Category Archives: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo: Reflection of Longhand & Snippet

Today was a total shocker for me – a revelation. Although I did not write anything towards my novel today, I just finished estimating my word count thus far towards my NaNoWriMo goal of 50k words. I say that I estimated because I am doing quite a bit of my writing longhand. It is working out swimmingly for me, to be honest. My thoughts flow better. I am able to think two steps ahead due to the length in which it takes to physically write each word down. I am also completely free of my external editor. There are no squiggly red lines that appear under my typos when I write longhand. There more no rude green sirens that proclaim a dangling participle. There is just me, the designated color ink for each character (Sharpie pens are the greatest writing instrument alive), and the faint-lined grid of the paper in my journal. I am free to fragment. I am free to run on and on and on. I am free to discover my voice without a robot parsing me its rules.

What I am living most about he longhand process, though, is the surprise it grants me when I do an assessment of my word count. I am figuring a modest seven words per line in my writing, because it is compact and small. I am figuring roughly 38 lines of writing per page. That is a total of 266 words per page. I rounded down to 250 for ease of quick counting. With this completely off base calculation in which the odds will be forever in my favor, I have handwritten a total of 6,850 words thus far. Plus, I have typed 5,831. That gives me a total greater than 12k words, and I am so damn happy about it. NaNoWriMo says that I am still behind. Fine. I say that I am just building up steam, getting readying for my travels home. Four hours of hurtling through the atmosphere at 30k feet can do wonders for my word count. A few days back in my hometown, bellied up to one of my favorite pubs can do the same. I plan on winning NaNo while I am in Grand Rapids, if I don’t do so while inflight on my way there.

The trouble will be to get the words that are written longhand typed up for submission to NaNo. I thought, with some modicum of interest, that if I calculate a more precise word count for my written words, that I could just redundantly copy and paste what I have typed up already into the NaNo word count analyzer. Does that work? Wild you think it was cheating? Its not like I am doing it to boost my count, just delay the process in which I transfer the words from paper to pixel. What are your thoughts?

So I leave you with a snippet of my mentor character in reflection to days gone by.

November 8th

As her mouth opened to speak, a flush of liquid heat welled in Weald’s gut. It spread through his chest and cheeks. He had known what she was on the verge of saying – the commitment she was going to make. Weald was going to hate her for doing so.
“Weald, dear.” Her words were flacid and false.
His hand shot up, fingers outstretched and palm facing the two adults.
“Stop.” It wasn’t a plea. It was an order.

Weald remembered with fondness that this was the moment in which he became a man. His voice did not waiver, let alone crack with pubescent uncertainty.

“I am going to fix this.” His voice chased away any doubt like the wind through fallen leaves.
“Timmins.” His eyes were tight with determination.
“We do not need your help. You may go.”
Timmins’ eyebrows peaked in disbelief.
“Excuse yourself, boy.” The last word was nearly spat with contempt.
“You are not my master, nor the master of this house. You would do well to consider your words.”
He stuck a finger into Weald’s face. Daphne let out a squeak of shock. Without thought, Weald’s own hand danced out, snagging and twisting the finger until the crunching sound rippled through his hand.
“You stick anything of yours out around here again and I keep to Lloraya that you will lose it. Let Ellalyn wear a ring for it.”
His promise had been made with double gravity. He had evoked both Lloraya and Ellalyn. In Lamil, there was little else that could be done to ensure understanding.

NaNoWriMo: Day 6 – Breakthrough and Snippet

So Wednesday was a pretty great day for me, some of it’s greatness was even writing related. I spent the morning having breakfast (there was pumpkin pie involved) with the fantastic and NSFW (or virginal eyes) Author Claudia. We talked NaNo a lot. We talked through the progress made thus far.

Then she let me vent. She is a fantastic therapist. I talked about my frustrations – not even including how badly she is tanning my ass in word count thus far – and what I was getting hung up on. I acknowledged that my story arc was thin. Three of the major events are the MCs fleeing. That just isn’t good enough. I want depth. I want sinuous strands of intricacies woven tight like a survival bracelet. I want more than I am able to write, and that is the problem.

Claudia’s response? “Where’s the egg? You need to find your egg.”

I was puzzled. She could tell.

“You are making meatloaf.” [sidenote: this fatboy definitely loves meatloaf] “You have the meat. You have the breadcrumbs. You need the egg. The binder to hold everything together.”

::facepalm::

I never thought about it like that. I have heard people talk about writing as a formula – hell, I started writing a romance novel in college because the prescribed formula was just so ‘easy’ when it clung in dusty strokes on the chalkboard – yeah, you heard me right…chalkboard. However, I haven’t thought about it in terms of cooking, which is near and dear to my heart.

So, after some discussion, I realized that the group opposing the church that my MCs eventually defect to, in order to help defeat the church, was cardboard. So I thought in bigger terms, citing Rothfuss’s use of the Fae and Sanderson’s creation of the Parshendi. I needed another race. I have grappled with the idea of different races in my novel, mainly due to the fact that I am using the homebrew world that I built for my formerly long-standing D&D campaign. In that context, there are orcs, half-orcs, elves, gnomes, etc. that populate the land of Cildaire. I don;t seem to run into any of them while running this novel, and I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

Anyways, I have now been working on the group that I have started referring to as the Daear (Gaelic for Earth I believe) and they are one with nature. I hope to high hell that I do not write them into a stereotype. I would hate myself if they read as Native Americans I have a lot of work to do with them still, but I wanted to offer a snippet of my rough writings from yesterday – the day in which I got words on the page after a two day hiatus.

November 6th

As outsiders, Parl and Purl were forced to the back, behind the elongated skulls of the [Daear]. They could see the center of the ring, flickering with shadows that twirled and danced. The Elder, as she was known, was adorned with long strings of precious gems, bits of bone, twines of vine, and various clusters of natural materials. The necklaces hung heavily from her tanned neck to her dirty knees. They came together, forced into constriction between bare breasts elongated from lack of confining support.

It had taken Parl nearly two days to control his adolescent giggles at the sight of exposed breasts – he was still struggling with control over his untimely risings.

NaNoWriMo: Days 3 & 4 – Not Much & a Snippet

So, days three and four were less than successful. Life gets in the way sometimes. Sunday was pretty much a work-around-the-house sort of day. Errands were run. Nurseries were worked upon. Dinner was baked. Preggers was in control. I have no regrets though.

At the end of Sunday night, I was sitting in bed, watching Skyfall with Preggers, and generally feeling content (with the immediate situation in which I found myself in) and irritated (in the fact that I hadn’t written a single word). So, in an effort to push through the laziness, I grabbed my iPad and began writing. It was horrible. It was disjointed. It was only 768. However, when coupled with the longhand ‘warm-up’ that I wrote hours previously, it was 1,216 words. Since I was ahead of schedule (the NaNo prescribed 1,667 words per day schedule, that is) I was elated.

Yesterday was completely different. I worked all day – the first 2013 NaNoWriMo work-then-write situation that I have found myself in. I failed. Miserably. There wasn’t even a moment when I said, “I really need to write”. If there was, it was nothing more than me trying to convince Preggers that I was important and that some big thing was demanding my time. It just didn’t happen.

So, today I am going to sneak words in while “working” (that’s for you, Bradshaw) when I can. With my issues of focus and concentration, I learned long ago, that short bursts of concentration at a task at hand was highly productive for me. So, today, I am hoping to do 30 minute writing sprints, followed by indeterminate lengths of actual work. I need to make up for yesterday. I have  goal to hit 15,000 by the weekend – that will put me ahead of schedule again, which is where I want to be.

November 3rd

Purl starred at his brother. The burned spots near his temples were slick with blood and a clear ooze. A leaf turned golden yellow, stuck near the edge of the ruined scalp. His hair, normally a chestnut brown, held streaks of gray where the blotches of hair had been seared away.

NaNoWriMo: Day Two – Update and Snippet

Today was a bit more flimsy than yesterday. I wasn’t as productive, yet I still exceeded the average daily amount factored for the entire month. I am not sure that will be enough though, what with my holiday travel plans. Here’s to hoping that tomorrow is better – even with the interruption of Endger’s Game in the IMAX at 2:00.

I have a snippet – this is the first time that I have explored my MC, Parl, losing his mind and unleashing his magic for the first time. The scene was intense, and I am sure that I am quite far away from it being as eloquent and terrifying as it needs to be. This paragraph came towards the end of today’s writing, and that is why I think it has stuck out as one of the better sections.

Katrissa’s face drained of all color as she watched Parl burn chunks of hair and flesh from his scalp. Bile rose in her throat. Behind Parl, the bushes were now igniting, spiderwebs of fire spreading out along tight, gnarled branches within the larger shapes of the pruned perimeter. His face was maniacal, twisted in a rage that bespoke heartbreak and terror. She remembered that face well. It was the face father wore when mother jumped on the back of a horse and rode away nearly twelve years ago. It was an expression that would fade into the recesses of the eyes, but never leave. It was the face that paced back and forth, waiting for some calling, little or not, to bring it back out of the den of calm and into the black night of rage.

NaNoWriMo: This is My Plan of Action

I had a fantastic day today. Just a simple, good old fashioned happy day. I am now exhausted and ready for bed. Initially, I was hoping that, on the eve of NaNoWriMo, I would take a nap then wake up in time for the midnight kickoff of my challenge. That is not going to happen. I am going to get a full night’s sleep and storm the castle in the morning. You need your rest for castle storming. That’s science.

I feel that the fact that I am ready to sleep is a good thing. It’s an indicator. I feel that my body is totally relaxed and ready to shut down for the night because I am in a fantastic place to succeed this year. My body knows this. My mind knows this. My heart knows this. I will sleep deeply and with drooling abandon tonight.

I have decided a couple of things recently – things that you should be aware of.

First, I am going to give to you all my favorite snippet of each day’s writing on my SNIPPETS page. It might be a turn of phrase that catches my fancy or maybe a revelation that I make during my discovery writing. Whatever it is, there will be something every day.

Second, I will be giving a weekly status update of my progress. I want to share with you all the strides that I have made. I want to hear about your progress in the comments – let’s have a discussion on what you are doing to succeed or what you need help with to do so.

So this is my daily plan of attack:

Wake up.

Shower. Eat a healthy breakfast. Pushups, squats, crunches.

Writing warm-up in longhand.

Writing session.

Work.

Dinner with Preggers.

Pushups, squats, crunches.

Writing warm-up in longhand.

Mini writing session.

Read.

Sleep.

This is, obviously, a pretty idyllic day for me. Work is going to wear me down and get in the way. Things are going to come up (finishing the nursery, traveling back to Michigan for Thanksgiving, etc.). Writing may not sound appealing to me at times. Tough shit. In my listening to podcasts such as Writing Excuses, reading Stephen King’s On Writing, and from other places where I hear authors talk about their craft, the great majority of them have a routine that they stick to daily. I need that in place. I am a creature of habit and will conform to whatever routine I establish.

I would like to point out my separation of longhand warm-ups and the main writing sessions. I am foreseeing a distinct difference in these two acts. For one, I have come to realize in my traveling these past two weeks, that I love writing in longhand. It’s a freeing experience. I feel more in tune with my voice and imagination now that I have in over a year.

The physicality of writing longhand aids your creative process in a few ways. First, it slows you down. You type faster than you pen and sometimes that does not give you the fraction of a second needed to connect thoughts, retrieve the proper word, or think through the sequence. I liken this to my teaching experience. Studies show that teachers call on students who raise their hands within one second the vast amount of time – studies also show that the same small fraction of the students in a class raise their hands that fast – other studies show that if you wait for three seconds before calling on a student for an answer, the vast majority of the students will have the answer. I am not entirely sure where I am going with all of this scientific data, but the point is that if you delay in calling on the same immediate response, participation increases and therefore engagement increases. The same is true with longhand. By delaying the speed at which you are transfering your thoughts, you give your brain the proper time to search for a more suitable word, to connect several thoughts together, and to think ahead in the story. These are good thigns.

I am planning on, at this point anyways, switching to the computer for my actual novel writing in the main writing sessions based on one simple assumption – that I will not be able to keep up with my thoughts once I am in full swing. I liken my writing rhythm to a locomotive. I am slow to start, but once I get going I have momentum that is incredibly difficult to stop. The warm-ups are there to shovel coal into the engine. The writing sessions are to carry my momentum over the crest of a hill and downwards at a pace that I have no hope to stop.

This post may not make a lot of sense. To be honest, I am so worn down from two weeks’ worth of travel, I am having a hard time discerning up from down most of the time (despite having a joyous day today). This is me clearing my head. This is me stating my plan of action for the big day tomorrow. This is me.

Further Reading

Purdie Writing – http://purdiewriting.blogspot.com/2013/06/writing-longhand.html

Kenisha Cummings – http://kenishacummings.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/nanowrimo-prep/

See Sam Write – http://seesamwrite.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/confessions-of-a-procrastinator-aka-my-commitment/comment-page-1/#comment-38

NaNoWriMo: Stratejay to 50k

It’s a horrible title, I know. Just horrible.

This year, I feel as though I have the strongest strategy to-date for my approach to success. I have really dug into the core issue with my failing every NaNo for the past seven years. It has been an exercise in introspection and a quite humbling experience.

Ultimately, I need some bite to my bark. I have said a few times in the past via social media or conversations with my peeps – I am more in love with the idea of being a writer than actually writing. It’s okay, according to the awesome people at Writing Excuses, to present yourself as a writer, even if you do not have anything published. Unfortunately for me, I have done a lot of talking about being a writer and spent very little energy actually doing the craft. This needs to change for NaNoWriMo 2013.

So I have started developing strategies that will give me teeth. That will give me the aggressiveness to bite when needed. These are obviously what I feel will help me best for the long month ahead – they may not work for you.

First and foremost, I am going to eliminate the distractions that I put in place last year. Most of these were technology-based distractions. I purchased Scrivener and was immediately overwhelmed by the vast coolness of serious number of features that it offers. That ended up as a detractor from my writing though, as I spent more time trying to set up syncing features and DropBox accounts and such. I am sure it works great and this is in no way a review or commentary on Scrivener. I just lost focus of what was important – the writing. I have tried out a new piece of tech that I am actually really enjoying however. Stenosaur is a fantastic little app that allows a user to tweet microjournals to the Stenosaur app for future use. For me, this is fantastic.

I will write a full review about Stenosaur once I have explored it to the fullest, but for now, I am in love with the fact that I can use talk-to-text functionality to voice record ideas while I am driving, which I do more than the average bear.

My second strategy is to do warm-ups before each session. Ultimately, if you start writing cold, your first five hundred words or so are still your warm-up, but I am going to employ a new strategy: I am going to write for a half hour before every session for a different project. My main NaNoWriMo project is a fantasy novel that I have been working on for quite some time. The other project that I want to use warm-ups for is a somewhat post apocalyptic novel about survival and human drive. I will use this designated half hour to simply write character explorations of a few people jangling around in my head.

My intentions here are to build up a working base for the new novel, while letting my mind and fingers fall into my natural rhythm of writing. I have found from past experiences, that when I sit down to write and the words do not come easily, I get frustrated and give up on the session. I have also found that I love write character sketches and letting them grow and explore on the page. Using the moment of these free write sketches I will, I hope, be able to switch gears into the world and characters that I already know and love and understand, and continue with the real juicy stuff for the day.

Finally, I am going to change perspective on my word count approach. I have decided to take the 1st off of work, which gives me a three day, full on NaNoWriMo start to work with. I plan to write until my fingers bleed on day one. I plan to write my ass off on day two. I plan to write until my preggers wife drags me from my office on day three. At that point, on Sunday night, when I need to rub cream on the ever-expanding belly of my beautiful wife, I will start calculating word count. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that I manage 10k words in those three days, I would only have to average 1429 words per day (aWPD) for the rest of the month. If I started at Day One, I would need 1613 aWPD to hit 50k by the end of the month. A 200 aWPD difference does not seem like much and you would be correct.

The bigger issue at play is the inspirational force of grinding out 10k words in 3 days! At that pace 100k words is feasible, and I am a man who rides the waves of momentum quite well. This is the biggest point for everyone to embrace. Develop strategies that give you small victories. Let the high of those victories fuel your momentum. Let your momentum carry you into the land of NaNo victory.

In most things in life, I am at least as much bite as I am bark. So far, this has not been the case in my writing, and I have realized that is because of a lack of confidence in my craft and a lack of micro-victories to prove to myself that I am capable of doing this.

NaNoWriMo Musings

I know, I know, I KNOW.

This is the time of year where I fill your delicate ears with sweet whisperings of NaNoWriMo. I let flow the promises of dedication, planning, and a resolve like I have never felt before to accomplish my goal this year. The heat of my breath on your neck confirms the passion burning within me – that or I used too much cinnamon toothpaste this morning.

But. THIS IS THE YEAR! I have spent the entire last year working away at, sound-boarding, outlining, and exploring the story in which I still want to write. I have a fantastic group of writerly friends (I think its safe to call them that) that I know will encourage me along, and some actual, in-the-flesh writing buddies that will be sitting alongside me from time to time during the challenge. I am in the best position of my seven years of attempting NaNoWriMo to succeed. That is precisely what will happen.

I can talk a bit about the idea in my head. Yesterday was the “Ahh Ha!” or, perhaps, the “Oh Shit!” day for me – the day in which you realize that NaNoWriMo is turning the doorknob and will soon be in your room with a rusty meat cleaver. It was the day in which I decided to create a new account – not to hide in shame from the failings of the past years, but rather to start fresh using my Twitter handle and what has ingrained itself as my online writing persona, @wordrew. If you tweet, you know what I’m talking about.

Yesterday was also the day in which two breakthroughs happened for me. First, and probably most significantly, the four or five book ideas that I have rolling around in my vacuous noggin all sort of tumbled to the dusty recesses. The story that I have been working with for the past year stayed. The story has come back to me with fervor and I know that this is what I need to work on in the upcoming weeks and months. That leads me to the second breakthrough – yesterday I wrote an impromptu synopsis of my story while setting up my wordrew NaNo account.

It isn’t polished and took me less time to write than this post, but here it goes:

Several years and a lifetime ago, Parl and Purl’s parents were slain by minions of a secret society. Since that horrendous day, the brothers have become self-sufficient and forced to live on the run. Parl has grown intense, fallen in love, and consumed his childhood village and a few of its inhabitants in an unexpected inferno. Purl has studied, worked for the mayor, and saved his twin brother’s life with a deluge of quenching water.

Life in hiding has been bearable. The nightmares have been insufferable. As twins try to settle into a new community, they are discovered by agents of the Seminary of Five Ashes and offered sanctuary with the church. The twins accept the offer of training and absolution in order to live a open life once again.

As his studies progress with the Seminary, Purl uncovers a tumultuous history while reading by candlelight deep in to the night. Parl’s wanderlust and insatiable curiosity lead down a more physical path of training where the painful past is uncovered from his curvaceous mentor as she undresses at the edge of the Laughingman’s Rush river.

Join the twins as they arrive at the same conclusion and set off to join forces with Elementalists, secret societies, and the gods themselves.

I am not sure that I intended the plot to sound so YA, but perhaps that is where the book wants to be. Perhaps I should expand, revise, and think about this shit first? I am not entirely sure.

On a side note, I would like to hear from you handful of awesomeness (umm, that sounds very weird) as to your thoughts on my voice here at writebrainedramblings. Am I too informal? Do I not sound intelligent enough or proper like the English teacher that I am certified to be? Do you care? Hit me up in the comments below.