Tag Archives: NaNoWriMo

Thursday Snapshot: Unpacking, Little by Little

It’s been a week and a day since the big move, and I haven’t made much of a dent in terms of the unpacking. But I hit on a plan today that seems to be working. You see, right now I’m drowning in work deadlines, which is why I have no time for unpacking. But I also hurt my neck a while ago—not that my neck actually hurts, it’s my upper arm that’s sore but my physiotherapist tells me it’s definitely sore because of my neck. So the thing is, I have to take breaks while I’m working.

I am terrible about taking breaks. I tend to get all focused on a deadline and suddenly I look up and geez, will you look at that—eight hours have passed by! Yes, it can get that bad. But the thing with an arm that hurts is this: it simply won’t let you sit at the keyboard and plough through the day and night like that.

So I’ve been taking breaks. And during my breaks, I’ve been slowly, oh so slowly, getting my books onto my book shelves. And it’s working! I’m getting unpacked and my arm is feeling much much better.

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Time: 5:08 pm

Feeling: Tired, but in a good way.

Eating: You really don’t want to know. Let’s just say I’ve been surviving mainly on frozen foods from the grocery store, okay?

Drinking: Truckloads of coffee. But since I only let myself have one caffeinated coffee a day, it’s truckloads of decaf coffee, so I’m not anywhere near as wired as that first sentence suggests.

Reading: Yes, I’m reading! Even with the deadlines and the unpacking, I’ve been managing to find little, tiny pockets of time. Why? Because this is the book I picked up from the library earlier this week:

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I’m really enjoying it so far; this is the first one in the Cormoran Strike series I’ve read rather than listened to, and it’s definitely a good read.

Listening: Since I’m using those little, tiny pockets of time to read Career of Evil, I haven’t had any leftover time to listen to an audiobook. But it’s a good trade-off. I’m just happy to be reading again.

Writing: I tried. I really did. I wrote about 2,500 words on November 1. But then I didn’t write at all on November 2. And on November 3, I said to myself, you know what? I’m going to use this year’s Nanowrimo to help me get back into writing daily. So I’ll write a little bit each day and consider it a win.

I wrote 500 words that day. But nothing yesterday. And probably nothing today.

It’s not just about the time. I could probably carve out the additional hour or so I’d need to meet the daily Nanowrimo word count. But my tiredness has affected my creativity; my mind feels exhausted, and even when I sit down to write, nothing really comes to me.

I probably need to replenish the artistic well or something. When I have time.

But I’m cutting myself some slack here. After all, I just moved. I have unpacked oh, maybe 5% of my stuff. Not to mention the other stuff that’s communal and still waiting to be unpacked. And I am in the middle of my busy season when it comes to work. So I’m okay with this. Maybe next year …

Working: I also made the decision to quit Booktrope, where I’ve been a book manager for about six months now. It was a tough decision to make—I really enjoyed working with both of my authors—but it was a necessary decision. I just don’t have the time (did I mention unpacking, busy with work, trying to write?) and with both my authors having book launches coming up, it was much better to step down and let someone else take over who could commit the time and energy necessary for making those launches a big success.

Creating: Nope. Not a thing.

Looking forward to: Going to bed tonight. Seriously. I’m tired enough I could sleep right now, but I have to take Dylan to dance class. But when I get back? The bed and Career of Evil beckons! And a glass of wine, of course.

Monday ramblings: NaNoWriMo Win, Readers’ Workouts and Book Buying Binge

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NaNoWriMo

It’s a little early yet, I know, but the writing’s been going really well and I actually “won” NaNoWriMo on November 22, the American Thanksgiving, but couldn’t validate my win until yesterday.

I am now firmly ensconced in “Act III” of my children’s novel, and could possibly finish the first draft this week. Or not, as I’m in for a very busy week. I had a number of indexing deadlines scheduled for earlier this month that were delayed and guess what? They’ve been rescheduled for completion this week and next!

Yes. Welcome to my freelancing life …

Readers’ Workout and #30DS

It’s a good thing I’m writing now about the 30 Day Shred Twitter group I’ve been participating in, because one thing I’ve noticed: when I’m busy, exercise is one of the first things that gets prioritized right out the window. Which is very, very sad because it should be in my top three priorities, right after meditation and writing.

Participating in #30DS has been really motivating so far, though, so who knows, right? Just knowing if I do get the Shred done for the day, I can send out a tweet to my #30DS support group really pushes me to simply get it done. That, and telling myself it’s only 20 minutes. (It’s really about 25 minutes if you count the warm up and cool down, which I do, because apparently I’m supposed to be getting 150 (or is that 160?) minutes of exercise a week).

#30DS is part of Joy Weese Moll’s Readers’ Workout challenge. Anyone can join in; the weekly post goes live every Tuesday and you can either blog about your weekly Readers’ Workout goals and successes, or chime in on the comments. If you want to do the 30 Day Shred with us on Twitter, just jump right in. We’re all doing different levels of the Shred so you don’t have to be at any particular level.

Book Buying Binge

I’m sad to say I went on a book buying binge yesterday (well, okay, not really. I’m actually really happy about it and enjoyed myself thoroughly!).

After my big book purge last year, before moving to the city, I swore to myself I wouldn’t go on such binges again.  I think I’ve done quite well, actually, since we moved last November and this is my FIRST book buying binge since we moved. I should be patting myself on the back, right?

Anyway, I blame Memory and Kailana. I saw their tweets about the Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale at Bookcloseouts (can you say 50% off already discounted prices? I can, over and over and over again!) and couldn’t resist taking a look – and then I was trapped! I spent yesterday doing indexing, taking a break to browse Bookcloseouts and add more stuff to my cart, indexing some more, taking another break to add more stuff to my cart, and so on.

I was up until 3 A.M.!! Bookcloseouts has only limited quantities of each book, and several of the books in my cart had only two or three copies left. I wanted to make sure I finished up the purchase before bed, because who knew if there would be any copies left in the morning, right?

As it was, I only managed to hit the following categories: Children’s Fiction, Children’s Non-Fiction, Art, Crafts & Hobbies and Cookbooks.

The sad news is, I only got two books for myself – I’m trying to be thrifty, so each time I saw a book I wanted, I checked the library, which had copies of nearly every book I was interested in. Right now I’m trying to buy copies of books that I’ve already read and really really loved, so I just couldn’t justify adding new-to-me books that are already available from the library (there’s also the NOT-ENOUGH-BOOK-SHELVES motivation).

The good news? I checked off a lot of people on my gift list! So that was very, very good indeed.

I can’t resist temptation, though. The sale at Bookcloseouts doesn’t end until tonight, and I still have all the Fiction categories to browse through. I just might end up with a second order!

Rebel!

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Up until three days ago, I hadn’t been planning to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Some of you know that I got back on the writing track about three weeks ago, and my progress has been really good. To participate in NaNoWriMo officially, you must start with a totally new work, and I just wasn’t ready to step away from my current WIP to start on a new one.

However, someone asked me the other day, “are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?” And before I dashed off an answer, it occurred to me to look up my stats for my current book.

I had written 30,000 words over 17 days, and when I did the math, it turned out I’ve been writing at a NaNo pace anyway.

Well, how could I turn my back on that?

There is a way to participate in NaNoWriMo without following the rules to the letter – you can sign up and declare yourself a Rebel. To qualify as a Rebel, you must break a rule. Which I am, by continuing with my current WIP instead of starting a new one.

So here I am! I’m thrilled to be doing NaNoWriMo this year (especially after last year’s disastrous showing – somehow, NaNoWriMo and major move into the city simply didn’t mesh well).

What about you? Are you participating this year?

Saving the Cat This NaNoWriMo

Yes, it’s true.

Big Move + Busy Work Season + NaNoWriMo = Total Chaos and Crazy Making

It’s not that I’m a glutton for punishment. The truth is, the past four or five months have been so chaotic, I haven’t really written much of anything.

And that, in itself, has been driving me crazy. Not writing often feels worse to me than a whole lot of stress does.

So with NaNoWriMo approaching, a part of me kept saying, “You know, Belle, if you could do NaNoWriMo this year, just do it and finish it … think of all that you could accomplish, writing-wise, in a normal not-crazy month …“

I decided to listen to this particular voice. So here I am, embarking on my fourth year of NaNoWriMo.

Save the Cat!

In the back of my mind I kept thinking, now would be such a good time to try out the index card method. So I kept a stack of index cards by me, but I didn’t really have a chance to sit down with them until yesterday.

And while I did end up with a handful of cards, the thing with the index card method is, you’re brainstorming, right? You need to end up with a jumble of cards, so you can sort and stack and discard as necessary.

That definitely wasn’t going to happen. I had about fifteen cards in all. Three of which were my main characters’ names.

So then I hit on another idea. One that has me very excited.

Save the Cat!

Save the Cat!, by Blake Snyder, is a great book for screenwriters, but the tips and tricks in it can be used for novel writing too (at least, that’s what I think).

At the last minute (it was, as I recall, pretty close to the stroke of midnight), I decided to download the Save the Cat beat sheet. If you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, Tim Stout has posted an explanation of the beats here.

My Save the Cat NaNoWriMo Schedule

I then did some wizardly mathematical calculations, and figured out approximate word count points for each of the beats. I then transferred it to a blank November 2011 calendar:

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You might have noticed that the last day of writing for me is scheduled for November 28. This is because I decided to calculate everything based on finishing my 50,000 words in twenty-five days.

I’ve crossed out November 6, 7, and 8 because November 7 is our move-in date (it was the earliest date we could book the service elevator!), and I wanted to be realistic and save those three days for packing, moving in, and unpacking.

The end result of my last minute panic about not being prepared for NaNoWriMo? I’ll still be winging it, like I have the past three NaNoWriMos, I will be doing it in a more structured way.

What about you? Are you NaNoWriMo-ing this year? Do you feel prepared, or did you have a last minute panic like I did?

NaNoWriMo Win!

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I did it! I must admit, I got so bogged down with deadlines, for a while there it was all a “maybe”.

But yes, I did it. 50,329 words. I’m only about halfway through, so plan on finishing up by the end of the year.

Now back to all those deadlines …

Making Magic: Appreciation

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(Photo credit)

I am immersed in deadline after deadline right now, and in days of yore (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase in a post!) I would have let myself be pulled into a static, drone-like existence, working long hours day after day, late into the night.

No fun, no creativity, no laughter. Just work, work, work.

But I’ve been surrounded by so many creative, fun things, and I realized I don’t have to slip into that drone-like state. I don’t lose my creativity just because I’ve got too many deadlines hanging around.

Yes, I can continue to make magic in my life, even when I’m busy. And that alone inspires me.

So you’ll all be seeing a series of Making Magic posts. Today is Appreciation day, where I look back on the past few weeks and love all that’s gone by – a lot of life happened to me in the space of a few days! – and most importantly, remember there’s more to come, in this moment, and this moment, and this moment.

Because that’s really what life is – it’s filled with moments, and I’m always free to choose to focus on all the happy, glittering, fun moments.

Even when I’m knee deep in an index (or three or five).

Appreciation List

Hayley met Tim Burton yesterday! Hayley’s a member of the Toronto International Film Festival’s Next Wave committee, and as a special treat, TIFF arranged for Burton to meet with the board members for an hour yesterday. Hayley said he was so very down-to-earth, and gave them this very lovely piece of advice: Do a bit of everything. Don’t just focus on being a director. Be lots of different things.

I really loved hearing this – it was such a good reminder that creativity isn’t confined to any one thing. And the more creative I am, the more I get my hands in there, in project after project, the more the creative sparks fly every which way and totally light up my life.

Dinner with Nigella Lawson. Yes, I took time off from work last weekend to have dinner with Nigella Lawson at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I went with my sister, Dawn, and we had such a great time. Nigella was warm and gracious, and during the Q & A, Ward texted me questions, and Dawn asked one of them! (I was too busy texting and tweeting …)

Nigella Lawson

Yes, that’s a terrible picture. I only had my iPhone with me. But luckily my sister had her camera so she has some good pictures, which she says she’ll send to me. On the other hand, I was able to get some great close-up shots while Dawn was busy chatting with Louise Dennys, the publisher of Random House Canada; as an event planner, my sister definitely knows a lot of people (including the chef and the wait staff at the Royal York!).

The night ended with my sister taking me out to Pravda, a vodka bar. I’ll just say here that vodka is not as tasteless as I once thought it was. I’ll also say a sort of thank you to whoever kept putting drinks in front of me all night. Needless to say, I was, um, slightly hung over the next day …

But I had fun!

NaNoWriMo. Okay, so there’s a good chance I’m not going to make my real NaNoWriMo goal. And I’m okay with that, because I’ve had a lot of life happen the past ten days, and it’s been really a lot of fun. I also know that I can do this, I can complete this novel, and the next, and whatever else takes my fancy. And I’m very grateful to NaNoWriMo for helping me see this.

I’m going to “win” the regular NaNoWriMo this year. I’m almost at 42,000 words, and there’s still a full week left, so I have no doubts. Yes, I’m deep in Deadline City, and I’ve missed a few days of writing, but I’m going to keep plugging away at it. And I intend to have the first draft completed by the end of this year.

PiBoIdMo. I haven’t been keeping up with PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) the way I’d intended, but I’m still having fun with it. So far I’ve jotted down about 12 ideas, two of which are keepers.

And I’ve learned something very interesting: sitting down with the intention of brainstorming ideas is like exercising a muscle. It’s hard when you first start, but the more you do it, the more creative you get. And the whole process is just so much fun, you realize how much you miss when you don’t exercise that creative muscle.

Husband who cooks. Okay, so he’s pretty committed to being vegan, but my husband cooks the most delicious things, and does not hesitate to whip me up a meat or seafood dish anytime I request.

sushi rolls

Lately he’s mastered the art of sushi rolls, and since he enjoys making them as much as Hayley and I enjoy eating them, we’ve all been in seventh heaven food-wise. And yesterday he made a special set of sushi rolls with smoked salmon in them, which were so delicious.

He’s also been making these samosas that are really delicious. He fills them with a lovely Indian potato mixture and we have them with chutney or plum sauce. And we’ve discovered that our little picky eater will eat these as long as they’re made with a Mac n Cheese filling!

Christmas! I’m really delighted because we got a head start on Christmas this year: we put up the tree and all the decorations on Friday. In years past, we’ve had our “Christmas tree day” right in the middle of my deadlines, and it just isn’t so much fun when you’re doing it as a “break from work”. This time around, we spent the whole day shopping for a few new ornaments, getting the house ready, putting up the tree – we always make a little “tree party” of it, just for us, so we finished up with a viewing of Santa Clause 2, accompanied by sushi rolls and samosas.

iPhone Games. I’ve been letting my Inner Geek have some play time every day. So there’s no way I can write an appreciation list without mentioning all the iPhone games I’ve been having such fun with. They help make work go by faster, because I’ve developed a bit of a reward system: every 45 minutes or so (I usually time it according to the number of pages I’ve indexed), I let myself take an iPhone game break. So I end up feeling like I’m having fun, even though most of the time I’ve been working!

I know what you’re thinking. It doesn’t take much to make me happy, does it? And that is very true. Which is a very good thing indeed.

And now, back to work …

And now that I’ve reminded myself what a fun time I’ve been having, I’m motivated now to tackle this workload. All I have to do is take a deep breath, plunge back in – and remember to keep coming up for air and a little bit more of life.

My Real NaNoWriMo Goal

So it’s still the 6th day of NaNoWriMo, and right now my word count is at 20,381. This is good, but actually not quite where I was hoping to be by today.

This year, I decided on a different NaNoWriMo goal. Rather than aim for 50,000 words, what I’d really like to do is get the first draft of ELEMENTAL completed.

You know how a story idea can stick with you through years and years? That’s ELEMENTAL. And now that I’m finally putting this story into words on a page, I’m finding a real eagerness to just get the story down.

This eagerness is fanned by the fact that I don’t know how the story ends; I’m finding out as I write.

As Stephen King says in On Writing, make it your priority to just get your story down on paper first (I’m paraphrasing here, because, as always seems to happen, every time I want to quote from On Writing, I can’t find the book. Then, when I have no need of it for citation purposes anymore, up it pops – which usually happens to be when I dive in for a re-read …).

I found myself very excited this year as NaNoWriMo approached, and a large part of the excitement came from this desire to finally get the story down. To have a completed first draft.

My goal is to write 4,000 words a day. I met this goal on Days 1 and 2, but fell short on the other four days. Day 6 is not over yet, but I have a work deadline to complete, so I don’t think my word count will change today.

My intention was also to make writing my first priority by getting my writing done first, before doing anything else. I didn’t do this on days one to four, but did manage it yesterday and today. And yes, it’s much easier when I do my writing first!

I hesitated to post about this goal of mine, mainly because I wasn’t sure at all if it would be something I could actually do. Challenges are not fun if I feel they’re insurmountable. Now? Well, yes, I think I can meet this goal. I really do.

Of course, there’ve also been some NaNoWriMo bashing posts going around (most famously, this Salon.com post), but for me, that’s neither here nor there. I’m generally not deterred by the opinions of people who don’t know me.

I’ve always been a fast writer; that’s not going to change just because some people feel that all quickly written works are devoid of merit. All first drafts are rough; that’s the nature of a first draft (unless you’re Isaac Asimov, who often didn’t need to do a second draft).

Getting to the final draft that can be submitted? That’s what revisions are for. And alpha and beta readers. And more revisions.

But first, you’ve got to get the story down. Before you can do any of that, you need that first draft. And this month, that’s my goal.

Creative Noodling

NaNoWriMo Day 1:

ELEMENTAL: 5044 words

FORTUNE COOKIE (my “unofficial” NaNoWriMo project): 0 words

PiBoIdMo Day 1: one idea down, 29 more to go

It’s 12:40 am as I type this, and to be honest, the only reason I’m writing this and not relaxing in bed with a glass of wine and a good audiobook is because my cousin is over here replacing our makeshift plywood stairs (long story, you really don’t want to know) with proper stairs (you know, the kind you normally see in a house. As in, not made out of plywood and those metal joist hanger things.)

And since we can’t go up and down the stairs until the new stairs are installed, my cousin and his friend don’t plan on leaving until they’re done. (And even if they wanted to, I’m not going to let them.)

So here I am waiting … and waiting … and then I got this brilliant idea. I’ll write a blog post!

I’ve been thinking about doing “creative noodling” recently. I used to do this last thing at night, right before I fell asleep, but I recently discovered a meditation CD that I’m liking very much, and the best part of it is that I can do the meditation as I’m drifting off to sleep.

So no creative noodling at night anymore.

I realized last night, though, that if I’m going to end up with something halfway decent at the end of this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m going to have to find time for creative noodling. And since the moments before drifting off to sleep are out, where else could I find the time?

I’ve come up with a few good possibilities.

On the treadmill. This time is normally my iPhone game playing time. I like doing this because once I get involved in a game, the time just flies, and before I know it, I’ve walked those 1.5 miles.

I discovered today that I can just as easily daydream while I’m walking on the treadmill, and yes, time did fly by, and before I knew it, I’d walked 1.5 miles. I don’t know for sure if it will always be like this, but for most of November, my treadmill time will qualify as part of my creative noodling for writing time.

Cleaning the kitchen. Yes, another rather mindless activity, during which I usually listen to an audiobook. For this month, I’m considering giving up my nightly audiobook treat while cleaning the kitchen.

I’m just considering it, though. I haven’t yet decided if I’m willing to give up my audiobooks. I don’t know if I’m that self-disciplined!

Occasional moments. And of course, I will have occasional moments throughout the day during which you’ll find me staring blankly into space. I do this on a regular basis, actually, only this month I will be a little more intentional and organized about it.

So while it might look like I’m doing nothing, I’m actually doing something very valuable indeed. I seriously don’t think any work of fiction can get written without a good supply of creative noodling.

What about you? Do you daydream or do any sort of creative noodling? If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo, how was your day one? Most importantly, are you having fun?

(And no, they’re not done with the stairs yet …)

The Day Before NaNoWriMo Starts

I know. Most people think of October 31 as Halloween. I have a seven-year-old, so you’d think I’d be sitting here thinking about Halloween and taking him out trick-or-treating tonight too.

But no, not me. All I can think is this: today’s the last day before NaNoWriMo starts!

I haven’t done that much prepping, partly because my NaNoWriMo novel (ELEMENTAL) is one that I’ve already started; I’ve written about 10,000 words of it (which won’t, of course, be counted in my November word count!).

I also haven’t prepped much because I’m a pantser, rather than a plotter (other names for this style of writing are discovery writing, and, yes, plunger!)

It’s not that I write blindly without knowing where I’m going; what I tend to do is end each writing session knowing what the next scene or handful of scenes will be, but that’s about it.

In other words, I write like this:

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” – E.L. Doctorow

I’m doing an “unofficial” NaNoWriMo novel as well, which will really take the driving at night in the fog metaphor to a whole new level for me; I’ll be starting a middle grade WIP, FORTUNE, tomorrow. I plan to write this one in long hand, in a non-linear fashion; I’ll just add scenes as they visually come to me. It will definitely be an experiment!

I also have a “secret” goal when it comes to NaNoWriMo this year, only I’m not going to say what it is, because I’m not exactly super confident I’ll be able to meet this goal! But it’s one of the reasons why NaNoWriMo feels so exciting to me this year, even more than it did last year.

Another reason I’m so excited is because I’ve gotten more involved in the online writing community this year; there’s something about the energy of knowing a lot of other writers all playing the same NaNo game in November that’s really motivating.

And I’m also excited about November for a non-NaNoWriMo-related reason. I’ve decided to participate in PiBoIdMo 2010! Yes, that’s right – in addition to Novel Writing Month, November is also Picture Book Ideas Month! The goal? To come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.

Yesterday, I even bought a lovely little blank journal to play PiBoIdMo with, so now I’m all set!

So anyway, back to today being the day before NaNoWriMo starts.

Since I expect to be super busy in November, I’m going to relax a bit today. Work a bit on one of my upcoming indexing deadlines (which don’t stop existing because of NaNoWriMo, unfortunately for my time but very fortunate for my pocketbook). And maybe read a cookbook or two (we picked up a couple of new ones yesterday). Not to mention tonight’s trick-or-treating.

Oh, and I’ve been bugging my husband to make this scrumptious sounding Pumpkin Seed Toffee. He was looking for bittersweet chocolate, so I think I might have succeeded!

What are you doing on this day before NaNoWriMo starts? Are you participating this year? Or just planning to have a real blast with Halloween tonight? Or both?

Trying Out Scrivener for Windows, Beta Version

image I have a little pocket of time tonight – guess what I’ll be doing? That’s right! I’ll be exploring the new Scrivener for Windows, beta version!

I’ve been hearing such wonderful things about Scrivener from other writers, but up until recently, it’s only been available for Mac users. But they’ve just released a beta version for Windows, and not only that, there’s a special offer for NaNoWriMo participants: if you reach or surpass the 50K words goal, you’ll get a special discount coupon that will entitle you to 50% off the official release of Scrivener for Windows, which is scheduled for early in 2011.

You can also download a special NaNoWriMo Scrivener project file. And I just finished watching the basic tutorial, and I’m very impressed at how user friendly the program is.

I’m not one for resisting shiny new programs to begin with, so of course I couldn’t resist this one. And it comes with a very good incentive for reaching the 50K words goal!

Do you use a writing program? If you do, are you familiar with all or most of the features, or do you just use it to write? Are you planning on taking Scrivener for Windows for a test run?

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