No No Wrimo

This is a re-post of something I wrote last year.

Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month. A 30 day period where myriad writers rush to write 50,000 words. It’s great. Or it’s horrible. Or both, in some cases. But right about now, you might be feeling pressured to join.

I’ve done it twice, and both times I enjoyed the momentum as people psyche themselves up to become mad writing fools for a month. I felt energized by so many other writers joining me in a stampede to write as much as I could.

This year, I’m in revision mode. I’m deleting more words than I write, and trying to do Nanowrimo would do nothing but make me feel guilty. In case you might be in a similar position, I’ll let you in on a little secret:

It’s okay to just say No.

Look, I’ll make it official if you like 🙂

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In case you’d like to download this and print it out, I’ve (hopefully) set the certificate as a downloadable Word doc, nonowrimo.

It’s okay not to do Nanowrimo.  Maybe Nanowrimo will work for you next year. Maybe not. If you want to be a writer, you need to write. But you can march to the beat of a different drummer if that works better. So long as you keep writing, you’re doing good. And you can tell that little voice of self doubt (yes, that one that’s lurking in the back of your consciousness) that I said so. It probably won’t be impressed, but you never know. It might make you feel better.

If printing out a certificate makes you feel better about not doing Nano, then go for it! Whatever you do (or don’t do), please don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve got enough to do already without adding guilt to the mix.

The Constant Companion

I eat doubting,
work doubting,
go out to a dubious cafe with skeptical friends.
-Jane Hirschfield, My Doubt

I am hacking my way through the revisions to Geoff and Lia’s story. Revisions are like housework; I would much rather be doing something else, but once I’m done I am glad I did it.

Anne Anderson05The difference, of course, is that when I’m sweeping the floor, I rarely question whether I’m doing it right.

Perhaps this is a character flaw. Maybe I’ve been sweeping wrong all this time and no one told me.

But with writing, it’s different. I am slicing and dicing the text and then splicing it back together into a semblance of a smoothly flowing narrative. And at each step along the process, doubt is right there with me, a constant companion who questions everything.

I’ve decided that doubt is part of the process as well. I might as well sit him down and make him a cup of tea if he’s going to stay around.

Tools: Scrivener’s Visual Aids

I’m working on a story that needs to have equal “screen time” for both the hero and the heroine’s POV. Plus, it has to have elements of romance, suspense, and faith. When I’m in the middle of writing the story, I find it really easy to lose sight of all these different threads that need to be woven into the plot.

In Pat Haggerty‘s very useful Scrivener class, he showed us how to change the background color in the Binder view so that you can see which scenes are in the hero’s POV and which are in the heroine’s. I chose purple for the hero, and light green for the heroine.

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Recently, I learned that you can also add custom icons. I took a photograph of a flower and added it as an icon to symbolize Romance. Scrivener already had an icon I could use for suspenseful scenes, but I created an icon for scenes that emphasize inspirational elements. I also created an icon specifically for scenes that I knew would need to be rewritten.

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Then I went and applied these icons to the scenes in my chapters.

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I love visual aids like these. Trying to keep track of all these details in my head only guarantees that I will lose track of at least one of these threads. Laying it all out on the screen lets me concentrate on making the story as good as it can be.

In Praise of Bad Writing

I’ve finally managed to drag my muse out from under the bed where she’s been hiding ever since I got Geoff and Lia’s story back from the beta reader.

Here are three facts about the feedback:

  • The beta reader did a great job. Her feedback pinpointed the areas in the story that felt weak.
  • Her feedback was balanced between good and bad elements of my writing.
  • When I read her feedback, my belief in my ability to write went away and hid for a while.

Funhouse Mirror in the City - panoramioI knew I was being foolish to overreact like that. I did it anyway. I’ve decided that this reaction is part of the process and I’ll just have to accept it. Plus, I need to recognize that this reaction has very little to do with what the beta reader actually said. I apparently have a hearing problem; criticism of my writing is going to be distorted into something monstrous.

What the beta reader actually said: You need to work on areas A, B, and C.

What I heard: You are the worst writer in the history of the planet.

Picswiss SZ-23-15Something inside my head took the perfectly fair, dispassionate, balanced advice that I was offered and turned it upside down and inside out until it was almost unrecognizable.

Maybe it’s a reverse form of egotism. If I can’t be a good writer, then I’m going to immediately rank myself at the opposite end of the spectrum and be the Worst Writer Ever.

All right. Let’s imagine that’s true. In that case, there’s room for improvement. I will aim to be the Second Worst Writer Ever. Move one step up the ladder.

I have finally got myself back to work by ignoble means. Bribery. The only way I am going to let myself start working on the Shiny New Story waiting in the wings is to finish smoothing out Sam and Neil’s story and then revising Geoff and Lia’s story.

I have a confession to make: I am the sort of person who reads other people’s diaries. But I only read them if it’s the author is dead and the diary is published. I’ve read Virginia Woolf’s diaries. She used to note down how she felt at different stages of writing a novel and then come back later and compare it to how she felt about the story later. So I’m going to note here that at this moment I think that Samantha and Neil’s story is the worst thing I’ve ever written. When I started writing it, this story was all glitter and stardust. I want to check back in six months or so and see what I think about it then.

It’s hard to finish a story when you think it’s the worst thing you’ve ever done. I don’t want to submit a horrible story to my editor. But considering how my feelings about a story are going to change, I don’t think I’m the best judge of whether my stories are any good or not.

It’s not my job to reject this story. That’s the editor’s job, and she’s very good at it. I’m going to write it as best I can and then let her do her job. My job is to write it and then go on.

Bad writing can lead to good writing.

I really do believe that it’s only through writing The Worst Book Ever that I am going to get better. If I keep writing–and finishing–novels, and if I make it a point to analyze where I’ve gone wrong with each story, then I will get better at this.

You are the only you… There are better writers than me, there are smarter writers than me, there are people who can plot better, but nobody can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.

-Neil Gaiman

You never can tell

My first ever book is getting closer to publication. And I’m starting to worry.

I know, I know. I should be happy/excited/proud. Not nervous. But… taking words out of my head and putting them onto a page is one thing. Putting all those pages out for all the world to see is very different.

Is my book any good? I have not the slightest clue.

Anker- Die Andacht des Grossvaters 1893

Unimpressed readers

When an author first starts a book, it’s all rainbows and glitter and insta-love. It’s the Best Book Ever.

Then it comes back from the beta reader, and this book is clearly a complete waste of time and you are obviously an inept bumbler who should never have been allowed near a keyboard. Be off with you. Find a new hobby.

Then comes revisions, and it’s like eating dust and ashes. The story is dead, there’s no life to it, you should just delete it from your computer and burn any hard copies.

Then it comes out and… this part is hypothetical, but I’m guessing there will be one of two possible scenarios here:

  • Zzzzzzzz…. crickets…zzzzzz…. maybe a one-star review on Amazon if you’re lucky.
  • What, someone liked it? It’s not the absolutely Worst Book Ever? Maybe even not the Second Worst Book Ever? Hey, maybe it’s even made it up to the level of the Third Worst Book Ever! Success!

tl;dr — I am trying not to think about the upcoming publication of His Forgotten Fiancée. This week, I’m finishing up the smooth draft of Neil and Samantha’s story, tentatively titled Sierra Hostage. Then I am giving myself a month to go over the revisions for Geoff and Lia’s story before I send it to the editor. Keeping busy helps.

All I can do is focus on finishing the current story. Then the one after that. The next one will be better. Each time, the next one will be better.

Rachel Neumeier wrote an interesting post on The Psychology of Revisions.