Tuesday, October 28, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014: DON'T PANIC

Here we are in the last few days before the National Novel Writing Month begins, and if those of you who are participating are anything like me, you're in a flat panic. Questions and doubts may be flooding your mind:
  • What if my idea sucks?
  • What if I don't finish?
  • How will I manage writing so many words a day between work/school/social life/errands/sleep?
  • What if I get writer's block halfway through?
  • What if there's a crisis and I just can't devote the time?
I know how you feel. This is my first NaNo, and I've got all those doubts and more keeping me from sleeping and threatening to make me lock up in front of my computer screen. (My brain is really sadistic that way.) Let's see if I can address them in order, shall we?

What if my idea sucks?
There are very few ideas that cannot be salvaged or improved on editing. If you enjoy your idea enough to use it for NaNo, then it can't suck that much. Just remember that this is a rough draft. Nobody has to see it but you. (You do plan to edit it, right?)

What if I don't finish?
This is actually two questions.
What if I don't manage to write 50,000 words in November?
When you will still be further along in your novel project than you were on November 1. There's no penalty for not hitting that benchmark, and not everyone will get there. Relax.
What if I write 50,000 words, but my story's still not done?
Then you can continue writing it through December or however long it takes for your story to be done.

How will I manage writing so many words a day between work/school/social life/errands/sleep?
You'd be surprised how much writing you can get done if you dedicate yourself. You might have to make a few sacrifices, though--like no spending hours at a time on your social media and/or games. Any requirements for prime functioning, absolutely stick with those, but other than that, block out as much time as you can and get that draft written.

What if I get writer's block halfway through?
This is why NaNo support groups are awesome.  The official website itself allows you to find writing buddies (local or not) to help you power through the tough times. Try free writing and turning over ideas in your draft. Add padding if you like (you can always take it out later). Just keep those words flowing.

What if there's a crisis and I just can't devote the time?
Well, honestly, stuff happens. If you have a major Crisis with a capital C that completely torpedoes your entire month, that's okay. Take care of yourself and your loved ones. Write when you can but remember that there's nothing wrong with not making your word count.

As near as I can tell, the best (but by no means only) way to get through a successful NaNoWriMo is to just sit your butt down and write. Write until your vision blurs and your fingers ache and your brain goes numb. Then do it again the next day, and the next, until it's done. Don't worry about plot holes or spell checking or editing--just get that draft down as quickly as humanly possible. Don't second-guess yourself. Don't go back and fix anything, even that typo that's just screaming at you from the page. Editing comes later. Just find your zone and write that sucker.

As for myself, I'm going to keep blogging throughout NaNoWriMo and share with you my experience as a first-time participant, including (drum roll) a word count graphic.

Here it is:

My username on the NaNoWriMo website is GeekGirlWriter (same as my Twitter handle) so if you're participating and want to be writing buddies, go ahead and look me up!

Happy NaNo!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo 2014

I have an announcement to make. This year, I am definitely (You hear me? I mean it!) going to participate in NaNoWriMo. Whether I finish or not is another matter, but I'm going to be writing my little fanny off and giving this rough draft my best try.


A couple of reasons.
  1. I keep saying I'll do it every year and then just don't.
  2. I want to see if I can.
  3. What's the worst that can happen?
Of course, pursuant to this, I'm going to need to make sure I have a few things close at hand (or at least kept in mind) before I fling myself headlong into the NaNo breach.

  1. A story idea. This isn't a problem. I have a story idea that's been fermenting for a while, entitled Necromancy Will Kill Your Dating Life. I haven't actually started it because... well... reasons. It's been percolating more over the course of October, and I think it might be ready to put to the page. Or computer screen. Or whatever.
  2. A plan. Normally I'm a pantser. I take to novel planning like a cat to water, but with something like NaNo, I need to be able to belt this thing out as fast as humanly possible. I have a writer friend who can write thousands of words a day. If I can manage that, awesome. But I will need to know where this thing is going to go so I don't stumble over a lack if ideas.
  3. A support group. These are all over the Internet. I'll be signing up on the official NaNo site and posting my progress on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
  4. Time. At the minimum, I have an hour a day that I can dedicate to writing (assuming I can ignore the distractions hollering for my attention. If I'm lucky, I can probably carve out an additional hour or two in the evening, but I will need to budget my time wisely.
  5. Chocolate. ...shut up. I'll need the endorphins,  and chocolate has been scientifically proven to boost inspiration. So there.
Now, if I manage to claw my way through this, you know what I'm going to do with my shiny new NaNo novel? Well, one thing I'm not going to do is send it straight off to a publisher. Hell no. (I've heard of this happening, and I cringe every time.) Part of NaNo is turning off your editor in order to Get Stuff Done, so the rough draft is definitely going to be in the Hemingway Zone.  I'm going to edit this thing until most of the plot holes are repaired and the wrinkles are gone, and then kick it over to a beta reader like I would with any other manuscript, because I want it to not suck.

So that's my plan. (Yay planning!) Now let's see if I can follow through.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What the Heck Was I Doing?: The Torment of Rewriting

I've developed a couple of quirks since deciding that writing was really my thing:
  1. I don't let anyone see the rough draft.
  2. I yell at myself while I'm marking the rough draft for revision.
I have a number of perfectly valid reasons for both of these. Once upon a time, when I was a young an naive writer in high school, I would just bang out a story and consider it done, and then wonder why none of the publishers I sent my stories to could perceive my genius.


I sent out rough drafts.

Take all the time you need.

A couple *coughdozencough* rejections later, I learned about a wonderful thing called editing, and a further, even more wonderful thing called self-editing.

You mean I can refine my work without showing it to someone else?

Yes, which was awesome because I'd realized, after taking a week or two for the endorphin rush to wear off, that nearly every rough draft I'd written in the mania of I have a story and I must write it down and show the world was utter dreck. Redeemable dreck, but dreck nonetheless. I became ashamed that I would in all honesty consider showing this to something else, which was both disheartening and a step in the right direction because with the degree in English I'd earned in the meantime I could pick out the problems.

Most word processing programs have a feature by which you can highlight areas and leave notations, and I use that in spades when I go through my rough drafts. In one of my current manuscripts I actually left the note, "This doesn't make sense. What the hell were you thinking?" I have become my own harshest critic, which is both good and bad.

It's good because a critical eye (simmered gently over the course of two weeks to a month) allows me to pick out the problems both big and small so I can fix them before anyone else sees what an embarrassment my rough draft is. I've found an affordable editor, but I don't even have to send her my rough draft this way. That's a real load off my mind.

It's bad because, while putting on the Simon Cowell level of snarkiness with my own work can be fun, it can get schizophrenic very easily, and if I'm not careful there's a chance I might give up on the manuscript altogether and never look at it again. Instead, I try to put suggestions in my notes rather than only criticisms, even if I have to chainsaw out an entire scene and rewrite it from scratch. Even if the note says simply "wat", I know that something that seemed so clear in the drafting phase has fallen out of focus. I've been known to switch plot points midstream while drafting, so this helps keep me on course.

Fortunately, after doing this a few times with several different manuscripts, I've happily fallen into the habit of self-editing. My rough draft need never see the light of day, let alone the desk of a prospective publisher. I can send a version I'm moderately happy with to my beta readers without worrying that it's a horrible mess. I still let my inner critic dance all over my rough drafts, but with a firm leash so she doesn't discourage me from writing altogether. In the end, this has made me a more confident writer, rather than one living in a state of "oh god all my stuff is crap I'll never get published what am I thinking".

I'm still not showing anyone else my crappy first drafts, though. Someday I may make a bonfire out of them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Things I learned at Archon 38

Last weekend, I attended Archon 38, the latest iteration of a cozy (but ever-growing) sci-fi/fantasy convention held in Collinsville, IL. I'd been to Archon before, but not in several years, and it was refreshing ot get back into the swing of things. More to the point, this was my first time with a dealer table at any convention EVER, so this was a prime opportunity to get a feel for the whole process. I had a lot of fun in the end, and I also learned a bunch of stuff in the process.

  1. Don't panic. When I got there with my two boxes of books and all the promotional materials I judged I would need, I was in a bit of a panic. I didn't know where to go, who to talk to, where my table was, or what would be expected of me. Fortunately, the convention staff were super helpful and made sure I got where I needed to go, especially when it came to pallet carts to schlep my stuff to the site.
  2. You will forget things anyway. I spent half the day Friday kicking myself because I left my phone charger and the envelope of cash I'd brought to make change in my hotel room. Bleh.
  3. You may accidentally meet famous people. As it turned out, my table was set up next to Tony Todd. I knew him as a horror actor in films like the Candyman series and all but one of the Final Destination movies. My roommate knew him as an occasional actor on various Star Trek series. Fortunately, he fell neatly into my mental category of Nicest Guys on the Planet and he helped me settle in.
  4. Make friends with Klingons. Boxes of books are astonishingly heavy, and I occasionally had trouble getting them in and out of my sales space. The Klingon cosplayers were super helpful in moving boxes for me.
  5. Don't expect a lot on day one. I discovered that Saturday is the busiest day of Archon, which may have something to do with the Grand Masquerade on Saturday night. On Friday and Sunday I sold two books each. On Saturday I sold about a dozen.
  6. There will always be people with more publicity stuff than you. This is especially true for indie authors who are just starting out and thus have to squeeze every microgram of usefulness out of every dollar they have. Your more experienced booksellers will often have some very useful advice for you if you ask.
    1. People love free bookmarks. Seriously, have a box of bookmarks printed up and give those things away like candy.
  7. People watching is fun. The hall costumes this year were awesome (as usual). I must have taken fifty pictures of people passing by on Saturday alone, including several that were later entered in the Grand Masquerade.
    1. Chocobos are adorable. One of the costumes that I saw all throughout the convention was an awesome chocobo with a noise-maker in the head to make the requisite "wark" noises. I think she won best in Novice Class at the Masquerade.
    2.  Steampunk will never die. I saw a lot of steampunk costumes this year, including Steampunk Green Lantern, Steampunk Wolverine, and Steampunk Batman.
  8. Cosplay is fun but hard. I dressed as Twilight Sparkle on Saturday. Because I'm thirty-five years old and I can dress like My Little Pony if I want, dammit. I had a wig (half hour of detangling Saturday morning), unicorn horn and ears (on elastic bands requiring a bunch of hairpins to hold in place) and a t-shirt with appropriate cutie mark (after searching the internet fruitlessly for a suitable one, I had it custom vinyl printed at Threads). I didn't use nearly enough hairpins, so my ears and wig kept trying to escape down the back of my head, and the elastic gave me a bit of a headache after a few hours, but I persisted all day. In the future I need to learn how to better manage my cranium accessories.
  9. Bronies are everywhere. Throughout Saturday five people under the age of ten and three people above the age of twenty ran up to my table yelling, "Twilight!" I think I got verbally glomped by one girl who simply ran up to my table, arms extended, and bellowed, "YES!" before running off. During the Grand Masquerade, one of the sound guys sent me a bro hoof via messenger.
  10. The final day will be hard. Seriously, it's the last day of the convention, and everyone's been geeking their asses off all weekend. In the end, though, I came in, complete with cosplay hangover from the previous day, and set my stuff up for one final day of "PLEASE BUY MY CRAP!" And you know what? People did. A bunch more took bookmarks and business cards for later reference, and I imagine I will have a fair number of digital sales coming down the pipe in the next few weeks (hope hope). Finally, I packed my things up, said my farewells to my neighbors on Bookseller's Row, and got ready for the drive home, satisfied with a modestly-successful first dealer-table experience.
As you can see, I learned a lot during Archon, and I feel more confident about the prospects of my next dealer table experience. I have ideas on how to improve my table presence. I hope that I'll do a lot better at my next convention (though I'll have to decide when that will be), but until then, I still have my local sales I can focus on.

And now for something completely different...

Here comes the expected update on book sale progress! I also have a book signing scheduled at Panera Bread this coming Saturday, so hopefully I'll sell a bunch more then.