Crossing the NaNoWriMo Finish Line

I did it. I somehow managed to pound out 50,325 words in 29 days.  I finished or as the official NaNoWriMo term is:  I WON!  You really don’t win anything except writing software discounts, bragging rights and a badge to display such as the one on the right.  Look, isn’t it pretty!  But I digress, distracted by my shiny badge, a reminder of all the hard work, of every one of the 50,325 words I wrote, and of all I learned along the way…

Learning Curves:

I still have a lot to learn.

Each word I put on the page improves my writing.

Avoid dating during NaNo because something fabulous will inevitably happen.

Write more than the daily target in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Crappy words are the only ones I can write when I’m exhausted.

I still marvel at what flies from my fingers and onto the screen and often wonder where it all comes from.

I have a flabby middle. Again. Hours of work will be required to edit it into a six pack.

I can meet deadlines I’ve created myself even when there is an overabundance of distractions available.

Turning off twitter and my iphone and attaching to my ipod increases my productivity.

Writing the first draft is energizing compared to how drained I’ve felt while editing over the last couple of months.

If I put my mind to it, I can crank out more words per day than I ever dreamed possible.

I need to pack up and change locations when I get stuck.

Coffee via an IV is worth considering.

Stocking up on favourite snacks is imperative. A shortage during a momentous scene could mean disaster.

Walking helps unfreeze characters or plot jams.

I need to consider some more plotting and not just pantsing around.

I’ve learned never to underestimate how difficult this challenge is. I’m grateful and lucky not to have been working this month. I doubt I would have been able to finish if I had been. Hats off to everyone that started NaNo with other commitments, regardless of crossing the finish line.

Anything’s possible when you dare to dream and take a leap of faith…

A massive THANK YOU to all the NaNo support from family and friends, both in person and online.  Now if you’ll all excuse me, I think I’m going to go sleep for a week.

Romance and the First Draft

Exploring new characters and allowing them to unfold when cocooning up with a first draft shares some striking similarities to the sparks of a new romance. I’ve discovered myself in the odd position this month of coming face to face with both.  Of course a romantic interest vaults into my life mid NaNoWriMo.  It couldn’t happen any other way in this crazy thing I call my life, and I’ve found it interesting to see how many parallels there are to writing the first draft as the pantser I am and floating along in the initial stages of a new romance.

There’s something exhilarating about a new beginning, a fresh start, a blank slate or page.  Past mistakes can be forgotten, hopefully learned from, and a new path can be forged ahead. It’s always a risk, pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, head to head and heart to heart, but faith in the possibilities allows for a seat on an intoxicating ride.

The thrill of discovery, an inexplicable energy and adrenaline rush as everything begins to unfold astonishes. Incessant daydreaming, obsession and fascination take over. Everything else falls by the way side. Focus on anything else, near impossible. There are long, over-caffeinated days and late night whispers. Food dissolves into an afterthought. A goofy grin dominates as the bubble remains impermeable. Friends and family wonder where you’ve gone and even if present, you’re a million miles away.

Tiny details and personality quirks present themselves. Exploration of likes and dislikes lead to unanticipated surprises and delving to uncover further layers. Self discovery and reflection lurk along with an understanding that there may need to be some editing or tweaking later to ensure everything fits properly. But it doesn’t matter now. Nothing matters in those initial moments.

Swept away in bliss over the potential of having started something incredible, trust and terror walk along a tightrope in tandem.  You never know exactly where things are going to go but maybe, just maybe, you might stumble upon something spectacular and not just another heart breaking toss in the slush pile.


***Any plotters want to weigh in on this??? I’m curious to see if you feel any differently!

Writers Need Not Venture Out

I knew it existed. I’d heard about the amusing things people have found and had checked it out before, but today I discovered Google Maps Street View’s potential.  For writing.

It went a little something like this:  Two characters were strolling along a street I was vaguely familiar with. I knew they were approaching a park, but wasn’t sure how much further they had yet to travel.  I needed to know if it was feasible. The map told me it was. I kept clicking and suddenly I was looking at the exact location I wanted to write about. I had pictured a park bench in the vicinity and voila!  Not only was there one, but several!

I’ve been well versed for some time on the use of google for fact checking missions, naming characters, and anything else I need to find on the fly, but this revelation was both thrilling and petrifying at the same time.

It was fabulous because in two seconds I had the information I needed and could continue my scene without having to jot a note to check it out later.  I didn’t have to drive down for verification.  It wasn’t like the entire novel took place there, just a short scene and on my screen was a panoramic view with rich detail to choose from. Not only was this fantastic, but I realized I don’t have to stalk a neighbourhood trying to take stealth pictures of houses I find interesting. I can note the address and have a peek when I get home or whenever I need it. I can only hope the house doesn’t get torn down before I need my description or that any additions or unique details weren’t added after the google photo was taken or I’ll have to start all over again or rely on my memory.

Maybe this won’t work after all, which could be a good thing because it’s petrifying to have this tool at my fingertips when I already sit and slog away at my desk for hours.  I could have used a drive, a walk and maybe another coffee…well, maybe not the coffee, but I definitely need to get out of this chair more often.  It frightens me because now that I realize the potential of this, I worry about overusing it.  Google’s Street View could make my writing stronger, especially with descriptive details, but it also has the potential to make it weaker.  Staying sedentary without getting out for some air and seeing real people, not just all my tweeps and facebook friends on my coffee breaks, could stifle my creativity. They say that you can’t write if you don’t live, if you don’t get out and experience life and if I’ve learned anything from my youthful soap opera attempts compared to what I’d write in that area now, I’m pretty sure that saying is accurate.

There’s also the problem that a picture doesn’t convey much about the atmosphere of a location, the people found there and it obviously doesn’t activate any other senses, but with a little imagination, a few smaller scenes could be crafted with its assistance. I probably won’t turn to it – I hope I won’t turn to it – if I need an overall assessment of an area I want to focus on.  I can imagine using it as a starting point, to drum up ideas, find interesting locations or to research something quickly like I did today.

I’m probably the last person to discover this, but there it is.  Writers need not leave their houses anymore. We can remain in our seats until our backsides expand to the size of them instead.  Hmmm, maybe it’s time to look into the gym.

I’m a Pantser

In the writing world, a Pantser is someone who doesn’t plot.  Yup.  That’s me.  A few characters start whispering to me in the middle of the night, usually nattering over the ones I’m already sharing a private moment with.  I flip the notebook beside my bed to a blank page and start scribbling.  I tell them to be quiet until I’m ready for them.  Sometimes they’re persistent. Sometimes I’m able to ignore them. Mostly they all just live in harmony for a while until I’m ready to tell their story. Apparently this is normal. I checked. A frantic tweet revealed multiple replies of confirmation.  I wasn’t going crazy.  It was good to know.

The new project I’m working on for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing month which occurs in November where the goal is to write 50,000 words in the month. You can find me and follow my progress here) follows a couple of characters that started chatting when I was half way through the third edit of my last project (it can get VERY confusing with all these voices in my head). At some point as I write I think I’ll never come up with another idea and fret about what I’ll do if I don’t. So far it hasn’t happened.  I’m hoping it hasn’t just been luck.

I was ill prepared for NaNoWriMo. I almost decided not to participate. It was my first attempt and I wanted to try plotting to ensure I’d finish with 50,000 words instead of daydreaming much of the day (which is work a writer must do I’ve learned from fellow writers over the last year, and I must say, I love this part of the job). I also wanted to finish the third edit of my current project before I started a new one. I wanted to start this blog. I wanted to be able to have a social life during November. I wanted to be prepared, but the flu struck me in early October and as November 1st loomed, I almost bailed. With some not so gentle encouragement from my little brother, I decided to go for it. I rushed to finish the 3rd draft but by 9pm on October 31st I realized I wouldn’t make it.  I pushed it aside the following morning and embraced my new characters hoping I’d be able to go back to it in between, provided NaNoWriMo was going well.

So, I had two nameless characters and a general idea until 11:44pm October 31st. THAT”S how much of a pantser I am. My first scene popped at 11:45pm and I jotted notes and sat down with my coffee the next morning to hammer it out.  Then I had to figure out the next scene and then the next.  Some took longer than others and a long walk today helped sort out a few things, but now that I have a bit more of a grasp on my characters, the ideas started flowing this afternoon. I already have my scenes for tomorrow laid out and I’m hoping they’ll lead me to the next ones and can’t wait to see what my characters will say or do tomorrow that will surprise me. Maybe they’ll make me laugh which I find the most baffling of all.

I don’t think I could take this thrill away from myself and plot it all out. I love the slow discovery. I’ve always liked surprises though. I’ve never understood finding out the sex of a baby before it’s born, so maybe I don’t want to know the end result until I get there for the same reason. Maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising that I’m a pantser after all.