Day 22 NaNoWriMo — Lost Friends’ Encouragement and Characterization Ploy

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Okay. Twenty-two days into this challenge and I just decide today to procrastinate in yet a different way. Isn’t it amazing what variety procrastination can take on when you really, really want it? I checked my NaNoWriMo mailbox this evening for the first time this month. I discovered four unread messages, two from the first week of November. (BAD Sandy! Way to turn away writing friends!) Thing is, one friend wrote me three times, each time not only encouraging me, but telling me how I encouraged her by my word count — although I’m still behind about 3,000 words from the daily count. I’m around 33,500 words, and may have yet more in me later tonight. I’m thankful for friends who do not give up on me even when I’ve been ignoring them.

Group hug to my writer friends, old and new.

Half of writing is just sitting down and doing it, which is what this month is all about. The other half is hard, hard, hard work of plotting, characterization, twists, word craft.

I got rather excited this weekend with this brilliant new idea. Because many of the writers I know doing NaNoWriMo are cheating — as in, not doing straight writing from beginning to end of story in novel format — I decided my 12-year-old MC needed to write an autobiography for his English class. Very cool. I found that he wrote his autobiography in his own voice. His family filled in. His hobbies and interests developed. Then I had him talking about his best friend. I thought to myself, “Gee, they’re in the same English class.” So there came another autobiography through this very different voice. WHAT FUN! I was on a roll. I’ve done two other autobiographies, and can hardly wait to do more. I have in my possession lots of characterization lists and charts and prompts, but this autobiography thing was slick. Plus, it gave me lots more words which I’m using for my word count, even though they probably won’t go into the story as is. (Cheating, but it’s still about the story, you know.)

I’d like to say that I’m ready to type away for the rest of the night and get caught up to today’s count, but supper and a DVD with DH is calling. BTW, that is not procrastination; family always comes first. Feeding the writer now and then isn’t such a bad idea, either.

Day 16 of NaNo — Saddly Saggin’ Motivation

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22,000+ words done for NaNoWriMo so far (nearly half way there), and I’m really, really lacking motivation. Maybe it’s the realization that half of those words will be deleted, with the other half needing to be rewritten. Maybe it’s the gloomy weather today — and expected to continue so, all week-long — paralleling my mood (or visa versa). Sunshine. I need sunshine!

That being said, I’m quite satisfied with a scene I worked on yesterday and today. It’s a keeper. BUT, because I feel good about it, I’m afraid that I killed any enthusiasm of writing something new (yet today; the day is still young; ever the optimist). Maybe I need to go rake some more of the fallen leaves. Only two more weeks for yard-waste pick up until April. Perhaps raking will drain my brain of writing satisfactions and/or writing hold backs, so I can motivate myself to move forward.

Feeling sickness coming on — cold-ish thing, I think. Wait! Isn’t that yet another non-motivator for writing? Being sick? Sad. Very sad. Must quit this blogging whimpering, and either go rake or write, motivated or sick or not.

NaNoWriMo, Day 6 – Permission to write Dreck; The Sloppy Copy

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Anne Lamott in her great book on writing, Bird by Bird, has a chapter called “Shitty First Drafts” – crude, but accurate, IMHO. I prefer thinking of my first drafts as vomit. Similar idea. I throw up words onto my computer screen, and when I look them over, want to flush them all away. I actually do delete most of what I write – except when I’m blogging.

It’s my third and ninth drafts which I find trying. I never, ever knew writing could be such hard work. Really.

Too often kids will write something and say, “It’s perfect the way it is. I don’t want to change a thing.” I’d pump them with questions to get them thinking about descriptions of people or setting or objects, or ask reasons for their character actions. Then they would stomp back to their little desks and reluctantly make changes, which were always for the better. Even they could see that after the fact.

About halfway through one year as a second grade teacher, a new, cute expression for teaching writing was the Sloppy Copy. It gave kids permission to make mistakes the first time they put their words down, knowing that they would be revisiting their manuscripts to make it be better and look better on the second or third drafts. Shortly after I told them about the Sloppy Copy idea, I gathered their papers and looked them over. There were words written at a slant. One word might be written huge, while others were neat and tidy. A phrase was scribbled out, but then rewritten, word for word. There were smudges, and erase marks so hard that the paper tore. Even my neatest students were suddenly messy-bessies.

What was going on?

Then it occurred to me: They were only being obedient to their silly teacher’s instruction without understanding the reasoning behind the request. They each tried their best to make their first drafts look really sloppy and really messy, as if they were being graded on how messy they could get their papers to look.

Sweet little darlings.

Once upon a long time ago – before word processors – I would type out a story on a machine called a typewriter, make pen and pencil corrections on it including all sorts of insertions using symbols for codes to locate the word, sentence, or paragraph elsewhere on the page. When my paper became unreadable, I would retype it, and start the revision process all over again.

My computer screen doesn’t give that hands-on, Sloppy Copy feel to writing. I can delete entire chapters without so much as a teensy heart-pain any more. I might write it, but I can also recognize dreck when I see it. I can save my work onto either the computer or a jump drive, then turn the screen off and not have an unattractive stack of paper to remind me of what horrid strings of words I put together this time.

NaNoWriMo is great for writing motivation – motivation to get the shitty first draft down, that sloppy copy. Who knows? At the end of this month, I may delete my entire NaNo story and start over again. I’ve done it before.

Enough procrastination by talking about writing. Back to writing dreck.

NaNoWriMo, Day 5, Procrastination

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I went to church early this morning. I went shopping. I’ve been checking on and responding to my emails. I’ve been talking with friends and family. My dad went into the hospital yesterday, so I’ve been playing phone tag a lot yesterday and today. Since it’s not raining, I’m thinking about going outside to do more raking. (I like being outside.) Then there’s the box of apples I want to make into applesauce and can. MAN! I can think of a thousand things to do — each of them important, of course — besides writing, including emailing encouraging notes to my writer friends, telling them to quit reading their emails and write. So… now here I procrastinate further by blogging. Yeesh! 

(Interesting side note from today: My sister in Florida just told me she saw our dead mother last weekend in our Dad’s apartment walking from the foot of his bed to staring out the window. Okay. I don’t think I’M sleeping in that apartment again! Ever! Maybe I ought to be working on a ghost story.)

While seeking some basic questions about my NaNo story background, I got to thinking about my own writing disciplines. Usually it takes me about four years to write the first draft of a book, and even longer to do a historical novel. For my purposes (and initial, tentative questions), this month I hope to get the story-only started, and over the next few years, will continue with my research as well as writing craft. Sometimes the hardest part of writing is simply doing it — BIC HOK TAM, as Book-in-a-Week says.

Normally, I write a story, revise it a few times, send it through my critique groups, revise again, send it through the same or other readers, throw the book against the wall and turn my back on it for months or years, before I rewrite the whole thing from scratch, only to do the revisions-critique groups-revisions-rewrites all over again. So, just to assure you, what I put out this month won’t look anything like what I image and hope the end product will be. My initial research questions are just for some skeletal parts to the story. My research, and writing, is on-going. (Written in defense of question-asking during NaNoWriMo.)

(And I’m detecting a pattern to my tags lately. Sad. Very sad.)

Day 4 of my First NaNo — My NaNo Buddies

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I have 9 NaNoWriMo Buddies on my NaNo page, people I can keep track of, and see where I fall in with. I’m very proud of my son taking up the challenge this year, along with the bazillion other things he has going on in his every day life. Makes a mommy proud. But as far as my own pacing, I like to check up on my on-line critique group. 4 of the 6 of us in the Blue Quills critique group decided to take November off of our submitting-critiquing schedule to participate in NaNoWriMo. Two had done it before. The two non-NaNo-participants are spending November in novel revisions.

So here I am today, typing happily away (or at least thinking about doing so), when I decide to procrastinate a little more of working on my NaNo novel and check how my NaNo writing buddies are doing . Natisha, Jaqueline and I are plugging away about the same-ish word count, and then there is Lap-Boy-Holding-Rose, so far ahead of us that the dust has already settled. I’d like to know, Rose, may I please borrow Colin for a few days? Sure, she says her writing is a lot of stream of consciousness, but once you have the words down, THEN you can go back and add, delete, or rearrange.

Congratulations, Rose. Really. Congratulations all who have written anything during NaNoWriMo, officially participating or not. Any words down, are some words down which weren’t down before. (And you may quote me on that.)

So now… I guess I’ve procrastinated long enough — although I really am curious about the machine noise clanking and banging down a few houses; maybe that will be my reward for writing my first 500 words today. BUT, will they be gone by that time? Oh, what is it? What is making that strange-to-the-neighborhood noise? No, wait! We are almost out of milk. Must go buy milk. I’m getting thirsty for it already. I could check out the noise as I drive past. Must go… Must go to work now on my NaNo novel, a MG historical fiction, THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED.  (Ooooo!)