Tag Archives: nanowrimo

NaNo Day 13. Nightmares.

13 Nov

Please just excuse me while I scream.


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.


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.



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.


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!


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.

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


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.

By the way…

9 Dec

First of all, because I realize I never came back and officially posted it, and in case you didn’t hear me screaming it from the rooftops. I did win Nano.   This is what I saw when I validated my word count:

And let me tell you, at 4am after several weeks of marathon writing sessions to get caught up, I felt like one.  I even managed to do it with two days to spare.  And you people know I don’t do early.

My life for the next week or so went like this, sleep, read, sleep, read, oh yah, remember to be social:

“So, what did you get for winning?” my family asks.

“Well, er…uh…some badges I can put on my website and well…the pride of actually accomplishing it.”

Blank stares all around.

A few days later.  My mother still isn’t getting it and decides that maybe there is safety in numbers.  She brings it up at the family Tamale Fiesta of 2010 in front of all of my Aunts and cousins.

“So, did you actually finish your novel in November?”

“No, I finished the number of words I needed on my rough draft to win the competition, the story still has a bit left to write and then there’s the editing of course-”

“So, another UNfinished novel.”


I love my mother.  And I know she is proud of me, and in her own quirky way was trying to show me off.  But, the truth always stings a lot.  And the truth is, after I crossed that finish line I didn’t want to write anything for about a week.  Not only that, I had no reason. No one to try and catch up to, nothing telling me I’d be rewarded, however slightly for my efforts, no one to laugh and cry and share my bumps and bruises with.  I was suddenly without a deadline, and without a support system.

So, I buried myself in catching up on my reading and making Christmas lists and moving my novel into a new software program and re-organizing my books and once again managing to procrastinate.  I kept waiting for the guilt to kick in, but it didn’t.  I wasn’t breaking any laws or falling behind or even sure that the novel was worth finishing.

I’m finally starting to come out of my post-NaNo blues.  I actually started working on the project again yesterday. My mother called of course. When she asked what I was doing and I told her, she sounded a bit annoyed.  But the fact is, I’m not writing it for her.  I’m not writing it for anyone.  This is my education in the craft of novel writing.  I’m writing it, so that I can learn how to write a novel. And I’m finishing it because I can, because I need that education, that learning process to continue, and because even if the only person who ever reads it is my ten year old nephew, I will know that I finished it.  And when everyone has gone home, and I’m alone in my apartment, curtains drawn and doors locked;  that will ALWAYS mean something incredible to me.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to NaNoWriMo.

27 Nov

Somewhere along the way, it stopped being so scary.  Somewhere in the midst of all that racing to catch up to the word count pace, laughing with others along the road, and simply surviving past the midway point, everything started to flow.  Maybe I finally managed to starve that inner editor of attention so badly that she keeled over and died (or went to Siberia for a burger)?  I’m not sure what happened really, but; the story started picking up plot ideas faster than I could jot them down, the characters actually started doing things that only they would do, and the whole thing just became… well, easier.  In two days, I managed to knock out over 10,000 words bringing me to the point where I knew, for the first time, that I actually had this thing.  I gained confidence.  I became proud of the horrific dreck I had written, knowing it was part of the necessary pain of the growing process. The procrastination slowed to a stop.  And I started having to force myself away from the computer to interact with real live folks.  The thing is, somewhere in all that, I became something that no matter how much I had always wanted, I was somewhere inside, deeply terrified of becoming.  I became, in the midst of this madness, a novelist.

And, the real quirk is this:  there’s no going back now.  Once you’ve had a taste of that mind-blowing buzz, it’s a part of you.  It’s as if  something physically clicked over in my brain, and I don’t have the power to turn it off.  Not that I’d ever want to.  But, my brain is now analyzing movies and books on so many different levels than it did before.  There’s something about trying to reverse-engineer the process I suppose that makes you want to take apart all of the other models and see how they tick.  And, ya know what? It’s even more enjoyable knowing the pain and agony those authors and writers went through to get to that amazing turning point or the end of the second act.  How much it broke their hearts when they let a character die and what imagination and restraint it took at times to just let the story play out.  Can you imagine how much it must have killed JK Rowling to know the entire time that Ron and Hermione were going to end up together and not let it actually happen until book seven?

Ok, sorry.  Got a little off track there.  The point is, yes I still have a lot to do.  I have more than a lot to  learn.  But the process of learning it all is somehow less overwhelming and more enjoyable.  I can do this.  I love doing this.  And not just for the month, or the magical Novembers that will undoubtedly follow, but for the rest of my life.  I feel sad for my friends who tried, or wanted to, but weren’t able to come along on their own journeys this month and taste the nectar from that sweet spot that magically appears when you finally start flying.  They were robbed of a miracle, and if I could bottle it and give it away, I would.

My Journey in Numbers

In the mean time, I’ve got a little more flying of my own to do this month.  3 days left, and 4800 words to go.  I’m hoping to finish tonight at the all-night write in at Denny’s.  Just me and a bunch of complete strangers brought together by this beautiful, addicting, encompassing…yah, I’m gonna say it… life-changing, thing called NaNoWriMo.

Good luck to all of you on your personal journey to the finish line.  I’m rooting for you!

Silent Winter Cover Art

17 Nov

In the spirit of semi-productive noveling procrastination I spent some time tonight creating a fantasy cover for my novel in progress.  It’s more for motivation than anything else, but I had so much fun making it, and I think it turned out decent for my first attempt.  Shout out if you love it… or hate it for that matter.  Feedback is sexy!

Silent Winter - NanoNovel 2010
Photography (c) 2007-2010  Evelin Novemberdusk.
Please check out more of her amazing work in her gallery.
Christmas Day: When a massive biological attack succeeds in erasing half the Earth’s population within a few short hours, the genetically evolved and the technologically enhanced find themselves thrust into the heart a battle for the very survival of humanity itself.

Mostly Nano

17 Nov

Believe it or not, I’m alive.  I realize the contents of this blog (or lack thereof) would suggest otherwise, but I’m still around.

At the moment, I’m immersed deep in the insanity of NaNoWriMo.  (For the un-initiated, that would be National Novel Writing Month).  As of this morning, I’m lagging about 9,000 words behind the pace I should be at for completing the 50,000 word project by the end of November.  Still, I celebrated the midway point yesterday with a bunch of equally crazy folks on this side of town who have been taking part in the yearly event.  We watched videos of one of the younger male contestants channeling Lady Gaga in drag and Double-Stuffed Oreos were had by all!

As far as I’m concerned it really was a cause for celebration.  I’ve made it much further into the project this year than on the two previous years I attempted the feat, and am pretty confident that with an all-nighter or two I’ll be able to drag myself across the finish line by my ears or my toes or whatever lends itself to pinching and pulling along.

It’s been all in all, a terrifying experience, tackling a novel.  But I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I work best along the way.  Having that external deadline that I’m dedicated to, without the pesky side effects of anyone lurking over my shoulder threatening to tell me it’s silly or I’ve got it all wrong has been very freeing.  That and the competition of my fellow writer’s wordcounts lingering over my head.  I’ve learned to just keep writing through the horrible parts and worry about fixing it later and the plot faeries are starting to show up and little by little  light the way.

Ah but you wanna know the most interesting part.  My procrastination has become so much more focused.  I feel too guilty to not be writing because I feel like watching t.v.   But, pushing back my writing session a few hours because the bathroom has to be scrubbed right now, well that sounds important!  I’ve managed to organize my office, clean most of the apartment, schedule doctors appointments, visit neglected friends and completely overhaul both of my computers so far this month.  I’m pretty sure if you asked me to help you move or babysit or organize a clothing drive for the homeless I’d manage to fit that in this month too!

The trick, I can see will be to keep that level of momentum going when November ends and I’m thrust back into the real world of editing and plotting and self-motivation.

Of course I’m always open to suggestions.  Willing to write for a trip to Paris or a new car.  Yah, I’m pretty sure I could find that motivating.

In the meantime, keep track of how I’m doing and feel free to congratulate me on my successes or make me feel monumentally guilty for my failures by checking in with my wordcount tracker below.  I know you will use this power wisely.

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