I feel that before I do a recap of this weekend, first you must have a history lesson. I’m not sure how critical this is, but it is a way of writing myself into the narrative, and providing the lens and perspective needed.
Several years ago (like 10ish?) I joined NaNoWriMo and found a local writing community. I then joined a critic group. Said critic group when to this convention called Ad Astra. I went, was underwhelmed, but only because I was expecting ComicCon levels of Con. I did not give up on the idea of a writing convention, so I also kept going. Once I shifted my perspective regarding size of Con and function of Con, this is where I really found my groove. See the beautiful thing about these smaller writer/creator focused cons, was community.
Now I am an introvert, so if you met me at Con and I seam outgoing please don’t let that fool you. I also love community theatre, and know how to smile and be enthusiastic and let all of my geek spill out of me. It is both me and a performance – like turning up the volume. But before you get to this blue haired bubbly person, know that the first time I was at Con I felt like the panelist where other. I felt like they were eons ahead of me, and on a platform I could never possibly touch. It was intimidating.
Then I complimented someone on their hair thing they had in the hall waiting for panel to start, and we get into the room, and it was a panelist. I was both proud of myself and mortified at the same time, but once I processed the situation, it became easier to talk to people around me. Compliment them. Tell them something nice that you like about them. That easy. And then hopefully, there is an open conversation.
Side note, that panelist was Leah Bobet, and we are online friends, and this delights me to no end. She has amazing complicated thoughts, and any time she posts I find my mind bending around corners it didn’t know existed.
So this year at CanCon I was the most myself I have ever been. I felt like I knew the lay of the land. I had my online friends, I knew where going to be there, and I was SO excited to see them. To support them and go to their panels and just be there for their general awesomeness. And that was what I did. I got to meet new con family, and support new people. And the term Con family has caught on. These are the people I see once, maybe twice a year. But they are nevertheless an extension of my community. These are my people, and being able to connect with them makes my heart all kinds of happy and full.
We talked writing, we talked personal lives. We talked, and talked, and it was amazing. After hours was just as important as panels. I felt full when I left.
CanCon also did an amazing job of being inclusive and creating a safe space for everyone. I read the rules before attending, because they emailed us, and I felt it was important to be on top of that. There where non-gendered bathrooms. I have some feelings on that, stemming from cleanliness and love of my own stall. I would recommend just all stalled washrooms, and more frequent cleanings to overcome that.
The panels where well balanced. They had people from industry and varying backgrounds on each panel, and if felt like the conversations on each of them was well rounded. There where varying moments of mad scribbles for ideas I want to pursue in my writing. Stories I want to write. Creative projects I want to work on.
However, the most profound thing, this thread I noticed interlacing from panel to panel, was this pull for inclusivity. For making the world broader. For exploring outside the cis, heteronormative narrative that predominates society. And not just gender or sexual orientation, but ablest thinking. That becoming disabled is the price you pay for magically abilities. That we except the sacrifice, and think we are writing inclusively, and we are not.
But this is the moment that stuck with me most. Because as a woman navigating society, I have felt, and questioned, why is my body a sum of body parts, used to sell this idea of sexiness. And that, that sexiness will lead to a better life?
“What if we lived in a world where sex didn’t sell?” – This profound moment brought to you by Phoebe.
Think about that. And let that sit with you for a bit.
You may have had to be there. You may have had to see the panel, to know the panelist, to feel the impact of that statement. But it was absolutely profound, and it absolutely resonated.
Thank you to everyone for the amazing con you put on, and the lengths you went to, to make it so damned fabulous.
I once thought that Ad Astra was my Con. But more and more, CanCon is tealing my hear and making me feel like I have found home.
When I was younger my family would go to Toronto almost every summer as a family vacation. While my parents tried to keep an open mind about the world, they come from a small white town, with little diversity. I come from that same small town, so even I get caught up in biases I didn’t think I had. I’m a work in progress and accept that I am here to learn and evolve.
So that being said, it was gay pride that weekend we were in Toronto. And their where all sorts of people. ALL sorts. And my parents where um concerned, because they expressed themselves very dramatically on the outside, with how they felt on the inside. I think the burly leather ones where the most intimidating for my parents.
But we were also a family with a budget, and we were there, and no matter if they felt intimated, they had lived in Toronto for years, and damit, it was their Toronto, and they wanted my sister and I to experience it.
Also my sister, my mom, and I are all avid readers. Naturally if I saw a bookstore I wanted to go in. We did the worlds largest book store, but we also stopped at this smaller boutique used bookstore. I had just discovered Terry Pratchette at the time, and was looking at what book I wanted to get of his. And here comes up behind me this big burly leather clad biker type.
Now to offer further context as woman, we are taught that any man can be a threat. It’s just a fact. I sometimes compare it to bears. When you live in Northern Ontario, you are told to be aware of bears, and the great thing is that a bear is a bear, and it looks like a bear and it’s easy to identify, so we are cautious of bears no matter what they look like. But the thing with being told to be cautious of men, is that it’s not all men. And they don’t wear a name tag that says predator, so you have no way of truly knowing. So in a small way woman are cautious of all men, like they are bears, but we’ve learnt different survival instincts along the way. It’s not fair, to either men or woman, but it is how the world operates.
But this guy, he gushes to me about his love of Terry Pratchette. He might have even told me his favorite book. I don’t remember. I do remember being pleased as punch that another person loved Terry Pratchette the way I did, and I met them out in the wild, and not online, and wasn’t this just a perfect day. To be fair a reader, is a reader, is a reader for me. They told me they loved reading, and in my mind that didn’t make them what they wore on the outside, or what I was taught to be cautious of. The moment they told me they loved Terry Pratchette in my mind they were moved to the category of reader. And that made them my people.
My mother who was with me, was of course, afterwards, are you okay. What did he say? And I was a teenager, and super blasse, and was like chill. He likes the same books, that’s all. I’m not being kidnapped into a biker gang, I promise. It was just books.
So some of you might shout at me, that a person can be both a reader and a predator. Heck, that would be my moms paranoid stance. Trust me if there is a possible scenario to worry about in the future, she’s worried about it. If there is a horror story of it happened to a friend of a friend of a friend, or I read it online, that is my mom telling you to be aware, because that too could be you. I come from my anxiety of what if scenarios naturally.
However, in this one case, I just want to look at the beauty of the moment. That a gawky teenaged girl, and this big burly biker leather clad type connected about the same author. It’s one of those things that will live with me forever. That sometimes we wear our armor on the outside, to protect our soft squishy insides. But that hopefully we are all readers, and hopefully that makes most of us good people.
So when I signed up for the Winter Novel Writing Workshop and she gave us writing homework, because of course that’s what you get when you sign up for a writing class, I lied. I lied so frigin hard. I said finding time for writing and setting up a schedule would be easy. I did this because somehow in the month of November I do manage this on a daily basis. But then I remember the burn out in December.
What we want are sustainable habits, not flash pan in the moment habits. And by we, I mean I.
The thing is finding time is not the issue. Time are these little blocks you move around in the day. They are puzzle pieces and I’m pretty familiar with their arrangements.
I know where time is located. It’s at 7pm to 9pm. See that. Two hours I can spend on writing every evening. I mean if I really wanted to get fancy, I could also do two mini 10 minutes sessions on my breaks at work. And maybe a 15 to 20 minute session before supper.
But that is cold hard time. That isn’t hanging out with my hubby or my friends, or maintaining a semblance of a life that isn’t just the day job and writing. Currently I’m doing gym in the morning, and it has been amazing for energy levels during the day, and falling asleep at night. It is not however, amazing for writing in the evening. By the time 7pm hits, I’m starting to fade, energy wise.
Now I’ve tried the not going to the gym thing, and what happens is I stay up super late, sleep awful, am tired all day, drink too much caffeine, don’t get writing done in the evening because I still don’t have brain capacity, and stay up late again. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.
Therefore, going to the gym in the morning, is a good thing. What I lack is the energy stamina needed to get my writing done when that block of time shows up in the evening.
See that. Energy is the real culprit here. That and life balance. And yes, I do sacrifice things in the life balance column. I’m not super social, besides Cowboy and doggos daily, and a few close friends I see a few times a month. And my house cleaning habits run the gambit of once a week semi maintenance, to once a month deeper clean. Even then with Cowboy home right now, I’m pawning things from my to do list onto his to do list.
So life balance and energy are the real culprits here.
I’m going to try green tea in the evenings when Cowboy has band practice. I can probably get a good 2-3 hours of deep writing in then. Hopefully green tea doesn’t mess with my precarious sleep schedule too much, and keeps me with the required writing energy.
On days where I have work, and Cowboy is not running away in the evening to band practice, I’m going to do 15 minutes sprints. This will keep me in the story, and the ideas firing. Yes, I do prefer that deep write, but honestly, I need to take what I can get.
Weekends, preferably on Sunday, I want to get that solid 5-7 hours of writing time in. You know the one, where you finesse the scenes, so they sing and you plot out your next few steps, and you feel like a god moving the set pieces around. Those are my favorite types of writing sessions.
These goals feel more manageable with my energy levels, and time management. We’ll see if I can stick to this far more realistic schedule of writing.
The first week was awesome. We went over the basic types of plots. The arch of a story. Making sure you had the right POV character, and right villains. She gave us some homework, which I did the first half – answering the questions about my story regarding, plot, characters, villains and setting.
And now here I am, working on the second part of the homework which is the writing bit of it. The challenge is to write 5K Wednesday to Wednesday. It’s really about thinking about your writing habits and how you form them. Setting aside time and space to make it happen.
I’m good with thinking about the time and space I need, and making that happen. I’m good with making the 5K happen. I’m even good with the plotting out the night before, what you want to tackle in your writing tomorrow. None of those things that she has assigned intimidate me.
Except this. Write chronologically. Do not edit as you go.
Those two things are my kryptonite. Probably because as much as I want to be a planner, I find I am more of a Pantser. The how of the story comes to me in the details of the scene.
And the no editing as I go thing, nope. Not gonna happen ever. First time I write a scene it’s all out of order. It’s word vomit on a page. It’s the idea getting out of me as fast as it can, with bits and scraps coming out at every angle. But second pass over that scene, puts it in the order it needs to be, or breaks it out into the separate scenes it’s really meant to be.
I want the first time I write the scene to be as perfect as I imagined it but because of I’m a Pantser, it’s going to take me a bit to organize that Pantsing. I accept this.
I understand why though she wants us to move on. Sometimes we are just too damned close to the thing. I have an idea in my head, but what comes out feels like I’m starring at a Picasso when I’m trying to create a Monet.
If you give it space, maybe you realize it should have been a Picasso all along.
I’ve done that. I’ve blasted out a bunch of word vomit, then a few weeks later, re-read it and gone, okay this actually works better than I gave it credit for that first time.
But sometimes, I can see clearly how the puzzle isn’t clicking, and need to re-org right then for better pacing, better flow.
I’m not saying that either way is right or wrong. I just want you to be aware of your habits. I’m aware of mine, and the why of it. You should be too.
And maybe what you are trying to do is create a hybrid, something between a Monet and Picasso. Something with gorgeous soft undertones, but also that discordant feeling of who am?
I’m having some complicated feelings about the idea of a new year and a new beginning, because mostly I feel like beginnings can happen at any time. The idea of setting up goals, and then trying to tick them off to measure success, grates at me. Success is picking yourself back up and keeping on trying. The idea that life is this big pile of happy things, and we can only have a good year, if things go just so, seams sort of impossible. Mostly because there are so many things that we do not control. There are so many things that go wrong, yet still have to live with and find ways to work with.
I have very little control over the fact that I have two aging dogs. This means I will have lots of unexpected vet visits. This past year has taught me that. Should I then measure my year as being a letdown, because we all didn’t get through it with perfect health? Or should I measure my year by the resilience of being able to get through these difficult times? I think the latter is truer.
Therefore, if success can be found in resilience, then should we not be seeking out those situations that force us to grow? I have never experienced so much personal growth, then when things are going catastrophically wrong. Yet, I have never seen someone set their new year’s goals to seek out catastrophic wrongness in life, to force themselves to deal with situations, and become a better version of themselves.
I would like life to be this happy making ride of success, where everything goes smoothly. My dogs live long and healthy lives, that don’t attempt to bankrupt me in the process. My husband finds a job and it lasts for 5 years. We get caught up on bills, and save money to travel the world. We dig out the paperwork and call the fertility clinic, and start the process to start out family. That would be an amazing year to have. Tick off those things. Mostly, good health, and financial wellbeing. That’s what I want.
Yet, I know based on last year that things are going to go wrong. Finances are going to be tight. My dogs will need to go to the vets more times than I want to have to pay for, but I will do it, because I love them beyond words. We will do our best. We will be kind to each other as best we can in the process. We will get up each day and we will try. We will make things work, and we won’t stop putting in the effort, because we believe in our small piece of the universe.
I’ll keep trying to write books. Cowboy will keep playing in a band. I’ll maybe start a youtube channel. I will continue to work the day job. I will dig out that paperwork for the fertility clinic, because despite our finances, I really really really want a family. I think we would be good at it. I think it will also be hella challenging, but that we will get through it, because Cowboy and I make a great team. We have the bones of it, we can grow from there.
I’ll start going to the gym again, at some point. I’ll try to take my 15 minutes breaks at work, and go for a walk. Maybe I’ll start wearing my fitbit again and start tracking my steps. Maybe I’ll start taking a multivitamin again. I can certainly remember my dogs medication cycle, why not my own?
So this year, rather than measure success off a list of things that need doing and being upset that the year is ruined by unexpected turns, I’m going to measure my success by my resilience. To keep trying at the things that mean something to me.
Twitter is an amazing place to find your writing community. There are a tone of great hashtags, and different writing discussions all the time. One of the things you’ll see is people being accountable and posting their word count. You’ll see it and think holly shit, why can’t I write 10K+ words in a day. Part of it is your schedule, and part of it is knowing who you are as a writer, and a lot of that comes with time and trial and error.
Therefore, today, I’m going to lift that curtain for you, and let you know what a 10k day looks like for me, and how I get it. And then what an average writing schedule looks like after I get that mystical magical 10K day.
First thing, I’m only going to get one 10 K day per writing project. This is going to happen on the first day I sit down to plot out a novel idea. This day is word vomit day. This day I’m throwing out everything I know about the book, and characters, and writing down whatever scenes I know about as fast as I can, as roughly as I can. Scene descriptions, dialogue back and forth. It’s messy. It’s idea day. I then try to format it into a Scrivener document with things like character sheets, locations, world building, and a point form list of scene ideas. Then I take any partially written scenes, and put them in their own pages and put them roughly in order.
Second thing to know, is that this type of writing is only ever going to happen on a weekend, when I have my schedule completely cleared. I’ll get up at 10 am with a story idea ticking, sit down with my laptop, and only move when absolutely necessary. I’m in the zone, and the zone is all that matters. But I need that mental space to hit the stride.
In this stage of writing, this crazy messy drafting, and word vomiting stage, please note, I’ll be lucky if 2k of what I’ve written makes it into the final product of the novel. At this stage, all of this, is just for me. It’s me trying to figure out the story, and if it’s worth telling. Sometimes stories will sit in time out for months, or even years after this, until I know how to tackle them.
So after a 10K drafting then what happens? Well either I shelf it to marinate a bit longer, or I dive back in and keep working on it.
If I dive back in this is what I’m looking at next:
After this mad drafting phase, I’m going to spend some time cleaning up. This is where the bulk of the writing comes in. I’m the type of writer that likes to clean up as I go. This way my writing feels less unwieldly. A lot of the time to get back into the writing headspace, I’m re-reading, and cleaning up, before I start drafting a new scene. A lot of time I’m massaging for flow and adding descriptions and dialogue tags. I can draft dialogue fast, but will skip everything else in that moment.
If I‘m in a scene, but can’t figure out the mechanics of what I want to do, I’ll write myself some messy notes, like I want this character to do this thing or feel this thing in this scene. I can’t tell you how many times these notes have saved my ass. Sometimes I’ll be weeks between writing sessions and when I get back in there I forget what I was trying to do, and I get to the bottom and there is my note, and I’m like YES, that is exactly what needs to happen, and now I know how to do this.
I also really like having a running point form list of scenes I want to tackle. This helps me figure out what I want to do next time I sit down to right. This is me loosely outlining. I like them in point form, because paragraphs take too much mental energy to navigate.
I also keep character sheets, and world building info sheets. You may think you can hold all that information in your head, but in my case, I’ve been dead wrong about that. Scrivener has some great templates, if you like a template. Personally I like a master list, with names, and how they are connected. Then each person gets a sheet, to which I point form there stats onto. I could organize it a bit more, but I find that it’s a rabbit whole of distraction doing a character sheet all formatted. Not everything on my character sheet fits into boxes, like hair color, or hobbies. Mine is more about who they are as a person.
So after a crazy 10K writing day, even with all of the tools I’ve set up for myself, the average writing day will look like 500 words on a weeknight. That 500 words can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours to get, depending on what I’m doing. If I’m tweaking/editing a scene, then it’s 2 hours. If I’m drafting, maybe that is 15 minutes. If I’m doing a polished first write, then it can be 1 hour.
What is a polished first write? It’s somewhere between drafting, and editing. It’s where I’m really focused on the mechanics of the scene, and being really choosy about how I’m telling that story. Every word counts, every scene descriptions, every location, every character, every emotion, every bit of dialogue. I’m painting in words, trying to evoke a mood.
I can sometimes do a 2K night on a weeknight. That will be a combination of drafting new scenes, and editing old scenes. It will be a long night of writing, with just me and my computer for 3-5 hours.
On a weekend, if I have my schedule cleared, I can do a 5K day when I’m in the writing stage of things, provided I have been living in my novel, have a good list of scenes to complete, and am working on cleaning up as I go. This is 8+ hours to get 5K.
When I was a younger writer, I could regularly do 5-8K days without thinking about it. But I also wasn’t organizing my novels the way I do now. I thought that everything I wrote went into the novel proper. I wanted to show my audience everything. From waking up in the morning, to going to bed. I wanted to show them plotting things out, and then show the exact same thing they just discussed happening. I was so green, I didn’t know about pacing and keeping your audience on the edge of their seat. I was always the person who wanted to see behind the scenes, and so in my writing I did that. It makes for great word count, but boring novels.
Now I write things like in this scene, this is what really is happening, but this is what we are going to show the audience. If you’re planning a heist, you’re not going to map out how the heist is going to go, tell the audience, and then have the heist happen, and show your audience the heist, unless in the showing everything goes wrong. Most likely, you’re going to say you have plotted a heist, fade to black, and then show the heist in process. You want people on the edge of their seat, with as little information as possible, wondering what next.
That type of writing, that knowing what you want to do, vs writing what you are willing to show, that’s an art, and that takes time. Writing is art, and the more you do it, the more you graduate from a little kid scribbling in a colouring book, to outlining and painting your own story, with layers and shading. You realize that the more detailed, the more developed, the more nuanced you make the story, the more time it takes you as the writer to craft the story, and think about it deeply.
As a newbie a good writing day was easily a 5-10K day. But of that, I know now maybe only 500-2K I could keep. As a more seasoned writer a good day is a 2K day, and of that, depending on how long I took to write the scene, 500-1.5K of that I’m going to keep. Sometimes all of it gets cut, because even when the writing is good, and the pacing is good, it could still be taking my story in a direction I don’t have time or space for.
So if you are on twitter and you see people boasting crazy word counts, this is your behind the scenes look at what that actually means for me. The reality is 500 words per day. The reality is knowing you’re going to be overwriting and cutting a lot of it. The reality is the best way to get a novel written is to have a direction. The reality is to show up as often as you can, the more the better.
Stop worrying about how other people write their novels and what their word counts are; it’s only going to drive you green with envy. Write your own novel, and cheer everyone on. It’s a much better community that way.
The best advice I received this year, was that it was okay to make mistakes.
This was as I was being hired for a new job position. My new manager didn’t expect perfection right out the gate. She knew that things could be missed, as we were both learning this new roll on the fly. So the consensus was as long I learnt from it, and we fixed it, that it would be okay.
This was a really freeing concept for me, because I think sometimes we get to a point in our lives as adults and we think that we should know everything. And therefore if we don’t know it, that we should only act once we were sure we had all the right information and all of the right tools. In short, don’t make mistakes, everything must be perfect.
We forget as kids the blind abandon of learning a new thing, and learning by doing, and trying. Not everything we try is going to work out. What matters is that we pick ourselves up again, and we keep trying.
Maybe it’s because as adults the consequences feel that much larger for failure. We have things like income, and bills, and keeping a roof over our head to consider. We are often times not just providers for ourselves, but for kids, or pets, or in a partnership. Decisions we make as adults are bigger. So we carry that weight with us, and that weight can even paralyze the smallest of decisions.
This year I wanted to launch a youtube channel. I filmed two episodes and started editing one. I did market research on everything from what makes a good youtube video, how to monetize on youtube, video editing, graphic design for headers, and equipment needed. And then I froze.
I had this idea in my head of what it would look like, and the sheer amount of work to get it there, felt overwhelming. I didn’t look at is a work in progress that could be tweaked and improved as I go, but a final polished thing that needed to be perfect before launching. I need to step back from that idea, and work on it one skill set at a time. I need to accept that there will be a learning curve, but it’s about growth, and I’ll only get better by practicing.
The first time I tried winged eyeliner was a disaster. But putting on makeup is a skill set. Your face is a canvas and only with practice will you learn how best to paint upon it. So I do my makeup for work, because it’s practice. I do my makeup for parties or to go for coffee with girlfriends, because it’s practice. I watch youtube videos so I can learn from someone else.
This year at work, I learned things like how to graduate a student, and create a CRN. Both of those things took me exceptionally long to execute the first few times. I may still have to refer to my notes, but they are no longer daunting tasks that take me an hour. I can do both in under 15 minutes.
Too often we focus on our successes, without realizing that we need those mistakes, that freedom to just try new things, and see how it works, to grow, to push ourselves, to be more. Learning how to learn again, and accepting that it’s a slow process, and you are allowed to make mistakes, is what I’m taking away from this year.
Something keeps happening this year, and I don’t know when this shift happened truly, but it’s here now.
When I first started writing, I felt like a girl on the outside looking in. I felt like I was playing in a space I didn’t truly belong in, and that I didn’t know the rules of.
This year it started with Ad Astra. Before I would compliment people and make small talk, but there was this feeling of trying. I wanted so badly, and I felt like I was trying to get into a space I didn’t quiet belong. This year though, it felt natural. It felt like I owned some of that space. That I wasn’t renting it, but that is was mine. I knew who I was in it, and what I brought to the table, and the conversations where truly connective.
That catapulted into a richer online experience on twitter. Even with twitter being the trash fire that it is, I still felt closer to these people I had met at this event. I felt like they where more than people I admired, but people I knew and related too. Friends.
I went to Can Con, and it felt like a reunion of old friends, in a new location. Even though I had never been to Can Con before, it felt familiar. We had an impromptu after hours panel in our hotel room about makeup, and tea, and we grabbed people on the elevator and invited them back, and it was all around a solid experience.
In the past as ML I would stress about the numbers. Who showed up? How could I make everyone feel welcome? How I could engage more people for next year? I’ve hosted the overnight write in for several years now at my place, and each year, I worried about it from an ML perspective.
This year, I think we had the lowest turn out, and yet, it felt to me like the best overnight write in I’ve ever hosted. It was like having an intimate gathering of your closets friends, who all brought food, and good stories, and we wrote. The fireplace was on, my tree was up, the ambiance was solid, and the company was amazing. It was cozy. It felt less like hosting, and more like connecting.
Maybe it was the best overnight write in, because I didn’t take any of the stresses as ML in it with me. I was there to write, but I’m not worried about 50K. I was there to host, but I’m not worried about number of people who show up. I left all those worries at the door and just enjoyed the people I had over.
The differed I would say this year, is that I know who I am as a writer, and feel comfortable in my own skin about it. I feel less like I’m trying to be something, and more like I am the person I’m meant to be. Less like I’m trying to impress people, and more like I’m connecting with them. It has been an amazing feeling.
So even though I’m not where I want to be in my career, I still feel like this has been a breakthrough year for me. I feel like I own the space I want to occupy, and that I’m comfortable in who I am to be their.
Remember how I said that life had a way of happening in November? Despite my best intentions of only focusing on writing, life once again found a way to make things complicated.
First my poor old doggo Rosco is having issues walking with his hindquarters. He’s pretty much bambi on ice right now. We took him for a vet appointment because he was having the yowlies in pain, but while the yowlies have improved, the walking has not. I’m worried. But he’s not dying, and the vet said as long as he still has come muscle control back there, we are going to work on it rather than put him in a doggy wheelchair because we don’t want him to lose the use of what he has. Still it’s hard, and there are no walks being had. I have a follow up vet appointment this week, so I’m hopeful we will have more information at that time. Cowboy almost bought him a wagon, but we’re trying to be positive that he’s going to be able to go out for walks again eventually.
It is hugely emotionally stressful dealing with a sick dog. He’s old, and I’m constantly worried that this is the end. It’s not, but it’s still a huge looming concern, because they are old. They are my babies, and I will absolutely be heartbroken when it happens. I’m heartbroken even just thinking about it.
Second thing, I caught a cold. Colds have a way of absolutely nocking me out. I made it into work for most of it, but it has not been conducive to getting any writing done at all. Though I did have a breakthrough with a scene that I’m eager to get to. Mostly I was a sore throat, snot nosed, and brain fogged mess. I’m nearing the end of it, but I’m using all the energy I have to get the basics done.
Third, I started my period. Normally a period would not prevent me from writing, but add that on top of the other two, and I am an emotional shitbag right now. It’s literally all I can do, not to have a complete melt down and bawl my eyes out. I can feel the anxiety clawing at my insides, trying to drown me.
When I was younger, I thought being an adult would mean having all the answers. I would intrinsically know how to deal with life, and I would be good at it. I would complete all the necessary steps in the correct order to get to adulthood, and I would not feel this way. I would not constantly be questioning my ability to do the thing, or make a decision about the thing. Being an adult is the most stressful thing I have ever had to do. I am constantly worrying about one thing or another. It is an emotional rollercoaster of second guessing yourself.
Anyways, this week’s post is to say I’m tragically behind in my word count. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I could get caught up. I doubt that’s possible. But I’m going to start writing again.
I love NaNoWriMo. I feel like I need to open with this, so you understand that i am not at all bashing this event. I feel like I need to quantify my love for it, with stated examples of how I met my writing community and friends, and everything has steadily grown writing wise from that very small beginning of deciding to do the writing thing with NaNoWriMo, to going to con’s and knowing published authors.
So I’m here to tell you that who I was as a writer when I first started doing NaNoWriMo, is not who I am now, and that is okay. At the time, I was very much a rule following girls. Rules made you safe. If you followed the rules you get from point a to point b successfully. Rules are there for a reason. If you don’t break the rules no one can be mad or disappointed in you. My rule following way is a hold over from other things.
What I’m here to tell you is to to break the rules of NaNoWriMo. Participate, but look deeper at the intention of the event, then the rules of the event.
The goal is to write 50k of a novel in the month of November. That’s roughly 1667 words per day. You should work on a new project, not an existing one. You should start at 0 words on day one. You can outline, but you can’t draft before then. It should be a novel. You should not edit as you go, all forward momentum all the time, no cutting. I would call those the rules of the event.
Okay, but let’s dig under that. What is the actual intent of writing 50K in one month? What are you really doing while writing that 50K, breaking that down into 1667 words per day? Your building a writing habit. Your pushing yourself creatively, every day, even when your exhausted to find those words and get them down. Your working past the roadblocks you would normally stumble upon and coming at your writing from different angles, all for the sake of word count.
That 50K is there to inspire you. It’s the goal. It’s bigger than you, and you keep pushing towards that everyday in the midst of your chaos filled life.
But here is the thing. I write on a work I already have started. That means I already know my characters, and I have some world building under way, and I have some plotting underway.
I’m really bad at plotting. I have a general sense of what I want to do in the novel, key plot points, key characters, some character background. However, most of it comes out in the writing. I need to be in the scene to know what has to be included in the scene. A novel is about the details and the details come out in the writing for me. I have to draft a scene, to see where I need to fill in the blanks.
I also need to re-read a scene to get back into the headspace of what I’m writing. The first time I write a scene it’s word vomit. It is essentially me plotting and outlining the scene. Dialogue, some set pieces, a little out of order, but kind of all there. Then I go back in and massage the scene. Give it flow, fill in the blank, make it pretty. So by the time I’m done draft one, it might actually be more like draft two or three.
Sometimes though, it’s about where I need to cut. Sometimes I head down the wrong way. Those words get put in a deleted scenes folder. Sometimes writing is over writing. It is trying something and finding out that it doesn’t work. You learn just as much about what works for your novel, by what doesn’t.
NaNoWriMo may encourage you to just keep swimming and turn your inner editor off. However, I’ve learnt that my style of writing, who I am as a writer, requires that I cut as I go. I like to have a much cleaner draft, future me appreciates the work I do to make sure the what I’m writing is on track and the best possible version of the scene. The purpose of not cutting and just keeping on going is to keep forward momentum. But I would also argue that it’s to push yourself creatively. Keep all versions, so you have the word count, but move them to a cut scenes folder.
When I look at the intention of NaNoWriMo, the creative abandon, the forward momentum, the writing habit, the pushing yourself creatively, I feel like I get that doing it my way. The rules are there as a guideline, but what you’re really trying to do, is give you a break through creatively and have something you can build on and keep working with.
Sure my way takes longer. As I’m aiming to get my words each day I’m realizing, I can’t get it done in under an hour the way I used to. It takes me two hours to have something I’m happy with. But I’m also plotting, drafting, and editing the work. I’m doing three jobs as I go. As a newbie, I can see why they would recommend against it. It’s easy to get trapped in a loop of making something perfect. It creates unrealistic expectations constantly tinkering over the same thing. In this we invoke Hank Green’s 80% rule. Get it 80%, and then let go. Not perfect, but good enough. Something to work with later.
As an a more experience writer, I recommend breaking the rules, and finding your own version of the essence of NaNoWriMo. Find your creative abandon, your process. It’s about having something you can work with at the end of this. It is after all for you, you are doing this for. It’s about the intent, and not the rules. You got this.