Why Writers Should Appreciate Long Shopping Lines

The past few months, my schedule has gotten busy and filled with lots of activities—important things, like school, chores, social interactions, meals—and less important, fun things.  As a result, it’s more difficult to find time to do everything I need or even want to do.  Even my writing has happened less often than I would like.

Sometimes, I get kind of impatient when things take longer than I want, because it’s wasting my time—time I could spend doing other things.  So when the shopping lines are long, for example, the usual thought to cross my mind is, “Ugh, I could be writing/[insert other task here] right now.”

Shopping

You know what, I really could be writing right then.

Think of it like a word war/sprint.

The point of a word war is to try to write as much as you possibly can in a set period of time.  No worries about spelling, grammar—just get as many words down as possible.  Usually, you do word wars with other people, and when the set time is over, you compare word-counts.  My favorite word war lengths are fifteen minutes.  It’s enough time for me to get in the “writing groove”, and really get writing.  In fact, for NaNo 2014, I discovered I could write about ~800 words in that fifteen minutes.

While you’re standing in line, you might not have fifteen minutes.  (I really hope the line isn’t that long.)  Maybe you only have two or three.  Maybe you have five.  And sure, there’s nobody to compete against.

But if I write ~800 words in fifteen minutes, and we pretend that I can keep that speed in five minutes, then I should be able to write 267 words in five minutes.  That’s…a lot of words for five minutes.

Okay, I really can’t write that fast.  Eight hundred words is only for those really good word wars where I’m really trying, and it takes me about five minutes to even get “warmed up”.  So in five minutes by themselves?

I get maybe a paragraph.  Or sometimes just a sentence.

That’s a paragraph or a sentence more than I had before.

Let’s say I can write 50 words in five minutes.  I’m on a long shopping trip with my…say, sister, just because.  Three separate stores.  The first one is pretty quick, no time to really do anything else.  But at the second store, my sister sees an old friend and she starts chatting.  Five minutes.  Fifty words.  The last store, there’s a long line.  Five minutes.  Fifty words.

By the time I get home, I’ve not only done a lot of shopping, but I’ve also written a hundred words!  My personal goal is usually to write about ~500+ words every day, so if I’ve already gotten a hundred, then I’m a fifth of the way to my goal already.

Even in other situations, sometimes just using those five wasted minutes, standing in line, waiting for someone, standing in the elevator.  Who says you can’t make use of it?  Five minutes start to add up after a while—maybe you’ll get your whole quota for the day done in five minute segments.

Of course, I would like to say that setting aside time to write solely is important.  Sometimes, you have to be totally immersed in your world.  If nothing else than just for your sanity.  (Break from reality, anyone?)  There are plenty of times where I can’t actually make use of those few extra minutes, but in order to go any further, I need to be in my world.  And five minutes in my world is…both not enough, and actually kind of frustrating.

So this does not work all the time.  I’d say, it probably doesn’t even work for everyone.

But five minutes.  A single sentence, even.  That’s more than you had before, and all you’re doing is standing in line, anyway.

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NaNoWriMo—Conclusion

So! Today is…December 2nd.  (I almost forgot that for a moment.). NaNoWriMo is over.  Did I make my goal?

Eep.  Not quite.  I ended the month with 26k.

I’m content with that, though.  I wrote, almost everyday.  So I’m good.

Meanwhile, finals are sneaking up on me (okay, not-so-sneaking), and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to be on WordPress much for a week or so.  So I won’t really respond to any comments.

On that note, how did NaNoWriMo go for the rest of you?

NaNoWriMo—Past the MidWay Point! & Extras!

I’ve found it’s strangely discouraging to see how much further ahead everybody else’s wordcounts are from mine, so I decided to stop looking.  After all, it doesn’t matter how much everyone else has written! NaNoWriMo isn’t a race against other people.  It’s a crazy motivational month in which we all try our bests to write a full novel.

Okay, at the end of the month, I won’t have a full novel.  I’ll have 30k of assorted, random scenes that I can then use to write a fairlyish good outline of the next two novels.  (Instead of just one.  Oops.)

So far, I’m right on track.  Today’s the nineteenth and I have almost 19k.  (Okay, fine, I’m a few hundred words behind.  There, you got me.)  I’m not worried, though.  I’m still pretty confident I’ll make my goal, and I’ll be pretty happy with it.

Meanwhile, I realized that come December, I won’t have anything to write.  I’m not finishing the novel I’m writing this month, for several reasons—the biggest of which simply is that I have written absolutely nothing this year that wasn’t set in this world and with these characters. (Well, okay, I tried a few other things for Camp NaNo, but I’m not sure those count because I didn’t do much.)

I want something new. Something really different. So while I write my 1k for NaNo each day, I’m also brainstorming for a new project that I had an idea for way back in…I don’t even remember when.

The premise?  Aaaaahh, you want spoilers?  Okay, fine, you convinced me.  I managed to figure out how to turn Sleeping Beauty into a heist.

I love this story.  Unfortunately, I have never written a piece of sci-fi longer than 3k (which means I’ve never done any sci-fi worldbuilding), and I have never ever written a heist.

Nothing like new experiences, right?  (If anybody has any world building advice they could share, I’d be eternally grateful.  I am so lost.)

I’m excited.  Since I probably won’t start the writing itself for another month or so, I think this project will either be a really good way to start 2016 off, or it’ll be a really bad way.  Or both.  Probably both, knowing me and my projects, hehe.

NaNoWriMo, Day Nine & Summary of the Week

Over the weekend, we lost Internet (and the phone line) for roughly 24 hours, and I got sick with a cold.  Great for productivity, right?

Well.  This cold left me feeling particularly…fuzzy, and I couldn’t concentrate.  So I mostly bundled up under a blanket (it’s actually getting cold! sort of!) and wrote basically nothing.

However, on Friday, I came to a conclusion that I was going about my writing, and even NaNoWriMo, wrong.  See (prepare for random tangent), I have two methods for brainstorming.  Method A = rambling at friends until they get sick of me or I bore myself or I come up with a solution.  Or all three at once.  Method B = scribble on my whiteboard.

Method A is great when you aren’t writing a sequel that’s full of spoilers you don’t want to spoil.  So, I spent the first week trying to figure things out without brainstorming at all, and I kept getting stuck and feeling frustrated.  Then it occurred to me that I forgot about Method B.

So I went and grabbed my headphones and cleared off my whiteboard and brainstormed.

I started by writing down everything that my “primary protagonist”, as I’ll call him since he seems to be most important in this book, had to deal with.  Which was a lot, poor guy.  Then I started writing down the random plot twists that I’d already encountered, and how they led to other scenes, and how they affected other characters, and suddenly, I was afraid my whiteboard wouldn’t be big enough.  (I’ll be eternally grateful to anybody wants to buy me a whiteboard for Christmas.  Okay, just kidding.  I don’t need anything for Christmas.)

IMG_1077
I blurred it so nobody can read spoilers (or at least not as many). The red column, and the one black part at the bottom, are all of the things my main protagonist has to deal with. The two blue sections and the two black sections on the left are the other four characters, and you can see how much smaller THEIR problems are. And then the black column on the right are all of the major plot twists I’ve become aware of.

So after doing all of this, I came to a realization.  My goal for NaNoWriMo isn’t to write 50k, but to write enough to figure out where the story is going.

And look at that! Look at all I know now! Before November, I knew probably two or three things from that list.

Conclusion? If I had written this story chronologically, I wouldn’t have known half of what I’ve figured out now.  In other words, writing all of those random scenes that popped into my head (and then figuring out what scenes could result from it, and who it would affect and how and writing those) was actually probably for the best!  Granted, I only have ~7k out of my 30k, and I don’t think I’ll get a full 30k out of nothing but random, unconnected scenes, so at some point, I’m going to have to start writing the beginning and following it from there.  But for now, I think I’m doing pretty good.  In fact, if I didn’t write a single other word at all this entire month, I think I would have enough to write a vague outline and have almost enough to be totally satisfied.

How’s the writing going for everybody else?  Have you gotten to the Week Two Blues, as I think the NaNoWriMo staff often call them, or are you still going strong?

NaNoWriMo, Day Three

So, a probably short update.  I finished my editing up on the 31st—right on schedule.  It was perfect.  (I also finished my homework right on schedule, too, and for that I am pleased.)

And now today is November third. How has NaNoWriMo been?

Well.  While, while everyone around me was finishing off their first day with wordcounts of 10k or 16k (I still don’t know how she wrote that much and is still alive), I finished the day with 2k.  I decided not to be jealous of their wordcounts, however, and instead be proud of my 2k.  2k is twice what I intended to write.

This year for NaNo, my goal is to write a thousand words a day.  By the end of the month, I’ll only have thirty thousand, and not the 50k, but I am going to be okay with that.  I don’t need to win officially—my goal, and the thing I need to do to “win” for myself—is to just write and have fun with it.

So how goes the writing for the rest of you? Did you have a good start?

Looking Back at August: By Far The Longest Month of the Year

So.  August is finally over!  I swear, August was like the longest month ever.  I am so sick of it now.

August was pretty crazy.  Obviously, there’s school starting up, and that was exciting.  Not.  Actually, kind of scary, since I’m experiencing things I’ve never experienced before.  Fun.

August was also hot.  We had a mild (ish) July weather, so August decided to be as miserable as ever.

August also had lots of fun medical stuff.  My sister got sick with something similar to strep throat.  And I have suffered from headaches for a week and a half with no sign of ceasing.  (And it turns out, I might be following in several family members’ footsteps and have migraines.  Or maybe it’s just cluster headaches.  We dunno really.) I also had fun with a CT scan and four MRI scans! Yeah.  (The short version of that story was that the doctor decided she wanted to look into a minor abnormality I have, and see if there’s something medically wrong causing it, or if it’s just…a thing I have.  The results came back today as being perfectly fine and I don’t have a secret tumor or something growing in my head or anything.  I am perfectly healthy.  Aside from some allergies and these blasted headaches.)

But I doubt any of you care about all of that! How about the writing?

Writing.  Well, I’m right on with my goal.  I have less than 40k left to edit.  20k for September and 20k for October, and then I should be finished just in time for Halloween and NaNoWriMo.

When I first started editing, I wrote an outline to follow.  It was a fairly simple outline, only having the chapters and vague scenes that needed to happen for the plot to progress.

That way there was plenty of leeway.

So of course, my characters have decided to be a little rebellious.  I keep having scenes pop up that definitively aren’t part of the outline, and things happen, and oh gosh the emotions.  One character in particular keeps having horribly emotional scenes and it’s so darn sad.  But really, I think the novel is coming out better for these little unpredicted moments.

Hopefully things will continue to go smoothly.  Or, well, as smoothly as a second draft can be—’cause believe me, this is loads better than draft one, but still not half as good as published works.

Monthly Progress

Sooooo…it is August!  And August means… Camp NaNo is ended!

I won, with a total of… I don’t even remember my word count.  But since I was editing and not freewriting, it really doesn’t matter.  The point is, I edited the amount I needed.

A few months ago, I decided that my goal was to be completely done with draft two by the end of October.  Basically, be all done with draft two in time to write something else (the sequel) for NaNoWriMo.

In order to do that, I have to edit roughly 20k each month.  So what’s my goal to do this month?

That’s right, edit 20k.  I have roughly 50k left to edit (which is slightly less than half the novel), but the second half has less plot issues and inconsistencies than the first half, so I’m hoping that it’ll be a lot quicker to edit than the first half. (I’ve been editing since March or so, so you can see how long the first half took to go through.  But it was mostly rewrites and rewrites are kind of hard and slow.)

So I basically plan to have six more chapters edited by the end of the month.  So by the beginning of September, if all goes well, I should be starting work on chapter thirty.

How did Camp go for everybody else, if you participated?

 

A Mishmash Post of Plot Holes, World-building, and a New Project

So, in my last post, I mentioned that I was rereading my NaNo novel, and taking notes/asking questions, as if I was my own “alpha reader”.  I’m finished with that now, and I can say, it worked as well as I had hoped it would.  Since I took a break from the novel for a month before I did this, I was fairly well distanced from the novel, and I could look at it from the perspective of a reader, of sorts.

That was encouraging.  I was looking for problems to fix, and I certainly found plenty of them.  However, I found more problems with the story, rather than problems with the writing, and that is hugely encouraging, at least for me.  See, I wrote this novel in a single month.  Thirty days.  I did some world building and some character development, but no actual planning, and I had no clue what the plot was until, well, I got there.

So, I expected lots of problems.  Plot holes, and inconsistencies, and flat characters, and things that just don’t make sense, and all things of that sort.  Did I find them?  You bet.  But what I didn’t find were issues with my writing style itself.

I mean, there are issues.  I have more mistyped-words and typos than real words, and there’s plenty of things like info-dumps and blank descriptions and whatnot.  However, the thing is, my writing could be improved, and it wasn’t really good, but it didn’t strike me as being oh-my-goodness-that’s-horrible-how-could-I-ever-have-written-that kind of bad.

Does that even make any sense?  I guess my point is, while the novel had it’s fair share of issues—and then some—I know that all of those issues are ones I can fix, and I know I can get this novel into a readable state.  It’s not like my ’12 NaNo novel, that I don’t think I’ll ever touch again.

So, I’m encouraged.

On a different note, one thing I found through this reading process was that I didn’t have nearly enough world-building.  I hardly knew that world at all when I wrote about it.  So, before I really start editing, I have to fill in that world-building.  (That’s why the little editing bar on the right of the page has been staying consistently low, even while the other two bars go up.)

World-building is, in a word…odd.  I’ve never done much of it in-depth before, not to this extent, and it’s kind of overwhelming.  I realized, though, that the more I got to know about the world, the more I began to really, really love the world, and then the more fun the world-building became.  I now understand why people get world builder’s disease.  Hopefully I won’t end up that far down, though.

Anyway!  On unrelated things… The writing’s been good, as you can probably tell by the lower two word-count bars on the right.  I’ve been able to consistently write every single day, though there was one day where I’m not completely sure I met my 200 word goal.  It might have only been 100 or so, but I think there were other things going on that day and I couldn’t do more than that.  So, I counted it anyway.

Also, for that one novel, the progress is coming along nicely.  I hope I’m about half way through the novel, though since I’m mostly pantsing this one, it’s hard to tell.

Unsurprisingly, with my multi-projects-at-once self, those two novels aren’t my only projects. I recently started another novel, and I’m only about 3k into that one.  I know I probably shouldn’t let myself multitask so much, but I’ve kind of learned that it’s really hard to not do it, so I’m letting myself for now.  I don’t think this new novel will take me very far before I get stuck and will need to sit back and figure out where I’m going, in which case I can step back and go back to solely working on my other projects.  That’s why I’m not bothering to put a bar up for it in the side, even if I am working on it as well.

So…I think that’s it.  This is kind of a mishmash post, isn’t it?  Heh heh, oh well.

Updates and Whatnot

I’ve been struggling lately with blog posts, mostly because any time I think of something to post about, I then think, “Nah, why would anybody want to read that?” and then I don’t post anything.  But really, since when did I post things that were particularly all that interesting?  If I was that interesting, I’d probably have more followers.

Ha!  As if I’m in this for the followers.  I don’t even know why I’m doing this.  I guess because I got bored a few years ago and thought, “Hey, let’s make a blog.”

So, really truly, I have this blog to talk about writing.  So I’m going to talk about writing, and if I do it in the most boring fashion ever, well, then, I can say I succeed at being a bore.  I’m doing this for myself more than anything anyway, I think.

With that all out of the way, I suppose this post is mostly an update on my writing and such.

First off, sometime since January 1st, I decided that I was going to set a goal of trying to write about 200 words every single day.  It’s a very small amount, but that’s the point of it.  Even on busy days, I can write that much early in the mornings, so I know I can do it every day.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t try to write more.  However, having such a small goal makes it easier to feel accomplished each day, no matter how much or how little I’ve written.

Yesterday, I wrote almost 3k, and it was awesome.  Especially since I didn’t even realize I’d had that much until I sat back and glanced at my word-count.  Today, on the other hand, I’ve written only roughly 250 words, yet I still feel accomplished.  I wrote, and I met my goal, and I’m satisfied.  I’ll still write more tonight, but if I feel I need to do something else for the evening, I know I can.

I guess what it is is that I can easily make my goal, which means I can spend my day doing more than just writing.  That’s especially good for school days, when I don’t even have the whole day to get done everything I want to get gone.

So, there.  I have a little bar on the right side of the page of my consecutive days of writing, starting January 1st.  My hope is that that bar will never drop down back to zero even once this year.  I have no clue if that is a far-fetched goal, but I will do my best to make it there.  And if I don’t make it…

This gif amuses me way too much.

 

Anyway.  On another note, I’ve started editing my NaNoWriMo novel, Oracular.  Well, ish.  (There’s another bar on the right side tracking my progress, in case anyone’s curious.)  I haven’t actually edited a single thing in the novel yet.  What I am doing, however, is basically being my own alpha reader.

At the moment, I’m reading the novel, start to finish, and taking notes on it.  My thoughts on a character’s reaction to something, notes on places where the world-building is thin, questions whose answers could prompt changes in later parts, and all that stuff.  When I’ve gotten all the way to the end, then I’ll start sorting through things.  I have a lot of world-building ahead of me, because I realized I had holes all over the place.  My magic system I didn’t even begin to touch on, and that really shows, and I have things like characters righting things down on paper even though I specifically noted that trees are sparse enough in this country that they can’t make paper, particularly not for everyday use.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Once I have a more solid world to build on, I’m going to have to sort out my characters.  I had five viewpoint characters, and it was a struggle to balance it—a struggle that I failed miserably.  One character had roughly fourteen narrated chapters, while another had four or five.  Scrivener has a handy Collections thing that I can use to sort out the different narrated chapters, and I’ll be sorting out each character’s arc and better balancing the chapters.

After I’m done with that, I don’t even know.  To get to this part, I’m pretty sure I’ll be rewriting most of the beginning, at the very least.  Hopefully I won’t have to rewrite much of the middle, and I don’t even know with the ending.  That will probably get rewritten mostly, as well, though I’ll know better when I finish reading it.

Maybe by that point, I’ll be willing to let someone else read the novel.  (Hello, Peace.)

Anyway, so that’s where I am for now.  I’m feeling confident, if a tad bit overwhelmed.

Untitled

Okay, I admit it.  I’ve been avoiding my blog.  Why?  Honestly, I’m not entirely sure.  I guess because I’ve felt I had nothing worth saying.  So…bear with me if all of rest of this post is rather uninteresting.

Anyway.  Most of my previous posts mentioned NaNoWriMo and how I was planning for it (and excited for it), so I guess I need to mention that.  Well.  I’m doing NaNoWriMo!

As of this very moment, my word-count is just over forty-nine thousand words—though I suppose you can see that in the little word-tracker bar in the corner.  I hope to have fifty thousand words before I go to bed tonight, but we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I’m rather enjoying the story.  It has problems—in fact, the first twenty thousand words or so are all a problem in and of itself—but I like most of the characters and the plot is…not going where I expected.  Then again, I was after all basically doing an experiment with this novel.  I developed my characters and I built my world, but I didn’t figure out my plot.  That way, I’d know about the story, but I’d still be free to discovery-write it as much as I wished.

So far, that’s going fairly okay.  I mean, there have been spots where not knowing what my plot was did kind of screw me up or slow me down, but I am having fun with it.  I know there’ll be a lot of editing when I’m finished, however.

And that is about all I have to say.  How’s the writing going for everyone else?