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NaNo Day 13. Nightmares.

13 Nov

Please just excuse me while I scream.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRGHGHGHGGHH.

So, yah. The frustration and anxiety are eating me alive about now. And I’m generally not a fan of being eating alive by anything. That’s just…yuck.

But we are on day 13 of NaNo. Unlucky day 13? I’d like to blame it on superstition and numerology, but honestly…this has been building since before November and has just now hit a pitch that is giving me nightmares and has me sitting here at the computer gasping for fresh air .

Last year was the first year I finished NaNo. It was an amazing experience. I pushed myself past barriers I didn’t know I had, and yes, there was anxiety there too. But I don’t remember it being this bad, although that could be due to the Twizzler induced sugar highs, and the pure thrill of realizing for the first time that I could do this, I could get to 50K.

And I was so proud of myself when I reached that line. I was floating for months after that. Until I realized that I’d been following all the rules of NaNo, i.e. have fun with it, don’t worry because first drafts are supposed to suck, and no one ever needs to see it except for you. I found that strangely comforting during NaNo 2010. Until I reached about day 29, and hurriedly wrote a terribly flimsy ending to my half-told 50K story, and on December 1st realized that my book was heavy on the 50K and very light on actual story. It really went no-where.

My characters spent entire acts just wandering around campus, getting to know their surroundings and the other people in their lives. Which might be fine, for about half a chapter, if they had just awoken from a 10 year coma, but as far as I know they had been conscious throughout the last decade and this went on for the majority of my book. I’d gone into it with an idea for an event that I wanted to have occur, a big, life-changing, world-altering event and wanted to see how these characters dealt with it.

But, I didn’t really know who my characters where or how “The Event” worked, or whether the event was supposed to happen at the beginning, middle or end of my story and so I just wrote whatever came to mind. Sometimes I made up new characters and wrote from their point of view, sometimes I just let them wander through the airport in Paris.

Plot holes abound. And at some point at 3am at a write-in at Denny’s I’m pretty sure I was challenged to have my main character smoke pot. I’m not sure if it was her or I with the awesome inability to withstand peer-pressure, but yep, mid escape for her life and trying to save the world, my character decides to gets high.

But I was determined I was gonna finish this thing. Because, well I have issues with finishings, and it seemed kind of an important step to becoming a published author, so I committed myself to this mess for the forseeable future.

I spent the entire summer studying structure, and learning about plot and all those things they don’t actually teach you in creative writing classes. And became utterly overwhelmed and confused. I found 6 or 7 systems that I sort of liked, none of them completely. And none of them seemed compatible with any other.

Finally, I decided I was going to give this thing a few more months and then box it. I’d give it another shot as my NaNo 11 novel. Keeping some of the characters and the setting, as well as one or two scenes that I had actually liked from round one, but for all intents and purposes starting over and writing it as an entirely new book.

I spent part of September and all of October, trying to build my world and understand my characters and nail down an outline of sorts.

And when November 1st came, I was off and running.

Until about 3 days later when I was just… off.

Everything I had learned over the past year was just screaming in my head: You aren’t doing that right! Whyyyy are your characters so bo-ring? You aren’t supposed to have so much exposition. Show don’t tell! What happened to your inciting incident? Your dialogue is lame! That is so cliche’. Wasn’t there supposed to be a goal in this scene? Ever heard of conflict? Really, you are going to move everything around again? Wait, that character isn’t even supposed to exist! Blah Blah Blah. Voices, screaming at me so loudly that I can hardly even think to type.

And then there’s the outside pressure.

Last year. This was just a fun experiment to see if I could actually do it. Everyone else was in the same boat as me. Some of us failed, some of us succeeded, but we were a family, and we were all feeling the same things, and we cheered each other on and it was amazing, ridiculous fun.

This year, the fun has been eaten by outside expectations. There are the expectations of my family and close friends who know I have been working on this project for an entire year now and are beginning to doubt my sanity in continuing; or, I suspect, that I’m even working on anything at all.

I can understand this even. Writing a book looks so much easier from the outside. You can’t imagine the blood and sweat and tears and unbelievable amounts of time that go into writing one. Especially the first one. When you are still learning how to tame this thing.

I haven’t had the heart to tell them yet that this is probably just a practice novel. That it will likely never see an agent, let alone a publisher or sit proudly on a shelf as proof of the work I have put into it. My niece and nephews don’t get the concept that you can be a writer and not be JK Rowling or Eoin Colfer or Kaleb Nation or Aprilynne Pike. These are the only writers they have for reference and the idea of this book failing to make me into an over-night celebrity and best-seller just doesn’t compute for them. But I have to love them for their child-like faith in me.

There’s the few writer friends I have who know what I’m working on and expect at some point to be able to read this novel, to give feeback or critiques or point me along the next steps on the path. And of course, I adore these people and don’t want to let them down…but I also don’t want to miss out on the place I’m at in my life where I have such wonderful writerly people as these around. People that are better than me, and that I can learn at the feet of. I feel the need to take advantage of my blessings, and to just suck it up and BE a competent writer already!

But, I sit here now, at day 13, and although, I’ve lagged along pretty much at par on my word count, I have no story. Despite my word-building and outlining, this thing is a bigger mess than the first one. I’m realizing that my process is to write a lot of crap to get to the good stuff. Which means that to get a novel of 80k words, just a first draft, I’ll probably end up writing more like 160-200k words. Which means, November 30th is not going to be even close to the end of my sucky, ugly, must-hide-in-a-deep-dark-hole first draft, and I have no idea how long it will be until I have something that I feel ready to share. Do I give it the rest of the time that it needs, or do I make a clean break and start fresh? I really feel the need to see this through to the ugly end, but how can I justify giving that much more time to a project that will go in a drawer.

It’s also intimidating knowing real writers. Either a) They don’t need NaNo. or B) They crank through this NaNo thing like they are slicing through jello. 50k words within the first 3 days, first week, first 2 weeks. Worse yet. They are ready to share these masterpieces while they are still writing them. And they are so NOT sucky first drafts.

This throws my whole notion of what is possible with NaNo, right out the window and I feel like I must not be trying hard enough. But my Neanderthal brain, as hard as I push it, cannot produce anything close to what they can on a first draft. I’m not sure if it can on a 10th draft.

I know, I know. Put the inner editor away, you say. And I can for a while, while I’m writing. It’s when I look up from the page and return to the real world that the pressure starts to build again and I start to ask myself…. can I do this? Can I do this at all? And even if I can do it once… taking years to get it right, that’s when my problems really start, because then I hopefully have an agent and a publisher and am expected to crank this stuff out on a much more regular basis and…. and…. my brain starts to explode.

Anyone else out there stuck in the quicksand with me today?

I’m off to gorge myself on Twizzlers and re-read Mr. Baty’s book about all of this somehow not being a problem.

Stumbling Up the Creative Path.

3 Oct

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Wow. Had this on an auto-play loop for a while this evening.

Because…I know this.  In my head I know it.  But, my heart tends to forget it quite often.  Today procrastination was apparently my favored art-form until a friend posted this on Facebook and it hit a nerve.  In a good way.  It helped release that deep breath that I’d been holding since last week (or possibly preschool?).  The one tied to that ugly knot that tends to grow in the bottom of my stomach when anyone mentions wanting to see what it is I write. Yah that one.  That one has been especially testy since realizing that a substantial requirement for my new writing group is that we actually share what it is we are working on. {Terror}

This little reminder came at an interesting time in regards to my blogging as well. Lately,  I’ve been trying to figure out the point of all this silent screaming in the dark.  I suppose this too I knew all along*.  It’s not just getting things off my chest. It’s not simply putting something out there to see if it gets noticed. It’s certainly not about trying to impress or please anyone but myself.  It’s more about learning as I go and making this whole writing thing a little less scary because I do it every day and I get better at it as I go.  And sometimes I need to just fail and make mistakes and let things be messy.  For me that’s the hardest part.  Being brave enough to let others see those imperfections.  And yes, it’s somewhat about making connections in ways I really don’t anywhere else.  But, above all, it’s really about putting in the work towards becoming the kind of artist that I see in my head.  Because that girl I totally admire and respect, and can’t wait to meet.  So if you see her wandering around out there in the dark… just remind her to take a deep breath… and get back to work.  I promise I’ll thank you someday!

*[Note to self: Install more RAM in brain]

Sometimes Online is Awesome

9 Sep

I don’t know how it got to the point where it’s been six months since I posted anything on here.  That just makes me feel… old.  But, I suppose I found myself a bit overwhelmed by my various online self-induced obligations and needed a break and some perspective from the real world.

Which mostly means I’ve been working on my “real” writing projects, and studying, and reading books that I don’t have to review and spending days and weeks at a time without even checking my email.  (I don’t suggest that last part if you get as much email as I do).

I’m still not sure what my new take is going to be with this multi-blogging project. I’m hoping to get things consolidated down to one pressure-free space. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime….

I ventured back onto Twitter today and found myself wandering down a little rabbit hole that led me to something I had to get on here and talk about.  HitRECord.org is a collaborative project helmed by Joseph Gordon-Leavitt that is just ur-cool in my humbly opinionated brain.

It’s all kinds of artists, film-makers, writers, animators, editors, musicians, composers etc.  just throwing stuff out there and working together to remix it and make it awesome.  If things fly, Joe has the Hollywood connections to make impressive things happen.  But, it’s really just about creating something amazing.  And doing it together.  It’s not about ego or making a name for yourself.  Everything you put up on the site is free to be borrowed from and worked off by others.  This is like artistic utopia people and I’m loving it.

Check out one of the short-films they screened at Sundance and SXSW this year, then go contribute some of your talent and/or opinons to the cause.

Caught My Eye: Maldives

20 Jan

Sometimes I swear Stumbleupon is my best robot friend.  How do they know me so well? I’m actually not gonna think about that too much, because the answer might scare me just a little.  As it is,  I want to just live in their perfect, totally-gets-me interweb. Today I stumbled upon this page with these oh so amazing factoids and tons of stunning pictures of the Maldives.  (Seriously, go check it out, then come back I won’t hold it against you.)

I admit I am sometimes geographically challenged.  I mean, I had heard of the place, but that was about it.  Now, I’m a little bit amazed by it.  These tiny little islands (Hawaii looks like a full-on continent comparatively) are actually a country?  It got my mind spinning and it seemed like such the perfect place to set a story, something fantastic perhaps?  Of course I think a research trip is definitely in order first.  Can’t be done any other way.  I’m sorry, it just can’t. Roadtrip! Err… Um Canoe Trip!  Who’s in?

My Night Off

18 Jan

The Head Ache

"Headache" via Wikipedia

“Every time someone breaks a resolution, an angel does a faceplant.” – Unknown

Did you even notice?  The day I was stressing about missing in there? Yep.  Up until two days ago I had a perfect streak going on with my Post  A Day 2011 challenge.  I usually don’t get to posting until late at night so there are a few days where I posted a few minutes after midnight and they show up on the next day, but as far as I’m concerned they still count as successes for me.

But man…Sunday I had a migraine to beat all migraines (headaches seem to be making themselves comfy as a theme in my life right now), and even though I already knew what I was going to write about for the day, I just couldn’t get myself to stare at the computer screen for long enough to do it.

So, you know what I did? I got up the next day and wrote the post.  Kept going.  I didn’t call the thing a disaster and give up in frustration. It’s sometimes hard with goals to find that balance between perfect responsibility, nazi like structure and accountability and forgiving ourselves… and then maybe forgiving ourselves once too often, and then deciding to tell ourselves that we really don’t care at all.

So I just wanted to acknowledge the point, that yes…I’m human (and I plan on staying that way).  I expect that I will miss another day or two during the year.  But having experienced it, and knowing  that I will keep going makes the whole thing a little less scary.  Because life is often one big balancing act and what works for me won’t work for you, and sometimes what works for me today, isn’t what worked for me yesterday.  The point is progress.  The point is, I’m doing this for a reason well a few, actually – and none of them include the word perfection.

Pick your battles. Don’t make your goals more important than enjoying life.  Ok, yes it was pain that drove me away this time. But I’d like to think I’d let myself off for an occasional night if the choice was between blogging and ice-cream with my niece or a date with prince charming.  Otherwise, just who the hell am I working so hard at perfection for?

Writing Goals: Tracking and Accountability

17 Jan

We’ve been talking about writing goals for the past couple days.  I just wanted to finish up by giving you some details on how I’ll be keeping track and keeping accountable for my goals.  There are a ton of different tools out there for keeping track of writing.  I’ve tried most of them.  These are the ones I’ll be using for this challenge.

Tracking

Scrivener

Since this is the main program I use to both organize and actually pen my writing, I’ll be taking advantage of their built in tools, though a bit basic, they are helpful.  I can set a goal for the day and keep track of my session, daily and total word-counts.

Write Track

Writetrack is a calendar and so much more.  I can enter in the time period and my word-count goal and it will tell me how much to write every day.  It also includes the ability to schedule days off, and will auto update as I write to show my new goal each day.  I also have the ability to adjust things as I go along if I decide once I’m further in that 100,000 words isn’t the perfect goal for this project.  After all, the real goal is THE END.  I also have the opportunity, like in NaNo, to write ahead.  In other words to write 4000 words in one day and reduce my daily target for the remaining days, etc.  And for all those jonesing for the NaNo experience, this free online program comes chock full of all kinds of customizable charts and graphs.  It’s also a built-in record of my writing.  I’ve set the project (The Big Finish Spring 2011) to start Feb 1st (to give me a chance to finish up some plotting and outlining) and run for 3 months.  So, if you want in….that’s the timeframe.

Accountability

I’ll be adding a word-count tracker to the sidebar here on the blog. That way you can know on any given day the progress I’m making.  But part of the deal is that I’ll also be reporting on here.  Every week I’ll be giving a short and sweet little report on my progress, success, failures, embarrassments and all, so that you can cheer me on or play along.

I also have some ideas in mind for The Editing Game, which will start May 1st, but I’ll tell you about that when we get a bit closer to the event.

Please let me know if you have questions, suggestions or want to play along!

Oh, and Happy Monday!

~Rebekah

2011 Writing Goals & (sigh) Schedule (Part 2)

15 Jan

Yesterday I shared my writing goals for 2011.  Today, as promised I’m going to get into the details of my plan for this year.

Six Days a Week

Instead of saying I will sit down and write from x to y o’clock every day without fail, I’m going to try something a little different.  First of all.  I get one day off a week.  If I take it early in the week, it’s gone, used up.  If I don’t use it….it does not carry over to the next week.  Days when I am out-of-town on vacation, etc are not required, (after all, it is a vacation) but writing is certainly encouraged on those days.  Usually I find that when I’m in a different environment writing flows out of me like crazy, so I’m not too worried about this little loophole. The other six days of the week will be word count days.

Words not Time Served

It doesn’t work for me to say I have to write for an hour.  I ramble around aimlessly and write about my mother’s dog or my neighbor’s car but never quite get around to the task at hand. The thing is another 50,000 words over the next 3 months (adjusting for days off) only works out to just under 700 words a day.  Piece of cake for a babbler like me.  But 700 words a day of work on my first draft.  Not side-stories, not back-stories, not essays about my life or my love of Jane Eyre,  or Jake Gyllenhaal, not blogging, not journaling, just plugging along and getting it done.

The Starting Gate & Restrictions

It’s the starting every day that is really the hard part.  Once I start, I get into a rhythm and it’s kinda bliss.  So to instigate the starting I’ve installed an internet filter.  Yup.  Myself is getting tough here.  No internet, no checking emails or blogging until the work is done for the day.  No twitter, no Facebook, no funny pictures of cats in hats (okay really folks, the cat pictures I can do without).  But also no procrastination via the umbrella of “research” ( i.e. downloading pictures of how each of my characters has styled his hair and chosen to wear for the day or casting and re-casting with hollywood celebrities, or even looking up maps of Paris or articles on scientific theories on climate manipulation or brain development.)  Nope.  Verboten.  All of that stuff has to wait until the writing is done.  And for a gal without TV, that leaves – well –  cleaning the house or doing laundry or re-organizing my bookshelves again.  I’m not gonna say that reading is off the list, because quite frankly at this point I could stand to spend some more time doing that as well, but as far as the interworld.  I’m dead until the work is done.

Rewards
Yes. Please. I mean, what’s a challenge without fabulous prizes?
Ok. Obviously getting my interworld and blogosphere back on is a reward in and of itself.  The writing is a reward in and of itself once I get going, but I’m talking about something a little more tangible here.  Something a bit more fun and focused.  I’ll be finalizing these rewards with my “sponsors” *cough*  Mom, Dad, *cough* but for now they stand as such:

Every 1 week of meeting goals = a book from BookSwap & Saturday coffee @ bookstore.
Every consecutive 3 weeks of meeting goals = A massage certificate.

Consecutive 6 weeks of meeting goals = Sexy Writer’s Salon Day (hair cut & color, mani, pedi)

The whole enchilada (a full 3 months of  meeting my writing goals) A new Car! (uh, no?) I’m going to Disneyland! (er..apparently not.)  Ok the grand prize isn’t quite ready to be revealed at this point but I can say this.  It has something to do with BEA 2011 in New York. *squee*

But that’s not all…

Word Count Rewards:
8000 words in a week = $15 Starbucks or AMC gift card
The 75,000 word  mark = $50 Amazon gift card
The 100,000 word mark = $100 gift card of choice
The END = $200 gift card of choice

Punishments:

You didn’t think it was going to be THAT easy, did you?

3 days in a row of no writing =  3 hours of housecleaning for my sponsors.

6 days in a row of no writing =  6 hours of babysitting for sponsors.  (Not really much of a punishment for me, since I love it, but I know it helps them out and that’s the point)

10 days of no writing = completion of embarrassing feat chosen at random from entries submitted by sponsors, friends and followers.

15 days in a row of no writing = sign up and complete a 5k

(note: these are cumulative, so failing to write at all during the 3 month period dooms me to 6 5k’s in 2011) wow.  But the fifteen day period also would include having failed at the 3 and 6 day marks as well, so those punishments would be in effect also.

Competitions, Dares & Challenges

Here’s where it gets fun for you.  Want to play along?  You can.  I have prizes set aside for those that play the game with me.  Or propose a challenge or dare and we’ll settle on terms.  I’ll also be setting up a few mini challenges along the way and inviting people to play along.  If you want to hear about the challenges first and the prizes available, simply subscribe to my blog or follow me on twitter and you will be the first to know.  Hint: my challenger prizes include everything from free books, signed ARC’s , gift cards, movie passes, spa days, and even a BEA registration!  Warning: challengers also face consequences for failure…so if you are looking for motivation, stay tuned to find out more.  Want to suggest a dare or challenge?  Want to sponsor me or my challengers?  Leave a comment or head over to the Aurel & Bex page and send me a message.

That gets us through the rough draft stage of this thing.  Tune in tomorrow for the editing game, accountability and some fun tips and tricks I’ll be using for keeping and  staying on track  in 2011.

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