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

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 19: No Escape

I managed to write today, although it was my first taste of getting home at 10PM.

Yes, unfortunately, the Doubles Experiment is going to have to wait; the busy season has already reared its ugly head at work, and my schedule is already suffering.

I only got to write for maybe 15 minutes on the job (and then another 30 or so at home, just now). Unfortunately, the work writing session ended with a problem I was hoping I’d figure out when I got home. Only, getting home turned into walking through a rainstorm for a cumulative 20 minutes, with no umbrella. I don’t want to complain (it’s starting to feel like that’s all I do in these posts), but what I’m saying is, getting home around 11, soaked and knowing I’m back at work at 8AM, so I only have about an hour to write, transcribe the day’s words, and write this post  . . . it sucks.

I just didn’t solve the story problem when I got home. I didn’t solve it, and, despite thinking that I’d drop in a placeholder for it, I didn’t.

Because this isn’t a problem that can be placeheld; it isn’t a name, easily switched–it’s Modis’ power. In H&T, everyone has powers, which are called Talents. In today’s scene, Modis is trapped in a cell and he needs to use his Talent, which is pretty weird, to escape–without making noise. It’s a scene I’ve been excited to write for a long time . . . but newly added, logical caveats of his Talent are making it a huge pain in the ass. Maybe it’s the rain, or the writing-this-at-12AM, but the solution just isn’t coming.

Ugh. I hate this. I hate that I’m using this as a forum to complain. Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to go to sleep, I’m going to wake up, spend the first half of my shift tomorrow considering a solution to this problem.

And then, on lunch, I’m going to write my ass off.

Words for the Day: 267

NaNoWriMo Total: 8,161

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 18: The Problem with Indulgence

I had a strange moment earlier, when I felt a spot of charming dialogue coming on . . . and I narrowed my eyes.

The clouds had parted and, after a few hours of work, I actually got a moment to sit down with my notebook and work out a scene. I got a few hundred words in, when Sydney met a fellow Annex Hunter, Taurean–the sidiest of side characters.

The exchange, meant to be something quick as Sydney entered the scene, slowed down suddenly . . . because it seemed like Taurean had something to say.

And, “Waaaait a minute,” I thought. “Is this Hunter about to talk to Sydney about his feelings?”

But . . . that couldn’t be right, could it? Taurean is a tough dude, first of all. Second, he’s not an important character.

And, third, I’d already had a bunch of scenes where characters let emotions out. So far, this chapter had been all about the protagonists being vulnerable.

So, why the hell was I going in on Taurean’s feels?

Because I wanted to.

Not that I wanted him to be vulnerable, but because I already wanted him to be a bigger part of the story. The selfish writer in me was all, “Eh? Eh? Why not add a whole exchange between him and Sydney, huh? Maybe he becomes a major part of the adventure? Eh? I mean, it’s what you want.” Before catching myself, I almost acted on that want.

But . . . ages and ages ago, when I forced a barbarian character into my first, worst novel–just because I loved him and I didn’t care that his presence made no sense–I learned that, sometimes, my wants as a writer can completely derail and/or muddle a story.

In that first novel, about undead monsters, there was this giant barbarian dude who served exclusively as comic relief (ugh, it hurts even to explain it). He rarely spoke (because I often forgot he was there), and when he did, it was to deliver lines on par with Zangief’s, “Quick! Change the channel!” from the 90’s Street Fighter movie. When I rewrote that novel (which still wound up being bad), he was the first major cut I made . . . before thinking that I should replace him with a new character–a bizarre ghost-ninja who I also loved. To my credit, I never wound up adding that ghost-ninja either.

Because, with that rewrite, I learned the strange, hollow feeling of writing something really selfish. There’s something cold about it, like the sensation of being watched, only the total opposite–as if I was walking with a friend only to realize, without looking, that they aren’t there anymore.

In no way would Taurean’s feelings help the plot. I’d be detracting from the action that ends this chapter, adding a bit of drag right before it starts, for no purpose other than humoring myself.

So, today, I just stopped writing that scene, tore those pages out of my notebook, and tossed them.

Oddly, it still feels like progress.

Words for the Day: 0

NaNoWriMo Total: 7,887

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 17: Writing a Kid

I wound up just sticking to one writing session for today, because that session was a pain in the ass. For reasons that I now totally understand: Yesterday, I got to write the intense nightmare Sydney Tempest was having. Today, I had to write Modis being super positive.

But it wasn’t so much the positivity that made today rough–it was Modis’ age.

I remember certain things about being a kid, but I have no idea how old I was when I felt those things. I know everybody’s different, but I also know that being young means being subject to a universal suite of things–being much more heavily swayed by what everyone else is doing, for example. So . . . when I was 10-ish . . . was I trying to be cool already? Did I care if other kids liked what I liked? Was I smart enough to get myself out of trouble? Was I still naive enough to think my mother could solve any problem?

Of course, so much of this is case-sensitive; Modis is a smart kid, so, regardless of the intelligence of other kids his age, he’s able to get himself out of harm’s way. He’s had a really solid upbringing, so he’d probably be extra naive about his dad being able to solve any problem. A bunch of this I’m pretty sure about.

But, around it all, there’s the question of, “Is he believable?” Do I make him sound too much like a grown up? But wouldn’t it be really annoying if I gave him the speaking ticks kids have (“Hey! Hey! HEY! Um…,” “Whoathatssocool,” etc.)?

Questions like these made today’s scene super slow-going, especially because it involved Modis interacting with his familiar. In the end, I’m satisfied with what I got, but I can’t help thinking he sounds older than he should. 11? 12? Eh–I’m not sure.

But what I am sure of, at the very least, is that I’m not locked into making him 10; when the novel is done, whatever age he reads like is the age he is.

And, in the meantime, I should just be thankful. This is a new problem; I’ve never had to worry about a character sounding the right age in my work. At the very least, I know that I’m doing something I’ve never done before, and that feels awesome.

Words for the Day: 649

NaNoWriMo Total: 7,887

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 16: So Tired

Hi there. Sorry if this post is super short, but I’m… what’s the title of this post again?

How writing went: the first half of it–the writing at work half–went really, really well. However, I completely acknowledge… that was only because I was stuck at another post where I could write and it was another super quiet day. Work won’t always be this kind. In fast… today was probably the last day where it will be anywhere near this kind.

But still, point is, full, detailed scene at work. I’m not sure how many words exactly though, because…

… I passed out so hard when I got home.

I had a second scene in mind and knew how it started. I was super excited to write it, but I just had zero energy. Zero energy like, “Holy shit, I actually just passed out in a seat, watching something, then woke up just now, at 12:50 AM,” tired. Tired like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t even want to type up what I wrote so I know how many words I got,” tired (I’ll update my numbers tomorrow morning).

So, a solid answer for the Doubles experiment: it isn’t a thing on work days. On work days, I’ll just be grateful to get one scene done.

That said… tomorrow’s a day off, so I’m tryin’ again!

Yaaaaaay.

Words for the Day: 603

NaNoWriMo Total: 7,212

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 15: The Double

So, today went alright. Not as awesomely as I was hoping though.

Because, while getting ready to go out and get breakfast (instead of the jacket I previously mentioned because it was raining and the water wasn’t running in my apartment)… I suddenly had an idea.

When it comes to daily writing, I’m learning that my MO is this: I write scenes. I don’t beat myself up too much about word count (at least at the moment). Instead, I try to finish up an entire scene, regardless of whether it’s short or long, as long as it’s strong. I’m okay with that right now… but I want it change.

And today turned into an attempt to make that change.

Only… not by pushing myself to write more than the one scene at a time. Because I realize that I need time to recoup after a writing session; I need time to think about the next scene, feel it out, and find a starting point.

So then . . . how can I reliably double the amount I write in one day?

By doing two scenes a day.

Now… maybe this is a complete no-brainer for some writers, but, for me… it feels like a revolution. Genuinely, the idea blew my mind. Just the simplicity of it… If I really like having a solid writing session that’s a few hours long, during which I complete one scene… why not just do that more instead of trying to write past the one scene in one sitting, at which point I always feel like I’m forcing it? This year’s NaNoWriMo is teaching me that I can just write pretty much any time of the day, anywhere, in any medium… so why not use that flexibility to do two sessions a day, no matter where I am? It didn’t just feel like an idea, it felt like a solution.

So, today turned into a hybrid experiment.

Step 1) Write early in the morning/after getting home (left over from the experiment I was originally going to run today).

Step 2) Do anything else.

Step 3) Write again much, much later, after taking time to think about my next scene.

How did it go?

Well, the first step turned out to be super, duper easy; as I’ve learned, doing what I always assumed was bad–thinking of writing as work–is just the solution for my motivation problem. Sit down. Just do it. Treat it like a job; you love the process enough to avoid feeling like it’s a job once you start.

On top of that, I had my first scene with post-conflict Modis, so the writing itself is still coming very easily. Almost too easily; I got to the point where I had to decide if I was actually giving Modis a familiar, something I’d been really unsure about. When I first outlined this scene, he had a bunch of them, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it–if it was total overkill and too campy. But then, through the sheer, beautiful magic of writing, an answer came from a simple concept I fleshed out earlier in the manuscript. The process just handed me a simple, charming answer (he does have a familiar, but just the one, and it doesn’t talk). It was a pretty gratifying writing session.

Step 2 was also easy. I mean, of course it was. But it’s also where my experiment ran off the road. I got so wrapped up in doing other things–reading training material for work, reading not training material for work, doing maintenance, playing video games, etc.–that I wound up…

… not really thinking about what the next scene would be.

Of course, the real danger is in the shrug. “Well, I already wrote today, so whatever.” Which I did. LOL Not going to lie about it; I 100% shrugged and actually said that to myself.

But I’m aware how completely that could put a cork in the Doubles idea. So, I’m posting this, then hopping in bed, waking up early to get my first scene for the day out of the way, before work… And then seeing how well a second scene during lunch/when I get home goes.

I’m not sure how many words I’ll be able to get at work, but upward and onward, right?

Words for the Day: 545

NaNoWriMo Total: 6,607

30 Days of NaNoWriMo 2 – Day 14: Before the Storm

Today was another easy writing session. Mind you, I left it for the absolute worst time of the day, when I’m least likely to write–in the evening, around bedtime. Not an ideal time to aim for, of course, but alright for training. Important for training actually . . .

Because that busy season I mentioned, coming up at work . . . it starts in two days.

And once it starts, writing around 8-10PM while totally exhausted, is going to become the norm.

So, even though part of me thinks, “Take the luxury of not having to deal with that immediately!” the other party of me is like, “Figure it out now.”

Of course, the solution continues to be, “Just think of it as work and force yourself to start,” but the real test is going to be coming home at 11PM after working an 8:30AM-10PM shift, which is totally a thing at my job.

Part of me is all, “OMFG, go out tomorrow and walk around Manhattan for 13.5 hours, then try to write at 11! Figure it out!” But the other half of me is all, “Ughaslkhjaiwawuiaoeuhwua . . . I just want to sleep.”

I’m going to go buy a jacket tomorrow. Going to at least do that and then train myself to write first thing when I walk in (instead of relaxing).

If that doesn’t work . . . it’s going to just be hiding during lunch breaks at work, trying to knock out a few hundred words in my tiny notepad.

Uahodaojkmflkwaooqajdklajapfjcxzkjf . . .

Words for the Day: 798

NaNoWriMo Total: 6,062