Sacrifice Quality

Quantity will follow.

It’s Day 3 of NaNoWriMo.
And, when I say that I find myself staring at the three with a touch of disbelief. This time of the race last year, I was still happily ignorant, wondering what on earth I was going to do to make November pass quicker. This month, I’m already standing at 18,000 words (as of this morning, it’s bound to change later…).
I’m not quite sure what happened.
My plot, my characters and my fingers ran away from me and on the very first day of NaNo, I already produced 10,000 words. To give you guys an indication, my average words per day normally ranges between 2000 and 3000 words. On good days, I’ll cough up 5000. And then I’m pretty chuffed with myself.
To write 10,000? Mind blowing.

I’m doing a couple of things different this year, which I suspects ads to the massive amount of words streaming into my statistics.
In true NaNoWriMo style, I’ve sacrificed quality firstly. I’m adding in bits of long monologues and descriptions to muscle up my plot and my characters would relapse into brief arguments. Not lengthy in themselves but, if you add it all up, I gain about 3000 words.
I’m also not too worried about editing this strangely. Last year I was still posting the chapters which I was working on at my other site and I knew that it would be negative if I just put a whole bunch of space fillers into my chapters. This year I decided to largely keep my novel to myself and first see where I could take the plot before I decided to share it.
I’m also cheating a little, and working on another story, adding those words to my word count. Instead of writing one novel, I write two so, when I struggle in one, I fall into the other for a quick refresher course. This also gives me time to plot on the other one.
And, this year – I have a very basic plot line. I have few characters, which gives me space to introduce new ones (a tactic I learned from a fellow NaNoWriMo Stilldormant) and liven up the conversation when my two characters starts to loose their tongues.

So, things are going well. I know in my heart of hearts that I won’t be able to keep up this pace, that I’m going to sprain my muse’s proverbial ankle. But, like the first racehorses in a race that takes the lead (only to fall back later to the better runners) I’m enjoying my time ahead.
I can hear the others pounding at my heels, but I have to say – I won’t mind if they pass me. Because honestly? The South African Wrimos are doing SO well, that I can’t help but feel proud of their achievements!
Espesually, I have to add, my region. I am a new Municipal Liason, in a new region with a whole bunch of new writers and they are truly exceeding my expectations!
It’s a great feeling.

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The Last Bit of Longest Road.

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately and I’ve come to realize that the journey home is ALWAYS longer than the journey to which ever destination you are travelling. The last couple of miles seems to stretch in front of you, pulling seconds into minutes and making you feel as if Einstein had spoken up too soon when he spoke about relativity (and he should really just have spend some time in traffic to think it over). Also, as it is, the moment you think you’re home free, you find yourself stuck in traffic. Bumper to bumper.

Writing is a lot like this, things go smoothly for the first bit of your journey and then, as you turn to home to finish off those last couple of chapters, things slow down. You find yourself swerving to avoid plot holes, (note to my international readers – South Africa is NOTORIOUS for its TERRIBLE road conditions. Pot holes aren’t fixed. They are ignored. And used to hide elephants in) or stuck with a bunch of personal traffic that piles up around you. You’re at a stage where you can’t remember your whole journey in detail, only knowing that you set out from somewhere and you wanted to see a couple of things along the road which sometimes you never got round to. You think that you know the way to the end of your book, but then due to word works and plot twists, you realize that you need to re-plan your trip and find an alternative route.

And the irony is that getting to the end of your destination is such a VITAL part of the trip. You have to make sure that you saw everything you wanted to see, did everything you wanted to do and that your passengers, the readers, enjoyed the journey (and didn’t get too carsick…). It’s important that they come back for another trip.

I’m in that final stage with one of my stories, where I have 5000, maybe 10,000 words left in a 110,000 word journey that I’ve worked on for almost two years. I always find myself slowing down towards the end, chewing over chapters, struggling to pull my strings together. It essence it shouldn’t be hard because I keep my plots fairly simple. But – my endings are always hard.
I think part of it comes with the regret of ending this particular journey. You as an author want to hold on just that little bit longer, (in my case, preserve my character’s sanity for just a little bit longer before I throw another horrible twist at them), enjoy the last bit of scenery. But, the truth might be that your readers can’t wait to reach the end.

It’s about finding balance and making that last bit of the trip memorable.

I do a few things to make my journey a little bit easier.

  1. I take notes in the beginning. Despite the fact that I’m notoriously bad at planning, I’ve learned the value of paper above memory. I always think that I’ll remember where I want to take my stories but somehow, the best details always slip by me. So. Stick it notes. They work.
  2. If I’m planning a disaster (to be corrected in a sequel) I do try to warn my readers. Or, not warn them per say, but put in little check points to which they can fall back on and say: oh heck – should’ve seen this coming. It eases the impact of a world shattering end (which I am very fond of as a writer).
  3. I try and read through the whole story at least once before finishing it off. This way, I remember small things that I might have wanted to wrap up but didn’t. They go on their own set of stick it notes and will be addressed in the next book.

The end of a story is so important. It is the bit in the book that can really make or break your plot. So, pay attention to it. Take that alternative route if you need to, but don’t make the journey too long. Discipline yourself and – if you are in that last stretch and a series of unfinished business pops up, rather try to deal with it in the next book (if the nature of the problems allow it naturally) because your readers aren’t stupid and are just as anxious to see the end as you are.

And sad. J

But there will always be more. 😉

Thank you.

Understand your Rhythm.

Some of us are werewolves, some of us are vampires, some of us are pixies and some of us are zombies…

What I mean by this is that we’re not the cast for the next teen book sensation, no – we all are active at different times and it effects how we write.

Some of us can only writing during full moon, others only at night. Some like to get up early in the morning for it and others can write through the whole day because they never sleep. It’s what makes us unique and efficient.

I think it’s very important to understand when you like to write the most. Some of us are so conditioned to write during a specific time that sitting down to be creative at any other time will automatically result in procrastination. Some of us are a little bit luckier, able to write on the run where ever and whenever there’s time to yank out a notebook. It’s pretty much an each to his/her own concept and it’s interesting to note that nobody writes at quite the same pace, in exactly the same fashion.

I used to love writing in the evenings. I needed the quiet of the dark to wrap itself around me in order for my creativity to flow. Sleep has never been one of my strong points and I preferred sitting at my desk (then still writing everything out by hand) much more than I preferred lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. I could jot down a word or two during class or when I had a spare moment, but really – my time was best used between 10pm and 4am at night.
In recent years, I’m surprised to note that my window period has shifted. Although I still love writing at night, (especially in the summer when it’s cooler than the scorching hot days) I have to be honest and say that I am more efficient in the mornings. The problem, or rather changing factor (because there’s nothing wrong with writing in the mornings) came when I had to start working very hard physically at my various jobs. I used to come home exhausted and then, writing felt too much like work. I found it easier to concentrate after I’ve slept as much as I could and look at my characters and worlds from a fresh perspective. What’s more, I realized that I’m a little bit more efficient when I’m working against the clock, when I know that I only have an hour or two to spare (sometimes only half an hour) and I have to make the most of it.

How does this apply to you?

With NaNoWriMo around the corner, thousands (millions perhaps this year?) of people will be sitting down to do some crunch writing, to type out as many words as they can for November. As one of them, I know the worth in finding time to write – trying to squeeze it into a very busy day where it has to compete with work and my private life. It’s therefor logical that I use the time that I have to its optimum. And, I know when I’m dealing with a ‘lost cause’ time, where I might as well get up and do something constructive as oppose to stare at the computer for ages, typing out three words.

I’m not someone who’s very satisfied with a session that produces one sentence.

So, find your rhythm and understand it. It will help you not only through November, but in your future writing career as well.

And tentatively…

I think I have my mojo back.

I used to be able to write thousands of words in a day but recently I’ve experienced a bit of a slump in my writing. So, at first I wanted to throw in the towel and declare myself bust, but then, with the encouragement of Aheila from the Writeahoclic’s blog and my own nagging persistence, I dragged myself into a series of self imposed goals. They weren’t terribly hard to reach, but they weren’t for the faint hearted either.

Now, I’m not someone who likes to blow the horn prematurely, but I think, I suspect, I hope that I might’ve dragged myself out of the slump. This morning, in an hour’s session, I sat down and wrote 1700 words. They just came out of nowhere with snappy dialogue, some irritated characters and a love for the story which I was writing it in. And I can tell you, when I looked at my word count, I felt good. I felt great actually because I felt as if I had once again proven to myself that I can do it.

But, it did bring home a few things that I listed earlier and that is that writing is a discipline. That you need to sit down and practice what you do. With NaNoWriMo around the corner I can’t help but feel that it’s very important for people to start practicing. They don’t need to type out 1667 words a day – but they should maybe think of doing at least 1000. Like jogging, you need to be writing fit to do it well.

And, I realized it’s very important to write with characters that you like, even if nobody else does. Love your story, love your words. They are yours and nobody else’s. Something I realized when I was younger was that if didn’t write my stories, if didn’t put my characters to paper, nobody else will. Because they are mine, and if I wanted other people to learn to love them as much as I did, I had to tell people about them. And I could only do that by writing.

Editing. Grr.

Editing.

Something all writers and potential writers do, but something I do feel that I somehow didn’t sign up for. I did a massive amount of editing last night on a chapter in my Kim Possible fan fiction story, The Healer’s Touch and I have to admit, it really broke my speed. I had it in my inbox for two days before I finally worked myself up to looking at it. The problem was that I had had trouble starting it, and knew very well that it was going to need some major work to complete it.

Luckily though – I have an amazing (two actually) Betas, who got my work up to speed and ironed out the bits that I had trouble with.

The problem still remained that I would have to do some editing on my own, putting the finishing touches on a piece of work I couldn’t round off the first time. It was a long, agonizing process, hindered by a terribly critical Inner Editor who had taken offence from a somewhat bad and critical review on the last chapter. I struggled with it, turned it around, almost took out half of it until I realized that I would have to replace the words that I took.

From seemikedraw.wordpress.comAnd then out of desperation, to try and determine where I thought I had gone so horribly wrong, I decided to read it to myself. I sat in my quiet room, almost close to midnight, and played around. I did voices. I did accents. I read with the motion I knew the characters were speaking and quiet suddenly, everything seemed better. The flow was good, comfortable. The dialogue intense, but easy at the same time. As I ironed out the last of the bits, I realized that it wasn’t my Inner Editor speaking to me, but my Inner Critic, someone whom I feel should be ignored at all costs.

You see, editing is necessary, but so is having faith in yourself and faith in your writing. So when you struggle, I have a hint that I can maybe give you, perhaps even a piece of advice.

Sit back. Read it. Aloud. Maybe even in a Scottish Accent.

You’ll hear then what makes sense, feel on your own tongue what doesn’t. And remember, that it’s your story. If you’ve received one bad review in 15, know that that’s just one. There were 14 other people who did like your work. J

Editing is necessary, but it shouldn’t be a chore and certainly shouldn’t be an excuse to dish your own work.