Another way to 50k

October 27, 2011 at 10:58 am (Books, Fiction) (, , , , , , )

This year, I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time.  Simply, the goal is to start a new novel and write 50,000 words, all from November 1-30.  Thirty days to write fifty thousand words.  The idea behind the challenge is to just keep writing and get to the end.  The emphasis is on quantity because so many writers never finish novels because they are always editing as they go.  They forget that even if they write and finish a crappy first draft, they’ll still have a whole book!

Nowadays, 50k words isn’t really a whole book, though.  Back in the day, The Great Gatsby clocked in at like 50,061, but now books tend to shoot more around the 100,000 mark, plus or minus fifteen thousand.  But, for those like me, who have only written short stories, 50k is plenty to aim for, even if the book isn’t finished by that number.  Just getting to 50k in 30 days is the challenge.

In order to reach 50k in 30 days, writers need a daily word count of 1,667.  Most of us can write more than that a day, but the point is, that’s the minimum you need to write each day if you’re going to make it.  Thanks to repeating decimals and rounding up, if you do ONLY 1,667 words each day, you’ll get 50,010 words!  YAY you rose above the challenge!

Today, on the forums for Nanowrimo, I came across another way to reach the total word count.  This formula takes advantage of the enthusiasm writers have when they start the challenge, knowing that it gets harder as you go.  This system uses a much higher word count on day 1 (3,393) and works its way down to the last day where the writer must write 1 word.  Seriously, 1 word.  If the writer wants to aim for a full 100k book in November, just double the daily word count.  This means I would start day 1 with 6,786 words and on November 30 I’d write 2 words.  “The End” maybe?  🙂

Like I said, this takes advantage of the great enthusiasm NaNos have come midnight, Nov. 1, but it also has some other advantages.  When the month is winding down, but holiday season is winding up, the word count gets less and less.  Would you rather write 1,667 words on Thanksgiving day or 918?  That’s almost a 750 word difference and it comes 24 days in, when momentum may be stalling.  Another advantage is that starting day 13, the word count drops below the 1,667 that is needed the other way!  That’s 18 days of not fighting for 1,667.  And yes, some of us do fight to get that high on word counts.

Anyway, for anyone else interested in this countdown method, I quickly threw together a no-frills calendar with the daily word counts.  This is for 50k, since I’m going to aim for that before I consider anything else.  (The longest short story I’ve written to date was almost 8,000 words, so you can see why I’m nervous.)

Click the calendar for full size, right-click, and save!

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Slow Start, but Start it is

April 24, 2011 at 11:43 pm (Fiction) (, , , )

It’s Easter Sunday, and in the spirit of New Beginnings, I started my novel today.  …but

Two writers come to mind: James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. There is a story about one of Joyce’s friends visiting him and finding him upset because he had only written seven words. When his friend pointed out that for him seven words wasn’t too bad, Joyce said, “But I don’t know what order they go in!” As for Wilde, he is quoted as saying, “This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back in again.”

Those two quotes came to mind because today I wrote a total of 63 words. Granted, I did choose to start writing this during a two week, drain every bit of energy you have, rehearsal period. I’ve been dealing with puppets and production for 9-10 hours a day for the last week and I have another week of that ahead of me. Add to that the fact that emotionally I am dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, and it’s no wonder I couldn’t prime the creative pump today. I’m tired. I’m tired physically, with a constant burning feeling in my back, and I’m tired emotionally.  …but

But the point is, I’m now 63 words farther along than I was yesterday. And although that is a pace that is unacceptable for the duration of the novel, it is a start. Because I open a new show on Saturday, I doubt that I’ll even be able to touch this story during the upcoming week, but when I do get back to it, I already have a good beginning. That makes me happy.

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Big News of Awesomeness

April 19, 2011 at 12:12 am (Fiction) (, , , )

I’ve been bouncing around the idea of turning my short story “The Carnival” into a novel for a while now (I’d usually link to it here, but I’m posting from my phone. It’s the Future now!). The final push I needed came the other day and now I have actually started going through the text, seeing places where I can expand the story, add characters, get into their minds, dive into backstory, etc.

My biggest question for myself had been, “How do I actually physically go about this? Do I open the file and just start adding to it?” After a long time of talking out loud to my sounding board (a drowsy cat), I realized I was focusing too much on trying to keep the polished work from the original in the first draft of the new work. I just need to start telling the story and THEN worry about, “Did I get that one really poetic description in there?” Write a crappy first draft just to get the story down, then polish.

Now that I’ve got that mental struggle figured out, I guess it’s just time to start writing this baby. No excuses now. All I ask is that you all, my Constant Readers, help keep me on track. I’ll do my best to post some of what I’m writing here, but if you think too much time has passed between talking about it, call me out. Let me know you want updates. I’m going to be setting some deadlines for myself, but if I also know I have an expectant audience, I’ll work harder not to let you down.

Wish me luck!

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The Start of… Something

April 12, 2011 at 1:14 am (Books, Fiction) (, , , , )

I recently started a new story and for the first time EVER, I feel like it could lead to being a novel.  I usually write short stories and occasionally longer short stories, but for some reason, the scope and possibilities I have opened up before me with this one seem, well, bigger.

I once wrote a story about a guy who made a set of tap shoes for a cockroach.  I wrote a story about a guy stuck working in Wisconsin who wishes he could dream about the girl he left behind in North Carolina, but keeps having silly dreams instead.  I wrote a story about a guy who is making a cross country trip and finds himself talking to a hand puppet in a motel in Wyoming.  None of these needed to be longer.  They told the story I wanted them to, quickly and easily.  The short story format was perfect for them.

Then there was “Into the Black” and “The Carnival.”  The former could easily be the beginning of a book.  The latter could very well be fleshed out with a few more characters added and end up being a book of its own (both of which are ideas I have been toying with).

But this new piece that I started…well, it is already apparent to me that it belongs in a big world.  A wide open place where many things happen.  A place where the protagonist is on a quest.  This is all VERY obvious to me.  The problem?  I don’t know what that quest is!  I don’t know the “what if.”  Without sounding flippant, good novels can be thought of (though not summarized) in concise “what if” questions.  “What if Childe Roland was a gunslinger making his way to The Tower?”* “What if a magical ring needs to be destroyed in enemy territory?”**  “What if a retired man’s mind is beginning to slip and he wants to keep it a secret?”*** 

My newest piece starts right after a battle, the final battle of a war, and the prince commanding the losing side is the only person still alive from his troops, but no one knows he has lived through it.  Sounds OK, right?  He then meets a guy who is scavenging the bodies of the fallen soldiers and he lies about who he is, knowing that his enemies have won and are now in control of his former city.  Again, sounds all right.  But that’s where I’ve been stopped.  For three days now.  Because I have no “what if” for this guy.  What’s his quest?  To regain control of his city?  Sure! …except I know so little about politics and intrigue that I don’t know if I could do that.  If it was an Item Quest, well, somehow a tangible goal seems much “easier,” but I haven’t figured out what he would be questing after in the situation that was created.  I am a firm believer in what Stephen King talks about in his book “On Writing,” mainly: create the situation, create the characters and don’t worry about plot, it will come as the characters try to resolve their situation.  But guess what?  I ain’t Stephen King.  (Actually, you probably didn’t even have to guess that.)  I feel like I should have SOME sort of idea as to where they are headed… even if they never get there.  Right now I’ve got, “What if the former prince of a nation……….umm….”

Anyway, bear with me.  I feel like this story and my quest to tackle it are going to be with me for a little while.

*= The Dark Tower series
**= The Lord of the Rings
***= A Spot of Bother

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Great Stories, Poopy Endings

March 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm (Books, Fiction) (, , , )

So far this year I have read 2 books that I have completely enjoyed… until the very end. Castle by J. Robert Lennon and The Tsar‘s Dwarf by Peter H. Fogtdal were both great stories that pulled me in from the very start and completely held my attention. But both of these books had what felt like cop-out endings. Castle had the worst of the two, having a totally open ended non-ending. I don’t want to give it away in case you choose to read it, but I seriously closed the book after finishing it and said, “Really? Are you kidding me?” You know how in school the teacher would say, “OK five minutes left. Go ahead and wrap up what you’re writing”? It felt like that. Like the author scrambled to finish because his publisher was standing there, countdown clock in hand.

The Tsar’s Dwarf, on the other hand, wrapped itself up just fine… I just didn’t like it. The ending I mean. Loved the book but when I got to the end it was more of a “Aw, come on. Is that the best way you could think of to end this novel?”

Maybe I should read a biography next. One of someone whose ending I already know. Lincoln, I know what happened to him, right? …or do I?

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