Category Archives: victories

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

Wow. It has been a while since posting anything and I feel as though each day without an update is alienating me from my writing peers – something I never want to do.

I have had a few letdowns and a few breakthroughs since NaNoWriMo destroyed my writer’s confidence. I would not have felt so defeated had I not felt so prepared before the month began. I had an outline, character sketches, a writing strategy, and a dedicated space to do it in. I also had an amazing support group. It just wasn’t meant to be in 2013.

In December I had a dream. A week later I discovered my voice through a whimsical short story. I was writing outside of my preferred genre and it felt great. The beginning paragraph formed in my head while I was trying to sleep – I could not stop thinking about it, turning it over and over in my head until I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed a mangy little notebook that was warped from being used as a coaster. It didn’t matter. None of the things that I thought of as ‘tools’ mattered. The Evernote Moleskine notebook wasn’t needed. Neither were the eight different colors of the new Sharpie pens, for which I had a color assigned to each character. I realized later that perhaps they are all distractions. When the lightning flashes, you will use anything to write with. The instrument is nothing more than a conduit- be it a pen, iPad, eyeliner, crayon, or keyboard. It also didn’t matter that I was exhausted, writing into the early morning. I even fell asleep writing in mid-sentence once.

Since then, however, I have struggled – floundered even. This post discusses what I believe to be the underlying issue.

Discovering Your Voice & Not Knowing How to Use It

To be enamored with your own writing style is a special thing. I am not sure how many writers feel the same way, but when you finally write your way through a piece you feel is worth a damn and come out on the other side feeling excited about it…that is special. I was writing fantasy before this breakthrough. I have always loved the idea of being a fantasy writer. It stems from being an avid role-player for the past twenty-plus years. It stems from loving to read in that genre. It stems from being a total worldbuilder junkie.

What I did for this story was completely different though. I was transcribing a dream and adding little elements that were either hazy in my recollections, or that made sense to me on a purely subconscious level within the dream. I didn’t have to think about anything. I just wrote what I saw and felt and tasted. It came out snarky and whimsical. I feel like, if pressed to put it in a genre, it would fit in Urban Magical Romance. Sort of.

I woke the next morning and sped to work, wanting to share the breakthrough with my writing friends there. I transferred the story onto my computer and sent it to a few friends. Once that was done, I was energized to write more. I needed to cling to the crackling energy that was dissipating. I must have destroyed a dozen pages of my notebook trying to let that voice ooze out of me. Nothing happened.

So this is where I find myself today, more than a month after my breakthrough. I have a work that I believe, with a few rounds of editing and the dawning of realization that I figure out exactly what it is, could be worth sending out. I have the knowledge that I have a voice worth reading – I even hear that voice echoing somewhere deep within. I also have the stare-at-the-screen, deer-in-the-headlights, drool-on-the-notepad paralysis. I have no idea where to start or how to begin.

Perhaps finding a way to bridge this new voice with my beloved Fantasy genre is where I need to experiment next? Perhaps I need to find inspiration in the ridiculous things around me? Perhaps I need to shut the hell up and just write?

I know that other writers struggle with this. I know this because Lauren has a great post about How to Hunt your Writing Voice, and she knows lots of spectacular things about writers. I know this because my peers talk about this regularly – even the ones who are publishing.

I want to know about your struggles with voice. I want to know how you are working to overcome those struggles. I want to know that you overcame them.

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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: 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.

Let’s Talk it Out

I had another breakthrough yesterday, thanks to ShanShan. We met up at a bakery to write for a while before attending a writer’s group in the area. We barely wrote a word. Instead, I talked about what problems I was having with my prologue (backstory style, not middle-of-the-book-major-event style). I thought I had it figured out before – then I hit my first roadblock during the actual writing process. You can see any other post on my blog about other roadblocks that I have hit before the writing process has begun.

I bounced some ideas off of her. She gave me some insight. She also posed a What If to me and outlined the reasoning behind the question. I now have a secret language between twin brothers based on stacking cairns . I am not sure if I will work on anything linguistic about them – at this point they are just for flavor.

I also worked out the problems that I was having with PoV and the flip-flopping of. Writing a story about twin brothers and wanting each to have their own story told seemed pretty daunting to me. I have a simple fix now – alternate PoVs by chapter. It is either painfully obvious solution to most of you reading this, or a terrible foible that should never be used. I will just have to wait and see. Even though I only wrote 400 words yesterday, I think they were stronger due to ironing out a few things first.

My point is, if I have one, that I am still finding out what works for me. I mentioned in a tweet that perhaps DragonSpeak or some other software is the way to go for me – this lends credence to that notion. I mentioned writing by hand could work. I think it has been great for bullet pointing how a scene or chapter should flow. This process, although frustrating at times, is becoming more rewarding every day. To me, discovering who you are as a writer is the goal and the story is the vehicle to get you there.

SideNote: The Twitterverse has opened doors to encouragement, wisdom, and drive. I have found the extra gumption to get my ass moving on this.

I have to write about 2200 words a day for the rest of July to meet my CampNaNoWriMo goal, and I am still feeling positive about it. I think I will make up my time on the weekends and during write-ins that @ShanBradshaw, @UtahRichie and myself (@wordrew) will be holding.

If you are on Twitter, follow me if you want. Give me all of your writing advice. I will continue with my blog and tweets – if anything strikes you as motivational or some such, you are welcome to it!

Finally, a breakthrough!

This weekend was shot…or so I thought. Friday night was wasted in video games and such. TheWife wasn’t feeling well, so she laid down after we got home and I fired up the trusty, mind-numbing complete and utter distraction that is my PS3. Damn I love that thing. Friday night passed and I sort of felt guilty. The only reason that I felt guilty is that my writing group, as small in number and immeasurably great in awesomeness that they are, had a challenge on the table to write 2000 words by Sunday night. I was about 1700 words away from meeting that challenge because I did a little bit of writing on my flights to and from Seattle earlier in the week.

Saturday was another wasted day as my PS3, evil seductress that she is, beckoned me unto her almost as soon as I woke up. I played until TheWife and I headed out to Costco to take care of the Necessaries. Lunch was had, vitamin D was absorbed, and we came back home in time for me to head out and see a movie with my brother and father-in-law. I will not name the movie because you, if having seen it, will either love it or think that I am a total deviant for having watched it. Saturday was capped off with dinner and birthday party for my sister-in-law. Pizza and karaoke were had (and a beer or two) and I knocked the dust off of my karaoke boots with a spot on performance of Ice Ice Baby.

This morning was incredible, as TheWife and I headed downtown for the Utah Art Fest. It was a great time and really struck a chord with me to get my ass in gear. These artists were not only hawking the fruit of their loins, but they were making money at it as well. I saw some of them, even in 90+ degree heat, working on future works of art. We ate, I drank another beer, and then we rested under a tent where a delicate, squeaky voiced girl read four pages of her work aloud to an audience. She was twelve or thirteen tops, and sounded like she had already found her voice as a fledgling writer. I envied her. Then I had to leave because my frustration in myself was boiling over to the point where I could not enjoy listening to her any more.

I chalked this weekend up as a total failure. A loss. A disappointment. Then, at 7:58 pm I received and email from ShanShan toting her claim to 2040 words written this week. Then John Stamos replied and toted his 2400 words for the week. I do not have words for the emotion that I felt. It was a hodgepodge of fear, depression, excitement (genuine and completely for them), and motivation – it also came to me in the squeaky, high-pitched voice of a pubescent girl for some reason.

So, after watching MasterChef with TheWife – I know, it sounds like another distraction which is completely true, but one of my other unfulfilled dreams in life is to be a chef, so I chalk it up as research – I began transferring some of my writing from my Seattle trip to Scrivener. Things began to flow. I pulled a nugget of inspiration from a prompt that I created for a game, plucked it into my general idea for a prologue, and off I went. I had a breakthrough. And even though it took me almost three hours, I had 2189 words down in something that I think has potential and that I am proud of.

While writing this, it also occurred to me that I created my blog this week and that in the forty minutes that it took me to write this post, I have pounded out another 640+ words. Adding in my other blog posts for the week, I am looking at a grand total of 3494+ complete!

That makes me incredibly happy (note: this final sentence not counted towards final word count)!