Two Things I’ll be Changing during NaNoWriMo

It’s been great realising the most important things that I’ve learned so far when it comes to writing fiction. But there is one belief I have that I wish to challenge, and one skill I’ve always meant to improve.

The belief is something that I just came to accept about my process: I can only write in the mornings. The skill is handwriting: something that I’ve always planned to incorporate into my writing but just haven’t got around to it. Well, in November I’m going to look at changing these two things.

Production Cometh in the Morning.

Writing first thing in the morning is a theme amongst a lot of authors that have spoken about their daily ritual. The process of getting up at 5am, working for four hours and then having the rest of the day to do other things seems pretty common.

I’ll admit that I feel the same. After lunch time my willpower is drained, and usually that’s when I’ll slow down or do something else, like photography. Or play Xbox. Here’s the problem though: I wasn’t born with the drive to write in the morning. Being able to get up early and write for a few hours every day – that’s a habit that I’ve built up over time. I didn’t just switch it on one day; it took months of working a little more every week.

When I first started the habit, sitting down to write for half an hour took a lot of willpower. Now it takes a lot of willpower to take a break (if it’s before 11am). My point is, after lunch, I feel the same about afternoon writing as I used to about morning writing. For some reason I’ve accepted it because it’s something other people do. And for a while now I’ve wanted to change that.

I like the idea of working into the night. Of sustaining myself on coffee at 1 a.m. while I finish a chapter or frantically edit a scene. So in November, I’m going to push the limits of my working day, and build a habit of extending it out to the whole day.

Hand writing.

I have a love/hate relationship with hand writing. I love the idea of having pages of hand written notes to pore over, but my own hand written notes tend to look terrible. I know I cannot write a draft by hand. The faster I write, the worse my hand writing becomes. I have to slow myself down and pay attention to the way I am forming the letters so I can actually read them again later. However, for planning and plotting, this is ideal.

I’ve been wanting to make hand-writing a part of my process for a while, but have struggled to find a way that works for me. The question has always been ‘do I use just one notebook, or have a different notebook for each project?’ I’ve gone the one notebook route so far. I label the top of the page with whether it’s a blog post or a character sketch or a story idea. However, the only way you can sort through this is chronologically. For example, I can’t really see all of my blog post ideas in one place.

The solution presented itself to me when I was sitting on the bus the other day. A high-school kid got on board clutching the obvious answer: a binder! I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before. So I’ve got myself a binder for November, with little dividers and everything, and I’ll be making all initial outlines and character sketches in that, away from the computer.

I know. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about writing a novel, not cramming as much self development into the month as possible. For me, being under a stressful deadline is the perfect time to find out what works and what doesn’t. I won’t have time for anything that doesn’t feel natural or comfortable. A month is a very short time to put a novel together. If having that stress isn’t enough to get me working into the night then I’ll know for sure I’m a morning person. And if I don’t feel I’m getting any benefit from hand-writing notes, then I won’t have time to just do it because I like idea of it.

I have one more big change coming, too – I’ll cover that tomorrow.

The Most Important Things I’ve Learned So Far, and How I’m Using Them for NaNoWriMo

Over the past couple of years, I’ve gone through a few ups and downs in terms of forming a writing habit. In this post, I want to cover the three things that have had the biggest impact on my productivity.

The rough draft is not the final draft…

This is the number one, fundamentally groundbreaking concept. Once I understood and applied it, everything changed. Three simple things:
1. No other person can ever read your rough draft, so it doesn’t matter what you write.
2. Don’t stop typing. Write what comes to mind.
3. No editing until the story is finished.

Continue reading “The Most Important Things I’ve Learned So Far, and How I’m Using Them for NaNoWriMo”

In Preparation for November.

November is National Novel writing Month; NaNoWriMo for short. I don’t know why they still call it that, seeing as how it is well and truly international now. Maybe it should be InNoWriMo?

The idea is this: write 50,000 words in the month of November. The prize? You win 50,000 words that you would not have written if you hadn’t bothered to participate in NaNoWriMo.

Before I begin.

I think that some people spend time before November plotting out their story and planning their characters. I don’t want to do that. I want to see if I can put the whole process into the one month. There are, however, two steps that I have taken in preparation for the novel: one for the, and one for process.

Story.

When creating a setting, I don’t enjoy sitting down and figuring out things like the way that the spacecraft move through space or politics or anything like that. I like to discover that stuff while drafting, and then go back and flesh it out later.

So in preparation for November, I’ve written a short story set in the same universe that the novel will take place. I think the characters from the short might have minor roles in the novel, though I don’t know for sure yet. Anyway, I always prefer world building by actually writing stories in the world and exploring it through the characters, instead of sitting down and trying to figure out how everything works.

Process.

To prepare my process, I read Rock Your Plot and Rock Your Revisions by Cathy Yardley. Plotting and planning is an area that I need to strengthen, and these two books teach some fundamental concepts in those two areas.

To this day, I have struggled with editing. I never really had that much of a plan laid out. When it came time to edit, I would just get stuck in from page one and start editing everything. It was almost impossible for me to take a step back and look and the bigger picture to see the problems with my story. And that is where these two books come in. My NaNo novel is going to be tightly plotted, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this affects my drafting and editing.

Drafting I’m confident with. Remember, the one unbreakable rule that I have is that my first draft (or Zero draft) is never to be viewed by anyone other than me. This is what allows me to write so fast; changing that will drastically change my process and slow me down. The point is, I can’t just sit down and bust out 50,000 words then post it up and say “job’s done!” I want to be able to have at least 50,000 words I can share by the end of November.

The rough plan.

First two days: Plotting and planning. Writing out plot outline and character sheets. Checking over everything to make sure it all makes sense. Filling in scene plans and information.

Third day: Optional planning if needed. Otherwise, drafting begins!

Up to the 20th November: Drafting. By that date, I want to have drafted at least 60,000 words, assuming I’m going to lose 10% to editing. This timeframe is based on a few things. 1) I can confidently write 5000 words a day. 2) I don’t know how busy I’ll be with my day job over that period, so I may have a few days when I can’t write.

10% might not seem like much to lose to editing, but I’m assuming my drafting will be tighter due to the plot outline I will have written.

That leaves me ten days to edit. Again, I’m assuming that the editing process will be faster due to the tighter draft and tighter plot. We’ll see, I guess!!

Having deadlines makes me more motivated.

In the past, when people have asked me when I’ll have finished drafting something or editing something, or have something available for them to buy. I’ve always just shrugged and said “soon” or “when it’s ready.” Even though these numbers and dates aren’t really based on any hard experience, it feels better to actually put a deadline on things and work towards them.

 


Discovering Public Spaces

I’ll never be able to work from home.

I love the idea of being able to sit on the couch in my dressing gown and get a whole lot of work done. Maybe never is too strong a word. But at the moment, I can’t do it.

At home, there are too many distractions. The fridge is filled with the food I like. My favourite cafe’s are just down the road (which are also filled with the food I like). Netflix. Computer games. In-fact, let’s just say ‘unlimited internet access.’ They’re all there.

Changing the setting.

So I recently bought a laptop and moved my writing space to a public library. And it’s made a huge difference to my productivity. Getting up, getting dressed and commuting to somewhere makes me treat writing like a real job. I have to get there early to get a good seat, and once I’ve got that seat I don’t want to leave it in case I lose it.

And that, I suppose, is the trick. Getting to know yourself and being able to admit what your limitations are, and what you can do to overcome them. I would love to be able to sit around on the couch and get things done, but I’m just not there yet. Sometimes it goes against your instincts. In fact, I had to fight myself to get out the door the first few times. My mind told me that I’ll be fine writing from home! Don’t waste all that time commuting! The problem with that was every time I had listened to that voice, I would manage to find other things to do at home, to the point where I was doing very little (if any) writing at all.

Finding new ways to overcome resistance.

This, to me, is what Steven Pressfield is referring to as resistance in his book The War of Art . The concept is that there is this force that you have to overcome if you want to do anything creative. I think that as soon as you recognise it you can use it as a sort of internal compass: it shows you your true north by trying to pull you south. All you have to do is pull in the other direction, and you’ll become that thing you want to be. So when I feel the urge to stay home, I know it’s time for me to get out.

Which can be hard, but that’s the point. And besides, I prefer being around people anyway.

Surprise! Short story ready to read!

As I tacked on to the end of the last post, the draft for the whole Fantasy series is done. Remember that when I say fantasy “series” I’m talking about the first season of a serial. It’s not a whole series of big fat fantasy books like you see in book shops. So what I’ve written is the equivalent of one big-ish novel (around 120,000 words all up). At the moment it’s around 150,000 words, but that will be cut down in editing.

At the same time, I’ve also written and edited a short story set in the same world. This is the second draft, meaning that it’s ready for beta readers. As before I would like to offer it up to anyone who is interested in reading it. Here are the links:

Kindle
ePub
PDF

Remember, it still needs to go through a round of beta-reading and another edit by me, then potentially a professional edit if I can afford it. Chances are that this will be the first thing I actually put up on the Kindle market, probably for $0.99. Let me know what you think!!

Seeing Through the Fog

Creating a World.

The fantasy setting that I’m currently writing in sprung up around the story that was in my head. At first I just needed locations for characters to go to, and then I filled in the blanks. There were also some basic ideas that I knew about the world before starting the draft:

1) Magic is real, in the sense that there are wizards that can command the elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth. The afterlife and the existence of a spirit is just as unknown as it is in our world, today.

2) That gods were a real and active part of the lives of the people, and that prayer had measurable, tangible results. The gods were, however, silent on the matter of an afterlife.

3) Elves were in there somewhere but they weren’t really known to humans (though I didn’t know why at that point).

Into that world I wanted to put a group of skeptics that go around exposing fake psychics and spirit mediums.

Learning as I go.

As I sat down to write the draft, the fantasy setting became fleshed out through character conversation and from just writing what the characters were seeing. For example, at one point  Continue reading “Seeing Through the Fog”