What is that? It’s National Novel Writing Month and it starts tomorrow. It is a month of literary abandon. Many crazy and brave souls take on the gauntlet of writing 50k words in the span of one month. 30 days to be precise. This maths down to proximately 1667 words a day. That is a lot of words in some rights and not that many in others.
Why would someone do such a thing? What was it created? The simple answer is to end the ‘one day novelist’ bring an end to the saying “One day I’ll write a novel”. Well that ‘one day’ is now, November. You are given a challenging goal and a dead line. This pushes you to write, it also forces you to get the ideas down on paper and leaves little to no time for editing.
It is fantastic! I have done Nanowrimo for several years, since 2009. I’ve helped run it for my local region I think since 2011 and every year I have written 50k words. Now, before you get all impressed most of those words are rubbish, most of it is not publishable by any means. Of course that isn’t to say that what I wrote was a waste. I got a great idea for a Dragon story while doing Nano and the novel that I’ve been working hard on and editing here and there – that was a Nano novel.
Nanowrimo allowed me to get words on paper – it taught me that I can write a novel and that I can make time to write. It also taught me that I can at the very least craft a story of some sort. Honestly Nano is a worth experience that I encourage all writers to take on at least once.
However the even is not everything. It is now the end all and be all. It is why I am not actively participating this year. Will I write? Yes. Will I go to some of the events? Yes. Am I aiming for the 50k? No. Will I reach 50k? I don’t know. This year I’m taking a step back, I’m stepping away from the frenzy of words for the sake of words and looking to building my craft. I plan to edit this year, to write as I see fit – nothing blindly written, all of it thought out because that is what my writing needs. I feel I need to add some cadence to my writing to stop and think about it to consider the use of a comma at the right time and place.
So we’ll see what happens for me this November – what I can take out of it as a person who joining the masses to write just not to write the 50k word goal.
Aside from that if you have questions about Nanowrimo you can Google it or even ask me. I was a former regional leader of the site for several years so I know the ins and outs of the program as well as some great tricks for those participating.
I’ve been out of the blogging world for a while. After getting hit hard with my uncertainty I needed a break. I needed to stop pushing myself to possibly be something I’m not. So, I did as I said I would. I delved into the world of fanfiction. It took me a while to get integrated back in and to get some of the feed back that I was craving.
I’ve had an offer for betaing and a request to beta future stories. For those who may not be familiar with the term betaing it is pretty much editing but not at the professional level really. It is a second pair of eyes to catch those things you naturally over look. So to have someone offer to do the job based on a few casual conversations and reading a bit of my work was dumbfounding. It makes me feel like I might have something going for me in the way of words. I’m not ready to go running off toward the published novel grounds just yet. I want to hold my horses and work on other things first.
Also, I have learned that I am good at portraying characters. Of the few reviews I have received on my works is that they good a good feel for the characters I write. They can sympathize with the characters they find other characters to be believable and well written. So this I feel I can list as a strength. Second most common remark, the uniqueness of my idea. Many people hadn’t considered the plot twist I decide to follow with my stories. So I have decent plot ideas.
Basics! Check I have them! This is exciting. I know there are people who will read this and say Misheal, I could have already told you that but most of you I know personally. To hear this validation from an utter stranger is different.
Next up weakness, in some ways I haven’t been getting too much of that. At least not critical failings that I feel I have in some ways which means I’m either making them up or people haven’t thought to say something. With my editor of my original novel and my beta for my fan fiction, one thing is clear to me. Repetition, it is my mortal enemy. I cannot express how many times I see “change word it has been used twice already” or something of the sort. My other weakness is commas. I know they are important. I can get the commas right so that my character is inviting grandma to come and eat, rather than suggesting cannibalism. However, commas like the one I just used I am not so good at. I like to rush forward, get all the words down and then forget that a normal person would pause here, or here, maybe even there. My thoughts tend to be very fluid, it’s even how I talk, I just go all in and hardly pause to even breath. Of course, in an effort to combat that and get the whole comma thing battened I fail to use semicolons and dashes correctly and even occasioning failing to break a sentence into two instead. Blah.
So, to work I shall go continuing to work on my fanfiction story while a dozen other ideas bounce around in my head. I forgot how plot bunnies could multiply, and I honestly have missed the feeling of having a head teaming with ideas and not enough time to write them all down. That I think is the best part of fanfiction, for me the ideas never stop and my mind has touched on original ideas some as well. We’ll see what more time as a fanfiction writer will accomplish for me.
Writing. It has been my passion and my joy. I have had a love of writing that just kind of goes beyond logic. I blog about writing, I read about writing I spend my spare time writing. I have been writing and telling stories practically since I can remember. My wish since I was little was to publish a book. I want to share my stories with the world – let someone get joy form the worlds that I have gotten joy from.
It was just a dream as a little girl something that I entertained while I wrote away in my notebooks creating crazy stories about a girl and her best friend and dog Sparky to spies who have lost their memories and don’t know who is friend and who is foe. Many other stories as well nothing serious just a girl allowing her imagination to run wild.
Then years passed, the dream over looked and I pursued other dreams – eventually I decided that my love of writing could be a career choice of sorts for me and I gradually started down the path toward publication. I gradually built of steam before I started racing down the path toward publication. This is my dream, this is my passion. I will take and do whatever it is that is needed to get to that goal. I was determined that I had the talent and skills. The door was wide open and I was racing toward it.
Suddenly now, I am looking at these mountains that I was not expecting. I was aware of some the the mountains others not so much and some of them may even be my own creation, such as my self confidence in my skills, it is why I have returned to fanfiction, to try and build that confidence back up. Yet as I write, I almost begin to question my dream. I’ve done a lot of hard work and I have poured my heart into my stories, and I have asked for help from others trying very hard to produce the best work that I possibly can and yet, I’m not so sure any more.
I’m not sure if publication is where I want to go any more. I don’t know if I want to keep writing as much as I do. I don’t know what I would do instead because I do like writing, I love talking shop but at the same time I question myself, I question my path. I am a writer, have been for a long time but am I fully cut out for this for the whole kit and caboodle? Which entails lots of editing and re-writes and lots of hard work more than I have already poured in as it is. I don’t know if I’m ready, I don’t even know if it’s what I still want.
This past week I have continued to play with an old fanfiction. I have simply allowed myself to get lost in the world of the story and play with words. I have written over eight thousand words (more than I have done in a long while) and none of it was agony. Sure I would still lament why X character is so hard to write. What would Y character do now? So on and so forth but I wasn’t beating myself in the head agonizing over the plot and voice too much. It was bliss, writing is fun again.
In rolling along with this play time I’m discovering and learning a few things about myself as a writer and what I have been lacking in a lot of my writing. One of the first things I noticed is that as I write the characters who have known each other for years, I’m not just writing thing to happen in the moment I’m writing things considering their past. I would type something about character A not sleeping well and I would pause and ask is this something that happened in the past? Would this be odd and unexplained to character B or would they know this of A? Their past while unwritten is just as important and their present (what I’m currently writing) and their future (which is yet to be written). For a number of characters in my current novels while I think they are a well rounded character I know very little of their past it is very vague to me and I realized that these are things that might be important – they can fill in gaps help flesh things out with the characters. A mental note I have kept stamped in my mind: “Flesh out character pasts”.
In conjunction with knowing the character’s past and having that fleshed out I’ve realized that I don’t know my current characters as well as I know my fanfiction characters. And before anyone jumps to the idea that is because of the source material I argue that it is not. In fanfiction I tend work with supporting characters. Characters that you only see glimpses of because their story is not as well know and there is a whole lot more room to play. The reason I know the character so well is because I have spend a lot of time working with and developing the character. I’ve done fanfiction since with this character since 2004 and done role play with the character since 2005. I’ve taken breaks here and there but my mind still chews on thoughts and ideas so you can do the math. My version of the character is like a best friend to me and I know their ins and outs. I’m not saying I need to spend that many years with each character, but I haven’t even spend a fraction of the amount of time with and on some of my character as I have some of my fanfiction characters. In a lot of ways it all boils down to “Deeper character development”. I need to make my characters more real and less shallow.
While character development is a big walk away for me, I think the other thing I have noticed is my writing style. My words and sentence structure are stronger. I am naturally pausing and going “have I said that word too many times?” I’m also stopping to think about my punctuation more often. While I may loath editing I have learned things from it, I think about commas more and I consider dashes and semicolons more. I’ve used them but not heavily and I pause and think about that in the natural flow of writing. So over all with the fanfiction adventure I am learning and seeing growth and I think I’m going to continue down the path for a while longer. I mean, I have yet to have a chapter published and see what I can learn from outside sources. I’m excited and I cannot wait!
One of the most vile things in existence to me I think is the red pen. I know I’ve bemoaned the pain of editing and that fact hasn’t changed, and I know I’m not alone in facing the evils or editing. Though there is more to the pain of it beyond just having to look at the nitty-gritty details. It is the fact of being told you are wrong. Growing up I remember loathing papers that came back with any red marks on it, lest it was a big fat A with a 100 following it. It loathed the marks, learned from them but I loathed them it pointed out flaws and problems.
Now of course there are not grades, my novel won’t ever get a percentage point and letter grade, nor do I expect it to have bright read slash marks though it. Instead I get evil little red bubbles, and there are times that I hate them with every fiber of my being. Now I will say my editor is awesome and some times those bubbles contain happy things complimenting sentence structure or even indicating bemusement. Or simple things like “add comma here.” Simple easy stuff, I don’t mind adding a comma where needed even if it gets tedious. Where the comments get me is when a scene needs to be re-worked or a whole scene that I didn’t want to write needs to be written or I have to go through the whole novel adding in a particular element.
These comments have killed me. In conjunction with these comments I’ve been struggling with working on a second story and my confidence has been going down the tubes. I’ve been hating my work and my writing. I have fully questioned my skills and talents and asked the dreaded questions of “What makes you think you can write?” and “What right to you have to be writing?” Extreme thoughts, I know but that is where my head has gone.
Confidence shattered, I didn’t know where to go and what to do. In some ways I wanted to keep writing, to keep creating but to face the stories and ideas that were mocking me in my face was too much. I even got to the point of Googling “How to increase writing confidence”. Google, while something like my best friend as I use it for almost everything was not very helpful. There were maybe 2 blogs available. It was classic things, things that I got and already did like “Practice Writing”. I’ve got that down I write, a lot, but that doesn’t mean I believe in what I’m writing or that any of it is good. So that was out, but one idea did hit me.
When I first read that idea for building writing confidence I mentally scoffed. That is what I’m struggling with getting something to be publish worthy. It was the last point on they blog I read and I was ready to scream. Then my brain went back to my root back to one of my early starts in writing. Fan fiction. I used to write and publish fan fiction. Publishing isn’t fully out of my reach. I can still post fan fiction if I so wish. Maybe finish one of my many unfinished project from back in the day. So I pulled up the old fanfiction account and looked at what I had written. In an instant, I was struck by how different my writing is not than it was before. I have gotten better! That is a confidence boost to say the least!
So while I wait for the final dreaded chapters to come back from my editor and stew over my loathed, yet loved ideas for my next novel I started to play with an old fan fiction. I rewrote the first chapter, putting forth what I feel is a stronger voice and incorporating elements that I didn’t think about in the past that logically would happen. After the exercise with that first chapter of fan fiction I am starting to feel pretty good. I haven’t published what I have re-written but I already feel better. I figure it doesn’t hurt to go back to my roots and simply practice the art of writing, relax things and make the writing process play instead of work again. I figure eventually the bug for something else will bite me and I’ll go running down the rabbit path of a new store or finally have the stomach to re-write and re-work something I’ve already written that is original.
Okay so I didn’t post last week, and for that I’m sorry. I had the worst cold ever and barely had the energy to simply sit and watch movies. I’m still dealing with the last dregs of the horrific experience, even a week later but I can function now and that is the point. After a second week away from writing and having no energy to focus I found myself a bit lost with my writing.
While I did two weeks ago say that a break was good and it is good, there is an opposite effect to writing, and this is too long of a break puts you out of practice and pulls you too far away from the work. Now my overly long break wasn’t fully by choice as things do happen in life, but one can’t give up, and one has to get back to work. That is what I did this week.
As I faced this week I decided I need to start focusing on what I’m going to write next as I wait for chapters to come back from my editor for my other novel. Still, I was stuck, the ideas are there but they have not been flowing well. I know the idea is pretty decent but the words won’t flow.
I talked to a friend about it and she suggested a change of perspective. Maybe I’m writing from the wrong side of the story, or in the wrong person. Thinking about it, I think she is right. I was telling the story in 3rd person from the perspective of one character when I should be telling it from the perspective of the other character in first person.
The moment I started looking at the story from a different angle things started to click. I feel that the story can be told either way but it flows better for me one way than the other, so we’ll see what happens. Sometimes when stuck on an idea it might be a good idea and time to look at things from a different angel. It is all a matter of perspective and it is a thought and idea I hope I don’t easily forget in the future as I continue to venture forth in my writings.
Thank you dear friend for always being willing to talk shop and ideas with me. Thank you for giving me the thought and lesson of looking at things in a new perspective. May it be a lesson we can all learn from.