Saturday, November 27, 2010

50,000 Words Later

Creating My Story...50,000 words later

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!!
A few months ago I signed up for the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Starting on November 1st, I joined 200,000 other determined people from all over the world and began to put pen to paper, not knowing if I would even make it past day one. Well, not only did I make it past that first day, but I wrote every single day with tenacity and focus. The day before Thanksgiving I crossed the 50,000 finish line five days early! My word count validated, I was declared a winner and got the cute little winner's badge now gracing the right side of my blog. :)

So, how did I do it and what did I learn? Read on to find out who and what helped me stay on track and the amazing things I discovered during this journey of frenzied writing.

About 2 months before the start date, I emailed a friend of mine who happens to be an English professor in Indiana and asked him if he had any tips for me.The advice was invaluable and I would not have reached the goal without him taking the time to send it to me. So, a BIG THANK YOU goes to Professor Rob. For anyone who would like to participate in the NaNoWriMo project next year, if you follow Professor Rob's suggestions, you too will be a writing winner! I also must thank those readers, friends and family members who encouraged me along the way: You know who you are! I love you all!

1) Don't use a computer-it will only slow you down and encourage you to fiddle with sentences and polish. Use a typewriter or write longhand. That way, you won't be tempted to polish. If any of the stuff is good, you can always type it into your computer later on.
The first week I wrote longhand, until I discovered it would have to be entered into the computer regardless in order to have my word count validated. But, that first week of longhand was so important for keeping the inner editor at bay. By the time I began to write on the computer I was already in the habit of ignoring the urge to edit.

2) Write in two different sittings a day instead of just one, aiming at 1,000 words each sitting. It's easier that way, and by writing 2,000 words a day instead of 1,600, you'll give yourself a cushion of extra words in case you get sick or have a bad day. The number one reason people quit is because they fall behind schedule. If you want to finish, you need an insurance policy against that.
This was the golden ticket for me. By writing in two sittings I avoided feeling burnout and by writing 2,000 words a day, I finished early and never felt too much pressure.

3)Use a wide variety of techniques and points of view. Shift between a lot of different characters. Flash back and forward in time. Write in summary, scene, thought, action, dialogue, monologue, first person, third person. This will keep your writing from getting stale and you won't repeat yourself as much. Not following too many rules and shifting between my characters kept me from getting bored.

4)Keep on an even keel-no big highs or lows, just steady production. That's what writing a book is all about. Avoiding the highs and lows and just showing up for work each and every day.
I realized how important this advice was when I would visit the NaNoWriMo forum and read posts form all the stressed out writers, who had fallen so far back in their word count that they were either going to give up or write "like crazy" for the next three days or so. I could feel their stress coming through the computer screen and I was really happy I didn't need to ride that roller coaster.

So, what did I discover during the journey?

I discovered that I could let go of control and perfection and just write.

I discovered that characters start demanding things from you that you weren't planning on giving them and when that happens, you just have to go with the flow.

I discovered I like being part of a collective community of people trying to reach the same goal.

I discovered that the challenge was fun and I've already decided I will do it again next year!

I discovered I miss writing. As a child, I would make up stories using Archie Comics as my prompts, I would write poems and keep diaries and journals. Now, it seems the only time I'm writing is when I'm blogging or travelling. I'm making a commitment now, to do it more often. To use writing as another way to exercise my creative brain. I'm not a writer, but I am a creative and writing can only help in the other areas of artistic pursuits in which I do excel.

So, here is an except from the middle of my Novel titled "Beyond the Bend" without any editing or corrections. I thought I should at least share something before I beginning the editing process.

Walking slowly down the long red-carpeted corridor, Corky looked into each of the small compartments as she passed by. Most were empty save for a few families and a lone man, bald head propped against the slightly opened window, trying to nap despite the late summer heat beating down on the glass. She felt her equilibrium being challenged by the movement of the train as she made her way down to the dining car. Pushing through the single door she quickly surveyed the scene. Her eyes moved across a room packed full of travelers in various stages of consumption and those that were not eating, were drinking and smoking. What a relief! She hated feeling guilty about smoking. Once the words 'Surgeon General' had been added to the warning label on packages of tobacco, the anti-smoking movement was gaining momentum. Unaware of the attention her fiery red hair and pale skin was attracting from most of the men in the room, she strolled over to a small round table, pulled it closer to the window, slung her bag onto the back of the chair and sat down, tension in her shoulders finally giving way to relaxation. She lit up a cigarette. It was still early afternoon and she wouldn’t be arriving into Kansas City until 8:05pm. In her haste, she didn’t grab anything to keep her occupied on the train. She packed in such a rush. So unlike me to do so. Sam was right about that. I was not spontaneous. Her lip curled up into a half-smile as she thought about where she was. Ha! Hopping a train without any pre-planning was spontaneous! Staring out the window, thoughts of Sam drifting away with the landscape, she became vaguely aware of someone standing next to her.
"What can I get you, Miss? Miss?"
The waiter was a tall blonde with soft features, a look she determined belonged more in California, than on a train heading through the Midwest. His shoulder-length hair fell sideways across his brows, his skin smooth, not yet showing any cares of the world.
"Martini, double olives”.  She gazed back out the window.
“Anything to eat?" He had his pencil in hand, ready to scribe the order. She turned to looked back up at him, annoyed by the addition of a second question.
"I ordered double olives, didn’t I?” She took a long drag from her Winston, blowing the residue toward him.
"Yes ma’am.”
 As she watched him sauntered off to the bar area of the car, she realized he switched from calling her “miss” to “ma’am”, a sure sign he thought her old or a bitch. Probably the latter. She wasn't in the mood for judgment from strangers. Sam had judged her enough.

Finally, I decided to celebrate my victory with a self portrait:

And, for my lovely Lita, a few outtakes:

These last few days I will be cheering on those that are still trying to become winners and encourage those that are lagging behind and I hope all of you will choose to participate next year. I promise you will find it rewarding! Write on...


Nichole Renee said...

Unadulterated joy! That is what I see written (ha ha) all over your face!

Congratulations on reaching the end of NaNoWriMo!! Your excerpt was wonderful, and my curiosity is piqued! Why is she being spontaneous? What's in Kansas City? Who's Sam?

Great job!! Next year, I'll form a more solid commitment and join you on the NaNoWriMo quest!

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

I am on the edge of my seat. I have so many questions (much like Nicole's) Kudos on a job well done. The self portrait was great and the outtakes made me giggle:)

Lita said...

OMG, I am sooo super proud of you!!!

Thanks for passing on the advice. I particularly like number 3 for those in-case-you-get-stuck periods.

Such a treat for you to share a snippet of your story :) My favorite parts:

" 'I ordered double olives, didn’t I?' She took a long drag from her Winston, blowing the residue toward him." ... "... she realized he switched from calling her “miss” to “ma’am”, a sure sign he thought her old or a bitch. Probably the latter. She wasn't in the mood for judgment from strangers. Sam had judged her enough."

Your pictures are all so beautiful and joyous!!!! Each made me my smile widen more and more. ☺

Fickle Cattle said...

Congratulations! You are awesome!

Laura said...

Thanks so much to all of you! I couldn't have accomplished it without your encouragement! And I appreciate that you take the time to read my blog and leave a comment. It means the world to me! xoxo

Cynthia said...

that is awesome! Thank you for the tips and sharing your lessons - it's great to be able to find out how someone else did it. BTW, love the excerpt :) Are you going to continue with it and try to get it published?

Laura said...

I definitely would like to but gosh, it needs so much work. I need to redo the entire beginning. My goal is to have the rewrite done by June. :)