April #CampNaNoWriMo—Yes, I’m Participating

Let the jackalopes—er, Plot Bunnies, multiply


I apologise for posting so infrequently. I’ve been struggling with structure. I’ve re-read Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and even picked up and read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (which actually describes the same phenomenon from the opposite end of the telescope, as it were.) I’ve also dealt with a nasty case of the flu. Writing has been happening very little, I’m afraid. I know I’m not alone in the fear of Doing It Wrong, but it’s been debilitating lately.

I know when I pick up the Ulysses app demo and try once again to see if I wouldn’t like writing with it better than I do with Scrivener (answer: no, I wouldn’t), that I’m lost in the Procrastination Archipelago.

Well, that’s what NaNoWriMo is for, in all its variants—getting writers out of procrastination. So here I am, determined to meet my goal of fifty hours of structuring and writing for the month. With any luck, I’ll do a lot more. You can follow my stats on the Camp NaNoWriMo site. See you in the Land of the Storysquatch.

I’m Not Giving Up—But I Am Backing Off #amwriting

Time to advance to the rear (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Time to advance to the rear (Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net)


Well, I’ve injured my foot.

That makes it rather tough to keep up with my exercise goals—which in turn impact my other health goals. My health goals, in turn, impact my ability to focus, which means that my entire Beeminder-driven writing goal structure is in jeopardy.

Bummer.

For a change, I’ve decided to do something sane—I have taken every single health goal I have in Beeminder and added a week of flat spot. This means that while I don’t NEED to make progress to avoid a Beeminder payment, I do need to not slip backwards. And I haven’t given myself any slack on my writing or business goals.

With any good fortune, I’ll be back chugging on my step and weight goals in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I have no excuse to stop chugging ahead on my book.

And April Camp Nanowrimo is just around the corner. I think I’ll have a continuation/editing goal rather than a new project this time.

“Distraction-Free” Writing Software v. ADHD #AmWriting #CampNaNoWriMo2016

Figure 1.Top: Scrivener Composition Mode Bottom: Ulysses Full Screen ModeIn these minimalist environments, I'm more likely to wander away or become hyperfocused.

Figure 1.
Top: Scrivener Composition Mode
Bottom: Ulysses Full Screen Mode
In these minimalist environments, I’m more likely to wander away or become hyperfocused.

I am ADHD. Contrary to popular belief, this does not mean simply that I am noticeably more distraction-prone than most people — although that is certainly true.

What it means is that I can’t control my level of focus.

Think about that for a moment. It means that I can’t control whether my mind flits like a butterfly from — Oh, look! A squirrel! — subject to subject. Nor can I control whether I become “hyperfocused” and unable to break my focus on an activity. (Please note that hyperfocus is not the creative “flow” state that people talk about. I wish.)

There is no “medium-focus” state wherein I can choose what to focus on. This means that trying to protect myself from distraction is like a pig trying to sing. It wastes my time, and only results in me getting depressed when I compare my results to expected results.

Take a look at the Figure 1 above. Scrivener has its “distraction-free” Composition mode. Ulysses is ALL distraction-free mode. The theory of such a display is that all the “displacement” activities the author uses to avoid writing disappear and she has no other choice except to write.

I’ve tried it. My results:

  1. My brain throws a distraction. With no bright colors or flashing lights to hold me, I wander away and do something else. (90% probability.)
  2. I hyperfocus on my text so that I forget where I am, whether I need to go to the bathroom, and how this text is supposed to fit into my novel. (10% probability.)

Just looking at either screen induces panic. I’ll forget what I’m supposed to be doing, one way or the other — I know this as surely as I know the sun rises in the east. Hyperfocus is as deadly to my productivity as lack of focus.

Figure 2.With both my timeline and my project detail displayed, I have a better chance of staying in the neighborhood of my task.

Figure 2.
With both my timeline and my project detail displayed, I have a better chance of staying in the neighborhood of my task.

What I do is surround myself with distractions — positive distractions. A timer goes off to remind me — not to take a break, but to reassess what I’m doing — every twenty-five to thirty minutes. I surround myself with as much temptingly cluttered screen real estate as possible that’s related to my work in progress, so that when (not if) my brain throws a distraction, I am at least likely to be drawn to something writing-related. (See Figure 2.) I think of this not as distraction-filled but as target-rich. Then when the timer goes off, I can get back to writing. I never, never hide clocks or battery indicators — if I’m lucky I might notice them when I’m hyperfocused and they’ll bring me out of my trance.

Not that the timer always works. When I become hyperfocused sound seems to slide off my brain. If that happens, my only hope is that I notice that I need to go to the bathroom before my chair gets soggy…

Camp Nano Won. Steer Roasting. Life is Good. #CampNaNoWinner2016 #amwriting

The Editing Is Done

The Editing Is Done

The Fire Is Lit

The Fire Is Lit

Fifty-plus hours of editing in April — I did it.

I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at my alma mater, MIT. Technology is still a Mother. If you didn’t attend as an undergrad, you probably don’t know about The Senior House (or Haus, as it is now called.) From the late sixties on (so far as we can tell from the alumni verbal histories) it has been the home of nonconformists on campus.

Yet, when I walked into the courtyard after forty-one years away, I had come home. The Haus was the first home I ever knew in which I found unconditional acceptance, along with gentle instruction in socially acceptable behavior (not a very high bar, in the Haus.)

Yesterday, the Lighting of the Fire ritual (opening the two-day long Steer Roast party) was not so much an exercise in nostalgia as a connection to something that started before I arrived and will continue when I am no longer here to return. Students will still celebrate spring and the coming end of the semester. The Haus will still shelter the . . . different (but still nerdly) with its unique anarchy. The Suits in the Chancellor’s office Shall Not Pass (er, prevail.)

Long live the Haus!

Camp NaNoWriMo, April 2016 #amwriting

CNW_Participant_TwitterScreenshot 2016-04-05 14.05.56Yes, I’m doing a Camp NaNoWriMo project in April this year — though I usually wait until July. I’m doing an editing project — Camp suggests that an hour of editing translate to 1000 words. I’m therefore committing to 50 hours of active editing this month. So far, I’m not doing too badly, and I hope to be able to finish early. I credit Beeminder for this optimism — this is the first time I’ve tackled a NaNoWriMo while using this tool.

I’m still working on that strange beast that my November novel turned into — it’s hard to shoehorn into any genre, but I suppose you could call it a fantasy mystery. I’ve incorporated the changes my beta reader suggested — solid, all of them — but there are many more chapters to go…

OMG, I Might Actually Publish #amwriting

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For you Star Trek Original Series fans: Do you remember the scene where the Enterprise was fighting the Giant Cornucopia of Death, and Kirk says, “I distracted it! That’s good! . . . I think it’s good . . . Scotty, get me out of here . . .”

That’s how I felt yesterday when my wonderful Beta Reader, Cynthia, sent back her comments on my first chapter. She spotted typography errors, continuity errors, characterization errors… all of which I can fix, I’m sure. The scary thing was — the things she wanted to find out about, the questions she was left with after reading the chapter — those are exactly the things that I wanted readers to be wondering about and anticipating after the first chapter.

In other words, for a first draft, it rocks.

Damn. I haven’t felt like this since I won first division in the Tri-State Music Festival. There’s elation, sure — and there’s also terror. There’s a certain amount of grief — when it’s rolling, when the words are coming, when I look at my “Beeminder Writing Time” graph (that’s automatically generated from RescueTime) and see it curving upwards almost without volition on my part — why did I spend so many years doing anything else?

Then another wave of terror hits, and I know why.

This means audience. Big time, really putting my fiction out in front of strangers, asking them to pay for reading it, and accepting their praise, their disapproval, or their indifference, as the case may be. (If they pay for it, I think I will at least take their comments at face value instead of trying to find hidden negative meanings.)

This has really kicked the crap out of my writing time for the last few days, while I’ve alternately cowered and then fantasized about the Oprah Show. Neither of those gets words written, characterizations corrected, continuity errors fixed, or anything else. I will be dedicating April to editing in Camp NaNoWriMo. I need to get out of the house, today, though, and get some momentum going, before I need to pay the nice folks at Beeminder $5. Again.

Camp NaNoWriMo Fail

Bummer.

I have tons of excuses. There’s the “I was sick” excuse — good one, but I wasn’t that sick. More debilitating was the “OMG, I’ve got to go to London in a week (yeah, there’s a few blog posts…) and I can’t take donations for the charitable organization on whose behalf I’m going there!!” excuse. In less than a week, I put up a website with e-commerce capability, linking back to the parent organization, developed promotional material, (OK, a PowerPoint. Still.) and put together a paper flyer with donation form included.

If only I could put that kind of energy into my novel, I’d be done by now.

Well, about the London thing. Yes, Hubby and I are going there for charity. We sit in the departure lounge at LAX as I type. We’ll also be taking a two-week river cruise through Central Europe, thus blowing our vacation budget for the next four years. The nice thing about the cruise is, that while we will be taking a whirlwind tour of Hungary, Slovakia, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands, we won’t need to unpack — our “hotel” will move in the night from city to city. I intend to make the most of this — particularly as my afternoons will be free.

We’ll see if any writing gets done while I steam up the Danube. Have iPad, will travel.

Camp NaNoWriMo Week 4 Begins

Chapters with Scene Lists Complete:

20 / 20

There is some good news this Camp for me: I finally completed the list of scenes I started back in June.

. . . OK, it wouldn’t warm the heart of a Traditional Publisher. It doesn’t really warm mine. But it’s progress from where I was this time last week, when I was so ashamed of my lack of progress that I couldn’t even post to this blog. All the scenes I think I can salvage from my first draft have been dropped into the new, complete structure, so my progress through yesterday looks like:
Screenshot 2014-07-22 16.21.13

I’ve made a great deal of progress as well on the ADHD v. productivity front. It’s a lot easier to say I’m going to manage myself better than to do it. One of the things I’m not willing to do anymore is to operate from a place of fear, and finding things to replace that and implementing them consistently is a bitch. If I’m not going to operate from fear of peer pressure in NaNoWriMo, how can I motivate myself?

Well, I’m making more use of the Rewards structure in HabitRPG — I really hadn’t set up rewards that motivate me outside of the inherent rewards of the game. Now, I reward myself with things like time to soak in the tub, an 85% cocoa chocolate bar, and similar items. One of the difficulties is that I can’t sabotage other goals I don’t talk about much on this blog — goals like losing the sixty-three pounds I need to lose, improving my fitness level, ad infinitum — the ordinary goals of health and strength that half of the USA needs to work on. I’ve been making progress on those since May, as well as on writing. And of course, I can’t use things that would take inordinate amounts of time away from writing, thus sabotaging my writing goal.

Well. Two steps forward, after the backwards step last week, and moving on.