NaNoWriMo Day 20 (11/20)

Well, I certainly got a lot written last night. I wrote a little over a thousand words during the day leading up to Dungeons and Dragons (most of it happening right as D&D approached) but then blasted through almost three thousand in the hour and a half I wrote between the end of D&D and midnight. I was on fire. I had a few places I struggled to figure out what happened next, but I think those transitions from scene to scene will smooth out during editing. At this point, while I’m still behind, I’m a lot less behind than I was yesterday since I essentially made up for a day I skipped in the past and then a little more. I still have a long way to go, of course, but a good deal less than Friday.

I really hope I can keep this up. It’d be really nice if this was me finally getting back into the flow of writing now that I’ve been working at it every day for almost three weeks. That feels like a long time to be getting back into something, but good habits take a while to form, right? Maybe my persistence is finally paying off! Or maybe its all the caffeine I had today finally making itself useful for something other than allowing me to ignore how sleepy I feel. That’d be nice.

I’ve got a bit of a difficult week coming up here. First off, I’m super excited for my players to progress in the dungeon I created because plot, monsters, and lore are all in there somewhere and I really enjoy bringing all three of those things to my D&D sessions. Secondly, I’m going to try to see the Justice League movie with my roommates and I’m not entirely sure its even worth seeing on a $5 Tuesday at the local Marcus Theater. Especially since that’ll be time I can’t spend writing. I’ve also got to go pick up a key from my friend so I can check in on her cat while she’s out-of-town, figure out if my girlfriend and I will have time to see each other again before Thanksgiving, and then decide if I’m going to drive down to Chicago Thursday morning or Wednesday night. I’m leaning toward Thursday right now because I probably won’t do any writing Wednesday night if I drive down before writing. If I wait until Thursday, then I’ll only have to struggle through one night of writing (Thursday) since I’ll be home sometime Friday evening.

Then it’s the weekend again and who knows what interesting things will be happening then. Probably lots of them. I’ve had quite a few interesting weekends lately. Somewhat less productive, but definitely interesting. I’m more confident than ever that I’ll be able to catch up, though, so I’m alright with that.

Also, forget a new keyboard, I need a new computer chair. Mine has awkwardly placed armrests that cause me to hunch my shoulders and is constantly dropping downward, like some ghost was pulling the height-adjustment lever on me. Good job, ghost. Great joke. I’m now awkwardly sitting with my knees way up and the edge of my desk cutting into my wrists. Super cool.

 

Daily Prompt

Sometimes, the things we take the most pride in are small things, little victories that are meaningless to everyone else but prove to us the extent of some small ability we recognize within ourselves. They’re the kind of things that make your friends smile indulgently as you give them the play-by-play action report on something as small or seemingly insignificant as finding a way to get some extra burn time out of a candle or accurately predicting your arrival time. Today, show your character experiencing this kind of pride and the way that the people around them react in response to your character’s seemingly insignificant accomplishment.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is one of my favorite modern poets, Shel Silverstein. Almost all of his pictures make him look grumpy or kind of scary, but he wrote some wonderful children’s poetry that is not only fanciful, full of delightful imagery and actual images–he was also a cartoonist–but is also incredibly clever and more nuanced than a lot of other modern poetry I’ve read. There are layers upon layers to what he writes, shadows of bigger meanings that never fully materialize, and little hints of some deep meaning hidden behind the bright images and neatly composed words. He’s the kind of poet most people will either love or hate depending on what you take away from his poems. If you want to enjoy some particularly arranged words that often feel light and fluffy until you really think about them, I highly recommend starting with his book (my favorite) Where the Sidewalk Ends.

 

Helpful Tips

While it can be super scary, it is super helpful to get an outside perspective on your writing. If you have a friend who is willing and has the time to keep up, having an alpha reader (or several) can help you figure out the direction of your story and maybe come up with some new scenes to better develop your characters. Sure, you can get a lot of this just by talking to someone about your story, but it is a lot easier for them to provide feedback and a lot easier for you to explain what’s going on or what you’re looking for if they’ve already read everything you’ve written.

Outside of National Novel Writing Month, I would almost say its a requirement of anyone who wants to write something that people will enjoy reading. I’ve tried both methods: writing entirely in a void and writing with regular feedback or someone you can question about particular scenes you’ve written. Writing in a void was super productive. I wrote more and faster than I’d ever done in a similar amount of time. However, it was very clear that the quality of the writing was much lower and I eventually learned that I’d made a choice early on that made it difficult for some people to actually enjoy the story. With regular feedback, it takes more time to write the same amount and it can be hard to wrangle my alpha readers sometimes,  but the quality is drastically higher and it is easier for me to experiment when I’m getting more immediate feedback.

I can’t honestly say this will be true for anyone, but I do know that most of the people I’ve worked with have been way more productive when they have a supportive environment, regular feedback, and people who express a genuine interest in what they’re creating. It sure feels nice when people care, doesn’t it?

NaNoWriMo Day 19 (11/19)

I’m still behind, despite my plans. And because of my plans. I am getting more done every day now, so that’s good, but I’m still far enough behind that the number of works I have yet to write is rather prohibitive. But I’ll finish. No matter what. I really can’t say that I should have spent my time other than I have, it’s just hard when so much that’s going on right now is a high priority for me.

It feels dumb for me to be complaining about not having time this month. I’ve got too many good things I’m trying to do all in one month. Sure, my depression and my anxiety show up now and then to screw up a day or two, but it’s mostly a good, if tiring, trek through my days as I rededicate myself to writing, fill my spare time with all sorts of wonderful video games or books, and try to keep things running smoothly with my girlfriend.  I mean, my choices are between writing until D&D starts at 6pm or playing Pokemon until 6pm. The horror.

That being said, writing is a lot harder than playing Pokemon. I’ve discovered that the story I’m telling involves allegorical references to my previous job, a lot of people I’ve known throughout my life, some of the troubles I’ve faced growing up, and a lot of the things I struggle with from day-to-day. This book is almost literally born from my pain. Most of the major bad things that have happened to me and a lot of the things that have hit me the hardest are going to be a part of this story in some way or another. It isn’t all that fun to write, but it’s shaping up to be a good story. More significantly, I can already tell that this is going to be an important story, if only for me. I think I’m going to keep at this one until I finish it, NaNoWriMo or not.

 

Daily Prompt

Self-sacrifice can be a good thing. If someone does it for the benefit of society and the benefit to the whole far outweighs the negative to the individual, convention says we should all sacrifice. At the same time, the mantra of “sacrifice of yourself so that others will benefit” is easily perverted to something like “you are not worth as much as everyone else is.” Write a scene where your character struggles to mark the difference between the two, maybe in reference to whether they should do a particular thing that is self-sacrificing or maybe in reference to whether or not they are giving too much of themselves in general. This is a great place to examine your character’s motivations.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is an “old” YouTube video by a guy who does mostly comedic reviews of video games. A lot of his early stuff is childish humor mixed with teenage idiocy, but most of his recent stuff is actually pretty decent. It came out right around the time Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out and was probably one of the best reviews I’ve seen of the game because it actually let the game speak for itself. It was clever, it was silly, and I laughed the entire time I watched it through when it came out. I definitely recommend giving it a watch. That being said, you probably shouldn’t watch it if you don’t care for swearing.

 

Helpful Tips

Writing can be draining. Don’t be afraid to indulge a little in the things that make you feel good. If you want a candy bar, make yourself a deal that, as long as you get today’s writing done, you can have a candy bar. Wanna bury yourself in a pile of stuffed animals and lack the last dozen you need to complete the pile? Buy yourself one for every week you write every day. Not getting enough sleep from day-to-day but also trying to find healthier alternatives to just chugging coffee? Create yourself a caffeine schedule so that you’re coming off the last of it as you’re getting ready for bed and don’t worry too much about using a crutch for right now. Self-indulgence can be bad, but as long as its only for this month, you’ll be alright. Just, you know, probably don’t try to use drugs and alcohol to fuel your writing. I literally cannot find a single person that has worked out for in the long run.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 18 (11/18)

I totally forgot to even write this update until just now. The combination of frustration at the failure to deliver a bunch of stuff I ordered and the enthusiasm that infects me every time I get a new Pokemon game, I’m lucky I managed to write as much of my novel as I did yesterday. I got a full day’s worth in, thanks to a super productive half hour I spent at work, waiting for the weather to clear up a bit before driving home. I punched out and wrote over 1000 words. As a result, I’m actually considering doing my writing time every day right after I punch out at work to capitalize on the lack of distractions and the nagging feeling that I should be using my time productively.

Today, I’m off to a slow start. My packages arrived and I’ve been rather completely distracted once again. This time by Saga comics and, once again, new Pokemon. Today’s Pokemon distraction is a bit more logistical though, as I’ve begun the careful process of catching every Pokemon I can and evaluating their potential as team-Pokemon. It’s all very exciting. At least, its exciting if you like plotting data, doing research, and the different ways the strength of individual Pokemon is measured. I’m certain it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but data aggregation and application has always entertained me to some degree or another.

At this point, all my distractions have been set aside and now it’s time to get to work. Hopefully I can make good on my decision to catch up in a single weekend. D&D tomorrow night and time with the woman I’m seeing tonight indicate that it’ll be more difficult than originally anticipated. No regrets, though. I’ve got another weekend and four more vacation days I can use. Plenty of time.

 

Daily Prompt

Over-confidence comes in a couple different flavors. Previously, I suggested writing about over-confidence stemming from taking an ability of skill for granted. This time, write about someone using bluster and false confidence to conceal an inability of a self-perceived lack of skill. Show your character trying to cover up their lack of ability with bravado and hot air rather than admit that they are unable or show what they think is a weakness.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is actually Sudoku. Anyone, in this day and age, will tell you that the brain is like a muscle and, if you want it to be strong, you need to spend time working it out. A lot of people then follow this up by talking about reading or writing or using your creativity or imagination. The flip side that most people don’t talk about is that this also applies to the analytical and logical part of your brains as well. If you have nothing to do with numbers but spend all of your free time improving your vocabulary, you’re going to wind up with the mental equivalent of someone who keeps skipping leg day. Sudoku is one of my favorite ways to stretch a side of my brain that I don’t use a whole lot in my day-to-day life. The main focus is on logic puzzles, but it also helps with your ability to mentally hold something in place (as you track which numbers could be in each box) and your ability to distinguish individual numbers in large number sequences. The last one might not seem like much of a skill, but it definitely makes it a lot easier to parse through large sets of numbers.

 

Helpful Tips

Anyone can write a lot of words in an hour. If you take one of those writing tests, the online ones that measure how many words you can write in a minute, you should be able to do at least ten times that many words in an hour. Probably even more than that. The main barrier to not being able to write that much that quickly is that you need to figure out what to write first. If you’ve got a long time to put toward writing, you could plot out what you’re going to write that day, maybe one sentence per paragraph. That way, when you finally focus on just pumping out words, you can just fill in the gaps rather than worry about finding the right path forward. You’d be surprised at just how much faster you are, even after taking the time to plot it all out.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 17 (11/17)

I made the executive decision last night to go right to bed when I got home rather than try to write. That means I’ve fallen even further behind, of course, but I went to bed “early” because I’m spending all afternoon/evening today writing, then all day Saturday writing, and then almost all of Sunday writing. If I’m well-rested (or at least better-rested) going into this push, I’ll be able to focus and write more quickly. In case that doesn’t work, I’ve bought a case of energy drinks and created a rationing schedule so I don’t give myself a heart attack or over-caffeinate myself. I’ve also got tea for when I need a little something but don’t want to make the 5-6 hour commitment an energy drink requires.

I have crafted a weekend with no excuses to do anything but write. Spend time with my s/o? We’re going to make dinner and work on projects, maybe play a board game or two. I can’t focus and need a break? No Breath of the Wild of Destiny 2 for me, I’ve got a new Pokemon game that can be played for a few minutes and then set aside, paused because I closed the screen on my 3DS. Need something to eat for lunch? I’ve got pre-made soup from Costco. 10 minutes and my meal is done. Sleepy? Caffeine! I’ve got it all figured out. All I’ve gotta do is get through one last work day and I’m ready to sit down and crank out 20,0000 words in a weekend.

In other news, I can finally play Skyrim on my Switch! I’ve been looking forward to this immensely because I’ve always enjoyed playing Skyrim, but with easy it is to mod on my computer (and how I feel like its impossible to play WITHOUT mods, now that I have them), starting the game is now a bit of a longer process. I thought about picking it up for the Xbox One for some casual couch-playing, but then I heard the new Nintendo console was going to have it. Here we are, a year later, and I can FINALLY PLAY IT. At some point. I should probably not buy it this close to Christmas or else I’m not going to have anything to tell my family when they ask me what I’d like. Which is totally not a thing that has happened before.

Also, waiting until AFTER NaNoWriMo, at least, would be for the best. I can’t really afford another distraction and I just know I’d tell myself I was just going to create a character only to realize, 8 hours later, that I know owned a plot of land in every major city using only money I’d stolen from pick-pocket tutors. Yeah, they actually have a lot on them and aren’t any more immune to being robbed than any other NPC.

 

Daily Prompt

As a middle-class, heterosexual, white man, I have a tendency to look past a lot of the problems other people face, not because I’m trying to ignore their issues or struggles but because I don’t see them in my own life. It takes a lot of work to remain cognizant of my own privilege and I’m not always successful. A lot of protagonists in modern and almost all characters in historical settings would have had similar issues or would regularly encounter people with similar issues. For today’s prompt, write a scene where your character struggles to understand the problems faced by someone less privileged than them or where your character has to interact with someone who doesn’t understand their own privilege (the interaction can be a positive learning experience or a negative trial your character overcomes, you decide).

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is my favorite book on writing, Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” If you want a really great book on what it means to write and some wonderful suggestions on how to frame things in your mind, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Lamott writes about her own issues, but uses them to address concerns and issues everyone faces. I almost feel like her book is a higher authority than some other similar books (Like Stephen King’s “On Writing”) because Lamott isn’t some millionaire writer, she makes enough to get by most of the time and thus still faces a lot of problems that we not-yet-pro writers face. I mean, how many writers starting out can relate to drug-fueled binge-writing sessions? Or struggling to make writing only a part of our daily lives rather than letting it dominate our lives?

There are dozens of really good quotes in this book, but the one that has helped me the most is “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I feel like every writer needs to hear that at some point in their life. I bring all of my experiences, good and bad, into everything I write and I can often go through my stories and point out where each character came from and what happened to bring that character to life. I used to feel somewhat ashamed about how often people could find themselves (shown in a positive or negative light) in my writing. I don’t, anymore. Writing that honestly has helped me move on in many cases and, in one case, even helped repair a friendship I had thought damaged beyond recovery.

Ultimately, we can only write about what we know or have learned and, as Lamott said, “If you people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

 

Helpful Tips

The irony of my upcoming tip is not lost on me.

If you’re having a difficult time getting your mind in order to write or you’re struggling with feelings of illegitimacy (which I still get sometimes, so its pretty common), I suggest looking for people writing about what it means to them to be a writer. As my inspiration shows, people writing about writing can help change your perspective on what you’re doing or give you a little flash of insight that can push you through a rough patch. If you do a simple google search, you will find thousands of results, some of varying degrees of usefulness. If you ask your writing friends, though, I’m sure they could make some suggestions.

Anne Lamott: “Bird by Bird”

Stephen King: “On Writing”

Thomas C. Foster: “How to Read Literature Like a Professor” (not exactly writing about writing, but it was still super helpful for me).

NaNoWriMo Day 16 (11/16)

I took yesterday off as planned. Got my extra sleep, got my errands run, took the time to make myself some delicious healthier food (hotdogs are super easy to make in a toaster oven and they taste alright if you buy the good ones, but they’re not exactly a good meal to eat four out of seven days a week), and then sat down to write around one in the afternoon. Twelve hours later, I’d written a few hundred words, play Destiny for a couple of hours, and finished reading the entirety of “To Green Angle Tower.”

I want to just say “whoops” and laugh it off, because that would be easy and I’m already stressed enough knowing I’ve got 15 days to write 39,000 words, but that would be a disservice to myself and the book I read. One day, once NaNoWriMo has ended and I’m trying to keep the daily updates to my blog going, I’ll write a full review of the book and then probably a reflection on it. Heck, I’ll probably do the entire “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” series. There’s so much to unpack and talk about in the series!

Anyway, I honestly don’t regret taking the entire day off to finish reading this book. While I had planned to write and I do also wish I had spent more time writing, this reading break came when I really needed it. That last book I’d finished, aside from a couple of comics here and there, was John Green’s “Turtles All the Way Down” and that, being a highly emotional read for me, had been skewing my perspective. It had me very focused on the things my own story would say and how that it might be read by people. Finishing “To Green Angle Tower” was an excellent reminder that what a book says relies so heavily on the reader that the writer can only tell a story and see what comes out at the end if they want it to be any good. Every so often, I remember a famous book that I strongly dislike because it was written to make a point about something specific. It’s the literary equivalent of a guard standing outside a town in a Super Nintendo game: it has only one thing to say and will mindless repeat it every time you try to engage it.

I don’t want to write a story like that. While I wasn’t so far gone that I had already scripted the story’s message, I’d invested too much into what it was “supposed to” say that it was making it hard for me to write. Today’s writing is going to focus on stepping back from that ledge and getting back to figuring out the story I want to tell. I’ve already done a lot of productive thinking about it while I was staring at my ceiling, waiting for the roiling emotions stirred by the end of a beloved book to calm enough for me to sleep. I think I know what I’m doing, now. I can’t wait to get back to work!

 

Daily Prompt

Sometimes, the most important details can be the ones we don’t know. We see it often in fantasy novels, in stories using the “hero from humble origins” trope. A low-born young woman or man rises up to overthrow the cruel king or lord, stumbling from failure to success as they grow from a child into an adult. They learn wisdom, gain strength, and ultimately triumph, seeking no reward for their efforts but the chance to return to the peaceful life they once knew. Then, as the story wraps up, they learn of some hidden nobility or royal blood in their family tree and are called upon to take the place of the leader they overthrew. The clever part of this that we see in good stories is when the author hints at their background, foreshadowing the moment when they would rise to power. For today’s prompt, write about something similar for your character. Show a the moment that the learn the truth about their hidden past and come up with a few ways to hint about that you could insert into an earlier part of the story.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is “To Green Angle Tower” by Tad Williams and will be the source of a lot of future quotes and references. I cannot count the number of times I stopped reading, went back, and reread a passage because I enjoyed it so much. The characters, some of whom still felt remote and unknowable through the middle of the book, had become alive and real by the time I reached the appendix. If you want to read a good high fantasy book that is incredibly clever with its references and inspirations, I cannot recommend the “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn” trilogy emphatically enough. I suggest getting the recent reprints because I love tall books, even if they’re a bit harder to shelve. Not having to read a couple thousand pages of tiny text will be super helpful.

 

Helpful Tips

If you are feeling particularly stuck at a scene that just refuses to move along, there are a lot of ways you can make progress happen. The easiest would be to kill someone. Nothing progresses a story and gets characters moving like a nice injection of death. If you’re looking for something with a lower impact, have a character lose something. It can be a possession, a companion, a source of comfort, or even a limb. If you’re still trying to build things and not yet ready to start taking them away, introduce someone or something. Adding a new character or location can refresh the existing dynamic between your characters, giving them a nudge to start progressing toward their goals again. Adding things or removing them is easily the fastest way to get a story progressing again, so don’t be afraid to make liberal use of your power to move things on or off stage as you’re setting the scene.

NaNoWriMo Day 15 (11/15)

I’m really lucky to have the life I do now, even if my mental illnesses make it hard to focus on that. At the drop of a hat, I can throw sense and practicality aside in order to spend an entire month writing in as much of my free time as I can make myself use. I have a job that lets me adjust my hours so that, if I sleep in an extra three hours because I stayed up too late trying to write, I can just stay a little later. I’ve got the means to buy a specific brand of energy drink so that I can keep myself more or less focused when my 4-5 hours of sleep a night starts to catch up to me. I’ve got friends who understand that I might need to bail last-minute or that I might be a little slow on the uptake when I’m spending time with them because I’m trying to get my writing in without giving anything up.

All of that is even ignoring the more basic things like having a nice computer and the ability to buy myself a new keyboard so the infernal, insanity-inducing space bar squeaking will finally stop. Or like having the ability to spend so much of my time focus on one project to the exclusion of all else. I only need to work 40 hours a week to make ends meet. I was able to go to an expensive college that taught me so many of the skills I need and use every day to accomplish projects like NaNoWriMo (though a cheaper college have done that as well).

Sometimes, when I’m very stressed or worn out or feeling particularly put-upon, reminding myself of all of these things help. Right now, I’m feeling all three. Its been a long month that is now half over and I’m currently sitting at just over 20% of my goal. I’ve got no one to blame but myself for being so far behind, but my upcoming schedule doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve got some time off that I’m considering using, to help me catch up and get a proper amount of sleep for friggin’ once. I’m going to get at least two more days of it this year and I’ve got about four saved up already, so I think I can afford to take one or two off this month. Probably today and then one day during the last week of November.

It would be really nice to sleep. And I’d be able to get a day or two of extra writing done if I take the day off, even AFTER running some of the errands I’ve been putting off…

 

Daily Prompt

One of the major steps toward growth is overcoming our boundaries. If we only do what we know we can or what are comfortable doing, then we don’t grow. Only by pushing up against the very limits of what we could do or by stepping outside of our comfort zone can we truly expand our capabilities and grow stronger as a person. Today, write about a time when your character was pushed to their boundaries and whether or not they decided to try to push beyond them. If you can fit it in, also write about what happened because of their decision, really show us what that moment meant to them in the long run.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of my favorite current (you know, still alive and writing) authors is Brandon Sanderson. He is incredibly prolific and writes an insane number of books every year. There is much room to debate the quality of his works, but one that easily stands above his other works is the Way of Kings series. Sanderson is already a master of unconventional worlds and he out does himself with this series. In a land ravaged by irregular “High Storms” (typhoons of horrific wind and rain that pass over the entire land as they vent their fury on the people trying to live in their path) the entire ecology of the lands that get the worst of it has evolved differently. Everything seems to have a hard shell or tough carapace, some armor to protect it from random seasons and terrible storms.

If you’re looking for interesting characters, a complex plot, and a world unlike anything you’ve read, I definitely recommend picking up Sanderson’s The Way of Kings series, which is now comprised of three full-size novels and numerous bits of errata scattered around (at least one is basically a neat little novella all on its own). That’s actually why I chose to write about this today, because the third book (Oathbringer) came out yesterday.

 

Helpful Tips

Writing is a lot of effort. It takes a great deal of patience and toughness to keep typing the words out every day. One thing that can make it easier is to make sure you’re getting at least some creativity from outside sources  every day. If you’ve got a book you stopped reading when you started NaNoWriMo, pick it up again. If you’ve got a new video game, spend some time playing it. While it is important to remember not to over-do your relaxation and recharging, it is just as important to remember to not ignore them entirely. Even a little reading every day can keep you more creative when it comes time to write. There’s going to be plenty of editing work to be done after the end of NaNoWriMo, so who cares if your story winds up being super similar to the book you were reading? Just write and figure all of that out later.

NaNoWriMo Day 14 (11/14)

Well, I wound up only spending 2.5 to 3 hours writing last night instead of the 5+ I had planned, but I got over 2000 words written, so I’ve finally started to make up for lost time. If I turn my 1666 daily words into about 2400 daily words, I will still finish in time. Heck, if I count the words I’ve written for this blog, I’ll only be short by 2044 at the end of this post. I’ll be using the day 13 total since I usually write these posts around midnight and schedule them to post in the morning so I’ve got the chance to review them before they go up. This is relevant because I count any time before going to bed as still the previous day for the purposes of calculating numbers and statistics.

I finally feel like I’m at least sort of back on track now. I’ve righted the course by spending my evening trying to write (even if I missed the mark for the majority of the time I had set aside). That being said, I almost fell asleep while writing because my caffeine wore out around 11pm and my ibuprofen (I’ve developed some really awful neck tension and pain) wore off at about 11:30pm, so the last bit was a real struggle to stay focused on writing sensibly. I kept almost mixing in references to things from Star Wars, Rick and Morty, and The Oatmeal comics because that’s apparently where my mind goes when I’m stimulating my imagination while falling asleep.

I seriously wrote two entire sentences about how many schmeckles a job would earn before I realized my eyes were closed and schmeckles are a currency from a particular episode from Season 1 of Rick and Morty (the Meeseeks episode). I definitely enjoy the show (Mostly. There are some parts I don’t enjoy because I feel like it crossed a line simply for the sake of transgressing rather than trying to make a statement about anything), but I wouldn’t want it injected into the story I’m working on. It’s entirely the wrong kind of story. This story is… just Fiction, I guess? YA but for adults? I’m having a hard time classifying it, honestly. Its like The Great Gatsby but about 20-somethings in the modern age and our particular brand of existential crisis/identity issues (which, depending on your analysis, makes it fairly similar to The Great Gatsby).

I’m willing to bet that, once I go through what I wrote tonight while in a more cognizant state of mind, I’ll find a whole bunch of stuff that doesn’t make sense or just kind of repeats itself. That’s usually what happens when I’m falling asleep and still trying to write (thank goodness I’m still allowed to edit…).

I’m going to be mostly busy tonight, but I should have time to cram some writing in if I work at it and focus well. Then Wednesday night is weekly night for Destiny 2 and Thursday is… probably a Skype call with a friend. And writing where I can fit it. Same for Wednesday. I can probably put off Destiny until 6 or 7 and write between the end of work and the start of our weekly play time. I’ll figure it out. I’m officially in “shut up and make it work” mode, so I’m confident the daily writing will get done.

One last gripe: as much as I love f.lux, I really hate that it notifies you of approaching wake-up times. Yes, I know I get up at 6am every morning, but I find it distinctly unhelpful to get a pop-up notification that my wake-up time is in 5 hours.

 

Daily Prompt

Everyone’s relationship with music is different. We all have different preferences for the kind of music we listen to, but we also have different views on what music is appropriate where. Today, write a scene about your character’s musical preferences and how they encounter music in their lives (for instance, I like chill and meander-y music because I often use it to help me relax when I’m tense or stressed). Feel free to expand into the Musician vs Listener territory, and how being either of those changes the relationship and how music is encountered.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Today’s inspiration is actually my go-to writing beverage. No alcohol or coffee for me. Sure, I’ll have an energy drink if I’m feeling particularly drained, but that’s more a pre-writing thing than something I enjoy consuming while writing. My favorite thing to drink is Tradewinds iced tea. It comes in giant jugs at the grocery store and is made of pure tea for the unsweetened variants and sugar for all the sweet variants, instead of high-fructose corn syrup. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with corn syrup (there’s a lot of anecdotes and hearsay, but little scientific evidence that I’ve encountered, so feel free to let me know if I’m wrong), I just prefer the taste and texture of drinks make with sugar instead of corn syrup. It saves me a lot of time because I don’t need to brew it or mix it and a nice cool beverage keeps me alert and focused more than a warm beverage does. Find your drink of choice and make sure you’ll well supplied!

 

Helpful Tips

If you’re stuck at a point and not sure how to proceed, I recommend talking out loud to yourself or a stuffed animal (or action figure or pet or whatever, something with a face.) Sure, an actual person could give you a response instead of just passively looking at you, but sometimes we’re not entirely ready for our work to be seen (or heard) by actual people. You get a lot of the same benefits, but without the anxiety that often goes with sharing your creativity with the people around you. Just sit down, talk about the problem, follow your trains of thought from beginning to end, and you’d be surprised at just how many details work themselves out once they’re off the page and in the air.

NaNoWriMo Day 13 (11/13)

Well, I didn’t do much writing yesterday again. I’m seriously starting to wonder if I’ve doomed myself since I can’t seem to make myself actually prioritize my writing. At the same time, I did some wonderful prep for my D&D campaign that lays the groundwork for many sessions to come along with figuring out some of the murky details for the plot arc my players are pursuing. I also fleshed out the DMPC I’ve created to round out the party (weekly attendance is at three right now, so I’m just adding a safety on top of adjusting their encounters) and created a few instant encounters for the environments they’ll be heading through. I should be good on prep for the next half-dozen sessions if we stick to 3-4 hour sessions (instead of the 5+ hour sessions we’ve been doing lately).

I really enjoyed the session, even if it dragged on longer than expected. It gave me the opportunity to insert a random new element to the world and challenged me to come up with something effectively homebrew (rules for an entire new creature type along with the source of said creatures) on the fly. One of my players did the unthinkable and rolled three 1’s in a row on an attack roll, so I gave him the option of accepting the instant accidental death (house rule on three 1s in a row on an attack roll) or taking an unknown other result that could be worse than death but would give him the opportunity to possibly avert the problem. I decided that the sword he used, a longsword with the “vicious” trait (it does damage to him every time he hits something with it but deals extra damage to what he’s hitting), animated and started using vampiric style attacks to suck out the life force of whatever living creatures were near it.

Thankfully, they managed to kill the no-longer sword-shaped aberration (it looked like a 15 foot long caterpillar made of metal) and thus the whole crisis has been averted (for now). However, the addition of this powerful creature to what was already a tough fight (12 zombies and a mummy for a level six party) wound up dragging the session out so that, as 11pm passed and 12am approached, they finally wrapped things up and returned to their basecamp outside the dungeon to recover from their drained life force and wounds. And they leveled up!

This is why I love Dungeons and Dragons. As a DM, it can force me to be creative at a moment’s notice, encourages player participation in story-telling, and a good player will always take the unknown but interesting if they have a choice. I get to incorporate things from other stories I loved (the no-longer-sword-shaped aberration was an idea i got from a comic I love) and I get to see the reactions to my story-telling as it happens. The suspense and wonder, the dread and weary joy, the fear and bravery. I have, and probably will again, write entire posts about why I love Dungeons and Dragons. There’s just so much there to enjoy if you’ve got a good set of players and a good Dungeon Master.

Even if I don’t finish my NaNoWriMo writing goal this month, I’ll still have written more this month than in the past several thanks to my daily blog updates. I’ll have done story-telling I enjoyed every week. I’ll have fully committed myself to creating once again. I still plan to try and I’m confident in my ability to pull the necessary words out of my ass over my holiday next week if it comes down to that, but I think I can already count this month as a win no matter what else happens.

 

Daily Prompt

As a human, we can be wildly emotional. All you have to do is turn on daytime TV to see stories and reality shows of people doing incredibly irrational things as a result of entirely emotional decision-making. People who struggle with mental health issues often have first-hand experience in how emotions can entirely overrule reason and common sense.  Even if your character isn’t strictly human or not even sorta human, the emotional side of every race/species depicted in story-telling tends to overrule the intellectual side. Write a scene in which your character’s emotional response to an event overrules their common sense or intellectual side so that they wind up acting when they probably shouldn’t. It can be anything from them leaping into action to protect someone, entirely blowing their cover, to them being unable to hold their tongue when they are being chewed out by someone.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of my favorite musicians, who I listen to for just about every reason in the world (though the most common are because I need to de-stress and chill out or because I need something to make me contemplative but still action-oriented), is Andrew Bird. The absolutely breadth of genres he’s played over the years is surprising and his evolution as an artist is inspiring. He mixes wonderfully calm and meandering music with vocals that match the music but will make you think once you start to hear them past their part in the musicality of the song. He plays the violin, sings wonderfully, whistles, and plays the guitar, often using electronic delay and repeat recorders (they record what he plays when he holds down a pedal and then loop it back until he stops it again) to combine all four of those things at once during live performances. He’s a wonderful showman and an amazing musician. My biggest critique of him is that he can be hard to understand sometimes, when he’s singing, because he tends to blend the vocals with the instrumentals so much. If you need a little push, I recommend looking up his music (live recordings, if you can find them) starting with my favorite song, Take Courage.

 

Helpful Tips

If you’re struggling to get your writing done because you can’t focus when you sit down with a couple of hours to work, try breaking your time up into 5-15 minute chunks (10 is usually a good number). Set a timer to go off in ten minutes and challenge yourself to write as much as you can before the timer goes off. Once the timer goes off, record your results, take a short break to get a drink or check twitter (no more than a minute or two, timer-enforced if need be), and then start another. This time, challenge yourself to beat your previous record by as much as possible. Keep repeating this process until your reach or surpass your daily goal. These little sprints will help keep you focused and productive, giving you the bursts of creativity we’ve all felt where we write a couple (or a few) hundred words in only a handful of minutes because we’re very aware of how much time we’ve wasted. This way, though, you get the benefit without feeling like you’ve been failing.

 

NaNoWriMo Day 12 (11/12)

I finally got back to writing more than “just a bit” yesterday. I had trouble focusing, so I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted to, but it was still my best day since last weekend. I had planned to write into the night, but I decided that I would be better served by actually going to sleep at a reasonable hour for once. I also didn’t get much done in the evening because my neck got super tense and it hurt too much to focus on anything but how sore and stuff it was. Even after ibuprofen, stretches, and my rice sock (microwave it for a couple of minutes and its a nice source of heat for a stiff neck), it still hurt. So I just played video games for two hours (which wouldn’t suffer because I couldn’t focus through the pain).

I didn’t do any of the other things I had planned for yesterday, though. No job application preparation (there’s an opening for a Dungeons and Dragons game designer with Wizards of the Coast and I would lose nothing from just applying) and almost no social interaction outside of my roommates. A lot of plans changed at the last-minute yesterday. Which is part of why I was having so much trouble focusing. Today, I’m going to cram as much writing in between Dungeons and Dragons sessions as I can and hope I can make it to bed before 1am…

But hey! I’m over 35% caught up to where I should be, now! If I keep this up, I might actually catch up soon! I hope your NaNoWriMos are still going well, or have improved.

 

Daily Prompt

As humans, we all have our own little rituals. The order of our preparations for going to bed. Whether we pour in milk (or possibly even some other liquid) or cereal first when preparing a bowl of cereal. How we get out of bed and prepare for the day. We rely on these rituals for comfort and familiarity. They become so much a part of our lives that we begin to sue them for contemplation. When our otherwise demanding bodies are engaged in a rote task, the mind is free to wander where it will. Write a scene in which your character does this. Show them busily engaged in a ritual of theirs but still using the time to focus on some problem that has been tumbling through their life.

 

Sharing Inspiration

I have a little figurine on my desk, between my monitors, of a character from one of my favorite web comics. If you like good-story-telling and art whose attention to detail is beyond easy comprehension, you need to check out Erfworld. The writer drops so many hints at what is going on in the comic and what might happen in the future via the art that the entire forum, not just sections of it, is basically dedicated to analyzing every page that comes out. I like to keep this figurine in front of me as a reminder of what amazing storytellers can do, regardless of the medium, and because I really like the character himself. He’s clever, but not infallible. He’s a good person who genuinely cares, but can make tough decisions when he needs to. I suggest reading the comic if you have the time, along with finding little things that either inspire you outright or remind you of things that inspire you. Little reminders that you see around can help propel you to the finish line.

 

Helpful Tips

It may not be something you are consciously aware of, but the way your keyboard sounds or feels as you type can have a huge impact on your ability to type for extended periods of time. If your keyboard does not feel good as you hammer away at the keys or if it makes some upsetting squeaking noise every time you press the space bar, it might be time to experiment with new keyboards. Either ask your friends to try some of theirs or check out some computer stores like Best Buy. They should have a variety of keyboards for you to try.

If you’ve got any extra keyboards around, try writing with those for a session or two. You don’t always need a fancy, backlit or mechanical keyboard, sometimes a new angle for typing or the change from an often-used keyboard to a fresh keyboard can make all the difference. The same goes for mice! Don’t be afraid to try changing out your writing hardware if its starting to grate on you or isn’t working properly.

NaNoWriMo Day 11 (11/11)

I didn’t get much done last night. All of my effort and pushing caught up with me. Despite a steady influx of caffeine and a manageable but still significant amount of productive anxiety, I struggled to finish my cleaning chores. I had a lot, since I had been putting off cleaning my room for a very long time (a few weeks, at least), and I had piles of new books that needed to be sorted and shelved. Not to mention all the laundry and bird-dust that had accumulated. Cockatiels are lovely birds and can be quite companionable, but they don’t shed feathers so much as they just generate heavy dust and fluff. In only a few short weeks, they can coat any near surface in mausoleum-grade dust.

I did some writing though. Prepped my prompts, inspiration, and tips. Wrote a few hundred words. I’m still super far behind, though. I’m pretty sure that, by the end of the weekend, I’m supposed to be at 20,000 words. I’m at a little under 30% of that. If I did nothing but write for these two days, I could get there. But I’ve got plans. More D&D (and I actually get to PLAY this weekend! Not just run the game) and a Saturday just chock full of social engagements. At least, it’ll be full from some time in the afternoon onward. My plans are still rather loose at the moment.

I don’t mind that I’m going to have to work my ass off to finish in time. As I said during my book club meeting at work (and this is totally stolen from The Oatmeal’s “How to be Perfectly Unhappy”), I don’t need to be happy or feeling good. I need to feel challenged and fulfilled at the end of a project. I don’t do this because I enjoy every moment of the process. I’m exhausted. I’m not sleeping enough and my neck is just one giant rock of tense muscle. I definitely don’t enjoy the feelings of nagging obligation that keep me from my bed on cold, peaceful nights. I don’t do this because its fun, I do it because it makes me feel fulfilled.

It was nice to talk about my vocation at work today, to talk about what I care about more than almost anything and why I care about it. I was fully myself today with my coworkers, no longer the quite but steadfast worker who chimed in with a contribution every time the discussion began to stymie, but someone who had a commanding presence and spoke at length with a great deal of passion. It was also received very positively. I had a coworker remark that if I wrote nearly as well as I spoke, he was looking forward to the day that he’d be able to buy a copy of my book.

Throw in the blog comment I got yesterday (I love getting comments and talking to readers) and a comment I got from one of people in my support community and I’ll be riding this feeling of fulfillment for a week at least. As tired as I am, I feel more fired up and excited to write than I have since I came up with the idea for the support community.

 

Daily Prompt

One of the best ways to extol or even just show the features of a character is to set them up with a foil. If you’re not certain, a foil is a character that contrasts with another character and thus emphasizes particular characters or qualities. If your story has a solo protagonist, a good foil can be rival or a villain with whom they have a strong relationship or history. If you have multiple protagonists, a good foil would be another protagonist contrasting with them as a result of the situation they’re in together. Today, pick one of those types of foils (or both, if you’re feeling particularly ambitions) and write a scene that emphasizes your character.

 

Sharing Inspiration

Every so often, someone does something wonderful, weird, and down-right inspirational on the internet. One of my favorite instances of something like this is the YouTube video titled “Wazer Wifle!” It is a rap with accompanying music video made using footage and mods from a Fallout game about a gun from the same game.  It is super catchy, right up my weird and nerdy alley, and it shows that someone once cared enough about a game I like to make a music video and entire rap about it. It always reminds me that if someone could make something as popular as this, maybe I can as well.

 

Helpful Tips

Don’t be afraid to experiment with your set up if you’re struggling to stay focused or get through your daily word count. Once I figured out that candles help me focus (as a result of the fact that I used to use them in my meditation), I started buying large, unscented pillar candles so I can set them all over my room when I can’t focus. Then, I can turn off all the other lights and just exist in a warm cocoon of flickering light that matches the current f.lux setting of my monitors. There are other ways to experiment as well. Hemingway once said to “write drunk, edit sober” and, while I wouldn’t recommend doing that, I am also aware that I write my fastest when I’m half asleep and barely able to focus on the keyboard. Just try different things until you find what modifiers can help you do what.