NaNoWriMo Week 3 Update: Random Thoughts

Three weeks down.  8 days to go.  My word count is currently 51,328, which means…  I have achieved the 50,000 word goal!!!  Yay!  I officially crossed the 50K mark on Wednesday.  However, this doesn’t mean I’m done.  I think I’m close.  I have to wrap up this scene I’ve been working on for days and it just keeps getting longer.  After that I may have some “pick up” chapters to write if I think of any holes that need filling.

I’m really excited to get the main story tied up so I can go back and read through what I’ve written.  Aside from a paragraph or page here and there to refresh my memory at the beginning of a writing session, I haven’t read through what I have.  NaNo really encourages its writers to just keep going no matter what and ignore our inner editors (for now).  This doesn’t leave much room for going back to read.  I think this has been good thing.  In some of my previous dabbles in writing, I find myself going back to read and getting bogged down in tweaking words and revisions.  Meanwhile the story gets neglected.  This time I’ve been able to keep going and for once I’m almost done!

This week I’ve come to realize I have created an unexpected set of challenges for myself.   My novel is a Sci-Fi story, as yet unnamed.  It is set in a distant future.  I have a very specific vision for the world of my novel, but that vision creates some fascinating challenges.  The first is that, visually, it isn’t a very interesting world.  It is monotonous and repetitive.  It is very hard, I’ve learned, to keep setting and description interesting when every single building is identical to the one next to it.  The other challenge is that though this is in many ways an “advanced” society, their world is stripped of much that makes our world interesting.  This makes descriptive language a challenge.  For example: can I, in good faith, compare a character’s movements to those of a hunting cat when no-one in that world even knows what a cat is?  I’ve repeatedly run into difficulty in descriptive language because my world limits the comparisons I can make.  I know some potentially-unusable comparisons slipped in there, but for now they’ll stay.  I’ll tackle them in editing (when I have some time to research the question).

 As I near the finish line, I’m getting paranoid about losing momentum.  I’m almost afraid to let a day go by without writing at least something, even though I know that I’m close enough to the end that losing one day will not jeopardize being able to finish.  This week has been rough outside of my writing, with a generally frustrating week, a sick dog, and a significant lack of sleep (thanks to the dog).  There have been a couple days when I did not feel like writing at all (today included, I’m even having trouble getting this blog post done).  But that fear of stagnation drove me to write anyway, and I tried to get at least a few hundred words each day.   

Overall, I am still loving the NaNo experience.  It is giving me a chance to stretch my creative & writing muscles.  Even if no one ever reads this work of mine (yes, I am in “that part” of the novel), I know that when I’m done (with the first draft) in 8 days, I will be proud of my effort and accomplishment.

Next week’s update will probably be on Saturday – the official ending day of NaNo.  I hope to have a title to share with you in what will be my last specifically NaNo post this year, and maybe a synopsis if I have time to craft one after I’m done with the writing portion.

For now, I must go.  I have to get in that few hundred words for today. 

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NaNoWriMo Week 2 Update: Unpaved Surfaces Ahead

Disclaimer: This update is being written on copious amounts of caffeine and way too little sleep.  I can’t even guarantee it will be coherent by the time I hit “publish” much less that it will be free of typos or grammar errors. So please bear with me.  I’m really tired.

I’ve just completed week 2 of NaNoWriMo 2013.  After 14 full days, my word count is at 37,293.  That is a lot of words, “even for a man of science.”  (100 bonus points if you get that reference without looking it up). Okay, maybe in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that many words.  There are plenty of WriMo’s, as we seem to be called, who are far ahead of me in word counts.  But it feels like a lot of words and I’m well on my way to the 50,000 word goal of NaNo.  It is more than any other single “story” I’ve written, save one.  That one is a work in progress that got away from me in scope and just keeps growing.  I suspect, if I can ever rein it in, that one will probably end up at least a trilogy, if not a series.  But I digress.  I’m afraid there might be a lot of that in this post.  Did I mention I’m tired?

Week 2, as the NaNo site warns, has been more of a challenge.   Where week 1 was mostly the smooth ride of a decently-paved highway, week 2 was more like a construction zone.  Mostly, it was one of those construction zones where you’re still allowed to drive 60 mph, but only under the constant fear that any moment could send you over the line into the business end of a track excavator or the poor construction guy whose only defense is an orange plastic barrel with a blinky yellow light on top.  You know the zones I mean.  When you finally emerge from them you breathe a sigh of relief as you make a conscious effort to unbunch your shoulders from around your ears.  Week 2 was mostly like that.  But with a couple of detours into unpaved-rural-road-that-hasn’t-been-graded-in-years territory.

It started out last weekend with two marathon days of writing: the deceptive open freeway before you go around a wide bend and suddenly hit the slowdown.  “No problem,” I thought, as I breezed by 30,000 words.  My plot was more complete than anything I’ve written except a few short stories and one bit of Fanfic that will never, ever see the light of day (I hope).  My characters were beginning to seem like real people.  I was progressing steadily towards some key scenes.

On Monday I was still cruising along, wondering what all the NaNo fuss about week 2 was all about.  I completely missed the “Construction Ahead” and “Detour Ahead” signs.  I’m still convinced there was no “Pavement Ends” sign.  Then Tuesday happened.  I came around that carefree bend in the road to the red-tail lights and stacked cars of the construction-zone approach during rush hour.  I almost didn’t write anything at all, but told myself I had to write something!  I eked out 300 or so words.  After daily averages of well over 2000 and a weekend that totaled over 10,000 in two days, 300 was no epic tale of heroism.

I think I panicked.  I veered off the freeway onto that unpaved-rural-road-that-hasn’t-been-graded-in-years detour.  Through Wednesday and Thursday I rumbled down a washboard road of the type that makes your car rattle and thunk until you’re certain it’s going to fall apart, with pieces flying in every direction.  To make matters worse, it was dark.  Like 10pm in the winter dark, because for some reason I just couldn’t write earlier than that, despite valiant efforts.  So the writing started at 10pm and just kept going until 12:30 or later and I was falling asleep at my keyboard.

I couldn’t see or dodge the potholes (or should I say “plotholes”?). One evening as I was writing a relatively minor bit of backstory, I slammed full speed into a huge plothole.  I think I actually got whiplash from sitting back and saying to myself “Great, now I have to figure that out too.  How in the world am I going tackle that?”  I patched it over with a character thinking something along the lines of “We still don’t know how they did that….” and kept moving.  My brand-new, shiny, silver novel was now brown with splattered mud, but I was moving again, and at least that’s something.  Right?

I’m hoping that I see the on-ramp back on to the freeway ahead.  I have two whole days to do nothing but write, and maybe some housework.  Because, really, you can only let dishes and pet hair pile up so long before real life becomes some terrifying sci-fi horror story.  I have an absolutely huge “scene” to work on this weekend, which may account for some of my troubles this week.  I knew it was the next section of the story that I wanted to work on, but was also aware that it would take several consecutive hours that I just don’t have during the week, so I had to detour off into other, lesser chapters.

Once I start this section, I won’t be able to stop until it is done.   Unless I fail miserably, it should be the kind of writing that even keeps me on the edge of my seat as I write it.  I can’t wait to start.  Just-opened, freshly-paved freeway with no traffic (and no state troopers) in sight.  Or so I hope.

NaNoWriMo – bring on week three!

NaNoWriMo Week 1 Update: They might be Vampires

I’ve just completed week one of my first NaNoWriMo.  So far it has been fantastic.  I’ve had one of the best weeks I’ve had in a long time.  I’m getting a lot of writing done, and loving every minute of it.  I am not sure about the quality of what I’ve written, though I have had a few sections that caused me to say in amazement, “I wrote that?”  That’s usually a good sign.  After 7 full days, my word count is at 19,069.  I’m ahead of schedule, and glad to have the cushion in case something unexpected happens, like maybe 8 consecutive hours of sleep.  But one concern has been dawning in my mind.

I think my characters might be vampires.

I’m not writing them to be vampires.  They don’t have pointy teeth used to pierce the tender skin of their unsuspecting victims.  They don’t drink blood.  They don’t sleep in coffins.  They don’t turn into bats.  They don’t have supernatural powers (yet?).  And they certainly don’t sparkle in the sunlight, although I’m not entirely sure how I know this because there is precious little sunlight in their world.  In that world, the world of their story, they are decidedly not vampires.

However, in my world, they are exhibiting some very vampire-like behavior.

They only come out at night.  Every day this week, I came home from work ready to dive right in, in the hopes that I might get my words in and still manage to catch the elusive 8-hours of sleep mentioned above.  But no matter how hard I try, there is just no finding them until all has gone dark and still.  And then they sneak up on me and attack me with unexpected plot or character points in the dark.

They are mysteriously alluring, but deceitful and secretive.  They entice me with promises of excitement and adventure, but then corner me in a long stretch of potentially boring dialogue and dare me to make it interesting. All the while, they keep the whole truth of their story veiled in mystery and maddeningly out of reach.  When I get close to the heart of their story, they block me cruelly.  When I try to forge ahead and write through the block, they transform every thought into mindless drivel.

They distract me.  Their hold on me begins to cause me to neglect my housework: dishes in the sink go unwashed, the carpets go unvacuumed, and my animals are not getting enough attention.  Strider has mats in his beard that will probably require either a chainsaw or a professional to remove.  Luna will tell you I forget to feed her and she’s starving.  That at least will be a lie.  But she will try to tell you and you will find her cute meows and soft nuzzles compelling.  I find myself day dreaming of them when I’m supposed to be requesting an exhibit or submitting a lease request.  They consume my every waking thought.

Finally, they are turning me into a vampire.  With each passing day under their thrall, I see more and more of the night and start to resist the day.  When the light rises in the morning, all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and hide from it.  Then again, that may have more to do with the aforementioned lack of 8-hours than any significant transformation on my part.

And now night has fallen.  The darkness is closing in and I am called back to the story.

Happy writing!

Writing Again: Why I’ve Been Smiling (almost) All Day

As I start to draft this post (Yep, I admit it. I’m drafting it at work.), I have been smiling pretty much constantly all morning.  This is fairly significant, as I usually don’t find myself smiling very much at work.  My day job isn’t terrible, but at the end of the day it is neither mentally stimulating nor very fulfilling.  It is challenging in its way, but not necessarily in the right way for me.  I am truly grateful to be employed at all, and overall it is a decent job at a good company with a decent wage.  So don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining about my work.

In fact, this post isn’t about work.  It is about the fact that I’m smiling at work.

This forced me to start asking myself why.  If I want to replicate this feeling more often, I need to figure out what sparked it.  Exactly a week ago today I was in such an incredibly lousy mood that I wanted to throw and/or break things over really dumb stuff (for example, a broken hanger).  This smiling thing is much preferable.  So, again, why?

I’m writing again.

When I see those 3 little words sitting there on my screen, emphasized by the white space around them, they don’t seem so significant.  But they’re kinda huge.

I’M WRITING AGAIN!

This blog was the start of it.  I haven’t posted much, but I’ve enjoyed easing myself into it.  Testing the waters.  Warming up the atrophying writer-muscles I’ve been neglecting.  Hoping to get back into writing because it has always been in me.  Maybe eventually get back to stories and the two or three BIG IDEAS I’ve been picking away at over the years.

Then I saw the NaNoWriMo post on my WordPress Reader page.  I’d heard distant murmurs of past NaNo’s from a Facebook friend for a couple of years.  I was a little curious, but at the time I was not mentally in a place where I could expend any thought or energy on figuring out what it was, much less actually participate.  But last Wednesday, I followed the link.  I read about it and said “maybe,” fully expecting it would drop out of my head again.  It didn’t.  I mused on it a little during the day on Thursday, the day before it was supposed to start, and still thought “maybe.”  I even went to bed Thursday night, still thinking “maybe.”  Then a still small voice said “Do.  Or do not.  There is no maybe!” Okay, that’s not really what it said.  It may have been more like “Enough with the maybe.  Just do it!”  I actually got out of bed, went to the other room to get my laptop, and signed up at about 11:30 Thursday night.  I barely had any idea what I was doing.  I had no clue what I was going to write.  But it was done.

I spent most of Friday incredibly distracted by trying to figure out what I was going to write.   I got pretty mad when I realized I had to run an errand after work and couldn’t go straight home and dive in, even though I still had not decided what I was going to write.  Ultimately, the errand was probably a good thing because in the 2 hours of driving the errand took, I had time to remember a crazy dream I’d once taken notes on and decide that perhaps it would be appropriate fodder for the “Just Write It” philosophy of NaNoWriMo.   If I could find my notes.

The notes were unearthed with relative ease, and by mid-evening Friday I had donned my comfies, carefully positioned my caffeinated beverage of choice on the table, started my “I Fight for the Users” iPod playlist (10 easy bonus points for you if you can guess what’s on that playlist!) and settled into the corner of my couch with my laptop.  I also had a notebook and 3 blue pens in easy reach, just in case the laptop’s electromagnetic field caused interference with the call of my muse, as it sometimes does.

It was with some trepidation that I booted up my little chunk of technology.  It had been so long since I’d started anything new.  A blank white page of Microsoft Word (or even actual paper) can be pretty intimidating, you know.  What if I had no words?  What if my characters refused to behave?  What if they were boring?  What if there was no plot?  What if there was a plot, but it was a real stinker?  WHAT IF I’M DELUDING MYSELF AND CAN’T WRITE A COHERENT SENTENCE TO SAVE MY LIFE?

{Deep Breath}

That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo.  None of that matters.  Just write!  So I did.  The notes and the earlier 2 hours of drive time to ponder helped a lot.  In the 3rd (not my favorite) Anne of Green Gables movie, someone advises her to start with the end.  I had formulated a prologue, so I did that first, and then wrote the Epilogue.  Since then I’ve been working from either end.

I spent the better part (the best part!) of the weekend writing.  This was probably the best weekend I’ve had in a long time!  I wrote late night on the couch, with my eyes getting bleary but caffeine still doing its job.   I typed stretched out in the morning sunlight streaming across my bed, after the animals woke me up so very early.  I even worked at the dining table for a while, but not for long because tables and desks often stifle my creativity.  Most of the time, I was in my PJs.  I changed to the “That still only counts as one!” playlist (20 bonus points for that one) for a while.  Later, I tuned out a few episodes of Firefly in the background.

It was an awesome weekend: Over 10,000 words of awesome weekend.  Note I didn’t say the words were awesome.  Most of them are probably crap.  I don’t care.  I’m writing again!

I begin to wonder again if it is possible that writing is my “calling.”  I’ve wondered this on and off for years.  What I can say with certainty is that when I’m writing, when I’m submerged in a new world and trying to tell their story, everything feels right with my world.  I’m more myself than at any other time. 

I love the excited feeling I’ve had ever since clicking the “sign up” button on the NaNoWriMo website.  I love being snuck up on by unexpected plot points, or realizing something to add that will just make a scene “click.”  I love meeting my characters, especially the moment I realize who they are, despite the rush of fear that I can’t adequately tell their story.  I’m looking forward to the rest of this month, discovering the tale, and learning if I’m able to complete the telling.

So, over the next few weeks, if you see me at my desk, or in my car, or at the store, and I’m smiling for no apparent reason, chances are good I’m not really there at all. Because, like right now, the story calls…