NaNoWriMo 2019

NaNoWriMo 2019


Guess what I’m going to try for the first time?

I believe we are given signs when we choose to look for them. And I had a series of signs within a couple of days in September that were steering me in the direction to try and do NaNoWriMo. Here is what it is all about:

I’ve had a story kicking around in my head that won’t go away for an embarrassingly long time but I’ve been stuck on how to move the story forward.

So when one of my favorite bloggers, Lillian Csernica wrote a post about prepping for NaNoWriMo, I saw that as my first sign and I was intrigued. Then I had one of those conversations which instantly sparked a solution to my plot problem and I immediately knew of a way to continue the story. Next I came across a book that grabbed my attention noticing that it was very similar to the story I wanted to tell but also saw how my story could be different and unique. And finally, someone at work mentioned that we should try doing NaNoWriMo as a program at the library. All of these things happened within a few days of each other. I was getting the message. It was time to write and work on that story again.

Most of the programs I run are for middle school age kids and teens. I love working with teens and we never have enough programs for that age group. It’s notoriously hard to keep a teen program going because young adults have very busy lives. I have had a couple of teens ask if we could do a writing program. So I’m going to try doing a NaNoWriMo Young Writers program. We will have a prep meeting. Then we’ll have weekly programs through the month of November and then a wrap up one the first week of December. So it’s a short time commitment which hopefully will appeal to everyone. The program is good for the library and selfishly, I’m hoping it will push me into serious writing mode again.

Since I haven’t done NaNoWriMo before, I’m researching it and am getting more excited about trying to do this. If I can get some teens to do this I’m hoping our enthusiasm will keep us going and we can figure it out together.

I just registered on the NaNoWriMo site for myself. And if the teens who come to our prep group want to do the Young Writers program officially, I will register there as an educator so we can set up a virtual classroom. If they don’t want to do it online, we will set our own goals and cheer each other on.

I am committing myself to this goal. That way if I want to avoid being horribly embarrassed and shamed by everyone who knows I will undertake this event, then I need to complete it. And for those of you who plan on not letting me get away with failing, according to the NaNoWriMo statistics, there is only a 17 percent success rate for completing this task which is kind of sobering. Even if I don’t make the 50,000 word goal, I will be writing and that is a good thing.

Right now I’m reading the incredibly helpful and funny book called No Plot? No Problem! written by the founder of this annual event, Chris Baty. Lots of good information in this book. I’m getting familiar with the NaNoWriMo site now so I don’t waste time figuring it out in November.

I’m also making notes about the story I want to write. I’m not really a plotter but this way I’ll have a loose guide to where I want the story to go. I’m making scene titles and have to restrain from working on the scenes now.

So wish me luck! And hold me accountable. I don’t like commitments so this is a stretch for me. Pushing our comfort zones is what makes life interesting, right?

Oh, and if you have participated in NaNoWriMo and have any tips for me, please share them. I need all the help I can get.

If you want to show support with kind words and encouragement, I would love that too.

If you are participating I wish you good luck and good writing.

More Than One Book at a Time

Do you read more than one book at a time? Apparently this is a shocking concept to some people.

I’m always reading more than one book at a time. Plus magazines. I don’t give it much thought or think this is unusual but when it comes up in conversation a lot of people are surprised. Most people say they could never read more than one book at a time and that they would never be able to keep the stories straight.

I like to have options depending on my mood or the time of the day.

Reading nonfiction is very different for me than reading fiction. It’s easier pick up a nonfiction book and put it down because I don’t get as caught up in it like I do fiction. I can read a paragraph or a page or two, put the book down and do something else while I absorb what I just read. I read nonfiction out of curiosity and the desire to learn.

With fiction my goal is to escape. I tend to lose track of time and motivation to get things done so I try not to read it when I need to pay attention to what is going on around me or if I only have short amount of time to read. I get lost in the story and sometimes find it jolting when I have to put the book down and deal with real life.

Variety is important depending on my mood. If a day is going badly it’s wonderful to be able to lose myself in a made up world for a little while. It’s a mini vacation. And that comes in very handy when waiting for something like a doctor’s appointment. It makes the wait easier and keeps me from getting as nervous.

I don’t like to waste time so I always have something handy to read; like during commercials while watching TV. There are so many commercials now that I can get a lot of reading done! I don’t watch a lot of TV but the few shows I do watch are loaded with commercials. I used to be able to watch shows on demand and fast forward through the commercials but can’t seem to do that much anymore. Keeping a book ready passes that time in a good way.

Often I’m reading something for a book group. I don’t want to stop reading any other books so I just add another one. This reading involves taking notes for discussion or making up trivia questions for fun at the group.

Book pile

I like to have something lighter to read before going to sleep at night. I avoid anything really scary or full of graphic violence before drifting off. Those are not the kinds of thoughts I want to have dreams about!

Usually I have at least three books going at a time. Often more.

I know I’m a bit book crazy but wonder if other people do this as much as I do. I’m more surprised when people tell me they never have time to read. I find that amazing!

How about you? Do you read more than one book at a time?

Writing, More Tortoise Than Hare

A._gigantea_Aldabra_Giant_TortoiseI mentioned in my last post that I was thrilled to have reacquainted myself with a story I started a couple of years ago and was off and writing like crazy. Now I have slowed to a crawl but instead of being daunted by this, I’m continuing to write even if it’s a sentence or two at a time. The fun in writing fiction, for me, is the surprise of how I get there.

This story is tricky. I know where I want it to go and why but making sure that I make it clear to a reader who isn’t in my head is the puzzle. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the nuances of the story as shown in my mind with what I am getting onto the page. And this story is very weird but fun. Once I get it all down, it should come together. I hope.

This is also a short story which I find much harder to write. I tend to write in scenes. There isn’t as much wiggle room to get from one scene to the next in a short story. I’m sure I will end up writing much more than I need to and will then cut it down to size. It’s all part of the journey, right?

Does anyone else sometimes feel that writing is like doing a jigsaw puzzle? Finding tiny pieces of the whole picture and putting it together in the right order? That’s okay with me. I like doing jigsaw puzzles too.

I’m proceeding slowly and trusting that the words will sort themselves as I go. And didn’t the tortoise win in the end?

Writing to Escape Reality or to Face It?

It’s a complicated question.

I took a writing class a few years ago and I learned a lot from it but one of the biggest things I learned to think about was whether I write to escape from reality or to face it.

The man who taught the class began the course by saying that we write to accurately portray reality. He was very much into what I call ‘reality fiction’. He couldn’t relate to fantasy, science fiction or any writing that wasn’t concretely set in the real world. Using concrete details was his mantra through the weeks of class.

At the time I had a strong negative reaction to those words because I have always read and written to escape from the real world. Mostly. I thought. And I kind of still feel that way but with exceptions.

On the surface, I read and write to visit a new place with new people experiencing new things. But for any writing to resonate with the reader there have to be real emotions, real details and real actions that the reader can relate to and put into context. That is what makes it good writing; when the reader can completely relate to the story.

No matter what world you set your story in, you still have to have concrete details the reader can relate to otherwise they won’t connect to the story at all.

I spent the weeks in that class pushing my comfort zone writing the real world assignments. I didn’t enjoy the topics I wrote about but I saw my writing grow stronger. I concentrated on concrete details and listened to what the others in that class wrote. I found it really hard. I learned a lot.

I learned that I still prefer stories that take me away from everyday life. But I wouldn’t enjoy them if I couldn’t relate to them.

I also learned how to incorporate concrete details into my fantasy and science fiction stories. I’ve gotten feedback from readers who don’t usually read my genres but say they can relate to the characters and what they are going through because of the real world details I’ve woven into the stories. That’s progress.

The lesson here? Sometimes the things we react to most strongly are the things we are weakest in. When we push our comfort zones and keep an open mind, we can become better writers.


When a Story Takes on a Life of Its Own

I’ve been working on a story for a while now. When I say working, I mean I’ve been putting together the characters, their names, and a general outline. I know how the story will end. I know key scenes. I was piecing it together a bit at a time.I do that when working on a longer piece until I reach a point when the story seems to come together. I can see the characters clearly and hear their voices. I know where I want them to go but I don’t know all the details of how they will get there.

Suddenly I reach a point when the characters start to do things or say things I hadn’t planned on. This is the greatest pleasure in writing fiction for me. I just need to stay with them and hope I can type fast enough to keep up. To me this is magical. I’ve been here in my writing before and will ride along as long as it lasts.

I used to think this was a bit crazy but have since read about and talked with other writers who experience this same thing. I think this is the equivalent to when athletes say they are in the zone. I think this is a writer’s zone.

For now, I will get back to my story but I have to wonder if any of you have experienced this?


Exploring First Drafts

My first drafts always start out like wildfire. I usually have a lot of scenes from the beginning of a story. I almost always know how the story will end. Then depending on how long a story is, I know many scenes in between.

Filling in the spaces between those scenes can be hard but also the most fun because those are the places where the story often takes off on its own. If I can stay out of my own way and just follow where it takes me, I get to discover the story much like the reader does when the story is done.

If I try to force a story to go in a certain direction I’ve discovered that it usually comes to a screeching halt. Then the words come out flat, the characters become stiff and the story gets boring.

Sometimes I just have to pretend that I’m a kid playing make-believe and let my imagination go crazy. I try to get into the mindset that I used to fall into so easily as a kid. I remember when I was in elementary school being able to play for hours using nothing more than a couple of toys and my imagination. Entire worlds, characters and events happened in those hours, effortlessly.

I think as adults we get stuck in our own censorship. We constantly stop and think about whether what we are writing is believable or well-written. If we can ignore those thoughts while pouring out that first draft, then we can always go back and fix things later. That’s what revision is for.

Most of the time, when we just ‘go with the flow’ as they say, in the end, there is very little that needs to be fixed.

Do you like writing first drafts? Do you find it easy or difficult? What do you do to keep it going?


Writing, Writing, Writing

I’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting here as often as I would like. Why? I’ve been getting a lot of creative writing done. I find it interesting that when my writing wasn’t flowing easily, my blogging was easy. Now I see that while my latest fiction is coming easily, I haven’t been as inspired to blog. Just an observation.

The great thing is that I sat down and wrote a 2000 word short story in one sitting last weekend. I love when that happens! I read it to my writing group last night and the reactions were positive. I’ll get a written critique of it next month.

And I’ve been working on the story I started while flying to Denver at the end of August. That story is coming together well so far.

I will have to see how things go in the future. I would like to do more of both. Blogging and creative writing. I’ll work on that!