Posts Tagged With: NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2012 Recap

Or perhaps the title should be NaNoFailMo.  Because boy, did I fail.  And by such a minute amount, it’s ridiculous.  Goal: 50,000 words.  Written words:  48,600 words.  I missed it by less than 1500 words.  1500 words!  That’s a blog post, for crying out loud!

You are NOT a winner!

You are NOT a winner!

So, you want to hear my excuses?

I really only have one:

I didn’t give a crap about my characters or my story.  Which seems kind of funny, considering the story was somewhat auto-biographical.

I’m one of those writers who believes characters do things on their own, and I just write them down.  I believe stories can go where you don’t expect them to.  Yes, I’ve always been a “Pantser,” but this NaNo I really wanted to try creating an outline.  And I did – I created an outline, sometimes detailed, sometimes rough, from start to finish.  I knew all the big points.  I knew most of the small points.  I even tried writing down a summary of each scene just before actually writing the scene.  “This is going to happen, then this, then Protagonist is going to do this, then this is going to happen….”  And you know what?  My scene, when written, very rarely followed the summary I had just come up with.  Which was fine – I think that even a good outline can be changed.  Just as in life, sh*t happens.  Things don’t go how you think they will.  Some serious Plotters out there will argue the point, will say that the outline is set in stone, but I simply don’t believe that.  An outline is simply a work in progress, you’re real first draft, so to speak.

Don’t get me wrong – I actually liked the outlining/summary process.  Outlining gave me a start and end point, plus filler (which is usually my downfall).  Summarizing the scene before I started got me focused on the task at hand.  But it also set a limit on me, which I’m not sure was a good thing.  My routine became: Sit down, Summarize scene, Write scene, Take break.  I almost never got more than one scene done at a time.  It was very disjointed, it was always about getting this scene done, which I think helped to cause my dispassion for the story.

At 7am on November 30th, I think I had just over 36,000 words.  I wrote about 12,000 words in one day, bringing my total to 48,600.  Of course, I had a 10 hour trans-Atlantic flight and an 8 hour time change in my favor working for me, so my November 30th was actually 32 hours long.  I could have gotten another 1500 words in.  But at some point during the flight, I looked at the computer and said, “Screw this.”  I simply didn’t care.

I thought I cared about this story, but in the end, I really didn’t.  Passion is everything.

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Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Hey, it’s November, give me a break

It’s been how long since I posted?  Shame, shame.  In my defense, it is November, which of course means National Novel Writing Month.  And, although I may not have been posting, I have been drafting blog posts.  Now to edit and post…yeah, I’ll get right on that.

I’m trucking along on the book.  27,000 words.  I shaved off a bit of length on my goal, so now I’m trying to hit 75,000 words instead of 90k.  Because, really, for the type of book it is, it shouldn’t be 90k.  So, 75k.  I’m almost halfway through my plot now, though, and I already know I’m going to have to beef up some scenes.  I’m saving that for after I finish, though.  Hopefully that will still be done in November, but we’ll see.  I’ll still hit the 50,000 NaNo goal, I’m just not sure I’ll hit my personal goal.  (You can follow along with my word count if you look to the top right of this page – see it?)

I’ve also been working on organizing a big American Thanksgiving here in Rauma, with a bunch of people from The Company.  I had to find a rental space, which didn’t end up being as difficult as I was afraid it was going to be.  I wasn’t sure how I would go about it in Finnish, and I didn’t really want to make any phone calls (because the whole answering the phone in Finnish and me saying “Hi do you speak English” and them saying something back in Finnish and it just being a huge cluster).  But I was able to take care of it through email (barely) and reserved a lovely hall with a large yard.  We’re going to have around 40-45 people, including some non-Americans who are excited to see what this whole Thanksgiving thing is about.  It’ll be potluck style, 4 turkeys, and all the regular fixings, plus some irregular ones (which is perfectly fine and dandy with me!).  We’re going to attempt to record the Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboys game and have that playing during the day, to make it feel right.  Since Thursday isn’t a holiday here, we’re having it on the following Saturday.  I’m going to be cooking one of the turkeys (the second turkey in my life), and I’m curious to see how it’s going to work with the small European oven.  I think I’m going to spatchcock the turkey, but then I’m not sure if I’m going to roast it or attempt to grill it.  Grilling seems interesting, a little something different, but I’m not sure if anyone we know has a big enough grill….

I’ve been working on a couple of sewing projects, I should have those done in the next few weeks.  I’ll post photos if they turn out well!

I took a couple of weeks off on the cooking challenge, after I was unable to find certain ingredients for something I was working on.  I figure my next cooking challenge will be the Thanksgiving Feast, so I’ll get back to the regular program after that.  I do have a bit of a backlog on the challenges, though (I started it a few weeks before actually posting anything), so I’ll post some to fill the gaps.  🙂

Let’s see, what else has been going on…

It’s getting darker here.  It’s not really “daylight,” where I can open the blinds and not have the lights on, until around 9am, and by around 3pm I have to turn the lights on again.  Of course, that’s on a normal, sunny day – today was so overcast it seemed to be dusk all day.  It’s good and dark by about 4:30pm most days – and we’ve got about a month left of dwindling daylight.  But then, guess what, it’ll start getting brighter again, and we’ll have 22 hours of daylight again before you know it!

In the meantime, we’re looking forward to a trip back home soon, where we get to see the family and some friends and do some shopping.  Then we’re going to MEXICO, where it will be sunny and warm and we can go swimming in the ocean and lay on the beach and drink fruity alcoholic beverages and Ican’tfreakingwait.

In other news, my permit for living in Finland is due to expire in a couple of months, and I filed the paperwork yesterday to have it renewed.  Hopefully I’ll have it before I need it, unlike my friend Pam, whose permit took four months and a lot of shouting from The Company.  She ended up getting detained in Germany, nearly missed her flight to the States,  and couldn’t come back to Finland until her permit arrived.

Oh, and the elections are over!  Yay!  It was hard enough to get through here, I don’t know how crazy we would have been if we were back home!  We were saved from the plenitude of political ads, the robocalls, the 24hour news cycle for the weeks leading up to the election.  We both voted absentee without a problem, and I woke up Wednesday morning, checked the news, and knew who won.  Can’t get much better than that!  Although, we still had to deal with the sometimes nasty diatribes on Facebook…

Categories: Finland, Random | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Story Structure Stress

It’s been a tough month.  I spent the month of October preparing for NaNoWriMo – actually plotting (gasp!).  A definite first for me.  And now that November is here, I feel like I have a good grasp on what I need to do and how I need to do it, but it took some doing.

I had serious doubts about calling myself a writer this month.  Of course I write.  I’ve always written.  Lots of random scenes.  A couple of very solid starts to novels, which never got a middle, let alone an end.  I’ve partially written a couple of novels.  My one main work in progress is hovering at 62k words, with a very solid beginning, most of a middle, and a rough “this is how it’s going to end” ending.  My other main work in progress, hovering at around 50k words, has a shaky beginning, an iffy middle, and an abrupt ending.

Oh, I can tell a good story, and I have some serious dialogue skills, don’t get me wrong.  I know that what I write is fairly strong.  But, to be perfectly honest…I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  It’s the plotting and outlining that have had  me frustrated this month.  I had serious doubts that I have the aptitude to be a writer, simply based on my inability to outline.

Beyond one creative writing class in high school and a couple of writing workshops in the years since, I didn’t study writing.  I didn’t read The Greats.  I didn’t pick apart a hundred plots to determine turning points and climaxes and resolutions.  I didn’t learn about 3 act structure or 4 act structure or The Hero’s Journey.  I’ve read many books on writing, hundreds of blog posts, and I still had issues structuring a damn plot.

Which begged the question – What hope do I have at being a writer?

My husband, bless him, suffered my mini-breakdown a few weeks ago over this and told me to shut up.  He’s read what I’ve written, and he says it’s good.  (Is that like your mom telling you that you’re pretty?)  He said I should stop worrying about all that other stuff and just write.  He said my structure is fine and I know what I’m doing, I just need to stop thinking about it.  Stop reading the hundreds of different ways other people do things and just do it my way.  That there is no right way, no correct answer.  And he’s absolutely right, and I never thought otherwise.  But I wanted to outline, to connect the dots, and I kept trying all these different ways to try to figure out my way and that’s what drove me batty.

Oh, but the joy of mini-breakdowns.  Clearing out my head like that made me better able to function.  I wanted the outline to happen within an hour, the plot to be perfect immediately.  And I wanted each new blog post I read about structure to work for me.  But none of that happens immediately.  Writing is still a study, a practice, like yoga.  Each practice makes something new click, stretches your mind further, but you will never be perfect each and every time you sit down to write.  Your muscles might be sore, your balance might be off, your mind may wander.  You just have to do the best you can that day.

NaNo starts in 13 hours.  I’m ready.

Categories: The Writing Process, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

20 days until all hell breaks loose

The writing hell, that is, known as NaNoWriMo.

This is not my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve done it…five times before?  I think that’s right.  I’ve only “won” twice.  I didn’t even consider trying it last year, since I was in the middle of planning a wedding and moving overseas.  But this year?  You’re welcome to shoot me if I don’t finish.

I have no excuses this year.  I can’t blame wedding planning, or work, or even my social life.  I will finish this year, and I had darn well better exceed expectation.

NaNoWriMo challenges you to write that novel you’ve always wanted to write.  Within 30 days.  The goal is 50k words.  My personal goal is 90k.  A full and complete book, ready for revision.

90,000 words breaks down to 3000 words a day.  I have the ability to sit down for however long I want each day and write, whether it’s two hours, four hours, or eight hours.

Now I just have to figure out what to write about.

I have two main ideas in my head right now – one a stereotypical romance, one more literary.  The romance story is certainly screaming the loudest, but the literary one is the one I really want to write.  Hmm…decisions, decisions.

Within the next 20 days, I want to setup my Scrivener files and (GASP!) outline the story.  Jot down notes, ideas.  See if I can actually Plot (as opposed to Pants – as in, fly by the seat of my-).  I’ve never plotted out a book before writing it.  So that’s part of the challenge for me – planning.

As my reward, at the end of November I’m taking off for a trip to a warm, sunny, tropical location.  I can’t wait!!

Categories: On Writing, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

How to write a book, Typewriter keyboards, Short stories, and Philosophy – Weekend Roundup June 5

If you write, and you haven’t heard of Scrivener, go look it up.  Right now.

I found out about Scrivener during NaNoWriMo last year.  It’s a Mac program, but they have been working on a release for Windows, and it’s been in beta for over 7 months now.  I’m anxiously awaiting the full release, which will hopefully be in July.  I admit, I haven’t fully explored Scrivener and all it can do, but I can say, even with my limited use of it, it has changed my writing life.  You can break up your book into moveable pieces, make notes, do outlines.  You can easily find a scene you want to look at, without having to scroll through pages and pages (and pages) as you would in Word.  I can’t wait to explore it more.

Someone on BoingBoing posted a link to a list of tips from writers, and wrote that the most valuable thing she took away from the list is Scrivener.  Yep, it’s that awesome.

What I took away from the list:

Writing on the Wall

Image by Indiana Public Media via Flickr

  • I would love a huge wall to write on.  Whiteboard, chalkboard, or maybe just a wall I paint over every so often.  A big place to write down ideas, storyboard, timeline events, etc.
  • I need to write every day.  I’ve known this for…ever, of course, but I really need to do it.  Even if it’s only five minutes, I must write every day.
  • I need to get my characters in trouble.  I know this, but I love them, so I don’t want to hurt them.  But pain is a key component of survival.  I need to remember that.
  • I need to find a way to deal with distractions.  I read that Jonathan Franzen has an old laptop stripped of all distractions, including the internet, and has pretty much nothing but that laptop, a desk, and a chair in a room.  I don’t know that I can do that, but it’s probably exactly what I need.
  • I really need to get into a writing group.
  • Maybe I’ll look into a residency program next summer…hmmmm.

I love sticky, noisy keyboard keys.  I know, I’m a weirdo, I don’t care.  I’ve wanted an old-fashioned typewriter for years, but I realize it’s not practical – you know, since it’s not in an editable format.  I wondered if there was a typewriter-like keyboard somewhere out there in the world, and discovered you can make your own!  It’s well beyond my technical expertise, but maybe I can get one of my technologically inclined friends to give it a go.  Or, maybe I can buy one online...for $800…

Yeah, I’ll add that to my Christmas list…

One Story Blog made a list of the best short stories.  I’m embarrassed to say I think I’ve only read one of those on the short list, and only a couple more from the long list.  But it got me thinking about some of my favorite short stories:

How’s this for random fun?  “Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at ‘Philosophy.’”  No, really, try it!

Categories: On Writing, Random, Writer Sara Johnson | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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