Books

NaNoWriMo 2013

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I didn’t think I would do it this year. The novel I had in mind, I couldn’t get researched in time. I had trouble even with desiring to write anything, and I worried that by the time November 1st came around, I’d have some motivation back but nothing to write. And so I, unusually for me, ditched my original idea (for now) and went back to a radio play I’d written for ScriptFrenzy in 2011. All I had to do was go through it and create an outline in my Index Card app. I almost didn’t get that done either! But I did at the last minute and started writing the very first minute of November 1st.

I was off to an auspicious start. It helped that the National Novel Writing Month folks have really amped up the pep talks, Twitter coaching, online sprints, encouraging emails — I mean, we were positively inundated in a really, really good way. But it wasn’t enough. My motivation hadn’t returned, and I found myself reluctant to write. Fortunately, for me, life had dropped out of a maritime blue sky a fellow brain injury survivor who’s a trained life coach who made her mission to cheer me on. Every time I flagged, she was there to discuss the novel, me, NaNoWriMo, whatever, and wind me up again. From her, I received daily ecards, and with her astute questions, I figured out what was wrong with the ending and what I needed it to be. And finally, on the last day, the story came together and wrapped itself up, and suddenly, I was done. Phew.

I blogged occasionally on Google+, as is my wont. Herewith are the posts:

November 1

So I’m off. I don’t normally start NaNoWriMo right at midnight. But I wasn’t sure I’d get a chance to write my first novelling words during normal, sane hours of the day, and hey, it’s good to launch with everyone else at the stroke of 12:00am in my time zone! I’d been waiting all Halloween day since I woke up and saw Christmas Island start their first NaNoWriMo word sprint.

So I got 710 words written, went to update my word count, but the spiffy new NaNoWriMo website had moved the word count entry field. Argh! Where’d they put it??!! Oh. Nope they didn’t move it, they reset the time zone to PST. Pesky defaults! All good now. http://nanowrimo.org/participants/shireenj/novels/divorce-times-marriage/stats

November 2

Day two of NaNoWriMo, and I’m behind in word count. On the plus side, I wrote more than the daily allotted number today, which bodes well for the next few days, right? πŸ™‚

I’ve introduced a character that was only implied in the radio play, which means he has no name. And my mind was not up to coming up with one on the spot as I wrote in his character. So I called him the “director.” Maybe I should capitalize it, turn it into a noun name. 1,920 words today, 2,640 words so far for “Divorce Times Marriage.”

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/shireenj/novels

November 4

I wrote just over 2,000 words today for NaNoWriMo. I’m almost caught up to the daily word count. Almost. πŸ™‚ A lot of dialogue in today’s scene. Yesterday, I was wondering if I had a handle on Cherry’s character because she seemed to be morphing from how she was in my head back when I wrote the original radio play to something different today. Then I realized that I’m adding on a layer rather than changing her outright, making her less of caricature or one-note character. Gerald’s turn will come, I’m sure. But he’s such a strong character in my head, he doesn’t need tweaking. Heh.

November 5

I was almost caught up, and then today, I wrote a short chapter. I began in third person, but luckily had only written a paragraph or two when I remembered that these particular interior scenes are in first person. I went back and edited (a big NaNoWriMo no-no — one must never edit, but I had to in this case!). And once I was in first person, the words come more easily. This is definitely the right point of view for these scenes with Gerald talking to you. πŸ™‚

I’m up to 7,622 words, ahead of some of my NaNoWriMo writing buddies, behind others. Smack in the middle is OK, but it’s more fun when I’m leading the pack. Heh.

November 7

After not writing yesterday, I cracked the 2000-word barrier today. Phew. Still behind in the word count though. I’m not sure I could’ve written anymore. My character did a lot of yelling and then the exhaustion of it overtook her — and me too. #nanowrimo is doing a writing marathon on Saturday. I may join in, for a part anyway, so as to finally, finally get caught up. Been behind since day one!

November 8

Big scene at the shrink’s today in my #nanowrimo novel Divorce Times Marriage. Went a long way to making up for my low word count so far. I’m almost near where I should be — again. Cherry didn’t have much to say during this session; she mostly hid behind her hair. I find having long, or at least not too short, hair comes in handy, but it was hard trying to describe the fall of her hair and how she hid behind it without using “tell” words. Gerald, though, had lots to say. On and on. The shrink’s response was suitably rewarding. I like an active shrink!

A beefy 2,800 words or so today! Over 12,000 words this month so far!!

November 9

Today was NaNoWriMo’s NaNoThon day. I typed 3,727 words and upped my word count above where I’m supposed to be. I was hoping to type more, but I had to catch up on my coursework as well. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to have any other commitments during the novelling month, but I couldn’t resist! Anyway, it was fun being part of this planetary writing marathon while I could join in. It’s a definite keeper of an idea!

November 15

The #nanowrimo week-two-three doldrums officially dragged me down this week. But I saw the Toronto ML’s video in my Google+ feed and clicked on it to watch. You must too! Especially if you’re questioning whether you can write or want to write or if NaNoWriMo is for you. Or you just need a laugh and a non-Rob Ford thing to laugh over. πŸ™‚

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ErrolElumir/posts/eswxRbmNLqD

So I watched that, opened Scrivener, and got down to the business. And boy, did I write. I blew past all my previous daily word counts. I’m behind again in where I should be, but not as badly as I would’ve been if I’d written what I normally have this month. Phew. This is why NaNoWriMo is so great — the huge swell of support that buoys you up and pushes you along when you hit those discouraging still, windless waters.

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/shireenj/novels/divorce-times-marriage/stats

November 16

It’s my birthday, and this song keeps playing in my head:

http://youtu.be/hMb1wPfE1Iw

But #nanowrimo comes first! The writing must always come first, isn’t that what they say? Heh. So as the sun shone onto me, I ignored it and typed away on my computer until I reached the halfway point of this month of novelling, although I didn’t know it was the halfway point. I just knew it was the end of today’s chapter and found out I’d passed the 25k mark when I clicked on Project Stats in Scrivener.

I’m getting used to Scrivener. I think I’ve fully transitioned from writing my novels in WordPerfect to writing them in Scrivener. I know there are many features of this software that I don’t use yet, but for distraction-free writing, I got it down pat.

I keep forgetting to change my POV from third person to first when I get to a Gerald-only chapter. Then when it dawns on me, a loud ARRGGHHH fills the room, before I have to go back and tediously replace all the “he”s with “I”s. And that’s when I notice — once again — what a difference it makes which POV I write in when I do a Gerald scene. Gerald’s thoughts and emotions come alive in my mind when I switch to first person in a way that third doesn’t do. Anyway, Gerald’s time is done for the day, and it’s my turn to have some fun (not that Gerald was having fun, oh no, he was in agony).

25,474 words total so far.

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/shireenj/novels/divorce-times-marriage

November 21

I’ve fallen off the #nanowrimo bandwagon. I blame my metaphysics course, making me think about reality, write about free will. But that’s all done. And after I passed out from the effort, had a pep talk, read a pep talk, looked at Errol’s nanotoon, watched Scrivener go belly up on me, restart it, I finally began writing again. And that’s when I saw I hadn’t quite finished my last chapter. I thought I had, but I hadn’t really, not based on where the plot was going in the radio play I’m basing the novel on. I didn’t want to touch the last chapter. So I made a bit of a switch-up in my structure and added a new chapter. Now the chapter I was going to work on will have to wait until tomorrow.

I wrote almost 1900 words today, exceeding the daily quota but not enough to catch up from three lost days. I need another #nanothon !

November 23

OMG. After three stints of #nanowrimo writing today, after typing up a storm during each stint, I’m 1000 words short of 40k. Argh!! So close. On the other hand, I am on target now. At last!

I’ve begun writing chapters contrasting Cherry and Gerald’s activities that are happening at the same time. I’m not sure how long I’ll continue that. Maybe once more.

November 28

Holy cow. I look up from typing, click Project Statistics in Scrivener, and I’ve passed the 50k mark. How’d that happen? When’d that happen? Well, today, I know, but it seemed like I was forever catching up and then all of a sudden: bam. I won.

I won the word count part (not officially yet though). Now I have to finish my novel. I have another seven chapters to go and three days to write them in. Hoo boy.

November 30

Oh yeah. I did it. I did it! LOL! I just validated my novel and was instantly taken to the NaNoWriMo winner’s page where the “Huzzah!” video played. It’s simple, short, and amazingly uplifting and rewarding to watch that video of people you don’t know personally congratulating you. Whoot!

I made it to 50k and beyond. Even more importantly, I finished the story, and I’m finally feeling that the ending is right. I’ll probably tweak the last few lines, maybe add in more dialogue, but the tone of it, the conclusion of it, at long last works for me. And if it works for me, then hopefully it’ll work for readers too (although I’m not sure when I’ll post it into the searching spotlight of the public, always a nerve-wracking, tricky thing to do).

I wrote the entire novel in Scrivener. It went off in a different direction in the last several chapters from the original radio play I wrote in 2012 during ScriptFrenzy. And for once, I managed to keep updating my outline in the Index Card app as I went (oh, um, I forgot — gotta update the last two chapters and delete a couple…anywhoo). And I found the Scrivener NaNoWriMo obfuscation compile template so that I could quickly and easily validate my manuscript on the NaNoWriMo website.

I’m now done. I’m finding that hard to believe. Wow. Done. Gotta let that sink in.

I’m feeling rather at loose ends, like, what now? Well, celebrate with some chocolate, of course. And then peruse the winner’s page to see what the goodies are. And oh yeah, update my BiblioCrunch annual membership. That is one winner’s goody from last year that more than paid itself out to me. Best one ever!

Official word count: 59,345.

Books

Camp NaNoWriMo?

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I’m thinking of doing Camp NaNo.

In 2009, I wrote my first novel She during National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo as it’s popularly called. It was just the thing I needed to help me write as my brain injury had robbed me of initiation, of the thing that gets you organized and doing things. I went on to have She edited and published over the next two years.

In 2010, I tried out ScriptFrenzy, NaNoWriMo’s smaller script-writing cousin. I wrote a screenplay adaptation of my first award-winning book Lifeliner. I didn’t show it to anyone; I didn’t feel it or I was ready yet. Then in November I participated in NaNoWriMo for the second time and wrote Aban’s Accension — now at Iguana Books waiting and waiting and waiting to be edited.

In 2011, I joined ScriptFrenzy again, this time writing a stage play on the insurance game. That one I’d like to do something with, but am not sure what. Yet. And leaving it practically to the last minute, thinking I’ll never be ready in time, even though I had been doing background physics reading for months, I launched myself into my third NaNoWriMo and third novel, Time and Space, which I’m currently revising.

2012’s ScriptFrenzy this past April was a purely creative exercise for me. I began with a title and an idea. I had no outline, no sense of how it’d end. It was … interesting. But I liked the flexing of my purely creative muscles. This radio play is for my eyes only. On the other hand, I’m looking forward to writing a book in November intended for public consumption. I already know the ending, the basic story arc, as I’ve been pondering it for awhile. However, in between then and now is Camp NaNo.

The folks who run NaNoWriMo started Camp NaNo last year. I thought about joining but went nahhh. This year, the person-who-organizes-me sat me down in January and said let’s get you writing regularly. Add Camp NaNo to your schedule. Okay, but I have no idea what to write. You’ll think of something, she retorted in that-don’t-give-me-silly-excuses way.

Okay then.

She recommitted me this past week to doing it. She was right too, I do have an idea. I’ll talk about it later. First, I gotta go check out how this Camp operates.

Writings

Best Writing Style Is …

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Many blogs and magazines write about how writers write. Newbie writers lap these articles up as if they’re gospel and try to emulate. I know, I’ve been there. But the more I see how others write and how my own writing style is evolving, the more I realise there’s probably as many ways of writing as writers.

Some write at the ghastly hour of four A.M. Some write in the evening. It’s kind of like exercise that way: there are those who like to get up and moving first thing and others who’d rather wind down a long day with a good run. But then there are some who write on the train to work, or maybe at the coffee shop during mid-morning break … or maybe mid-afternoon break. Some would never darken a coffee shop with their laptop or iPad to write, maybe the would to browse or check Twitter, but not to write.

Some prefer total quiet with no one around. Some like noisy cafes or the kitchen table with the family running around and the dog chasing them barking away. Some prefer music with their writing, any music will do. While some will be choosy, carefully going through their selection to produce just the right mood for that day’s typing or writing.

Some will sit in an armchair, a pad of paper in hand and a fountain pen or maybe some ballpoint they picked up on the subway. But others will sit only at their computer in their ergonomic desk chair, the keyboard at exactly the right height. And a few will dictate either directly into the computer using a nifty program like Dragon NaturallySpeaking while others will dictate into a handheld recorder, or these days into one’s iPhone, whenever the urge hits them.

Some are disciplined and will sit down at the same desk at the same time every single day, even holidays. Others will only write when the urge hits them. Some go for the middle, being disciplined during writing months like ScriptFrenzy yet also writing when the urge wakes them up at one in the morning.

My writing style is a bit all over and depends on what it is I’m writing. Some blog posts get written on my iPad as soon as I wake up. Others I write only on my computer in broad daylight. And still others I write on my iPad in front of the TV when the news is annoying me or when I can’t focus on what’s on but need to write but don’t want to turn off the TV. Novels I write only on my computer with no music, no radio on, writing books, dictionary, post-its, notes, and my iPad scattered around on my desk or within reach. My iPad because it has all my research and outline notes on it (backed up in other places!). This year, I’m writing ScriptFrenzy on my iPad in the early morning, at the beginning of April before the dawn but now that the dawn is moving earlier and earlier, it’s after the dawn.

What I’ve learnt: The best writing style is whatever makes you write.

News

Easter Interrupts ScriptFrenzy

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I took Easter weekend off from ScriptFrenzy. I wanted to be like a government worker for a brief moment and took off the whole weekend: Good Friday, Waiting Saturday, Celebratory Sunday. and Easter Monday.

When Tuesday came, I was not ready to return to my regular routine and ScriptFrenzy. I wanted to continue to sit in a comfortable chair in the sun and to read the thrillers I’d borrowed from the library. I could’ve taken more time off, for sure. But I sighed deeply, sat up as the dawn jabbed me fully awake, grabbed my iPad, and got back into writing my radio play Divorce Times Marriage. I banged out several pages. I got caught up to about Monday’s goal. I couldn’t keep going though. I was tapped out, tired, taxed.

I thought: I’ll catch up Wednesday. And flopped back to zone out into a thought-screen of nothingness.

Today, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I tired. Became weary. And so I did what any tired, don’t wanna writer would do: I short-circuited the scene. I figured I must be caught up by now and so it would be okay. I entered my current page number total on the SF website, and…nope. Still behind. Sigh. Back to the Celtx app on my iPad, back to the scene I went, and this time, I wrote it properly, fully, no side-stepping of the issues like one of my characters is trying to do.

I banged out three more pages, eight in total for today, and just about caught up to where I’m supposed to be. I couldn’t type anymore. My hands ached, my shoulders hurt (what else is new?), and the scene was done anyway: the shrink said time is up for today. And you gotta obey the shrink, you know.

Thirty-four pages total so far. I’m about one-third of the way through. Phew.

News

Four Days, Eighteen Pages, ScriptFrenzy, Fifth Day, I Rest

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Well, five days of ScriptFrenzy have suddenly appeared and gone, or at least four days have. The fifth day, today, seems hardly to be believed it’s here. One day, I’m worrying, thinking, pondering, ignoring, stressing out about the first day of ScriptFrenzy, the first day of writing another piece of fiction — in this case, a radio play — and the next, four days have gone, and I’m ahead of schedule.

What would I write, I queried my therapist. I have no idea what to write. No idea what my play will be about! Oh, you’ll think of something, she replied breezily. Somebody else repeated what she said. Apparently, I was the only one fretting about what I was going to write. But they were the ones who were right.

Why fret when my brain seems to produce on cue.

May it always be so.

However, just because it produced — some days my conscious mind knowing what was going to happen but most days being like the first: I had one idea and suddenly my fingers tapping on my iPad’s Bluetooth keyboard have another, and they are taking my characters into a shrink’s office. Geeze. Anyhoo… just because the inner creative recesses of my mind produced doesn’t mean that the writing itself is any good. I’m in that phase writers get into where all the work sucks big time. It would be a good idea to stop, to say enough.

But because it’s ScriptFrenzy, because I have pep talks appearing in my inbox and other prod, prod, proddings, I keep writing my play Divorce Times Marriage. Not today though. I’m way ahead of schedule. Eighteen pages.

News

Two Days of ScriptFrenzy

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I’ve begun ScriptFrenzy! I fretted and worried over whether I’d have an idea by April 1. I wasn’t sure I could do it this year, I have so many other writing projects to work on, like my brain injury book, like my novel Time and Space, like waiting and waiting for the edits to be done on my second novel Aban’s Accension. But I recalled that writing 100 pages of a script was easier than writing a novel in November. For one thing, I just write. I don’t outline, I don’t do much research, maybe on a name or some factoid. So just writing is not so bad.

Plus I did have two characters in mind. I sort of knew what was happening between them. And I knew their relationship. That should be enough, eh?

Apparently it is. ScriptFrenzy started yesterday. I opened Celtx on my iPad and started typing yesterday. I futzed around first with trying to figure out what a radio play script is supposed to look like and wasted time worrying if I knew what I was doing. But I got down to it; I put fingers to Bluetooth keyboard and typed away. And I repeated that today, with staring at the screen instead of futzing around to begin with before I finally began to type and type and type. Eight and a quarter pages total for the two days. Not bad.

The iPad is great. You can write on it anywhere. There are no surrounding distractions on the screen or papers and pens and heave knows what else like when typing on a computer. I can even type in a darkened room — no light, means not seeing the stuff around, and so even less distraction. I do need a little bit of light to see the keyboard; still it’s dim compared to sitting in my office chair at my computer. Creativity comes easier. Or it feels like it anyway.

Eight and a quarter pages total for the two days. Not bad.

News

Tis Preparation Time for ScriptFrenzy!

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It’s that time of year again, when one attempts to write in a foreign format and finish it within thirty days, the time otherwise known as — ScriptFrenzy.

My calendar told me it was time to decide what to write. For the past few months, I keep seeing the same two characters on a stage, but no plot, no beginning, no ending, no title. That’ll do.

But when I went to click on type of script in my Writer Info box on my ScriptFrenzy page, I saw “Radio” and went hmmmm. I think my characters would be happier on radio, just their voices representing them. It’s a minimalist play. With no title. Better come up with one; it’s rather crucial for ScriptFrenzy. After ditching the first two ideas I had — they had been taken in some form or another — an original one enters my mind from who knows where. Google it. No match. Awesome.

The logline section looked intimidating. Oh, the hours I’ve sweated over a logline: a 25-word synopsis of a screenplay or play or novel or…. But it was past midnight, and I was starting to hurt. So whatever comes out of my fingertips and appears on the screen is good to go, I decided.

” A woman and a man. Husband and wife. They have come to the seven-year mark when talking to strangers is easier than with each other.”

I scrolled down towards “Submit” on the edit page and hiccuped over the Poster section. Well, why not? So I whipped up a poster using Picnik on Flickr for old times sake before it’s permanently snuffed out mid-April.

And now I could “Submit” — submit “Divorce Times Marriage” my radio play idea for ScriptFrenzy. Lord knows what I’m going to write come April 1

Brain Health

ScriptFrenzy: Do I?

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ScriptFrenzy. Such a strange name. At first, the mind conjures up…nothing. Then this image comes of a writer bent over a desk, pen scratching marks into paper, frenziedly writing pages and pages of script that fly off the desk as they pile up higgledy piggledy. Well, last year, I chose to be that kind of writer, except not with pen and paper but keyboard and computer. This year, I’m not sure.

ScriptFrenzy is the screenplay sister of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s held every April, and fewer participate in it than in the November NaNoWriMo challenge. So one doesn’t get the inundation of daily Twitter updates and musings of NaNoWriMo, yet its different form of writing appeals. We all know what prose is but not the formatting and conventions of screenplays or plays. It’s different.

I took the time last year to learn the conventions of screenplay writing (though apparently, according to one miserly contest reviewer — miserly as in person of few words, which was effing useless — I needed to read up on how screenplays are written). And I converted Lifeliner into a screenplay. That is now filed away in a virtual drawer as other writing projects have taken over, but I still intend when opportunity presents to do something with it.

But it’s almost April again, I’ve done no prep, I’m working on the edits of my first NaNoWriMo novel She, revising my second one Aban’s Accension, planning on publishing both as eBooks, and I’m wondering if I’m mad even contemplating writing a stage play in the midst of all this, although I do have an idea for it. I don’t have a lot of energy, although ever since I deep-sixed the beta blocker, I have much more and better sleep and a suddenly new writing regimen that spontaneously put itself upon me. I wake up; I put on my CES device for the morning session; and I write on my iPad then rest some more till I’m ready to get up. I’m in week three of this strange new regimen. And I wonder, if it’s gone on this long, if maybe, just maybe it’ll last, and if so, then perhaps writing a play for fun while also writing my serious work — the novels — is doable. I wrote my screenplay pages so fast last year that I didn’t have to write every day to meet the 100-page script challenge by the end of April. So maybe I won’t have to write every day this time either, and those days I don’t work on the play, I blog.

You see how good I am at rationalizing an impossibility?

So….

Hmmmmm….

Ummmmmmm….

I’ll do it.

I’m nuts.

Lifeliner

Ruminating on Script Frenzy Fundraising

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Well, I’ll never do that again (though one should never say never, haha). I ain’t fundraising again. It rather reminded me of when I delivered the afternoon Toronto Star as a 13/14 year old. I wanted to earn enough money to buy new clothes for high school and to travel to England to visit relatives. The only problem was my route was too sparse of customers to allow me to earn enough. So there I am, a terribly shy kid, cold calling, knocking on doors, asking strangers if they’d like to subscribe, hoping I wouldn’t die from mortification. I was ecstatic over those who said sure, disappointed when told no, and pep-talking myself out of feeling awful when the odd person would tell me to go away, who did I think I was, stop bothering people, and my fave, didn’t I know who they were. Back then I learnt a lot about what I was capable of.

This April, I learnt a lot about folks. Although I set a big goal for raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light (OLL), and was hopeful about meeting it, I really didn’t expect much response. So I was ecstatic when right away, several sponsored my Script Frenzy writing marathon and even more sent me good lucks.

I hadn’t intended to send more than one e-mail out to my contacts, but I was a bit unclear in the first one and had to send out a correction. Then older, wiser people said you gotta send another one out, you need to remind people because some may have thought, yeah, I’d like to contribute but got distracted. So with great trepidation, I did. But I didn’t send the same message, I added something about my progress, different details about OLL so as to let people know I was not just blowing smoke about writing a screenplay in 30 days and that OLL was a legit nonprofit. And so it went.

I expected no replies for the most part. I also knew from having been the recipient of fundraising e-mails, one feels annoyed, or forgets, or barely takes it in in the busy-ness of life when receiving e-mails like mine. Usually, the annoyed ones probably feel the better side of valour is to stay silent and hit that Delete key. The forgetful ones are probably happy of the reminders and then promptly forget again. But many didn’t stay silent; they replied. They sent me congratulations or good luck or told me how excited they were that I was adapting Lifeliner. How awesome! The overflow of kindness buoyed me up and kept me writing. But then there are the grumpaloos of life, the three who told me to stop it. The weird thing about these grumpaloos, so much like those paper route door slammers, was that they all knew me in “real life,” not just a little bit, but quite well. In contrast, although the nicest, kindest people included the expected friends and relatives, they also included those whom I’ve only met online or know me through my parents.

I’m not sure what that says about me. But it’s interesting how the same stimulus can create such a variety of responses. One person thanked me for “the tickler,” while another told me to stop it. A few donated but didn’t say anything to me directly, while some said no thanks but best of luck. Several encouraged and congratulated me, while a relative told me to, uh, stop asking for money. And it slowly dawned on me that this is what some experts mean when they say people can’t make you mad; only you make yourself mad. I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but the way people respond to e-mails or events really is determined by the kind of people they are. Generous people, confident in themselves, get excited for you. Even when busy or in pain, people can choose to be kind, to see life through a lens of good will. The grumpaloos…well, they’re not worth bothering about.