Challenge Delayed by Fire

I was doing the The Writing Prompt Rorschach Challenge! with the writing prompts.

Perhaps it is ironic to the point of being appropriate that life got in the way. The town in which I live was surrounded by brush fires last week. There was some property damage,  but no loss of life was recorded. I am fortunate that the only way in which I was affected, is that the poor air quality resulting from the smoke played havoc with my allergies.

I was safe from the fire, but my nose and eyes were in misery.

In a Benadryl fog, looking at everything through watery eyes, constantly rubbing my nose, I thought to myself, “Well,  this will make an interesting contrast for future entries of the writing challenge.” However, it held on for so many days. Not wanting to write a week’s worth of “I wrote this when I was sick” prompts, I’m starting over again this week.

I might post some sick prompts after it is over though, just for laughs.

If anyone else is going to try the challenge, let me know!

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The First Draft

I remember the first time I finished “Nanowrimo.” My big moment, when I knew that I was going to complete my first novel-length project was when I was able to tell myself that I was only writing a first draft.

Loudly I proclaimed: “This is not my novel! It’s just a first of my draft! It’s not my novel!” A feeling of freedom set in. It was all right if something wasn’t the way I wanted it to be in the finished product, because it wasn’t the finished product. It was all right if I didn’t like that particular line of dialogue. It was all right if I knew that I was going to have to go back and change everything, because my original plotting ideas were not panning out.

Everything was all right, because what I was writing was not my novel.

It was the first draft of a novel!

There is no such thing as a novel that is written in one draft. Everything needs editing. And, when you give yourself permission to make mistakes and carry on, knowing that you’ll come back and clean up your literary mess later, writing feels a very different task. I realized that I was free to make mistakes. Not only that, but some of those mistakes I thought I made, turned out to yield wonderful things.

So, you’re going to re-write it. You can fix it later. Just keep writing.

If you wait until chapter 1 is perfect before you start writing chapter 2, chapter 2 will never get written.

I tend to speed through first drafts these days. If you read one of my first drafts, you’d find it hilarious, I think. They’re always full of lines like “And then I noticed the man I was talking to was actually a woman!” when I decided I had too many male characters and wanted to change a character’s gender. That’s just the way I write first drafts. It isn’t until the second draft that I start editing… anything really.

If you’re more meticulous than I am, and I’m sure most of you are, and think you might have difficulty letting yourself do this, here’s a tip: color code first drafts. If I know for a fact I’ve written something I need to go back and look at, I change the font color to red. If I’ve written something that I need to go back and research to make sure is right, I color it blue.

The color coding system is personal and best tailored to your own needs. Believe me, I know. But, if you find yourself having difficulty giving yourself permission to leave something you don’t like for the second draft, I find this very useful.

So many of my writer friends struggle with finishing long projects. They run out of steam or enthusiasm, become disenchanted, or run out of time.

But, I think once you get the first draft out, no matter how bad it is, it’s always easier to go back and edit. So remember:

You’re always allowed to be terrible on your first draft.

Happy Writing! Now, I’m back to my Camp Nanowrimo project!

I’ll write more about that when I’ve reached 50,000 words!

A New Project and Camp Nanowrimo

Badge courtesy of CampNanowrimo.org

Fifty thousand words in thirty days.

That feels like a lot to write in a short time.

Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month, is something that I throw myself into every November. It’s always such an insane and wonderful month. It’s always full of creativity, joy, stress, character love, character hate, friends, competition, alcohol, and randomly deciding to write sex scenes until I figure out where I want my story to go next, because I used up all my plotting notes in the first twenty thousand words.

Yeah, it happens.

But, I really do love it. So, this month I have decided to embark on “Camp Nanowrimo.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s when they do the regular November insanity in the summer months.
This decision was made rather suddenly. My current project is one I’ve had in mind for some time, but it was the concept behind the novel that I’ve been thinking about. The plot and characters are much less solidified in my mind than they usually are when I start writing. So, this project has taken me from being a “Plotter” (someone who plots everything out before they write) to a “Pantser” (someone who flies by the seat of their pants.)

When it comes to the “Plotter” vs. “Pantser” debate, I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way to write. It’s merely a matter of personal preference. The only advantage I think “Plotters” have is that “Pantsers” have to do more re-writes to make the finished project more cohesive. Although I’ve never had a “plotted” project where I didn’t deviate from the planned plot. So, maybe that’s not even true.

As I said, we’re all different.

But, be that as it may, “Pantsing” is a very different experience for me. And, maybe writing in a way that I’m not used to is good for me. I think I’m writing a lot of things that will get scrapped in the very next draft. But, that doesn’t matter. I feel like I’m stretching myself, and going outside of my comfort zone.

It’s stressing me out terribly, but I’m enjoying it. I’ll write more about my new project in the next blog entry.

Now, I wonder if I can count this entry towards my Camp Nanowrimo word count…

Procrastinate Later

My cat is the best cat in the world, except when I’m writing. When I’m writing, he suddenly insists upon being petted, claims the warmth of my laptop as his own, or feels the need to vomit all over the carpet. The thing about BCITW is that he makes himself something of a distraction.

We all have distractions and things that will make us want to put our writing off until later. I don’t know about you, but I can tell myself “I’ll write after I do this one thing” for hours, or even days on end. This can be hugely detrimental, especially if you’re freelance and don’t have any deadlines but the ones you set yourself. This is one of my biggest hurdles to overcome. In fact, it’s a miracle you’re reading this blog post at all. I can be “working on” something for ages without actually getting anything done.

I think the main reason I procrastinate, and I hope others can identify with this, is that I’m afraid to write badly. Moreover, when I do start writing, I become disillusioned and stop, because the actual product I’m producing is not living up to the expectations I built around it. So, things get abandoned, or it just becomes easier to check Facebook or read a blog (thank you, by the way). I mean to do it, but the idea and the possibility of it was better than the actual experience
If this sounds like something you’ve experienced, or you’re just having trouble getting motivated to write, there are things you can do to help!

First: Don’t worry about quality on early drafts. There will be multiple drafts. There will be re-writes. The first time, just get the story down. I always say, when I’m writing my first draft: “This is not my novel. This is the primordial ooze that my novel will eventually evolve from.” It’s amazingly liberating. “This is not the finished product! This is not what it will be. I will come back and change this. But, for now, I’m just going to keep on writing and keep the story moving.” It’s the most freeing mental state I’ve found for writing first drafts. And, once you have the first draft down, editing is a lot easier than staring at a blank page. I even use my word processor to color-code things that need re-writing, more research, and so on. That makes it easy to come back to, and eases any pangs of conscious I may have about leaving it less than what I want it to be.
Most of the time, when you go back and read what you wrote it’s not as bad as you thought it was anyway.
If you draw, think of it this way: your first draft will be your sketch, roughly blocking out subjects, background, and primary focus. Shading, textures, depth, and nuances will all come later.

Second: Get involved with others. Nothing inspires quite as much as being part of a group of writers, most of whom are… amazingly enough… writing. Having something to share with people is a good motivator to write. The boost that made me finally finish my first short story was a local writers’ group. I was going to my first meeting there, and did not want to turn up to the meeting empty-handed, lest there be critiques. Turns out there were none, but I still got a solid polished draft done.
That short story turned out to be my first sell.

Even if a group is not available to you, simply telling your friends that you’re doing it and asking them to proofread for you when you get it done can help. Give them a date you’ll have it for them to proofread, even! If they’re anything like my friends, they’ll be constantly teasing you that you haven’t finished that story you told them you were going to have them look at. Nagging serves a purpose sometimes.

Third: Reward yourself. That book you’re dying to read? That new outfit you want? That new restaurant you want to try? Sorry! You can’t have it until you’ve reached your writing goal. Reach a writing goal? Celebrate! It’s an occasion! Make sure you treat it like one. Giving writing goals a sense of celebration and occasion can bring a lot to your writing life. This goes very well with the second suggestion, also. Your writing widows, the people who suffer in your absence when you’re writing, should be very glad to see you, too.

None of this is stuff you haven’t heard before. But, it’s like losing weight. We all have a basic understanding of how to do it, yet the process of actually doing it can be very difficult for a lot of people. Freeing yourself up to write badly, getting friends involved in communities, and setting goals for yourself and celebrating them are ultimately so helpful in bringing ideas into reality that I feel that we all need to be reminded of these things.
Now, stop reading blogs and go write! Just make sure the cat is fed first. He’ll bother you in the middle of your best scene if you don’t. That’s what mine does.

Birth of a New Blog!

“Oh look, another writing blog. They’re all the same. It’s all just the same stuff, rehashed over and over again. If you’ve read one you’ve read them all.”

Well, now you can read mine.

Hello there! I’m now starting the one-millionth writing blog on the internet. I’m looking forward to carving out my little place here. This is going to be fun for me.  If you’d like to keep reading, I hope it will be fun for you too.

My name is Georgette Graham, and I am a struggling writer. If you think those two words go together far too often, you’re right. It seems like all but a gilded few of us write either have a day job, or we’re struggling. I have a day job myself. Even still, I am a writer because I write; not because that’s how I make my living.

Writers are a strange breed. We live in a world of late nights, fights for inspiration, struggles with agents and publishers, and stretches of rejection interrupted by successes only occasionally. At least I do. It’s frustrating to me, but it’s also wonderful. I love writing. My characters and stories and the worlds they inhabit are very dear to me. I hope you’ll stick around and learn a little more about them.

I intend to use this blog to share, not only things that I have learned about the writing process through the years, but also to write about my own work towards my publication goals. There will be articles about writing and pre-writing, character creation and development, and tricks I have learned that help me to organize notes and research, as well as talk about my efforts both in traditional and internet self-publishing, and using social media to help generate readership.

So, a little more about me: I studied English in college, and focused on Victorian Literature.  I have a second major in Theater, and studied both acting and playwriting. As a writer, I have had a few minor short story sales and have worked locally writing for businesses and newsletters. You, as a reader, might have even had more success writing than I have. Good! Comment away and we’ll all help each other! I love books, both reading and writing. I love music of most any kind from Abba to Nirvana. I love my cats, Chinese food, and singing in the shower. I’ll be pretty open that yes, there is an element of self-promotion here.  I suppose I could try and be all self-righteous and deny that, but I don’t see the point.  Besides, that’s not the primary reason for my being here. My primary reason for being here is to connect with other authors, learn from their experiences, and hopefully offer some advice of my own to help other writers that are in the same boat as me.

With that, I send my best wishes to you all, keep writing and never give up.

Remember, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” was rejected over 100 times before it was ever published. Just think of that the next time you get a rejection notice.

Whatever Holiday you celebrate this time of year, may it be happy, blessed, and merry!