30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 30: Reflection

Well… I made it. Day 30.

Somehow, even though I didn’t struggle to write posts this time–even though I didn’t spend hours finding writing spots, getting pictures, working on the MS, and posting afterward–I’m way more relieved now than I was at the end of 30 Days 1.

I’m not sure why. The obvious answer would be, “Well, because you can spend more of your writing time actually working on the novel.” And, sure, maybe that’s it.

But maybe I also just need a break. Especially after today. A brief summary:

  • After feeling my throat getting sore yesterday, I woke up in the middle of the night and vommed.
  • Woke up hours later, determined to go to work and write, although, for the first time ever, I really, really wanted to call out.
  • Got to work, told a manager I might need to leave early, and they told me it was alright if I just left immediately instead. Which was awesome.
  • Basically stumbled home, thinking both, A) “Man, I’m so glad I didn’t get sick earlier in the month,” and B) “But WHY TODAY?”
  • Got progressively dizzier and grosser as I stumbled home. Does this happen to anyone else? It was 60 degrees or so outside, but it felt like summer. Like hot, deathy summer.
  • I went to the supermarket to get soup, tea, and honey. I then struggled those things home, which should’ve been easy, only I was multi-tasking–struggling soup, tea, and honey home while also dying.
  • Realized that the weird, unwieldy set up I had going to carry all of my junk (coat slung over umbrella, held in one hand, sick person goods in the other hand) was a terrible idea, because everything that was in my inner coat pocket had fallen out. Everything in this case meant money. I don’t even know how much. And I don’t wanna think about it.

So, this is the part where I make an excuse, right? This is when I’m like, “So, with all of that bullshit, I just refused to write.”

Words for the Day: 1,326

NaNoWriMo Total: 14,366

Against all odds, I wrote over a thousand words and finished up chapter 2, as planned, leaving me with the rest of the book–the adventure–to work on in the next few months.

And… to me, saying all of that was the best possible way to send off 30 Days 2. Not by just talking about what I learned from it, but illustrating it.

With 30 Days 1, I learned what I consider the basics of my writing approach. My personal How-To write a novel. I do it quickly, writing every day, editing important things as I go, focusing on completing something clean that I like, without stopping.

But what I learned from 30 Days 2 is that I don’t ever have to stop. If NaNoWriMo 2014 taught me that I could write a novel when I had a free a month, NaNoWriMo 2016 taught me that, no, fuck that “free month” bullshit. If you’ve got it, great, but if you don’t, there’s a way to do it write a novel while you’re incredibly busy.

And that way is simply… finding your schedule.

As stupid and easy as that sounds, all it takes is sitting down and thinking, “Well… when do I like to write? In what condition do I do my best writing? And how can I make sure I’m in that position every day, regardless of what the world throws at me?”

For me, it’s early in the morning, before work. Or, well, early in the “whatever qualifies as morning” (today, it was early in the 1 PM when I woke up from my gross, sick-person coma). I learned to respect those times–those hours of my day–as writing time.

But I also learned to respect everything-else time. I learned that you can’t just shove away recreation–that there’s no quitting it cold turkey; I need to unwind after being productive. I need to play video games, watch a movie, hang out with a friend, watch YouTube, look up pictures of shaved animals, which I did yesterday (hairless chimpanzees are about 1,000,000% more intimidating than they are with fur, btw). And I learned that doing those things isn’t something to be ashamed of. Because feeling bad about doing any of those things isn’t fair to me.

And because it’s the start of the procrastination cycle: “Well, I didn’t write last night, so I feel like shit today and want a distraction even more, so fuck it–I’m going to write later tonight. And now I am writing, but it’s hard again, because it’s late, I’m tired, and fuck this shit–I’ll do it tomorrow!”

I guess the best way to put it then is… I learned how to write and be happy… at the same time.

Which means I’ve learned to write consistently. Tomorrow, I don’t stop; I wake up, shower, write, then deal with whatever the rest of the day throws at me.

And having that–learning how to do that–is something I’m incredibly grateful for. If I could tell any writer to do anything, it’s this: learn how to write on a schedule that makes you happy. Because that’s a schedule you can keep forever.

~~~

Well, that’s it. 30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 is officially over. I’d like to thank everyone who read, liked, followed, and commented. I genuinely wouldn’t have made it without your support. Even if I somehow slogged through the last 30 days without backup, these posts would’ve gotten so much less happy, so much more frustrated. So, really, thank you.

I’m probably going to take a month off from posting, in part because I need a break and December is the perfect month for that, but I’ll be back next year, bright and early, to update and talk about the different facets of writing fantasy.

Until then, thank you again for reading! And, as always, write well.

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 29: The Need to Improve

Today’s writing session went extremely well. I was able to figure out the scene that’d given me grief yesterday, bringing me well within range of finishing the second chapter tomorrow. Which is awesome. Especially because it turns out there’ll be a fight scene between Sydney and someone else at the end of the chapter. I am excitedly cracking my knuckles. Fight scenes are my jam, and although this one will be very short, writing it is still going to be really comforting and familiar.

Also comforting and familiar–although maybe it wouldn’t seem awesome at first: spotting clear room for improvement.

At this point in my writing career, visible room for improvement is amazing. Because the alternative, flaws that you totally can’t see, is far, far worse.

As I wrote today, here were some of the mental notes I made:

  • Review Sydney’s motivations. Because they’re super important and need to work beautifully.
  • Add more descriptions for Greenfield. Make it feel like a place, not a background.
  • Find the perfect level of “Modis’ friends,” which currently feels a bit too far on the “He has friends?” side of the scale.
  • And, of course, as always… review names! From “Greenfield” all the way down to “Modis,” with its awkward possessive apostrophe situation.

 

 

There are, of course, other tweaks I’ll have to make, but they’ll all come easily as I write the book.

Whether they come easily or not though, it’s nice to see that whole part of the process in the distance.

And it’s amazing to be really excited for finishing this novel and reaching to the point where I get to edit it.

Because feeling any of this means I’ve come full circle again. Before NaNo 2016, I’d been so worried about editing other things, slowly burning out on how much I could improve. Struggling with important edits that I knew needed doing. Now, with something new to work on, I’m in love with the process all over again.

And I’m hopeful, which is something I definitely wasn’t when 30 Days 2 started. I’m hopeful that I can make everything work.

Tomorrow’s the last day of this journey. It’ll be a long few months to get the novel done.

But, no matter how long it takes, I’m going to complete another novel. One that I get to edit until it’s mind-blowing. Until it’s as epic as I imagined it being when I was 15, but as meaningful and emotionally powerful as I imagined it being ages later, when I redesigned it (without the killer clown doll).

And, that said, I’m gonna get to bed. Because I’m extremely tired…

… and I can’t wait to get to Day 30.

Words for the Day: 991

NaNoWriMo Total: 13,030

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 28: The Perspective Shuffle

Well, today was a bust.

I hit a hurdle, but it’s one I was able to figure out eventually. The solution required me to scrap today’s work and start over though, so I’m just saving that for tomorrow morning. Today, I realized a problem and was able to figure out its solution–that’s enough for me.

What the problem actually was: I went for another new perspective–that of Modis’ dad, Athus. Not because I was eager to add another’s character’s viewpoint, but because that’s what I thought would work best for the scene. And parts of it were good, but problems arose when Sydney and Modis showed up, and I started switching between their perspectives. What was supposed to be a hectic reunion preceding an escape turned into a slog through the feelings of multiple characters.

A sin that I’ve written about, lovingly known as “the Tea Party.”

A few pages into everyone’s feelings, I realized I was a few pages too deep. Not because characters’ emotions don’t matter, but because, as readers, we like variety. And also because there’s logically a time for running first, asking questions later.

Fortunately, this entire realization came with the certainty that cutting out Athus’ feelings would solve things. Not because I dislike him or something… but because he’s not prominent in the rest of the story and I have to prioritize.

As a man who generally keeps a tight lid on perspective, this was an interesting lesson for me. Although I’ve read novels where a bunch of perspectives where handled with omniscient third person no problem, I just don’t like having too many detailed perspectives in one scene, regardless of freedom of perspective. For me, “too many” means more than two. And priority for those two always has to go to Modis and Sydney, even if they’re in a scene with Silestein–currently the only other character who gets the perspective treatment. It’s just cleaner. And better.

And I like cleaner and better. Especially now that I realize there are just two more sessions before the end of 30 Days. It’s actually going to be a struggle to finish chapter two in two sessions.

But, I mean, of course it will be. Why would I think there wouldn’t be a tense deadline at the end of this thing? It’s writing!

But whatever, man. I can do two scenes a day. That’s right–you heard me, deadlines. Fight me on the streets.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,887

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 27: The Timeline of Silestein Grey

Yesterday’s scene was… amazingly refreshing.

As I sat down to write, I realized that I should do a scene from the perspective of a very important side character; someone who’s actually essential to the plot (unlike Taurean, who I mentioned in a previous post). The character in question is Silestein Grey. She was created when I re-envisioned this story (so maybe two or three years ago), and thus, yesterday morning, as I wrote her first scene, I got to decide on her Talent (magical superpower) and a bunch of other details about her past–particularly with Sydney. All in all, it was short and essential.

It was also so new that I was actually giddy when I was done.

Because that’s the thing about writing something you’ve been planning since high school–almost everything about the story has been decided for ages, so when you get the chance to get creative with a newer part of it, you lose it.

The extent of my losing it: I thought about Silestein for hours at work. I planned flashbacks for her and Sydney, thought up future scenes that I’m incredibly excited for.

And I also thought it might be fun to lay down a rough timeline of her character–if only to show how I make up some of my characters.

  1. Two years ago, she started as “Sydney’s ex.”
  2. With just that title, I took a while to figure out if she should be a man or a woman. That makes it sound like there was a ton of deliberation on the subject, but there wasn’t; I just imagined Sydney with a female ex for a week or so, then switched and imagined her with a male ex. In the end, a female ex just felt right for some reason. Possibly because I thought it would make the most sense for Sydney to date someone non-confrontational, and the imagined ex-boyfriend was constantly challenging her feelings instead of trying to understand them.
  3. The second chapter opened with “Sydney’s ex” being non-confrontational–talking someone down while Sydney watched. I picked the placeholder name “Zidia.” I hated that name immediately.
  4. On the magical day when I edited the manuscript top to bottom, I opened my pocket notebook and flipped to the “Names,” page. “Silestein” jumped out immediately. In the same way that I love button-downs that are juuust on the edge of “too ugly,” there was something about Silestein that fit.
  5. On the same page, I saw Taurean’s name, and my brain was all, “Taurean Grey! That’s his name!” To which, I thought, “Like Dorian Grey? Pssh. Get real.” About a half second later, my brain was all, “SILESTEIN GREY!” I loved it.
  6. Despite having a last name directly related to her Talent (because that’s how people are named in the world of H&T), I didn’t try to figure out Silestein’s Talent was, certain it would come to me when I needed it.
  7. I sat down to write her scene yesterday and realized she needed to use her Talent. So… Grey. I knew I couldn’t force something to fit that name, so I was set to have my session completely derailed by my need to find her a Talent that felt natural.
    It wound up taking all of ten seconds. In part because I quickly got out of the logic loophole of “the Talent has to be based on her name.” No. Not the case–her name was based on her Talent. The Talent came first. A small difference, but it was enough to find an awesome fit.

Which rolled into me staring off into space at work, lost in brainstorming all things Silestein Grey.

If there was some way we could bottle that feeling–the childlike glee of just letting your new character do stuff, becoming real in your mind, we’d all be rich.

Words for the Day: 470

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,815

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 26: Priorities

 

I have to be up by 5 AM tomorrow. I just calculated my optimal time frame for the morning session, and “5 AM” is what mathed out.

That means this post is going to be a little short.

And with it, I’d like to say time’s a bitch.

Today, I wrote a scene that I’ve had planned for years. I think of it as the emotional hook of the story–the moment that defines what the novel will be like, locking Modis and Sydney together. Like anything else I write in first draft, it needs a lot of work…

But I enjoyed writing it so much that the morning’s session became a game of chicken between me and time.

“Ten minutes left?… I bet I can finish this scene in ten minutes.”

“Five minutes. Goddammit.”

“Three minutes.”

“Okay… I should definitely be leaving right now, but I can take an extra ten minutes.”

It got to the point where I just forced myself to leave the last line of the scene, knowing I’d be late if I didn’t. And man was I almost late–one of the only times I’ve ever gotten to work at the new job with minutes to spare.

Somewhere in here, there’s a lesson about priorities. It’s completely lost on me though.

Because the real lesson feels more like, “Maybe wake up with two hours of writing time?” Which is a beautiful pipe dream. Cause I’m not waking up at 4 AM. 5? Sure. But 4 AM doesn’t exist. It’s a made-up time; everyone knows.

Whatever. The point is, it’s 11 PM and I should be thinking about my priorities…

Go to bed in a few minutes.

Wake up, get dressed, have coffee.

Figure out the last line of today’s scene.

And continue on to the end of the first two chapters–the point where the actual adventure begins.

I’m obviously not finishing H&T by the end of NaNoWriMo, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost. Knowing that is an amazing feeling. The NaNo Police aren’t going to knock my door down and arrest me.

The only thing that could possibly keep me from writing is me.

Just thinking that makes me want to wring my hands and laugh maniacally. I’m sure some disaster will pop up–some hurdle to figure out.

But right now… it just feels like I’m getting away with something.

Words for the Day: 798

NaNoWriMo Total: 11,247

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 25: Let’s Do This

I got home today and didn’t worry about writing. Because I’d already done it this morning.

I was extremely confused.

I woke up an hour early today, showered, got dressed, and hammered out a quick few hundred words before heading to work. It was bizarrely casual.

It almost felt… healthy.

I know I shouldn’t be making light of it–I should be enjoying it actually; I had a late shift today that ended earlier than usual, meaning I had hours more free time than I usually do, so writing on what I keep thinking of as “the schedule” (writing when I wake up, then going to the day job) was a lot easier today. In two days, I’m back on my normal schedule, which means I’ll have to be up before the sun does. And that means… I’ll have to start heading to bed at Old Man o’ Clock. It’ll be worth it.

But it’ll also be more difficult. Getting home at 11PM and waking up at 5 or 6AM is going to be rough.

So, really, I should be grateful that I got to play an extra hour or two of Warframe and watch some things.

And happy that being consistent–writing something every day–isn’t really challenging anymore.

The thing is, knowing that–feeling that lack of challenge–is why I’m thinking of this schedule as the schedule… I think I can actually use it for the rest of my life. As in, “I can imagine waking up every single morning and writing something, first thing. Every single day, until I die.”

I’m grateful for that.

I’m also… super intimidated.

Only for a moment though. Just–come on–let me have this. The veil has been lifted and I’m finding that there are suddenly no excuses between me and writing every day. It’s heavy.

I find myself thinking, “Did… did I work out the stupid kinks? Is this for real? Do I actually just write now? Like… write everything?”

Well… Okay then.

Let’s do this.

Words for the Day: 452

NaNoWriMo Total: 10,349

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 24: Freshly Reset

So, today, having a day off with good rest… I completed the Double Scene experiment I’d come up with over a week ago. I woke up today, edited heavily, then waited for a few hours and got a second session in. And it didn’t feel like I was straining at any point; I didn’t have to slog through the scene I just wrote–I only had to be careful about writing it before I got tired (or drunk–I got wine and pie for Thanksgiving).

But, of course, I did have to write a second post today, because I realize that, now, in the final stretch, I have to go in hard on the new writing schedule: wake up really early, write before I go to work, then write a post when I get home. That meant posting twice today, or else 30 Days would actually be 29 Days.

It’s weird to think that I only figured out this schedule now, on the home stretch of NaNoWriMo 2016. One more week, and then it’s back to silently toiling away with my writing projects.

Which just means that I’m going to be continuing to write this novel (because hitting pause part way through a novel is like sending it out to die; there’s no way you’ll return to it in the same state-of-mind, with the same feelings and intentions). Already, it’s a huge contrast to 30 Days 1; at the end of my first NaNoWriMo, I had a complete novel that needed a lot of work.

Now, having written three books–two of which were terrible–it’s nice to be confident about the progress I’ve made on a new novel. Confident… and tolerant about how I make that progress. Because, for a while, I was caught up worrying that I wouldn’t be able to write something that I liked more than Memorythat it was going to be the one project I cling to desperately. That I’d keep throwing it at publishers, hoping it would get picked up. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to write something new. And I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that a lot of writers probably have fears like these at one point or another.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m grateful that, at least for tonight, I can just smile about the novel I’m working on. Tonight, I get to be excited. I’m back to loving what I do instead of being afraid of it.

And that’s worth  30 days of hard work.

Words for the Day: 659

NaNoWriMo Total: 9,910

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 23: Giving Thanks for Editing

The nap worked. Well, in the sense that sleeping for 10 hours is technically a nap, it definitely worked.

After yesterday’s post, I went to work, thinking up another route with the exchange I was worried about.

And then I worked on my feet for an entire day, until my legs were killing me. I walked home like that, hips actually aching, worried my one bad leg would give out.

But it didn’t. I got home, had dinner, relaxed for a bit, laid down to a nap without worrying about how long it would take.

And then I woke up today, refreshed, excited.

I proceeded to read and edit all 40+ pages of my manuscript in one sitting, editing for a consistent tone as I went, adding new names and changing terms to make the MS cohesive. It was a little sad to hit the points where I’d obviously written while half-asleep, made obvious by question marks in really strange places.

But it was a huge relief to get to the exchange I’d written last and immediately realize exactly what was wrong with it.

With life being so tough the last few days, the first version of that back and forth between Modis and Sydney was incredibly tough. Serious and heavy. And sad. Modis got upset enough to cry and Sydney got angry. It just didn’t match up with the first 30 or so pages, in which Modis is generally light-hearted, smart, and determined, and Sydney is tough, curt, and untouchable.

So, without even really trying, I rewrote it, bringing myself right to the end of the MS with a ton of excitement to spare.

What I’m really trying to say with this post is, if you’ve been struggling with a part of your NaNoWriMo project (or any writing project really)–if it’s been difficult to make time and you have to push yourself to write when you’re exhausted–maybe just don’t write when you’re exhausted. Maybe rework your schedule so you’re writing when you aren’t tired. Because, having just experienced the two back to back, writing when you’re completely refreshed is significantly better than doing it when you’re worn out.

And, I mean, of course, right? Duh. But I say this anyway because I think that it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in being productive regardless of how we feel. We’re writers; everything has to be done on hard mode, even if we don’t realize it. It’s incredibly easy for us to be too hard on ourselves, especially if we’re working toward a word goal, like NaNoWriMo’s. At a certain point, writing becomes more about getting x-amount of words and less about the quality of those words. And I’m not blaming NaNoWriMo; I’m just saying that, as eager writers, we’re all in danger of stumbling into the word goal hole.

So, if you don’t already know, just keep in mind that, regardless of word goals, there’s a limit to what conditions you can write under as a responsible writer. Our brains are our tools, so if you have a choice between working with a dull tool or a freshly sharpened one, go with the sharpened one, for your novel’s sake.

Words for the Day: ?

NaNoWriMo Total: 9,251

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 22: Fundamentally

Something’s not right.

This isn’t the post where I start talking about the walls making funny noises–I promise. I’m not completely insane yet.

But something’s fundamentally wrong.

My job hasn’t gone 13+ hours mode yet, but these days, when I get home, after eating and watching something–after taking a moment to relax and not work–I’m finding it impossible to write well.

And, instead of beating myself up about it–about not writing at all last night, for example–I’m going to figure out why.

It’s not the story. It’s not the drive. I like this story and I can absolutely get behind the themes it supports. It’s also a novel I’ve wanted to write for ages, so I’m not reluctant about actually writing it.

No… It’s something else, fundamentally wrong.

Last night, my writing session was only minutes long. I opened my MS, got to the beginning of the exchange between my protagonists, started reading, and, already in a haze at 10PM, I absolutely had no idea if what I’d written was good or bad. After telling myself during the day that I could rewrite the scene–and knowing how to go about it–I was finding that there was just something stopping me from remembering how.

And what that “something” was became pretty obvious as I tried to read the entire exchange, editing as I went… and suddenly snapping awake after what felt like 10 minutes of sleeping at my computer.

I’d rewritten one sentence, didn’t give it end punctuation and then rolled on to write half of the next sentence, which I’d started in the middle, without punctuation–without even the prepositional phrase I’d intended to start it with. During the middle of that broken sentence, I’d just fallen asleep.

I actually said to myself, “I… I actually just can’t do this.

“I can’t write like this.”

But… a week ago, I’d had the same schedule and I’d been fine. So, why couldn’t I write now, with the same schedule?

Because, a week ago, I hadn’t been the face of the seasonal event at my job. A week ago, I had solid chances to either sit down and write.

Or at least sit down.

Now, I have to stand up every day. I have to watch people walk around, full of the holiday spirit (which, in America, means that they’re 5,000,000 times more ready to argue with you, as backwards as that is). Now, my job is way more physical.

So, when I get home, I’m way more tired than I’ve ever been after work.

And, while being determined to write is always a good thing, actually writing while completely exhausted is probably a terrible idea. It’s why I couldn’t figure out how Modis got out of that cell a few days ago. And, without a shadow of a doubt, I know it’s why I’m not sure if the tones for Modis and Sydney’s first exchange are right. Possibly because I don’t remember half of it.

My schedule for the first half of NaNoWriMo 2016 just isn’t going to work for these next few weeks.

So, tonight, I figure out a new schedule. When I get home, I’m taking a nap. At worst, I’ll wake up at 4AM to write for an hour or two before work. Or at 12AM. Whatever–the point is, I’ll wake up with a clear head.

Which I need if I’m going to get any more real work done on this novel.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 21: Expectation

30 Days 2 is starting to teach me things about myself as a writer.

Primarily… I’m starting to realize that I have an issue with expectation.

Well, expectation and gratification.

I’m finding it harder and harder to actually feel gratified when I do any writing. At least for this novel. And that inability to feel productive scales with me; if I don’t write, I feel bad for not writing. If I do write, I feel bad for not writing enough. If I write enough, I immediately wonder if it’s any good.

To a degree, I think I do this because of my experience with Memory. I loved writing that book. It was legitimately a blast.

But that was partially because I was still being a little headstrong with it. Some plot lines were stagnant when I was done. The intro was unwieldy. There was a lot that I had to fix about that novel, to the point where I was editing it without knowing if it was good at all anymore.

So, now, with H&T, everything is baby steps. Everything is metered and measured and extremely careful. Everything is second-guessed.

The result of all of this is, on a day like today, when I wrote 600+ words, I feel bad because I was aiming for a ton. I sit back and question everything I wrote. And I think, “Ugh… I have to be back at work tomorrow; I can’t just take another day and figure this out.”

And, really, that’s true for all writers. We all have to just go through the motions–work the day job–then come home and try our best to be productive with our passion.

The thing is, you have to do that and not go crazy doing it.

And not going crazy means not feeling like you lose every single day.

So… Hey, guys. I got 600+ words today, which is pretty good, considering I was at home with a ton of distractions. What I wrote was a little rough–a tense, first exchange between my protagonists–but I’m super familiar with turning a scene I don’t like into something amazing, so I know that I can do it.

That… is how a writer should think. That’s how I need to start thinking.

Because I think I’m starting to just get… scared of writing. I’m starting to make excuses for myself constantly. And maybe it’s because I got published; maybe now I’m just expecting myself to be able to make everything perfect right away. But that’s not the way writing works. That’s not the way anything works. I need to know that.

Because everything sucks in my life, but writing has always been the one thing that didn’t.

I need it to stay that way.

Words for the Day: 618

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,714