Infinite Hiatus

Hi all,

I don’t really have it in me to repost the whole thing here, but I very likely won’t be online anymore past Friday. If you want to know why, you can read my post here.

Love you all.

Misha

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NaNo Need-to-Knows: Tips for Week 1

Hey everyone, if you want to read my IWSG Post, you can find it here. If you would like to find the rest of the NaNo Need-to-Knows Series, just click here. 🙂

Today is November 1st, so I shared my three best tips for NaNo Week 1. The script I used will follow the video, if you prefer to read.

Since you’re hopefully rearing to get to writing, I’m going to keep things as short and sweet as possible.

So tip number one is write something. Anything.

A lot of writers get stage fright in the beginning of a writing project, because blank pages have a psychological impact on our creativity. So make sure your first page stops being blank as soon as you can. Even if you write something stupid like “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” or an entire scene about the character eating pancakes… whatever. Just write something down, because those first words will lead to more.

Tip number 2: Pace Yourself.

Maybe you’re different to me, but I’ve always found that the first section of a book is the second easiest to write, following closely on the heels of the climax and resolution. So once you get past the first page jitters, the words will be flowing in something like a flood, and it’s easy to be tempted into writing thousands on thousands of words in a day.

But.

You need to avoid that temptation and cap that amount at slightly higher than your normal word count. If your NaNo word count target is already higher, cap it a the amount you need to write.

Why?

Because you’re not in this to sprint. NaNoWriMo is a marathon, and if you don’t pace yourself, you’re increasing the likelihood of burning out. I know writers who only draft in NaNo and take an entire way to recover because they burn themselves out. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s better to write 20k or 30k every month than 50k for NaNo and none in the rest of the year.

Tip number 3: Enjoy Yourself.

With the high wordcount requirement and short time frame, it’s easy to get stuck on the challenge part and forget about the fact that writing is fun.

Don’t to that, because stress is so not good for your creativity. So yes, push yourself, but also remind yourself that no one will shoot your dog if you don’t win.

Best of luck! Are you excited to start or regretting your decision to join?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Tired

It’s the first Wednesday of November (which I still can’t believe), which means it’s time for me to join that famous bloghop for insecure writers everywhere, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

So 1 November means it’s time for NaNoWriMo, and not a year has passed since 2010 where I haven’t taken part. Which means that yeah, I’m definitely doing that.

(I’m also doing a blog and vlog series to help with NaNo, if you need an extra dose of help and encouragement. This week’s vlog post will follow immediately after this one.)

But in typical Misha style, it’s 1 November and my month has already been screwed before it was even noon.

So I don’t know how I’m going to do NaNo this year. It’s been hard enough to be creative this year so far, and now my life has dialed the intensity up to an 11.

What about you? Doing NaNo? Feeling the pressure yet/already?

NaNo Need-to-Knows: How to Avoid Writer’s Block When You’re a Pantser

Hey everyone! Today’s vlog post will be the last one I’ll be posting on a Friday for a while, because each post for November will be about advice and/or encouragement for that specific week of NaNoWriMo.

If you’re here for my monthly goal update post, click here.

If you would like to see links to all of the post in the NaNo Need-to-Knows Series, click here.

The script I used to record this vlog follows the video.

NaNoWriMo can be a dream and a nightmare for writers who fly by the seat of their pants as they write (henceforth referred to as pantsers, pantsing, etc.) On the plus side, NaNo seems almost designed for people who don’t want to plan, because we’re encouraged to just let go and write every step of the way.

On the negative side, if you paint yourself into a corner, it can be a disaster. In order to write 50,000 words in a month, you have to write an average of 1,667 words per single day. This might not seem too bad, but if you get stuck, the words needed to get back to par stack up really fast.

A lot of people try to prevent this by planning ahead and going into NaNoWriMo with something akin to a step-by-step guide to their book.

But we’re pantsers and that’s not what we do!

So what do we do?

We get stuck.

Often.

And this is frequently what we call writer’s block.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can “borrow” a few things from the plotters and adapt them to help us along.

The big thing I see as an advantage of plotting is that plotters know where they’re going with their book. Pantsers have this way of thinking that this is boring, but really, they’re just looking at it wrong.

See, just because we know where we’re headed doesn’t predetermine how we’re going to get there. And the getting there is really the fun part.

So it helps to go into NaNoWriMo with a few things settled in our mind. Knowing the main character(s), and their goal, conflict, and stakes is probably the best way to not get stuck.

However, if that smacks too much of plotting, you can get away with significantly less. How do I know? I’ve done (and won) NaNo by going into it knowing precisely one thing:

The climax of the story.

If I know what the big event or reveal will be at the end, I can use every scene before that point as a stepping stone to it. So if I get stuck in a scene, feeling like I don’t know where it’s going, I can then direct the scene towards progressing the in a way that brings me closer to the climactic point. And hopefully by then, I know enough about character, the goal, conflict and stakes to figure out how to make that progressive step forward. (But again, it does help to know all these before you start writing.)

Are you a plotter or a pantser? What do you have to know before starting?

Update Day: Seriously How Is It Still So Cold?

Hey all! It’s the last Friday of the month, which means it’s time for another Update Day. For those of you who are wondering, JEN Garrett and I co-host this monthly bloghop, where we set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and then post regular updates on our progress. If you feel like you need some accountability, this is the hop for you. Just click here for more information and to join in.

How Did October Go?

Honestly, I feel a bit frustrated this month. I got a lot done, but I spent most of the time feeling like I’m just not getting into a rhythm, which meant that the million small things I needed to do just kept multiplying while the things that are important to me fell by the wayside.

So these were my goals for this month:

1) Start revising Book 3.

Nope. Mainly what happened was that I got some major freelancing jobs this month that ate up a lot of my time. Also, my momentum got broken early in October, which meant I actually just… didn’t have the mind frame needed to work on this.

2) Finish the ebook cover for The Heir’s Choice.

This neither.

3) Finish the Eden’s Son rewrite.

By the time IWSG had rolled around, I had called this book cursed because some more of its words had vanished yet again. That loss early in the month was what broke my speed, and I haven’t touched it since.

4) Market Spirits in the Water.

I did some light marketing, but not what I had wanted to do.

5) Edit and submit a short story I had written in September.

This I managed before Eden’s Son wiped the floor with me.

6) Write four more poems in October.

Nope.

Goals for November

1) Win NaNoWriMo. (My username is iceangel, if you want to buddy up.)
2) Revise Book 3
3) Rewrite Eden’s Son.
4) Market Spirits in the Water.
5) Write four more poems.
6) Finish the baby shower gift I’m making for a friend before said baby shower happens at the end of November.
7) Wrap up the two major freelance jobs I’m currently contracted to.
8) Finish posting the NaNo Need-to-Knows series.

That’s it from me for this month. How did your October go? Looking forward to November?

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Conflict and Stakes

We’re rapidly heading for the end of October and I have a lot of ground to cover, thanks to a really ill-timed internet outage. So today, I would like to talk about conflict and stakes together. (Sorry if that makes my post run long.)

If you would like to check out the rest of the NaNo Need-to-Knows series, please click here.

So why are the conflict and stakes of the story so important to me that I would focus on them for my final NaNoWriMo  preparation post?

Simply put, they (along with compelling characters) are what keeps the reader interested in reading the story. If the goal is the story’s entire point, the conflict is what makes the goal uncertain, and the stakes are what makes the reader care about the outcome.

If one is 100% certain of a story’s outcome, what’s the point of reading? This is why we get bored so quickly if there’s just not enough challenges (i.e. conflict) standing between a character and their goal. The easier it is to achieve the goal, the less interesting it becomes, because the book also becomes more predictable.

But Misha, you might say, some books are predictable simply because they fall in a certain genre. Yes and no…

A book being a romance, for example, gives you about 99% of a chance that there will be a happy ending, but then the experience of reading is more about how that happy ending occurs despite everything that stands in the characters’ way. If there’s no conflict, the end just happens, and it’s just not very satisfying to a reader.

So what is conflict? People have this nasty tendency to believe that conflict=fighting and bickering, and you can tell who those people are by seeing whose characters seem to fight all the time about things that could have been solved if they spoke to each other like normal human beings.

That’s the thing. Conflict, in the sense used when creating a story, isn’t about fighting. It’s a counterweight to the story’s goal. In other words, the antagonist and his minions is a source of conflict, but so is the main character’s fear of water if they have to swim in order to achieve their goal. The former is called external conflict, in other words, a challenge that comes from outside the main character. Then there’s also internal conflict, which comes from within the character, and usually takes the form of fear, anger, sadness, self-doubt, etc.

Ideally, you want conflict to come from both sources, because then it’s not just a rote color-by-numbers walk-through until the character meets the big bad for a boss fight. Letting at least some of the conflict come from a character’s heart and soul gives it all meaning. Which makes the reader care.

But neither the goal nor conflict matters if the reader doesn’t have a reason to care about the outcome. This is where your characterization and the stakes come in. Obviously, if the reader cares about a character, they will care about whether the character achieves their goal. But if you want the reader to care the most they can care about the outcome, you also need to give the main character some high costs to failing in their goal.

In other words, your story needs some stakes.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways you can do this. First, you can make the character’s failure affect a lot of people. This is usually in the form of “everyone dies if the character doesn’t succeed.” Which is good, but not quite the most effective way to join the stakes with your readers’ care towards a character.

No, for that, making the stakes personal is the best approach. It might sound silly, but something as relatively small as “If the character doesn’t succeed, his best friend will die.” often implies higher stakes (emotionally speaking) than “everyone dies.” The main character doesn’t know “everyone” and so the reader doesn’t either. It’s just a reason to care less.

So mix up your external and internal conflicts, and try to make even the high stakes you have feel personal, and you’ll be well on your way towards creating a kick-ass story.

Do you plan your conflict and stakes ahead of starting to write, or do you make them up as you go along?

Before you go, I just wanted to also let you know that Spirits in the Water is making its way around the bloggosphere, and we’re giving away some awesome prizes.

If you would like to see the blog tour stops, please click here.

NaNo Need-to-Knows: How to Maximize Your Chances to Win

Hey everyone! FINALLY, I have the vlog post uploaded and my internet connection back, so I’m going to have two vlog posts this week for the NaNo Need-to-Knows series. I’ll work the blog posts I had wanted to write in over this week and the next as well, because there’s a ton of information I want to share before and during NaNoWriMo.

Anyhow, here’s the video, with the script following below.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re almost on the eve of NaNoWriMo and we have no idea about who of us will succeed and who will fail at making it to 50,000 words. But I’m specially posting this on a Monday so you’ll have a bit more than a week to follow advice if you’re so inclined. Because this week is the week you prepare.

But you’ve planned your story as far as you’re going to plan it. What more can you possibly need to do?

For right now, forget your story. This week, you need to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo, emotionally and physically.

Here are my best suggestions and the things I’m doing right now to get ready.

1) Set your strategy.

To win NaNo, you have to write 50,000 words in a month, or an average of 1,667 per day. But if you look at your calendar, you might realize that you actually have fewer days than 30 available. So how are you going to make up for that?

Make the decision now so you don’t worry about it later.

2) Clear your schedule as far as possible.

In a perfect world, you’d be able to make everything else in November go away, but alas, we’re in the real world with its millions of distractions and drains on your time. So what you want to do here is decrease those distractions as far as possible. If you have something due in the first week of November (like say next week’s vlog post), get it done now so you don’t have to worry about it.

If you need to set a date for something and it’s possible to do so, set that date in December.

Also, let go of your TV schedule. Make sure to record the things that are important to you, so you can watch it later, but don’t put yourself in the dilemma of “But XYZ is on…”

3) Tell your friends and family.

This way, you can say, “Can’t, I’m writing my novel in a month, remember?” Which makes it easier to stand firm if someone wants you to go out. (Obviously, don’t turn into a hermit, but if you have a day’s writing quota and winning is important to you, going out might have to wait until you do have time available.)

4) Decide on your priorities and block out an available time slot dedicated to writing every day. And make sure nothing else gets booked in that time.

It’ll be helpful if you knew how fast you write, but if you need to write 2,000 words a day and you take 2 hrs in order to do so, you need to make sure that you have an average of two non-negotiable writing hours a day. Note here: average. So if you really can only do an hour on week days, make sure you have a bigger chunk of time available on weekends.

Doing this ahead of time helps in two ways. First, having a dedicated writing time helps your brain switch over to creation mode faster than trying to steal time at random. Second, you can’t win NaNo if you don’t give yourself enough time. So scheduling writing time ahead can help you ensure that you theoretically gave yourself enough time to write your daily quota of words.

5) Sort Out Your Social Networking.

If it’s important that you post regularly to wherever, schedule as much as possible ahead. If not, go on hiatus.

Yeah I can hear the horrified gasps already. But that hour that just whizzes by every day as you scroll down your Facebook feed? You could have spent it writing. You need to spend it writing.

So pull the plug for a month. (I promise you, it’s actually really nice.) Just let everyone know that it’s what you’re doing so they don’t distract you with worried calls and emails because you “vanished.”

Those are my big tips to gear up for NaNoWriMo. Do you think I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.