Surviving Nanowrimo #1

November is almost upon us and you know what that means. Sure, we’ve got an election coming up and I am one of those who urge every eligible voter to vote. And November means Turkey Day, and that is a big yummy.

November is also National Novel Writing Month, better known as Nanowrimo. For those of you who don’t know about nanowrimo, here’s a short introduction. Beginning November 1st, participants are urged to write a 50,000 word novel in the next thirty days.

Easy peasy, right? It can be. Just means writing 1700 words a day. Which takes me a little over an hour. For some, it’s less time. For others, it’s a little more.

I’ve done it six or seven times.Each time gave me an opportunity to work out my creative muscles,and I found it a lot of fun.

Here’s a few reasons to participate:
1.Writing is a solo experience. This gives each of us an opportunity to join a community and share that experience with others.

2.It gives the writer an opportunity to try something new. Say, I’m a mystery writer. I might want to try another genre like romance or science fiction or fantasy. If I am a romance writer, I might want to tackle a mystery.

The great thing about tackling a new genre is that I get a chance to learn what elements make that genre tick. It’s like a musician who plays country. Maybe he tries his hand at rock and roll. If he does, he’s going to bring the rock-and-roll elements back to his country songs and it’s going to make for some interesting music.

Or I might just discover I like the new genre.

3.At the end, I can say you’ve written a novel. Even if I write less than the 50,000 words, I can feel like I have accomplished something. If the novel I am working on is more than the 50,000 words, I’ll have a shot of adrenaline and be able to go the distance.

4.I may not end up with a novel, but I might end up with a darn good short story. This has happened twice to me. Or I might not like the novel I have written but I discover a germ of an idea for which I actually want to write.

5.A number of novelists have published novels that began with nanowrimos and they became bestsellers. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and Water For Elephants by Sarah Gruen are two.

PREPARATION

Once I decided to participate, there were some things I had to realize and this is where some survival skills come in handy.

1.Nanowrimo is not about editing and perfecting my prose. My nanowrimo novel is my first draft. All first drafts are crap. Editing comes later after the first draft is finished.

2.Preparation is essential. I use October to prepare by brainstorming what I want to writer about. If I am a plotter, I will use the time to nail down my outline.

If I am a seat-of -the-pants writer, I don’t have to plot it out. But at least I need to have an idea of what is going to happen in my first scene. Say I have an idea about what I want to write. Then I might come up with some specifics to flush out that idea with a who, what, when, where and how.

Or I might have an opening line. It might be as simple as this: “Tell me a story, Grandfather.” With just that line of dialogue, I know I have two characters: a grandfather and his grandchild.

If I don’t do this Preparation gig, I will end up on the first day of November staring a blank page and going, “What am I going to write?” And that’s scary.

3.Another lesson I have learned: At the end of each writing session, or some time later that day, think about what I want to write the next day. It might be as simple as saying that the protagonist decides to take a cruise. Or he may decide he isn’t going on a cruise.

If I don’t do this, I might end up spending half my writing time trying to decide what to write. And this can lead to a case of writer’s block. Or even worse, I might be so frustrated, I quit.

To deal with this dilemma, Hemingway would end each of his writing sessions in the middle of a sentence.

Or if I don’t have a clue, I can do what I did for each of my writing sessions my first time. I began each session with a visual prompt. There’s a great blog for visual prompts called Monochromia. Each day the site posts a new group of black and whites photographs that can trigger your subconscious.

So give your creative muscles a workout. Try nanowrimo this year. I know you’ve been meaning to. Remember success doesn’t come to the talented. It comes to the persistent.

And stay tune to this blog. I will be posting seven more Surviving Nanowrimos during October.

Nanowrimo time and suggestions for success

Ever want to write a novel? Next month is an excellent chance to give it a try. November is Novel Writing Month, better known to one and all as nanowrimo. The great thing about nanowrimo is that you won’t be alone. Thousands will be doing it. And for the experienced, there something extra. Nanowrimo gives you have permission to write in a genre you don’t normally write, So why not join in? Here’s the link where you can sign up.

And now that you have signed up, I have some suggestions to make your experience a successful one. You see, I’ve participated six times. Twice I managed to end up with a story from each of two of the novels: Baseball and “The Funeral“. And one of them still needs editing before it can be published. So here are my suggestions:

1.Preparing in October. Let your loved ones know you won’t be available during your novel-writing time. Find a convenient spot where you can write during November. Figure what tools you will need: pens, pencils, computer, software, dictionary, thesaurus, etc. Then have them available November 1. Come up with an idea of what you want to write. Who the characters might be. What situations they are in. You don’t have to plot out your story but have enough to hit the ground running on November 1.

2.Remember the novel you are writing is a first draft. All first drafts are crap. Don’t spend any time trying to pretty up this one until December.

3.Don’t use software you are unfamiliar with. You’ll either end up learning software-ology during your writing time. Or you’ll give up frustrated. Not because your novel isn’t going well but because the software is out to get you.

4.Don’t wait till your writing time to figure out what you’re going to write about for the day. Spend a few minutes the night before, deciding that, or when you finish your day’s writing. Then you can hit the ground running instead of loosing some of your writing time planning.

5.Your writing time is for writing, not research. Mark where you need to research, then move on. You can either do the research later that day or after the novel is completed.

6.Treat yourself along the way. When you have reached your first week’s word goal, do something nice for yourself. You’ve done good and you deserve a pat on the back.

So let’s raise a glass to all those who go on the journey. It’s going to be one heck of an adventure.

 

Politics in America 17: Debates come, debates go

The big debate came around in late September. How do I know it was late September? Well, it could have been early October. The leaves were changing. That usually starts in late September. Anyway the candidates were finally going to debate. It was going to be a big debate. Bigger than all get out. It was so big that it was Ed Sullivan “Really Big Shew” Big.

In all the years of Presidential debating, no Presidential Debate would ever be quite like this one. Not the Kennedy-Nixon. Not the Carter-Ford. Not the Bush-Clinton-Perot. Not even the Dan Quayle-Lloyd Bentsen debate back in ’88. No Presdential Debate ever had been quite like this one.

Betty Sue Pudding and Big Al Fresco went to work, making sure their candidate was ready for the Big Shew. Only he didn’t want to be ready. He wanted to go home to Pig Pen, USA. Pig Pen, USA was what used to be Weazel Sneaze. The locals had gotten together and come up with a theme park. They invited the big boys in to do the doing. Big Boys like Ocean World and A Bunch of Flags. Even the beer folks wanted to get in on the act.

Betty Sue rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed her man but he was sure fighting success.

Little Twerp appeared on stage wearing his red, white and blue skivvies and his Honest Abe tie. He was prepared. He had been preparing since he was knee-high to grasshopper. That’s how prepared he was.

The first question from the Big News Guy, “Would you introduce yourselves?” It was a fair question since three-quarters of the American people didn’t know who these guys were. Oh, sure. They knew who Kim Khardasian was. They knew who The Donald was. They even knew who the Devil in the Blue Dress was. But these guys, naw.

It is a well known fact that politics comes on tv, 99.9% of the American people change channels. You can’t really blame them. I have turned off tv many a time myself when a politician showed up. I have way too many things to do than pay attention to a damned fool telling what is and what isn’t, what they’re going to do and what they ain’t going to do.

You just never know what will happen at these Presidential Debates. The first question was thrown out to Little Twerp. Big News Guy asked, “What do you think of Global Warming?”

Little Twerp had been studying the issue for years. He had spent half of his time as Vice President studying the studies so he would be studied up when he got this question.

“Some say there is Global Warming. So say there is not.” Then he droned on for the ten minutes.

When P F Sneeze responded, he responded with a distraction to beat all distractions. “It never rains in Southern California.” This put all the cable news networks in a tizzy. Of course, it rains in Southern California.

“More like an occasional sprinkle,” Weather Dude said on Fox News.

All over Southern California, people ran outside to check. People stopped their cars on the Interstate so they could get out and check. There were traffic jams to end all traffic jams. Some said the traffic was backed up to Oklahoma. The next day they were still trying to clear up the mess. National Guards from twenty states had to be called up. It was such a horrendous experience it became known as the Big Constipation.

Little Twerp couldn’t believe his ears. If there was someone who had ears he couldn’t believe, it was Little Twerp. Many a time he had used those ears to fly between DC and his home state.

The next question in the Big Debate went to P F. It was a zinger. Big News Guy asked a question scientists have been debating for years. “How much wood can a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck wood?”

In all the years since the Presidential Debates had been going on, no candidate had ever been asked this question. It just so happened that P F Sneeze had an answer. He had spent many an hour as a lad watching wood chucks chuck wood. He came right out with the answer. “Two cords.”

Little Twerp was confounded. “Are you sure?”

“Ab-so-motton-lute-ly,” P F came back with.

No one was sure who threw the first punch. Whether it was Little Twerp or it was Big News Guy. One thing everybody was sure of. It was the Really Big Shew. P F did not hesitate, defending his honor. He jumped right in and gave everybody a Time. Just like his long lost dead relative, Goof-off Sneeze, had done when challenged to a duel by none other than The Snort Holler Poof.

It was a knock-down-drag-out and P F walked away with both his honor and an unbroken nose and clean drawers. Needless to say Big News Guy and Little Twerp pooped their pants big time. As Ed Sullivan used to say, it was a Really Big Shew. Unfortunately the fight didn’t help P F Sneeze’s poll numbers. They just kept going down.

Next week Rocktober Surprise

The Beast That Is Nanowrimo

PrintI completed 55,004 words last Saturday to qualify for Nanowrimoship. A good deal of the month I worked on back story and extracurricular scenes for the novel I began in November. I wrote six chapters toward the final product. I plan on continuing with 500 – 1000 words a day until I have completed a first draft. The nice thing was that I gave myself permission to write a Titanic load of unreadable crap. 

Having done my Nanowrimo this year, I have come up with an image that kind of goes along with the exercise. Writing a nanowrimo is like riding a bull or a bronco at a rodeo. You get on, then you are in for a wild ride. And it ain’t like riding that mechanic bull you see in some bars. This one’s wild as wildness can be. He’s bound and determined you ain’t going to get far on his back.

That’s why the prize money for bull riding is good and the respect you get from your peers is second to none. You’re a champion indeed if you can stay on even for eight seconds. It’s like John Lennon said in the song, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy.” Or Ringo sang, “It don’t come easy.” That’s the way it is with the bull we call Nanowrimo.

No matter how you practice for that sucker, it ain’t like riding the real thang. You get on, then the chute opens and you’re in for the write of your life. I ought to know. I’ve done four of ‘em. Nanowrimos, that is. Not bull rides or bronc bustings. I may be a little nuts but I’m not crazy, you know.

I started out well enough. October 31 I had my spurs and my chaps all ready to saddle up and write that fellow into the dust. I had my outline. I had pictures of my main characters. I knew who they were and they knew who I was. And to cliché a phrase, I was chomping at the bit to get at that Nanowrimo. He was not about to best me this year. Sure, he was a little red-eyed and had that snarl. That’s to be expected.

So it was Sunday morning, November 1, and I rose from my bed. I grabbed my big mug of coffee. One thing was for sure. I knew I wasn’t going to get a good ride out of that bull without a cup of joe. I strapped on my chaps and my spurs and headed for the chute. I lowered myself easy to the chair, then I faced the future. The blank page.

I checked out my outline. I perused my notes. The bull just wasn’t ready to fly from the chute. He’d gone tame on me. What was I to do? Go choose another bull. It was too late. It was this one or it was nothing. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I found my way to getting this bull to get up and go.

I started on a scene not in the outline. “What? You can’t do that,” you say. But, oh, I can. It is written by the scribe who writes such things that I can. I took a gander at my outline and started to wander what really happened to get this booger going. Why was Mr. Main in the mess he was in? Had he been messing where he shouldn’t have been messing? Well, you can imagine my surprise when I finished almost a thousand words that first day. I was going to write this bull or it was going to ride me.

Over the next few days, well, actually it was more like over the next week or so, I wrote 25,000 words and more. I was up to that first scene. If I didn’t know where I was going, I let the beast take over and lead me wherever. I would sit down to work on a scene and start writing, then somewhere a character, a prop or even a setting showed up unplanned. All I could say, “Very interesting.” Then continue on.

Now after thirty days of sweating the blood, sweat and tears it takes to ride a Nanowrimo, I actually have six chapters of my 80,000 word novel that I began as a nanowrimo. It’s been a tough ride but I managed to stay on that bull’s back for the entire thirty days of November and then some.

Yes, the novel is unfinished. I fully expected that. I wasn’t even expecting the complete first draft to be done. I will continue to work on it in December and into 2016. Once it’s done, I shall take the seventh day off and do some well-deserved resting. Then it will be back to shaping all that bull into one heck of a novel. And it will be good.