Number of nights writing after midnight: Let’s not talk about that, shall we?
Sanity: Slightly blurry. Living in a fog more or less after writing late at night. Which is not entirely different from normal…
It’s safe to say I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. NaNoWriMo, everyone! Don’t think, just write, and worry about it later. If ever.
It’s remarkably wonderful. And weird. Which is why I’m still here, three years running.
It would be easier if I didn’t keep having ideas for other projects while I’m trying to write. Why is it my characters have so little manners that they insist on barging in and describing their backstories now, when they belong in another book? Was it really necessary for a character to suggest how fun it would be to buy him a hot doughnut and sit laughing at my crazy reality over coffee? Coffee which neither of us care to drink? Can’t they behave and do as they’re told?
As if they ever have.
This is the point in NaNo that I start to get a little nervous in the novel-process. As I try to figure out just how many words the novel needs to get “finished.” Am I chowing through my word count so fast I’ll have nothing left by next week? Am I writing too slow, and I’ll still be up at 11:59 on November 30th, saying “Not yet! Not yet! This was a 100,000 word novel in disguise! It was all a lie!”
Because, in all honesty, I could quit at 50,000 words as having completed the novel and no one would care. It’s just me who would be judging and wondering and dissatisfied if I didn’t write an ending. If I didn’t finish tying together the plot threads in the middle. If I still had the characters haunting the back of my head, asking me why I would leave before the story’s done.
Because I’m still adding new characters. As of yesterday.
Yeah, I don’t know why either. Apparently a fencing master was necessary. I’m not going to argue with the man with a sword.
Also university finals. They be a coming. Less said about that the better.
I think every year of NaNo I’m baffled. It’s as if I should have it figured out by now, but I don’t. It’s like plunging off the top of a waterfall–no matter how prepared you think you are, it’s still the same uncontrollable thrill in the end.
So here’s to the weird and wonderful. However many words we write. And wherever it is we wind up.
7 days. 17,864 words. Something between 9 and 14 cups of green tea.
The novel is born.
How am I, you ask? Still alive (and typing! See? Look at me go!). A little worse for wear, since I’ve been getting most of each day’s word count in between midnight and one o’clock in the morning. And still keeping up with my regular schedule. Hence the protective attitude toward tea. A little stressed here and there, a narrow escape of a panic attack. But most of the negative has to do with my life in reality. Not the novel that I’m using to escape.
The writing itself hasn’t been too difficult. I decided to write something of a sequel to my first NaNo project. About twenty years prior, set in the same weird and wonderful steampunky world of fantasy and cryptids and royal courts and hard-packed dirt roads.
Remarkably, we haven’t encountered a single dragon yet.
Wouldn’t have thought that.
There have been moments where I’ve been holding my breath. When I haven’t a clue which way to go. I sort of hate my opening and have avoided rereading it just yet. But I think that’s part of the adventure. To feel the rush and thrill, the possibility that always comes with a challenge you really want to win.
And the best part is that I’ve given myself permission, in this challenge, in this steampunky world, to write anything I want to. Anything. There are always the rules of the world when you write–shy characters can’t fly off the handle every two chapters without explanation, gravity is still in operation on earth, unless it’s urban fantasy the unicorn shouldn’t have that smartphone thank you very much. But at least to some degree, I am ignoring them. I’m making my own rules. And breaking them.
As long as you love it, the only real rule is write.
It’s not too late to join the madness! Or at least see what all your sleep-deprived writer friends are gushing about: https://nanowrimo.org/.
So happy Eve of NaNoWriMo, Reformation Day, Blue Moon, Halloween, and Time-Change.
As I write this, there are two hours remaining to the start of NaNoWriMo. And I am guilty at this particular moment of having every intention to stay awake to meet it. Ready for the madness.
On the other hand, with stuffing preparations in this week, the madness might never have left.
An example from my odd, method-acting/interrogation style of writing in which I carry on conversations with my characters?
Segment from an actual note I took yesterday while doing some background research on lapis lazuli:
JADE. SERIOUSLY DUDE. WHAT. DID YOU KNOW THIS???
Not that I’m in the habit of yelling at my characters in all caps. Or saying “dude.” But the former has happened twice this week…
Aside from that project (which is supposed to be minding its manners and waiting its turn while I do my NaNo novel),
I finally decided to do the Hogwarts Sorting House Quiz.
Okay, so I’ve been putting this off more or less since I finished the books at the end of summer. Mostly because now that I actually had some idea of what all this fandom was about…I actually had a pretty clear idea of what house I wanted to be.
Or maybe it’s better to say that I had a clear idea of what I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be in Ravenclaw.
Not because I have anything at all against it. Just because I feel like it would be too easy for me to fit in there. I’m quiet, I’m smart, I’m bookish–clearly. You’re reading my book blog. I’m aware.
But on the other hand, it’s not what I care about most. And when people associate me with the “smart kid,” I can’t help feeling they’re seeing only one very small side of me.
The one house I was certain I wouldn’t fit into? Hufflepuff. Seriously, I was prepared to contest results if I got that one. Hufflepuff is a wonderful house, but I’m just too much of a raincloud for that (with all due respect to unhappy, grumpy, or emo Puffs. You still bring color into what would otherwise be a black-and-white world).
That left Gryffindor and Slytherin. And I have a friend who has been insisting I’m Slytherin since I started reading the books. I wouldn’t have minded either, really. Slytherin has the cooler scarves (sorry. I like green), and people really should be nicer to them. M’dear James Riley, wonderful lunatic author of Story Thieves is Slytherin. Gryffindor is Harry’s house. Few things are better than being brave. There’s a lot to like about both of them.
Add to all this that people take their houses very seriously. I’ve met people who let their houses define their identities–which wouldn’t bother me so much if I couldn’t see it fit perfectly. Very intelligent Ravenclaw professor who loves teaching. Hufflepuff language teacher who could not possibly be nicer to everyone and is literally like a personified hug even on her bad days. A couple of Slytherin students who provided me with culture shock. So I was starting to wonder if there really was something about it that was accurate.
Cue the overthinking and procrastination.
And setting aside the fact that I normally resist personality quizzes on the grounds that they can’t possibly work, my own tendency to assume I must have accidentally cheated them, that not even the Sorting Hat is infallible, and my mixed feelings about pitting people against each other in houses in the first place–
I decided today was the day, in honor of Lily and James Potter. Just as something fun. Nothing more.
Surprise! Aside from the slightest disappointment I don’t need to knit a green scarf, I am perhaps inordinately pleased with myself. I second-guessed it a bit. As I do everything. But I’m quite content with the idea. Adventure, in the end, really is the best prize of all, so I think it’s a good house for me. Besides, when it comes to things like this, it’s the people that define the group, not the other way around. So I’ll enjoy baffling the world as a bookish Gryffindor armed to the teeth to defend every other house that exists.
Comments? Undying love for your house to declare?
Now I’m just left wondering what house Tolkien would have been in (Ravenclaw? He developed multiple languages. Gryffindor? He chased a neighbor while wearing a full suit of armor.) and if I can accurately take sorting quizzes as my fictional characters. Because these are normal things that keep writers awake at night.
Anyway, fond wishes to all the houses today and extra inspiration to the Wrimos bouncing on their toes like it’s Christmas morning. This post is already much too long!
Oh, in case you’re wondering, that friend of mine is still insisting that I somehow cheated the test and really am a Slytherin.
To write 50,000 words in a month or not write 50,000 words in a month?
To stay up into the small hours of the morning on most weekends, typing a furious descent to madness, or to stay healthy, get a proper(ish) amount of sleep, and be psychologically well-balanced or at least without another item of excess stress?
It really isn’t a question.
I’m doing it. NaNoWriMo Round 3.
As an explanation, I am, quite certainly, when it comes to writing
…not in any particular order. And this year I really had no idea what I’d be writing. Zilch plan.
My creative-writing brain’s solution? Stay up until 2:30 a.m. creating a glorious steampunk (or is it medievalpunk–technically Renaissance-punk, but I wasn’t actually aware that was a thing) fantasy story plan that I absolutely cannot refuse.
But before that…I really couldn’t answer even to myself if I’d be doing it. And trust me, I know NaNo isn’t everyone’s thing. One of my writing buddies has been patiently nagged to do it for the last two years and just can’t with life. I get it. If I were really a level-headed person, I’d be looking at how crazy my little world already is and laugh at the whole idea.
I think NaNo is made for people like me. People who crave the challenge (and maybe a smidge of suffering). A reason to write. An adventure. A game to play you might very well lose.
Anyway, now it feels a little bit like a countdown to Christmas morning. I know, it’s a weird mixture of excitement and dread that goes into NaNo, but the truth is, as soon as I had my horribly messy plan, I couldn’t actually wait for it to start. I wanted to write it. I wanted it to be NaNo already.
I can almost feel the gasps of horror from the other writers who haven’t finished stockpiling their caffeine or polishing their outlines. I think eventually they might forgive the moment of weakness. That’s the other thing about NaNo–no matter what genre, what style, what life struggles we have, this challenge brings us all together, and makes allies out of people that have never met.
It’s a beautiful moment when you get to see that.
So with six days and counting, good luck to all the Wrimos out there, and a very peaceful November to all those who aren’t involved.
May we all find stories worthy of a dragon’s hoard.
Confetti and cake time! Writers of the Future has awarded me a Silver Honorable Mention!
You might remember “Rejection Slip,” a post about my last Writers of the Future entry. A flat-out refusal of a story that I loved.
Things are looking up.
The Silver Honorable Mention isn’t an official award. I won’t be published in the anthology. But out of 181 countries, story upon story upon story, writers who know what they’re doing and have seen every plot in the business (twice), read mine and saw something they liked.
I can be satisfied with that.
Until I write them something they can’t refuse.
I still scream incoherently every time I open one of the WOTF emails with good news. I reserve that, as my singular right. You know, on the list of things we “crazy writers” do.
So now that it’s officially been announced on the WOTF website, I’ve had my victory ice cream and life is ready to move on…
I’m debating National Novel Writing Month. For the third year running.
The case is this: I want to do it. Per usual, I don’t have time to do it. I’ve learned not to be bothered by that.
I have no plan. None. And only 9 days to come up with one. Because, you know, I’ve squandered the rest of October with unavoidable responsibilities and arguing with characters about peanut butter.
Yeah. You read that right. Peanut butter. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
So can I do this?
Wish me luck. Because I know myself well enough by now to guess that if I can find the slightest spark of inspiration, I’ll give it my best shot.
Twenty books randomly chosen from National November Writing Month participants were pitched to The Book Doctors. In a live video stream, those twenty lucky pitches are reviewed, and two of those have a chance to be sent to an official publisher.
Was I ready for this?
Was I waiting two hours early for the video to go live?
Erm…yeah. Actually, probably earlier than that.
Did the pitch for my messy little collection of fantasy short stories get randomly picked for review?
Well…no. Not this time. That’s how random odds go.
But I did get to enjoy the reaction of someone else whose pitch got picked in live chat (congratulations, everybody!). The critiques offered were useful for everyone, regardless of whose pitch it was–and the Book Doctors were very sensitive and kind about all the books.
And if we’re totally honest…I wasn’t super worried about it. The pitch was something I sent off for fun.
Because if it had actually won, right now I’d be staring at the bare bone structure I dared to call a novel and start charging into the battlefield of editing with the war cry of not ready not ready not ready!
Wasn’t time for that book yet. Especially since my attention writing-wise is elsewhere aat the moment. And that’s just fine.
What am I doing now?
Writing. Scribbling away at my 410,000 word work-in-progress. Sometimes feeling like I’m actually making progress. Waiting for my Writers of the Future results to come this month. Feeling like a lazy cat curled up in my reading nook.
Writing Status: Unblocked, but at the most inconvenient times.
Why is it we have our most brilliant ideas when we have no pens? Or paper? Or are trying to study/work/are being observed by the more sane non-writerly portion of the population (is “more sane” even the right term for that)?
I shouldn’t have dazzling ideas during midterms.
Last week was also the deadline for Pitchapalooza through NaNoWriMo. In short, I scribbled up a half-intelligible explanation of my (not at all polished) rough draft of the 60,000-odd word novel from last November, made myself sound like the New York Times Bestselling Author I am most certainly not, and hoped it got to be one of the 20 random book pitches chosen for review in two weeks.
The site can explain the logistics far better than I could.
But since the top 20 are chosen randomly, my odd, too-academic snobbery-sounding collection of short stories might have a chance.
Pasted it. Hit send.
That done, I stumbled across a random book called The Shadow of the Bear, read the shortest snippet, and caught wind of an idea.
Plunged back into my fictional version of wizardly New York, typed like a twenty-fingered madwoman for several hours while listening to the same fantasy song on repeat.
New character. New gaps in the ever-tangling timeline. New magical theories. Two deserted buildings. One quarter cup of pyrotechnics. Handful of existential theories of literature and philology folded into the batter. Stirred just until consistency is smooth.
Remembered I have a midterm exam in two days. Studied…
…and went back to writing.
This does not constitute advice.
If I sound distracted and breathless…it’s probably because I am. I tend to hit the ground running these days and hope somewhere along the way I’ll sprout wings.
Well, it’s December now. All of the groggy little writers who spent a month writing 50,000 words are sleeping in and waking up to see the world hasn’t fallen to shivers while they’ve been away. Everything’s much the same.
Except, of course, for those of us who made the journey.
Victors or not in the challenge, we return laden with words. The greatest treasure a writer could ask for. We lost sleep and caught colds and gave ourselves bloodshot eyes and sent each other memes in the dark of night to tell each other keep writing, keep writing! And we came out again on the other side.
Perhaps I embellish a bit. Perhaps it’s not quite like the exploits of a tremendous explorer. Perhaps writing about dragons isn’t the same as meeting them and splashing the spray of salty waves against a ship made of ink won’t quite give you the taste of them on your lips.
But it is something, and I’ll hazard a guess that the handful of people across the world that made the attempt are a good measure more adventurous for it.
So here’s to the adventure, and to all of us who made it. The lunatics, the people who finished, the people who didn’t,
50,000 words, 30 days, a lot of caffeine, not a whole lot of sleep. The challenge ends today. We update our word count for the last time.
Am I ready for this?
On paper, yes. Word count is at over 55,000 words. Story is a mess, but I think that’s to be expected. But there’s another question that follows that one.
Am I ready to go back to ordinary life after trying to write this many words?
No. Not even a little bit.
I’m never prepared for ordinary life.
So I’m going to spend today writing about a few of my favorite parts of NaNo. Everyone talks about the stress, the writer’s block, the damage to your health. We writers like to be dramatic. But that means sometimes we ignore the excitement, the community–let’s look at the obvious–the stories. The reasons we’re crazy enough to do this.
From the top.
The excuse to get up every day and write. No shoving laundry and other unimportant things like socialization before your words this month! You have a duty to write now (cue gleeful smile).
The fact that because you need every last little word, anything goes. Anything. Hyper-dramatic origin story taking up 27 pages? Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. It’s enormously freeing. Also somewhat terrifying.
The happy little charts telling you if you’re on track or not (here’s mine!)
The forums. Okay, seriously, now. These discussions. I don’t know who does these things, but “Express your attitude toward your novel in a meme or gif?” Or “The Spork Room Thread,” where we metaphorically stab our writing struggles with sporks? Raise your tankards to the madcap heroes who thought these up.
(guiltily here) Getting non-writer people to leave me alone to write because they can only imagine what writing that many words is like.
There’s so much more to NaNo that I should mention…people who understand exactly what it’s like to try (and sometimes fail) to write and are willing to cheer you on even when they’ve never read a word of your story…people who urge you on when you’re daunted by starting the task…the chance to write.
If I could change one thing about how I’ve done NaNo, it would be to have started a long time ago. Everyone talks about the dreaded 50,000 like it’s impossible–but it really isn’t! Only imagine how many rambling, half-finished novels I’d have by now.
So I actually already finished my goal of 50,000 words for the month. Two days ago?
Not sure how that happened.
Not sure how I feel about it, either.
No bells and whistles and whooping went off in my head. No banshee-screams like when I’ve discovered news of favorable contest results, loud enough to frighten the peaceful community saddled with me.
I just updated my word count on the NaNo site, hit the 50,000…and kept writing.
I’m still writing, mostly because it seems a shame to quit before November is over. And partly because the project I started can’t really begin to be called finished.
This always happens to me.
It’s more like I took automatons, mermaids, dragons, magic rings, circuses, flowers, war and who knows what else and shoved them into a pile and told them to be quiet while I called it a novel.
I don’t think they’re going to be quiet very long…
More than likely, they’re going to keep me awake at night until I polish them into the little fire-jewels I know they could be.
But it’s still November now. Too early for thinking about that.
I have slowed down writing a bit, since there’s no real goal I have to hit now. Taking a few deep breaths. Trying to make sense of the things I already wrote. Reading.
I read the final book Sarah Prineas’ Magic Thief series in two days flat. Actually, in just over 24 hours.
This is what happens when you deprive yourself of books. You stay up too late turning page after page as if the little “hamster at the wheel” everyone talks about has been given 100 milligrams of caffeine and an irresistible desire to exercise regardless of the lateness of the hour.
The series is a personal favorite. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? Pickpockets, little dragons, steampunk-y magic and a character that reminds me immensely of Gandalf if he wore a black frock coat and top hat–it’s really quite delicious. And after some hard, painful reading/book trauma the last few days, I needed some cheering up.