A New Year, A New Novel

I am going a little bit outside my normal blog routine to talk about the new year of National Novel Writing Month.

I realized today that this is the fourteenth year I will be participating in Nano. Sometimes I completed the 50,000 word goal, sometimes other life priorities got in the way. But every year I tried. I had an idea and I committed to paper.

This year is a bit of a different feeling. This is a story idea I’ve been playing around with all year. The characters have come to me over time, developing their personalities a little bit at a time. The plot is clearly formed in my mind from beginning to end. And it’s an entirely different genre than I have ever written before, romance!

Compared to other years, I have planned this book to death. I have character outlines, relationship outlines, and chapter outlines. I have always been a fly by the seat of my pants writer and gone into a book with a vague plot idea and just let the inspiration flow. So this will be an entirely new experience for me. I can’t say yet if it will work for me, but I’ll keep you updated for sure.

And romance, my gods that scares me. I am a blood and guts type writer. I have played around in the playgrounds of suspense, thriller, horror, paranormal, urban fantasy, high fantasy. And naturally sometimes a romantic storyline develops in those stories. But I am very intimidated by the idea of playing in the romance playground.

Wish me luck!

Day 1 of Nano and a movie review

The first day of another Nano Wrimo is over! I did not do as much novel prep as I would have liked, but getting a cold 4 days before the beginning of the challenge will do that to you. But I did more planning than I ever have, so I am counting that as a win. I had been struggling with the beginning of my novel, this is fairy typical for me. I struggle with the perfect way to start and so I often will start somewhere in the middle of things and work my way to either end. But as I sat down at the page today it came to me. I knew the most enticing beginning. And then the words started to come. 2,181 words in the bag! Wahoo!

 

Today, I also went to see the Joker movie. I have been planning on seeing it but with a spouse, child, day job, reviewing, reading, and my million other hobbies, I had not gotten around to it yet. All I really can say is, wow. This movie was unlike any other superhero movie I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t really belong in that genre at all. This is a story about a man. A man named Arthur Fleck. A man that society dropped through the cracks and didn’t even notice that they had dropped him. Everyone knows how the story ends, he becomes the Joker and becomes the greatest villain Gotham and Batman ever face. But how did he get there? That’s the story they were endeavoring to tell.

Part of the mystique of Joker is that it’s never completely clear how he became a villain. Every time he’s asked about it he tells a different story. And it’s never clear if that’s because he’s lying or he’s just so delusional that he honestly doesn’t know. I was worried that by telling this story that mystique would be removed but it isn’t. You are told very early on that Arthur has delusions. So, what portion of his history is the truth? As a viewer, I can’t say for sure. I can’t honestly say which parts were his delusion and which were real, and that was part of the point. Arthur is the forgotten man. The one who society knows nothing about but likes to think that they do.

I think this was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It was completely flawless in its storytelling. It was also a profoundly sad movie. I found myself hoping that Arthur would catch a break, finally get ahead, have some shred of hope. And then I would be heartbroken time and again when he was kicked back down. It was a very emotionally heavy movie. It pulls no punches with just how glum Arthur’s life is. I felt emotionally drained when I left the theater, satisfied with the story I saw and sad for the poor character within it. It was an amazing movie, but I am not sure I want to watch it again anytime soon.

Nano tips: Making Time to Write

I am doing something different in the lead up to Nano this year. I used to take a few newbies under my wing and personally give them all my tips, advice, or encouragement. But this year, I think I just want to put my advice out into the ether. (And I worry that I just don’t have the time to dedicate to people individually anymore too and I don’t want to shortchange anyone).

All writers in the history of the written word have opined about never having enough time to write. It comes with the territory. The truth is, there’s never enough time to write. The writing monkeys will always be pawing at the back of your head, telling you to sit down and pound out all the wildest daydreams that you’ve had all day. That is the reality of being a creative type. But you also have to put in some conscious effort to make sure you are using your time wisely if you expect to write anything of length or substance.

  • Keep a time log for at least one week
    • You really do have more time than you think you do, you just haven’t realized it yet.
    • Track EVERYTHING! From sleeping, to eating, to job duties, to chores.
  • Analyze your time log
    • Do you notice any patterns in your behavior?
    • What about that hour and a half that you were browsing YouTube and didn’t want to put on the log…..
    • What about that period of time in the middle of your lunch hour when you’ve finished eating but still have time?
  • Make something your dedicated time to write.
    • It doesn’t matter if it’s 15 minutes or 2 hours of time, it is for writing only. Nothing else can interfere.
    • Put that period into your schedule so you aren’t tempted to do anything else.
  • Write!
    • It doesn’t matter if you put down 5 words in that time or 15,000 words. All of it contributes to the work you are trying to create. Sometimes it will be more, other times it will be less.
    • Minimize your distractions during your writing time. Phone away, television off, snacks and drinks within arms reach.

Personally, I add in two writing periods to my day during Nano. Before going to work, I typically wake up early anyway so I just shorten my morning routine to get some writing accomplished while the rest of the house sleeps. I find that I am most productive early in the day and late in the day. Accordingly, I also have a writing period after my child goes to bed until I go to bed. Every day. No exceptions. And yes, my phone and TV are a big distraction for me too. That’s why I recommend putting those phones and remotes away from your hands.

I never recommend the often suggested “get less sleep”. Being sleep deprived will not help your creativity at all. Now, if you typically get 8-9 hours of a sleep, then cutting back an hour is not a big deal. But if you’re like me and typically get 4-5 hours of sleep, DO NOT CUT BACK ANY MORE! It’s not healthy.

Let me know what your best way to find more writing time is.