Saturday, October 29, 2011

Around a Novel in 80 Days - An Update

On October 31st, my self-initiated project draws to a close. Around 80 days ago, I decided that I am tired of existing in the gonna-do-it-someday realm of wanna-be writers. It occurred to me that the only way anything would happen with my writing is if I actually began.

I know, I know, this seems like a ridiculously simple realization. While I understood this logically before, it really hit home just how much I wanted to write, and how silly it was to hold myself back.

So, I began.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo, I began my own version of the contest, in which I planned to write my first novel in the months leading up to November. By my plan, I would write 700 words a day, to help prepare me for the rigorous word count demands brought by NaNoWriMo.

I dubbed this project "StoffelNoWriMos", and waded hip deep into writing a novel, charging forward into the murky abyss, trudging ever forward, ever upward.

Somehow, I (narrowly) escaped the urge to break said tablets
in a fit of rage. It helps that no one built a golden idol to some
other story god in this process. 
I'm happy to report that I have emerged triumphant.

From the abyss, I strode (or stumbled), and descended the mountain, carrying with me the tablets (with embedded flash memory and USB support) inscribed with the delicate carvings, a testament to the creative breath issued forth from the god of the story set before me.

My wife was quick to cover my glowing face with a cloth. My best friend urged her to replace it with a paper bag.

A beautiful novel had come forth, and all bowed in reverence.

Okay, okay, it may not have been quite that dramatic. (Imagery inspired by "The Writer's Prayer", found in Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey, by Chuck Wendig)

But hey, it's pretty cool, having a first draft.

Technically speaking, I did not keep up with my numeric goals.

I did not write every day. Some days, I wrote, and I did not reach 700 words. I set an arbitrary target of 50,000 words, and my manuscript clocks in at ~36,000 words.

I still feel like a winner. I had skirted around this story for years, always thinking about when I was going to do it, in the nebulous 'later'. Now, though, it exists. It has tangible substance somewhere outside of my brain.

My confidence goes through various states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, and plasma are actually rather fitting metaphors for my typical confidence levels). Having a (mostly) finished draft did not fill me with ultimate glee, but I sure feel better about my ability to complete a project.

If one were to draw a tidbit of useful advice from this experience, it should probably be:

Finish something. 

Projects started and abandoned are anchors to confidence, and for this metaphor to work, your confidence needs to fly free.

In the meantime, I also managed to write a short story (not my typical form) and begin to prepare for NaNoWriMo.

If you add all of this together, it's pretty significant, at least to me.

Three months ago, I was a restless, grumbling slacker who sometimes felt pointless.

Now, though, I have undergone a veritable metamorphosis, dear reader.

Today, I am a restless, grumbling slacker who sometimes felt pointless, and IS ALSO WRITING.

...and is also partially
zombified. It happens.
A subtle difference, some may say, but a great one.

If I had abandoned this after a few thousand words, I probably would have abandoned this whole writing idea. (I almost put in "That's all she wrote," but that just does not play well here.) My shaky confidence could not have survived such a blow.

Now, though, I find myself excited about the future. I get giddy thinking about the fun ways to twist the emotions of reader and characters alike, new possibilities for what I will write, instead of what I might eventually do.

Back from the heady rush of glee, I understand this is just a first draft. There's still so much work to be done before my novel is ready to be distributed. And, you know what? I'm okay with that.

Each day is its own struggle to continue the momentum that I've gained, but I now at least feel like it's possible to succeed.

Let's see if I can take that feeling into November! (Spoiler alert: I can.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Not sure what to write? [INSERT TEXT HERE].

I have a confession to make, people: Technically speaking, I'm new to this writing gig.

All told, I've been wholly committed to being a writer for a couple of months. I know, I know, it doesn't seem like much at all. 

Still, I've been writing for a lot longer than that. In that time, I've found one hyper-critical tidbit of process that has saved my flow in many occasions. 

If you do not know what to write regarding a relatively small detail, do not stop writing. 

Instead, throw a bracket-blank into your text, and go on your merry way. 

It's simple. Say Bob and Lauren are in Kiev, and need to get directions to the candy store they've located on their map. You could stop writing, pull up an Internet browser, and get lost for a few minutes (or a few hours) looking for just the right phrase (Покажіть мені це місце на мапі). 

When you find it, or give up, you wander back to your draft, distracted, unfocused, and thoroughly off track. Not the best state of mind for writing. 

Alternatively, you could leave yourself a small note, reminding you to fill it in later. 

When I do it, it looks something like this:


Bob tapped the hobo's shoulder, while Lauren fiddled with the Ukrainian-to-English phrasebook. 

The hobo turned to them, a devilish grin on his face. Lauren's breath caught, but she managed to read from the book, "[DIRECT ME TO DELIGHTFUL CONFECTIONS, FOOLISH MORTAL!]."


By so doing, we have successfully jumped right over the troublesome pothole, and may now zoom ahead. We will see just how much this mysterious hobo knows about the black market candy store, and, further, about Lauren's secret past.

This method is useful for situations other than language barriers. You could try applying a thin layer of bracket-blank to:

  • Patch / tie together short bits of conversation
  • Sum up description that needs to be fleshed out later
  • Label a one-appearance character's name TBD
  • Accept that you can't find the right word, and move on

Maintaining consistent flow is of utmost importance to me when I'm writing. Otherwise, I'll hardly accomplish anything in my writing sessions. 

Remember: the most important thing, when working on a first draft, is to get something down. You can always go back and fix it. Bracket-blanking helps free you to do this. 

I hope this helps you writerly types out there. With demanding word-count expectations coming up during NaNoWriMo, we can't afford to get hung up on minute details. Allow yourself to go back and fix it later, even if it's at the end of the day. You'll be happy you did. 

Keep the writer juices flowing.

Just what does that hobo know about the candy?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Training for a Caffeine Marathon

Today, we worked to take a picture to accompany my post on WriMos FTW! (Did I mention that's up? Feel free to take a look!)

I wanted to focus upon a marathon theme, and... well, you can see that.. I tried to focus upon a marathon theme!

I'm all in all satisfied with the result, and... intrigued by the other photos that resulted.

Below are the rejected pictures for the post.

Click any image to enlarge... if you dare. 

Monday, October 10, 2011


Say again? What's that gaggle of letters you piled onto your blog title like an out-of-work surrealist painter all hopped up on watercolor fumes?

There is, maybe, one thing I did not make clear in my first post: I may talk a bit in a circle, flinging about a bit of non-traditional imagery to accomplish a specific goal. I confess I do not always accomplish my goals; after all, communication is a two-way street. It doesn't matter how much I feel like I've done well saying something, if you don't get it, communication is not working.

Anyway, back to the Subject At Hand.

Much of what helped give me the proverbial kick in the pants is NaNoWriMo, and my desire to participate in said event. I got back on Twitter (though, to be fair, I'd never really used it before), and began to connect with writerly types.

Oppressively long story cut short by the Editing Machete of Longwindedness Doom (+2), I found myself caught in a flurry of tweets (with surprisingly few feathers flying, to my disappointment) with people such as the illustrious @LynMidnight, who, crazy person that she is, decided that a networking blog for NaNoWriMo was just the thing to help people slog through the rough times, and share the glorious times as well.

Thus, through the tears, laughs, agitations, and not-nearly-enough-flying-feathers, WriMosFTW was born.

The site features guest blog posts from both Once and Future Participants, and NaNoNoobs like me. (On second thought, that actually looks kind of tacky... let's make a deal, you and me, to never, ever mention this term again. Okay? Done.)

It's a great place to receive encouragement and insight, and to find other writers with whom you may connect. We're all in this together... separately, but together! I strongly encourage you, reader, to check out the site, and if you are participating, maybe even give @LynMidnight a shout-out... she is still seeking blog posts for November.

As a side-note, my guest blog will be posted on Wednesday. Is this shameless self-promotion? Maybe. I'm actually pretty excited, because this is the first time in a while that anyone has purposefully put something I've written 'out there'. (No comment on the apparent lack of sanity in said decision...) It's an awesome place to be, and I'm glad to share my thoughts on the matter.

Speaking of which, @LynMidnight gave me a shiny badge to post on my blog, for participating in WriMosFTW. Behold, dear reader, and bow before its might!

Oh, yeah. I'm, like, official now.



When do I get my Beretta?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Blog Posts You Deserve, But Not The Ones You Need Right Now

I almost went outside after this post!
I am willing to accept this. I am, by no means, a pro-blogger. As far as keeping up with a blog, I actually kind of suck.

Or, rather, I did suck. I have trouble sticking to projects that I begin, and blogging has never been a priority for me. Therefore, my Hubpages account saw little activity, except when I felt 'inspired'.

For those not in the know: I rarely feel inspired to blog. So far. (Though it happens.)

A month and a half ago, I grew tired of living in the mindset of gonna-do-it-someday in regards to writing, and began my "StoffelNoWriMos" project. (I will write an update to this project on Inspirandomonium within a week.)

The point here is: I need better discipline. And working on this novel, believe you me, I have made progress by leaps and bounds. I may have as much discipline as your average house cat all hopped up on the nip now.

Another point is that I want to reach out. There is the advice going around that a writer cannot exist without a 'platform', and that's certainly important, but that's not my only intention here. I also just love putting words together in the right way to make people think, and/or to make them smile.

A blog is a fantastic avenue of communication for my thoughts, and a great place to interact with others about them. And I do want to interact. Really! I will crawl out of my inchoate-writer grotto to play comment twiddly-dinks with you. (Speaking of which, I will also rappel down from my inchoate-writer tower to play pass-the-tweet, if you wish to find me on Twitter!)

Bold statement made here: I will make at least one blog post every calendar week.

I will, some calendar weeks, regret making the previous bold statement.

I hope that the developing discipline will make this easier, and that everyone will have a great time. If nothing else, you can have a good time picking on me for my bold statements.

Thank you, reader, for your support. (I consider the fact that you've read this far support. If you skipped down here, shame on you for toying with my emotions. At least go back to the top and scroll slowly, so that it feels like support, okay?) It helps a lot to have the sense of accountability, and digital accountability, er, accounts... too. Yeah.

See you next post!