Sharing stories

I know, I’ve been awfully quiet. Partly because nano was draining, but also because of nervous tension; I turn into a hermit when I get anxious, lol.

The local nano group has morphed into a local critique group. That means we’ll get together once a month, and critique each other’s work, all done in a positive, meaningful way.

The first meeting happened earlier this month. I was nervous, as we went from a regular group of 5 nano’ers to 8 people who want to read each others stuff. Three strangers, five people I expect to see regularly during nano, reading my stuff? Scary.

We spent the meeting discussing how the system was going to work; emailing out our pieces a few weeks ahead of time, privately sharing the actual critiques, then at the next meeting, we’ll each have 15 minutes to discuss them.

It was amazingly difficult to pick out something to send. Because we didn’t want to overwhelm each other with reading, we limited the selections to 1000-1500 words. Lol, most of my scenes are 2 or 3 times that! Trying to find something that was short yet also cohesive was… interesting.

Finally I picked a piece. And then I read it and reread it obsessively, trying to tweak it into shape. I’ve never done editing before, and I have to say it kinda sucks. Cutting out a sentence here, rephrasing something that was too awkward, trying to find better words than ‘thingie’; these are all hard!

I finished the edit yesterday, and then sat on it for 24 hours for no particular reason. This morning I refused to think about it too hard and, taking a deep breath, sent it out to be read and critiqued. Gah.

On the plus side, I’m now looking at writing more of that story, as scenes keep building in my head. On the downside, at some point I went from writing in 3rd person to 1st person, which I didn’t notice before I sent out the piece (the piece was all 3rd, but later scenes switched to 1st person). Now I’ll have to think about fixing that too.

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Things I learned from NaNo 2016

Now that Nanowrimo is officially over, you’d think I’d want to not even hear the word for the next thirty days. Instead, I’ve been pondering it, lol.

Things I learned this year:

  • Plantsing is fun. I had no plot, no characters, and it took me the entire first day to figure out what I was going to write, which was fucking scary. It took off from there, though, and it was really fun to write. By the end of the first week, I knew the plot, but didn’t write it out. It was freeing, but I know that if I didn’t write out plot ideas, I’d eventually forget them; not fun.
  • I stole from other stories (mostly mine, lol) to shore up gaps. I named my main characters after some of my favourite book characters so I had a mental image for how my characters would behave/look. I grabbed concepts from my own stories (technically I wasn’t using them anyway, right?) so my characters had things to do.
  • Finishing a story feels weird. I know where the story goes next; but as it stands, it’s done. I feel odd, like I should be doing the next story of it already. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s only 50,000ish words; I’m used to my stories taking twice that to reach the climax. Of course, I do have a couple of sections that didn’t get written; I realized certain areas were too thin, and needed more, but didn’t want to backtrack during NaNo. And there might be one extra scene to throw in at the end… so it’s 95% done, lol.
  • I still get a lot of words written with sex scenes. This is good for NaNo, but extremely discomforting when your kids ask why they can’t read your story.
  • While I was trying to pick a plot, I ended up really advancing several of my more vague story ideas. They may not be written, but now they have a concrete shape. Nothing works better for the creative process than desperation!
  • Working with a rather free-form plotline, and succeeding,  has reinvigorated my desire to write. I am going to try and start having regular writing nights, maybe three a week. I’m terrible at daily writing; I burn out too quickly. But three a week might just be doable.
  • Writing buddies are necessary. During Nanowrimo I’m competitive enough to keep pushing my word count if others are ahead of me. We also had local meetups, and being able to chat about the story as it progressed really helped. I got some very excellent ideas from the brainstorming, and hopefully didn’t bore them too much with my own suggestions. The locals have decided to do a monthly critique group, which might just help keep me going.

Rolling in the deep

Eight.

I didn’t manage to write up one outline a day as I hoped, but I got to the end, and eight plot lines were smashed into outline form. Yay!

And now it’s October, one mere month away from NaNoWriMo, and I’m starting to feel the rising excitement, and I have eight plots to think about using.

I wasn’t expecting to feel the magic of NaNo this year; earlier, it was all ‘ugh, nano’, but here I am and I feel like the best holiday of the year is just around the corner. NaNoWriMo is almost here! Time to pick a plot, make sure there’s enough outline to go around, log into the website and bounce around till it’s time to start.

nanowrimo-is-coming

Renewing the love

Something I hadn’t expected has been happening as I’ve worked on outlines. Well a couple of things, including that it’s taking a lot longer than I had expected (but that one’s par for the course).

No, the big surprise I’ve had with outlining? Falling in love with my stories all over again.

After years of living with the shape of the story in my head, it’s easy to forget that there was a reason I wanted to write it in the first place. Sort of like marriage, actually, only without the dirty laundry and arguments over who’s fault it was that the cat puked on the bedroom carpet. So really, it’s better than marriage*.

Writing out the steps of the story, being reminded of just how awesome the plot and characters are, has been a real pleasure. Before I started on this little project, the idea of outlining just seemed like a nifty thing to do. Figure out which stories are fully developed, which ones aren’t, and which ones are just nifty ideas that should find a home in another story. But it’s been much more meaningful than that. Outlining is not just an intellectual exercise, but a reminder of why I love to write.

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*Lol, your mileage may vary, naturally.

Nothing to say

I wish I could tell you all about all the work I’ve been doing editing. I really really do. All that has actually been happening is boring, and occasionally shitty, regular life stuff.

The most interesting things to happen in the past week:

  • I cleaned a bathroom (this may have been a highlight of my weekend)
  • Someone called in to work asking to speak to Dave. We have no Daves.
  • Someone in the office set their password to ‘chicken’ for a day
  • Teen mini-crisis made me arrive half an hour late for work
  • Watched my youngest cry because their hair was frizzy

See? BORING. You’d think such depth of dullness would have me writing or editing out of sheer desperation. Sadly, this is not the case.

April something or other

I’ve kinda gotten off track with my writing this month, which resulted in me avoiding making a post, because then I’d have to admit it.

My three days of stress didn’t simply lift and float away, making writing a breeze. I felt a huge kind of relief for the first hour or so, and then I got a headache, as all the muscle tension of three days of stress finally started to come out, and I spent Friday in a bit of drugged haze.

So I didn’t write.

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