My NaNoWriMo Tradition

I have participated in NaNoWriMo 7 times in the past. Though I “won” every year (wrote at least 50k words in the 30-day time limit), I would argue varying degrees of success in those wins.

Lifetime stats

Flames, on the sides of my face…

Just like each year has a different visual theme on the website, each year has a different memorable thing about it for me. Like 2012 was the year I pantsed it (rough year); 2014 was the year I blogged it (not the novel, just how the month went); 2016 was the year I barely remember (hiding in a [figurative] cave…).

One of my favorite traditions for NaNo is to buy a t-shirt to commemorate the event. In recent years, I’ve taken to pre-ordering the winner shirt. It may be a bit presumptuous of me, but now that I think about it, that may have been what pushed me to finish last year, when I was 13,000 words behind coming into day 27. I would have felt such shame having a winner’s shirt if I didn’t win.

So every year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, I’ve bought a shirt…except one. My very first year, 2007, I don’t think I even knew they sold shirts. Or perhaps I wasn’t quite as connected to the event. Whatever the reason, I didn’t buy one. In the last 2 years or so, I’ve wished I had one. In the online store, they have various versions of previous years’ shirts still for sale, but not back to 2007. I’ve searched online on different occasions, but never even saw an image of what it would look like.

Until a few weeks ago. I was commenting on a blog post about how a NaNo t-shirt has become my souvenir every year, and decided to search online again. And lo and behold–I found one for sale on eBay! It wasn’t my size, but still, I had new hope. A few days later I was sharing my excitement with my husband, and when I brought up the page, it was a different listing, and it was in my size! He told me to buy it right away, so I did!

2007 shirt

I feel a little silly getting so excited over a t-shirt, but not half as silly as I feel about the way I reacted when I found out that it had a hole in it the first time I wore it. (No, I didn’t cry…but I was utterly dejected.) It’s not in a helpful place like a seam either, but right on the stomach, and it’s big enough for me to suspect a fix job won’t look great. We’ve contacted the seller (it was definitely there when I put it on), but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that working out. (For one thing, I don’t see any indication that they have any more for sale now, so even if they give us a refund, it probably won’t be able to be replaced. Though if they offer a refund, I will be content with that.)

I don’t want that to spoil the purpose of this post though. Getting a NaNo shirt every year that I participate is a tradition that I really enjoy and will continue to do.

My NaNoWriMo Tradition

I haven’t ordered the winner’s shirt for this year yet, but I may still…and if I don’t win, I will just have to edit this graphic to the regular shirt, because no matter what happens, I know I’ll get a 2017 shirt.

Do you have any NaNoWriMo traditions? Do you get some kind of souvenir when you participate?

 

 

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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.

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.

Daily Challenge Check-in: February 4, 2015

Words: Another day when I can’t quantify the amount of work I did in numbers. I started going over notes I made during NaNoWriMo of things I already knew I needed to change for “Pursuit of Power”, my 2014 NaNoNovel. I thought through how to proceed with preliminary revision, and then had to stop.

Later in the evening I also read through notes and revisions made on “Adventures in Pithea” by another member of the TCSTB (editing group) on our shared document, and made my own comments back. So I did do some revision work, but can’t say how many words. I feel confident saying it was more than 500 though.

Daily Challenge Check-in: February 2, 2015

Words: I have no idea how many, but it was way over 500. I’ve been working for 2 hours or so on two different tasks. First I started running a spell check on my 2014 NaNoNovel (“Pursuit of Power”). I did surprisingly well at not editing this year, so there are a lot of typos. And lots of proper nouns that the program doesn’t recognize. I’ve told it not to check grammar, because it will only yell at me for sentence fragments. However, I can see a lot of uncapitalized words at the beginnings of sentences, so I’ll have to fix those eventually too. Though I’m still revising “Adventures in Pithea” (my 2013 NaNoNovel), I am far enough ahead in my individual revision work that my editing group, the TCSTB, won’t get there for a while. And lately I’ve had a strong urge to go back and do some preliminary work on “Pursuit of Power.” I’m a strong proponent of going where your heart takes you, in creative pursuits, so I figured I’d follow it. I’ve made it more than 3/4 of the way through the 100k-word story and will likely finish the rest tomorrow.

While I was working on that, though, I noticed that the other two members of the TCSTB had been making notes in our shared document of “Adventures in Pithea,” where we do our work during our weekly Skype meetings. Usually everyone tries to read ahead a little and leave their own thoughts, revision notes, or whatever, in the document, so we have stuff to discuss when we meet on Skype. The next meeting is tomorrow night, and lately, no one’s had time to get in and make notes before an hour or so before the meeting. So when I saw they were both working on it tonight, I had to jump in there and read their notes, leaving my own responses as warranted. This usually makes the meeting go a little faster, if we’ve already discussed or even fixed minor things before meeting time.

This is probably all so confusing, no one who reads this will have any idea what I’m talking about.

A Look Back at 2014

This year has been a very productive one for me, fictionally speaking. I’ll recap some of the highlights.

I started this blog at the end of April in an attempt to keep myself from slacking off in my editing work. I’ve had some success with it, while at the same time let it slide now and then.

I finished two novels in 2014. The first one, temporarily titled “Adventures in Pithea”, was started in November 2013, and finished in February 2014 at 105,000 words. The second one, title “Pursuit of Power”, was started and finished in November 2014, the first draft landing at 101,000 words.

I participated in my 5th year of NaNoWriMo, and won with 107,234 words, passing the 50k word mark on the 12th. I was also more socially active than past NaNo years, even if most of that was online, and set a huge daily word count record for myself with 10,516 words on the 15th. It was a good year.

And here at the end of the year, I even had a very writerly Christmas. Here are the writing-related gifts I received this year:

doctor who notebooks

From my in-laws, a set of small notebooks, Doctor Who themed.

I have a larger version of the notebook on the right, but the one in the middle takes my focus. River Song’s spoiler-filled notebook is a great addition to my notebook collection.

 

shirt

From my younger sister, a t-shirt with a reminder to never stop writing in some form or other.

I created this motto and image to go with it earlier this year, for use as a banner in some places. Then I went to Zazzle and slapped it all over several items and set them for sale. I hadn’t bought any yet myself, but hoped to one day. This is the t-shirt, which I did want more than the other items.

 

NaNo notebook

From my mom, a medium-sized, lined notebook with the NaNoWriMo logo on the front.

This blank notebook was a new product in their store recently, and I’ve wanted a blank notebook from them for years! I was one (among many, I’m sure) who suggested they create a blank notebook instead of the confusing (to me, at least) notebooks they already had that seemed to have filled pages and maybe blank ones, but who knows without buying them. I love the look with the shield in gold against the black. I have grand plans for this new addition to my notebook collection.

 

mug all

From my older sister, a mug she made herself.

The mug was brilliant. On the front is the motto I made up earlier this year to remind myself that every day should include some time for my creative pursuits, whether it be dreaming up new ideas, planning a story, or writing a story. The sister who made this is one of two who make up the Tri-County Sisterhood of the Traveling Book with me. That is what I call our little group that meets on Skype weekly to work on the editing of “Adventures in Pithea.” When I turned the mug to see the side and back, I laughed so hard.

Now this month, I have taken an initially unintentional break from my writing projects, which turned into a necessity as Christmas grew closer. Near the beginning of the month, my husband and I went out of town for 5 days, and the days before and after that were busy with preparation and recovery. Then wrapping, shopping, and other Christmas-related activities took up my evening time. Now as the season draws to a close and the new year is set to begin, I plan to delve back in with a fervor. I’ve done heavy revision on 1/4 of my first novel, so there is still a lot to go. Considering that that 1/4 took most of this year, it’s difficult not to get discouraged about how long it will be before it’s ready to attempt publishing. But I’ve not given up yet.

Just before this break started, I had begun a challenge to write/edit 500 words every day, and I am eager to get back to that. I’ve also dropped off on a plan to do one writing exercise from my Now Write! book per week, so I hope to have time for that again too. Those are my plans for this year. That and have as many mega meetings of the TCSTB as the others will allow.

To all of my fellow writers out there–whatever, whenever, and however often you write–what were your highlights for this year? What are your proud or disappointed moments from this year? And what are your plans for the coming year?

 

December 4

500words-300w

Words: 1693 total. Most of it was several pages of “Adventures in Pithea” I got through revising. (Missy has been corrected in her accusation toward Evan, though he still found a way to be a jerk.) The rest of it, though only a measly 135 words, was original writing, and requires a longer explanation than 135 words probably should.

In October, my husband and I went to a con in Ohio called Ohio Valley Filk Festival. It was our first con. We were only there for one afternoon, and it was a small con. However, in the dealer’s room, there was a wide selection of books. We spent quite some time there. I came away with a book that has already changed the way I think about plotting, creating characters, writing, and even sleeping. It is called Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror and inside are “lively and practical insight and exercises, straight from the top speculative genre writers working today”.

Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I have decided to start going through the exercises in the book. Not all of them actually pertain to me (most of the horror-related articles, for example), so I’ll skip those. But I plan to try to focus on one article per week, and see how that goes. This week’s article involved using random images as story seeds, forcing two images together and developing a story idea or even new story world from those. This morning, I wrote with that in mind, with two images I’d generated a few days ago. It didn’t produce quite what the exercise was expecting, but I do already have an entire world I’m writing in. It was still an interesting idea I may pursue in one of my storylines someday though.

December 3

500words-300w

Words: 998 deleted from NaNo ’14 manuscript (“Pursuit of Power”), and I have now removed all of the “NaNo fodder” as I call it now. I am done with all of the words, phrases, paragraphs, or scenes that I had kept in for word count but marked to delete later. I will now most likely be going back to revising “Adventure in Pithea,” perhaps maybe still thinking through some of the bigger plot/character problems in “Pursuit of Power” when I need a break from the other story or something.

December 1

500words-300w

Words: 1124 deleted from manuscript. It’s not as quick as it sounds. I have to find the areas where I’d marked words for deletion during NaNoWriMo, then figure out what words exactly need deleted. I didn’t just strike through everything I didn’t want to keep, because it takes longer. I put an end bracket to mark a spot and moved on. So now I have to figure out where the bad words start so I can delete them. This is probably a confusing explanation, but the point is, it’s a lot of searching and then some reading. It’s the first step in revising my novel, and possibly the only one I will do for now.