NaNoWrimo · Writing · Writing Guide

Plotter or Pantser – Countdown to National Novel Writing Month

The first time I “won” NaNoWriMo was in 2013.  I read No Plot?  No Problem, created characters, and did my best to create a semi-coherent sci-fi book.  It was called “Equilibrium” and it was a meandering mess.  It was not a total failure though, I learned my first baby steps to writing a full-length novel that year.  I also learned I was a planner, not a “pantser.”

What is a Pantser?

A pantser is a writer who flies by the seat of their pants.  They don’t need an outline, they just write what comes next.  They start their journey at the beginning and they sail on until they meet their destination.

Even though I’m a planner, I do have pantser moments, where the characters go left instead of right, and I have to figure it out as I go.

What is a Plotter?

A plotter is someone who plans their story out in advance.  They might write it chronologically, or they might skip around, because they have an outline.  I love a good outline.  I like to know where my story is headed and what I need to write next to get it there.  There are lots of ways to outline a book, I tend to use Scrivener to do mine, and go scene by scene.  I try to hit major plot points, like the inciting incident, pinch points, midpoint and finally the climax, as I plot.

This year I’m going to try to plot out my story by “beats.”  It’s very similar to the way I’ve outlined in the past, and you can find lots of “beat sheets” online that give you an idea of when to hit what points in your story.

So, are you a pantser or a plotter?  Have you tried both, or only one?  

Flash Fiction Friday · Writing

Flash Fiction Friday: Refresh

Prompt: Refresh

Word Count: 197

 

“Come on.  Load.”  James said, as he jammed his finger down on the mouse, hitting the refresh button over and over.  He had spent months saving up, but he also knew this moment would come.  The servers were overloaded, everyone else that wanted tickets was probably doing the same thing he was right now.  Still, his brain did not want to believe that it was some technical error or too much stress on a machine somewhere.  He needed those tickets.

After the 27th hit of the refresh button, the page loaded.  James scrambled to fill out all of his information, checked his credit card number twice, and hit the “Purchase” button.  For a moment, the blue wheel at the top of his page spun, indicating the page was trying to load.  He resisted the urge to click his mouse again, for fear he would end up ordering 10 tickets instead of just 2.

James held his breath, waiting for the feared page that would tell him that his browser was unable to load the confirmation page…

And then it worked.  James had done it.  He was going to Comic Con for the first time in his life.

 

Flash fiction is short fiction, often under 500 words and often written in a short space of time.  If you would like to do your own piece of flash fiction, feel free to put it in the comments or link me to the place you post it.  I would love to see what you come up with for the prompt.

NaNoWrimo · Writing

Intro to NaNoWrimo – Countdown to National Novel Writing Month

The moment October 1st hit, the thought “You need to start planning for NaNoWriMo” hopped into my mind, because it confirmed that November is just around the corner.

If you are not familiar with NaNoWriMo, this post is a quick introduction to get you up to speed.  I decided I would post a blog each Monday this month to give my readers tips and tricks about participating in this event, based on what I’ve learned over the last three years.

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, since November 2013.  NaNoWriMo is an annual event where writers commit to write 50,000 words in a single month.

First of all, head on over to nanowrimo.org and sign up!  The great thing about the website, is it will give you a place to keep track of your novel’s details and word count.  You can also add friends (aka Writing Buddies) who are participating and track each other’s progress once November starts.  I tend to be a competitive person, so if I am falling behind and my friend is killing it, seeing their word count grow motivates me to keep working on mine.  My screenname on nanowrimo.org is freudianslipped, feel free to add me if you are participating this year!

Every Monday for the next month, I’ll be covering topics related to NaNoWrimo, and here is what I’ll cover:

Oct. 10  – Plotter or Pantser?  Do you like to outline, or would you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants and make it up as you go?

Oct.17 – Writing Sprints.  What are they and how can they help you make that daily word count goal.

Oct.24 – Write-ins.  Whether you are going to a coffee shop, or participating on Twitter, these can be a great way to get writing.

Oct. 31 – Keep Going!  Ways to help you catch up if you fall behind in November.

 

Are you participating in Nano?  Is this your first year or are you an old pro?  I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday · Writing

Flash Fiction Friday: Handle with Care

Prompt: Handle with Care

Word Count: 169

She never considered herself to be a “Daddy’s girl.”  Cora got along well with her dad, even thought of him as her best friend, but the phrase never really fit how she saw their relationship.  Sure, he would buy her things when she expressed excitement about a Slurpee or a Wonder Woman lunchbox, but Cora felt it would have been a stretch to call that “spoiling.”  The better things he shared with her, were not things at all.

Things like watching as Roy Orbison, George Harrison and the rest of the Traveling Wilburys sang “Handle me with care…” on MTV.  Things like playing video games together until it was far too late for either of them, he had work in the morning and she had school.  Things like throwing a styrofoam airplane from her grandparent’s deck, and watching as it cascaded over busy streets and into the backyard of someone in another neighborhood.

Maybe she wasn’t a “Daddy’s Girl,” but Cora was certainly a girl who loved her Daddy.

 

Flash fiction is short fiction, often under 500 words and often written in a short space of time.  If you would like to do your own piece of flash fiction, feel free to put it in the comments or link me to the place you post it.  I would love to see what you come up with for the prompt.

Writing · Writing Guide

The Resistance

Sadly, I am not referring to the small military force led by General Leia Organa, today.  Instead, I’m talking about a concept outlined by Steven Pressfield in his book “The War of Art.”  

The Resistance is just about any activity, thought process or life event that pulls you away from your art or your “Calling”and stops you from creating it.  

It can be small things, like reading Facebook or deciding to clean our your fridge instead of sitting down and writing that short story.  It can be big things, like taking on a project that does not relate to what you actually want to do.  The Resistance distracts us from the things we want to achieve.  It gives us excuses not to do the things we love and pursue the dreams we want.

The Resistance can also look like a self-created drama.  I tend to know a lot of people who want to be writers, by they have dozens of excuses for why they have not started that blog/written that short story/outlined that novel.  They will hem and haw about how they have no time or how they have no money.  They will go into dramatics about how too many things are just terrible in life and they have no inspiration.

J.K. Rowling was a single mother living on state assistance when she started her famed Harry Potter series.  Stephen King was a High School teacher who wrote in the evenings and on weekends (and subsequently got so many rejections letters for his novel “Carrie” that he started to collect them) before people started to buy his work.

Many people have ideas for stories, but it’s only the people who do not give into the Resistance, who soldier on, that actually finish their work.  Writing and other creative endeavors are often solitary practices, but just like any other worthwhile endeavor, you must show up and do the work.

If you often find yourself avoiding your desk or avoiding chances you have to write, I would recommend Pressfield’s books on the matter.  His no-nonsense approach is a great way to get you to examine what your Resistance is and how you can stop giving in to it.

The War of Art is the best place to start, but my personal favorite is the next book in his series about creating, Turning Pro.

 

Writing

Talk! With Marie

I had the awesome opportunity of being on the Talk! With Marie show last week, and I had so much fun talking about ways to stay creative and book reviews with Marie.

I met Marie through Second Life (An online, virtual world), and in Second Life I am known by alter-ego, Natalya Lore.  I had a wonderful time being on the show, if you would like to listen to the episode, it can be found here.

If you are interested in knowing more about my adventures in virtual spaces as Natalya, you can also check out Virtuosity 11.11, a blog I share with my best friend about writing, Second Life and education.

Flash Fiction Friday · Writing

Flash Fic Friday: Fear

Prompt: Fear

Word Count: 154

When Elena was 5 years old, she was terrified of Box Elder bugs.  She had mistaken the little orange and black bugs for fireflies, and a well-meaning friend in her kindergarten class had told her if she touched the little bugs, they would burn her little fingers off.  It wasn’t until years later that she found out that she had been horribly misinformed.

The little bugs were harmless, perhaps plentiful at times, but harmless all the same.  Years later, Elena realized that many of the fears in her life were like the Box Elder bug, as she let one wander over the palm of her hand.  Small, but made to be big.  Elements of falsehood wrapped up in truth.  But her biggest realization was this:

If she could hold a Box Elder bug in her hand and keep her fingers intact, she could face any other fear that life had to throw at her.

 

Flash fiction is short fiction, often under 500 words and often written in a short space of time.  If you would like to do your own piece of flash fiction, feel free to put it in the comments or link me to the place you post it.  I would love to see what you come up with for the prompt.

Book Review · Writing

Review: The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up

I have never been a tidy person.  Though I have a love of organization, I have always been the sort that feels like she is chasing her next big cleaning project.  I’m not sure where I heard about Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” but when my husband asked me for suggestions for my birthday, that’s what I asked for.  And I’m a geek girl in my 30s, so that means I have lots of geeky toys/comics/swag hanging around my house, some that I’ve held onto long after they stopped meaning something to me.

Even though my mother got me into the habit of throwing things away early, pulling all the stuff out of a closet or bin and going through it, but I still held onto a lot.  I’ve only had my own home for about two years, so I was surprised to find how much clutter my husband and I actually had.  And how many things we had DOUBLES of (Oh, how many times we’ve played the “where is the tape game?” only to find after decluttering we have at least 7 scotch tape dispensers).

In the book, Kondo outlines and teaches you how to use the KonMari Method to tidy your life up.  She also talks about how tidying your outside will help with your inside, and after nearly 2 months of working on this, I completely agree with her.  Here are the basics of what is covered in the book:

The KonMari method suggestions you work in categories, rather than room by room.  This was genius for me.  I went through categories like my books in a matter of minutes.  Others, like my clothes, kitchenware, craft supplies, took a bit longer.

As you go through these categories, you take each item you own into your hands and ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”  The goal of the KonMari Method is to live a life surrounded by things that you love.  Now, I also often asked myself “Is this useful?  Has it recently been useful?” but only on more practical items.  If something is practical, but it does not spark joy and is not useful, Kondo still suggests you get rid of it.  If you need that item again, it will have enough value that you will be willing to re-purchase it in the future.

containers
Who knew that cute containers could spark joy?

I think my favorite part of the book was where she discussed getting rid of books you bought, but have not read yet.  I tend to hoard books, so her acknowledging that love but also reminding me that I would likely never read the books that had sat on my shelves for a year was quite helpful.

Kondo advocates for sticking to her process strictly, but I found I was able to use her principals and her techniques, while still making them comfortable for me, and still get amazing results.  When I use something, I almost always immediately put it away now.  My living room and office are filled with things I enjoy and value, rather than things I just keep around for no real reason.  I’ve found that walking into a clean living room also helps my mind feel more open and free.

livingroom

If you are looking for a book to help you get organized and stay organized, I would completely recommend “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.  I’ve actually already offered to lend my copy to my mother and brother, that’s how much I’ve enjoyed it.

Writing · Writing Guide

5 Ways to Stay Creative

  1. Keep a Pinterest board for inspiration

When I see prompts, pictures or other things that spark an idea in my head, I usually save it to one of my pin boards, either for writing ideas or story inspirations.  Pinerest boards are great to look at when you get stuck and want to feel creative again.

2. Schedule time for your creativity

I know it sounds like this goes against the way we typcially picture creative types, but I promise having a routine can really boost your creativity.  If you schedule a time each day to write, paint, create, you will start to find you no longer need to wait for the muse.  You can work without her.  I think you will find that the work you produce when you are not inspired is likely as good as what you created when you thought you were inspired.

3. Be patient

Sometimes, especially for writers, you need to sit and think for awhile before a creative idea can form.  Matt Fraction calls this kind of moment “Catching Butterflies.” This is where you just need to sit, think and make sure your mind is not distracted by facebook, or the laundry.  It may look or feel like you are not doing anything, but the wheels are turning and things are happening as long as you are not distracted.

4.  Don’t force it

If you’ve sat down to catch butterflies for two hours and have nothing to show for it, it is probably time to change tactics and give your brain a break.

My best friend has a thing called a “Meta” list.  On that list she puts all the things she can’t quite process yet, but still needs to think about.  It’s sort of like putting your creative problem on the back burner for a bit, allowing your unconscious mind to work through what your conscious mind isn’t ready to tackle yet.  So switch gears, find another task to work on, and go back to your project after you’ve taken a break and washed a floor or folded that laundry you weren’t thinking about earlier.

5.  Follow people that inspire you.

Social Media can be full of posts that drag you down, but there are lots of tools and places to find posts that lift you up or get you thinking.  If you follow posts that make you feel depressed or like you are not doing enough creatively, unfollow those pages and seek out the kinds of content that make you want to do something new or make more of your art.

 

What are ways you stay creative?  I’d love to hear what you do when your mind/muse just won’t help out.

 

 

Flash Fiction Friday · Writing

Flash Fiction Friday: War & Peace

Prompt: War and Peace

Word Count: 201

This year, she tried to put her weapons down.  She was not fighting against some sovereign entity, but rather against the voices that had started the war within her own head.  Her swords were sharp, terrible thoughts.  I am not attractive anymore, what use do I have if I’m not pretty?  My creative endeavors are foolish, I should give them up.  I am not worthy of love, I do not deserve it.

Her daggers were her eyes, but only when they looked at her own reflection, in mirrors and pictures. I am not attractive anymore, what use do I have if I’m not pretty? Look at all the places where I wrinkle and sag.

There were other weapons she used, some she had forged over the years and some that were given to her by careless and cruel individuals. This year, she put them all in a sturdy, wooden box, locked tightly closed with a shiny, metal lock. There were times the box still rattled and shook, and the echo of how the weapons had been used filled her mind, but she pushed their influence out of her mind and reminded herself that love was stronger than hate.

Wars were not won in a single battle and peace could only be achieved through constant vigilance.

 

Flash fiction is short fiction, often under 500 words and often written in a short space of time.  If you would like to do your own piece of flash fiction, feel free to put it in the comments or link me to the place you post it.  I would love to see what you come up with for the prompt.