Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Writing Challenges

It is now week three of Nano, and where am I? I’m at well over 58k though I’ve had some bumps on the way, I’ve also had one dozy of day where I managed over 6k words, that’s over 25 pages, in a single day. Okay, that’s fast, and a dang lot of typing, but you should have seen the day before, my third worst effort to that point. I know the problem the other two days was I was rather busy and wasn’t able to get more done, but the day before my banner day, I just couldn’t concentrate on the story I started, the story I had.

Finally, I decided to, without starting a new file, or deleting what I had so far, write what I could of the story bothering me, then return to the story I had started. To date I’ve written over 31k on the new story and only around 27k on the one I’d planned to write this month! And at this rate, I may never finish the original story. But then I can’t predict the future, and I still like the other story, just at the moment, this one is compelling me forward to the end.

And I don’t know about anybody else, but that sometimes happens to me, just usually when the story I’m writing gets bogged down some way, and I’m not finding a solution to fix it, that just wasn’t the case this time, but oh well, eventually I’ll have two new stories! It just takes time, which is something I don’t have, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and boy am I not ready for it! Sort of usual for me to, but I’m cutting this short so I can get some work done.

So, happy Thanksgiving everyone! J

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Tortoise and The Little Engine That Could

Last month I challenged Bonnie to see which one of us could finish our story first. Obviously hers was shorter and she hadn’t been working it as long as I had been mine, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Then as the month was drawing to a close, she discovered she had a glaring error in hers which needed corrected before she could move on so she conceded. I also realized I wouldn’t make the goal of finishing by the end of the month so I tried to keep her in it.
In every post since she conceded, when she mentioned it, she said I won merely because she faced an obstacle and wasn’t going to finish before the end of last month. I pointed out I wouldn’t finish in October either. Between family obligations and figuring out I needed a couple of scenes I hadn’t considered, and one event I had planned took seven chapters to cover it, so it took more than I’d thought I’d need when I made the challenge.
Then her last post she wrote about the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race. And I thought, the tortoise wasn’t only slow and steady, he DID NOT GIVE UP. No matter how many time he trudged past the dawdling hare, or it zoomed past him afterwards, the tortoise kept going.
Be the tortoise, and the little engine that could.
I started my opus, the story I was working on for this challenge, in November of 2008. It was a dream I had and I worked like a mad woman that month trying to get it all on paper before I forgot any of it. By the end of the month I had somewhere between 65 and 70K words, so if I’d entered the NANO that year, I would have won. It was in a nut shell a sci-fi romance with two POV characters, though I could easily see the other stories in it.
Shortly after that I started writing another “companion” story, then another. As I started the third one I realized they all ran concurrently and needed to be told in the same story, especially since they ended up in the same place and time. Thus my opus was born, with a full seven POV’s.
Now, this month, a full seven years after I started, I finally reached ‘The End’. Or at least got back to where the first story ended. My opus now has 150 chapters, 1644 pages, and over 405,000 words and still covers the same time span.
I didn’t give up. I kept plodding along. I kept trying. Several times I had to backtrack and redo scenes because they just weren’t working, or I got a detail wrong, or I didn’t put in something that was needed. I can’t tell you how many times over the course of the last seven years I had to go back to the beginning and change details of my story because I decided something wasn’t going to work the way I had it.
But I didn’t give up. And I’m not giving up. Now I’m ready for the fun and torture of editing.
But before I start that, I’m going to make sure my fantasy is finished. The one I started back in high school, about 33 years ago, as a short story.
The race goes to the tortoise and the little engine that could.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Tortoise And The Hare

I am now well into the second week of National Novel Writer’s Month, more commonly known as NaNo, which is a challenge to write 50,000 new words of a novel during November.

This will be my thirteenth year of doing this, and if you think the outcome is in question, I can tell you, not where I’m concerned. In all the years I’ve done this, there is only once when I didn’t get my word count verified as a win, and that year I had technical issues with my phone line which didn’t get solved until after the first of December. Back then, I had a dial-up, so that was a hindrance.

At any rate, I always manage to finish this challenge.

How I manage is another issue. And I will admit I do have tons of time to write, since I don’t work, but let’s face it, I need it. A good illustration of why I need so much spare time is what happened this Saturday at a local write-in.

For starters, write-ins are when local people who all signed up for the NaNo get together at some designated time and place and write. I am aware that there are not “in real world” meetings and groups for NaNo everywhere, but they do exist, and my local group is pretty cool.

At any rate, I did attend a write-in on Saturday, and other than writing, and a bit of chatting, one thing we do at these events is have what is termed either word wars or word sprints. These are timed events, usually for anything from five minutes to as much as a half hour, but in our group, we usually go for fifteen minutes.
The goal of these word wars is to type as many words as you can during that time. Obviously, the person with the highest number wins.

Saturday we did this twice, and just before we started the second one, I predicted I’d lose again. The fact is I usually lose these things, and Saturday was no exception. Everyone else managed to get at least twice as many words as I did, but you see, of all the people in attendance Saturday, I was the one with the highest overall word count.

In the end of the second sprint, one person in our group got nearly nine hundred words, an impressive total for just fifteen minutes, while I didn’t even manage four hundred. And yet, each year this lady usually ends up typing like a mad woman on the last day of month, frantically trying to finish before the time is up, and generally making it at the last minute, last year she didn’t even manage that much.

Now, I admit she has a lot of other things she’s doing during the month. She’s one busy woman. She honestly would never finish this challenge in time if she couldn’t type at the speed she does.
I, on the other hand, don’t have anywhere near as much on my calendar, and I can manage to write nearly every day for several hours straight, each time. And I finish the challenge long before the month is out. Last year I actually managed just over 63k words total for the month and at the rate I’m going I may well do the same this year.

After all, today is only the 11th of the month, and in order to make 50k words by the last day of month, you will need to have written 18,333 words by the end of today. I made that last Saturday, and then some. At this moment, I’m set to exceed 25k today, and that is the number you’d need to reach by this coming Sunday.

In other words, I’m the Tortoise, and my friend is the Hare. Slow and steady wins the race. Aesop knew what he was talking about.

Happy writing everyone. J

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Calendars and Challenges

At the beginning of each month, besides working on paying all the bills, I update my personal calendar and make sure the family calendar is up to date. This is generally a daunting task because two of my daughters and my husband usually have multiple doctor’s appointments each and it’s a rare week that doesn’t have something scheduled.
This month I opened my calendar and decided that my girls hadn’t told me their appointments yet, and my husband’s needed to be added too. For the whole month there was only my doctor’s appointment. 
I asked.
One daughter gave me the mere two she had while the other sent the message she miraculously didn’t have any, while I added my husband’s—one.
I looked at the completed calendar in sheer astonishment at all the blank spaces.
I can’t remember the last time my calendar was that empty at the beginning of the month.
Then of course of I dove into my week, including adding a doctor’s appointment for a sick kid. Then I’ve had to fit in trips to the vet for several pets between runs to the store for necessary things like milk and bread, which I can’t seem to keep enough of in the house. Not really surprising since I have two teenaged boys.
In between all that I’ve had to figure out where all our money has to go this month and I still have to get those bills paid, plus I’m still hard at work trying to finish my opus, and I’ve finally managed to get to the day of the momentous final event, but like Bonnie, I’ve hit a snag in reaching ‘the end’. (Neither one of us has won this challenge yet.)
As I was scrolling back, just a few pages, to check something I’d typed, I found an anomaly, a line of code that I’ve run into before.
How it gets into my documents, I have no idea. I have found there is only one way to get it out, copy and paste everything into a new document without any formatting.
Easy enough to do. And if your only formatting is line spacing and indents for paragraphs, it’s a matter of selecting all and reformatting it, and you’re done. Of course if you have chapter heading, like I do, you’d then have to do a find for the word chapter and reposition where the heading is, i.e. center it.
For most documents that’s be about all you’d need.
But I have scene breaks that would need centered. So do a find for all of those. Also not so hard.
Okay. Next step.
I have subheading that need to be flush right and italicized. Fortunately they all start the same. So do another find and change all of those.
Now it’s back to the way I had it, right?
Not quite.
Because I also had some italicized text within the body of the story, and, you guessed it, it’s all different. Now I have to do a careful hunt in the old document, with the anomaly in it, for everything that’s italicized and make sure I italicize it in the new document.  
Considering I was working on chapter 144 when this happened, and my document is well over 1700 pages, it’s a massive undertaking.
And as you can see, I’m now late making my post this morning. Plus I’m running behind on getting ready for the busy day I have.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.