Free Writing

NaNoWriMo 2014 – WINNER

I honestly didn’t think I would make it, but as you can see from the title, I managed to win NaNoWriMo 2014! I was behind for almost a week, got caught up, and then fell behind again during the holiday. On the last day, I bust out little over 3k words to hit 50,002 words (according to Scrivener – Validation gave me over 51k.) This time I didn’t count any notes, blog posts, or word sprints. Only words that went directly into the novel itself.

 

Sadly, I’m still not finished with Soul Weaver. My word count currently sits at 115,806. I’m estimating about another 15-20k words (give or take) before I can officially say that the first draft is complete.

NaNo14WinnerGraphTo be honest, I’m worried that I’m pushing the limits on my word count. If I were to self publish I wouldn’t be too concerned, but I have plans to try to submit to a few publishers first and I know that they may refuse my manuscript on excessive word count alone. That being said, I know that a lot of it will be cut during the first round of editing. I’m banking on that.

With that in mind I’m fighting the urge to start learning how to edit. While I’d like to think that most of my first draft doesn’t have too many grammar and spelling mistakes, what I’d like to learn is how to make sure I have proper flow and continuity. That my characters are fleshed out and consistent. That there’s a great hook at the end of each chapter to keep readers reading. Everything that a professional editor would look at. That’s what I want to learn. My goal is to have my novel impeccable before submitting it to any publishers. The less work their editor needs to do, the better.

NaNo14WinnerCertificate2I’m also starting to do some research about beta readers. I won’t start taking names until I’m through the first round of editing. I’ve already got my two teenage boys who are chomping at the bit for me to finish so they can read through it and help me out, but I’ll need more. Preferably readers who have beta’d before and can offer some awesome feedback.

 

But all that can be saved for the future. Right now, I still have a few more chapters to write. If all goes well I’d like to be done with the first draft by the end of December. I’ve already got a few ideas in mind for what I’m going to write in April.

Speaking of April. I’ve managed to motivate both of my boys to join me for Camp NaNoWriMo! I even got them a copy of Scrivener to use. My younger son has already started using it to transcribe the book he’s been writing for the past few months. All he had before was a notebook full of scribbling so he’s excited to see it all typed out and divided by chapter. I’ve directed him towards the Young Writers Program that NaNo offers as well. So lots of awesomeness to look forward to.

 

For those who won WriMo – CONGRATULATIONS! To those who didn’t – as long as you wrote, you’re still a winner. Even if you only wrote a couple words, it’s better than nothing. Just keep at it! And keep in mind, there’s always CampWriMo in April and July too.

 

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Free Writing

NaNoWriMo Day 18: Record Breaking Change of Plan

See that picture right there? Yeah, that one to the left, and there’s a larger one at the bottom. See them? That’s what getting caught up with NaNo after being almost two weeks behind looks like. That’s what forcing myself to pound out nearly 6,000 words looks like. That’s what writing my butt off looks like. (And I mean that quite literally. My butt was numb for quite a while yesterday.)

I know to some of you that may not seem like much, but to me it’s the most I’ve ever written in one day. My previous record was a little over 5,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

I know the more I force myself to write every day, the easier writing will come, but I noticed something in common with both of those record breaking days:

I planned.

That’s right, this so-called ‘pantser’ actually sat down and took the time to plan out where the story was going. It was only after planning, that I was able to pound out 5 and 6k words. Almost like they were nothing.

 

I think it’s also getting easier because because I’m nearing the end of the book. Soul Weaver currently sits at 94,515 words with a total goal of around 115k. But that’s only for NaNoWriMo purposes. I won’t be disappointed if I only write another 5k before typing “THE END”, but I have a feeling that’s not going to happen. There’s so much I have yet to write. The climax is coming. The MC needs to grow. The bad guy needs to be defeated. People need to die. (In the book! In the book!) I know I have another good 10-15k to write.

 

The problem with being a pantser is that you never really know what to write until you write it. There are times you get stuck because you’re not sure where it’s going. Like introducing a new character. Or ten. That was the case a few days ago when my MC met a group of people that I knew would be instrumental in the end, but I had no idea how to write them. I had to take the time to sit down and name them; give them a back story; find out what their personalities were; and what their role would be, before I could continue.

Had I planned all of it out from the beginning I would have been able to write through that chapter without an issue. So after I wrote them into the story, I took the time to plan out where the rest of the book was going.

Chapter by chapter I wrote what needed to happen next. I gave myself some flex room in case a character decided to do something odd without asking first. (We’ve all had those moments right? We think our characters are going to do something, only to find out that they do something totally different.) In the end, I planned from the next chapter until the end of the book.

And you know what happened? I was able to punch out 3k, 4k, and almost 6k words in one day. Not only that, but I felt much more comfortable with my writing. By this time I know my MCs well enough that was easier to write their story in the direction I now know it’s going.

 

To say that I think I may have learned a lesson here would be an understatement. I have a sequel in mind after finishing Soul Weaver and it might be safe to say that it will involve a lot more planning beforehand. Maybe I’ll be able to be one of those people who finish NaNoWriMo in one day!

Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Maybe I can just shoot for 75k in 30 days instead. Yeah, that sounds a little more reasonable.

 

So I leave you with this: If you’re still lagging behind, struggling to catch up, and maybe thinking you won’t be able to finish – try doing something different. Something you don’t usually do. If you’re a planner, try pantsing. If you’re a panster, try planning. If you’re a little bit of both, take a break and challenge yourself by writing a short back story for a side character.

Another thing you can do is to find someone to challenge you. A little bit of writing truth or dare if you will. My friend Aaron Steinmetz and I did that during Camp WriMo this year and I’ll be darned if one of his challenges didn’t wind up becoming an important part of my novel.

If you’ve never played, it goes like this:

You: I dare you to write about a three legged dog.

Friend: Okay, I dare you to have one of your characters use the word ‘fart’.

It’s as simple as that. You both write the other person’s challenge and before you know it, you’ve just added another couple (or hundred…or thousand) words to your novel. Rinse and repeat. Keep in mind: if you don’t like it, you can always edit it out later.

 

If you’re still struggling, don’t fret. NaNoWriMo is meant to get writers into the habit of writing every day. Even if it’s just a few words. So if you don’t wind up with 50k words by November 30th, but you continue to hammer away at your writing every day then you, my friend, have already won.

 

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Free Writing

NaNoWriMo Day 9: There’s Still Hope

It’s day 9 of NaNoWriMo and I’ve only written 7,807 words. Yes, I’ve fallen behind. I fell behind after day 4, but I wasn’t worried because I thought I had time to catch up. But the day I had set aside, wound up being an incredibly dramatic day for my family.

Without going into detail, I will say that my eldest son has had some very rough times lately. Two days ago he decided it was too much to handle and attempted something terrifyingly drastic. It wasn’t something I would have ever thought he would do and thankfully, he failed. Let me tell you, as a parent, I would not wish this on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.

The feelings of helplessness, guilt, fear, and not knowing what to do next was overwhelming as I drove to meet him and his father. No parent should ever have to feel this way. And no child should ever feel that the things that happen in their life are that bad.

When I met up with my son, he immediately ran over to me and hugged me tight. I held him for what seemed like forever as we both cried on each other’s shoulders. He apologized and swore he would never do anything like that again. While he seemed to understand the consequences of his actions and is more than willing to attend the counseling he will now need, he and I also know that things won’t be the same for a long time. If ever.

I’m grateful that I was able to take him home with me that night. Along with his little brother and sister, we all had a fantastic weekend together. Afterwards, he told me that he was glad he spent this time with me. He said it was relaxing. That he was able to forget about the stress of everything for a while. That made me smile and warmed my heart.

I’ll admit that even though I was on my guard in case he slipped, I had a great time as well. One of the coolest things we did was stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking about a book that he wants to write. He’s well aware of my endeavor to finish Soul Weaver and would frequently ask me how it’s coming along. He’s even read the first few chapters, but told me that he won’t read the rest until I’m finished and that I have to finish it. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard him talk about being interested in writing, let alone any sort of novel.

We spoke for a long time about what it would be, and the more we talked, the more the plot was painted in our minds. He wants to write a historical fiction. A steam-punk Civil War along the same lines as the Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfield. We got online and did some research. We plotted out time lines. We looked up the technology that was used. We came up with names for the main characters and a little bit of their back story. We even came up with a name for it. Ideas were pouring forth as we wrote down everything we could think of.

In the end we wound up with nearly three pages of notes and something that we could bond over (outside of video games). I can only hope that after this weekend this project can be this is something that he can look forward to. Something that he can escape reality for and pour his creativity into. And though it will be his own project, I hope that this can be something that he and I can share and work on together. Maybe, just maybe, it will give him something to focus on when he thinks things are getting too much to handle again. As long as it’s only a side project and doesn’t add to his stress, I will support him one million percent in his endeavor.

Now I have the perfect motivation to keep pushing forward with Soul Weaver. Now when he asks how it’s coming along, I can tell him that I’m still dutifully slugging away. Now, I can ask him how his is coming along as well. Now we can motivate each other.

 

It’s day 9 of NaNoWriMo and I’m behind. But I will get caught up. Because I want to show my son that it can be done. And son, if you’re reading this, maybe this time next year you’ll be a part of this event with me. Slugging away at our novels and helping each other to the finish line. A mother can only hope, right?

 

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Free Writing

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Day One: Are We There Yet?

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo is here. I started at midnight, and at 3:30am I made 2116 words. I’m happy with that. 🙂

I suppose I should be called a “rebel” for this WriMo because I’m actually continuing Soul Weaver from this April’s Camp WriMo. I made it over 65k words before November started, but I know it still has a lot more to go. So between finishing the novel and editing what I’ve already written I still have a goal of 50k words. I took a long break after April and I plan to take December off as well, but come January, I’ll be doing some heavy editing and possibly even sending it out to some beta readers. (So if anyone who reads my blog is interested, shoot me a line and I’ll put you down as a beta.)

Today’s only the first day but I’m already thinking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

To which I think of Pixar’s The Incredibles: “We’ll get there when we get there!!”

(This whole scene is pretty much NaNoWriMo in a nutshell!)

Good luck to my fellow NaNoers! Feel free to buddy up with me on the NaNo site!

 

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Down in the Writing Dumps…

Click for larger image.

I saw this image on Pinterest and I just had to save it. I think every writer goes through this.

Right now I’m most certainly feeling the images on the right. There are times when I don’t feel like writing. Just opening up Scrivener – no, just looking at the icon on my desktop – makes me cringe.

Since Camp NaNoWriMo ended I have written all of 16,000 words. 16,000 words in the past 37 days. How is it that I can pound out 50,000 words in less than 30 days, but the following 37 days I can’t even break 20k? Even though I took a week off after Camp, that’s still 30 days, and all I’ve been able to write is 1/4th of what I was able to write in April.

Why is that? Why is it lately that every time I sit down to write it feels like a chore and not something that I enjoy? Why is it that as I’m typing the words, my mind wants to drift off until I eventually find myself browsing Facebook or Twitter? Or finding something that needs done in the house?

I think I know why. This image describes it exactly. Sometimes I feel like my scenes are hideous. I feel like my story is awful. I feel like I’m a despicable writer. And lately, all I feel like doing is sobbing because I’ve been telling myself that my writing will never amount to anything more than “meh”.

It’s a combination of a lack of self confidence, too high of expectations, and a lack of stick-too-itiveness. In April I had a goal of just simply writing. In April I had a goal of not caring if I get published. In April I just wanted to say I wrote a book. In April I wasn’t comparing myself to other writers, I just wanted to tell my story. In April I just wanted something that I could leave to my children when I’ve left this world; something that I could be proud of.

For some reason, my goal has morphed into much more. I want to be published. By TOR no less. I want to be found in bookstores. I want to be told my story is excellent. My characters believable. My scenes intriguing. I want people to tell me that my writing is a million times better than anything I wrote ten years ago and ask me why didn’t I stick to it back then because I could have written this a long time ago.

I want to be told this, because it’s not what I think of myself. I think, “What else have you written, Amanda? A couple pieces of flash fiction almost ten years ago – romance fiction at that – and you think you can just step into the world of fantasy writing? You think you can call yourself even remotely ready for any sort of publishing just because you’ve managed to write 50,000 words? Crappy words I might add. Words that suck and are going to need editing a dozen times. Call it quits now. You don’t even have a chance at publishing traditionally anyway. Those publishers are going to chew you up and spit you out. You have no online presence. You have no style. You have no talent. You haven’t even developed your own writing voice yet. Do you really think anyone is going to be even remotely interested?”

To which I reply to myself, “But I’m interested. Every time I go back and read previous chapters I become engrossed in it. I want to keep reading as if I’m reading someone else’s work. Doesn’t that count for something?” That’s when I start getting impatient. I want to start editing what I have so far. I get excited and I think maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this.

That’s when my self doubt comes back and gives me the same argument as before. Instead, what I need to do is get back into the mindset I had in April. Write for the joy of it. To say I’ve finished a novel and be proud. Then take a step back and breathe. After some time away, I can come back and go through the first edit. Only then should I start thinking about possible publishing. And as much as the thought feels like a needle stabbing me in the heart, I need to forget about TOR. Sure I can submit an inquiry, but I shouldn’t expect or even hope for any sort of positive response. This is my first novel after all.

I know that may sound pessimistic, but I’ve always been one to think “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” If I get lucky, I get lucky. It’s not like I don’t know the amount of work involved before I will even be close to that point. I’ve done my research. The problem is, I’ve done so much research that I think I’ve overloaded my brain.

What I need to do now is re-wire it. Go back to the excitement of April. The can-do-it attitude and the thought of “I don’t care if this is published. I just want to finally say I’ve done it.”

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I’ve Been Slacking

I almost feel like I need another NaNoWriMo to get me to write again. I’ve written 2,000+ words over the past two weeks. The first week was pure writer’s block. This past week was pure….laziness I suppose.

Honestly, I’m trying to adjust to my new “schedule” per say. Hubby got a new job. His previous job was sitting at home with me, getting paid to recover from a work injury. Now he’s back to working again and I’ve been trying to get myself into a good schedule.

Oh, and I’ve been trying to lose weight.

So I get up in the morning after hubby leaves and before my daughter wakes up. I do about an hour of exercising (I tried to start out with the P90X but only got past day 4 before deciding my body wasn’t meant for it [I even started a P90X blog]. P90X was meant for those who are already in shape, not for someone who needs to lose 50 pounds and hasn’t done any real exercise since her stint in the Army over 10 years ago. So instead I’m doing some light yoga and taking my daughter out on frequent bike rides – we’ve gone 21 miles just this week!)

After exercising I shower and wake up my daughter and have the rest of our day to ourselves. I could write, but I usually just surf the internet. I could write, but I usually practice my guitar. I could write, but I usually just hang out with my daughter on the porch while she swings and plays with her baby doll. I could write, but by the time hubby gets home I usually haven’t. We spend some time watching Netflix and try to get to bed early because he has to be up early.

I’m not sure what my problem is. I think I’ve been getting down on myself. I’ve been debating taking some writing classes, thinking it will help me get some confidence, but I’m not sure that would really help.

I think I’ve just hit the halfway slump. I’m not really sure I’m at the halfway point in my novel, but with a goal of 100,000k words and only 60,500 written I’m close enough to call it the halfway mark. Heck, I still have to edit, re-edit, edit again, and keep editing until it’s a perfect as it can be. Then I still have to go through the beta reader phase, edit again and again. Then determine if I want to go with traditional publishing (my dream is to be published through TOR) or self publish.

Needless to say, I’ve still got quite a ways to go. I think the full weight of it all is hitting me hard. I’ll eventually get over it, I’m sure. I just feel bad for slacking since Camp NaNoWriMo has been over.

So consider this a rant blog. I’m done. I promise my next blog will be more upbeat and positive.

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Free Writing

Step One: Acknowledge, Accept, Admit.

My good friend Aaron Steinmetz and I were chatting last night and I was telling him about how I’ve finally accepted the cold hard truth. It took me a long time to come to the realization, but I was able to openly admit it to myself as well as him. I had denied it for a long time. Too long, in fact. Even when others were telling me the obvious, I refused to believe it. It took my experiences in Camp NaNoWriMo to finally come to terms with what I am and I accepted it.

Even now, as I confess to you who read this blog, it’s hard to acknowledge the truth of what I am. I want to hesitate. I want to shy away from it. I want to stammer and stumble upon my words, uttering them so quietly that you have to ask me to ‘speak up, I didn’t catch what you said, could you repeat that please?’ Much like when Twighlight Sparkle meets Fluttershy for the first time in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (Yes, I do watch it. Yes, I do love it. Yes I suppose that makes me a Brony or a Pegasister [I prefer Brony]. Hey, I have a 2.5 year old little girl. So sue me.)

Wait a minute, did you see that? That’s pretty sad isn’t it? I’m more willing to admit that I’m a Brony than I am willing to admit that I’m a writer.

Eeeepp! *slaps hands over my mouth*

I just did it. I just said that I’m the “W”-word.

*sigh* Okay….here goes. I may as well just say it right?

I’m a writer…
I’m a writer…

I’m a writer!

I’m a writer!!

There…I said it.

Real-Writer-by-TerriblemindsWhy is it so hard for us to admit that we’re writers? That’s the discussion Aaron and I were having last night.

I think we realized that it’s because we compare ourselves too much to other writers.

I say, “I can’t possibly be a writer. I don’t have anything published. I’m not like Aaron, who’s got 4 books out there and is working on another one…”

While he’s thinking, “I can’t possibly be a writer. I still have a full-time job. I don’t write for a living, I just write on the side and manage to sell a few copies here and there on Amazon.”

Do we think that we can’t call ourselves writers because it’s not a full time occupation? Do we not call ourselves writers because we haven’t published anything yet? Or aren’t traditionally published? Or haven’t sold a million copies? Maybe we don’t call ourselves writers because – at the moment – we aren’t writing? Can you call yourself a writer if you’re between books? I mean, is J.K. Rowling currently working on another novel? If not, does that mean that she’s not a writer right now?

Let me quote you Google’s definition of Writer:

writ·er  ˈrītər/  noun
  1. a person who has written a particular text.
    “the writer of the letter”
    • a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or regular occupation.
      “the distinguished travel writer Freya Stark”
    • a person who writes in a specified way.
      “Dickens was a prolific writer”

i-write-therefore-i-am-a-writerDo you see that? “…as a job or regular occupation.” We look straight beyond the first definition it gives us: “a person who has written a particular text.” (emphasis added because it’s most certainly needed)

This is what we need to realize. A writer is a person who has written a particular text. And by the way – there is no such thing as an “aspiring writer” or an “amateur writer”. So leave out the word aspiring and amateur. If you write – you’re a writer! Simple as that. There’s no such thing as an amateur writer unless you’re in pre-school and you’re learning how to write your name (even then it’s debatable). I’m pretty sure we’re all beyond that part right? Good, so then you’re a writer!

That means if all you do it blog…guess what? You’re a writer!

If you only keep a journal in a notepad that never sees the light of day: You’re a writer!

If you write short stories or poems that you think are terrible and you cringe because you’ve actually uploaded them onto your blog for others to read and laugh at how horrible they are (*cough*notme*cough*): You’re a writer!!

P.S. If you’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, even if you didn’t win, you’re a writer. How’s that for earning the title eh?

You don’t have to be a famous NY Times best selling author backed by Penguin or Tor who’s ready to turn your book into a movie by Paramount and earning millions of dollars a year to be called a writer! That’s the beauty of it! You’re a writer whether anyone else knows it or not!

It’s hard to admit that you’re a writer. Believe me, I know! It’s especially hard to admit when you’re talking to another person (and maybe even harder to admit when you’re talking to a fellow writer who may be more successful than you *cough*notme*cough*)

Im-a-writerBut don’t think for one minute that just because you don’t have anything published that you’re not a writer. You ARE. Admit it first to yourself. Look in the mirror. Yeah, do it. Right now. Look into those awesome *insertthecolorofyoureyeshere* eyes and say it out loud, “I’m a writer!” Say it until you believe it. Say it to yourself. Then say it to your family and friends. Then get out there and when people introduce themselves, be PROUD to say, “Hi, my name is _______ and I’m a writer!” (Well, I mean, you don’t have to shout the word “writer”, but if that’s what helps…..)

So to all my fellow writers out there I say, “Hi, my name is Amanda Davis. I’m a WRITER!”

I imagine the conversation going like this:

“I’m a reader……what are you?”

“I’m…I’m a writer.”

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I’m….I’m a writer.”

“Didn’t quite catch that.”

“I’m a writer.”

“Well, um. Okay then.”

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