And without warning… #NaNoWriMo

It’s that time of the year again in which thousands of people all over the world abandon their lives, their family, their jobs and their general well being to try and complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

I feel as if this year’s event really snuck up on me. I almost forgot to complete my returning-ML form. I have not given my plot much thought since about… well… Today. And, I almost forgot to organise my region’s Kick Off party. It seems that this year, truly, November couldn’t have come at a worse time. But, I take heart in the fact that I’m not the only one unprepared. A lot of students are writing exams, it’s end of the year functions, it’s school, work, terrible weather (both hot and cold depending on which hemisphere you live in) and all round end of the year depressed funk.

Nothing seems like a better idea than to ask the organisers of the event to delay it another month… or two… Or maybe three.

And, in that lies the problem that NaNoWriMo tries to solve. (For those new to this – NaNoWriMo means National Novel Writing Month). There are a lot of ‘one day novelists’ out there. People who keep telling themselves that ‘one day’ they’ll write that novel. They keep putting it out and putting it out for a more convenient time but the truth is that no time is better than NOW. You see, we are so good at delaying ourselves, that we end up delaying ourselves in definitively. Which is why an event like NaNoWriMo is so great. It forces you to take a step, to write a book and get it done quickly. The focus is not on quality, but on quantity. The more you get out, the more you can edit in December.

A friend of mine, Suzanne Lazear, managed to use her NaNoWriMo book which she eventually got published. (Innocent Darkness will be released August 2012).

Things can happen during November that can change your life. I’ve done it for two years now (this will be my third) and I’ve been surprised everytime.

So, if you are a ‘one day’ novelist then maybe, it’s worth giving NaNoWriMo a chance. Not only will you get to write that book, but you’ll meet people such as yourself and find out exactly how hard/easy it is to write that book that you’ve been dreaming of for so long.

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Of Aliens and Pigeons.

If you’ve been following my tweets you’d have noticed that there’s been a bit of an extraterrestrial trend in them. I’ll confess that I’ve had alien invasion on the brain (in no small thanks to Mass Effect 3 marketing – I present to you exhibit A).

Now, my gaming addiction aside, there’s actually a little bit more to this than meets the eye. The weekend before last I was dragged to a company function in which we treated our customers (and their partners) to a night away at a local game lodge. One of the activities presented there was Lazer Clay Pigeon Shooting. Although not nearly as fun as the real thing (which I did a lot in England), it was an interesting activity to observe and also, to see what my colleagues were capable of.

The ‘Alien’ theme took seed in my mind when I watched a colleague of mine miss pigeon after pigeon and after her fifth failed attempt at hitting the poor defenceless disk I found myself saying out loud:

“You know, when the Aliens come you’ll be amongst the first to go. I’m not hiding with you.”

The observers had a good laugh about it (though carefully when they saw me take the lead in the women’s shooting department and then finally almost win the shooting competition against the one client who had been shooting competitive for years…) and I got so distracted by the work that I let the subject drop.

It was only last week as I was driving from my one client to the other (through a desolate piece of farm land) that the theme came back. As I was driving around fairly early – there was nobody out on the roads. I found myself looking around and thinking:

I wonder if I’d notice if Aliens came and took everybody. Would they notice me? Would they not think to look in this god forsaken piece of land?
Maybe? Maybe not?

And of course, then I found myself thinking: What would I do if the Aliens came?

I’ve been amusing myself with this for the past week and although it’s not the most elaborate brainwave that I’ve had in the past couple of months, its shown me that I’m on track again, that what ever silence had trapped my mind in the past couple of months had dissipated and allowed space for more ‘silly’ thoughts. When I was in England I had reached a point in my life there that I had thought enough, that place where I had turned over every thought in my mind so many times that I was willing to just put it all on the shelf and let them sort themselves out.

I think (perhaps because of the extensive driving that I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks) that I’ve reached that point again. And, it’s a good point to be at.

So, hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me again. I’m hoping to continue back into some semblance of a routine and also log my writing progress (which I’ve been neglecting terribly).

NaNoWriMo is around the corner as well and yours truly will be competing again. I’m not shooting for the 100k words that I did last year. No, this time I’m hoping to accomplish something (And see a fellow Tweeter StillDormant in a dress) and to finally start working on all my outstanding projects again.

So watch this space and – if you see an Alien, call me.

I can shoot the hell out of it…

It was the Week after NaNoWriMo…

And not a word was written.

Or, not a lot anyway.

For someone who had hit 50K words in the first 9 days of NaNo, I found myself at a distinct loss for words. The honest truth was that I’ve drained myself a little bit. Writing takes so much energy that blasting out 140K words in 30 days seemed to have taken most of my reserves. I had anticipated this luckily and hadn’t set out a lot of writing projects for December. I had finished my largest one just before NaNoWriMo and the rest… Well. They could wait for the New Year.

What I’m experiencing isn’t actually all that uncommon. A lot of NaNoWriMo writers don’t indulge in their creative juices again for a full year until the next NaNoWriMo. Projects are abandoned half way, the dreams of becoming a published author sliced with the reality of every day routine. Worlds are left as they were, sometimes never visited again.

I find the latter incredibly sad but not as sad as those writers who abandon their keyboards and stories. The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that it gives you the ‘oomph’ that you need to start your ‘One Day’ project. The problem with NaNoWriMo is a lot of times it leaves you in the middle of it and because you drained away most of your writing energy in the past 30 days, you can’t make yourself go back to it.

The truth is that although writing is a great hobby, it’s also like work sometimes. It’s certainly become a little bit like work for me, even though I really enjoy it.

And, it’s a discipline, a routine that you need to establish.

To try and get over the NaNoWriMo Blues, I have a few suggestions that I would like you to try out, if you feel that you want to continue writing but can’t make yourself start.

  1. Give yourself time to relax. Make it a set time like 14 days, or 31 days (the whole of December). If you’ve set down a time, stick to it. Turn on your computer directly the day after. If you post pone, you’ll be doing it your whole life.
  2. Set yourself a goal. Don’t make it a ridiculous one – make it easy and achievable. Remember, this is not NaNoWriMo anymore, it’s about your own personal time and your own personal goals. Mine is 7000 words a week which equates to 1000 for every day of the week or 1400 per day if I don’t count weekends (which I don’t write in a lot to give myself a break).
  3. Keep track of your goal. Set up an excel spreadsheet and enter the amount in every day. You laugh? It works! There’s nothing more motivational than seeing what you need and what you have. Some days you can sit back, open a proverbial (or physical!) bottle of red wine and go: I did good. Other times you can brew a cup of coffee and type out that extra couple of lines that you need.
  4. Find a writing buddy. Share your goals and your triumphs. Give each other reports. It helps having someone checking up on you every now and again. Humans are strange like that because we don’t like it if others see our failure. 😉
  5. If you can – join a writer’s group or a writing workshop. An author I know called it ‘author group therapy’. We need people like ourselves to keep encouraging us. No offense to you non writers reading this, but you just don’t always understand. We need that understanding sometimes.
  6. Don’t give up. Ever. Keep on writing, keep on trying, keep on setting goals for yourself. It will pay off in the end.

A good friend of mine, Aheila (who you can find in my links page) did just this. She set up a goal for herself and she’s stuck with it through thick and thin. She’s not published her first short story and I believe that she’s well on her way to becoming a published author. She’s shown me that it can be done, and I would like to hold her up as an example to all of you.

Go to her blog, see what’s she’s done.

Remember that, although writing is patient, some stories aren’t and when you have an idea you need to put it down into paper now.

Otherwise you’ll lose it, and that would be tragic. Like the mass murder of dozens of characters that the world will never know. So, please – continue on writing. If you have the NaNoWriMO Blues – sulk, but then step out of it.

There’s still a whole world out there for you. 😉

Alyss

The Road of Fame Reloaded.

I’m getting a bit tired with my NaNoWriMo tale, and decided as a treat to a good friend of mine who reads this blog that I’ll post this continuation of my NaStySuMo story. To recape, NaStySuMo was a writing project I participated in during August where the challenge was to write a story where the characters had super powers. My character was a young woman called Fame who found herself in a little bit more trouble than she could deal with. You can find the whole story in my Nastysumo catergory. J

The Road of Fame Part 10

Staring at the Wanderer, dreading the outcome of the next couple of minutes, Fame gave the young woman one last look and stood up, carefully reaching out to touch her. The Wanderer braced herself and closed her eyes as Fame closed her own. She tightened her hand on the young woman’s shoulder until, quite abruptly, she felt the woman disappear. When she opened her eyes it was only she and Lara in the room. Glancing at the Tomb Raider, Fame took a deep breath and slowly sat down on the floor, clutching her shoulder. She had slipped the game controller into her sling next to her PSP but didn’t reach for it immediately.

“It hurts.”

Lara grimaced and went to the kitchen to pour her a glass of water. “I’m not surprised. You better get on with it.”

The young woman looked at her and sighed, looking at her television screen. “What if ah can’t bring him back?” she queried and gladly accepted the glass Lara offered her. The game character’s face was very stoic as she shrugged, not giving away a shred of her own doubt and worry.

“We’ll answer that when we know,” she said simply. “Come on Fame.”

The young woman grimaced and took the control again. It only took her a couple of seconds to find another loaded game, but it took almost a full minute to load it.

It felt like the longest minute of her life.

When she paused the game, staring at The Wanderer’s computer generated hands, she grimaced and stood up again, fighting the sense of vertigo that threatened her balance. Lara didn’t join her, but remained in the corner of the room, watching as Fame went closer to the television screen and carefully rested her good hand on it. Closing her eyes, Fame took as deep a breath as she could and focused.

There was a lengthy pause and then…

“Did it work?”

Fame opened her eyes and turned to find The Wanderer standing behind her, her eyes wide with hope. Looking around the room, Fame glanced at Lara who shook her head. “I’ll try again,” she said. “Just stay here, I’ll see if I can pull him out.”

The Wanderer’s eyes were dark as she regarded Fame and crossed her arms. Biting her lip, Fame looked at the screen and took another steadying breath. She reached out to touch the television screen but was interrupted by a knock on the door. All three women blinked and looked at each other. When the knock came again, Fame quickly stepped away from the television and moved to the door.

“It must be Dr. Walker,” she said. “Just stay back; ah don’t want her seeing you.”

She linked in the security chain and opened the door and, as expected she saw her doctor standing in front of her door, peering through the crack she had made. She smiled when she saw Fame and made a motion down the stairs.

“Are you ready to go Amy?” she queried.

Fame grimaced and shook her head. “Ah just need tae finish up with a couple’a things,” she said. “Ye can wait for me in the car if ye want. Ah’ll be down in a second.”

Dr. Walker raised an eyebrow and put her hand on the door. “Why don’t I wait inside?” she said. “I can help you finish up then if you want.”

Fame refrained from showing her irritation and quickly glanced back at the two game characters. “Ah’m almost done,” she insisted. “Ah’ll be down in a second, really. Ah just need to… finish up.”

Again, the woman gave her that look in which Fame could immediately see that she didn’t believe her. “Fame, please let me come in,” she said. “I’m not going to wait for you in the car.”

Defiance burned inside the young gamer as she glanced back at Lara and The Wanderer. They had both had their weapons drawn, but Lara sighed first and put them away, motioning to The Wanderer to do the same. When the girl didn’t comply immediately, Lara pointed her finger at her in a ‘careful’ kind of gesture before she motioned to Fame that she could let the doctor in.

Sighing miserably, Fame nodded at the doctor and closed the door so that she could slip off the chain. Then, when she let Dr. Walker in she stood back, also giving The Wanderer a warning look. Rolling her eyes in an exasperated fashion the young woman holstered her pistols, following Lara’s example. The two crossed their arms and didn’t smile when Dr. Walker saw them.

“Dr. Walker,” Fame said quickly before anybody could say anything. “These are friends of mine, they’ve just… come from a gaming convention in Cardiff. They came round to see if ah’m alright.”

Dr. Walker studied the women’s apparel with a critical eye. She glanced over The Wanderer but looked at Lara with a little bit more attention.

“Lara Croft I presume?” she queried.

The tomb raider smiled and stepped forward smoothly, holding out her hand in greeting. “Trying to be,” she said with a small smile. “I take it you are Amy’s doctor?”

Fame glared at Lara for using her name, but Dr. Walker smiled and nodded, taking Lara’s hand and squeezing it briefly before turning to Fame.

“For the moment,” she said. “I’m here to take her back to hospital, we had an agreement. Didn’t we Fame?”

The welsh girl sniffed stubbornly, turning her face away from the woman so that she could look at her television screen. She couldn’t help but think suddenly that if the power went out without warning, she was going to have to explain a lot.

“Ah haven’t found m’dog yet,” she mumbled. “Ah can’t go back now.”

Dr. Walker seemed to grimace and shook her head. “Amy,” she said softly. “If he’s no here love, then I can’t see you finding him within the day. It’s really time that I get you back, you’re as pale as a sheet. If you let me take you back, I promise that I’ll go to some of the shelters myself and look for your dog. Your friends can come with me if they want – I’m sure they’ll be able to spot him quicker than I would.”

Not wanting to tell the woman that that would not be a very good idea, Fame shook her head tiredly. “Ah just need ten more minutes,” she said. “Please Dr. Walker – ah’ll be at the car in a moment. Just give me a little bit more time.”

The doctor looked ready to protest when, without warning, there was another knock on the door. Knowing the two women, Fame could see that it took a very visible effort from both of them not to draw out their guns in the presence of Dr. Walker. She too had to show an intense amount of self restraint not make it known how intensely irritated she was. She could not stop herself from cursing as she stormed to the door.

“What dumb smuck’s here now?” she drawled. “My apartment’s small enough.”

Once again she put the security chain on the door and glancing back at the three women in her small living room she threw it open, her irritation clear on her face. She looked at the person for a moment or two then said abruptly.

“Who the bloody hell are you?”

To Be Continued…

Alyss’s NaNoWriMo Tip 3: BACK UP!

This should’ve been tip number one, reinforced with tip number two and spelled out in detail with tip number three.

Back up your work.

It happens during every NaNoWriMo that some writers somewhere lose their precious word counts by either forgetting to save, by losing their USB disks or by faulty computers and freak thunderstorms that can destroying a hard drive in one single flash. For those of us who work on computers, it is wise to remember that we are at their mercy.

The sad thing about backupping is that we all know we should do it (myself included) but for some lazy, procrastinating reason we never do. We like to think that we will be spared, that we will miss this evil curse of every anxious writer but we are wrong.

It will happen to us. Not today maybe, or tomorrow or even for the whole of November. But, one day, when you least expect it, you will find that you have lost all your information through any of the above mentioned reasons (or different ones, you never know how creative Murphy’s Law) can be. And then, you find yourself swimming in the pool of regret, telling yourself over and over and over again that you should’ve backed up your work.

So, go now and back up. Save a second copy of your precious manuscript. Put it in at least two safe locations. Flash drives aren’t that expensive anymore. It’s quite affordable to have two of them. I have two, one which I use for my general work and the other which I use solely for backuping. It puts my mind at ease (even though I don’t nearly do it as much as I should). I also put my work on my computer hard drive (though not so much as I feel that that encourages the beast to crash). But, I always make sure that I have at least two or three copies available of what I’m working on. Another good idea, (although I don’t use it myself) is to email your work back to yourself at the end of the day. That way it’s in your inbox, safe on the world wide web (for every pirate and his mate to read, lol) which should save you from that fateful (and terribly unlucky) day where every single space where your work is kept is destroyed.

They cannot kill the internet.

Good luck with your writing guys, and don’t take this advice lightly. Not today.

Your work and word count is too important to keep at this stage. 😉

Good luck, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Alyss (who is following her own advice right about… now).