Not Sure I Can

Those who visit this blog often will know that I’ve been planning a new novel length manuscript to be written in November (which is only three days from now) for several weeks. I’m happy to announce that over the weekend I completed the planning. Everything has been printed out and placed neatly into a folder for easy reference. I have the beginning, the middle and the end planned in detail so there should be no panic during November. That’s the good news.

But…

Physically and mentally I’m not actually sure if I’m up to the challenge. 50,000 words in 30 days is a lot of hard work when you work full time…and I do have a family who require some attention, even if they are old enough to look after themselves. My sleeping pattern has improved over recent months and I am managing about seven hours of sleep a night. However, I feel dreadful when I wake up; almost as if I’ve been hit by a bus repeatedly and then dragged by a train across the country. There’s no way I could even consider getting up half an hour earlier, or going to bed half an hour later, in order to write a few more paragraphs. That’s the bad news.

Yes, I’m exhausted. That’s a daily feeling that I can’t seem to shift. So how will I feel when I’m trying to write 1,670 words a day? Even with an in-depth plan to help me, I don’t think I’ll be able to get through the month. Yet I’m the type of person who hates not achieving a goal, especially when I know so many other writers who will be attempting this too. I want to say that I won’t push myself, but I know I will.

I keep reminding myself about the last time I did a full NaNo…and that was when I was “normal”. I ended up being burned out for six months and it took even longer to get back into any routine that I could feel proud of. I really don’t want that to happen again. I need to be able to assure myself that if I can’t manage the 50,000 words then it’s alright and there’s no need to feel ashamed or defeated. I need to believe those words when I say them too.

Right now, I will say publicly that should I start feeling the strain then I will back off and continue writing on a daily basis, but I’ll do a Mini-NaNo instead. I’m not even sure I can manage that, but I’m going to try to do the best I can…without putting my health at risk.

[Edit – 9 months later]
I find it amusing that I gave myself an escape clause before NaNo even started. What a wimp! *grin*

Beware of Identity Theft

As I recently announced, I have profiles on three communities – Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

Personally, I find Facebook to be the best as it’s interactive and I’ve been enjoying the small things that my friends and I do to keep in contact. It’s fun. MySpace and Bebo are just places to set up profiles. Once that’s done you can easily forget both these websites and just get on with whatever it is you’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with this either. We live busy lives, so we don’t need another distraction.

This morning I heard a warning on the news about identity theft. A group of people deliberately set up a false profile on Facebook and then randomly invited 100 strangers to become friends. They took the birth date and hometown of one of those people and opened a bank account in that person’s name, and then they applied for a credit card and got it! They then announced how easy it was done and, hence, the warning on the news.

But what if that group were actually real drop kicks and went further. Where would that live the man whose profile provided them with the information they needed to set up the bank account etc? He would probably be able to prove the identity theft, but it all takes time and does he really need the aggravation and stress from the whole sordid affair? I doubt it.

Of course, you are in control of the information shown on your profiles. You don’t have to show your birthday or where you actually live…and I advise you not to do so. Usually, only “friends” can see these things (but not always, so be careful to check your settings), however, if you accept “friends” that you don’t know and trust then you are opening yourself to trouble.

Personally, I rarely show my date of birth and if I do I never show the year I was born. And I’m very careful never to mention the town in which I live. Besides, not many people know my real name online anyway.

Whatever you do, and whatever you may feel comfortable with, please be careful about the information you share online. Sure, we do tend to build “relationships” with each other and that’s a good thing, but what about all those nameless visitors who visit your site? You know nothing about them and they could live anywhere in the world.

Some things should always remain private.

The Story Within

My NaNo project is falling together like you wouldn’t believe. I’m extremely pleased with the result and can’t wait to start writing this project. I’ve already started warning my family that November is “Karen Month” and I’ll be spending a lot of time behind closed doors. However, I’ve also be telling them that I’ll be accepting visitors bearing gifts of cups of tea and encouragement who don’t want to chat for too long. They didn’t seem overly impressed or willing. Never mind. I’ve still got time to talk them around.

Anyway, during this in-depth planning I realised that the supporting characters where just there to look good and didn’t actually have much of a part to play. I knew everything about them, but not their storylines, so I had to fix that. I used the Snowflake method to sort out that problem. Now they are real characters with real problems and I’m now sure their presence will improve the overall story.

I then set about “fattening” the plot so that I don’t run into problems in the middle of NaNo and anyone who has done NaNo will know that we can’t afford to flounder … and there’s definitely no time to sit and think … in the middle of the month. No, we must be able to type, type, type. I’ve broken the story down into five parts – the beginning, three cycles (borrowed from Helen Parocha’s Dynamic Tension Charts) and the ending. During November, this type of planning will help me stay focused, but will also ensure I don’t come up against a brick wall and stop typing. This is exactly what I need, because not having a plan like this will only cause me stress and stress will stop the words from flowing. That will only lead to disaster.

Finally, on the weekend, I realised that this story has another story within the main story which must be told in order for the whole thing to make sense. Yesterday, I spent the majority of the day planning out this mini story. At the end of the day I felt content that the two stories, when merged, will make a powerful combination. More than that I will not say at this stage.

Now I have to merge the plan for this second story into the plan for the first story, so that both are covered from the beginning to the end. Once I’ve done this I’m pretty well ready to write. I even know what the first sentence will be.

Three Easy Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

by Will Kalif

Writing is a wonderful, yet sometimes, very hard thing to do. Often it is very easy to not “make the time” to write and nobody is going to motivate you. You have to motivate yourself. Here are three techniques that will get you writing.

Technique 1: Modify Your Internal Dialogue

The biggest reason why a person doesn’t write is the internal dialogue that is run when making the attempt to write. It usually takes the shape of unreasonable questions like “What should I write? Or What if my writing doesn’t make any sense? Or What if my dream of writing is just silly?” These questions become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you hear yourself asking these questions you should immediately interrupt this pattern by replacing it with new questions like: “What kind of fun things are going to happen in my fictional world today or what challenges will my main character overcome today?” This shifts the focus from you to the world you are writing about. This is extremely effective in that it erases the thoughts of doubt you are having and starts a train of thought about the writing.

Technique 2: The Carrot

There are common tools used to motivate people in all sorts of ways and there is no reason why you can’t use these tools on yourself. I keep a pint of my favorite ice cream in the freezer with a note on it: “Did you write?” It is as simple as that. If I don’t write I don’t get the reward. You can set yourself a word or page count goal and then establish a reward for achieving it. And with writing it is very important to establish a time line too! You have to say something like: “If I write a page every day this week I am taking myself out to dinner on Saturday to celebrate.” And make sure you stick with it. No writing and no ice cream.

Technique 3: The Stick

As funny as it sounds this is a technique that really works on two different levels. Assign yourself an unpleasant task like cleaning the bathroom or organizing the garage. If you don’t make your writing goal then this will be your penalty. I have used this technique and it is really effective. And the interesting thing about how this technique works for me is that while I am doing the chore I assigned myself I am thinking up new ideas, scenarios and plots for my writing. For me, simple tasks that take a few hours seem to clear my mind and free me to think. So even if I lose the challenge I still win.

Writing is an extraordinarily rewarding pursuit. Yet sometimes it can be a very hard thing to do. It is just putting words down on paper and you have been doing this since the age of four. So don’t worry about anything and just write. The only way to get good at it, as with anything else, is to actually do it.

About the Author:
Will Kalif is the author of two epic fantasy novels. He is currently working on his third novel in that genre and his fourth novel in the genre of horror. You can check out his writing and his other interesting projects on his website – http://www.stormthecastle.com

Planning Mirror Image

Mirror Image will be a young adult novel. It will be character driven with a strong message within the plot. The story is difficult to slot into a genre, but if I had to do so, I think I would have to say it fits best into mainstream.

Three days ago, I announced my intension of doing a full NaNoWriMo this year instead of a Mini-NaNo as I originally intended. Since then I have put in many hours each day in planning the project. And I must say that the plans are moving steadily along.

Outline: I wrote the outline from beginning to end in just a few hours. There was none of that starting and stopping business. I knew what had to happen and just typed, and typed, and typed. It felt great to see the words fall onto the page like that too. The outline itself gives me an excellent look at the manuscript I’ll be writing in November. If I refer to that alone, I can’t possibly get stuck.

Characters: I spent two days (and this time there was a lot of starting and stopping, but that was unavoidable) building character profiles. It’s amazing how these people developed. First, the main character and her brother came into the light and I wrote a lot about them, but something didn’t feel right for quite some time. Then I realised that these two were twins. Everything fell into place after that.

The rest of the main character’s family were targeted next. I knew the type of family the character came from and easily put the people together. Nothing was overlooked, not even their middle names (although I doubt I’ll ever use those names in the story). They all have jobs, interests, favourite clothes and pastimes. Even the house they live in has been decided.

Then I moved onto her friends, including a boyfriend. Actually, the boyfriend was the one I had the most trouble with. Even now I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the right person for her, but as I work through the next steps, that should be sorted out and finalised soon. Her girl friends, however, were a different story. Talk about eager to get onto the page, which sort of sums up their personalities too.

Chapter Plan: Honestly, the outline is so in depth, I don’t really need a chapter plan, but I figure there’s no harm in working on one anyway. I have figured out a few extra things from it. If nothing else, it will be a guide for those tough middle weeks of NaNo when writers are feeling tired and are thinking of quitting. I’m determined that won’t happen to me.

The only other thing I want to do is make a list of emotions my MC should experience as the story progresses. I’m not going to explain that statement, but it is important to the story.

Oh, I just thought of something else. In my mind I have the sentence, theme and premise sorted, but I want to make them official and write them down. It’s amazing how much clearer the storyline will become by doing this.

The one thing I will say about this project is that it has sparked a flame within me, which in turn has seen me dedicating hours at a time to the planning. I feel passionate about the story and the characters. I want this story told and I’m determined to get a huge chunk of it (50,000 words at least) written in November. The overall word count for the entire story will be around 75,000 words (I don’t mean that I intend to write that number of words in November though).

And in conclusion, I announce that should I be ready to start writing prior to 1 November 2007…then I’ll start writing. I will not take a change on losing the enthusiasm I feel right now by having to sit and wait for two weeks to start typing. It’s not worth the risk. However, whatever is written prior to the start of NaNo will not be included in the official word count for that month. The way I see it, I’m aiming for 75,000 and I’ll be working on that odd 25,000 words prior to the start bell instead of trying to get through it after the finish line. That’s not cheating and if anyone thinks it is…tough! 😉

The Lure of a New Project

If you visit a lot of writers’ websites, you’ll soon find a large majority of them openly admit to starting more stories than they finish. There are several reasons for this, but I’m going to talk about only one of those reasons today – the lure of a new project.

Yesterday, after a strong fight against it, I allowed the lure of a new project to take hold of me. I must say that the feeling is quite overwhelming and I can attest that the excitement of working on something new and fresh is what forces writers to stray from their current project. The writer has not stopped loving the old project; they just need a complete change of scenery. We do this all the time in everyday life. We change jobs when we start feeling bored and depressed with the old one. We seem to change partners at the drop of a hat these days. So why can’t a writer change projects too?

We spend many long months, even years, planning and writing a project (this is especially true when writing a series). Is it any wonder that we grow a little tired of the … well, same old, same old? To me, it’s not surprising at all. New ideas are always surfacing. We might write the idea down, but we will usually return to the job at hand. However, as the months tick by, the lure is more tempting and then…before we realise what’s happening, we have strayed.

Be warned, if you allow the lure to take you too often, then you will be one of the writers who openly admit to starting more stories than they finish. Do you want to fall into that category? I believe none of us do.

A serious writer will discipline themselves against the lure. They will set up guards to force the enemy back. They will build traps to stop the evilness from approaching their sanctuary. They will do whatever it takes to see their current project completed and submitted. That’s how a writer becomes an author. They submit completed manuscripts for publication, which is something you cannot do if you never finish a manuscript.

So, take this as a warning. The lure of a new project feels great. It’s exciting. It’s even inspiring and motivational. But if you give in to this weakness too often, you’ll never finish a project…and you’ll never become a published author.

A Change in Direction

On 1 October 2007, I wrote the following:

Now I must move on to the second part of the goal. I have until the end of October to plan book three. This sounds like a long time, but I’ve been thinking about this book – on and off – for some months now and still don’t have any real ideas (except for the ending). For this reason, I hope a month is long enough for the planning. However, setting a public goal and a deadline might just be what is needed to get the job done. We’ll see.

Eight days have passed since then and yesterday I finally started working on that plan. In all honesty, I’m having trouble with the plot and the plan isn’t going well. This has nothing to do with writer’s block or laziness on my part. There’s another reason altogether – another story has pushed its way to the surface and is demanding some attention.

I have attempted to push it aside and return to book 3 of my children’s series several times. I have struggled for over 24 hours to stay focused, but nothing is working. I started a spreadsheet and figured out some of the plot, but this other story is quite determined to have its time in the lime light.

This afternoon, I set up Google Documents and decided that if I type up a quick outline of the other story I would then be free to carry on with book 3. To me, it is logical to think that the story just wanted to be sure I wouldn’t forget key points of the plot and would be satisfied when the outline was written. Yes, well, I was wrong!

Once I opened the door to this “other” story, everything just gushed out and I wrote a five page outline within no time at all. I now have a story title and a complete plot. However, I don’t have any character names. That doesn’t mean the characters are shy. No way. They are right there, and they are pushing their personalities at me as if to say the names are not important – the plot, the personalities, and the setting are.

It’s quite overwhelming how quickly it all came together. I told G a quick overview of the plot and he simply said, “write it.” My reaction was, “I can’t yet” and he asked “why?”

I sat and thought about it for a while. Why can’t I write this other story? Well, firstly, I want to finish the children’s series. Writing book 3 in November would be a mighty giant step to getting that goal completed. Secondly, I don’t like to swap and change between projects because that’s undisciplined, which easily leads to many unfinished projects. I don’t like the sound of that.

But…

NaNoWriMo starts in three weeks and my book 3 plan isn’t coming together. Fair enough, I never planned on doing the full NaNo thing, for me it was always going to be a Mini-NaNoWriMo month, where I aim for 25,000 words. I can manage that. I know it won’t make me turn into something nasty and, at the end of the month, I won’t suffer from burnout (like I did the first time I did the full NaNo thing).

Why is a tiny piece of me so eager to push book 3 aside? Why have thoughts of doing a full NaNo this year been swirling around my head all day? I’ll tell you why. Because this story is so full and vivid in my mind, I feel I could easily reach 50,000 words in a month. I also feel I’d be a fool not to use the NaNo experience to write the first draft of a new novel while the plot, setting and characters are so real to me. I also think that a change of “scenery” will do me the world of good.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. There’s a change of plan. I’m heading over to NaNoWriMo right now to register and I’m going to write the first draft of Mirror Image this November. Yoohoo!

Edit: The NaNo website is offline. With the increasing number of writers doing this each year, the website can’t handle the traffic. I hope the problem is sorted real soon, otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of upset NaNoers in November.

Half an hour later: I’m registered!

Whispering Caves

bookcoverMany years ago, in a land far, far away, I started writing a manuscript that took me out of this world and planted me firmly in a world of my choice. There was no anger, no hatred, no pain, but plenty of love and romance to be found. The main character’s name was different to my own, but she was me through and through. Her love interest was my knight in shining armour – the man I believed would ride into my life and save me. The name of that book then, was Bondmates. However, after having the manuscript assessed, I was told that a young adult book should not have such a name and I think we can all see why, so the name changed to Whispering Caves.

The manuscript underwent several changes after my divorce. Strangely, I no longer needed to escape into a mystical world of love and wonder and I was quite content to remove myself from the story and insert a fictitious character in my place. I also realised that a place where only good things happened didn’t make for a good (or interesting) plot, so I inserted a number of hurdles into my character’s path. Gone was the world I had created for myself and suddenly a new world was born in its place.

The story grew, curving away from anything I had previously imagined. But I grew to love the characters and the setting just the same as I did in the first version. However, after several further attempts to bring the story up to a standard I could be proud of I realised an important fact. It didn’t matter what the world or characters were called, this story was and would forever be for me and me alone.

When I was struck by this realisation, I stopped working on Whispering Caves. Perhaps I’ll change my mind about sharing this story with the world in the future, but for now, I have a single copy of the manuscript published. The cover can be seen above. This copy of the story will be treasured by me to the end of my time on this earth. Maybe afterwards, my descendants will treasure the book for me.