IWSG: Finishing (Or Not Finishing) NaNoWriMo Projects

So, I’ve been told I got the wrong question. I’m sticking with it it’s been a hectic month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
The question for last month was do you finish what you write for nano??
Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure I know what the answer is, since I’m never entirely sure where “finished” begins. Is it when you write the end, and mostly know the story? Is it when the whole thing is polished to a mirror finish?
I usually have enough steam that the first draft gets finished, assuming that I’m not working on a revision at the same time. Revision is usually my big, high-pressure thing, and I get to a point of gotta finish now.
I don’t always revise what I write for nano. If I’ve lost interest, or if the story just doesn’t seem to be up my alley, I may choose not to revise at all, or the revision might peter out before I have a final clean version. I’m learning to embrace the idea that not everything I write is for publication or even anything other than experience.
I have a wide assortment of manuscripts that I will never polish that well on my hard drive, and I feel like I’ve learned from all of them. The ones that I want to spend enough time on to make presentable are special.
One of the things I learned from revising my first manuscript–the very first one, and it was really hard, and really long–was that there’s something dangerous about having “THE” manuscript. If it’s the ONLY manuscript, it makes it much more difficult to make objective decisions about it, and you tend to keep revising forever. As soon as you have that second manuscript written, you start having real choices. And that’s when I stopped revising in circles and moved forward.

Software Death Match: YWriter vs Scrivener

The first writing software I ever used was Simon Haynes’ Ywriter. By then, I’d finished a novel in Microsoft Word–one huge, unending  scroll of a document–and I was mired in revising. I knew I needed something different. YWriter is what I found. It’s free, and the guy who programmed it is a writer, himself, so he’s not just guessing about what features a writer needs. It’s easy to use, and streamlined, and I’ve used it ever since. It also happens to be free (with a tip-jar type option.)

I’ve always been happy with the software, and I should make that clear up front. I’m a huge fan of YWriter. It would probably take a force of nature to make me switch permanently.

However, I’m going to give Scrivener a shot.

Well, half a shot. I’m going to copy everything I do there into YWriter. So, I can quit any time I want.

The Scrivener program is something I’ve heard a lot about, and a lot of people are fanatical about it. There’s also a NaNoWriMo free-trial, so now’s a good time.

The big reason why I didn’t choose Scrivener in the first place is that back in the day, when I was making that decision, it only ran on Macs. So, there you go. Decision made for me. I played around with the Linux beta for a while. It was pretty bare-bones at the time, and I never got as far as finishing a project in it.

There’s a learning curve. And in my opinion, that just isn’t there with YWriter. YWriter is probably a little less flexible… just a limited number of folders you can nest things in… but if you’re familiar with novels and computers, you’re pretty much good to go as soon as it’s installed.

I’m giving Scrivener another shot this November. I won’t actually be writing my novel into it directly, but I will type it in and see how the organization structure works for me. (Since I already have software I know and like, I’ll also be copying the novel into the brand-new version of YWriter (Version 6! Where does the time go?)

And since I think a lot of the rave reviews come from people who are comparing it to Microsoft Word, or other office software, I’ll post my thoughts so you can have an apples to apples comparison from someone who’s actually used other dedicated novel-writing software.

Shout if there’s anything in particular you would like to know.

And the NaNoWriMo Results…

At the beginning of last month, I set out to write a novel–50,000 words of one,  anyway–in 30 days.

And… I was going to do this one sheet of paper at a time, in hopes of a cleaner draft and ultimately, an easier revision. (I’m always looking for an easier revision.)

I was behind from day one.

Obviously, write longhand and then type is not the best strategy for speedy drafting. And that really wasn’t the point.

At the end of the month, I had roughly 14,000 words. That’s not great, and it’s not even average for me. (I usually wind up closer to thirty or forty thousand words in a month, and I aim a little higher than that in a good year.)

I was also blogging–mostly unrelated–and that would add a few thousand more words. Haven’t counted. And there’s the short story I wrote for the Advent Calendar this year. Oh. And I never really got away from the revision I was working on before I started Nano.

So, I started on November 1st with ONE piece of paper on a clipboard and a pencil.

And I started writing the ONE scene that was lodged in my mind.

And then, what?

Well, I found a few more scenes over the course of a month, but I never really got into the story. It never started to feel like one of my stories, and I never really started having fun with it.

Maybe I was a little afraid of this one. It’s the kind of thing that has to be done really well. Otherwise… it would fall off the edges, and either turn into a sermon or a farce.

So… what I learned from NaNoWriMo 2016

  • writing longhand DOES produce cleaner drafts BUT in my case, at least, the reduction in speed adds up to a reduction in passion. I’m not sure which part of that is going to be useful in the future.
  • I may be better off to write as a NaNo Rebel, and work on whatever I already have in the works.
  • Even if something sounds more efficient, it may not be the best path for me.
  • I still need to get out there and be a part of the community, even when things aren’t going well. I started tanking in word count, and withdrew. I didn’t do a lot of the social things on the Nano Site that I would have liked to.

For next year… I’m not really sure what the goal should be, but I’m probably going to keep working on whatever I’m working on when it gets here. I’ll also focus more on the community building aspect of it.

So, what about you? Lessons learned? Strategies for next year?

Plotting and Planning

I can’t really think of anything to write, right now.

Okay. That’s a lie. I can think of things to write, but I’ve decided to grant myself a cooling off and thinking break, instead. I’m at a place where there’s just so much stuff in my head, and it’s all jumping around.

So, let’s talk about my plans for the next couple of months, instead.

I have the Insecure Writers’ Support Group coming up on December 7th. And apparently, the question of the month is about 5 year career plans for writers. They’ve also announced the upcoming guests on the IWSG page, and I’m pretty excited to hear from them.

I have the Independent Bookworm’s Advent calendar. Must have a story for that in… oh, yeah. Less than a week. If you’re interested in getting a short story in your e-mail every day leading up to Christmas, that’s what this is. And we’re including some kind of “extra” surprise. You can sign up to get the stories at the link above.

I’m also working on pulling together a coherent approach to the A-to-Z Challenge in April. I’d like to put out some short stories, but I still don’t know how many of them. I’m starting with one day a week, and then I’ll move up to two, and so forth, as I gain content. I’m still looking for the right theme to go with them. If you want to join me for another path to writer insanity, link above.

And then, there’s all the treading water I’m doing for NaNoWriMo. I may have to break down and include blog entries, if the story I’m working on doesn’t gain some traction, soon.

Epiphanies in Fiction Writing

I took a step back, yesterday. Something somewhere between serenely seeking objectivity about my novel and abject despair.

Today, I have solutions. Or, at least progress.

I figured out who the dead kid in my novel is. I actually didn’t know that question was bothering me, until the answer showed up today. So, that’s one more cornerstone than I had yesterday, and a novel title in the bargain. I like knowing what my book is called.

I also came to the conclusion that my main character’s love interest comes from a family who emigrated much more recently than I had previously thought. That changes more than you’d think, and ties him in with the history behind the novel. Which he wasn’t, before. He was just sorta… floating there.

Well, in my defense, he was floating there being really good looking.

Okay. I admit that’s probably not exactly a story function.

He was a place holder, and now, he’s a real character. With history and a family, and secrets. **Pop** All because I backtracked a little.

Other than that, I am currently observing National Fun With Medical Tech Month. The best way to make a device completely foolproof? Be sure the device automatically scrambles itself, so the fool won’t have anything left to do.

One Week Into NaNoWriMo

As of right now, I am writing at roughly half the speed it would take to have 50,000 words on November 30. Part of that is that I haven’t been feeling well, and some family things have come up. Part of it is that I’m writing longhand, which well, it takes longer than typing, and it’s been a while since I wrote anything of any length longhand, so I’m consistently overestimating how many words are on that piece of paper.

I’m right about five thousand words.

The good news is that writing on ONE piece of paper at a time has forced me to focus on the scene that I’m writing, and not jump all over my outline. (If I had one.)

The process is working.

What I have is a lot smoother and more complete than what I would wind up with typing.

The problem is, there’s also a whole lot less of it.

I feel like I’m missing something, right now. I feel like I’m not sinking into the layers of the story the way I would with a little more scene hopping. I have a couple–maybe three really good, really thorough scenes, but I don’t have a grasp on the big picture the way I usually do.

The story is taking longer to start feeling like one of “My” stories than it usually would. I don’t have a sense of most of the characters, and I still haven’t found that one, central relationship–you know, the weird and freaky one–that would catch my muse’s imagination. In fact, I think I have fewer characters, in general.

So, Day six, and the process is working, and not working. I think I’m writing better, and definitely cleaner… but being quite honest… I’m losing interest.

IWSG: More Revision Terror

The question of the month is What is Your Favorite Aspect of Being a Writer? Of being a writer, or of actually writing? There might be some semantics to bicker about in there, somewhere.

My favorite part of being a writer is the community that it makes me a part of. I enjoy being able to reach out to other writers, to communicate, to make new friends. I enjoy the sense of belonging, based on effort and art. I enjoy the idea that at a very basic level we believe that storytelling is worthwhile, and worth doing well.

My insecurities, this month:

I’m going into NaNoWriMo with a half-revised manuscript on the back burner, and a whole lot more that I may never revise crammed into overflowing drawers and stuffed trunks. I’ve made my Nano Goal a more presentable, cleaner first draft, and I’m working toward that.

My doubt–as always–is that I can revise quickly and efficiently. I’ve reached the point where writing 50,000 words in a month isn’t impossible. It’s not even all that unusual. But the revision… That gets to me. Particularly since I have a tendency not to write things in order, or even in recognizable chunks.

Right now… I’m trying to work with ONE piece of paper at a time.

I get ONE piece of paper. Not a notebook. Not a computer. ONE piece of paper. When that’s full, I get another piece of paper. I don’t get to make a lot of starts and stops, and I don’t get to freak out and bounce all over the place. Naturally, part of the problem will be staying away from the endless supply of paper.

We’ll see how it all works out, and I’ll report back in a month.

Things to Do in A Small Town In Autumn, or Gratitude for the Internet

So, here I am squeezing in a blog post mid way through my walk home. Stopped to get a Coke and do some typing.  Summer keeps reappearing around here, and the trees are starting to turn some real colors.

I’m not much of a small-town girl, but the scenery has some definite perks.

Seriously… Get me the hell out of here!!! Or at least airlift in some entertainment.

So, I have NaNoWriMo coming up around the corner, and the team is coming together in ways I wouldn’t have expected. I think I have about ten pages of buddies. I added my profile to the links and follows page in the left menu bar, so you can buddy me on Nano and Follow me on Twitter and stalk me in whatever other ways strike you.

Recently, the thought that I might be writing a young adult or even **gasp** middle grade novel for Nano fluttered  through my mind. Of course, it immediately fluttered back out, when I realized my characters grow up at some point in the novel, and I’m not even sure I read middle grade books when I was in middle grade.

Two and a half days until the next Storytime Blog Hop.

I’d better get on that.

NaNoWriMo Tech

So, the first time I did NaNo, it was on a borrowed computer–something in a basement computer lab–and a thumb drive. One big, long Microsoft Word file, with little bits and pieces added in as the month progressed.

And it worked. That was the first novel I’d ever finished, so that’s a plus.

But it wasn’t terribly well organized. And when I started to revise it… Well… Uhm… I have to say again… it wasn’t well organized. I finally made it through the revision several years later.

I’ve done NaNo on a laptop, and on a desktop, and in YWriter… software specifically for writing novels. YWriter helps with organization, more than anything.

And this year?

I’ve decided to do NaNo on paper.

Not just to be retro, of course. I’m still working on that organization thing. I have just a little bit too much…. Hey, look, a duck!… in me. I am working from the idea that if I write on a piece of paper… on ONE piece of paper… I will wind up with more coherent chunks than I do, if I have say a notebook or a computer at hand.

Montessori style novel-writing. Write ONE topic on ONE piece of Paper. Fill that Piece of Paper, and get another Piece of Paper.

Right now my method seems to be more false starts, and aesthetic fresh sheets of paper than actual writing–at least, until I get some steam.

I am moving toward cleaner drafts.

Or at least, I’m going to succeed in finding another method that doesn’t work!

Either way, it’s something.

Sixteen Days To Full-Scale Panic

Sixteen days til NaNoWriMo, and I still don’t have an idea. Not a plot point, not a character. Not a teeny-tiny play on words to amuse my Muse. (Who is more or less an eighth grade boy, at heart.) Well, fine. I’ll just start with an explosion and work my way up from there.

I haven’t gotten much done with the idea that fluttered through my head as a September/October project, either. Maybe a couple thousand words.

The rule, right now, seems to be that if it’s stressful, it’s going to happen. Head to head with supervisor? Check. (Not sure it makes it a whole lot better that I appear to be winning.) Car problems? Check. Family problems? Double check, and also… Thinking of joining a commune. Or a convent. Or a nudist colony. Something, anyway. Anything on an island. Or a space station. Or an oil rig. Something not here.

This is not a good year for anything but treading water. I’m still working on revising Lepterians. Still working on figuring out exactly what I have there, and how many of it. I’m filling out a plot thread or two, trying to get from Point A to Point B.

And Nano begins in 16 days.

I probably need Nano, this year. Some nice solid goals and a whole lot of peer pressure to keep me from feeling sorry for myself. And I do have peers. A whole team of them.

So, working down the checklist of things that I need to do to get my nano-brain in order. I’m getting pretty close.