Breaking the Streak (and Why It’s Okay)

FEATURED IMAGE My other fun “fan” project… Star Wars. I’m so easy for old fandoms. Oh, and Episode 5 does have content now… Episode 1, not so much. Too many nightmares about Pod Racing, I think. (But I can still recall the entire fight with Darth Maul by heart!)

As you know, I love to talk about how I got my groove back with writing after a years long block! One of the biggest components was 750Words, a place that gave me a daily goal, that helped me reach my “NaNo a Month” since July 2015.

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This was slightly traumatic. (Image from 750Words’ interface)

But on December 26, 2015, I decided to let go of my daily streak on 750Words. I’d asked the help desk on the site twice already to fix my streak that month, and I thought it was time to finally “free” myself, and to be honest about my writing. I could fill the space with “TODAY SUCKS”, copied over and over until I hit the mark, and that wouldn’t be fair to me in the end.

It hurt, I won’t lie; it stirred up my already addled brain something fierce. But what it did was give me a chance to recover from our sudden, involuntary move, a traumatic event that effected my working space as well as my mental space. I had to be kind to myself, and I had to be Real. Trying to fill space just to fill it wouldn’t help me on my fan novel(lla)s, it wouldn’t help me grow as a writer.

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Finally made a 10 day streak for the New Year! And I’ll tell you want, wanting to avoid how chaotic this looks is enough motivation to keep my streak up… (Image from 750Words’ interface)

 

Since then, I’ve done three half-days and one totally missed day. My “January” is giving me lowkey hives when I look at how “uneven” it is. But that’s okay. Not everyone is built to write every day, and I need to remind myself that I can be one of those people if I need the space. (Though I think that, on the days I don’t put out “content”, I might start writing journal entries again.  It reminds me of older internet haunts. Alas, poor LiveJournal, I knew it, Horatio; a place of infinite wank, of most excellent fancy subtly keyworded icons…)

The reason I loved my streak, though, is because it gave me a vague sense of competition. Not necessarily with other people– though, to be completely honest, I do like some friendly competition!– but with myself. I wanted to press on, to do better than I had the month before, or at least always hit a certain amount.

After passing 102k in November 2015, though, I really didn’t know how I can top that, I’ll be honest!

Though I should say, journal entries don’t count in my latest and greatest way to get my competitive blood going. Coupled with 750Words, I am now doing “Get Your Words Out” — a place where I can set a monthly/yearly goal and have to check in on it every month with my current count. This gives me a goal to hit monthly, rather than just mindlessly aiming for another 50k a month, which might not be possible each time and could case more stress in the long run. (Sadly, I am running this post too late to let other readers sign up, so I’m sorry for that!)

My new daily amount is much higher than the 750 I’m used to. That gets a fire under my butt, especially if I’ve missed days– which I totally have– and trying to make sure that I do not toddle to my monthly check-ins with a sense of shame, I’m motivated. I’m a little over right now, which is good, because that will allow me to take some time off, if necessary.

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The GYWO Tracker is lovely, as it tells me how far behind/ahead I am… but it also makes me honest for the days I’m not doing so hot. (Image from GYWO Tracker)

In Summary: I broke my streak. I’m okay with that. I’m working on finding new ways to inspire myself to keep going, even if I take a day off now and then. On the days I do write, I want to write the minimum from my GYWO, if not from my usual 750. It’s helped so far. And I’m positive about the rest of the year, too.

Perhaps the biggest goal I’m aiming for us having a working draft of my first Young Adult Fantasy novel, Rhyme of Saint Etna, by Fall 2016. I’m projecting a Spring 2017 self-pub release, but that’ll only be after I get at least a bare-bones idea of the second book. I’m terrible if I don’t have a buffer, and even a skeleton of a sequel will help me feel less panicked. I hope to get one out a year, and I’m confident I can do that.

I just gotta put these fan novels out, first.

WHAT’S NEXT? I’m considering consolidating my “fanscaping” ideas to trying to explain what a “fan novel” is in the first place; I want to encourage the fanfiction community to think of their accomplishments as something positive and to be proud of. So often our contributions, big or small, feel as if they are not as legitimate as other fandom offerings, and I’d like to at least try and make a dent in how we think about our inspired works.

I also want to chronicle the way L and I work to curate and promote our original works!

** IF YOU ARE CURRENTLY SUPPORTING OUR PATREON, PLEASE NOTE THAT WE ARE DOING A FLAT 5USD FEE, AND YOU WILL NEED TO RE-PLEDGE TO MAKE SURE THE OLD AMOUNT IS NOT TAKEN OUT **

If you have questions or want to chat, please hit me up at my Writerly Twitter, ESSWrights!

Lots of Love,
M

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M’s NaNoWriMo 2015 Part 2/2

(Featured Image: My Art, Cover Draft for Salva Nos, Stella Maris, my DC/Marvel Fan Novel.)

So! Unexpected hiatus. Very unpleasant. Very hair-raising. Long, long story. Short version: forced to move in two weeks beginning of December and a very stressful New Year.

But that is not what you are here for. You are here for content. Content about writing.

And that is what I will give you.

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I was plowing through words on November 29, just like one does the day before a paper is due… or is it the night before?

I finished NaNoWriMo 2015 with a total of 102,747 words. I completed the draft of Salva Nos, Stella Maris on December 8 with an additional 14,212 words, for an overall draft total of 116,959. Minus my notes and non-compliant prose, the total word count of the raw form of Salva Nos, Stella Maris is 98,530. I am pretty proud of this, suffice to say.

wordcountmanu

This GoogleDoc loads like molasses with this kind of count, but it gives one of my betas the chance to actually comment on my work from anywhere!

I attribute those crazy numbers to the fact that I didn’t think about my adverb usage, redundant turns of phrase, or any of my common “fluff” words. I just wrote like hell hounds were after me because I needed to get the story out on paper so it’d stop tearing me up inside. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it as long as I didn’t limit my language. And boy howdy did I prove that if I have a fire under me, I can do anything.

Even if I AM currently in Edit Hell:

I’m aiming to get it all polished for an April 4 release date, which is two years after the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out in the US. I’ve had a friend who has no basis in either applicable fandom read it and found the characters lovable and the prose entertaining, L read it and gave me feedback as a writer and as someone who is intimately familiar with the versions of the characters I wrote, and now another friend who knows MCU but not DCU and is working on comments to help me decide which threads to pursue. There are people I love and trust with my words– but also to be honest!– which is the most important part of finding intimate beta readers.

My last beta reader is not done with the draft– she’s incredibly busy, and I definitely don’t want to rush her!– so I am doing some basic work on grammar, spelling, and unnecessary words. It’s eye-opening to see my most common turns of phrase and my favorite adverbs… as well as how many instances I have of Steve Rogers finding hope for the first time all over again.

With this fan novel, I plan on cutting my teeth on learning the ins and outs of promotion, self-imposed deadlines, and other important aspects of self publishing. I have an original project in the works, and I want to do right by it when the time comes to throw it out there. And you get to be with me every step of the way. Aren’t you excited?

Thanks for your patience, everyone! We’re working our best for a blog buffer, as well as new rewards at our Patreon. All pledges are a FLAT FEE of $5/month. Check us out! There are already a few flash fiction stories up and some original art at current. I’ll be adding something about my current original project within the next week– just need to do some more head shots and some proper coloring when I find the time.

Take care, and let us know if you have any questions or suggestions! Feel free to follow me on my official twitter: ESSWrights!

Love, M

M’s NaNoWriMo 2015 Part 1/2

Good morning, and Happy Friday the Thirteenth! This post is about how training for a marathon has helped me with my NaNo project.

CAVEAT LECTOR: If you are feeling sensitive– and that is TOTALLY okay!– about your NaNoWordCount this year or any year, please don’t read!

I don’t want people feeling bad on account of me. 😦 Whether you’ve written words in the amount of 5k a day, 1667 a day, or 250 a day, or maybe you got a good start and then you lost the time to do it, you’re awesome for just going out there.

If you are curious, though, please keep reading!

So, I said in this post that I’d been writing some Captain America AU stuff, and it was pretty prolific. I wanted to do one of three projects for NaNo, and I had to choose within the first day or so of November, since all of them were bugging me for attention. I re-write a bit of the AU I’d completed earlier in the year, and I was not feeling it. I asked L for some ice-breaker ideas the second day, and boom. I was off! Out the gate!

As of 11/12/15. Haven't started today's count -- I needed to write, first!

As of 11/12/15. Haven’t started today’s count — I needed to write this first!

And by 11/12, I have over 62k in this project. Today, I plan on writing at least a minimum of 5k more, until the end of this story. Or the end of the month, whichever comes first. (I work full time in an office, so I don’t have much time to write until I get home, otherwise I could probably do more.)

I have taken all I’ve learned the past few months about indulgent writing, about just going with the flow, and applied it to this task. I learned that I’m a structured “pantser” (writing by the seat of my pants) where I have certain goal posts that I work towards but let my prose and characters take me there in the meantime. I meditate on the thing I “want” to happen (i.e., the goal post) let it sit for a night, and then the next day I usually have a great start.

Right now I’m in one of those not-quite-boring but quite-necessary parts where I have to sum up the things that have been happening to my characters while they have been stuck in the wilderness for two weeks in exile. The fun thing I get to do is introduce a pivotal character– a “Power Player”, as Rachel Aaron puts it– and have him talk about The Situation as he knows it. I figure I’ll get through this and finish the chapter with no problems.

But I owe you all a post, and it does let me have a little more time to consider what my MC is going to need to know at this point in reference to the other goal posts… so here I am!

The thing I have felt this time is the spirit of NaNo: just writing and not looking behind myself. Writing with out a ton of self-editing. This is a project that I will be editing the ever-loving dickens out of it before anyone, ANYONE besides L sees it. (I update her every time I get a big chunk done because she likes the brain break from work.) I have a few plot holes to fix (nothing major) and a lot of slimming down on my “buts” (haha!) and superfluous adverbs before I even send Part 1 & 2 to my beta readers. I have other things to prepare for, too: it’s going to be a multi-media project, in the end, and I have drawing to do! Soundtracks to mix! Video clips to add music to!

Here's Steve and Natasha after they've spent about two weeks bathing in cold rivers and dealing with Bruce's nerdy jokes.

Here’s Steve and Natasha after they’ve spent about two weeks bathing in cold rivers and dealing with Bruce’s nerdy jokes. (My Art, poses by Kate-Fox on Deviantart.)

I feel that I’ve properly primed for this because I learned to just… go. It’s a hard feeling to explain, even though I’ve tried before. I have been excited about everything I’ve written. I write notes while I’m at work and just punch words into a document when I get a chance. I have drawings in mind and all sorts of little things to show people the version of the DCU that lives inside my head.

You don’t need to write every day to get into the flow like this, but you do need to loosen up those muscles. A big project like this needs preparation: it needs you to be limber and flexible in your writing. Take a long bath with some epsom salts– actually do this, it’s great– and let yourself relax as much as you can. Then start jogging to the mailbox, around the block — you get what I mean. You can do this.

I have some other posts I owe you– more Fanscaping, more Fanfic is Not the Enemy– but right now, I’ve got head in the NaNo world, and I’ll probably be regaling you with that next week. Until then, keep doing your best, and be nice to you!

PS, I will be giving our Patrons some exclusive art, storyboards, previews and the like over at our Patreon, starting this week. This is a huge project and I want to share the process!!

Real Life Updates: Stress and NaNoWriMo

I had a very difficult week, so the Thursday Post will either be late, or will be skipped until next week. Sorry! I know the most important thing of starting up a blog is Content, but lately the world has conspired to make things as Difficult as Possible for me and L.

I’m doing a casual NaNoWriMo this month! I’m officially working on three fanfics– which you can see the details of here, as well as some excerpts– but I’ll probably work on a few original pieces, too. Who knows: as long as it’s concrete prose, I’m counting it.

Tim Drake

The Bones of You is an umbrella title for a personal DCU project. I’m excited about what this fella is getting up to; I hope it’s surprising to the readers! I hope to do art for all these projects, too, just for the heck of it.

I encourage those of you who are daunted by a novel to write what you want to write in whatever chunks that work for you! Do make a workable goal, though: I plan to have a working draft (at least 17k) over of one of these projects by the end of the month, send it to someone to beta, and then release it into the unsuspecting world. 🙂

Oh, also!! I’m putting up exclusive content for our Patrons at our Patreon! Join for $5/month, and you too can have weekly free Flash/Short Fiction and, in the future, chapters of serial work well before they are put out in book form. I have one flash piece up already, and another story will update tomorrow on Friday.

That’s all for now. Hope everyone is doing well! Mwah!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blank Page (Writing Again 4)

On the eve of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), 2015, I stand at a quandry about my Big Fat Historical Novel. I’m not sure where to go with it. I have changed so many things! But I’m not worried, or fussed, despite the NaNo-Sized draft I have cooling in my Google Docs, because I learned past few months that the most important thing about getting back into writing is just the act itself, with no expectation attached.

This is the draft I sent to my friends to get their insight on the characters; the original "raw" prose is over 54k. Hardly any of it will make it into the next stage, and I am totally fine with that.

This is the draft I sent to my friends to get their insight on the characters; the original “raw” prose is over 54k. Hardly any of it will make it into the next stage, and I am totally fine with that.

In the first post, I talked briefly about my years-long block with functional, long-term writing. I discussed how I recognized my personal “crutches” when it came to writing shortcuts, and how I learned to begin writing in a healthier way for both my craft AND my sanity.

The second post was about Over-Planning, which involved tiring yourself out with a story before you could start the prose properly. This article is basically about giving yourself permission to put something down if it isn’t working, or if you’re tired of it.

The third post detailed the importance of writing for writing’s sake, without caring if it was going somewhere or not! I gave you my monthly word counts and project word counts. I told you that none of it will see the light of day, and how I am just fine with that. I told you to indulge your craziest writing fantasies and do it just for you.

And finally, the last in this initial series of Writing Advice Posts, is about bringing those things together to get back to healthy writing so that you can work on those projects burning on your tongue. … Fingers. …You know what I mean.

“Writing Again” means writing first, and storytelling second. Please note this can apply to those of you already in the publishing phase, but your milage may vary, and I’d check the links at the bottom to help you get un-stuck in your stories!

1) Identify your fears. This is advice a lot of people give, and for good reason. What are you afraid of? For me, that fear was just that I could no longer share my stories with L and the few friends that I showed my fanfiction to. I feared that I would never be able to finish a project. I had to come around and accept the fact that to do ANY project, I needed to get my legs back under me with the craft of writing on its own.

2) Identify your writing “crutches” or shortcuts. Do you roleplay or write collaboratively? You might find it hard to take on new characters, or balance things out. Do you write ahead and then can’t connect the dots later? A crutch or shortcut isn’t inherently bad, it just might keep you from finishing a cohesive story down the line.

3) If you are writing something that you are either digging too far into with no interest, or have fatigued yourself on the details so much you don’t want to write: STOP. STOP NOW. You have my permission to put it down, either temporarily or forever. Use the prose for parts. Sit on it for over a year and see how it treats you.

Do not slug through another SECOND of something you’re tired of. You have not wasted your time. You have worked very hard and your writing is already better for it. If you are bound by contract/time to finish something, check out my links below for other articles/books to help you get unstuck! But hopefully some of this advice will work for you, too. Especially…

4) Now that you know what you’re fighting against, you get to take a break. You get to indulge. Write the schmoopiest, funnest things you have ever wanted with your original characters or ones from your favorite media. Write something gory and ridiculous, write the most over-the-top stuff that no one in the world will ever see. Go hog-effing-wild. This teaches you how to just write with no expectations, save for the rush of emotions and endorphins you’ll get from putting those words to proverbial paper.

THIS is a great place to do all those in media res snippets. If you do have a story you want to work on when you’re feeling better, indulgent writing is the place to do so. Just make sure you’re not focusing on the whole story yet… you’re not quite out of the block phase! Be patient with yourself. You can do this!

In closing… While I love numbers and achievements in my own writing, that isn’t for everyone! Even if you don’t write Every Day– because that’s an expectation that can make or break you– find some time just to do that indulgent stuff I stated above. Little sprints of inspiration. Even just sentences you like. Find new ways to turn phrases. Focus on yourself, your goals for how you want your prose to feel, and don’t worry about anyone judging you. 

Leave a message here or talk to me on Twitter — don’t worry, I don’t bite! 🙂

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Please check out Rachel Aaron’s blog and her book about writing, 2k to 10k. Her work helped turn a lot of things around for me, and she’s got some lovely posts recently that you’ve got to read! She’s got detailed advice regarding success in writing stories and self-publishing and she’s cheerful and encouraging on Twitter!

Meanwhile, I’ll still be here, talking about bare-bones writing, hoping to help you all feel better about going forward with those stories. I’m not there, yet. I have a lot of things I want to do, and I’ll be recording that process, as well as continuing to write more articles. But for now: dayjob and editing a short story for our Patreon. Stay tuned!

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