It’s coming….Winter is coming

How did it get here so fast!? How could I possibly have ignored it’s looming presence for so long?!

Is it some deep psychological need to bury my head in the sand every year and hope it passes me by like an Egyptian Plague from the Bible? Is it fear that blocks the self-inflicted mental and emotional exhaustion imminent in the month of November? Or have I really been so distracted with other deeply frustrating crap on top of sleep deprivation that I simply didn’t notice the date on the calendar?

(It’s probably the first one. Just sayin’.)

Okay. Okay. Lets say it together folks….

 

 

Rip it off like surgical tape on leg hair…

 

 

NANOWRIMO

 

*shudder*

National Novel Writing Month. I can’t decide if this reaction is from pleasure because I’m a masochist or genuine cringiness. A month of pure writing. Of deadlines, goal-setting, hair-tearing, possible crying, freedom, imagination, accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s the best and worst for me.

NaNo is a glimpse into an author’s life, for any of you who aren’t writers. 30 days of angst, pure creativity and harsh reality. You should try it to get a taste. It starts with an idea. Bright, shiny, maybe a little outrageous. Something you haven’t read before, or thought of before. It latches onto your mind and you poke it to see what squirts out. A unique character. And amazing setting. A flash of the most perfect plot you’ve ever seen. It only takes one thing to get you hooked. A creative drug you will chase the rest of your life.

So you start to massage out this idea. You roll it out like dough in your mind and take some cookie cutters and outline some shapes and patterns. November 1st is coming and the pressure to have SOME SORT of direction mounts. But it’s okay. Just a basic outline because you know that your characters are going to run the show as soon as you get into a groove. They’ll take you in unexpected directions and you can ride their coat tails into plot and pacing perfection.

Protagonist you love? Check. Antagonist you love to hate? Check. Quirky side kick? Check. Love interest? Ehhhh we’ll see what happens there. Basic plot outline and a vague idea of the ending? Let’s hope so! October 31st, 11:59….GO!!

Week 1: Easy. The words are flowing like milk and honey from your fingertips. You post on the NaNo forums and update your word count proudly. You earn badges and maybe even donate to get the fancy halo on your profile picture. You help others with their novels and maybe even join a write in. You’re doing great! Everything going to plan!

Week 2: Okay, a little harder. Kinda like eating a second slice of cake at a party. The first one was delicious and sugary and wonderful. Second slice is harder and you feel yourself start to slow down and get sick. Your eyes stray to the dreaded word counter more and more. Your brain starts to wander to Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, getting a second cup of coffee, laundry, walking the dog…anything else.

Week 3: Suddenly your bright shiny idea looks like sludge. Crap that you’ve seen on thrift stores shelves a million times over. Your protag isn’t unique enough. Your antag isn’t nasty enough. Your ending is dull and lifeless. Life sucks in general. You want to quit. You’re 5K words behind and you feel hopeless. Sitting at a keyboard looking at the blinking bar not moving. You mentally table flip.

Week 4: You find the time and energy to catch up the word count. You know it’s filler. Unnecessary scenes and lengthy dialogue just to get words on your counter. You add in characters for fluff. You take the setting to some place new to give a breath of fresh air to the plot. Maybe you add in ninjas in desperation. But you’re dragging yourself over the shattered dreams from week 1. Just get a novel down. Get 50K. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written. You can’t edit nothing. NO! DON’T THINK ABOUT EDITING! That’s a death sentence!

November 30th. You “Select All” and “Copy” your shitty manuscript. Shamefully; hopefully. NaNoWriMo.org, you “Paste” into the “Validate novel” box and with your heart beating fast, you click the button. And there it is. 50K+ words in a month. You made it. You’re a 2018 Winner! The accomplishment of setting a goal and actually finishing is yours to revel in. You have some semblance of a novel. You created something from nothing. BE PROUD. Get that Winner t-shirt. Eat the ENTIRE pan of brownies.

December 1st. Now go sleep for a week and binge-watch Supernatural on Netflix.

I promise you this is not over-exaggeration. Every single November this happens to me and millions just like me. Sometimes, like last year, I don’t even get past week 2. I think I’ve only won once actually. But the point is that I don’t stop trying, as much as I dread the ending days in October.

I have many stories in me that want to be told but I’m a perfectionist. I want a full and complete product to come out of me on the first try. (HAAAAA talk about unrealistic expectations!) The best pieces of advice I’ve ever seen on Pinterest were these:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~ Terry Pratchett

“First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.”~Caroline Mitchell

They are my biggest writing challenge to meet and it is something I’m striving for every word that comes from my fingers onto the screen/paper. I have to embrace imperfection and be willing to commit to taking this turd of a first draft and make it a turd sandwich that looks like chocolate and biscotti.

Commitment sucks. But it’s a cornerstone for a writer. Nano is a small exercise I can do to help that. So, alas, 7 days and approximately 11 hours till D-Day.

Come join me friends. It’s fun!! Haaaa……..

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Cowboy up!

Writing is tough. It is. Authors put parts of their souls onto paper for people to critique or love or hate. The idiots that scoff and wave their hands and say writing is easy obviously have never tried. Not seriously anyway.

In a way, writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Even giving birth to my two children was easy compared to this. The pain was temporary and the joy is endless. Not so with a novel. You toil much and edit mercilessly for a manuscript that MIGHT get published or most likely, will get rejected.

I failed my challenge this month. I failed my 52k in May. I had a lot of life-changing shit going on so excuse me for not being able to concentrate on making my dreams come true. Even professional writers get reprieves for this kind of stuff.

I’m not as upset by this as I used to be. I used to beat myself up every NaNoWriMo I didn’t win. I realize now that there’s no rush to make this particular dream come true because I can get published at any age and there’s a whollleeeeee lot I need to learn before that can happen anyway.

The most important lesson I’ve learned over the last couple years is this:

Dust yourself off. Get on the bull again. Cowboy up!

Cowgirl…whatever.

I got knocked on my ass. I took a break despite many blogs advising against it. (Taking advice is another part of my journey I suppose.) Things are still shaky and weird and the writing momentum is completely lost. So now it’s time to build myself back up. I won’t be able to write 2K a day but I CAN write everyday. That’s more important anyway. Write until it becomes habit. It’s the foundation of every novelist.

This is one of the reasons I say writing is one of the hardest things to do, especially for nublets. Changing habits can be hard. Learning to set aside time to write and make it a priority when everything else is also pressing against you wanting to be number one priority as well is exhausting to sort out. It feels like when you bring one thing closer and focus on it, everything else goes to crap.

Exercise more and the house suffers.

Cook and eat healthier and the writing suffers.

Write more and the family suffers.

I bet you didn’t know you’d have to learn to juggle when you decided to become a writer huh? Yeah me either.

I know it’s all about balance and finding the routine that works for you. But even this can crumble under the overwhelming circumstances. So what do ya do?

COWBOY UP.

Get right back on it. Accept the fact you failed this time and you probably will many more times afterward. But never sink low enough to be a quitter. Remember this is the path you chose. You didn’t choose it because it was easy. You chose your dream and now you have to follow it.

“Does the walker choose the path or the path choose the walker?”~ Abhorsen, Garth Nix

Even if it’s by a thread, hang on. Face the fear of failure and conquer it by choosing everyday to write one word. Ten words. Five hundred words. Take a break if you need; reevaluate your priorities if you need. You can change the direction of your path. Just don’t quit on it completely.

My grip on this concept is tenuous at best right now. I remember when I started this I was going to have novels piled on more novels and I was going to make millions and put my girls through college. I was going to tour the US and Europe like J.K. Rowling and be famous and then take a sojourn to my little castle on a hill somewhere with my herd of Pit Bull doggies.

That’s still possible. It’s just a much farther off vision than I anticipated. I’m scared it won’t ever happen. But that’s why having a solid foundation of good writing practices is important. Start at the base and then build your pillars. If they fall down, build them again, stronger. And above all don’t EVER give up.

Just don’t.

COWBOY UP instead.

Work it, Craft it, Type it, Curse it, Fix it, Trash it, quick Upload it

(Credit for the picture goes to the amazing Chiara Bautista)

So… after two weeks of being bad and not updating my blog, this is what’s been happening.

I’m 35k behind in my NaNoWriMo endeavors this year as of today. Yep. Definitely not going to win. NO, it was NOT because of procrastination! I SWEAR!! I’ve been steadily typing and was even ahead of the game at one point! But this month, for some reason, FAMILY HAPPENED. They usually don’t. They usually leave me in peace and I’m free to be a hermit as long as I wish only fielding an occasional visit or phone call.

Well. Can’t help it.Can’t avoid it. Cupcakes needed to be baked for a nephew’s 5th birthday last-minute. Holiday cards needed to be crafted for commissions. Sister needed to come over and do laundry. Computer needed to be shared with the Husband. Chores needed to be done. Food needed to be cooked. Harry Potter needed to be read…

Now these SOUND like excuses. They’re really not (especially reading Harry Potter) because life happens and I can’t stop it, even for NaNo. It occurred to me that psychologically I should be feeling upset about this. I have an intense fear of failure and this is my 14 year WIP we’re talking about here. I should be quaking in my boots at deadlines and word counts and everything.

But I’m not.

In fact, I’m nearing acceptance that deadlines are rubbish as a beginning novelist, at least for me because all this is–this WHOLE BLOG and NaNo and all my half-written stories– are practice and they’re all going to suck. THEY ARE ALL GOING TO SUCK!!!

DID YOU HEAR ME???!! THEY SUCK!!

BUT! They will become better. WE will become better. Do you know how much stress you’ll save when you accept this? Let me tell you how much. It’s like passing Gall Stones or  having a baby. All you feel is relief and it makes the creative process go so much more smoothly.

When I become a famous published novelist I will worry about deadlines and procrastination. But I’m a nub. I don’t HAVE to worry about that! And all it took was one quote from Sir Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”~ Terry Pratchett

I birthed this blog from my fear of failure. I wanted a place where I could look back and see my journey, to learn from it, and maybe take some people along with me. I was/am afraid that nothing I write will ever be good enough, no matter how great the idea is. This set me free. (Thank you my dearly departed Terry! I love/hate you. You know why. But thank you).

Every time I get too much inside my own head I sit back and remember this quote. I give myself permission to suck first and write the story in my head. I received a comment along these lines from a reader on another blog post where he admitted he kept coming back to the unwritten story in his head, even after he’d given up on it and had written another trilogy instead. It was so perfect and the comment  made this process come full circle for me

I’ve decided I’m going to start here. RIGHT HERE. I’m going to write the story that comes to my fingers first because I know that if I don’t, it will always bother me.

Yes, it kind of contradicts what I’m trying to achieve by being a professional novelist and being all organized and impressive. But there’s no ONE WAY to do it. There are lots of ways to fail and succeed and I know enough about myself that I won’t conform to a rigid schedule. Gotta give the nub some slack 😉 That’s a lesson I was glad to learn, even if it took me 31 years. I’m glad I never listened to the “right advice” because it wouldn’t have meant as much as finding it on my own did.

Writers. We start out with a decision. That is we want to become published and share our stories with the world. After marveling at our temerity, we take the next step full of bravado while secretly cowering like a scared kitten among a pack of dogs. And we start on the journey trying to find the best way to do what we promised ourselves we’d do. So we try imitation. We try post-its, index cards, poster boards and time lines. We try the three act method, the four act method, the Excel chapter method, and many different versions of plot structure. We read the books and the blogs. We freak out about the actual process of publishing, table flip a couple of times and then take a brain-cation where we do nothing at all but watch old 90’s movies and eat bowls of chips.

Oh, you didn’t? It’s just me then? Well wherever your journey is taking you, I hope that you come to accept that you’re not perfect right out of the gate. Write your stories for yourself first. Write the wish-fulfillment, kill your ex-boyfriend, say all those witty one-liners you can never remember when you need them most. Write it all down for yourself and accept that it’ll suck, but you’ll make it better. Satisfy yourself as a writer and a reader first. There will me time for you, your editor and agent to pick apart your work later.

Let’s suck as writers together!!!!! Good luck all. Write on 🙂