Archive | November, 2011

Checking In: Approaching the Finish Line…

25 Nov

Wow! Can you all believe that we’re coming up on the final weekend of November? For those of you in the US, we hope that you’ve enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. For everyone else, hopefully this week has gone well for you!

The aforementioned Lauren Garafalo (@laurengarafalo), queen of the sprintysprinters, will be hosting a series of wordsprints this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for anyone who wants a chance to squeeze in some extra writing time. Watch the #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter for more announcements.

Mini-Mashup of Awesome

Carrie Mumford talks about three things you should try before you quit NaNo and even though we are closing in on the finish line there might be people who are considering quitting altogether.

The Novel Doctor offers some tips on how to increase your word count – very useful!

Over at WriMos FTW!, Angela Goff has a great list of quick fixes for plot problems.

Checking In

Em’s Update

Well things have taken an interesting turn tonight. I have finished my story. In 47,627 words. I literally have just written my last scene and I have finished. My murderer has been found out by my delicious detective and I am done. Oh I know, I need to write ‘The End’. Then I will be up to 47,629 words. Eeek! I am not going to panic or worry. I will find those words somewhere. I have looked at the suggestions of the Novel Doctor (link above) and am considering some of them. But I don’t want to add words for adding sake.

Some of my ideas are:

  • add in bits from the killers point of view between chapters. I thought about this before but not sure how well it would work.
  • include interrogations of some of the other guests/staff which I summarised so we weren’t hearing the same story over and over.
  • look at my descriptions and see if they can be expanded on.
  • look at my dialogue and see if I can expand on conversations/give some people more lines.

Anyone got any suggestions?! I don’t want to add in a new character at this late stage to mess things up and I am scared of reading through everything in case I end up deleting more than I add. I suppose if I am firm with myself I could simply read and add as I go. That is an option.

As I said, I am not going to panic. I am not going to be able to write tomorrow as I have plans (for the first day since NaNo began!) so I am hoping the little bit of distance will help. I will scribble any ideas down and start afresh on saturday to see what I can do. I am not going to panic but I am also not going to stop below 50,000 words. I knew I was writing a shorter Agatha Christie style novella from quite early on and I am sure the nature of NaNo has propelled me forwards through my story quicker than if I was writing normally but I want to win NaNo. I have worked too hard not to have a halo! I am glad I have some days to think this through and to add in words where they add to the story, not just for adding sake.

Lena’s Update

As I write this, I am pleasantly full from tasty candied yams, cheesy mashed potatoes, stuffing, and, of course, turkey. I’m a little sad because my beloved San Francisco 49ers lost today’s football game against the Baltimore Ravens — not that I’m a huge sports fan, mind you, but I take an interest based on a sense of hometown spirit.

Anyway, writing! Somewhere along the way, the stress that produced my Week 2 block has melted away, and I am slightly ahead of schedule with 45,0001 words. With less that 5k left to go, I find that I’m a little sad to reach that 50k finish line. I’m even dragging my feet a little, even though I know that the story will be far from finished. This has been an intense process (understatement of the year), and NaNo has given me the excuse to get up and personal with this story in ways that I haven’t before.

I’ve abandoned all hope of writing in a linear fashion, which means that I have a sprawling, untidy middle; the first forays into my final act; and, as of Monday, the drabbles of a beginning. This opening is far different from the original 25k I wrote back in June. Liandre, my MC, has a much stronger voice, and she’s become much more mature as well. In the original, she spent most of her time crying (for good reason, of course, as her father had just died and she was informed that everything she knew about her identity was a lie) and being rather passive. Now, she’s pragmatic and resourceful, a resilient young woman who is doing all that she can to adjust to a world that is rapidly changing.

In spite of everything that’s missing in this novel (er, a system of magic? The romance subplot? Lots of dialogue and description and pivotal plot points?), I think my biggest victory lies in getting to know Liandre better. Taking a chance and writing in the first person has allowed me greater intimacy in learning her voice, and in tapping into who she is. Seeing these various worlds through her eyes is an adventure and a treat for me as a writer. I can only hope that one day this will be polished enough, and good enough, that other readers might feel the same.

How’s everyone else doing?

On your way to reaching 50k? Even if you doubt that you’ll make the “finish line” by the end of the month, we encourage you to keep writing — remember, this is about the process just as much as the final product.

-Em and Lena

Checking In: Speeding Towards Week Three

18 Nov

WriMos, it’s that time again! We’ve passed the half-way mark in the month of November — crazy, huh? If you feel like you’re falling behind or you just want to have a few buddies to write with, we encourage you to jump in on a word sprint or two. If you’re on Twitter, there are tons of sprints happening around the clock (check out the #wordsprint hashtag, and follow @NaNoWordSprints). Our own Lauren Garafalo (@LaurenGarafalo) has also been organizing daily sprints on the #ROW80 hashtag. Drop in for encouragement, chatting, and some structured writing time!

Mini-Mashup of Awesome

Julie Isaac explains how NaNo is really four goals in one. NaNo, she writes, is a process and not simply about splurging out 50,000 words.

Over at Writers in the Storm, Elizabeth Craig offers 15 tips for writing murder mysteries. Em found it really useful in terms of her process, e.g. how soon she revealed the body, and gave her lots to think about. without being too detailed.

Jami Gold offers a great overview of the “Fast Draft” method, a technique for “getting the framework of our story down as fast as possible — without worrying about what it looks like.” There are definitely some useful tips that we WriMos can tap into as we speed our way through our own novels this month.

Checking In

Em’s Update
I looked at my check-in last Friday and had to laugh. I actually said I enjoyed the numbers part of this challenge when for most of week 2 the numbers have been the bane of my life! I won’t go into details here but basically the software I was using moved sections of my work and then a huge chunk seemed to be missing from my word count and then miraculously re-appeared the next day! If you want to know the details you can check out my ROW80 Check-in here which tells all the gory details. I have to say it really threw me. The numbers are let’s face it the point of NaNo and it was frustrating to say the least when my word count wasn’t matching what I knew I had written. But it seems to be sorted and I am backing up my words daily just in case!

My week 2 worry about my plot and whether I had raced through it has subsided and I know where I am heading from here to the end. I think! I don’t regret choosing to write my first murder mystery for NaNo (I wasn’t in the right head place for chick lit) but I worry that my inexperience in the genre might mean the editing stage is hideous. But you know what I decided? That I will worry about that when I edit. I have not edited as I have gone along but I have thrown in alot of red herrings and false trails and I will need to check they make sense! I decided to make another character a suspect last night so I need to check what I have written for him when I edit. I need to check for consistency for all my characters. I will also be looking out for repeated phrases. There is way too much nodding, sighing, coffee drinking and sitting down! But that can be ironed out!

Lena’s Update

Whew, it’s been a rollercoaster sort of week writing-wise. I hit a bit of a wall last weekend where I suddenly hated my novel with the passion of a thousand burning suns, and didn’t even want to look at it, let alone think about it. But after lots of advice, I realized that I was approaching things the wrong way. I was trying to focus on writing in a linear path, and getting bogged down in transition scenes and lots of world-building details.

I still don’t feel like this is the most brilliant tale ever written, and I’m trying to accept it. There are glimmers of hope here and there, passages and conversations that have a spark of something special in the depths, but I am going to have to do a lot of editing once November is through. Like Em mentioned, I’m doing my best not to dwell on it, and to focus instead on the process of bringing this story to life. I’m trying to listen to my characters and focus on their needs; hopefully that can carry me through the rest of the month!

How’s everyone else doing?

Are you making your way past the dreaded slump that seems to have zapped everyone’s energy last week? Any tweaks or changes that you’re making to the ways that your writing approach? Tell us how it’s going!

-Em and Lena

Checking In: Surviving Week Two

11 Nov

We’ve reached the end of Week 2 of NaNoWriMo, and while the words may not be flying as hot and fast as they were at the start of the month, hopefully everyone is still forging ahead. We have 19 days to go, so there’s plenty of time to catch up, if necessary.

Mini-Mashup of Awesome

Over at the Boston Globe, Delia Cabe posted a just-for-fun list of the ten must-haves for NaNoWriMo. Em’s personal favourite is The Ostrich (seriously, it is kind of epic, and Lena cannot stop laughing at the accompanying picture). You have to read it to understand!

Jay Kristoff reminds all WriMos that during the month of November, time is currency (yep, he mentions the new Justin Timberlake film!). His list includes tips such as ‘Don’t let anyone read it’ and ‘The end is not the end’.

For those of you lamenting the mid-month slump, Jody Hedlund has some great tips on forging ahead and overcoming the “end of the honeymoon” with your WIP.

Finally, there’s been some chatter about the discrepancies that exist between the word counters on many word processors and NaNoWriMo’s official counter. Once NaNo’s counter goes live, copy and paste your current draft, just to double-check your progress.

Checking In

Em’s Update:

This check-in couldn’t come at a better time because within the last couple of hours I have hit the Week 2 blues. Well actually I am not sure I have the blues but I have a healthy measure of self-doubt with a dollop of anxiety mixed in. I want to write, that isn’t the problem and I like my book and am finding time to write but I worry I don’t have enough plot. Or more accurately I have rushed through the start of my book and I feel half way through if not more and I have just passed 20,000 words. I am not going to cry, or start again or delete ANYTHING but I am going to take some time over the weekend to think about my plot. I didn’t really outline the end of my novel because I figured ‘I won’t get there in 50,000 words’ but if I had a firmer idea of the ending I might feel a bit more relaxed about not running out of plot!

Apart from the above things are going well. At close of day on Thursday my word count is 20,882! NaNo is all definately all about the numbers. I love updating the word counter and checking out the progress graph. I like all the associated numbers such as the fact I have less that 30,000 words to go (29,118 to be precise) and passing milestones like 15,000 or 20,000. Wish I had thought of mini rewards for these milestones. Must remember that for next year!

I am off to my friends house for the weekend and I am really looking forward to a change of scene for a few days. She is really supportive of my writing so I am looking forward to chatting with her about it and she will understand if I randomly jot things down mid conversation! I might go to a write in at the weekend although I am a fairly secret writer and the thought of being out in public as a writer is terrifying! But the idea of talking to other people about writing is so exciting.

So plan is, look at outline over weekend and write, write and write some more!

Lena’s Update:

It’s been a week filled with quite a few ups and downs for me. Ironically, I ended up catching a cold at my first local meetup; we were sitting outside, and I didn’t quite realize how cold it was. By the time I got home, my asthma was flaring and I really didn’t feel like doing any writing. Instead, I spent lots of time relaxing and dealing with schoolwork, and I am happy to say that I am both recovered and caught up with my word count. As of Thursday night, I have 17,673 words, which places me just slightly ahead of the 16,666 minimum that we should have for today. I’m incredibly grateful for the writing sprints I’ve done with Em, Lauren, and a few others. Taking an hour to focus solely on my writing and shut off (most) other distractions has gotten me back on track, and then some.

One of the challenges to tackling this as a Rebel is that I’ve included roughly 2000 words from an earlier draft of the story, and yikes, it’s totally out-of-date. It’s fascinating to see how my main character, Liandre, has changed; she’s much less timid and frightened than she was in my earlier versions of this story, which makes writing her much more enjoyable (seriously, guys, she cowered and cringed at just about everything before, and it was all I could do not to smack her). On the other hand, the two earlier scenes that I’ve included are driving me nuts — they don’t fit, and all I want to do is fix them, even though I really should be focusing on pushing forward instead of cleaning things up. If I can get ahead on my word count this weekend, then I’m going to definitely go back and fix the two scenes that are bugging me.

I think I’ve reached that mid-month point where I still like my story, but I’m not nearly as thrilled with it as I was at the start of the month. I do find myself cringing as I throw down dialogue that is less-than-perfect, or when I utilize worn-out cliches and metaphors. Moving forward, I think I am going to have to take some time out to brainstorm and do some journaling about my story, that way I can stay abreast of the new developments that occur.

How’s everyone else doing?

Are we the only ones hitting that mid-month slump? If so, are you using any strategies to get that “special feeling” back again? Let us know how it’s going!

– Em and Lena

Checking In: Tackling the First Week

4 Nov

Happy Friday, WriMos! Congratulations – we’re four days into November, and we’ve reached our first weekend of NaNoWriMo. For those of you living in the United States, we’ll gain an extra hour on Sunday, which may come in handy for sleeping/writing/tackling other chores and responsibilities. Use it wisely!

Today’s mashup is a bit shorter than our last two, as we’re trying to keep up with our writing and spend less time surfing the ‘net. Still, we’ve got a few gems to share that we hope you’ll all enjoy:

Mini-Mashup of Awesome

Writing buddies is finally live on the NaNoWriMo website. If you haven’t already done so, check out our linky list of participants and buddy up.

Over at WriMos FTW!, Lisa Bouchard has a very useful checklist of things we must remember to not neglect this November, like eating and spending time with our families.

Likewise, we would like to share Claire Legrand’s amazing post from August, “Y’all, Please Remember to Shower.” Many thanks to Kait Nolan for tweeting this essential reminder to all ROW80 and NaNoWriMo participants Thursday morning.  Warning: Do not read whilst imbibing liquids, for your own safety.

GalleyCat is publishing a daily NaNoWriMo writing tips during November. Today’s tip: utilize mind maps as a technique for organizing ideas for your novel.

Elspeth Antonelli has shared her top 10 tips for approaching NaNo, including such gems as “Don’t expect perfection” and “Cursing at the computer screen is part of the experience.”

For those of you using Scrivener this month, we recommend David Hewson’s excellent blog tutorials and tips on using the program. Hewson has also written an e-book, “Writing a Novel With Scrivener,” that’s really useful.

Contest Alert! WriMos FTW! has just announced the FIRST LINE BLOG CONTEST. All you need to do is leave the first sentence of your NaNo novel in the comments section, and 13 wonderful, amazing judges (of which Lena is one) will pick three winners. Enter your sentence before November 5th, 3:30 pm (EST) to be considered.

Finally, Dee Garretson has made an absolutely hilarious video that captures probably every misconception about what it means to “win” NaNoWriMo. Perfect for when you need a laugh, and a reminder about why we’re writing this month.

The First Check-In

Today’s post is also exciting because we’re hosting our first check-in.  Here’s how our work is coming along:

Em’s Update:

My plan of writing in the morning is going well and I have managed to write for atleast 30 minutes before leaving for work. I love the fact that I have some of my word count under my belt before I start my day, it makes me walk with a spring in my step! I have settled into an evening routine. I come in, put my pjs and a warm jumper on, get a hot water bottle (England is cold!) and put a microwave meal in. While waiting for this I turn my laptop on, check my emails and pack my lunch for the next day. I have managed to take part in a hour sprint with some fellow NaNoers and ROW80ers each evening and these have been great for my word count!

I do have some worries though. One is my diet. I am eating badly. I am eating quick, easy food that I know is not good for me. I thought to myself earlier ‘December won’t be for editing, it will be for dieting!’ Then I noticed edit and diet have the same letters in them! Is it tiredness that makes me think that is cool!!!?? Anyway, I am going to try and watch the biscuit and caffeine intake and be mindful of what I eat. NaNo does not mean I get to eat crap for a month!

Upcoming challenges are that I am at my parents this weekend and have a family event on Saturday. Oh and I will be out on Friday night. I have settled into a nice little weekday routine and as I live alone I just ignore my phone so I am uninterrupted but I guess I need to adjust for the weekend and think of when I can write. My parents are aware I am taking part in NaNo but I doubt they will realise how much of my time it is taking! We will see.

A tip from me – if you are writing in Scrivener then keep a blank word document open to type words to quickly check in a thesaurus. Scrivener might have a thesaurus but I haven’t found it yet!

Word count total – 6223!! (This was my word count last night as I emailed Lena my check-in on Thursday. I should have added some words this morning!)

Lena’s Update:

I’m still trying to figure out my “best practices” for writing, as my class schedule is different each day. I do know that aiming for a word count beyond the base 1667 is impossible between Sundays-Tuesdays, which means that the end of the week and the weekends will be my best bet for gaining a bit of a word count buffer. That buffer will come in handy at the end of the month, when I’ll be driving to my parents’ house for the Thanksgiving celebrations. My parents”get” the writing thing, but only to a certain extent. I definitely won’t be allowed to skip out on family time to work on my novel.

Like Em, I’m also trying to watch my diet. I am cooking dinner each night, which is a marked improvement from my usual habits, but I have been forgetting breakfasts and, er, eating a lot of bread in-between lunch and dinner. Time to find some healthy snacks, so if anyone has suggestions, I’d love hear ’em. Still, I’ve been making time to work out in the mornings before class, and trying to keep up with my chores and housework (easier said than done!).

Schoolwork is getting done slowly but surely, although I just got hit with a gaming bug, and now have this itching need to replay Dragon Age and Mass Effect, my favorite RPG videogames — not the best thing when I’ve got a limited amount of free time right now. However, my NaNo writing is proceeding surprisingly well. As of 12:30 am Friday morning (California time, that is), I have a total of 5230 words, and an excellent sense of where I’m heading in the next half-dozen scenes. I’m looking forward to more sprints with the #ROW80 crew (watch the hashtag on Twitter for sprint announcements), and to my first local write-in this Saturday.

How’s everyone else doing?

Tell us, how’s the writing coming? Have you been able to strike a balance between the demands of life and writing? Any tried and true techniques that you’d like to share with the rest of us?

Chat it up in the comments, leave each other feedback, and cheer each other on!

-Em and Lena