I don’t think I’ve hit a WriMoFoFo target since we started doing them about four years ago. I’ve never even come close to hitting a NaNoWriMo target either, but I don’t think that’s the point of these things, the important thing is that I’ve written words.
I started slow this year with WriMoFoFo, and then got slower. And just when all was looking rather lost I set myself a cracking pace of about 1,000 words a day to race to the end. That’s how I handle targets. That’s why I’ve learned never to give up.
It would have been very easy when, after the first week when I was only on 13% and I should have been on 30%, to say ‘stuff this, I’m not going to make it, I might as well pull out.’ But 13% was still 2,933 words. I don’t normally write 2,933 words in a week. So it was still good.
I could have dropped off during week two when at 25% I should have been on 50%, but I could see there were 5,494 words in the ‘FoFo bank, so I couldn’t complain. Likewise at week three when my 43% was sadly far off the 75% it should have been, but the 9,357 words I had written still made me smile.
At COB last Sunday night I had only managed to get to 69% of my WriMoFoFo target. That translated to 15,124 words written in four weeks. That’s a lot more than I would normally manage.
Ask me if WriMoFoFo was a success and I’d have to say YES. I wrote more for four. I didn’t give up and I didn’t berate myself for the days I missed. I set my targets high because I wanted to write a lot of words. I wrote a lot of words, not as many as I hoped, but many more than I normally would.
Even better, I don’t feel burned out. If previous WriMoFoFo’s are anything to go by, I will now be in a habit of writing on Monday and Thursday nights, which is two more days of writing than I was doing before. So, while I may not have reached my word-count goal, I have got myself back into the swing of writing, and that is more important than hitting an arbitrary target.
Yes, I know I’ve spoken many times about chapter length, but I’m mixed up in another conundrum about them so I’m posting again. I’m working on my fantasy novel at the moment, and the chapter lengths are between 2,500 and 3,500 words. It’s just how they have worked out.
Last week I wrote a chapter that was only 900 words. 900 words, as far as I’m concerned, is not a fantasy chapter. But am I being chapter length-ist? If I have said all that I want to say, and it came out at 900 words (well, 909 to be exact) shouldn’t I just chuck in a shortie?
A couple of years ago I studied a few action adventure novels and then tried my hand at writing one. Chapters were between 400 and 1,500 words, with most being around the 800 word mark. Studying these sorts of novels I noticed they were really easy books to read. I was also amazed to discover it was a really easy book to write. I had a first draft in four months, and that was done while working full time.
Compare that with my fantasy book; it has taken me about ten years to write 12 chapters. That is only about 30,000 words. The action novel ended up at 88,000 words. So I did 30,000 words over 10 years vs. 88,000 words over 4 months.
There are many factors that play out with how long it takes to write something; the fantasy book has lots of world building, the action novel was contemporary so did not require much, I’m sure that had an impact. But is it really as complicated as that?
I wonder if knowing you can blurt out a chapter in one sitting makes it easier to sit down and do it? When you know that you only need an hour to make it to your target for the day, instead of all morning, then I think it is more likely that you will sit down and get started.
There is a way to test this. If I made 900 words the norm for my fantasy novel, would I be able to get it finished by the end of the year? Would it be the same novel? Would it be embraced by fantasy readers? Or deep down, are we all a little bit chapter length-ist?
Whenever I go to writer gatherings I’m amazed at how many authors open up about the book they are working on. I’ve had some conversations where I have had every twist, turn, back-story, overarching plot and undercurrent explained to me. I find these conversations fascinating, and I love the energy you get from the writer, but it is not something I can ever see myself doing.
Instead, when asked about my book, I’ll say something along the lines of; it is a fantasy/ comedy with a flying dog. When pressed for more details I might add that the dog is made of obsidian. I am actually afraid of saying any more. Until the book is written, I don’t want to let it out of my head for anyone.
For a long time I thought this was some crazy writer-superstition (we have many of these, it comes with the territory) but now I am not so sure. My driving factor when writing a book is to tell a story. If I can put down some nice prose and get in some memorable metaphors, well that’s a bonus, but what I want most for people to take away from my book is the memory of well rounded characters and an entertaining story. I don’t care if they don’t quote passages from it.
So if getting the story out into the world is the main reason for writing the book, then I think it follows that telling the story verbally to someone else has much the same effect. I’m worried that if I say what my book is about, I’ll no longer feel the need to write it.
Just the other week, when I sat down to write a finished novel as a screenplay, I was amazed at how much of the story I had forgotten. That story had been told, it had been typed out in full and got to the magic words ‘the end’. It was out in the world and no longer had to haunt my brain. So could telling someone my story plan do the same thing?
Clearly there are a lot of writers out there who don’t feel this way, in fact talking about their book may even bring it more to life for them, but I don’t think that’s how I operate. So my book… It’s a fantasy comedy about a flying dog. He’s made out of obsidian. That’s all you are getting.
No, I’m not talking about the one I’m writing, I mean the one I’m living. I don’t know why, but I always think of life as being like our own personal movie. In my more philosophical moments I wonder if I have made all this up and you are just actors in my movie, but then I smell jasmine in the moonlight, or listen to Alison Moyet singing Only You, and I realise there is no way I could be that creative.
I just read (again) Illusions by Richard Bach. Every time I read it I love it and I want to start reading it again the moment I get to the last page. I love the idea that we live by our accepted illusions, and that changing our life is as ‘simple’ as seeing through those illusions. But to borrow a Matrix-ism, I am yet to take the red pill.
I do believe in fate, but I also believe in free will. I also think that all time is simultaneous, and therefore it follows that just because something was fated to happen doesn’t negate the possibility that you chose for it to be –it is just that all time and therefore all choices have already happened and therefore must be.
Okay, maybe I just squeezed a book’s worth of philosophy into a paragraph, but the point is, change only happens if we make it. I don’t know that I’m quite ready to take the red pill, I love chocolate and the good parts of family too much, but I’m ready for some change. So I will stop looking at my limitations and give more things a go.
If nothing else it should increase my word count for WriMoFoFo
P.S. A very special HAPPY BIRTHDAY today to my (almost) life-long friend Karen. I miss you very much and I’m glad you are still in my movie – I just wish we could be shot in the same scene a little more often
It’s been a week since WriMoFoFo started, and I have to confess I did not come out of the gates at a gallop, and actually managed to slow down after that. But as they say, it is a marathon not a sprint, so hopefully I’ll make it up nearer the end.
Firstly, I spent far too much time re-formatting and tweaking the ‘Nifty Spreadsheet’ on the first day (I am a bit particular about my colours and what should and shouldn’t be bold). You would be amazed at how much writing time such things can eat up.
Then I discovered I can’t remember the story upon which I’m basing my screenplay. A little alarming given that I’m the one who wrote the story and edited it nine times. I thought I knew it like the back of my hand, but apparently when they are finished you really do let them go. After all, the bits that haunt me of these characters now are all in the as yet unwritten sequel.
To hit my measly target of 733 words on Saturday I needed to sit down on three separate occasions, even resorting to counting a blog post towards my total. It did not bode well for the week to come.
Day two had me looking at my screenplay with only 27 words on the page and I was ready to give up. I went back to my abandoned novel to get my target and was amazed to discover the characters welcomed me back with open arms, despite my recent bailing on them.
Monday, I spoke to an old friend on the phone for two hours, Tuesday I went out to dinner with my family, Wednesday I spoke to another friend for a couple of hours, Thursday… well you see how my week went.
So now I find myself at Sunday with nearly a whole week’s worth of words to make up. At least I had the good sense to rip myself away from the glorious pre-spring day on Saturday to put some black on a page. I just wish I had managed 733 words worth.
Well, nearly three weeks yet to go, a lot can happen in three weeks, hopefully a lot of words.
P.S. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, and happy first day of spring to those in the southern hemisphere -it seems like it has been a long time coming this year!
Before I discovered Lois Duncan in grade 9 (at which point I decided I wanted to become a novelist) I wanted to write movies. I had always had ideas for stories, but thought I would never be disciplined enough to be able to write full sized novels, so to me it seemed that screenplays were the easier option.
Skip forward a few decades and I’ve completed two novels, have another five over half-finished, and about 20 in the first-five-chapters space (where I always hit a wall). I’ve completed exactly zero movie-length screenplays. I’ve written or co-written two pilot TV shows, each about 45 minutes long, and both nearly killed me. Screenwriting is hard.
I like writing flash fiction; short, sharp and shiny prose, get the story across and cut out all the guff. I thought screenwriting would be the same. It really is not. It is so much more.
Over the years I’ve bought and borrowed many books about how to write screenplays. They haven’t helped. They talk about story arcs, ‘finding’ ideas and making believable characters –all stuff I feel pretty comfortable with, but rendering and action scene on the page in a believable and understandable way for the director, they don’t touch on that. How that Int. Nat’s House – Night bit should be configured, they gloss over. I was ready to give up.
Then I started reading ‘The Da Vinci Code’ screenplay. I picked it up from the second hand books shop for $4. It opens with a forward from the novelist, the director, the producer and the screenwriter. I learned more in those 14 pages than I have in the equivalent number of ‘how to’ screenwriting books. The screenplay itself is fascinating, with extracts from the storyboards interspersed with the text.
Finally, I feel like I know what the end goal is! Suddenly it all makes sense. I want to hug the people who produced this book, it is like it was written to answer my questions. So I’m going to dust off my movie ideas (and some simply are movies, they never felt like novels) and try my hand at my first career choice.
That is my project for WriMoFoFo.
My novel and I are having a few issues. Two of the characters are working really well with me, communicating lots, handing over great ideas and really coming alive. The other two are being a bit recalcitrant, whispering their secrets to each other and sometimes seeming to disappear off the page altogether. I think it is the wrong time to write it.
But with my October 31st submission deadline looming, and the upcoming WriMoFoFo, I needed to find a YA novel to write. So I jumped into the plans I had uncovered a couple of weeks ago and among the many ideas I discovered I had gone through a fan fiction phase.
It wasn’t your usual fan fiction; borrowing characters from other authors and living lives in other people’s worlds, instead I borrowed people. As I read the old stuff I saw me, my flatmates, River Phoenix, me, my chemistry teacher, Keanu Reeves, friends, me, my parents, Johnny Depp, me. It was a bit embarrassing to read.
The odd thing is, now I never use real people in my stories, I may use a hand gesture or a nervous tick, but I never package a whole, real person. But I can’t work out when my fan fiction writing ceased and my character writing began. There is no archaeopteryx with a few real ones and a few fakes as I made the transition.
Interestingly enough, all of my publications are stories entirely peopled with made up characters. So I’m glad I made the move, because obviously the stories these unknown people tell me are much more interesting than the fantasies I put myself in when I was younger.
Now names, that is a different story! I’m sorry, but if you have worked with me, you probably have a character named in part or full, after you. Please don’t sue; I can honestly say that they aren’t actually based on you!
Yes, it is on again, WriMoFoFo – Write More For Four (weeks). This was the brain child of one of my old SuperNova writing group members. The idea was born after a rather disappointing effort (on behalf of all of us) at NaNoWriMo –National Novel Writing Month.
The idea behind WriMoFoFo is that we pick the time of the challenge, usually when we are all going through a bit of a dry spell, or when there are deadlines we need to meet. NaNoWriMo is run in November which (especially in the Southern hemisphere) is traditionally full of lots of social engagements and pre-Christmas build up. Not a good time to be trying to pump out loads of words.
Another difference is that we set our own word targets. Yes it would be nice to write 50,000 words in a month, as required for NaNoWriMo, but that is a LOT of words, so the chances of hitting it for full time workers with families is pretty remote. And if you do reach the target you are either burnt out at the end, or half of what you have written is crap. This WriMoFoFo I am going for 20,000 words.
NaNoWriMo specifies everything must be new words, WriMoFoFo allows you to set editing word targets. Very handy for those of us who put editing up there with gutter cleaning and doing your taxes. WriMoFoFo also goes for just 4 weeks, instead of the NaNoWriMo month. Those extra couple of days are just too much.
Then there is the final part of WriMoFoFo that I love – the nifty spreadsheet that lets you plot, track and graph your words each day, so you can see if you are on target or how many words you need to make up in order to get there. Please feel free to contact me if you would like a copy of the nifty spreadsheet sent to you.
It starts August 24th – so plan what you want to work on and join in! See this WriMoFoFo page for more information and to post your progress. Writing can be a very lonely pastime, so a bit of support and sharing of good (and not so good) stories along the way can be really helpful!
This week my office did a personality test. I passed, I have a personality, but it unnerved me how close it came to who I am based on some forty random questions. What alarmed me even more was those who protested that the test got them wrong were wrong about the test getting them wrong. The test knew them better than they knew themselves. So I guess I have to conclude the bits I thought were wrong are perhaps not so wrong.
The point of it all was to get us to understand each other a bit better and help us with our team communication. I don’t know that it really will, we have been working together for a long time and pretty much had everyone pegged. It was only the outliers themselves that were surprised about their position in the group, the rest of us were always nodding.
But it got me thinking. Are we really so formulaic? Supposedly I could do this test at any time in my adult life and get approximately the same result. It is only my emotional score that could change (I was the outlier here, having the least emotion in the group. I like to think I pour all my emotion into the page and don’t waste it on the frivolities of real life).
I felt a little like a robot after the session, but clearly that didn’t upset me much as I am a bit lacking on the emotional front, but it unnerved me. While we are all being stars of our own movies, we like to think the best of everything human is secretly lurking in us somewhere and when we don’t express it that is just because of circumstance.
This test makes me wonder if maybe the truth is some of us are just assholes, some people are inherently generous, some people will always be driven and some are just passing time, and this won’t change. Is this why it takes a disaster to make some people re-evaluate their belief systems? I wonder if anyone has done one of these personality tests before and after a life-changing event?
I like to believe we can all grow into better versions of ourselves, but then again, my personality type was a bit of an idealist…
Despite my promise to write new chapters on my novel, I’ve uncovered a big hole that needs filling. So I’ve gone back to edit the early chapters to fill in the base to shore it up before I keep constructing the novel on top.
These are raw first drafts I’m looking at, and it is amazing the number of times I repeat words. Some of the words are repeated in only one chapter, possibly written in one sitting (I sometimes do that) and for some reason that particular word was banging around in my head. Actually starred in five paragraphs in a row, with two mentions in one of those paragraphs – I deleted them all.
Another word, which sneaks into all my writing, from emails at work, to blog posts, to stories, is ‘just’. Nine times out of ten it is completely superfluous and has made me realise that one of the first things I should do when I complete any piece of writing is do a find and delete for ‘just’.
I know this affliction doesn’t only plague me, it features in enough ‘how to’ writing books, and stories I critique, that I know it is common to all of us. What I don’t understand is why.
Funnily enough (I took note in this edit) most of the time I preferred the second use of the repeated word over the first one. This immediately dispelled my theory that I had liked the first use of the word so much that my subconscious mind wanted to please me again.
I guess it is a quirk of the human mind to head back to the familiar. Or maybe this is more evidence of the subconscious having trouble distinguishing between what is real and imagined, as it is not sure that we did use the word the first time it proposed it. Who knows, but so far it is what is jumping out at me most from my edits.
And for reference; I have deleted five uses of the word just from this post (and no actually’s).
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