And on the seventh day, there was sprinting…

Today marks the end of the first week of Nanowrimo, and oh, what a clusterfuck it has been.

I didn’t get anything accomplished for the first few days. Nothing substantial, anyway. I had no inspiration and no motivation and a bundle of white noise in my brain where my thoughts and ideas usually reside. I was tempted to curl up in my den of self-pity and give up on the whole damn thing (admittedly, I’ve spent so much time in my den that it is well-furnished and cozy, and an excellent place to hide and lick my ego’s superficial wounds).  I have 2400 words that I’ve counted toward my total so far, and the bulk of those are notes and/or ideas for other projects. In short, my first week of NaNo was a total bust.


Yesterday, I had to go to work for an early store meeting. After the meeting, I spoke to my manager about scheduling issues and a few other things I was unhappy with, and I felt surprisingly light as I left the store. I’d agreed to cover a closing shift that evening (that’s a whole other issue), and rather than going home to do nothing between the meeting and my shift, I went to Panera with a notebook and my laptop and no real plan beyond “write something.” I guess that simple conversation helped to alleviate some of my stress, because everything I was struggling with, story-wise, sorted itself out in the matter of two hours of brainstorming.

POV? Picked! I was trying to avoid writing in first-person because…I don’t know, actually. I think because a lot of people claim it’s “lazy” or less literary. But fuck “literary.” I just want to tell a good story, and to do that I’m going to work with two main characters telling their story in alternating POVs.

Timeline? Sorted…mostly. So, to give you the barest of bare description of The Robinsons: this is a story about ghosts, told from the perspective of one of the ghosts and the living girl who’s trying to help this dead family find some small measure of peace. One of the things I wanted to do was add flashbacks to the Robinsons in life, to contrast with their existence in the afterlife, but I couldn’t figure out a way to move from past to “present” to actual present day in a way that didn’t seem cheesy or stilted. I think I have that sorted now, at least enough that I can try some things out on the page. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just go back to the drawing board.

Motivation? Eh, I have more than I did but less than I need. I’m prone to walking the path of least resistance whenever possible, and right now that path is lined with candy and cartoons and laziness, and absolutely no mental/creative challenges whatsoever. It’s going to take all my strength not to go that route, ’cause I know damn well that it doesn’t lead to half the satisfaction that a finished first draft will give me in the end.

Today’s my day off, and I’m going to try to make the most of it. I’m giving myself an hour to work on a very (very!) loose outline, based on my new ideas. I have some stuff to take care of at home, and I should probably eat lunch instead of starving myself like an idiot, but ideally I’d like to start writing at 2pm and work steadily from then until my hands give out.

All this is to say…sprints. So many word sprints. I’m nearly 10,000 words behind where I should be at this point in the month, and it’s word sprints that will save my ass in the end. Wish me luck, folks. It’s going to be a busy day.

How’s your word count looking, fellow wrimos? Have you hit a slump, or are you working at a steady pace?


A (Literal) Eleventh-Hour Change of Plans

It is currently 11:30 on October 31st here in New York. I have candy, and a warm drink. I’m posting on the regional Nanowrimo forums and I’m parked in the chat I made for the region (we’re without MLs this year, so it’s sort of a free-for-all). I have a blank Word document open and soft music playing.

I am thinking, for the fifth time, of changing my project for the month.

I’d pretty much given up on writing The Robinsons this month, for the same reasons I’d abandoned the story previously–it’s too complicated, I haven’t worked out some of the major problems with the plot, I’m not sure what POV to write in, etc. And on the surface, those seem like reasonable reasons to delay starting a draft, but it occurs to me that…they’re excuses. Not reasons, just shitty excuses to put off something I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’m giving myself an out to fall back into old habits and safe stories, and that’s exactly what Nanowrimo isn’t about. There’s no point in participating in an event that encourages spontaneity when you’re actively trying to avoid being spontaneous/experimental/flexible.

I’ve already established time and time again that I’m a plotter, but I can’t stress enough that I’m a plotter to an unhealthy extreme. Some people adhere to the adage of “measure twice, cut once,” when it comes to their projects, and with good reason–with enough prep, it’s easy to forge ahead when you’re writing. For me it’s more like “measure twice. Measure again, just to be certain. Double-check your initial measurements. Wonder if you’re doing this whole ‘measuring’ thing right. Decide that none of the measurements are right. Start from scratch. Measure again. Ask yourself why the hell you were even measuring things in the first place. Decide this is all stupid. Measure once more just to prove it to yourself. Then measure again…and again…and again…until you’ve forgotten what the hell you’re doing and you give it all up because it’s muddled and irritating.”

Simply put, I outline until my outlines have outlines, because I like the idea of writing with a safety net. No net…no story. I put it off, push it aside because it doesn’t seem safe, or easy. And that’s what I’m in the process of doing right now, with The Robinsons. I’m at risk of shelving it again because my net’s not ready.

I don’t think I want to do that to myself, this time.

So, rather than working on my short story collection (which is still going to happen, just not now), I’m going to throw myself into what may possibly be the roughest rough draft I’ve written in years. I’m not prepared. I’m not going to prepare before getting started. I’m going to write without my safety net in place and see what happens. If I’ve written something by the end of the month–no matter how ugly or incoherent or awkward it may be–I’m going to consider this a success.

I have to keep reminding myself that perfect is the enemy of good. And there’s a lot of “good” that can be found within a rough draft, if you’re not trying so damn hard to be perfect.

November’s motto: Fuck perfect. Keep writing.

Screaming (Internally/Externally/Eternally)

Novel prep is hard, y’all. Really, really hard.

I…I scrapped what I was working on, completely. I tried to get past the conceptualizing phase, but I came to the conclusion that what I have is more of a premise than an actual plot, and I don’t exactly have a lot of time to figure out exactly what the story should be. Instead, I’m going with Plan B–I’m going to work on The Robinsons, my 2014 Nano-novel that never quite was. This should be interesting, to say the least.

The good thing about revisiting this old project is that a small portion of the prep work is already completed; I have to take a little time to familiarize myself with the characters/world again, but they’re already fleshed out a bit. I know where I want the story to go (more or less…give or take half the damn middle), and I have some ideas about how to get there.

The bad thing about revisiting this old project is that I still haven’t found a solution to my major problem with this plot–I want to write about the Robinsons’ lives in the days immediately prior to their deaths, their “lives” in the afterlife, and their interactions with the people  living in their house in the present. So it’s technically three timelines in one book, and I can’t figure out how to transition from one time period to another without some awkward/cheesy gimmick. There’s also a giant plot hole that I reeeeally need to fill, and I’m rethinking a large portion of the story’s climax and conclusion.

I have work to do. Lots of work to do. And because I’m lazy and easily distracted, I haven’t done any of it. Ugh.

Hopefully, I’ll be ready to write in a few days! I’m working my way through a stack of writing reference books, in hopes that it’ll give me some sort of motivation or inspiration. At the very least, it’s helping me return to the writing mindset, so that’s…progress? Sure. Progress.

writing reference
Help me, stack of books. You’re my only hope.

I’m working on setting up some sort of support system, in addition to my half-assed novel prep. I definitely can’t do this alone; I’d give up on the first day, if left to my own devices. My region is without an ML this year, so there’s no official Nanowrimo activities (write-ins, etc) for us this year, and to be honestly I probably wouldn’t go, anyway–I’m over the whole write-in thing. I may have to beg coworkers/friends/family/random strangers to yell at me about my word count throughout the month of November. I just need a push in the right direction. And a harder push, when the shiny objects and flash games distract me from the task at hand. And candy to bribe me into Doing The Thing, because I’m apparently an oversized toddler.

Aaaanyway, that’s my update. I hope everyone’s having better luck prepping than me, ’cause we’re a mere six days away from Nanowrimo!

Nano Prep: A Novel Concept

So. Seems I’d forgotten how hard it is to start plotting a novel, when you haven’t done it in ages and you’ve gotten complacent (read: lazy) when it comes to writing anything at all. My process has been a complete mess so far, but I’m going to document it for posterity, if only because it’s sooo bad.

Here we go!

It seems sort of obvious, but I’ll state it anyway—I start all my novel planning with a concept. It’s hard to plot a novel if you don’t have an idea to riff on. It can be as simple as “magic” and as complex as “a group of students run away from a boarding school for magical girls and try to make it on their own as heroes, despite their obvious lack of training and experience.” I talked a bit about where the inspiration for this year’s story came from, back when it was still a potential Camp Nano project, but at its core the concept is “a story about both literal and metaphorical ghosts, the devil, and the deep south.”

I’ve dropped about 90% of the plot I’d initially concocted, and at least one of the character names, because the only thing harder than writing itself is picking a good name for each character (and parental-folks, I don’t know how you name living beings without curling up in a ball of self-doubt and frustration, because naming my fictional people is stressful enough to make me scream). I’m practically starting from scratch, which has its pros and cons: on the one hand, I have to start over, which sucks. On the other, starting fresh means that I’m not struggling to make an old story feel fresh, and I can reinterpret the concept however I see fit. My brainstorming feels less constrained, which leaves more room for experimentation.

Okay…so I have a concept. Next, I go really old-school and jot down the following on a piece on my whiteboard:

  • What?
    • How?
    • When?
    • Why?
  • Who?
  • Where?

Aaaand then I answer the questions. Easy, right? I mean…it should be easy. I make things far more difficult than it probably should be, because I like to answer these questions in depth, with multiple answers, using charts and character sheets (and maps, and outlines, and on, and on…), but I’m convinced that you can at least start a story and maintain your progress fairly well if you have even a simple answer to those basic questions. I also use each category as a guideline to creating a preparation To Do list; “who?” leads to things like “list characters and fill out character profile sheets,” “where?” leads to “make a basic map of the town and list major locations,” etc.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk a bit more about my approach to answering “What?” Until then, I’ll be frantically jotting down notes and screaming into the void, because NOVEMBER IS UPON US.

Hope everyone’s prep is going well so far!

NaNoWriMo 2016: The Noveling Returns

Okay, I admit it–I’m a chronic procrastinator.

(“No shit, Sherlock,” you may be muttering, if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time. And if that’s what you’re saying…shut up. This confession is important.)

I’m one of those people who puts off today what can be done tomorrow (or a week from now…or never), and when I run out of procrastination time, I procrastinate a little more. It’s taken me an hour to write the first two sentences—in that short stretch of time I distracted myself with cleaning, finally putting away the laundry I folded this morning, making tea, finding a snack, getting on Tumblr, scolding myself for getting on Tumblr, getting back on Tumblr, forgetting what I was doing, and finally (finally!) accidentally re-opening my Word file to type this all out.

I am a living master class in self-distraction. Do not attempt to challenge me. You cannot win. Mostly because I’m bound to forget that we were competing, or I’ll get bored and wander off to watch Steven Universe or bake cookies or read comics. I am an unstoppable force of utter uselessness. It’s like the world’s worst super power.

Anyway, the point is this: when I procrastinate, I go all out. And if I’m being entirely truthful, my only excuse for not writing more during the course of this year is that my inner lazy jerk has been screaming “PROCRASTINATION FOREVER” at the top of her lungs, and she’s pretty damn hard to ignore. To get myself back on track, I’ve decided to try Nanowrimo again this year. No procrastination, and no excuses. Just speed writing my way to a terrible-but-complete first draft.

Yep. It’s happening. 50,000 words in 30 days. And a whopping twelve days to prep because…yeah. Procrastination.

In order to hold myself publicly accountable (and get myself back into the habit of daily writing), I’m going to blog my whole prep process. This’ll give me nearly two solid weeks of getting the laziness out of my system. And really, the one good thing that comes of chronic procrastination is that I’ve developed an amazing ability to do a hell of a lot of work in a short amount of time, while keeping it all surprisingly organized. When it comes to rapid-fire novel writing prep, I’m an expert! Seriously. I do this all the time.

So for all the ex-pantsers, first-timers, last-minute deciders, and Wrimos who are just looking for a suggested starting point…prep with me? Let’s get through this process together. I’m looking forward to November, and I hope you all are, too.

First post goes up in the morning. Brainstorming starts tonight. Let’s goooooo!