Tag Archives: nanowrimo

The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

We’ve all had those weird but memorable dreams. A pizza slice may be chasing you down the street, you show up unprepared to something important, or a long, vivid dream involving the teacher you’re scared of and a giant red pen. It’s odd, but it makes sense in the moment. And then you wake up, most likely relieved that it was just a dream.

Why am I talking about dreams today? Because sometimes, dreams have some awesome story potential. The Test of True Love began as a powerful dream that wouldn’t leave me alone. I tried my best to document what I could before I forgot the amazing details (that later changed to fit the story).

When you wake up in the morning, try to see if you remember your dreams (beyond the terrifying ones, of course). Sure, they may be odd. But every now and then, you might end up with a dream that has just the right mix for you – a great source of inspiration for the writer.

dreams-2

I do not keep a notebook by my bed, but I’ve heard it suggested for writers so they can jot down dreams. Supposedly, most details will fade when you leave bed. I’ve found that the cool ones stay with you, but it does help to repeat certain things. My last NaNo story began as a dream. And I just had yet another cool dream that may end up as a future NaNo project.

Pay attention to your dreams, fellow writers. They may end up being important one day.

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The Downside of Not Planning

There are two different fields of thought in the NaNo world. Either you are a planner and plan the events of your novel before they happen, or you are known as a pantser (writing by the seat of your pants).

For years, I was a dedicated planner. I knew my world. I knew my characters. I knew the story, since I’d been replaying the events in my head for months. I would know 90% of what took place in the story before I even began it. I was baffled by the people who talked about their characters taking over the story, not knowing what was going to happen next, and trying to figure out the plot hole they had accidentally just created.

Instead of accepting that I was different than most NaNoers, I thought that I was doing it wrong. It was only my second NaNo, and it was my first time browsing the forums. I decided that the following year, I’d write without a plan with a completely new story and “do it right.”

I did manage to eke out a novel that year, but it was hard for me to do. I didn’t know the characters, had only a vague sense of the story, and had no clue what was going to happen on the next page. My main character had amnesia, so she didn’t know a great deal of what had taken place before. It was perfect, since I didn’t know what had taken place before. I had people read my first chapter and go, “It’s perfect! You can feel her confusion!” I had to laugh, since I was confused over the same thing my character was.

I was at a writer’s conference one year, and our teacher said his writing process was like walking around in a dark room. He walks in, discovers chairs and tables, discerns a path, and eventually finds a light switch that illuminates the whole room. Now that I’ve actually used such an approach, that analogy makes more sense than it did at the time.

I did learn from that NaNo that I do better writing with a bit of planning. I don’t need every little detail planned out in advance, but it helps my sanity to prepare the story before it’s penned. With that said, though, I have discovered I’m a mixture of the two groups. I generally have the story arc planned out, but the details of how the heroes journey from point A to B is usually not discovered until it’s time to write the scene. Since I tend to write pretty quickly, I think this approach is what works best for me. I have now experimented with both writing camps and am happy with my mixture. It’s who I am.

So, why have I bored you to death with my writing process? Because not everything that happens during NaNo is entirely planned. This year, I decided to write about racing squirrels. I met the characters about three weeks before November and named them the week before we began writing. I only knew their personalities. That was it. Once November hit, I started with what I knew. I kept writing, desperately hoping for the light switch to be turned on so I could figure out how to write my ending. I really, really like to know my endings before I begin.
My light switch moment occurred sometime last week. It was tough, since I was behind schedule, but I finished my first story of the NaNo season on Saturday.

Since I’ve committed to a word count, I’m starting a new story. I’ve narrowed down my subject matter, and it looks like I’ll be following the princess stories again. I thought I was done with the series. Of course, I thought that last year during the last NaNo. I ended up writing another book after the one I started in NaNo. I don’t know if this story will end up being another chapter in the series, or if it will just be something to clear my head and explore a new possibility.

Either way, I will likely have a lot of fun returning to a land I know and characters that are largely the same. My only problem is that I’m still not sure about the ending. I know what I’d like to happen, just not sure how to make that feasibly possible.

Guess there’s only one way to find out.

Fellow writers, chime in. Do you plan your stories or not?

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Escaping Reality

Everyone has stress in their life. Some of it comes through work, others deal with it at home, school, with relatives, in their transportation. Life can be stressful. We all have ways of coping with it.

I discovered midway through writing my second book that writing was a good way for me to decompress from my own stressful school situation. I can’t tell you how long it took me to finish my first book. I can tell you that Books 2 & 3 of the Tree House series were penned within 8 months. Both of those books were completed during my Directing I & II classes.

directing-actors
While in the middle of learning brand new terminology, reading new plays, and scouring said material for clues in figuring out the key properties of such stories, I pretty much lived and breathed Directing.

Directing I only came around once a year. If you failed the first test, you failed the entire class. I was also in a program where I could not move forward until I completed Directing. Adding to my stress, if I had failed the test and had to drop it as a result, it would have put me below the required 12 hours of classes that I needed to keep my financial aid. I was stressed.

stressed

In addition to studying like I’d never studied before (and lots of praying), I began writing in my down time. Being able to control anything in that type of situation was almost therapeutic, since there was so little in that time frame that I had a say in. Granted, my characters went through a bunch of stuff, but it helped me as a writer.

I discovered something within those 8 months of penning the end of my trilogy. Writing helped me calm down. It mellowed me on some level to write about other people’s lives spinning out of control.

November has and always will be a slightly crazy month for me. This year, especially, dealing with wedding details. However, what I discovered in Directing classes still holds true today. I feel better about my situation when I’m penning a story. For just a few hours, I get to escape into another world. Sometimes, that’s all I need in order to find some perspective.

**Directing I’s dreaded test was graded on a curve. Without it, I would have failed it by half a point. My final grade on that test was an 87. I can’t remember my final grade on the class, but I’ll remember that 87 for probably the rest of my life. I have never been so happy for a curve before. I’ve never needed one before, and I’ll likely never need one again. So thankful Jesus was listening and granted my request to pass The Dreaded Directing Test.**

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NaNoWriMo!

It’s that time of year where I will abandon all reason and semblance of writing schedule to focus on a brand new story. That’s right, it’s time for NaNoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo is an abbreviation of National Novel Writing Month. My group just calls it NaNo. Anyway, NaNo is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Every year, people take the challenge. Every year, people push themselves to write on days they didn’t feel like writing. They push themselves to create. Every year, people finish a story they didn’t know they had the ability to pen.

The official website is here. I think this makes my 8th consecutive NaNo year, though I’ve honestly lost count. November means NaNo season.

I have also joined the host of slightly crazier people who commit each year to write double the target word count. It’s all Jasmine’s fault, you see. Ever since I penned her story and came up just short of the 100k mark before November ended, I knew that it was possible for me to hit the higher mark. This will make my 3rd year trying for 100k in 30 days.

While I’ve waxed poetic about NaNo on numerous occasions, I haven’t done it a lot on this blog. NaNo exists to get people to commit to time to write. It helps people focus for a set amount of time on their story. While I had finished several books before I joined the legions of NaNo writers, I did discover something new during my first attempt – the sense of accomplishment when I wrote a scene when I didn’t really want to. That day, I transitioned from a casual writer (writing only when I felt like it) to an amateur one. I’ve been gunning for publication ever since.

This will be my first NaNo season as a published writer. No, the Office of Letters and Light hasn’t come begging me to write a pep talk just yet, but that’s okay. I get to experience NaNo season with my friends, family, and my NaNo group. If you want to join in the madness, sign up now!

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Thanks, Woolite!

As I was preparing my manuscript for publishing, I met up with a few local writers for one of our NaNoWriMo gatherings. They expressed sympathy for the current road block I was facing. One friend asked me how I got the original idea for my story.

I laughed and told the two present that it was stupid. They were interested. I told them the story, explaining I wasn’t planning on sharing it again. Upon hearing what prompted the idea, they encouraged me to share it again. So, here I am, following their advice.

I was watching TV one evening, about to turn in for the night. Woolite aired a commercial I had seen several times before about torturing your clothes. It was in the final ad break I witnessed before I turned off the TV.

I went to bed and forgot all about that silly commercial. I had a dream where I followed someone being tortured. The person was a girl. The family was nearby. She was taken back to a jail cell. I knew she had the option to be freed. For whatever reason, she chose to say nothing.

By the time I was awake, the dream wouldn’t leave me alone. I wondered what would make a girl choose to remain behind bars. Pretty soon, the answer hit me – faith!

The rest came at some point in November, while I was penning the story that I thought at the time would be a stand alone novel. It is now the beginning of a six book series.

Thank you, Woolite, for giving me a story idea.That ad helped spark my creativity into overdrive.

Psst! Buy my book!

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One At a Time!

Many years ago, I would hear about other authors struggling to juggle their varied story ideas, trying to figure out where to go next, and struggling to finish the one they thought they were working on by the end of a given time. I would shake my head and feel proud of myself for working in a linear fashion. I only had one story to work on at a time. Sure, there were more stories that I could fix or attempt to write, but I had a strict one story policy that served me rather well. I congratulated myself on being OCD enough to avoid said writer problem.

It started out innocently enough. I was waiting for a NaNo session to start, I was stuck in a hospital room for the night, and a story about characters that I hadn’t written about in years came to mind. I decided to write because I needed to focus on something else. I penned what ended up being four pages single spaced on the tablet I had remembered to bring along (a great feat when you have no keyboard but the one on the screen).

Throughout the next several (stressful) days, I found the time to add to said story. I relaxed by writing in this short story. Until I hit a brick wall. I wasn’t sure what came next. Since I had no pressing deadline, I let the story sit. Nothing came to mind, like it’s supposed to do when you’re not thinking about the problem. I read over the material again. Other than correcting typos, I still had nothing. I finally just let it sit and moved on, back to the story I was supposed to be readying for publication.

Then came Story #2, following the characters in the first story that was at a stand still. It followed a series of events that I never detailed in the books that I did write about them. It was an awesome plot, and it wouldn’t leave me alone. I started writing that (in the proper first person format that I had forgotten in the first story). In between forcing myself to edit, I wrote the story, happy to follow the trail to the resolution of the problem.

Then something happened with my wedding planning. I went back to the first story, hammering out another chapter because I could. Then I went back to Story #2.

Story #2 was finished first. I completed editing my book. I looked over the first story. I added another chapter and stopped, still stuck.

Determined to participate in Camp NaNo for another session, I picked the first book following the characters in the two short stories I had been working on for three months. I thought that would help with my scatter-brained writer approach, since I needed to focus on those characters. I was wrong, apparently, since Story #1 has finally told me where it picks up again and is providing me with the useful information to continue. That’s awesome, but it still leaves me at a stand still in the story I’m supposed to be editing.

Did I mention my current editing project is also my very first book? I think my writer brain has decided to never visit it again, and it will happily work on everything else but that. Yes, my writer brain has morphed into a stubborn teenager, standing on the roof, refusing to come in until I comply with her demands.

At some point, I will finish editing my first book. Whether or not Story #1 is finished first is up in the air at the moment.

If you’ll excuse me, the stubborn teenager on the roof is shouting a demand. Let me open the window and see if she’s willing to be reasonable yet…

teenage-attitude

Update: I managed to complete my original story for NaNo, as well as the unfinished story that dealt with the wedding. The word count from both pieces during that time frame was enough to complete my Camp NaNo goals.

However, my first story is still a stubborn teenager. Something’s wrong with her, I have no idea what it is, and she refuses to tell me.

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How I Write 100,000 Words in 30 Days

For the past three years, I have not only been a NaNoWriMo participant, but I have joined the leagues of people who regularly aim above 50,000 words in 30 days. For years, people have looked at me like I was crazy when they hear either my ultimate goal or how many words I’ve managed to write in a given day.

There are several factors to achieving an impressive word count. Free time is a factor. The year that I had the freedom to write at work, I had a personal best for November. The year I had a full time job, I still managed to get past my goal and finish the story. It just took longer.

The second factor in reaching my goal is dedication. You have to be committed to your ultimate goal: finishing the story, hitting X amount of words, completing both story lines, etc. The year that I became an overachiever, I had one goal: finish my book. I didn’t know as I wrote that the book would be much longer than 50k. As my numbers rose, I was happy, but I was also keeping in mind the length of the story. I may have penned 5000 words in a given day, but I was still in the beginning of the story. I finally penned the final chapter the day after Thanksgiving. My ending total was 98k. I was disappointed that I hadn’t hit 100k, since I was so close. But I was done, which was my goal.

The last thing that has helped me write more than a normal NaNoer is how I manage my time when I’m not writing. When I am forced to leave the computer and interact with actual people, part of me is still thinking about the story. As I’m washing the dishes, I’m running through what happens next. I’m contemplating the next conversation as I’m taking out the trash. I’m planning the next two chapters as I’m driving down the road. I think about where the story will go before I fall asleep. I am focused on the story when I’m not at the computer typing.

This minimizes the time that I spend in front of my computer, staring at the blank page, willing words onto the page without my fingers moving. I do my fair share of that, too. But because I’ve spent my free time planning what I do know takes place, those moments are at least fewer than they could be.

While I usually have the most impressive word count in my local NaNo group at the end of the month, I am not the fastest typist. During the all-day events, my ML and her husband put my goals to shame. Last time, they both hit 12,000 in 9 hours. I had about 7,500 in the same period.

I’ve included that information to illustrate that you don’t have to be the fastest typist in your group in order to reach your goals. Slow and steady wins the race. Just keep on going, and you will reach where you want to be.

That is how I top 50,000 words in 30 days. Time, dedication, and planning when I’m not at the computer. Anyone can do it with a bit of practice. Don’t believe me? Try it during your next NaNo. See if it helps.

Speaking of the next NaNo season, the second session of Camp NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. Pick your word count goal, find a cabin, and start writing! Check it out here!

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