#WhyNaNo?

For anyone who missed it, there was a pretty incredible National Novel Writing Month chat on twitter today: #WhyNaNo. It’s part of #NaNoPrep — a chance for veteran Nanoers to talk about what keeps us coming back and to convince the potential newbies to join in the madness. The conversation was lively and inspiring, and it got me thinking about my own reasons for Nanoing over the years.

Why (quoteymcquote)Why did I start to Nano? To show off. 2001, senior year of high school, and I mostly wanted to prove that I could. And I did! Though it was far from good — a lot of self-indulgence, a lot of waffling, a lot of fanfiction muddled with original stuff (not that there’s anything wrong with fanfic). But I did 50k in a month, and it felt good. My friends and I read bits of it aloud at lunchtime and giggled a lot, and their encouragement kept me going.

Why did I keep Nanoing? I discovered how much I liked it. And I wanted to keep showing off. In college, it was pretty easy. For as much as college students complain about overwork, even at William & Mary (where your best hasn’t been good enough since 1693), I had free time. And finals weren’t till December, which left me days after Nano to write those papers. So I kept pounding out stories that, in retrospect, weren’t very good. But some of that went to creative writing classes as well, and one of them held the seed of a project that I still turn over in my mind every couple of years, hoping to find the right angle on it. And someday I will.

Why did I stop Nanoing? Graduate school happened to me. And a working adult life happened to me. Man alive can those things, however wonderful they are, suck the ability and the energy for creative writing out of you. Particularly, in my case, because I was doing so much academic writing (and still do, at work), which is an entirely different skill set. My graduate thesis left no room in  my brain for creative endeavors, and for the first year I was working, it was just too hard to come home and make myself sit down in front of a blank screen again. I gave up on Nano for a couple of years the same way I’d given up on almost all creative writing.

Why did I start Nanoing again? Because I hated that I’d given up on creative writing. I knew I still had stories in me. I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was eleven, and I hated that I’d lost sight of that. So I used Nano as a kick in the ass to find it again. And it worked. Aven began life in Nano 2011. It bears little resemblance now to what it was then, but that was the start. I immersed myself in a new world for the first time in years, and I gloried in it. I got back into the habit, and I’ve managed to keep it up in the three years since. 1667 words a day no longer scares me. 3000 words a day is a stretch, most of the time, but I know it’s not impossible, so it doesn’t scare me either. One Sunday during this past summer of revisions, I managed over 6000 words in a day. That Nano was a major step on the path of turning me into a working writer, not just someone who daydreams about being a writer. I made myself do it, discovered that I could, and decided that I must.

Why do I keep Nanoing? For the joy. It’s still a great activity. I’ve Nanoed and Camp Nanoed these past few years, with varying degrees of success. I used the Camps of the Summer 2012 to finish Aven‘s first draft, so those went well. But sometimes I fall on my face — life gets in the way. Or, it’s been a month where editing and revising Aven took precedence over creating something new. I don’t beat myself up about it — I know I have the habits now. I know I can’t write 3k or even 1k every single day of my life. But Nano got me into the pattern of doing it regularly, of always working on something, new or old. I do like being able to participate properly in November, though — there’s a delicious energy to it, the mania of keeping up, the excitement in the forums, the challenges and sprints and encouragement on Twitter.

Why will I Nano this year? If I do, that is. It will depend on where Aven is, really. It’s likely that it will be out to editors, and I’ve learned that the very worst thing I can do is look at the manuscript while it’s out with others, because that will just make me crazy. So, if that’s the case, I’ll Nano, for the joy, and for something to keep me occupied while we’re waiting to hear back. It’ll be a challenge this year, since I’ll be spending the first week of November at Disney World — but I’ll give it a go anyway. Just to see what I can do.

So how many of y’all have Nanoed before? What drove you to it? What have you gotten out of it?

On the need for a new project…

TlatelolcoHaving a manuscript out on sub is a bit of an odd experience when it comes to continuing to work as a writer. It was true when I was querying agents, and it’s true now that we’re out to editors. I need something to do — writers write, after all. Not having something to work on feels like laziness. While it was nice to take a little bit of a brain break after the last round of revisions, I’ve been getting twitchy lately. But I quite specifically don’t want to work on the project that’s currently out. If I work on the manuscript as it is, I’ll just make myself crazy with second-guessing — worrying if we subbed too soon, if there’s something else I could’ve, should’ve done first, will they like this, will they like that, and so forth. And I can’t really work on the next book in the series more than I already have, because further revisions to Book 1 might negate anything I did there. I do have another WIP, the steampunk project, but I sort of lost the flow there, and I think right now I’d have trouble leaping back into it in a thoroughly productive way.

So, for the past few weeks, I’ve been letting a new idea percolate. And I’m tentatively excited about it. It’ll be a second-world fantasy, but with some different cultural influences than I’ve worked with before. I’ve been delving into some new areas of research, playing with some social constructs and diversity aspects that I like but couldn’t work into Aven, and thinking out a little bit more of a quest structure to mix in with a dynastic dispute. (At the moment it’s feeling a little bit “Wars of the Roses” meets Stardust, minus pretty much all of the English-ness from both). I’ve got a few characters sketched out, a few potential relationships to work on, and almost no plot points determined. I’m okay with the blurriness, though. I like to start projects open-ended so I can feel my way through it all. It may mean a lot of editing and a lot of scrapped material down the line, but that’s all part of the process for me.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to work on this new project for Camp Nanowrimo. It’s partially because I’m just getting stir-crazy writing-wise, and partially because I’m superstitious enough to think it’d be bad luck not to. But, should news from an editor necessitate more revisions on Aven, it’ll be something I can easily put back down. This will be something to occupy me, to keep me from fretting, and to keep the creative muscles active. So… onward!

Nano Survey

Taken and adapted from The Polling Booth, because I like surveys and they’re a good way to kill time. 😉

THE SURVEY

– What age range are you?:  Late 20s
– Male, female, other?: Very much female.
 If 1 is 100% Masculine and 10 is 100% Feminine, what number would you rate yourself for your country/background?: Er. I dunno. 8? I very definitely identify as very female, but I also definitely have traits that others would probably consider masculine… but I don’t view them that way. It’s just the sort of female I am. I have trouble with this question.
– Country and/or Ethnicity (if you are comfortable telling this)? Southern American with Anglo-Welsh heritage.
– Myers Briggs Typology? (Take the test here): ENFJ (which is an evolution. I used to be an ENFP, but that’s definitely shifted in the past few years)
– What number of years have you participated in Nanowrimo?: Every year since 2002, except for 2006, when I was directing a show, and 2009, when I was writing my Master’s thesis. I’ve won about half the time, and I’m hoping to fulfill a three-year streak this year.
– Do you write books outside of Nanowrimo?: Obviously, given the nature of this blog. 😉
– Did you write before you participated in your first Nanowrimo?: Yes.
– How long have you been writing fiction for? And if before Nanowrimo, what forms?: I’ve been writing seriously since I was eleven (there’s a whole story about how Star Wars changed my life that I should probably tell here sometime), and I’ve been a natural storyteller for as long as I can remember. I was always the kid coming up with ridiculously complex worlds for us to play in. I discovered fanfiction as a teenager and spent a lot of energy on it, honing my skills. I never gave up on original things, but there were definitely periods of time where they fell to the background. Its’s only in the past few years that I’ve shifted to original writing almost exclusively (though the occasional fanfic does still prick at me for attention).
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Nano Prep — Unleash the Hounds

2013-Participant-Vertical-BannerIt’s that time of year again! Sign-ups have started for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve already set up my profile and conned one local friend into joining the madness with me. I just realised that this is my tenth year of participation. (My first was in 2002, but I punked out in 2006, thanks to directing Romeo and Juliet that month, and in 2009, thanks to writing my Master’s thesis, which I guess are both okay reasons). I’m looking forward to continuing my winning streak — 2011 and 2012 were both very good for me. I believe 2013 will be as well. I’m so excited for it that I’ve already started diving into the forums — and I’m clearly not alone in wanting to immerse myself in Nano’s special energy as soon as possible. There are nearly 29,000 writers signed up as of this moment, and several forums have taken off like a shot — particularly the Fantasy Genre Lounge and the Reference Desk.

October at my real-world job is completely bananas. Especially this year. We host a conference towards the end of the month, where a few hundred of the experts in our field descend upon our Playhouse for almost a full week of paper presentations, staging sessions, shows, and festivities. My boss and I spend several weeks preparing ourselves and our volunteer coordinators and teams of helpers, and then spend a series 16-hour days herding the cats, guiding our volunteers, schmoozing the VIPs, and just generally being as capable and charming as we can manage. I’m presenting my own paper, so, y’know, no pressure there. This caps off a month where we’ve had two teacher seminars in a row, last weekend and this, a few leadership seminars, and a host of other normal, non-conference responsibilities that always crop up at the beginning of the school year. So, really, while Nano is always a bonkers challenge of its own, this year, it’s also a reward. After a month of bleeding out for other people (happily! I do love my job, it’s just seriously exhausting sometimes), in November, I get to retreat into a world of my own creation. I’m really looking forward to it.

This year, I’ll be working on re-envisioning my screenplay, Tallows House, as a novel, The World is Always Ending. (Working title, at least, thoroughly stolen from a Neil Gaiman short story). This is a pet project, and I freely admit that. I’m more interested in getting The Antares Project to a finished, query-able state, and I think it’ll meet with more success. But, it’s also at the fill-in-the-gaps-and-fiddly-bits stage, which isn’t good for Nanoing. I’ll share some more about TWAE’s premise later, though, and probably some character sketches.

Honestly, at this point the hardest part is not writing. I had a snippet of exchange in my head yesterday, and I just have to hope it’ll still be there to recall on November 1st. I’ve had a great idea for dealing with the timeline and communicating its non-linear bits, and I can’t let myself scratch down more than a few memory-jogging notes. But that’s part of the fun of it. I like letting the pressure to write build up, like a champagne bottle ready to pop.

 

NaNoWriMo Writing Prompt – Where’s My Character?

So, as part of the gearing-up for Nano, they’re posting writing prompts on FB’s. I don’t always manage to see them in a timely fashion, but I did today’s.

For today’s writing prompt, we’re playing a game we like to call: “Where’s My Character”! Describe the city or location your novel takes place in with 100 words, without mentioning any names or dates. Make it evocative enough that others can guess where your novel takes place in the comments!

As I set to it, I realised I could really best identify my location by what grows there, even moreso than the scenery itself. Which was sort of interesting. So — where am I setting my Nano13 novel? (Some of y’all who already know the project — or me — well enough will already know).

Three farmhouses, square, paint chipping, nestled into a sunny valley between old, careworn mountains. Wrap-around porches crawling with ivy. The surrounding fields grow corn for grain and trade; the vegetable gardens yield pumpkins, asparagus, squash, beans, many herbs. Berries grow wild. The families trade east for peanuts, potatoes, tomatoes. It’s particularly good country for apples, turkeys, and horses; the families also keep a few hogs, chickens for eggs, and a couple of milk cows. The landscape grows calmer to the east, towards the ocean, but swiftly sharper and denser to the west. Long, plentiful growing seasons, but potentially temperamental winters.