NaNoWriMo 2016 – My Third Year at Hogwarts

Have you met your word count for today, NaNoWriMos?

NaNoWriMo has been rocking along for six days now, and writers are flying on the heady rush of stories pouring out of them while simultaneously worrying when and where they’ll find the time to reach their nearly 1700 wpd (words per day) goal. Wacky sleep patterns are starting to take their toll. Writers are sneaking into corners to tap on their phones or dictating scenes while driving.

This is my third NaNoWriMo and just like Harry Potter in his third year:

“I knew I could do it this time,” said Harry, “because I’d already done it…Does that make sense?” Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling

I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo twice before, so I know I can get 50,000 words of a story out in 30 days. And I know I’d have a blast doing it.  I even have a creepy story idea that wants to be a novel, badly.

But I needed something other than 50,000 new words this year. I’m doing something harder, at least for me. I’m spending my time editing last year’s novel. That means reworking the parts that fell flat before, or which ended with note to myself to “do something here.” It means punching up my ending to something more exciting.

It also means discovering that I really like some of what I wrote last year, and being grateful it’s organized more coherently than I’d feared. I love this story. The main character is awful, and kind of hilarious, and I have the best time writing her. Horrific things happen that make me want to clap my hands. There’s magic there, and the story deserves to be made better. And it feels good to push myself to get better at my craft.

And I have some reward writing for myself, too. I have a spooky short story to finish for submission in December, so that’s my dessert after I do the harder stuff.

Do you have a writing goal this NaNoWriMo? Any tricks for fitting writing into your schedule?

You can find me at Leaves and Cobwebs – reach out and let’s cheer each other on.

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Dreams and Summer Camp (NaNoWriMo)

In a place where the oak canopy opens and there is full sunshine, the Seminole-Wekiva Trail asks what you want before you die.

A little apart from the murals of Paint the Trail, a section is painted with chalkboard paint.  There’s chalk to write your dreams.  What do you want to do before you die?

I stopped when I first saw it, struck by the question.  It’s so big and yet so basic. It implies that you aren’t, yet, doing the thing you want to do.

Maybe the remoteness makes it easier to declare what you want.  The wall is covered in layers of writing.  People wrote who they want to marry, or just that they want to fall in love.  They wrote they want to become the best at something.  They wrote they want to move away from their home city, dreaming of the wider world.

Some came back to write that they did the thing they had written before.  These are written in large, victorious letters.

I wrote a dream earlier this year, and I think of my chalkboard heart often as I work towards it.  This year has been about editing my stories better, paying attention to how they are crafted, and submitting them.  With more submissions, I’ve received more feedback, and that is making me a better writer.

Happy first day of Camp NaNoWriMo to my fellow campers out there!  By participating, you’re making your declaration of what you want to do.  You’re carving out time to write, riding the thrill of a story coming together in your head, and pushing through the muck when it slows.  I’ll see you along the way at #5amWritersClub and near midnight, trying to get my daily word count.  Come say hi at Leaves and Cobwebs, and we’ll sprint together down the trail.

SWT-Before I die-heart

 

 

Disciplined Porch Writing – Day 6 of NaNoWriMo

This week, I’m spending a few days writing in a mostly empty house on a bluff above a lake. People have passed in this house. I walk the halls with my laptop, listening for them. But all I hear are the waves lapping on the shore.

Sounds magical, like the perfect writing spot, doesn’t it?

Actually, I’m spending time at my parents’ house while a work crew helps clear out the last of the housewares, furniture and trash. There are people working hard around me, and they make bangs and thuds, and sometimes they need to talk with me. I’m doing some work remotely for the day job on my phone, and I’m running errands to take care of house things. And amidst that, I’m writing on a giant porch overlooking a lake.

It’s magical. It’s wonderful to have stretches of time when I can write.

weirsdaleporchnanowrimoAnd it’s hard. It takes discipline to make time to write. It seems especially challenging since I’m not used to having this much time available to write. My usual writing schedule is day to day, dependent on family time, work schedules, and whether the weather is too good to miss out on a bike ride to get my body moving along with my mind.

NaNoWriMo puts out a constant stream of support and ideas during November, including prompts for writing sprints. That’s how I’ve been getting myself to focus on writing, rather than the myriad other things happening around me.  In between I can make notes of where to go next, write down any additional characters that have popped up that I want to keep track of.  And then, it’s on to the next push.

For a writing sprint, you set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes, and then write. No looking at the clock. You let the scene unfold as you go, or work on the scene you’ve planned to write next. You make it something exciting, where something important HAPPENS. It’s amazing how much you can crank out in small bit of time like that. Yesterday, I managed 800 words during a 20 minute sprint, and I had a great time writing about my main character and her bloody shovel.

Best of luck on your journey to your 50K. You can totally do this, you know, whether you’re holed up in a corner at home or looking over the water and straining to hear ghosts.  I’d love to hear how your writing is going, so leave me a comment and tell me what tricks you’re using to keep the words coming.

Christmas Is Creeping Up Behind You – 1 Day Until Halloween

The Halloween shelves are shrinking with the last of the cackling skeleton brides and tombstones.  There are some turkeys overlapping them, but Christmas and winter holidays are coming on strong.  I see you, giant nutcrackers and elves, just on the other side of the shelf.

RIP carolersHalloween is almost here, our last revelry of this spooky season, but the creepy celebration isn’t over.  I’ll be writing about scary things through November for NaNoWriMo.  And I’ll be finding inspiration in my beloved swamps, like these carolers guarding a grave.  Are they singing songs of celebration or lamentations?  Or an endless, hellacious round of Jingle Bells to torment the poor soul?

Hallow-WriMo – 11 Days Until Halloween

NaNoWriMo begins at midnight on November 1. I’m often up then, closing down the house after the last trick-or-treaters and eating Halloween snacks in front of a late night horror movie. I’ve usually gotten most of the makeup wiped off, and I’ve transitioned to ghost socks. I’ll be dreaming of starting my NaNoWriMo story.

I’ve actually already started because it’s been building in my head for several weeks now. Characters are fleshing out, and I am starting to see how they look, though they haven’t all revealed their names yet. A few locations are coming together.  The antagonist is starting to talk and he’s pretty grumpy. The main character is pretty antagonistic, herself.

My writing will begin later on November 1, after the sun has come up, but I’m excited about it already. I want to get to that scene I see in my head, where the main character is exasperated about cleaning up the blood. I can’t wait to hear her pitch a fit as I write about her.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, look me up and send me a note at “Leaves and Cobwebs.” I’d love to hear how your stories are going, too.

74 Days Until Halloween – 75 Days Until NaNoWriMo

Summer is ending, and Autumn dates and deadlines are suddenly upon me.  It’s also:

14 days until the first 10 pages of my short story are due for the critique session at the Florida Heritage Book Festival Critique Session.

37 days until the Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writers Conference.  This will be my first time attending this conference, and I’m especially excited that it’s in St. Augustine, which happens to be the location of my current WIP.  I can’t wait to run my hands over those coquina stone walls again.

58 days until the Florida Writers Conference.  Last year was the first time I attended this conference, and I was blown away.  Not only were the sessions varied and technically robust, but the attendees were incredibly welcoming and supportive.  It inspired me to jump into my first NaNoWriMo last November (and Camp NaNoWriMo’s, too), and to submit poetry and short stories for publication.

Fall is my favorite season, but we won’t feel it for a couple months here in Florida.  Right now, it’s nearly 80 degrees at night, and up in the nineties each day.  Right now, the nightly thunderstorm is blowing outside, and it’s getting the frogs in the swamp so excited that they’ll wake me up tonight with their croaking.

But Halloween will be here soon. Summer will be reined in, things will begin to slow down and droop, night will come sooner, and Fall will make everything crackling and mysterious.  The promise of it coming has me excited to get writing on a new spooky story on November 1.

Camp NaNoWriMo – Mosquitoes

Welcome to Day 20 of Camp NaNoWriMo!  How does your camp look?  Is your tent still dry?  Provisions well stocked?  Any interesting interactions with wildlife?

I’ve been putting all my writing energy into focusing on my novel, editing and adding scenes to improve its structure.  That’s resulted in me wandering off in the woods a bit, posting fewer blog posts and slapping away the mosquitoes of real life distractions.  I knew this would be different from the creative push of writing a first draft, but I did not expect how it would push my brain to work so differently and how much I would learn from the process.

Focusing solely on the novel is hard at times.  Real life has many distractions, but it also provides so much inspiration.  I see places I want to photograph; I think of poems and scenes for short stories that are hanging in the wings.  I’m  jotting down ideas when they come – the other morning I spent my #5amwritersclub time to write a scene for a short story because I woke up thinking about it and didn’t want to lose it.  But I’m pushing myself to always turn my focus back to the novel.

This focus is tightening the structure of my story more, which is a cool thing to experience.  I see gaps now that I’m reading some sections fresh after several months.   When I read a well-crafted story, there’s a thrill to how the characters and story elements move together.  My goal is to stitch my seams together so well that they don’t show.

Camp NaNoWriMo – Lurking in the Woods

Welcome Campers and lurkers!  Day 8 of Camp NaNoWriMo and the day is full of activities.

As I’ve posted before, I’m editing and adding to my draft novel for Camp NaNoWriMo.  Most of the story is set in Florida woods next to a blackwater river.  It’s a setting I can see vividly in my mind – lush growth and dark water – and it’s a place I have great affection for.  And it feels delightfully full of living and dead things, as all the best wild areas do.

So as I work on it during Camp NaNoWriMo, I am doubly tickled that the novel has all sorts of camp-related activities: walking in the woods, swimming, eating outside, the vague dread that the river, or perhaps your relative, wants to do you harm.

And campers.  I am very lucky to be part of a cabin of smart, funny writers who post each day to share support and talk about writing.  I found my cabin by responding to a Twitter post by an author (and publisher) I follow.  Having folks to ask about formatting internal monologue and reminisce about 1980’s horror movies had made the experience even more fulfilling and productive and November’s NaNoWriMo was.

1980’s horror movies: also fond of happening in the woods.  Near the river.  *insert evil laugh here*

Camp NaNoWriMo Day 3 – Editing, Writing, Editing, Writing

So far, Camp NaNoWriMo is rocking along for me.  I’m working on editing my novel from November’s NaNoWriMo.  I’ve never edited something this long before.  I’ve printed it out so I can scribble on it.novel 1st draft - 1

Yep, this stack of paper isn’t imposing at all.

The great thing I’ve found is that I’ve had enough time away from the story (having just added bits and pieces since November) that I can scratch through the text freely.  The naively unexpected thing I’ve found is that reading through it makes me see gaping holes that I want to fill with more writing.

That’s good, right?  I’m going with good and letting myself write in those missing details or change exposition to dialogue, rather than limiting myself to cutting things.  I have read that some writers focus their editing that way, limiting it to pruning and making notes for parts to add after they are done.  But I’m writing as the inspiration comes, at least for now.  This is a big learning experience of me.

In a future post, I’ll talk about how I found my cabin mates for Camp NaNoWriMo and how much interacting with them is adding to the experience.

Happy camping!

Writing Talismans and Camp NaNoWriMo

This is my writing scarf.

It’s my writing scarf because it’s a little spooky and my family gave it to me to wear while I’m writing.  I wore it occasionally, and then put it on for the first day of NaNoWriMo last November – great for keeping warm in the chilly spot where I sit in the kitchen – and by the end of the month it was constantly draped over me or the back of my chair, a fixture like my tea pot.  It became code in our house, that if I was wearing it, I was writing, in my head or tapping on the keys.

I’m quite affectionate towards it at this point.

It’s been getting warmer and I haven’t been wearing my scarf as often.  But Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow, so I grabbed it on the way out the other day.  I planned to fit in a couple hours on a short-story while my teen was at a school practice.

Wow!  I managed 1600 words in a couple of hours.  The words flowed; I twisted my magical scarf while thinking.  It was a productive morning.

Whether or not my scarf is imbued with actual magic, I believe our rituals make things slide into place in ways.  The hot tea, the scarf wrapped around me, pulling my computer up to the same spot on the table make everything come together and tell my brain it’s time to write.  It’s comfortable and exciting.

Anyone else going to Camp this April?  There’s one more day to sign up.  Come check it out here.  Come say hi if you do – I’m Leaves and Cobwebs over there, too.