Category Archives: Creativity

Back in the Saddle

I had a half-finished draft of a post listing resolutions for the new year, but it seems a bit late to put it up now, so instead I’ll just catch you up with things. (Happy New Year!) I got an iPad and wireless keyboard for my birthday, and it is an excellent on-the-go writing studio. This afternoon, in fact, I biked to town and sat in the coffeeshop, sipping a latte and writing a short story. It felt good to write some fiction again, especially something short and bite-sized. I’ve been trying to get back into the writing groove so I can get motivated to edit one of the two novels I wrote by the end of March. Seeing as how that’s coming up a lot sooner than I had hoped, I really need to just go ahead and start editing.

I’ve been pretty excellent in other ways. One of the apps on my iPad is iTunes U, a cool site that offers free courses from various universities. I took an excellent course on moons, and am currently working my way through a Harvard course on the ethics of justice, a writing workshop, and a rather hard-to-follow introductory medical school course on the pulmonary system. It’s all been pretty fascinating so far. Another app that I’ve enjoyed is Duolingo, a language-learning app. It’s not great for actually learning a language, as it doesn’t really do any explanation, but it is excellent for giving you exercises to build up your vocabulary and practice the correct genders and such. I’m using it to learn French and review German. Finally, I am learning poetry. I found an app where you progressively memorize poems, leading up to a recorded recitation of them from memory. I’m really enjoying it! I used to enjoy memorizing poems as a child (I knew large chunks of Where the Sidewalk Ends and all of And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street), and they say that as an adult you will probably still enjoy the things you enjoyed as a child. I’ve already learned Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day, The Jabberwocky, El Dorado, Death Be Not Proud, and just a tiny smidge of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

I may not be doing great on any of the other focus areas for excellence, but it’s not as bad as it could be. So far, this has been an excellent year, and I’m just really excited to get back into writing again! I may try to get into the editing mood by editing the short story I wrote this morning, and we’ll see how that pans out. Not having done much editing before, it’s hard to know what to expect or how to plan for it. I’ll keep you updated.

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Finishing My 2013 NaNovel

I might have written my full 50,000 words last month for NaNoWriMo to earn victory, but you might recall that I was not at the end of the plot yet, and I wasn’t even certain what was going to happen in the book. Well, I entered a pact with another author to finish the actual draft by Friday the 20th of December. He got his finished by the 17th, but I managed to just skid my way to a stopping point tonight with a couple of hours to spare! Whew!

I don’t particularly like these last 10,000 words I wrote just to get to an ending. I do, however, like my final sentence. I listed my NaNoWriMo genre as “Pre-apocalyptic Philosophy”, and my final sentence is suitably so:

And they all lived happily ever after, for at least one day more.

My next goal: Read the entire draft of my Camp NaNo novel from this past summer by the end of next week. Hopefully it will not be as rough as I remember…

Reflections on Camp NaNoWriMo

Now that the crazy month of writing is over, I just thought I would take a moment to reflect on my Camp NaNoWriMo victory, and discuss what worked and what I will do differently next time.

One important thing that worked was that I sat down and wrote every single day. I plan to do that again. I learned, however, that Fridays were really difficult for me to write. When I get to the end of the work week, I am kind of drained and I just do not have as much concentration to put into writing. So I think that I will plan to have Fridays be light days next time. I will also require a little more writing during the week and a little less on weekends. I’ve already charted out that 1500 words on weekdays and 2500 words on weekends and holidays and 500 words on Fridays in November would put me at 52000 words, giving me a little leeway when I have “one of those days”.

I am not sure if I will plan more or just write by the seat of my pants again. It seemed to work well for me to have a rough outline, a clear direction for the ending, and to just sit down and start writing from beginning to end. But with more planning, I could skip around and only write interesting scenes on those days when I’m having a hard time. Without a clear ending in mind, though, I think it would be extremely easy to get “stuck” mid-way and give up.

I do not feel that my lack of research was too bad. I still have some research to do (I kept notes on questions that arose when I was writing), but most of the things are specifics about the time period and what makes sense within the world. Nothing is too terribly critical to the plot. The few things that were critical, I did research for during July as I needed to know.

My Dear Husband was really helpful this month. Without his support, I would have given up that first day, and every day thereafter! He made it possible for me to spend hours in front of this darn laptop, which is ultimately what it took to get out all those words.

When I started out, I thought I would need a hefty rewards system. I bought the patches from the Camp NaNoWriMo website and worked on earning them (all but three earned this time). I also rewarded myself with a S’more every 2,000 words. By the end, though, I did not keep track of patches or S’mores. I was writing because I wanted to write and the story needed to be told. Anyway, here is a picture of my bag with the patches sewn on:

 

bag_with_patches

I’m not sure whether socializing with others during “write-ins” would be a good thing or not for me. I get easily distracted, but on the other hand, sitting in this same room in front of this darn laptop was starting to get to me. So maybe I will try a social event or two in November, and if it doesn’t work for me, then I won’t go to any more. I do miss all the getting out and about that I was doing before this month started, and I look forward to getting back to it now that it is over.

I do think that unplugging my internet at the beginning of each writing session would be extremely prudent. I wish I had the willpower to do that each time. But if I did, I could not update my word count on the website. That was very motivational, to see the stats change and the remaining word count inch down.

Most importantly, I learned that writing is something I really enjoy. I have stories inside me that I did not even realize were waiting to come out. This is something I need to do more, and I will do NaNoWriMo this November!

 

Total Victory!

I have achieved Camp NaNoWriMo victory! I have written a 50,000 word novel from scratch in 28 days! I don’t quite know what to do now. On the one hand, I have told the story that needs telling. But I also feel like I should keep writing; I don’t quite know how to stop. I thought at this point I would be completely sick of writing and never want to do it again. But the opposite seems to have happened; I found I love it and want to do more. But I will admit to being completely sick of my laptop and I do not mind taking a vacation from that for a while. So if you do not see me emailing or updating blogs… just read the stuff I wrote when I was procrastinating. 😉

I found that I usually could not keep concentrating on the writing to the exclusion of the awesome graph with my word count. Near the end especially, I was updating my word count every minute or so. It was really exciting to see the “words remaining” number diminishing so rapidly. And the arrow just is pointing right at the bull’s-eye now! I’ve posted a screen shot below, for those of you who are not members of Camp NaNoWriMo. My stats and graph are on the left, and those for my entire cabin are on the right. A few people in my cabin are a bit behind in their progress towards their goals. I’m sure with (quite a lot of) hard work, they can still get there!

Nanowrimo_victory

Victory is mine! And it tastes so sweet!!!

Look Where You Want To Go

When I was learning to ride a bike a year ago, I read some advice that turns out to be surprisingly true. If you are looking at a hole, or post, or other obstacle that you want to avoid, then you will invariably run into it. You should remain aware of dangers, of course, but your eyes should go to the safe pavement where you actually want your bike to travel. Whenever I find myself riding right towards that pole I was looking at and trying to avoid, I remember this advice. It surprised me just how true it is when riding a bike.

It also is good advice for other areas of life, too. Starting to write a novel was a very scary undertaking. I was convinced for several weeks that I would not be able to do it. Now that I’m within 5,000 words of my goal (and also close to the end of my story, which works out nicely), I finally know that I will finish this novel. Along the way, it has helped to look where I wanted to go instead of staring intently at all the ways I could fail to do it. I was aware of the possibility of failure the whole time, of course, and tried to avoid the pitfalls that I knew would lead me there. But I tried not to obsess over those things and instead, to try to simply sit and write every single day. (I did succeed at that! Huzzah!)

Now writing has become a very familiar part of my everyday life. I think I will feel quite sad when this month is over and I do not have the urgent need to write every day. (I suspect my journal will enjoy seeing some action after months of neglect.) I’ll be leaving my novel alone for several weeks before I pick it up again for editing. Although I do not relish the thought of all that work (and I know that it will be quite a lot of work), the thing that will spur me on is the thought of finally having a finished novel. I am going to look where I want to go.

 

The Home Stretch

They say you should never tell people you are writing a book because it takes the urgency and mystery out of it. I think they might be right; I mentioned it to some people this weekend (who had a ton of questions) and then suffered terrible writer’s block afterward. I think what I answered them is true: “I am not writing this so someone else can read it; in fact, I hope no one ever reads it. If I thought about someone reading it one day, I would not be able to write.” And of course after all the questions and interest this weekend, all I could think about was the people who might read my book one day. But I think I’m finally getting over that again.

Today was difficult. I spent almost all day sitting cooped up in front of my laptop, on the most beautiful day of the year, trying to meet my goal for the weekend: 40,000 words. I gave up at 39,003 words at one point, after sitting for hours and hours on end, and just went off and rode my bike around town a bit with my Dear Husband. That was apparently just the break I needed, because the last 1,000 words turned out to be a little less difficult to write…

Actually, all of today’s scenes have been incredibly difficult to write, but not for the usual reason (that I do not know what should happen), but rather because I do know what must happen, and it’s very emotionally charged. From reading the forums, it seems like a lot of people have their scenes appear vividly in their minds as they write. That is certainly true for me. The scenes I have written are more like memories to me than imagination. Living through a difficult scene is — well, difficult, and something one really doesn’t want to do if given a choice.

I am approaching the climax of the book; everything from here on out will be difficult to live through. Part of me dreads writing the rest, but now the story has an urgency of its own; it is demanding to be told. I can only hope to try to enjoy the process for the next 8 days.

 

I’m a Writer and a Blogger

I went back through recently and reread all of my blog posts. (Although it was done out of procrastination from writing my daily word count, it is a good thing to do periodically; you get such an interesting perspective on how you’ve grown and changed over time.) The most amusing post to me was this post about writing versus blogging. As I am well past the half-way point of Camp NaNoWriMo, over 34,000 words into my first substantial work of fiction, I have begun to call myself a writer. This post made me giggle quite a lot about that, and to think about the way we label ourselves.

I have noticed a theme with writerly-types to be very concerned with labeling things correctly. For example, in the One Hour Plot (a short, aptly-named book to help you brainstorm a plot in an hour), the author highly recommends that you start your hour when the minute hand is up-and-down, smack-dab on the 12. Likewise, if you are going to write a novel in a month, you should start on the first day of a calendar month. Psychologically, these are supposed to be more meaningful in some way. But I am at heart a mathematician. Why should one set of 60 minutes differ in any way from another set of 60 minutes, just because we label them “5:00-5:59”? Why do one set of 30 days differ from another set? They are truly isomorphic. I’m not going to wait around for 40 minutes to start plotting just because someone else can’t see that.

Another thing that the writerly-types seem to have a problem with (judging from my recent time reading writers’ forums and blogs) is the label of “writer”. So many people are afraid to claim that label, like there is more to it than simply writing. I write; therefore, I am a writer. Rereading my earlier post about the difference between blogging and writing, I think I probably even am starting to fit that definition of writing with this novel. I have done some research and planning, and though a lot of it is spur-of-the-moment ideas that I am jotting down, I do plan to go back and edit it thoroughly after this first draft to polish it and craft the words more carefully.

In my blogging life, I remain a blogger. I have zero plans to post any carefully-crafted flash fiction to this blog. I will continue to simply document my life, my adventures, and my struggle for excellence the same way I’ve always done. (This may come as a shock or disappointment to you, Dear Reader, but this blog is not written for your sake, but for mine. I think that is why I can continue to blog when so many other bloggers seem to just give up, or feel too guilty about not posting in too long.)

And now I suppose it is time to stop procrastinating this morning, time to stop blogging and time to start writing…