Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hitting Ten-K!

I started off really well this month. In fact, I started off awesomely! And then, as per usual with me, I took a nose-dive. I'm hoping to pick up the pieces fast enough, though.

First of all, today is a very important day in history for the good ol' USA.
Also known as "Holy Crow! We're boned!" day...
I'm not going to get into my political views on this, but I did want to mention that this is a BIG DEAL this year. Bigger than most, or maybe even all, of the past elections. So, if you are reading this on Tuesday, and you live in the US, and you are registered to vote, but haven't yet, get out there!

It's also a big month due to NaNo. If you're joining me with NaNo, and want to include me as a buddy, I'm LycoRogue over there too. Just drop me a line to let me know who you are - a reader/friend/whomever - when you ask me to friend you.

I had found a really awesome NaNo-themed calendar last week while looking for my graphic to show off this year's NaNo theme. In fact, I found a lot of really awesome calendars. Go ahead, google them if you haven't tried it yet! Anyway, the reason I like this calendar in particular is that it has such a great visual aid for keeping track of how many words you've written thus far, it has little reminders such as "back up your story" and "quarter of the way done", and it also has a breakdown if you don't want to write every day. That's my favorite part.
Calendar by Dave Seah: Investigative Designer
You can find more productivity calendars like this here.
See, I never really thought before about the possibility of eliminating just two days, writing the remaining five, and then reconfiguring my daily word goal numbers. I don't know why; I just never did. I always figured out what my weekly goal was, how up or down I was based on daily count vs daily goal, and then played hectic catch-up on the weekends.

Well, I don't really HAVE weekends any longer, and the above calendar accounts for that! Dave counted up all those green-colored weekdays, and he divided 50,000 by them, and ended up with a new word count of roughly 2272 words every weekday. That gives me the weekends to join in on my D&D sessions, drop Hubby off at work, work myself, watch football, and generally try to catch up on sleep. All without the guilt or stress of not writing.

Weekends are my "down days" where I can work and get ahead if I wish, but I don't feel OBLIGATED to. It's really helping on my writing stress levels, as well as keeping my motivation high. I'm not falling into the same writing funk I have in the past as I stressed out about dropping the ball, or going a day without writing.

Best part is that I already DID drop the ball - November is SUPER hectic for me! - but I just chose a weekend day to play catch-up with. Just flipped my days off to pick up the slack. According to where I should be based on the above calendar, I ended the week about 1000 words over where I should have been.

Tuesday was the start of NaNo, and I was avoiding it all day. I never know how to start: with this blog, when I'm telling a story verbally, when I'm writing a story; those opening lines always snag me up. I usually stumble in chaotically, find my footing, and become a much more elegant storyteller about two or three paragraphs in.

Sure, it's a rough draft, and in NaNo no less, so I shouldn't have worried so much. It's supposed to be crappy the first go! Don't dwell on the proper wording or sentence structure; worry about getting the tale out of your head!

Well... easier said than done. So, there I was, late at night, trying to figure out how to start. I put in my headphones. I played the Jolene playlist I created slowly since the start of the gaming sessions. A new song is added roughly every game to best personify her feelings about that game's events, as well as her past. Anyway, I played the playlist to get myself in the mood, and it worked beautifully. I dove into the zone. I came out at about 1700 words; daily word goal if you're going for all 30 days is 1667. I was proud of my accomplishment, until I noticed the five-days-a-week option listed on the calendar.

I could ignore Saturdays and Sundays: the days I would struggle to write anything at all if I didn't write at work. This was a golden opportunity that I should have always known about, but I needed someone else to show me. It's like that quaint restaurant you drive by on your commute to and from work, the one you never notice as you drive by it, even if you've done so hundreds of times. Then your buddy takes you to it, and you go "Wow! I never realized this was here!" Yeah, this ah-ha moment about five days a week was like that.

It was only about 500 more words than what I already had thus far, I could do that. And I did. I actually wrote another 600 words, just about. I checked my count again once I surpassed 2300 words, but I had so few left to go to finish off the chapter. So I did. I finished my first day of NaNo - a task I was avoiding all day - with a completed first chapter I enjoy, as well as over 2500 words for the first day.

Day number two wasn't nearly as successful with all the running around I had to do, but I still had about 1500 words, if you count the excess I had the day before, I was still well on par with writing 1667 words every day.

Day three I actually had off, so I could join in on the NaNoWriMo write-ins at the library that my writing group organized. We do writing "sprints" while there. I'm sure I explained this before, but to go over it again.

A writing sprint is when you set a timer for a short period of time; five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen, twenty, etc. You then make sure to block out all distractions - no emails, no facebook or other time-suck webpages, no texting, no messenger, no communication with others around you, no TV pulling at your attention, no researching - it's just you and your writing for that brief moment you set your timer for. Then you write. That's all you do. You laser focus on writing, and push to not stop at all during that timed session. You don't pause to figure out the perfect phrasing or the perfect word. You don't hit the delete or back button in order to edit the same sentence multiple times. You just write; however crappy it turns out; just write. You can edit later. Once the bell goes off, you may THEN go back and edit, if you have the free time to do so before the world beckons again.

Well, in our write-ins, we do twenty-minute sprints. Then we have twenty minutes of discussion: how is everyone doing, what are their stories about, where are they stuck, do they need help with anything? That sort of stuff. Some people like to read what they wrote; most did not.

Once the buzzer goes off again, we stop our conversation dead - one poor woman was stopped mid-sentence - and we go back to writing for twenty minutes. Rinse and repeat. It was particularly helpful for me; to have those three hours to dedicate to writing, but to have those breaks to talk so it didn't seem so daunting to write for a solid 180minutes. Even if you just grouped together our writing sprints, that would still normally be over an hour and a half of straight writing. I mean, I've done it. I typically write in large chunks like that. But spreading it out over three hours with people I could talk to really energized me.

Hearing people ask me questions I needed to figure out. Having them wonder what would happen next to Jolene. Hearing how they felt about my general description of my characters, and getting feedback that let me know how to better make them well-rounded. And the ability to plug in my earphones and listen to the Jolene playlist during each sprint. It all energized me!

I didn't write as much as I did on day one, but I was close. I was over 2400 words. I was still technically three-hundred words behind where I should have been with the weekday writing goals, but that is easy enough to catch up with. That's like two or three paragraphs.

Then on Friday my writing came to its first crashing halt. I wasn't feeling well. I had customers. My boss's boss was in the store, so I couldn't use work down time to write. I got maybe eight words down before I had to stop. I then stayed late at work to finish up with a customer who didn't even buy. I raced home to get changed before heading out for a friend's birthday party. I nearly got lost on the way to said party. Stayed fairly late. Got home around midnight. Crashed.

Saturday I tried to make up for it. I did manage to get about 1300 words down at work, but then I crashed once I got home. Bear and Mouse still didn't have internet after moving back up north, so D&D was cancelled. I tried to add to my word count, but I was feeling so melancholy that I just snuggled Hubby on the couch, watched some movies on Netflix - the original definition of Netflix and Chill - and I installed a whole bunch of my computer games onto my laptop finally.

Sunday was my true catch-up day. I had it off. Hubby asked for it off to recover from a very active weekend for him. We had the extra hour due to daylight savings still being a thing for some reason. So, before football started, and then during games that weren't particularly entertaining for me, I wrote. It was a slow, chip-away process all day. My head was still in a haze from my illness from Friday. I was not feeling the writing of this fourth and fifth chapter of my story. Still, I wrote. I reminded myself that I'm just getting the basics down. I'll fix it later.

In the end, I walked away with another 2300 words down. Not where I wanted to be, but more than made up for the missed and under-written days this past week. It also got me to the 10,000 word total goal. Then I realized, that was the goal if I had written 1667 every day. My 2272 word goal was just for Tuesday through Friday - the week days - and so my goal before the start of Monday was only about 9000 words! I was about 1100 words up from where I was supposed to be!

So, I not only kept par with the daily writing goals, but I managed to surpass my weekday writing goals. Not too shabby for my first week. I might actually make it this year! I just need to stay focused.

Posting my word count every day on Facebook helps. It holds me accountable, because I want to share a good number with everyone. Having people like the status, as well as send me their praises on a job well done, has really helped me keep my writing self-esteem up, as well as my overall morale.

Being a "Plantser" - as NaNo describes it - has been a huge help as well.

Generally, I'm a "fly by the seat of my pants" - or a "pantser" - kind of writer. In the past, I've called it "channeling" or "medium" writing. It's like I don't come up with the stories. It's like I just mentally zone in on a person or event that is happening in a parallel universe, and I'm just transcribing what I see/hear. These truly are my characters' stories, and I'm just the medium used to relay them over to you fine folks.

There is no planning. You just figure out an inciting situation, and then give the characters free reign on getting from point A to point F.

It's fun, and I feel like people really enjoy my characterization when I write like that, but it doesn't get anything completed. I tend to lose sight of where everyone is going, or I lose characters that are crucial to the story.

The other main category of writer is typically known as a "Planner;" in the past, I've called them "director" type writers. These are the ones that have a strict guideline before committing anything to paper. Their characters have no free reign. They are given exact directions, and a completed script. If something doesn't work, this writer goes back to the drawing board and tweaks before moving on. These are the types of writers that tend to spend most of the writing in the pre-production stage, and barely need to do much editing once all is said and done.

This is the kind of writer I SHOULD aspire to. It would allow me to actually complete my stories, and do so in a fairly quick manner. It doesn't work for me, though. It feels like it takes the creativity out of the story. Plus, my characters don't feel as fleshed out if I'm forcing them to fit the mold I created for them, instead of letting their real-life qualities unfold before me; just like with any actual person.

So, I've snuggled into the gray space between "Pantser" and "Planner": the "Plantser."

By NaNo's definition, these are the people who create a basic plan of where they want to go, and how they want to get there, but still let the characters take the lead. If they meander, the Plantser writer gently brings them back to focus.

In truth, I guess I've always been a plantser. I've always had a basic skeleton of my stories and where I want them to go. It's rare that I'm a true Pantser in my writing.

It's just, I've never been SO detailed in my outline. I have the basic highlights of Jolene's life, especially within each relationship. I know how long each relationship lasted, how long before she got over it, and how she met/fell for the next person. It's been working out wonderfully.

So, there you have it. I'm a Plantser, but I need to be a bit more heavily sided on the Planner half in order for me to work the most diligently.

I have another hour-long write-in tonight leading into my writing group. I also have a few things to read now - about 10,000 words worth - so it will be a fun session tonight, I think.

Now, to just ignore Facebook and the backlash of whichever side of the election lost after today....

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