Big Goals, Little Goals

Rather than actually writing, I thought I’d come here and write about writing!

A curious thing happens to me on days off where I stare at the computer and refresh various social media sites in some sort of attempt to amuse myself. Hours go by. The sun sets and I feel that I have utterly wasted another day at home.

Today, at least, I’ve had Dabble open. I corrected a typo. I did not write anything new, however.

I have previously discussed with my therapist my difficulty with motivation. Logically, I understand that Motivation, much like Inspiration, is a fickle friend and it’s best to learn how to begin things without either of them. My therapist suggested I set myself a small task, and one of two things would happen: having completed the task, I would feel a sense of accomplishment. Then perhaps, the fact of having gotten started might give me the momentum to continue on past my initial goal.

If that doesn’t work, it’s no big deal. At least I would have accomplished the lesser goal I set for myself.

NaNoWriMo sets out a rather intimidating objective: 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s easier done when broken down: 1,667 words per day. Write every day. Write even if you’ve fallen behind, or skipped a day, or aren’t where you feel you should be.

Side note: “should” is a terrible word, and anytime I use it I feel my rebellious spirit telling me that “should” is made-up and I can do whatever I want.

So here are a few hundred words about my struggle to create momentum, and now that my fingers have limbered up, it would be a shame not to continue typing away. Even if I don’t break 1,000 words, at least I will have written today. Even if I don’t win NaNoWriMo, I will have a pile of words that I didn’t have in October. That’s something to celebrate.

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NaNo Eve

I’ll admit, I haven’t really done any outlining since my last post. I’ve made up for it today with two new parts, and getting some new software set up for tomorrow.

I read this post about Dabble, and thought I would give it a shot. Simplistic UI, auto-saving to cloud, ability to create plot points and shift them around? Sounds fun. Since I’ve only finished one roughdraft to date, I have no idea what works for me, so trying something new is never a bad idea.

So here I sit with just under ten hours remaining and four of five parts outlined in Dabble. I will get that last part out before I head into work for a bit of overtime, and then I will prepare for a midnight sprint to begin this National Novel Writing Month. I don’t have a specific goal for tonight: just write, write, write. Then, in all likelihood, come back here to write about how I wrote and what a mad rush it was.

Till then!

Outlining

I took the plunge and did the first step: outlining my novel as a subdivision of five parts. The decision to label them explicitly within the novel will come later. For now, they are a way of organizing my work into distinct acts. Of course, anything can change as I go on.

Now I’ve given myself the task of fleshing out each part with “chapter” outlines. I’m identifying key scenes and the events surrounding them, and will probably only go this far in the outline process. The rest will be narrative linking them, and I will get into the whole of determining how much goes between each major point as I go along.

I have to keep reminding myself that the most important word is ROUGH: this is a first draft and I don’t need to get hung up on refining things. I need a framework, a skeleton. I will sculpt the muscles and the flesh at a later time. I need raw material to work with.

For the moment, I’ve got two out of five parts “fully” outlined. Not bad for just past halfway into the month. I’m doing my best to give myself incentives: do some work in a cafe, or bring home a bar of chocolate I won’t open until I reach my daily goal. (Dark chocolate, sea salt, believe me it was WORTH it.)

I feel happy with my progress so far, and each consistent bit of work I can put behind me makes me more confident that I can keep going and accomplish what I set out to do. I’ve also decided to outline in a notebook I can carry around, and type up the result in Scrivener when I’ve completed it. I should take to keeping it in my bag; I was on the way home from an appointment earlier and wished I’d had the chance to stop at a café and work there. At least I got it done at home.

Our digital era

The advent of the e-reader has brought the world of books to an interesting place. I’ve gone back and forth myself, though I was never firmly in one camp or another. I enjoy the convenience of the e-reader: I can carry a series, better yet an entire library, in my bag with minimal bulk and weight. I can download new titles anywhere, their size makes it painless to set up a wifi hotspot on my phone and use my cellular data plan. I get recommendations directly on my home screen.

That said, nothing beats the feel of a paper book. There’s something reassuring about its heft, the feel as you turn pages, the smell of a new book or that more usual scent that comes with time. They look nicer lined up on a bookshelf, they add personality to your home. When you get excited after finishing something new, you can pass it on to a friend without considering whether their device is compatible with yours, or how to transfer the file.

In younger days, I foolishly got rid of a substantial portion of my physical collection because I was enamored with my Kobo. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it, but now that I’m no longer commuting two hours or more a day, I’ve mostly gone back to paper copies. I find myself in the position of purchasing copies of novels I’ve given away, taking particular care to dig through precarious stacks in used bookstores. My bookshelf is starting to look a bit disheveled, and I don’t really have space in my current home to get a second one, but I’m not letting that stop me.

The e-reader still has certain advantages. I expect when I finally have money to travel, I’ll want to load my Kobo up with enough reading material to keep me busy. I’ll just have to make sure to bring the appropriate cable to charge it; I’ve upgraded my cell phone, so it’s no longer the same USB plug. Maybe a few paperbacks and a graphic novel or two aren’t too heavy for my luggage, after all.

August goals

Talkin’ ain’t doin’

Here it comes: actual, concrete goals to hold myself to. I’ll have to start with arbitrary numbers as I get back into the swing of things, and adjust as I go along. Naturally, I’ll try to push myself harder.

In terms of writing, I’d like to have a new novel outlined before August is up. That gives me three weeks, so I’ll set myself a goal of ten chapters outlined per week.

Revision is a little harder. I’m due for another reread of Yggdrasil to see what needs editing, cutting, and where new material needs to be fitted in. I can manage a reread in one week, then a second look over another week to target problem areas.

Of course, I’ll want to make hokey index cards to put on my corkboards to illustrate my progress with these goals. It helps to have them there, staring at me at all times.

I’ll be back next week with updates on my progress!

 

Dusting

Goodness, I’ve got some dusting to do, don’t I?

Hello everyone! I am still alive and well, though I have had some adventures since I last wrote here. Not much has changed, and I find myself again reminded that writing is what I love to do.

… that is, when I’m not being so lazy. Hehe.

I’m engaging myself to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year, with a new project. I believe part of what drags me down is my mulish insistence on working on Destiny. Maybe it will happen one day, but I think I benefit more from fresher ideas.

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I bought a small journal and started scribbling some ideas in it. The working title is “The Oracle’s Daughter” and it’s about, surprise, the daughter of an oracle. I have some other vague notions about it that I plan to realize by the end of the month so that I can launch into a flurry of narrative.

Of course, I will be posting semi-regularly here to keep everyone up-to-date in my NaNo madness. I’ll also be sprucing up the pages here. I’m due a new bio, and this blog might need a makeover.

Scribophile

I’ve finally found what I needed to give me a kick in the pants. I saw something online for this site, Scribophile, which I had never heard of but I’m always up for more engagement with interested writers. They have this interesting karma system where you need points to post your writing, points that can only be earned by critiquing the writing of others.

I was terrified. Who am I to critique someone else’s work? What do I know about characterization and plot and pacing? What if I sound mean?

This is nonsense, of course. I know what I like to read. I know what works for me, and I can recognize if writing is confusing or uninteresting. I can also bring up things that can be improved upon without tearing something to pieces.

The more I critique, the more comfortable I get with it, and the more I feel I can offer kind suggestions of areas to improve. I’m also building awareness of what makes writing good, and turning to my work with new eyes. Also, I’ve posted the first chapter of Climbing Yggdrasil and gotten back some great feedback on things I had never noticed. I’d like to post one chapter a week, which means regularly critiquing in order to have enough karma to keep up that pace.

Are any of you on Scribophile? Please let me know so I can have a look! You can see my profile by clicking here.

NaNoWriMo derailed

Who would have thought beginning a new job at the same time as NaNoWriMo would be difficult?

I wrote nothing November 3rd and 4th; my training at work, while not difficult, was so full of facts that I had no mental energy by the time I came home. No writing. I hatched a clever plan to carry my laptop around and take the train home. Sure, it would take a little longer to get home in the evening, but I’d have a solid hour to hammer at the keys. It worked, I managed an average of 1,700 words each night on the train, and this while still fiddling with my cell phone.

Then, tragedy struck. On November 14, I turned 28.

… and the tragedy is that I fell ill during my birthday supper. This started five straight days of fever, and painful swelling in my mouth. On day 5, I got myself to a clinic where the doctor told me I had an abscess and prescribed me antibiotics.

Needless to say, those fever days saw me write not a single word, and though I am currently much recovered, I am rethinking my strategy from here on. It’s too late for me to make a mad dash to the finish with NaNoWriMo, but a daily writing habit would be a good thing to keep going. My laptop is heavy, and I do get a sense of pride from handwritten words on the page. My biggest complaint last time was that I can’t write as fast as I’d like (i.e. for NaNo purposes), but isn’t slow and steady better than nothing at all?

Plus, this gives me an excuse to go to Essence du Papier downtown and splurge on a gorgeous, new journal.

Another good idea would be to return to a regular updating schedule. This blog is almost a year old now, and though I have had very long periods of consistent updating, I can hardly say I’m at 100%. The last pieces have fallen into place with my changing life, there are no longer any excuses for letting things slide. Time to buckle down.

Planning

It’s the last week before NaNoWriMo 2014 begins. I am a good 20+ chapters into my outline for Project: Destiny and feeling good. I have color-changing LEDs on my desk that I believe I will use to admonish myself; red when I haven’t written, yellow once I’ve started, green once I’ve met my word goal for the day. (I will probably not keep up with this.)

desk leds

I’m excited. I’m raring to go. I’m posting encouraging notes on the corkboard beside my desk. I have magnetic poetry next to that in case I need some unrelated word play to get the creative juices flowing. I have lots of good music ready to go.

Tick-tock.

Moving, getting ready to write

Despite the best intentions, I’ve only managed to outline a few chapters of Destiny. Most of my time has been (avoiding) packing up for a move later this week, and all the nostalgia that entails. I’ve lived here nearly five years, it was my first real home with my husband, and I’m leaving that behind. This will be a good change, but leaving things behind isn’t often easy.

life in bags

My move on the 10th still gives me plenty of time to hammer out my outline. Once I get settled in, I plan to dedicate 90% of my free time to getting it done (I still have to leave myself a small percentage for socializing, quiet time, baths, etc.) so that come November 1st, I’m ready to start at a run. I can see myself taking my laptop with me everywhere in the house, outlining in the dining room, the basement, on the front porch on less cold days.

It will be good not to be chained to my desk, to have a change of scenery. I’m mostly ready. My desk is a mess, I’ve got to organize things and probably chuck most of it out.