Last year (2014), I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo because . . . frankly, I 1) had no new ideas, 2) wasn’t particularly enthused with the thought of doing it again, and 3) wasn’t sure NaNoWriMo had anything left to teach me.
And this year, I was in pretty much the same mindset. Until.
Three things occurred roughly simultaneously, then a fourth one happened that pushed me to the point where I am right now; i.e., considering doing NaNoWriMo again for 2015. I’m not 100% sure, mind you, but . . . there are processes that are . . . um, processing. In my brain.
Thing the First. I went to WorldCon, thoroughly enjoyed myself (other than the trips to and from the con, that is), and decided pretty much on the spur of some moment or other to go ahead and register not only for the 74th WorldCon in Kansas City, MO in 2016, but the 75th WorldCon, as well. That one’s in Helsinki, Finland, in 2017. I’m quite excited about both of those, actually. I’ve already registered for 74 and paid my dues and all that. I’m applying for a passport in about a month for the trip to Helsinki. I already have flight alerts for both trips set up so I can get good prices. Alternatively, I check the price of driving to Kansas City, MO each Monday to see if it’s more than the price of the flight. If not, I may just drive.
Thing the Second. A friend (Karl) happened to mention on Facebook that registration was open for Paradise Lost 6 Writers Workshop. Paradise Lost is only open to people who have participated in certain other workshops (Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox), or who are a member of Codex Writers. I am both a graduate of Viable Paradise (in 2012) and a member of Codex Writers. So yay.
Once again, on the spur of some moment I wasn’t aware of until it had passed, I registered for it. It’s in San Antonio, TX in April of 2016. I already have a flight alert for the trip set up so I can get a good price. Alternatively, I check the price of driving to San Antonio, TX each Monday to see if it’s more than the price of the flight. If not, I may just drive.
Thing the Second-and-a-Halfth. When I registered, there was the option of registering for the workshop only or the critique track. For critique, you have to read some other people’s submissions and critique them, and submit something for critique yourself. The workshop is in April. On the spur of yet another moment, I threw caution to the wind and clicked on “critique track.”
Which means one thing: I better get my butt in a chair and my hands on a keyboard.
Thing the Third. I started reading — and very much enjoying — Debra Jess‘s wonderful book Blood Surfer: A Thunder City Novel. It’s an urban science fiction . . . fantasy . . . kind of a thing. Basically, super heroes plus romance. It’s very good, so far. I’m going slowly because I’m also reading another friend’s novel at the same time, this one for critique.
Thing the Fourth. A lot of my blog posts contain this phrase, but it is, nonetheless, true: so, I was in the shower . . .
So, I was in the shower and this . . . idea just popped into my head. Not quite fully formed, but my brain decided to dwell on it during my commute to work. And while I was at work. And on my drive home from work. And as I lay in bed that night waiting for sleep. And the next morning. And . . . well, you get the point. And then, this morning, after the spectre of NaNoWriMo had been broached by the Forum Writers (my standing Tuesday night critique group), my brain went into overdrive and I dictated many ideas into my little digital voice recorder on the way to work.
I won’t go into great and glorious detail on what the idea was, but I will give you the first sentence that was what popped into my head in the shower that morning: “Hero Man often wished the press had given him a more . . . well, magnificent name.”
That’s all you get. :)
I will, however, add that all this comes just two short weeks until November 1st, which leaves me very little time to actually plan out anything, which is where my reluctance to commit comes in. Also, my Apple MacBook died. With Scrivener on it. I write everything in Scrivener. So I need to get a new laptop, regardless.
- I keep meaning to post a write-up of what happened at the con. And I have started the posts. But I keep having interruptions. (Stupid work. Stupid real life.) But I’ll get to them. Eventually. Probably.
- Debra was in Viable Paradise with me in 2012.
- I listen to podcasts on the way to and from work. The one I listened to this morning happened to be a back episode of The Round Table Podcast during which the guys brainstormed and workshopped a superhero novel. If I believed in such things, I’d think this was the Universe sending me a strong message. Good thing I don’t believe in that sort of thing. :)
A little past the halfway point of the month, I’m pleased with my progress. An embarrassing amount of stuff has been removed from the room. Some of it books that went into another room. Some of it trash that is still being dealt with. A lot of it needs shredding. And I do mean a lot; there’s no way I could do it with my small shredder at home, so I’m taking it with me to work in small batches and dropping it into the shredder bins at work.
What remains in the room has been put into strategically placed themed piles.
For instance, the computers, the printer, all the cables, keyboards, mice, and other assorted computer-related equipment are all in one corner. The read books are all stacked together. All the souvenirs from cons are together. The bags are all together. The notebooks are all together. The desk toys are all in the same box.
And the Pisa-esque, somewhere-between-two-and-three-foot tower of past critiques perches precariously at the precipice of the portal.
Perusing that will be the most time-consuming part, considering some of it is a novella I wrote, had critiqued, and then promptly lost off my hard drives. But once I transcribe whatever commentary I choose to keep from critiquers long past, the gods of recycling will receive them as my tribute.
I still gotta find places for all this stuff, mind you. But the paper is a huge part of it. And I’m making major inroads on it.
There are also an awful lot (most of a seven-foot shelf) of computer books that are now obsolete. Those probably need to either go away entirely or be donated or rehomed to someone who will use them. Anyone want a Visual Basic 5 book? SQL 6.5?
It’s actually getting harder and harder to FIND things to disposition because at this point “disposition” means “find a permanent storage solution,” and I’m not quite to that point, yet.
As for the other goal . . .
It’s getting there, I think. Every time I run across a scribbled note for the novel (series), I transcribe it in one place and toss the original. I have quite a file of ideas I forgot, a good number of which are really great ideas that I’m going to work in as I write my outline and refine it.
I know the endings of all three books. And the beginnings of two of them. I know a good deal of what’s going on in the world of my story, and realized that I’ve been ignoring a whole category of conflict that, in retrospect, I’ve been just stupid to ignore. I know the motivations of two of my bad guys.
Now I just need to come up with some more case characters and secondary characters to play in my world. The Magical Crimes Unit is a new division, after all, and has to share space with the other FBI agents, some of whom aren’t as friendly as others.
Internal strife. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?
And lastly, I’ve cut severely back on my YouTube viewing. I don’t think I’ve watched a single video in about a week. I’ve read, I’ve listened to podcasts, and I’ve wasted time on the Internet in other ways, but I’m definitely scaling back on YouTube.
Onward and upward!
Last night, I was up fairly late catching up on a podcast and some YouTube channels. When I went up for bed, I kept my self-promise to disposition at least one thing in the office. Since I wasn’t leaving again until the morning, I decided to shuffle some things around that I knew would either be staying in the room or staying in the room until later. Call it “consolidation” of similar items.
I moved all of my old computers into one corner. With the old printer and the old speakers, and stacked old keyboards and mice nearby. Shuffled a bunch of boxes of photos to one place. Stacked back editions of magazines together. Stacked books I’ve read together.
Then I came to this box that I knew hadn’t been opened in quite a while, if ever. I think it has been in the room since I moved in, and has had stuff stacked on it since.
Upon opening it, I immediately recognized every item inside. Stuff I haven’t seen since probably 1999 when I moved to Georgia from Alabama.
Without even having to go through each of them laboriously, I knew I had found:
- A spiral-bound notebook from 1983 containing a travelogue I wrote while on a trip to England and France (graduation gift from my parents). Pictures from that trip. Souvenirs from that trip.
- A spiral-bound notebook I used to carry around in high school (ca. 1980-1983) and in which I hand-wrote stories in pencil. It has several in there that I had thought long lost. For the good of humanity, they shall remain so. I was amazingly, overwhelmingly, stupendously fond of utilizing really overly dramatic and annoyingly overabundant abverbs and adjectives back then.
- A spiral-bound notebook containing story notes from a novel I have had in my head since I was about eleven years old, and which eventually became my (unfinished) NaNoWriMo novel for 2008, The Third Prophecy.
As an aside, judging from the writing, I probably should have been writing the story as a screenplay. I did things very cinematically, starting the story with a wide, exterior establishing shot, then zooming in to a medium distance, and finally into a close-up of the character starting his action. That it took me five pages to get there is a testament to how far I’ve come since then.
- World maps I drew of my sci-fi/fantasy world(s) from the larger universe surrounding The Third Prophecy. The alphabet I came up with for the language spoken by one of the races on one of those worlds. Notes I wrote for the sounds of that language and several more. A few rudimentary words in said languages. The numbering system used by the race that speaks one of those languages. (Have I mentioned I was a huge Tolkien fan?) Pseudocode for a computer program to create random words for said language. (Somewhere there exists a program I wrote that, given any number, generates the words to say it in this language. Have I mentioned I’m a huge geek?)
But the pièce de résistance was another spiral-bound notebook in which I had done my “first sentence” exercise from 1995 until I got my first Franklin Planner. Archived in this notebook are probably hundreds of first lines of stories that were never intended to be written. Just looking through them reminded me how creative it felt to do that.
But if I start that again, where to put it? My planner? Evernote? Dropbox? Google Docs? Scrivener? Somewhere else? Heh! The same notebook, nearly ten years later?
Anyway, I look forward to going through these old treasures and finding a proper place to put them. Perhaps the recycle bin is best for some of it.
NaNotWriMo seems a lot easier on the brainpan to try to decipher than my earlier choices for what to call this month.
I’ve kept up with my plan. Every time I go upstairs in my house (where the master suite, including my office, is located), I disposition at least one thing in my office. It has even resulted in me bringing things in from outside the room, but it’s because the things I’m bringing in are part of a set of things that need to be in that room (e.g., writing books). It’s all about the ensemble, see.
Anyway, I can now actually see the top of my desk. As it turns out, there is one under there! And it’s brown! And covered with glass! Hmm. Very dirty glass. I’ll clean it later. It’ll probably get worse again before it gets better (flat surface = a place to put things that are being ‘dispositioned’).
And as far as the other thing goes — the outline — I’ve been making copious notes (in longhand; there’s just something more . . . real, I guess? . . . about making notes by hand instead of typing them). Defining world events and potential conflicts, characters and their flaws, looking for conflicts between and among them. On the way to work this morning, a gaping hole in my world design opened up and let me peer into its abyss. So I have to come up with something to plug that.
Or, alternatively, find a way to fold it into my world in a way that complements what I already have.
But at least that’s progress. I’d rather see those holes now than when my alpha readers get hold of the book and say, “Dude, really? I could drive the Death Star through this hole.”
The vast majority of clutter that’s in my office, by the way, is — get this — old critiques! It’s where I’ve handed out 1500-word segments of my stories to my Tuesday night group (The Forum Writers Group, a.k.a. The Fountain Pen 2.0) and have received back written comments. There are stacks of these going back . . . longer than I’m willing to admit, really.
Although one bonus of that is that I now have the complete text of a novella I somehow managed to completely lose from all my electronic storage. As much as I would very much like to use this as an excuse in support of paper-hoarding, I know that it’s a bad thing.
The recycle people are not going to know what’s going on at my house for the next three weeks.
I’ve also started looking at comfortable chairs for the room. Ideally, I’d like a nice, leather chair-and-a-half with a small end table and lamp so I can sit in there and read. There’s plenty of room if I get rid of the old computers (plural) and rearrange the room slightly.
But I won’t be getting any of that until the room is done. And rearranged.
Whoa, Nellie! Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. :) The current light sage color that was perfect in 2001 is too pastel for me, now. I think I’d like a dark mocha. Make it more of a man-cave. With, like, six windows. :-/
What goes with dark, hunter green carpet? (Not my choice; the people who sold the house left me dark, hunter green carpet in that one room.)
Since I decided not to write (or edit, as one friend suggested) a novel for NaNoWriMo, I’m trying to figure out what to call November. PeNoNotWriMo sprang easily to mind (Personal Novel NOT Writing Month).
But given my “goal” (for lack of a better word) of making my home office a place where sane people (such as myself) want to be, I might call it “MaMyOffLiMo,” or Make My Office Livable Month. :)
It’s a working title. I’m sure I’ll come up with something far better the instant I press “publish.” :)
Anyhoo . . . one way I’m going about this is that every time I have to go upstairs for whatever reason — laundry, bathroom, book, brushing my teeth, etc. — I go into my office and disposition one or more items of clutter. Disposition means that if I lay my hands on it, I have to decide — then and there — what to do with it: keep it, store it, toss it, donate it. “Keep” means it stays in that room. “Store” means it either goes into storage in that room or another room. “Toss” means it goes either in the trash or in the recycle bin. “Donate” means that I’ll either donate it to Good Will (or someone like that) or find a friend who might want it. Hey, Geoff or Phil, need any airplane propellers? (It’s an extremely inside joke.)
Hint: It’s mostly going to be ‘toss it.’ Probably about 80% of it.
So far, I’ve moved two stacks of read books out of my office and into the “library,” which is one of my guest rooms. Which currently has a whole separate issue with clutter which I can address at another time. One of which is insufficient shelf space for the books I have.
There are old computers (plural) in my office that were last useful when Windows 95 was new. I have floppy disks. Actual floppy (5.25″) disks. I have manuals for electronics I last used when I lived in another state (15 years ago).
It’s time. Oh, yes, it is very much time.
I sincerely doubt I will be posting pictures, because the clutter is pretty horrible and I’m embarrassed by it. But one way or the other, I’ll post a picture at the end of November. There. I’ve said it in public. And now it’s a commitment.
I might have some sub-goals once I’m able to picture the room as it will be instead of as it is.
I haven’t talked about NaNoWriMo at all, this year. Each year, since 2008, I’ve participated religiously, writing anywhere from 50,000 to 122,000 words in the space of thirty days.
But this year . . . I don’t know. I’ve already proven to myself six times over that I can do exactly that — write a bunch of words in one month. And that’s great. It is. It means that when I put my mind to it and have a road map to follow, I can produce like crazy. But more importantly, here is what I’ve shown myself.
- During NaNoWriMo, I write a lot of words, and sometimes I like those words, but — well, take last year, for example. I wrote > 50,000 words during November, sure. But they were throw-away words. All of them. I’ve since re-structured the entire world of that novel and invalidated every single syllable I wrote last year. All the main characters are now different. The “plot” (such as it was) is different. The world is different.
- Even while writing last year, my heart wasn’t in it. I wrote maybe two chapters worth of actual novel . . . and the other 48,000 words were about the murder victims and the murderer as children, and what led to the crimes. I abandoned my characters shortly after their introduction because, frankly, the story wasn’t at all exciting to me. It bored me so much, I couldn’t even interest myself. (Hence the restructure of the world I mentioned earlier.)
- I have written almost nothing since last November. And in 2013, I wrote almost nothing after NaNoWriMo 2012. Aside from some flash pieces in January and February — for the Codex Weekend Warrior, another timed writing event — I have worked on some stories I already had in the works and half-heartedly pushed a pencil across paper a few times, making notes about my novel series, trying to excitify it to at least regain my own interest.
- I’m afraid that what I’ve managed to do is train myself that only November is for writing (with a tiny bit in January and February), but I don’t have to do it any other time. At Viable Paradise in 2012, we were cautioned about that. To avoid tying writing to other habits. One instructor quit smoking and found that he could not write anymore because he had mentally tied writing with the ritual of smoking. Give up one, the other goes, too. He had to start smoking again in order to get back to writing. November, I’m afraid, has become that, for me.
I haven’t even tried to come up with an idea for something to write. People keep asking me, “Hey, what are you working on for NaNoWriMo, this year?” and I’ve been vague and noncommittal about it. I’ve had several glimmers that forced themselves on me while I was driving or in the shower or just dropping off to sleep, but those are the desperation ideas that mean my brain is humoring me by coming up with ideas at times when I can’t do much about them.
And as much as I’d like to blame how busy I am at work — and I am very busy — I can’t. I’ve made time in the past for NaNoWriMo, even if it meant getting up at 5:00 AM or taking long lunches to write. Even if it meant taking time at Thanksgiving away from my family to write. Even if it meant missing things because I knew that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t make my word-count for the day.
But only during November. Come December 1, I go back to my normal habits.
So, the conclusion I’ve come to is that as much fun as I have had in the past doing NaNoWriMo, and as much as I’d love to have that enthusiasm right now, I just don’t. And therefore will be sitting out this year.
I’m hoping that I’ll motivate myself to at least use the month to come up with something of an outline that will help me regain my enthusiasm for this project. I want to love it, again. I want to look forward to writing it.
Also, I don’t really have a comfortable writing space. Work is out, my living room is hard because there’s usually other distractions. My home office is a place that no sane person would want to spend any time in. (Which, by the way, still leaves me out. I’m pretty sure I’m still sane. Probably.) Perhaps I’ll use November to rectify that and turn my home office into a writing retreat. (Anybody got a flame thrower and an industrial grade paper shredder they’d let me borrow?)
You have no idea how much it actually pains me to sit this year out, but I think it’s the right decision. I stopped going to two of my critique groups because I just haven’t written anything, and the constant reminder of that whilst reading other people’s work was, frankly, depressing. I purposefully didn’t go to any conventions or writing seminars or anything of that sort this year, because if I’m not writing, then there’s no need to pretend otherwise. Why spend money needlessly?
It was an attempt to light a fire under my butt to get me writing. Instead, all it did was de-habituate writing even further.
So that banner up there is a lie. It says “NaNoWriMo 2014 Participant.” But I’m not a participant. I’m a spectator, this year.
Good luck, everyone, on your NaNoWriMo endeavors. I hope you all fly past the goal and keep going into the future.
To reiterate, my “goals” (such as they are) for NaNoWriMo are:
- do some sort of outline for at least the first novel, if not the first few in the series
- turn my office into a place where a sane person (such as myself) would actually want to spend time, and make it conducive to writing.
In my last post, I ended on kind of a cliff-hanger. I apportioned out all my required time and my copious spare time, and discovered that I actually have quite a bit of it, but I don’t spend most of it writing, because . . . well, I don’t know why, really. I do enjoy it, when I actually do it. It’s just a matter of getting over that initial hurdle.
So, when do I write consistently?
Codex Weekend Warrior. For the last two years, I have managed to churn out ten flash pieces in under 54-ish hours. This year, most of that was actually in five hours, because my inspiration didn’t come until way late.
What’s the common thread of those two things? Gamification.
In other words, I write consistently when it’s treated like a game. For each day during NaNoWriMo, I have to write at least 1667 words, and I can compare my progress with other peoples’ progress, and have little word wars and such.
During Weekend Warrior, there is a deadline, and then at the end there’s the rating of everyone else’s stories. The game is obvious there.
I tried one gamification system that didn’t work as well. It’s called The Magic Spreadsheet. It was created by a classmate of Mur Lafferty‘s at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing. She talked it up quite a bit on her podcast I Should Be Writing and so, after some hemming and hawing, I tried it out. It’s a system of rewards and “punishments.” For each day you write 250 or more words, you get a point. The longer your unbroken chain is, the more points you get. As you consistently write, you “level up” and then more words are required for each day, etc. But miss a day and . . . you go back to the start (in some ways; it’s complicated).
But, alas, the spreadsheet is unwieldy to manage, and I just couldn’t get into it. What consistuted “writing” for them wasn’t what necessarily constituted “writing” for me. I mean, a blog post is writing. So is writing a document at work. Sure, it’s not going toward a story, but it is BICHOK.
I lasted for about 10 days, and then I was out of town for the weekend and broke my chain. And that break cost me points, and I never went back to the Magic Spreadsheet.
Then, a few days ago, Sherry D. Ramsey, a friend of mine from The Quillians, my Second Life writers group, posted a blog post about a site called 750 Words. Which is almost exactly the same thing as The Magic Spreadsheet, except it doesn’t matter what you write (not that it did on TMS, but it felt like it did.
750 Words “requires” that you write 750 words every day, to gain more points, and to get silly little badges. 750 words is roughly three pages of a mass-market paperback. That’s doable in a day, without trying too horribly much for me.
So I signed up and am trying out their free, 30-day trial. After that, you have to pay them $5/month. Unfortunately, it’s through PayPal only which is distressing, because I loathe PayPal, so I won’t be able to continue after my 30 days are up, and no one from the site seems to be monitoring their Twitter or email or forums to answer questions.
But for now, this is working for me, and it’s forcing me to write blog posts (three of them, so far, including this one!) and one letter that will not be sent, but which allowed me to lay out my arguments in a coherent manner so that when I do contact the people in question, I can sound prepared instead of not. And several thousand words of outline for my novel.
Now, the question is whether I can continue this even after the free trial runs out, on my own, or whether it’ll fizzle like some of the other ones.
I do have a novel I’m supposed to be working on. And I have a novel group and either me or one other person are “up next” for having a novel to critique, but alas, neither of us has anything actually ready for critique yet. At least in the other person’s case, they have begun the novel. What I have are a few thousand words from NaNoWriMo and a bunch of notes that may make up a novel plot. It’s the one I’ve been talking about on here, forever, with the magical FBI in Atlanta. Much revised and hopefully improved over the next-most-recent attempt.
So I’m proceeding apace on the gamification of writing. But what about the other stuff? Stay tuned!
The title of this post is a quote from Roald Dahl from his book My Uncle Oswald.
I’m charting my daily progress on NaNoWriMo. Since you may or may not care, I’ll kindly hide it. Thanks for taking the time. :)
I’m charting my daily progress on NaNoWriMo. Since you may or may not care, I’ll kindly hide it. Thanks for taking the time. :)
I’m charting my daily progress on NaNoWriMo. Since you may or may not care, I’ll kindly hide it. Thanks for taking the time. :)