Creative Advice, NaNoWriMo, Personal

It’s Okay

This time last week, I was on top of my game. I had words running off my fingers like honey from a comb. I was making magic, awesome and fierce and unstoppable. I was a musician working on my self-titled album, music flowing through me. I was a wizard over a cauldron of promising toil and trouble.

And then Tuesday happened. The storm.

And then Wednesday happened. The aftermath.

And it hurt. I want to say that I kept moving. That even though someone increased the gravity inside the chambers of my heart, I said, “Nope. Still going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

But I didn’t.

I got depressed, and basically from Thursday through Sunday I didn’t really write anything. I felt like garbage. I was tense and anxious and no matter how much I wanted to will things into existence, everything just shorted out. And I was so mad at myself because I wanted to continue. I wanted to say that I was bigger than everything that was happening. But I wasn’t.

Now, as I’m finally getting back to a state of normalcy, I want to tell you that it’s okay.

It’s okay to lose your way. It’s okay to get angry and upset. It’s okay to rage quit now and then. It’s normal. Don’t beat yourself up over it. No sane self-help book has been written that says, “Self-flagellation is a sure-fire way to get yourself in the state of mind you want to be in!!” It’s okay to step away from your work and have a good cry.

Know that you won’t feel this way forever. It will pass. Even if it’s something indicative of a larger problem that you’re dealing with and even if it’s something that isn’t just going to go away (it rarely is)…your heart is surprisingly buoyant. You won’t always be at the bottom of the ocean. Eventually, you’re going to float back up to the top.

It’s okay. Get back to work when you’re ready.

And you will be ready again. I promise.

NaNoWriMo, Uncategorized

The Lady or the Tiger, or Two Ladies? Or Two Tigers?

Admittedly, that title got away from me.

I am currently debating whether or not I will be participating in NaNoWriMo in 2016. At this point, I have less than a week to decide. I have an idea for a story, some brief character concepts, a general sense of what I would write…

…Here comes the but(t)…

_)_)

Wait, that doesn’t look right. Anyway. I haven’t finished editing my book from last year. There. I tried to poorly diffuse my shame with a butt and it still didn’t work. And it kills me, guys, because editing is a slog. It’s boring. I hate editing.

I do not know what to do.

I brought this up to a fellow NaNo participant, and I asked, “Do you think I should do it and then have two unfinished manuscripts?”

Without even pausing, she said, “Two. Absolutely.”

I want to agree, but at the same time, I’ve tried to move away from unfinished projects. I always end up with accumulating a stack of ‘to do’s instead of feeling accomplished. And, sure, in many cases I come back and finish, but it doesn’t feel quite as gratifying as having something done and then getting to share it openly.

Now, with that in mind, however, most of the things I do finish are short pieces: short stories, flash fiction, poetry, fanfiction, that sort of thing.

So I pose this to you, dear reader: which is better? One finished manuscript or two unfinished manuscripts?

Now excuse me. I’m going to go wallow in artistic angst (which mostly consists of watching youtube videos).

Creative Advice, NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Tips

Editing a Monster: Index Card Therapy

I’ve mentioned before that I’m still editing my monster of a novel I did during last year’s NaNoWriMo. And y’all? I do not like editing. I am not good at it. Ask me to write something – anything – any length – and I’ll do it. Ask me to take that mountain and whittle it down into a terrarium, and I lose my damn mind.

As I consider this crazy, meandering thing, I’ve found that I have a lot of characters. So I’m trying a technique that uses a tool I’ve read about many writers employing when they are working on books: index cards.

Here is the process I’m using. For now. Until I get tired of it. But you might find it helpful!

  1. Take an index card. Write the name of your character on the blank side, including possibly a picture if you have one or a brief physical description.
  2. On the back, it’s bullet list time. Write down what part you want that character to play — are they the hero? The villain? Someone’s foil?
  3. Next, write down what they want, ultimately. Their best case scenario. Where they seek to find themselves.
  4. Write down a few of their favorite things and who they are most linked to in the story.
  5. Write down what you like about the character. Maybe it’s their dialogue. Maybe it’s just the fact that they seem like someone you would want to be friends with (or, on the other hand, someone you’d like to be running from).

Now, take the cards and lay them out on a table or flat surface. How does your cast look? Did you struggle to find things to write about them? Are there characters you could put together into one MEGA AWESOME CHARACTER FUSION? If your book was a movie, would you want to see it?

Over the next few weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo, I’d like to talk more about my editing process. If there are any aspects to this you would especially be interested in hearing about, leave me a comment here or head over to my Facebook page! Or Twitter! Or homing dolphin!

NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing Tips

It Has Begun…

So this week I started editing my NaNoWriMo novel.

Y’all. It is a struggle. Ask me to write a billion words and, sure, it’ll take me a while, but I can do it. Like a champ, in fact. Ask me to then edit those billion words, and you will see a girl cry her damn eyes out.

Because it’s not at that point yet where I could conceivably hand it over to someone to work on for me. There are probably a solid 2-3 beginnings. Some people have read segments of it, sure, but if I tried to toss it into someone’s lap, they’d probably get about 10 pages in and go, “Wtf is this?” Thus, I am here alone, wading through my own blah blah blah, trying to figure out what’s there, how it got there and what is staying and what is going.

Also, with what I wrote in November and the prior draft, it’s over 90K words.

Holy guacamole, y’all.

So here are a few things that are working so far, and how I am doing it. I am praying that my suffering will at least do some good for the world if I talk about it. Because I HATE IT.

*ahem*

  • Taking notes: right now, I’m just reading. Not editing, not proofing. Just reading. I’m keeping a notebook and pen and taking notes of names, things that are happening, names of places and major plot points.
  • Highlight: I can tell there are some things that are not staying or working at all, or that changed drastically in the NaNo draft. They are getting highlighted. Again, I am not deleting anything. I’m just making sure I can see them when I return to this wall of text.
  • No judging: this is a hard one. I am trying very, very hard not to judge myself as I work through this. I’m trying to look at this book the way I might a friend’s piece of writing or even a complete stranger’s. It’s helping me be objective, even if it is a huge hurdle.

Do you use any tactics when editing a big piece of fiction? How do you even start? I am very curious, because I keep looking up like, “Am I doing this right?!”

5 Things, NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing challenge, Writing Tips

Looking Over My Shoulder

It’s been three days since NaNoWriMo ended, and it all feels very weird. There’s this huge gap in my day-to-day schedule, like going from taking classes to summer vacation. When I’m not at my day job, I feel aimless. I’ve started keeping lists just so I don’t feel like I’m not doing anything at all.

NaNoWriMo was really, really hard. I did the bare minimum, writing almost every day with the exception of a day or two in the first week as well as Thanksgiving. I was never scrambling to catch up on more than a few thousand words, which I am obscenely grateful for. High five, November Katie.

Here are 5 lessons I learned from NaNo 2015:

  1. Never be afraid to go in without a plan. A general idea is great, sure, but the real magic truly does come when you pick up from where you left off and springboard into a random event. How your characters react may end up being super natural because even you didn’t know it was coming!
  2. Decide what you know you can do each day and make that your goal. I know now that I can comfortably write about 1,000 words in roughly an hour. Sometimes I get a momentum and head forward, others I get really ‘meh.’ But now I know I can do that, and I’m going to use that as my baseline.
  3. You have time. Now, I know I’m saying that from a place of not having kids, but I think in general that people have more time than they realize. When you are trying to fit in a specific amount of work each day, you’ll be surprised where you can carve out the opportunity. It’s just easier to say “I don’t have time.”
  4. You can do it. Just don’t get caught in analysis paralysis. It’s easy to go, “Oh god, I don’t know where this scene is going to go. I don’t even know if this book is good. Should I start over? Maybe I should go to veterinary school instead.” Just open the document and start writing. Pick up where you left off and go, even if it’s just to a scene where one of the characters goes to the bathroom. It’s something, and something will happen after they go to the bathroom.
  5. Take every ounce of writing advice with a grain of salt. Not even that. Half a grain of salt. A thought of salt. There is so much “guidance” out there telling you what is the “right” way to put a book together and how “wrong” it is to do something and how a certain method is the way “all writers do it.” By all means, listen, but try different things. Break rules. Say, “Thanks, dude, but I’m going to do this instead.” Nobody is 100% right. Because otherwise every book – every style, every voice, every story – would sound exactly the same.

Phew. Now what, world?

NaNoWriMo, Writing, Writing challenge

NaNo: Captain’s Log, Week 3

Okay, so…I can’t even believe I’m heading into the last week of this crazy journey. I have less than 15K words left, you all. 15K. And I’m all, “Oh god, am I actually going to get to the end of this?! Or am I going to have to go all Imperial Affliction and end this in the middle of a sentence BUT IF SO I HAVE TO GIVE SOMEONE CANCER.”

If you understand all that, you are my kind of people.

So let’s see…pointers from this week:

  • I made pouch shrimp one day, and it was essentially green onion, shrimp, ramen and broth with mushrooms. It was delicious and really easy to make. Meals like that have made this month possible.
  • I didn’t realize this but I felt more like I was really switching from a feminine to a masculine point of view by changing my music stations (feminine was Amanda Palmer station, masculine was Nirvana/Radiohead station). I was very surprised there, but it’s a nifty trick.
  • This is a bit more of a life lesson, but when you’re undertaking projects like this, it is easy to lose sight of the people around you also undertaking projects. Even if you run out of time to give them feedback immediately, let them know that you believe in them and that you are rooting for them.
  • The holidays are coming up. I challenge you to balance these two aspects of your life: creativity and togetherness. Is your book important? Absolutely. Is it important that you take some time away so you can appreciate the people around you? Also absolutely. Budget your time. Now. Before Thanksgiving.

I am grateful for every one of you. Have a great week, and I’ll see you when all the crying is done.

NaNoWriMo, Uncategorized

NaNo: Captain’s Log, Week 2

Phew.

I wish I could say this past week was better than the first, but it really wasn’t. It was just as hard if not harder. I had come out of the box sprinting and started struggling to just maintain a jog.

Even writing this, I feel so damn tired. So let’s head into the bullet points of lessons learned:

  • Write every day. It’s been debated back and forth by writers throughout the years, but if there is one thing this month has taught me is that there is validity to it. It doesn’t have to be with the goal of hitting 50K words in a month, but you should at least open that document, add a sentence, look at it and acknowledge it every day.
  • Change up your environment. Write at the library. Write at coffee shops. Write at book stores. Write in your car. But don’t make it somewhere too interesting, or else you’ll do whatever it is one does at that location without actually writing.
  • Pace yourself. I like the pomodoro method, which is 20 minute spurts of work followed by a five minute break. Obviously sometimes you’ll hit a streak and lose track of this, but try to at least monitor when you last got up to stretch your legs.
  • Feeling guilty is pointless, meaningless garbage. There is a lot of bad shit in the world, and you may find some conscience critter showing up on your shoulder like, “What are you doing to make things better, you punk? Writing? Yeah, that’s won wars.” Art heals. Understand that you are working towards something that can heal people in the middle of this bad shit. Be comforted, and punch that critter in the face.