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talking to myself (a writing experiment)

After moaning about being unfocused and being gently-but-firmly kicked in the butt by Julie (who is a writing machine and has just published her first book, which I’m currently reading and which you should so check out), I stopped the complaining (out loud) and did sit down and write and have now, by Sunday afternoon, two fresh new chapters – yeay!

My morning walks with the dog, which I touched upon in the previous post (as a devious means to distract your attention from the fact that I was feeling sorry for myself) also enter into this post, although not for the pretty landscape, but for something I’ve been experimenting with: dictating the story to myself.

Usually when I walk the dog, I either just listen to my surroundings – especially in the mornings, when it’s still fresh and quiet and birds are singing – or, if I need a bit of escapism, I listen to audio books on my mp3-player (Georgette Heyer, anyone?). Shortly before November, when I was scrambling to get to know my characters sufficiently to be able to work with them, I decided to try and not only talk to myself in my head, which of course I do all the time, but to do it in a more constructive way and talk out loud and record it on my player. Which I did, feeling like a fool and falling silent every time I only saw another person approaching on the horizon. But it worked! Talking and asking questions out loud really focused my attention and I developped some interesting and quite unforeseen backstories.

This morning, I decided that I had enough backstory, that I didn’t need any more ‘about’. So I gulped – twice – and took out my trusty little mp3-player and started telling the story at the point where I had left off the night before. Every time I got stuck, I just repeated the sentence before and every time it clicked after two or so repetitions and I could carry on. It was amazing! I’d expected it to be more difficult, because usually I need my hands to move to have my best ideas, but somehow, it worked!

When I came back home with about 45 minutes of talk on my player, I was so psyched that I sat down, put on the earphones and started taking dictation from myself straight away. Now that really was weird, to be honest. Most of us, I think, feel uncomfortable with hearing our own voices outside of our head, and I had been almost whispering when I recorded it, as well as walking quite fast, so I was breathy and hard to understand even to myself! Also, every time I talked to the dog – to call him back or something – I switched to German and spoke much louder. Then I went back to telling the story in English in a half-whisper. People are strange, aren’t they?

Anyway, after typing what I’d told myself and adding some details here and there, I had a whole chapter where before, I’d had nothing. Magic! How cool is that?!

Have you ever dictated anything to yourself? Did it work for you? What other tricks do you know to move forward those troublesome stories? Do you feel as horribly self-conscious about hearing your own voice as I do?

unfocused

I feel like I should be writing a new post. Actually, I want to write a new post. I just can’t focus on anything that’s worth being written.

I had a look through my drafts, but none of them fit my mood. I’m still slightly nauseous – not physically, but in my head – from over-indulging in the wine and limoncello and Cuba Libre and champagne on my grandma’s 86th birthday dinner/party on Wednesday.

I have so much time on my hands, that I cannot fit enough things in to fill up my days. I know that’s a luxury problem, but it’s a problem nonetheless. Time is dripping through my fingers and I don’t know what to do with it. It’s all over the floor at the moment. A bit of a mess, to be honest.

I should be writing my NaNo novel, except that I gave up winning that and started a new story half-way through. I’ll have to write thousands of words every day for the next week if I want to win. I could do it. Maybe I should do it. Maybe I will. Not sure.

Walking the dog in the mornings is fine. There’s clear, crisp, slightly wet air and it wakes me up and clears my head. And there’s things to see, like this:

Or this:

And sometimes this, although not so much anymore, because the leaves are falling rapidly:

Sorry for the total lack of focus on this post. It’s an adequate representation of my mind at the moment.

songs from Willamette Mountain

While I’m drinking hot ginger tea with lemon and honey and typing away at my future bestseller (yeah, well, one can dream, right?), I’m listening to a fantastic album: From the Top of Willamette Mountain, by Joshua James. You can stream it here in full.

Joshua James with guitar in field

I admit that I’d never even heard of Joshua James before I got this link from a friend and then I had it open as a tab on my browser for a while and then, when I listened to it the first time, I was immediately caught up. His voice is just a touch raspy and scratchy and the songs speak to me of solitude and loneliness and self-reliance and longing and space and memories. It’s a perfect mixture to capture my heart. The album is mostly quiet, but it had me humming along at the second spin already, as each song is distinct and individual and sparkling, while still retaining that edge that keep them from being just “nice”.

If you’re a writer on a mission to win NaNo, or just writing because that’s what you do, and you like to have some music to inspire you, try this album.

If you have nothing to do with writing but like good music, also try this album. It’ll be worth your time. It’ll be out on November 6th on Intelligent Noise.

oh, the freedom!

NaNo is finally here and I’m awash in a sea of words! I’m following all the twitter activity and checking up on how my buddies are doing and just generally getting off to a really good start. Best tip I ever received: start at midnight and write for as long as you can before you fall asleep – then when you wake up, you’ve already got a head start and the day is still only the first! I can almost feel all the other writers out there in the world, it’s like we’re all connected.

Which we are! I love the internet… *happy sigh*

Even though theoretically I could sleep in this morning, I was too fired up to sleep and woke with new ideas shimmering in my brain. And the rest of the day, even as I was busy with other things, those ideas seemed to be busy rubbing up against each other and multiplying and where yesterday I only had eight characters and the merest sketch of a shadowy outline, I now feel like I have a rainbow laid out in front of my feet.

Do I sound drunk? I think I’m drunk on possibilities. So far, one of the cast has announced to me that she’s pregnant, three have brought up successful claims to change their names (Yes, despite what I said earlier! And I really have no idea how it happened), the geeky, borderline-boring guy is turning out to be a really good jazz pianist and the goofy guy didn’t even begin being goofy and instead went straight for the bottle of irony. Which means, that I’m either loosing my tentative grip on the story (= bad), or the cast has come alive and is becoming very real indeed (=good, I think).

Oh, the feeling of freedom at the beginning, with all roads open and all avenues to be explored…!

some good reads

Alright, so I found the perfect way to distract myself from my NaNo panic. After spending ALL day yesterday procrastinating by doing “research” into how to create perfect characters – everything from character charts, questionnaires, articles on character voice and how to write the opposite gender, … – I saw an update on “Princess” Monica’s blog where she raved about GoodReads and I caved in and signed up.

Now, I know you won’t believe this, but I really, honestly had not been a member there before. I hadn’t even checked it out. Yes, you’re allowed to laugh and no, I won’t hold it against you if you shake your head in disbelief and tut-tut disapprovingly. It’s justified.

I had been meaning to check out what it was all about forever, but it always landed at the bottom of the to-do list, plus, I don’t much like hypes and that’s what it felt like. But since I signed up last night, I have already acquired deep circles under my eyes, who in turn have gone red and swollen from staring at the screen so hard. My fingers on my mouse-hand are hurting from clicking on those teensy stars and I have landed myself with a new addiction. Hussa!

I’m also slowly starting to see why so many people are on there. True, so far all I’ve done is set up a basic profile and wreck my brain trying to think of all the books I’ve ever read and enthusiastically clicking ‘Want to Read’ on everything remotely interesting, but I can see that’s it’s a really good way of discovering new things to read. It’s also a really neat and specialized way of exchanging opinions about books and I think I’ll head over and check out the lists now, because I’ve been meaning to start reading some steampunk and I just don’t know where to start. I’m guessing the lists will be helpful there.

What’s your opinion on GoodReads? And what should I definitely try/look out for/experiment with? Any tips?

the panic button

For the first time in my life, I have a room in which I work and a room in which I sleep. Separate rooms. A bedroom without a computer. A work space without scattered clothes. And to think it only took me thirty years to achieve this dream!

My youngest sister  has moved to England  a while ago, vacating her room, and my room in the souterrain (or basement, if you prefer, although it does have a large window!) has now been renovated, which means that I now have two rooms at my disposal. One for sleeping, reading and just closing the door behind me to get some privacy. Another to sit at a large desk, with lots and lots of daylight and do important things like … well… hm… writing blog posts? Yes. Writing blog posts. Also, read blog updates by other people. And read facebook updates. And catch up on some news, or better, write messages to friends. … Hm. I feel like I’m forgetting something…

OH! Of course. AND prepare for NaNo! Obviously. Very busy with that. Yes. Very. So far, I have done four characterizations out of eight people I need in-depth knowledge of. Two of which I’m not quite happy with yet. Hm. What date is it again?

What? The 25th already? Well, then there’s nothing for it, I’ll have to press the button.  [panic mode activated]

What am I doing here? What are yo doing here, reading this? Shouldn’t you be plotting away? Shouldn’t I? So much to do! So little time! Gaaaah, where’s the last week gone?!? Help!

(To the writers: how are your preparations progressing? All done? Struggling? Not preparing anything anyway? Please tell me I’m not the only one whose stomach flutters unpleasantly at the thought of November 1st getting closer and closer!)

votes are in and names are up

Wow, thanks for everyone who voted on the NaNo novel! The numbers are in and it stands as this:

Option 1 (comic urban fantasy): III

Option 2 (children’s adventure): IIII

Option 3 (literary fiction): IIII I

So it looks as if I’ll be attempting some literary fiction. That’s a new one for me and I have to tell you, I’m a little intimidated by it, but in the end, challenges are good, aren’t they? Help us to rise above ourselves? Make us better and stronger people?

… alright, it did sound more convincing in my head…

Okay, I’ll be serious. Serious about planning, that is. Since it’s already the 18th (!!! gahhhhh! how did that happen?!?!?) and there is lots and lots to plot and plan. Some things I already know though. The names. I don’t how how you guys deal with names, but for me, it’s pretty much one of the first things I know about a character. Not always. Sometimes I know who he or she is and then find a name that fits them. But usually, the name and the character of the person come to me in a bundle. And then, once they have that name, that’s it. There’s nothing I can do about it. I might want to change it later on, because maybe the name has to sound different or maybe it conveys a ‘wrong’ cultural background or two names in one story sound too much alike, but in that case, it’s just bad luck. Nothing I can do about it.

I mean, just imagine if you took it into your head that you really didn’t like your own name that much and you decided to go by another. Maybe you have a second name, maybe you’ll change your surname to something else… but underneath, in your own head, wouldn’t you still think of yourself by your original name?

I can see how a change of name would help if you wanted to become a different person. Just like clothes, I guess: you put them on and you just feel different. They allow you to leave your personality and pretend, for a little while, that you are more fun or more quiet, more outspoken or more professional, more this or that or anything else that you can think of than you usually are. That’s one reason why people dress up for job interviews or for dates or for festive occasions – it’s an outward signal to themselves and it bucks them up to be professional or at their most charming or in their best festive mood. It helps. It’s certainly part of why I only really use make-up and fancy jewelry at certain times (like interviews and exams and parties and so on). In the end though, you’re still yourself when you take the clothes off.

A change of name, of course, is more permanent than clothes and I’m sure it would help you change, just by always reminding you to be different and act as a sort of guide to the new you. But that’s exactly my point with characters: once they have a name, that is them. I cannot change the name without changing the personality. And the other way round, if I think that that secondary character (or even, in one case, the main character herself) really has to be different to fit in the story, then I need to do them from scratch: new personality, new name, new character. The old ones gets put in a back corner of my head, where they sulks for a while, crossing their arms in front of their chests, huffing and kicking at the dusty furniture and pretending not to be hurt, until they snatch up a random particle of inspiration and hold it up above their heads, its light reflecting back on their faces and lighting it up with a wild hope and glee and they shout at me: “That’s my story, right there! All mine! My story! Do something about it! Move, come on!”

(I don’t know if your characters sulk or are hurt or angry at you or shout at you and order you about, but I fervently hope they do, because if they don’t, it might mean I’m crazy after all.)

So, yeah, names are IMPORTANT. They define people. They define characters in novels. And I have the names for my next book, and attached to that, the personalities of the characters. That’s a good start, right?

All the writers out there: do you find names as important as well? Are you able to change them in the middle of the story or is that utterly unthinkable for you?

please choose my NaNo novel!

As October is sprinting on, a new challenge is starting to loom on the horizon for all write-minded people.

Yep, NaNoWriMo is upon us once more.

I didn’t realize this until a got an official e-mail last week, reminding me of the fact. For some reason, it’s the same with NaNo as with Christmas – both happen so suddenly. Just – bam! – and there is November and the madness of writing a minimum of 50,000 words worth of story. And straight after receiving the mail, I also noticed that the writing-oriented blogosphere was buzzing with NaNo, with everybody writing about their preparations, their fears, their motivation and so I decided it was high time I did the same. Just so I don’t feel left out.

The first time I attempted NaNo was last year, and I crashed and burned quite soon into the proceedings. Then I attempted the June version of it, which calls itself Camp NaNo and managed to be a glorious winner! Alright, I haven’t even finished editing that draft yet, but since I made that experience of sprinting over the finishing line with my whole system buzzing from caffeine and five minutes to spare, I have been game to try it again, so November is coming just at the right time! (well, it usually does, which is, right after October, but I guess you know what I mean…)

So for preparation so far I have done the amazing amount of nothing. I haven’t even decided yet on which story I should use. And since I can’t decide, I’d thought I’d get your opinions. If anybody out there is interested in playing fate, feel free and tell me your choice. (Just keep in mind that I suck at titles and I haven’t really got the plots for any of these figured out beyond the basics!)

**********

OPTION 1

Working title: Demon School

Genre: Urban Fantasy with lots of comedy thrown in and a chick-lit-kinda romance

Story (very roughly): A young woman from a small town, with a healthy dose of curiosity and the ability to put her foot in it whatever the situtation, takes a job as secretary at a London school on the recommendation of an old neighbour and discovers that the school educates all kinds of magical and fantastical youngsters, from vampires to ghosts and to dwarves and to banshees. General mayhem is the natural state of affairs at this school, but when first things and then kids go missing, she decides to play sleuth and thereby crosses the path of some dangerous people who are less than pleased at her knack of finding things out…

**********

OPTION 2

Working title: The Treasure in the Dunes

Genre: Children’s novel, Adventure

Story (very roughly): When Dan and his older sister are shipped off to their aunt in the wilds of Norfolk for the summer holidays because their parents need “time to sort things out” between them, he’s sure that it can’t get much worse. That is, until he meets his cousins, who run wild in the dunes and the forests and who despise him because he has glasses and comes from the city and is a pampered baby. When Dan discovers an ancient document, however, all four kids need to work together to find the treasure that has been hidden for so long.

**********

OPTION 3

Working title: Four Couples [this is the lamest title ever, but it’s all I can do right now]

Genre: Literary Fiction (???)

Story (very roughly): Eight people, four couples: one in a long-standing relationship, one that has just fallen in love, one that develops a love-hate relationship at first sight and one where fear stands in the way of love. Each person defines love differently and each has different expectations. Over the course of [a certain time] their relationships as couples, as family, as friends develop and happy ends are not always what they seem.

**********

So, which one’s the story of your choice? (I’m depending on you guys!)

without words

.

..

….

…..

Oh, alright, I guess one word won’t hurt: HA! Made it!!!

It’s getting hot in here

It’s hot. Somewhere above 30°C. Which is hot, especially when considering the fact that it was still necessary to wear socks a few days ago. I’m sitting at the dining room table, with a view out into the garden. At the point of writing this, I still have to write 8351 words to get to the finish line of 50,000 by midnight. I think I can do it. I didn’t think so yesterday morning, but I behaved very well all day yesterday and wrote a lot, despite the fact that it was meltingly hot and humid. Have a look at the stats page. This is a screenshot I did at 23.55 last night:

It’s now 1.40 pm, I have more than eight thousands words to go, I’m listening to a collection of songs from the South Pacific (this one here – it’s wonderful!), and I have the choice between being unbelievably hot (= terrace doors open) or suffocating due to lack of oxygen (= terrace doors closed).  So far, I choose to live. If I cannot make the deadline, I might change my mind.

Well, okay, not really. And anyway, by midnight it will be cooler. Hopefully. At least it will if this happens again:

That was two days ago. The lightning was impressive, but although it is my dearest ambition to capture one of those amazing, borderline-kitsch photos of a huge bolt of lighting, I haven’t yet managed to be fast enough.

… where was I? Ah, yes – procrastination. As you now have proof before you, I’m a master. My official title is ‘Queen Procrastinatrix of the Universe’. For you, ‘Majesty’ will be fine. Although I think I will insist on my minions fanning me with huge palm leaves. And regularly bringing ice water for me to put my feet in. Any volunteers?

(… my brain is cooking… where’s the iced tea?…)

… oh no, quick, I gotta go. My youngest sister is back from shopping for our BBQ party tomorrow and she bullies me something awful when she sees me busy at my true calling of putting things off. For some reason, she insists I be productive and finish this story on time.

*sigh*

Any cooling-down-and-staying-on-track tips out there? I’m also open on tips of how to stay sane. But maybe you can tell that for yourselves already.

Camp report no. 5 – Dancing or: The race is on!

I was stuck at 17407 words for five days. Then I progressed to 22463. And that’s where I stayed. I was in a slump. Total disintegration over a period of days, culminating in me staying up till four in the morning to watch random TV series that I wasn’t interested in and feeling sorry for myself. The reason is mainly my job(less) situation. Having nothing constructive to do all day and feeling not wanted… well, it can prey on your mind. The result was a total down. And with regard to writing and my Camp NaNo goal of writing 50,000 words in June – forget it! I pushed it back, thinking I would get back to it tomorrow, catch up then. The next day I didn’t feel up to it. My mind was blank, my thoughts sluggish, I couldn’t concentrate. The next day, it was the same, only possibly even worse. And so on. So yesterday, after several painful days of inaction and thoughts spiralling downwards, I decided to give up.

Well, maybe decided is the wrong word. I acknowledged to myself that I would never be able to catch up now, that I was too far behind. A part of me really wanted to fail, was relieved that I gave in to that little voice.  I decided I wouldn’t even get up in the morning. I would just stay in bed and sleep and read and sulk. Maybe I could induce one of my sisters to bring me a cup of tea or something. So you can imagine my joy when early this morning I heard the door to my room open and my youngest sister’s voice softly calling my name. I’d been deeply asleep, but I do wake up when somebody calls my name. I didn’t move though. Then she said my name again and I could hear from her voice that she was very upset. She said: ‘I have a tick in my leg. Can you help me?’

Believe me, it’s been a long time that I went from deep sleep to being fully awake in such a short time. Within seconds I was out of the bed and kneeling in front of her on the floor, examining the ugly insect that had buried itself into her calf. Unfortunately, I was clumsy in my attempt to rid her of it and ripped the damn thing out while leaving the head in the wound. So we ended up driving to the doctor, to sit in the waiting room for almost an hour, because of course we didn’t have an appointment and had to wait till they could squeeze her in. All of that without any tea or coffee! They cut the thing out and sterilized the wound and told her to watch it for any signs of infection and to be alert as to any signs of illness in the next six weeks. Because of course these little nasties can infect you with lyme disease or meningoencephalitis (in our area – they probably do all kinds of other bad stuff elsewhere). On the way back home we treated ourselves to croissants to ease the pain (in her case) and the guilt (in my case).

By now, you will be asking yourself, or, if you’re like me, your computer screen, what this saga about my little sister and a disgusting insect have to do with writing. Or my depressive phase. Or being able to write more than 25 thousand words in less than a week. The answer: nothing. It really has no connection that I can see, and still, when I was back at my computer this morning, at a terribly early hour, I suddenly wanted to write on the story again. I watched fourty words grow to a hundred, a hundred to two hundred, and suddenly I was writing full out again. I spent the whole afternoon (more or less) sitting here and writing on my story, and because I’m terribly slow, I only managed 5135 words in that time, but hey, that’s more than five thousand words more than I had this morning! I’m quite proud of that.

For some reason, I now feel more determined to make it than even at the beginning of the month. Now that the odds have shifted so much against me and I need to write a minimum of 5499 words a day for four days  to just make it across the finish line, I suddenly feel more confident that I will be able to do it. It’s now a quarter to two in the morning, and I’ll be back to my story in a moment. But before that, I need to do something else, and that is dance. Yes, finally, that’s where the title of this post comes into play! I dance. The house is asleep and there is no other light anywhere than the one light behind me, lightening up my screen. I don’t care though. I’ll crank up the music on my mp3 player and get up and walk right into the middle of the living room and dance around in the dark for a couple of songs that nobody but myself will be able to hear. Because dancing helps with anything. Except maybe ticks.

Camp report no. 4 – Regular exercise

After doing nothing for my Camp NaNo novel for three days, I have clawed my way back up today. Not to the point where I should be, but close enough to be able to relax again. I went from 11,742 to 16,028 words today, which means that I wrote 4286 words (luckily, the website tells me that, otherwise I would have needed to find a calculator – I’m that bad at numbers). For me, that’s A LOT. My goal was to crack 16k today, and I did, and I feel good about it!

While writing, I asked myself why I don’t write these kind of numbers every day. Or, even more pertinently, why I just don’t write the minimum number of 1667 words every day and be done with it. Why do I lean back and not do anything for three days, and then have to scramble to get back?

When I moved back in with my parents two and a half months ago (a temporary arrangement, quite definitely), one of the things I listed on my internal pro/con list as a point on the positive side, was the fact that my Mum has quite a few gym machines in the cellar. There’s a bike thingy, and a running thingy, and lots of stuff for doing other kinds of exercises. And as I’m not as fit as I should or could be, I made the decision to go running on the machine every day. Every day. Even though I hate running. And I did do it.

Yep, you noticed the tense, didn’t you? You’re right. I started out the first week, running for half an hour every morning, and not hating it. Even feeling rather good and smug about myself. And then the inevitable started – one day, I couldn’t make myself get up on time. Another day, I had a headache. The next day, I just felt too hungry and wanted to have breakfast straight away. So I only went running twice a week, then only once, and then I stopped altogether. Now, I haven’t exercised for several weeks, despite the fact that I tell myself every day that I really need it, that I will feel better afterwards.

Why am I not running? Why am I not writing every day? For me, the answer is, quite sadly, pressure. It’s a very depressing conclusion to come to: that apparently, I do not have enough discipline to do what I want to do, what I know is good for me, on a regular basis without external pressure. Such a very dispiriting thing to have to face about oneself! Especially if one is, as I am, very much against pressure and very much against having to do what others say one has to do.

I’ve started to see the light, however. Knowing this about myself will help me deal with it. I just need to create pressure for myself. Apparently, that’s what I’ve been doing unconsciously already, with letting myself fall back on the writing goal. For writing, I can create pressure by timing myself. I can use the falling-back-and-catching-up-again-technique. I can work with motivators like food (‘you’ll only eat if you get to x words!’). I can ask people to hold me accountable (actually, that’s where the cabin system of the Camp NaNo website does wonders!).

Pressure for exercising regularly? Well, I’ve recently thought that I will put a photo of my younger, slimmer, fitter self on my laptop and use it as a desktop image. Or resurrect my old training pal, who is conveniently totally imaginary, but won’t let that stop her from kicking my butt all the same.

Somehow, I feel more confident about the writing than about the exercising. Help?

P.S. If you need pressure to work as well, please do leave a comment. I won’t feel so lonely. And if you don’t need pressure, could you teach me how to do that as well?

Camp report no. 3 – Sprinting

I’m a lousy runner. Partly because I just don’t like the activity, and partly because I lack the high-level endurance. I hated it when we had to run at school, all those years ago, mindlessly round and round the gym. Even worse was when the gym teacher send us outside to run and all the passers-by and shoppers and people walking their dogs and old people sitting on benches could see us running past, red-faced, sweat-soaked and out of breath. A very humiliating experience.

On the other hand, sometimes when I’m outside – walking the dog, walking myself – I get the sudden urge to run. It comes over me in a shower of joy of life and of being alive and being where I am in the particular moment. It bursts out of me in a wild energy boost and at that moment I will run – I’ll run as hard and fast as I can. It doesn’t last much more than a minute, but that minute makes me feel that I could fly around the world if only I wanted to hard enough!

Yesterday I discovered something similar in my Camp NaNo writing. The days before, I sat down in the morning with the thought: ‘I have to catch up today. I have to write x thousand words today.’ Needless to say, I always fell short. Pressure, remember? What I did yesterday was simple, and came about as the result of me having a bad headache and being tired and grumpy. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to write the almost 5k I needed to ‘catch up’, so I didn’t set out to do it. I made a cup of tea, took a pill for my headache and sat down at the computer and timed myself for fifteen minutes. Fifiteen minutes, I argued, would be perfectly fine, after that I was allowed to get up from the computer again.

Fifteen minutes passed and I had written approximately 300 words. I got up and did some kitchen chores. A while later, I came back to the computer to look at my e-mails and decided my head would allow me a further fifteen minutes. That pattern repeated itself throughout the day and in the evening, I found to my surprise that I had written almost 5k that day. What? It seemed very absurd to me that I couldn’t do it on days when I was perfectly fine and healthy and wanted to write lots, and on a day when I felt my head would explode any minute, I could suddenly do it without meaning to?

And this morning I remembered the running and realized that of course it worked like that! Noone will ever get me to run five kilometers. However, walking five kilometers is perfectly fine and if in between the walking I suddenly get the urge to sprint forwards for a minute or so, that’s just fun and exuberance. The same, apparently, goes for writing. Looking at ‘having to’ catch up five thousand words… puh, that’s rather daunting. But just taking a few sprints, because you know you can, and because you feel good doing it – that’s a whole different thing! If in the end, if you find out that the sprints add up to quite a respectable number, that’s just an added bonus, surely?

I’ll be continuing this sprinting philosophy today. I hope I haven’t ruined it by over-analyzing. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m off to make a cup of tea (peppermint, if you’re curious) and to listen to your experiences: what’s your approach – long-distance endurance running or walking with short bursts of sprinting?

Camp report no. 2 – Hiking

I love hiking. The freedom of just going where you want to go and at your own speed, without being dependent on anything but your own body… it’s glorious. Relying only on yourself and what you can do is the most intense experience of self. Plus, you usually get to see beautiful landscapes and interesting nature, and I’m always up for that.

You may ask yourself why I’m rambling about hiking in a post that is supposed to be about writing. Be patient, it’ll be clear very soon! You see, today is the third day of Camp NaNo. And I’ve had a lousy day. I’ve been in a bad temper, I’ve been sleepy (for me, always a sign of being overwhelmed), I’ve been feeling like curling up in bed and not getting up again until June’s over, I’ve been over-eating and the absolute low point was reached when I started to seriously think about if I have been on the wrong path all these years I dreamed about being an author.

When you go on a hike of several days, the first day will always be great. You’re excited. You see new things. You’re well rested and healthy and feel you can do anything and will probably overdo it. On the second day, you will start feeling the strain and maybe some of the enchantment will have worn off, but you still think you can do it, although you go about things more slowly. The third day, however… The third day is when you have to put that backpack on a back that is sore and pulled, when you walk on feet that might have developed blisters, when you will feel either too hot or too cold, when you question your sanity in setting out on this adventure in the first place and cannot imagine ever being able to finish the trek. You’re not able to appreciate the beautiful nature around you, and the first time anyone tries to make you see reason or is kind to you, you feel like throwing something at their heads.

In short, the third day is the day where you loose sight of the bigger picture. The enchantment’s gone, the perks of the adventure can go stuff themselves and you loose all faith in your ability to finish what you set out to do. So how do you deal with it? Very simply by being aware of it. Expect it to happen and treat yourself kindly. Don’t be harsh on yourself. Try your best at staying your course, and if you cannot, then that’s okay as well. Just keep in mind that it’s the third day and that you cannot make a sensible decision at this point. Because you cannot see the whole picture when you are at a low point. You can only see the valley of your own misery or pain or disappointment.

So I’m taking my own advice: I’ll close the computer in a minute and allow myself to feel okay about the only four-hundred-odd words I wrote. I’ll forgive myself for thinking that I should just give up. Deep down, I know I’m good enough, even if my mind is telling me I will never finish anyway. But this is the third day, and I cannot see the whole picture, so I’m trying to be patient. I’ll have a hot shower and tend my wounds and crawl into my tent, and tomorrow will be a new day.

Any other campers suffering from third-day-syndrome today?

Camp report no. 1

So the NaNo fun has started… I went into the game with slightly over 3000 words, none of which I’m particularly pleased with, but they needed to be put on paper. I’ve been doing other things the whole day, hoping to get every urge to procrastinate out of my system by dinner time. I work best at night.

My main character, Meg, has arrived in the village, had an almost-fight with her Mom and has made the acquaintance of some of her future friends. In the middle of writing I changed the sex of one of these friends – I felt there were too many girls. 🙂

Also, I’m so happy to have the support system of my cabin – hurrah for fellow writers!

off to camp!

Over at the Camp NaNo website the countdown clock says two hours and something minutes. Less than three hours and I’ll be starting on my novel. The first draft of my novel. Hm…

Anyway – a minimum of 50.000 words in one month. It’s summer, I don’t have any other work but write applications and a small handful of side projects that don’t require constant attention. I have prepared more than I have ever prepared for any of my stories, I’ve got pages and pages of notes and list of things that I need to keep in mind and that is pinned up next to my desk. I have chocolate and wine in the house. I have awesome cabinmates. I think I’m ready.

I’m also nervous. I’m afraid of becoming discouraged and giving up (again). I’m afraid of not being able to put down the words in a way that makes the story come alive on paper in the same way as it is alive in my head. I’m afraid of being stuck and not knowing how to go on.

But I will only know if I can do it if I do it. I think. Any helpful words of advice to take on the way?

(I’m also VERY much looking forward to it. Just nervous. 🙂 )

Camp NaNo

Okay, here goes. This is the post in which I allow you to make fun of me. And not only that, I’ll even give you a reason: I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, after having miserably failed NaNo in November at a meager 5000 words.

You have no idea what I’m going on about? Well. NaNoWriMo is the somewhat mystic-sounding (really. imagine the vowels drawn out really long, resounding from the steep walls of a rocky valley high up in the mountains… ) short form of National Novel Writing Month, an initiative originally started as a way to get more people writing, which has snowballed into a very popular global online community. So each November, this great event takes place, in which thousands of people around the world try to write a novel of (at least) 50,000 words in one month. Which I took part in last year, and, as mentioned above, gave up at 5000 words.

Since this event is so popular, they have started to introduce the summer camp version of the original November NaNo some years ago, Camp NaNoWriMo. And that’s what I have signed up for. And the reason why I feel slightly ridiculous? The question that’s running through my mind of ‘why the blazes do you imagine you can do it now when you failed miserably before?’.

The answer that I give myself is the following: this time, I’m planning. I’ve never planned a story full out before. I might have planned the characters, and the beginning and, very vaguely, the end. But never the different steps that take the characters from the beginning to the end, with all the obstacles, dangers, tests, wrong turnings and so on in between. But this time, I am. I’ve spent much of the last two weeks doing extensive outlines and brainstorming ideas and developing backgrounds and am now putting down the actual steps that my heroine has to go through to reach the end I have in mind for her.

Phew…. It’s a lot of work, and actually, it’s also a lot of fun, which I never expected. It also takes A LOT of concentration. Even though I’m not nearly done, I’m starting to look forward to writing out my sketches and outlines in full and giving voice to the characters. It’ll start on June 1st and yes, I’ll share some of my experiences here.

This time, I won’t give up. I owe it to myself to see it through. It’s a matter of personal honour. 🙂

the moon reminds me of a promise

As I watch the slim crescent of the moon, hanging right there in the dark sky, too close, too big to be real, it feels good to be in this small room, huddled comfortably under the blanket, listening to something soul-y while typing away on the keyboard. Typing what?

Unfortunately, not the novel I wanted to write in November as part of NaNoWriMo. For various reasons I didn’t get past the first 10k. I could have caught up in the last week or so, if I had really pushed, but every time I thought: ‘I  should use this time to catch up’, my contrary streak gained the upper hand and said: ‘Should? Since when are you listening to shoulds?’ I’m not sure if this is laziness disguised, or the pressure really was too much. Anyway, let’s look at the bright side: I’m ten thousand words ahead of where I would be had I not taken part. I will go on with the story and the rule of non-editing and see where it leads me in the next weeks and months.

I have also written three lengthy posts on my new music blog, cresting the sounds. The last one, posted today, took me most of the day to write and re-write.

Writing applications also takes time, and I’ve been doing that as well. Although I know that doesn’t really count for the type of writing I’m talking about. The moon out there reminds me that one reason for going the route that I have now embarked on, was to give me time to write, combined with the promise to myself to take me more more seriously as a writer. A writer writes. So I’ll just go on with that now.

NaNoWriMo – halfway there …theoretically

Today is the 15th – the middle of November. I’m still under 10k for the 50k challenge of NaNo.

Ouch. This is not looking good. I really, really want to win this. I don’t want to give up. I still think that I can make it. I’m moving into my new place tomorrow and will start the jobsearch on a more intense level. However, I will have my own place and I will be able to have a regular routine again. I’m very confident that I will be able to catch up.

I did some non-novel-related writing. In fact, I’m quite excited about a new venture: I set up my own music blog, cresting the sounds. So far, only one post is up, about a concert I went to last week. Check it out and see if you like the music! 🙂

 

NaNoWriMo – day 11

This is a list of all the things I DID do today:

  • cuddle with the dog
  • eat full English breakfast
  • watch two episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot
  • drink 21 cups of tea
  • attempt to repair my friend’s computer
  • write e-mails
  • research jobs
  • set up RSS feeds for job searches
  • lie on the floor and moan about my back hurting
  • read blogs

And this is a list of things I was supposed to do and didn’t:

  • write