Monday, November 30, 2009

I did it!

Despite a major melt down, yesterday afternoon about 5pm I hit the big 50! - 50,000 words towards my novel in 29 days! Woo Hoo!!!

Heading to Missouri last Saturday I was sitting pretty at 40,000, with a personal goal of 1,000 words per day. Over the month, I've learned 1000 words takes between 1 to 2 1/2 hours of writing time, depending upon how difficult my characters decide to be. By trial and error, I've found I'm NOT a late night writer, but can write first thing in the morning, which worked extremely well while visiting family. As of yesterday morning, I had 47,028 words under my belt, leaving me with just under three thousand to meet the NaNoWriMo goal. It turned out to be one of those days where I had to fight for every single word, and I took a few major hits, but I came out the victor!


As for my novel, its no where near its completion; poor Felicity is still stuck mid-plot, struggling valiantly to extract herself from the hell I've created especially for her. My writing is mediocre, and I fear the plot is too derivative, and at this point I cringe at the thought of anybody reading it, especially family. But I keep reminding myself it's my first attempt at anything of this sort, and I've kept at it, despite fears, editorial rants, character disappearances, and simple ennui. I've stayed in the room and kept tapping at the keyboard.

NaNoWriMo has played a huge part in my personal success - Just updating my word count on my author page on their website was a fantastic incentive to get the work done. But the best was the bar graph breaking the word count into daily increments of 1667, comparing it to my personal progress. I was behind in the first week, and that graph encouraged me to catch up. In the third week, as I surged ahead in preparation for our travels, that graph goaded me into seeing just how much of a lead I could create. And when I finally hit 50,000 words, and validated my word count on their site - they gave me a Winner's page, complete with Winner Web badges - including the one above.

Now the challenge is how to continue on my own, without NaNoWriMo's assistance. This morning, Leah admitted that she also took up the NaNoWriMo challenge. She hadn't told me earlier for fear I'd be upset that she was 'copying' me. I'm ecstatic! She's finishing up her 50,000 words as we speak, but her story won't be complete either. So we're setting up write-ins (first one tomorrow at El Diablo) for us to both continue working! Yeah!

Monday, November 23, 2009

What do you do when your characters just won't behave?

I'm now 43,000 words into my first draft, and nothing is going quite as planned.

My main character just won't behave according to the script and is taking far longer than expected to get where I expected her to go. I keep having to decide whether to shepherd her back onto the main storyline, or let her wander down entirely new trails along the way. Meanwhile, my other character has yet to make more than a cameo appearance, seemingly content to bide his time on the sidelines. They may yet meet again before I hit 50,000 words, but I'm starting to wonder. Boy is this going to take a lot of editing to make it something worth reading!

My only consolation is my writing buddy from last week's write-in is having similar difficulties. Her story was supposed to revolve around 4 main characters, but as of 40,000 words, two had pulled a no-show. Apparently, she's now working on Book Two to get them to show up, and is hoping the four will actually meet in the next 5k or so.

Considering these are all our own creations, you'd think it would be easier to get the characters to do what you want, but they all insist on having minds of their own. I find it's rather like herding cats.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What if it Sucks?

Yesterday I attended my first ever "write-in" celebrating the half way point, along with a huge segment of the Seattle NaNoWriMo community at the Hugo House. When I arrived just after its 10:00am start time, the work party was already in full swing, with perhaps two dozen writers sharing a dozen small, square tables. By noon, our numbers had more than doubled. Large folding tables appeared as if by magic, power strips and cables proliferated and walking became both difficult and treacherous. It was a good thing the fire inspector didn't choose yesterday to drop in. At final count, about 75 of us had shown up to work on our word counts in convivial company.

So how, you might ask, do 75 people all tapping away at their keyboards or scribbling furiously with pen and paper a party make? I wondered that too. Especially since I was also hoping to beat my highest previous daily word total by 1000 words! Balance, it turns out. Renda, one of our two Municipal Liasons, made a game of it - challenging us all to 10 minute writing sprints, at the end of which we'd call out word counts; those with the highest winning prizes. Namely rubber ducks. I am now the proud owner of a quite fashionable little duck complete with pearls, dress and buffant hair-do. Between sprints, she allowed plenty of time to visit with other writers, stand up and stretch (while there was still room to do so) or keep writing.

Over lunch (we all chipped in for pizza), some of the writers got up and read excerpts from their books. I was not one of them. Their books sounded so real. Like they were genuine writers. I was afraid to read mine aloud. What if my story turned out to be utter crap? I've written so much, and come so far, and what if its not worth the computer bytes its currently occupying? What have I done!?!

And then I realised that it's only been two weeks. In the past two weeks, I've written more than I've managed in the past two years of dreaming about trying to write a novel. And, so what if it is crap? At least its only going to take me a month to complete it. And if it turns out that there's something worth editing, huzzah! In the meantime, I'll just keep writing.

Oh, and as of yesterday afternoon, I broke 30,000 words!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yesterday I Left the Room

I'd been writing steadily all week, exceeding my daily goals. I'd created characters and a world I could care about, and then written the scene where I "played Godzilla" and destroyed much of what I'd spent the past week creating. For two days I avoided writing the cataclysmic event which would rock my main character's world and set her on an entirely new course, finding other scenes to work on. But I finally sat down and wrote it. It was easier than I anticipated, and I bounced around the room for a half hour afterwards, too energized to sit still. In this first draft, I'm not expecting perfection, simply 'good enough'. And it was.

That completed, I moved on to the next series of scenes - the immediate aftermath where she realizes just how much she's lost. That took two days, and was emotionally more difficult for me than the actual catastrophe, but still doable.

Yesterday, I needed to actively get her on the road, still torn and grieving, but moving again. Neither of us made it. I managed less than 300 words - most of that research notes for other sections of the book - and she stayed right where she was.

Throughout the day I found my thoughts returning to a scene attributed to the writer Ron Carlson. A college student once asked him how do you know if you're a writer. He responded with an amusing riff about all the distractions writers put in their way: "leaving the room to get coffee, check the mail, get coffee, walk the dogs, go to the bathroom, get coffee, look something up, get coffee" then he summed it up with the phrase that has been running through my mind since yesterday, "The writer is the one who stays in the room".

The good news is, today, I have. And as of 1:27 this afternoon, my official word count stands at 25,065. Both my main character and my story are back on the move. And I'm aiming towards another 1,000 words before bedtime this evening. If I can stay in the room long enough...

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaNoWriMo

According to blogger, this is my first blog post since May 3, 2008. And it's is largely thanks to the NaNoWriMo project. I'd stumbled upon their website at the tail end of October and discovered that November is National Writing Month. NaNoWriMo challenges people to commit to writing a 50,000 word/175 page novel in the 30 days of November. Doing the math, I determined that meant I'd need to write 1667 words per day to keep on track. Sounded doable, so I signed up.

Backing up a little, I'd been trying (with no success) to commit to a writing project for over a year now. For as long as I can remember I've had story ideas rolling around in my head, and every time I read a mediocre book (more often than I care to admit), I find myself saying "I could write at least as well as that!" So this seemed like just the kick I needed to force myself to actually sit down and write.

This year November 1st was daylight savings, so I even had a whole extra hour for writing. I got up early, wrote for an hour, then turned all the clocks back and did it again. I was back to where I'd started when I first got up, but now I had three pages of typewritten text to show for it! How cool is that?

I'm now a little more than a week into the project and my word count as of last night stands at 13,126, just slightly behind the 13,336 the calculator recommends. The first three days of writing I had no trouble making my quotas. Buoyed by enthusiasm, I breezed through day one, doing my best to ignore the gaping holes a major, last-minute change in my main character's background had left in the plot and cast of secondary characters. The next day, I continued on, attempting an enroute course correction to bolster the sagging plot. (NaNoWriMo stresses that the focus this month is Quantity, not Quality and editing is verbotten). Still not satisfied, I turned the entire second days writing blue and changed course again on day three.

By the end of day three, I'd reached what was supposed to be the pivotal, highly powered scene, one that would destroy my protagonist's world and change her forever. Instead, I was ready to quit or start over from scratch, ditching the last 5131 words I'd written. How could I expect my readers to care, when I wasn't even sure that I did at this point? I had a cast of paper-cut out people in a painted scrim world. Aack!

I'd be breaking the rules to start over and couldn't even guarentee that the next try would be an improvement. So I took a page out of Tolkein's book and have spent the last several days researching and world building. It's amazing what you can find on the internet! I've toured ancient Petra (situated in the modern country of Jordan), the Anazasi of the desert southwest, and more than a dozen old west forts established across the American frontier in the early 1800s. I've read diary entries of immigrants on the Oregon trail, researched names and now know more about the army (both modern and Roman) than I ever knew before. My story is supposed to be an adventure novel, set in an alternate world. I chose it because of all my story ideas it had the most complete plotting (hah!), and I thought it would be easier. Double hah! Little did I know!

I spent most of the weekend trying to birth my little world, just one continent actually, watching it grow in words on the page. The last thing I tackled were backgrounds for my secondary characters, which I'd been avoiding for three days. A part of me didn't want to make them real, because I know what happens to them next.

And so here I am this morning. I've done no editing (well almost none), but I now have a good start on a real world and real people whom I care about. And I'm procrastinating writing the next scene by writing this entry. But, I've written 13,126 words! That's 33 type written pages at 12 point type. And amazingly, I'm actually having fun!

I'm not saying my writing is great - much of it is frankly crap and the beginning still needs to be rewritten. But I see something resembling a real story starting to emerge. And it's a great feeling so I'm celebrating. Because who knows how I'll feel in two days!