I’ve never failed at it quite like this, but wow am I going to fail.
Frankly? I’m not even trying anymore. Which super isn’t like me.
I know what the problem is. I’m recording a novel. This…might be something I do very little of going forward. A big part of it is just how I operate, how my brain works. The project isn’t due for months, literally months. But I cannot handle having it hanging over my head so I’m pushing everything else aside it work on it.
It gives a weirdly false impression of how I work when I do this. And I’ve done a bunch of novellas, but primarily novellas and projects that are 2 weeks of work or less. I can get them done and have the feeling of accomplishment. (Which I super love.) But they aren’t hanging over me until I finish them (well they are, but they are much easier to be done with).
I’m working with an author I think is great and I trust to do all the right stuff or I wouldn’t be working on another novel (that wasn’t mine!) at all. But even still? I’m going to be more wary.
So…a note to future me
This feeling of panic happens, you have to set aside all other work and record as long as you can and then edit during the week and you leave no time or brain space for other creative endeavors. It is ok to do it, but know that until you finish the project, nothing else significant will happen. Accept that.
For current me?
It’s ok to focus on getting this done. But then no excuses, buckling down to try to get this edit finished. I’ve got a good plan. I’ve got a good start. A good strategy. Good characters added. Good characters removed. (Appropriate maybe…they aren’t all …good…) But I don’t have words that aren’t “good” right now. So finish. Get the editing done. Get the last recorded. Get the changes recorded.
Then sit down in December and January and hammer out Jenna’s story. Take the chisel and really work that draft into something worth sharing.
And write a short or two in the meanwhile.
No more excuses.
Art is important.
So yes, I’m going to fail at NaNoWriMo, and it’s not great, but it’s ok. I’m learning something important. Hopefully I’ll actually take the lesson to heart this time. If not, future me, knock that shit off!
These are some (slightly messy! sorry) thoughts on Scrivener and writing for NaNo.
I’ve shifted a lot of where and how I do the Nano writing. A few years ago I did it all in Pages on my iPad. I think 2 years ago I did it all in Google Docs and that was the year I fought A LOT with the slow down of google docs. When it gets big it gets really slow and clunky to maneuver. I tried doing it in google docs broken out by chapter but that was surprisingly hard to maneuver and make work as well. I think it was after that year that I bought Scrivener and then I dumped those chapters into Scrivener and worked with them inside it which was much much easier.
Something I love about Scrivener that I feel like I haven’t fully had the chance to take advantage of in a novel yet is what I’ve been doing with the Smoke Jumpers series. For Smoke Jumpers I put all the characters and locations into the project, all of the novellas (and flash pieces) are in the same project so when I’m like who is Ren’s oldest sister and which other stories is she in and where would she be at for this story? I can find that out. Having all the names, the locations, etc all laid out there has been incredibly helpful as I’m planning things.
I have been trying to set this up as best I can for Jenna’s books which I got a good start at last year when I did Jenna’s second book in Scrivener, but I haven’t pulled out all the stuff from the first book and I know I can still do a better job keeping up those other files as I do things like change description, etc. I’ve also been putting in notes like what someone is wearing if that is important and what scene so I can quickly check, I like the broken bottom screen so I can have the character description open while I’m editing a scene. I may end up doing this and having the old scene open on the bottom while I rewrite it above so I can take with the things I think do work.
For me when I’m moving from machine to machine my basic plan last year (pre iOS Scrivener which is GODDAMN MAGIC) would be I’d throw the last paragraph of whatever I’d written into a working google doc and then I could throw a few words at it from my phone or whatever, then I’d get home and copy and paste back out into Scrivener. I really was worried I’d forget this but it almost never happened. When I was on a roll or I had an idea even if I didn’t have the last paragraph from Scrivener in there I’d just throw it into that working google doc and I’d always remember to pull it out when I got home because I’d look at it and go, wait, I have more, oh google. And then pull it in. So there wasn’t any overlap issue there surprisingly.
While Scrivener is awesome, it isn’t the only game in town.
I ran across another tool on the NaNo forums was notebook.ai It seems to have a lot of the sort of things that I like about Scrivener. Though I don’t know that they have any of the formatting export to epub tools.
There are other options I’m sure, but these are the ones I’ve run across and used.
What tools do others use to write/manage/organize?
I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…
It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.
I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.
So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.
So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.
Um…Just do it?
I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.
I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.
One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.
I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)
I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.
When/If I Fail
It really is ok.
I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.
I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.
I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.
I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.
Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)
So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.
Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.
If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?
Pull out and enhance physical descriptions of the people I already have from both books 1 and 2
Write up description of the mashup/remade character
Consider the scenes that need to be added – figure out what the goal will be and about what they need to be and then let them noodle around in my brain
Set up time to write – create a real plan (either first thing in the morning, later in the day, weekends, etc)
Plan more backstory weaving in
Jenna’s novel is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy. A young woman who is struggling to regain her life after a long absence from the world is finally feeling settled. Now she’s finally gotten a job offer, she’s meeting new people. And she’s got a shiny little necklace.
The second book is written and I’m feeling pretty good about it, but the first needs to come in line with it. I know basically where the third will go for the big arc on it.
So I know I’ve talked about the endless pushes to cut, but adding can have value too. Sometimes that value is in subplots and complexities. I think of the try-fail cycle often as I work on plotting things. These are reading about it things.
I love this podcast, I do keep looping back to it over and over. This discussion of pantsing talks about my favorite thing which is “yes-but/no-and.” This focuses on the try-fail cycle. Having a character just succeed and succeed is boring unless those successes just make things work. Successes that make things work are fantastically useful. Failures that make things worse are also useful.
(Yes, I’ve written on this before. This is more links and resources about it, hopefully helpful. It is something I think I will continue to come back to over and over. Character I don’t feel like I struggle with quite the way I struggle with good plotting skills. The thing I think that would make me better, weirdly would be doing something like running a tabletop roleplay game campaign, but that is a TON of work and requires knowing a LOT about the rules of the game. I am always in favor of throwing out the rules for a good storyline, which people who have been my GMs clearly know, but I think that works less well when you don’t have someone going, no no, there are rules, this isn’t all about the story.)
My goal was to rewrite a novel. I knew it was going to need a lot of changes. But I was hoping I could focus and get the editing of it done. So that I could move forward with that series. I thought this might be a big goal, but I thought it was doable.
But poorly considered…
I just started a podcast. It has only been going for a few months, and I’m determined to keep it going and it is a lot of work to make it happen. Promoting it, getting the word out, bringing in listeners and authors, supporting the authors with critique feedback, not to mention actually writing, editing, recording and producing.
Somehow I didn’t really managed to take that into account. I’m trying to balance a lot of things and I think that I’m trying to figure out what a good balance is. I’m learning.
Post Camp Nano debrief
I failed. Super duper failed. Super duper fantastical extraordinary failed. I at one point had a little done and I’ve actually gone backward. I have less done now than when I started the month. I had a couple of chapters edited. Now I have to throw the whole book out basically.
All is not lost
But on the upside (yes there is an upside here) I learned stuff. I learned a lot of stuff. Like I was creating a plan that might be overly ambitious, or aggressive, or three minutes of laughter…”you’re kidding right? oh ….shit.”
I learned that the structure I need to create for myself. I learned what I think for now a better plan would look like. I learned that I need to make sure I don’t go, I’m only going to edit. Editing is hard and in a lot of ways feels less creative and less like I’m doing a thing. So I need to weave in doing some writing and not only editing.
So I went backward. Mostly. But I think I actually came up with a really good plan on how to make it actually work. I have good ideas on resolving the problems.
They are big changes, removing an entire character and spreading her actions between two other characters. Adding several more scenes. Changing one scene completely radically, it was actually one of my very big stumbling blocks, I couldn’t see a way past it. Now I have a great solution.
I made a lot of really good notes so I can come back and pick this up later. It might have to sit for a while longer before I come back around to editing it. And that’s ok. I should be able to pick it back up with the good notes.
I had great cabin mates this year! Some have already written and published, some are just starting out. But they all had great things to share. Many thoughtful conversations. Most of the cabin was working on paranormal romanceish works. Some historical (which was great to hear perspective on), some modern, some editing, some writing fresh. It was very cool to have a great cabin. So thank you to all my cabin mates!
Bonus recording learning…
I may be better off scheduling recording longer things in the winter. Doing full books and doing narration for other books, might be better left as a winter project in general.
Camp NaNo is coming up soon and I’ll be using it as a chance to dig in and focus on a giant monster edit pass of the first in Jenna’s series.
I know that some writers are judgey of NaNoWriMo and the NaNo camps. For me, at least, they are a good opportunity to set my focus on one project and try to carry it to completion. Doing NaNo doesn’t mean I never write for the rest of the year. And for the people who do only write once a year? Good for them for writing once a year! That’s awesome. If you were a full time author and only wrote once a year for a month? You might still be doing fine. If NaNo isn’t for you that’s great too. Do what you need to get the outcome you need. If you need NaNo and the camps? Great! If you need a daily goal, every single day? Great! If you need to go to a hotel in Amsterdam? Good for you.
Now that I just said that I’m going to loop back and say that I’m going to edit this NaNo. (And I’m going to record in the summer camp.) I have partially finished projects floating about everywhere and I want to start moving forward with some of them. For years I’ve been writing things and throwing them out. Writing and moving onto the next thing. Even writing, editing, and then abandoning. I need to move forward with some of these projects.
I really like Jenna’s story, I like what I’ve written. I like the second book, but the first needs work. (Though I did have a moment of re-reading it last summer when I did this thing I do when I’m reading a book I really like where I move from spot to spot in the house without stopping reading at all. That was a great moment.) So I need to make some big sweeping changes and that is what I’m going to try to tackle this April.
It doesn’t make me a bad author or a lazy author or a good author. It just means I’m trying to use the tools that work for me. NaNo is a tool that works for me. I’d be silly to not use the tools that work for me.
I’m done. I wash my hands of it. I actually finished on the 23rd with the bulk of the book. I went through and put in notes where I need to fix things. I pulled the first book into the Scrivener along side it so that I can make sure I’ve got good continuity between the two. This seems like what it was made for. I can have open my information about her magnetic bracelet (more like this – though more do it yourself and not so much like this) so I make sure I’m getting the look right and the list o-stuff she currently is carrying with her on it stays consistent.
I also went through and highlighted the scenes from the first book that I know will need a significant rework (in addition to the 2-3 that just need to be written) which is only 3 of them. So overall not as bad as I’d feared. One will need to be basically redone completely but the other 2 have a lot of salvageable stuff.
Next steps for Jenna
I’m setting her aside. This is, hopefully, 1 and 2 in a trilogy. I have a really long way to go on getting them edited up and polished and ready. But I’m hoping to really dive into that in January. I figure a month off to work on other things is a good break.
I fully expect editing book one to be painful. But it won’t be as bad as my last, for so many reasons. And I think book 2 shouldn’t be too bad. I’m looking forward to having them ready to go.
Shorts. More shorts. They are fun and fast and I think they are helping me get better at writing, plotting, planning. All good things. I’ve got two in the novelette range (for me I am aiming for 10-12K) that need polish and can be put on a shelf for something I’m hoping to put together.
The next one I’m going to work on is a shake out my brain and do something very different short. Based on a bunch of rejected suggestions from a friend who gave really bad ideas this NaNo. Bad ideas lead to good ones.
I’ve got less than 7000 to go to get to the shiny Nano 50K goal. Less than 10K to get to the end of the first draft. What does that mean?
If I Finish Early
I’m going to go back and write the Missing Chapters. I am really good about backing things up. I actually have four copies of the files for the first book in this series. None of them have the Missing Chapters. I’m starting to wonder if I wrote them.
I seem to remember that I wrote the final chapters and kind of hated them. I came back later and rewrote them. I think at some point I deleted them and then never saved the new ones. I will look again to see if there is some magical secret storage place (possibly dropbox, I’ve already checked in the usual suspects, but also back things up to dropbox as a if fire happens tool). Mostly though? I think I have to go and dig my damn toes in and write them. AGAIN.
I’m setting the book/s aside for December. I need space between the writing and the edit. I figure I can work on something(s) else for a month and then come back to the first book and the new nano book and try to burn through editing them both. I’ve already got a good list of edit notes for them.
Unfortunately, the first book is going to require a good bit of surgery, cutting out one entire plotline and adding in a brand new one. It will make it much stronger, but a lot of work.
My plan for December is to write at least one short, and polish up two of them. I’ve got two for the series I’m working on that both need editing.
I also have the short for the Anthology I’ve been working on with Stefan Budansew. Mine is ready to go on that.
And name things.
Anything. I’m horrible with names. I don’t have any good names for my current works in progress. They are all named for the series or main character with a number. Jenna 1, Jenna 2. These are not good names. I want to come up with one good damn name in December.
The first week of NaNoWriMo is nearly over. It’s time to check in on goals and update where I am.
Pre-November – a little late update
My outline was ok, I’m continually working and reworking it as I go. I slipped in another subplot I hadn’t written down but had foreshadowed several times so apparently it was on my mind.
My on-the-go writing plan has been fairly successful. I’m using Scrivener this year, which does not have an on-the-go component. It seems to assume that everyone only ever writes while sitting at their computers. I like to have it on my phone or tablet to be able to write elsewhere. I copy the current scene and my scene synopsis into a google doc and am able to access it on the go. When I get home I paste it into scrivener and work from there. It’s not perfect but it’s ok.
I worked through my confusion and cleaned up my physical and digital spaces. I’ve been working with full screens more often and it helps a bit.
November – current update
Vote – done!
Critique – done! (well this week)
I’ve got four Writing Days scheduled and I have a little bit of extra time scratched out here and there as well that should help.
I’ve been very good about making sure I know where I’m going next before I stop. I’ve spent a good chunk of time reworking my outline based on problems I’m having or parts I’ve added that seem to work.
Write every day – good so far.
11K steps/day, eh. Mostly but not perfectly. I had a couple of 9ishK days this week. I have to get out for a long walk today, but it should be nice.