NaNoWriMo projects, Part 1

Disclaimer: The picture I used to make the cover with is not mine. I find all pictures by searching on Google or Tumblr (or whichever site I am directed to.) 

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I’m very proud to have two finished first drafts and an almost finished one from my two NaNoWriMos. Granted, the ones from last year are nowhere near perfect and it’s going to take me a long time to edit them into something worth reading. But seeing as they were the first novels I’d ever finished in my whole writing life, they’re like my babies 🙂

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Finding True Love is Baby #1. I chose it because it was a high school romance and relatively easy, plus I figured I should get the teenage stories written before I forget what being a teenager was like and made my characters sound like old people hiding in the bodies of high school kids.

I have a story chart of all my stories, including names and ages of the main characters and a short sentence or two about what it’s about. Here’s the basic plot for Finding True Love:

Lola participates in a school exchange program to get away from her controlling parents but gains much more than just temporary freedom; Alex is surprised to find himself falling in love with a girl who is not his girlfriend and who believes in everything he doesn’t.

I’d first intended the basic plot to be about Lola being a foreign exchange student. It’s loosely inspired by my own experience as a foreign exchange student (except I didn’t have a cute baby host sister or a good-looking host brother around my age, haha!) But while doing NaNoPrep, writing my outline and all that, I realized that things could get very difficult with my initial idea. There’d be some sort of cultural difference, not to mention a long-distance relationship, just to mention a few. So, whether it makes sense or is even possible or not, I decided to have Lola’s and Alex’ schools to have a partnership thing, that would allow this story to happen. A very deliberate artistic license, I guess?

All in all, I had quite a lot of fun writing this story, although quite a few parts ended up being much different than I’d intended. Lola, for example, was not supposed to write diary entries, and Alex was supposed to be really obnoxious and annoying (at least to Lola) at first. But as characters often do, they had their own ideas and were very insistent.

There is a lot I have to work on here, especially with the characters. Alex and Lola feel very flat to me, and the secondary characters don’t really have much presence, except when I found them convenient. I have yet to actually read through my NaNoWriMo 2014 stories again, so I haven’t even begun thinking about the editing process. I’m actually not even sure if it’s necessary, because while I am immensely proud of this story, I don’t know if it’s something I’d want the world to read. I feel that even if I were to flesh out the characters, fill the plot holes and everything, the story still lacks substance. It’s basically just a fluff piece that I wrote as practice, and I guess I’m not passionate enough about it to want to spend the time editing and revising (sorry, Alex and Lola.)

After all, if I don’t believe in my story, how can I expect others to?

Reflecting on NaNoWriMo

In my last post, I wrote about being a closet writer.

Maybe it’s because I have no fellow writers in my personal life to cheer me on or to whom I can be accountable to, but I’ve always had trouble staying motivated throughout a story and finishing what I started. That changed when I first participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.

I’d found out about NaNoWriMo when I was in high school, but I was always so swamped with assignments, not to mention not serious enough about writing that I didn’t ever think about participating. I don’t know what changed, maybe I finally realized that if I don’t start writing these stories, I never will (and I’ll never put a dent in the millions of story ideas I have!) and so I signed up last October and started prepping.

Usually, I don’t put much thought into my stories. That sounds sloppy, but I mean that I may jot down a few notes as an outline, decide on the names of my characters, but that’s about it. The rest I usually let flow as it wants to. But I realized that this might not work out well when attempting to write 10,000 words within a month, I really wanted to succeed, so I decided I had to stop pantsing and be a planner.

It wasn’t easy overcoming the habit of working out the details before writing, and I wasn’t as thorough as many other participants who shared their process on Twitter, but I was trying. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun and definitely interesting to make a detailed outline, separate the plot points into chapters and everything else that came with preparing to write. It was even more fun socializing with other writers and participants on Twitter (I’d wager I spent more time tweeting with them than prepping,) see their process and get a look at how other writers plan their stories.

Turns out, all that planning worked like a charm, and I finished my first draft about two weeks into November. I guess fellow writers will know how it felt to write “The End” for the very first time, to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment at having finally finished a story (after over ten years of writing for me). I was giddy and excited and nervous, because while I’d managed to finish my first story ever, I didn’t know what to do with it (never finishing a story meant I’d never edited one either, so I was at a loss with how to begin) and I was not even close to the goal of 50K.

High as I was from finishing a first draft in two weeks, I decided I’d try for two novels in one month. I didn’t have as much time to plan this one, but as with most of my stories, they’re all written out in my head, so all I need to do is “just” write them down. But the lack of planning showed when, halfway through the story, my male protagonist suddenly had an older sister. I guess it’s a good thing that NaNoWriMo is about writing a first draft, not a good one 😛

All in all, NaNoWriMo 2014 was an experience that made me feel proud of myself as a writer for the first time, and of course, I decided that I’d participate in NaNoWriMo 2015 and come out with similar results. But that didn’t happen, for several reasons.

First of all, in 2014 I was still attending university. I was in my last year, so I only had two classes a week, which meant a lot of free time (including the two hours I spent in those classes not paying attention) to prep and write. I will also admit that, as there was no attendance list, I’d skip classes, especially in November, to write.

I started working full-time right after graduating early this year. It’s a desk job, so technically, I could sneak in a bit of writing here and there (case in point, I wrote part of this post at work) but actually, I was always way too busy or aware of people walking past my desk, to write comfortably. I remembered how much preparing my novel in advance helped to write it quickly last year, so I was going to spend all of October doing so.

The first problem was picking a story. I had several ideas that I liked, but in the end, I chose to write on a contemporary romance story, because it was easier and would require less research than writing a fantasy story. I was doing pretty well, but then I had to deal with an unexpected and devastating loss. I ended up not doing anything for two weeks, so I had to rely on the few notes I’d taken before.

Considering how bad the prepping phase went, I was actually surprised how well the first days went. I was on a roll, the words came easy and by the end of the first week, I was already at over 20,000 words and ahead of the target word count by five days. I figured, “hey, this is going really well, maybe I’ll cross over the 50K line after the second or the third week!”

But I forgot that being a university student in her last year and a full-time worker is a very different thing. I spend eight hours a day at the computer typing, and after a week of also spending my evenings and weekends in front of my computer at home, my eyes and head started hurting. The words wouldn’t flow naturally anymore, I lost motivation and after struggling for a couple of days, I realized that after spending so much time at a computer at work, the last thing I wanted to do was spend even more time looking at a bright screen at home, too. Around that time, I also got more assignments at work, which meant that I couldn’t secretly write during work hours without feeling bad. I had to set priorities, and since writing is still just a fun hobby to me and not something I do to get published someday, I ended up “quitting” NaNoWriMo after Day 12.

Do I regret it? Sure. It may not have been a difficult decision to make, but I still felt like I was giving up on myself, and that’s never a good feeling. Sometimes, I wish I’d held on and at least tried until the very end, but it was the best I could do at that time.

The good news is that I got about 80% through the story and the end is near. I’d had the ending planned out for a while, so once again, all I need to do is “just” put it into words and finish my fourth story. I haven’t written anything since quitting NaNoWriMo, but I won’t give up and I will get this story written soon!

I’m getting a bit less self-conscious with sharing my work these days and sometimes post a few lines of my novels on my Twitter account. I’ve been thinking about posting my stories online, either on FictionPress (a great site where a lot of my favorite stories are!) or on here. If the latter happens, I’ll be restricting access to those posts, because while my work probably isn’t worth it, I’m paranoid of people exploiting others as I’ve seen it happen many times. But I’ll have to figure that out first, not to mention edit those very rough first drafts, so who knows when that’ll happen? 😛

If you are interested in learning more about my writing projects, my two next posts will be about my NaNoWriMo projects from 2014 and 2015, as well as another WIP that I’ve been working on for a while. I’ll share those very amateurish covers that I made, as well as blurbs and maybe excerpts.

Hope to see you there!

 

On being a closet writer

I’m a closet writer and I like it that way.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of my writing or that I write really raunchy or provocative stuff. I don’t base my  characters on people I know and could therefore offend or write anything that could reflect badly on me from my employer’s perspective.

But I like having my privacy, and that includes my writing. I like not being judged for my thoughts and the way that I express myself and more than anything, I just like having my private life and my writing life separate.

I guess that technically, I’m just halfway in the closet. My family and close friends know that I like to write, and my best friend does know about most of my stories, because I run them by her and she helps me figure out plotholes sometimes. She always tells me she can’t wait to read my stories, but I actually don’t know if I want her to.

I’ve always been a bit self-conscious about sharing my thoughts. I loved writing assignments, but I hated that my teachers would read and grade them. And being that bad with academic essays about history and literature, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m even worse with fiction writing.

I like that writing, creating characters, having them overcome difficulties and giving them their happy ending (or not) gives me an outlet to deal with everything in my life. Writing is a way for me to process and work through problems that maybe I can’t or don’t want to talk about with anyone. As such, I feel like I put my soul into my writing, and I feel that it’s just about the most intimate part of me, and I don’t want to share that, let the people in my life know my innermost feelings and deepest thoughts.

The thing is, the way I write is not the way I am. I’m not saying that I lie about myself in any way. I’m not a great writer, but I can be confident about myself, or at least portray my characters that way. I can make them fierce and courageous and whatever I want them to be, whatever I want to be.

But I’m an introvert, I don’t like hanging out with people all the time and I’m just really socially awkward. I don’t know if it’s a package deal that comes with introversion, but in any case, I’m also very aware of how people see me. I used to bend myself backwards trying to make people like me, and it took a long time and a lot of broken hearts for me to realize that I couldn’t keep doing that, especially to myself. I’m still worried that doing something will change how my family and my friends see me, and that has extended to my writing. I know I’m not doing anything wrong and that the worst they could say is that they don’t like my writing style, but I shudder at picturing myself waiting for them to finish a story of mine and see their thoughts all over their faces.

So I stay in my closet in real life and come out of it online. I once did post a prologue on a writing forum and got a lot of help from fellow writers. It made me realize that it’s so much easier to deal with criticism from strangers online than from people I’m close with. I can ignore hateful comments on the internet, but I wouldn’t be able to avoid reactions like that from my parents or my friends. Anonymous as I can be on the internet, I can be myself in a way that I’m not in my private life, and connect with other people in a way that I don’t have the courage to be otherwise.