Camp NaNoWriMo

My plan to write nonstop flash fiction fizzled out quickly. I managed to complete a short story that I did submit for publication. The story was one of my better ones. Whether it’s good enough for publishing, who knows. Crossing my fingers, but expecting rejection. I’m still having problems motivating myself to just sit and write. I even had two decent story ideas to work on immediately, but kept getting sidetracked with things like lying around or mindlessly surfing the web.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been pretty fed up with my laziness and lack of enthusiasm. I want to be a writer. It’s something I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. Yet I can’t discipline myself to sit and write.

It’s time to try a new tactic.

It’s time to go camping.

Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and it runs through the entire month of April. Have you signed up yet? Camp NaNoWriMo is the less hardcore version of the annual NaNoWriMo that takes place every November. With Camp, you can set your own goal, whether it be word count or hours or whatever. I’ve set a goal of 30,000 words for the month of April. I’ll be working on the mystery novel that I’ve been mulling over in my mind and planning for at least two years. Yes, I’m an overplanner. A character flaw that I’m trying to get a handle on.

Participating in Camp NaNoWriMo is a great way to both challenge myself and develop a consistent writing habit once and for all.

For the past week I’ve narrowed my story idea down to a solid 2-3 page outline that will allow me to pump out a decent first draft of a novel. The key to sticking with a goal of 30,000 words in 30 days is to go into it knowing that what I write is going to be a shitty draft. One with plot holes, spelling errors, telling rather than showing, and stuff that just doesn’t make sense.  And that’s okay. It takes the pressure off and allows the creative juices to flow.

The end result…words on the page, a consistent writing habit, and the thrill of creating something from nothing.

 

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A Short List for Short Stories

I’ve been plugging along with building up my writing habit. I’m still not writing every day, but I’ve written more in the past couple of weeks than I have in a long time, so progress is being made.

The flash fiction class that I took went pretty well. I now have a better understanding of how to structure a short story. The stories that I worked on for the class were good practice. Not very good fiction, but good practice nonetheless. Recently, I finished up a story of about 800 words that I’m pretty happy with. It’s only the first draft, so I’m going to set it aside for a week or two, go back and polish it up and submit it for publication. In the meantime, I’m going to brainstorm ideas for my next story.

Over the weekend, I started wondering about where to submit flash fiction and longer short stories for publication, so I did a Google search and came up with a few places to consider. Here’s a short list for short stories:

Not every story I write is good enough for submitting, but for those that I think have promise, it’s nice to know there are publications that pay for short fiction.

Building a Habit with Flash Fiction

It’s hard getting back into the habit of writing when you haven’t done it in a long time. Before I got sick, I was working on a contemporary romance novel. I also have the outline for a mystery that I’ve been itching to write. But the idea of a novel right now is daunting. I want to get back to writing but I don’t want to dive into either of these novels.

Part of the reason is that I’m not sure what I want to write about. I always just assumed that I would write either romance or mystery fiction, or a combination of the two, since those two genres are what I read the most. But I also like horror, suspense, and historical fiction.

I have attempted multiple times to write a novel, but I’ve never come close to completing one. My current goal is to build up a daily writing habit. I want to work on stories that I know I will complete, and that is where flash fiction comes in.

For the rest of February I plan to write only flash fiction, focusing on 500-word stories. Months ago I started to take Holly Lisle’s free flash fiction class but never completed it. Hmm…never finishing things – that seems to be a recurring theme in my life. Anyway, starting today, I’m going to revisit this class and begin to build that daily writing habit.

Not only will flash fiction help me get into the habit of writing every day, but it will also help me figure out what I want to write about as well as get me into the habit of writing a story from beginning to end.

 

A New Beginning

I haven’t written a blog post in about a year and a half. Truth be told, I haven’t written much of anything over the past year. So many things have happened since my last post.

First, trying to figure out what I wanted to write about became a daily struggle. Did I want to write romance, mystery, horror, suspense or women’s fiction? All of these genres interest me, but I just couldn’t settle on one. I had a lot of ideas for stories…too many ideas. I couldn’t stick with one long enough to actually reach the end of a story and as a result I became discouraged with writing altogether. I gave up. I believe I overwhelmed myself with focusing too much on publishing. Trying to figure out which idea would be the one. The magical one that would get me published.

At some point I decided to go back to school. My current job is a dead end and I need a more reliable source of income. I couldn’t seem to get my shit together with writing, so school seemed to be my only option. The plan was to continue writing while working full time and going to school in the evenings. That plan did not pan out, however. Within a month I was exhausted and felt brain dead. I decided writing would have to be put on hold until further notice.

I plugged along with work and school and made it through the first semester of the program I was enrolled in, but the overwhelming exhaustion never subsided. Turns out I was sick. Turns out it was cancer. Fucking cancer! I’m not even 50 years old. But I already knew what the diagnosis was going to be before the test results came back. My gut just told me something was wrong, and my gut was right.

A lot of shit goes on when you find out you have cancer. Your life flashes before your eyes. You think about all the stuff you’ve yet to accomplish, all the things you were too afraid to try, the things you figured you still had time to do. You find out who your true friends are, and some of them wind up showing their true colors and instead turn out to be assholes rather than friends.

I was fortunate. My cancer was caught early and I’m on the mend. This whole experience has made me think about my life and what I want to do with it. Being a novelist is something I’ve dreamed about since I was a teenager. Making a living as a novelist is no easy thing to accomplish, but it is something that I want to pursue. Since my illness, I had to quit school. I’ve amassed an enormous amount of medical bills, so I can no longer afford the monthly payments for school. I believe this is a blessing in disguise. What I was studying was not something I was really interested in, and I’m 90% certain I would have been unhappy in that job as well.

Being a fiction writer is what I want to do for a living, and writing is how I want to spend the bulk of what’s left of the rest of my life. My plan is to bring my focus back to writing, learning as much as I can about craft and becoming a better writer. I want to spend the next year finding my voice. I don’t want to get distracted about the publishing/business side of writing. I just want to write until I figure out what it is I want to say. Once I do that, everything else should fall into place.

Do You Use Scrivener?

Some time last year, I purchased Scrivener. I’ve kind of played around with it, but I haven’t taken the time to really learn how to use it beyond the very basics. Right now I’m using Scrivener to write my first draft. Rather than writing one long, ongoing draft as you would in a Word document, I’m writing my novel scene by scene, each in their own document.

Some people are a bit chaotic when they write. The story comes to them in bits and pieces, and Scrivener is ideal for that kind of writing. You can easily use Scrivener to write your scenes and then organize them as you need to, moving things around as new ideas come to mind.  

I’m a linear writer. I’m writing my story in the order in which it happens, starting from Chapter One. I’ve written several scenes so far, and I’m organizing them using the three-act structure with sub-folders for chapters and more sub-folders for scenes. This is going pretty well so far, but I feel like I’m not using Scrivener to its fullest capacity.

So I’ve been googling and found some links for tips on how to use Scrivener and thought I’d share:

  • A great post from Justine Covington with great examples on how she uses Scrivener to organize her writing
  • Natasha Lester has complied a list of posts she’s written on how to use Scrivener to write a book
  • Jason M. Hough has written two posts on how he uses Scrivener, part 1 and part 2
  • K.M. Weiland has two very detailed posts, one for outlining using Scrivener and the second on how she uses it to write her first draft
  • Literature and Latte, the maker of Scrivener, has a list of tutorials on their website

Do you use Scrivener? If so, feel free to share your tips in the comments section.

Setting Realistic Writing Goals

It has been roughly one week since starting my 50,000-words-in-30-days writing challenge and one thing has become very clear to me.

Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is an unrealistic goal. For me, that is. It’s just not going to happen. And I’m okay with that.

The first few days of writing were a bit exhausting. Like most writers, I have a full-time day job. I need to be completely alert in order to do my job well. Staying up and writing well past my usual bedtime resulted in a week where I dragged ass at work and was rendered pretty useless. That affected my pay and I cannot afford that to happen on a regular basis.

Realistically, I have a window of about two and a half hours to write during work-day evenings. My days off afford me a lot more writing time. Because of this I’ve gone ahead and changed my writing goals to ones that I know I can achieve.

I’m writing the first draft of a 55,000-word category romance. Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest is what started this whole novel-writing challenge in the first place. I’d read about the contest back in May and decided that using it as a deadline would get my butt in the chair and words on the page.

For years I’ve been saying that I want to write a novel but so far have made no progress. I am a bona fide dillydallier and I have to employ tactics that will allow me to reach my goal, which in this case is a deadline of September 21st.

A realistic goal for me is 5500 words a week, maybe more if I can double my writing hours on my days off. At any rate, I’m giving myself ten weeks to complete the first draft. In all likelihood, I will not be entering this manuscript in the contest. So far what I’ve written is horrible and will need to be rewritten. But I’m getting the story onto the page, and this contest deadline will serve as a tool to help me reach my goal of writing a novel from start to finish.

Update: Work In Progress

This is day three of my novel-writing challenge. I just finished writing for the night and got in just under 500 words today. Yesterday was a little more productive with somewhere around 1200 words written. According to Camp NaNoWriMo, I should reach my 50,000-word goal by January 2, 2016.

Yes, I’m a bit behind schedule. However, I didn’t start my challenge until July 6th. Camp NaNoWriMo began on the first of July.

Before I started, I came across this post and found the advice for writing a first draft very motivating–particularly tip #2:

Forget about quality, just get it done.

I’m one of those people that will start writing a scene and the next day go back, read it over, and start revising it before the scene is even completely finished. I will revise the shit out of the first paragraph until I think it’s perfect. Problem is, it never will be perfect.

Writing a crappy first draft is okay.

That’s my new mantra. It’s what I have to keep telling myself in order to push through. It can always be fixed later. And isn’t that the point of a first draft anyway? I do have a general idea and a loose outline for this story with the major plot points. The first draft will help me figure out the rest of the story idea. When that’s done, then I’ll turn it into a better story by way of a second draft.