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: Planning by the Seat of Your Pants

With Camp NaNoWriMo coming up fast, I thought I’d try to go into the event with eyes a little more open than last time. If there’s anything I learned from this last week in writing, it’s that any and everything can and will happen to throw you off course. That’s life. It doesn’t mean you have to pack it up and call it a day.

Make the most of your off-road experience. After all, side quests are arguably more satisfying than the main storyline in games. Why shouldn’t it be the same in your writing journey?

It’s true. It’s about the journey, not the destination. What’s the point if we can’t enjoy the ride?

Take, for instance, a short story competition I learned about in the wake of my missed deadline faux pas. With the deadline being what would be 4pm my time today, it wasn’t feasible for me to rush a 1000 word short story with everything I had going on with my darling X-23, Izzybear.

Add to the fact that I had two ideas I wanted to run with and only one entry was allowed, I decided to flesh the story out further and give it the TLC it deserves and over the course of the week, I developed a plot more rich in texture. It goes to show that not all plans laid are best.

If I had stuck to the original plan, I would’ve had a piece that I wasn’t fully satisfied with and only submitted for the sake of meeting the deadline. However, isn’t it preferred to put your best foot forward the first time? It’s hard to get past a wrong first impression. The fact that I like the way the story is now versus what I had come up with on the fly a few days ago further supports the advice of taking a step back to really see what you’ve got. It doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring my main goals. It doesn’t mean that my detour is a distraction or is less important. It’s a matter of perspective and looking at the bigger picture.

I read about an author sharing something she called an editorial calendar. The premise is simple and straightforward but you then realize how the simple things are so profoundly helpful in organizing your writing life. Take a calendar and map out all deadlines and writing tasks. Simple, right? The fact that you can then strategize your day around everything else you need to get done, you facepalm at how the methodology makes perfect sense.

As you might have gathered by now, I’m not saying to stick to plans hardcore. In my life, it’s been virtually impossible. Heck, I’m perfectly content doing a crossword puzzle in pencil. Nobody can be that certain of everything all the time. Also, if you tell me not to do something, the six year-old me perks up and says, in the words of Barney Stinson, “Challenge accepted.” The result? Such wonderful and potentially life-altering changes. And this can happen when plotting a story differently from your original idea. Or, you can decide to write poetry instead of prose. Maybe, you make the choice to scrap the idea and go in a completely different direction. Graphic novel? Limerick? Screenplay? There are no wrong answers here. Who wants a boring journey, anyway?

I guess what I’m saying is make a plan. Sure. But as I’ve said before, nothing needs to be set in stone because the universe will just laugh at you while tossing the odd molotov cocktail in your general direction. So, while I’m still a work in progress, I’ve transformed myself into FlexiGal, a person of ordinary means with an extraordinary passion to do some good in the world. I roll with the punches–and dodge the ones I know will land hard.

Easy peasy.

How do I know? As I write this, I’ve had to step away from the laptop at least a dozen or so times. I’m currently typing with a stuffed toy–a golden retriever pup, for those curious–sitting atop my noggin like a fascinator at a pet-themed Royal Ascot. X-23 has me chasing her again while intermittently sneaking in some cheese and crackers. The cheese to cracker ratio is obscene. I have only myself to blame. My favorite cheese is the Kerrygold Dubliner. I had her try some one day and I’ve never quite had any cheesy snacks to myself since. Anyway, I think she might be attempting a reenactment of a Doc McStuffins version of the Wolverine v. Sabertooth battle scene from X-Men and these were all we had to work with. Given the theme of today’s post, I fully appreciate her effort and 100% approve.

So, make a plan. Or not. Stick to it. Or don’t. Either way, take those twists and turns, but keep going. Every moment you experience becomes a part of you and when you reach your destination, you’re so much better for it. A better person, a better writer. And that’s a huge LEVEL UP, in my book.

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

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: It Is Wednesday, Right?

a.k.a. When the Days Blur Together

I can’t believe we’re already almost halfway through the month. As mentioned previously, I didn’t have strict expectations on myself for deadlines if something took priority. A little bummed at what ended up happening, but I know I made the right call when it came to family.

Izzybear was having a tough time these past several days. Her sleep schedule, or lack thereof, is almost as erratic as mine. Therefore, I thought it was a good thing to work with her through what could’ve ended up being a tough meltdown, and instead eventually got her back to laughing and running about–at 2am. She was happy and we were trying to find different ways to communicate with each other. Despite the late hour, I call that a win.

As the weekend drew to a close, I knew I had to dig deep to get the submissions in for impact x SKYDANCE. It was Sunday night and I even remember thinking I still had another day to go. I’d work through the night and hopefully would be finished by the following afternoon. That’s when I happened to look at the date on my laptop. Because of the late night/early mornings, I’d gotten my days mixed up. I knew the deadline the entire time, but it was around 10pm on Sunday that I realized that March 7 WAS Sunday and not Monday as I somehow thought.

The disappointment soon faded because somebody wanted me to chase her and I had to demonstrate the need for soft steps at that late hour. She humored me for about a minute, then chuckled before flailing off into the living room.

My main takeaway from the experience is that I need to learn how to stop feeling guilty for choosing one or the other… or neither, for that matter. If I want to spend time helping the kids, I should. If I need to lock myself away to write undisturbed–though I hear her lil’ stompy feet as she runs a floor above me with or without noise-cancelling headphones–I can do that, too.

Camp NaNoWriMo is just a couple weeks away. They have a prep guide that I always manage to forget to do in a timely manner. I always seem to remember it much closer to the start date. At least, this time, I was busy working on a project already. Since I’m currently revved up about the missed story prompt and my mirrored closet doors are still filled with brainstorming material, I’m going to do some research on serial storytelling and might work on that in April. After I get my bearings, I’ll go more in depth about Camp NaNo next week.

I’m definitely going to finish what I started for the prompts so that when the next submission call-out is posted, I’ll have something ready, especially the screenplay that serves as the writing sample. I really got into the story ideas I developed and whether or not they make it to the next round, I intend to play around with them either in stand alone novel form or serial story structure, similar to what was originally intended for the TV series submission.

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

Until next time,

T out.

FANGIRL FRIDAY: Rewind, Remix, Recycle, Reuse, Reduce?

I’ve been feeding my insomniac self by watching midnight movies and shows, rather than having a midnight snack. Despite ratings, despite warnings, depending on who’s talking, I watched Terminator: Dark Fate and Bad Boys For Life on back to back evenings. Then, I recently caught myself up on the final season of Lethal Weapon and saw a commercial for a new Punky Brewster series. This semi-FLASHBACK FANGIRL FRIDAY post maybe hit me with the nostalgia bug finding some connection to characters I knew and loved, but I started to wonder if that’s all there was anymore.

In a recent article about a possible Criminal Minds revival, it got me excited. I’d recently binged the final season and already miss the characters. The article explained that a revival involved original cast and crew members, though no actors had yet to be attached to the project at the time of announcement, whereas a reboot could have completely different characters or a redo of a previous iteration with new actors. Revivals, reboots, reunion specials, series based on the big screen, movies inspired by the small screen. Different versions. Different perspectives. Same enjoyment?

What keeps us coming back to these types of stories? Is it the formula? Is it the familiarity? Is the market so saturated that we go with what’s comfortable? As a writer, this is something I think about a lot and it scares me as much as it motivates me to want to share my stories with the world.

As for the fangirl in me, I do enjoy these types of shows and movies–when they work. There’s a fine line between beating a dead horse and realizing the horse ain’t dead and you need to let it live its best life. When it came to Terminator: Dark Fate I think I wanted more. I loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day and remembered watching it in the theatre (*sniff* remember movie theatres?) and leaving so empowered. Linda Hamilton‘s portrayal of Sarah Connor is iconic. This (final?) instalment that reunited her with Arnold Schwarzenegger should’ve been awesome, but it ended up being too campy and dare I say, felt like the production was banking on their names to lure us in. I mean, it worked. I was lured, but I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I wanted to.

Bad Boys For Life, on the other hand, answered a question I’m sure every fan had asked. I wonder what Mike and Marcus are up to these days? Yes there were cheesy moments, but the chemistry between Will Smith and Martin Lawrence is undeniable that it’s like they fell right back in step with each other–or maybe they’ve been fighting crime on the streets of Miami this whole time. Who knows? Maybe it was the storyline in Dark Fate or what I perceived as forced acting between Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, but I didn’t feel as emotionally invested in their lives as I did our Boys from Miami.

Maybe that’s why I don’t want to always hedge my bets on these types of offerings. Expectations are too high and sometimes we’re left with disappointment. It’s also perhaps a good reason why I’m such a fan of shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision. They’re expanding on storyverses that I’ve grown to love and are giving us new characters and storylines that can satisfy our late night binge watching hunger. You can be certain that I’m all in for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier when it comes out next month.

How about you? Are you into revivals, reboots, redos, and/or continuations, or are you a one and done type of viewer? Whatever it is, there’s definitely something for everyone. Enjoy your midnight visual snacking.

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

Until next time,

T out.

WRITERLY WEDNESDAY: Running Circles Around the Competition

a.k.a. Prompt Submission Update #2

Two weeks in and I’m neck deep in research for the impact x SKYDANCE prompts. What last week yielded in idea plausibility, this week I came up in spades with story structure. I’ve been getting myself famiilar with the Plottr software program and there are many templates to choose from to help plot a story, novel, or screenplay. Heck, people have even found non-writing creative ways to use that program, such as meal planning and scheduling. More on the Plottr program itself in a future post.

Every writer has heard of the Hero’s Journey, at some point. Since a lot of my WIPs are more adventure/quest based, this seems fitting. Joseph Campbell introduced the world to the Hero’s Journey, or the monomyth, and it’s the foundation from which millions of stories have been built on ever since. I’ve learned a lot from this method and know that it’s something that will always be in my writing toolkit.

Something that appealed to me recently, however, is Dan Harmon‘s method of storytelling. Also known as Plot Embryo, the Story Circle takes the complexities of the Hero’s Journey and strips it back to its bare essentials. If the Hero’s Journey is the album release, the Story Circle is the acoustic version.

When I went on a deep dive of articles and videos on story structure, I found myself immersed in dozens of videos using the Story Circle to break down movies such as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and The Matrix. If you want to test the durability of a story’s overall structure, these two movies were made 22 years apart and the methodology is sound. It’s easy to google articles, images, and videos on the subject. YouTube has these great examples of Story Circle film analysis that you can watch here and here. Considering Joseph Campbell was alive over a century ago, this really proves the adage of “If it ain’t broke…” because it’s clear the stages that progress throughout a story, if done well, can stand the test of time.

Since this submission prompt was for episodic television, it was a masterclass to see the analysis of the Story Circle as it pertained to each episode’s plot points in Harmon’s cult-favorite Community. Harmon broke down the Season 2 D&D episode on his tumblr feed that you can read here. Of course, for those who prefer watching to reading, catch these Story Circle Community analysis vids here and here. I like how they go so far as to break down each character’s own Story Circle within the episode. When I’m further down the road in my story, I’m going to do a detailed analysis of how the Story Circle applied to each stage of my protagonist’s story arc.

What story structure do you swear by? Are you a structure loyalist and adapt your story ideas accordingly or do you like to switch things up? I know the rabbit hole is never ending, but, I’m curious. Are you a fan of analysis vids or is it just me? As a visual learner I absorbed more information on story structure by watching these videos than combing through thousands of words on the subject matter.

Regardless of which method you choose, and there are plenty more out there to choose from, you can see the similar paths on the protagonist’s journey. These are different perspectives of a timeless and effective method of storytelling.

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

Until next time,

T out.