Today marks the start of a new part of my journey, one I’ve never embarked upon before, but which is sure to be about as exciting as it is nauseating. Today, I set down to start editing my novel.
As I sit with notecards scattered about me, about to delve right back into the story I’ll be spending the next goodness knows how many months combing through, I can’t help but feel the same sense of thrill I felt for the first time last year. It’s not a feeling many might associate with an activity such as sitting down in front of a computer, going through a word document, but the feeling still stands:
This is the same kind of feeling I got the first time I was on a plane that was about to take off. Weird maybe, but follow me on this one . . .
Last year, when I first hopped on a plane, ready to go to England, it was something I’d never experienced before, but which I had heard about from others numerous times. Some had bad experiences, others had great ones. Some felt the need to vomit, while others might have felt exhilaration. That very much captures what I’m getting at.
I’ve had so many supportive and amazing people reach out to me these last few days, saying things like Congratulations on your novel! You finished it! Awesome! Can I read it? And while all of this is LOVELY to hear, the idea that finishing draft one means this novel is done, could not be farther from the truth.
Finishing draft one was merely the end of the beginning.
Now the real task begins.
Am I scared of what’s to come? Sure. A little. That’s how I know it’s going to be exciting. In a conversation with a close friend I had earlier today, I described that I feel much like Bilbo in that scene in the first Hobbit movie, when he’s running down a road through Hobbiton, waving that piece of paper and screaming to someone, “I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE!!”
That’s really what I’m doing. Telling the adventure that is my novel is an entirely separate adventure that I must embark on. The road will be long and hard (and hopefully I run into at LEAST one dragon…) but it’s a road that I know will change me and make me a better person at the end. And hopefully, dear reader, the end of this journey will allow me to finally put this book I’m writing into your hands.
This post was originally an email Pep Talk sent out to the Philadelphia region of the NaNoWriMo website, as part of our regions weekly Pep Talk initiative. As you may or may not know, I’m one of the Municipal Liaisons for Philadelphia, and part of that job involves encouraging Wrimos. This is how I did it today.
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Happy Day Five, Wrimos! ML Elayna here with your weekly Pep Talk!
By now you’ve likely begun your journey into the wild world of NaNoLand, and hopefully, things are going well! But the truth of NaNoWriMo is that they may not be yet, and I’m here to tell you, that’s okay.
What I’ve learned more so than anything in my 11 years as a Wrimo (Yes, I’ve been at it for that long!) is that every year is an entirely new experience, with so many factors beyond just the story that can end up defining how your November will play out. You may live in a new house, or be working at a new job. You might be starting a new degree in school that takes up all your time, or maybe you’ve graduated and now find yourself with more free time than before! Perhaps your story is something you’ve been plotting for years, or is something you just settled on before reading this email.
Life changes and rotates around us, but there are certain things about NaNoWriMo that always remain the same, and I for one take comfort in that.
There is always a rush that comes with finishing a scene you’ve struggled through. There’s always someone ready in the forums to give you a virtual high five for reaching your goals! Though the best is probably when you tell a friend you’re writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days and they look at you like:
These things are constants. But the most important one of all of these is one that applies whether you find yourselves at the 50K finish line or not on the 30th.
You wrote something.
If I had a dollar for every person I’ve met in life who says, I’m gonna write a book one day! I could probably completely fund NaNo for a few years. People always say they’re going to write a book. But by being here, reading this email and participating in any capacity, you are being the doer. You are writing a book.
Let this fact be your guide. Know that whether you are a first time WriMo or a NaNoLifer like myself, you’re doing the thing you set out to do, and that makes you the hero of your story. The challenges you may face as you go through this month – work, school, family obligations, general disinterest, new episodes of Doctor Who you want to watch – are not something that any amount of pep talking can make go away. But you, brave WriMo, can fight it. You can sit down each day, write a single sentence, and you will have done what others say is impossible.
You have the power within you to postpone that Netflix binge for just one more hour so you hit 1,667 for the day. You can finish that homework that feels so tedious and exhausting, and then come online for a supportive word war or sprint. You can get together the courage to conquer anxiety and make it to a Write In, because everyone there is supportive and understands you are all here because you’ve got a story to tell. Tl;dr – you can do the thing!
Keep this in mind as you venture through the remainder of this magical month, and I challenge you to think of yourselves as your novel’s main character. Think about what they would do, how they would overcome their struggles, rise to the call to adventure, and at the end of the story, find themselves a stronger person than when they began.
You can do this, mighty WriMo. Let this be you as you continue your noveling journey…
ICYMI: Camp NaNoWriMo officially ended while I was away this past week at GeekyCon, and since I was too busy fangirling (which I’ll blog about later cause it was a MARVELOUS time) I didn’t get a chance to wrap up the experience of my first summer NaNo attempt, but I wanted to make sure I did.
Let me start by saying that while there’s a small piece of me that is disappointed I didn’t make 50K, the majority of me is extremely proud that I tried and got to 20K words. And to be honest, writing in a month that isn’t November, was a pretty big deal for me. I usually spend most of my year being like, Let me come up with a million ideas for things to write . . . . and then wait till November to write them! The list of reasons why I don’t write can sometimes feel endless:
Well, it’s not November, so I can’t write!
Circumstances aren’t perfect right now, which means I’m incapable of words.
We’ve all been there before. (At least most of us writers have.) But honestly, that’s the very reason why NaNoWriMo exists! Many writers and creators often get tangled up in real life and so the creative things that matter to us like storytelling become an everlasting I’ll do it later, but before we know it, later has come and gone and you find you’ve never done the thing. It’s extremely frustrating. All that to say, doing NaNoWriMo in July really helped to show me that the stars can be in whatever position they want, but that’s not what always stops me from trying to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. The thing often stopping me is myself, because I either don’t believe enough in the idea or am afraid it won’t be good enough. This month helped just get me going with that good ‘ole NaNoWriMo reckless abandon, and I really enjoyed every minute of it.
July also became largely about trial and error for me as a creator. I had the chance to try writing in a variety of ways: doing it while blogging/vlogging about it, going out and about to try writing in different places, I tried writing backwards, forwards, from the middle, and countless other ways, all on a mission to find what works. But what I really discovered, is that nothing works, but everything goes.
Allow me to explain . . .
While I was at GeekyCon, one of the questions that I ended up hearing attendees asking the special guests on several occasions was How did you get into the industry? What’s your secret to being a successful creator? How do you do the thing? Well turns out, they all had the same response, and that response was that none of them did it in the same way. No two people find success in the same way. Some people are Kardashians, born into families that force you to be a famous whether you like it or not, while some people are Rowlings, who barely survive on welfare for years till one person realizes the genius of her work and decides to give her a chance. Every person has their own story, which is why despite advice, tips and all the retelling of my experiences I do on this blog, none of that is going to change the fact that there’s no right way to write – but you have to love what you do.
I love writing. I love filmmaking, photography, short stories, feature screenplays, vines, tweets and rock operas. I love the idea of me teaming up with the creator of the universe to help bring something new to the table, whether its a fleeting thought, a parody of something I love, or something you’ve never seen before. That is the the single most important thing that I believe makes us human: we connect. We create. We love. And when you’re someone like me, you love to connect and create. John Green put it best . . .
Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff. Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness’.
I’m a nerd for writing and I will never not be, whether it is November or July or some other month in the future when we disregard the Gregorian calendar. While Camp NaNoWriMo has come to its close, the writing of my book will not, and I am so looking forward to spending the next three months up until NaNoWriMo proper trying to finish its first draft. My passion will be put through the grinder as I do this, but I believe with enough determination, audacity, and pure fucking stubbornness, I will make it happen.
And for all of those writers who may be reading, I leave you with some of the simplest John Green-y wisdom to help aid you on your quest to share your stories with the world…
I’m rather upset with myself that not only did my writing fall behind, but my posting about writing did as well. I think at the start of the month, when I was hopeful about this new venture, I must have been expecting every day to be this creative, happy sunshine world in which I write and write about writing and make videos about writing about writing . . . that just didn’t end up being a thing. Honestly, it probably would have been perfectly doable were I not working a full time, 40 hour a week day job, but ya know, bills gotta get paid. I think the hope is that one day I won’t need that day job to take up so much of my time that could be spent creatively running off into the sunset with my characters, but it is not this day. This day is the day that marks six days until the end of Camp NaNoWriMo, which means I’ve got six days to write about 33,000 words. (All while also being at GeekyCon)
At a moment like this, I very well could throw in the towel on this month’s writing, give myself a gold star saying #YouTried and go into full on OMG I’M GOING TO GEEKYCON mode. But as fun and easy as that would be, it wouldn’t be fair to my story, or to myself. I set out to accomplish goals all the time, and then when I fall short, I feel like a total trash can who can’t do anything and that feeling is really no fun for anyone. I hate making promises I can’t keep, to myself and especially others, and I feel I’ve already gone back on my word enough by letting the blogging and vlogging fall by the way side this month.
So what can I do to not feel like a total fartbag? I can fucking do this. I can sit down over the next few days (even while at Geeky) and focus like a freaking laser on getting to 50K before August hits. I can stop scrolling through tumblr for a few days, stop trying to tweet so much about writing that I don’t actually write anything, and honestly, I can stop blogging about it. I need to just set down, with me, my notes and an open word processor, and let this happen. My best writing days tend to be the ones where I stop being so worried about creating a story and realize that the story already exists, I just haven’t put it to paper yet. At least for me, it helps sometimes to think of my stories as already done, as forgone conclusions that I’m merely transcribing to a page. Its my plan for this week, and hopefully it works.
I can’t make promises that I will absolutely reach my 50,000 word goal before the clock strikes midnight on August 1st, but I can promise this: I’m going to do everything within my power to make it happen, and I WILL NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES give up. Here’s hoping I’ll be posting August 1st with a bunch of happy success gifs because I did what I really set out to do. Here’s to real word sprinting, typing like a maniac, and hopefully, to hitting 50K.
After finally seeing my word count climb I honestly just feel like busting out a rendition of “At Last” by Etta James cause GOSH DARN IT DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO SEE THAT NUMBER GO UP.
For anyone who’s been following, you know I’ve been having a rough time of things this week two. Honestly it’s been difficult trying to find the right inspiration, even despite my efforts to go to new places and seek out new horizons. New spaces are amazing and help so much, but what I’m coming to realize is that sometimes going to the physical spaces isn’t quite enough. Sometimes it’s ones own head space that can be the hardest to escape.
Today was rather uneventful to be honest, because it mostly consisted of me waking up, going to work for four hours and then booking it down town to find my new space for the day. I ended up turning down an office party actually to go get writing done, which some people found surprising. For me, it was an easy decision – not because I don’t love my coworkers and could have used a night to relax, but because in a month with so little time and so much to be done, sometimes the work has to come first, and it makes the decision a much easier one to make when the work is enjoyable as heck.
My place I ended up trekking to was new for me. It was a cafe called Cake and the Beanstalk, which I had been to before to grab a coffee, but had never had a chance to sit down in and get any work done. As fate would have it, this day I walked in, worried I’d not find a seat, only to find NO ONE else was there. I had free reign to pick whichever adorably cute hand painted table I wanted. (I actually ended up switching tables before the night was out, cause why not?) This little place was perfect with super yummy iced coffee and this gluten free, flourless cake thing that was 10 kinds of delicious. The sitting room also happens to have enormous windows which show the beautiful garden right next door, so the ambiance of being outside in a secret garden while getting to stay inside with outlets and away from bugs was great too. Safe to say, I adored this place. 10/10 would recommend to others for a good place to get some writing done.
But as for the story, I guess I just hope I can keep up the momentum so I can finally pull ahead in my word count. It’s been so hard trying to keep on top of everything, which I suppose comes with the territory of being a writer with an unrelated day job to pay the bills. Here’s to hoping though that all this stress, long nights, and relentless missions to find new places to write pays off one day with a book I can publish, so maybe, just maybe, I can make a living doing the thing I like doing as much as breathing.
PROJECT WRITE SPACE
TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
5:45pm, Cake and the Beanstalk Cafe
Some days, you can spend hours and hours and way too many cups of coffee just to come up with notta. No new ideas, no character development, no resolution for your #plotprobs – NOTHING. These days tend to leave one feeling like curling up in a ball would be a much better game plan than writting 50K in four weeks.
Then there are days where one little statement sparks in you something you never tried, and before you know it, you’ve cured your writers block.
Lemme back track, as I’m sure some of you are doubting the epicness of this idea given I only got about 100 new words for this day.
I decided my Write Space for the day would be a Starbucks I know that’s open late downtown, but upon arriving to said cafe, I realized I’d left something crucial behind – my computer charger. For those who don’t know, my computer is a precious old lady computer that I got the month before college and poor baby can’t function for more than 40 minutes without being plugged in. Given that I was a few miles from home and would have wasted almost an hour trying to get home, get it, and return, I resigned myself to notebook brainstorming.
The words just weren’t coming though. I kept reworking the same paragraph as the day before, unsatisfied with everything about it and worried that it didn’t send the chapter on the right trajectory. In my frustration, I messaged a friend of mine who’s been hella supportive of my writing endeavors and expressed how horrendously depleted of ideas I was feeling.
That was when said friend sent a text that changed the course of my night and the chapter…
When I lose all momentum or motivation playing piano, I practice backwards. Start with the last measure and work my way back. Any way that can translate into writing terms?
As soon as I read this, an idea popped right into my head as to how exactly the chapter could end, and then as if by magic, I had a vauge outline for the entire chapter (and the one to follow) within ten minutes.
I. Was. Floored.
I think that’s the outrageously exciting thing about writing. You can do it for most of your life, think you’ve got it all figured out, and then someone can say something as simple as “work backwards” and before you know it you’re realizing there’s a lot that you don’t know. Like I said in my post the other day, sometimes you need to stand on the desk to see things in a new way, but sometimes it takes going a step further. Crawl under the desk. Look out the window. Leave the freaking room, for goodness’ sake. There’s an infinite number of ways to approach writing – like most things in life – and honestly the sooner I just embrace that, the better off I’ll be.
As I was completing my outline, the place I was writing in was closing for the night and so I began making my way back to catch the bus home. This was when randomly, out of the blue, a friend of mine called and invited me to go out to dinner, and I figured, why the heck not. But as I ended up waiting for him to come pick me up from where I was at on South Broad Street, I decided to whip the notebook back out and do something that probably looked weird.
I began writing and videoing myself writing right there on the street. I got some odd stares, but it felt strangely liberating to pick a piece of street I’ve been on countless times before and try to look at it with new eyes, to look at it through the eyes of my characters and think things like how would they be inspired by this space? So I guess I really got two new write spaces for the day, which is pretty awesome. (Which was followed by a freakin delicious late dinner and drinks with my friend at Applebees, which was pretty awesome too)
Moral of the day: listen to your friends, and think outside the box. It helps. It really helps.
PROJECT WRITE SPACE
TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
10:06pm, 16th & Chestnut Starbucks
It would seem despite my efforts I’m still stuck. Frustrated Elayna is frustrated. I managed to get out about a paragraph and a half of my fourth chapter, but for whatever reason I keep hitting a wall there and committing the cardinal sin of NaNoWriMo – editing as I write.
To give some context to those less familiar with the month long writing challenge I’m partaking in, the goal is really just to make the words happen. Get something onto a page or your word processor, and worry about the rest later. Reckless abandon writing would probably be the best way to describe it, but instead I kept writing something and erasing. Writing it again, and erasing it again. This is an extreme NaNo-NoNo as there’s always time to edit and refine later. NaNo is about getting something to work with. One of the best ways it’s ever been put to me was actually by a TV/film writer – who’s written for Doctor Who & Torchwood among other things – that I met at last year’s GeekyCon. His words are what I have to remind myself ever time I find myself staring at that God forsaken blinking line on Microsoft Word, I remember:
You can’t fix a blank page.
– James Moran
It’s the truest thing I’ve ever heard where writing is concerned. There’s nothing you can fix about nothing, but there’s always something to be fixed about something. My problem at the moment is just throwing caution to the wind and letting the ideas flow, something that seems to happen a lot less in the second week of NaNo, at least for me anyways. Week one usually be like…
And then week two rolls around and that writer life be like…
The NaNo struggle is real, but here’s to hoping tomorrow brings with it a new idea to get past the week two blues.
As for today’s WRITE SPACE, plans to go somewhere else were thwarted by a massive thunderstorm that rolled through, so my space ended up being my blanket fort (which my instagram followers are pretty familiar with already). It made for an interesting atmosphere, the likes of which I would have previously only existed on some dream-like Pinterest board: cozied up in a comforter with lights in my fortress of blankets, the sound of rain and thunder rumbling outside my window. I wish more words had come of it, but honestly, I’m not too worried about it. If there’s on thing I know, it’s that in a story, rain always represents that a change about to happen.
PROJECT WRITE SPACE
TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
10:30pm, Fort Kimmy Targaryean (My apartment)
There’s nothing quite as frustrating for a writer as waking up feeling like this…
But you end your day like . . .
That was pretty much my experience. While much like yesterday, this was a day in which I did some GREAT brainstorming, there’s just something so disheartening about seeing that little number on your NaNo stats bar stay the same for a prolonged period of time. I know there’s still plenty of time for that little guy to soar, but sometimes you just find yourself wishing the story would just fall out of your head and onto the page without you needing to do a dang archeological dig through your consciousness, just to find a tiny piece of what you’re looking for.
As for this being my first day doing WRITE SPACE, I decided to keep it a little close to home and went to accomplish my brainstorming-not-quite-writing in the 12th Floor Lounge of the building I live in, which has the most KILLER view of Philadelphia. We’re talking, sweeping, epic view here . . .
It was certainly a good place to go to get me thinking big picture, which is really what most of my brainstorming was about. I came up with some really good pieces of backstory for some of my newer characters, which has been super exciting given that some of the characters in this story are pretty old and familiar to me by now. It’s really been such a remarkable experience already to finally sit down and try to tell a story that’s been in my head and my heart since I was 13, and I can see in the words I’ve written so far that the story isn’t the only thing that’s grown up – I certainly have too.
PROJECT WRITE SPACE
TODAY’S TIME & SPACE
9:50pm, 12th Floor Lounge of my apartment building
Today was quite a mixed day as my allergies were back with a vengeance and I spent most of the day huddled up under covers feeling like crap. But Camp NaNoWriMo doesn’t wait for allergies!! Thankfully I managed to do some really fun word sprints with some new people on twitter, and upped my word count by nearly 1,000. I’m still behind what I need to be at for today (11,290) but with the roll I’ve been on I’m perfectly certain I’ll catch up this week.
Given that yesterday I got to have such a great time running word sprints and sharing postivity with the sprinters of twitter, I thought I would follow up today with a special blog post, in which I offer a few little beginner tips on how to get new ideas and keep on keepin’ on while you write. I also thought it would be a lot more fun if I brought these writing tips to you with the help of a little friend of mine. Ladies and gentlemen and variations thereupon, please enjoy the very first Writing Tips with ROFL.
For today’s video, I did something that I don’t do often enough as a writer: I went outside.
Scary notion, I know.
But I ventured out into the world today, trying to just get my head out of the space it’s been in all weekend, which is in my apartment, feeling congested and stressed and not making any words happen. Turns out that some fresh air and a new place to write were just the trick I needed. Did some quality brainstorming, recorded some pretty shots and took some nice photos – which I’ll include in my post with the video – and then made my way home. (Discovering along the way that apparently Dunkin Donuts has my favorite kind of coffee for 99 cents every day between 2pm and 6pm from now till the end of the summer)
Upon arriving home, I set immediately to writing and FINALLY got some done! I’ve been word sprinting it all evening over with NaNoWordSprints on twitter, which if you’re a writer and haven’t checked them out yet, I highly recommend you do. While you have to be careful not to be too distracted by the rest of twitter, it’s really great to have constant sprint start & end times, different prompts, and suggestions from fellow writers when you’re stuck for something. It’s pretty fantastic, and honestly, it’s what helped me hit my goal today.
I managed to write just about 3,000 words! (And honestly, will probably keep going as soon as I am done with this post because I do NOT wanna lose this momentum!) Sometimes really all it takes is a change of space and pace to get the inspiration flowing again in ways you wouldn’t have expected. Going outside, and then coming back to write, but writing in one of the offices where I work as opposed to in the coziness of my blanket fort, really helped me to get out of the funk I was in and get my groove back.
However this good news comes with some slightly bad news, which is that I was so productive with my writing that I’ve had no time to edit together the video I shot on my little stroll today. As bummed as I am that the video must wait til tomorrow to be shared with you, I am happy that I got to film it, and that I did what matters most in this month of epic writing, which is actually get something on paper. (or computer if we’re being technical) This video WILL be released, but not until tomorrow, which I guess means I am going back to posting videos on the days after the day they are about.
So take heed writing friends and assorted others of the interwebs: if you’re sitting in your room trying to find inspiration, after repeated days of sitting in that same room, trying to find inspiration, chances are you won’t find it. You have to get up, go for a walk, and maybe seek a Great Perhaps. (Looking for Alaska, anyone?) Best of luck with your words, friends. I’m looking forward to writing plenty more of my own tonight.