Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Brief History of NaNo

I’ve seen a few posts about people’s NaNo histories, and it’s inspired me to write my own. Besides, I really have nothing to do for the next few hours. I have a meeting with my adviser at 4:15 (she forgot about our last appointment on Monday). After that, the plan is to come home and nap for a few hours so that I’m well rested for when NaNo starts at midnight. Somewhere in the next three hours I should also make chili so that I have something to eat tomorrow while I’m supposed to be writing. I can’t afford to waste any time cooking tomorrow. But more on that later.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo October 31, 2007. I had heard about NaNo several months before. I read a lot of Harry Potter fan fiction at the time, and many of my favorite authors were warning their readers that they weren’t going to be updating for a while because they were going to be busy with this strange thing called National Novel Writing Month. I looked it up to see what they were talking about, and I thought it sounded stupid. You didn’t get anything for it if you won, and it seemed like a huge waste of time. I rolled my eyes and moved on to other things. (For the record, I thought Harry Potter sounded stupid when I first heard about it, too. Then I read the first book and became obsessed for the next ten years. So you can probably see where this is going.)

Flash forward a few months to Halloween 2007. It was my first Halloween in college. I was coming back from the dining hall when I saw a huge poster on the wall near the elevators advertising NaNoWriMo. I had seen it before but never really given it much thought, as I remembered thinking it was stupid the last time I looked at it. I’m not sure what made this time different. Perhaps I was feeling board and lonely. After all, it was Halloween, and I was preparing to spend the rest of my night alone in my room. Perhaps I just needed something to do.

Whatever the reason, I decided to check out the NaNo site again. This time, it sounded like something that would be a lot of fun. I registered that night and then came up with something to write. I had been reading a lot of personal essay collections at the time, and it seemed like fun. (Apparently I hadn’t read the rules closely enough to know that it was supposed to be fiction, but that’s okay.) That’s the only reason I was able to finish my first year, I think – whenever I got bored with one topic, I could move on to another. I ended up finishing my 50k a few days early, and it was a lot of fun. I absolutely hated the novel I wrote, but that’s okay. I learned a lot. For instance, I learned that I should never try to write a humor book again. Exclamation marks should be used very sparsely. Parenthetical asides are not as entertaining when I write them (although I obviously haven’t gotten over using them completely).

The next year, my roommate and our friend who lived next door all tried to do NaNo. I was going to try to pants that novel. I wanted to start with several characters but not plot. I somehow ended up with an overarching plot before I started writing. I had three characters in college who were going to learn things about themselves and each other. I got 10,000 words in and then stopped. This is the same novel that I started writing during the August Camp NaNo. I’m also going to try to finish it this year, but we’ll see how that goes.

In 2009, I got about 5,000 words in before I stopped. I was writing a fictional account of me and my boyfriend. A horrible idea in hindsight, but that’s what I was going to write. It was going to be a gift for my boyfriend. And then I realized that he wasn’t going to read it, and I lost interest. Lesson learned that year: you have to write the novel for yourself, first and foremost. If you don’t want to read it, you probably shouldn’t be writing it.

By NaNo 2010, I had graduated college and moved back home to Georgia. That’s when I joined the NanoLanta region and started attending write-ins and hanging out in the chat room. I found a novel idea that I really liked (Learning to Lie), and I wrote 68k that year. I still don’t have that novel where I want it, even after two drafts (it’s part of a trilogy, and it’s hard to write the first if you have absolutely no idea what will happen in books 2 and 3, or at least it is for me).

Last year was my first year joining the Overachievers thread. My goal was to finish an entire novel in a month. At first I was aiming for 75k. Then I upped it to 100k. Then 150k. I ended up writing 222,545 words. I finished Tilt Your Head and Smile (103k), finished writing my second draft of Learning to Lie (about 51k), started The Story of Em (54k), and started a fan fiction story (14k) because I needed something to write when I was stuck on the other ones. It was amazing.

This year, I have already upped my goal to 300k, and that is because I’m joining a small group of insane wrimos who are going for 50k on day one. You can follow us on Twitter if you search #50kDayOne or #50kkillmenow. This is my first year attempting this, and I’m not sure if I can do it, but I have the entire day off, so we’ll see. That’s why I want to have food already made for tomorrow and why I’m going to take a nap when I get home this evening – I won’t have much time for sleep tomorrow. I know I can do 50k in three days, as I did it for #50kweekend last year. One day might be pushing it, but we’ll see. If nothing else, I’ll start the month off with a big lead, and that would be exciting, too.

Now, the novels that I plan to write this month – in case anyone’s curious.

1. Zombies (working title)
Bath salts + flesh eating virus = zombies
Follows a group of six 20-somethings and two children as they struggle to survive a zombie outbreak. Not my usual genre at all, but it seemed like fun when I thought of it. There was a dare on our regional forum/chat (no longer recall which) to take “a man goes to the store” and make it into a tragedy. That’s basically what I’m doing. I also partly want to show that you can turn anything into Lit Fic – even zombies. 🙂

This will be the project I start with tomorrow, as it’s only half serious, and I won’t feel horrible if it ends up being horrible tomorrow. I mean, I want it to be good, and I have higher hopes for it than I should given the nature of it, but I don’t care about it as much as I do the others.

2. For Real This Time
After a traumatizing event at the end of eighth grade, Maggie Fitts , less affectionately referred to by her classmates as “Maggie Doesn’t Fitts,” is determined to lose weight – for real this time. When she meets Parker Williams, she’s even more determined to lose the weight. If she can pull this off, just maybe she can start high school with a new body and a new boyfriend.

But then Maggie’s parents give her news that threatens to destroy not only her diet but also her way of life. Will she find the strength to deal with her problems and stick with her diet, or will she succumb to the sadness that threatens to overwhelm her? And is losing weight even that important anymore?

3. Alone (working title)
In 2018, Congress passed what have come to be known as the Family Values amendments. The Personhood Amendment declares that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. The Marriage Amendment declares that marriage is between a man and a woman. It further states that only married couples can adopt children. As a result, half of all children are raised in overcrowded orphanages, anxiously awaiting the day they turn 18 and are released on their own without anyway to go.

Lucy Higgins has one year before she turns 18 and becomes yet another homeless orphan. Her only hope of salvation is the Exxmart Motors Lottery. Eligible students get to enter the Lottery, and four lucky winners – one from each of the four schools in the Atlanta region – get to go Etherton Academy, the prestigious private school uptown. Students at Etherton get a full scholarship to college, and Lucy knows that if she can just get in, she will have a chance at a real life.

But life’s not that simple. Just when things are finally starting to turn around for her, she gets news that threatens to undo everything she’s worked for the past seventeen years. Can she find a way out of the situation, or will she end up like every other teenage girl she’s ever know – cold and alone?

I’m not sure how successful I’ll actually be this month, but I’m hoping to get first drafts written for each of these novels. My plan is to finish these drafts and then spend a good portion of next year editing them. I think that was part of my problem this year – I was so focused on getting first drafts finished that I never finished editing anything. That’s going to change next year.

Less than eleven hours until NaNo starts!

Now what?

NaNo 2012 starts in less than four days – about three days and ten hours to be more precise. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. Of course, that’s usual for this time of year. The closer we get to November, the more I freak out. No matter how many times I do NaNo, no matter how many words I’ve written in the past, I still get nervous at the start of the month. I think the fact that I’m going to for such a high word count just adds to the stress. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still looking forward to NaNo, and I love aiming for a high word count – I just also freak out a little right before it starts. Once the month actually begins, I’ll feel much better.

In the mean time, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do with my time. For the first time this month, I understand the rest of you who have had your outlines written for weeks. I have outlined both of my main projects for this month. I also have half-completed outlines for the sequel to one of those projects and the novel that I’ll probably be working on for 50k weekend. I suppose I can finish up those outlines, but the one won’t really take that much time (as it’s just a matter of writing down what I already planned in my head) and the other one I don’t really want to plan too much (because I want to try pantsing a novel for once).

In other news, I decided to get a new keyboard. After the carpal tunnel scare (which may or may not still be true – I really should go back to the doctor soon), I’ve decided to try to be nicer to my wrists. I’m working on learning Dvorak. I’m up to 20-30 wpm most of the time. I’m probably going to stick with Qwerty, at least for the first day of NaNo, but I might try to write more in Dvorak later in the month. No matter what, the new ergonomic keyboard I got should help. I signed up for a 6 month trial of Amazon Prime, so I saved 48 percent of the cost and got free 2-day shipping, so it should be here Tuesday. I also got colorful Dvorak stickers to put on it that will help me learn Dvorak.

Our regional kickoff party is tonight. My boyfriend and I are going down early to try to save seats. I’m excited. It’ll be fun to see a bunch of the veteran Wrimos again. November really is the best time of the year. It’s the one time of the year when I actually leave my house and voluntarily interact with other people. 🙂

I still have over 3 hours until the kickoff party. I will probably spend that time in the NaNoLanta chatroom and cruising the NaNo forums, as that’s basically all I do now. Oh, I suppose I could do my last reading for class, too. But that would be less fun. 🙂

Book 44: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danzinger

Title: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit
Author: Paula Danzinger
Page Count: 147
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: YA or MG

Rating: 6/10

Summary from goodreads:
Marcy’s life is a mess. Her parents don’t understand her, she feels like a fat blimp with no friends, and her favorite teacher just got fired. Ms. Finney wasn’t like the other teachers, and she was helping Marcy feel good about being herself.
Now that she’s gone, Marcy doesn’t know what to do. She’s always thought things would be better if she could just lose weight, but the loss of Ms. Finney sparks something inside her. She decides to join the fight to bring back her teacher, and in doing so, she discovers that her voice might matter more than she ever realized.

Someone on the NaNo forums suggested I read this book because it’s similar to the one that I’ll be writing. I will say that I loved the idea behind this book. I loved that Marcy thinks of herself as a blimp with no friends and starts to realize that that’s not really true. I love that she has a teacher that makes them think about things and that they all band together to try to help her get her job back. I love that there’s a romantic subplot (sort of) that doesn’t take over focus of the story. I like that Marcy isn’t afraid to be a little bit different than the other people in her class.

What I didn’t like was that it all seemed rather simplistic. Marcy’s supposed to be in ninth grade, but it felt more like I was reading a book about a fifth grader, designed for fifth graders. That might have something to do with the fact that this book was written like 30 years ago, but I didn’t like it. I’m used to reading young adult books, but this read more like a middle grade novel. Great if that’s the sort of thing that you’re looking for; not so great if you were expecting something else.

Mr. Stone and Marcy’s father seemed like caricatures to me. Really, this whole book read sort of like a caricature/exaggeration to me. Again, perhaps that’s because it’s meant for 10-12 year olds, but I found it hard to read because they didn’t really seem like real people. They just sort of seemed like outlines of people.

Overall, I liked the message of this book, and I would definitely recommend this book for elementary and early middle schoolers who feel out of place or alone or misunderstood. I would not recommend this book for high schoolers, as they’d probably miss the message because they’d be too busy making fun of the writing. If I had read this book first as a child, I probably would have really liked it.

Book 43: Zero by Tom Leveen

Title: Zero
Author: Tom Leveen
Page Count: 294
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Young adult contemporary

Rating: 8/10

Summary from goodreads:
For aspiring artist Amanda Walsh, who only half-jokingly goes by the nickname Zero, the summer before college was supposed to be fun—plain and simple. Hanging out with her best friend Jenn, going to clubs, painting, and counting down the days until her escape. But when must-have scholarship money doesn’t materialize, and she has a falling out with Jenn that can only be described as majorly awkward, and Zero’s parents relationship goes from tense to relentless fighting, her prospects start looking as bleak and surreal as a painting by her idol Salvador Dali. Will life truly imitate art? Will her new, unexpected relationship with a punk skater boy who seems too good to be real and support from the unlikeliest of sources show Zero that she’s so much more than a name.

I found the characters realistic. They were flawed but not so much so that they were comical. Besides, even when Zero completely messed up, she was still believable – if frustrating at times. I could also understand why Zero felt the way she did about her family. And I enjoyed reading things from Zero’s point of view. She reacted just like I did in certain situations, which was nice to see, but she also reacted in ways that I don’t think I ever would, which was also nice to see because it kept things interesting.

The art teacher was interesting. A bit clichéd at times, but still different. I’ll just say that the ending wasn’t quite what I expected, which was partly annoying and partly a relief. I can’t really say more without giving away the ending, so I’ll just leave it at that. I’ll just say that this would be a refreshing read after reading something like, say, Twilight.

I wouldn’t say this book is a must-read or anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think teenagers will be able to relate well to it. I’ve been keeping my eye out for books to include on my classroom bookshelf once I become a teacher, and this will definitely be one of those books.

My NaNoWriMo Goal – and an explanation

I’ve been debating whether or not to write this post for a while. I hinted at my goal for NaNo in the last post, but I wasn’t sure if I should go further. Some people get discouraged if they see others are writing more than they are, and I would never want to discourage anyone. That said, this is my blog, and I don’t feel like I should have to hide or be ashamed of my word count goal on my own blog.

Before I go any further, though, please let me make a few things clear.

1. I have a lot of free time in November.
I’m not kidding. A lot of free time. My last week of work for the year is next week (the joys of having a seasonal job). I only have class two days a week. Including time spent driving too and from class, plus the time spent in class, I spend about 8 hours a week in class. I’ve also worked on getting all of my work for these two classes done before November. I still have two papers to write for one of them, but they’re very short (2-3 double spaced), informal papers. My classes are really easy. I also have no kids, no bills to pay, no real commitments to anything. See? I told you I had a lot of free time.

A lot of people don’t have this. Some people are taking five really difficult classes. Some people are working full- or part-time jobs. Some people are doing both. Some people are doing that on top of clubs and activities and raising kids and going to religious services and all that other fun stuff. I’m in awe of you people. Really. I did one Camp NaNo while I was working full time, and I barely hit 50k. I was so tired after work that I rarely ever wrote during the week. I pretty much only wrote on weekends – and that was before I had class and therefore homework to do. I don’t think I would have finished if I had had to do both.

2. My region is extremely supportive.
It’s only halfway through November, and we already have 8 weekly write-ins up on the calendar, plus two special write-ins, and I know of at least two more write-ins that are being planned but haven’t been posted yet. So there is plenty of support and encouragement. We have a regional chat room that is constantly full of people, and those people are often doing word wars. It’s awesome. If anyone wants to hop in the chat room, let me know and I’ll send you a link, as there are a few people in there not from/in Atlanta who are always on. Just be warned that it can get pg-13/r at times, depending on the group of people in there at the moment. 🙂

3. I could only write this much in November – see reasons 1 and 2 above.
I have a hard time getting motivated to write on my own. It’s a huge problem, I know, but it’s true. Any other month, my inner editor takes over, and I have a hard time writing. During November, my inner editor actually shuts up. I think a large part of that is because all the other NaNo participants are so loud it drowns it out. There are so many people involved that it’s hard to let the self-doubt creep up. It’s also harder to back down on your goals, at least for me since I know so many of the participants in my region personally.

Plus there’s the fact that I have all that free time. I don’t have that during other months. I have work other times, and school with assignments that are harder than the ones due in November. Plus I have less work to do in November because I did it in October, so I couldn’t have written this much in October, too, because then I would never have done my homework. Plus there’s all the participants and word wars. Even months when I don’t have work/school, I also don’t have word wars, which means that my inner editor takes over completely. For instance, I failed both Camp NaNos this year. I hit 40k in June and 30k in August (I think – it might not even have been that much). Which brings me to my next point –

4. My first drafts are always horrible, no matter how long it takes me to write them.
Most people write a first draft, wait a while, and then edit it. That doesn’t work for me. I write a first draft, wait a while, throw it out, and rewrite it, and then I edit the rewrite. It’s just the way I work. I think part of why I’ve been having such trouble writing recently is that I’m trying to make the first draft decent, when that’s just not how I write. I was like this with short stories in college, and I’m like that with novels now. The first draft is when I get something down on paper and see how my outline works in actuality. The second draft is where my writing is better and I actually feel good sharing it with people. This is apparently an important part of my writing process that I keep trying to ignore, but I can’t anymore. My first drafts must be written down quickly, before the self-doubt comes back. Then I can take more time with the rewrites and edits.

5. I write literary fiction.
I almost forgot this one, but I feel it’s important. A lot of people write novels filled with action and plot twists and fun things like that. While one of my novels is a dystopia, so it will be more plot-filled than normal, all of my novels have at least an element of lit fic to them, which means that my characters spend a lot of time sitting around, thinking about things. Rambled thinking lends itself well to high word counts, and it’s not even really padding because it fits with the story (well, assuming you do it right, of course. Some ramblings would definitely be off topic.).

Now that that’s out of the way, I will say that my goal this November is 250,000 words. My novels tend to run around 100k, so I’m planning on writing two novels and finishing my Camp NaNo novel from August, which currently sits around 40k and still has a long way to go.

I hope my goal hasn’t discouraged anyone or made them feel like I thought I was better than them, because that’s not what I want at all. Everyone works a different speeds and in different ways, and this is what works for me. The novel that I have that’s closest to being able to be shared with people was one that I wrote during the first two weeks of NaNo last year. I reread it in December, rewrote it during JanNoWriMo, and was really happy with the second draft. I’m still editing that one, but I only have to rewrite a few chapters, not the whole novel, so I’m happy with it.

Good luck everyone!

17 days until NaNoWriMo!

Less than three weeks until NaNo! I still don’t have complete outlines for either of the novels that I plan on writing, but I have a much better idea of where I want them to go, so that’s something. I’m actually looking forward to working more on the contemporary YA one than the dystopian one. I still really love that idea and want to write it, but I don’t have as much of the plot figured out on that one. I think there’s just so much stuff going on in that one that it’s hard to make it all fit, and there are certain things that I need to figure out before I start writing.

My right wrist is also currently in a brace. I finally went to the doctor, and they think it’s the early stages of carpal tunnel. Not happy about that, especially with NaNo right around the corner. The good news is that they’ve taken me off the camera at work and made me a helper, so I’m not putting new strain on my hand/wrist. I have to go back to the doctor on Oct. 26 – I’m hoping it will have gotten at least a little better by then.

Sundays I’m hosting a write-in at a little coffee shop near campus, and several people have already said they’re planning to attend, so that’s exciting. I’ve also matched up one newbie with a mentor so far. We have five other newbies and twelve other mentors signed up, but I’m waiting to see if any better matches show up first.

As far as school is concerned, I’ve done all of the assignments that I can do at this point. The rest I have to wait for further instruction. Well, at least for one of my classes. The other class involves a bunch of group work, so I have to wait and see what the other members of my group has come up with. It looks like I really will have most of November wide open, which means I will have plenty of time to write. As long as people are in the chatroom having word wars, this should be simple.

Now I just need to finish those outlines!

29 days until NaNo!

I can’t believe it’s October already. Only 29 days until NaNo ’12. I’m so excited! I haven’t done as much as I would like to have done by this point, but I’ve still made some progress. For instance, I finally feel like I’m starting to grasp the plot of my novel. I’ve known what the overall plot is for years, but I didn’t know the specifics. I’m much closer now. I have the major plot points down – or at least a lot of the major ones. I’m still a bit fuzzy on, well, everything, but at least I have blurry images to work with. That’s much more than I had this time yesterday. My drive to work this morning was very helpful. Apparently waking up at 4:30 and driving to a school an hour and a half away can actually be good for something. Who knew?

I’m also doing well on the homework front. When I first started grad school, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to write a lot because I’d have too much work to do. I’m glad to say that that doesn’t seem to be a problem. I’m 2-3 weeks ahead in all of my classes, which means I should be able to do the rest of my work in October so that I don’t have to do anything in November, or at least so I don’t have to do that much.

It’s probably good that I’ve gotten so much work done ahead of time, as the new NaNo forums are up, and I’m probably going to spend a lot of time cruising the forums. I’ve also agreed to run the Adopt-a-Newbie program for NaNoLanta, so hopefully soon I’ll be busy matching new Wrimos with mentors. This is one of the reasons I love my region – there are so many ways to get involved in the community.

Another reason I love them is because there are already two weekly recurring events on our regional calendar, not to mention several different kickoffs, the Ikea write-in, and Atlanta’s very own version of the Night of Writing Dangerously, which our wonderful MLs have named the Evening of Writing Wildly.

The more I think about it, the more excited I get about NaNo. If I had an actual outline for my novel, I would want it to be November 1 right now. Since I still need to work out a few details about my novel (such as, you know, the main character’s name), I think I’ll settle for NaNo still being 29 days away. 🙂

How about the rest of you? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? Are you prepared? What do you still need to do before November hits?