NaNoWriMo: Year 3

Alright guys, it’s almost that time again. November is fast approaching, like a cheetah hunting its prey. We are the prey and time is the cheetah. You cannot outrun time, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to try. Before you know it though, that cheetah is going to spring right up and grab you by the hindquarters like your a nice big juicy burger from your favorite burger joint. When that happens it’s all over. Woah! Calm down! I don’t mean you’re gonna die! No, it’s just time to get wrapped up in yet another year of National Novel Writing Month.

This will be my third year fighting with the beast of NaNoWriMo. The first year I barely missed the mark of 50k with 47,326 words. (I finally finished the first draft of this novel earlier this year). The second year I didn’t even come close, but that was more because of what was happening in my life at the time. This year, I plan to do NaNoWriMo again, but unlike before I am not aiming to win. I am simply aiming to write and write everyday.

I know that you don’t really care how well I’ve done at NaNoWriMo or what I plan to do about it, but if there’s one thing you need to learn as a writer, it’s to write every day without fail. What you write doesn’t have to be good. No, it can be horrible. In fact I encourage you to write horribly. Writers should not be afraid of writing badly. No matter how bad you write, it can be fixed. The point is that you wrote something.

Writing everyday was not something that I used to do before starting NaNoWriMo and it is something that I have been struggling with since. Even as I sit here typing away at this blog post, I haven’t written  anything on any novel in three days. But as a writer, I can’t live like that. Writers live because they write. Funny ain’t it?

If a writer doesn’t write then he isn’t a writer, he’s simply a man pretending to be something he isn’t. Sure he may have stories swimming in his head and characters speaking to him and themes waiting to be explored, but that doesn’t mean anything if he isn’t writing.

I realize that there are a million other blogs out there about writing and giving advice in a million different ways, but do you know the one piece of advice that remains the same in each and every one of them? SIT DOWN AND WRITE! Yep, that’s it. Easy as that. If you don’t listen to any other piece of writing advice, listen to that one. Get your but in a chair and start typing away, or if you prefer, grab a pencil and a notebook. Whatever your method is, just write. Do it every day. Make it a ritual.

The biggest excuse we give about why we don’t write is that we simply don’t have the time. You know what I say to that: Bull. There are 24 hours in a day. Sure we spend roughly 8 of them sleeping (or if your like me you spend about 6 asleep). That leaves roughly 16 hours left in the day. Take away another 8 for day jobs and your left with 8 hours of free time in a day. You have a family and a social life and errands to run. I get it. I have all of those things.

What do you do when you finally get home from a day of work and running errands? Well, if you’re like most people, and I’m assuming you are, you sit down on the couch and watch something on TV. That time right there, that your spending watching TV? THAT”S YOUR WRITING TIME! I know, I know, The Walking Dead is on and you just have to know if Glenn is really dead. Do you have to know right at that instant? No. DVR the show and sit down and write. Watch The Walking Dead after you’ve pumped out a few hundred words.

You don’t want to cut into your TV time with writing? Fine, the hours you spend on FaceBook are excellent hours you could be writing. I know that you have to know about dating rituals your friends are using or clothes they’re wearing or make-up tips or what they ate for dinner or when they went to the gym, but do you really care? Do you ever actually talk to the people that are your friends on Facebook? I mean aside from the occasional message on Facebook. Do you talk to them on the phone? Do you see them in real life? Do you go out to eat with them? No? Then they aren’t your real friends. They’re just people you knew once upon a time. You can keep up with what they are doing later. Sit. Write. Ignore the digs of new messages.

You don’t want to cut into your Facebook time either? Well then, who needs 8 hours of sleep? Make it 7 or 6. You’ll be okay. Oh, you need 8 hours of sleep? Well then you’re not a writer, your just pretending.

I know that it’s a hard truth, but our biggest excuse for not writing is a lie. We have the time, we just don’t utilize it correctly. This goes back to my last post :Get Over Your Distractions and Get Back in that Chair to Write! You either let other things consume your time, or you fight through the distractions and write.

The truth is that if the fire to write is truly in you then you will take a little time away from TV and Facebook each day and do some writing.

Get Over Your Distractions and Get back in that Chair to Write!

I have a confession to make. This isn’t very easy for me to say… er… type, but I’m going to try anyway.

I’m a lost cause. I don’t write enough and what I do write stinks worse than a fat guys ass crack on a hot day when he hasn’t showered in a month. I also don’t read as much as I should. I’m still reading the same novel that I started back in September. (Actually I’m reading two novels, but who’s counting?)

Netflix and YouTube are consuming my life and my dreams. It’s so much easier to watch the stories that other people have made than to make my own. However, I still have these characters and plots burning a hole in my mind. Their stories are longing to be told, but I can’t seem to tell them. The things that I write pale in comparison to what’s going on in my head.

I think that it is safe to say that I have reached the point in my novel writing process where I am questioning my life choices.

Am I really meant to be a writer? Does this story make sense? Is this character fleshed out enough? Did I just create a paradox? Does that tie into the story at all or is it just nonsense? My character wouldn’t do that… would she? How come this seemed so much easier when I first started?

All of these questions and a million more are running through my head with every keystroke that I make.

The two main challenges that I am facing here are distractions and doubt. Something most people embarking on the journey of writing a novel are all too familiar with. They’ve become a constant for me. Swimming in my head like a dog eating a never ending bone. I know that I should be writing, but I’m doubting myself and letting distractions take over. (It’s most of the reason I haven’t posted in a while).

Each of us face these challenges, and each of us deal with them in different ways, but each way can be summed up into two different categories. You either fight through it like a warrior fighting for his princess locked in a tower, or you give into it and let them consume you like a snake consuming its dinner.

The ones that fight through it are the ones that are more likely to make it in this world of writing. They might not hit number one on the best sellers list, but they’ll get published and people will read their works. The ones that give into it… well, I’m sure you can guess what happens to them. Yep, that’s right. They’re snake food.

Right now I am at a crucial moment in my writing process. This is where I either fight through the distractions and doubt, or I give into it. I am going to fight through them and finish my novel, but first I have to figure out what exactly my challenges are.

Distractions are what I am facing more than doubt. I am losing my discipline to block out the distractions of the world and sit down to write. I’m focused on anything other than my novel. Tv, youtube, video games, facebook, school work, this blog, you name it and I am likely distracted by it. Like a toddler with ADHD I can’t focus on one thing for too long.

The best way I know to combat these distractions is to remove them from the equation… or at least limit them. These things are all things we strive on, but for a writer they are our biggest weakness. (At least for me they are). We get distracted by these things and our work in the world of fiction slips through the cracks. We tell ourselves that we’ll write tomorrow, but when tomorrow comes the cycle starts over and we never write.

So, how do we fix it? How do we turn the distractions off? Short answer? We don’t. I know what you’re saying, ‘But if we don’t turn the distractions off, won’t they keep us away from our writing?’ Well, yeah. If you let them. This is where discipline comes in.

You have to have the discipline to shut out the distractions of life and focus on your writing. You have to be like a celibate monk in a room full of hookers. Look the other way. Meditate and block the distractions out. I can’t tell you the best way to do this, but I can tell you how I am attempting to deal with it.

I’ve set up a reward system for my writing in a day. If I reach 500 words then I can spend fifteen minutes on Facebook. 1000 and I can watch a video on YouTube. 1500 and I can watch one episode of something on Netflix. 2000 and I can spend an hour playing video games. 5000 words and I can quit for the day and do whatever I like (I haven’t reached this one yet).

You see, I’m not turning off the distractions of life, I’m simply incorporating them into my writing routine. However, this won’t work if you don’t have the discipline to get back to your writing when you ‘reward time’ is over. I can’t help you get over that speed bump though. That’s something you have to fight for yourself. Be the warrior fighting for his princess. Don’t be the princess locked up in a tower with an internet connection who doesn’t even care about the warrior.

Now, there could be a reason that you find it so hard to tune out the distractions of life. That reason could be summed up in one word. Doubt. You’re doubting yourself and your ability to write. You’re letting that doubt consume you and scare you away from your dream of finishing your story. You know that you shouldn’t let doubt consume you, but often times doubt is too hard to fight.

If I am being honest with you (and I like to think I am), then let me tell you that I am having way more trouble with doubt than I am with distractions. (I know that I said distractions were what bothered me more, but that’s because I was ignoring the doubt that pushed me to go for the distractions).

I know that it is easier to say that you shouldn’t let doubt consume you than it is to actually fight doubt. The best thing I can say to do in order to fight your doubt is to ignore it. When those tinges of thought seep into your head telling you that you’re not good enough to be a writer, you ignore them and keep on typing. If you have to, take a minute or two or thirty and do something not related to writing (I suggest reading). Set a timer and be sure to pull yourself away from whatever it is that you’re doing and get back to work.

Well, as always, leave a comment and share how you combat the doubt and distractions that keep you from writing. Have a good day!!

The Starting Line

So, I’m in a delicate situation at the moment.

I find myself standing in an operating room waiting to operate on a patient. There’s just a small problem… I’m not a surgeon. I’ve never even held a scalpel.

“Doctor, are you ready?” My nurse asks, holding out the scalpel to me.

“No.” I answer, taking the sharp device from her. My hand is shaking already.

What do I do? Where do I cut? I don’t even know why this man is on the operating table. Am I doing open heart surgery or is it a simple mole removal? I don’t know… How can I? I’m not a surgeon.

My heart rate increases and I feel like I’m about to pass out. The world is slowly going black and then BAM!

I’m sitting at my desk with my laptop in front of me. Microsoft Word is open to a blank page and I realize that I’m not starting a surgery. I’m starting a new novel, but it kind of feels the same. I’m scared and panicking.

When you start a novel there are so many emotions that go through you. It can get overwhelming and it can seem impossible. I’m here to say, “Don’t give up!” Of course I say that mostly to myself as I make the hard journey of writing a novel.

You see, today I started a new novel… well, it isn’t exactly new. I’ve had the idea in my mind for a while and have several word documents saved with bits of character development and world building and plot brainstorming on my laptop. I’m just at the point where I need to actually start writing on it, and I’m on an emotional roller coaster.

This blog post (and most likely the ones that come later) is mostly going to be about my journey through writing this novel. You see, if I post online the things that I’m doing as I write, I’m accountable for my writing and I won’t give up. And if you happen to get anything out of this, then fantastic! I love you guys!

Now, it’s important that you know that there is no right way to start a novel. These are just a few ways that I (and my friends) start writing on a new novel idea.

TAKE SHELTER FROM THE BRAINSTORM

Look at those clouds on the horizon! This one’s going to be HUGE. You’d better get down in your storm cellar. If you don’t have one, jump into your bathtub with a mattress over you because this storm is so big it will tear your house apart!

Okay, so maybe that’s not the best metaphor, but to me a brainstorm is pretty mess. I can have an entire notebook full of random bits of information that make no sense at all (actually I do have several notebooks like this). This is my personal favorite method of starting a story. To me, there is nothing better than having a notebook and pen and jotting down all the ideas for the story. I write every little thing down, from character names to a random eye color.

Like I said, bits of information that make no sense at all… except that’s not entirely true, is it? If I were to open one of those notebooks and start reading, I would know exactly what it’s talking about.

Basically for brainstorming, I like to have one large info dump that I will go through and organize later. At the moment, I just want to get the ideas out of my head.

This can be done through a variety of ways. Make a list, thought map, freewriting, and plot points are just a few of those ways that I have used in my brainstorming.

MAKE WAY FOR THE TIMELINE

Also known and an outline.

This way of starting a novel is more for the logical writers. They know what they want to happen, and when they want it to happen. I’m not overly fond of the timeline, but I have used it before with a few short stories.

This way of starting a novel is very organized and usually involves bullet points or roman numerals. Very academic.

Basically, it’s a list of events that happen in your novel in the order that they happen in. I actually do use timeline’s a lot, but not usually until I’m getting ready to do my second draft. I will go through my first draft and list the plot and sub plot points in the order that they happen so that I stay on course for the rewrite.

I’M NOT WEARING ANY PANTS

My least favorite way to start a novel is to pants it. By this I mean you don’t do any (or very little) planning before sitting down and writing the novel.

There really isn’t much else to say about this way of starting a novel. You just dive right in and never look back.

I suppose it could be efficient for some people, but to me it’s just a little too messy. You don’t do any character development before you start, you don’t plan anything that happens in the plot, and you leave lots of plot holes (at least I did the one time I used this method).

Anyway, those are three of the most common ways to start writing a novel. I’m using the brainstorm method for the novel that I started today. I’ve already got half a notebook full of information I want to go into this story. Of course this story is only one story that will happen in the world that I’m creating, so not all of that will be included in this story.

Anyway, Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment on the ways that you start writing a novel (or a short story or a poem or whatever).

Q & A… with Myself

Q&A WITH… MYSELF
Because I’m a writer who thinks everyone cares about what I have to say when in reality it doesn’t really matter.

Okay, look, I’m just writing to write. If you don’t like it, then take you flea ridden mongrel self to another blog.

*turns to leave*

I’m just kidding. You can stay.

*Glances over shoulder before prancing down the road*

Wait! Please stay!

*Runs away quickly*

I knew I should have trained that dog better. He’s always running off. Oh well, on to the writery write stuff!

WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?

You know, I’m not entirely sure how to answer this question. I recently found an old short story that I wrote as a kid about a girl who stole a black diamond and another one I wrote a few years later about a dog. So, I guess I’ve always been writing. It must be in my DNA or something because I just can’t quit either… trust me, I’ve tried. Of course that’s a story for another time. I don’t want to depress you guys just yet.

AS A WRITER, WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST WEAKNESS?

Hmmmm. That’s a tough one to answer. I recently posted a blog about weaknesses in writing, but I didn’t really go into detail about my biggest weakness. In fact, it wasn’t even on the list.

*Gasp* You didn’t put your biggest weakness on a list of weaknesses?

Short answer: No. No I didn’t. That wasn’t because I didn’t think it wasn’t worth talking about, but because I could probably write an entire blog post on it alone. (And I probably will later)

The truth is that the biggest weakness I have as a writer is staying focused on one story at a time. My brain is split. I can start writing on one story for days, but lose momentum and switch to another one. As you can imagine, that type of writing is much more time consuming. I hardly get any writing done on a single story, but I’m working on it.

DO YOU THINK YOU WILL EVER BE PUBLISHED?

Yes. Yes I do. It will be fantastic. One day you will go into a book store and see one of my books on the shelves and think, ‘Hey I know that chick! She writes that blog I read.’ Of course, this is assuming that people are reading my blog by then.

Next question.

WHY DID YOU START A WRITING BLOG BEFORE BEING PUBLISHED?

Well, to be honest, I started this blog for myself. I don’t care if anyone reads it (although it would be nice if they do). This is just a place for me to share my thoughts on writing as I go through the processes. It is also a place I can vent my frustrations about writing. The fact that I haven’t been published is irrelevant. I’m a writer regardless. Writing isn’t a choice for me. If I don’t write I will go crazy.

WHAT’S MORE IMPORTANT, PLOT OR CHARACTER?

Easy. Character. Without the characters there can be no plot. You can have the greatest idea for the plot of a story ever, but without characters it’s meaningless.

DO YOU THINK I WILL EVER BE PUBLISHED?

I don’t know. I don’t know you or your writing. (I realize that I am writing a Q and A with myself, but this question is posed as though you (the reader) is asking). Also, this is not an invitation to send me your writing. If you want me to read something that you have written, ask first.

IF YOU CRASHED ON A DESERTED ISLAND, WHAT THREE THINGS WOULD YOU BRING WITH YOU?

A luggage bag full of notebooks, a luggage bag full of pens, and a water purifier. I could make shelter and find food easily enough. The island is deserted, not a desert. It’s also not a dessert. Although it would be pretty neat to crash on an island made of cake. Unhealthy, but neat.

WHAT IS YOUR PREFERED WRITING METHOD: BY PEN AND PAPER OR TYPING ON A KEYBOARD?

Well, if you looked in my room, you would think by pen and paper, but the truth is that I like both equally the same. I guess it depends on the kind of mood I’m in or where I’m at. If I’m at home or at school, I usually use my laptop, but if I’m anywhere else I will use a pen and paper.

I could probably think of more questions to ask myself, but I feel like this post is getting boring. (At least I’m getting bored writing it). Anyway, leave a comment if you have any other questions you would like me to answer. No, they don’t have to be related to writing.

Where have you been?

Okay, okay. I know that I’ve been MIA as of late, but I have had quite a lot happen in the last few months. I don’t care to go into the details, but the point is that I’m back. (Not that anyone missed me). I have only a couple of followers at the moment, but I hope that being back and posting at least weekly will help with that.

Today is the first day of my last semester at Community College. If all goes well and I pass all of my classes, I will have my associate’s degree in December. That’s a big step for me. I have been working quite a while to get here, and to be honest, I’m kind of scared. What will I do with my life after this??

I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’m still not sure. I know that I want to get my bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and I know that I want to get all of my stories out of my mind and in print. But, what do I do?

Yeah, I know that me talking about my life isn’t what you want to hear. You want to hear about writing and my journey through writing a novel. That is the point of this blog right? I thought so.

Okay, well… where do I start? How about with a few questions? What do you want me to blog about? I mentioned that this blog will be about writing for the most part, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t post about other things.

Alright, short blog this time, but I have to get to class now. Leave a comment!

The Weakness

One of the biggest things for a writer to admit to is having a weakness in their writing. We’re an egotistical bunch of people. We think that everything we do is perfect, but that’s simply not true. The things that we write are far from perfect. That’s why the revision process exists.

The world is also blind to the weaknesses of writers. They don’t get to see all the hard work that goes into writing, what they see is a refined copy of the work with (hopefully) all of the weak bits thrown out like the pizza we had two weeks ago. The public only sees the tip of the iceberg. Writing is a long and excruciating process and  in order to make that process better, we need to know exactly what our weaknesses are. If you know what your weaknesses are, then you will have an easier time catching them as you write and correcting (or scrapping) them in the revision process.

I don’t know every weakness that every writer faces, but I do know all of mine (at least I hope I know them all).

WHAT ARE YOU TELLING ME?

You know that old saying ‘show don’t tell?’ Well, that’s a weakness that I face. Often times when I go back and reread the things that I’ve written, I find that I’m telling the reader what’s going on and not showing them. My drafts will read like an instruction manual rather than a well polished novel.

I don’t have all the answers on how to fix this problem, but I’ve found that adding emotional words and actions to the story help a lot. It also helps if you cut out all of the words that don’t fit or make the story weak.

Here’s an example of a paragraph in one of my works that tells:

I stopped thinking about hair when the dragon roared. I opened my eyes and grabbed the closest spike to me. The dragon pulled its wings close and aimed at the ground. I screamed. This wasn’t peaceful. Dragons were evil and I was stupid to ever think I was safe.

Did that paragraph draw you in? Did you feel connected to my character? Did you care that she was about to die? The simple answer: No.

Now, let’s take a look at my revised paragraph:

As the troubles of hair passed through my mind, the dragon let out a ferocious roar. I snapped my eyes open and gripped the scales of the spike in front of me. Pain radiated from my hands where the sharp scale cut. I would pay for that later. My heart started to race as the beast pulled its wings close and began to plummet towards the ground in a terrifying nose dive. All peace left me as a cold sweat broke out on my brow and a silent scream escaped my lips. This beast was crazy. There was no peace that came from riding on its back. Dragons were fierce and evil creatures that terrorized cities and murdered countless people. I was insane for having felt safe so far in the sky.

That paragraph was much better, don’t you think? I mean, it’s far from perfect, but (I think) it does a pretty good job of showing and not telling and connecting the reader to the character.

How would you have revised the paragraph? Go ahead and leave me a comment. I want to know.

I HATE YOUR CHARACTER.

This one goes hand in hand with ‘Show don’t tell.’ At least that’s what I think. When you show the reader what’s going on in the story, your also connecting them to your characters. Your showing them how your characters think and feel about everything and everyone around them.

If your writing is weak, then the first place to look is at your characters. They’re the driving force of the story. Without them, there isn’t a story to tell, and if the reader doesn’t feel connected to them on some level then they’re likely to stop reading.

IS THAT HOW WE SOUND?

Another one of my weaknesses comes from dialogue. Writing realistic, entertaining dialogue isn’t easy. Actually, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve every tried to write.

A while back I did an experiment where I took out the dialogue from one of my short stories and read it aloud. It was horrible. There was nothing real or genuine about it. This experiment led to about a month of me not writing until I felt like I was going to go mad.

As writers we like things nice and neat, but real people are far from nice and neat. When you get people together and talking, it’s a huge mess. They interrupt each other and talk over each other and they use placeholders such as: like, umm, uhh, and hmm.

Once I got back into writing, I did another experiment. I went out to a bookstore and I listened to a conversation two girls were having. Then I wrote it down exactly how they were saying it. Again it was horrible, but it made me stop and think. I thought on the conversation for days. I reread it and I rewrote it several times until I had something that wasn’t too bad. It was something between too neat and too messy.

I was going to share the dialogue here, but I seem to have misplaced the notebook that I wrote it in. So, I will leave finding the right mix of messy and neat to you. Besides, dialogue is still one of the things that I struggle the most with.

I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

My biggest weakness as a writer is a psychological one. It’s a weakness that I have yet to overcome. The farther I get into a story, the more I feel like it sucks and the more I feel like I suck. This weakness is probably one of the biggest reasons I haven’t published anything yet… well that and I haven’t done much editing on my manuscripts.

Anyway, I can’t tell you how to get over this weakness because I haven’t gotten over it yet. I can tell you that what helps me when I start to feel like this is to take a step back. Take a few days, or even a week and just stop working on that project. You don’t have to stop writing altogether, but if you stop writing on the project that makes you feel like that for a few days, chances are you’ll feel better about it when you get back to it.

Like I said, that isn’t every weakness that every author faces. Those are just four of the biggest weaknesses that I face. What are some of your weaknesses and how do you get past them? Do you have other ways to get past the weaknesses that I’ve posted?

The Mysteries of Life

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my second blog post should be about, and I still don’t have any idea… Which makes me think, does anyone have an idea? By this I mean, do we (as the human race) know what we are doing? I know that existential questions like that have been pondered since the human race first stepped out of the caves (and likely before that), but it’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about.

I’ve also been thinking about the reliability of cars as transportation, how indestructible dragon scales are, and how fast my hair grows. So, as you can see, I have a lot on my mind. You know, I could write an entire post on my hair, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t be interesting. Of course that makes me think… what is interesting?

I know, I know, that depends on each and every person. Everyone has different interests. While I think my hair wouldn’t be a very interesting blog post, someone out there is thinking that it would be the most interesting thing in the world to read. We’re all different… except when we’re not.

I’m afraid that I’m not very interesting because I’m not different from other blog posters out there. I’m just a girl (woman really, but I’m a child at heart, so…) who wants to write in a sea of girls (women) that want to write. The only thing that makes me any different from them is the story that I have to tell and the journey that I take while getting that story out on paper.

That’s what I’m here for right? To share my journey with the world (or at least the 20 or so people that read my last blog entry).

I googled writing blogs earlier and was astounded by the different ones that popped up. It made me feel… lost. I know that I just started this blog thing, but there are so many others out there that I’m afraid mine won’t be seen. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To be seen. On some level we all want to be recognized for the work that we do and the accomplishments that we make.

Anyway, while I am afraid that my blog won’t be seen, I also feel at peace with that fact. What I mean to say is that I didn’t start this blog thing to be seen. I started it because I wanted to, because I have something to say. If no one listens, well that’s alright. At least I said it. That’s more than most people can say.

Okay, so this blog post was more of a life’s questions posts than anything else… maybe next time I’ll actually talk about writing. Now, it’s off to that damned thing called a day job… yuck.