The Aftermath of NaNoWriMo – Pt. 1

*NaNoWriMo:
Aka: National Novel Writing Month.
A challenge to writers to write 50,000 words of a novel within the month of November.
50,000 words.
30 days.

Sound challenging?
If you answered yes, then you just may be correct.
Unless you’re a writer, or are friends with one, chances are that you haven’t heard NaNoWriMo. And if you’re not a writer, you may also be thinking to yourself… “Why would anyone ever put themselves through that kind of torture?” Because, if you really stop to think about it, 50,000 words is A LOT of writing. Especially if you think about the big picture and having to write all that in a month’s time. Remember those exercises in English class when you had to write a 500 word paragraph? Yeah, that’s nothing.

If you divide out the 50,000 words by the 30 days given to you to write them, that leaves you with a daily goal of about 1,666 words. From my four years of experience with WriMo, that’s about 2-3 pages of writing, depending on your font size and your spacing. It might not seem like a whole lot, and there are two sides to that argument:

– If you have a clear goal in your head of what you want to write, if you’re buzzing with excitement to sit down at the computer and put your fingers on the keys and take off like a marathon runner, then no… it’s really not. (I’ve had these days. You sit down to write and the words just flow from your fingers like magic and the world around you fades away and you become lost in the story – completely unaware of the fading daylight or of the fact that you haven’t ate in six hours.)

– And then, there are your off days. Or, for some writers, maybe these are your normal days (and the aforementioned seem to be flukes, though ones that you wish you could repeat on a more frequent basis.) You have the story in your head, maybe even clear as day, but you sit down to write… and your mind is a blank wasteland, complete with tumble weeds and swirling clouds of dust, choking out all creative thought. You keep your butt in your chair, telling yourself that you just need a second. And yet, an hour passes, and all you’ve managed to do is check the same four sites over and over, eaten a bag of oreos, stared at the wall, and have somehow found yourself either washing dishes, reading a book, or lost deep in the abyss of Youtube, watching endless cat videos… or, possibly answered the siren call of Netflix. (Unfortunately Netflix and NaNoWriMo start with the same letter – guess which one comes up first in my browser when I type the letter “N”…)

Though I’ve had great years regarding NaNoWriMo, I’ll be frank and say that 2015 fell into the latter category about 95% of the time.
Am I proud of that? No.

Either way, for those that follow, here’s a more in depth look at how November shaped up on the writing front:

October 31-2015

With NaNoWriMo, this day has become a night filled with both dread and anticipation. The downfall here is that Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I like to dress up (not that I don’t any other random day of the year) and enjoy myself, but there’s also that lingering thought in my mind that once the clock strikes midnight, it’s time to place butt in chair and get to writing. Starting to write at midnight and getting the majority of my word count done at night before I go to bed so that I have words to wake up to has become my way of blasting through WriMo since first undertaking the challenge back in 2012.
Halloween night: It was chilly, windy, and I’m pretty sure it was rainy as well, but I still dressed up – nothing like wandering the house dressed as my villain from Nyte-Fyre (that’s one way to get into the writing mood, and literally into character). My best friend came over and we ate candy and watched movies.

November 1-2015

I wrote a good chunk of the second Nyte-Fyre novel last year for NaNoWriMo, and with that 50,000 words, it was some of my best writing to boot. So, easy enough to pick up where I left off in the midst of quite the commotion in the storyline, right? I thought so anyways. With the final push to publish my first novel, I had kind of burned myself out on writing/editing and hadn’t done much writing since the end of August. But, I was still excited to continue on the path that “Isle of Hell” was taking me down. I knew the main points of where the storyline was taking me, and I’ve known the ending of this particular novel for over a year and a half.
I sit down to write around noon the next day (possibly my first mistake: I didn’t start writing at midnight as per usual), and… nothing. On that first day, I wrote a whopping 59 words. Yes… not even 100 words.
Despite all my enthusiasm, I just wasn’t feeling that writing magic. I wrote a sentence, didn’t care for it, and walked away. Got distracted, and never got back to the computer that day. I went to bed feeling disappointed in myself, but that was okay. It was only the first day, and I could easily catch up with one good writing spree and be back on track. I still had this.

November 3-2015

Though still rather unfocused (I still chalk some of this up to the fact that I unfortunately started November with a cold. I was tired, had a runny nose, and mildly irritable.), I sat down and did my best to write. I ended up writing just under 2,500 words – great for a day of writing, and over the daily WriMo goal… except that it didn’t bring me back up to par with that golden line that you strive to keep up with on the WriMo website throughout the month. Once again, I told myself that that was fine… it was only day two. Even if I just wrote a couple hundred more words than the 1,666 a day, I would catch up in a matter of days. It sounded easy enough in my head, anyways.

November 4-6 – 2015

Once again, easier said than done. My mind just wasn’t focused, my heart ultimately not in the game. And let me tell you, no matter how many years you’ve been writing, it’s just not easy to put words to the page when you’re feeling that way. The writing becomes a chore, and real chores, like cleaning the house, become far more appealing than they would on any other given day. However, like any true writer (or, stubborn person) I continued to write, sometimes begrudgingly, sometimes with a little more fervor than someone giving a cat a bath. I wrote at least 1,000 words a day – sometimes going beyond the daily 1,666 word goal, sometimes falling short. However, it felt like I always remained consistently 1,000 to 1,500 words below that line. I shrugged… so I had a bad starting week. It wasn’t the end of the world.

November 8-9 – 2015

And then my first 0 word day hit. Nothing new, to be honest. In the four years I’ve done WriMo, I’ve always had a couple days where I wrote absolutely nothing. However, they were usually far later in the month, when I’d reached a bit of a writing burn out. Looking at my past calendars that I’ve printed for keeping track of WriMo word counts only left my guilt worse – on day nine on the first year I participated I had already technically won the competition.
That day was followed by a second 0 word day. It wasn’t looking good. Two days with not a word written, and quickly falling far behind target.

November 10-2015

I refused to let myself be saddled with a third 0 word day, and yet, I sat at the computer and couldn’t contemplate what to write. I printed out the last chapter that I had written the previous WriMo year and studied it, and it occurred to me that maybe the reason I was having problems was that in my rush to finish WriMo in 2014, I had kind of blended scenes from 2-3 chapters into one in order to get my thoughts on the page and to finish (I had a relatively difficult time in 2014 as well, but nothing like this year). Was that my ultimate problem? Did I simply need to go back and write out that chapter as it should have been? Maybe, and who knows where it would have ended had I done that. However, still feeling rather uninspired, I didn’t feel like getting out another sheet of paper and sifting through my thoughts to create the outline that I should have done in the last weeks of October in the first place. Yet, I just couldn’t get myself back on track with the second book. So, I did the next best thing… I moved on. In the same document, I started writing a relatively new scene in my head that is actually a part of the after novella that I’m planning for the Nyte-Fyre series (after book 7 or 8). With something fresh and new in my mind, I did far better, managing 3,400 words that day.

November 11-15 – 2015

I did okay for a few days, and then troubles started to arise again. I had a few more 0 word days. I had other days where I hardly even managed a couple hundred words. Despite having so much story material in my head, I began to lose hope.

November 16-29 – 2015

And so that idea continued to fester in my head. The halfway point came and went, and I continued to struggle along. The lure of Netflix become brighter. What was usually cold weather at this time of year had given way to warmer temperatures than was normal, leaving me to want to play outside, rather than sit at my desk. I fell victim to both.
However, no matter how down I was feeling on the writing front, I kept going. I wondered at times if maybe this time couldn’t be better spent on doing something else… anything else. Yet, I routinely sat at the computer and opened Word. Sometimes I wrote a few paragraphs before losing ambition. Other times I stared at the screen and wrote absolutely nothing.
But, the one thing that separates true writers from those that simply say they write, is just as simple as that: be it good days or bad days, we continue to write.
The greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is that although you are competing alongside millions of others, none of those people are your enemies. The only enemy, and the only true competition, is yourself and that nagging voice in the back of your mind saying that you can’t do it. And it’s to prove that mocking voice wrong that we keep going, despite how little hope we feel.

November 30-2015 (Do or Die)

And finally, it was the last day of the competition. Never before had I ever been writing on the last day. You can start validating your word count around the 25th, and I usually do. But this year it was actually down to the wire, and I finally understood the panic of the last days that I had heard other people speak of. I had never been in this position, but the thing was that I could have easily quit at any time during this competition, and yet, I didn’t. Here I was on the last day with 48,000 words. I couldn’t quit now.
The thing was, that it was the last day – whether I finished or not, this was the last day. I could wake up the next morning, a winner. Or I could wake up, having come some close, yet still so far, and feeling that utter disappointment in myself that plagues us writers constantly.
So, though it took me most of the day, I wrote.
And, low and behold: I finished!
I got my pretty certificate saying that I was a winner, and the pride in myself that, although difficult, I still powered through.
And, maybe that in itself made the win all that much better – knowing just how close I had come to losing, to giving up. It felt in a way that if I were to give up, I wouldn’t just be giving up on the 2015 round of NaNoWriMo, but on my writing dreams. A little dramatic? Of course, we’re writers, that’s what we do best.
But, I had just published a giant novel, I couldn’t let myself fail now.
I’m pretty sure I had a tea and simply stared at the wall after writing that last hundred words and validating my word count – 50,732 words.
Though it wasn’t nearly as magical as the first year I participated, I still feel a thrill looking back even now – 14 days after the fact – and realizing that even if I think they’re the shittiest combination of words in the history of the universe, I still wrote 50,000 words, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. 78 pages isn’t just a few thoughtless paragraphs to throw out later. I’m certain that, although it’s definitely not publishing material, there’s definitely some gems in there that I can mine later.
The fact is, that I powered through.
As I say to people who ask about NaNoWriMo, or in these posts each subsequent year, the greatest thing about this competition, is that whether you’re an actual published author, or still a kid in middle school with writing dreams, or just someone that writes as a hobby, NaNoWriMo brings out some form of writer in us all – begging us to simply write. No one ever needs to read what you wrote, and that single thought in itself can be one of the most freeing realizations. It gives you the opportunity to suck. It’s not going to be published. It’s not going to be graded. It’s only going to be read if you decide to give it to someone else to scan through. The truth of the matter is that you don’t even ever have to read it again yourself. If you want to delete all 50,000 words on December 1, then go for it… though I wouldn’t advise it.
The solid fact is that you completed what many see as an unattainable goal, and that right there is something you should be proud of.
Even if you didn’t make it to 50,000… whether you wrote 500 words or 20,000, before calling it quits, you still have more than what you started with. And that right there is something that usually keeps me going throughout the month.
What I think helped even more this year was the NaNoWriMo community. One thing I’ve discovered is that if you’re on social media, you can connect with so many people over one common goal during a challenge like this. I know one girl that I follow on DeviantArt that wrote over 220,000 words! (Supremely jealous! Blows my first year 100,000 out of the water). And I know another girl over on Twitter that powered through and wrote 10,000 words on that last day and won with less than an hour to go.
It was the posts of all these other writers that kept me going, and that reminded me that all writers are different and yet the same. Some really can power through, day after day with what appears to be little problem. And others, like me, really do have trouble most of the time, and yet we still keep going… why? Because, whether the muse regularly visits or not, we still love writing (even when we declare that we hate it.)
And at the end of the day, that’s what makes us writers:
Whether people know about our goals and ambitions or not, we power on, and we write. Because, deep in our hearts, we know: We’re writers.

And whether you’re an outliner, or a pantser, we’re all in this together.

My Worst Start to NaNoWriMo Ever, and Why I Will Persevere

So, I’m just going to (sadly) go ahead and admit this: As the title claims, this is my worst start to NaNoWriMo, ever.

However, does that mean I’m going to give up?

Nah. And you know why? Because I’m a writer.

Writing is what I do. Sometimes, the words flow without pause – feeling more like you’re reading a good book than feeling like you’re the one creating the story, the world. And, well, then there’s the times when they simply don’t. The well is drier than the desert, and there doesn’t seem to be a light on upstairs. In fact, someone stole the damn lightbulb.

But, that’s just the way things go. What separates the writers from those that simply say they write, is that the writers do just that: they write. Whether the words are there or not.

And I think that that’s why I’ve come to love NaNoWriMo – though I’m sure that anyone else that has spent the month of November in a caffeinated, “I haven’t slept in a week haze,” knows that it’s more along the lines of a love/hate relationship.

The people that don’t write look at that final number – 50,000 words – and think we’re crazy. “There’s no way that that’s an attainable goal!” While us writers look at the daily average of 1,666 words that will get us to that number, and think “well, that doesn’t look bad. I can do this.”

And plenty of those that participate do, every year. And then, there are those that don’t. However, that doesn’t make us failures if we don’t reach that ‘magical’ number. The fact of the matter is that whether you get the 50,000 words, or only manage to write 2,000 we still managed to write. If anything, it’s more than you had at the beginning of the month. Sometimes all it takes is a fleeting idea, or a sentence or two to start a whole story.

If you only wrote two sentences, you may never look at them again, or you might start a whole book three years down road simply because you jotted down the beginning kernels of an idea. Who knows where a few words can take you, because, honestly, the imagination is a wonderful – and sometimes frightening – place.

I actually started NaNoWriMo in 2012 with low expectations. I started writing the first book of my Nyte-Fyre Prophecy series way back in 2006, averaging about 5 chapters (anywhere from 15-40 pages a year). In other words, I wasn’t getting anywhere fast. I loved to write, and yet, I seemed to have a problem getting the idea from my head, where it sounded fantastic, amazing, and downright magical, to the blank page that sat staring back at me with that blinking cursor that made it feel like it was laughing at my aspirations. So, when I had a friend a fellow author friend at the Renaissance Festival tell me about NaNoWriMo, I originally scoffed at the idea. There was no way I could do that. How could I? I let this be known, and yet, he insisted (Thank you, Dave!). So, I grumbled, said maybe, and went on with my day, with my week.

As November approached, I followed his Facebook updates that frequently made mention of WriMo. I heard it other places on the internet. And I began to wonder. Could I maybe do this? What could it really hurt? Would participating in this make me feel more like the author I wanted to be? That I dreamed of being?

Looking back on my own writing, I reminded myself that I had just completed my first novel December 29th of the previous year. And I remembered that feeling of putting the last word on the page. That thrill that I had accomplished something huge. Nyte-Fyre had begun as a project for myself, a challenge to myself to actually finish something. To this day, it’s still one of my largest undertakings. Yes, I wanted to be an author. But, whether anybody ever read a word of that story or not, I had made myself proud. And, honestly, I wanted to feel that again.

Unfortunately, I’m a wicked perfectionist, and also a defiant procrastinator. Two things that do not go well together. That’s probably why it took me so long to write. I could stare at a paragraph of my own writing for 6 hours, rewrite it 100 times, and still end up deleting it at the end of the day. The problem is, that that’s not going to get you very far.

Still grumbling about the idea of it, yet intrigued by the challenge, I signed up on the NaNoWriMo site at 11pm on October 31st.

I went in with exceptionally low expectations. And yet, I had the time of my life. I sat down and I wrote, and I wrote, and I wrote. I told my inner perfectionist and editor to piss off, and I just let the words flow. I actually ended up completing the 50,000 words on day 9. I had never felt so damn invincible in my life. Though I had a few slow days after that, I met the end of the month with just over 100,000 words. And you know what? It ended up being some of my best writing.

I honestly think that that’s because having to keep a certain pace, you’re not really given the time to stop and think. You don’t over-think, you don’t edit, you just do.

Now, I’ll admit, all my NaNoWriMo years have not been equal. As a matter of fact, that first year almost feels like a fluke, or just the fact that it was the excitement of something new. The second year wasn’t quite as magical, but I still managed to complete the 50,000 on day 15 and then continue on to validate my novel at 80,000 words.

Last year, I almost didn’t compete at all. I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to do. I had resigned myself to the fact that I had other things that needed attending to first – like continuing to edit my first novel for publication. I was fighting health problems and I was battling depression from the health problems. In a nutshell, I felt like absolute shit and writing was one of the last things I wanted to do. I would have preferred to curl up in a ball in the dark and watch Netflix forever. And yet, there was this niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I had done NaNoWriMo for two years. I almost felt obligated to not participate. I started to feel bad about not wanting to take part. Not because I felt that I would be judged by my friends on there, but because it was a month of writing, and wasn’t that what I wanted to do? Yes, it’s hard at times – really hard at times… just as any author – but, down or not, writing is my happy place. Even if I have to fight for it tooth and nail… sometimes feeling like trying to pull a ten ton tree out of a lake of molasses… there are those times, sometimes brief, when you’re writing that you simply feel like you can conquer the world.

So I begrudgingly got on the NaNoWriMo site, entered my novels info for the year, and sat my butt down to write. Though I had planned on starting the fourth novel – feeling that I HAD to start a novel – I decided to continue where I had left off on the second novel that had been plaguing me. I reread the chapter I had left off, wrote a bit of an incredibly sketchy timeline, and opened a new Word document and started writing. There were days when it felt like pulling teeth. The writing didn’t always flow as I would have liked. And it was super dark. I actually think that one of the reasons that I had been so slow to write the second book was because I had known even before writing that first word that it was going to be a dark novel, and in a way, it scared me to write that. I didn’t want to explore that part of myself. And thought I only just managed to make it past 50,000 words last year, the fact of the matter is that I still did it. And, reading through it afterwords, it’s some of my best writing yet. It’s incredibly dark, and I love it. I think that having a word goal per day gave me the drive to power through those scenes that I didn’t necessarily want to write, reminding myself along the way that I was the author, I could make those scenes as dark and as gritty as I wanted. No one ever had to read them. If I wanted, I could edit those out later to appease readers. And yet, uncomfortable as they may be, I’ll actually probably end up keeping them.

Now, fast forward to this year:

I don’t know where things went downhill to be honest. I was excited to start NaNoWriMo this year. I honestly was. I haven’t touched the second book since last year because I’ve been editing the first, and I published it the end of September, finally! Which was super exciting! I still can’t believe that I have a finished product, available for people to read. Now, when people ask – “Oh, do you have anything published?” I can give them a big smile and declare that, “Yes! Yes, I do. You can find it here, here, and here.”

I left “Isle of Hell” (my second book) at a rather dark place last year, and I was excited to get back to that. Though I know where I want the book to go, how it will end, it took me awhile to actually sit down and sketch out a bare bones outline. In all honestly, I actually just completed that a few days ago. But that didn’t stop me. I was still happy to be facing the month of November again.

So, November 1st rolled around,

And I wrote a whopping 59 words.

Exciting, right?

I thought so, too.

I looked at that, and of course felt disappointment in myself. But, I shook my head, went to bed, and told myself, that’s okay, it’s the first day. Tomorrow, I’ll just make it up. The second day, I made it to 2,500 words. Nowhere near where I wanted to be. I don’t know what’s been going on this month, but for some reason, I just don’t feel the drive I’ve felt in previous years. I look at the page and my mind goes blank, or wanders. I look at my stats on the WriMo site, and simply feel disappointed in myself.

The thing is, that I could very easily just give up and tell myself, yeah it’s just not working this year. I’ll take a year off. But, you know what? I’m not going to. Because that’s not how I work. I might feel disappointed if I don’t make the 50,000. Who am I kidding, of course I will. However, I will feel even more so if I simply give up because I had a bad week of writing.

No book would get written if authors gave up like that. Everyone has bad weeks. That’s no reason to throw in the towel. It’s called perseverance.

It’s just life. The things that we love, tend to be the things that kill us. It’s the artist way, especially. I love writing, but if it’s going to fight me, well then I’ll be damned if I won’t fight it back.
Looking at my stats thus far on the lovely graph that NaNoWriMo gives you on the site, I’ve been riding about 1,00o words below the average line per day. One of these days, I’ll surpass that line. Hopefully, soon. Yes, this hasn’t been my best NaNoWriMo year ever, but it doesn’t have to stay like that.

If you’re feeling down about your own writing, just know that it’s only day 9. There are still 21 days left. Looking at the stats I wrote down for myself over the last three years of participation, I’ve had days where I wrote nearly 10,000 words in a day. I still have plenty of time to do this. And so do you.

So, to any of you out there struggling, I raise my tea to you. Here’s to us. Here’s to writing. Because hardly anything is impossible if you put your mind to it. You simply have to get out of your own way.

So, off to writing town – I have some catching up to do!

P.S. Do these 2,120 words count for today?

The Final Wordcount

I’ve been meaning to update this but between the writing frenzy of NaNoWriMo… oddly coupled with the laziness of impending winter… I just haven’t gotten to it. I sat down once to write something for here, but the words just wouldn’t come to me. Sad really, because that was in response to a writing prompt that I came across concerning evil, which is actually something that I’ve been meaning to address. I shall get to that soon, regardless, it won’t be today.

First off, I want to say that I successfully completed my second year of NaNoWriMo!

I will admit that I didn’t experience that total rush that I did last year where I just couldn’t quit writing. Only once did I stay up till four in the morning writing a scene that’s been in my head for ages. And there were plenty of times that I just really wasn’t feeling writing at all. However, I still sat my butt down at the computer and wrote. Was it the best writing ever? No. I haven’t gone back to read much of it yet, so I’m not sure how it all sums up in the end – I know I felt in the beginning especially, that I had a lot of run on sentences and felt I was going in circles – but what I have revisited to read isn’t nearly as bad as I had thought. I think that’s just my mind messing with me as it always does. No matter what I do it’s just not good enough. If only I could get rid of that self-denial. Unfortunately, my deathly perfectionism is what makes my work good (when I do actually take a moment to appreciate it.)

That all said and done, I actually finished the initial challenge of writing 50,000 words on the 15th of November. So, I was way ahead of the game early on in the month. Yet, as per usual, I still found that I was beating myself up because I wasn’t writing as frantically as I was last year and didn’t make it to the 100,000 words that I finished with last year.

Now, sadly, for as much as I wrote, I hardly even began to scratch the surface on the meat of the novel and everything that was meant to be in the forth book that I had planned out in the outline I had drawn up. However, I still had fun writing. It was great to get back to that state of just writing to write, rather than examining every last word and period to make sure that everything was reading smoothly and all the grammar was right as I’ve been doing with the strict edit of the first book as I prepare it for publishing. Now, yes, I do still need to get back to that, and soon. I’ve been withdrawn from that book for long enough now and I now have another coupon in the works for five free printed copies of my novel from CreateSpace for completing NaNoWriMo. I was sad that I didn’t get to use the one last year. So that is my ultimate goal to get things on track and done in time to use the new one. I plan on using that handful of copies as an initial run of editorial copies before the full fledged print.

That being said, I had a good friend over this last weekend and we spent most of our time talking about our novels and revealing a few secrets here and there, and it got me to thinking about just how much story I have yet to write. Seeing as I’m still on a bit of a writing high that’s lingering from NaNoWriMo, I’m thinking that I may take the remainder of this year (it’s only a month, anyways) and return to the second novel in the series. Not only return to writing, but issue myself a bit of a NaNo challenge for my benefit… let’s see if I can take the remainder of this year and add another 50,000 words to that novel. This should be fun, and I mean that in a completely non-sarcastic way. I’ve been wanting to return to the second novel – Isle of Hell – for sometime now, but I’ve had it ingrained deep in my conscious that I should focus on the first and get it out there into the world before returning to subsequent novels. However, I discovered early on that the strictness of editing really can weigh you down and quite literally make you hate what you had loved so much in the beginning.

Who knows, I may or may not actually do that, but I would love to return to that novel. I might actually bounce back and forth between the first and second if I can accomplish it – as well as finishing up two digital works that I’ve gotten myself into. I’ve really got to start finishing things. And anyways, why not give myself a bit of a break? It’s been a bit of a hard year for me, but looking back on everything, I wasn’t nearly as unproductive as I seem to think I was. Besides, what better time to return to the first book and all that editing ‘fun’ then the fresh beginnings of the new year? Still so many things to address in that novel – and not even just the writing, but all the other things that go along with publishing. Regardless, 2014 will be the year of publishing. I know I said that last year as 2013 was approaching, but I feel the winds of change coming on and I will make it a goal to get things done for once. … okay, so that might just be the icy winter winds, but let’s go with the first thought, shall we?

Now, with that all said and done… the final statistics for this run of NaNoWriMo are as follows:

~ Finished initial challenge on November 15th with 50,061 words.

~ Called it a few days early and Validated the word count on the 27th.

~ 80,460 words in total

~ 153 pages of single spaced writing

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And look, a pretty certificate to go along with it all!

Now, back to writing… because… well, as a writer, that’s what I do, isn’t it?

Let the Races Begin!

Wow, long time no talk… type… post?

Unfortunately I spent a good majority of one of my favorite months down in the dumps. The good news is that I’ve gotten all that taken care of and am firmly back on the road to productivity… ok, well, I’m still on the rough gravel road, but it’s getting there.

First off, October 17th is a rather specific date in the realm of my novel and I had fully intended to write out a nice long post about that along with posting a pretty digital painting, but as we can see that didn’t happen. I did, however, actually start that painting – on the 17th – so that’s a good thing. I haven’t gotten terribly far with it. I think I spent the better half of a good three or four days getting the base sketch done and trying to get a snake tail to look like it was laying right. Let’s just say that proportioning has never been much of a friend to me. I did finally get that to my liking and at least started in on the coloring. I was afraid that a forest fully of dead tree silhouettes was going to be a complete pain in the rump but found that that’s not so much the case. In fact it’s kind of fun. Still a lot of work to be done on it, but here’s the work in progress picture for now:

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I may or may not continue to work on it throughout November. It all depends on how wrapped up in NaNoWriMo I get and if my daily word counts are on track. Overall, if I can finish it before next year I would be happy. I really need to figure out how to cut down my time spent on these things. So many pictures in my head… but I seem to lose ambition to actually complete them once I start putting them to paper or the digital screen.

Another thing that has suffered a bit this year is my Halloween spirit… though I kind of blame this state for that. I swear, Michigan is the place where Halloween goes to die. First off, Christmas stuff started creeping into the stores on the coat tails of the Halloween decor quite literally a week after the black and orange started to make an appearance. If people wonder why it is that I loathe Christmas so much, let’s just say that if it would stay in it’s own month, I wouldn’t mind so much, but when it starts to encroach on my Halloween fun and overshadow my favorite holiday, that’s just sowing the seeds of dislike. And then there’s the stores full of people… ugh, don’t even get me started. For a person with high levels of anxiety, I pretty much avoid stores at all costs from November-January.

Back to Halloween though, despite how sad it was this year – we hardly even decorated the house, it rained all day yesterday, and living out in the country, we don’t even get trick or treaters – I still managed to have fun. All I really did yesterday was get dressed in a random outfit and wander around the house, more specifically ending up taking another photoshoot in the dining room, and that started out because I finally got the white wig I ordered and wanted to try it out.

Here’s some of my favorites:

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So, another Renaissance Festival in the past… another Halloween gone. I think the good think about having discovered NaNoWriMo is that it gives me one last thing to look forward to and keeps me occupied for just a bit longer as winter begins to set in.

Despite my lack of interest in pretty much everything lately, I managed to push myself right out of the gate last night and started writing as soon as the clock hit midnight. Went to bed with a good 2,338 words last night and I’m hoping to add some more in a minute here. I’ll admit, I think that’s some of my crappiest writing ever, but then again, beginnings have never been my forte. What really matters is that I have a solid start to keep adding to. And isn’t that the point of NaNoWriMo anyways? Just write. Put the editor away and let the words pour onto the page.

Overall, Happy Halloween,

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and Happy NaNoWriMo!

I shall be holed up for the next month writing like the wind!

Well, at least until Thor: The Dark World comes out in theatres… I’ll take a break for that 😉

To NaNo or Not to NaNo…

NaNoWriMo, that is.

And the answer is most certainly yes!

For those who have never heard of NaNoWriMo, or who have and secretly wondered what the heck people were talking about, NaNoWriMo is a shortened version of National Novel Writing Month. For authors, novelists and newbies alike, its main goal is to get people to write.

The challenge is to  write a 50,000 word novel in a span of one month – 30 days – and that one month is November.

It may sound challenging, and I can say from experience that it is. However, it can also be one of the most rewarding challenges to undertake.

I had heard the term NaNoWriMo years ago from a friend in college, but it wasn’t until it was brought to my attention once more last year by an author buddy of mine that I really decided to look into it. And even then I was on the fence. I’ll admit that I didn’t officially sign up until October 27th… three days before the challenge started.

I will always adhere to the mantra that as artists, we ourselves are our worst critics. I know that for a fact. It’s a good thing that we don’t physically bruise from mentally beating ourselves up over nothing because if that was the case I would be permanently black and blue. Whether it’s my drawing/digital art or the writing for my fantasy series, I can ALWAYS find something wrong and will nitpick myself into a frenzy. It’s just the way I am, and as destructive as my  perfectionism can be, it unfortunately breeds some mighty fine work. When I do get something done that is. Hence the fact that I continue walking the fine line between productive genius and self destruction. If I was breeding only contempt I might have changed by now.

That being said, it took me a good six years to write the first draft of my first novel. Many of those years I wrote a grand total of 5-10 chapters. Pitiful, right?

And that’s exactly what I had spinning in my mind when my friend was urging me to try NaNoWriMo. I thought to myself “There’s no way I can write that much in a mere span of 30 days? Is that even possible?”

That right there is that annoying little voice of doubt that haunts me like a plague.

However, I decided to throw caution to the wind for once and signed up.

And let’s just say that once I started, I discovered a writing monster.

From the moment November first hit and the proverbial shotgun was fired to indicate the start of the race, I was clocking way over the 1,666 words I had calculated that I would have to write a day in order to meet the goal of 50,000 words by the end of the month. On average I banked about 4,000 words a day, even writing as much as 10,000 words a few days. It was a level of exhilaration that I hadn’t felt since I had put that last word of my first book on the page over a year prior.

So, how did I find myself going from writing 10,000 words a year to 10,000 a day?

It’s simple. I sat down and I wrote.

The basic principal of NaNoWriMo is actually just that.

You sit down and you write, unrestricted. No giving yourself time to develop plot. No time to go back and edit and nitpick. Just write. And as simple as it is, it works wonders.

I far surpassed that 50,000 word goal and actually finished the challenge at just over 100,000 words. It was an amazing feel and all the proof that I needed that I am the only one that’s ever held myself back.

Now, the challenge of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel. For me that’s about a quarter of one of my novels. (The first draft of the novel I’m currently editing came in at about 240,000 words). However, you’re supposed to create a new novel and start it on November 1st. No previous writing.

For me, book one had already been completed, at least in it’s earliest stages. And I was already 100 pages into the second book. So I began the third book of my series.

The fact that the third book was one of the ones I was most looking forward to probably helped me in the long run, but in the end I had written at least half of that book in one month. And better yet was that I had explored places that I hadn’t even touched on in my outline that I threw together before November so as to have some simple idea of where I was going with the whole thing.

By throwing caution to the wind and just letting myself write, I think I allowed myself to just have fun with it – something that I haven’t really let myself do in a number of years – and I let the story and the characters do the talking and allowed them to tell me where it was all supposed to go.

Over all, NaNoWriMo was freeing. It was a superb exercise in just letting yourself have fun with writing. No professionalism, no nitpicky edits, just writing. And, after all, isn’t that what we all essentially go into writing for in the first place? Because we love to write?

When I was pushing myself with the editing and rewriting earlier in the year I think I lost sight of that. I was seeing my novel as more of a job and I was waking up finding excuses and *gasp* hating it. It actually crossed my mind a few times that I didn’t want to write anymore, and honestly, that scared the shit out of me.

So I stepped back from it. Erased my deadline. And let myself walk away for a bit this summer. I’ve written a bit here and there. Jotted down numerous conversation pieces and wrote a few lengthy passages from future books in the series, but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually written and had that thrill. So maybe this is exactly what I need.

I was arguing with myself a bit about this a few months back, trying to declare that taking this challenge on again would be taking a whole month from my editing of the first book. And yes, it will be. But what’s the difference? I’ve been rather stagnant in the writing pool all summer. One more month isn’t going to kill me.

And maybe, in the end, what I need is that thrill of raw writing.

So, to NaNo or not to NaNo?

Well, the answer is a resounding YES!

Come November 1st, I shall be starting the forth book of my Nyte-Fyre Prophecy series, currently titled “Darkness Descending”

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Anybody interested in giving NaNoWriMo a shot, the web address to their official site is below:

(There’s nothing to lose. It’s free to join and you’re not punished for not finishing. There are no prizes beyond the warm fuzzy feeling of that buzz of accomplishment, but you do get some cool coupons if you finish. One is 5 free copies of your book from CreateSpace)

http://nanowrimo.org/

~ And, for anyone wanting to add me within the site, my username is:

SlythraNoirVaere17

Writer’s Block… or Mirage Wall?

“Writer’s Block” It’s like the dreaded computer blue screen of the writing world: the one thing we all as writer’s fear, but will inevitably run into regardless. I could never quite understand this phenomenon, yet, alas, I’m not immune from the lull of these dreaded times.

All I know is that I’m getting quite tired of it. I honestly don’t know why this has been so hard on me lately. After what feels like forever, I’m finally getting back into these writing moods where I actually want to sit down and work on something, anything (yes, I desperately want to work on my book and finish the edit of the first, but I consider any writing on any of the books in the series progress). Yet, time and time again, it seems that as soon as I actually sit down to put pen to paper – or fingers to keys – I lose all that prior bright ambition and can barely focus, leading me to stare blankly at the screen for awhile before ultimately giving up. I’ve watched entirely too many movies and have been reading far more as of late. So, what is this? Writer’s block? Still? Or just a mirage wall? Maybe I’m using the term writer’s block as nothing more than an excuse, though I can’t imagine for what. I love to write, so what the heck do I need an excuse not to do it for? Unless, deep down I’m still saddled with that stress from the time when I was trying to do too much.

– Back in the beginning of the year, I had the immense ambition to pull off a full edit/rewrite of my book by June and have it published and ready for the Renaissance Festival here in August. Let’s just say that it turned out to be a far larger project than I ever could have imagined. Those that think manuscript editing consists of merely fixing punctuation and some grammatical errors have little knowledge of the authorial world. I will admit that I initially had the same thought… it died out very quick, only to be replaced with the fear and stress that I wouldn’t meet the constrictions of my own deadlines. As you can see, I was right in that assumption. Yet, therein lies the beginning of my problems. In my rush to try to meet that deadline anyways, telling myself that it was just my own negative thinking holding myself back, I did wind up getting a large chunk of the edit/rewrite done (over 200 pages of straight rewrite – I basically set the initial draft aside and wrote the beginning from scratch). However, the writing that I had once enjoyed had suddenly become a job that I came to hate. At the end of May – the last time that I honestly sat down and worked on anything regarding the first book – I finally allowed myself to admit, not just to myself, but also publically on my book’s Facebook page, that I was not going to have it done this summer. After that I allowed myself a much needed break, yet it seems to be a lengthy vacation that I have yet to return from. The good news is that I do miss my writing and the joy of it, I think I just still retain that fear of returning to that place where I found myself hating the one thing that I have always loved and want to eventually make a living out it. It’s an extremely difficult discovery to wake up one day and find that you want nothing to do with the one thing that makes your world. It’s like standing on the edge of a cliff and staring out into a void, not knowing what makes sense anymore, like the world had shifted and no longer revolves around the sun. All in all, a scary feeling.

And though, I think I’ve finally begun to rise from the ashes of that fall, I still haven’t been able to let all those negative feelings go. The worst thing about being a writer I believe – at least in my own case, not sure how it is for others – is that I think it’s actually made me more emotional as a person and far more susceptible to bouts of depression. It’s wonderful, being able to explore those deepest depths of the darkness of one’s mind and then effectively putting it on the page for other’s entertainment, but to actually feel it yourself really saps your strength of character after awhile. I’ve noticed as well, that there are times when my own moods reflect those of my characters and how they’re reacting to events in the story as I’m writing.

The worst part of all this is that within the past year I’ve become so overbearing hypocritical of myself and the talents I possess. Once again, I don’t know why. I’m much more talented than I give myself credit for. I’ve gotten a number of positive and raving reviews from the few friends I trust to read my novel at this early stage, and yet it doesn’t seem to be enough, the shine of those words wearing off far too soon. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to see the brilliance of my writing as opposed to being so hard on myself.

It just gets to be a little disheartening after awhile, especially since all my little self-imposed hissy fit hiatus’ keep pushing my loosely constructed deadlines further and further away. People keep telling me to take my time with my writing, let it grow, and that everything will eventually come to me and fall into place. Yes, yes, I know that. I really do. But is it so bad of a thing to want some progress, some finality after nearly 8 years of work? The elation of wanting to run down the street and jump for joy when I finished the first draft of book one in December of 2011 has long since worn off. I just feel like it should have all been done by now and that I should be working on subsequent books in the series. I’m still effectively hoping to have a e-book out and a few editorial copies out to a handful of friends for a final revision by the end of the year, but we shall see. I want to take the time off in November again to do NaNoWriMo again, since I had such success last year, but all I can think of is that that’s a whole month dedicated to NOT working on getting the first book completed. Yet, if I want to be honest with myself, that’s no different than this whole summer. Maybe, I need to allow myself that break. The greatest thing about NaNoWriMo is that is focuses on that fear. Instead of wasting all that time being perfect, wanting every word to flow just right, it forces you to just put words on the page and keep it going, whether it sucks or not. Maybe I need to let go of my perfectionism and allow myself that ultimate freedom again. Yet, when you’re trying to polish your book for publication that’s a hard thing to do. Though, perhaps this blog could be good for me, because I’m certainly not editing all this – just letting my thoughts flow.

My biggest thing is that I feel like you can only tell people so many times that you’re writing/editing your first novel and that it will be out soon before they come to the ultimate conclusion that your words are merely hot air to keep your ego inflated and that nothing will ever actually come from it. The one thing I do know is that I will NOT give up this unconventional dream of mine. I’m far too invested in this story and its characters. And when I allow myself the freedom of mistakes, I really do love the writing and the world I’ve created. It’s just that, for wanting to make a living on writing – not an easy thing to do – I really need to get a move on, because I honestly don’t see myself doing anything else. If this all crumbles down around me, I don’t have much of anything else to fall back on…

Well then… deep and depressing thoughts aside. There are a number of projects I’ve had on my mind regarding my writing – a few little side stories involving my main characters, the urge to finally get back into my editing, drawing up a timeline for the book I want to start during NaNoWriMo, and a few vivid pictures in my mind that I want to attempt in the digital painting world. As for good news, I think I wrote a three page poem about the sea last night. It basically just flowed through my fingers and onto the paper and I haven’t read it yet, but I will probably post it whether it’s terrible or not in the next few days.

In the future, I will try not to let my posts be nearly as depressing as this one.