camp nano

On a whim, I have decided to try out Camp NaNoWriMo this July.

Considering the amount of crazy day job deadlines coming up, my general emotional state (poor), and the amount of regular writing I currently do (very little), I am sure this is going to be a huge challenge. I am going to be revising my NaNoWriMo novel from November 2015, something I have been meaning to do since, well, December 2015.

I undertake a lot of writing projects on a whim. I assign myself tasks designed to achieve enormous, significant goals. This is most often a mistake; I design things that don’t really work for me and then get dispirited when I can’t keep the output up for more than a few days. I have wanted to write for a long time but I don’t even know if I can do it anymore. Hopefully Camp Nano turns out not to be one of these projects.

If you’re thinking about signing up, there’s only 6 days until the Camp officially kicks off! Hop to it.

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second draft blues

I have a serious case of the second draft blues.

Okay, not blues – maybe what I have is more accurately described as a phobia. A second-draft-induced full-on panic attack. Second draft terror.

How do you write a second draft? How do you do it? Seriously, could someone on the internet somewhere have written an actually helpful guide to tackling this monster? A specific, non-vague, step by step list of instructions? Yeah, that’d be great. I guess writing doesn’t really work like that – no one else can write you a ten-point plan for how to write your novel – but man, it’d be so awesome if it did.

Part of why I am so fearful of this next novelling step is that I have never taken it before. I am the first draft queen. I can free write like a champ. I have notebook upon notebook dedicated to those initial, glorious bursts of inspiration, those moments when even the texture and motion of the ink on the page is the stuff of poetry. But when it comes to second drafts my experience is limited to much, much shorter works – reviews, essays, flash fiction. I have no idea how to take on a 50k manuscript and it is freaking me out.

truman capote

This picture of Truman Capote comes up when you Google image search ‘frustrated writer.’

Freaking out for me means watching Gilmore Girls and Harry Potter for the twenty-millionth time and starting another novel and letting that big hulking black folder containing my manuscript intimidate me into inaction. Occasionally I treat my unsuspecting friends and acquaintances to a babbling, hyperactive rant when they ask me how my novel is going (a side effect of not wanting to lie and say, ‘Great!’ and also of having no filter when it comes to my emotions).

Does anyone have any advice? I will take book recommendations, article links, anything. Just don’t be vague.

nanoupdate #2: the pros and cons of typewriters

I’m a bit of a typewriter nerd.

Well, no, not nerd or geek, because that kind of implies that I am knowledgable in some way about typewriters. What I actually am is a typewriter fetishist. Polite cough. Sorry. But there’s no way around it: I know next to nothing about the invention, use, or maintenance of typewriters; I know that the Qwerty keyboard was invented to stop the little flicky key-bits from jamming but – see! I don’t even know what the little flicky key-bits are called!

What I do know is that I love writing on typewriters but that, five days in, I’m already slightly anxious about my decision to write my nanonovel on my clunky old Brother electric. Probably because I just sent half an hour MANUALLY TALLYING MY WORD COUNT. Yeah. Technology ain’t all bad.

 

Here’s my pros and cons for the Typewriter Experience so far.

PROS:

I can type as fast as I can think of a sentence – my touch typing skills are certainly up to scratch.

Using a typewriter automatically switches off my inner editor – ‘cos I can’t go back and change what I’ve just typed. Perfect for Nanowrimo’s word count boosting, 50,000-or-die mentality.

It’s pretty! My typewriter itself might not be the most adorable retro piece – it’s way too 80s for that – but I like the way the words look on the page. I like having a physical stack of pages to measure my progress against.

CONS:

Sometimes my fingers go a little too fast, and switch into muscle memory mode before I can stop them, typing something instead of someone more times than I can count. Correction tape is a precious commodity, I only use it for the really big cock ups, so there’s a lot of back spacing and typing rows of x’s over things.

Hesitating before I write something, because it feels more like a permanent decision. That inner editor of mine is a mouthy little bitch who won’t take a hint.

NO WORD COUNT FUNCTION. RARGH LAUREN SMASH.

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Word count: 4,363 words. Slow start big finish.

nanoupdate #1

So… yeah. Day four? Day four. Oh, my word count? Wow, everyone is so obsessed with length here.

So I’ve had a pretty bad start to NaNoWriMo 2012 in terms of words on the page. My tried and trusted method is the 1667-words-per-day-no-matter-what: I say tried and trusted because I’ve only “won” NaNoWriMo once and that was what I did. Sometimes I even went over 1667, just to give myself a little bit of a buffer in case the next day was a bad day.

November 2012 seems to be a bad month; at least when it comes to my novel. If you are any other project – random short stories, pearly-white and perfect first stanzas to future earth-shattering epics, then man, am I showering you with love and attention right now. But The Novel, poor thing, I think it might be able to tell that I am forcing myself through that “quality time” of ours. It’s taken me until Day Four to do what I needed to do: 1) block some time out of my calendar where what I’m meant to be doing is writing and 2) have someone there to make sure I do it. Apparently I am useless without the buddy system. This afternoon my best friend and I wandered down to the park and sat in the sun, ate vegan chips and apples, talked about how scary birds are, and then we made some goddamn ART. We were both dealing with a spot of rustiness, she sketching after some time off, me writing fiction again after months of gig reviews and artist interviews, so it was an awkward but ultimately productive afternoon. I am no where near meeting my word targets, but at least I’ve actually started moving – however slowly – toward them.

Another thing I have learnt about my writing process, darling is that I am a planner. If I’d spent even five minutes doing a bit of self-assessment I probably could have put two and two together and come to the same astounding conclusion, but as it is it turns out I learn by making an idiot out of myself. Thankfully, this time, it was just to myself, no one else.

I discovered, in drawing up a family tree of my characters, that I’d managed to put one of my characters into two different families within the same paragraph. I’d read through the paragraph once before I realised this and not even noticed. I had to sit down and make an elaborate family tree, draw a little map of my universe, and start picking careers and personality traits for my characters before the penny would deign to drop.* And I thought brainstorming was just something they taught us in high school
English when we were planning essays.

So in conclusion, my new business cards are going to read something like this:

Lauren Strickland
idiot, procrastinator, novelist

Am keeping on going, and come hell or high water I will win this year; the t-shirt design is just too damn cute.

* Side note: there was a reason I had to quit playing The Sims.

fifty thousand words

Look at the date on my first post. Now look at the date on this one. There’s a reason my twitter bio (self)describes me as ‘writer, reader, avid procrastinator‘, and it’s not flippancy.

I started this blog with the loftiest and most poetic of intentions, and I still have them to a certain extent. I want to write and I want to write often and I want to make myself a better writer. I want to be able to cast my mind back (see: Google myself) years from now and see all the bits and pieces that went into that process: the books I read and the films I saw, the stories and submitted and the rejection letters I received, the exercises and challenges and discussions and meandering, pointless thoughts I had on the subject. I’d be lying if I say I don’t want to look back and see a few successes too: publications, paycheques, final manuscripts.

None of this will happen until I can – honestly – edit my twitter bio. I could do it now, delete the self-fulfilling prophecy, but it will still be how I think of myself. Procrastinator. Pretentious snot with an abandoned, one-post blog. There’s nothing worse than writers who don’t write.

That’s why I think this blog needs a kick in its digital pants and that’s why I’m here, in the dying days of October, blogging about something very dear to my heart: NaNoWriMo.

I don’t know what the wider writing community thinks about this annual writing challenge – I’ve never bothered to ask – but I love it. For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo – or National Novel Writing Month – is an annual challenge set for writers to churn out a 50,000 word first draft. It started way back in 1999, initially just a US thing – initially just a San Francisco thing, actually – and grew from there. As far I know the only requirements are that your work is fictional, original, and not the same word repeated over and over again. They have a website, an adorably-named organisation (the Office of Letters and Light!) and a suitably prosaic tagline: Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.

November 2010 was the first and only time I’ve ever managed to write something substantial.* November 2010 was the first time I bonded with someone over the fact that we both wanted to be writers. December 2010 was the first time I was able to say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve written a novel. No big.’

It was crap, of course, that first NaNo novel of mine, but I still fucking wrote it, so nyah. That’s kind of the point of (Inter)National Novel Writing Month: writing. Writing one thing for however long it takes for that initial burst of inspiration to pass (usually about as long as it takes for me tea to go cold) and then keeping on going. And ending up with a piece of shit manuscript you’re not afraid to tear to pieces in order to find that something decent buried within.

I have dozens of “idea” notebooks, full of singularly pretentious potential first lines and hazily outlined plots in which everyone is named Anna or Ben because those are my go-to character names. NaNoWriMo is an opportunity to shake some life into those rattling story-fragments, and the experience of participating is a chance to blow some of the dust off my neglected little corner of the internet. I intend to give myself something to write about here by writing. The lovely folk at the Office of Letters and Light call it ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo if you finish: that’s all it takes. 50,000 words, bitches. I’ll see you in December, Instagramming a picture of myself in my winner’s tee.

 

In the meantime, I’ll let you know how it goes.

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*And by substantial mean Longer Than The Largest Word Limit I’ve Ever Been Set For A University Assignment.**

** And by Longer Than The Largest Word Limit I’ve Ever Been Set For A University Assignment, I mean longer than 3000 words.***

*** Footnotes are fun! I feel like David Foster Wallace.