>Wow. In spite of being extremely unprepared, I’ve managed to make my targeted word count for two days now. This feels like a humongous feat because I really have no idea what I’m writing. That means, of course, that I’m having to relax into the idea that I’m writing rubbish and it’s ok – at least I’m writing.
Now, it’s not that I think GOTS is rubbish, rather that my last-minute decision to participate combined with the fact that I took the necessity of starting from scratch as a chance to re-formulate the story have created a situation where I’m in the middle of preliminary re-planning even as I’m trying to write 1667 coherent words on the newborn storyline.
A number of things have changed in the story, including my main character’s age and family structure, the location, and even the era in which the story takes place. I’m having to balance the need to plan quickly and lightly for each day’s writing while recognizing that due to the era and location shift, I’ve got a fair amount of information that needs to be researched.
It appears that I never posted anything about what the story was actually about… and since coming up with a synopsis is part of what I worked on today, I thought I’d share the Before and After one-sentence synopses for the project that will consume a fair portion of my brain and time for the next 28 days.
Here’s the Before “photo”: A dubious fairytale ally helps a little girl far from home discover the path to recovery from the trauma of a car wreck that left her uncle in a coma.
And, After (with only 5 words in common!): A dubious fairytale ally gives a gifted student the means for her father’s recovery from a serious accident but immanent homelessness requires giving up childish dreams to support her family during the Depression.
I’m hoping things start to pull together and I can share excerpts or two. Actually I kind of liked some of the writing from the other version too and even though they go nowhere, I was thinking it’d be fun to put them up too and just see what folks think.
Ok, I’m just thinking out loud. I need to go to bed so I can get up early to write a bit before heading to San Francisco to pick Dantseng up for his couple-days’ visit before a meeting.
So I have 5 days to decide if I feel confident enough to engage in this year’s NaNoWriMo. Perhaps you aren’t familiar with the crazy things writers will do to push out yet another page, paragraph, or word, and National Novel Writing Month hasn’t crossed your path. If that’s so, then you’ll be unknowing no longer. NaNoWriMo is 30 days (always in November) of writing mania. The goal is to write 50,000 words in those thirty days (averaging 1667 words per day). There’s no stipulation on the quality of the writing, only that it be 50,000 words of an original novel-length work undertaken between November 1 and November 30. The program website has tons of information – forums, worksheets, advice, pep-talks, and just all around good cheer. In addition, there are regional write-ins and people buddying up to spur each other on with things like word wars (to determine who can write the most in a set amount of time) and plot/character/scene adoptions.
As I’ve mentioned before, I did NaNo in 2008 and ended up with a 112,000 word manuscript. Owl, who was then in 7th grade wrote 80,000 and Kestral, a first grader, wrote 10,000. I skipped it last year because we were moving and now I find November is again fast approaching. And that means that I have an opportunity to kick procrastination and resistance out of the immediate vicinity and dive head first into a fit of mad typing that, on a good day, leaves my inner critic in the dust and puts me closer to a real, finished, story.
I’m hanging back only because I know the reality of daily life – but I’m also remembering that 1667 words (or thereabouts) only took about 1.5 hours a day when I did NaNo last time.
I think I’ll leave it to the last minute to decide – but meanwhile I’ve gotten my planning notes for G.O.T.S. out and have been thinking about how to jump-start my enthusiasm for the story (none of the work I’ve done for this story can be counted for the 50K, so I’ll be starting over, which also gives me an opportunity to re-think some of the story line). I’ve been looking to see if there’s anyone I could buddy up with (as feeling like I’m doing everything alone is often a huge hurdle) and that may just tip the balance.
As of today it seems I might commit – but I’m even non-committal on the report of whether or not I’m committed….
such as it is, lately…
>Ah, resolutions. It turns out the ones I made at the beginning of the year didn’t amount to much. Maybe there’s a reason I never tried to make “New Year’s Resolutions” in the past. Not that they were really resolutions this year – I did call them goals, though. Things changed, as usual, and I ended up dropping the Chinese studies completely. I think I’m kind of burnt out on learning and forgetting and re-learning Chinese. Whatever. I don’t have plans to live there at this point and there are other things I’d like to do and learn. Which gets me to my point here.
Thanks to Bonnie who intersperses her artistic blog posts with ones related to her years of experience as a therapist, as well as my own interests in myth and fairy tale that eventually led me to some of the writings of depth psychologists, I realized I’d like to know more about psychology. Through MIT’s opencourseware program, I found a complete Introduction to Psychology course (lectures, syllabus, teaching materials, etc.), and through PaperBackSwap I found the textbook for the course. It was delivered yesterday to the locked mailbox for which I was given the wrong key – hopefully that’ll be fixed today. That’s one thing I’ll be doing when the kids start school.
I’m also committing to getting more exercise – the hiking and swimming of summer have been great but too sporadic to count for more than just a step into the 90 day program I started this week. This is my 40th birthday present to myself. Also, in the fall it ends up being easier to ride my bike for errands – you’d think it’d be easier when the kids are around but they’re honestly kind of lazy 🙂 and it gets hot at mid-day in the summer here!
As I knew it would, the writing practice has really faltered during the summer as well – it’s such a challenge for me to maintain my thoughts, to harvest those tender, elusive words when people are shouting at me across the house or standing at my side insisting I answer whatever question just occurred to them or requesting food (because they didn’t feel like eating the meal we just finished half an hour ago, etc. etc.). I’ve not been able to train myself to write well (or even to want to write) when others are in the same room even. I know it’s a handicap, but for some reason I just need (or think I need) consistent stretches of solitude. I know it’s contradictory that I wrote Call the Rain Home while homeschooling the kids, but it made a difference that we were all working on the same project and made room and time for each other. I haven’t figured out what my writing goals will be for this fall yet, but I’m thinking that I’ll incorporate G.O.T.S. into NaNoWriMo – even though you can only be an official participant if you work on a completely new project. I’m still deciding on that. Regardless, I’ll be re-entering the How to Think Sideways curriculum. In the meantime I signed up for a local writing “class” – it’s more like a writing group with structured time to write and read (based on prompts) and just get to know other local writers – something that’s been lacking for me. That’ll be once a week.
These are some of the things I’m looking forward to as the season changes and the days grow cooler. How about you? Anything going to change once summer’s over?
>The Bird Story is officially put away. I took some time off from it in early October, right before the move, thinking my fatigue with it would either lift and I’d come back to it with renewed enthusiasm, or else I’d figure out that it didn’t need to go any further and I should start something new.
It’s a little weird to admit that I’m not going to finish it. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though. In retrospect, I went back and considered it from the point of view of the things I’ve been learning in How to Think Sideways, and I realized that it wasn’t “pinging” on the radar that is my creative mind bringing gifts to work with. So, while it was a nice story, and a good idea with interesting characters and potential for being entertaining, it wasn’t standing in my “Sweet Spot Map*.” In the meantime, I’d written a short story that gave me shivers of happiness and I thought, “What am I doing, fooling around with other stuff, when I could be playing with all these really cool toys?!”
So, as I think Holly Lisle‘s** method is really good, and it’s helped me learn how to harness creative impulses and get them to run the course, I’ve decided to go back to the beginning.
As part of my realization that it’s better if I keep my steps small for now, I’m not currently aiming for a novel, but I do have another short story in the works. Meanwhile, I’m editing the earlier short story, currently (and awkwardly) titled “Water Was in Everything.” (I’m the first to admit that I kind of suck at titles, so just let it slide for now).
*The Sweet Spot Map is a technique Holly teaches in the first few weeks of How to Think Sideways. It’s a simple exercise with deep results, allowing you to access underlying themes, desires, fears, and connections that, when made conscious and used in writing projects can first, help generate ideas, and then, transform them into great, invigorating ideas.
**I found Holly’s website, and the abundance of help she’s provided to writers, when I was writing a novel for NaNoWriMo in 2008. She has so much available for free. I recommend taking advantage of everything she’s put up on that site before taking one of her classes – not because there’s anything missing in the classes, but because you might as well explore all options and the freebies are different from the classes. It’s true, too, that her methods have evolved over time, so some of the freebies are early-drafts of what she teaches now, but they’re still useful. I happened to sign up for HTTS when it was being offered at a lower price. I don’t know if I would have signed up without that incentive, though now, of course, I think it’s completely worth it.
>This book project, the bird story, sure is a different creature from the one I wrote while we were living in China. I can think of all sorts of reasons.
*that one was NaNoWriMo generated, this one is not
*that one was written in a bubble in China, this one is being written while regular life demands my almost constant attention
* that one had fewer style and length limitations, this one has more – it’s meant for a younger audience (7-10, or middle grade)
*that one had myth and dragons and plant magic and culture building, this one is solidly this-world (though my bird characters don’t act like birds-as-we-know-them)
*that one had community because Owl and Kestral and I were all doing writing projects and we supported each other, this one is just me
*that one seemed like play, this one feels like work