Archive for the ‘90-Day Novel’ Category

I hate to admit it, but I am: I’m scared. Scared to death of what awaits my writing journey. Scared of what I know will happen and what I don’t know will happen. Scared that I’m not good enough, that what I imagined will never make it onto the page as perfectly as it resides inside my brain.

Many authors will admit to feeling this very same fear. The fear of success. The fear of failure. Whatever source we give this fear the result is the same. It is what leaves authors staring at a blank page unable to write a single word, overwhelmed by what lay before them.

After working my way through the 90-Day Novel for the past…several months… I have only gotten through day 30 in the listing of daily exercises and encouragement. Yes, I’m so overdue to finish this 90 day program that I should have to start paying a late fee. To be fair, I didn’t stretch out the daily activities over several days, I just didn’t consistently work on them. This might be feeding into my fear of beginning. I’ve had three months to plot, to plan, to explore. I’ve never spent this long on a story before just in a planning stage. Typically I have an idea and I start writing snippets immediately and just go with it. For once, I feel completely in control. And it terrifies me.

I finally hit the part of the 90-Day Novel that it says, ” You are about to start your novel. We will spend this first week writing until you reach the initiating incident.”

“Holy Shit!,” I respond. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this. This is an awful lot of responsibility.” It’s almost like I’ve been carrying this story safely in my womb and I’m now experiencing labor pains. Is it too late to turn back the hands of time? Maybe it can just marinate a little bit longer in there, you know, for good flavor and we can deal with this some other time.

The book has all sorts of reassuring things to say. Something like. “We give you full permission to suck. You should give yourself full permission to suck. The point of the first draft is to get it on paper and if it sucks that’s okay. That’s why we have revision.”

“I don’t know if I can handle this,” I say, starting to hyperventilate. The book reminds me of the Lamaze classes we’ve been taking so I can visualize my story gently gliding from the tip of my pen onto the paper knowing that it is perfect the way it is when it first comes out. That’s what parenting is all about. Through time and training we can mold it into the book we want.

I stare at the paper. It’s so…white, and lined. It’s beautiful in it’s perfection and I don’t want to mar it with my hopeless scrawling. And yet I must. This story that has been living within my brain for three months has to come out. It is the point of no return. And so I tentatively write what I have pictured as my first line for at least two of the three months. This is okay. I can do this. What am I supposed to say next? I remember scribbling down something during the planning process but that doesn’t seem right now. Too much exposition and not enough action. Well, let’s write down this.

No! No that beginning doesn’t work but my training states not only do I allow myself to suck but I shouldn’t rewrite anything, nor should I cross out. I skip a line and begin again. Three times I do this before I give up for the evening. “The time isn’t right.” I decide, ” It’s false labor. The real time is tomorrow.” And yet as I lay in bed words come to mind, a story is forming. I resist the urge to turn my light back on lest the idea stop before it is begun, lest I find out it, too, is false.”

This morning I woke up early (my biological clock is still ticking to the time before daylight savings). For once my alarm woke up at 5:30am and I felt ready to start the day. I dress, eat, pack my lunch and sit down with my notebook. And I write. I write as my brain instructed to me moments before falling asleep, and after a half an hour of furious work I feel satisfied. The story is not fully birthed, but the first contraction has passed. And now I prepare myself for the task ahead, still scared, but with an inkling of hope that this, too, will pass into pages of satisfaction.

If you’re at all in touch with the writing community you’ve probably already been bombarded by posts about NaNoWriMo. People have been gearing up for the whole of October. This makes sense for several reasons. First, because now is the time to plot your novel if you plan on participating with a plan, so people are talking about that. Second, because the newly refurbished website went live and if you’ve ever participated before you’ve gotten plenty of e-mails documenting the new wonderfulness. It really is very pretty now. I approve of the upgrade. Third, because other people are talking about it. Maybe that was covered in the first reason? In any case, November is an exciting month for writers. Thousands upon thousands of people all striving towards a similar goal. I participated in the smaller scale CampNaNo this summer. It was hard, it was grueling, it was a lot of fun, and yes, I did write 50,000 words.

Now it’s November and it’s not an easy month to swing a novel. There’s the obvious blockades such as Thanksgiving weekend. It’s a big holiday in my family that requires the whole weekend to recuperate from. This could be in part because I juggle between two families worth of dinners but I think mainly it’s because I like to eat and hang out with people and the process is just exhausting. Being in the interpreting field presents a second roadblock in the form of my state’s conference. It’s the big one. Three days of workshops geared to improve skills and knowledge. That’s also a whole weekend that leaves me just burned out. Thirdly, it’s a busy time for after school activities at my job, which means I don’t typically arrive home on time half of the work week. November is a complete turd of a month to try to accomplish writing during. At least for me.

This doesn’t dissuade me from wanting to participate anyways. It’s so much fun to attend write-ins at local libraries, check stats online, and hear about other people’s trials, tribulations, and triumphs.

It just isn’t the most ideal time.

It was mentioned in another blog that there are many reasons for and against signing up for NaNoWriMo. And from my own experience I can say it’s a wonderful motivator and a fantastic challenge… but the draft I finished in July was no where near anything I could properly edit into something useable. I essentially have 50,000 words of a story that is so far away from being anything shareable that I’ll probably need another rewrite before I’ll even consider it. This is on a story that’s been percolating in my brain for over a year. It also left my brain so overwhelmed and burned out I wrote very little of anything the following month.

So, with all these things and more on my mind I’m thinking I will probably still participate in NaNoWriMo, but as something of a rebel. I’ll still sign up, try to attend a write-in or two, but this year I’m doing it all by hand. I’m not going to worry about word count, I’m going to worry about my ability to put writing first for the whole month. It’s actually an added bonus to what I’ve been working on the last few months, because I’ve been doing the 90-Day Novel. Granted, I started that journey probably 90 days ago and I’m no where near the end of the workshop. This is not to say the 90-Day Novel is complete bunk. I just haven’t written every day. But I have kept track of my writing in a day to day form. I’ve spent a grand total of almost 30 days working on the 90-Day Novel. This is perfect to coincide with NaNoWriMo as on day 30 I’m supposed to start drafting the story itself. I figure with the time I have available to me it is possible to embark on the first day of drafting my novel on the first of November.

Like I said, I won’t be typing. I won’t even be looking at word count. Instead I’ll just tell myself it’s important to write every day to the best of my abilities. At the end of the month I probably won’t have nearly the word count needed for a victory, but I can use the excitement as a launching pad to propel me through the holidays of December and get the first draft finished. When I’m done with the draft I’ll type it up and because every day I write will be dated I can see just how much was accomplished during a single month.

It’s not nearly as frantic, but I think it’s what I need.

 

Everyone who has ever walked into a grocery store and had their goods bagged by the cashier knows this phrase like the back of their hand. They expect it, and they have their standard answer that pops out without a thought. Unless you’re me, in which case I typically add an “Um…” like I actually have to think about it, like I don’t already know what I’m going to say. To be honest, I know what I’m going to say 90% of the time, but it still feels like a conundrum, as though it’s possible there is a wrong answer.

The same can be said for the eternal question of writing: Longhand or Typed?

Everyone’s answer varies, and typically people fall in one camp or the other.

I may be wrong, but I believe as far as writing goes most people will say typed. Plastic. It’s faster. You don’t get those weird hand cramps after being at it for an hour. It’s infinitely malleable. You can type something up and delete it a moment later if it doesn’t sound right. Nothing is set in stone, it’s just a jumble of zeros and ones on a computer hard drive. It’s space friendly. A whole novel fits on a jump drive. In fact, you can fit many novels on a jump drive. The typed word is always legible (unless your fingers suddenly aren’t on the home keys). For those with the intent to publish, the work has to get typed up anyways, it might as well get created that way. The list goes on.

I’m sure if I put my mind to it I could think of many other reasons why typing is superior, but just like I always have the “um” when I have to answer the cashier, I have the same problem when I write. Sometimes I don’t want plastic. Sometimes I want paper. I want to feel the pen in my hand, the paper resting beneath my palm. Longhand is tactile in a way that typing is not, your hand moving to actually form the letters instead of plink them out on a keyboard. Maybe it’s just me, but I sometimes find it less intimidating to write longhand. Something about the ability to scratch something out of existence is infinitely pleasing. There is no accusing stare of a blank screen, and if you happen to doodle in the margins while you think, so be it. Not to mention I can literally bring it everywhere. There is no need for electricity to power this apparatus, but if I run out of ink that could be a problem. Best to pack two pens.

The more I write, the more I realize I prefer a marriage between the two. For basic ideas, penning down of scenes and dialogue, I really do prefer a pen. The stress is minimal. I’m just putting down ideas, nothing concrete. After those ideas are down I can take that notebook over to the desk, sit down in front of the computer, and type it out, adding in things I didn’t have timeĀ  for in a first draft, refining as I go.

After putting forth all my energy into Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve wandered back to The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watts, working through writing exercises in a notebook, relaxing, playing with the world and reminding myself that nothing is permanent. It all can be ripped from existence, crumpled, and tossed into the garbage. The manuscript I finished during Nano was my typical hybrid approach. I wrote some out longhand, went to the computer, fleshed it out, and continued to type until I hit a block and had to go back to the pen. For my 90-Day novel I think I’m going to go completely longhand. All the prep-work has been longhand so far, and I think I want to see what it’s like to only have a written draft, to stop fiddling in the middle and just continue onwards. I do fiddle when I type. I edit word choice, add things, delete things, make sentences more succinct. I think for the 90 day, I want to see what its like to do it in order. To have a full first draft before I start fiddling with it.

Besides, I have a lot of notebooks that are just sitting around collecting dust.

 

 

The 90-Day Novel: Week 1

Posted: June 25, 2013 in 90-Day Novel
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Okay, so I’ve just about finished the first week of this do-it-yourself-workshop and I wanted to share my opinions on the process. For those of you who have been following along at home, you’ll probably tell me I’ve been at this for over a week. You’re right. But due to my boyfriend’s crazy work schedule weekends are the only time we have together so I take the weekends off from writing. (That will make CampNaNoWriMo really interesting, but more about that on a later post.)

I really like this approach so far. I’ve been working on it longhand, which brings me back to my roots. I love writing in long hand. My first works of fiction were written longhand, sometimes re-copied stories longhand as well to ensure the teacher could read what I wrote because it was easier than getting my printer to work. Yes, you heard it. Writing longhand was easier than typing something up and hitting print. The computer in question was pretty old and I don’t think it was really meant to work with the printer we had. The result was it ate lines of documents. Everything would be on the page just peachy, you hit print, and if it was anything over a page long you were flirting with disaster because it was possible a line or two would be tossed into the void and then you’d spend an hour trying to add spaces properly to counteract it. As a side note, my family was a bit late on the technology train. We were still printing on a dot matrix when my friends were basking in the glow of colored screens and using their laser jets. We didn’t get the internet until halfway through my freshman year in high school (2001). For reference, my friends had been using internet at their homes for at least two years prior to that. (The added bonus of internet was that it was dial-up, which meant I had to ask permission before using it because it would tie up the phone line when I used it. This has nothing to do with my ability to type, but it’s always interesting to think how far technology has come. Thus concludes my trip down memory lane.)

Even after getting a “real computer” that could actually print things, I rarely typed anything out because the notebook was much more portable. I spent a lot of free time in school writing out stories in the backs of notebooks. My brain works really well thinking in longhand, so doing this whole process that way is an added bonus for me. A blank page isn’t nearly as intimidating when you can count all the lines on it. Go wide rule!

I digressed twice. Back to the point. The exercises. Most of the first week has been exploring character, the belief being that character will inform/create plot. I have to say that this theory has been sound so far. I started with a basic concept of three characters, a general idea of what the story might be about, and have played with such wonderful phrases this week of “Write as your main character: The most embarrassing moment of my life was… I hate it when… Nothing brings me greater joy than…” One day the book gave me the added difficulty of loosely giving structure to the story where I had to think about possible theme, initiating incident, my main character’s motivations, and what the moment of truth might be where the character stands on a precipice and can either jump or find a new way to be happy. That was a little more difficult, but the stress was removed because of the reminder that this week we’re just playing. We are just exploring. We are not making hard and fast decisions here that can’t be changed.

Slowly a plot is taking shape. I can see the rough outlines of where the story might take me and I’m really excited about it. An interesting side effect of all this play and exploration is that I’ve written snippets about different characters that contradict what I previously wrote about them. Eventually I’ll have to make a decision about which back story is right, or if neither are as I continue to explore.

What I’ve really found enjoyable is that by writing snippets of dialogue, scenes, exploratory paragraphs about basic life experiences and whatever else I’m prompted to write that it takes me back to when I spent a lot of time on RPG forums. I handled one character, thought of a nifty little scene opener and then left it into the abyss for someone else to write the next few paragraphs adding their own character, which was my prompt to write my own response. The exploratory free-response exercises are a lot like that. You take the prompt, run with it for a little bit, and then drop it for the next prompt (like monitoring several threads at the same time). That was what I loved most about RPG boards. You kind of hit it and quit it, leaving it to grow and change a bit and then you come back and play some more. It was stress-free writing. Exploring my novel, laying the groundwork, is a lot like that.

There’s no worries, just play.

They aren’t really enemies, but I feel like anything that sticks a time-frame to novel writing must be philosophically at odds. Nanoers will say they only need 30, this book says you can create something in 90, and I’m sure I’ve seen something entitled “The year you write your novel” or something like that.

Anyways, I was tooling around my local library yesterday and came upon a book that I hadn’t really looked at before. I’d seen it on the shelf but told myself it wasn’t for me, at least not at that juncture. The book in question is a writing workshop book entitled the 90-day novel by Alan Watt. Typically I’ve passed this book over because I didn’t have the time, I wasn’t interested in conforming to someone else’s writing schedule, and I thought it would be the same kinds of things you see in those books they force you to work out of during creative writing class. (You know the type of book I’m talking about, each chapter devoted to an aspect of literature that you can analyze in other people’s work and then be assigned to write something that focuses on that attribute…the things that are nice if you want to do a general study of writing but doesn’t help you actually put anything together.) That was during the school year when I had a clear-cut idea of what I was doing with myself and what story I was working on. I mean, I’ve been working on Twelve for almost a year, I know that I just have to put my nose to the grinding stone and write it (I’m at about 31,000 words now and realizing it’s far more complex than I originally gave it credit for, but I digress).

However, I’ve had another story in mind about a Grim Reaper for almost as long and I’ve written almost nothing of it. The problem that I’ve had with my Grim Reaper story is that I have a basic idea but I don’t know where to go with it. Twelve has a clear cut start to finish idea but Grim Reaper is just a concept. Enter 90-Day Novel.

Now that summer is upon us I have a LOT of free time. I’m a school year employee so summer I’m at my leisure and limited budgeting skills. I figure why not use it to better myself and do all the writing that I’ve had to put on the back burner. Likewise, I do a lot of reading during the school year, and now that it’s summer I’m looking for shorter snippets instead of the long novel to read. I meandered around the library yesterday waiting for books to catch my eye. The winners include a dictionary of superstitions, a book about a woman who remembers everything since she was 13, WWII facts, and the 90-day novel. I figured I’d give this self-help book a shot just to see how the author planned to get people to write a book in 90 days. I know it’s possible to do in the span of a month if your nose is to the grinding stone, I just wanted to know what exactly was going on in this book other than “get your butt in a chair and do it.”

As it turns out, every day has a short few paragraphs of informative opener and writing exercises. The goal is to build the characters and the world as free-writing exercises, exploring the possibilities for almost a month before even attempting to write the story. The prompts for these free-writes are fantastic, and there’s more in the back of the book for the reader to utilize as they continue to explore. The goal is to write for about 2 hours every day exploring characters, setting, visuals, whatever you’d like to think about without committing to anything. After a month of exploration you outline and set out on your first draft, each day having encouraging snippets to motivate you to continue towards your final product.

I’ve decided to give this a whirl, see what it produces, and let you know how it all turns out. I’m excited to be working on the bones for another project while continuing on the first and with the time set at 90 days I’ll finish just after the beginning of the new school year (provided everything goes according to plan). This means, potentially, I’ll be sitting on two manuscripts to edit and rework when my brain is mush from interpreting all day. This is exciting. It’ll be interesting to see what develops and how exploring the world via free-writes will impact the ease of transitioning to a draft. I’ve never planned a whole lot. I’ve always taken an idea, ran with it, and worked through problems as they come along. So this will be a whole new experience for me. If I’m happy with the results I’ll probably pick up the sequel, which is called the 90-day rewrite.

This is day 2 of the 90-day novel, so I’ll let you know on day 7 if things are really going as well as I could hope.