NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 4

NaNoWriMo Week 4The final week! Last year, that one went smoothly… I even managed to write over 5k words in a day. This year though, the cold I’d caught during week 3 persisted all through week 4 until the very last day. I managed to kick myself in the butt, however, and write until I reached over 15k words, the equivalent of 500 words a day. I used to consider this the bare minimum, but this month was crazy busy so… this a win. If it hadn’t been for NaNoWriMo, I’d probably have written even less than that.

And now what? Well, on December 1st, I came down with a gastroenteritis. I wasn’t even fully recovered when my daughter started throwing up, too. I took a week off any self-imposed obligations and rested. jean-baptiste-camille_corot_-_the_reader_wreathed_with_flowers_virgils_muse_-_wga5288This week, I’m back to blogging, although I’ll probably take it easy fiction-wise for the rest of December. There are just too many other things that need to be done this month. Besides, I still feel a bit ill, with an almost constant heartburn and occasional nausea – probably my thirties slapping me in the face.

I’ll also use this time to “regroup” and plan my next steps. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do next… Rewrite my first novel? Continue brainstorming on my NaNoWriMo 2017 project? Continue another of my several WIPs? Challenge myself to write one short story every week or month and publish it? So many possibilities!

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NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 2&3

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo went a very little bit better than week 1: I wrote a total of 5,488 words, bringing my total to 9,704 words. Whoops, that’s less than I should have written in the first week. But I held on. Part of those words was my final creative writing assignment, which I am rather proud of it even if I can’t get rid of my writer insecurities.girl-3-copie

What I’m particularly proud of is that I managed to write a whole story in under 1,000 words. I don’t write short stories because whenever I try, I end up wanting to expand and expand on them until they’re novel-length. Even for this one, one of my teacher’s comments was:

It […] feels like it could keep going, as the world of the story feels fleshed out and inhabitable. It reads a bit like an opening chapter or a television pilot, where you could keep the story going significantly after this.

Yeah. Absolutely. I know at least 3 different possible directions in which to extend this into a novel. Buuut it can also be read as a short story, and that’s an achievement for me.

As for my NaNoWriMo project, it became… weirder. The hero developed a taste for BDSM – though he’s a teenager – and the heroin sort of digs it. Ahem. That might not make it into the final draft.

NaNoWriMo Week 2-3a

Week 3 was uh… a warp zone. Poof! Before I knew it, it was week 4 already and I almost hadn’t written anything. See the sad, flat line in the graph, like a dead person’s ECG?

sigh

I went to a Lego convention on Nov. 17, 18 and 19 and came back with a bad cold. If I wanted to be able to work 8 hours in a row, I had to go to bed right after supper. I know all too well that trying to “push through” at that point would have been harmful to my physical and mental health.

Now week 4 is well underway and I’m still sick, but I feel a bit better. My total word count is 12,177 words. It is clear that reaching 50,000 words won’t be possible for me this month. I know people who can write 10,000 words per day, but I’m not one of them. It’s disappointing. However, I’ll write as much as I can until November 30 (and beyond) because the ultimate goal is to write the story without compromising my health or my enjoyment in the process.

Don’t give up, people. NaNoWriMo is hard and it’s not for everybody, but the good news is there are 12 months in a year. November is just one of them, so keep writing.

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 1

Hello folks! Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How did your first week go?

NaNoWriMo Week 1Mine was rough. I wrote only 4,216 words when I should have written 11,667 words. Responsibilities, homework and social obligations prevented me to write 3 days out of 7, which didn’t help. The fact that I was tired the remaining 4 days didn’t help, either.

I almost gave up. I thought my exhaustion was proof enough that I shouldn’t be doing it this year. But the thought of giving up was too depressing.

Besides, this false start isn’t a problem. At this point, 50,000 words by November 30 is still achievable.

Story-wise, I almost switched to something else. Before NaNo started, I had trouble outlining this story because I couldn’t choose a direction. It is complex, as all psychological thrillers should be, so trying to plan it all ahead is a nightmare. I settled for using NaNoWriMo as a month-long intensive brainstorming session. If I can end the month with enough material to make a fairly detailed outline for draft 2, I’ll be happy.

Do not give up, people! No matter how late you are, no matter your chances of reaching 50k, don’t give up. Nobody “loses” NaNoWriMo: every participant ends the month with more words than they had at the beginning and that’s what’s important. And if it can get you into the habit of writing every day, it’s even better! It’s a win. A win that will outlast NaNoWriMo and make you grow as a writer.

NaNoWriMo is an exciting challenge, but it’s easy to get discouraged and forget why you’re really doing it: because you love writing.

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NaNoWriMo is about to begin…

Happy Halloween everyone! Enjoy the costumes and decorations and candy because November 1st is the start of the craziest writing challenge of the year: the National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who don’t know what that is: you have to write an entire novel (50,000 words long) in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words a day, every day, for 30 days. It’s a writing marathon.
NaNo-2017-Participant-Badge

This year, I thought I wouldn’t do it. It has only been two weeks since I’ve started working again after my burn-out leave, I thought it wouldn’t be very wise of me to add “writing 1,667 words a day” to my already very busy schedule.

But.

As usual, the pre-NaNo hype got the better of me. I love that excitement, feeling like I’m doing something completely crazy, and spontaneous and passionate… It’s a treat for my inner madman. Moreover: I’m doing it with friends. It’s a wonderful thing to get to do what I like the most in the world with people I love.

So! I’m too busy and unprepared and I have little chance of success, but I’ll attempt to write 50k words in a month. Who’s with me? Feel free to add me as a friend on the NaNoWriMo website.

I won’t attempt to give a crash course on NaNoWriMo, but I can link to some useful resources by The Lady Writer and K.M. Weiland. I’ve used some of their resources and found they helped. Other than that, No Plot? No Problem! has helped me a lot too, though it might be a little late start a 200-page book now.

That’s all for this week; I need to go write my outline already!

Autumnal haiku

As a lover of nature, it is no wonder that I love haikus, those little injections of mindfulness. Haikus are traditionally very descriptive and literal, and one can be satisfied with savouring the image created. However, they also spark in me associations between nature and life.

Last week, I had to write descriptive poetry for my creative writing class and as I was observing the rain outside, a bird started singing. I was awed: it was cold, windy and wet outside, people were hiding in their houses and animals in their burrows and nests and other shelters, but a bird kept on singing.
AutumnCritters_28

I wrote this:

Brown leaves are falling
Rain taps against the window
A bird is singing

Though I like haikus, I don’t know much about writing them so it’s probably not very good, but I like it for now. I’ll keep it somewhere close for future “rainy days”.

Take care, everyone! Don’t let the drop in luminosity affect you too much: take walks in the sun, take vitamin D, use light therapy, exercise… those are all good against seasonal depression. And if those are not enough, call a doctor!

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

AutumnCritters_5aToday is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. This year has been a rough one for me. I don’t really feel like being thankful right now, so it is all the more important I do my yearly exercise of “counting my blessings”.

I am thankful:

  • For having been offered work at the moment when I most needed it. Without it, we would have been in serious financial trouble. I’m thankful, too, to have had the freedom of refusing to take more work when I felt I was burning-out;
  • For my husband getting a job in his field after four years of doing odd jobs. It’s a temporary job, but I hope that’ll help him reintegrate the industry;
  • To have found a way to rewrite and edit my novel, despite my recent lack of time and energy to actually do it;
  • To have had the perseverance to post blog articles almost weekly – that’s the same stubborn perseverance that made me burn-out instead of “taking it easy for a while”, but hey, nobody can have everything;
  • For my NaNoWriMo community, that has become a year-round writing community. The members are fun and supportive and I love them all;
  • To have learned how to knit: it helped a lot to get my mind off things when I started my burn-out leave and improve my mood – plus now I have stylish hand-knitted mittens that fit perfectly;
  • For my daughter, my little hyperactive and hypersociable princess, becoming more independent every day;
  • To have had the means of taking a creative writing course, which I am loving so far;
  • To have had to opportunity to beta-read Marnie Shaw and the Mystery of Yapton Farm; it was an interesting experience and I think the book has great potential.
    AutumnCritters_2a

Everything considered I guess my year wasn’t that bad. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m currently burned-out, but it helps put things into perspective. In a year, that will only be a small bump in the road… not to mention that it might help me find a more sustainable solution.

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians!

Review: Bird by Bird

Bird by bird coverContext

If you’ve ever googled something like “books all writers should read”, you have most probably seen Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life at least once. This book doesn’t give precise advice on language and storytelling or how to make a living as a writer, but it gives some pointers as to how to deal with life as a writer – which probably helps in making it sound universally true. Like, on Twitter, I would hashtag this #writerslife, not #writingtips or #authorpreneur.

I happened to finish this book just before the beginning of my creative writing course, and was pleased to find it on the recommended reading list.

Review

First, let me say that this book is beautifully written. It is vibrant, poetic, witty, sad, true. It teaches by example. You’d think that’s a given with books on writing, but I know from experience that it’s not. Anne Lamott’s voice in the book is warm and honest, as if she had written the book for a friend or her son. It makes you feel like you’re talking to a friend over a cup of tea. There are a few references to Christianism, but not so much to bother non-Christians. I found every piece of advice to be sound and wise.

The book is divided into five parts. I had already figured out from experience most of what’s in the first part of the book, but I was glad to have some validation that I’m doing (and seeing) things the way a professional writer would. More experienced writers might find that there aren’t a lot of “new” ideas, but I didn’t mind. First because Lamott’s style is exquisite, secondly because there really aren’t any secrets to writing a book, and thirdly because the chapter on characters made me realize what was wrong with my protagonist.

The second part deals with the mindset. There are a few chapters that I thought most people, and not just writers or artists, could enjoy reading, including “Radio Station KFKD” (about those ugly thoughts that keep being broadcasted in our heads) and “Jealousy”. That last one almost shocked me at first, but then I realized I had experienced a similar feeling in my early 20s, just in a different context that didn’t have to do with writing – but very much to do with providing for myself. Despite all the wise precepts one attempts to abide by, it’s difficult to keep a cool head when survival is at stake.

The third part is about everything that can help a writer in times of need.  I love research and didn’t think I had much left to learn about it, but I had never thought of calling friends and family to have them talk to me about what they know. I especially loved the chapter “Letter”, which opens in the following way:

When you don’t know what else to do, when you’re really stuck and filled with despair and self-loathing and boredom, but you can’t just leave your work alone for a while and wait, you might try telling part of your history—part of a character’s history—in the form of a letter. The letter’s informality just might free you from the tyranny of perfectionism.

The fourth part is mostly about publication. I have no experience in the matter, but a lot of what Lamott says rang true. The chapter “Giving” made me cry, literally. Here’s another quote, from the beginning of that part because I love it and it seems there is “truth” written all over it:

Publication is not going to change your life or solve your problems. Publication will not make you more confident or more beautiful, and it will probably not make you any richer.

The last part is a single chapter and wraps up the book, and it left me inspired and at peace.

RosieThis book made me feel the urge to read Anne Lamott’s fiction. She has also written several non-fiction books about faith: that’s not my cup of tea, but a classmate in my creative writing class who happens to be a minister for some Church in Ontario said she loved those.

Rating: 10/10

Who would I recommend this to? Writers, old and young, new and experienced. And for non-writers, definitely check out Anne Lamott’s others books: she has published several novels (I added Rosie to my to-read line-up) as well as non-fiction (I heard Hallelujah Anyway was accessible for less-convinced Christians).