Monday, November 29, 2010

Across Another Finish Line


Thanks to several days of 4k plus and the endless chorus of "Go Bevy!  Go!" from dear friends I have hit 50k.  Unfortunately, I find myself in the same spot as last year where, in spite of having 'finished' my story is nowhere near done.

Last year, I challenged myself to keep going by signing up for NaNoFiMo with the idea of tacking another 30k words onto the 50k required by NaNo.  If you were reading my blog last year you know the end of the story: I didn't meet the goal.  (I got close, upwards of 70k, but not 80.)

I refuse to give up on this story when it still seems to have a lot of steam that could propel it forward in my mind.  But I also don't want to sign up for another challenge and then face the very real chance of failing again.  No, i'd like to actually enjoy my new years this time.

So, for those of you who still care, here is what I will tell you: I'm not going to stop writing.  I'm not going to put any goals for word count, page count or any other measures on it.  I'm just going to keep writing.  I will let you know how it goes, what discoveries I make, what i've found out about my story, whether or not it's building steam or dying out.  I won't promise to write everyday and when I do write I won't promise to work solely on the story.  (I admit i've missed the short little bursts of craziness that dominated October and i'd like to get back to that.)  But I will write.  And I wil keep you posted.

For those of you who have followed me on this journey, thank you.  For those of you with no interest whatsoever in NaNoWriMo I will quote an old favorite of mine: "And now for something completely different!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Channeling my College

So, the key to bulking up the word count in this story has proven to be recounting a million memories from my undergraduate years.  I've gone into great detail discussing the physical campus, the menu, my very first roommate, and a variety of characteristics of characters which are based directly on my friends from college.
I'm not sure if this is a good idea since my main character already shares so many of my own personal characteristics and I know that randomly changing the names of people and places doesn't make it any less true to my past.
However, as I said, it's allowing me to write many, many words and since that is the number one goal of this project I am determined not to judge it too harshly.
It does make me wonder, however, if this is sort-of breaking the rules.  I don't know enough about fiction to know if most of it is based on fact.  I would imagine that a lot of it is but I always imagined that there was enough fantasy that you wouldn't ever doubt whether or not it was truly fiction.
In this story, my main character isn't totally me because I never did what she's doing and what is the main focus of the story's plot.  However, as I've said, she acts like me, thinks like me, talks like me, and has all of my old insecurities.  She's in my college.  (Even though I changed the name and set it in the Berkshire mountains rather than the Green ones it's still my college.)  She has many of my friends regardless of how I've changed their names or other facts about them.  And I even gave her my favorite stuffed animal.  (Granted, I didn't have Mooby in college, but still- it's him.)
So with so much of her being undeniably me it leaves me wondering if I'm crossing some sort-of line that smarter, more experienced writers don't cross because they know better than I do.
Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Booyah!

3000 words in two hours!  Yippee!  Although it's really just catching up because I was so woefully behind.  (Still a bit behind, but in MUCH better shape than I was.)  But still, i'm excited.  And I figured out a few more keys to writing for NaNo:
1)  Fantasy wins over reality, always.  Do not question your characters, do not judge them, do not wonder if this is something that would actually take place or not.  Just write, don't think.
2)  Let yourself reminisce a little.  Especially if you're writing about something real.  I just wrote three pages worth of description about my college because that's where my story is set.  I changed a few of the names to try to fictionalize things but for the most part it was a love letter to Bennington.  And you know what?  That totally works for this story.
3)  Visual descriptions help.  They may not move the plot forward in any useful way and they may not even enrich the depth of your writing style (no way to tell until I go back and read it and I'm NOT allowing myself to do that.)  But they build your word count A LOT.
4)  When all else fails, extend your dialog.  So your characters are needlessly verbose, who cares?  I have some ridiculously talkative friends in real life so it's not a huge stretch.
There are more lessons to be learned, I'm sure.  And  a hell of a lot more writing to do.  I HAVE to break five digits this weekend and then some if I want to have any chance of getting ahead of the game.  But if I can keep this up for a couple of more hours and then do a few hours tomorrow I'll be in good shape for that.  Always better to use the weekend when you don't have work and daily life crap to suck out all your energy.
Off I go!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Me

I have, possibly mistakenly, begun a novel in which my main character is based on myself.  Of course she's not exactly me because the events that are taking place are entirely fictional.  But the thoughts, feelings and insecurities are largely mine and the environment in which it is all playing out is familiar due to it being a revamp of my alma mater. 
Part of me fears that this may be a huge mistake.  Last year when I was writing in the fantasy genre I had a lot more freedom to do whatever would fit with the story.  The kingdom in which everything was playing out was based only vaguely on preexisting ideas so if I wanted something particular to happen I could make it happen regardless of how ridiculous it might be.  (I.E. ignore the laws of physics, make up ridiculous laws or norms, change the physical appearance of anyone and anything to make it fit my story.)  The characters, although mostly humanoid, had inhuman abilities and used magic so that allowed for just about anything to happen.  And because I wasn't operating in anyone else's map I could change the rules at any time I wanted.  Long story short, it was easy.
Now, in a world based largely on my own past with a character based largely on me, I find myself thinking "That would never happen" or "That's ridiculous".  This, needless to say, is not helpful.  Having to remind myself  that "No, it's your story, you can do whatever the hell you want" slows me down and with only 26 days left that's not good.
Also, I've picked a far more serious genre to work in now.   Not because I purposely wanted to challenge myself but because that's what the story is.  There are moral and ethical issues she's struggling with, there are problems she's facing (and they're not the fun 'this crazy wizard is after me' kind-of problems), and there are some pretty serious questions she's gonna have to answer over the course of her development.  It's valuable, don't get me wrong.  But it's a lot less fun than writing about magic and wizards and other crazy stuff like that.
The other problem?  My main character, who as I already said is based largely on my own past, has familiar feelings, thoughts, insecurities, etc.  These are based largely on real memory so I find myself spending a lot of time in those memories.  They weren't pleasurable then and they're definitely not pleasurable now.  They're downright depressing in a lot of ways and I find myself needing to remind myself that that's not my life.  I'm not alone (romantically) anymore, I am a hell of a lot more secure in my sense of self, and I have at least a vague idea of what I can reasonably expect out of life.  (The main character's career situation, unfortunately, is striking a very painfully familiar chord with my current status.  Oh well.)
I am hoping that these similarities will serve for good writing, and not needless suffering on my part.  But it is definitely a challenge to stay grounded in my everyday life while I spend so much of my free time and thought on this story.
There is one positive I've noticed, though.  Since my character is so familiar I can easily recognize what is missing for her.  Specifically, while driving home this afternoon, I had the revelation that she is in desperate need of a wing-man/co-conspirator to keep her grounded.  If it was nothing but her own fantasy world things would go very bad very fast (much like if left with nothing other my own thoughts I tend to deteriorate very quickly).  She, like me, needs somebody to run all these crazy thoughts and ideas by in order to be able to do anything useful.  My story arch, up until this revelation, did not involve a wing man.  It was a one-woman show and I can easily imagine it going very poorly for her and for me.
But with an outside voice to be reasonable, logical and challenging my character can be clarified and forced to grow in a way that she otherwise wouldn't be.  And I think that's going to prove to be an important part of her journey, just as it was and is for me.
Now the big task for me, I think, is to make that voice in my head that's saying how something I want to do is preposterous or focusing on a ll these negative memories from my past shut the hell up so that I can be creative and have fun in spite of serious subject matter.  Because otherwise there's no way I'm gonna make it to 50k words.  Wish me luck!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010

And so it begins.
Those of you who know me (which is most of you since I only recently exposed this site in any kind-of public arena) know how big of a deal NaNoWriMo was for me last year. To this day it remains the largest accomplishment I've ever had writing-wise.
Why?  Because I have the most active inner critic of anyone I've ever met in my life- and I've met a lot of people with some pretty damned loud inner critics.  I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that my inner critic could easily contend for the world title.  So shutting that up long enough to produce anything of length is a massive ordeal.
Yet, miraculously, I did it.  I shut it up long enough to pound out over 50k words.  Over 70k words, actually.  And when I did allow myself to go back and look at it I found I still wanted to keep writing. I may even revisit it and try to complete the damned thing some day- how crazy is that?
Needless to say, it was big deal in the life of Bev.  As is this NaNoWriMo.  Now I start fresh with a different story, different genre, different characters, different world, and a different writer.  I can only hope that all of the lessons I learned from last year's experience will be quickly remembered and push me forward in a progressive way.
I'm not hoping to write the next great American novel.  I am completely expecting a giant, steaming pile of you-know-what with a few precious nuggets stuck in like corn kernels.  I'm expecting to make mistakes, to write poorly- to suck, for all intensive purposes.  But my wish is that I will suck in new and different ways by making new and different mistakes.  Because one of the lessons I learned is that that, and not the production of a really good final product, is what growth is all about.
So, without further ado, let the sucking begin!