NaNo Meets Thanksgiving

This week has been really hectic. I’m trying to clean things up for Thanksgiving, and that’s not going well, and I’m really behind. I’ve kept up with my word count–I’m even still a day ahead–but everything is kind of foggy. There’s too much going on in my head, and it’s keeping me from being fully engaged with anything I’m doing. I’m getting writing done, but the having fun part has slipped away.

I don’t know if I’m going to get back to really enjoying it until Thanksgiving is over. I’m really looking forward to not having to prep for a holiday! Thank goodness Christmas is at someone else’s house!

I’m going to set a pre-New Year’s resolution–next year I am *not* going to wait until November to start getting my house in order so that I can have people over. Now I just have to figure out how to actually get myself to get organized enough to not do this again.

Meanwhile, back to my haunted world. Things are easier there.

Ahead of Myself

I have been back to participating in ROW80 again. I’ve been doing my updates on the Facebook page because for a while I had too much going on, and blog posts just weren’t happening. I’m going to try out doing very short updates at least once a week and see how that goes. No promises. Posting might be haphazard.

My goals for this round have been centered on getting back to enjoying writing and building a steadier practice. I wrote about how that’s going yesterday. For a brief recap, I think I’m moving in a good direction.

As for enjoying the writing, I’m starting to again. One of the things I am having to wrangle is my tendency to want to control everything, have everything just so, know exactly how things are going to be and that they’re going to be just right like I need them to be. This really doesn’t work in writing stories. And then I start to get ahead of myself and lose track of where I really am and what I need to be doing right now.

So I am practicing having only a shadowy idea of my ending and writing just a little bit at a time and letting go of the idea of knowing exactly how things are going to wrap up and how exactly to get things to that place. I’m writing every day and hoping things will open up as I need them and get me to a good ending. And reminding myself that I can add and change things in revisions. So far, new ideas keep coming, the story is moving forward, and I’m liking it. I think this is progress.

That’s my update. I am also practicing not trying to explain every little thing either to myself or to anyone else who might be listening. So I’m letting this be just enough.

In Medias Res

I’m feeling in the middle right now.  Of a lot of things. And why am I writing? Probably because people want connection and conversation and to feel like they have community and like minded people around them. And I’m a people.

Every time I think of restarting a blog, I freeze because I feel like I should explain where I’ve been or try to catch up on things. But I’ve decided I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to write. Like a good novelist, I will start with the current action and filter in the backstory as it’s needed and pertinent.

So right now, I’m in the middle of NaNoWriMo. (That picture at the top of the page is my novel notebook.) Of course. It’s November. I’m doing things a little differently this year, though, mostly because I’m signed on to a Habitica challenge for NaNo. Writing and updating the NaNo site are on the Dailies list, and I can’t stand losing any digital points for not completing my dailies, so I am actually writing every day. I don’t usually write every day, even for NaNo. This is turning into an interesting experiment.

I don’t know if I could ever be an every day writer all year round. But this challenge has given me a better idea of how to structure the way I write. For the challenge, you can check that you’ve done “some words” although the goal is to get the full 1,667 each day. I added a “reward” where I pay 100 gold coins for days that I write but don’t meet that goal. And it’s working really well. I’m ahead on word count and getting some good writing sessions in. And this made me realize that the way to get writing to be a stronger habit is not to schedule it for certain days of the week or put it in the non-daily habits list so I get points for it whenever I happen to get around to it. The way to do it is to put it on my Dailies list but give myself the option of buying a day off from writing. I like my digital points, and I know I won’t pay coins too many days in a row to skip, so I think this will really prod me to sit down and write more regularly even when I don’t feel like it.  The only thing I need to decide now is what a writing session will entail. I think it’s going to be word count oriented–that’s working really well for me.

Another thing I’m doing, although I’m just starting it so not exactly in the middle of it, is reading Shawn Coyne’s The Story GridThis is going to be especially helpful for editing. So far, from a brief overview and watching the YouTube videos, this looks like an excellent system. I’m looking forward to getting to know it better.

I’m also in the middle of a lot of life. Trying really hard to find a way to make my house organized and welcoming for myself and maybe even for visitors. Bringing a new kitty fully into the family (and there’s this third lovely boy in the backyard whom we feed and who is now letting me pet him, and I don’t know what to do about that sweetie). Getting ready for Thanksgiving. Figuring out health stuff. So much, but life is always like that I guess.

I’m also not in the middle of a book. I just started a new one today–The Tower by J.L. Bryan. It’s the ninth in the Ellie Jordan series, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. They had some fabulous settings and fun ghosts, and they’re fast and fun reads. This one is looking to be the same. It breezes along and pulls me right in.

This is the stuff I want to talk about here. There are so many books I’ve read and loved, but I can’t go back and try to catch up, so I’m going to go forward. And I’ll talk about writing. And probably exercise as I attempt to be a more healthy and mobile author. So much to talk about. Not all today, though.

NaNo Wrap-up

nano-winner-banner-2016

I really intended to write a few posts during NaNo, but somehow it didn’t happen. So here’s a wrap-up instead.

I got my win last night, and it feels weird.  This year, I have been using Habitica to get tasks done (you should check it out–it’s so fun and useful, too!).  So, I joined a writing guild that had a NaNo challenge going.  Because of this, I actually wrote every single day. I did have two days (the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving itself) that I didn’t hit the daily goal, but I wrote.  Then I caught up over the weekend, so I didn’t have to do any crazy, 10K days, or even 5K days to catch up.  This is the first time I wrote every single day of NaNo (yes, I’m writing a bit on my story today so I can really say that).

I learned something this NaNo.  I am not an every day writer, at least not a comfortable every day writer.  My best writing schedule for stories is to write three or four days a week.  Maybe some writing practice on the other days.  Trying to work on my story every single day left me feeling oddly rushed and pressured even though I wasn’t behind on my word count, and I’m pretty sure the days I struggled the most (and wrote the worst drivel) happened because I needed a break from the story.  This is good.  Knowing my best rhythm is important, so I’m glad I did this experiment.

Now comes the fun part of trying to grab hold of this story and bring it together and finish it.  I ended up re-plotting it two different times during November. I think the new direction I found myself going in over the past three days is actually the right way to go, so now I need to figure out what parts of what I’ve written work with this and what needs to change and what needs to be added.  For today, though, I’m mostly going to celebrate.

I won!

 

NaNo 1st

nanobanner

I’m starting a new habit. I’m going to post writing goals on the first of each month.  November’s are kind of easy.

November Goals

  • Win NaNoWriMo
  • Keep up with Habitica NaNo challenge tasks
  • Do crit group feedback and meeting

The hardest part will be the Habitica tasks. Two of them are daily tasks–meet the day’s word goal and update on the NaNo site. I don’t usually write every day, but I really want to win the challenge, so I’m going to do it.  But it’s going to be a little bit odd for me.  It *will* be nice to not need to do any marathon catch-up days.

Now, off I go to get those words started!

Retreat!

McMenamins Edgefield

McMenamins Edgefield

Saturday, I got the opportunity to go to a day-long retreat with PDX Writers at this glorious place (McMenamins Edgefield).  It was such a welcome break from the ordinary–it was just the thing right now.

I got really lucky–I’m unemployed right now, so I wasn’t going to be able to go to this, but I got a scholarship.  It felt like such a wonderful luxury.  This is my second writing retreat–last year when I was employed I was able to go to the PDX Writers weekend-long retreat.  I’m thinking I need to schedule in more regular breaks from the everyday for myself–it doesn’t have to be a fancy retreat. I could do something like this for myself now and then. I think we should all do this–our writing will love it!  And doing something different is a great way to shake up the writing and get things moving.

During the prompted writings I got some character work done on someone who’s been living in my head for a while and has lots of stories to tell.  In the afternoon, we had free time for walking, thinking, writing on our own. I got some planning done for NaNoWriMo, so I think I’m ready to start tomorrow.

But that’s tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be back writing about NaNo throughout November. For now, here are more pictures of the lovely writing escape. I’m off to get ready for the trick-or-treaters. Happy Halloween!

 

Glimpses of a day of writing

Glimpses of a day of writing

 

A Writer’s Day, October 22, 2016

words-volume-2-a

This is the first installment of a new thing I’m trying out–rambly, chatty reports on my writing life. I’m hoping sharing what I’m doing will get me doing writing things more regularly.

So this is a little bit of two pieces of my writing life. Notebooks and writing practice.

Last year I decorated the cover of the composition book I was doing hand written exercises in, and I liked it so much I decided I need to do that for all of them. I decided to call them “Words”  and number the volumes. It seems appropriate. I just started volume two a couple of weeks ago on my birthday.

I started Volume 2 at a writing group I participate in sporadically, PDX Writers (I started the last one at their Fall retreat last October–it’s becoming a tradition).   I really love PDX Writers. Even if I only get to a Saturday workshop once a month, it’s a real touchstone in my writing life.  It’s a place where I feel welcome, where people remember my name even when I’ve been away for a while. And most importantly it’s a place to share my words and hear everyone else’s words with no judgement, no pressure, nothing but words of encouragement.  It’s fantastic.

The Saturday workshops are drop-ins–relaxed and rich with prompts and great readings. Today’s was extra special, though.  PDX Writers bases their workshops and retreats on the Amherst Writers and Artists method, and today’s workshop was part of a fundraising event called Write Around the World.  Amherst writing groups all around the world used the same prompts to do their writing today so we got to be part of a worldwide event.

One of the best things about going to a Saturday drop-in is that I always come away feeling excited about my writing.  Tonight I’m writing about here to keep the enthusiasm going.  Tomorrow, I am going to work on some NaNoWriMo planning, and that needs plenty of enthusiasm.  And M&Ms. But mostly enthusiasm.

Brushing Off the Cobwebs

cobwebs
It’s been a little bit, hasn’t it? Life took over (lots and lots of heavy life), and I let everything slide for a while.  But October and the approach of NaNoWriMo stirred me, so I’ve decided to dust things off and get things going around here.

Right now I’m trying out several online writing apps, so keep an eye open for a review soon. And I’m getting started on some NaNo prep, so I’m sure I’ll have things to say about that.  For now I just wanted to pop in and restart things.  See you soon!

Music to My Ears

Vinyl

I haven’t done a lot of writing this week, but I’ve been making progress on my ROW80 goals even so.

I’ve been making lists of story ideas to get ready for my upcoming short story classes. One idea that I had a few weeks ago, that I spent some time with this week, is finding story songs and using them to spark story ideas.  Friends shared a bunch of story songs with me (I need to put that list on here somewhere), and I came up with a few as well, and the idea seems to be taking off.  So far, I have story ideas from “Delta Dawn” by Helen Reddy and “Angie Baby,” also by Helen Reddy.  I have a few more songs that are tugging at me, so I’m going to dig up the lyrics and see what other stories emerge.

On top of all that, my favorite podcasters at StoryWonk launched a new podcast this week.  It’s called The Dollar Short, and it’s focused on examining some classic short stories and taking inspiration from them.  The first story was Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”  It’s more of a vignette, but it’s a fabulous character study, and I’m toying with a new idea that came to me from reading it.

To keep up with my other goals, I’m planning on some writing time this evening.  I’m going to look around for some description exercises so I can start honing that skill, because the only other writing session I did this week was a bit of free writing.

Oh, if anyone’s interested, on Monday my tiny online writing support group (on Facebook) is going to start reading and discussing Judy Reeves’ Wild Women, Wild Voices.  Come over and join in if you’re interested: Wild Minds Writers.

That’s about it over here.  I hope the words are treating you well!

What If?

ROW80Logocopy

I’ve been playing the “what if?” game in my head a lot over the past couple of months as we finally closed on a house, renovated it, moved out of the old place. Not much time for writing, lots of time for thinking in there.

What I’m thinking is that it’s time for some changes.  For the past handful of years I’ve been trying to build a coaching business.  As always, I thought I had to do something else and have my writing on the side.  But my writing has suffered for that idea, and I really don’t like it. I want to have my writing be my main focus.  Yes, I have a day job. But after that I want the writing to be my big thing.  I will probably still teach some classes and maybe still lead the writing retreat I’ve been dreaming up.  But I want to be a writer first.

I don’t entirely know how this is going to look.  I’m thinking about things like pen names and new websites.  For now, I’m going to stick with this site and dive back into writing.

I’m taking a 14-week short story class that starts at the end of January.  Then in late April, right as the long class wraps up, I’m taking a weekend-long short story intensive. And then I’m going to submit stories!  In the long class, the final assignment is actually to write cover letters for our stories so we can send them out.  This feels like a pretty good start to focusing on my writing.

I’m also planning on getting back to being a regular ROW80 participant.  Round 1 of 2016 starts tomorrow.  Here are my goals:

  • Write at least three days a week
  • Focus on story writing and description work (I tend to be sketchy on my descriptions, so I need more practice on that) more than on free writing
  • Go to PDX Writers Saturday workshops at least once a month
  • Post regularly for ROW80 and check in on other blogs

This feels like a pretty good list to get the year started, and I feel like these goals all blend well with the class work I’ll be doing.  I’ll be back on Wednesday to check in.