A Truant Disposition

"I must be idle."

Post Camp Update

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - May• 01•15

Camp-Winner-2015-Twitter-ProfileI made my Camp NaNoWriMo goal of 10K easily in rewriting the draft of last fall’s novel. I expanded some things that were written too thinly, sketchily, and fast, filling in the blanks to make things less likely to be misunderstood, adding scenes, and building on what I had already written. I have to say that it felt very very weird to be doing a word count while editing and rewriting. It just felt sort of wrong because a large part of rewrites are cuts. I didn’t cut as much as I should have, concentrating on what needed to be added rather than what needed to be taken out because of the word count goal.

NaNo has a very generous formula for calculating a word count based on hours editing. I didn’t use the formula because I felt like it would be unfair to compare my editing —which I might do for hours each day without adding very many words — to people who were creating a new story from scratch and writing new words every day. I figured it out: if I’d used the formula instead of just counting the new material I wrote, then I’d have ended up with something like 50,000 words in two weeks. And that didn’t seem right. Yes, editing a manuscript is hard work and takes a long time and a lot of thought. And yes, I think that effort is just as valuable (and hard) as writing new material. But it’s a different sort of thing. If I had been in a group in which everyone was editing and using the formula, then I would have used it too, but I was in a group in which I was the only one editing an existing work. Everyone else was creating something new. It didn’t seem fair. As it was, Camp NaNoWriMo was still way too easy.

Which brings me to how little time I actually worked on the book during Camp. I cracked the 10 K mark — which was the goal I set, the minimum for Camp — on Day 15, and I didn’t even work on the book every day. I probably wrote about 10 easy days total. So most of the month I’ve been goofing off and making notes for the next rewrite. I thought that my sudden stops after reaching my goal each year I did NaNoWriMo was just a normal collapse from the strain of writing so much (50 K) so fast (I always finished in 3 weeks), but the same thing happened for Camp and this was much much easier, easier than my normal non-Camp writing days. I actually worked less than if I hadn’t done Camp!

When I hit my goal I just stopped working. Eventually I went back and wrote up some notes for the next draft and I’ve been adding a bit to that, but for some unknown reason after hitting the goal I’ve done less than I would have if I hadn’t been doing Camp. This is some little psychological quirk of mine, I guess. Now that I know my slump after hitting a word count goal isn’t just due to normal exhaustion of a 50 K NaNoWriMo, I can make an effort to work on breaking this habit.

My second half slump was probably also not helped by Camp not working out quite as I expected in other ways. I might’ve kept plugging away, starting immediately on the third draft (which I’ll start next week) if I’d had more interaction with my cabin mates. I had made a private cabin for writer friends, a little writing group. Only four of us, but a good mix of people. Not everyone knew each other, but each person knew two other people. I knew all of them. R knew M & me. D knew me & R. M knew R & me. I was really pleased with how that worked out. At least until Camp started. One person joined the cabin, but never wrote or posted or logged in again as far as I know. Another person started fast, but dropped out after a few days and was never seen again. That left me and R. We had a good time writing and discussing where we were in our drafts, trash talking each other good naturedly on the cabin board, but he was also close to his goal when I hit mine and so though he waited until the last week to write that one final scene and validate, week 3 was totally dead for all of us, and the second half of the month nothing much happened.

One thing I loved about Camp NaNo which I wish they would do for regular NaNoWriMo is the Cabin. My virtual “cabin” had its own message board where people in the cabin could post and reply to posts. That was a lot of fun. For regular NaNo I have writing “Buddys”, which are mostly people I meet at write-ins and we all become each other’s Buddy and then, with rare exception, we never interact in any way again. Most of us are not in any sense “buddies” or even “friends” in the Facebook sense of the word. Writing is a lonely, time-consuming process and I treasure interactions with other writers. In Camp, I interacted more via the Cabin board. I do occasionally post on the regular NaNo forums, but I do this less and less and it’s usually a matter of a meet-up or sharing a resource I found. No “Buddies” in any sense of the word come from my forum interactions. But there’s potential in Cabin mates. Perhaps I will let them sort me into a random cabin some other year. Although…

I don’t know if I will do another Camp. It doesn’t feel like it’s the right thing for editing and rewriting my books. It worked, marginally, because I knew I had things that I needed to add or expand in the existing draft. The minimum word count goal was 10 K and if I could’ve set it for any number it probably would be more like 7 K. I had an uncomfortable uneasiness during the early days that I might not actually have enough new material to add to make my goal. For that reason, my writing was very sloppy and rambling, as it can sometimes be in a first draft. So now I need to go back and tighten up and cut some of what I wrote in April. I did fix some things. But I created new messes in my race to a word count goal and didn’t do the cuts that already needed to be done. This book is unique in my NaNoWriMo drafts in that I finished the story at 53 K. My other NaNo novels were unfinished at about 51 K. If I find myself again in the position where the book isn’t finished and I have a substantial amount left to write, then Camp would be a good way to do it. But for a completed first draft that needs cuts as well as additional scenes, maybe not. With the ability to set lower word count goals than regular NaNoWriMo, it’s ideal for writing a long story that isn’t novel. I may do that in the future for another Camp.

But right now I’ve got a lot of manuscripts in varying stages of drafts. I need to get something finished and polished up before I tackle anything new. This book, which is fairly lightweight, is what I’m pushing to get utterly and completely finished this year. I’m not sure at this point if it will see publication before the end of the year, but I’m going to buzz through the third draft starting next week. It will go to beta readers before the end of May. I hope to have rewrites complete by fall.

I haven’t touched Scrivener since completing the tutorial in March. This month I’m going to try to put all my material for the Seaport Chronicles into it. Between that and the ongoing rewrite of the last NaNo novel, I’m going to be up to my neck in text during May.

I’m still posting miscellaneous short posts on The Mighty Microblog. That keeps some of the clutter off this blog, gives me an outlet for stuff, and for short writing updates. Follow me there. I’m also still writing for The Usual Suspects group food blog. Today’s post is Hazelnut Date Scones.

Camp NaNoWriMo and Other News

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Mar• 26•15

It’s been a busy week so far. As you may (or may not) have noticed, this website was down for a long time. The issue has been resolved, but it ate up a bit of time…and delayed this post, so what I was going to say here a few days ago I wrote instead on my Mighty Microblog. Which is that I’ve decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April — and I’m evaluating the trial version of Scrivener to see if I want to use the NaNo winner’s discount for the full version before the offer expires. And if all that weren’t enough, with the days ticking away, I’ve also gone back to weekly posts and recipes on The Usual Suspects group food blog. This is all slightly less overwhelming and insane than it looks, but I have to admit that having the website down and being in constant contact with techies about the problem this week has made it all a bit more crunchy (as in, “being in a time crunch”) than I’d like. I’m “working ahead” on the food blog posts, in the hope that I won’t completely fall off the map during Camp NaNo. I’ll have the tutorial for Scrivener done today…and it’s not absolutely necessary for Camp, though I’d like to start using it on this novel. And Camp….isn’t as crazy as you perhaps think, if your only knowledge of NaNoWriMo is the thing in November. Camp is different.

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Cheesy temporary cover art!

This will be the first year I’m doing one of the Camps (there’s another one in July.) Word count goals for Camp are flexible and not as crazy-making as NaNo in November — and I don’t have to start from scratch; I can use Camp to edit and revise an existing novel. The minimum word count is only 10 K. Which is 1.3 double-spaced pages per day, average. There’s a formula (which I think is pretty generous) for calculating a word count for a book that you’re revising: 1 hr active editing = 1000 words. So I can still successfully do Camp NaNo even though I’ll be doing revisions and editing. I’m going to do the rewrite, edit, revision of my November novel for Camp. (I suspect I’ll write at least 10 K, in addition to editing. At 53 K, it’s a very short novel and it definitely needs a few more scenes here and there, and some existing scenes need filling out a bit.) Oh, and I updated the cheesy temporary artwork for it, too! 😉 The title is the tentative working title, so both title and artwork will change (for the better).

If you would like to write something, but the whole NaNoWriMo, 50K words in 30 days thing just sounds too intimidating, impossible, and terrifying, Camp NaNoWriMo is a good alternative. It’s a good way to get your feet wet if you’ve never done anything like this before, and it’s a good way to make a start on a project or revise a project if you’re writing regularly anyway. There’s nothing quite like having a solid deadline, a goal, and a support group for encouragement. Unlike other writer’s groups, all versions of NaNo focus on the writing, rather than reading and workshopping, but yeah, there’s no prohibition on discussing whatever hell you’re putting your characters through or some plot problem you’ve got. You’re not limited to in-cabin discussion either; there are forums for Campers as well as forums for the regular WriMos. The forums are less frenetic in the off-months, too, so it’s easier to keep up with threads.

I’ve set up a private cabin for a few friends, some NaNo veterans, some newbies. Cabins can have up to a dozen people, though mine will have probably 4 or 5 people. What “private cabin” means is a writer’s group where the person who sets up the cabin chooses and adds the “campers”. The default is to be automatically sorted into random cabins with random people or to be automatically sorted into cabins with people based on some limited criteria. Setting up your own cabin is a relatively new option.

I love the camping theme! Campfire songs, S’mores…there’s fun threads on the forums where people describe their campsite, and another where they gather around a bonfire and bring imaginary food, tell stories, sing campfire songs. The Camp NaNoWriMo merch is cooler than regular NaNo, too. But that’s probably just because I like the camping theme so much. 😉

Camp NaNoWriMo shares a login with NaNoWriMo, but everything is otherwise separate. So, if you have a NaNo login, it will work for the Camp NaNo site, but you’ll have to set up your profile; it doesn’t transfer over.

If you’ve thought about NaNoWriMo because it sounds fun and shied away because it’s actually grueling, or tried it and were too crushed by the insane word count needed, then consider doing Camp NaNoWriMo. Only 10 K words. You can edit and revise existing work instead of starting from scratch, or you can pick up where you left off on a novel in progress and just count the words you write during Camp.

I’ll be doing little whimsical updates on The Mighty Microblog during April like I did during NaNo. I’ll do a post-camp blog post here and eventually, after I’ve had a bit more time with it, I’ll post my thoughts on Scrivener as well. (Based on the tutuorial, I like what I’ve seen, but I really can’t say until I’ve used it for a while.)

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Leonard Nimoy, R.I.P. – Mr. Spock LLAP

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Mar• 02•15

Leonard Nimoy passed away at age 83 last week. I was among those weeping over my phone as the news spread across social media. He was best known as Mr. Spock on Star Trek, but his considerable talent went far beyond that. He was a gifted photographer and director, and by all accounts a nice guy. It’s a blessing and a curse for an actor to be so well-known for one role. A curse for an actor who wants to be so much more, but a blessing for us in the audience if the character he is forever known for is so wonderful and has as much depth as Mr. Spock.

A lot of the public mourning — including my own — focused on Spock. Because it felt like we had lost Spock, as much as Nimoy. In a way we have: there will be no new scenes filmed with Spock. Nimoy had a presence on camera that will be sorely missed. But as Spock said once, “I’ve been dead before.” We’ve already experienced Spock’s death and rebirth. There is something eternal about Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal of the character over the decades. We feel intuitively that the wise old Vulcan is immortal, so the death of the actor who first played him is a nasty shock. We wanted Spock to convey some of that immortality to Nimoy.

We will always have Spock and I am grateful we had Leonard Nimoy bring this character into our lives. Every actor brings something different to a role. Embodied by a lesser actor Spock might have never come to terms with his human side, he might have been a stilted awkward alien, always the odd man out, never a character we could learn from because he never learned from his human companions.

Gene Rodenberry’s vision of the future was one of peace and harmony, in which people of all different cultures and backgrounds could live and work side by side. Anyone, even a pointy-earred green blooded alien, could be your friend. Romulans and Klingons were enemies, but eventually even the battle-oriented Klingons were brought into the Federation fold, something Spock lobbied for. He also went so far as to go on a secret mission to the Romulans on his own initiative. He had hope all races could come together in peace. Hope, a human emotion, but no doubt Spock also calculated the odds.

I didn’t like Spock when I first started watching the original Trek in syndication. (Trek movies and other Trek TV shows were still in the future.) I thought Spock was too cold. Too odd. Too alien. I was just a little kid, a potential xenophobe. I had a little kiddie crush on Captain Kirk. Boyish charm, a man of action. All kids love swashbuckling play-acting. William Shatner has talent and chrisma: he made Kirk irresistibly likeable. Spock was awkward, often a naysayer, cold-blooded in his assessment of things. I didn’t understand him; he was difficult to sympathize with. He was not human. He did not compare well with Kirk in my mind. At least not at first.

Everything changed for me with the episode “Amok Time”. Spock must return to Vulcan to marry (and he’s raging and throwing things until he does). Once there, his bride-to-be forces a challenge, a battle to the death between Spock and Kirk. You must understand, I was a little kid, I was very naive. Back then major characters were never killed off on TV shows, but I didn’t know that. When Spock apparently kills Kirk, I didn’t immediately assume that the death was fake. I thought the character I disliked (and at that moment probably hated) had just killed the character I loved. I’m sitting on the floor in front of the television crying when Spock is told to “live long and prosper” and he replies, “I shall do neither, for I have killed my captain and my friend.”

At that moment, when Nimoy uttered that line, everything changed for me. In that instant I realized that Spock, too, loved Kirk. And I cried harder because I was grieving with Spock and for Spock. He had suffered a terrible unbearable loss, too. And at his own hands. And he would have to live with that soul-destroying thing for the rest of his life. When Kirk was found to be alive and well (thanks to Dr. McCoy’s medical trickery), Spock and I were both relieved, but more than that, I now had a strong feeling of affection for the cold alien on the bridge. I forgave him his shortcomings, I rooted for him, I began to understand him.

Leonard Nimoy had a very tough role in playing Spock. He had to be logical and unemotional. Stoic. (Except for early episodes when they were still figuring out the character.) Yet Nimoy made this character beloved by millions of people. A character that it was difficult to empathize with, a character who showed little facial expressions of emotion. I think he did it with tone, with posture. With the look in his eyes. When he says he will neither live long nor prosper after the apparent killing of Kirk, you believe him. You think that he’s just going to go away and die somewhere like a sick animal crawling under a rock. There’s a quiet agony in those words.

Even an alien can feel pain. And that’s at the heart of the concept of universal brotherhood that Star Trek was founded on. We can’t think of someone as “other” or “enemy” if we empathize with them, if we can see ourselves in them, if we know they feel pain and we feel it through them.

As I grew up my affection for Spock grew. Much has been said about lonely disaffected teenagers identifying with Spock as the alienated outsider, but for me, from the moment I bonded with him over the loss of Kirk, he was not an outsider. He was one of us, however you choose to define “us”. I loved his magnificent intellect, his problem-solving, his love of science and reason. Later still, I loved how the character grew to incorporate important parts of his human heritage with his Vulcan heritage, retaining the best of both cultures. Over the decades Spock became warm and wise.

There’s a new actor playing a young Spock in an altered time line. Zachary Quinto has done a good job of it in two movies so far. This is partly a credit to him as an actor (those are very big shoes to fill), but it’s also partly due to the incredibly excellent foundation Leonard Nimoy established over the course of a lifetime playing Mr. Spock.

Not many actors are given the opportunity to create a character that has the depth, longevity, and impact of a Mr. Spock. Leonard Nimoy was lucky to have the chance to create such a wonderful complex role, and we, the audience, the Trekkies or Trekkers, were blessed to have his performance. For a character who shows no emotion, he has uttered an astounding number of memorable lines over the decades, memorable for their emotional impact.

Rest in Peace and Godspeed, Leonard Nimoy.
Live, Long and Prosper, Mr. Spock.

I love you but you’re eating my mind

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Jan• 20•15

Something has got to give. I am too plugged in. Or in a phrase from a much earlier time: “the world is too much with me”. I’m having a hard time getting anything creative done. There are too many other things to do and those things keep my mind in the consuming mode rather than the creative mode. I periodically drop most of the things I do online and write for many hours, for many days. I also take short vacations and drop most online activity when I do. Ditto for the big block of time known as the Christmas holiday which, for me, runs from about mid-December to after the 1st of the new year. Some years this break starts sooner. It all depends on when I lose concentration on my writing projects. Breaks from social media and other time-consuming online activities (more about this in a minute) are great and necessary. The problem is with plugging back in fully. I typically spend a couple of weeks doing nothing but catching up on things that I let hang fire while I was writing or on a break. Then it’s hard to get back to work because there’s all this stuff to sift through, read, listen to etc. Because the world keeps moving while I’m off on holiday or inhabiting a fictional world of my own making. Everything is interesting, informative, and potentially useful, or actually useful, and I pour it all into my mind which is then too glazed over with other people’s words to generate new material of my own.

It’s getting worse because every year I discover more rss feeds with lots of articles I’m interested in and more wonderful podcasts on fiction, about fiction, or of interest. I’ve reached the point where there is literally not enough hours in the day some days to read things online, listen to podcasts, and socialize…nevermind writing books (or substantive blog posts)! So I’ve been paring things back, dropping rss feeds, not dropping into Facebook as often, allowing myself only short forays into Twitter, but it still isn’t enough.

Sad to say it’s the podcasts — which I love the most — which are the biggest time sink. I can do things while I listen, but I don’t have that many hours of non-reading, non-writing things to do every day! If I listen in the morning, my mind is then too full of other people’s voices and other people’s stories to settle in and work on my own. That otherwise quiet time when I’m doing miscellaneous things is time my mind should be mulling over my own fiction, so then I’m ready to write when I sit down. If I write first and listen to podcasts later, then there’s not enough time to keep up with all there is to listen to. My podcatcher catches more than I can consume. So I’ve cut back. I unsubscribed to some podcasts that I was only marginally interested in, but discovered others which were much better. I’ve separated the wheat from the chaff and the gold from the dross and now it’s all gold. I love it but it’s eating my mind. Another culling is in the offing. I’m going to have to drop some fiction podcasts as well as nonfiction. This is gonna hurt, but my own fiction needs me. Short podcasts (Toasted Cake & Welcome to Nightvale, for instance) are safe as are the Escape Artists podcasts, because I love them so much, and support them. But everything else is up against the wall. I’ve got manuscripts that need rewriting and I have many, many hours and days ahead in my fictional worlds before the books are ready for publication.

I will still be on social networks sporadically, which really won’t be much of a change. I’m going to try to continue my little microblog (now renamed The Mighty Microblog) because short posts are fast and easy. I’m also determined to post more to the group food blog this year. After a fast start the first year, I didn’t contribute much last year and I’m determined to strike a balance this year. If things go well (fingers crossed) I should have a book out by the end of the year!

Holidays

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Dec• 23•14

This will probably be my last post of the year. I’m taking time off from writing fiction, though I have written some posts on other blogs. I’ve done two posts recently on The Usual Suspects, the group food blog I contribute to. I’ve not been as active there as last year, but hope to pick up the pace next year. Also, I’m still dropping short miscellaneous posts on the new microblog, including some posts of fiction podcasts. (Today: Christmas fiction podcasts!) In the past I’ve posted about good fiction podcasts here, but I’ll likely drop these short recommendations on the microblog in the future. I hope everyone has a happy holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate in December. Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Mankind.

Post-NaNoWriMo 2014: What I learned this year

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Nov• 25•14
NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner!

NaNoWriMo 2014 Winner!

This year’s NaNoWriMo differed from the two previous years in a number of really great ways. Although I won previous years (and the second year was substantially easier than the first year), I’m still learning new things about how to write NaNo novels and how to integrate this lovable monster known as “NaNo” into my own process.

This year I’ve finally satisfied that one thing I was curious about which motivated me to do NaNo the first time. I’d heard of pulp writers in the olden days knocking out a novel in a month and I’ve always wondered how they did that (because I’m just soooo slooooow). Now I know. I’ve cracked it. The previous two years I won NaNoWriMo the manuscript wasn’t anywhere near complete at 50 K. That’s because the books were too complex for 50 K novels and I had too many things to juggle, figure out, work in, etc. The first year I hit 50 K on Nov. 21, last year on the 22nd. Both times I went back and added another 2 K before the end of the month, but even if I had kept up the pace that put me in the winners circle over a week early, the drafts wouldn’t have been done. This year I chose something completely different to write. The previous years I worked on two books in a series. The good thing about doing series fiction for NaNoWriMo is that after the first book, you’ve got a lot of things already established, so subsequent books are easier. But the books in my series were too long, too much going on in them. And I didn’t want to start another one until I got the first two in good shape. (Still working on that, at my usual snail’s pace.) So, this year I chose to write something simple, a really simple plot that practically wrote itself. That’s the secret to having a complete draft when you hit 50 K. Keep the plot simple, (or if it’s complex, try to get all the major stuff done and leave out details that can be added later).

NaNoWriMo 2014 "Mug Shot"

NaNoWriMo 2014 “Mug Shot”

For the first time, I really did complete a book in less than a month! I chose a cheesy action-adventure sci-fi plot worthy of those pulp writers of last century who could knock out a book in a month. Engine trouble forces a landing on a planet whose main life forms are giant carnivorous plants, which are presided over by a rich eccentric who doesn’t want her to escape the planet. Yeah, this is an updating of that hoary old trope and the main protagonist is female. This is what I think of as a self-writing plot: you have characters established in your mind, you drop them into a dire situation from which they have to extricate themselves. The story will unfold naturally from there. I brainstormed this far more than I probably needed to prior to NaNoWriMo, but that allowed me to make decisions about p.o.v (initially I had considered first person p.o.v. but after writing out how I thought the plot might unroll I realized that I’d need a secondary viewpoint and third person would work better), and also to fine tune some points that I hadn’t given much thought to when I spit them out on the page. I did character profiles, a rough outline, and then made corrections and adjustments. There are still a few things I need to smooth out in the draft but it turned out better than I expected, and also different than I expected in many ways. Fundamentally, I don’t think I was cut out to be a pulp writer. Given a action-adventure pulp plot, I turned it into a story about the characters. Which proves that it’s pretty much impossible for me not to write character-oriented fiction. LOL

NaNoWriMo 2014 Stats Screenshot.

NaNoWriMo 2014 Stats Screenshot.

This year’s NaNoWriMo was exhausting as it always is, but it wasn’t difficult in the sense of having trouble writing. This is what I do. I write. I’m working on something almost every day, usually editing and rewriting, but sometimes writing for hours. The hardest thing about NaNoWriMo is making yourself not go back and edit and rewrite because you can hurt your word count. This year, for the first time, I did go back and reread and rewrite a little bit, just looking for typos and sentences so badly mangled they were incoherent. I did this later the same day that I wrote and found that because I was writing so very thinly I sometimes ended up boosting my word count by adding a sentence or two, or adding a better word choice here and there. The reason I did this was because of one other thing that made this NaNoWriMo very different from any other writing experience, including non-NaNo novels: I had someone reading along, reading each day’s chapter or scene. I know some authors do this. Mary Robinette Kowal uses NaNo the same way I do: to make a fast start on the next novel and she has a flock of readers who read each chapter as it’s done. I never do this. But this time I did. As a result, this draft is more cohesive and coherent than previous years. I only wrote one scene out of order (and only jumped ahead by a day, so it was easy to catch the person up). It was less stream of consciousness. There were no bits where I just skipped and put placemarker text. “They discuss such and such.” It imposed a greater discipline on my process than NaNo did itself and this being my third year, it was probably time for me to challenge myself a bit more.

I rose to the challenge. Here are all the ways this year was different from previous years:

  • I chose a simple plot that could easily be completed in 50 K words
  • I wrote about a chapter a day
  • I set a 2 K words per day minimum
  • I proofread and did light rewrites
  • I had an alpha reader for my daily output
  • I finished earlier than ever: November 20th
  • I wrote more words than ever 53 K+ (in fewer days)
  • I completed the draft in 20 days/53 K words
  • I did no write-ins and only did two writing sessions on 1 day
  • I blogged my progress on the new microblog
  • I tweeted with friends who are doing NaNo
  • I knew more real life friends who were doing NaNoWriMo this year.

This is not my recipe for success. This is simply a list of all the ways this year differed from previous years. If you want to read about my adventures previous years, checkout the NaNoWriMo tag here. If you want to see the fun little posts I did during NaNo this year see: the NaNoWriMo tag on the microblog.

Secrets for NaNoWriMo Success (IMHO):

  • Write every day, no exceptions. (If you only write when there is no shit hitting the fan or you have nothing else you need to do, you’ll do damn little writing, ever. Shit happens. Real life is good. You must integrate writing into your own life, as it is, not as you ideally wish it to be. Most authors have lives not significantly different from yours. If you really want to write, make time. If you really want to win NaNoWriMo, make time. Write every day.)
  • Set a 2 K per day minimum. That 1667 number is a minimum. If you don’t hit it consistently, you’re screwed as far as winning is concerned.
  • Choose a story that can be told in 50 K words, and expanded beyond that in rewrites.
  • If you can, try to write in two sessions on some days, but still aim for the 2 K goal in the first session.
  • If you’re having trouble hitting your word count in the ubiquitous coffee shop setting, buy a pastry and go home. Public settings have their own distractions and the chairs are often uncomfortable for the long periods you need to write. Find the place that you are most comfortable writing.
  • When you get to a scene break, stand up and stretch. If you feel sluggish and stuck, take a break. Stretch your legs. Make a pot of tea, pour another cup of coffee. Take a walk. Walking has been proven to have a stimulating effect on creativity. It’s good for your cramped and hunched writer’s body, too.
  • Choose Writing Buddies that you have already connected with either in real life or online. Writing Buddies you know and regularly interact with are much more encouraging than strangers on a list that you just compare word counts with.
  • Make a running list of notes of things that you may want to edit or change later.
  • Either create your outline as you go (for those discovery writers who do no outlining) or make changes to your outline as you go, to help you keep track of changes in the way the book is developing.
  • If you fall behind on the word count, do not stop writing. The absolute worst that will happen is that you’ll have most of a rough draft of a novel done and since most novels are longer than 50 K, you basically end up in the same place as people who won. The more you write, the closer to the end of the book you are, so keep writing even if it looks like you can’t win. The book is the ultimate prize and the ultimate goal. You can always finish after NaNo is over (most people do). Every chapter you write puts you closer to having completed the novel. Most novels are not written in one month. Write as much as you can in November, then finish it after NaNo is over.
  • If you don’t win NaNoWriMo the first year, do it again. It gets easier because you learn what works best for you. Also, if you don’t usually write much except for NaNoWriMo, try to get into the habit of writing something every day in the year between one NaNo and the next. The established habit of sitting down and writing every day is probably the biggest thing that helps people when they do NaNoWriMo.

So…what am I going to do now? I’ve had some time to rest and now I’m working my way through the list of things that I let hang fire while I was pushing to finish the novel. Or I should say the draft of the novel. I had thought when I decided to write this story that it was just a little thing I wanted to write for me, and that if I didn’t do it as a NaNo novel it would probably never be written. Other ideas would take precedence in the writing queue. But it works pretty well for what it is and I’m pleased with it. With it needing both edits and rewrites I’m not sure if it will end up longer or shorter than 50 K. I’m thinking of doing a rewrite and then perhaps publishing it as a cheap ebook, with a sample from my other longer science fiction novel, In The Hands of Time, which is so old it doesn’t get the sales and attention it deserves. Rewrites begin in January! Now I’m off to tackle my post-NaNo, pre-Thanksgiving To Do list. 🙂

For those of you still working on your NaNoWriMo novel, keep writing!!!

 

I’m a Space Bird! I’m Gone!

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Nov• 24•14

While I as doing NaNoWriMo this month I also passed my final goal on the 750words.com site, which I’ve written about a number of times here. This will be my final 750words post. I made my final goal, backed up my material, and deleted my acct. When I first joined in Oct 2011 it was fun, and a preliminary survey of the sort of things I was writing in those early months showed that a surprising amount of what I was writing there was material which was usable, as blog posts, short story drafts and ideas, observations which I used as research for other writing projects, and pure fiction. I blew my first streak when I did my first NaNoWriMo: I collapsed so thoroughly that I forgot to write anything the next day! Then I made a new year’s resolution to do a one year streak, but that was interrupted by changes and problems with the site. I started up again and decided to go for the one year streak goal, but after I made it I realized that the final writing streak goal of 500 wasn’t that many more days and…I’d pass a million words between 365 and 500. So, I decided to go for it. 🙂 And I made it, getting my Space Bird badge this month. (I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a super secret badge for hitting 1 million words,) However, this past year doing 750 words in addition to all the other stuff I’m writing was just getting to be a grind. Either I was filling the word count with the fiction I was writing — and would’ve been writing ayway — or I was just slogging through, writing  inane ramblings just to get the daily minimum of 750 words. Most of the material I’ve been producing this year hasn’t been useful to my other writing and in fact, has been a bit of a drag on it. While I do think it was useful for me for a time, and it was a good experiment, it was with a great sense of relief that I wrote my final words, backed everything up, took some screenshots and deleted my acct.

A lot of the nifty stats the site compiles about the writing were meaningless for me since I used the site not so much for journaling as for creative writing, and most especially fiction, but below are a few screen shots with some very nice numbers. BTW, that “fastest entry” number of 1 second was on a day when I was having issues with the site or browser and had to ultimately write elsewhere and paste the words in. (BTW, I completed NaNoWriMo this month, too, so I’ll be posting about that soon. Lots of interesting things about this year’s experience. And book.)

Got my final badge! I'm a Space Bird!

Got my final badge! I’m a Space Bird!

Over 1 million words!

Over 1 million words!

Me, compared to The World (on 750words). Not bad, huh?

Me, compared to The World (on 750words). Not bad, huh?

Pre-NaNoWriMo 2014

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Oct• 28•14

Because I know I’m not going to write any substantive posts during the creative madness which is NaNoWriMo, I’m trying something different this year. I’ve dusted off a WordPress blog I got a couple of years ago and have turned it into a microblog of miscellany. Generally, it will be a collection of short eclectic posts, but during November this year, I’ll be doing short whimsical updates on my NaNo novel.

What novel? 

Glad you asked. 😀

For NaNo the past two years I’ve begun the rough drafts of the first two books in a series — which I’m still working on. Despite winning NaNoWriMo both times, there’s a lot of editing, rewriting, and yes, writing new scenes, in both books. Though 50 K is a staggering amount of words to write in 30 days, it is not enough for any of the books in the series, so at the end of NaNo each year I had a partial rough draft. My current plan is to write the entire series before the first book is published, but I’m not ready to tackle the next book in the series right now. So, I’m going to do something completely different. Because I enjoy NaNoWriMo so much that I can’t stand the thought of missing it this year.

I’m going to write a sci-fi adventure novel. I want to see what I can do with some of the old cheesy sci-fi tropes. In this case, stranded on a planet with carnivorous plants. As it happens, I know a bit about carnivorous plants. I have some of the little darlings. 😉 I’ve researched them quite a bit over the years and read everything I can about them. So the exotic world-building aspect of this book won’t be too onerous. Also, I’m probably going to set it in the same universe as my previous science fiction novel, though with most of the action taking place on a single planet, references that relate to the issues in the larger galaxy will be minimal, if they make the cut at all.

Really, I just wanted a straightforward action-oriented plot that will be a lot of fun to write. But of course, this is meso the plot will be pretty character driven. The working title is: Soft Landing on a Hard Planet. This was, believe it or not, the best of the lot. I’m hoping to think of something better after I get into writing the book. Here’s the synopsis:

An updating of classic pulp SF tropes. Jazlyn is forced to make an emergency landing on a planet with carnivorous plants presided over by an ego-maniacal rich eccentric. She must fix her ship, rescue a hapless trapped techie, and escape the planet. A fast, fun, action adventure tale with a sassy protagonist who, much like the villain of the piece, is accustomed to getting what she wants.

Here’s the deal with NaNoWriMo: whatever you write, it’s got to be something that you will really enjoy writing. Sure, you’re only going to be doing it for 30 days, but doing 50,000 words in that time makes for a pretty intense writing experience. It’s a great experience in total immersion and flow. A terrific way to get a fast start on a big novel. Or (as in this case) a way to knock out a draft of something frivolous and fun, that would otherwise always be back-burnered in favor of more substantive ideas. It’s also a good way to see if an idea will really fly, without losing a year or two of your life working on it. If, at the end of the month, you realize that it’s not a good idea and there are problems that can’t be solved, then you’ve only lost a month of writing and you can put it aside and go on to something else, having gotten it out of your system. Or set it aside and come back to it much later, if it continues to tug at you.

But, the bottom line is that the story has to be one that you will love writing a massive amount of a messy draft in 30 days. It has to be the sort of book that you think, “I want to live inside this book for a full month. I want to spend every spare moment of my life hanging out with these imaginary people.” Because that’s basically what you do. And that’s one of the appeals of NaNoWriMo. If it isn’t one of the things that appeal to you, you are going to have a rougher time of it than if you were writing the sort of book that you did want to live in. There are certain book ideas that I don’t think I could ever do for NaNo, not because there was anything tricky about the plot or structure or anything technical about writing it, but just because writing that story would be like living in hell for a month, or being inside the head of that s.o.b protagonist would mean spending a month trapped with someone I loathe. But that’s just me. 🙂

The series I’m working on (Seaport Chronicles) isn’t ideal for NaNo, but that’s more to do with the complexity and structure of the series: I can get a lot of good work done on the books by starting them during NaNo because it’s a world I really like living in, with characters I find fascinating and fun. Series fiction is ideal once you’ve laid the foundation with the first book because the setting and characters are already full formed and living in your head when you sit down to do subsequent books. Another type of book that works well for NaNo is one in which the action unrolls naturally from the inciting incident which begins the story. That’s what I’m going for this year. I throw my character into a situation from which she has to extricate herself, and the specifics of the situation provide conflict. I don’t expect this book to go much beyond the 50,000 word goal and I don’t know if it will ever be published.

Then why write it?

I just want to have a bit of fun. 😀 And I love the NaNoWriMo writing experience. And if I didn’t do this as a NaNo novel, it would probably never be written because I’ll always have “better ideas” to pursue. I’ll be posting short, amusing, and entertaining updates on The Mighty Microblog (as I sometimes call it) during November and after that the microblog will veer into more general miscellany. I’ll probably do a post-NaNo piece here in December, as usual.

Plans, Pants, and Discovery

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Oct• 21•14

It’s generally thought that there are two types of writers, discovery writers and outliners, or as they are sometimes called “planners and pantsers”. The pants refer to “flying by the seat of your pants”, in other words, making it up as you go along. I consider myself a discovery writer, aka “pantser” even though I outline. Here’s why.

First a brief relevant announcement…(Cue warbling comic fanfare)…I’m temporarily setting aside work on the series to do something completely different for NaNoWriMo, which begins Nov. 1. Today I started organizing my ideas into something resembling an outline. At least, it resembles all my outlines…

I’m a discovery writer, but it’s not like I have no ideas before I start writing. I know the events that start the ball rolling, I know the end (usually), and I know some important points in the main plot, as well as bits of subplot. I usually have certain scenes in mind. For me, outlining is organizing those thoughts.

My outline is usually a simple list of scenes, events, & information, sorted into a rough order in which they should be presented to the reader. This is not necessarily chronological order because sometimes characters don’t find out things in chronological order and also some pieces of information that predate the beginning of the story will be referred to as needed, when needed, if needed. Nor is this rough outline or list necessarily in the order I will write things because I often write scenes out of order as they come to me, knowing I’ll need such a scene later. For instance, while writing one scene I may get a much more vivid idea of how a later, related, scene will play out, such as dialogue or some slight change in the way I’d envisioned the circumstances. In that case I’ll go ahead and knock out a rough draft of that scene and the dialogue, too, if I have it in my head, maybe note this or that which would be good to include in that scene so I don’t forget it. It’s not unusual for a scene I’m writing one day to spark something for a later scene which I will either go on to write or make highly detailed notes for.

So, the outline is mostly chronological, but really in the order the reader needs to get everything (which is often the order the characters relate things or discover things) and it’s not a rigid order of scenes in the order I write them, but is in the order the story needs to be told. Typically, lots of detail is missing (though if I have details in mind, they are included), and there’s usually an item or two with question marks after them, or a “maybe”. I include possibilities, as well as definite ideas. It all gets sorted out when I’m writing. I’ve written books which had a handful of general points — not more than a line or two each — plus a few details, and I’ve also written books which had big chunks of text for each of a couple of dozen points. I can’t say that either makes any difference in what the finished book is like. Often books which had copious notes ended up not using most of them because they were thin, uninteresting, and ultimately off the point. Sometimes books with just a few plot points unfold like magic and develop into complex stories. Even so, it’s impossible to make generalities about the book or the how the writing will go based on the plot. (Though if there’s a huge number of points with question marks that can be a sign of some rough going, unless inspiration kicks in and saves you.)

I expand and reorganize my “outline” as I write. (My idea of an outline is so pathetic compared to people who really plan their books that I feel like I ought to put the word inside quotation marks.)  As I write, it is rewritten, recording story changes and additions to help me keep track of the material as it expands and becomes more detailed. This is why I consider myself a discovery writer rather than an outliner: a lot changes between the first point on the list (the beginning of the book) and the last point on the list (the ending). When I start writing I have an idea of the story, but the story develops as I write it. No matter how long and hard I think about a book before I start writing it, much of the book — including vital parts of the story — cannot be anticipated until I am immersed in writing it. Sure, I need the cold rational logic of a “planner” so my plot makes sense and I don’t contradict myself. But “pantsing” gives me the material I’m organizing. I can’t do much planning until I have something to organize. The more I write, the more I have to organize in the outline. Though I sometimes produces pages and pages of notes when I’m brainstorming, that’s nothing compared to the number of pages of a novel. Which is why my “outline” of a half dozen plot points at the beginning is usually a mess of notes and changes that’s several pages long when the book is done. (It should be noted that this is a working outline, not the sort of outline an editor ever sees.)

Much of story-making is intuitive. It’s daydreaming. When I write I drop into a state of mind in which I make connections and realizations about the story that cannot be forced from the logical rational part of my brain. They have to come bubbling up on their own. I can then apply critical thinking to these ideas and scenes to make sure they are consistent within the greater context of the story. But that isn’t usually a problem. Much more often the act of creation reveals flaws in my existing assumptions and ideas, and improves upon what I had originally started with. I’ve never written a book that turned out to be something utterly and completely different from what I set out to write, but the books always end up being more than I had initially imagined. The depth comes from the state of Flow as I write my way into the story.

My initial outline is just a crudely drawn map from point A to point B, with a few interesting features sketched in. Once I’m on the trail, I can see the landscape for myself, correct mistakes on the original map, and map it with more detail and accuracy as I go.

I’m a discovery writer, an explorer of the unmapped places in the plot.

 

Autumn is a Season: Fall is a Verb

Written By: Ainy Rainwater - Oct• 02•14
First sign of autumn. Photo by Ainy Rainwater

First sign of autumn.
Photo by Ainy Rainwater

It can’t be the weather because we’re not (yet) having fall weather, but autumn is upon us and I am “Fall-ing” in all the usual ways…and also some unusual ways. I’ve got news, news, news! Writing news, blogging news, social network news, music news, and spacey news. (You knew I was spacey, right?)

Writing: My usual way of “Fall-ing” is that I write like a maniac. This year I’m pushing to get a draft of the first book of the series to beta readers by the end of the month. But I may not make it because I enjoy NaNoWriMo so much that I’m tempted to set the manuscript aside and prep either another novel in the series or something completely different. Dunno what, if anything, I’ll do.

Blogging: I’ve dusted off the Ainy Rainwater wordpress.com blog I got when I started writing for The Usual Suspects group food blog (which I’m still writing for but not as regularly), and am now dithering over what I could do with it that I’m not doing with this blog.  (What am I doing with this blog??)

Social Network: Yesterday I made some changes to my Facebook profile which will allow Followers, so if you’re on Facebook, you no longer have to Friend me in order to get updates on my personal profile. The reason for this change is that the way Facebook treats Pages now (see my Ainy Rainwater Page) is that it rarely shows up in the feed of the people who Like the Page. The only people who see my Page updates are Friends, and not more than 1-4 of them unless I put the Page post on my profile. Please, Like my Page, but don’t count on seeing my updates there. My personal profile will have some public updates now, not all of which will be related to my books. For instance…

Music: On my birthday last Sunday, I found out that I hit Reverbnation’s Top Ten List for my Gymshoes Music. This is probably due to the usual fall sales spike for my Halloween Soundscape album, but even so, this is the first autumn I’ve hit the Top Ten! (I’ve hit the Top Ten in other seasons.) It’s an eerie ambient album, inspired by classic scary stories. You can preview the album in the sidebar here and read the liner notes on my Gymshoes Music site.

Space (the Final Frontier): Mars Maven has reached its destination, which aside from science, also means that words I wrote, that came out of my brain, are right now circling the Red Planet. (Along with other entries to the Mars haiku contest.) Every time I even come close to getting my head around that idea, I sort of freak out and do a Snoopy Happy Dance. I’m doing it right now! 😀

Vivid, we dream you
Ancient world, known and unknown
Speak, eloquent stone

My block for Astronaut Karen Nyberg's Star Block Challenge

My block for Astronaut Karen Nyberg’s Star Block Challenge

In other “spacey” news I did a quilt block for Astronaut Karen Nyberg’s star block challenge (she made a star block while in space) and my block, along with thousands of others have been pieced together and will be displayed at the Houston International Quilt Festival at the end of this month. (The total number of blocks 2,260!) I hated that the rules required name and location be put on the front of the block. It messes up the design and there really wasn’t any way to make the label look any better with this design.  I drew the figures freehand and then hand-appliqued the block.

And that’s about all the news from here, unless I forgot something which is entirely possible because it’s Autumn which is my favorite season and Fall is a verb because I quite often either start or finish projects in the Fall. (It’s like one year ends and a new year begins around September; I think this is a pattern I picked up from the school year, but it could be because my birthday is in September.) Now if the weather would just turn autumnal things would be perfect.