NaNo: Pantsing Your Novel

If you belong to one of the major (or perhaps any) writing forums across the vast Interwebs, you will learn there is a common argument among writers on the best way write. Some will argue that one must have an outline, the more thorough, the better. Others will promptly argue that one simply cannot write with all the stuffy outlining. It restricts the story and makes it impossible to write. And you have the Outliner vs. Pantser war. I’d say one can find these debates about once a month over on the forums at Absolute Write.

However, there is only one true rule for writing: You do what works for you and ignore the rest. There are a plenty of guidelines and good practices, particularly when one is a novice and just learning about the craft. But at some point you must cast off the recommendations of others and decide where you stand yourself.

The year before last when I tried NaNo, I outlined and I struggled. I found myself bored with my own story and that’s no way to write. Last year, I had an idea and then I just pantsed my efforts. I found I enjoyed myself so much more. And let’s face it, at this point, I’m not trying for publication and fun is all I have, so if I’m going to spend my precious time on anything, it’s going to be something that I enjoy. Free time is almost nonexistent at this stage of my life and I’m going to treasure it.

For this year’s NaNo, I had an idea about sword-wielding elven warrior/bodyguard. She has a chip on her shoulder and she manages to catch a ship on fire. That’s it. Then, I decided I probably should have some sort of idea what this chick’s deal is, so I wrote the prequel/prologue doohickie that I posted the other day. I learned she’s angry about her father’s death and her brother is the king. Also, that as a culture, everyone takes a shadow walk to learn about their future.

And that’s pretty much all I have to go. No fancy outlines, no bullet points, no diagrams. I just sit down at the computer, read a few lines of where I left off, and start writing. Then I keep writing. I figure I can outline my story during the editing phase. Since I’m using Scrivener, I just make a new notecard for every scene, so that if ever I need to swap scenes around and remove them all together, I can do it easily.

And this is what seems to be working for me. So I’m going to keep doing. Now, to just finish a novel…

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In other news, my NaNo t-shirt arrived. This is the first year I’ve purchased one and I’m pretty excited to have it.

And I’m loving Adele’s new song, Skyfall. It has that epic, climatic feel to it. Of course, it’s for a movie, so there’s probably a good reason for that.

What’s new in your world? Everyone ready for NaNo? Not much time left. Tick, tock, tick, tock…

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NaNo Prep: Local Meet & Greet

NaNo Participant Badge 2012

Participant Image for NaNo 2012

As NaNoWriMo quickly approaches, participants are hitting up their local regions to meet up with others trying to hit that 50,000 milestone.

In a different mindset from year’s past, I decided to participate actively in my region. Friday night was the meet & greet event for the region.

This year’s group looks to be the biggest group of participants ever in this area. There were 30 or more people attending. I didn’t really think that we would have that many people in our area wanting to write, period. Our leader did a terrific job of organizing things and we all got to chat with each other.

It was quite a bit of fun. I think this  will be a very entertaining year for NaNo and I’m pushing myself to become more of the active participant with the hope that this will pressure me to truly compete and win this year.

Good luck to all my fellow writers!

Why Breast is Best, But Formula is Okay Too

Okay, so we’ll just start this conversation by saying that “Breast is Best” sounds very gimmicky. Probably because it is a slogan and it is. But it is also true. Breastmilk has things that breastmilk replacement (aka formula) is never going to have. There are no antibodies, no stem cells, so special sugars that were once thought as useless, but now are known to feed certain gut flora and promote a healthy digestive tract. These are just a few of the numerous benefits of breastmilk for the baby. It doesn’t even include the benefits to the mother.
But there are times where formula can have a benefit. Sometimes it saves a mother’s sanity because she lacks proper support from those around here, which is a huge societal issue in the US best left for a discussion another day. Sometimes the mother is sick or the baby is sick and things don’t work out. Sometimes a mother doesn’t actually make enough milk. Sometimes donor milk is not available or is too expensive. There can be lots of reasons.
So while I am in full support of breastfeeding and encourage everyone I know to at least try it, I won’t criminalize formula. Each of my children has used it at some point or another. In fact, my third kidlet was the first where I actually felt like our breastfeeding attempts were a success. At least until I returned to work. Then no amount of Mother’s Milk tea and pumping seemed to net me enough milk to keep him fed while I was away. So after a month of my best efforts, I introduced formula for him to use while I was at work. And sometimes at home. We still did a lot of night nursing, but formula filled the gap.
My second child I utterly failed breastfeeding trying to take care of the baby and the three year old with no support and no car because it was rolled down an embankment when my husband had an accident driving to work. The no support part was because of the unsafe weather as well. I failed at taking care of myself and therefore my supply suffered. My first child spent days in the NICU and I think that messed us up quite a bit. That and me not knowing a thing about what I was doing.
Those experiences are part of what leads me to believe that it takes a village to successfully breastfeed sometimes. If it’s not the norm for your family and you don’t have relatives to turn to for advice, ladies in the community can be so helpful. This thought was one of the reasons I took the Neighbor to Neighbor Breastfeeding Information class from one of the hospitals. The goal is provide tools for sharing resources and education to mothers in the community so that they can go out and help other mothers.
It takes all of us working together to provide the community support mothers need to breastfeed. I am all for compassion and helpfulness in our communities. The trend toward ignoring what goes on around you and not offering assistance to others has been detrimental to our society, in my opinion.

NaNoWriMo 2012 Prep: Short Fiction

Since I decided to write my NaNo novel little more than a mental image of my main character and the thought that she has a huge chip on her shoulder, I decided to use a Flash Fiction Challenge (Sundays at Absolute Write!) to capture a thought or two about her before November 1. You know, like her name. Or what has pissed her off so mightily.

And since I never really post my work publicly, I thought I’d do something different this year in that department, too.

Without further ado, my prequel thingie for my NaNo novel!

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Bones of My Father

The bones of my father rested at my feet. Alister cleared his throat behind me.
“Yes?”
“The hour approaches when we must cast the spell, Karenna. Are you ready?”
I sighed. “What if I don’t want to know my future? What if I am happy on the path I travel now?”
He stepped up and put a hand on my shoulder. “These things are never easy, but you must accept your destiny. You father did not die for you to shun your family.”
“My father did not have to die at all.” I stared at the ground and noticed cuts in my father’s bones. Such a vicious way to die. Sword fights were never easy, even for the victor.
Alister cleared his throat and said, “Some pains never ease, my dear child. Now, come, help me lay out the herbs and get the fire lit.”
I bent over and lit the small fire and watched Alister toss herbs into the flames as he murmured various incantations. Spells were never my thing, so I stared at the fire and waited for the next instruction.
“There. Now, Karenna, hold your hand into the flame for 20 seconds.”
“What? You’re not serious, are you?”
“Yes, my child, please hurry.”
I glanced at my hand and at the fire before sticking it there. Twenty seconds is a long time when flames lick at your skin. Alister moved around me and I realized he had stuck my father’s bones into the flames as well.
“You can remove your hand now, Karenna. The spell is complete.
I pulled my hand out and it was immediately wrapped in a cool, damp cloth.
“So what’s next?” The world seemed to spin around me. “I don’t feel very well, Alister.” In an out-of-body experience, I watched as my body fell to the ground, my head lowered softly by Alister’s weathered hands. A movement made me turn my head and there stood a shadow of my father.
“Father?” If I wasn’t a shadow as well, I would have cried.
“Walk with me, Ren, for I have much to share with you.” We turned away from where Alister sat next to my body.
“The world is in chaos. You may not see it yet, child, for sometimes the shadows see what the living and breathing cannot. There are those who oppose your brother’s seat on the crown.”
“There are always those who seek what they do not have.”
“This is true. Yet few have the will to act upon those wishes. In the coming years, there will be one who changes all the world for his goals. You will both hate him and love him for what he can do and what he does. You will be part of the change and make great impacts upon the world.”
“And if I refuse to be a pawn in this change of the world? If I shun these responsibilities and leave this country to make my own path?”
“My dear, destiny has a way of sucking you back into her deeds no matter how far you run.”
He touched my shoulder and looked deeply into my eyes, pride and love upon his face. “My dear, you will have an impact. I doubt you will be able to sit in the back of the carriage when all the action happens outside. Now, go. Return to yourself and give my thanks to Alister.”

Annual Catastrophe: 2012 Edition

Sometimes I feel like I’m cursed. Just when things start to look up and I feel I can once again chase after the things I want to do (such as writing a novel), life or fate, perhaps they are in cahoots together, one of them decides to vomit disaster in my face and leave me hanging. It usually happens close to month of November which leads me to believe that National Novel Writing Month is out to get me as well.

For the 2012 edition of Crap That Happens, I learned late last week that my consultant job will be ending in March. This is about a year earlier than I expected, and seeing as a job search can take months, this puts a rush on things. I’ve got to gear up my job search right in the middle of the holiday season. Blergh.

Except I don’t know what I want to do next. Well, there are things I’d like to do, but they feel more like pipe dreams these days. My dream job would be basically to be a virtual assistant from home with a large emphasis on writing. However, it takes a lot of time to start up a business and with three small children and a lack of support for chasing my dreams in my spare time, I don’t see them happening. Exhaustion effectively consumes me right now. But one day, I hope to put the pieces together to make it happen.

In the meantime, I have to figure out something. I’m the primary earner for our family. My money matters. I don’t know what I want to do with myself and that makes it so much more confusing. Especially considering that I thought I had another year to figure this out. It’s a tad overwhelming because I can’t really pursue what I love at this point, yet I don’t know what else I can do to make sure the kidlets are fed.

So I am waiting and debating my options. I have a little bit of time, but I can’t wait too long because it usually takes a few months to find a job and I only have five total.

In the plus department, I’ve been blogging much more regularly here in the last couple of weeks. I’m finding it be addicting and I like that I have a post up every couple of days. This may or may not continue over November. I’d like to keep my readers (all three of you) updated on my noveling progress as the month continues.

Organizing Our Life (or All the Kids’ Crap)

Five people. Three dogs. Itty bitty too small house. What are the chances we have crap flowing out of every corner? That answer would be 100%. And I’m tired of stuff being everywhere I turn. I’m tired of things being every which way and there being no order in this house.
So here and there I’ve been collecting things we don’t really use to donate or hold a garage sale or something. I got very lucky that someone I know is pregnant with a boy, so all of Kidlet Three’s baby stuff went that way, other than a few keepsakes I couldn’t part with. I have some supplies from the breast pump to sell or donate still. I’ve marked up most of the clothes that Kidlet Two has outgrown so I can sell them. Though if I ran into someone who needed them, I’d just give them away. (Getting rid of the kid stuff makes me sad that there will no more little babies coming to our house, but I digress.)
I need to go through all the rooms and gather up all the stuff we don’t use and don’t need to get rid of that crap. There are pack rats in my family tree. I started to display some of those tendencies once upon a time. I think I’m cured now though, as parting with things is becoming less and less difficult. Especially when I stuck a bunch of stuff in a corner to get it out of the way and I haven’t touched anything in those boxes in months. It seems like plenty of reason to part with that stuff to me.
The kids’ stuff is a little trickier. The oldest kidlet is a pack rat. Getting her to part with anything is exceedingly difficult to the extent I’ve tossed stuff when she’s gone because we really don’t need to keep every scrap of paper she may have ever doodled on at some point in her six years. Really. Plus we have a range of toys because of the range of ages. They. Are. Everywhere!
So, The Feminist Breeder did a blog post on her obsessive organizing habits. She’s using the Trofast system from IKEA, which is not wallet draining system. She even labeled it all and everything looks Type A perfect. It seemed like a system that might work for us. Unfortunately, the closest IKEA is in Chicago, six hours away. And the shipping costs are heart-stopping. So short of a road trip (And hey, I could make weekend of it!), I’m not getting these pretty neat organizing devices.
In a fit of inspiration, or maybe it was frustration, I used my Google Fu to look for something similar to this system. I found a DIY hack of the Trofast framing, which makes it possible to get organized. I might be able to talk to the husband into building pretty things for me to put all the kids’ crap into. Then I can put pretty labels on all the things and hopefully have less disaster and more things mastered.
Because I tried to clean the hellacious room that is the computer/play room this weekend and There. Is. Crap. EVERYWHERE. Tubs that used to hold things are overflowing. There are things that need to be thrown away and/or replaced. Toys that could probably be pitched or given away. The kids destroyed that room and I turned a blind eye to it and now there is a giant mess. Denial is a bad, bad thing.
While I have some vague ideas on making all this stuff work, I need to create a concrete organization plan so I know what I need and how it will look when I’m done. I have to know these things. And I need to organize my home office supplies as well. It’s all getting so messy. I need a month off of work to make it all happen, too. I may have to call in some favors to get this accomplished, but I have to have the supplies first. This will be my big winter project. What will you be in working on over through the end of the year?

NaNoWriMo 2012: I’d Really Like to Win This Year

So the fall weather announces one of the most exciting times of the writing world for many folks. November is National Novel Writing Month. For the thirty days that make up November, writers all around the world push themselves to write 50,000 words. For some it’s a challenge, for others it is as easy as pie. Some writers are not a fan of the concept, some writers use it as a chance to make a change and break away from the normal habits of the other 11 months.
I’ve attempted for several years, some harder than others. I have yet to win. Most years it seems like something super serious and time consuming comes up and I drop everything. So I tried Camp NaNoWriMo this summer. And failed. I also may not have been motivated.
Some of it I think is me. My motivation is craptacular. I want to write. I love the way it feels when the words pour out of me and a story is formed. But things are kind of stressful right now too. Small children, full time job, rocky marriage, sleepless nights. They all add up and sometimes it seems like they suck the life right out of me. I have a great group of online writing buddies to turn to for some motivation, but I’m not particularly close to any one person. I never have been really close to many people. Sometimes I wish for one good friend that I could stay connected with besides my husband. But I don’t get a lot of time to build relationships, so I take what I can get.
My online buddies push me to meet my writing goals sometimes. We have Word Wars and discussions. I just need to figure out how to turn this into a Thing, which means building some new habits. My preferred method would be to get up before the rest of the house and write quietly with a cup of coffee. However, sleeping through the night is overrated and I am often awakened at least two times a night, and when the alarm clock goes off, I am not ready to climb out of the bed. I am hoping since Kidlet 3 only has one more molar to break through, that we will have more restful nights in the near future.
Back to this year’s NaNo, I am considering hiring a babysitter/mother’s helper on the weekends some to help me free up some time to write. It’s hard to concentrate on the story when every five seconds you have to go chase a two year old off his latest climbing expedition. It also makes it physically hard to type on the keyboard when you aren’t at the computer. But with a helper, I have a possibility of escaping to the library or coffee shop to do a little writing. Or even just plugging earbuds in and not having to worry about kid disasters for awhile.
We will see as we get closer to the start of November, but I worry that trying to manage the job, the kids, the house, my sanity and doing it all may make reaching my writing goal harder. It’s hard when your spouse doesn’t support what you do.
Anyone else giving NaNoWriMo a try?