And Then There’s November…

With this renewed urge to get my blog up to speed (how many times have I written this) I thought it wise to start my posts on NaNoWriMo 2010. For those of you who don’t know what it is, NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month an international event in which thousands of crazy people (like yours truly) attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. You need to average exactly 1667 words a day to reach 50,000 words on the 30rd of November. In an ideal world, you should rather try to aim for 2000 words, as that gives you a little bit of breathing space for those not so productive days (or crisis days in which crazy out-of-your-hands stuff will happen).

 

And, non productive days there will be.

 

Writing is patient, but it is also unpredictable. Sometimes you can write thousands of words in a day (my record is 8000 words) and sometimes, none will come your way. With a project like NaNo, which takes a lot of creative effort (especially if you are not used to writing so much for so many consecutive days) it is only natural that you will run out of steam here towards the end. I started 5 days late last year, and for the first week or two constantly felt as if I was chasing a goal that felt unreachable (because every day, the words that you need become more and more…)

But, it worked out in the end because I believe that I was persistent.

 

The thing is also that NaNoWriMo is not about quality work per say, it’s more a shot for quantity and bulk. You can always edit later, but once you have your framework for your novel down, you are one step closer to achieving your goal. Whether it is just to complete it or to publish it eventually.

 

And, what I had liked about NaNo was the encouragement that people gave each other in the forums and behind the scenes. Write-Ins were a wonderful opportunity to meet people within your region who are as dedicated to writing as you are. It’s nice to see that there are other people out there who like to spend time in their heads almost as much as they do in the real world (or more so in my case… ;)). For a solitary profession, it’s good to do it in a group.

 

So, if you are thinking about doing NaNo, I’d like to use this post to encourage you to try. To sign up for this once a year (but once in a lifetime I can assure you) experience. If it’s anything like last year, it’s going to be a ball…

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The End is Nigh… Sort of.

So, as some of you have noticed, I have crossed the 50K mark. And, I have to tell you, I don’t often smile as much as I did yesterday. I honestly didn’t think that I would make it, knowing the demands on my personal life and my work life. But, I set out this month on what felt like a wild and reckless dash in the beginning to get out as many words as I could. You see, the reason I signed up was because I had wanted to prove a point to myself. I’ve always been somebody who used to not do things because I didn’t think that I could instead of trying to see if I could. Then, when I decided to go abroad last year, I realized that I had to change my motto and change my perception. The cliché phrase of: If you shoot for the moon and miss, then you’ll still fall among the stars… finally hit home.
I learned to do things blindly, to leap into projects even though I had absolutely no confidence in myself.
Because you see, I learned a very valuable lesson, which took me 24 years to learn…

Even if you don’t believe in yourself, there are still others who do. And, it’s more brutal on the psyche to disappoint them than yourself.

So, as with many other things this year, I learned that if you don’t leap and take a chance, you might never get anywhere – not because you don’t have it in you, but because you never tried. I crawled out from underneath my rock and now have a shiny NaNoWriMo Winner’s certificate to prove it. I’m not done yet of course, lol, so you’ll see my word count still growing. Not only am I not done with my project, but I feel that I want to give my country’s word count as much of a boost as I can. The South Africans are still clinging strong to 69th place – and we’re only about 10K behind the next region.

I also have other goals in mind for this month, as well as the next. Firstly, I need to finish a fan fiction fic that I’ve been working on – The Healer’s Touch, before December. If I do, it will be eligible for the 2009 Fannie Awards – a type of Fan Fiction Oscars for all authors writing in the Kim Possible fan fiction genre (yes, yes, I watch cartoons, I’m addicted, there’s no helping me). Last year, this stories prequel – The Touch of Green Fire, got nominated in a few categories as well as myself. I didn’t make it to the top 3, but it’s put an itch in me that says – you can do better, you can reach it… Secondly, I also need to finish another fic, purely because I’ve been at it for a while and need to wrap it up. If I can carry on writing at the pace that I did for NaNo, then I’ll finish both easily by the end of the year.
And lastly, I’m not going to stop writing purely because I love it. I love writing, and in this month I’ve found a space in which to do it which I’ve lost somewhere along the line. Although I’ve always enjoyed it, I find myself having fun again. And, that’s made a big difference not only in my stories but in the way I think about myself.

So, to make a long story short, and a short story longer, I want to firstly thank you all for reading my words. If it weren’t for you, they would never be here. I would like to thank you for your encouragement and your humor and your support.
Although she’ll probably never read this, I would also like to thank the author Kim Harrison again for also encouraging me and my fellow NaNoWriMo’s alike. It made it special somehow, getting encouraging words from someone who’s already made it. And, she made it fun.
I’d like to thank my computer for not crashing on me and my horse for not crashing with me.
And, lastly but not the least by far, I would like to thank my partner, who has an incredible understanding for the fact that I have to live in two worlds. You don’t get someone like this everyday…

If you’re still busy, frantically typing out your word count – I want to a) reprimand you for reading while you should be writing and b) want to wish you the best of luck!! There’s a squirrel, fireworks and a certificate just ahead of you. Go go go!

Have a great day everybody.
Alyssa

Quiet stretch.

So, my word count is just south of 50K and I’ve decided to put my foot in it and rush to see if I can get it finished today. On the NaNoWriMo website there are already quite a few purple “Winner!” bars and I’ve decided that I want mine among them. So, not much of a blog post today. I’m conserving my word count for the last stretch.

As an update, I have to say that I’m still sick and seem to have lost my sense of balance. It started last night during work when I crashed into another waiter when bending to pick up a fallen piece of cutlery. Luckily, nothing was damage (save for my pride) but I decided to call it quits and ask my manager if I can go home early. After seeing how I oozed all over my customers he agreed, lol. If a lot of people get sick in the week in my country you can guess who did it… That’s me, the new plague, spreading germs from a restaurant near you…

So, if you’ll excuse me – I’m off to go hunt for 2300 more words. I’m sure they’re here somewhere…

Have a hug and a great day!
Alyss

40K Shout Out with the End in Sight…

So, I’ve made it to another 10K mark, my fourth one to be exact.

At this point I had thought that I’d be feeling pride, happiness and joy, but admittedly, the only thing that I’m feeling is relief. Relief that finally, I have a target that in sight and, more to the point, even if I now write below the expected average, I’ll still make it. Writing 10K words is a hell of a lot easier than writing 50K and for once, I’m above target.

I have to confess that when I started this, I thought that I was biting off a little bit more than I could chew. It feels like an age ago when I stumbled onto the NaNoWriMo website and thought: ‘Oh yes, I had wanted to do this – what the heck, let’s sign up…’ In truth, it’s only been 17 days.
In a sense, a lot has changed for me in this short time. I find myself thinking about my writing in a different way, and thinking about other people’s in a different way. I met other people who wrote, people who have wishes just like I do, people who dream the same dreams. I’ve come to realize what a personal thing writing is and that there are as many ways of going about NaNo as there are people participating in it. I’ve been humbled by some people’s efforts, saddened by others and generally pretty impressed by most. For the first time in my life, I felt as if I was a part of something bigger and that my words were a part of something bigger. I found myself racing through words along with my fellow South Africans to try and get our country’s word count in the top 50 (of over 400 regions) and made an effort to attend the write-in’s that I could. I’ve touched souls that I would never have even known existed if it had not been for this strange month of November. It’s been such a gift and it’s reminded me how grateful I am that I can do this.

With the end in sight, I find myself wondering how I’m going to return to my normal writing routine, where I’d maybe type a few thousand words a week and not touch my computer for days at end. I ran a race once, and prepared for months before it to get fit. Then, the day of the race arrived and I completed it within my set goals. I remember being so happy that I wouldn’t have to be training so hard anymore yet, when I woke up two days later, I found myself lying in bed and wondering: What now?
So, I got up – put on my running shoes, informed my parents that I was leaving and went jogging again. Not because I had to, but because I had become so used to doing it that I didn’t know what else to do with myself. I chose to remain in practice, not for that race or the next one, but because it had become a part of who I was.

I don’t run anymore of course (bad knee) but in a strange sense, I feel that the principle is the same. The author Kim Harrison said much the same thing in her blog, that this month is like a race of marathon writing and that eventually, you find a pace that you are comfortable with. I have realized that I am comfortable with writing everyday, that I need this quiet time by myself to sit down and digest my thoughts. And also, for the first time, I don’t feel so isolated when doing it. There are people like me, running this race, collecting the words and putting them to black and white like tapestry makers.

I know that I’ll carry on writing, but I find myself wondering what’s going to happen to everybody else who started this. Will they continue? Will they write until they reach 50K and then just stop. Will they fail in reaching 50K and stop altogether because they could not reach the goal that they set for themselves? I truly hope not. Even if they don’t publish, I hope that they find websites like www.fanfiction.net and www.fictionpress.com to help them share their words.

You see, getting a book out there isn’t all that matters. What matters is that you enjoy yourself, and that you write for yourself first and foremost before you write for anybody else. Yes, it’s nice to earn a little bit of money out of it, or would be (I don’t know what it feels like, lol) but it’s more important to make this talent, this gift your own and keep developing it.

I hope that NaNoWriMo opened the doors for people and the school of thoughts that it did for me, and that people can walk away from it – proud of what they’ve done.

As for myself… I’m going to go back to my writing. 😉

Why I write…

This question was posed in our regional forum at NaNoWriMo and I thought that I’d make it my blog post for the day because I found myself thinking about it quite a lot.

Why do I write?
I think the first and primary answer to that would be because I need to. I can’t quite explain it, but I’ve always had this itch inside my soul, this need to put words on paper. If I don’t, then my head becomes filled with background noise, my emotions wild and my general anxiety about living unbearable.
I typed my first story out on my mum’s widows 3.1 computer (brand new at that stage because we had just upgraded from a dos). It was raw, it was silly, it had no plot and no punctuation but, it was mine and it felt as if for the first time in my life I found some semblance of control over my soul. I lost that writing due to a faulty floppy disk, but a seed had been planted. I think I was 8 or 9 at the time. My next bit of work was my first fan fiction, a silly story in which I threw myself as a character into a cartoon, (Gummi Bears, gotta love those days). Thinking back, I was such a Mary Sue character then. The work was still raw, unorganized, unstructured and uninteresting but I was starting to get better and more comfortable with the idea.

I played around with writing for the next few years, through primary school and my first two years in high school. My work was private, sacred. Nobody was allowed to look at it until one day, I finally relinquished a piece of paper to a friend of mine. She read it and gave me the first true feedback that I ever had. She liked it, and her words and encouragement opened doors to me. I pushed out scores of pieces then, though always allowing only her to read it until finally I discovered the site www.fanfiction.net. I don’t know what made me post my first story there, but I did and I have not looked back since. It gave me my second reason for writing.

Feedback. I write because I’m a review junkie, an addict if you will. I love hearing what people think of my work almost as much as I do writing about it. I still post only half of the stuff that I write, some pieces being too personal to put in the public eye and some plots too complicated to make sense of, but that which I put out there, I’m very proud of. I’ve had some stunning reviews, stories of people telling me how I have touched their lives and that is the biggest reward that I have ever had.

Naturally, I would love to publish… One day. But, it’s not the most important bit to me. If I can make money out of this, and find a way to make this a living it would be wonderful but it’s not what I want primarily. At the end of the day, I just want to have fun because lastly, I write because I can.

Writing is mine, it’s something I developed for myself without ever receiving guidance (except for my friend’s encouragement, which meant worlds to me) or help. I did it for myself, developed it for myself and succeeded in it for me. I’m not good in a lot of things, but I believe that this is one talent that I somehow managed to get and use.

I hope that answered my regions question, lol.