NaNoWriMo Update 2: Derailed!

November 14, 2014 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

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It’s been about a week since my last update.

I’m not going to lie. As you can probably already tell from the headline, my plans have been derailed — somewhat.

It has not happened due to a lack of effort, that’s for sure. I tried getting back into it at the start of the week, but work was such a bitch (I sometimes have those days, and they just happened to be in succession) that I could barely get anything done. That and the fact that I was stuck on trying to figure out how to resolve a plot point had me on stall for the first couple of days.

Then something else happened. I was trawling through the hard drive of my old laptop and found my other project, Without Prejudice: Almost Entirely True Stories of Life, Death and Scandal in a Top-tier Law Firm. This was my master’s project, one I had done about 4 or 5 very polished chapters for and completed rough drafts of another 4 or 5 chapters. The remaining 4 or 5 chapters of the book were already planned out.

I started reading through it. I don’t like to brag, but since you brought it up, Without Prejudice is an awesome read. It’s probably the best unpublished thing I’ve ever written because most of it comes straight from my bleeding, twisted heart. My supervisor at the time — this was 3 or 4 years ago — gave me the top grade and advised that I complete it for publication.

Then life happened and I forgot all about it. I don’t regret having put the project on hold for stuff like moving overseas, having kids, doing freelance gigs to survive and then starting a new job. That shit happens. But man, I do regret not having picked it back up sooner because I had such great momentum back then and all the horrible memories were still so fresh. And with so much already completed, I was pretty damn close to completing it.

Anyway, I’ve decided to park my fantasy novel for the time being and focus on completing Without Prejudice. It took me a couple of days to sort through all the stuff I’ve done so far and rearrange and cut and paste the files until I had a master document with all my drafts and ideas — old and new — in them. It’s about 85 pages in Microsoft Word.

To my surprise a lot of the anecdotes are still etched firmly into my brain, though some others have already faded or are fading fast. I’m hoping planned visits with old friends and colleagues in a few weeks will help bring back those memories. Maybe some of the dysfunction in my new workplace can also help create some new ones.

In the meantime, I’m dedicating my NaNoWriMo to finishing this project. I only managed to do about half an hour before my working week finished for this week, but it was a great rush and I’m itching to get back into it soon. It’s a fantastic feeling to have that fire burning again.

NaNoWriMo Update 1: That’s Rough, Buddy

November 7, 2014 in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

rough

So here’s my first NaNoWriMo update, and it’s not pretty. Better than nothing, I suppose, but the progress has been admittedly slow. I have so far had two days to write and I have barely broken 2000 words, a far cry from the overly optimistic and fairly ridiculous 3000-a-day target I had set for myself.

What I have realized from this process is that writing anything at work is really really hard. There are distractions galore, and I don’t just mean actual work-related stuff that needs to get done. And all it takes is one shithouse article — just one — to screw up my entire schedule and rhythm for the day. Lately, unfortunately, I’ve gotten a few.

As for the writing itself, I’ve decided to tackle my oldest project, the classic fantasy novel that has been rewriting itself in my brain on and off for the last dozen or so years. It’s probably the most ambitious of my projects, but also the one that requires the least amount of planning and thinking through.

I have started again right from the beginning with a new intro that will introduce the protagonist in a more exciting manner so that the story hits the ground running. I’ve since gone back to work on a prologue, though I think it probably works better as a backdated chapter 2. I guess I’ll see how it goes.

The biggest take away from these last couple of days is that I still have not figured out how to just write and not self edit along the way. They always say, when writing first drafts, that you should not think too much and just let the words flow. Sure, it will probably be crap, but it is more important at this stage to just get the words down. You can always fix things up later.

On day one I started off relatively well, getting about 1500 words down, but on the way home at night I kept thinking of things I should have added. So on day two instead of continuing with the writing I spent much of my time putting in those changes, and all the other things I kept thinking would improve the narrative. Due to some of these changes, I have had to stop and think of ways to make the story logical and fit together, which took up a huge chunk of my time as well. In the end, I only had about 500 words down on the second day. And the truth is, it is still crap, so I more or less wasted my time trying to fix it now.

Still hopeful that I will be able to get into some kind of groove so that the words will come more easily. At this stage, unless I catch fire, so to speak, it seems unlikely that I will get close to reaching my goal. We’ll see.

Unofficial, modified NaNoWiMo starts now!

November 5, 2014 in Novel, On Writing by pacejmiller

NaNoWriMo

The excuses have finally run out. After “strongly suggesting” that I will take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for at least a couple of years, I have decided to put my foot down and join in the fun –unofficially — for the first time.

This is more a kick up the backside for myself than anything else. My writing projects have lay dormant for way too long and the months and years have been slipping by right in front of my eyes notwithstanding multiple self-promises to get them moving again.

So from today, I am going to commence an unofficial (in that I have not signed up for NaNoWriMo) writing spree that will be tweaked to suit my unique situation. I’m starting a few days late because I was busy polishing off my basket of outstanding movie reviews (pun intended), and I will be gradually releasing them over the next few weeks so that this blog does not become inactive.

However, as I am usually completely tied up by kids and family over the weekends, I’m basically restricted to writing five times a week during work hours, which means I just need to be super efficient. Moreover, I’m heading overseas for a three-week holiday that will run from the end of this month to mid-December, and I doubt I’ll be able to do any real writing during that time.

To account for all these issues, I’m going to be stretching NaNoWriMo over November and December. If my calculations are correct, I’ll have about 15 writing days this month before I go on vacation, and about 12 writing days from my return to the end of the year. The goal is to get to about 100,000 words, which is insane for someone who already writes for a living, so I’m going to temper expectations down to about 80,000 words.

If everything goes according to plan I should have a shitty first draft of something or at least a part of something done by the end of the year, like I promised myself during my optimistic “New Years resolution” period. It’s going to be hard as I still need to update my Pacers blog on occasion and I just can’t refrain from watching more movies and TV series, plus I’m on a special diet and exercise regiment this month. But frankly, I’m sick of being an unmotivated bum while everyone else is reaching for the stars.

So here goes. I’ll be providing weekly updates right here.

Setting (realistic) daily goals

August 13, 2014 in Blogging, On Writing by pacejmiller

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About 10 days ago, I posted about taking a new approach to my writing, and that’s to treat every single day as a challenge. So far, it has worked out OK. I’ve been more efficient, but still nowhere near as effective as I want to be.

Part of the problem is that the extent to which I challenge myself can vary greatly on a day-to-day basis. Some days I feel pumped and challenge myself to do a lot. Other days I’m not in the mood and I challenge myself to do very little.

And so I’ve come up with a second prong to my strategy, and that’s to set (realistic) goals every day. Back in the day when I was busy working at The Place That Shall Not Be Named, writing daily task lists was my favourite thing to do. I loved writing down everything that needed to be accomplished and then enjoying the sense of accomplishment as I ticked them off one by one. To some extent it did help me become more organized because there was often so much to do that I felt completely swamped, but usually it was so I could tick things off a list and feel good about myself.

I need to bring that back. From now, I will write up a list every morning of the things I should complete for the day. I usually set extremely unrealistic goals for myself, so I’m going to try and slowly build it up, like a workout (you can’t start off with the heavy weights, you know).

Will report back on that works out.

Treating every day as a challenge

August 4, 2014 in Blogging, On Writing by pacejmiller

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Is it August already? Hory shet. Time has flown, again. And so I go back to feeling ashamed about how few steps I have taken towards achieving my writing goals.

But I think I have figured it out

My problem has always been — apart from laziness, procrastination and too many distractions — has been the steadfast belief that I have the power to just put my foot down and say, “That’s it, from now on I am going to be a writing machine, every day until I accomplish my goal.” I would plan ahead and tell myself that I would start powering through at X date, or as soon as I finish X.

Of course, nothing ever goes according to plan. There’s always something else. And so I keep postponing, and postponing. On paper, some of the reasons are legitimate. I might get sick, slashing my productivity at work in half and squeezing dry any free time I otherwise would have had. A child might get sick, in which case my energy levels drop to near-empty and I can barely even think. I might get a new freelance case that gobbles up both time and energy. Paul George might break his leg and plunge me into a mini-depression for a few days.

The line between reason and excuse, however, is perilously thin and often blurry. I’ve postponed writing because I needed to watch a movie or listen to a Grantland podcast. Because there were new levels available in Candy Crush or Plants vs Zombies 2 that had to be conquered ASAP. Because someone recommended me a new game on the iOS. And my fall-back excuse: I still have blog posts I need to catch up on.

I compare this to my constant thirst to begin a healthier diet, which may prove even more difficult. Last week, the excuse was because my parents bought us a few tubs of gelato. This week it’s the honey mustard pretzel pieces. And yesterday I bought some addictive Japanese sour grape gummies. OK, so that last one’s legit, because it’s impossible to stop once you start eating them.

I digress.

Anyway, what I should have realized long ago is that when you have something you want to do, you just need to do it. This “start when I’m fully ready” thing never works because I’ll never be fully ready. I don’t think anyone is ever fully ready for anything. From now on, I’m going to treat every day as a challenge. A challenge to get as much writing done as I can. It could be work-related, blog-related or one of my writing projects. Doesn’t matter, as long as I challenge myself to get the most out of the day. Sometimes I’ll have off days and struggle, but the goal will always be the same. No more looking into the future and no more pointless planning.

I guess we’ll see how this new strategy goes.

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