Prepping for November

Between reviews, writing, a new puppy and the day job website relaunching on a new service (which NEVER goes as well as they say it will), I have been out of the loop for a while. I’ve also been having problems bouncing back from the slump I hit over a year ago. I hadn’t factored how much the loss of my old man puppy would hit me. Now, I am looking to swing hard at this NaNoWriMo. Which means breaking the routine I have inadvertently set up at home.

This past week I brought home flowers from shopping for my wife. She asked me why and I told here there were a couple of reasons. First and foremost was that one simply does not get a Sweetests Day present for one lady in the house and not the other. It’s simply not done. (More on that later.) Additionally (and more to her liking) was that with about 10 days until her office Halloween party I figured the flowers would be good and wilted and just right for their party. Her department at work does Halloween in a huge way. I don’t get our Walking Dead string lights back until November.

naptime-gingerTo speak towards the questions that are out there… yes, we are strange people. Our Halloween decorations are our Christmas decorations. Which makes this time of year awesome for the woman in my Sunday gaming group with the fear of zombies. Also, yes… I did buy a Sweetests Day present for Ginger, our fox terrier rescue. To be fair, it was a set of scalloped foam stairs to make it less stressful for her to get up on the couch. (She has a knee joint problem she was born with.)

While they work great, I did find out I bought them a bit too big. Which means we put them up by the bed (we have a rather tall European pillow top mattress), and decided to get a smaller set of the same ones for the couch.

What does this have to do with NaNoWriMo? Everything. Because hopefully a present to make her days easier will keep her from getting cross with me for being out so much. Halloween weekend I am going to a Milwaukee area game con for a day, NaNoWriMo midnight that night, and then write-ins that Sunday. The next weekend I am running 12 hours or more of D&D each day at Gamehole Con. In addition to my 2k in words. Tesla Con is two weeks later. Between that will be our donation weekend push for NaNoWriMo. Then Thanksgiving. We’ll end with the wrap party in early December.

Keep in mind the Day Job™ is still there. As are my reviews. And the Sunday game group. (I have already told the Adventurers League guys I will not be running a table that month.)

franz-kafka-quotes-sayings-non-writing-writer-insanityWhat is the lesson to learn here? Especially for those new to NaNoWriMo? (Besides insanity being a benefit sometimes…) Time management is everything. This is a one month challenge. Out of college (for more years than I care to remember) I worked 80-90 hour work weeks between two full time jobs. My day off was Sunday going in to the bagel shop I managed in the morning until around 11am before driving off to my D&D game with a friend who was renting the other half of our duplex. It kept me sane. Well, sane-adjacent.

Can everyone do this schedule for the month? Probably not. But pushing the limits is what showed me that I was capable of doing it. Were I a corporate goon, I would likely be spouting off some leadership training nonsense like “work smarter, not harder.” But thankfully I am not. I will tell you thought to challenge yourself this coming month. Its the only way you can truly surprise yourself with what you are capable of.

See you all at the word wars, Halloween Night… midnight… central time zone.

NaNo Notes: Hitting the Wall

whydowefallAs Alfred famously said to a non-gravel voice Bruce. “Why do we fall, Master Bruce?”

Maybe you’ve hit a wall in your writing. This could be your first shot at NaNoWriMo, or you could be an old hand at it that simply was standing in the wrong spot when the guano life is capable of hit the proverbial fan. This can happen to anyone, and usually does. I’ve hit it now. Twice.

The original time that I hit the wall it was my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. During those years, I had become certified in driving a 15 person passenger van. You don’t need a special licence to drive one, but you do in our state if you’re planning to drive the state employee van pool. Which is why I was going to be driving members of my mother’s rather large family to Pennsylvania for the funeral of her twin sister’s husband. The man that introduced my parents.

Even once I was back from the funeral I couldn’t write. Something in me had broken and I had lost the voices. Also, I couldn’t bring myself to write about death. This could also be the reason why I have resisted ever trying to write zombies again. That first story was a zombie story. I’ve never returned to it. I’m not sure I even kept a copy of the attempt.

This time around it was Camp NaNoWriMo this past July. I’d decided to write a collection of short stories. My goal was to do 30 short stories in 30 days. So, roughly, 1700 words per story. After Day 1 (and a story stretching to just under 5000 words), I knew there would be problems with this goal. I still intended to get 30 stories out of the attempt. My word count would just be high.

The 17th of the month, I had to put my dog down. I won’t reflect too much on it, but you can visit my 13th story for the month written the morning of the 18th on this blog. My 8th story will never see print as well, because it was for my family.

Brick WallI hit the wall. Or, more to the point, the wall hit me. It then backed up, rolling over me again, switched back to drive and hit me one more time before driving off. Once the 13th story was done that morning I didn’t write a single word the next four days. Around 7000 lost words by the “goal.” And when the words came back, they were missing something. An energy and life to them, now dormant.

I possess a truly staggering amount of sleep disorders. Stress is the usual spark for my insomnia. Now add in me being alone in the house for the first time in twenty years. Son moved out, dog is gone, and wife is staying out of town. There were a few nights I didn’t really sleep. And I still don’t sleep well those nights of the week I am alone. I’m not saying this to say, “Look at how awesome I am… I fought through this!” Because I didn’t. I was dragged through it kicking and screaming the whole way.

Writing is a solitary life. None of y’all are getting up with me to get out to the coffee shop at 6 am to start writing every morning. And I know there is nobody in the house at 11 pm on those nights when I am going over my notes. But it was the extended NaNoWriMo community as a whole that lit a fire under my ass and got me writing again. It was that drive that put me into a pair of days topping over 5000 words each to drive my word count over the top.

A while back there was a blog on the NaNoWriMo site about a participant that had been writing in an active war zone while in the marines. She knew it would be impossible to verify the word count by the end of the month, but she was determined to hit the 50,000 words. Her C.O. and unit made it possible for her story to get verified just before midnight on the last day.

While I couldn’t join in with my cabin on word wars due to writing schedules and writing styles (I go for longer jaunts than most of them do), I wasn’t doing direct interaction with them. But I knew they were there. I knew my goal would count against their group word count if I didn’t hit 50,000. They were part of my unit. As were the local NaNoWriMos that I knew I’d be connecting with in a couple of months.

Would it make a difference if I didn’t hit my 50k for the month? Not really. Everyone has to suffer a loss, and those rarely correspond to our schedules. It would have been perfectly fine for me to drop the project and just process it. Nobody would have judged me for not crossing the finish line.

Is all of those last thirteen days of writing good fiction? Probably not. There is likely a lot of crap in there that will be edited out. And that’s assuming that it’s a story worth keeping. At least one of those stories had a dog appear in it, even though I had told myself at the beginning there wouldn’t be – that I needed to write about something else besides animals.

weve-all-got-jobs-to-doAs I stated in previous blogs (and am totally adopting as a mantra), “We all have a job to do.” Scott Wilson (the actor who played Hershel on The Walking Dead) is coming to Comicon here in Wisconsin in February. I think I need that signed on a photo.

For the rest of you, assuming you came here due to hitting your own wall, I give you this. You are not alone. Ours is a solitary job, but that never means you’re alone. If nothing else, going out to a write-in and talking with other writers might stoke the fires. Or could be the validation you need to let this one go. And if you’re in Wisconsin, let me know. I will put my write-in on hold if you want to talk through the crap that tumbled down on you.

If you feel like you need to make it over that finish line, I will sling you over my back like it’s Private Friggin’ Ryan and drag you there kicking and screaming. (Figuratively, that is. I have spinal injuries after all.) If not, I will listen and let you work through not making it. It’s your call but…

You are not alone.

Getting to Know Your Gorilla

The other day, while in New York for a stand up show, Craig Ferguson showed up on The View. Now in addition to being an actor, a comedian and a late night talk show host, he is also an author. He wrote an autobiography and a novel. While on the show they asked him about doing another novel. This produced one of the better quotes on writing novels that I think I have ever come across. “Writing a novel is like making love to a gorilla. You’re not done until the gorilla is done.”

Considering the knack many of us have of starting a novel and then promptly finding something more important to do, or writing and rewriting that first paragraph until it is perfect, I think there should be an addendum to that. “Successfully writing a novel is like making love to a gorilla.”

Think about it. How many people have an idea for a story? I can’t be the only one that has had someone tell me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book.” Hell I have one friend that keeps telling me the same thing over and over again. It’s the same pitch every time too. I’m apparently so memorable, that people forget they’ve told me things.

My point is, if you have a novel that isn’t even enough of a story to be called a Trunk Novel and you’ve been working on it over a number of years, then your gorilla is pretty damned understanding. Either that or your gorilla is just not that into you. Or your gorilla really likes cuddling. But that is kind of how I see NaNoWriMo – a chance for us to see if our gorilla is really a gorilla or simply a lazy chimp waiting for season 3 of The Walking Dead to start up.

During the weeks leading up to November and continuing through the month, I’m going to post little snippets of things I’ve heard in panels and been told at various writing conferences. Most likely this will be to hear myself talk (virtually speaking), but there may be a newcomer or two that could find it useful. Also, I totally subscribe to one of the pieces of advice I’ve been told, “If you act like a writer, then you’re a writer.” The act of discussing the craft of writing, sitting down and brainstorming through bouts of writers block and letting people critique your work (without crying) means that you’re taking your writing seriously. And if you take that lazy, couch potato chimp seriously, you may step into your living room to find a gorilla waiting for you on the couch. Looking at you seductively. Or maybe just creepily. Possibly both.