rural road at sunset

The end of the year, that is.

Writing News

It's another year of me not officially doing NaNoWriMo, and yet, through Itchen to Write, this is probably the most involved I'll have been to date. I'm also planning to attend the local NaNo events, and do some writing. This is largely because I'm on track to get Nushada finished by the end of the year, which is pretty exciting.

I've been playing around with HootSuite alternatives recently, so hope to have some reviews to post soon. You can also find an interview I did with Jillian Kent over on her website.

On the personal front...

Something that's been on my mind more and more is the need to pull back. I'm more and more of the opinion that I've overstretched myself on commitments. I currently attend at least one writing workshop a month, run an average of three writing meetings a month, plus play D&D every Tuesday evening, attend a creative writing class every Thursday evening, and work a full time job doing social media, blogging, and event planning. This month I have an awards dinner immediately followed by a trade show exhibition. Most of my weekends end up full as well. And it is exhausting.

I read some time ago an article about JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) and it resonated with me more than FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) ever did. I'll be trimming the fat in regards to my social commitments in an effort to free up some of my energy. I want to focus on doing a few things really well, rather than half-assing lots of things out of a sense of dread and obligation.

And what does all that mean?

Ideally, it'll mean you'll see more content here, because my writing will be one of my primary focuses. It'll mean working my way through my stack of WIPs, and getting to the querying stages. It'll mean tackling my TBR list, and working on improving my health. All good things!

Camp NaNoWriMo is going about as well as this car's owner's day.

As with every NaNoWriMo month, I did it. Part of me probably knew it was coming, but I still didn't see it coming. I hit The Wall.

Runner Athlete Fitness Wall Run Exercise

It started as a headache on Friday after an evening out with people from work. So that nixed Friday's writing. Saturday I still had the headache. And now we're at Sunday and I'm  struggling to reclaim that momentum I built up over the previous week.

I'm currently sitting at 13126 words, and by Day 9 I should be on 14516. 1390 words to go. I'm struggling to make it to 750.

What have I been relying on to maintain any sort of a habit?

1. The Extreme Harry Potter Word Crawls

This is the number one tool in my kit. Any time I've really seriously dedicated myself to writing, it's been with this. You can find it here (requires a log in to NaNoWriMo's website) and I highly recommend it. It makes things fun, and gives you small, achievable goals. Things like 'write 250 words' or 'write for five minutes'. And it follows everyone's favourite wizard! There's even stuff for multiplayer (the 'word wars'). What's not to like?

2. 750 Words

We've all heard about the morning pages. For those who somehow are writers but haven't ever googled 'how to be a writer', the morning pages are a recommended prescription for a busy brain. You write (by hand, if possible) at least three pages of whatever comes to mind.

This website allows you to write that, and provides some nice analytics tools as well as badges to incentivise maintaining writing streaks. It's pretty addictive, especially if you're like me and metrics are your kink. They can tell you how long you spent writing, what you accomplished while you were doing it, tone, POV, and most commonly used words.

camp day 5
My most visually impressive selection of stats.
3. Accountability Buddies

Guilt and embarrassment are probably the biggest motivators in human history, outside of the usual (carnal) suspects. So I decided to load up on those.

Nelson_Ha-Ha

I post about it as close to daily as possible on my Twitter and Facebook, to keep me accountable to both my close friends and family as well as the stellar writing community on Twitter.  I also exchange emails with a friend who is studying for a license exam and we check in on each other that way. Lastly, I've instructed a colleague (and friend!) to bung sweets across the divider between our desks if I'm able to provide proof of progress to her each morning. I'm grateful for the support. (P.S. The aforementioned colleague is a talented artist! You can find her here.)

4. Heavy Pre-Planning

I'll return once more to the tropes littering every website that touches on the topic of writing: pantsers vs. plotters.

I fall heavily into the realm of plotters. Some people don't need to do this, and they write beautiful organic stories and everything's neatly filed away in their brains. I am not one of those people. Instead, I take plotting to its cold, functional extreme. I used the worksheets on Annie Neugebauer's website, which you can find here.

They've totally become my crutch, because once I find something I like that produces even mediocre results out of my usual sludge, dammit I'm going to use it until it's unhealthy.

5. Habitica

I go through highs and lows with my mood, and with it my productivity and creativity peaks and troughs as well. If I'm not careful, one day I'm going to end up with a diagnosis. But the important point is that I go through periods where I do a ton of research on boosting productivity and tracking goals and building habits. This leads to a flurry of apps to go with it and notebooks that are painstakingly designed and will most assuredly sit empty (RIP bullet journals).

The latest success story from one of these is Habitica. It's a basic sort of RPG where you grind by completing tasks and goals IRL. You can set daily tasks, habits, and long term projects/goals, and even break these down into their individual component actions. There are pets, and quests, and equipment for your avatar, so the appeal is fairly obvious for most, as are the addictive elements. I'll have to check back in with a later post about the long term results of Habitica, but so far, so good. It's kept me on track with Camp NaNo, as well as the myriad other things I'm attempting.


So that's what I'm using to try and tackle this behemoth of a project. What have you found useful in keeping the words flowing, come what may?

This monthly update is gonna be exciting.

It's gonna be an exciting monthly update.

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News and projects

I finished my photography course, and I've been on several photo shoots, including one with human subjects! I haven't done much with people, and I don't think it would ever be a main focus. But I do want to try and get some studio portraiture under my belt. It's just nice to have that skill set, even if it's one I rarely indulge in. I'm quite happy with my bees and my flowers and things like that. I think when you're enjoying your work and have passion, that comes through in your finished work.

I received a promotion at work today, which was a great way to end a day, a week, and a month! I've got a new title, Marketing Executive, and a little more money in my pocket each month. It's great to be in a job I actually enjoy, working with friendly people that see and appreciate the work I'm doing. I don't dread going into work, and I get to laugh a lot with my colleagues. And I no longer worry about watching what I say because of office politics. I'm also getting to develop some weaker skills, like Indesign, which I can apply to my writing and photography hobbies as well.

What's on the horizon?

Speaking of writing, Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I'm participating for the first time ever, and I'm pretty excited so far. Two days ago I finally hammered out a hard outline for Nushada. I'm hoping that having a good plan will allow me to pick it up literally whenever I can, instead of hemming and hawing over where the story goes next before I start actually putting words down.

For those of you participating, I'd love to hear about your projects! Are you pantsing or plotting? First time or old veteran? Leave a comment!

nanowrimo 2016 logo

Well, here we are again, ladies and gentlemen and all things in between! November looms ahead, and with it, the trial by fire we all as writers go through at some point or another: NaNoWriMo 2016, or National Novel Writing Month.

I have had several failed attempts at NaNoWriMo. Well, failed if you take it straight at its face value, that you either arrive in December with a rough draft of a manuscript or die trying. I like to consider them successes. The year I only wrote around ten thousand words? That was the month I wrote ten thousand more than the month before, so I counted it as a small success. The year I first attended a Write In event, and pushed that ten thousand to twenty five? Yeah, technically, I still failed, but I considered it a huge success in figuring out what helps me produce more words.

This year, I'm taking a different approach to the usual routine. I'm going to try looking at NaNoWriMo as a chance to create not necessarily a rough draft of a manuscript, but a set of good habits. I'm starting to see that, at least for me, NaNo is less about what you're writing, and more about the fact that you're writing. It's about the communal pressure - and support! - to write every single day. It might not always be on a fresh manuscript idea. It might not always be on the same concept. But as long as I'm writing every day, I'll consider it a success towards building good writing habits.

I'll be looking at building the following rules into my daily routine:
  • Write. Might be 50 words, might be 5000. But every day, put something down in writing.
  • It's okay to switch focus. I'm one of those people with a ton of half-cocked projects at any given time. And a lot of my motivation comes from idle daydreaming and brainstorming I do while doing non-writey tasks like housework and my Day Job™. So I need to grant myself the freedom to write what I'm feeling that particular day. Otherwise, I won't write anything at all.
  • It's okay to produce bad writing. I'm the sort of person whose procrastination somewhat stems from perfectionism. It can't be done until it can be done perfectly. And as anyone who's written anything knows, your first draft, without fail, is garbage. So I've been trying to learn that it's okay to screw up. It's okay to do a bad first job. It's okay, because it's gonna get revisited.

So, like all my other NaNo attempts, I probably won't emerge with a finished rough draft. But hopefully I will come out with some solid writing habits that will produce many rough drafts, and revisions, and blog posts, and on and on and on...

frizz

So awhile ago, I decided to give the notebook into which I’d been brainstorming and outlining for NaNoWriMo a makeover.

This is now my main notebook/idea cache for my NaNoWriMo project, which I’ve decided to call Shroudland. It’s about a budding mortician who suspects things aren’t quite right at their new job, and an experiment in taking plotting and outlining to an extreme.
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So here’s what I started with:

Just a plain composition notebook, originally chosen for its girly cover. Buying things that are very feminine makes sure that in a workplace that’s 90%

male my things always find their way back to me.

 

 

 

And here are my main tools:

 

Fancy stationery and stickers! (I never claimed to be a crafting expert…)

So to start out with, I wrapped the notebook with a sheet of the stationery and trimmed it to fit more or less flush to the edge of the cover. I affixed the stationery with a glue stick, again, because this isn’t meant to be anything fancy, just something fun to help keep me inspired.

 

The stationery didn’t quite wrap, so I used some off cuts to finish the job on the back.

 

Great! Time for stickers! I wanted them to be roughly centered, so I used a measuring tape to place them.

 

And there you have it! One notebook ready to guide me through the harrowing process of NaNoWriMo!