Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

Slow-Mo November

When I decided to focus this NaNoWriMo on my first novel, I determined to let the story take its course. No specific guidelines or word counts. Just an intentional focus on the story because life demands it.

What I didn’t expect was to reach the halfway point with only 444 words.

I’ve found, though, that this story isn’t in first draft mode, even though I’m trying new things. Words don’t gush onto the screen at a furious pace. Instead, each is meticulously chosen with the obsession that comes with later drafts. It’s like it wants to be as close to perfection as it can be the first time around, and it won’t let me move any faster. It really feels like writing in slow motion.

But that’s okay. The lacking word count doesn’t reflect the amount of thinking that’s gone into the story. It’s more like a butterfly carefully working its way out of the cocoon. Hopefully what emerges is far better than what I would have if I hurried through.

How are you writing projects going? Do you sometimes find that your writing seems to move in slow motion?

Advertisements

My Non-Traditional NaNoWriMo

After having a great time with it last year, I’ve forgone NaNoWriMo this year. And seven days into November, I’m glad that I did. Life is centered around preparation right now — painting the baby’s room, picking out the right car seat, readying myself emotionally and physically, making sure my classes will survive without me during leave — and 1,667 words a day would have ended up falling by the wayside.

But that doesn’t mean my novel (the very first one) isn’t getting any attention. In fact, I think it’s had its most productive month in a long time.

The word count is low, but the ideas are flowing. I want to try new things and apply ideas that I’ve learned since the last time I touched it.

It’s not a traditional NaNoWriMo, but this month is still about that novel and making something happen.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What writing projects are you currently working on?


#WhyIWrite

Today, NaNoWriMo’s writing prompt was a simple one: why I write. Even though I’m not planning on participating in NaNoWriMo this year, it seemed like the perfect topic for today’s post. 

Why do I write?

I write because I have to. Words flow through me, bidden or unbidden. Simple morning walks, people watching, the silence of waiting for students to finish a test — all transform into narration whispered in my mind.

I write to understand what I’m facing. When I’m afraid, struggling, unsure, my characters face those fears along with me, and we work through them together. Sometimes I invite the characters in so we can confide in one another. But many times, they come on their own, knowing when I need them the most. Together, we fight through and find the answers.

I write because I have something to say. My mouth doesn’t always know the right words, but they flow out of the pen effortlessly. It’s as natural as breathing. I don’t always know if they’re words that others need to see too, but they’re the words that I need to express.

I write because I love it. It makes me feel alive. It’s what I was born to do.

Why do you write?


The Reinvention of a Character

It’s been a week since my last NaNoWriMo update, and there’s still so much work to do on the novel. Maybe I’ll have the draft done by the beginning of the new year? Maybe I should make that an official goal.

As I continue to work on it — albeit on a much slower pace — I continue to process the things that have happened and how they connect and will shape the things to come. (Well, the ones I know will come. Being a pantser means that I don’t have that many details figured out yet.)

There is one thing I’d love to talk about, but I haven’t figured out how to discuss it without major spoilers. It feels especially wrong to spoil a story that not only isn’t published but also isn’t even complete yet.

So instead, let’s go back to the summer of 2016. I was working on the novel back then but was running into a major road block. The characters were starting to go silent on me. They were lethargic and uninterested in the story, so I took a couple of months off to let them brew more before giving them a fresh start in November.

While all of the characters had fallen into a rut, it was really a duo of minor characters who were the worst. They were cousins, and they started off all right, but they had become indistinguishable from one another and completely flat. It was pathetic.

Whenever this happens, there’s always a huge question about what to do. Do the characters stay but go through some personality therapy or does that part of the story just need reinvented?

I ended up opting for reinventing. To do that, there were a few things that I needed to assess:

  • Why do these characters need to be in the story?
  • What role(s) are they filling?
  • Is there another way to do this?

The answer to the first and second was that I needed at least one more person on the spaceship to handle the engines and air systems, so that meant the character couldn’t be completely eliminated. There’s more to it, but that was really the most important part.

The third question opened up some possibilities. Instead of being two cousins, what if it was just one character instead? There’s something about the dynamic of two people who know each other well, but that wasn’t cutting it. So I decided to trim down to one character and make him more dynamic by himself.

So far, that seems to be the right choice. Of course, who knows what will happen in the next draft?

What do you do when your characters fall into a rut? Have you combined/completely replaced characters in a story?


Mean Writers

Earlier this week, I finished NaNoWriMo. In my last post, I alluded to some of the experiences that came with this draft. Really, I was thinking of one in particular that affected me more deeply than I was expecting.

I have a tendency to become very emotionally invested in characters. While this isn’t limited to my own characters by any means, there’s a special connection with them. So whenever they go through hard times, it gets to me. I do it because it’s necessary for a good story, but, especially in the first draft, it’s not an easy thing to do.

Though this is the first time I’ve met the protagonist of the side story that took up 30,000 words of my novel, I have a deep connection with her. Unlike most of my other characters, she started as a picture that I found on Pinterest. A redheaded teenager with a spritely smile and just the right clothes. I’ve spent a couple of years wondering who she was and how she tied in. Then when the idea for the side story came about, I knew it was her.

She’s young and her world starts off fine, but it doesn’t stay that way for long. Things get dark. There’s a strange mixture of fear and pleasure that comes with that. Pleasure because the story falls together and creates the tension that makes a story great. But fear because it’s never easy to watch characters suffer the way that they have to in a great story. Especially when you care about them.

As with any story, it became darker and more difficult as time went on. But when it hit its worst point, I found myself reacting differently than I normally do. I felt truly awful. I felt like a terrible human being for what I just put her through. For the way I destroyed her life. I wrote the worst of it in one sitting, before school, and after leaving the computer, I couldn’t shake the heaviness in my chest.

I couldn’t shake it for most of the day. At school, I told my mom and my story-loving students. Anyone who I thought would appreciate the feelings I was going through. Part of me didn’t understand why this affected me so much, but part of me did. I’d written some pretty terrible things before, but I always knew how it would be okay, so I could console myself with that. Yes, the character is suffering now, but I already know the victory that’s about to come.

Her story didn’t have that. I can’t say more without spoilers, but suffice to say, the story ended more as a defeat. I know that’s how reality is sometimes, but that’s not normally what I write. Or even what I typically read. Usually, there is a bright side, a redemption, a victory. Life is hard and sad enough sometimes, and I like to use fiction as an escape and an encouragement.

It was an eye-opening experience to be sure. It will be interesting to see how I feel on the next draft, now that I know how her story ultimately ends.

Have you ever done something to characters that emotionally affected you? What kinds of endings do you prefer?


NaNoWriMo Week 4 Update

Current Day: 29
Word Count: 50,760
Par: 48,333

nanowrimo_2016_webbanner_winner_congrats

I might be a day late posting, but I’m right on time with NaNoWriMo. I crossed the line late on Sunday night.

The Result

After a month of reimaging and hours of typing, I’m happy with where this novel is headed. Much to my surprise, it’s not done yet.

All of the other novels I’ve written so far have hovered just over 50,000 words. So far, that’s all the longer anything has needed to be. This one, though, is different. I think it still has another 20,000 words waiting to happen. Maybe even more. Only time will tell.

More on some of the experiences that have come with this story tomorrow.

How have you been doing with your goals?


NaNoWriMo Week 2 Update

Current Day: 13
Word Count: 21,631
Par: 21,666

While I haven’t written yet today, I’m right on track this week. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in about an hour and a half, when you can find it.

This week has gone well. The characters are cooperative. Not just cooperative. They’ve exceeded my expectations. I was going to be happy if the first part of the story — the first character’s point of view — made 20,000 words. While it is an important part of the story, I never expected it to be very long.

Forget that. Not only does it look like it’ll be a solid 30,000 words, but it also has more twists than I anticipated. I hope my protagonist and her posse are ready to up their game when their turn comes, because these last 21,631 words are more interesting than the first draft of her story. And I’m not even to the best part yet.

I know that the ending word count from last night seems strange. I was only 35 words shy of par. Why stop then? Frankly, the scene I was writing was over. The characters didn’t want another 30 words. So it seemed better to save them for a new day and a new scene. It’s better not to argue too much with characters during NaNoWriMo. I’ve learned that the hard way.

So two weeks down, a little over two more to go. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

How is your writing progress going?