Friday, December 3, 2010

Post NaNo Report

It's been three days since NaNoWriMo ended.  I'm very please to report I had my novel varified at 50,019 words on November 30th at 1:30am.  I won by a smidge and couldn't be happier.
So, dear reader, what did I learn this NaNo?  In no particular order, here are a few things I think made this year more awesome than last year:

1) having a written outline is more effective than having one in your head.
2) minimum world building will prevent stalling later.
3) organizing write ins and forming a community (mine felt more like a scrappy, amorphous gang, but whatever) keeps you motivated and less likely to fall into a depressed rut.
4) having your family members not look at you like you've sprouted another ear when you tell them about NaNo is more help than one might think.
5) weekends and long car rides with an inverter outlet are key for catching up.

When all is said and done, I feel that I've taken one more step in my quest to write and actually finish a novel.  An you know what?  It feels damn good! (Pardon my language, as Miss Gratuity Tucci would say)  The only downside is that I'm no where near done with my first draft.  I'm actually about 3/4 of the way done with the story, so I need to keep writing without Ernestine's "help". (Ernestine, my lovely inner editor, was introduced in an earlier post)  It's not going to be easy without a looming deadline over my head, but I have an opaque view of how I want everything to continue, so it shouldn't be too bad.  Fingers crossed.

While I was so focused on reaching 50K words and "winning," I never stopped to think about the goodies on the other side of the NaNo-rainbow.  Now that I'm standing here by the pot of gold, I have to say they look pretty sweet.  I'm not sure when or if I will take advantage of the free proof, but I'm kind of excited over Scrivener. I didn't think much of it until I watched the tutorial video last night.  It's pretty cool how it lets you divide your story up into sections, have sections side by side, and integrate outlining with writing.  I'm going to give it a try when they release the windows version next year.

On that final note, I'm going back to my word document to pound out a few hundred words before bed.  Hey, that's bound to be easier than the 1000 words sprints I was doing just this past Monday!

Monday, November 22, 2010


The writing life is all about focus.  I've dedicated the entire month of November to writing a novel (or most of a novel more likely than not) and let me tell you something: staying focused is hard.  How do we as writers, keep going back to the page day after day, week after week?  To be honest, I'm still trying to figure this one out myself.

I'm writing to you from the week four trenches of NaNoWriMo and I am almost 4000 words behind with Thanksgiving and November 30th on the horizon.  I don't love my story any less than I did from day one and watching it bloom from an idea into an 80+ page word document has been amazing (plot holes and all), but after almost a month of pure, unforgiving focus, this is what I have to say: I'm tired.

I'm all for discipline in writing, but is there a point at which one can say they are too focused, so much so that it is detrimental to the work at hand?  I'm beginning to think so.  This is only my second year doing NaNoWriMo and this is my second time reaching the end of the race and feeling everything pittle out of me.  I'm running on empty, but I still want to keep going.

So, how can one recharge their writing battery? Here are a few things I'm trying out and finding some success in.

1) Read.  There have been points where I'm writing and I think to myself, "Self, you've used this sentence structure so many times now it's boring me to tears.  Why are we doing this to ourselves?!"  I've found that reading a short story or chapter of a favorite book has been a good reminder of why I'm writing this silly "novel" in the first place.  It's also a great way to pick up some pointers on how to flesh out your own sentences and pad that word count (or insert writing goal here).

2) Write something else.  Something short and therapeutic.  Like a random short scene or a blog post about how you can't write your story.

3) Keep on Trucking.  You've hit a rough patch, but that doesn't mean it's the end of the road.

As always, please share your thoughts and motivational tips.  See you in December!  *HONK HONK*

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Who's Scared of "Revisions"? Removing a Block

For those who may not know, I am writing a novel.  My story got its start as a NaNoWriMo project and for the month of November 2009 it was great.  We were best friends.  We laughed together, we cried together, we bit our nails at the scary, dramatic bits together, heck, we even went to work and wrote on scraps of paper when no one was looking together.  Our relationship was an open book (pun intended) and we daydreamed about having/being a completed novel and getting published.  By December we both agreed we needed some time apart and we went our separate ways, fully intending to reconnect in January and pick up where we left off.  Only it never was the same.

January and beyond became fully focused on "revisions."  And I say that with quotations because within the span of those quotations is this weird, adolescent period where you're caught between writing and editing and not quite sure which it is you are truly doing. Like, is going back to fill in the plot holes and smooth things over writing or editing?  It's both, right?  Hence my calling it "revisions."

Since transitioning from "writing" to "revision", it has become more and more difficult for my story and I to find time to connect.  We tried the whole butt-on-chair routine, but it never felt as thrilling or playful as that first, whirlwind month of writing.  What's worse is that I've found myself beginning to doubt this story, it's potential, and my ability to write it.  I began to wonder if I really wanted to keep spending my time trying to write something that didn't seem to click the same way it did before.

For the past few months, one of the few things other than guilt that could get me into butt-in-chair mode was my publishing fantasy.  It goes something like this: At some undetermined and increasingly far away time, the novel will be finished and queried out to agents and after several hard, tear filled months of agent shopping it will be picked up by a kindly agent who will help polish it into a great YA novel that will be published by a respected publishing house and read by millions of teenage girls who will love the characters as much as I do and everyone will live happily ever after.  *deep breath* The end!

Then, last night while reading Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, it hit me: The reason my story has been frustrating me is not because I can't write nor that my story is bad, it's because I have been so focused and worried about having the details of the story laid out just so that I am no longer playing with the story.  In short, the pressure I've put on myself of produce, connect, and polish the storyline has made me lose track of the joy of  writing

I am a process person.  I like being in the middle of a knitting project more than finishing it.  I enjoy drawing and coloring my art much more than planning it out.  I like being in the middle of things because ends involve so many details that my detail oriented mind becomes overwhelmed and can't focus.  "Revising" has made me feel like I'm finishing my novel rather than still writing it.

Here's what I am telling myself now: I am not finished.  Far from it.  There's plenty of time to play, I just need to give myself the premission to make mistakes and trust that I can fix or incorporate them at a later time. 

Monday, July 26, 2010


Gosh, am I an irregular blogger or what?  This is a spontanious update on my part, so please excuse my lack of a point besides letting you know I'm still alive and kicking.

I haven't been writing as much as I'd like to say I have.  Consistency is one of my greatest advasaries as a writer.  Part of that inconsistency is my own creation of barriers via pointless TV binging or internet surfing.  Even now I am putting off facing a new story that has hit a wall of sorts. 

The story is just not coming out in a way that feels, for lack of better words, good to me.  I started out with some strong images and ideas I wanted to incorporate, but the way they've started to string together leaves me frustrated.  The plot came from somewhere in me, but I can't identify with it.  I feel like the small part of me that connected with this story has fallen out and I'm not quite sure how it put it back in.

So, yeah.  Enough about me and my problems.  How are you this week?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Censor Revealed!

I have found my inner critic!  Now I can squash it!

Okay, that was a bit of violent (for me, at least).  Let me explain.

I read "Squelch Your Inner Censor" by Jacquelyn b. Fletcher last summer in the Writer's Digest Creativity Guide.  One of the methods Fletcher suggests is to find a physical manifestation for your inner critic, something you can laugh at, abuse, or physcialy put away to  help shut off that annoying little voice telling you, "you can't do this."

I casually collect urban vinyl figures and recently picked up this rather grotesque little creature in a blind assortment box.

Creepy, right?  I wasn't sure what to do with her at first, but have come to realize that she is the perfect manifestation for my inner critic.  I've even given her a name I despise yet find fitting for such a serious and hard working creature: Ernestine.

With her face on, Ernestine looks kind and helpful, right? Wrong!  This is nothing but a cover up for her nasty ways.  Look at that little pursed mouth, those falsely pink cheeks and her cute little hat.  They're nothing but a sugary sweet cover up for one nit picky, spineless little creature who isn't up to any good. 

The only thing she's good at is making confidence shattering comments that keep you down and out as a writer. She'll whisper, her voice lulling and hypnotic, in your ear, "Is that the best you can do?  What makes you think you can call yourself a writer?"

Yes, her Umbridge-like personality makes her seem like your best friend, but take her face off -

 And you will see her for the pitiful creature she is.  She's ugly and unhappy because of her cruel ways.

When she gets too noisy, I can put her under a cup and just watch her frown at me.  Like so.

Now I can continue writing in peace.

Okay, okay, I confess, I have yet to actually try this exercise (I'm getting ahead of myself again), but I'm visualizing it working, so it's bound to help, right?  I'm forever the optimist to counter Ernestine's pessimism.

So, what does you're inner critic look or sound like and how do you tell them off?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Marathon training starts with 250 words

For the past few days, I've managed to write 250 words or a bit more each day (sadly today breaks that cycle, but I'll have time tomorrow to make up for it).  This may not seem like much to many writers out there, but for me it's HUGE.  Why?  It shows that I'm writing on a regular basis.

Before starting my current novel, I was one of those writers (heck, you could hardly call me a writer then) who wrote on a very irregular basis.  I'd get a very vivid image of a scene or a character and instantly write it down; this was going to be my greatest story, the one that would get me places!  I'd write for a bit only to loose steam and leave the project on my hard drive to await the day when I'd discover it and turn it into the novel of the century.

I've recently come to realize that this approach to writing was only getting me closer to a little town called Nowhere - population 1.  Now that I have a story I actually want to slave over (will get into my insecurities over it in another post), I've come to realize that what I really need to develop as a writer is endurance.  Yeah, being a sprinter is exciting and exhilarating (hence why I write for #fridayflash and participate in NaNo) but it doesn't work very well if you want to write the equivalent of a marathon.  Marathons are not usually run on flat roads; they are set along roads full of obstacles like Beacon Hill and the pot holes on Rout 9.*  The only way to get over these obstacles without turning an ankle is to know how to keep running no matter what.

I see my 250 words each day as my proverbial marathon training.  I may not be feeling the story every day, but if I show up to the page and get in my 250 words, it makes the next 250 words that much easier to write.  After writing 250 words a day minimum for awhile, I'll start writing 500 words a day.  Then I'll push myself to 1000 words a day.  By next November, I'll be able to write 1667 a day (the NaNoWriMo gold standard) without breaking a sweat. 

Well, that's 385 words.  I'm gonna keep showing up everyday to my stories and just write.  Whether or not the words flow or grind against one another, I'll be there.  What about you?  How do approach your writing routine?  

Informally yours,

*Yes, this is a Boston Marathon reference.  I'm a Boston nerd.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm a Flasher! (of the fictitious kind)

A few weeks ago I found out about #fridayflash on Twitter and immediately jumped in head first (I held my nose, though, so water wouldn't go up it.  I hate that.).  Since then I've managed to post each week, a minor feat I am very proud of.  I generally wrote everything from the ground up Friday late afternoon/night, but it's worked out for the most part.

Having a weekly, concrete deadline to write for is really helpful.  It keeps the creativity flowing the way working on the same WIP all the time just can't.  And I love my WIP; she's still my favorite (though her brother, my new, possibly future WIP, is gaining on her), but her story building is much slower.  Friday Flash keeps things fresh so I can work on WIP 1 and WIP 2 without getting too frustrated.  

The only conflicting feeling's I've encountered about #fridayflash have arisen from whether or not I feel comfortable setting my stories free into the wild, sometimes unsafe, internet.  I'm the sort of writer that squirrels away her ideas for cold, barren winters.  I never give away ideas (like I've seen on the NaNoWriMo forums) willingly and when I do I second guess myself later.

Take last week's post as an example.  I posted a story inspired by two unrelated* events and am so fond of it, I'm almost sorry I posted it on the internet.  What if I want to publish it, but can't because it's already been "published"?!  But as soon as I though this, I realized I never would have written that story in the first place if its wasn't for #fridayflash.  When I look at it that way, it seems alright. 

  #fridayflash is me trying to get away from this secret squirrel thinking, to free myself by giving my stories away without worrying about the bad things that might happen (i.e. stolen ideas!).  Will it bite me in the butt?  It may, but I'm hoping for the best.

Until next time,

*a) seeing dragon movies and reading dragon books, b) noticing the fire extinguishers hanging over the gas station and wondering if I should write a story about something on fire at the gas station.  a+b = Marie & George: Hatching by Charcoal Grill Incubator.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Taking Care of Business

Hello all,

I know I haven't been around much lately - okay, at all - but that's going to change.  Really *earnest nodding*

What I'm trying to say is that I'm gearing up to make my comeback on the internet, this time fully focused on writing.  There will likely be some asides pertaining to food - well, "some" meaning "frequent" - but the focus will be writing.

From now on, I'll be posting on a regular basis both here as well as on my other blog Fictitious Flashes.  I plan on writing/venting about writing here on Informally Yours while Fictitious Flashes will feature short pieces of fiction written for the twitter feed #fridayflash. 

So, how is writing going? Eh, per usual, unfortunately.  I haven't been giving my WIP enough attention this past week, but I was able to write something for #fridayflash in one day. 

This week's post was inspired by a Revolutionary War reenactment I watched a few weeks ago.  It wasn't the Battle of Lexington (that's at 5am on a Monday morning), but part of the same battle.  The Red Coats - known as the Regulars way back when - marched from Boston on April 19, 1775 to Lexington and Concord, where the famous "battle" was fought.  The Regulars then turned back to return to Boston and had to fight the Colonial minutemen the entire way back.  The battle I watched went from Munroe Tavern through Tower Park.  It was the closest I have ever been able to stand to a reenacted battle, so it was very exciting.  For a while, anyway.  Let me tell you, battles back in the day were slow.  Lots of lining up, firing, and not hitting anything (muskets are fairly inaccurate).  But still, it was fun despite dismal drizzle and my ears ringing from all the musket shots.  I couldn't help but wonder what a minuteman would think of this entire reenactment and thus "The Battle of Lexington" was born.

Okay, I'm off to get ready for bed and to finish reading for my writing group this Wednesday.  Goodnight and see you around!

Informally yours,

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year Goals

Happy new year, everyone! I hope you have had a fun, festive, and safe holiday season and are ready for things to go back to business as usual. Or unusual, depending on what you do for a living/with life. As much as I hate for the lazy days of vacation to go, I know that as soon as I get back into the groove of work I'll be fine. Do you feel the same, or do you wish vacation would never end?

I'm currently working on my goals for 2010. Note that these are
not resolutions. Resolutions, to me, are promises that start as lucid ideas that become opaque over time until you lose sight of them completely. Goals, on the other hand, are long term and supple. You can change or bend a goal, seeing as they are an anytime thing. New years resolutions are brittle, as you make them only once a year and it feels like cheating to change them after January. Anyway, my goals for 2010 currently consists of a rambling list in my new Moleskine calendar-notebook (plenty of space to make to do lists and take notes!).
Here's what I have so far:
Write at least 3x each week (at least 2x in journal)
Check to do list daily
Act on my kind thoughts, even if they make me self conscious
Save $X overall/for a car/etc.
Go to the gym 3x each week
Be less of a perfectionist

As I said, this is just my first draft. The only one I know I'll keep for sure is the "be less of a perfectionist" because I'm slowly learning that perfectionism is limiting. It's much more productive to make the first run of anything rough and loose and get the details down later when you have more to work with. I'm applying this both to my personal life and work; I'm prone to sweating the small stuff before they become an issue. Thinking a head prevents major issues from popping up, but worrying is like paying interest on something you may never need!

Have you written any of your new year goals? I'd love to hear some of them!

Formally yours,
Darth Formal