Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: fiction

Writing Fiction: Getting Back on the Horse Again

old school writing
Creativity is flowing.

NaNoWriMo started today, and I managed to write 2,750 words. That’s more than enough to meet the goal of 50,000 words for the month, but I’m not happy with it. This is part of the problem with my OCD trait rearing its ugly head. When I decided to do NaNoWriMo this year, I decided that I’d go back to basics since I haven’t written fiction in quite some time. 50,000 words. That’s it. Nothing fancy, nothing creative. That breaks down to 1,667 words a day, which is something I can do in my sleep*. As I was writing today, I thought, “I should make it 2,000 words a day.” When I passed that, I thought 3,000 sounded better. I have a tendency to move the goalposts any time I reach a goal, which means perpetual frustration. Instead of being happy that I’ve written 2,750 words when I haven’t written fiction in months, I’m pushing myself to write an extra 250 words to reach the totally fabricated number of 3,000.

As I wrote in a previous post, I’ve been upset with myself because my brain hasn’t been providing me with stories lately. When I was in my twenties, I would sit down at my computer and just knock out several thousand words in one sitting. I have a dozen finished novels and probably fifty or more short stories, and I took it for granted that I’d always be able to write at such a prodigious pace. In the last year or so, my fiction writing has slowed to a crawl. I have several theories as to why that is, and I’ll enumerate them now. The first is that I ‘watch’ videos as I’m writing, but that one doesn’t really hold water because I’ve always had something else going on while I’m writing, mainly music. I never really understood why I did this, but the best I can figure is that it’s my version of a white noise machine. When I write, I need something to filter out the dross so I can focus on the ideas that matter. I know that it’s breaking all the cardinal writing rules, but as I said in my previous post, fuck writing rules. Except, write, write what you want, and do whatever it takes to help you write. “Write first thing in the morning.” Most people have other jobs, and I do my best writing late at night, anyway. “Don’t edit as you write–just write.” Nope. Editing as I go is the way I write, and that’s not going to change any time soon. “Don’t throw away anything you write.” Hell, no. Some of my shit is so bad, it deserves to be relegated to the trash heap.

I already have enough of my brain mandating what I should and shouldn’t do. I don’t need any more rules and regulations to live by, especially ones that come from outside sources. I’m kind of a dick in that if something doesn’t make sense to me after I examine it, I ignore it. I will listen to someone criticize my writing, but I rarely make the changes they suggest. I have a vision when it comes to my writing, and it takes a lot to sway me. Yes, I’m a delicate flower whose writing is more precious than gold. I jest, but it’s not far from the truth. I will say that when I was in grad school for writing, I took several classmates suggestions for one of the favorite stories I wrote, and in the process, I killed the story. When a story is vibrant, it shimmers as I read it. With this story, it glowed after I finished it the first time. With every edit, the shimmer faded little by little until the words were totally flat by the time I was done. I was so distraught, I metaphorically shoved the story into the back of a drawer and tried to forget it even existed. Years later, a friend mentioned that she loved that story, and I reread it for the first time in several ¬†years. It was still flat, but I was determined to revive it. I took out all the updates I made, painstakingly, piece by piece, and I reinserted the grimmer vision I had originally concocted for it. When I was done, I could see the shine again, and it might not have been quite as bright, but it was alive once more.

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Do You Even NaNoWriMo, Bro?

write, baby, write
Let’s get cracking!

I saw a tweet that mentioned getting ready for NaNoWriMo the other day, and it took me by surprise. For whatever reason, November always creeps up on me, and this year has been no exception.

What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It’s a world-wide event that occurs every November in which you write a 50,000 word novel in that one month. You have to start on the first day of November* and stop at midnight in your time zone. There are NaNoWriMo support groups across the country, and you get motivated messages from the NaNoWriMo team throughout the month as well. There’s no reward at the end except a badge for your website page and the satisfaction of writing 50,000 words in a month. It was established in 1999, but really seemed to take off in the past decade. There has been debate whether it’s a good thing or not because the only goal is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Some people think it allows more dreck to be created while others see it as a way of encouraging emerging writers. I’m in the latter camp because I know how hard it can be to just sit down and write. I’m not a big fan of the plethora of shit that is published, but that’s not the responsibility of NaNoWriMo. Most pop culture is dross, and it’s been that way since the beginning of art. It’s not as if a novel written in a month is immediately going to be published, anyway, so there’s little danger that a novel will go directly from NaNoWriMo to the shelf.

I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times, and it’s always jump-started my fiction writing. I’m about to say something that will make many NaNoWriMoers mad, but it’s really not a humble brag. I’ve never had a problem meeting the word count goal because, as you can probably tell, I’m a verbose writer. “Why use one word when ten will do?” is my motto, and I follow it passionately. The first three years I participated, I wrote a complete novel of more than 50,000 words plus a good chunk of another novel. I reached nearly 200,000 words (or passed it) one year, and I’ve gotten past 100,000 more than once. The last few times I participated, I decided to set my own goals rather than just aim for 50,000 words.** Before that, I had taken a break for a few years because I was just…not bored, but…not enthused about doing it. Part of the fun is seeing if you can meet the goal, and without that tension, it really just fell flat for me. By setting different goals, I reinvigorated my excitement for NaNoWriMo without aggravating my OCD tendencies.

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