NaNoWriMo Wrapup Thoughts

Okay. Now I can say that I’m officially done.

Thirty days of writing. I think I averaged about 2000 words per day. With the extra day of writing after I hit 50,000, I wrote an extra 3472 words, which bring the total word count of Willow to 53818. Usually, when I work on Willow, I average about 4 chapters a month. In November, I wrote about 8 1/2 chapters, almost two per week. I can safely say that I’m no longer in the beginning portion of the book. I’m about to step foot into the middle arc of the storyline.

Not too shabby!

So, the question for today is, now that I’ve done this experiment and gotten very good results, what am I going to do with it? There’s no question that if I want to finish Willow on a timely basis, I do need to up my word count. If I continue at the same pace as I did in November, either I’d have to give up working on short stories and essays, or I’ll need to find more time to focus on writing.

Looking at it realistically, I’ll have to go for the latter. As much as I love working on Willow, I also want to do other things too (and the fact that I did cheat a little in November by working on a short story to send off proves it). In fact, I have a lot of catching up to do–there’s a couple of essays I wanted to finish by the end of December, and a short story I put on the back burner to do NaNoWriMo that I’m itching to get back to.

It’s weird, though. I’ve also been really itching to get back to work on Willow, too. I took the weekend off of writing to celebrate–because hey, when you set goals for yourself, and you actually reach them, you gotta celebrate. My hubby asked me, “Now that you’ve done this constant freewriting on Willow, are you going to go back and work on that chapter you wished you could do over?” He’s talking about when, around November 13, I had two new characters suddenly pop up and create a major plot change, but at the time, I couldn’t go back and write their introduction into the story. I chosen just to write them in as if I had done their introduction, then go back in December. I’m not sure I want to go back and do that rewrite now. I think wrote enough that once I do the major rewrite, I’ll be able to look at my notes for that chapter and rewrite it better then. If I ever get a huge urge to rewrite it in the future, then sure, I’ll do it. But right now, I got a good groove going.

And finding time just got a whole lot easier. I think I found a good daycare place for Daniel to go to starting in January. My writing schedule plan, then, will be this: On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’ll go back to my normal routine of doing short stories, essays, poetry, etc. during Daniel’s naps, then work on Willow at night. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll devote those days completely to Willow. And once I get those extra hours when Daniel’s in daycare, that will really make a difference in moving the story along.

Overall, what did I think of NaNoWriMo? I had great fun doing it. But I think if I’ll do this next year, I’m going to start a new book, maybe start working on the next book in the Willow trilogy. Or, maybe I’ll just work on something new. Who knows. But one thing I do know: if I can keep up the pace of writing 8 chapters per month, I’ll be done with the first draft of Willow by this time next year–assuming that it’s going to be 96 chapters or less.

So what am I doing gabbing away here? I need to get writing!

Done with NaNoWriMo, but…

nano 2006 winner small

Well, I did it. I made it to 50,000 words with a day to spare.

I did it a lot sooner than I planned, thanks to my hubby. Yesterday, during Daniel’s nap, I had written about 1500 words, so I figured the night session would be sufficient to put me over the edge. I had just settled in after dinner to watch an Azumanga Daioh DVD when hubby came down.

“What are you doing?”

“Watching this DVD.”

“How many words have you written today?”

“Around 1500.”

“No, I mean overall.”

I frowned. “How the heck should I know? I don’t really take an overall count until I’m finished for the night.”

“Well, go up and see.”

Grumbling, I trudged upstairs and woke up the laptop. “Lessee…I’ve have about…49,800 words so far…”

“So…that means you only have about 200 words left to write before you hit 50,000.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“So, what are you waiting for? Get writing!”

I stared at him. “But, it’s not even Daniel’s bedtime yet. I can’t write now…it’s too soon!”

My hubby grabbed the little boy as he was dashing past. “I’ll put him to bed. You just start writing.”

“But…but…but…” Now I was getting annoyed. All I wanted to do was relax for a little bit. I didn’t want to write…even if I did have 200 words left. Geez, couldn’t he let me be in peace for a half an hour?

But then my hubby decided to do a cheer to spur me to write:

Go, go writer.
Write that word.
If you don’t make it,
you’re a turd.
GOOOOOOO Writer!

My hubbie, ladies and gentlemen. Nice to see that being around high schoolers hasn’t affected him much. But really, after I picked myself off the ground from laughing, I did sit down and wrote those 200 words, plus a little bit extra. I guess in goading me, my hubby showed me the main reason the founders of NaNoWriMo stress that you write a new novel instead of continuing a previous one. I don’t have that overwhelming feeling of doom that nags, “Gotta finish this novel…gotta finish it NOW!” I know Willow isn’t going to be finished when I hit 50,000. So I don’t have that push to write madly to beat a deadline. I’m pretty much coasted through all of November with that mentality. Hitting 50,000 wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be.

Technically, I could stop working on Willow if I wanted. But wait a sec…hold on. Let me flip through the archives real quick. When I decided to do this, my goal wasn’t to write 50,000…my goal was to focus on Willow for the entire month. And folks, the month ain’t up yet. I still got one more day.

So I’m not going to celebrate just yet. I’m going to do what I’ve been doing for the past 29 days–focus on Willow, seeing how many chapters I can finish. Right now, I’m on chapter 36. If I can finish it by tonight, then I’ll break out the champagne and streamers and whatever else people do when they finish NaNoWriMo…

I need to get back to writing. :-)

Pulling into the NaNoWriMo Home Stretch

All right.

Three more days, 15 hours left to write. I’ve written 43,324 words so far. I still got a sore throat, Daniel’s been wearing the same clothes for three days now, and the house is a wreck. Well, more of a wreck than usual.

But this is it. Let’s see how quickly I can break 50,000. The Cafe will be closed for a couple of days while I’ll put all my efforts into this. If you still wish for your daily dish, may I suggest some leftovers?Catch up on some tasty bits you may have missed? The archive section is on your left towards the bottom.

See you in a couple of days.

Still chugging along…

It’s been quiet at the cafe. The leaves are gone from most of the trees, leaving their stark bare branches to hold up the sky, which has been a smeary gray as late. In the cafe itself, most of the tables are empty. Clientele is low, except for the guy with the goatee reading the tech manual in the corner–he’ll never leave. The waitress yawns, but keeps refilling his cup with decaf coffee for lack of anything else to do. Looks like it’s getting to be Thanksgiving time.

I’m doing pretty good. Most of the flu symptoms are gone except for a lingering sore throat and a voice that’s better placed on those ‘call 976-Debbie’ late night ads. Definitely not the type of voice to read Goodnight Moon. Daniel seems to take his Mommy’s hoarse voice in stride. This has also taught me well about disciplining him. Now, instead of raising my voice to yell, I get this real intense whisper right up in his face. “What. Are. You. Doing?!”. If the behavior escalates, it’s dumping him in his crib for five minutes. I still can’t believe how a time-out suddenly makes him cooperate. We all need time-outs in life.

I’m still chugging along with Willow. I’m aiming for 40,000+ words this week. I’m quite surprised how I’m zooming through all these chapters. Not bad for someone who didn’t plot this part of the book out. It’s easy to do so knowing that what I’m putting down now is really only a foundation to build on–when I go back over it next year, I get to decide what stays and what goes. It will be very interesting to see how this develops.

Okay, enough musing. I got another 3000 words to write today (hopefully). I have cornbread and chicken stock to make, then later tonight I have to start on macaroni and cheese. Tomorrow, I’m going to make my grandmother’s cornbread stuffing for the first time ever. November seems to be a month of risktaking.

All in all it’s just another brick in the Wall–Halfway Point of NaNoWriMo…

Ugh…my mind is turning to mush. I’m definitely hitting the wall now. Too much willow is turning my brain to ooze. Today, I sat down to write Willow and all I typed out was mush. I’ve been concentrating on it for too long. I want to do something else. Bleh….

Yesterday was the 15th of November. I’ve written 25,811 words on Willow so far this month. That’s roughly 5-1/2 chapters I’ve written. We’re at the halfway point, folks.

This is just like running a marathon. First moment, you’re running and you think, this isn’t bad. Then you start jogging and get a little tired, but you find your stride and rhythm and think, hey, I can do this. This is easy. Then you start getting cocky. I can do this alllll day. Look at me! Look at me! Then you foolishly, foolishly start to sprint. You get a good speed going and it’s great. You’re top of the world, Ma!

And then the wall falls. Right on your head. Boom.

All this freewriting, all this creativity, is churning my brains into bits of mental stew. I’ve think I’ve pulled a charley horse somewhere in my writing muscle is seriously cramping up. You know how bad this is? I just poured some tea into an empty cup. Took a sip out of it. Then turned and saw another steaming cup of tea sitting on my left. My laptop is now flanked by two steaming cups of tea.

Ugghhhhh…..

This, then, would be the absolutely downside of NaNoWriMo. You can’t let your mind rest. You gotta keep focusing, focusing on doing the same thing. But my creativity doesn’t like work like that. I like to write something, then let it rest for a couple of days, let it percolate, if you will. Then I can revisit it again with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

I didn’t mind working on Willow once a day, because I always had something else to work on too at the same time–a short story, essay, poetry, and that would be usually editing, which exercises a different creative muscle than just flat-out freewriting. But so far, the only thing I’ve been doing now is freewriting Willow, and it’s beginning to take its toll. If it wasn’t for writing this blog, my head probably would’ve exploded by now.

I can hear the essay I was working on in October calling out to me. “LaShawn…why haven’t you touched me? I need editing! These passive verbs aren’t going to go away on their own. Worrrrrk on meeeeee….worrrrk on meeeeee….” Yep. You know you’re working hard when you start hallucinating about your essay begging in a whiny voice. Maybe it’s time to stop writing this and to work on Willow again.

Sprinting through the Willows without stopping to smell the rewrites…

Last Thursday in the afternoon, I had just finished writing another chapter of Willow. Usually, I time it so that I end a chapter around the end of naptime. Then I get up and go get Daniel, who has been awake and calling for “Mommy!” for ten minutes (and when she doesn’t show up, he invokes, “Elmo!” or “Thomas!”)

But to my surprise, Daniel was still in nap-nap land, which meant I had some precious time left to myself. Oh…what’s a stay-at-home mother to do? Should I finish folding the laundry? Get a head start on dinner? Read a chapter of my book? Or even, (gasp), take a brief, wholesome nap?!?!

Or, I thought…why don’t I write some more on Willow? Start working on a new chapter?

It’s an unprecedented thought for me. When I write a chapter, I usually write up to what I think is a good stopping point, then stop until the next time I start writing. It never occurred to me to just keep going on, to write as much as I can without caring if I stop at a decent point. So I tried it. I started a new chapter.

I think the word count I did for that day was around 3500 words. More than enough to put my weekly total in the 20,000+ zone. It’s pretty cool to see my word count shoot up by leaps and bounds.

However, there is a dark side to all this writing willy-nilly.

Today, after quite an eventful weekend, I woke up and started working on Willow. Halfway through a chapter, I suddenly figured out a plot point that will tie up the section I’m working on. I now had a way to get my characters from point A to point C, by traveling through D instead of B. It was a brilliant mindstorm, and all I needed to do was rewrite the last chapter I wrote to reflect changes that will bring my current chapter up to speed…

But I can’t rewrite that chapter, can I? Not only does it change my word count for NaNoWriMo, but even if I did, it’s not really new stuff I’ll be writing, is it? As far as NaNoWriMo is concerned, I’m done with that chapter. Which is cool. I understand.

One of the drawbacks of being a writer is getting the story down without jumping back to do rewrites. It bogs a writer down because when you rewrite, you’re not in freespirited creative writing mode–you’re in harsh, critical editor mode, and you’re weighing every word, balancing every sentence, testing how it feel, what it sounds like. I think that’s why it took me so long to start writing on Willow again. When I first pulled it out, true, I had forgotten most of the story. But I also saw that I’ve pretty much written crap, and the editor in me wanted to refine that. I don’t regret rewriting the first part of the book–it helped me get a better handle on the story as a whole; but now that I’m back in the freespirited, write-whatever-I-want-so-long-as-I-get-it-down mode, I don’t want to slow down for editor mode. At least not this month.

I think there are times, though, when a chapter rewrite is absolutely, positively necessary, mainly if a major plot point has changed. I think today is a good example of that. If this was any other month, I would have gone ahead and done the rewrite. But this is NaNoWriMo. So, in the spirit of the month, what I’ll do is write a couple of paragraphs or two that has the stuff I want to change in the previous chapter, then I’ll put it in my notes to revisit at a later date. Then, I start the next chapter off as if I’ve implemented those changes.

In fact…I think I’ll add those two paragraphs to my word count. After all, technically…it’s still Willow writing. :-)

Just keep writing…just keep writing…writing, writing, just keep writing…

The day has come. I’ve been expecting it to come for quite some time now, but I always thought that I wouldn’t reach this point until some time next year.

I’ve reached a point in Willow where I haven’t the faintest clue what will happen next.

I haven’t outlined Willow trilogy down to the very end of book three. I’ve told the story to myself so many times, I have a general synopsis of what happens in each book. I also do have software that I use to plot out several chapters in advance. But at this stage of the book, I’ve run up against a blank wall. Basically, my characters are done with Town A, so now they have to go through [INSERT SCENE HERE] in order to get to Town C.

Normally, in cases like this, I would freewrite, journaling about the scene, asking myself questions and tossing around different ideas. Should they go to Such-and-Such? What if they ran into So-and-so? And I did do a little of that. But nothing definite really stuck out to me. What to do?

Well, when I put my son down for his afternoon nap, I decided that, well, I would just write and see what happens.

This is the spirit of NaNoWriMo in its essence, why it is so alluring for writers. Basically, NaNoWriMo really is nothing more than a massive freewrite, where you put down as many words as you can without worrying too much about content. Even if you crank out crap, at least you’re cranking out something. Up to now, I’ve been having my characters go the way I wanted them to go. Now, I shut off the controlling part of my mind and let my fingers go, watching how the characters react to the situation I’ve put them in.

Joshua, his family, and their Sworn Guard, Coren, reach a town called Inverness. Joshua’s father finds a place where they can settle down and rest. His intention is to meet with someone who works at a nearby Temple. However, at the inn, they learn that this person is out of town. Wiped out, they all stumble to their rooms. Joshua has a room by himself, and he comes in and closes the door.

Of course, this is all a synopsis of the actual chapter. At this point, I had toyed with bringing Joshua and his family down where they talk at dinner on what to do next. I also had toyed with Joshua sneaking out on his own, but seeing that he did that in a previous chapter, I didn’t think he would do it again so soon. So I decided to let Joshua nap a bit and then go down for dinner.

Joshua flops on the bed, tired beyond belief. He has the strangest feeling, though, that he’s being watched. Then he remembers. It’s that bond between him and the Sworn, the bond that ties him to her, and lets her know where he is at all times, even when she’s not around. For him, however, the feeling transcribes to always feeling her eyes on his back, and disconcerted, he sits up and looks beneath his bed, expecting to see her lying on the floor, staring up through the mattress at him.

I didn’t expect to write that, but it made sense at the time. In the last chapter, Joshua had tried to slip away from Coren to see just how far the bond went. I tried to get him to sleep again, but…

Joshua then realizes that, despite the bond to the Sworn, he’s all by himself. He hasn’t been by himself since the fiasco in his village, when he learned that he was a Voice…

At this point, I realized that Joshua was not going to sleep at all. For the first time, he has a chance to sit and ponder what’s happened to him and his family. It makes sense, actually. Joshua needs some downtime to figure out just what the heck’s happening to him. He’s been on the go for the past few chapters–seeing his village destroyed by marauders, the girl who tried to assassinate his father now suddenly their Sworn bodyguard, being chased by thugs, finding another village destroyed by an evil creature, and to top it all off, suddenly hearing the trees speak and learning that he may be the one to destroy the entire world–as I wrote the scene out, I wondered if I should curl Joshua into a fetal position as he thinks on all this.

But you see…that’s gold. It even gave me a little insight on him as a character. I’m letting a myriad of previous factors, Joshua’s personality, and common sense dictate what happens next. When I wrote this chapter, I always had in the back of my mind, “How will Joshua respond to this? What will he say? What will he think? Is it out of character for him to do this? Does it actually have him learn something? Will it change him into something new?” And lo and behold, I suddenly, not only do I have a character exposition that shows Joshua as a person who thinks as well as acts, but I also have a way to give some downtime to the reader, to break from all that action and let them catch their breath along with the characters. That’s pretty cool.

I wonder what tomorrow’s scene will be like?

To be a Christian and a Writer…

Is NaNoWriMo supposed to be this much fun?

So let’s see…it’s Sunday. Since November 1, I’ve written about 8477 words so far, a full chapter and a half. I haven’t been worrying too much about content or getting the words just right. Right now, I just want to lay down the main emotions, main thoughts of my characters. It’s like laying down a foundation of a house. I want sketch out the bare bones of the story before I start shaping and molding its flesh.

With all the writing I’ve been doing, I’ve been neglecting my normal computer stuff, like reading emails, websurfing…er, blogging. Maybe that’s a good thing; I’m learning to budget my time better. But writing the latest Willow chapter also got me thinking about my writing in general.

In my overstuffed inbox, there’s a thread about being a Christian speculative/fantasy writer. From what I’ve skimmed through, it’s mostly debating about how Christian writers should use their writing to either a) glorify God or 2) use writing to evangelize his Kingdom. It’s quite a heated thread, and, in a way, I’m glad I’ve been focusing on Nano too much to throw my measly two cents in. That’s what blogging’s for, right?

But I have been wrestling for a few weeks now about it. It’s a question that interestingly enough, started up on another list. Does my writing glorify God? Am I using it to glorify his Kingdom?

Boy…pretty tough questions. Especially since I got into some pretty interesting writing as of late.

I’ve been working on a short story that I’m a little stumped on. It’s about a man who suddenly have aliens appearing on his doorstep. He tells his niece about it, who, of course, thinks he’s crazy. Pretty standard fare, so far. However, the man and his niece also swear throughout the story. In my first draft, it was just the man doing the swearing, which fit in with his character–he’s a guy who loves to drink beer, sit on the couch and flick through the TV. In the first draft, his niece was a classy woman using more sophisticated language, and she pretty much stayed that way throughout the story.

However, when I rewrote the story, I reached a part where the niece completely tells her uncle off, using some pretty strong language. I mean, real strong. I’m not the sort of person who swears. I’ve pretty much lived with the motto of ‘weigh your words carefully–let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ or your ‘no’ be ‘no’.’ But in making this change to the niece, I’d showed that the niece was, in a sense, like her uncle, something she’d been in denial over. It strengthened her character overall, I think–and made the message of the story a lot stronger.

(Oh yes…I know what you’re thinking. This is the same woman who dissed most of the stories in the The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 18th annual collection because most of the stories were expletive-laden. Boy, oh boy, do I see the irony…)

There are tons, whole tons of wonderful stories out there that don’t use swearing or characters doing horrible things. I like writing those kind of stories. However, there are also wonderful stories, absolutely wonderful stories where the characters are completely flawed, but by the end of the story, they come to a redemption of sorts. I think I like those stories better because, storytelling aside, they instill hope for a reader that even flawed characters like this have a chance to love/live/get better, etc. And I think that those stories show that humans to be true, real people, with real struggles, real vices can get the message of God across just as effectively–maybe even more so.

Lately, the term ‘Christian writer’ seems to mean ‘a writer who mainly writes for a Christian audience”. I don’t want to be that. If I’m truly called to be a writer to evangelize the kingdom, then how would I get God’s message out to the masses who are not Christian? I want people to read my stories and think. “Huh…I never thought about <insert topic here> that way before.” Most of all, I want to write what I want to write, not what people say I should write. I’ve written stories with a decidedly Christian bent. And I’m in the middle of writing a story that’s pretty dark, by my standards (no…not the alien story–actually that one’s pretty funny–if I get around to finishing it…). In the Willow chapter I just finished, one of the characters is a spoiled lordling who parties and mistreat his servants, particularly the female ones. He’s a pretty sordid guy, but he’s also pretty essential to the plot. If he didn’t do the things he did, he would be a pretty weak character, not one to be feared. And he needs to be feared.

In writing such things, I as a writer need to remember that what I put on the page is just a story. It’s not me. I also need to guard my mind as well–the characters don’t reflect me as a person, but I’m still prey to the same temptations. I think that’s why it helps that when I write such things, I usually pray before sitting down and writing. It helps me to keep myself separate from my characters. Sort of putting on the armor of God before heading into the fray. Reading the Bible and knowing His truth also helps.

So, basically, I consider myself a writer and a Christian. The two are intertwined. It all depends on who the story is meant for, that’s all.

But enough rambling for now. I need to get back to writing!

And we’re off! The Start of NaNoWriMo

Yesterday was the first full day of NaNoWriMo, which I celebrated by sleeping in late (well, as late as Daniel will allow). The day before I had spent all day trying to finish an essay that was due for a contest that night, so October 31 was a little hectic. I’m glad I can relax and focus on Willow for a while.

Relax? I got 50,000 to write on Willow in one month! What am I, nuts?

Seriously, I don’t feel all that stressed out. Maybe it’s because I’m using both Daniel’s naptimes and his bedtimes to write. Usually, on good days, I can crank out about 1000 words at one sitting, but that’s when I’m on a roll. We’ll just have to see.

I did change the word meter in the sidebar. I just wasn’t digging the raisinman graphic, though there were days it aptly described my mood. Now there’s just a plain meter if you scroll down. Should be nicer on the eyes. I still want to find something that will describe my mood, so if anyone has any ideas, I’d love to see it.

I’ve also set the NaNoWriMo icon so it goes directly to my profile page on that site. Gives a little more information about me and shows a better graphic of my progress.

So what am I doing working on this? I gotta get writing!

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo…I think…

Yesterday morning, I woke up and got ready to work on the next chapter of Willow. I checked email first, which I usually chide myself not to do, but I couldn’t help it. It’s second nature. Imagine my surprise when I got an email saying only two more days till NaNoWriMo…

Oh yeah. I did sign for that, didn’t I?

No, of course I knew about it. It’s been all over the writing boards (Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year? I am! I am!) People have been going nuts over it. (It’s a week before NaNo and I still don’t have a plot! Help!!!!) It’s almost as if a famous person is coming to visit your home for a whole month, and you’re not going to do anything except be a willing slave for him while he gobbles up your food and time. (I plan to do several all-nighters during Nano…especially during Thanksgiving!)

Hmm…it’s weird. Ever since my hubby got his job, I’ve been less stressed over it. I can positively say I’ve been less stressed overall, in fact. Maybe I’m not terribly excited over it because I haven’t spent much time at the NaNoWriMo website. One of the big things about NaNoWriMo is community, and up to this point, I’ve been more or less a wallflower, ducking my head in from time to time to see what the buzz is about.

But I think the real reason why I’m not excited is that…well…I’ve been writing. Not just on Willow, but on other things as well. There’s a couple of essays that I need to send off today so I don’t worry about them in November, so I’ve been working my butt off on those. I’ve also been working on a short story whose deadline is in the middle of November. I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish it without going back on my promise to keep November a Willow month. Maybe I ought to pull an all-nighter after all…

Ah well. I am holding off on starting a new chapter of Willow until tomorrow. I’ll send off the essays and spend today prepping myself. Maybe I’ll even venture further into the NaNoWriMo forums. You know, linger by the punchbowl, leave a couple of business cards. Introduce myself casually to the guy swinging off the chandelier…

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