Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Unsolicited Advice--Part Three: In Which I Further Abuse My List-Making Rights

Fun Fact of the Day:  Check out Black Ivory and see what horrors are enacted on the face of this earth. I may be a coffee enthusiast, but even I wouldn’t go that far. To each his own, I guess.

Folks, the blessed month of November is almost here, and if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know what has me so excited. NaNoWriMo!!! *cue the excited happy dance that leaves people questioning my sanity.* Relax, no need to worry—we already know I’m crazy.
During the lovely month of pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin muffins, and even more pumpkin (October for short), I have drawn anchor and set sail across the perilous ocean of NaNo prep. For the sake of consistency, I will once more arrange my thoughts in a list.

1)      Since I harbor some ambitious goals, I need to warm up my writing muscles. I recently finished editing my last work, which means I haven’t drafted anything in a while. Jumping into NaNoWriMo cold turkey might not be the brightest plan. So I’m gathering all the ideas that sprang into my head as I wrote The Interesting Book, and I’m recording them in short story form. Maybe then they’ll leave me in peace.

My only problem here is that I am notoriously bad at keeping short stories short. Once upon a time, I started a brief piece that transformed into a trilogy and ate me alive. Which is why I must practice this skill. Granted, an accidental novel isn’t a weakness—it simply means that you have more meat to work with than you thought.

2)      Since I plan to generate an obscene amount of fiction in just thirty days, I should make sure I have all my ducklings in a row. Now, I’m not the planning type. I can outline until I’m blue in the face, but I invariably wander off on tangents. However, it will help if I have a theme in mind, as well as characters, some idea of the world, and definitely the conflict. This will be easier for me, because I’m going all NaNoRebel and finishing a draft I’ve already begun.

But even if I were to start NaNoing with no conflict in mind, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I’m a panster, so I’ll think of something. Probably. But I run the risk of losing traction and time if I’m not even sure about the inciting incident. Plus, if I have at least a vague notion of where I’m headed, then I won’t have to backtrack so much when I’m editing later on.

3)      Since I will be relying heavily on caffeine during November, I am…cue drumroll…quitting coffee. Say what? I know—you are free to admit me to the nearest mental hospital at your convenience. But remember how I talked about moods and taking care of myself? Well, I’m not quitting coffee for good. But after a while, those customary two-plus cups a day become commonplace—no longer quite so satisfying. And half the effect of coffee is its surprising newness—at least for me.

So I’m quitting for the rest of October, because I want November to be a clean slate. And I want my handy brewable muse to be fresh and exciting, (but not like Black Ivory.) I need to take care of myself, and part of that is training my body to avoid addictions and hang-ups. Frankly, I want to drink coffee because I love it, not because I need it. Since I stopped four days ago, it’s been difficult. But I never want to slip into a rut where life is boring and nothing sparks of energy. That said, you are free to judge my sidewalk philosophy at your leisure.

Like working out, writing is hard and demanding, and though I don’t always enjoy each moment, the exertion is always worth it—no matter the outcome. But I also need to avoid overstressing myself and pulling a muscle. If I’m not careful, I could cause serious damage. November is a crunched month, whether you aim for 50K or more (or less). Which is why I made a list of ways to remind myself that sanity and health are also important.
(Oooh, another list!)

1)      Exercise—every day. I don’t have to run 7.3 miles or do 56.8 jumping jacks or 391.4 sit-ups. But extricating myself from my recliner every now and then is a good idea. If you find you’re sitting and staring blankly at the computer, sure that some virus has turned your brain into a piece of slimy, wet duct tape, you might as well take a break and get your blood flowing. I’ll read or listen to music while walking, or I’ll wander outside in the fresh air. If I don’t stay active, I get depressed, and ideas don’t come, and words don’t flow, and writing is pointless. Don’t be a slave driver. Remember why you loved writing in the first place, and work to hold on to the warm fuzzy feelings.

2)      Take breaks. I realize this sounds redundant. It isn’t really. Sometimes, I’ll be writing, and I’ll think, Hmm, fudge would be delicious right about now. Granted, it may be my inner procrastinator taking a dive for the steering wheel. But sometimes I get my best inspiration over a pot of fudge that is destined to be either too mushy or two hard or too granular, but never too perfect for words. (I also like cookies—but who doesn’t?) Go to the sea shore, smell the salt, and imagine you have wings like the seagulls. Or take a drive. Paint a picture—maybe one of your characters. (I drew a storyboard for TIB.) Live.

3)      Read. I know that seems irrelevant, just a bit of no-brainer advice inserted like steroids to bulk up this list. Writers read—it’s why they write. But I personally forget, in my excitement over my own words, to glance over another’s. Partially, it’s because my inner editor does not discriminate and will tear apart anyone’s work, not just my own. But how can I be expected to produce anything exciting if I’m not feeding my mind? (Be careful, though, that you don’t accidentally plagiarize.)

4)      Watch movies. Maybe I’m the worst writer ever to suggest this. Others will tell you not to. But here’s the thing. If you’re working hard for however many hours a day, pounding on your keyboard and drinking far too much caffeine for your own good, reading a book can be miserable. It takes too much thinking when all you want to do is veg. Movies give you a chance to see, in a couple hours, an entire story arc with all the themes, moods, plots, and subplots. I call it intravenous inspiration because it’s so effortless. And I can’t say enough about cramming your head with brain fodder to keep the writer’s block at bay.

Well…that concludes my outpouring of unsolicited advice. Thank you for bearing with me. I wish you a very happy and productive NaNo prep.

As an aside, I feel I need to apologize for the formatting errors that keep popping up. Rest assured, I have done my best to correct them and will continue to do so. Please bear with me, though, if glitches persist. After all, I am only human, and the internet is indomitable. *smirk*

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