NaNoWriMo

You’re a Writer, Own It

What makes you a writer?

I used to see this question around the Internet a lot “back in the day” (like when the Internet was first made available to the public) and the popular opinion back then was, “you’re not a writer if you haven’t had anything published.”

I used to get SO ANGRY when I read this because I desperately wanted to be a writer but aside from having an imagination, I’m also a realist. The odds of actually being published are slim to none. So I thought, why try? What’s the point? It’s never going to happen and I guess I’ll never be a writer.

WOW. What an idiot.

I now champion people who call themselves writers. If you have an imagination and you write stuff down, you’re a writer.

Period.

But for kicks and grins, I looked up what being a writer “meant”, and here’s what I found:

  1. You read, a lot. (ME!)
  2. You talk to yourself (no comment – okay, yes, I do this occasionally)
  3. You go into bookstores just ‘because’ (yep – though I haven’t read a “real” book in years – it’s all Kindle, baby)
  4. You write down your ideas (yes, and then promptly forget where I wrote them down)
  5. Every story you tell is ‘slightly embellished’ (maybe sometimes)
  6. You have a stack of unused notebooks and yet, you continue to buy more (yes!)
  7. You read everything (YESYESYES)
  8. People call you a Grammar Nazi (YESYESYESYES!!!)
  9. You’re a word nerd (YES!)
  10. Your phone is always on silent (I ABHOR talking on the phone)
  11. You’re constantly searching for ‘why’ (you mean you don’t?)
  12. You write in your sleep (actually – I nap on an idea and I wake up with a direction – it’s super weird – and helpful!)
  13. You prefer to be alone (YESYESYESYESYESYESYES)

These are just some fun things that writers may, or may not, have in common. The bottom line, if you write, you’re a writer. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

NaNoWriMo update: I”m now at 8,895 and I HATE my story. The prompt I’m working from is dark, too dark, and I can’t bring myself to do what the prompt suggests, so I’m trying to dance around it and now my story has veered off like a golf ball that sliced to the right. I don’t think I’ll post it because it sucks. Royally. But who knows, I’m just allowing my characters to take charge of the mess that I’m writing now and we’ll see where it takes me.

This is precisely WHY I should outline my stories. I can write anything, truly, quantity has never been my problem. I can write circles around a laptop but it never goes anywhere. And then I get stuck, and then the story takes a breath on it’s own and before long, it’s jumping off the page and chasing ME around in circles. It’s the quality that I have a problem with. There is no direction.

I’ll learn, one of these years.

Super hard to force myself to write after work today. But I forced myself and trudged through. I can’t decide if I’m going to continue with this story, see where it goes, or just chuck it and start something new. Think I’ll sleep on it and see how I feel tomorrow.

NaNoWriMo

How to Stay Focused On Your Writing

I have discovered something about myself:

I have to have it completely quiet whenever I write (the washing machine noise in the background though .. !)

and

I have to have several windows up at the same time whenever I write.

I think better when I’m not thinking. Does that make sense?

Here’s how I write – I’ll write about 1000 words and then I lose focus. The flow slows down, my characters aren’t speaking to me and my mind starts wandering.

“I wonder what new videos posted on YouTube.”

“Oh look, no one has text me. I’m a loser.”

“I have an idea for a blog post – let’s start a blog post right this second that I have no intention of completing.”

“What is the weather going to be like this week?”

“I wonder if Uniform Advantage has any sales on scrubs right now.”

“I should really get on that podcast idea I’ve had for the past six months and not done anything about.”

“Just one more Jenna video.”

But here’s the weird part -it works for me. At first, I used to get so irritated with myself, “Gads Karen, F.O.C.U.S on the story.” But now, I understand that is how my mind works. I can’t handle outside noise but I need internal noise to focus.

When I don’t think about something, or how to get past a certain point in the story, I think about something else and the answer just comes to me. I need to give my subconscious a moment to handle what my lame-ass consciousness can not, I guess.

So right now? I have five tabs open, along with my writing open, on my laptop. Then I can literally toggle through and give my subconscious a moment to process what I’m trying to do in my conscious mind.

I too have always wanted to be a writer and I’m passionate about it in my mind, but then I sit down to actually do something about it and the lazy part of my says, “Nope, maybe next time.” I’m a writer in my mind but to actually make it happen … is too hard, mom! *whining*

But remember when I quit Facebook, cold turkey, so I could focus on the two things I love doing? Reading and Writing? Well, I need to make that sacrifice worth something, don’t I?

Here’s Jenna’s advice on how to stay focused on your writing. And by the way, I should have warned you ahead of time, but Jenna uses salty language, so if that’s not your bag, sorry. I happen to think she’s pretty freaking awesome.

NaNoWriMo

Physical Descriptions Are Helpful, But Leave a Little to the Imagination

If there is one thing (out of 489) that I’m bad at, is physical description, as evidenced in my current NaNoWriMo project. I try and sprinkle character physical descriptions into my writing as opposed to having them stand in front of a mirror, scrutinize themselves and tell the reader what they look like. (True story).

And something Jenna says really hit me between the eyes, allow the reader to picture the character in his/her mind. It’s important to give readers a general idea of what someone looks like, but it’s true, no matter how descriptive you are, readers will likely picture someone different in their minds.

I know physical descriptions and describing locales in stories is important but that’s the part I find the most dull to write and read. Anything overly descriptive and I just find it pretentious and tedious. (Oh, look at you use your words – how precious). I like stories that are fast paced and exciting, describing someone’s acne or the color, texture and function of someone’s kitchen drawer immediately turns me off.

Forget the flowery prose, let’s dump your character in acid and see what happens.

 

NaNoWriMo Update: I’m at 6,210. I finished Freedom Riot – (you can find the story here – I broke it up into four parts because it’s 6200 words and no one has the attention span for that Part One, Part Two – I haven’t posted parts three and four yet – patience grasshopper). I wrote A LOT yesterday. I don’t know, I was excited for it. I was READY for it. I think reading all year long also REALLY helped – I felt like I had been transported into one of the stories I read this year.

By the way, the prompt I used for Freedom Riot was: A world wherein employees work nonstop with no vacation—a riot ensues.

I feel like I’m more interested in writing crazy, weird stuff. Not really horror, definitely not romance, but somewhere in between. I’m really interested in mystery, thrillers. I love twists and turns and stories that keep throwing stuff at you so you’re forced to duck and dodge incoming missiles. And you know what? I was watching more of Jenna’s videos (I’m sort of fan girling on her, not gonna lie) and something she said really resonated with me – write what  interests you, not what you think you should write. Not that I have to write romance, but honestly, there are only so many ways to describe In flagrante delicto, or caught in the act for those that have no idea what that means. But human depravity? Endless options here. So, I’ve learned that about myself. I want to write more twisted, fascinating, disturbing stories, without the blood and guts. More psychological stories – stuff that mess with your head.

I’ve also been thinking about the repercussions of putting my work online. I’m going to think of the works I post as teasers. I feel like most of my stories could easily be expanded on, made longer, into novels. So if I ever feel compelled to take a story further and try and get it published, the part I posted online will be an excerpt of that bigger story. That way, that gives me the freedom to post a little something-something for you all and the flexibility to make it bigger, put some meat on the story bones, if I choose to. Though I didn’t feel particularly invested in Bianca and Trey this go around, I definitely felt like I could have taken Freedom Riot much, much further.

So, dear reader, I apologize in advance, but you’re going to get a lot of excerpts and very little “finished” projects.

I already have an idea for my next short story and man, is it going to be dark. Stay tuned.

NaNoWriMo, Writing Stuff

A Gym Membership for Writers

Here’s a little something I ran into when I was watching a livestream write-in session on the NaNoWriMo YouTube channel: 4 the Words.

One of the reasons I love NaNoWriMo is the deadline factor. I like having a goal and a deadline looming over my head. It motivates me to write and I feel really good when I reach/meet that deadline.

So 4thwords looks interesting. I might try it, I don’t know. It looks pretty juvenile but fun and it’s only $4 dollars per month for a membership though there is a free 30-day trial.

This post is not sponsored, I just thought it was interesting and thought I would pass on the knowledge to you in case you’re like me and REALLY out of the writing world game.

I may try the free membership version after NaNoWriMo is over. I don’t want to try it now because I know me and I’ll get sidetracked and I’ll have gotten nothing done but it might be something fun to try later.

Anyhoo, just a thought.

Back to your writing.

NaNoWriMo

Romance Stories That Suck

I love romance.

Well, I love to read/write romance, I don’t like romance in real life. I mean, I DO, but for about two seconds and then I’m like, “what’s for dinner?”

So I laughed out loud at Jenna’s Fictional Romance pet peeves because – YES. Some of the cookie cutter romance out there (which, cookie cutter implies it’s all the same – see where I’m going with this?) is EXACTLY the type of stories Jenna makes fun of here.

Also. I LOVE/LOVE/LOVE how she is not a fan of Valentine’s Day because you should show love every day, not just one day. Where have I heard that before?

(*hint* Me. I say that all the time).

So romance writers, take note. These romance faux pas are real and HIGHLY annoying.

NaNoWriMo update: I”m at 1915 words thus far. I actually started writing TODAY. I meant to write something last night but I was just so brain dead, I couldn’t be bothered. I plan on continuing to write as much as I can stomach today and tomorrow as I would like to give myself as much wiggle room as I can before the workweek starts back up again. I think finding the mental wherewithal to write is my biggest challenge. I can write nonsense and I can write a lot of nonsense, but finding the mental energy is sometimes too much for me. I put so much mental energy into my day job that I just don’t have any left over for anything else by the end of the day.  So. My writing schedule – I think I can write every day save for Tuesday/Thursday. I usually work late those nights to get things caught up at work so I’m ahead of the game and not stressing the small stuff. That is my goal this month – to write every night but Tuesday/Thursday – or give myself permission NOT to write those days. In addition, we’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year for Kevin’s entire family, so I will need to carve out some time to give the house a good cleaning as well. I hope you’re coming along with your NaNoWriMo project! I’ve decided to open comments here/there so feel free to let me know how your NaNoWriMo project is going.

Or feel free to comment on Jenna’s video!

 

NaNoWriMo

Worst Female/Male Character Types

Characters.

You can’t have a story without them.

Well. I guess you could, but wow, what a boring story.  A story without characters would be like watching paint dry, or the leaves dance in the wind, or your nails grow.

But if you’ve been reading for any length of time, you will notice that cookie cutter characters DO appear in most of the stories that you read. Jenna does a really good job of summarizing the annoying stereotypes for you for both female and male characters.

One reason I really like this writer is because she doesn’t mince words – she calls it like she sees it.

And that’s how I tend to write my characters, too. They are gritty, nasty and generally assholes – with a heart of gold.

Now tell me that doesn’t sound like most of the people in your life.

Anyway, enjoy the videos. And avoid the characters Jenna talks about – unless I happen to write one of these characters into my story in which case, make an exception.

 

NaNoWriMo

Brace Yourself for Thirty Days of Hell

Hi. My name is Karen and I’ve been clean for six months.

To be honest, it really wasn’t that hard to go cold turkey – I think I had gotten so fed up with the inconsequential fluff and the fact that it was sucking all of my time into a black hole of mindless clicking, that I tripped a wire and a light bulb went off in my brain illuminating a dark corner I had forgotten existed.

My desire to actually WRITE something.

Hi. My name is Karen and it’s been six months since I quit Facebook.

I haven’t missed it.

Like. At all.

My original intent of quitting Facebook was to give myself more time to do two things I REALLY enjoy:

  1. Read
  2. Write

I’ve been successful on the reading part. My Goodreads goal was to read 100 books this year and I’m currently at 93. I’m ten books ahead of schedule – on purpose. BECAUSE, I want to now turn my attention to my second goal: writing.

And now that it’s November, we all know what that means – NANOWRIMO!!!!

The site has been updated and my old stats are no longer there, but I think I’ve actually “won” NaNoWriMo … three or four times. This was back in the days when I was a stay-at-home mom and had A LOT of time on my hands, very little stress and got copious amounts of sleep.

But since I went back to work full time eight years ago, I’ve had to use every single brain cell I owned just to keep my head above water and keep up with the highly intelligent (and younger) people I work with. (Hello Heather and Tiffany!)

But my writing itch has come back and I feel compelled to scratch it again. The itch started small, a rub here and there, a momentary, mindless scratch on my arms, neck. Then my itch was occurring over bigger parts of my body and happening more frequently. Now, it’s all I can do not to attack my body in front of people and embarrass myself by scratching parts of my body that should NEVER be touched in public.

*ahem* But I digress.

My point being, I’m ready to start writing crap again.

And this, of course, means subjecting you, my dear cyber friend, to the wonderfully dark, disturbed world I like to call my imagination.

Dust off your straight jackets.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this go around. I’m not really ready to write a novel, hell, who am I kidding, I will likely NEVER be ready to write a novel, but rather, I’m going to stick to what I enjoy doing the most – writing short stories. Only, I’m going to stick to nine characters. I won’t use all nine characters in every single story but rather, pluck a few ones out of the lineup and toss them into the gladiator ring and see how much I can abuse them. You can see these characters on my fiction blog.

I’m not going to publish these stories here, but on my fiction blog. (And the girls I work with only THOUGHT they knew all of my secrets – bwahaha – silly girls). If you wish to read along, you can visit https://fictionfix.wordpress.com/. If you’re playing along, you can find me here on the NaNoWrimo site.

In the meantime, I have stumbled onto a really witty, funny, sarcastic writer on YouTube who not only makes me laugh but who flips my creative switch every time I watch one of her videos. I will post one of her videos on my blog daily (?) or as often as I remember to during the month of November in the hopes that it will spark your creative fire as well.

I am purposefully putting my NaNoWriMo goals out there because I’m hoping the girls I work with, who now, to my complete and utter horror, know about this blog and now my fiction blog, will give me so much hell at work that I will have no CHOICE but to complete this damn project if only to shut them up.

(Love you girls!)

Okay, let’s have some fun. *rubbing hands*

Reflections, Work Stuff

Thinking Outside Yourself

I was recently told by someone I see nearly on a daily basis:

“I like your blog. You’re a good writer and I really enjoy reading your work. You should write a how-to-live manual.”

(Hi Tiff)

I don’t know if she said those exact words, but that’s the take away from what I heard.

First of all, it’s SUPER weird to be outed by someone in real life. Sure, Kevin, my mom, possibly my sister, knows about my blog but I cringe whenever they mention anything about what I wrote in my blog. I honestly try to walk the tightrope between being honest, fair and authentic without coming across as a know-it-all bitch. Pretty sure I fail most of the time.

When you have a presence, or lack thereof in my case, online, when you carve out a piece of cyber space and make it your own, you really don’t think about how people in your real life would react to this “persona” you’ve developed, or nurtured, online. You feel safe because the web is so massive and anonymous, right?

Not really. Not truly. There are ways of secret identities bleeding into your reality. And when that happens, you just have to grab the exposure by the balls and own up to it. I try really hard to live by my own rules – don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. It’s definitely not my first choice to tell people what I really think but if push comes to shove, here’s my thought: don’t ask me if you really don’t want to know because, sweetie, I’ll tell you.

Some of this bravado comes with age, though to be honest, I’ve pretty much always been the sort of person who just doesn’t give a shit about what someone thinks of me. True, I may not have been as bold in the past and the degree of my bravado may have changed over the years but my motto has always been, on some level – I am who I am – take it or leave it. 

Because baby, if you leave it, then I didn’t want it to begin with.

I think this mind shift started in high school. I secretly wanted to be part of the popular crowd but I never was. I was one of those fringe people who just stood on the outskirts of … everything. I wasn’t popular, goth, nerdy or super smart. I had just enough personality, instinct, common sense and grit to somehow fit in with every group. A chameleon, I suppose.

And I feel like I’m like that now. I can get along with everyone, truly. Now that doesn’t mean I LIKE everyone I “get along with,” in fact, it’s safe to say most people truly get on my nerves. I don’t TRULY like very many people. I feel like people nowadays are self centered, selfish, whiny, lazy, and looking for excuses to excuse away poor planning, time management or simply incompetence.

I feel like most people have a hard time thinking outside their existence and that attitude and inability, or unwillingness, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, or be emphatic to someone’s plight totally and completely TURNS. ME. OFF.

Which leads me to the reason for this blog post.

Though I was flattered that my real-life person said the above thing to me, it got me thinking. Why would she say that? What is it about what I have to say that she finds refreshing or worth spending her valuable time reading?

Again, I’m not especially smart. I’m not Gandhi – I don’t have any life-changing wisdom to share though I suppose if you want to count age then perhaps the mere fact that I’m more “mature” (i.e. older than most of the people I work with) could count as “wisdom”.

I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this in older blog posts but I wonder if what Tiff sees is my ability (ability – *snort* like I’m some sort of sage) to think outside of myself.

Now don’t think this means I’m a super-giving person or self-sacrificing servant, no, I’m not. In fact, I’m incredibly selfish with my time and if I don’t want to do something, I’ll flat out tell you I’m not interested, in a nice way, of course. I’m not one of those people who like to disguise my disinterest in partaking of an activity I’m less than enthusiastic about simply to be polite and says, “Sorry. I really don’t have time for that.”

Bullshit. Just tell me. You’re not interested. Don’t try and sugar coat it and try and make yourself look more important than you think you are in your head. You have time for ANYTHING if you WANT to make the time for it.

If you don’t want to do something, then simply say, “no thanks. I’m not interested.” Okay, thanks, got it. This whole “I don’t have time to do that” , or, “Gee, I WISH I had time to do that.” just pisses me off and makes you look superficial, fake, condescending and stupid. You’re no busier than I am, I just choose to spend my time on activities that interest me. If you don’t, that’s your problem. Prioritize your time.

But I digress.

One of the best pieces of advice, or lessons, that my mom taught me is to have empathy for people – train yourself to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective.

I feel like this is a foreign concept in today’s world. Today, it’s all about ME. And NOW. Or WHAT I’M FEELING AT THIS MOMENT.

I think that’s evidenced by people assuming you care about the latest baby picture, or family drama, or emotion of the moment.

I get feeling proud. I get wanting to share excitement when something great happens in one’s life, but I also feel like most of these same people don’t take time to ask, “Hey, how are YOU feeling?” “How is YOUR family?” “What can I do to help YOU today?”

If it’s not about them, then they are not interested.

It’s sad, annoying and exhausting.

I don’t like to talk about myself much at work. I bet there are less than five people who can tell you the names of my husband and boys. On one hand, it’s sad but on the other, I haven’t exactly offered that information either.

I’ve always told the boys, if you can’t think of anything to say in a group setting, just ask the person about themselves – people LOVE to talk about themselves.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing – just that it’s the normal thing nowadays. People are truly not interested in hearing about something that doesn’t involve them, or something they’re interested in. I’m guilty of this as well, I admit.

But I feel like I have to constantly interject whenever someone comes to me with a problem, or the person needs to get something off her chest about something or someone and remind said person that there are two sides to a story.

Have they taken the time to look at that side?

Have you?

I’m not talking about just at work. I’m talking about society as a whole. Would we have the political divide we have now if people would just stop and CONSIDER the viewpoint from the other side? I’m not saying that you have to change the way you think or your opinion on something just by looking at the other side, but I do think that people would make better decisions or at least understand why something is done if we made it a habit of looking outside ourselves.

I think exercising a little empathy would help society be more patient, understanding and compassionate, but we’re all so ready to think badly of one another when again, unless you’ve walked in the shoes of that other person, you really have no right to make assumptions.

I wonder if that is what my friend was trying to say about my writing. Because I do make a CONSCIOUS effort to stop, think and reverse roles for a minute in my writing because I think it’s important to at least see all sides to a story before coming to a conclusion.

I may not change my mind, or your mind, but at least I UNDERSTAND where that other person is coming from. Ultimately, I feel like that helps guide me, people, society to come up with better solutions.

Or – maybe I’m overthinking this whole thing and she was just trying to be nice.

 

 

 

Camp NaNoWriMo, Podcast

Podcast: Conspiracy Theories

Season 1, Episode 4

Episode description:

I’m posting the fourth episode before the 2nd/3rd episodes because it’s relevant to now. We have now approached the 50th anniversary of the Man on the Moon and I’ll be honest, I’m one of those people who are skeptical. My gut tells me that it really happened but I can’t help but be skeptical because I think I’ve trained myself to be nothing but skeptical at this point in our lives. You can believe what you read, you can’t believe what you see, (is that Photoshopped or real?) so I think I naturally gravitate toward cynicism.

I’ve really been into The Daily Wire recently. These guys are so good at examining issues nowadays and addressing all sides to an argument that it’s a breath of fresh air to listen to people who aren’t screaming, threatening, condescending, and just nonsensical like most of the commentators you hear nowadays. Give them a listen, I think you’ll see what I mean.

But in the meantime, what do you think? Did we actually put a Man on the Moon?