewards. So I usually try to have some sort of small reward for making those daily goals. Mine usually involve good chocolate. Ah, ha! (See what I mean? Get a new idea- get more Ah has!) I can pick at the fanfic, but only after the NaNo goal is met or exceeded. So, doing something I want to do just for me becomes the reward for doing what I planned to do. So far, it is working. The other story doesn’t niggle at my brain while I am writing the novel, and I have a few scenes written out on the new story. Another plus for me is that after about 2000 words on one idea, my brain is pretty fried for that project. But switching gears to something else keeps it going a bit longer, without my feeling like I am dragging through the words.
Moral of the story? Don’t give in to New Shiny Syndrome. Make it work for you, somehow. As Neil Gaiman says: “Finish what you are writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”
(Warning: This post may contain cantankerous, cranky, and crotchedy content. It contains my opinions, and sometimes, they are a bit crabby. Oh, and it is writing related, so if that isn’t your thing, you can move along now.)
Okay, maybe not ALL wrong, because there really isn’t a wrong way to write. Just different ways. But I see a lot of the same things every year when November rolls around and I can’t help but think that it is the attitude, not the writing that is the issue. I see a lot of people panic over the wrong things, or at least some unimportant things, as the end of October approaches, and we must think about sitting down and writing for the next thirty days. Things like no cover designed, or second-guessing their story idea, or a sudden bout of writer’s block. To me, those are all excuses and rationalizations.
NaNoWriMo is about the writing, nothing else. Of course, it is normal and okay to panic a little and wonder if it’s going to be possible. And that can happen no matter how many times you’ve participated and won. It’s a personal challenge, not a race to finish in the first three days or to hold up how far “behind” you are like some sort of badge of honor. It’s not an art contest. The prettiest cover doesn’t win. 50,000 words wins. If you have done your October prep work correctly, you should have a plan of attack for November 1, and every day after that for the next 30 days. Word goals, time set aside to write, outline or plot plan, character sketches- whatever it is that sets you up to start writing. Because that is what you are supposed to be doing now. Not worrying about when you will finish. If the word counter hits 50K on November 30, you did it. If it happens before that, good for you.
Writer’s block? If you have read my writing posts in the past, you know I don’t believe in it, any more than I believe in muses or characters who won’t do what you want. For me, most of those obstacles can be overcome by planning and following through, Decide what you need to accomplish every day to get you where you want, and then do it. Every day, no matter what. Sit down and start writing. Is it all going to be great? No. In fact, most of it will be tossed out and changed when you get to revising in the future. Will it all make sense? Doubtful, especially on those days when you hit the points that you haven’t got fully figured out. Don’t worry about it. Sit down and write to your plan, whether it’s number of words or a specific amount of time. Write. Don’t excuse, don’t complain, don’t stop until you are done with today’s goal. And then stop. Go do something else for a while. Talk to your family, take a walk, do all the other things in your life that aren’t writing. Because you can’t walk away from those during NaNoWriMo or any other time of the year.
If you plan to be a writer- that is, someone who writes stories and tries to sell them, you have to write. Every single day. Or at least most days, just like a “real job.” You can’t make the writing work if you only push to get something done one month out of the year. If you are doing this because you like the writing, but don’t ever expect to even try to publish, fine. Doing NaNo as your only exercise is fine. If you really want to publish some day, then get serious about it. Stop talking, whining, excusing, procrastinating, and get writing. Get a plan, a course of action. Not necessarily of the story, but of your working life. Make the writing part of your life, but don’t make it the only thing. You need other things- family, hobbies, pets, exercise. Because it is all of those things that make you a better writer.
Use NaNoWriMo for what it is- another tool in your kit. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, a different tool is what you need right now. Keep the focus where it belongs- on the writing. You’ll find you get more done, and enjoy it more. And, really, if you don’t enjoy it, why do it?
My NaNoWriMo Report Card: 6,540 words total to date. 13% complete, and on track. Daily goals: 2500 words 3X a week, 2000 words the rest of the week.
Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy by M.A. Kropp is a set of short fantasy stories. Meet wizards, imps, gangster angels, and frogs in this group of varied tales of magic and mischief. Escape from the everyday into worlds of fantasy with Six of One: A Collection of Short Fantasy.
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No, I haven’t finished Wicked yet. I’m getting there, but I just don’t seem to have time to read these days. And I have no idea why. Well, I guess I do, at least a little. I am getting stuff done here, and I am doing more dinner prep these days, but it still seems I should be able to carve out time to read somewhere. I need to try to be better at that.
All that said, November may be a light month for reviews, anyway. It is National Novel Writing Month, and that means I will be concentrating on daily word count, and reading may be pushed off some for the next few weeks. I am not doing a novel, as such, this year. I am going to try a series of short stories, instead. So I guess that makes me a NaNoRebel of sorts, doesn’t it? I have found I am enjoying writing the shorter forms, and decided I was going to keep at that for a while. I am also amending my daily goal a bit. I am going to try, at least two or three days a week, to get an extra 500 words written in the morning, in addition to my daily goal of 2,000. I really do my best work later in the day, so the main goal will be tackled then, but I would like to try to get a bit more ahead before the end of the month.
I will try to get something up here on Fridays, but be warned- it may be very NaNoWriMo-centered and very writing related. But that’s life in November for us NoNovelers!
Related to that, I am guest blogging today on J. Rose Allister’s blog, talking about some strategies for getting through the month with those 50,000 words done. You can read my post, Surviving NaNoWriMo (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Write a Novel) here:
Now, I must go tend to the mundane, everyday things so I can get those words in later!