A Very Brief April CampNaNo2020 Update

Trying to do NaNoWriMo in the middle of a pandemic has been an interesting experience, definitely. It wasn’t helped by my addictive personality and a wonderful gift from my partner for my birthday which devoured a lot of time. I’m not regretful of that at all, to be honest. If people ever needed a good distraction it’s now, and it is a great outlet for creative energy too – and probably one that I’ll talk about in another post. Working from home full time is difficult enough. Maintaining concentration past that to keep writing has been a huge struggle.

With five days left, I have a third of my word goal left to go. Uh oh. The actual numerical value is, on paper, something I’ve smashed out easily in normal times. These aren’t normal times though and I’m determined not to beat myself up about it if I don’t hit that goal. No matter what happens between now and the end of the month, I still have ten THOUSAND more words towards a full draft of this novel and that feels like a lot. 

I guess my point is, celebrate your successes and don’t sweat the small stuff. 

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020

It’s quite amazing how much a person’s life can be turned upside down in the space of three weeks. It becomes an even stranger experience when you know everyone in the whole world is going through the same thing, maybe a few weeks sooner, maybe a few weeks later, but we’re all being effected by this one gargantuan event that has swept the world.

I’m a very introverted person and I’m also very happy staying at home with my various projects, hobbies and games. On that side of things, I’m pretty well set. The issue for me comes from my anxiety disorder(s, as I recently found out) and I’ve been struggling on and off. Mostly I’m fine, but I have off days every so often. I haven’t been doing much of my creative ventures which normally help keep me sane, but I’ve been lucky with the release of a couple of very mental health friendly games (Nintendo always has my back, I swear).

It has made me call into question whether I want to attempt Camp NaNoWriMo next month. Do I want to put that pressure on myself? This is a question I’ve had to ask myself many times over the last few years and the answer has always been the same. I don’t like things beating me and stopping me from doing the things I love is beating me.

Camp NaNoWriMo is a good event to remind myself that I can always work on my projects because it lets you set your own goal. Even doing a tiny goal feels like participating and gives progress to one of my many beloved writing projects. A goal of 15,000 words will let me write the small number of 500 words per day which, on a good day, I can knock out in about 20 minutes. It also gives a sizeable chunk of a novel at the end of the month.

Due to the circumstances surrounding us, I’ll be continuing work on my very unmarketable passion project Monarch Necrotic, which still doesn’t have its own page on here yet. I’ll fix that, I promise. If there was ever a time to work on something just because you love it, now is certainly the time.

As I said at the beginning of the post, I’ve got my struggles like everyone but I am and will be okay. I cope with things by forcing myself to work on my creative projects, because that’s what I love and what I refuse to give up. If that isn’t your process, that’s okay. If you can’t create right now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Find your own way to survive and don’t let other peoples’ methods bring you down.

I hope the rest of you out there are hanging in there and if you’re not, reach out to people. We’re all in this together, and we won’t let it beat us.

A Decade In Review

You don’t really think about how much happens in just one decade. It’s hard to think of it like so many posts out there have as one big chunk of time because there were so many different states and transitions. It can’t be thought of as one entire entity, at least for me.

At the start of the decade, I was still in university. I was struggling. I struggled all the way. I only got through it the way I get through most things. With bullheaded determination. I didn’t have a natural talent for chemistry. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like I have a natural talent for anything I enjoy. But I fought and struggled and I made it. During this time, since the start of university, I didn’t write. I was too busy or exhausted to write. If I was doing something like writing or reading, it felt wrong if it wasn’t university related. I had barely done any on the build up to to university because I was working so much to save up the money. 

It wasn’t until 2012, five years on (in Scotland degrees take longer than some other places), that I started writing again. I started with a rewrite of a shockingly bad fan fiction I wrote in school. Unsurprisingly, my writing hadn’t improved much. That was the year that a friend told me about NaNoWriMo. I was so excited about it that I couldn’t wait for the main event and when I heard about the Camp event in August, I was sold. I thought all day about my story (I worked on a production line at the time, which was convenient for plotting purposes) and when the month came I poured it all out. By July the next year, I had full rough drafts of the Twyned Earth trilogy and a rekindled passion for writing that even the most difficult of periods couldn’t quash – even if they could slow me down. 

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I still have my original drafts of everything. I like to keep stuff archived, so that I can go back and make sure I haven’t removed anything important or otherwise useful for the story. Comparing the original 54k word draft of Through the Black to the current 96k word one, it’s clear to see that my writing has vastly improved (another good reason to keep old drafts, if you can handle the cringe of reading them). It also goes to show that, as with all writing advice, the “cut 10% when editing” spiel is not as cut and dry as it appears. 

Since that first Camp NaNoWriMo event, I have participated in and one every official November NaNo since, along with 7 additional camp events (with 2 participates and misses on top). That feels like I’m missing some as well – the website is a touch buggy at the moment. The 10’s were absolutely the decade where I not only reaffirmed my love of writing but took it to a whole new level. 

It may not be immediately obvious about me, but when I was a child/young teenager, art was just as much a part of my life as writing. I loved it and I was decent enough at it that I even sold a few pictures at school events. That stopped at the same time as the writing, when university just devoured everything that wasn’t itself from my life. That was a lot harder to get back into. My skill level seemed to have plummeted a lot more on the drawing front and I felt too demotivated whenever I tried and failed. It was only within the last couple of years, since 2017, that I started trying properly to push past my insecurities and accept that it’s okay to start from the ground up again, that it’s okay if I spend the next several years just learning how to draw again so long as I wasn’t avoiding something that I loved. Hardware held me back a lot but since getting a new tablet last October, I’ve been drawing and studying and I’ve done more art in that time than I have in ages and it feels great. 

It’s made me think a lot about a silly fantasy I’ve always had, to combine storytelling telling and art. It sounds daft but I don’t know if I’ve ever actually voiced my desire to draw comics before. It’s just always felt so far out of reach – both the artistic and storytelling telling skill required to do comics is immense. Even being able to say out loud that I’d like to try it someday is a big thing for me. 

Since leaving university, I have moved way too often and been through the hardest times of my life. I worked a plethora of jobs before finally landing in the field that I wanted. Some were okay, others were horrendous. I had a severe mental health incident that I’m still not fully recovered from. I finally understood and came to terms with my sexuality and gender. All in all, it’s been busy. 

In the 00’s I abandoned the things that defined me in the pursuit of something that would benefit the rest of my life. In the 10’s, I have taken what I gained from university, my degree and my partner, and clung to those while rediscovering the self I left behind. I am now a partner, a scientist, a writer, and an artist. And coming to that realisation that at the end of the decade I am all of these things, wow, it actually feels kinda good. 

A NaNoWriMo Confidence Boost

It’s over! November 2017 is done and dusted. THANK GOODNESS. With the 30th came my sixth consecutive win of the official NaNoWriMo. It was, by a long shot, the hardest year yet and I’m going to need a few days to recover. I never got that safety buffer and every day felt like a real struggle.

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Between my current situation and the addition of family visits, plumbing problems and a whole dental saga (really, wow) it has been an uphill battle from day one. But I have succeeded. It’s one of the few things I can cling to right now as an achievement. NaNoWriMo certainly isn’t for everyone, and even if it is something you try, if you write any words at all you’re still a winner really. The whole point is to get words on a page and not to discourage people for being unable to hit some arbitrary number within a month.

That said, after everything this year and everything else that’s happened this month, getting that 50k was a big boost for me. One thing after another has just been a defeat after defeat after defeat. I really needed a win on something. Anything. And I’ve got it. So now I’m going to cool it on the writing for the weekend and then, on Monday, Through the Black revisions begin.

It’s on. March 31st, here I come. I’m gonna be ready for you.

I’m Back! With Updates!

So sorry about the complete lack of activity on here. Things have been a little hectic and difficult lately but now it’s time to get back on track. I’m going to be working hard on catching up on posts and getting back to regular service! So here’s a quick update from me.

1.) It’s that NaNoWriMo time of year again! I’m doing a rewrite again because I have too many open projects to start drafting a new one guilt free. I’m working on the Fishperer because it’s great fun and I’d love to be able to get it to a readable point somewhere in the near future. I’m currently a little behind but no where near as behind as I was a couple of days ago, so that’s something. I’ve never missed 50k on an official NaNoWriMo and I do NOT intend to start now.

2.) Writing has still been going strong, despite the lack of blog posts. Things have been a bit tough and it’s one of the things that’s been keeping me going.

3.) That said, very recently I came to a realisation about myself. For the past few years, I’ve been letting things other people say restrict some things that have been… let’s just say a massive part of myself since I was very young. With that realisation, I’ve decided to re-embrace that part of me. It feels as though I’ve reached the end of a four-year long identity crisis I didn’t know I was having. Not only is it hugely helping my mental health but I’m also hoping to channel it into certain side projects. Exciting times ahead.

4.) I’ve still been attending my writing classes and have been getting some really nice feedback on the assignment pieces and free writing exercises we’ve been given so I’m hoping to post a few of the ones I’m more happy with. That way posts will have some more flash fiction and not so much of me waffling. What’s not to love?

5.) Now finally, THE MOST EXCITING NEWS OF ALL! Which, unlike the majority of my exciting news, is actually pretty exciting for me. In the light of recent beta feedback and with a date set by my partner to stop me dithering for eternity, THROUGH THE BLACK will be QUERY READY by March 31st. That’s right. I have a deadline and I’m serious about hitting it. As of December 1st, things will be full steam ahead. I’m excited and terrified and I definitely need some more tea over here right now.

Books

NaNo Reflections

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Another NaNo down! And I won (just) for my fifth consecutive year. This was the closest I’ve cut it that I recall but I made it in the end. And, as I was doing a rewrite of the very project that got me into writing again after my long, university induced hiatus, there was a lot of cringing along the way. Really.

On the positive side, it let me see that I’ve improved a huge amount at writing over the past five years. I already mentioned just how many words I was cutting in my progress post and that trend continued. At least six full scenes got completely binned, as well as others getting merged and whole paragraphs of absolutely nothing being skipped as well. There was so much superfluous, unnecessary and boring guff in there. There’s also the prose itself which is, in my opinion, miles better than the original even in its NaNo-form. If I ever get to the stage where I can edit this it might even become readable!

Practice really is the key to anything. I’m so much happier with my writing now than I ever have been – and I know there’s still massive space for improvement. I still don’t consider myself “good” (but will I ever?) but I’ve come leaps and bounds. It makes me so glad that I’ve stuck with it, even through the low moments. It’s like with art – I would love to improve at it but I always get disheartened when I try. Things never work out the way I’d like. I stumble and struggle and eventually end up taking long, substantial breaks from it and every time I do I end up back at square one. It needs a lot of time and a lot of practice. Unfortunately time isn’t something I have in abundance.

The only difference with writing is that I’ve stuck with it even through the hard times. From scenes I just couldn’t write, things that sounded awful, bad plots all the way to crushing beta feedback and rejections. Time and practice has brought me to where I am today. And I’m happy with where that is, even though I hope to keep improving as I go. If you love something and want to get good at it, stick with it. No matter the setbacks. Keep at it. Some people say you need to write every day but I don’t think that’s true. Just keep it regular and don’t let your skills slide.

Now if only I had more time for art too!

NaNo 2016 Week 1

NaNoWriMo is a go! This year I settled on my WIP War of the Heavens. Originally I had planned to pick up from where I left off but I decided that since it needed such extensive rewrites I would just start from scratch. This way I can just carry on and hopefully not have such a huge disjoint once I’ve got the draft finished. It’s quite funny, rather against the spirit of NaNoWriMo the overall word count relative to the point I’m at in the original version has been cut by 36.6 %. Which is quite mind boggling really. There was a lot of superfluous guff in there. It’s also quite the relief to be honest as the original version was on track to be another 200k plus manuscript if it continued along the trajectory it was on. Yikes!

After my last post I was umm-ing and ahh-ing as to whether or not I should even attempt NaNoWriMo this year but I decided that I didn’t want to let the negative in my life effect the things I love. It’s worked out well because I’ve started a new job which is far better for my health. I think I might actually get my 50k this year, despite insisting to myself that I will be super casual about it. (Which is still the case – if things start getting rough I’m not going to make myself sick worrying about it!) I’m living closer to the line than I think I ever have but I’m still on track!

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Through the Black is of course still top priority and going smoothly. If you’ll direct your eyes to the widget on the right, you’ll see things are getting excitingly close now. I’m twenty pages away from having all paper edits done, then it’ll just be plugging in the changes to Scrivener. That is, until I do my final read through and decide I hate everything all over again. Ahhh, the writer’s life!

How are you all doing?

Suddenly September

Suddenly it’s September. How on Earth did that happen? I have no idea but it’s terrifying. We only have two months before the madness of NaNoWriMo starts again and I still haven’t decided what I’m going to work on. I have so many open projects that I don’t want to start a new one and make the pile even bigger. What I’d like to do this year is work on a draft of something I’ve already started and, as I generally use NaNo events as a break from my main projects, I won’t be looking at Twyned Earth.

The three projects currently fighting for my attention are The Fishperer, One Dead Prince and War of the Heavens. Each has their pros and their cons.

The Fishperer is the shortest of the projects and I have a pretty much complete rough draft. Choosing this one is the quickest path to getting another MS that I wouldn’t be horrified to show anyone. I’m worried the story is a bit naff but I love the world and the characters are, in my opinion at least, hilarious.

One Dead Prince has the benefit that I’ve been working on it most recently so a lot of its issues are fresh in my mind. It’s neatly spilt into four sections, each of which is roughly 50k words so I could aim to edit one of them. The only issue is I’d have a lot of work on the build up to November as I’d need to re-read and make extensive notes on 215,000 words to know what I needed to do to it. It’s a big and very messy draft in need of a lot of attention.

Finally there’s a project I’ve not spoken about very much recently but that’s not for a lack of passion for it. Somehow it just always seems to get nudged out by something else. War of the Heavens is the project that first got me back into writing as I was in my last year of university and as with ODP it’s a big one. However unlike the other two this one still doesn’t have a complete rough draft, which means I’d get to do some actual writing done instead of just editing. Given how most of the year has been spent working on edits, it’s a very tempting thought. It also wouldn’t take as much prep work as either of the other two as I already have chapter plans typed out.

Right now, I’m leaning towards War of the Heavens because that poor project has been pretty neglected over the last couple of years. Plus, as I was half way through transferring it to Scrivener last time I looked at it, it’s in a bit of a state so it’s really about time I fixed that. I’ve still got a few weeks before I need to start prep anyway. Let’s just hope I don’t get stuck by a dreaded Shiny New Idea like I did last year.

Are you starting to think about NaNoWriMo this year? What plans, if any, have you cooked up?

March 2016 Progress Report

We’re into the third month of the year already and I have no idea where the time has gone. The days have been running away from me faster than I can make good use of them. It’s been a really rough start to the year but a lot of the sources of stress have been dealt with now so hopefully this quiet period keeps up a bit so I can get down to some serious work.

So in spite of everything how has the writing been going, you ask?

Twyned Earth edits had a bumpy start due to Chapter 2 being a gargantuan struggle. There was a lot of change and problems needing ironed out. That said, I am now 19 % done and am on track with my plan to have one chapter completed every two weeks. If I manage to stick to this, I will have revised all chapters by mid September and I can go back and look through my changes as a whole and make sure everything works. After that will be the print out stage, where I’ll go through it line by line with a pen. One final read through and Beta Bothering Round 2 commences! Exciting.

Twyned Earth isn’t my only plan for this year, though it will be the priority and as such no other projects are getting goals set in stone.

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on my One Dead Prince novel over several Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, using one month to write one 50k word section (don’t even mention the cuts I’m going to have to make to this poor thing). Well, I’m currently at three out of four sections done, and I’d really like to have this rough draft finally finished just so I can put it out of my mind. This year I’m thinking that instead of doing it during one of the camp events I will split it over both, doing 25k each month to put less pressure on myself and not detract too much from Twyned Earth. Of course, if I’m behind on my main editing project, poor One Dead Prince will be getting left to sit for another year.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I can sometimes find it hard to work totally on one project without getting totally burnt out. That’s why I like to have a side project I can pick up to clear my head a bit. Normally that’s to do with world building or plotting, but this year I think I will try to focus my excess efforts on my Deconstructor story (once I’ve done a scene by scene plan for ODP Part 4). This project has sort of snuck up on me and really isn’t too far, relatively speaking, from being beta ready. I don’t know if I’ll be sending it out any time soon but it would be nice to have something else shuffling towards the mythical “Complete” stance on my project spreadsheet. It’s really important to me to get the next draft of TE finished, so not only is working hard on it important but avoiding burnout is essential. If I just so happen to eke another project within visual distance of the finish line then all the better!

So that’s where I’m out. How are your projects going? Have you hit the ground running this year or are you, like me, slowly building up steam?

NaNoWriMo the Teacher

One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that you always learn things. Whether that is the names and shapes of different types of blades, how to deal with head trauma or the problems associated with marine mammals’ blowholes, it teaches you things. Things about the way things work, things about yourself, things about writing. You write. You practice. You research. You learn.

I won NaNoWriMo 2015 writing a Waterworld inspired high fantasy about bounty hunters, and it taught me just how much of our everyday language is gendered. In this still currently unnamed world (I am rubbish at naming things), the language is gender neutral apart from pronouns – chosen from three as part of a coming of age ritual – and archaic royal titles. It was actually a lot more limiting that I thought it would be and made me realise a few things.

 

1.) We use gender to talk about people a lot. You would think that, as someone who perhaps considers gender more often than most, I would have noticed this. To an extent I had but when it came to completely removing gendered terms I realised how reliant on them I continued to be when I wrote. I had to learn to avoid writing that “a man had entered the room” and come up with something new – something that sounded good and flowed without being forced. Even in speech, characters would say things like “aww man” and that would have to go.

2.) Trying to sound informal and gender neutral can be tough. “Oh, there was some guy asking about you.” A perfectly normal and casual sounding sentence. The structure is familiar and commonly used, at least where I’m from, but when changing the “guy” to “person” it loses a lot of the formality. These types of switches worked well enough in the prose but when it came to dialogue things became tricky. Instead with the sentence above, I found myself altering much more than that in order to accommodate both of these essential requirements – gender neutral and informality. Of course, in the true spirit of NaNoWriMo there was often a far simpler solution that I couldn’t see at the time (“Oh, there was someone asking about you.”) but it got me thinking about language and how we use it, which I think is the point.

3.) Even some ungendered things are gendered. No, you read that right. This novel is set in an ocean world and it took me until twenty thousand words to realise that the word “fishermen” didn’t fit the setting. An easy thing to fix, just changing it to fishers, but I was still impressed (okay, so more annoyed) that it had slipped past me after I had been so meticulous with other very similar words. To myself though, it is just so ingrained into my mind as the word for “people who fish.” I don’t know about you but I’ve never heard anyone say either fisher or fisherwomen. When it comes to fishing, fishermen generally means everyone. This could be regional, of course. I was at university before I learned that “jamp” wasn’t actually a word. The point is that this term that would never had existed in this world slipped in because it was so normalised to me that I never spotted it. And it wasn’t the only one. I know now that I will have to be exceptionally attentive when it comes to revisions.

4.) I had it easy. I speak English, just about. I am, very slowly and poorly, trying to teach myself French. I’m awful at it. Just dire. But I’m trying, so that’s something. In French, everything is gendered. Apples, for example. Why are apples gendered? I don’t know. I also don’t know how one would even attempt to set a novel in a gender neutral world with a language that works in this manner. For personal reasons, I find this part of the language stressful enough. Just the idea of trying to figure out how to make it neutral and legible makes my head spin. There could be a way, for all I know. Like I said – I’m still learning and moving slower than an escargot. All I know for now is that I had it easy!

 

I hope everyone else’s NaNoWriMo adventures were as fun and fruitful as mine or, if you didn’t NaNo, that you just had an awesome November. I have two and a half chapters of the Fishperer left to write and then I will be cracking on with the dreaded Through the Black revisions.

If you took part in NaNoWriMo this year, what weird and fun things did your novel teach you?