Archive for the ‘Writing as a process’ Category

NaNoWriMo is over. I ended just under 20k, but a solid understanding of what I need to do next and WHY did I wait so long to get scrivner? Locally, our ML’s asked for volunteer pep talks, which I thought was a neat way to get the group connected. Here is mine:

The world doesn’t need my novel. Let me say that again: the world doesn’t need my novel. I have no delusions of grandeur. I won’t be writing the next Harry Potter (or insert whatever book/series in your genre that fits). I don’t think I’ll be writing a game-changing novel.

So why do NaNoWriMo at all? Good question, particularly since I’ve yet to “win”, heck I have yet to finish any of the writing ideas I’ve started.

It’s simple really. I need my novel. I need the outlet. I need the story. I need the characters I live with to come out onto the page so I can re-read about them whenever I want. I need the story that I wish someone else would write. I am my primary audience. I need this.

Doing NaNo gives me a chance to refocus. There are so many authors, self or traditional published, who dismiss the event all together. If we really wanted to write we’d do it all the time. We’re not trying hard enough to make time. No novel is ever truly complete in a month. (To that last one I say, no duh. This month is about writing, not fixing and editing.) But to the other comments? I think the statements are unfair. Life gets in the way sometimes. We move, we have jobs and bills, and families. We experience creative drain. Illness. Stress. Or sometimes we just can’t write. Personally I had a few life events that took significant time and energy away from every other aspect of my life. My marriage was falling apart, I was unemployed and struggling with severe depression and a loss of a family member. It was too much all at once. I couldn’t make myself write, read, heck, I could hardly form sentences some days. The truth is, sometimes we just can’t write and hearing we aren’t trying hard enough is unhelpful. Take the break and come back later. And if you’re like me, re-read your old writings for a good laugh.

Doing NaNo allows me to try. Even better, I can do it knowing that there’s a whole world of people also trying. It’s less lonely. There’s a nice satisfaction to adding to my word count and our region’s word count. I can refocus my ideas, have a place to update my stats, complain, and get inspired with other people doing the same thing. I get a touch of healthy, encouraging pressure by participating. I’m reminded that I need this. I can practice leaving all the things that have previously held me from writing.

The world doesn’t need my novel.

But I do.


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For awhile many aspects of my fantasy book remained stuck. I couldn’t get inside people’s heads, I couldn’t see what the course of tension was, or what the backstory was, in order to move the right events forward. Finally I caved and allowed myself some distractions: movies, readings, working on other projects around the apartment. Naturally that’s when things began to reveal themselves to me. Not in full, but I certainly had those “aha!” moments that I was lacking. Things are starting to solidify and that allows me to write better characters and interactions because I’ve finally begun to understand where everyone is coming from and how things work. I was writing blindly before, with a general idea of the plot arc but that was it.

But this morning I work up with a completely different story in my head. I’ve often thought about writing what I know, which is higher ed, being a grad student, being a college instructor. My life experiences have been challenging, humorous, and sometimes just overbearing.  I’ve never dared to write about those experiences as it’s felt too raw, too personal, too open for judgment. This morning it was clear that I could write about that, and maintain a fiction element. Not everything that happened needs to happen to me, and I don’t need to make it all true to my life. In fact the lead characters were obvious, standing in front of me as if they just knew I was going to tell their story. I love those moments. Graduate school, that first teaching gig, the bullshit politics, and of course my romantic elements as well. What if I gave the alternative “me” a happier ending to those few years?

Of course this means I’ve got 3 stories going now, with multiple “essay” ideas. And I might end up hating where this goes. Writing is writing, and it’s all good practice, right?

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Technically, technically, I am a writer. I write. I always have. But recently, (the last year or so), I wanted that writing to be something more. Because I was still teaching full time, (I’m “just” part time now), I joined some online academic writing groups. I am not really doing academic writing, but I liked that people understood my job constraints and I had a place to be accountable.

These last few rounds of writing groups–summer, fall, and the on going on now–haven’t been of much service. I’m still teaching but have been trying to leave that for a while. If I could find other part time work that is more local, instead of an hour commute, then I’d gladly take it. However, when I go for job interviews I’m told “you’ll probably quit this job when you get a full time teaching job,” and no matter what I say, I can’t convince people otherwise. While I want to leave the option to teach one class here and there always open, I no longer wish to teach full time. As a result, I’ve deliberately stopped paying attention to certain blogs, news feeds, topics, that previously held my attention and time. This also means that some of the conversation in these writing groups isn’t applicable to me at all. I’m not writing a dissertation or research paper. I’m not analyzing data. I’m not wasting my time with excessive prep work or grading for classes because when you’re being paid a very limited salary, you make different decisions about what your time is worth. I’m not doing any service to the college work. I’m alright with all of that, but it also means I’m just out of the loop in these writing groups.

I feel further out on my own when the type of writing is so vastly different. Writing for journals or conferences or dissertations is a completely different beast than the essays, short stories and fantasy fiction I’m working on. So I don’t have a place in that group to ask questions about my specific writing struggles. Originally, the first few group sessions were hosted by people who acknowledged all types of writing. The topics of the week for applicable to all writing projects and the topics really made me think about how I write and how I approach writing. Since then, more academic-only focused people have been hosting the writing groups, making the group very insular. This last week’s check-in has me considering quitting the group all together. I just don’t fit.

I tried writing for a publication that wasn’t academic thinking I’d fit there Finally I could NOT write about education all the time. But as I found the publication, (sorry no links, I can’t in good faith give the place more traffic), wrote some reprehensible pieces that lacked basic critical thinking and good question asking skills, I realize I might be more of an academic than I thought. But I don’t belong in academic writing groups. And I need some accountability and hand-holding to keep me going. I just don’t know where I belong when it comes to that. I have a lot of doubts, a lot of things I want to write about/talk about/work through, but other than writing here, I haven’t found my “home” yet.

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I’m trying to do NaNoWriMo this month. I’m not entirely following the rules. For one I didn’t tell everyone and their brother about it. It’s supposed to help motivate you, but I’m not motivated by that. The more people ask the less I want to talk about it–this is my baby and I don’t want to hear other people’s…well anything. Not yet anyway. I had made the mistake once of telling some people only to get tons of story “advice” on what should happen and how. Um..no thanks, if that’s the story you want then you should write that, not me.

I also read somewhere you aren’t supposed to use a project you already had started, that it’s supposed to be it’s own novel. Yup. Breaking that one too–I’m working on one I started and put  away, that already has 20k words. Don’t worry, I’m not lying on my word count, I’m only counting the words I write this month. I know you’re only supposed to write, write, write and edit later but I find that taking old sections and revising them, (which largely means adding to them), helps me. (more…)

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