Category: Nanowrimo

Reflections on NaNo and Rebellion in 2014

I will admit, I have a problem.  There are some parts of autumn I can’t escape.  I’m not talking about a pumpkin spice latte – which honestly I can’t escape, but strangely lost my taste for it – but about National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve blogged about NaNoWriMo several times, and I’ll blog about it several times more.  I love it that much.  It’s like a month long adrenaline rush with a support group built in.  The rush to keep writing means that no matter how much planning you do before (and I’ve realized I’m more plotter than pantser) you will be surprised by what turns your writing will take.  No doubt about it, I would not still be writing today without that initial push from NaNoWriMo.

I’ve been a participant since 2008, when I was juggling my senior year of high school in the IB program.  The first time I didn’t “win,” but I had a hell of a lot of fun trying and hammered out about 22,000 words.  My novel was called Hotel Satoro, a pseudo-fantasy piece about a group of milennials who stumbled across a parallel universe with limited technology and a civil war.  It was more words than I’d ever written for any one project, let alone a work of fiction, in my life.  That said, the work was a mess and I abandoned it for bigger and better things.  It will never become a finished novel, but it was good practice for world and character building.

By 2009 I’d graduated, had a semester to myself before I ran off to culinary school, and wasn’t working.  I had a month to myself and no excuse not to improve on last year’s progress.  I began a crime novel called Poplar and Peppermint, later shortened to Poplar and Mint.  It was my first “win” as I ended the month with a word count of 52,505.  I later finished the story and began editing it, but have yet to finish.

2010 was my first attempt at science fiction.  Machmen focused on robots and imposing Asimov’s Three Laws on humans.  Lunacy was a downy soft sci-fi novel inspired by a dream and set in space.  I was a few quarters into school, taking on more serious classes and I had a job.  I also met up with some other writers in the school and got the idea to form a writing club on campus.  Something must have possessed me at the time, because this was also my attempt to tackle writing two novels at once for a goal of 100K words.  How hard could it be?  How foolish I was.  After one all-nighter spent writing like crazy led to me oversleeping and being late to work, I decided to tone it down a notch and work toward the more “reasonable” goal of 50K like “normal” participants.  Technically this was my first year as a “wrimo rebel.”  I did reach that goal, averaging 25K for each project, but neither novel is finished.  What’s more, the writing club was a flop.

In 2011, I first began working on the novel Jasper.  It had a somewhat different premise then, and after three years and many rounds of edits I’d like to think I’ve since improved on it.  For 2012, I rebelled again and continued with Jasper, deciding not to abandon this novel like I had previous projects.

Last year I did need a break from that project, and admittedly due to some inspiration from a certain popular fantasy series and another certain series of dark fantasy video games I began work on Ascended, the start of my own fantasy series.  It too is on the backburner now that I’ve returned to Jasper, but I do have plans to finish that as well.

This year I am rebelling for a third time, and editing Jasper rather than starting a new project or continuing to write the first draft.  I’m now in draft 6, and I’ve gone too far in this novel not to finish.  I don’t want to start something new or work on something else, but I also miss the rush and sense of community that NaNo provides.  And there’s nothing wrong with rebelling, many participants do the same.

My plan is for 1 hour of edits to equal 1K words.  My speed when writing new drafts was 1K in 30 minutes at my best, so I don’t think I have an unfair advantage this time around.  It’ll also encourage me to spend my time doing actual edits as opposed to making progress as quickly as possible.  It will also be harder to cram at the end of the month, as there are only so many hours in the day, meaning I will have to pace myself accordingly if I wish to “win.”

My goal?  I’m on draft 6.  I want to get to draft 8, or ideally be confident enough in the manuscript to be DONE, by November 30.

On the NaNo site, I am B Rhodes. Feel free to add me as a buddy or prod me mid-month when I inevitably lag behind.

NaNoWriMo: Week 2

We’re now in week 3 of National Novel Writing Month.  Hopefully it will go better than the previous week.

In the NaNoWriMo community, Week 2 is generally considered the time when productivity slows or hits a wall.  The feeling of hopelessness often kicks in, and that nagging feeling of “there’s no way you can keep this up!  You’re so far from your goals!” starts gnawing at the back of your mind.  The dreaded Inner Editor finishes chewing out of the leather straps you used to restrain it, and gets to work convincing you that the words you do have down are terrible and you’d be better off without them.

I am not immune to this feeling.

My week had a great start.  Despite being behind on the daily word count (to stay on track, writers try to add about 1,667 words a day) by over 10 thousand words, I pulled off an amazing sprint thanks to high doses of caffeine and the BICFOK (Butt in chair, fingers on keys) method.  My end of day total was close to 7 thousand words.  I’ve pulled off 5K days in the past, but this was a new record for me.  I’m still impressed with my progress.

After that day?  Nothing.  I’ve added maybe a few hundred words since then.  At the time of this writing I’m still hovering around 15 thousand words, and although I love all of them, I wish there were more.  But after that sprint I’ve been feeling mentally drained.  Not only that, given the fact that I didn’t plan as much as I’m used to before writing, I’m a bit lost as to where the plot should go from my current state.  I’m not sure yet if I’m not wired for “pantsing” through novels or just not used to the method.

It wasn’t all bad.  What little progress I have made all but cemented the structure that the novel will have upon completion.  Not unlike Jasper, the story will have three distinct parts.  Part 1 focuses on the plague and its destruction of social order in Sunforge, ending with a wedding for the two protagonists that doesn’t quite go as planned.  It will establish the characters and their places in society, create the bleak atmosphere and establish the basic social/economic structure of the city.  The latter is more important for future installments, because I am considering expanding this story into a series.  Part 2 deals with the aftermath of the plague once it finishes off the population.  The survivors are then left to deal with vengeful spirits.  Part 3 kicks in once the characters survive the ghosts and discover the true culprits behind the plague.

I’ve also made some progress into fleshing out the main group of antagonists.  Many Sunforge citizens, accepting that they are facing their death and believing that Shipwreck Islanders are the cause, begin acting out of revenge to commit violent acts up to and including murder on the refugees.  Foreman Zander manages to recruit members of the lower class hardest hit by plague to aid in his “cause.”  It’s not a case of “get them before they get us,” but “get them because they got us.”

That’s how my week was, writing wise.  I’d cross my fingers in hope that this week will show better progress, but that makes it difficult to write.

Weekend Writing Warriors: Ascended

And now that I’m back from my blogging break, this entry comes from my NaNo project Ascended.

It’s simple and fun. Sign the linky, then on Sunday, post 8 sentences from a current writing project, published or unpublished. Visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support. Writers hanging out with writers, a good time with a great group of people.

There are two protagonists here:  Lucas Mark, Duke of the Mountains and Lord of Sunforge, and his fiancee Sallei Corvus, heir to Shipwreck Island.
Due to the speed-writing, plothole-inducing nature of NaNoWriMo, expect this excerpt to be rough.

“I saw a doctor beaten in the streets today,” Sallei said.  “Three children ganged up on him.  One of them took his cane and struck him with it until he fell.  Then while the other two kicked and stomped on him, he broke the cane in two and stabbed the man with it.  I saw parents nearby, watching out of the corners of their eyes, and did nothing.  That was only one doctor, but the violence will escalate.  I know it will be hard, Lucas, but you are the only one in this city who can do something.  So find a way and do it!”

NaNoWriMo week 1

No, I didn’t vanish.  I’ve been buried in a mountain of pumpkins and pumpkin baked goods.

It’s not all bad.  I’ve written about the pumpkin fever in spite of the Florida climate.  While I’m partial to the occasional pumpkin spice latte, my fondness for the seasonal flavor has gone down.  Maybe it’s the mile-high stacks of pumpkin pies and pound cakes I package on a daily basis, or maybe I’m outgrowing pumpkin.
Along with my new job, I’ve been devoting a lot of my time to National Novel Writing Month.  In the spirit of newness I’ve changed some of my usual habits.  For one, it’s time I took a short break from Jasper and come back to it with fresh eyes.  So I’m working on something new this month.  Ascended is a dark fantasy story with a mysterious plague, vengeful ghosts, and a woman who can transform into a bird.
This is also the first time in five years I’m pantsing the story.  Typically I have an outline to go by as my guide, a bare-bones map into unfamiliar territory.  This year, I have no map at all and the land is totally uncharted.  I wasn’t able to reach the finish line in the past few years with that outline, so perhaps it couldn’t hurt to give pantsing another try.
So far I’ve got a slow start and I’m far from being on track.  So far, I’m up to 3 thousand words.  By day 7 the par is 11,669. I’m slowly catching up but I’ve got a long way to go.
In my next post I’ll go into more detail about the plot and backstory of Ascended.  Expect to see a Weekend Writing Warriors post or three in the near future as well!

Gearing up for NaNo 2012

After taking a break in June and August for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to get back into writing again.  Lately it’s been a lot of revision on my plate, and I’m wanting to get back into the creating stages.

For revisions, I’m on my second draft of Jasper City and the final stages of cleaning up a short story I wrote years ago.  My goals are to submit the short to Writer’s Digest’s upcoming Short Short Story Competition in November, and Jasper to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award next year.

But lately I’ve got a new idea that’s been poking at me.  It surrounds a project of mine for NaNo 2009 and a character I didn’t use often enough.  It’ll involve a rewrite of that project, but I’m confident it’ll result in a better project.

Lunacy was a downy-soft science fiction story surrounding a group of astronauts on a mission to collect fuel for their planet in hopes to ease the ongoing energy crisis.  Horrible mutations, a homicidal monster, and catastrophic failure ensued.  The rewrite will focus on the mission’s leader, Elizabeth Smith, as she seeks treatment for her physical and mental afflictions while a pesky reporter hounds her for the truth about what really happened out there.

I need to put a plot together, but there’s plenty of time.  Usually I have a good portion of the outline out of the way before the NaNo site’s annual reboot.

Week 2 Woes

There are good developments and bad developments recently.  The good news is that I’ve found a job!  I’m working in the office in an insurance agency.  It’s not the field I had in mind, but I’m not complaining.  I’m catching on to the work quickly enough, my bosses like me, and the pay is good.  Though while I like where I am now and those above me wish I will stay, I’m still going to run back to the restaurant kitchen when I can.

I’ve run into the problem I feared and knew would come up when I moved up here:  the restaurant jobs are nonexistent.  This is the wrong time of year in a small town.  I didn’t expect to find anything good in my field until October.

The bad news: Script Frenzy is in week 2, and even I’m feeling its effects.  Week 2 is the time when many writers feel burnt out or otherwise unmotivated, and their progress slips.  I managed to get a few days ahead with my page count in the previous weeks.  Not so much now.

I’ve also been slipping in my book-per-week challenge.  It’s Saturday, and I’m only a few chapters in to Children of Dune.

These are feelings similar to when I was still in Fort Lauderdale, working and in school.  There are many things in my life that I love to do, but there never seemed to be enough hours in the day.  At least now I have weekends off, something I won’t be enjoying once I get back in the kitchen.

The end of NaNoWriMo and future plans

National Novel Writing Month 2011 is done. Really, it has been done for a few weeks. I’m coming off of the writer’s version of a runner’s high, barely touching a pen except for school or work. I’m ready to start up again, so here are my plans. Much of it starts in 2012, so I guess this also counts as my list of new year’s resolutions.

-Starting January 1, I will be taking part in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge. I’ve accumulated so many books over time that sit in drawers under my bed, untouched. I keep saying “I’ll read that book soon, it’s on my list, I just have to finish this one,” but that never happens. This challenge will knock a huge chunk of those unread books out of the way.

Camp NaNoWriMo will run in June and August this year, with a break in July. This is as much a blessing for me (and many other participants) as it likely is for the OLL staff. I’ll participate as an ordinary writer, not an ML. Whether I will consider another crack at the ML position is a question for a much later time.

Script Frenzy in April. I tried this last year for the first time, learned the basics of writing a graphic novel script, and had a lot of fun. I plan on participating again, though likely writing for another medium.

NaNo 2012. Don’t even ask what I’d be writing about. That plot likely doesn’t exist yet. The real question is whether I will continue as an ML or not. Considering I won’t be in school anymore by then, it’s a definite possibility.

Before any of that, it is to be noted that even through two NaNo events, my favorite novel project so far is still far from finished. I’d like to finish that rough draft before another WriMo pops up, to avoid the temptation. Poplar and Mint is in the process of being edited, and I’d like to get that polished and self-published by the end of the year.

As summer camp comes to a close…

Recently The Office of Letters and Light rolled out their newest project, called Camp NaNoWriMo, which was basically a lighter form of the famous November event taking place during the summer. Completely camp themed, with the site decked out in blue tents and campfires, “cabins” in the form of scaled-down message boards, and pep talks with stories about shorts being run up the flagpole, it was delightfully nostalgic.

Unfortunately, my last experiences with summer camp were many years ago with my Girl Scout troop in northern Virginia. They were week-long experiences that I didn’t fully enjoy, due to the fact that the other girls in my troop and I just didn’t get along. I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t at least partly to blame for that, but it’s all firmly in the past now.

For this virtual camp, I was given a “cabin” to share with 4 other people, two of which weren’t active, and we were given one page with a message board to chat, give moral support, and occasionally procrastinate together. The unfortunate part is, that cabin is now closed and I can’t remember what usernames they’ve used.

Another positive part of the Camp is that it was essentially two events. The beta took place in July, so OLL could work out the kinks and roll out features slowly, and the full version took place in August. We were given two WriMo months with 31 days, and July had 5 weekends. It all added up with plenty of time to get some quality (more or less) writing done, even with class and work filling up much of my days.

It certainly worked. My novel in progress, Jasper City is 75,000 words strong, with close to 14 chapters and three appendices. Before someone reads this and thinks that wordcount isn’t something to get hung up on, I might never have made this much progress without the Camp NaNo event giving me the motivation. I have a lot to thank for the OLL.

In order to avoid using NaNo events as a crutch or the only reason why I write, I’m making a new effort. Armed with a shiny new blank notebook, I’ve started to push myself to write a little bit each day, at least one page’s worth. Writing longhand gives me time away from the internet and all of its lovely distractions, and writing at all helps me to keep that part of me well exercised, like a muscle. I’m continuing my process on Jasper City, just slowly. But it’s enough.

“There was one particular incident, one that he remembered fondly, with Cynthia. They snuck in to the City Guard offices in Robot Town, and this place was redecorated with torn shreds of fabric and fire when they left. Dex took part in this out of genuine outrage, which Cynthia perhaps wanted little more than to see something in this wretched town burn.”