This year, my frantic month of writing went very different from last year. I completely “pantsed” it this year- meaning I went into it with no plan or outline, or any clue, really, what I was going to do.
I decided to write a story that I had thought of a year or so ago. It was just a vague, hazy story fog floating around in my head. When I first had the idea, I jotted down a few of the main points and didn’t look at it again.
The week before NaNo started this year I had a few minutes panic over what the hell I would write, so I randomly settled on that idea.
It actually turned into a bit of a sequel for last year’s NaNo Novel. It takes place in the same world, but about twenty years later.
It seems like a lot happened in November. I had surgery. I decided to start a new business (more on that in a later post). There was all this craziness, and my writing was not the first thing on my mind.
On the first day, I wrote very little. So few words were written on that day that I can’t even click on the bar on the stats page to tell me what the number was.
Things were looking bad around the third week, where I had pretty much come to a dead stop at about 32,000 words. I just didn’t wanna write. (insert whiny voice here)
Honestly, the thing that got me to finish, besides pure knuckle-down determination to see the thing to the end, was the 50% off Scrivener coupon.
Yeah. You heard me right. This year, I was in it for the swag.
Which is the first time I have been motivated to write for NaNo for the sponsor rewards, but I can’t really say it will be the last time.
On November 29th, I pushed through and went over the 50,000 words. (It took me 14 days last year to write more than I wrote in 29 days this year, just for reference) Then I immediately fell asleep and haven’t looked at the story again.
It’s not finished. Not nearly. And it was getting to a good part. The grand finale. The big banging, clanging showdown and conclusion.
There’s more work to be done. And I will do it.
My journey through NaNoWriMo this year is a good lesson. It shows that we can do this. Persistence is key.
You want your shitty first draft that I talked about last year? You’re gonna have to work for it. And, if my progress is any indication- you don’t have to work that hard.
I’m not the fastest typist in the world. I can write about 2,000 words an hour. Which means that I if I had just sat my ass down for an hour a day in November, I would have had 60,000 words.
An hour a day. You don’t even have to do that in one stretch. Break it up into 15 minutes 4 times a day.
NaNo always reminds me that yeah, writing can suck. And yeah, writing is hard. But, in it’s basic, most fundamental form, it is so damned easy.
Just show up. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to even be good. That’s the whole point, actually- to give yourself permission to suck.
Look at me- I was pretty close to the definition of underachiever this month. Yet, I’m still considered a winner. NaNoWriMo folks celebrated my accomplishments.
Hell, even I celebrated my accomplishments. Because I wrote over 50,000 words on a brand new story in November. I created new characters, new situations, new worlds. I even, in a fit of procrastination, made a lovely cover for my book:
The month wasn’t an overwhelming success. No one will be seeking me out to write about me in the history books. No one will be calling to offer me major awards.
Yet, it was a success. It still brought me joy and frustration and taught me lessons that I needed to be reminded of.
This year was different in other ways- I didn’t have a friend in the real world working along beside me and checking in almost daily. I didn’t find the same motivation in NaNo Word Sprints that I did last year. I had a harder time focusing. My competitive side fell asleep somewhere and never came back, so I didn’t care what my writing buddies were doing.
To me, it doesn’t really matter how we finished the month. If you had the courage to try, the crazy itch to write, if you just typed your name and couldn’t continue, you still got somewhere. You still came out of the month with more than you had when you went in.
My love for NaNoWriMo is still strong. This thing that I have nurtured and cradled in my brain for over a year came alive last month and became real. That is powerful. That is what NaNo does for people.
So maybe I wasn’t the greatest of winners this year. Maybe I barely made it. But I’m going to finish this story. I’m confident in my ability to just show up and make it happen. And I’ll be back next year for even more.
That month of frenzied writing called NaNoWriMo is coming up soon. It really seems like I just did this. The year has past by far too quickly and I am surprised to find myself coming up on one of my favorite annual events. I am wholly unprepared (what’s new?).
Last year I continued writing a story I had already been working on. That may have been as far as my plans went, but they were a starting point.
Things have been a bit crazy and hectic on the home front lately and I have not had much time to focus on writing, reading, etc.
So now I must delve into the plethora of ideas I have to see what I want to try to focus on next month.
Do I continue some other story that has been begging for attention? Or do I start fresh, as the “rules” state?
My fingers are itching to start typing already and stories are calling out to me from the depths to be written.
It’s exciting to think about, but also daunting. I always find myself nervous to undertake this project because I question if I will be able to push myself and complete it.
My competitive side really wants to blow this thing out of the water every single year. This year will be a decade since I first participated and won.
I have not won every year since I began. And that is fine. I still tried and I still got some work done. I also learn something about myself and my writing every time.
Even though I push myself hard and feel disappointed if I don’t hit the 50,000 word goal, I feel like this is a worthy event.
Which is why I still show up every year.
I’m proud to say that the years I won and surpassed my goal outnumber the years I haven’t hit the goal.
NaNoWriMo is a great way for me to re-enforce habits. It gets me into the regular practice of sitting my ass down and writing.
I don’t know about you guys, but I certainly need that yearly reminder.
Because writers write. And sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do.
To help me keep on track with my writing goals, I am going to start making regular “Words of the Week” posts.
These posts will be where I share something new that I have written. It may be a short story, flash fiction, anything. Possibly even a serial that I have in mind… Who knows!
Back when I started this blog it was mainly a place for me to post my assignments for a travel writing course I was taking. I am working on a travel writing course again and so you’ll be seeing some of those assignments posted too.
This is the first “Words of the Week”, and I am still trying to work out the kinks of my plan for these posts, so bear with me as I figure it out.
Also, I know that this should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway. All stories and personal pictures on my site are my intellectual property. Don’t take any of it and use it without permission. Specifically to this post, future and previously written posts, do not use my writing.
This is a short story or flash fiction, if you will, that I wrote last week. Hope you like it!
Time has no meaning in the tower. Mitch finds it difficult to stay awake most nights during his shift.
He is dozing in his chair again, cheek propped on his hunched shoulder when the beeping wakes him. Startled, he leans forward, unsure what he is looking at, the confusion of sleep muddling his comprehension.
The room is dark, the only light coming from the monitors on the panel in front of him. Now a new light flashes. One Mitch has never seen before.
It flashes red in quick bursts, accompanied by a shrill beep. Each flash washes the room in an alarming crimson that at first makes Mitch think about blood.
He is filled with foreboding. This cannot be a good thing. It has never happened before and he is at a lost as to what it means. He is sure that this was covered in his training years ago, yet has no recollection of it.
Mitch is panicking slightly, wondering if he will lose his job. Then he wonders if this alarm could mean something worse and if he could be in danger of physical harm.
The phone under the counter rings. This being the ominous black phone that is not to be used. It hasn’t ever rung. Mitch hesitates before he opens the cupboard.
The phone keeps shrieking, a thrilling that grates his nerves when the cupboard doors are open. The ring is louder than the alarm and more frightening to him.
The receiver is almost ice cold under his fingers. This is when Mitch realizes that the temperature in the room has dropped drastically and he can see his own breath.
He raises the receiver to his ear, noticing that the monitors are all filling with a series of numbers that keep repeating.
Mitch has started shivering and his fingers are numb.
“Have you started the evacuation procedure?”
He doesn’t recognize the deep voice on the other end of the line.
“Who is this?”
“Have you started the evacuation procedure?”
Frantically Mitch looks around for his old procedure manual. Nothing. He can’t find it. He presses a few buttons on his keypad, hoping to provoke some response from the computer. Again, nothing.
“You have five minutes left to complete evacuation and exit the tower.”
Click. The line goes dead.
Mitch stares at the receiver unbelieving. What did that mean? The voice had sounded more angry than anything else. Mitch wonders if the anger indicates that he will only be losing his job and not causing loss of life, including his own.
He is not reassured by the loud sounds coming from his panel or the distinct change in atmosphere inside the tower.
Glancing at the steel door, Mitch leans down and does the only thing that he can think of at the moment. With a hard yank he pulls all the wires out of the wall. The monitors go dark.
The room is sunk into a piercing black, punctured only by the red flash that continues to blink incessantly. Somehow the beeping from the alarm seems to get louder.
Mitch can feel his lungs tightening. He feels claustrophobic in the blinding darkness. The eerie light is making things worse. He is having trouble catching his breath. It feels like ice hitting his lungs when he manages to take in some air.
Outside the door there are no sounds that Mitch can make out. There should be a guard posted there, one who locks and unlocks the door at the beginning and end of the shift.
Mitch is on his hands and knees. He cannot feel his fingers, toes, ears or nose. He crawls across the small room toward the door.
Hoping that the guard is still there he reaches up and feebly bangs his fists against the steel. It echoes loudly.
“Please! Someone open the door! I’m still in here!”
There is no response from the other side, no sound of a key sliding into the lock. Mitch imagines that there are icicles hanging from his nostrils. It has become so cold. He can’t think about anything except getting out.
He leans back against the door, wrapping his arms around himself to try and capture some warmth. In the red glow that washes over him every few seconds, he can see that his finger nails appear to have gone black.
Frantically Mitch turns slightly and slams his knuckles against the door. He cannot feel anything. It seems like he has to peel his fist from the steel door. His mind races and he thinks of his skin coming off with each bang on the freezing metal.
As he sits there in the cold his thoughts wander, finally resting on what he has done. With his final breath, Mitch is certain that his incompetence has caused the death of hundreds of people and that he deserves this kind of suffering.
With one last hitching intake of ice cold air, Mitch shudders and slides down the wall slightly, coming to rest sitting halfway up against the door.
At 4 am, the usual end of the shift, there is the creak outside the steel door of the tower. A key is inserted into the lock and turns with a clank. The door is pulled open. Bright light floods into the room.
Mitch’s body falls backward and comes to rest on the feet of the guard.
With a disgusted shake of his head the guard leans down and grasps Mitch under his arms and drags him into the hall. As he re-enters the small room at the top of the tower, the guard mutters under his breath.
“Should have read the damned manual.”
He strides purposefully across the little space, reaches under the counter and picks up the black phone.
“We’re going to need a tech up here. The guy ripped the wires out of the wall. And we’re going to need a new observer for the shift tomorrow night.”
There is a moment of silence as the guard listens to the voice on the line.
“Yeah. Froze to death. I’ll bring the body down now.”
Another moment while the guard listens. He sets the receiver down without saying another word. He closes the tower door behind him. There is a click as the lock is engaged.
You all might recall that in my post recapping NaNoWriMo 2013, I referred to my efforts as “a smelly pile of first draft poop”. Well, it may be worse than I had thought.
That previous sentence may be the result of frustration. (no, seriously- there is no “may be” to it) I still believe that my gem of a novel is buried somewhere in there.
Way, way, way down in there.
As you probably have guessed, I have started the process of editing my novel. And it makes my head hurt.
Trying to keep track of the events that came out of nowhere, characters that appear and disappear but have the same name as other characters, and all the other mazes that I built during my rush of writing and promptly forgot about makes for an interesting time.
Before I started NaNo, I had an idea of what was going to happen in this particular story. It went off the rails by a lot. Now I am left to figure out which story is the better one, and how to, or even if I should, incorporate bits of both.
Add to that the fact that I have two new stories in my head that are wanting to bulldoze over this previous story and you are left with a brain that hurts.
Oh, and the part about me being a bit of a perfectionist and a stickler for details….
Honestly, I think the majority of the frustration comes from a lack of knowledge on my part.
I don’t know how to approach this thing and I am overwhelmed by it. I want it to be good. Damn good. Great, even.
In the past when I have written stories, I would finish them, pat myself on the back, maybe print a copy, and move the freak on.
Now I have a different goal with my writing. I want to follow through and pursue publishing. Which adds all this extra pressure.
I’m trying to not let it get to me. I am trying to approach the editing process from a place of zen. Keyword being “trying”.
After November, I set the story aside for a month so it could breathe (or rather, so I could breathe). At the start of the year, I picked it up and began this whole editing shebang. Slowly but surely, I am hacking away at it.
I don’t know if this will be the story that eventually gets published. I do believe that if I keep writing, keep working on making my stories and work better, someday I will have something published.
So, for now, I am burying myself deep in my lovely pile of word poop and am hoping to dig out something worth a damn.
I’m also going to keep writing. I have more stories in me to tell and that- the writing and creating- is what I love.
Those other novels rushing around in my head can’t be written by just anyone.
Wish me luck on the editing and if you have any words of wisdom for me, please share. Please.
On the words of wisdom note- I was in the middle of writing this blog post when I got an email. It was a new blog post by Chuck Wendig. (If you don’t read his blog or books, you should. Just sayin’)
Anywho. The blog post in my inbox happens to be a well-written and timely look at the whole writing process that seems to be fitting to link to here. So go check it out. It’s much more eloquent than I pretend to be.
Sometimes the world conspires against you.
Sometimes you go out of your way to stay up late and work on your novel at midnight on November 1st. You get about 2,000 words into it. Then the power goes out.
When was the last time I hit “save”? Quick! Where can I write down my train of thought before it derails? I was on a roll. I couldn’t just go to bed without knowing how much of my work I had lost.
The power came back on about 40 minutes later. 40 minutes that I had spent in the dark, crazy muttering to my cats about my lost novel and the precious words that were wasting away in my head.
Hey, it was about 2 am. I had been up a long time. I was sucking down large gulps of caffeinated green tea (I hate coffee and I never drink caffeine) from an oversized mug that reads “A GIANT CUP OF I DON’T GIVE A SHIT”.
Needless to say, I was not at my most sane point in life.
Then my wireless keyboard batteries were dead. Dead! It was as if the gods had decided that I was not to write my novel.
That was the rocky beginning of my journey into NaNoWriMo this year.
My personal goal was to write at least 2,000 words a day so that I would end the contest with 60,000 words.
On day 1 I wrote 8,719 words. I was elated that I had knocked out that many right off. I even re-read my work and it wasn’t half bad!
Day 3 was the magical day that I discovered word sprints. (Word sprints are when you set a timer and write as many words as possible during that time.)
It was awesome. I would do 30 minute sprints and found that under pressure, I was writing roughly 1,000 words in 30 minutes. In my 4th sprint, I did over 1,500 words! I ended the day with 6,763 new words.
I also found a thrill and motivation from discovering on day 3 that two of my favorite books, “Water for Elephants” and “The Night Circus” were NaNo books.
(You have no idea how much I love “The Night Circus”. That book is amaze-balls, if you haven’t read already. Read it now! Stop reading my blog and go get this book!) If you’re interested, there is a list of 8 bestsellers that began as NaNo novels here.
Day 4 was the day that the bones in my hands and forearms ached constantly. Yes, this happens from typing. Yes, it hurts. Still, I kept at the word sprints and hit the halfway point.
I had a total of 25,057 words at the end of the day and I was amazed. I had doubled the size of my novel in 4 days! I didn’t really believe it then and I’m not sure I really believe it now.
The thing is, I knew at the beginning, before I even started, that I had to knock out as many words as possible in the first few days. I know myself well enough and I’ve experienced it in previous years that as the month goes on and the holidays get started, I will lose momentum.
So I hunkered down (as we say in the south). I hammered away at my poor, overused keyboard in the beginning of the month.
I also procrastinated like nobodies business and read almost every ridiculous article on the internet and watched old youtube videos from 2009 about NaNo.
Day 7: I’m pretty sure that I wrote the worst paragraphs I’ve ever written on this day. Still, I sat down and hit my 2,000 word goal for the day and I moved past a part of the story that I hadn’t been looking forward to writing.
Day 9 was the NaNoWriMo writing marathon. The marathon was a day I looked forward to. I was so excited. Then the day of the marathon did not go as planned.
The power went out and the Internet went down. (This whole power going out regularly thing was a new situation at my house, another obvious sign that the gods hate my novel.) Still, I had set a goal of writing 6,000 words that day and I forced myself through it.
My saving grace, once again, was the magic of NaNo Word Sprints. 15 minute sprints work wonders.
My characters did not fare well during this day. Three of them died, one became a monster, another was shot and one other went to prison. My characters kinda hate me right now.
Days 10 through 13 were what I call doldrum days. These are the days when I had no interest in my novel, hated everything about it, thought it was awful, mundane, not worth going on.
I skipped a few days of writing. One day I eked out a little over 900 words that were complete crap and probably won’t make it out of editing. The fact that I was over 40,000 words in is what got me out of this. I wanted to win, dammit.
Day 13 I made it past 45,000 words and knew the end was in sight. I was excited, and scared.
I wanted to win NaNoWriMo, which I had no doubt at this point would happen, but I also wanted to have a complete first draft by the end of the month.
I was well aware that my story was nowhere near finished yet. I worried that once I hit 50,000 words, I would stop writing.
So I almost stopped writing here to prolong the agony. Because humans. Are. Weird. and I am no exception.
I worried myself over using the same words repetitively, not being descriptive enough, and just generally not being good enough.
On Day 14 I hit 51,348 words around 11pm. My wrists hurt. I had had maybe four hours of sleep the previous night. I wanted to be excited, but more than that, I wanted to go to bed.
I also discovered at this point that the NaNoWriMo word validator was coming up with a different number from my word processor. It was about 1,000 words less.
This confused me, but was alright because I was still over 50,000 words and it was one day before the halfway mark. I, as my friend Jessica kept telling me, was on fire.
I revised my word count goal for the month to 80,000 or when the story ended. I wanted to keep writing my daily goal of 2,000 words.
Days 15 through 22 were days that were devoted to other things. I opened an Etsy shop, started to learn needle felting and focused more on everyday life things.
Like the two weeks worth of laundry that had piled up and the other messes that my living space had somehow accumulated. I wrote not a word. And I felt awful about it.
It loomed over me every day that my novel was languishing, wilting away, and that I wasn’t going to meet my goal if I didn’t get my ass in gear. I internally beat myself up a lot during this time.
Day 23 I finally sucked it up and started typing again. Also, for some reason (maybe because I used to binge-read The Hunger Games trilogy and it wrecked me over and over), this pep talk by Lev Grossman hit home and armed me to keep on keeping on.
So I ended up writing almost 9,000 words between Day 23 and 25.
When the clock struck midnight on the 25th, the first day that people could start validating their word counts for reals, my word count had already been validated and my stats on the site automatically updated to show that I, as it stated, was a “WINNER”.
I claimed my goodies and printed out my certificate. It is awesome to have in my hand.
This thrilled me to death. I wanted to shout it out my door so all the neighbors would hear. I had not only hit over 60,000 words, but I was an officially declared 2013 National Novel Writing Month Winner! Yay!!!
I had even picked out an image to help commemorate the occasion:
I’m willing to admit that I basked in my winner glory for a little bit.
This didn’t help alleviate the pressure I was feeling, though. I wanted that complete first draft. Bad. I wanted to finish the month with 80,000 words or a finished first draft if it killed me.
I may have wasted a week away, but I still had a week to write as many words as possible. I was in it to win it (as Randy Jackson would say).
I had written almost 30,000 words in the first 5 days of the month, so I knew I could write just as many in the last 5 days of the month.
Two days before Thanksgiving I got a commission for other work and was focused on that.
And, you know, Thanksgiving.
On day 29, I decided that the last two days of NaNo would be dedicated to finishing the book. However many words that took.
I wasn’t so sure, on day 30, that I would make it. My extremely rough outline still had a lot of sections on it that I hadn’t written yet.
I just kept writing, though, and my story ended up finishing itself at about 8:30 pm. I had written 76,778 words in the month of November and I had a complete first draft.
I was elated! Before NaNoWriMo, I had written 20,385 words, so my first draft came in at 97,163 words.
I printed all 150 pages and laid it to the side to give it some time to breath before I start editing.
The month was full of it’s highs and lows. It was amazing. It was terrible. I loved all of it.
I learned that I write better with noise in the background, but not the television. I need music.
I learned I need a timer running to focus. If I just start writing with no end in sight, then I’m not as productive.
On the flip side, I learned that if I don’t watch it, I will just quit writing when the timer stops, even if I am in the middle of writing a scene and have in my head where it is going next.
I learned that having a friend who is also participating that I know, in person, helps me. I have someone to talk to every day about my word count and my crazy day. And this year I had that.
I also learned that having writing buddies on the NaNo site is a great motivator. I am super competitive. Seeing that I had gotten ahead of all my writing buddies on day 1, I decided I had to stay ahead of them.
I loved the community on the site, on Twitter. Not so much the community on some Facebook groups. Once I learned which groups weren’t my kind of place, I stayed away from them.
It would help me to write if I wrote even a few words and updated my NaNo page so it was listed on my stats. I would see that 40 or so words listed and be motivated to get it over a thousand words for the day.
I learned and mastered the art of procrastination. I was already a procrastinator previously, but I truly mastered it in November.
Sometimes I desperately needed a plot bunny to hop out from wherever they come from and start nibbling at my brain. For these moments, I would email my story to myself in PDF format, step away from my writing space, and sit down to read what I had written.
I wasn’t allowed to edit or remove anything. I just had to read it as if it was someone else’s story that I had picked up. This always helped me to figure out where the story was going next. As I would read, the story would fill itself in.
I learned what I’ve heard a million times over and it never clicked before: just show up.
Writing is work and it is going to take a lot of drafts for my little novel to make it to a point where it is ready for public consumption. But it will never get there if I don’t actually write.
So, I gave myself the permission to suck. My only goal was to get words on the page. And if I showed up and did the work, I won.
I will never, ever, have words written, have a complete book, if I don’t sit down and write.
NaNoWriMo teaches you discipline. It teaches you to sit your ass down and grind out some words even when you feel like it is the last thing you want to do.
I am not a person who likes outlines in any form. They just don’t do it for me. But I had read a blog post somewhere the week before NaNo started that suggested that you write out 30 sentences, one for each day of NaNoWriMo.
If you can write 2,000 words per day for each sentence, you’ll be a winner by the end of the month.
I didn’t follow that idea precisely, but I did find it helpful. I kept a stack of papers numbered 1 through 30 beside my keyboard for the month. I would write out where I saw the story going in the next few days and it helped keep me on track.
I could read my scribbles and start the next scene with some confidence that I knew what was happening. So thanks to that blog writer for the idea!
I have no clue who wrote it and where I saw it… I was somewhat dismissive of the idea before I tried it so I didn’t go out of my way to keep track of where it came from. Any of you know the blog post I’m talking about?
Most of all, I learned that first drafts are crap. That’s just the way it has to be.
A first draft is where you literally poop out whatever ideas and craziness happens to be running around in your head.
You are left with a smelly pile of first draft poop that is masking your wonderful gem of a novel. You have to sculpt and edit that pile multiple times until it shines and everyone is able to see it’s beauty.
It’s your wonderful little poop draft and you’re going to have to baby that mo fo until everyone can love it too. (Are you tired of the poop analogy yet? Cause that how you’re going to feel about that shitty first draft- it is going to exhaust the hell out of you.)
This first draft crap is what has to happen to end up with a piece of writing that is worth a damn.
Without this first draft, you don’t have a book.
You have an idea. In your head. You don’t have words on a page. You don’t have anything.
You have to shit out this first draft. It is just the way it has to be.
Thanks for the lessons, NaNoWriMo. Thanks for everything. You reminded me this year why I loved doing this event that first time in 2004.
Congratulations to everyone who won and those who didn’t win but attempted to. If you came out of it with more words than you started with, you are a winner.
It’s been a busy week here at CandaceOnline. If you haven’t yet noticed, there were some changes made to the website.
You can now subscribe by email to my blog. I have also added a new Gallery page where you can view my arts and crafts all in one place.
I hit over 50,000 words on my NaNoWriMo novel on the 14th, a day before the halfway point! My goal for the month has been upped to 80,000.
Last but not least, if you missed the announcement, my Etsy shop opened yesterday. You can get 20% off this weekend in celebration of the grand opening. Just enter the code GRANDOPEN at checkout.
Now that you’ve been updated, let me leave you with some inspiration!
Youtube is a great place to find videos that will offer you motivation and encouragement. Whatever your thing is, there are videos up there on how to do it, tips, tricks, etc.
I love going on there and watching the videos of people doing their artwork. Some of my favorites are the ones doing abstract paintings. As you guys know, that is my thing these days!
I’ve been knocking out new sets of abstracts on a regular basis. Usually I have a starting point in mind, what colors and shapes I will use, but sometimes I just start slapping paint on the canvas and go from there.
I love the videos done by John Beckley. Here’s a great one by him:
It is that time again! NaNoWriMo starts in a few weeks on November 1st and I am taking another go at it this year.
So gird your loins, people. Prepare yourself for my crazy rants over the next month or so while I try desperately to squeeze 50,000 words into a coherent, novel-like form in 30 days.
And then for when I try to edit those paragraphs that were born in the dirty trenches of NaNoWriMo. Because as those of us Wrimos know, polishing these words into something resembling turds is even harder than putting them on the page in the first place.
I jest (no I don’t). Seriously. I’ve found that a large amount of humor and self-deprecation is needed to make it through these months ahead.
If I am going to achieve 50,000 words in 30 days, I cannot take myself too seriously. I’d lose my freakin’ mind if I did that.
Since I have accomplished this feat in previous years, I have some idea of what I am in for.
So, as usual, I have formed a plan. This year the plan is: no plan at all! This plan is a little easier to follow since I am going to “cheat” this year.
Technically it’s not cheating. Not really. Read the rules. It’s not. (thou doth protest too much) I will be continuing work on my current novel, not starting a completely new one.
I will only be submitting the words written, brand-new, in the month of November to the contest. So it really isn’t cheating. I’ll be writing all new words.
My goal/hope is that at the end of the contest, I’ll not only have 50,000 new words under my belt, but my first draft of the novel will be complete.
At which point I will begin the mind-numbing work of editing it and will emerge from my cave in 2014 with all my hair gone and a complete second draft.
AH! Everyone wish me luck! I feel I should also point out that I probably won’t be posting as much of my artwork since my focus will be on NaNoWriMo for awhile.
I’m crazy excited, though! And, as some have said, I might just be plain crazy.
That’s ok, since I think it is glaringly apparent that to undertake NaNoWriMo and succeed requires some insanity.
In a previous post, I explained NaNoWriMo. It’s that time of year, and I will be participating again this time around.
I have been reading through my first NaNo novel from 2004. I haven’t looked at this story in years.
The story takes place in the future, in a world where many people have left Earth and live in space. There is a war going on between the “Earthlings”, an organization called “The Treaty” and aliens.
A lot of work needs to be done to the story, but that is to be expected from something I wrote over the course of 30 days and had never thought of before that.
I haven’t edited anything yet. There are a lot of spelling and grammar mistakes, so for now you will have to forgive those.
Don’t worry- this novel is still my main writing focus and I am working hard on it. I am hoping to self-publish it within a year!
Here’s an excerpt from my 2004 NaNoWriMo Novel:
Captain Ellie had sent out a message for help. The Treaty, the organization that owned this damned station refused. They had their own attacks to fend off at the main base, they couldn’t spare any ships. She had even called for the earthlings to send up a few of their ships to help save them. They had refused, saying they had no reasons to help us when we wouldn’t help them.
Bitter earthlings. The bastards. All of them. The Treaty, the earthlings, the aliens. Damn this three sided war. Ellie sat down in the control room and covered her face with her hand. They were all going to die.
Dre hadn’t moved and I put my hand on her arm.
“We’ve got to get Jasper!”
“That man, I recognize him.”
I didn’t look to see who she meant because I was already fighting the crowd of moving people to find my way back to the resident hall. Dre came behind me, but was not paying much attention. I noticed then that she wasn’t repaired, her chest covering, a flesh substitute used on all androids, was hanging open.
Looking at her, I knew the whole thing in the jail must have been a malfunction. With a part missing from her mechanics, having been shot and not fully repaired and then I wasn’t sure when she had last been charged, I knew she must have been only half working properly.
I found the area where our rooms were. No one was to be seen. Everyone must have been in the docking area. Smoke was filling the upper parts of the halls, covering the roof. I opened my room, packing my backpack while Dre checked Jasper’s room.
They joined me, Jasper looking weak with sweat on his face. I wondered if he had a flu of some sort. I handed Dre my bag and took Jasper’s arm and draped it over my shoulder. On the way back to the docks, my head throbbing and the alarms beginning to really bother us, I saw someone limping forward, leaning against a wall in a darkened corridor to our right. My mind went to what I had done to Kyla.
I handed Jasper over to Dre and told them to keep moving and I would catch up. I went to help the person, I saw fire sneaking down the hall behind them. The lights were beginning to go out. I was even more shocked when I reached the wounded person. It was Kyla.
She had her eyes closed and wasn’t getting very far. I pulled her to me, walking backwards to the docking station. Her feet dragged. Blood covered her lips. Tears came to my eyes. What had I done?
I backed right into Dre and Jasper, who were just standing at the door of the docking area. I turned, my arms aching from the burden of Kyla’s weight. People all throughout the docking level had stopped moving. Some were crying, others were like us, standing there.
No ships were left to board. None. It looked like everyone left here was going to die. I wasn’t willing to give up and I knew the moment I had started to drag Kyla from that corridor that I was going to do whatever I could to keep her alive.
Dre looked at Kyla and grabbed her hand. I asked if she would help hold Kyla. Jasper was standing straight and looked a little better. He said he could make it fine by himself. I watched as Dre lifted Kyla and carried her on her back.
Leading them out of the docking area, no one asked what I had planned. Which was lucky, since I had no plan. There just had to be a way to get out of here. I went the opposite way from where we had just been. Jasper coughed behind me, racking coughs that had him bent over. We stopped and waited. Kyla started to mutter. Every time I looked at her I wanted to cry and I hated myself just little more.
We reached the repair shop, which was the other end of the station. No where else to go after it, except back. I saw Lonnie, walking around humming. The alarms had stopped sounding and the only noise was the sound of explosions and the station rocking. Lonnie seemed oblivious to what was happening.
He saw us and waved, smiling. I went over to him.
“Lonnie? Don’t you know we’re about to die?”
“What? Die? Don’t think so.”
Lonnie wiped a wrench with an old rag to rid it of grease. I watched him, so calm and composed.
“I got an old ship back there. I’m gonna pack up a few more things and get going.” Lonnie looked around and saw the others, his eyes widening. “Hey! You guys want a ride?”
I was suspicious. I felt my eyebrow raise.
“Whose ship is it?”
“Does it matter? I don’t see the owner here to claim it.”
The station rocked hard and tilted. I looked back at my broken friends. I nodded my head and went to them. We helped Lonnie pack and the stolen ship sped away just a moment before the station blew up. Dre watched out the window as the fire lit up the sky for a second and then went out.
Here are some links to sites/people who inspire me. These are artists or people whom I have followed over the years that I look to when I need a lift or encouragement.
I want to mention someone that I have chosen not to link to. An artist that inspired me for years- Jessica Galbreth. In the making of this blog post, I discovered that she has cut ties with her earlier works. She believes she was possessed by a demon while creating her “dark art” and has destroyed all originals in her home.
This is shocking to me, as the art she no longer claims has been such a huge part of my journey as an artist. I think those pieces depict beauty and wonder. I love them. I suppose her current views personally offend me because for a time when I was younger, I attempted to mimic her work. I learned a lot from studying it. Much of my style is made up of what I picked up from her and other fantasy artists like her.
As of now, she does only angel art. It is still beautiful work, and she is a great artist. I am saddened by her denouncement of her earlier fantasy work. I am not linking to her because she has removed all the works that I found so inspiring from her website.
Anyway. I hope you all can find your own inspiration from these resources. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are some of my loves. I could gush and tell you stories about them, but I will provide links and let you form your own ideas.
I have divided them into categories for convenience, but I find that many of these overlap.
I started a story in February that I’d like to possibly self-publish someday. It would be pretty cool to put it up on Amazon as an e-book. It needs a lot of work before I can do that, though.
The story is kind of dark. It follows the life of a woman who, at the age of six, sees her mother get killed by her father. It is told from multiple viewpoints and the timeline starts before her birth and goes into her adult years.
The focus of the story is really the relationship that the main character has with her best friend and her brother. Or the lack of relationship in some ways. Her rough childhood shapes the way she interacts with the world and other people.
In my original plan for the story, I intended to throw in some sci-fi/fantasy aspects, but I’m not sure those will make it to the final draft. It seems like a bit much. I’ll have to see. For now, I am just writing. Not editing yet.
Today I’m posting from the first chapter. These parts are from the perspective of the brother. I started writing him first and I really connected with his character, so I have a soft spot for him.
There is a lot of background stuff going on that I won’t get into right now. This is just a small part of the story, and I hope you enjoy it.
Keep in mind, this is a really rough draft. This is how it came out of my head. Let me know what you think!
“The Early Years”
Walter’s favorite part of the day is after dinner. His dad always tells him goodnight, pats him on the head and disappears into his study. Then Walter has his mom all to himself.
She gently bathes him, running her fingers through his hair while smiling and singing softly. She smells like cookies and flowers. She shines and he loves when she looks at him with a smile. He loves her kisses and how warm he feels when she tucks him into bed.
His favorite pajamas have horses on them and he loves playing cowboys and indians with the two boys who live next door.
Tonight his mom puts his favorite pjs on him and tucks him in tightly. “Like a burrito”, she would whisper in her singsongy voice.
He is delighted when she leans over and picks up his favorite book for bedtime. He falls asleep to the sound of her reading, her fingers in his hair. Walter feels loved and safe with his mom.
The next morning his mom is still there, lightly shaking him and telling him it is time for breakfast. He can smell bacon and eggs. His dad has already left for work and this morning time is his second favorite part of the day.
Walter’s feet won’t touch the floor when he is seated at the dining room table. He swings his legs back and forth happily. He doesn’t worry about going to school.
He likes school. His friends are there and his teacher is nice to him. He has heard about kids being bullied on the bus, but he’s not sure what that means and his mom drives him to school anyway.
They chat as the sun comes up and makes it’s way in through the windows. It hits his mom’s hair and he smiles because the color of her hair in the sun reminds him of chocolate.
“Did you sleep ok, Wally?”
His mom is the only one who calls him Wally. He doesn’t like it when anyone else says it. His dad disapproves. Walter once heard him tell his mom that it made their son sound like a “pussy”.
“Good, good.” She hums between bites of eggs. She smiles when Walter’s swinging feet reach her knees and rest there for a moment. “Your dad won’t be home for dinner tonight. How about we go out someplace? Maybe to the Dairy Queen? I think we need a treat. Some ice cream for dessert? What do you think, Wally?”
He’s excited about a night out with his mom and nods because he has a mouth full of food. His mom has been doing a good job of teaching him manners. He likes to please her.
“Oh, and maybe we can watch a movie? There’s a new Disney movie out, we can stop by the video store on the way home.”
One of Walter’s favorite things about his mom, and he has a lot of favorite things about his mom, is her tendency to talk to him like he is an adult. No one else talks to him this way.
Sometimes she is distracted, like now, when she rinses plates and talks about the movie they will see later that night. If he were older he might have thought that she was talking to herself, she acted as if she were alone.
But he wasn’t older and he loved his mother more than anything. More than his favorite teddy bear, more than his pajamas with the horses, more than his bedtime story. She was perfect to him in everything she did.
When they got to the school, she walked him to his classroom. Walter pulled his mom down to his level and wrapped his arms around her neck, kissing her sloppily on the cheek.
This is the worst moment of his day. Saying goodbye to his mom in the morning. It is scary and he always feels a little sick to his stomach when she walks away.
He would sit down at his desk with the feeling lingering inside. Someone, a classmate or his teacher, would talk to him and the feeling would quickly be forgotten.
That feeling would come rushing back at the end of the day while he waits outside for her car to pull up. He will feel a little guilty that he didn’t miss her more during the day.
Then he sees her smile, hears her call his name, and he runs over, delighted to be near her once again.
“Boy, did I miss you today Wally!” She holds him briefly in a tight hug, then releases him to pull out of the parking lot. She is never late to get him.
“How was your day?”
Walter reaches into his bag before answering and pulls out his drawing.
“I made this for you.”
She is thrilled. The drawing immediately goes on the refrigerator when they get home. He is filled with pride. Walter’s mom is his world.
Olivia has her sticky fingers on his arm again. Walter pulls his arm away and tries to focus on his book. He stole the book from a sale cart outside of the bookstore the day before.
He only wanted something to read. To take his mind off things. He hadn’t looked at the cover of the book. He just grabbed a book that was laying on top of the pile and swiftly walked away after tucking it under his arm.
This is the first thing he has stolen that wasn’t a necessity. He’s a little ashamed of himself, but also glad to have the book. It is a luxury he has not had in a long time.
Usually he takes food. Once a month aunt Leah comes by with groceries and other things for them. She cleans the bathroom and bathes Olivia, asking Walter how school is. He lies and says it is great, he is making all A’s.
She will nod, but they both know he hasn’t been to school in over a year. Leah will pat him on the head, giving him a look that he doesn’t quite understand.
Walter will watch her as she leaves. She always has tears in her eyes. Many times she sits in her car that is parked along the road for a long time after she goes outside. He can see that her head is in her hands.
The food Leah leaves won’t last the whole month. Sometimes Walter can stretch it out for two weeks, but usually it only lasts a week at most.
That is when he has to steal food. There have been times that he doesn’t feel like he can get away with it. He gets too scared of being caught.
Walter hates digging through garbage, but this is what he does when he can’t steal food from stores.
Some of the restaurants in town throw out a lot of food. He always tastes the food before he gives any to Olivia. He doesn’t want her to eat anything that has gone bad. He knows how that feels.
He remembers his aunt Leah from when he was happier. She is his mom’s sister and he always loved her, almost as much as he loved his mom. Walter had missed her when they had left.
Leah told him that she couldn’t find them for the first few years, but his mom has started calling her whenever they move now. That is how she can come once a month. She only comes when Walter’s dad is not home. She says that this is their secret and she can come only if it stays a secret.
One time, a few months before, Walter hadn’t been able to find food for a couple of days. His dad was hitting his mom again and Walter had taken Olivia into the hall closet to hide.
He was crying silently, his tears landing in Olivia’s hair as he held her close. Looking down at her eyes that were wide with fear, he made up his mind. They were going to leave with aunt Leah the next time she came to the house.
She wouldn’t take them. He begged and pleaded. He cried and he felt ashamed of his weakness in front of her. Walter felt desperate and when Leah refused to take them, he offered Olivia.
“Pl-please. Just t-t-take Liv. She’s going to d-d-die. We’re going to s-s-starve.”
He stuttered this out between his sobs. He had his fingers dug into aunt Leah’s shirt, but she pulled away. She was crying, too. Leah took him by the shoulders and looked him in the eye.
Walter was aware of his mother standing behind him, but he didn’t care. She was a part of this. She let them get this way. He hadn’t wanted to hurt her feelings, but if that was what it took to save one of them, he would do it.
“Walter. Honey. You know I can’t take you or Olivia. I’m so sorry.”
He pulled away.
“I do not know that! Why? Why can’t you help us?”
She stood and went to the door. Before she left she turned back to him.
“I am helping the only way I can. I love you.”
Walter didn’t watch her leave that time. He grabbed Olivia and stomped past his mother. He took Liv out to the trees behind the house, where they spent most of their time.
He felt like a failure. He couldn’t even take care of Olivia. He thought Leah was going to save them, but that was stupid, because if she could she would have already.
They didn’t come out of their hiding place the next time aunt Leah came over. Walter watched her from the bushes, calling for them. He could hear Leah arguing with his mother about where her children were.
Walter wishes he could run away. If he didn’t have Olivia to look after, he would. He can’t leave her. Sometimes he is angry at her and resentful because she keeps him there. He knows that he can’t take care of them on their own. He barely manages it now.
His mom is still in there, too. He sometimes catches glimpses of her. For a few months after Olivia was born, she was almost like her old self. She loved them. He knew it.
She protected them. Their father was always angry now. He would throw things and scream. Most nights that he was home, he would hit their mom. Walter tried to stop him at first, but then he would get hit and his mom would sit in the corner weeping.
His mom got between Walter and his dad one time. It was the worst beating he ever saw his dad give his mom. That is when Walter started taking Olivia and hiding.
When it is cold out, he tries to hide in the house. He usually takes Liv into one of the closets. He will hum lightly, a song his mom used to sing to him, so that he can try and drown out the noise.
Sometimes his dad is so violent that Walter can’t stay in the house. He is too scared of what will happen to them. Those are the nights that Walter takes Liv out to the trees and they watch the house until the lights go out.
Walter will creep back to the house when he thinks his parents are asleep. If the door is locked, he and Olivia will sleep under the porch. He keeps his old blanket outside in a plastic bag, to keep it clean, for this reason.
There are nights when his mom will come out and get them. This is how he knows his mom still loves him. When he looks up at her bruised face backlit by stars and she holds his hand while carrying Liv back inside, he feels loved for just that one second.
Olivia is whimpering now, frustrated that Walter won’t put down his book and play with her. She is so used to her brother giving her all the attention she craves. He finally throws the book down and sighing, picks her up.