Side Trips

While it may look like I’ve hit the pause button on A Scenic Route, I’ve only only been out visiting. In real life I’ve been away seeing family, and in my virtual life I’ve stopped over to see fellow Holly Lisle student and revision champ Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature. Hop on over and say hi if you have a chance!

Oh, and I almost forgot. I won NaNoWriMo! Almost 75k words on The Whole of the Moon so far this month and I’m still writing …

How about you? Any side trips into real life? Any victories?

A Matter of Time

Today marks the halfway point in this marvelous adventure called NaNoWriMo, and I finally had some time to catch up on my correspondence. I found this letter among the many diversions in the Muse’s toy chest. My main character in The Whole of the Moon, this year’s NaNo novel, has responded to my letter from a few weeks ago. Here is what he wrote:

The Year of Our Mission: Three hundred and Thirty Six

Lunar Month: Lilac

Dear fair Lady Larke,

Though it is always a great pleasure to hear from you, I fail to understand your peculiar autumn ritual of writing a prodigious number of words in one month. Nevertheless I will stand at the ready should you need my assistance in this endeavor.

My misspent youth is not a source of pride to me, but as you have represented Rigel’s story fairly, I am optimistic that you will be as unequivocal in the narrative of mine as well.

My work on the DRAGNs was done out of necessity, and as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Please don’t fail to emphasize Angelo’s involvement in the development of the early prototypes. Without him I may never have had the impetus to move forward with the designs, and the future of your planet might have turned out quite differently.

As far as my unexpected visit to you is concerned, that was not a hologram. I haven’t the technology to project the image such a large distance. It was actually me. There is a time loop that has not yet been closed, and I have also encountered this displaced younger version of myself on occasion. It is quite a chilling experience. As I have no memory of this incident, I sincerely hope that my younger self did not disturb you and carried himself with the decorum of a Lunar officer.

I apologize that I was not as forthcoming last year, and for the resulting rearrangement of the chronicle that you are in process of writing. I intend to make it up to you in my cooperation with your efforts this year.

Your Most Humble Servant,

.

Teragus Swansong

.

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how is the writing going? Have you ever encountered a mysterious plot development only a time loop could solve?

 

IWSG: A Cloud of Caffeine And Happiness

Got self-doubt? I do!

On the first Wednesday of every month the inspiring Alex J. Cavanaugh and some of the most amazing writers on the web get together to talk about it. Click this here linky to join me and The Insecure Writer’s Support Group as we circle the wagons to huddle around the campfire and share our stories.

Today, I’m going to talk about National Novel Writing Month and how writing fifty thousand (or more!) words in a month has been a great confidence builder for an insecure writer like me. One NaNoWriMo experience in particular marks an unforgettable turning point of my writing journey.

Two years ago I participated in my second NaNoWriMo and, having clocked a personal-best word count of 121k, I was already feeling pretty happy about my writing prowess. But there was another challenge I had determined to overcome that year: Sharing excerpts of my work.

The NaNoWriMo writer’s profile has a page where one can post an excerpt of the work in progress. I knew I had a problem when I took my excerpt back down after only a few hours because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone seeing it!

Yes, I’m that insecure about sharing my writing.

I persevered and put another excerpt up, but it took all the courage I could muster to leave both the story summary and an excerpt up on the page for the duration of November.

That was why a particular challenge involving a seventeen minute word sprint and a subsequent posting of a snippet from the resulting words was perfect for me. I love word sprints, and the part about posting snippets was a good dare for me–especially because the forum offered no possibility for taking my words back down once they’d posted. I did this four or five times, and each time it got a little easier. I tried not to think about other writers actually reading them. I hoped everyone was too busy with their own stories to care about mine.

Then, at one of the last write-ins, I met a few other NaNoWriMo participants, known in Nano-land as Wrimos. As we talked about our stories, about why Twilight was so successful, what we liked and didn’t like about our protagonists, and various other sundry writerly topics, one of the other Wrimos asked me what my on-line handle was.

“Oh, I’m Larkk,” I told her.

Her response was spontaneous. “You’re Larkk? Omigosh, I love your story!”

I was so overwhelmed I almost started to cry. All I could manage was, “Really? Seriously?”

“Yeah,” she continued. “It’s such a cool idea, and I like your characters. I love the parts about flying, and the fog, and the numbers.”

Floating on a cloud of caffeine and happiness, I pulled myself together as best I could and proceeded to tell her more about it. She liked everything I told her. Never had I expected someone to actually like something I was writing, much less love it! In my insecure world the most I’d ever expected was for people to think it wasn’t horrible.

I can’t say that it will ever be easy for me to post excerpts and chapters–or to publish my stories. But that day, the revelation that someone might actually love my story as much as I do changed my outlook on my writing. These words will always ring in my recollection:

“Omigosh, I love your story!”

How about you, Insecure Writers? If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how does participating in a crazy month-long writing sprint help you become a more secure writer? Has anyone ever done or said something that made you a more secure writer?

And, if you love someone’s story, tell her! You just might make her day.

Detour: Where Do Stories Come From?

Change of scenery ahead!

I’m taking a jaunt over to visit Anushka Dhanapala at Finding My Creature for a guest post. Yes, me! A guest post! My very first.

Join me there as I explore where stories come from.

Permission To Be Brave

For the first day of National Novel Writing Month, commonly known as NaNoWriMo, I have a special treat today. Fellow coffee aficionado, blogger, and How To Revise Your Novel classmate Anushka Dhanapala is joining us today all the way from Melbourne, Australia with a few words of encouragement about how it’s okay to write something … um … less than stellar in pursuit of a finished story.

Take it away, Anushka!

“To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong” –  Joseph Chilton Pearce

Growing up as a child I was terrified of many things. Monsters, zombies, soggy jeans, the devil living in my closet, people who never blink, and goldfish (don’t ask). Little did I know then a far more terrible thing would come to haunt me.

The first draft of anything is a scary beast, especially when you come face-to-face with that mirror of insecurity – the blank page. Every imperfection you have about yourself, including that ginormous zit that arrives three seconds before a first date, is reflected back at you in all its glory.

It mocks you. It laughs. It gossips about you with the other blank pages. You on the other hand now contemplate having your coffee Irish styled just to get through, or better still, begin cleaning the house. Doing the laundry is just riveting isn’t it?

There have been many times I would rather have faced a zombie apocalypse, even a plague of hairy black spiders than face that page. Yes, the probability of a premature death would be high, after all I am one of the most uncoordinated people on the planet, but the laughable attempt of wielding a sword and possibly a stiletto is far more bearable than staring into a blank page. You know, the one I am meant to miraculously transform into gleaming prose? In my head I must also accomplish that feat in one go. Talk about unnecessary pressure.

That blank page knows everything, my thoughts, the insecurities that reside within me and probably the name of my first crush. What I hate about it the most is that it knows I suck.

The. Blank. Page. Knows. Everything. 

My story sucks…

I haven’t planned enough.

My characters aren’t engaging.

I don’t know what comes next.

I have no arcs.

My beginning is rubbish.

I don’t know my ending.

Everyone is going to laugh at it, including that man and his pet llama that died three centuries ago. (Did I mention the llama had offspring? Just in case you were wondering they would be laughing too.)

However there is something beautiful about that blank page. It gives you the opportunity to fall royally flat on your face.  The first draft after all is meant to be the worst version of the story you have written. In fact, it cannot possibly get any more dreadful – the greatest blessing.

It’s meant to be disjointed and rubbish with bits – normally important bits – like say, conflict, missing from it. Characters disappear, the middle sags, storylines flicker and die, random subplots of no importance make an entrance, dialogue is awkward and so bad you wish you could blame the writing on the cat (or the man with the llama)… the list goes on and on. From my experience, if you have encountered all of these problems you are doing something right. You have conquered the page and put something down. This is where the whole bravery thing comes in.

By allowing yourself to be brave you give yourself permission to make mistakes. Letting yourself submerge completely into a cave of literary abandon truly is a wonderful thing. You should never deny yourself from experiencing that.

The first draft is your precious gift to yourself. I believe a lot of writers, between procrastinating  and not having the courage to put down any words at all, forget this sometimes, including myself, and I love getting into the first draft. But the fear of failure will always be there if I let it.

My first drafts are broken, underwritten and more often than not slapped together with a lazy ending. They are in dire need of CPR and intensive surgery, but that’s the beauty of revision. It brings everything you have put down to life.

So be brave. Write badly. Write well.

Put something down.

Writing is a relentless rollercoaster of emotions and as you face each new blank page remember this.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Ziglar

Good luck to all of you doing NaNoWriMo, I’ll be cheering right alongside of you. You can find me under findingmycreature where I will be wrestling with the blank pages and winning. Well, until I see that zit. To the rest of you tackling your story, no matter what stage you are at, be brave and I’ll be cheering wildly for you too as I furiously write through my first draft in the hopes of uncovering those unexpected gems.

Have you discovered any beautiful first draft gems?

Love and light,

Anushka xx

Anushka Dhanapala blogs at Finding My Creature where she shares beautiful vistas and encouraging words about her own writing journey.