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.

NaNo 2020 Week Two Roundup

Kind greetings to you, fellow WriMos (and other lovely readers who may have happened upon this post)! We are reaching the midpoint of NaNoWriMo. How are things going so far?

As mentioned previously, I’m more of a Plantser, in that, I do have a rough idea plotted out for a writing project but I’m flexible enough to roll with the writerly punches when ideas shift, plans change, and, well, life happens. I was hoping to be further along by now, but the rabbit hole can be a deep dive, especially when each new idea that crops up leads to more questions. You want to be consistent, you want to have infrastructure in the world you create, and you have to remind yourself that a lot of the backstory is for the writer’s benefit and isn’t going to end up on the page when the reader finally sees the end product.

Then you have all this information that you don’t want to dump on the reader. Since this is a collection of short stories, that’s not a lot of real estate to work with as opposed to longer form. Sure, with novels, you can have maps and appendices to help the reader understand the inner workings of the story. But what if all of this research ends up burying you further in words that aren’t even in the story yet?

While I initially thought that taking on this type of writing project would help get the ideas flowing more readily, I’ve found it to be more challenging than expected. My brain could be described like a web browser with multiple tabs open. I suppose many writers are the same. However, it can get mighty overwhelming when you have all these ideas flooding in at once and only two hands to type it all out. Is there Drano for writers?

Sometimes people can’t think of anything and stare at a blank sheet or screen and will the words into existence. I’m having an opposite problem when I have too many words and ideas bouncing around in my cranium it’s like I’m lost in a jungle of sentence fragments, bullet points, and other notes that are taunting me. Either way, the result is the same. There are moments when I find it difficult to progress forward in this marathon of words.

Am I experiencing a case of the dreaded mythical beast known as *gasp* Writer’s Block?

I needed a fresh perspective. I had to do something to get out of my own very crammed headspace. I’ve tried a few things, some of which I’ll delve further in future posts:

Contest or Writing Submission Themes

Stepping a way and using one of these themes to get ideas flowing is a fruitful writing exercise. The bonus here is that if it’s in your budget to pay for the entry fees, where applicable, and you’re able to meet the deadlines, this is a great way of getting your work out there.

Writing Prompts

While I initially wanted to participate in Inktober last month, I ended up doing Promptober (not sure if that’s an actual name others are using). Each day in October, I did some free writing based on a writing prompt I found on the interwebs. I was able to get words out of my head or fire up the synapses to build on something that could develop into a bigger writing project.

Change of Device, Scenery or Both

Speaking of Freewrite… I just received my Freewrite Traveler in the mail a couple days ago. Although it arrived a couple weeks in for NaNo, I’m kinda digging the benefits of being able to type away without being able to go online when I need to look something up which then lures me into non-writerly endeavours. I’m going to dedicate an entire post to reviewing this device after NaNo is over. It’ll give me a good chunk of time to play around with its features and I can share my thoughts on the experience.

If not a new device, a new setting might get the ideas flowing. With the current pandemic and those of us who have colder climates to contend with, we’ll have to get creative. But hey, we’re all creatives, anyway, right? We can make it work. Grab your laptop, notebook, phone, or whatever other combo needed to write your story and switch things up. Different room, different time of day, a little wander outdoors, anything to help you get a fresh perspective.

These are just a few examples of ways to keep the writer brain active and they seem to be helping me keep on keepin’ on.

Over to you. What are some tricks and techniques that are helping you maintain your writing routine? Let me know in the comments below. I’m keen to know what other writers are doing to stay motivated when word counts start to plateau.

Keep going! I’m your cheerleader, the person at the side of the road handing you that bottle of water as you reach that next mile. You got this. We got this. We’re in this writing journey together.

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

Until next time,

T out.

NaNo 2020 Week One Roundup

We’ve gotten through the first week of NaNoWriMo. How are things going on your end?

I thought that by trying something new for the adventure, it would make things a little easier, should obstacles, such as the dreaded mythological beast that is known as Writer’s Block, pose a problem. Rather than writing a single story, I’ve decided on tackling a collection of short stories–different genres, too, because I’m clearly a masochist–to fulfill my NaNoriffic requirements.

There are Plotters and Pantsers when it comes to writing. Plotters like to have a roadmap that clearly shows them where they’re headed in the story. Depending on the genre, writers will sometimes start at the end and work their way backwards. Pantsers, on the other hand, as the name implies, write by the seat of their pants and I’ve been told, find the organic process of getting the words out to be fruitful in its spontaneity.

I find myself somewhere in the middle, a Plantser, if you will. I like to loosely plan out a general idea of the stories, which is what I did for the week, but have the flexibility to switch things up, as needed.

There are pros and cons to this.

PRO: The ability to switch between stories when the mood strikes. This works especially well, when you’re in a writing groove overall, but the current story you’re on isn’t moving forward.

CON: You have a starting lineup for your collection that is quickly multiplying like Gremlins in the rain.

PRO: You can avoid staring at a blank screen or page because you have multiple stories to jump to (provided there was some initial plantsing) and you can always meet your writing quotas.

CON: Unless you set specific goals for each story, it’s just as easy to end up with half a dozen unfinished stories by the end of the month. You get all excited with the story in front of you, then a new idea pops into your head and now you’ve got a case of the ‘ooh, shiny!’

I could go on but, ain’t nobody got time for that much writerly brooding.

Now, all I have to do is write with as much gusto and multiply that times six, or seven… or… I’ve been dancing between two new stories. *le sigh* Memo to self: try combining story ideas rather than creating an entirely new beast to slay.

I’ve decided not to put too much pressure on myself. It’s been a while since I really dove back into writing. I did Camp NaNo this year and it was mostly prep and background work for an ongoing project. This time around, my hope is to have a handful of completed short stories. I know it can be done. I wrote a short story based on a dream I had several years ago. Woke up on a Saturday and had it finished by Sunday afternoon.

Easy peasy, right?

How’s the first week of NaNo been treating you? What have you been doing to keep the fire stoked?

Remember, you got through the first week. Keep going. Write now, edit later–as difficult as that might be to do. Get the words out of your head and onto the screen or page. You got this.

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

Until next time,

T out.