NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 27: Choices

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 27: Choices

“Every day brings new choices” — Martha Beck

Believe it or not, no one is holding a gun to our head and forcing us to write. It may feel like that some times, especially during these last few days of November when we’re facing the impending deadline of November 30. But the choice is ours each day to write or do something else. Early in this month, I made the choice to work the polls, knowing that it would lose me an entire day. A few days, I’ve made the choice, albeit reluctantly, to let the writing go after a hundred words because I was too sick or tired to continue.

We face choices every day, to turn left, to turn right, to say yes, to say no. While we may feel helpless at times, our life is a constant stream of choices, ranging from small to large. The decision to sit down and write is one of those, especially to write when we don’t want to — or when we know it’s difficult. I could tell you about the horror story that was the “family” Thanksgiving meal yesterday, but let’s just say the my choice for Saturday was to write early rather than later and get the day’s words out of the way because I knew I’d be twitchy and annoyed by the time we were finished with the meal.

We make choices within our writing as well, much of which involve how miserable we’re going to make our characters or how hard they’re going to have to work before they get to the ending we’ve planned. We choose which words we use, which words we don’t — and sometimes we choose to let our characters wander off in a direction we know they shouldn’t go because we made a choice to explore those possibilities. Or we’re choosing the path of least resistance because we’re tired, we don’t want to be sitting in front of our computers, but we made a choice to do NaNoWriMo and we’re going to get those words in if it kills us, damn it!

We make the choice to walk away from projects. Sometimes it’s because we don’t have the heart or energy to give what the story demands, but sometimes, it is a deliberate choice because we know that this must wait, that there is something else we need to focus on. At times it’s the demands of jobs or families, but the choice to say, “No, I will leave this for now because I know I need to finish this other project over here within a certain time frame.” That’s what NaNo’s been for me much of this year, wanting to work on one project but knowing I needed to work on another. The final piece of that was drafted this morning. Tomorrow, well, let’s see what choice awaits me.

I post these early West Coast time each day in the hopes my words will provide some inspiration or offer some signposts for the day. I don’t know how much impact they have, but it is my choice to write them because they help me, if no one else.

What choices will you make today?

Word Count Goal: 45,009

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 26: Resolved

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 26: Resolved

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” — Abraham Lincoln

We’re into the “force of will” stage of NaNoWriMo at this point. Even if your work is going well, thirty days can be a long slog. If you’re not used to sitting down and writing something every single day, you might be feeling a certain weariness. Writing can be exhilarating, but it can also be tiring, both physically and mentally. Sadly, it does not burn sufficient calories to count as exercise, but it is still work.

Very often, the only thing that keeps us going is our determination to do something. We have so many roadblocks in our way that if we aren’t determined, we’ll be sidelined into something else because it really is easier to spend the day on the couch than in front of the keyboard. We’re now post-Thanksgiving, so the Holiday season has officially begun, with plenty of demand on our times. While I’ve been doing my best to avoid spending money on line, there are a few things I need to accomplish aside from writing today and tomorrow. Yarn needs to be wound for the Advent Knit-Along I’m participating in beginning December 1, as I really would prefer not to be doing that during the last three days of NaNo. I probably should check and see if I have the correct needles as well. Rather, I should check and make certain I have the correct needles that aren’t already taken up with another project.

But this is still going to take second place to the writing because now that I’m in shouting distance of catching up (less than a thousand words behind at this point), I’m going to do my best to keep up the pace. It’s resolution that’s keeping me going at this point, resolution to not break a multi-year streak of winning NaNoWriMo — and a resolution that I’ll be able to wear the Winner’s t-shirt that’s already come in the mail without feeling like a complete fraud. But, most importantly, my resolve is to keep at the writing, and I hope yours is as well. It’s what we decide we will do and commit to doing with our whole heart that carries us forward to victory.

We’re on the final countdown now. Let’s resolve to make each on of these final days count.

Word Count Goal: 43,432

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 25: Impossible Dreams

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 25: Impossible Dreams

“It will always seem impossible until it is done.” — Sam Levenson

And we’re back. I hope yesterday was good for you and that you were able to find time to breathe, if not get your words done. Since we had a relatively low-key celebration, I was able to spend a considerable time at my keyboard with the upshot that it’s starting to look as if I will make it to the 50,000 word mark after all. It’s going to be a squeaker, but I’m going to get there.

A few days ago, it seemed impossible. More than that, the very idea seemed overwhelming. I had one of those wonderful complete and utter meltdowns that writers can be subject to You know the one: “Why am I even trying? What made me think I could write? What stupidity convinced me I could actually get books out?” It wasn’t pretty, it was very stressful, and I was, frankly, ready to hang up the keyboard for the rest of the year and just hide with my knitting.

So I buried myself in the day job (which has work that I’ve brought home this weekend) and did my best not to think about my novel or writing in general. Of course, since I was trying not to think about it, very firmly and resolutely resisting the urge, that was the moment when ideas started to poke at me, say, “Hey. What if…”

I finally made notes in my bullet journal, and that seemed to help enough that I was able to get back to the keyboard. I focused on getting just the words I needed done for that day, plus about 25 more. The next morning, I knew I needed to junk the scene I’d written the day before. File gets moved to the holding pen, and a new scene started to take shape. A better scene, one that twisted one of the tropes I was working with somewhat so it’s not what everyone expects. All of this is still hideously rough, and there will be severe rewrites under a fairly tight deadline since what I’m working with at the moment is scheduled to be published at the beginning of, oh, February, but it’s out of my head and on the page.

That’s the impossible part, really. Not the hitting 50,000 words within a set amount of time or getting your revisions done or submitting a query to an agent or an editor or making your work available on Amazon. No, often times, the impossible act is to get the words out of your head and onto the page because of the roadblocks that we so often place in our own way. We feel out of sorts, so we don’t want to work. We find excuses or obligations, reasons not to write. Sometimes it’s conscious (in which case, consider what’s behind that), but all too often, it’s unconscious self-sabotage.

We are our own worst enemies, beset by doubts and the inner demons that nag at us. But each day we overcome those voices and sit down to do the impossible thing is a victory. Writing is hard; it demands we open up some darker recesses of our imaginations and spill them out of the page, to have characters do things that we would normally shy away from. Writing is very often painful, but having written can be a joy because we know we have striven for something and won.

We have five days left after this. No matter where you are in the process, get some words out of your head and onto the page. Let’s do something impossible today.

Word Count Goal: 41,675

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 24: Thanksgiving

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 24: Thanksgiving

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” — Cesare Pavese

I’m a film buff, something that’s been with me since childhood. In addition to the usual Disney fare growing up (I saw Mary Poppins on original release), my parents also indulged in some choices that some might mark down as questionable parenting. As an adult, I wonder at it from time to time, but it means that I have vivid memories of a monolith on the moon and T.E. Lawrence watching Sherif Ali coming across the empty sands. I saw Paul Newman and Robert Redford pull a con, and, as revivals houses and classic film festival become fashionable, Joan Crawford as Sadie Thompson and Gloria Swanson both as Norma Desmond and the Queen of Silent Cinema she once was. Our local PBS station ran a mix of silent and foreign films on Fridays and Saturdays, so you could often find me in front of the television feasting in Lillian and Dorothy Gish in Orphans of the Storm — or watching Toshiro Mifune taking on a group of bandits threatening a town in Seven Samurai. Now, with channels such as TCM, services like Netflix and a host of films available for instant download from iTunes or Amazon or on DVD or BluRay, it’s much easier to find old and obscure films rather than feeling at times like Indiana Jones as I sought them out.

But while I love films, it really is the moments I remember. The Monolith, Lawrence’s burning sands, the looks between Captain Renault proclaiming he is “shocked” to discover there is gambling going on — just before the croupier hands him his winnings. I can even tell you what my favorite 10 seconds of film of all times is: Gene Kelly with an umbrella, spinning around a rain-swept street. For me, it is pure joy captured on film and makes my heart swell when I see it. Back in 1994, AFI created a short piece entitled “100 Years at the Movies.” It runs from time to time on TCM, but it’s also on YouTube and I’ve embedded it here. Watch it and notice where just a brief clip can give you an immediate emotional response.

As writers, what we capture on the page are moments, both good and bad. Our stories are scenes designed to provoke emotion in our readers. You can tell when you’ve connected because a reader will tell you what moments stood out for them. We strive for that, which is one reason NaNoWriMo is an excellent cauldron for a first draft. We are writing fast and furiously, not stopping to let our inner censors tell us to pull back, not be quite so aggressive on the page. Those are battles to fight when you revise, but once you get that emotion on the page, you’ll find it easier to keep it there. Never fear going too far in a first draft.

Here in the US, today is Thanksgiving, one of those days that often makes moments we remember for the rest of our lives. For those of you with families, enjoy the warmth, mine any drama for inspiration, and, if necessary, you can try using the excuse, “I have to write my words!” if it all becomes too much. (You have no idea how many times I’ve done that.)

For those of you on your own, I wish you well. I’ve been there, too, and I know today and the weeks to come can be some of the darkest of the year in more ways than one.

Best to you and yours today and all the days through the year. If you’re ahead on your word count, you might want to consider that second piece of pie your reward.

Word Count Goal: 40,608

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 23: Small Victories

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 23: Small Victories

“Every drop in the ocean counts” — Yoko Ono

A week from today, we’ll be entering final word counts, so the pressure is definitely on. Every word you write in support of NaNo counts toward that goal at this point. My Scrivener files often end up looking like a complete mess by November 30 because there is always this collection of items where I know I absolutely went down the wrong path, or I finished the scene and realized I really didn’t need to detail a character getting up and going through their morning routine, so that was dropped out. All of those words count, because they are words I wrote as part of the NaNo process. This year, I’m going to count my blog posts as well, at least the ones written during November, because they all focus on NaNo.

Why? Because the 30th is coming faster than we think and many of us are looking at not crossing the finish line. I’ll be honest with you: I’ve had a miserable NaNoWriMo this year. The writing is not moving as it should, the election sucked, there are technology issues, I’m sick, and my muse seems to have taken an all-expenses-paid cruise to Alaska despite my best efforts to nail her to the floor. At this moment, I really want a victory of some kind and realizing that I managed to write 50,000 across this blog and two different story projects would help.

A lot of us need that victory at this point, but we also have to look beyond a winner’s certificate and a video cheering our accomplishment. Once December is done, what do you plan to do with your project? Is it going in the drawer as you return to a life that’s becoming increasingly packed with year-end obligations? Do you hope to get back to it at “some point” — or are you going to keep adding to it, drop by drop, until you can call it done? I hope you’re trying to do the latter, that you’ll let the momentum of NaNoWriMo carry you forward, even if that momentum hasn’t been as great as one might hope. The idea is to keep working at it and get the thing done. Then you let it sit for a month, taking it out of the drawer in January and settling down to the fun work of revision.

We’ve got so many more words now than we had before. We’ve got stories living in our brains we hadn’t told before. Let’s keep creating those drops and filling the ocean because we need to keep moving forward, even if only for ourselves, if only for the small victories of a video of folks cheering you on. Keep going.

For those of you on the road today, good travels and come back to us safely.

Word Count Goal: 38,341

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