WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Guess I’m a Prepper Now

No. Not that kind.

We’re just a week away from 2021’s first Camp NaNoWriMo and there’s still plenty to prepare for–even for those who are more pantser than plotter.

Here’s quick reminder of the difference between Camps and the main NaNo in November. The original beast of a challenge involves writing 50,000 words in a writing project. The Camps are more flexible and allow you to do anything from prepping, drafting, editing, rewriting previous drafts to writing blog posts, tracking time or page counts versus words, or doing other writerly projects for the month. It’s a more forgiving endeavour and a great introduction for someone who’s been considering jumping in to a NaNo challenge. There are plenty of people who still follow the 50,000 word count goal, while others can increase or decrease the goal to suit their individual needs.

Join me, as I gather my provisions in order to successfully make it through April’s writerly challenge.

We begin with the hardware. My primary tool of choice is my trusty (read: please don’t die on me Early-2015 Macbook Air 11″) laptop. I also have my Freewrite Traveler, along with notebooks, and writing implements. On standby, I have sketchbooks, coloured pencils (regular and watercolor), as well as alcohol based markers. These will come in handy for mind mapping, actually map creation, as well as a creative outlet when I need to take a break from the work itself. I also have my dry erase markers and my mirrored closet doors on which to brainstorm extensively.

Now, let’s add the software. Apps of choice: I’m still progressing with Plottr. Once I have a handle on it, I’ll do a full review, as with the other apps I try out. I’ve also got Scrivener, my old pal Google (for, you know, research), and I’m strongly considering looking into ProWritingAid (they have a Camp NaNo Offer that seems to be the best deal available for a lifetime license). Although not on offer for this NaNo, World Anvil has also piqued my interest, but I’m also considering the pros and cons of other map making software, as discussed on the World Anvil blog.

Other tools that might help in the writing process include music. Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube (for both audio and visual enjoyment) are just a few options to keep the creative juices flowing.

How about some extras? Nice to have, not all are entirely necessary, yet fully appreciated as we enter the “writing bunker” for the next 30 days. First up, we need to have sustenance. If we’re in the middle of something and can’t be bothered to get up from our desk (or wherever you plan on writing) for fear of coming out of writing mode, we need rations to sustain ourselves. Water, of course, is paramount. Other bevvies are great, too. For snacks, I’ve got Doritos, (Nacho and Zesty Cheese varieties), dill pickle chips (can’t go wrong with Lays, but I’ve been enjoying the Compliments brand, as well, from Sobeys. More chips for cheap), Milk Duds, Nerds, Gobstoppers–yes, I still eat these, what of it?–and whatever else I can socially distantly acquire before April. Bonus: take a mini-break after Easter and buy up all the Easter candy that’s gone on sale.

Now, some options on what to work on. Since Camp NaNo is more relaxed versus its big sister in November, the flexibility is both freeing and suffocating. I’ve been pondering which of my WIPs I might want to work on and in doing so stumbled upon a couple new story ideas.

Another goal that could be a ‘two birds, one stone’ perk is that I’ve been overlooking so many submission call outs and contests that have themes or genres that interest me. I’ve spent the last week or so, combing through these announcements to see what stands out to me. Anything that has an immediate deadline, I can keep as a story prompt for future writing.

For the rest of the week, I’ll review the top WIPs I want to tackle first. After all, there’s still another Camp NaNo in July. Oh, and the couple months in between.

I’m hoping that 2021’s global writing challenges are productive. I’m still in the mid-range of plantsing (the flexible hybrid of plotting and pantsing) so I know that I’m in for an adventure, regardless of which path I take.

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: Get Your Words Out 2021

Hello, fam!

Earlier this week, the Sestra messaged me a link to a writing community of sorts. I read the words Get Your Words Out 2021: Writing Decathlon and my mind began a-stirring. When I had a chance to do a deep dive the following day, I was surprised to learn that it had been around for 12 years. Just goes to show how far-reaching the interwebs can be. There’s a community for and about anything. Bits and bytes for everyone.

I found myself perusing the site and I was immediately intrigued because this was right up my alley in terms of writing accountability, motivation, community and goals for this year and beyond. The community is free to join and the deadline for making your 2021 pledge is January 18, so I had to share this with you now.

What’s the pledge for, you ask? There are two pledge types: Word Count and Habit, each with multiple options. It’s certainly diverse enough to provide the opportunity to make a realistic goal for yourself. There’s plenty of information on the site but I’ve taken a couple screencaps for quick reference. Here are the breakdowns:

For those of you who feel that these word counts are daunting, like a NaNoWriMo meets Fast and Furious, I hear you.

Me trying to wrap my brain around maintaining the intensity of a monthly wordcount challenge for a full year.

I was glad–read: relieved–to see the Habit Pledge option. For me, that seemed to be more of a realistic and reasonable first go at this challenge. Of course, when I initially read the options, I considered the Master level. However, in lieu of gun-jumping or leaping before I looked, I decided to go for the Apprentice level. Approximately 10 days a month was doable, actionable. And when, not if, I exceeded the goal of writing 120 days in a year, I could gauge my goals for next year.

What I like about the Habit Pledge is that it can help me maintain the writing goals I restarted for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I don’t have to think of the quantity of my writing but establish the quality of a consistent writing routine. The main purpose of this writing community is to increase a writer’s productivity and output, so I appreciate that they’re giving us every possible chance at success.

Sign ups run until January 18, 2021 and you have the option to change your pledge up until that point. You’re only allowed to choose one pledge and after the cut-off date, that’s the pledge you’ve got until the year’s challenge is over. While, there is technically no penalty if you don’t reach your goals, having such a large community of almost 2,000 writers in the same boat as you is encouraging. Also, they said you can have a second unofficial goal. So, you can track your wordcounts with your habits and vice versa, in order to see what pledge is a more fitting challenge for you next time around.

I’m cautiously optimistic about my participation in this collective. However, I’m fully excited at the concept and intent behind what they’re doing here. It’s a beautiful thing.

I hope you join me this year. So much has happened on a global scale, I know writing can be a therapeutic and purposeful endeavour. Let’s come together to Get Your Words Out!

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

New Month, Who Dis?

Hello, all!

Winner winner, [insert preferred food item here] dinner! According to NaNoWriMo, the word count goal was met and festive banners and badges were awarded.

Now that the adrenalin rush has worn off and we’ve had some time to address the hand cramps and potential carpal tunnel issues…

Tackling such an out of the box (for me) writing project after some time away was like jumping out of a plane THEN asking yourself if you’ve got your parachute. Yes, I churned out the words, but trying to write a short story anthology with little prep, was probably not the best idea. When I say this, I mean it was Halloween and I thought, “I’m going to do NaNo this year, but let’s try something completely different.”

Yeesh. That’s not to say that different can’t be done, but I probably should’ve gotten my feet wet with a less ambitious endeavour first. What I learned from this experience amplified what I already knew. Short stories are not to be taken lightly.

I’d grown accustomed to the meandering ways of long form writing with novels–and all the sidetracks where “research” can lead–that I barely had time to fully grasp what I wanted to do with a short story, let alone the half dozen I had bouncing around the month of November.

I discovered that a few of the short story ideas were better suited as novellas or longer. The hours I spent asking myself more questions about the characters and settings took over the actual drafting of scenes. Could it have been due to the lack of preparation? Perhaps. Could it have benefited from a deeper dive into outlining? Most certainly.

To that end, I’m going to reverse engineer what material I’ve amassed for NaNo and give it a proper dissection and analysis. Much like finishing any draft doesn’t mean you’re finished, I feel that pulling apart this monkey bread of an idea will make for richer storytelling in the end. (Great, I now want to bake some monkey bread, but I digress.)

Something important to remember when doing an intense writing challenge is that no word is wasted. You got those words out for a reason, now it’s time to make sense of them and organize them in such a way that can weave an interesting tale for your readers. Trim off the excess but don’t delete anything. You never know when it might come in handy (now, for you, as the writer, or later on as bonus material for the reader). This is the time to continue with what you started and refine it further. Unless you’re a writing aficionado, and you somehow ironed everything out in the first pass, it’s okay and encouraged to get that draft and polish it until you can see it from space.

For those who met their NaNo goals, great! For those who didn’t, how can we plan for success next time? My NaNo experience didn’t go according to the quasi-plan I had. I’m sure what with the 2020 of it all, no one’s months, plural, have been going as planned. And so we enter a new month, but it doesn’t mean we need to shelve it for another NaNo. Keep going while the ideas are fresh and learn from the snags you hit along the way. No writing path is perfect and you’ll find a method that works for you. We’re also part of a greater writing community of like-minded creative types that know that the struggle is indeed real. The continued support of this amazing collective is a great way to keep at it in the days and months to come.

Congrats to everyone who met their goals. For those yet to reach those goals, keep going! What are your writerly plans for December? Share them in the comments below.

Now is the time to stay positive and don’t lose focus. Just because November’s over doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t continue to challenge ourselves. That’s why it’s important to have writing events such as NaNo to serve as a reminder that if we want to be writers, we must write.

As always, stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

NaNo 2020 Week Four Roundup

Hello, writing fam!

I’d like to begin by saying thank you to the readers who’ve returned each week. I’d been on a long hiatus prior to diving into this past month of writing. It’s good to be back and I appreciate that you take time out of your day to pop in to my lil’ corner of the cyberverse. And to everyone else, welcome!

We’re in the final stretch of NaNoWriMo. Can you still feel your fingers? Or have they and other body parts, especially the posterior, gone numb from all that wordsmithing?

The month is drawing to a close and so is the chapter on this part of the writing journey. But it doesn’t mean the writing’s over. As any writer will tell you, it’s never over. We’re just getting started and working towards a steadier writing routine has lit a fire in me.

So, in the words of one Trixie Mattel, who paraphrased from the humorously outspoken Eric Andre, I’m about to say something controversial yet brave.

Stop writing.

Now, read me out (because if you could hear me, that would be kinda awkward… And yes, I sometimes speak aloud as I type. What of it?). I’m not saying to shut it down completely. I’m talking about how to not burn out, which can happen when you’re eyeballs deep in your word count. Is it so hard to believe that doing non-writing things can benefit your writing?

Take today, for example. Despite social distancing rules (and courtesy, and health and safety, etc.), it’s been reported that many eager shoppers still partook in the annual consumerism deathmatch known as Black Friday–IN PERSON. <cue movie trailer guy voiceover> “In a world where online shopping is a thing…”

That’s not to say that online shopping is “safer” by any means. In fact, it can be even more dangerous because you’re not being bodychecked for a flat screen TV while perusing the latest deals. You could be tossing things in your virtual cart left and right from the comfort of your own home. Curiosity can lead to clicking. One ad, two, seven. Now you’re clicking through to items you didn’t even know you wanted or needed. You feel this added pressure, a fear of falling behind. Before you know it, you’re overwhelmed. The same thing can happen when you’ve been writing non-stop, say for a global writing challenge–or any writing challenge, for that matter. Writers write. I get that. But we can’t let it consume us, take us over, and affect us in such a way similar to how a massive annual sale can transform normally delightful people into complete savages. For a blender.

It’s important to step away from writing, every now and then. You can recharge the senses in order to keep going. I’ve been working with sleep specialists to help with the severe insomnia I’ve had going on two years now. Earlier this week, one doctor suggested going out for walks for overall health and to promote better sleep. Since the agoraphobia has improved (perhaps more on that another time), I’ve been able to go on three walks now. I used to think about my writing project non-stop. In the shower, brushing my teeth, cooking in the kitchen, staring at the ceiling when counting a million sheep did nothing to knock me out. My brain just won’t shut off.

When I went for these walks, I purposely put any thoughts of writing out of my mind. I focused on the fresh air and the fact that since I waited to go out until the early evening, I could get some exercise in while social distancing, as there were barely any people around at that time. So, I ventured out, masked up and everything and just let my mind wander a bit, as my feet took the lead. It really helped and gave me renewed energy when I got back home to sit down for another writing session.

So, how’s everything been going on your writing journey? Especially to the lovely people who keep coming back here, again, thank you. I’d also love to hear your thoughts down below.

NaNo is almost over for another year. Whatever your word count is on November 30, it’s okay. Take a breather. Any number that is more than zero, is a win to me. Just know that come December 1, you’re going to add more words and you’re going to keep going. Let’s do this!

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.

NaNo 2020 Week Three Roundup

We’ve made it to the third week of NaNoWriMo‘s writerly trek. How are we feeling today?

I’ve been told I’m a visual writer. While I don’t have the Tolkien or Martin level of describing all the minutae, writing partners, group critiques, and the like, have said that they can see the story unfolding in their minds, that my stories have a cinematic feel to them. I appreciate the high praise and use it to motivate myself through the various hurdles that come with writing projects.

This week, my insomnia led me to some catch-up binge watching opportunities. I’m now up to date on Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. To keep my space odysseys balanced out, I’ve got Season Two of The Mandalorian queued up. I also plan on re-watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars in the suggested viewing order, before watching the final season.

It got me thinking about screenwriting as a novel writing exercise. I’ve drafted a couple screenplays before. It’s a different beast to tackle as the entire approach to getting my ideas onto the screen have to be formatted in a completely different way. There is a learning curve to it, but that’s not where the challenge lies, (for me, at least).

Because of my supposed ability to paint a picture with words, how does that translate to a screenplay? Any scene information is kept to the bare bones of placing a character in a particular venue. I mean, just in the research portion of the journey, I can go into a deep dive of background details that may never end up on the final page, but are necessary for my process. Challenges abound, for sure. If anything, it’s forced me to focus on the dialogue, another aspect of my writing that’s been well received in my writing circles.

I decided to take some scenes from the short stories I’m drafting and write them out in a screenplay format. While I can definitely see these stories on the small or big screen, my intention was to see if I could pare down my words and still convey the story to the reader in the way I intended. Yes, paring down words is counter-intuitive during any WriMo challenge, but hey, whatever keeps things fresh has got to be a good thing, right?

Just like in my previous post on trying different tricks and techniques in my writing routine, I found this different approach to breaking down my story scenes to be quite enlightening. It helped me focus on using my words economically. And using the Freewrite Traveler, I didn’t have the ability to meander through the vast landscape that is Google, so writing sessions were more purposeful and had better output.

What’s your third week been like? What are you doing to stay motivated? Also, do you have any shows or films you’d like to recommend? Sound off below.

Keep going! We’re near the finish line. You got this and I’m right there with ya!

Stay creative, stay weird, be kind to yourself and others.

Until next time,

T out.