Nanowrimo Commitment (With Full Confession of Intention to Cheat)

I've made a commitment to do Nanowrimo again this year.

With a huge caveat.

I've actually already begun my novel, and written a chapter and a half of it.  So I won't be competing to write a whole 50,000 word novel during the month of November. 

I will, however, be using the collective energy that occurs each year around this event to set a regular writing schedule and stick to it.  Currently, I'm getting up and working on my novel about twice a week, sometimes three times.  I want it to increase to five times a week and I want to get up earlier and have a longer writing session every morning.

A brief aside about getting up early.  Last night at my regular writing group, we set writing goals for the rest of the year.  And we talked about the difficulty of holding to a schedule for any kind of creative writing, with the pull of family and career.  One common thread among us was the issue of creative energy and head space.  All agreed that writing in the afternoon or evening is often impossible because our heads are so full of the daily business of life.  And thus the best way to get words on the page is by getting up early.  One man in the group routinely rises at 5:30 AM to write before he turns to the work day.  And another–wait for it–gets up at 3:30 AM or 4 every morning to work on his memoir.  So I can damn well get myself out of bed a half an hour early.  How about you?

I've written about Nanowrimo before in numerous posts throughout the years.  Here's some of them, and check them out, because they've got good solid info on getting ready for it.

Nanowrimo Prep

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

It's Nanowrimo, Day One, Do You Know Where Your Words Are?

Writing Inspiration, Whether You Are Nanowrimo-ing or Not

I'm publicly stating my goal so that you guys can hold me to it.  And in return, if you're onboard for Nanowrimo, note it in the comments and we can all support each other.  So how about it?  Are you with me?  Let's do it!  Chime in below and we'll write together during November.

Round Two: In Love With the World

I’m in Orlando, at the Suzanne Evans 10K business intensive, and while I’m gone I thought it would be fun to post some oldies.  I chose this one because it talks about one of my favorite topics: how writing makes you fall in love with the world.  (Note: Suzanne no longer does theta healing, but she does something else called RPT that is better.)

Dec. 13, 2007

I got up and worked on my new novel this morning (the one I didn’t write for Nanowrimo).  And all is right with the world because of it.  I’ve been very careful and fussy with this novel so far.  This morning I let it rip.  For whatever reason, and I have some theories, I was able, finally, to let go and let the words flow.

And then the world is the most beautiful place and I am in love with everything–my ugly old shoes, the dirty dishes, the sunrise, the trees outside, the hours of other work I have to do.  In my studies about Zen (though I really hate to say studies because it is more about experience) I read all the time about enlightenment.  And I think this is the feeling that the enlightened ones get.  But who knows, and who cares.  All I know is that it is the way I want to live in the world, always.  And if it takes getting up early to accomplish it, so be it.

The key concept of letting writing rip, for me, is to write fast.  When I write fast, I bypass the critic and the harsh editor and the voice of my character’s true self is able to emerge from within.  Yes, I make a lot of errors and yes I write a lot of crap.  But those are minor problems that can be fixed later. What you can’t achieve (or I should say, what I can’t achieve) through fussing over every word is the flow and the tone and the style.  And what does that all add up to?  Voice, of course.

Along these same lines I recently read a piece a friend wrote and, while the writing was at a very high level, I could tell how much he had labored over it and worked and re-worked it, which did not do the piece any favors.  It made it feel just the wee-est bit stilted and overdone.

So, what are my theories on how I finally managed to it rip?  Here we go:

  • Chance favors the prepared mind.  ie, I’ve been pondering this story and its been churning around in the back of my mind, and finally its ready to be told.  I do believe that every story has its moment.
  • I’ve been sitting down every morning to write, regardless.  I am also a firm believer that the Muse likes discipline.  Others will tell you this is not so, but believe me, it is.
  • Suzanne did some theta healing on me to cure a wee, ah, hangover I had after hanging out with my friend Sue from Nashville.   And while she was at it she threw in focus and clarity for me.

Your guess is as good as mine as to which of these was most instrumental in getting me going again.  And, at this point, I don’t really much care.  Because if I had a good work session I can have another tomorrow.  Momentum builds when one is writing every day.  And when one is writing every day, the novel pages pile up.

So it doesn’t really matter what the reason might be.  Because I am in love with the world.

Embracing Spring

My apologies to those of you currently buried under snow, or digging out from your latest blizzard, but here Almond_orchards_trees_248628_l in Portland, we've had one of the warmest winters on record. The rhodies, daffodils and crocus have been blooming for a couple weeks now and the temps are regularly reaching 60 degrees.  We've even had us some sunny weather.

It is wonderful, and I'm still trying to like it.

I'm more of an autumn person.  I love when the leaves fall and everything is red and orange and yellow.  (Have you ever noticed what a great accent color orange is?  It pops everything out.) I love when the big windstorms blow in from the Pacific and the rain begins again and the days get shorter. (Yes, I really do love it when it gets dark early–I blame that on my Danish heritage.)

When the days are short and dark, you can cuddle up inside by the fire, and read and write and not feel like you have to be outside doing stuff.

The last few weeks I've been struggling with the urge to be outside and do stuff.  I should say, I haven't been struggling with that urge, because I resist it when the weather first turns.  Like a small child, I throw tantrums: I don't wanna go outside and walk, I want to stay at my computer and become one with it.  I don't want to revel in the sunshine, I want to be lazy and lie on the couch and read this here book, and while I'm at it, become one with the couch, too.  Because of these childish urges, I'm actually happy when the sun goes away and the rain starts.  Yay!  I can stay inside longer.

But the weather gods have not been cooperating with me, and I've had to put up with these endless days of sunshine.  So I'm learning to embrace spring.

And the thought occurs that there's a correlation to writing.  Because, you know, there's always a correlation to writing in my world, it can't be helped.  And over the last couple weeks, I've been fooling around with a new novel.  For a long time, I was hesitant even to say the word novel.  I'd call it a project. 

Because what if it didn't turn into anything?  And what if I talked about it and it didn't turn into anything and then people started asking me about it and I got embarrassed?  I'm convinced half the problems in the world could be solved if we did away with embarrassment.  Because I wanted to save face, it was easier to call it a project than a novel.  Or just pretend I wasn't really working on it at all.

Enjoying spring weather is the same way.  What if you start going outside and reveling in it every day, and then, the rain comes and suddenly all that glory is taken away from you?  Better just to not enjoy it to begin with.  Better to leave the novel in your head, unwritten.

Right?

Not a chance.  Life is about taking risks, plunging in, placing yourself on the edge to see what will happen when you tip over. 

So I will now admit that I'm working on a new novel.  As a matter of fact, thanks to one of my lovely students, the wonderful Karen, I am actually working really hard on a new novel because she and I have made a sacred Nanowrimo pact and are each writing 50,000 words a day.  That's 2,000 words a day, baby!  Read it and weep!

Because, oh God, it is wonderful to be wrapped up in writing fiction again.  Even more wonderful than spring.

Happy Halloween

I'm in the process of cleaning and cooking for a Halloween party we're having tonight.  Somehow, my610px-Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31
annual chili dinner for one or two friends has turned into a last-minute shindig.  Alas, this means not a lot of time to write today.  However, I did rise early to work on Emma Jean,inspired by comments from my critique group last night. And I've made huge progress on my ghostwriting projects this week.  So you know what that means?  It is time to party!

Meanwhile, I've been racking my brain for a clever Halloween post.   Or a trick or a treat. I heard that Bruce Springsteen has a free download for Halloween on his website, but that seems a bit off-topic.  A couple of internet marketers have offered me free Ebooks, but they've turned out to be not worth the time it takes to download them.  And since I'm busy cleaning and cooking, I don't have a lot of time to figure anything else.

Ah, but light has dawned as I am writing this.  Seeing as how today is Halloween, it is a Friday, and tomorrow is November 1st, when many of you are starting Nanowrimo, how about we all give ourselves a huge pat on the back and take the day off?  We could start a movement to have Halloween be National Take the Day Off From Writing Day. 

Are you with me on this one?

I suppose you have to be a crazed workaholic like me in order to really get behind it, or at least a person who feels guilty if they don't write every day.    I know there are many of you out there.  So, c'mon, stand up and be counted.  We can make this happen.

The thought occurs to me that by writing this post I am, um, writing.  So I've got to knock it off.  See you all tomorrow, when I expect reports from everyone who has begun Nanowrimo (Kate and CJ, this means you, and I know I'm missing others so stand up and be counted.)

Photo by Toby Ord, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.5.  I found it on Wikipedia.

When One is Born a Writer….

…one is simply different.  That's all there is to it.  We writers are unique (some might say odd), and often misunderstood, because we have a passion for words.

Queen Victoria, ever mindful of propriety and history, once told her granddaughter, Princess Victoria Eugenie, the future queen of Spain, "Young woman, when one is born a princess, one cannot behave like others."

So, too, with writers.  When one is born a writer, one cannot behave like others because one, above all else, must write.  This means a few adjustments to a normal life. 

When One is Born a Writer, one often must:

  • Stay up past midnight late to write
  • Rise with the dawn to write
  • (When Nanowrimoing, one must sometimes do both of the above)
  • Miss sunny days to work on novel revisions
  • Skip meals to write (somehow, this one never happens to me)
  • Consider books a line item in the budget
  • Live with either pen and paper in hand,  or head buried in a book. 
  • Appear antisocial because of the above
  • Appear dim-witted because you listen and observe instead of talking
  • Have stooped shoulders from working on the computer so much
  • Have poor vission from above
  • Be incapable of walking past a bookstore without going in
  • Be also incapable of walking past a stationary store without going in

Anyone want to add to the list of congenital traits of writers? Post a comment,and I'll compile them all for a future post.

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Nanowrimo

I'm not going to do Nanowrimo this year, because I need to focus on the final rewrite (yeah, right, how many times have I said that) of my current novel.  But I'm a huge fan of it and had a blast doing it several years ago, when I "won" by the way.

(In case you live on Mars, Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month, a project which encourages people all across the globe to write a "novel" of 50,000 words over the month of November.)

But since preparing for Nanowrimo is much like preparing to write any big project, I thought I'd post some tips.  Here we go:

1.  Set a page or word goal.  I figured to win Nanowrimo I would be safe if I wrote 2,000 words a day.  This allowed for acts of god and trips to LA, when I couldn't write every day.  If you aren't doing Nanowrimo,  you might want to set a page goal.  Three pages a day is good.  Doesn't sound like much but if you write three pages a day at the end of a month you have 90 pages, which is 1/3 of a novel. (God, this is such good advice, why don't I follow it?  Because it is much harder to set a specific page or word goal when you are rewriting–some changes are simple, some lead to many other changes forward and back.  Okay, I feel better.)

2.  Get it done first thing.  I like to get up first thing in the morning and write.  If I get going on the novel first, everything else falls into place.  If I decide to work on some other project, like those pesky ones that pay bills, I'll never get back to the novel.  When I did Nanowrimo, my deal with myself was that I couldn't go to bed until I had my word count done.   If I didn't finish in the morning, I had to keep going back to it until I did.  On the other hand, I know that there are people like my friend Tony who prefers to write from 8 PM to 1 AM. Huh.  A different opinion than mine, imagine that.

3.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  C'mon, you've still got three days.  That's plenty of time.  Nanowrimo rules say you can do as much preparation as you want–as long as you don't write word one until November 1st.  Make lists of plot points, decide on character motivations, figure out what your characters want and what will stand in their way.  Choose locations and make notes about them.  Think about where your characters live and what they wear. What do they do on an ordinary day?  By preparing to write your novel in this way, you are also prepping your subconscious for what is to come–and trust me, those 2,000 words a day will come much easier.

4.  Tell family and friends to go jump in a lake.  No, perhaps it is a bit too cold for that, so tell them to take a hike.  Or rent every season of Friends, or the entire set of the Lord of the Rings and lock themselves in the TV room.  Or perhaps this is the time to tell your wife to finally read Anna Karenina.  The point is to (kindly) get rid of them.  Let them know you'll need time, space and energy to complete this goal that is important to you.

5.  Treat yourself well.  Now, and for the entire month of November.  Go easy on the alcohol (I hate that part) and eat healthy, natural whole foods. Exercise regularly.  My favorite exercise is pushing myself away from the computer desk.  Kidding.  I love to walk, and walking is excellent for pondering plot points.  Do all the things that you know will create energy for yourself.  You need to be alert and full of energy to write those 2000 words a day during November. 

Here's the bonus tip:  HAVE FUN.  Nanowrimo is a blast, and I love that it gets people writing and also connecting in Nanowrimo meetings.  So enjoy it.  And keep me posted on your progress.  Good luck!