NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 22: Talking Back

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 22: Talking Back

“Art isn’t your pet — it’s your kid. It grows up and talks back to you.” — Joss Whedon

I’ll say up front that I’m not actually a parent, except to my cats. But I also remember the moment when, as a teenager, my mother uttered the curse almost every parent lays on their child at one point or another: “Someday, you’re going to have a kid just like you. Then you’ll know what it’s like.”

No children, but I have a number of characters whom I’ve “birthed” for my writing. Guess what? The best ones do start talking back, straining against what my conscious mind wants them to do because the subconscious is say, “No, we need to go this direction.” Like my mother, I can experience terrible frustration at that moment because they. Just. Won’t. Do. What. I. Want. Don’t they understand that MaMa knows best?

Ever have that feeling with your story? The moment when you could happily reach out and strangle your characters because they’re reacting differently than you expected them to? As frustrated as I am when it happens, I’m always anxiously waiting for when it happens in a project. That’s because the characters have now gone from being the set of characteristics I’ve thrown together and have developed something of a personality – and they push back in unexpected ways. They do things that provide shadings I hadn’t expected, or answer to plot problems that maybe weren’t quite fleshed out completely when I started. At this stage, it’s all imperfect and there’s still work to be done, but the groundwork’s there.

We’re starting the final full week of this year’s NaNoWriMo today, racing towards the finish line. Today, as you write, listen to what your story is trying to say to you. If it talks back, don’t try to immediately force it back into the channel you had planned, but open yourself to this new information. It may surprise you – and those surprises are sometimes the best moments of all.

Word Count Goal: 36,674

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 21:

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 21:

“Nothing will work unless you do.” – Maya Angelou

We’ve made it three weeks. Some of you are feeling triumphant at the moment, word count progressing as it should – or even better. Some, not so much. Either way, we’re here, through the end of the hardest slog. After today, we’re racing for the finish line or managing our expectations as to how much we’re actually going to finish.

Checking the #NaNoWriMo2016 hashtag on Twitter, I’ve seen several winners and some folks saying that’s it for them this year because they know they’re not going to make it. But there are also folks celebrating that they’ve just now reached 25,000 words, still striving toward the goal though the odds are somewhat stacked against them at this point. They’re working at it, getting their words in wherever they can, so when the moment comes to make their final validation of their novel, they can say, “I gave it my best shot,” whether they cross the finish line or no.

Some days are better than others, some NaNos are better than other. Last year saw a full first draft while this year sees me pushing to make just 50,000 words. The unifying thread is that, for both, I must do the work.

We’ve got a rough week ahead from a writing perspective. Some of you will be traveling, some of you will be cooking. Some of your are not going to be able to write a word Thursday, while others can spend the entire day holed up with their keyboard. But we keep doing the work, our eyes ever on the clock, knowing that we’re pushing toward that moment a week from Wednesday, when, no matter how many words we have, it’s time for that final tally. No matter where you are, may your fingers be swift today and for the nine days to follow.

Word Count Goal: 35,007

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 20: Patience

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 20: Patience

“Have patience with all things, but first with yourself.” – St. Frances de Sale

So, the trip to the doctor yesterday was both good news and bad news. I do not have a nasty cold, incipient bronchitis or the flu. The bad news is: I have a sinus infection and have to take a course of antibiotics in hopes of beating it before the stupid thing settles in as it did two years ago. Four months. I was sick for four months that time. Not something I care to repeat.

So I am on the mend, but I’m going to need to have patience with myself. I absolutely want to be better now, but that’s not going to happen. I want to make up all the words I’m behind, but that’s not going to happen immediately, either. Step by step. If I took nothing else away from the several rounds I did of The Artist’s Way back in the 90’s, it’s that you must take baby steps before you can walk with speed or run. Even Usain Bolt had to toddle at some point in his life.

But when things don’t move as fast as we think we should, it’s very easy to lose patience. Sometimes it’s because the line is long at the grocery store and Express Line has a customer who has thirty-seven items, not fifteen or less (yes, I counted), and a batch of coupons, a number of which are expired so they’re arguing with the clerk about them. It’s easy to have a clear target in that instance of where our impatience is aimed.

But what about when our career isn’t moving at the speed we want, our love life doesn’t progress as we think it should, or the words are falling from our fingers as a much slower pace than we would like? The first target is often ourselves. I’ve been dealing with this a lot this week, because I sense time ticking and stuff is not coming together as I want it to. Because, often, the person we’re most impatient with is ourselves – and often without good cause.

Look, if you spend your time playing a game online or cruising news sites, telling yourself you’ll get to writing in “just a minute,” only to find your time has disappeared and not a word has been written, I can empathize with you because I’ve done that. But maybe you should be a little impatient with yourself then because you’re not getting down to the business of getting the work done.

If, on the other hand, you’ve been at the keyboard every day, trying to meet your goal, but job, family or health has interfered, please be kind to yourself. Keep making your best effort and understand that it’s not necessarily your fault. If your plot has severely derailed, take a deep breath. Be patient with yourself while you figure out where you need to go next. It’s not the easiest thing in the world at times. It it was, well, we wouldn’t stress over it so much.

Ten days to go after this and we’re closing in on the home stretch. If things have gone well for you this NaNo, novel validation begins today which means we’ll start seeing “Winner” notations. If you’re one of those, I officially hate you. Now, go finish the rest of the damn book if you haven’t already.

For the rest of us, have patience with yourself. Do your best effort, always pushing forward. As I write this, “Wait For it” from Hamilton has come up on my iTunes. Burr sings, “Life doesn’t discriminate/Between the sinners and the saints/It takes and it takes and it takes/And we keep living anyway/We rise and we fall and we break/And we make our mistakes.” It’s what most of us do every day, just move forward one step at a time, no matter what life throws at us. It’s all we can do.

Be good to yourself today, and have patience with yourself as you write. You may have to wait a bit longer than you’d like to cross the finish line of a first draft, but it’s worth it.

Word Count Goal: 33,340

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 19: Possibilities

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 19: Possibilities

“With self-discipline, most anything is possible.” — Theodore Roosevelt

My counter on the NaNo site tells me that if I write 2,010 words every day for the rest of the month, I’ll make 50,000 words. At this moment, due to illness, I’m feeling lucky if I get 700. But I trudge on, working when I can, and since most of this weekend will be spent tucked up in bed, I’m going to try to put a dent in that.

My husband lifted an eyebrow at me (like any good romance hero should) and asked, “Isn’t the idea for you to be resting?”

Well, yes, but one of the ways to rest is to take stress off your plate. One of the ways for me to do that is to stick to the self-discipline of getting my words done as best I can. Here’s the thing, as much as we cheer on the idea of “thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” a big part of getting NaNoWriMo done is having the self-discipline to sit down each day and do those words. There are going to be good days and bad days, but it’s the doing it every day that counts the most. And, if you want this to more than just a one-time or once a year thing, it’s a good idea to cultivate a little self-discipline.

I write commercial fiction. I have three books planned for 2017, one of which is supposed to be released in 2 months, 18 days. The second in 6 months, 24 days. The third in exactly 11 months. In addition to that, I need to plot and start writing future books in this series. It’s…not a light schedule, especially when you factor in the day job, elder care and the usual ups and downs of life. Self-discipline is the only way I’m going to be able to do this. Because I’m self-publishing, I have some leeway and can shift the dates somewhat, though the first book is themed, so it really needs to not slip. But that means self-discipline is all the more important because the only person I’m answering to is me.

Ever tell yourself, “I’m going to do X every day!” — only to find reason not to within a week of starting out? Yeah, I know that feeling. That’s why, sick as I’m feeling — and, yes, I am going in to Urgent Care today — I’m trying to stick to that particular self-discipline as much as I can because this is important to me. 2016 was the year to get myself published. I did that. 2017 is the year to go bigger.

You took this on because this is important to you. Maybe it’s a life goal, maybe it’s a need to get yourself back on track. If you’re struggling, tell yourself that you’re doing good by sitting down in front of that keyboard. You’re building a habit that will see you through this month and beyond. Even if you use the writing as an excuse to avoid doing the exercise you also told yourself you would do regularly (not that I would know anything about that), keep at day in and day out.

Because, yes, most anything is possible is we dream it and breathe life into it with our words.

Word Count Goal: 31,673

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NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 18: Let’s Do Something

NaNoWriMo 2016 Day 18: Let’s Do Something

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” — Benjamin Franklin

I could probably do an entire month of essays just based on quotes by Franklin. He was a prolific writer — what’s more, he was a professional writer. Old Ben didn’t just write things to elevate moral discussion or philosophy. No, he printed and hawked what he wrote to the public. Poor Richard’s Almanack was first published in December, 1732 and kept going until the 1758 edition. So, for twenty-five years, Franklin was self-publishing and making a living from it, with print runs of up to 10,000 copies per year. Not bad for most authors, even today.

It’s not bad advice — one of the reasons Old Ben keeps getting quoted. It’s a call to get off one’s ass and “do” — whether that doing is telling the world what you know and dream or doing something that will inspire others. We’re writers, so we live mostly in the first category, and that’s not a bad place to be. The world would be a poorer place without ideas to inspire folks, to challenge their beliefs, to offer comfort when life is cold and cruel. We should not elevate what we do too much, but I have long held that if what I write makes one person feel better — even if that person is me — then that is a worthwhile thing.

We’re in the midst of what I believe to be the hardest stretch of NaNoWriMo. Next week, we’ll be pushing up against a holiday and facing a looming deadline that has suddenly gotten very close. Less than two weeks from today, we’ll be in December. Now, though, we’re in the slog, trying to get through to our writing goal or catching up when things haven’t been going well. Some of us aren’t going to catch up and we’ll talk about that more in the days ahead. For now, though, let us seize today. As Poor Richard wrote, “What you would seem to be, be really.”

We are WriMos. We are writers. Today, regardless of word count or deadlines, let’s write.

Word Count Goal: 30,006

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