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NaNoEdMo Revisited

At the beginning of this month, I set a goal of, instead of writing 1,667 words per day for NaNoWriMo, I would edit that much.  Well, it turns out, this is more time consuming than I thought.  That being said, my goal of having my novel finished by the end of 2017 still stands.  I am still working as hard as I can, but I have found that editing takes more time than writing a first draft.  I feel like I already knew that, but thought I could rise to the occasion.  Perhaps I still will.  nanowrimo

With all the projects and papers school is piling on me right now, though, I don’t feel like my 1,667 word editing goal is going to cut it.  But that’s okay.  Just because I don’t edit 50,000 words this month, that does not mean I have not made progress or that I’m not any closer to my original goal.  November is still for writing.

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The Mysterious Terrifying Workshop

I’ve known quite a few people to enter the world of being a Creative Writing major in college (which isn’t necessarily imperative to becoming a successful author, but this is just the world I am immersed in) who have either never been in a creative writing class before or have never experienced the oddity that is the creative writing workshop.  All the intricacies of the Typical College Writing Class can be eye-widening at first, but I promise, they are here to help.

First of all, what is this strange invention commonly called The Workshop?  Essentially, it is a teaching technique used by Creative Writing professors to let students get direct feedback from more opinions than just him.  The student’s story or poem is passed out to the whole class and the other students and professor offer comments and critiques on the work.  The more intense classes institute “the gag rule” in which the author cannot speak until everyone is done discussing.

Sounds terrifying, right?  Offering up my work (still in rough draft form) to a class of fifteen or so other college students is not my ideal way to spend a Tuesday morning, and yet that is what I am doing.  Why?  Partially because I have to, but also because even though it is terrifying, it is helpful.

This way, I can get feedback from people that at least vaguely know what they’re doing.  I can hear the opinions of a group of people containing at least fifteen different points of view.  While all these opinions being thrown at me in the span of 30-ish minutes can be overwhelming, causing my fingers to fly rapidly over my keyboard to get most everything on paper, it allows me to know what really needs to be changed.  If a majority of people agree that I use way too many adjectives (which is a tendency of mine), then I know to cut down on the adjectival descriptions.  But if one person thinks my setting is unclear, but everyone else in the class understood, then maybe I don’t need to elaborate too much more on the setting.

Over all, The Mysterious and Terrifying Workshop is here to help.  It may not feel like it when there is a metaphorical gag in my mouth, but it will when I go to revise and have trusted advice on where to start.

My NaNo Declaration

NanoWriMo starts in less than three days.  This is my last minute NaNo Comitment Declaration.

NaNoWriMo was my life last November and was the catalyst for my current novel-in-progress.  As NaNo comes around again this year, I keep thinking about how much it changed how I write and how I think about writing.  And I keep thinking about how much I want to do it again this year.  I quickly remind myself that my already-existing novel is well under way and so close (and yet so far away) from being finished (ish).  I cannot start a new novel.  Not now, two months away from my goal of sending a full manuscript out into the publishing world.

But then I keep thinking, there is no better way to finish my novel than how I began.

It started as a NaNoWriMo shot in the dark, so what better way to end it?  My new goal for the month of November is to edit at least 1,667 words per day.  This way, I can participate in the writing fervor of NaNo while also meeting my editing goal.  This is going to be a huge challenge for me, especially with school work being a priority, but sometimes I need that challenge to keep me going.

Here’s to NaNoWriMo and old-new beginnings.

Some Musings on Voice

One of the first things I heard in my first creative writing class was that I had a voice.  At first, I thought well duh I have a voice.  I’m me.  Only I can write what I write.  I found my “writer’s voice” so easily, I thought everything else would come that easily too.  I soon discovered that my voice came so easily because all of my characters were, in one way or another, an extension of me.  They looked like me, walked like me, had my vocabulary, held the same hobbies, worries, interests, beliefs.

faceless charactersIt was when I tried to write from another point of view that I found voice to be so much harder than I originally thought.  I gave every character my voice, and until recently, I could not understand why all of my characters sounded the same.  I still have not yet figured out all the minute details of this phenomenon, but I can see it now.  I look at my character’s dialogue and ask myself why that sounds so wrong.  It’s because it sounds like me, not like my 18-year-old, male character from 12 years in the future.

I’m still working on how to make him sound like himself, which can be difficult to create from scratch, but I’ve found that the less scared I am of writing honestly, the easier it is to hear what my characters have to say.

Writer’s Support

This week has been full of, well, a multitude of things.  It has consisted of stress, excitement, and anticipation, as well as quite a bit of discouragement accompanied by even more encouragement.

It is 72 days until my goal to have my novel finished, and there is still so much to do that I am not sure I am going to meet my initial goal.  That in itself isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still slightly discouraging, feeling like I can’t work as fast as I would like.  On the flip side, though, it is amazing to watch the thing that has been my life for the past year grow into what it has become this far.  It isn’t anywhere near where it will be, but it has come so far.  It has gone through outlines, character development, a major verb-tense change, as well as a complete 180 degree ending change.  I cannot wait to see what other changes are in store.

There have also been other developments within my

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writing life this week.  In the midst of a small existential crisis, an amazing opportunity arose that was accompanied by some great advice from my fiction writing professor.  In my worries about making a career out of writing, he pointed out, “Have a back-up plan, but don’t let that back-up take over your life.”  This wonderful advice, paired with some advice I received from another author at a young adult book convention today (“You are the only one who can fire yourself from your dreams, so don’t.”), has encouraged me so much more than my worrisome thoughts.

I am so glad I have listened to the support around me this week, since now I am ready to have a productive, writing and inspiration-filled weekend.  Here’s to writers supporting writers.

Double Digits

Today marks 99 days until my goal date to send my novel out into the publishing world.

99 days until December 31st.

99 days of fervently editing my nowhere-near-ready novel, hoping I get it done by my goal.

2017-04-04 12.10.03It isn’t like if I don’t get it where I want it to be by then that it’s the end of the world.  It’s nothing like that at all.  I can always keep it, work on it some more until I’m happy, and then send it off.  There’s only one problem with that.  I will be studying abroad next semester, so who knows when I will have time to write cover letters, send queries, ship a few copies of my 200 page manuscript via snail mail across the Atlantic?  I’m sure I will find a way to do all of these things while abroad if necessary, but the worry is still there.  Worry is always here somewhere, but as my friend Josh said the other night, “Would we really be artists if we didn’t have some doubt in our work?”  (Side note: I would like to revise that sentence to say, “Would we really be artists if we didn’t have some doubt in our work and conquer it?”)

So I have just a few months to see if I can finish this thing off in a total writing time of about a year and two months.  The next steps are the scary full-of-waiting ones, so I am going to focus on what I need to do now, not on the fact that once my writing-child is sent off, I could have to wait a six months to a year just to hear about a rejection.  In the face of that, at least right now I can do something to move forward.  I can make this novel the best it can be.

NaNoWriMo Season!

Come Write In

National Novel Writing Month is almost here!!!  This is the time of year when I get to be unpaid advertising for this awesome program that begins in November (unless you’re a planner and start your outline before then).

Last year was the first year I successfully finished a NaNoWriMo novel, and I can hardly believe it’s been almost that long.  I felt very ambitious, starting to write a novel only a few weeks before finals, but somehow, that was my least stressful month of college yet.  I think that is maybe because I kept myself busy, so I didn’t have time to worry, but another thing that helped was all the motivation that comes with NaNo.

 

The NaNo website (www.nanowrimo.org) is made for motivation.  It has a word count tracker, a goal setter, badges to earn, and forums full of other people participating in NaNoWriMo who have suggestions and encouragement all month long.  These tools helped me stay on track all month with my word count and keeping my plot going.

To anyone who wants to write a novel:  This may seem daunting, and I know it’s hard to find time in our busy schedules to sit down and write 1,667 words per day, but this is the best way to get a first draft on paper.  That is the hardest part, pulling words together and forming them into plot and characters, so getting it all done in one month helps the excitement and motivation not to dwindle away.  NaNo isn’t for everyone, but it is for anyone willing to try.

Betas: They’re Important

20170324_181645 (2)Writing in itself is hard enough, especially when conquering the massive task of creating an entire novel, but it’s even harder when doing it alone.  Having friends around to ask how it’s going, to show contagious enthusiasm, or to just bounce ideas off of always acts as a great encouragement.  Even if not all of these friends are “creative writing people.”  They don’t have to know the ins and outs of writing in order to be involved in what you’re doing.

On the other hand, though, it is always a good idea to have one or two friends that are also interested in reading or writing to act as Beta readers.  My Beta readers have been lifesavers in the past few months.  As I have become discouraged or stuck, their comments and advice has been there to shove me along.  I can trust that they know what they’re talking about and that the ideas they pose are for the good of the novel.

I have read this thing so many times, I don’t know what I want it to be.  I know it can be so much better, but I don’t know how to fix anything when I am just reading it through on my own.  I come away with an uneasy, dissatisfied feeling.  Fresh eyes are crucial in the editing process, because my Beta readers are able to catch so many things I would never have seen and suggest so many changes that will improve this story by unimaginable lengths.

To everyone out there who has been that friend who submits to reading an unfinished, not-at-its-best draft of anything:  Thank you.

As if Poems aren’t already Surrealist Enough…

al… I love this poetry prompt that will make the meaning of your poem even more blurry.  It’s a surrealist poetry exercise that is handy if you have that writing mood but have no idea what to write.  I get this mood quite a lot, so this prompt really comes in handy.

When it comes to surrealism, most people just think of paintings like the ones by Salvador Dali pictured here, but any kind of art can be surreal.  It’s not for everyone, but it can definitely be fun to play around with.

“Your Words, My Poem” Prompt

  1. Cut out words or phrases from a magazine, newspaper, your own writing, or just fun words you have heard recently.
  2. Mix them up.
  3. Draw some from the pile.
  4. Create a poem using only these strips of words.

Your poem may not make any sense whatsoever, but that’s okay.  It may take some editing, but eventually, your poem will be equally confusing and beautiful.  I’m not sure how that diachotimy works, exactly, but it is quite fun to play with.

Here is my favorite poem that has come from this exercise:

The Day I Regretted Leaving

When phones disappear

I think about your

noisy dishwasher,

ice cubes on the floor.

The first time in a long ellipsis

the chair fell right out from under me

and there is no hope.

We took the elevator lower than the basement.

(What are night terrors?)

You could not remember

the air being sucked out of the room.

So come relax in endless summers past,

Over three years ago you stamped

my initials with

a perfectly good poem thrown in the trash.

Do not inhale or ingest

to change the pigment.

We were on the dark water

like syrup, its blush

that raked heaven for rain

when you could turn back time…

Like aluminum crickets,

ribbons of dance shoes flutter in the wind.

(That’s what plays at an Opera House.)

I must wait here

when the world is crashing down

like slime and incredible harm.

The ground was of memories and images,

checkerboards

I love and remember, as if

my grandpa’s favorite chair was sold.

Magic Happens on its Own Time

A writer’s notebook is a magical thing.  Inside, it contains worlds and imaginations and people.  Whole, complete, terrible, magical people smashed between lines and sheets of paper.  Some of these people are real and some are just characters, but that doesn’t make any of them less of a person.  They exist between those pages with thoughts and dialogue and emotions and problems and passions.  The acts of creating a character or a world or a sense of nostalgia in themselves are not magic, but the act of reading these musings and creations sometimes makes it seem as such.

That’s the beauty of it all.  The act of writing is sometimes hard and tedious and painstakingly slow, but the end result, after all the chicken scratches and editing and late-night ideas and cutting paragraphs and adding whole pages, that end result has an element of magic.  All of that magic is kept between two covers of a notebook or between the edges of a laptop.

This is why it is so important to keep one of these handy.  A notebook, a laptop, a napkin, the back of a receipt, anything to scratch spur-of-the-moment ideas onto.  Ideas can come about at any time, so be ready for them.  Sometimes the unexpected ideas are the best ones.