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.

NaNo Lessons Learned #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2016

NaNoWriMo 2016 results

NaNoWriMo 2016 results


I have the traditional Good News and Bad News.

First, the Bad News:

  • I did not manage to write 50K words on my new manuscript.
  • I need to learn how to plan my novel before drafting. Seriously. I know that other people can plan without completely hosing their enthusiasm for a project. I still haven’t figured out how to work it for myself. OK, I commit to reading three more eye-rolling “how to plan a novel” books before March. Blech.

Next, the Good News:

  • I managed to write more than 43K words on my new manuscript. Better than 86% of goal—I’m not at all displeased, even if I don’t get NaNoWriMo Winner Goodies this year.
  • I confirmed my knowledge that a resentment is a major damper on my productivity. That tells me that if I find myself stuck in resentment quicksand I must take even more energetic steps to get back on track than I used this month.
  • I learned that planning recreational travel during NaNoWriMo is contraindicated. Yes, in the past I’ve managed to keep on track in Camp NaNoWriMo despite going to family funerals. But if I’m trying to have fun by traveling somewhere, I find that I can’t really enjoy my trip because my word count is suffering, and I can’t really focus on writing because I’m on a trip. All that really saved my word count on my San Jose trip was the fact that I traveled north by train. I can get a lot of words written on a nine-hour train ride.

For My Own Information:

  • It’s easier to focus in my dining room, even with the fridge and television handy, than it is in the nice office area I set up in my bedroom. This is counter-intuitive to me. I have a lovely standing desk, a beautiful large monitor, a chair if I want to sit down, reference books, supplies, etc. on hand in my bedroom. If I work in the dining room I have to go upstairs to get references, or a notebook to draw a plot or a map in, or a pen to draw the map or plot with, ad infinitum. Yet I clock more words in the dining room. Go figure.
  • It’s easier to focus in Starbucks than it is in a nice office I’ve rented for a day. Even if I have to tell the guy next to me in Starbucks that hockey is fun to talk about but I have to work now, I still get more done in Starbucks.
  • It’s almost impossible to focus when I’m in the same place as Hubby. OK, maybe not as surprising as the others, but still, he is a walking distraction… I suppose after many years of marriage, that’s a good thing.

Trying to Crank It Up for the Finish #amwriting #NaNoWriMo2016

screenshot-2016-11-21-13-18-53
Up until this morning, it was looking good for winning NaNoWriMo—I’ve been posting word counts on an intercept curve for the last three days. I’ve updated the mind map, and in general I know where I want to go with this story.

Nothing is more destructive to my productivity, though, than a rip-roaring resentment. I’m fighting one off now, concerning two—no, three—microwave ovens (with a fourth in prospect) two appliance retailers, four service technicians, and of course the Hubby.

It’s not the Hubby’s fault. It’s not—well, it’s not two of the four service technicians’ faults. (I’ve got a snit on against one of the retailers and its service technicians. Oh boy, do I have a snit on. This started in mid-August, and here it is, November and Thanksgiving and still no microwave. Someone Must Pay.) I’m fighting the temptation to rip into anyone who comes anywhere near me with the most vicious snark and sarcasm in my arsenal, delivered with a Southern Belle accent that drips with honey and venom. Hubby used to take the brunt of this because, well, on account of husband and lives in the same house, poor man.

But I’ve learned better now. I must somehow turn this negative energy into manuscript. I think it’s time to write the Big Confrontation Between Hero #1 and Villain. A minor fight between Hero #2 and Landlady is also in the offing, as well as a spat between Hero #1 and Hero #2. Vicious snark—yes! Hurt feelings that will go on for a chapter or three… or maybe a whole episode or three…

Too bad none of them has a Southern accent. I’ll just have to make a Highlands accent do.

The Bottom Line: Writing Output Improved

Screenshot 2016-01-26 15.33.55My last few posts have all related to productivity in various aspects of my life — quantifying it and improving it. How’s that working for me?

So far, in January, I’ve written 21,465 words. That’s as opposed to my total word count for NaNoWriMo in November, which was 18,771 words. On the 25th of November, I had only written 14,327 words. That’s a 31% increase. I’m doing something right.

One thing I’ve found, is that when I have material consequences, such as having to pay Beeminder, I’m more motivated to find some way to continue writing even when I’ve “hit a wall.” I’ll find some other portion of the story to work on, or write on another story, or even stop and do some story structure work and then go back to typing out words.

Not that I’ve transformed into a writing machine! No, you can see that I derailed on January 19, and I’ve had a tough couple of days. I may not make my 30K in January goal. But — not only will I have written more in a month than I have in a long time, but I will also have learned a lot about what I need in order to be productive.

Days when I’m in pain from arthritis — well, it’s hard to want to sit at a keyboard when my neck and shoulders feel like they’re being squeezed in a vise. It’s a steady dull ache that gets worse until I’m in tears. The same applies to my knees. Days when the pain is out of control — they lead to derailment.

Equally devastating are days when I have too many other things to do scheduled, and put them as a priority over writing. If I don’t get out of the house to write before about four in the afternoon, my word count for the day is probably zero.

So. Keeping my pain in control, means keeping my food and exercise in control. It’s no accident that my derailment on the 19th happened when it did. I had a re-injury of an old knee problem on about the 12th. I stayed in denial until I was in agony. I admitted my problem on the 16th, got some mercy from the good folks at Beeminder on a goal (Misfit points) that had become unrealistic, but the knee responded to rest slowly for a while. I note that I had a superbly bad sleep week between the 12th and the 19th. Small wonder; it’s hard to sleep with that kind of pain. I’m pleased to see that I didn’t overeat or make poor food choices that week — it would have been easy to use the pain as an excuse.

I don’t yet have this kind of insight into why I don’t get out the door to go writing, other than if I haven’t gotten to bed at a decent hour, why then I don’t wake up until later, and by the time I’m ready to depart — it’s easy to use the excuse that the schoolkids will have mobbed Starbucks, it will be loud and I won’t be able to find a comfortable chair, so why bother?

Not a good enough excuse. I’ll have to see what improvements I can make here.

Scrivener v. Storyist – Why I’m Hanging On

It’s a good question: why am I hanging on to Scrivener when I do much of my writing on my iPad? Literature and Latte hope to have an iOS Scrivener version released . . . well, Real Soon Now. In the meantime, I develop ingenious workarounds and leave any number of Scrivener features on the table because I can’t access them from iOS. Storyist, on the other hand, is positioned as an alternative long-form writing program, and it works on the iPad right now. Over in the Scrivener forums, defectors, while not exactly legion, regularly post their disappointment and intention to use Storyist in the future.

I went ahead and downloaded the Mac demo version of Storyist yesterday. I can’t say I’ve given it an exhaustive test, but I have looked at the features that I use the most. Here are my impressions:

  • The overall impression I have of Storyist: It was designed to look like Scrivener when you first open it, by someone who dislikes Scrivener’s complexity, and who really misses WYSIWYG. As shipped, it’s very much aimed at the fiction writer or screenwriter who is submitting to editors or similar gatekeepers. If you want to self-publish, if you want to do non-fiction (Yeah, I did a convention program booklet in Scrivener because I really didn’t want to deal with Word…) you’re going to have to struggle a lot more. There’s no way to do footnotes, for one thing… By getting rid of Scrivener’s complexity designed to support all sorts of long-form writing besides traditional fiction/script submittals, a lot of Scrivener’s flexibility has been excised, as well.
  • I imported a couple of my dormant Scrivener projects into Storyist. I also exported a sample Storyist project to Scrivener. While it works OK, in that all of your body text will arrive at the destination, very little metadata (labels, statuses, keywords, etc.) arrives at either destination. After I got into Storyist a bit, it looks like about two days to massage a NaNoWriMo 50K draft from Scrivener into a form that’s really usable in Storyist, even without a lot of metadata. In short, not something I’m interested in doing unless I’ve committed to switching over.
  • Once there, I found there was no corresponding function to Scrivener’s “Scrivenings” view. If you’re not familiar with the software, this lets you look at any subset of your Scrivener project’s component files as if they were one document, and edit them as such. This is a lot of what I do on the Mac before I head out with my iOS devices – look at a Scrivenings view of what I did yesterday, spot stuff I want to fix (minor stuff – a misspelling here, poor grammar there), and decide where I’m going with it today. I find the lack of a Scrivenings-style view strange in view of the fact that…
  • … a Storyist project is just One Big File. In contrast, a Scrivener project is a folder full of little files. Storyist pretends that there are a lot of little files, each with its synopsis index card, but at the end of the day if you save a “version” before doing some changes, the whole dang Storyist project is saved (oh yes, it uses OS X versioning so as to save space, but still.) With Scrivener, you can save a “snapshot” of a single file. It may seem more confusing, but really, it’s simpler. If you’re only going to play with Scene A, you save a snapshot of Scene A. If you later also add Scene B, and then decide you like the older version of Scene A, with Scrivener you’re good – you can revert Scene A without affecting Scene B. With Storyist, you’re going to have to do some fancy stepping to save out Scene B before reverting Scene A if you’re not to lose Scene B. Blah.
  • Another difference: The Storyist manuscript is conceptually one file within the project, with your chapters and scenes as outline subtopics within. Scrivener has real little files for each scene and chapter. Even though it looks the same in the sidebar, it’s not. Storyist displays the entire manuscript when you click on a scene, with the cursor at the start of the scene you just clicked on. Scrivener opens ONLY the file you click on (or only the files you select – that’s what “Scrivenings” is about.)
  • WYSIWYG v. Compilation. Storyist is WYSIWYG – you’ll have to reformat your entire project if you want to output for print v. epub v. mobi v. Smashwords. By way of contrast, in Scrivener you format each document in the way that works best for you while you’re writing it, then compile to output each format with its little quirks. I think this is one of the “personal preference” features, but the Scrivener output is way more flexible.
  • For a big project, Storyist is noticeably slower than Scrivener.
  • (Further examples exist.)

Aw, heck. I am a self-admitted techno-geek, and if I’ve used a tool for more than six months, I’ve customized that puppy beyond recognition. My Scrivener setups are as personal as my toothbrush. Despite my restricted use of research, keywords, custom metadata, et-freaking-cetera, I use enough of the Scrivener-only stuff to make contemplating a move to Storyist painful. I’m scrubbing Storyist off my Mac, and going back to the Scrivener for iOS cheering section (“Write That Code! Write That Code! Yay SCRIVENER!”)

NaNoWriMo’een (A Halloween Horror Story)

Image courtesy of bandrat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bandrat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow.

I know.

You haven’t done any prep work.

Welcome to my world. I’ve done NaNoWriMo seven times, including this year, and haven’t prepped once.

You have time before your shift this evening! Get your lazy butt out of bed!

Okay. Do I get to skip making breakfast, doing dishes, blog posting, accounting, working out, email responses, and the six gajillion other things on my to-do list over on Habit RPG?

Of course not! You must do all you’ve committed to, and more!

I think I’ll go back to sleep.

NaNoWriMo Murder, She Thought

mage courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’re more than halfway through October. If I were organized, I’d have an outline for my November NaNoWriMo novel underway, character sheets sketched out, Scrivener project begun.

But I’m not organized.

Instead, I have drama in my life. This I do not need — drama needs to happen on the page in November. Drama is happening, though, with the leader of my local NaNo write-in.

A bit of background — for nearly a year I have been associate host of a year-round NaNo write-in. I took on that role for a very simple reason: I wanted to have someplace each week to write, with others who wanted to write as well. I wanted to keep the door open, through the summer doldrums and the September “oh, we’re too busy starting [fill in the blank] to write”. There’s never a problem finding a NaNo group in November, or even October. But I’ve gone to lots of “year-round” write-ins in my local region where no one was there — no organizer, no participants — except me.

If I was going to do that anyway, I might as well be official about it.

I spoke to a “year-round” host in my local area, and was quickly put on as a Meetup.com co-host. The time was changed to one less convenient for me, and the venue changed to one where I can’t eat the food. Fine. I buy a coffee each week. I put out a NaNoWriMo write-in table tent.

From my point of view, it’s been a rousing success. At least one other person has been there to write every single week. Occasionally I give in, eat the food, and get mildly sick for a day.

But the primary host has Ambitions. He has a new spouse, a demanding job, and two very time-consuming positions in another writers’ group. He added a critique group to the NaNo write-in — thankfully that has been moved to another day and taken over by another group member more interested in it. He also has taken on the job of running NaNoWriMo prep sessions in October, extra write-in sessions in November, and has become webmaster for a regional NaNo Meetup group. I offered to help with some duplication of paper materials for the prep sessions, as that didn’t commit me to attend anything.

He slammed me. With no prior request, I woke up Tuesday to find an email informing me that he’d graciously made me an Event Organizer in the regional NaNo meetup group, so that I could send emails and make event changes when he was too busy. I also found six emails informing me that I’d RSVP’d “yes” for events I couldn’t attend.

And I can’t find him to pick up or drop off paper materials.

I am livid. I can’t even speak Californian — I am so angry that my accent has devolved to Gulf Coast Texan.

I’ve taken myself out of all leadership in that regional NaNo meetup, sent him a curt email telling him that he need not count on my support past that which I have already promised — and by the way, where and when does he want to to transfer paper materials? — here’s MY schedule.

I am within a hair of withdrawing from any Meetup.com group he’s part of, and starting my own damn year-round write-in. But I won’t get the satisfaction of telling him off to his face — he’s too damned busy.

Maybe I do have a plot for my November novel, after all.

Driven to Write

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not turning this blog into a rideshare driver blog — Harry, over at The Rideshare Guy does that very well. But I am learning a lot from driving:

  1. 4.97 stars is good enough. Not everyone is going to like my writing, just as not everyone is going to like my driving.
  2. It’s okay to learn as I go. If I had to live with the rating I got on my first day driving, I’d be on probation. By extension, it’s okay if my first novel just doesn’t suck. I mean, a person’s first published novel rarely wins a prize. Yes, I know that some do. But most don’t.
  3. Customer service is king. By this I don’t mean having lots of giveaway goodies in my car (such as bottled water.) Instead, I mean listening to the customers, treating them with respect, not bitching at them about not making money this ride — just making sure they get value for their money. This does not conflict with (2) above — if that novel is the best I can write at the time, and the customers find it entertaining and worth what I charge for it, and I interact with my (future) readers and treat them with respect, that’s customer service. It’s not a perfect novel. It’s not lots of add-ons. It’s providing entertainment and courtesy.

I hope I’ll have more to write about writing soon — finding the balance between my part-time job and writing is a challenge.

And I don’t even want to think about NaNoWriMo looming…

Camp NaNoWriMo — July Comes Too Soon

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of iosphere / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

OMG, what do you mean that it’s almost July?

It seems like every time NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo rolls around, I’m not ready. I didn’t even bother trying in April. Nonetheless, I’m on for July.

My intent is to revise last July’s novel, working title Leticia. To my own surprise, I may be ready with background notes, character summaries, a (gasp) timeline, and a scene-level outline. Please, don’t faint or guffaw. I have everything but the scene-level outline, and that’s in process. There just may be time in the remaining 13 days of June to get it done.

I’ve set myself the ambitious goal of 100K words for July — but I’m hoping that most of my words from last year will make it through to this year’s draft. I’m not going to beat myself with the “not a winner” stick if I don’t make my goal — I will declare myself a winner if I either a) get the revision finished or, b) get 50K new words written. I’m hoping for a lot more than 1600 words per day, though.

I’m a different writer from the one who sat down last year to a blank screen with no prep. I’ve learned a lot about productivity, writing, and myself. Last year, I didn’t have an outstanding process engineer (Hubby!) on my team. I didn’t know about GTD. I was emotionally, if not intellectually, in denial about the realities of being ADHD with respect to being a writer. And while I knew what was supposed to happen in revision, I had no clue as to where to start.

Now, I have a process. I have a plan. I have a skilled production engineer to coach me and help me refine my process. The process is not written in stone — I revised my weekly schedule yesterday to more closely match the realities of the productivity patterns I’ve noticed over the last month. And since January I’ve gone through one attempt to structure the story according to one author’s suggested process, gotten hopelessly bogged down, and restarted with a different author as guide.

It’s all OK. After 40 years of being a poor employee and a worse boss, I’m learning to be a decent employee and a decent boss — to myself. I never cared enough either engineering or any employer to make more than a half-hearted attempt at this. But I care enough writing and being a writer to keep at it — and make progress.