Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: nanowrimo

NaNoRebel month is here again

It’s November, which means it’s NaNoWriMo! Was I planning on doing it before my hospital visit? Not really. Would I have ended up doing something for it? Probably. I usually do because, well, it’s there. Why not? I’m going to be writing, anyway. Why not do NaNoWriMo? I can start a new novel and whip out 50,000 words in a month. Let’s do this thing! In the past few years, however, I’ve grown bored with it. 50,000 words a month is not a big thing for me (and, yes, that IS a humblebrag. Wait. It’s not humble at all, so it’s just a plain brag). I didn’t like the stricture of starting a new novel because it seemed so random and unnecessary. And restrictive. I ain’t mad at it because it got a lot of people to write who were hesitant about writing. It’s overall good, I think, but it was in the need of an update.

On my own, I started messing with the formula. Starting a sequel to a novel. Editing a novel. Then, I found out that NaNoRebel was a thing and I was intrigued. It basically said, “Fuck all the rules. Do what you want as long as it’s writing-related. Even if it’s tangential. Edit a novel? fine. Write a multimedia performance piece? You go! Word count? What’s that? The freedom of NaNoRebel appealed to me because there were no rules. As someone who writes every day (or did before the hospital), I wrote three to four thousand words every day. 50,000 weren’t no big thing.

I’ll admit it. NaNoWriMo felt stale. There was no thrill, no excitement. It’s like the lover you know too well. Yeah, you might get the orgasm, but it won’t be as explosive as it used to be. Then, NaNoRebel swept in on its Harley, revving the engine outside my apartment door at 3 a.m. You have my attention! It looked so goddamn sexy with their legs casually spread across their hog—I knew I had to take that ride, even if it ended in a spectacular crash. I hopped on without donning a helmet and raced off into the night. My heart pounding so loudly, I could hear it in the stillness of the night. The crisp, autumn air blowing in my face, making me feel alive.

Wait a minute. What am I talking about? I forgot for a minute. Oh, right. NaNoRebel. It  was a breath of fresh air after doing vanilla NaNoWriMo for several years. NaNoRebel assumes that you don’t need urging to write–no, you need permission to spread your wings and fly! Be as creative as you want to be. There are no limits except those that your mind imposes on you. You want to write a stream-of-conscious poem that consists of you adding one word a day? Go for it! You want to write in Windings? I’m sure that’s fine as well.


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NaNo Rebelled it out…and eggs

There are two more days in November as I am writing this and I have been hard at work for NaNo Rebel. I have a cycle when I’m writing or when I’m trying to hit a goal that is a tale as old as time. In the beginning, I’m fresh and excited, eager to tackle the new project. A few weeks later, I’m in the middle of it, just slogging away. I have my head down, ignoring the junk along the way. Near the end, I suddenly rebel, kicking and screaming. I hit 91,000 words and suddenly just did not want to do it any longer. In the Before Times, 100,000 words in a month would have been fairly comfortable for me to do. I’m not saying it would have been easy, but I wouldn’t have stressed out about it too much.

During the pandemic when my state is exploding with new cases–let’s talk about that for a second. I live in Minnesota. We went from being 30-something in terms of cases in the beginning of the pandemic (not great, but not terrible) to being in the top ten–and not in a good way. It’s because Iowa and South Dakota are 1 and 2 in testing positive (over 10%), and North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin are 1, 2, 3, and 4 respectively for most cases of COVID per 100,000. Guess which state is surrounded by those states? That would be Minnesota.

Anyway, all that is to say that I’ve been understandably distracted a bit by *waves hand around self* Writing these days is very fractured. I’m not happy about it, but I’ve accepted it. Ten minutes, then surf the net. Ten minutes, then grab a smoke. Ten minutes, then have a snack. When I hit 91,000 words with four days to go, I suddenly didn’t want to do it any longer. I wanted to quit and be done with it, which is sadly how I operate in general when it comes to projects. I lose interest at the end for one of two reasons or both. One, I have my next project set up and am raring to go on that. Two, I hate the end of things. I always have and it’s the reason I still haven’t watched the last Prime Suspect episode even though I loved the series.


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50,000 ways to write a novel

Let’s talk NaNoWriMo for a minute. Or, in my case, NaNo Rebel. As I’ve mentioned, I have no problem writing 50,000 words in a month (that’s not a humblebrag. Just an outright brag) and I’ve long since decided to do my own thing instead of holding down the basics. Another rule of NaNoWriMo is that you start the novel on the first day of the month and not a moment before. I found that to be restrictive as well because I was usually in the middle of something by the time November arrived. This time, I already had 25,000 words written and I was aiming for 100,000 more. I’d done it before for NaNoWriMo before–and more–but this year is not like any other. *waves at the world around me*

My meta-goal is to finish this novel by the end of the year. The other two novels in this trilogy are roughly 230,000 words each and I see this one being similar. That means 100,000 words in November and 100,000 in December. I have a 20,000-word excerpt that I wrote during the last novel which I decided fit better with this one. I don’t know where I’m going to pop it in, but I’ll find a place for it. It’s not finished, either, and it has some implications for the bigger picture. I’m also going off on a weird tangent that may or may not make it into the final product. It’s interesting and sheds a light on a character who was minor in the second book, but is emerging as a main player in the third.

I’m interested in doing a side project that has a short story about each character’s backstory. I’m not sure I’m going to do it, but this weird side tangent is similar to that. While my original goal is to finish this novel by the end of the month, there’s another part of me that is more interested in going off on all these tangents. I don’t know if it’s because of my usual distaste for the end of things or because I truly just want to remain with these characters. They seem to have more to say and it’s not necessarily related to the main story. It’s like the sidequests in video games–they may not be necessary for the main game, but they certainly make things more interesting.

This book is really interesting in that I know how the last fifty pages are going to go–until the very end. I don’t know how I’m getting there and the motivation for the main character I previously mentioned has drastically changed. I had one idea in mind for her and then one day, another idea hit me. I liked the second idea better and could make it fit with the rest of the story. Now, I’m building for that end, but I’m not sure how it fits in with the bigger picture.

It’s good that I have this side stuff to invigorate me because I’m struggling with the main story. I don’t know how to get where I need to be, which is why I’m taking all these side trips.


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NaNo rebel coming in hot

I’m writing this on Election Day and I’m stridently ignoring that tidbit until later tonight. I already voted a few weeks ago by mail so I don’t have to do anything today. Four years ago, I was pretty sure that Clinton would win so I watched with eagerness. My excitement turned to dread as the returns came in. Ian was with me and we both were stunned. I sunk into a deep depression when I realized the results and it was doubly terrible because I had been so sure Clinton would win.

Fast-forward to this year. Most of the predictions including Nate Silver (the one who called it for the president and got pilloried for it. I am ashamed to admit I was one who decried him for fearmongering for clickbait) are overwhelmingly pro-Biden, but I am not going to let that happen to me again. I’m hopeful it’s going to be Biden-Harris (though I have no love for Biden), but I have the growing dread that the president will somehow manage to get away with it. I don’t know what it means, but that it’ll be four more years.

So let’s not talk about it. Let’s talk about NaNoWriMo instead. Or NaNo Rebel. Or whatever. In two days, I’ve written 8,000 words. To be fair, I started at midnight on the 1st, which I count as the 31st of October in my brain (day doesn’t start until I get up), but it feels good to have almost 10,000 under my belt. It’s me writing a thousand words at a time–sometimes forcing myself. I had been trying to be kind and allowing myself to take breaks whenever I wanted. That led to me writing for five minutes, breaking for ten minutes, taking a smoke break, then back to writing for five minutes. Rinse, lather, repeat.

Now, I’ve told myself firmly that I have to write a thousand words before I can do anything else. Then, I take a small break and do a thousand more. It’s not been easy, but it’s been invigorating. It really has changed my writing habit and drastically. In addition, I feel better about this project than I did when I was babying myself.

To be clear–I’m not putting down self-care. I think it’s important to  know your limits and to honor the fact that it’s a really difficult time right now. There are days when you simply cannot (this seems to be one of them for me), but at least for me, it’s time to be a bit more strict with myself and only myself.

In addition, I set the goal of writing 100,000 words this month. I’m still sticking to it, but I’m toying with a few twists to my goal. For one thing, I want to do a short bio of each of the main characters. Or rather, a backstory for each. Especially each sister and the aunt because they are so important. Like a snapshot of each. It wouldn’t be included in the novel, but it would be a good addendum to the trilogy.

Nothing big. Just 5,000 word snippets of each character. There probably wouldn’t be one for the main character because all three novels have snippets of her life. Plus, a few of the besties. Maybe seven in total? That’s an extra 35,000 words. If I do that, then I really won’t finish by the end of the year. But it intrigues me. Therefore, I may do it. One of my issues is being very rigid in my thinking and once I get something in my head, I have a hard time bending from what I said I was going to do.


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NaNoWriMo Rebel Yell

I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times over the past decade or so and for the first few years, I just followed the edict of starting a new novel and writing 50,000 words. I wasn’t trying to push myself because I was new to the whole NaNoWriMo thing and I didn’t want to make waves. The thing is, though, that I didn’t have a hard time with this goal. I am verbose and can write for days. Or at least, I could in pre-pandemic times. I’ve been struggling in the past few months, churning out fiction that was functional, but didn’t have that pizzazz to it. I’m not unique in this as I’ve read and heard that many people are having difficulty concentrating on daily tasks.

For the past few years, I’ve set the goal of writing 2,000 words of fiction a day. I’ve done it almost every day (I think it’s every day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed one every year or so). That means that I’m meeting the NaNoWriMo number count every month. What I’m saying is that it ain’t no thing. And, yes, it’s a not-so-humble brag. I know there’s no way to say it without sounding arrogant so I’m just laying it on the line. I will add that I have a flexible schedule and plenty of time to do it in, which helps a ton. However, I can take a modicum of pride in the fact that  I do it every day because many people don’t, even with good intentions.

I started getting bored with NaNoWriMo. One year, I decided to set a goal of 5,000 words a day. I made it and then some, which was amazing. I didn’t do NaNoWriMo for a few years because I was bored with it, to be frank. There was no challenge except whatever I added to the basic formula. When I went back to it, I decided that I would add my own twist. One year, I edited a novel instead of writing one. One year, I worked on an existing novel. Last year, I think I did the same thing. I looked it up. I just wrote about whatever I wanted to write about apparently.

Last year, I became aware that there’s a subset of people who do NaNoWriMo but with their own goals. They call themselves NaNo Rebels. They do whatever they want within the month of November as long as it has something tangentially-related to writing and it spoke to me. I liked the idea of being a rebel so I embraced the name to my bosom.


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Breaking free of my mind shackles through NaNoWriMo

I’ve been in a writing rut for quite some time, and while the product is still decent, there is a sameness to it that bothers me. Most of my protagonists are Taiwanese American bisexual older women with black cats who do taiji. In other words, me. I don’t have a problem with that because there are exactly none of those in fiction, but it’s not a stretch for me to write. Oh, also they are empathetic, yet prickly to a varying degree. It’s fun to write the characters, but I feel as if I’m coasting.

It’s November, which means NaNoWriMo. As I’ve written in the past, the stated goal of 50,000 words a months (starting a new novel) is not an issue for me. I write 2,000 words a day as it is, so I can meet the goal without breaking a sweat. In the past, I’ve set other goals for myself, such as writing 5,000 words a day (made it), edit a novel (easy-peasy), working on something I’m already writing, and whatever else I felt like doing. It’s become a Thing to set your own goals for NaNoWriMo, so much so that the NaNo rebels as they are called have their own forums on the website. I’ve been a rebel more than I’ve been a regular in the past five years or so.

This year, I thought about NaNoWriMo about a week ago, remembering that it was coming up. I’m going to Philly this Thursday for five days to visit my BFF, so that has to be factored into NaNoWriMo as well. I’m bringing my laptop when I go, but we have a lot planned, so we’ll see how much I actually write. I wasn’t sure I was going to do NaNoWriMo this year, and I knew if I did, I wouldn’t do what they wanted me to do.

Look. I understand the sentiment, and it was a great way to get me to write on a daily basis when I first did it…ten years ago? Something like that. That was the best thing about my MA program, by the way (Writing & Consciousness)–it got me to write every day. For the first few NaNoWriMos I participated in, that was good enough for me. I felt virtuous for writing the 2,000 words a day (I rarely wrote less than that), and that was the whole point of NaNoWriMo.


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Depression infusion

a mirror to my soul.
Unrelenting gloom.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month because why not? I’m already up to 32,000 words, so I don’t think I’m going to have much trouble meeting the 50,000 words goal. I never do as writing a plethora of words is not an issue for me. I mused about looking more into the business side of things, which I have yet to do. Or rather, the marketing side as it’s much different in this digital age. Authors have to push their brand (themselves and their books) on social media in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I know it’s the way of the world now, but I have a very Taiwanese horror of promoting myself. I’ve talked with my mother about it, and she feels the same way.

Speaking of my mother, watching her twist herself into knots over my father has been disheartening, depressing, and enlightening. She’s using his illness as a reason to let her weaknesses run rampant. Let me be blunt. She is a control freak (I come by it honestly), and she is a constant worrier (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). The problem is, anyone would be worried in her position. My father just went through a ten-hour surgery to deal with three fused vertebra. Plus, we believe he’s in early onset dementia. That would be a lot to deal with for any spouse. However, my mother goes past worry into straight up obsession. Whenever we talk, it’s all about him. She may ask me how I’m doing, but once I say, she veers immediately back to her own health for a minute or him.

It’s not conducive worry, either. Conducive worry leads you to make a reasonable plan in order to deal with the situation. Then, once you make the plan, you put it out of your head and the worries are mostly allayed. I know it’s unrealistic to expect her to be completely blasé about it, but it’s all she can talk about. She’ll say something like, “I can’t leave him alone” followed by, “What if he falls when I’m not there?” and she’s off on a tangent about the fear of him falling for ten minutes. She sounds like the voices in my head when they go off the rails.

Normally, I try to listen and make soothing noises in her general direction. However, the last time I talked to her, I tried to inject some reason into her brain. I know, I know, but I had to give it a shot. After she was panicky for ten minutes about something or the other concerning the minutia of my father’s condition, I told her as gently as I could that constantly worrying about it didn’t help. I said she as a therapist knew that. She admitted that she it was her control issues at play, but she quickly glided over it.

I’ve said it before, but watching her interact with my father, or rather, watching her obsess over my father is the main reason I don’t want to be in a romantic relationship. Why? Because I see too much of myself in her. I know how easily I would slip into that mindset, and I see how hard it is to get out. She’s convinced herself that she *has* to worry about my father to this extent, and while, as I said, it’s reasonable for her to have a lot of worry, she’s pushing it to excess. She’s allowing her own mental health issues to drive the bus, and she has an excuse/explanation any time I bring it up.

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NaNoWriMo confessionals

I’ve done NaNoWriMo several times in the past decade, and while I haven’t done it every year, any time I did participate, I completed the original goal–handily. I have a personal goal of writing 2,000 words a day, and I’ve been doing it consistently for many months if not a year. This means if I just continue doing what I do, I will easily meet the NaNoWriMo goal.

One year, I set my own goal. I decided I would edit a manuscript I already had, and that was very satisfying in its own way. I’ve realized that while I appreciate NaNoWriMo and thinks it’s an excellent way for people to make themselves write if they ordinarily wouldn’t, I have no use for the original goal. I don’t feel any sense of accomplishment in meeting it, so the whole thing is a bit hollow for me. One year, I set the goal at 200,000 (I think). I made it, and that was quite the thrill. However, I’m not sure that setting an arbitrary number is the most productive use of my time. In addition, I have OCD tendencies, which means I fixate on numbers as if they’re gods.

It was one of my biggest problems when I was dieting. I had all these numbers that Meant Something, and they slowly morphed into the be-all, end-all. In addition, the final number (the goal weight I wanted to be) kept moving any time I got even close to it. The first time I started a diet, I was counting calories. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but I started assigning values to the numbers. Some were bad and some were good. That spiraled into they were all bad, and at the end of that road was anorexia/bulimia.

The second time, I had a goal weight, plus I used a tape measure. I was losing roughly a half inch a week, and that quickly became the standard. If I didn’t reach that half inch, it would make me miserable for the whole week. In addition, I had a hard and fast rule about how much exercise I had to do a day, and I thought it was reasonable that I set it at 2 hours of aerobics every day and forty-five minutes of weight-lifting every other day.

It works the same when I’m writing. Because I have a personal goal of 2,000 words a day, I have a mentality like, “Reach 500 words and take a mini-break.” “Reach a thousand words and do one mission/quest in MHW.” It’s not a bad way to write, but it can become rigid. My own weird brain thing is that things have to be broken up into quarters. In this case, quarters of a hundred. I’ve told this story before, but I used to have a compulsion that if I saw a clock at any quarter of the hour, I had to rapidly count to 25 (another quarter) before the clock changed. My last therapist once asked me what would happen if I didn’t make it, and I said I would be upset. She persisted, asking me what practically would happen, and I was flummoxed. I couldn’t answer her, of course, and that was the beginning of the end to my counting.


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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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