Happy camping: Day 10

So, I made it through ten days of Camp NaNoWriMo virtually unscathed.  Seriously, nary a scratch.  I have surpassed the 10K mark, rounded the corner of my first turning point, and am quickly closing in on 11K words written.

tentA couple of days ahead of schedule.

How the hell did that happen, you ask?

Especially, given my overall track record of self-sabotage?

A few things:

1.  I let go of a plot point that I have held onto since Retribution’s inception.  I can be a sentimental person.  The very first thing I jotted down about Anna has stuck in my mind, and has become an extension of who she is to me.  The problem – it is always this plot point that causes me to write myself into a corner.  It just doesn’t work.  I have finally found the strength to banish it completely.

2.  I have accepted that every sentence, every paragraph, every scene is not going to be a work of perfection – yet.  I have long understood that a draft is just that, a draft.  It’s not meant to be print ready, or even good.  I think we are all familiar with quotes reminding us that books are not written, they are rewritten.  I get it, but I’m an overachiever.  Just another flaw to add to my growing list of personality quirks.  You might think this would work in my favor.  I mean, after all, when I think of an overachiever, I think of someone who has the drive to do anything and everything.  I think for me though, my overachiever habits lend to my ability to move on from something I think is structurally flawed.  I obsess and work tirelessly to fix a badly worded scene, paragraph, sentence at the detriment of the work as a whole.  It is my Achilles heel.

3.  I am allowing my DVR to do its job.  The Real Housewives of (insert random city here) aren’t going anywhere.  I can watch all of my brain cell sucking trash TV on May 1st.

Alright, so where do I stand as I begin day 11 of this challenge?

10,871 of 25,000 words written.

Write on happy campers.

Write on.

Happy Camping: A Camp NaNoWriMo update

Okay, so I’ve been a little remiss in my blog postings of late.  Sure, I’ve given you some groovy pics to tide you over, but I know what you really want – you want to hear all about my writing woes.

Well, guess what?

I’m not having any writing woes at the moment.

What?!?

That’s not to say sitting down at the computer every single day, pounding out a string of words designed to exhibit a measure of cohesion isn’t a complete bitch.  It is.   On a good productive day, the process only sucks out all of my brain cells; on a bad day – well, let’s just say it leaves me a quivering mass of something that should never see the light of day.

So, let me recap for those who have not had to suffer my temper tantrums and pity parties.  Several months ago – I’m going to refrain from embarrassing myself with the exact dates – I started writing a story I entitled Retribution.  Anna’s story.  I wrote 60K words within the span of a few months, and then it all went to hell.  It was so bad, and I hated it so much, that I did the only humane thing I could think of – bonfire.

A few months later, a voice began whispering in my ear.  It was Anna.  She became my constant companion, her voice needling into my subconscious, demanding I give her the story she deserved.  Eventually, I gave in and began drafting an outline – or six.  June arrived and along with it Camp NaNoWriMo.  I threw my hat into the ring, and by the middle of the month, I had written 26.5K words.  I was on a roll.

Then it all went to hell – again.  I learned a valuable lesson last summer:  Going on a family vacation for a week to Washington D.C., in the midst of an intense writing challenge, is not conducive to success.  My fall schedule didn’t help matters either.  It was consumed by Geology, Political Science, African-American history, and the Cold War.  There was no room for Anna.

I’ve spent the early part 2013 recuperating, trying to find my bearings.  For me, the transition from scholarly writing to fictional is a difficult adjustment.  I envy writers who can do it and make it appear seamless.  At the end of February, I opened my Retribution files again, sifted through scene after scene, made some notes and a few plot adjustments, did a little research.  In March, I heard the rumblings of an April edition of NaNoWriMo with an adjustable word count goal.  My heart did a little flip-flop.  A sign?  I think so.  I joined without hesitation.

So, where am I going with all of this rambling nonsense?

It is day three of the challenge.  I’ve written almost 5,000 words toward my 25K word goal, and I’m feeling groovy.

2013-Participant-Campfire-Circle-BadgeWrite on happy campers.

Write on.

Just Write: When ideas strike

Every Thursday my writing group meets at our favorite coffee shop.  We crowd around little round tables, in wooden, straight back chairs and shoot the stink eye at the losers taking up space in the comfy chairs – our comfy chairs.

Okay, maybe that last bit is just me.  Damn you knitters and internet daters!

We sip our poison of choice, nibble on something that is not at all diet-friendly, and commiserate.  We complain about our process or lack thereof, offer encouragement to those feeling disparaged, and argue over such things as alternating points of view and plot twists.  Thursdays are my favorite day of the week.

A few weeks ago, one of our members mentioned that the piece she brought for critique was inspired by a dream.  This sparked a lively conversation about how dreams influence a writer’s work and the best way to capture these little fragments of inspiration, in the dead of night.  I sat quietly as the group debated the benefits of a bedside notebook versus a mini voice recorder.  This is a conversation I’ve heard before.  Indeed, the first time was in Patricia Burroughs’ Basic Novel Writing class five years ago.   As I did in class, I listened with a sense of wonder, a lot of confusion, and a dash of self-doubt.

I have never been influenced creatively by a dream.  Ever.

I rarely remember my dreams and when I do it’s usually because I’ve done some mentally exhausting activity right before bed and my mind is unable to let it go.  When I was in the homestretch of a hellish four semester math marathon, I frequently found myself solving quadratic equations or finding an inverse in my sleep.  Last semester, I had a night of fitful sleep after I made the mistake of studying the Reformation and the Renaissance together, right before bed.  It was a weird, yet interesting dream, but not worthy of an earth shattering storyline – well unless I was working as a consultant on the new Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure movie.

Eek.  I shudder at the thought.

The conversation at the coffee shop started the gears in my brain turning and once again I began to question my ability.  Is there something wrong with me?  Is this something I need to be worried about; something I need to work on?  Then, Agatha Christie whispered in my ear:

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

Vindication!

I don’t plan a book, or a scene, or a blog entry while doing the dishes.  It’s not my chore anymore, but I do find that I am the most creative in two places:  the shower and the gym.  When an idea strikes, I am either soaking wet and naked or in the middle of a workout without my trusty notebook close at hand.  Unfortunately, my memory is shit, and even more so if I am having one of those over-stimulated days.  I’ve lost some pretty brilliant stuff that way.

Get your mind out of the gutter – not that kind of over-stimulated.

I’ve been chugging away on my novel.  I’ve set a weekly goal for myself, and so far so good.  Because of this, my story is on my mind a lot.  I’ve been slowly working through some early plot problems and character development.  Things are taking shape, but I’m not all that far into it.  Maybe a little more than one-third is down on paper.

So, Monday afternoon, I was trucking along on the elliptical, sweating like a pig, silently seething because not a single television in my direct line of sight was tuned to anything worth a damn.  I guess I could have gone to the perky little girl behind the desk but…oh wait…what was I talking about…squirrel.

I was plugged into my digital music library, listening to one of my favorite live albums by The Police – only the greatest band ever.  Don’t judge me.  The song King of Pain began to play.  It’s one of my favorites, especially when performed live, and it never fails to effect me emotionally.  So, I suppose it’s not too surprising that it was during this song that the little idea troll in my brain decided it was the right time to reach out and give me a good slap to the back of the head (Gibbs style for all you NCIS fans).

Bam! I had a vision.  It was as clear as if the scene was unfolding right in front of me, between the row of elliptical machines and the recumbent stationary bikes.  A catalyst scene – a point in the story where one character does irreparable harm to another – and one I’ve not spared one thought beyond a few scribbles in the margin of my rough outline.  But suddenly there it was, a vivid picture in my mind’s eye, the echo of their dialogue reverberating through me, their tension palpable.  All of it just begging to be written, to be cast out of my head, and down onto paper.

Who am I to argue with such clarity?

I spent a good half an hour hunched on a bench, in the gym locker room, surrounded by women with no sense of modesty, scribbling away in my notebook.  I couldn’t chance it getting away.  It was too powerful.  Too real.

Of course, I spent the better part of my evening trying to decipher my chicken scratch so that I could incorporate this new, pivotal scene into the work in progress.

I suppose the point of my nonsensical rambling is that there is nothing wrong with me.  At least, not where this is concerned.  Everyone is inspired and struck by ideas in different ways, be it in a dream during the dead of night, or in a vision at the gym while listen to The Police.  We are merely slaves to its creation.

Yeah, I still don’t see the correlation between King of Pain and my scene, but again, who am I to argue.

Just write: Self-shaming Sunday update

What a difference a week can make.  You may recall that this time last week, I was wallowing in a big old vat of homebrewed self-pity, bemoaning my inability to make any meaningful progress toward the completion of my novel, Retribution.  If you don’t remember or have not read my previous blog entry, you may do so [here].

In lieu of making an all-encompassing New Year’s resolution to finish Retribution by some arbitrary date, I decided to make myself word count goals.  When I dropped a good bit of weight several years back, this is how I did it.  I set 10 pound goals for myself.  As I progressed and met a goal weight, I reset it.  It is a practice that carries over into my daily workouts.  Now I use it to increase my stamina.  I call it my five-minute rule.  As I get stronger, I add five minutes to the end of my elliptical or bike work out.  I have found that I can put my body through just about anything for five minutes.

So, I had an idea.  (Cue the animated light bulb.)  Why not do the same thing as it relates to my writing?   I am convinced that by applying the same school of thought that I used for dropping 50 pound, I will finish my novel.   It might take me until the end of summer, but at least I will make noticeable progress, instead of floundering out in the wind, waiting for the book to miraculously write itself.

Last week I set a word count goal for myself.

Write 3000 words in Retribution by the next Sunday.

DSC01554This is how my numbers progressed:

Last week: 24940 words

This week:  28089 words

Last week: 129 pages

This week: 144 pages

That is a grand total = 3149 words written this week in Retribution.  Goal met.

Next week’s goal:  3500 words.

I’m going to call it my 500 word rule.

Baby steps.