Just before I went back to full time work I finished editing and writing a whole heap of stories; one novella, two short stories and two flash fiction pieces. It was a good time to take a break. There’s nothing more torturous than not being able to write when the writing swing is in full force, so I didn’t have that problem for the new job.
Now I’m struggling to land on a ‘next’ project. I keep thinking I’ve got it, but then when I sit down at the blank page it comes out a bit forced and hollow. It doesn’t feel right. Experience has taught me that I’m just reading my words through dark eyes and when I come back to these failed starts in a few months’ time I won’t judge them so harshly, but at the moment they feel like rubbish.
I think this means that I’m starting the wrong projects. As much as it scares me, it might be time to get started on the next novel. And what do you know, November is just around the corner, and with it comes NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Could it be a sign? I now know that I can write a novel in a month thanks to my JanNoWriMo effort, and it would be a lovely way to bookend the year by writing another novel.
Maybe I’ll spend the dying days of October planning the novel and make the call on Thursday? The next decision will be do I publish my word counts for all to see? With multiple social engagements already booked in November, I’m not sure that I’ll be hitting the 50K cumulative targets quite as often as I managed in January. But I am interested to find out if I could…
When you give yourself permission to start a new project the problem is that so many crowd in demanding to be written. I thought I had my new project selected, but when I sat down to write it, it just wouldn’t work. Worse, another project started sneaking into my head.
Now that I’m here, in new project land, I remember that it is always like this. I will make a few starts on a few different things and then something out of left field will hit and I’ll run with it.
So I guess the next week is just going to be about dabbling to find the right fit. That is such an exciting prospect, I love the unknown of new words!
As you can probably tell, I’m back on the writing wagon. I’m both editing and writing new words, after a bit of a break. I’m also getting back into my reading. For the whole time that I wasn’t writing much, I wasn’t reading much. It can’t be a coincidence that they both dropped off and picked up again at the same time.
In the past month I’ve read a mix of horror, science fiction, YA fantasy and murder mystery. I’ve also managed to read them quickly – one was knocked over in a single day. They don’t really crossover with what I’m writing, but I find that doesn’t seem to matter. Reading good stories always inspires me to write stories.
Could it be possible that when I don’t write (and don’t read) my aversion is actually to story? I find it hard to believe that could be the case, given how much I love story when I’m in the middle of it, but it is just so easy to pick up a book. So why wouldn’t I do it?
I know this is running a bit of a risk of confusing addressing the symptoms with curing the illness, but I wonder if next time I find myself falling into a bit of a slump – do I just force myself to read a few good books?
I have always said that I don’t like stories that have an unreliable narrator. This is when the character telling you the story holds something back, something that if you had known you would have been able to pick the end/twist/big reveal.
But finally, it happened; I had a story idea which falls into the unreliable narrator bucket. As much as I don’t like to admit it, I like the story very much. Not only that, but it feels long. Novel long. Possibly epic-novel long. It will be a big commitment to hanging out with an unreliable narrator for so long. Weirdly I’m looking forward to it.
Who knows, maybe I’ll get to the end and dislike it immensely? But there is only one way to find out. So, the next project has been picked. Time to get writing!
Every time I’ve finished writing a novel (in recent history) I’ve always needed to keep writing over the next few days to slow down after such intense writing. Usually I throw myself into a short story or flash fiction piece. After this I’ll end up taking a break that goes for months.
The post-novel short story got written on Monday, and I’m really wary of taking a break. If I do, I know I’m at risk of not writing for the next three months. I don’t want that to happen this time.
So for the beginning of my ‘break’ this week, I researched writing resources: websites, blogs, videos and books. There is a lot of great and inspirational material out there if you put in the time to look for it. While I won’t necessarily learn something from all of them (though I’d be surprised if I didn’t) what I did learn was joining in with these things made me feel part of a community. In turn, this made me want to write.
Now I think I’m ready to start another big project. Maybe 2018 will be the year I write two novels? Possibly more? Below is from a great channel I stumbled across called ‘Bang2Write’ and this video covers the top structure mistakes writers make. I defy you to watch it and not want to go to your computer to get started on your next project.
I consider the week as running from Monday to Sunday (and the year very conveniently started on a Monday to align with this) so I won’t update my weekly word count until I finish writing on Sunday night. Having said that, I am currently on track to meet my week 1 target of 11,000 words.
Despite having a visitor from Melbourne for a couple of days, I was always confident I would make week 1. I’m full of enthusiasm, I’m working on a new project, and I’ve put myself out there on social media committing to it. If I didn’t make week 1 then I’d seriously have to go back and re-read ‘Maximum Willpower’ by Kelly McGonigal -because that’s what a writing challenge is all about; willpower.
For me writing is not about inspiration as much as motivation. I need to really want to write the novel to be able to write it. Wanting means I will make myself get up early, turn on the computer and sit down and write. I’m also very regimented, so not only do I have a daily word count, but I have a break word count too. I can’t take my first break away from the computer until I have written over 1,000 words. That includes breaking for lunch. I can end up having some late lunch breaks on my writing days.
If you are trying JanNoWriMo and you’re finding it hard to hit your targets please don’t give up, get less perfect. Because I know I have to write, but I don’t always know exactly what should be happening in the novel, I’ve given myself permission to get it wrong. I’ve also given myself permission to write badly. This helps with pushing out words.
Think of this as your scratch draft of the novel which never has to be seen by anyone. It is the bones upon which your edit will layer the flesh of your proper first draft. As long as the beast can stand up on its own by the time you get to your first version of ‘The End’, then I’m sure your edit will later turn it into a living, breathing thing.
So don’t put pressure on yourself to write well, but do put pressure on yourself to write!
I’ve got my sketchy novel plan ready, I’ve got my writing schedule pinned on the wall and I’ve got my tea bags stocked up. I’ve taken such a loooooong break from writing recently that it’s embarrassing. I feel ready to write.
I’ve started a page here so you can track my progress (if you are interested). And if you are doing JanNoWriMo, I’d be really keen to hear from you. From my previous experiences with #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month (held globally in November) and #WriMoFoFo – Write More for Four (weeks) held by my writers group randomly through the year, I always start well and then tank some time toward the end of the second week. Then it is all downhill.
This year I’m more prepared and have more time off, so with luck and more than a little determination I hope to not only hit the 50,000-word target, but hopefully go over. But let’s not put too much pressure on.
Anyway, the other thing that is going on is that 2017 finishes today (and it is Val Kilmer’s birthday)! For me 2017 has been just another year, but for so many of my friends it has been awful. No matter how your 2017 has gone, I hope that the beginning of 2018 is kind to you and inspires you in whatever way you wish to grow. There is nothing like a new year to make a new start.
NaNoWriMo is a global event that most writers have tried at least once. It stands for National Novel Writing Month and the idea is that you write 50,000 words over the month of November. The thing is, NaNoWriMo was invented by people in the northern hemisphere, where November is cold and everything is starting to slow down.
In the southern hemisphere, exactly the opposite is true. The weather is warming up, people start socialising and often we begin our Christmas catch-ups in November. The last thing you want to do is lock yourself away from the first of the beautiful weather and write a novel.
That’s why this year I’m going to do JanNoWriMo. January Novel Writing Month. January is hot in most of Australia, so staying inside an air-conditioned room to hit a word target is very attractive. January is also (for many) holiday time, actually giving us the time to write. And finally; January is 31 days long, giving us one more day than in November to hit our word target.
We are just over half way through December, more than enough time to plan your next project. I’ve got one in mind so I’m going to get as much of the pre-work done in the next two weeks as possible so I can hit the ground running on January 1st.
Can you think of a better way to start crossing off your New Year’s resolutions than by writing your novel in the first month of 2018? Who wants to join me?
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have started translating my weekly goals onto a daily goal list. I’m still doing it, and it is working brilliantly. The funny thing is that I’m actually adding more goals as the week goes on, so I’m getting even more done.
To meet my targets, I’ve had to force myself stop watching TV on work nights. This seems to have cured me of an unknown addiction. Now I can survive without knowing who gets voted off of Survivor. I’ve also realised that it doesn’t matter if I watch all my TV in one binge session on a Friday night (I loved ABC’s War On Waste).
Most importantly I’ve discovered that I feel a lot better about going to work when I have knocked out 2,000 words, or edited a couple of chapters the night before. All this time it’s been within my power to give myself what I’ve always wanted; to write.
There are so many ways we can use time, but some take more courage, more willpower and more determination than others. But when you make those choices it can be so much more rewarding. I know I’m only three weeks in, but my general happiness and contentedness is so much higher than it has been in a long time. And my word counts are still nearly as high as when I had my 4 months off last year.
Another benefit I have noticed is that I seem to be living more in the ‘now’. I enjoy the sunrise when I walk to the bus before work. I appreciate the songs of the magpies as they welcome me home (or more accurately the leftover cat food they know I’m about to throw out). I realise that I can take moments of time for myself at any time. Even while I’m waiting for SharePoint to apply my metadata (which seems to take so much longer now it is in the cloud) I can look out the window at the park and be in my own little world for a few seconds. Time really is what we make of it.
Okay, so I’m assuming you want to be a novelist. Obviously if you love the short form or you write screenplays then this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are a novelist, then there is nothing that makes you feel more like an author than getting to the “The End” bit of a novel.
I’ve done it four times, and it is such a rush. The first three times I cried my eyes out when I finished. Not because bad stuff necessarily happened at the end, but just because it was the end. My time with those characters was over. They were now in the world, able to stand on their own feet and they didn’t need me anymore.
At least that’s how it feels at the time. Pretty soon they become like annoying family members who keep dropping around as you go through the editing process and watch the same scenes over and over again. Tweaking, re-tweaking and then totally re-writing.
When I tell people I write it is amazing how many of them say they too want to write. They then start telling me about the great idea they have for a novel. It’s incredible how many of them have not actually written a word of this novel. And that is, ultimately, what the difference is between a writer and a non-writer. Writers write, and get things finished.
Incidentally I think the only reason I didn’t cry on the last novel was because I knew it hadn’t worked, so it wasn’t really finished . That’s the novel I’m currently editing (very heavily). This time around I have connected with the characters so much more, so I’m confident there will be tears when I get to the end. Hopefully in the next fortnight or so.