A Cool Progress Bar Thanks to Kyle Pratt

Kyle Pratt, a great author and friend of mine has a very professional website. (He focuses on his writing career, unlike my blog that focuses on my random thoughts.) He created a progress bar for his website that I loved, and he graciously shared it with me. (Check his out here to see how cool it is.)

I need to figure out what I’m going to finish in 2016. When I do I’ll create my own awesome progress bar. For now I’ll just put up my Nano project since it is closest to being done. Thanks Kyle.

Jennifer’s Writing Projects for 2015

Fostering Evil
(A Clara Barton Novel)

72866 / 80000 words. 91% done!
Updated December 1, 2015

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” – Greg Anderson

This November Embrace Your Writing Style

pantserIf you’re a guy you might not be shaving this month, but I hope your hipster beard isn’t blocking your keyboard because it’s National Novel Writing Month. That’s right, in between Halloween and the start of the holiday season that we should all be embracing (instead of the start of the holiday season that the stores want us to embrace) is an important month for all of us who have voices in your heads. If you don’t have voices in your head, you’re not listening close enough and need to turn down your iPod.

As you have probably guessed, I’m participating in Nanowrimo. I look forward to this event every year, but this year I decided to try something new. In case you don’t now how Nanowrimo works, you’re supposed to write 50,000 original words from Nov. 1 to Nov. 30. In theory, these 50,000 words should be the beginning, middle, and hopefully end of one story, but no one is policing you, so I say, write whatever you want. Even though you can’t start writing until November 1, you can prepare to write. In October, you can outline your story, design some characters, and do research. I have done this in the past with mixed results.

This year, mostly because I am working on several other writing projects, I decided to do no preparing for Nanowrimo. I wouldn’t even think about what I wanted to write. I would start typing on November 1 and see where it goes. Around October 22, I came up with a great fantasy story, complete with setting, characters, and plot. I thought for a moment that it was going to be my Nanowrimo story. But I remembered my plan and shelved it.

I call myself a pantser (a cute word for a discovery writer), but I usually think I should outline a little bit. I don’t know anyone who is 100% pantser. Apparently I am, so I’m embracing that side of me this year. When I’m not writing I’m not thinking about my book. In fact, I feel like the ideas are flowing from the creative part of my brain directly to my fingertips. They’re not going to any other part of my brain, which is why when I’m not typing I’m not thinking about my story. The thinking portion of my brain has not been informed by the creative part of my brain that there is anything to think about. (This is probably not neurologically accurate, but it makes sense to me.)

The big question is, how am I doing? Are the words flowing like chocolate syrup, or am I sitting in front of a blank screen wishing I’d never signed up for Nano, and wondering if there’s any Halloween candy left (nope, it’s all gone.) The answer is… this is my best Nano ever. Today is day nine and I have already written 28,000 words. I hope to reach 50,000 words by Friday. And I won’t stop there. My story may be almost done, but I  am going to keep writing and discover if these characters want a second book. My daily average is 3,138 words and I feel like I could do more.

I hope you are enjoying Nano this month. If you are struggling, ask yourself a question. Are you a pantser or a plotter and are you fighting your natural writing style? If you are a pantser, toss the outline you thought you had to make and let your creative side take over. If you are a plotter, don’t worry about the rules that say every word should be part of your story. Use some of your word count to create an outline.

Writers sometimes treat pantser vs. plotter like Coke vs. Pepsi. There is only one right choice and the other is just gross. However, that is not true. Pantsers should be pantsers, and plotters should be plotters. It’s not my way or the highway. I can now say I’m a pantser and if being a pantser enables me to write 100,000 words in November I’m a happy pantser. Whatever type of writer you are, I hope you’re happy, too.

“There is in writing a constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.” H. L. Mencken


The Continuing Saga of Camp Nano

Camp-Participant-2015-Twitter-ProfileApril is Camp Nanowrimo month (July is too.) I have been looking forward to this event for a while. At first I was going to edit my story about Wally and Ashna, but on a random writing day I came up with a fantasy series that follows the Marvel Avengers formula. I was really excited about this idea, but I knew it was a just-for-fun project so I set it aside until Camp Nano. Every once in a while this project would tap me on the shoulder and see if I wanted to play. I really did, but I told it we had to wait for April. And now April is here.

Camp Nano differs from Nanowrimo in November because you can pick the type of project you want to work on and how many words you plan to complete. Since I am working on several non-Camp Nano writing projects I decided I could finish 30,000 words. This does not mean I am writing 30,000 words in April. I am probably writing about 70,000 words in April. But 30,000 of them will be for my Camp Nano project.

I’m not worried about not winning (sometimes I get nervous about this in November.) Camp Nano simply gives me permission to write something that makes me happy, but may never become the epic story I think it could be. I don’t normally write pure fantasy (by fantasy I mean a story set in a fictional medieval world with magic, dragons, and anything else I can think up) but this story seems to call for it. And I am having a grand time creating my world and characters.

I hope everyone has a great April. I’ll post in a week or two and let you know how this project is going. I’m so glad Nano happens more than once a year. I’d hate to have to wait until November to play with this project.

Oh little playmate,
Come out and play with me,
And bring your dollies three,
Climb up my apple tree,
Slide down my rainbow,
Into my cellar door,
And we’ll be jolly friends,
Forever more, more, more!

A Review of Camp Nanowrimo

2014-Winner-Vertical-BannerApril has come and gone and Camp Nanowrimo has ended. I had committed to writing 30,000 words and I succeeded. However, I did not succeed in the way I expected to. I was going to be gone eleven days in the middle of April and I had a couple of plans for dealing with this vacation from writing. My first plan was to write enough words before my vacation so that when I came back I wouldn’t be behind. I only wrote 13,000 words in ten days so I wasn’t as ahead as I wanted to be. I wasn’t worried though. I was bringing my laptop on my vacation. I would just write while visiting my friends and family. How many words did I write on my vacation? None.

Not only did I not write on my vacation but I never thought about it. I had a wonderful vacation but my mind was on vacation, too. I have read that lots of famous authors write no matter where they are. I apparently don’t have that ability.

It was no big deal. I got back on the twenty-second and had plenty of time to finish my word count. But I didn’t. I was busy with work and I kept telling myself I had lots of time. Until it ran out.

Work slowed down on April 28. I had three days to write sixteen thousand words, so I did. I wrote 6,000 words on Monday and 5,000 words each on Tuesday and Wednesday. It was easy. It wrote itself. I felt quite pleased with where my book was going. And it helped to have fellow Nano writers support me on Facebook. But all this mega writing made me wonder. Is this my style? Do I write best in large chunks?

I actually think I work best when there is a deadline, a firm deadline. I had to write sixteen thousand words by April 30 so I did. I have to write this post by six a.m. Monday morning so I do. However, I do think my books flowed better by writing so much of it at once. However, if I write best to a deadline I need deadlines. They are not so easy to find.

Nanowrimo is an external deadline. That works great for me. My blog schedule is an internal deadline but it is also external because I put it out on the internet and I will know if it is not there. Truly internal deadlines are the ones I ignore very well. Like telling myself I’ll write 1,000 each day of my vacation. No one but me cares if I meet that deadline and I apparently didn’t care very much.

So what would be ideal is to have someone tell me they want to see my writing on day X. Obviously an agent or editor would be best but I don’t have any of those, or not ones that give me immovable deadlines. Seth Godin calls this person a procrastinatrix. I’d love one of those. But it is a responsibility. If that person doesn’t care whether I meet my deadlines then I probably won’t.

I wish I was one of those self-motivating people, and I am a little. I start lots of projects but it takes much longer than it needs to the finish those projects. Well, I am now on the hunt for a hard deadline. If nothing else I’ll be writing book 3 in my series at Camp Nanowrimo in July.

 “Deadlines just aren’t real to me until I’m staring one in the face.” Rick Riordan