Nano lesson #5

Determination

The worst thing about NaNo usually happens around the 17th. It’s not the sleep deprivation, though that contributes. It’s not the greater isolation, I’m already isolated because of many RL issues. It’s not when essential people and appointments fall through, those happen anytime. It’s not the cold and mystery thickener that left you sicker than a dog for days. It’s not even any one aspect: plotting, block, or incomplete worldbuilding reaching back to bite you.

It’s the depression when the story is coming to a screeching halt. And words are coming so slowly an hour of writing, a mere three hundred words, make you want to beat your head against something. You hate the scene, the characters, and the plot and you’d rather write an essay on muclear meltdowns than even look at your story you loved and were so optimistic about two weeks ago.

The story idea is good.

I did a draft about four years ago. It fell apart. The villain was a purposeless trope. A bunch of characters were bland and the climax just sort of petered out. Despite attempts to revise there just was too little to hang the good parts on.

So I put the great idea in a mental trunk until I was skillful enough to tackle it again. Now, I’m taking a class in novel writing and I thought I conld do both at once. After all, I already had the bones of a story I believed in.

No such luck. Despite some parts of the lesson showing me where I’d messed up the first time, another part was loathed by my muse.

Writing came to an utter stasis by Nov 2. Keeping the guidelines in mind seems to be enough to put my muse in a vise, a straightjacket. I even tried writing a separate prompt piece like the NaNo people suggest to clear the decks and resume the original novel. Almost 6500 words of that diversion and the original story’s air has cleared up.

I write a few thousand more if the original booj idea before I get to another crash and burn yesterday, bleeding every word.

swirlsof neon light

NaNo whirlwind 2017, original neon whirlwind by Creativity103 without change, used under Creative Common 2.0

Today I had to face that the new noveling techniques are derailing how I wrote before, but the writing of it painful and has no joy. That diversion, a pantser with loose demi-outline but no deep planning flowed as normal. With the speed needed for NaNo, I cannot afford to use any technique that slows me down. So I’m switching projects… to that diversion one.

1800/day for the rest of the month will be challenge enough because of intractable RL issues. All this for these lessons: a) Even crashes and burns can be redeemed, that stories you are starting to hate can be set ashore before it’s too late. And b) Pay attention when your muse is not happy. You cannot force it to do what your logical side, your ego want it to do.

Tomorrow I anticipate much more progress…

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NaNo Lesson #1

I have taken a number of classes and seminars, read articles and blogs in hopes of improving my writing. I’m reasonably satisfied after ten years of fanfic with: most mechanics, pacing, dialogue, characterization and plotting. including a very important lesson: how to do reasonable closure even for a series so readers are eager for continuation and not feeling cheated.

I’ve been looking at many ideas and approaches, as my usual produced some very poor skeletons for two previous novels.  I discovered in 2010 that I am a pantser, if I do character studies and outlines with any detail, my muse will not show up. I failed NaNo badly that year as my muse went on strike being totally unwilling to start filling in the outline.

Oshkosh Public Library NaNo logo

So I went back to pantsing with a paragraphs’ worth of summary to plan my stories. That works fine for shorter projects, or ongoing serials where you can meander until you get to your ending.  But it made for trainwrecks of NaNo original novels. Several teachers go on about plannign stories around scenes. And I spent the last week studying one method of designing scenes.

So for my first day of NaNo I’ve produced only about 600 words after hours. I have much of the section clear in intention but working about that framework I was so excited about yesterday had the ease of pulling your dog’s teeth.

I’ve been thinking about it for a little while (dinner’s in the oven) and the problen seems to be I think about my stories more like a piece of weaving. One scene may have several plot threads in play and include nudges on multiple character arcs. Focusing on only one conflict thread is like trying  to talk with a scold’s bridle. There may be a few scenes that can be that focussed, but it ain’t the first one for this novel.

(I am hitting a lot of the recommended things for a start. My primary lead is front and center, there will be a small bit of danger and action, my big bad is audience and doing background tactics, I’m introducing bits about the setting and situation, and my lead is havng a terrible day.)

But the writing feels lifeless and I have NO enthusiasm in working to the framework.

That is a bad sign. It usually takes until about  Nov 20 for me to start getting dissatisfied.  I do not want to chase pyrite and lose what speed and skill I have. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and all that. So I’m going to rip that scene method out and keep other parts that have helped. If I cannot pull out on my NaNo I may work on something else to break the logjam.

So the lesson is: don’t forget that classes are not a recipe that will work for everyone.  Sometimes you have to strike out on your own when your muse demands it. Good luck to all.

Belated Year in Review

Well, that was 2015.  With three cases of flu/pneumonia, I’m only getting up to speed again here in February. 2015 had some new writing achievements: I published several flash/short collections. I submitted for several publications, and I participated in an indie invitational collection. The collections haven’t sold all that much, but discussion seems to point to ten or twenty items for sale before it begins to snowball.  So for that I need to do a LOT more short fiction.
Read the Writing State of the Union

The TBR fiasco

I had cut back on book reading a few years ago, closer to a decade.  The budget was tight, and I had many great books to reread and a few I hadn’t that were stored in an unheated room.  I was deep in the timesuck that was a wonderful MMO that had no subscription.  But all things end, and I fell into writing and fanfiction.

grains falling through hourglass

In Search of Lost Time by Alexander Boden on flickr, without changes, per Creative Commons.

That takes even more time and energy.

But late in 2014, I realized that I had gotten way too narrow, reading only fanfic and the occasional ebook.  So in the early fall I decided to make a go at some I’d gotten in error or by mistake with the TBR challenge from another site.  The main problem is that most of these books had already been rejected and I wasn’t that desperate. I ran out of books by authors I liked and ones I misplaced.  They weren’t good enough to warrant a good review, and weren’t so terrible that others needed to be warned.

With the holidays, I got some gift cards, great for electronic or used although I considered something something less useful:a food processor. So far, I’m enjoying the new books added to my TBR pile.

That stack didn’t shrink much and I suspect I should bite the bullet and give them to a local library to lend or sell.  And extra irony is that some in that pile were there because they were gifts from the library used sale… and could have been donated by me when I didn’t like them when they were published 25 years ago.  I hate donating gift items, but I can’t force myself to like the stories…  I just have to do a serious thinning of my collection because trade paperbacks take more than their fair volume of space.  When a book is rejected too often and I try to force myself to read over my subconscious’ urges, it almost never ends well.

But that TBR is changing to not just read but also remove sometimes without angst. I often keep them, in case I was just in the ‘wrong mood’ or short on time.  Those condition are usually true, and a good book will pull me in, not make me crazy.   Why waste time and shelf space on books I don’t enjoy?  So, I’m ending my own TBR challenge.  I’ll read what I want when I have the time to read, and comment only if it is noteworthy or cringeworthy.  All books come from a TBR pile and time is too short.