My NaNoWriMo

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I am going to do something a little different with this post than I normally do. Not that talking about my writing is all that different, but I’ve never done so to this extent. As I prepare for NaNoWriMo and do my best to help others prepare, I have been purposely vague on my own history. I try not to spend too much time talking about my own writing, because that’s not the point of these NaNo prep posts.

I do post daily about the writing work I’ve done for the day, because this blog was originally intended to keep myself accountable. I’ve since expanded it into a place to share writing tips, but I still post at the end of every day in which writing work of some kind happened, to check in. However, they’re usually short posts with not much detail (or a bit of detail with no context).

Today, I am going to share my personal NaNo history. If you don’t really care about my personal NaNo history, I won’t be offended if you simply don’t read on. (I probably won’t even know.)

nanowinner07I first heard about NaNoWriMo on a forum for Ragnarok Online fanfiction. The moderator mentioned it, and I ran to go check it out. I decided immediately to join, even though it was already October. At the time, I had written a good amount of fanfiction for the aforementioned game, and was stalled on the 5th (and last) in a series of novella-length stories. I also had a brand new fic I wanted to work on, but needed to finish the other first. NaNoWriMo gave me a brand new motivation to push past the blocks. I was so excited, I didn’t even want to wait until November. So I started on October 21st and wrote for 30 days. I finished the book I’d been stuck on in short order and spent most of the month writing “Outcast.”

There was no region near me, so I was stuck in the “Indiana: Elsewhere” category, and most of the people were from way north or south of me. There was no real hope for much social interaction, but that didn’t bother me. I’m pretty terrified of people anyway.

I ended the month with 50,288 words, and though “Outcast” wasn’t finished, I did finish it within the next year. It’s still one of my favorite stories ever, and I can’t wait until it gets its turn at being re-set in the world of Pithea.

“Outcast” is a story about sin and redemption, losing everything to gain much more, and the nature of true friendship. More information about the story can be found here.

I skipped 2008. Though I agonized over my decision all month (or at least the first few weeks, until I decided it would be too late to start anyway), I’m pretty sure this was the point when I was starting to transition away from writing fanfiction, but couldn’t really move on from those stories.

nano_09_blk_participant_100x100_1.png In 2009, though, I was raring to go again. I had worked for several months on building a world in which I could set my fanfics–original, but still accommodating the stories I’d already written. With that new world in mind, I wrote “Pursuit of Magic.”

I’m pretty sure I was still in the Indiana: Elsewhere region, though I think I may have been a little involved in the region of a town not far from me too.

I wrote 22 words over the goal, finishing one day early. This time, I did actually write the end of the story. However, I had a lot of gaps in the last third of the story. A lot of areas that I hadn’t fleshed out and didn’t want to slow down to decide what should happen. Still, I had a final scene that I really loved, so that was something.

In 2010 and 2011, a combination of not having much inspiration in the fiction area and having a young child, while also homeschooling an older one, gave me enough reason to sit NaNo out. I wish now that I’d at least tried those years, as well as 2008. I didn’t really know back then how to generate ideas, so without any readily available, I truly didn’t think I could do NaNo.

2012-participantFollowing on the heels of two years off, 2012 was a rough one. The world I had started creating back in 2009 hadn’t worked out, and I’d officially decided that my fanfictions–the characters, plots, and future ideas–needed to be laid to rest. It was difficult, but I did have an idea for a new story. It wasn’t much of an idea, but I went with it. I don’t even remember if I had an outline, but I know the plot I had in mind didn’t extend very far. And during the month, I kept playing with the setting and changing things.

Fort Wayne, a city near me, had gotten its own region in (I think) 2010, so I had a region closer to home to join. I considered going to some events, but in the end, I was still too shy. I did join in on discussions on my region’s forum though.

It was messy, but I ended the month with 51,288 words, crossing the finish line on the 27th. I had barely any semblance of a story, and certainly not a full novel. I haven’t touched that story since then, as I’m quite sure I was forcing the idea anyway. If anything good came of that month’s writing, it was the understanding that I really need to plan more before November.

The best part about 2012 was that on the main NaNo website, there was a link to NaNoToons, a daily webcomic that runs during November (sometimes starting partway through October). And the day before November started, the guy who made the webcomic posted a link to the first episode of a musical he and some others had made about NaNoWriMo. By the end of the month, I was hooked on Debs & Errol and involved in a whole new world of geekiness, and the rest is history.

2013 NaNo Participant FB ProfileIn 2013, NaNoWriMo took on a new excitement for me. I had hit on a new idea for a story world that would work for my fanfictions. Instead of trying to simply alter the game world they’d been created in to make it original, yet similar, I realized it would be better to build a new world from the ground up. I started with one basic element around which I, along with my husband, have crafted the world that I use now. I spent a lot of the year figuring out how things would work, and how to fix problems in my existing stories to make the basic plots still work in the vastly different world.

From my fanfiction days, I had a core group of 5 stories (the series I mentioned back during the 2007 section). Most of the other plans I had, and many of the characters, stemmed from that series. So it was the first thing that needed to be converted to this new world. Originally, I really thought I’d just be able to go through and edit it to fit and to be one novel instead of 5 shorter stories.

Somewhere along the way, I realized how ridiculous that notion was. Not only was there too much that needed changing, but I had grown so much as a writer in the 6ish years since I’d written them. It was much smarter to rewrite completely. So I picked out what I wanted to keep and started plotting a new story. I boiled five 20k-30k word stories into one story in 4 parts. And then I proceeded to have the best November I’d had so far, writing what has since been titled “Pithea.”

I went to my first local event in 2013–the kickoff party. My husband went with me, and I got to meet some of the other Wrimos from my area. I kept thinking I’d get to a write-in, but it’s hard to get out alone with kids and a husband who works full time. Going to the kickoff was a huge step for me anyway.

I hit 50k words on Nov 14 that year, and ended the month with 90,228 words total. I chalked the amazing numbers up to having a lot planned for the story. I’d been working with these characters for almost 10 years, after all, and the story itself was a rewrite. The story wasn’t finished, but I wrote the rest over the next few months. In February 2014, I finished my first ever novel draft.

“Pithea” is the story of two teenagers who find their places in life while growing up in a world filled with Power and Madness. More information about the story can be found here.

2014-Participant-Facebook-ProfileThis brings us to last year. I went into November with a well-developed outline. I was writing a story that runs somewhat parallel to “Pithea,” with some characters and even a few scenes that coincide. I planned out 2014’s novel earlier in the year, while revising “Pithea,” so I knew for sure what the characters were up to when they showed up in “Pithea.”

Also, my 2014 novel was a rewrite of my 2009 novel. However, it was set in a different world from the one I’d tried to craft in 2009. Some basic mechanics were different enough that a lot of the plot had to be gutted and rebuilt. So though it’s a rewrite of very broad plot points, it was a vastly different story. Even the final scene from 2009 ended up needing rewritten, thus losing the big moment that I’d loved. By the end of the month, I had a finished draft of “Pursuit of Power.”

There was so much different about last year. I went to the kick-off party again, with my whole family. I joined a Skype group with other people from my region, where we proceeded to have word wars most of the month (my first word wars). I blogged about my progress every day, which was kind of fun–recapping the day’s story progress and how I’d fit the writing time into my day.

I broke my single-day word count record (which was probably in the area of 6000) with 10,516 words on the 15th. I also tried a challenge set forth on the forums to write 3k in 1 hour. I wrote a little over 3000, but I didn’t enjoy the experience. I crossed the 50k mark on November 12. At the end of the month, I weighed in with 107,234 words. 2014 is the first year I ever finished NaNo with a completed manuscript. Unlike its predecessor, “Pursuit of Power” was truly finished, without huge gaps of story that I’d have to fill in later.

“Pursuit of Power” follows Alexander Surett, who is messing with forces he doesn’t understand in an attempt to find the truth behind his father’s death. More information about the story can be found here.

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I always say I learn something new every year during NaNoWriMo. Some of it is about what to do, some about what not do to. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll learn this year, though I suspect a lot of that is already happening right now, with the series of blog posts I’ve been making about preparing for NaNo, and my own work to that effect.

There’s no reason to think that the virtual strangers who stop by my blog care to read so much about my past experiences with NaNoWriMo. I’ll be honest–part of me wonders if typing all of this wasn’t just a subconscious attempt at an ego boost (plus it was a lot of fun to reminisce about those years). Maybe it will provide some insight, excitement, or simply entertainment for someone though.

What is your history with NaNoWriMo? Do you love it or hate it? Feel free to share your own thoughts on the matter.

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Dream Every Day: Fanfiction That Isn’t

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Full disclosure: I used to write fanfiction. A lot. All for one MMORPG called Ragnarok Online, which my husband and I played for around a year. It was where my love for writing fiction resparked, after having dimmed during high school. I’m never sure what’s going to happen when I say I write fanfiction. Plenty of people have no real opinion. Some say they have written or currently are writing fanfiction as well. And some scoff, laugh, roll eyes, or quietly assume the worst about what that means. There are many misconceptions about fanfiction, but that’s not what this post is about.

This post is also not about convincing you to write fanfiction—at least, not precisely.

One of the biggest benefits of fanfiction is that some of the work is already done for you. Characters are already in play, relationships built (or at least started), sometimes a plot is left dangling that you can pick up and run with. At the very least, in the case of a mostly story-less, character-less world like was in the game I wrote for, a setting has already been established—a whole world built, with mechanics in place that I didn’t have to create myself.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying fanfic writers are lazy, but let’s face it—it’s easier to start writing when some of the work has been done. And that’s where I’m going with this post.

As writers, we are often reflections of what we take in. My dad is a blacksmith, and so is my main character’s dad. I have a character that I created long ago who is jovial, always enthusiastic, outgoing, and sometimes annoying; in recent years I actually met someone in real life who reminds me of that character, so now when I write that character, I keep this other person in mind as a guide.

Errol

Now when I write Aeldrim’s dialog, I think to myself, “What would Errol say?”

The same can be said for books we read, movies or television we watch, or even music we listen to.

A major character in my story “Outcast” was partially inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, mostly in that I decided to give her a physical mark that reminded people of her mistake.

I have grand plans for a dramatic scene in a story that I never finished when I was writing fanfiction (but will likely pick back up someday and finish in my new story world) that was heavily inspired by a song called “Letters From War” by Mark Schultz.

And the entire premise of a short story I wrote years back was drawn upon the question, “What if the girl had to save the guy?” which I asked myself after watching a movie with my sisters. (For years now I’ve been certain it was the movie Last Holiday that led me to that, but after rewatching the climax to that movie, I don’t see how it could have been. So now I’m not sure what the movie was.)

As a whole, writers get ideas and inspiration from everyday life all the time, so none of this is special. Most writers that I talk to seem to always be neck-deep in ideas that they have to choose between when deciding what to work on next. This advice is more about what you can do if you’re looking for new material. A fresh idea, a different direction to take your plot, or a new character to introduce.

In the book Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, there is an article about taking an existing story and simply adding a different element to it. Examples were moving the story to space, adding dragons, setting it in an alternate dimension, or adding time travel. The idea is not to literally rewrite the same story with the same exact plot with that one added element, but to use that as a starting point. Once you start plotting and/or writing, you make it your own. By the time you’re done, it will most likely look very different from the original.

And that is really where I’m going with this post. Take a cue from fanfic writers and let other stories around you inspire you. What you liked or didn’t like about them, what you’d change or how you think it would have continued.

Dream for yourself: For the rest of this post, understand that “story” can refer to any work of fiction in any medium—print, big or small screen (even a single episode out of a series), or audio.

Think of a story you really liked, but just didn’t like the ending. Or wish a character had been given a different side-plot. How would you have done it differently? What would have been better?

Or think of a story you absolutely hated. Starting with the same premise and same characters (or different characters, if they were part of what made the story so horrible), rewrite it so it’s better.

What character do you really despise? I don’t mean the kind that are meant to be hated, but one that fell flat for you. The character who grated on your nerves. Who was meant to be a comic relief but was just stupid. Or maybe one who was indeed an antagonist, but the villain factor was taken too far. Even a protagonist who you just didn’t sympathize with and couldn’t care less if they lived or died. What would you have done differently? How would you have made that character better for the story?

Yes, this is what some fanfiction writers do. But it doesn’t have to turn into literal fanfiction. If you do not purposely hold yourself to the world the original story is set in, you can make it your own. Or simply use these questions to spark an entirely different idea.

So how about you? Are you now or have you ever been a fanfic writer? Have you noticed real life or fictional stories seeping their way into your writing?

Daily Challenge Check-in: July 5, 2015

Words/Time: 3590 words, revising “Outcast.” I’ve run into one area that will take some rethinking to explain in the new story world. It’s not even something that was related to the game I had been writing fanfiction for. The fun of writing fanfiction (at least for the game I used to write it for) is that you can get away with a lot more than you can when you’re writing what’s meant to be set in more of a real-world setting. Basically, based on a friend’s description of a character he wanted me to include in my story, I wrote about a woman who could become invisible. That part’s not the problem, though, as that is actually a thing in my world. But when she used her trick, she sort of always brought a breeze with her. It was supposed to mask the sound she made moving around, but she was the only one who could do it. Now, I have no way to explain her doing this, and really just need to remove that part. However, it’s incorporated into the scene, and won’t be a simple removal. It’s just one paragraph, though, so for now, I’ve marked it to look at later. I was really flying with my work today and didn’t want to slow down to figure this out.

Daily Challenge Check-in: June 26, 2015

Words/Time: 40 minutes revising. I spent that time making notes a chapter of a Sims story/fanfiction my sister wrote and asked me to beta-read before she was ready to post it. I finished what she’d sent me, though, so tomorrow (or possibly Sunday, as tomorrow looks to be a full day) it’ll be back to my own story.

Daily Challenge Check-in: June 22, 2015

Words/Time: 2 hours revising. I have had a growing headache all evening, but I decided to make sure to at least get 20 minutes in. I spent that time getting more major edits from my hard copy into the computer, and then into the shared file we use for the TCSTB. Then I went on to revising a chapter of a Sims story/fanfiction my sister wrote and asked me to beta-read before she was ready to post it. And I just kept going, not realizing how long it had been. It’s soooo much easier to edit someone else’s work than my own.

Daily Challenge Check-in: June 21, 2015

Words/Time: An hour and a half doing all sorts of various tasks. Part of it was going through a chapter of a Sims story/fanfiction my sister wrote and asked me to beta-read before she was ready to post it. I wasn’t sure if I should count it, but working on revision for someone else’s writing is still writing work, right? It’s nice to get a break from my own story(ies) for a while, and could even give me insight into my own writing. In fact, it already has some, because the rest of the time was spent researching character voice, writer voice, filter words, and other things that have come up as I’ve tried to help her with what she feels are problem areas in her own writing.

For anyone who’s paying attention to my daily check-in posts, I’ve been slacking off a lot lately. Originally, that was due to a planned short hiatus as my church had its annual week-long VBS program, which I was a helper for. I knew I’d be exhausted all week, and I was. Though I did actually get some work done early in the week. Then as I was trying to work back into normal days again, my 5-year-old came down sick. We still don’t know what she has, but she had high fevers for days (even up to 106° a couple of times). All day and even a lot of the night, all she wanted to do was be near me, which led to another week of not only having no time, but no energy to work on writing. Even now, her fever’s mostly gone, but she’s starting to have coughing fits that leave her distraught. I say all of this not because I think anyone is going to require a “absence note,” but because in the past, I have taken days, weeks, even months off of what I try to make daily work. This time, though, it’s not just me being lazy, it was life legitimately getting in the way. Today, as I think ahead to my next “Write Every Day” post, and as I help my sister as she tries to be a better writer, it’s fortunately bringing me back to my own writing work. That’s good, because after a few weeks off, it would be far too easy to just keep going and let it go for longer. (Though Camp NaNoWriMo is coming up in less than two weeks, which could keep me from ignoring my work for too long, but it’s not a miracle worker.)

Daily Challenge Check-in: June 5, 2015

Words/Time: 992 words, revising “Pithea.” I’m going to go into more detail on the actual story than I normally do here, so bear with me. The book I am working on right now is a full rewrite of 5 shortish stories that I wrote as fanfiction around 10 years ago. They were fanfiction based on a video game that had very little plot of its own, so the plots and characters were completely my own invention. Cut to more recent years, and I’ve built a new world of my own that will mostly accommodate those stories, yet be different from the game (in some ways, very different). The original stories were written as third-person limited POV, while this book is actually first-person, but told from a side character who is only in the second half of the book (and even then, somewhat sporadically). The part of the story I am working on now is when the main character meets the narrator character for the first time. Originally, it went that Missy (the MC) had already seen Drear (the narrator) from a distance, and he’d kind of creeped her out. So when she found him later, bent over her sick friend, she assumed the worst. And that led to situations in which she mistrusted him, and it made perfect sense. In the rewritten book, I tried to keep that mistrust (and the mystery about Drear being the brother of that sick friend). But basically, Missy has to break into Drear’s house and then act indignant. Drear’s identity being a secret is really forced, and his subsequent reveal is just clumsy. So, though I’m very used to these scenes being one way (Drear doesn’t identify himself and Missy has good cause to think he’s untrustworthy) for 10 years, I am now finding that I have to almost completely re-plot what happens from this point forward. There’s no reason Missy can’t know right away who Drear is (he introduces himself at the beginning of the book and says he’s the brother of that other character), so I’m basically going to be rewriting the next several chapters. Which is kind of nice, because I’ve been missing the actual writing lately.

Liebster Award

Liebster

I was nominated for a Liebster award by lovesstorms, who writes stories for Sims 3 and Sims 4 on her blog. She is also my sister (and one of the other two members of the TCSTB). There is a lot of camaraderie in that community, though I am not a part of it myself. My sister, though, decided to include my blog in her list of Sims 3 & 4 stories that she nominated. Normally, accepting this award includes nominating other blogs. However, to quote Cecily Q. Cauliflower, “I’m not going to [nominate] anybody because I’m ornery that way.” (Also because I’m not very jacked into the blogosphere and only read a few myself.) I am, however, going to answer the questions lovesstorms posed to her nominees. They are somewhat oriented toward Sims story writers, so I will only answer those I can.

1. When you write, do you choose the computer or paper/pen?  I use both in different situations. I enjoy the experience of writing with a pencil and paper so much, so I do so now and then. However, it is just so much faster to write on the computer, so the bulk of my writing is done there.

3. What made you want to start writing? A book? Life? A person? Other?  I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a kid. I still have a few stories that I started when I was ten or twelve and never finished (I fully intended to write a series of books both times, but never even finished one). I wrote (and finished) a few short stories in high school. My more recent push came from playing a video game and getting all sorts of ideas for characters and stories from it (not Sims). That was actually over 10 years ago. It took a lot of time and even more work to get to where I am now–writing original fiction in a world I created with characters that I have lived with for 10 years.

4. What’s a country you’ve always wanted to visit?  It might sound cliche, but I’ve always wanted to go to England or Ireland. Or Germany.

5. Outside of the Sims, what’s another favorite game you play? I’ll answer this one, because I do play Sims, as well as other games. I actually prefer Sims 2 most of the time though, but I won’t go into reasons why. I tend to go through waves of what game I’m playing at the time. I haven’t played Sims in a while, but will go back to it someday and probably stick with it for a while then. For now, I’ve been playing Diablo 3 lately, and Civilizations games before that.

6. When you become disinterested in your story/characters, what do you do? This question is difficult for me to answer. I have a lot of ideas for stories in the same world, and a lot of characters to go with those stories. As of right now, including the one I’m revising currently, I have seven novel-length story ideas in mind. And outside of that, a lot more nuggets of ideas that could be grown into full stories. I have dozens of characters who overlap and some who are more solitary. I do sometimes get tired of revising “Pithea.” When that happens, I usually turn to working on “Pursuit of Power,” which is also in revision stage, but I haven’t delved as heavily into it. I’m still in the broad-changes stage of revision, since writing the novel during NaNoWriMo in 2014. And then sometimes, I just want to write and not edit, so I work on a storyline that isn’t even included in the count of 7 novel-length ideas, because it’s too narrow to be its own story, that takes place after “Pithea.”

I have it in my mind that when I get burned out on this world of stories and want to do something else, I will pull out a random prompt or such from one of many sources and just write something unrelated. But I never quite get to that.

7. When you write, do you prefer quiet or noise in the background? I used to prefer all quiet. Then I realized the joy of having something in the background. For a while I played writing-related music (yes, such a thing exists), but then I was introduced to coffitivity.com, and now I always have that up on my laptop or computer when I’m working.

10. Do you keep a notepad & pen/phone/tablet by your bed for those late night ideas? If so, do you actually get up and write them down? I do have a notepad in a drawer next to my bed. It looks like this:  9It’s always there, just in case, but it has turned into more of a dream journal (which is also currently neglected). Lately I’ve taken to bringing another notebook to bed with me, because I’ve been more actively trying to think of some specific things, and want to write them in that other notebook. Basically, I have tons of notebooks, big and small, so ideas tend to get stuck wherever. It’s a messy system.

11. When you write, do you just do a quick glance and post? Or do you take a day or two or more and proofread, move things around, delete, re-write, etc, etc? This last question is probably one I should skip, due to the fact that I’m not currently posting my writing online. However, I did used to write fanfiction and post it online, so I figured I’d answer based on that. I used to like to get a few chapters written into a story before posting the first chapter. Then I’d keep a buffer of 3 chapters, in case I had to make any changes to the actual story based on what I was still writing. I usually read over each chapter after I wrote it, sent it to a friend who was my biggest fan at the time (his words…well, actually he always said he was my “#1 fan.”), made any fixes that either of us found, then read over it one more time before I actually posted it. I usually did very little big changes or rewriting. I have since realized a lot of areas that could have been better, but I’ve had 10 years to get better.


Thanks again to my sister for nominating my blog for this reward. I know I’m keeping myself isolated by not nominating others, but I’ve always been the kind to keep to myself, so it’s in my nature. If anyone’s interested, check out lovesstorms’ blog for her Sims stories.