Friday, November 7, 2008

Wordle and the Art of Procrastination

We're seven days into Nanowrimo, and how is everyone feeling?

Is the writing flowing? Or is it coming in stops and starts? Or not at all?

For me, the last week was a writing rollercoaster. The first couple of days flowed, until I hit the first sex scene and then it felt as if I was forcing every word. Still I got through it and know that I will go back and rewrite it sometime after Nano ends. The one thing that I am very happy with is that I have not taken a day off from the writing. There have been days where I didn't make the required Nano average, but that was okay - I was still writing.

Last year on the 8th November, I was sitting on 1067 words in total! And I still managed the 50ks in the month. So don't despair if you've fallen behind, there is still time to catch up.

This year, I am at 15,016 words, mainly due to a huge series of word sprints yesterday. Also the second and totally unexpected sex scene just poured out last night. Perhaps it was the fact that it was unexpected that the writing of it was so much easier. (Or perhaps it was just RC's influence - after posting her little excerpt in email, I think my character Kirsty thought I'll have what she's having!")

So I think I'm finally mastering the art of writing every day. But I am also an absolute Master (no gender bias here) of the Art of Procrastination. Yes I can surf and stumble through the internet with the best of them. But now I have discovered Wordle, and already I'm a wordle addict.

You go to the Wordle site and paste in a piece of text and it will create a 'word cloud' or a text cloud for you based on how many times you use each word. If you don't like the colours or form it is given you, you can choose those or just click on the 'randomize' button until you like the design.

So far I have wordled the opening board room scene, the restaurant scene, the first sex scene, a phone call between Dylan and Kirsty and last night's sex scene. And just for good measure, between word sprints, I wordled my short stories Beyond Happily Ever After and Are you a Real Person?

On Saturday 22nd November, I have my Writers Group Christmas party. I'm going to print out all the worldles for Reality Check, put them in a display folder and then hand them around, saying "This is what I've written so far."

So here are my wordles of the sex scenes:

It's actually interesting to look at these and see the emphasis of words you've used in a scene. And also looking at the pattern of words can set off a whole different set of associations. From the words I've used, you can probably see that this was rather conventional and took place in the bed room.

Last night's scene which poured out as quickly and passionately as the act itself took place in the garage!!

Here's a link to one of these on Wordle itself:

Or click on my username disyc, it will take you to my gallery of all of my Wordle images.

I think we should have a Wordle competition! Who can come up with the best Wordle of an excerpt of their Nanowrimo? No idea how we would judge it, but it could be a lot of fun!

How Not To Write A Novel

Well we are at the end of week 1. Is everyone on track? Are the words coming thick and fast, or are they being pulled kicking and screaming? Are you on track? Or are your target and actual word counts now poles apart?

I am the latter. My first week goal was to reach 5 figures ... and instead I have just scraped in 4 :o( However amongst this disappointment I have managed to see some positives:
  • I have learnt a trick to overcome my internal editor;
  • I am getting into a routine that lets me find a few minutes each day to write; and
  • I have overcome the anxiety of 'failing' to reach the magic 50k, instead I am going to use this as a starting block and if I don't make the goal will just extend the goalpost for myself.

But to try and make those of you who have also struggled to reach your goal feel better, or those who could just use a giggle, I thought I would fill you in on some of the tragedies of my first week.....

I started slowly (only a few hundred the first day), but then discovered the best way for me to write quickly was to do it with my eyes closed. So day 2 meant that I steamed ahead and broke the 1000 word mark. I kept on going but, in a horror moment, my computer crashed.... and it had been over 200 words since my last save. Too late to want to deal with it I left it until the morning. Fingers crossed for autorecover.

The next morning booted up and autorecover did its thing (only missing about 50 words, no biggy). Leaving the computer in a hurry to deal with the toileting needs of my 2yr old, I came back to find my wonderful 4yr old had decided to 'help' my writing along. And it was gone!!! In only the way that Murphy could manage, he had somehow discovered the save button and saved his helpful deletion of my writing. Now, thinking I had been clever I had emailed my document to hotmail just before this. Feeling quite pleased with myself I opened hotmail - and no document (and it is still out there in cyberspace somewhere).

Now, it has since been pointed out to me that what I should have done was gone to my sent folder and retrieved it from there, but in my state of panic and fury that wee bit of common sense just didn't filter through (point to note, there is a copy there but too late now).

So Tuesday saw me starting again. I have rewritten my first few pages and am at 1365. Been a hard week to fit in writing (actually really bad month for writing, major stuff happening here with renos and every free moment is spent painting not writing). But tonight I am going to go hard and hope to make up some of my lost time.

So just remember, it doesn't matter what happens, just keep going. You will get there in the end. As I read on a blog today by Christina Philips (quoting Galaxy Quest):

Never Give Up!! Never Surrender!!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Keeping Your Creativity Flowing

Okay so it's day 6, by now you're happily typing along on your story, which by the way you know is certain to be a best seller... Things are looking up baby UP! and suddenly the phone rings, the kids scream in the kitchen that the sinks overflowing, the next door neighbour reports your dog running down the street, telemarketers call, the Avon Lady shows up with her latest catalogue, and many many more things happen in your day to try to stop you keep on keeping on with your story. (by the way that's not my child, just a stock photo, but you get my point)
After dealing with the disasters that only you could solve you sit back down at your computer, everythings quiet on the Western Front and then.... nothing blank nada zilch. You have a quick read over what you were typing before said disasterous interruptus occurred and go to type but nothing comes out.
Where's it gone? The creative flow? What happened? Can you commit murder on those who interrupted you without being sentenced? Using NaNoWriMo as a psychological excuse 'sorry Your Honour but they stopped my creative flow' is not really that good an excuse.
Okay so we know these things happen, how are we going to get back into the groove?
I find watching a good movie which is in the same genre as I'm writing helps me. Or reading a good book. (I know at this time it feels like you can't take time out to read because you have all these words to write, but trust me, if you take a little time now it'll mean you don't spend forever typing the same boring thing day in day out).
Try some brainstorming exercises - take 15 minutes and write anything you like. Can be the first thing in your head or something you saw in the paper. Whatever it is just write write write. Don't stop it can be pure gibberish words if you like. Just don't stop until the buzzer goes off and says your 15 minutes are up. If you do this a couple of times you'll find that somewhere in your writing is a germ of an idea you can implant into your story to kick start your writing again.
Another great thing to do is take time out to play. And I do mean play. Get some paint and paper and do finger painting. Run around in the back yard under the hose. Sing a very bad song at the top of your voice (or should that be sing a song very badly at the top of your voice?).
Let your steam out and then go sit down.
Interruptions happen. We know they do.
Accept it and move on. Quick brianstorms work. Running around the backyard playing works. Giggling, laughing, crying over a soppy movie. They all work. We feel refreshed and can start back on our story. Get your frustrations out before you hit the keyboard and your characters will thank you.!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wednesdays Words of Wisdom

Look at me go!!!!!
Yep, I'm flying along. By the end of day 4 I'm past the 10k mark and if it keeps going the way it is I'll be making the 50k easy. I know technically Nano is supposed to be one novel but I'm pretty sure my story only has about 30k but I'm cool with that because I had planned to write on two stories during Nano and one of those is going to be over 50k. But that was then and this is now.

Yep, you guessed it, I've been led astray. *gasp* What me? Led astray? Never! LOL
Okay, so all joking aside, Nano should be about the commitment to write the first draft without stopping, that's why we're aiming for 50k, not because it's a nice number and someone thought it would be good to torture us with. You see, a lot of writers get caught in the edit/polish stage well before you should be doing it. I've heard editors comment about receiving first three chapters that are near perfect but when they ask for a full it's a huge let down. Yes, you need to get you audience (in this case the editor but eventually your reader) by the throat and have them turning pages but if you have the big bang and no pretty lights after it your audience is going to be let down and won't be picking up another one of your stories.

Don't get me wrong, I've been known to go back over and back over and back over the same scene. Getting caught in the edit/polish till the damn thing is perfect but then I move on and when I go back to the beginning I realise I've edited and polished the poor thing to death. It's so technically correct that there's no emotion, no voice. I killed it. It's more than tempting to go back and edit, I fight it every time I open up the file to start writing, but I've got a system, one that works for me. I'm allowed to read the last scene before I start writing the next, but only when I've stopped for a time and lost the flow. Sometimes my little fingers hover over the backspace key and they itch to fix just that little bit there but I bite my tongue and move on. Sometimes I bleed and sometimes I give in and fix just that one word there but usually I can keep going and move the story forward.

The biggest thing to do is aim for a consistent level of writing, whether that's one hour, two hours or all day, try and stick with the same amount of time. Try to keep the momentum going every day and slowly that word count will creep up. Don't worry about making the story linear either. This is the first draft, so if you write the end scene then the first meeting scene who cares, you fix that in the second draft. That's when you get to do the little edit/polish thingy to your hearts content. Well, not quite but you get the picture. That's why I'm now writing two stories that run parallel, they'll both top out at about 30k and it's possible I could sell them as a set. Wouldn't that be nice? I'll continue to write the two because I've discovered that writing one scene in one story triggers the next scene in the other. It's kind of like watching a movie, we watch this couple do this and then we go and see that couple do that. It works and my word count is growing so I'm not going to fight it even though I really want to just write one.

So what are my words of wisdom today? Write what you feel. If you're not feeling it no one else will either. I'd go back to the passion for the story thing I'm always carrying on about but, well I'm always carrying on about it. LOL Put you fingers to the keys and feel the story. Write whatever comes to mind, even if it's utter crap and doesn't make it out of the first draft it doesn't matter. Just get the words flowing. The more you write about your characters and story the more you learn about them, the closer you get to them, so it's not a waste to write four chapters of backstory only to have them never appear in the finished ms. They're essential to learning and feeling your story.

And remember, this is about you and your goal, not me and mine, or Joe Blogs and his. It's your story, your goal, your dream. Chase it!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday's Tales Again

Here it is day four of NaNo, so how are we all travelling? Are you happy with the progress of your novel at this stage?

For me it’s slow. This is the first time I have had trouble at the start of a novel. Each word pulled like hens teeth. Yes, I fear my muse has done a runner. The only hope I have is that I am going that my saggy middle at the beginning. Although I have to say a saggy beginning doesn’t sound all that interesting.

So for inspiration I have watched DVDs of the early founding of the colony. Yet still nothing jumps out at me and says you have to write this down NOW! Of course no one ever said life as a writer was easy. LOL.

I was reading through the cards from No Plot? No Problem! Novel-Writing Kit. Each day there is a new card to give you inspiration. I thought I would share Sunday’s card with you.

Create Your Clay:

Writing a novel is like working with clay. You first create a rough shape, then massage that shape into something beautiful, such as an ashtray or a fearsome army of worms. Unlike potters, though, who can simply buy clay at the art supply store, novelists have to pull off the supernatural feat of creating their clay with their minds. It’s amazing accomplishment, really, and it’s also why postponing judgment of your work until the end of your first draft is so important. What you started producing yesterday is noveling clay – valuable, essential, and invariably lumpy. Its beauty will grow as you work it.

I’m learning something writing this novel. In future when I get an idea for a novel I’m going to write the bloody thing there and then. No sitting and waiting for NaNo or any other challenge.

Good luck with the rest of your first week of the challenge.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Writing forward

It's day two of NaNo, and by now, everyone has made a start, right? Right?
Okay, so maybe you haven't hit your groove yet. Your writing muscles are sore and getting those words out is like pulling teeth.
Hang in there! It'll get better soon.

Writing, like anyother muscle, needs to be exercised. Just like you can't just rock up to your first day at teh gym and expect to run a mile on the treadmill, followed by bench pressing your own body weight and then some refreshing advanced yoga, you won't be putting out 3k of pure brilliance a day if you haven't written much over the last few months.

Which is why I think having daily word counts that stay constant throughout the month are setting you up for frustration and failure. Instead, why not build slowly and gain momentum as you get more writing fit?

For me, I'm going to up my daily word count from 1.5k at the start to 4k by the end with a  gradual increase every week.  It's a number that works for me because I know I can write 1k a day even when it's all pulling teeth and painful dragging-out of words.

do you know your comfort word count? What's the most you've ever written in a single day? Do you have word goals every day? Week? Or just that shiny end-of-month crown?