More Like NaNo-NoGo

I’ve failed. Failed to complete NaNoWriMo, even though you’d think I’d have it under control, it being my third year and all (you can read my success stories here and here).

Alas, it was not meant to be.

I was determined to finish a manuscript, and I got stuck and couldn’t get unstuck. Partly because I know next-to-nothing about British law enforcement and sports, and guess what my WIP is about? BRITISH LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SPORTS. So I was constantly pausing to research, and therefore only hit 29,000 words. My other problem is that I like talking about the characters, but I sometimes ignore the plot. My bad.

Plus I wrote 13654320 other things for this blog and Mind the Gap, and spent the rest of my time job-hunting, grumbling about job-hunting, decorating for Christmas, sleeping, and, I don’t know, probably eating.

food sleep

Instead of dwelling on my failure, I’m using this as a learning experience and I know that I will have to better manage my time next year. And, as a positive, I’ll be home for half of December, so I can work on my manuscript then (hopefully)!

I do think, however, that I wrote 50,000 words this month anyway (just not in my WIP!). The following is a list of posts I published in November:

ON THIS BLOG:

Library of Souls review
5 Seconds of Summer mini-review
TTT: Book to Movie Adaptations
Book Blitz: Sugar Skulls
Anne & Henry review
Blog Tour: Every Word
#TheShelfieHop
The Real Neat Blog Award
Andrew McMahon concert review
The Universe Versus Alex Woods review
A Thousand Nights review

ON MIND THE GAP:

PVRIS
WCW: Lynn Gunn
Every series review
Why We Love Neil Gaiman
Orphan Black season one review
Tea-riffic Recommendations
Why We Love Andrew McMahon
#NowPlaying
NaNoWriMo (ironically, I didn’t follow my own advice!)
Soulless review
Why We Love Harry Potter
Community season five review
Peanuts
Holiday Music
Don Broco

ON IDOBI.COM:

Friday Night Lites review

And here’s a list of upcoming posts (written but not yet published) that I’ve been working on, since I’m going to London next week and won’t be home to write them! You can click the links now, but they won’t be live until the date listed in parentheses.

ON THIS BLOG:

TTT: Top Ten Books of 2015 (Dec 15)

ON MIND THE GAP:

Victor Frankenstein review (Dec 2)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Dec 4)
All I Want For Christmas (Dec 5)
My Favourite Christmas/Holiday Episodes (Dec 8)
London (Dec 10)
Holiday Movies (Dec 12)
All Time Low (Dec 14)
WCW: Emma Stone (Dec 16)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Days of Blood and Starlight review (Dec 18)
Celebrating the Holidays (Dec 19)
How I Met Your Mother season nine (Dec 22)
Best of 2015 (Dec 26)

You could also maybe sign up for the Mind the Gap newsletter (on our homepage), so that you can keep up with these posts every week (but only if you want to!).

ON IDOBI.COM:

My Christmas Letter to All Time Low/You Me At Six
Un(Covered): Christmas Time is Here
Un(Covered): Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

For anyone who participated in NaNoWriMo, how did it go? And for the rest of you: how was your November?

55,671

Well, I’ve done it.

At 55,671 words, I finished NaNoWriMo with a week to spare.

I’m not saying this to brag (well, maybe a little bit – a “humble brag”, if you will). It’s more to say “wow, I’m surprised this happened, since I’ve barely had time to read a flippin’ Adventure Time comic book, so how was I supposed to write 50,000  words?”

Wanna know my secret? I cheated.

Okay, so I don’t think it’s possible to actually cheat at NaNoWriMo. But I took the slightly-more-easy way out and, instead of starting a book from scratch, I wrote a second draft of my first novel. Which meant there were a few chapters that I could just copy-and-paste from one document into another. And thus I reached my goal sooner than anticipated.

This is not to say I didn’t painstakingly read every word I had previously written. I made adjustments along the way, and formatted the heck out of my new version (for some reason, my original manuscript had “straight quotes” and not “curly quotes” and that gave me such a headache, I can’t even tell you). I came across sentences that I knew I wouldn’t be able to re-write because they just fit so well, and I stumbled on phrases where I cringed because I don’t know why I thought that was a good way to express myself.

I feel like this time around, I got to know my characters even more, which meant I could go through dialogue I wrote 1-2 years ago (I just now realized that I’ve been working on this novel for two years. I’m going to cry. It’s a toddler!), and tweak it so that Olivia always sounded like Olivia, and Finn always like Finn, and Pippa was always Pippa (about a week ago, I turned to Ro and said “man, Pippa’s so unhinged!” and she was all “ya think?”, but I don’t think I ever really registered how cuckoo for cocoa puffs she is until re-writing her interludes).

I also like to think that I made up for this “cheating” by writing more blog posts. In 20 days, I’ve written 12 posts (not including this one, or the one that’s drafted and ready to go on Saturday, or the next installment of Music Monday that’s already done, or the one I still have to edit before posting on Tuesday…). So I like to think that it all evens out.

Plus, forcing myself to focus on one work-in-progress renewed my love for my first baby. Not that I didn’t love it before, I just sort of let it fall by the wayside while I thought about other things (my gay detective, for one. HOLY FRACK, THAT SERIES IS GOING TO BE AMAZING). But now that I’m back in a Fireworks mood, I’m going to spend the next week drafting the sequel (or I’ll at least attempt it). And maybe I’ll even start tackling the beast that is the third book in the series before the end of the year (I’m not going to say it’s unlikely, but it’s probably unlikely).

So to all you out there rushing toward the finish line, may your words fly swiftly! You’re so close to defeating NaNoWriMo – good luck!

And for anyone who’s done, bravo! You made it! Take a break before you re-read it!( Seriously, don’t try to revise right away. NO GOOD CAN COME FROM RE-READING TOO SOON).

NaNoWriMo 2.0

It’s almost that time of year again! Not Christmas (though that’s soon too!): NaNoWriMo aka that month where writers both love and hate themselves (I suppose a lot of writers feel this way on a daily basis, but for those of us who don’t write as a full-time job, this is a special month).

I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year, and it was an excellent experience. So, naturally, I figured I’d do it again this year.

Just like last year, I’ll have to end early because I’ll be leaving the country at the end of November and would like to have 50,000 words submitted before then. Unlike last year, I’ll be unemployed for most of the month, so I don’t really have an excuse for not finishing.

Last year, I took a short story and “expanded” it – by which I mean, I started to write it linearly, then realized I was running out of time and sort of skipped parts in the middle so that I could write the last two chapters. This year, I’m re-writing my first completed novel, Fireworks, start to finish.

It took me several weeks to decide what I wanted to write for NaNoWriMo 2014. I narrowed it down to four ideas, then asked Ro to pick one.

About a month ago, I decided I needed to re-write Fireworks. In the middle of the night, I realized that if I changed one aspect of the story (what if Max was the one who came home, not Olivia?), then it would make the whole story a lot tighter and would fling the reader into the action a lot faster (I worry a lot about pacing). Then, just as I was trying to figure out whether or not it was worth it (sidenote: if you come up with an idea that’s going to make your book tighter, it’s always worth it), I came across this article from Writer’s Digest and it pretty much sealed the deal. It’s going to be a lot of work – changing that one detail forces me to re-write pretty much every chapter – but if it makes the story more enjoyable, then I’m willing to put in that extra effort.

So, for most of November, if you need me, I’ll be sitting in my living room, wearing pyjamas, surrounded by notebooks and the occasional scrap paper, and alternating between berating and congratulating myself.

I can’t wait to get started.

It is perfectly okay to write garbage as long as you edit brilliantly – C.J. Cherryh

When I sit down to write, I’ve been alternating between a sequel and my NaNoWriMo book. The sequel is being re-started for like the 7th time and I haven’t done any heavy editing on the NaNoWriMo one since I typed the last word at the end of November. They say it’s hard work to edit the mess that spews out during a month of frenzied writing and they weren’t kidding.

There are the filler paragraphs where I just wrote do whatever I could think of: the ideas that went nowhere and the moments when I clearly thought I was writing for a teen soap opera because holy smokes, the dramatic dialogue that was being thrown around! And now I’m wading through it, picking out the plot points that make sense and the scenes that aren’t cheesier than Cheetos (which are dangerously cheesy, after all) and I’m forcing myself to do it because I love my characters too much to let them suffer in a cesspool of random words and unfinished scenes.

Editing is embarrassing and awkward and something that is best done alone. Otherwise people will judge you for the faces you make when you read a sentence you once thought was golden and think “A poop-flinging monkey could write better than me”. Especially if you haven’t looked at this particular piece in a while and you’ve managed to convince yourself it’s not as terrible as you think (for example: right now the phrase “poop-flinging monkey” is making me laugh but in a few weeks, if I take a glance at this post, I’ll probably cringe and think “why did I feel it was necessary to use the word ‘poop’ not once but THREE TIMES in my blog?!”).

But at the end of the day, writing (and editing!) is kinda my thing.

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source: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

A novel rough draft is like bread dough; you need to beat the crap out of it for it to rise – Chris Baty

WRITING WEDNESDAY – THURSDAY EDITION

Well, I did it: I finished NaNoWriMo.

At 50 107 words, I surpassed the goal (by 107 words, but still! Yay for being ambitious!).

Winner Certificate

This is the fancy certificate they give you at the end.

I almost feel like I cheated.

Somewhere around 30 000 words, I realized that I was approaching my target word count, but I still had way too many plot points that needed to be fleshed out. So the last 20 000 words make up a bare-bones structure of the second half of the novel: the important moments that had to be written, but not of the connecting tissue (side note: I’ve found that people use the phrase “connecting tissue” a lot when describing novel writing, and it’s a comparison that both disgusts and amuses me).

From the mid-way point to the end, I wrote the main events, the BIG moments in my protagonist’s adventure. My novel has a clear beginning, middle, and end, with a handful of random scenes in between. Some of them are rambling and I know they’ll end up being tossed. Others have potential but I didn’t have the time to expand them in this draft. And still others weren’t necessarily important, but they were scenes that were so vivid in my head, scenes that appeared seemingly out of nowhere, fully-formed, and I would have been an idiot if I didn’t write them down right away.

Either way: I’m done. I wrote 50 000+ words in 28 days (the website calculates my average as being 1789 words per day). Some days I wrote 3000+ words in one shot, other days I just barely made my self-imposed goal of 2000 words.

And now for the fun part: editing.

I’m going to let this sit for a while. I’m going to work on the sequel to my first novel, and in a few months, I’ll come back to this NaNoWriMo project and I’ll edit the pants off of it. Who knows: maybe it will even be published one day.

EDIT: This post, talking about being a NaNoWriMo winner, is also my 50th blog post. If that’s not symbolic (or fitting, at least), I don’t know what is.

15,000

There’s a week left of NaNoWriMo and I realized yesterday that I have 15,000 words left to hit my goal and I’m not even close to done (events-wise, I mean).

*cue the wild eyes and flailing arms and zombie noises that I make when I feel overwhelmed*

My biggest issue  is the fact that my (admittedly old and by ‘old’, I mean not entirely legit) version of Word tells me one word count but the word count validator on the NaNoWriMo site gives me a different number. This would be okay if I was off by 10-100 words, but it’s off by 1000+. So that’s fun. And by ‘fun’, I mean horrible.

My other big problem is that, in my head, my lead male character kinda looks like John O’Callaghan from The Maine so sometimes I zone out and imagine how delightful it would be to know him in real life.

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*sighs dreamily and clasps hands over my heart* Photo credit goes to Adam Elmakias, who takes fantastic photos of bands.

I plan to finish this novel by next week’s Writing Wednesday. Which means I need to stop Googling The Maine and start writing (although technically, I should be working now).

But just so this isn’t a complete waste of a post (although in my opinion, any post that features a picture of John O’Callaghan is never a waste), I leave you with this song which plays an important part in the first half of my story (but also because I’m stoked that Bring Me The Horizon is coming here in February!!):

Time stood still, the way it did before, it’s like I’m sleepwalking

You sit down […] and you put one word after another until it’s done – Neil Gaiman

Technically I have until the 30th to finish my NaNoWriMo story, but, since I’m skipping town on the 28th, I’m aiming for this to be done by the 27th at the latest.

Also, I’m somewhat ambitious and a whole lot of crazy.

I hit 25000 words yesterday which means I’m officially at the midpoint.

Because I don’t have a solid outline for this project (apart from the short story I wrote last year, which is what it’s based on), I’m writing ALL THE WORDS that are in my head. I write long, rambling paragraphs; I occasionally repeat phrases or ideas; and there are a lot of autobiographical moments at the beginning that served as filler until I really understood my protagonist.

I introduce elements on one page that I realize are completely unnecessary two pages later, but I leave them in there. Partially so that I don’t screw myself over by messing up my word count (I’m on a time crunch, people!), but also because I may change my mind and decide I need it after all.

Since I genuinely like editing, I don’t really mind the idea that I’ll have 80+ single spaced pages to go through (it won’t be the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last). I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. I’m eager to see if a real story will emerge from my messy pile of words.

What I’ve learned is this: sometimes you just need to write down everything that pops into your head. Even if your subconscious is screaming at you “That paragraph doesn’t make sense! And now you’re just making up words and pretending like they’re a thing!” Because even if this is true, even if you eventually end up scratching out whole paragraphs or re-writing an entire chapter, at least you’re doing something.

The precious human commonly known as Sam Miller (the lead singer of Paradise Fears) wrote this blog post earlier in the week (don’t even get me started on how much I love and admire Sam Miller). And while he’s talking about song-writing in particular, his last words hold true for any writer (or artist in general):

Creativity is an inexhaustible resource. Ideas are infinite. Your bones will get tired, your mind will  grow stronger. If you want to create something beautiful, lasting, timeless, than you’ve got to start by creating something.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Sam.

Researching skillz

My NaNoWriMo project is about a female drummer. It’s all girl power and gender equality, etc etc, but instead of reading like a cultural studies paper, it’s rife with sensitive musicians and bitter band rivalries (side note: I’m already half in love with my lead singer, and all he’s said so far was “Thank you”. It was a really nice “thank you”, though).

One thing I quickly learned was that, despite being a music fan and going to several concerts in the past 4-5 years, I don’t really know a lot about drums. I have a vague idea of what they look like, and some of the terminology is familiar from taking music all through high school (i.e. snare drum, hi-hat, brushes, etc), otherwise drums are not my strong suit.

So I decided to research. I admit that my first point of reference was a delightfully detailed Wikipedia article (and I’ve actually looked at their sources to see how legit their information is).

Although ideally, one day I’ll meet a guy in a band who can teach me ALL THE THINGS about being in a band and thus I can do research AND achieve my goal of being a rockstar’s wife.

But I digress.

While I’m all for making up my own mythologies or tweaking history to suit my story’s needs, on some level, I believe that authors need to at least sound like they know what they’re talking about – even if they aren’t experts in that particular field. Otherwise, you lose credibility and people will distrust your writing.

Take, for example, the US Weekly article I read yesterday.

Now, I realize that US Weekly is a gossip rag and do people really take what they’re saying seriously? Maybe? I don’t know. I don’t usually read gossip rags (although I have a soft spot for Entertainment Weekly, thanks to Ro’s subscription). But the tagline under the picture is my favourite part:

jack and abigailsource: this article

Yes, US Weekly, this is indeed an “exclusive” because you seem to be under the impression that Jack is the vocalist when he is ACTUALLY THE GUITARIST. How are we expected to believe this story when you can’t even get his position in the band right?

(To be fair, the Daily Mail article is even funnier i.e. calling Jack the “frontman”, using one of the oldest (and most scandalous?) pictures of ATL (the promo from like 6 years ago when they’re all in their underwear), referring to the band as being “hipster”, etc.)

And so my post on the importance of research has disintegrated into a post on mocking gossip articles (Sorry I’m not sorry. I’m always excited to see “my” bands mentioned in “mainstream” media, but I hate when the articles are fraught with inaccuracies).

Whether you’re writing a story or slapping together an article, the idea is the same: Research. Fact-check. If you’re going to make stuff up, make sure people understand that you’re purposely making stuff up and you’re not just lazy. It’s that simple.

Nobody likes you when you’re 23

Every time someone mentions my next birthday, I have a mini quarter-life crisis (this usually involves fake crying and some shrieking).

I turn 24 in April. Just seeing the number makes me feel a little light-headed.

As I’ve (probably) mentioned, I first considered writing-as-a-career when I was 12. I’ve spent literally half my life dreaming about being an author, but I only started seriously writing last year.

When I did buckle down to write, I constantly heard the phrase “you’re young, you have lots of time.” And while I know that a lot of authors weren’t successful until they were “older”,  there is a disturbing amount of young authors (i.e. authors who were published before they hit 20). And by “disturbing”, I mean “I’m jealous”.

Last week, my parents showed me an article about Samantha Shannon. They meant it to be encouraging and supportive and consoled me: “you can do it!!”. Instead of feeling encouraged or supported or consoled, I felt depressed.

Samantha Shannon published her debut novel The Bone Season last year. It’s the first in a series of seven books (which I think is incredibly ambitious for a new author). She’s being hailed as the new J.K. Rowling, because her series is going to be the “Next Big Thing”. She’s only 21.

Or how about Tahereh Mafi? She’s a New York Times bestselling author. The much-anticipated final book in her trilogy is coming out next year. She’s 25. (side note: she also recently married Ransom Riggs, author of the fantastic Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, which is being adapted into a Tim Burton (one of my heroes!) movie).

You know what doesn’t help my melancholy mood? Accidentally stumbling across this list. BECAUSE I’M TOO OLD TO MAKE IT ONTO A FUTURE VERSION OF THIS LIST.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have lots of time. Sure, there are some authors who weren’t published until they were in their 30’s or 40’s. But more often than not, they either a) discovered a passion for writing later in life or b) worked somewhere in the book industry (publishing, editing, etc) before deciding to try their hand at a novel. Sadly, I don’t fall into either category.  So what’s my excuse?

Laziness, probably. Ambitions that had to be pushed aside when I didn’t get into grad school. Overwhelming fear at the idea of sending my book out to an agent or a publisher and being rejected (if thinking about my birthday makes me light-headed, thinking about sending out a query for my book makes me feel straight-up nauseated).

But those are all just excuses. Justifications. Reasons I tell myself not to send my book out, even though it’s pretty much done.

Starting in November, I’m going to change. I’m going to send out queries to agents. I’m going to write every day (I officially signed up for NaNoWriMo on Monday). I’m going to actually work toward my publishing goal instead of just talking about it.

And I guess I’ll see you on the other side.

Use the words that live inside your head – Chuck Wendig

I fell asleep last night trying to come up with a topic for today’s post. I still didn’t have anything until I came into work, logged into WordPress and saw this blog post from Chuck Wendig.

I should really read his books instead of reading his blog and flailing around, laughing at his word choices and fake-crying because sometimes it feels like he’s reading my mind (and the minds of all other aspiring authors).

When I about 12, I decided I wanted to be an author. I’ve started numerous stories but never got very far (I think I’ve mentioned this before). I finally wrote a novel this year. And now that I’ve “completed” (it will be completed – without quotation marks – whenever I can bring myself to stop editing) a novel, I LOVE HOW IT FEELS AND WANT TO DO IT AGAIN. Even though editing makes me bite all my nails off.

I’ve heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but never bothered to try it. Usually because by the time I remember, it’s already mid-November and thus past the halfway mark. Also because sometimes I’m lazy. This year, I think I’ll do it.

You’re supposed to set daily word counts, and the goal is to reach 50,000 words before 11:59pm on November 30. At first I was all “WHAT KIND OF MANIFESTO DO YOU WANT ME TO WRITE?” but then I realized that my own manuscript is 57,000 words (and counting), so it’s not impossible. I’ll be out of the country on November 30, so I tried making an excuse (to myself) about not wanting to commit. But then I read that, although November 30 is technically the deadline, you can “validate” your work (i.e. paste your 50,000 words into their word-count thing and have them declare you a “winner”) starting November 25. Curses, foiled again!

Plus, if you want to meet your deadline, you can’t edit (I mean you can if you want to, no one’s going to yell at you) which makes the process somewhat easier. Most NaNoWriMo participants don’t start editing until December.  You just have to write. Write a whole novel, put all your thoughts down, all your random ideas, no matter how irrelevant it is to the plot, and by the end of the month, you’ll have (at the very least) the basic ingredients for a decent book. Maybe you’ll just need to tweak a couple of things and BAM – instant manuscript. That might only happen in perfect worlds, though.

So I’m probably gonna sign up (maybe not today, just in case I change my mind right after I hit “publish” on this post). And then I have to think of what to write.

Do I write the sequel to my I-swear-I’ll-stop-editing-soon novel? Do I expand the short story I wrote last year in my creative writing class, the one I’ve been itching to turn into a novel?

Or do I wait until November 1st at midnight and just wing it?

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I take a lot of my life lessons from Calvin & Hobbes.