Saturday, October 22, 2016

NANOWRIMO 2016

Shocking news: I’m going to attempt 50K in NaNo this year. Like, really give it the ol’ “try my best to meet that word count even if it kills me” attempt.

I’ve participated for years. Though I never really “try” since (1) I’m not much of a fast drafter and (2) I’m usually editing something in November. So my “participation” usually means showing up at the NaNo events and working in a group setting. THAT’S the part of NaNo I adore, the community.

But this year the stars aligned and I have to write a draft STAT so that I allow myself time to edit and expand it before I need to turn it in. So the faster I get that first draft written and marinating in my head, the better.

I average about 20K a month, every month. That number is steady even when I have other editing going on, and life stuff, etc. You would think the jump between 20K and 50K isn’t much. But let me tell you: it so is. I don’t know if I can do it.

Especially since I have a huge chunk of time in November when I’m not going to be able to participate. I have exactly 20 free days next month. This means I need to write 2500 per day to meet 50K. OMG. 

HONESTY: That number (2500 per day), I don’t know if it’s possible for a single day, let alone 20 times.


To hit my average (20K a month target) I write 1K M-F and then catch up on the weekends if I don’t meet that goal. Yeah. It’s a pathetic number, I agree. Especially since writing is my full time job. You’d think if I stayed home during the day with 6 hours of dedicated writing time, I’d end up with more than 1K a day. Not so much.

The reality is that I DO need to increase my production of words overall. Because my numbers are pathetic and I need to work out a new strategy going forward. Or at least prove to myself that writing more in a day is completely possible. I’m hoping that NaNo will help me do that—GET OUT OF MY HEAD and work.

I won’t write endless crap, though, just to make the word count. Typical NaNo advice is: don’t erase anything, just keep writing words even if the words don’t mean anything. Or add a sex scene. Or blow something up!

So, NO. That’s not going to happen. I’ve got to have a working draft by the end of this. The whole point of fast drafting is for me to end up with something useable so that I have MORE time to edit and craft it into something amazing before my deadline.


Okay so now we come to the second part of this post where I give some advice. I’m kind of a NaNo junky which means that I LOVE to read/watch everyone’s thoughts on it.

Here’s my two cents if you want it.

How to write a useable first draft:

  • No two novels will be written the same even by the same author. I don’t know why this is. But whatever. Don’t try to follow advice that’s not working for you. Any advice should enhance your own flow as a writer, not drive you insane.

  • Remember that first drafts are junk. And by that I mean: the editing is really where the novel is. So if you don’t like the section you’re writing—SKIP IT. If it’s boring, you’re probably going to cut it anyway. Focus on the story. If you get ideas for world building, write that down. Ideas for characters, write that down. But really: story, story, story. All the other crap… uh, I mean enhancing… can come later.

  • You don’t need to write linearly. If you want to, great. But as far as I’m concerned: Screw that, man. I can’t tell you how often I work backward. I mean, how are you supposed to know how to plan stuff beforehand without writing the end result? Added to this point: get Scrivener. If you’re working in Word, then you are forced to write linear. That’s how the program is set up. With Scrivener you can write all over the place and rearrange to suit your needs.

  • You also don’t need to write full scenes. That’s another thing that Scrivener is good for: collecting pieces of a scene within a designated chapter. Write a section of dialog. Or a section of atmosphere. Whatever you feel needs to be in that particular scene—BUT DON’T CONNECT IT. You can put it together later. The reasons for not connecting them now is that you can move the pieces into other scenes if you find that necessary at a later point (as I often do), AND you won’t end up with one long piece of text that has pages of world building followed by pages of dialog. That crap all needs to be interspersed. If it starts out broken apart when you edit, it’s THAT MUCH EASIER. Especially if you’ve taken the time to label your sections.

  • Know where you’re going. I’m a plotter, BUT even if you’re a pantser, it’s MUCH easier if you have a goal on the horizon. If you don’t, well… the draft is not so usable, you know? Because you’re going to have a LOT of wandering to cut and reshape.

  • Keep notes within your mess of a draft. This is especially helpful when you’re writing out of order because suddenly you’ll have an epiphany which means that several things have to happen within the draft leading up to that point. Note each thing in the section that it should happen so you remember it when you get there. I do this by creating a doc (obviously each chapter for me would be a folder) labeled NOTES and then I change the icon to a yellow notepad. Then when I get to that scene I can split the screen (as you can do in Scrivener) with the notes on the right and work on the left.

  • If you feel like you’re on the wrong track, STOP FOR A DAY AND THINK THROUGH YOUR PLOT. That’s your gut telling you that you’re veering off-course. A big part of writing is instinct. Hone that. You will thank me later.

And that concludes my practical advice on drafting.

I do want to throw in that you don’t have to be afraid to switch up your manuscript during drafting, or after drafting. Part of the reason that I adore Scrivener is the ability to move everything around and reorganize. Make use of the notecard feature. It works. Sometimes a writer has to step back and visually see the draft in plotted pieces—rather than words—in order to recognize where the beats should/should not be.

Happy NaNoing.

Ohhhhh, and friend me (HLHansen)!!!!



***

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

THE STATIC GRAY

I’ve been avoiding social media for the most part. One, because it feels like insanity out there. ESPECIALLY on Twitter. Every day there seems to be a new explosion. But here too because The Words, they don’t want to come. It’s a dry, DRY well of nothing.

The second reason I’ve been on a social media hiatus is because I’ve been busy. I’ve got so much to do, yo.

I’m working on reading through my proof copy for THE BREAKING LIGHT. It’s the last time it will be in my hands so I feel like I need to check every word one more time.

I’m also drafting Book Two. Which I sold and the announcement went live yesterday. I can now tell you the title: THE STATIC GRAY. 



Yay! It’s going to be awesome. I’m ecstatic that I get to continue on with this story. It’s incredibly fun to write.

Because I was asked: I don’t keep a writing page on Facebook. I don’t think they’re useful. I’d have to keep up with it for starters (and you all know how good I am with that! SNICKER). But also with the algorithm now, any page I’ve “liked” on FB I rarely see anyway. It’s annoying! I like them because I want to see them. 

Instead I decided to open my Facebook page to followers. I post a combo of “open” and “private” posts, so you will see stuff. Usually book stuff which is what I would have put on a writing page anyway. I won’t however accept friendship unless I know you. I post too much stuff with my kids and as they’ve asked for their lives to be more private, I’ve got to respect that. 


~

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Patronus Charms and Other Sparkly Things

The biggest problem with this blog is that I’m not sure what it wants to BE.

Writing here used to be easy. It was a catalog of my family’s adventures as we moved around the world. It was mostly for my family so that I could keep in touch and share our stories. The majority of those posts have been taken off-line at this point. 

My kids were small then, and didn’t have opinions about what I posted about them online. Now they’re savvy and know how to navigate their way to my blog and do NOT want me posting about them. They don’t care so much that I post cell phone pictures on Instagram as long as my account is locked (they’re words, not mine). They’re a little more hesitant when I share stories on Facebook.

Which limits the stories I can tell here as well as the pictures I can post. 

I also don’t want this blog to become a “Hey, I’m an author website, so I’ll only talk about my books!” site. That would take away the joy of writing here.



July is already busy five days in. I’ve joined Camp NaNo and I’m in a cabin with other local writers. That’s been fun. I’ve made no secret that the NaNo format doesn’t work for me. I never “win.” And admittedly, I don’t ever try. 

Writing a bunch of words in a document so that I have to sort through them later is NOT the way I write. I’m a big proponent of write the way that makes you successful, and that’s not the NaNo way for me.

But.

I LOVE the community, especially here in Vegas. I’ve landed in a place where people actively write and they have a continuous presence both online and in person throughout the year. I love it.

So I’ll be spending July writing, which I’d be doing anyway (haha). But I also have an edit that I have to do, so I may not get too many words on the page. If I can make 30K, I’ll be thrilled.



Here’s a 4th of July picture. We’re practicing our patronus charms. Mine is a honey badger.




Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Breaking Light

I meant to write this post last week. I really, really did. But then I got busy and, you know… LIFE.

Anyway, I was on the phone with my mom grumbling under my breath about Blogger. Seriously, what’s up with it? It’s being all funky. It won’t let me type in the text box. I had to write this on a separate document and copy it in.


Mom: What are you doing, writing a blog post?

Me: Yes.

Mom: Don't make me faint.


She thinks she’s a comedian!

Which leads me to another conversation I had with her (and the entire point of this post):

A while back I had a shiny new idea for a book.

Me: I was thinking, it would be cool to write a Romeo and Juliet story.

Her: Sounds good.

Me: But gender switch them.

Her: What?

Me: Yeah, and make it Science Fiction. And they can live in the dark! How cool would that be?

Her: What are you even talking about?

Me: Trust me, you’re going to love it.


And so I wrote it. And it sold. And I’m freaking out.







Now it’s summer and we’re doing summer things. Which includes Bekah deciding that she’s going to write a book too since, you know, “It looks like an easy enough way to make money.”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Break Stay-cation

There was a moment yesterday when I realized that I needed to cull the chaos of my life and bring it down a notch before I had a mental break. One of those things involved a Spring Break trip to Big Bear: a week without internet or television, two dogs in limited space, people who would be bored out of their skulls, and me with lots and lots of work to do.

I made an executive decision to cancel it. I told the kids that we’d have a stay-cation instead where they would have limited rules (obey, don’t fight, and no eating in the bedrooms — Bekah hates the not eating in the rooms rule is still being enforced) but other than that, they can pretty much do what they want. I won’t monitor what they’re eating (as a matter of fact, there are items currently in the house that I do not normally purchase: cookies, chips, and other crappy junk), they won’t have a bedtime, they don’t have to get dressed or showered at all if they don’t choose to, and I won’t force them to leave the house unless it’s voted on (majority rules).

We did however tell them that they have to spend family time with us every day (movies, board games, etc) for a minimum of 2 hours. And that the world goes back to normal on Thursday when Steven goes back to work so that their sleep schedules can get back on track. Plus they’ll probably stink by then and I’ll be going nuts about it.

Bekah: So that means that if I’m on my iPad at 3am, I won’t be grounded?

Steven: As long as you don’t wake me up, we won’t have a problem.

Bekah: And I can eat cookies and ice cream all day?

Me: There is real food to make for lunches like sandwiches or ramen, and we do have dinners planned, but it’s mostly easy stuff like hot dogs and hamburgers. We also bought some steaks. 

Steven: Grilled stuff.

Bekah: This is going to be the best vacation ever! Better than Hawaii!


Seriously? Staying home and not getting dressed for a week, eating sugar 24/7, and never sleeping is a better vacation than Hawaii?! Who knew this would make my kids so happy? I could have saved THOUSANDS of dollars on vacations over the years! What the heck?

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Spark Notebook

The Spark Notebook has changed my life. I love it. It’s a planner-like notebook with weekly self-reflection prompts, calendar, goals (yearly/monthly/weekly), achievement progress, and weekly/daily tracking. I don’t use it for a planner because it’s bound (hardcover, like a book) which makes it impossible for me to utilize it in that capacity (I use the HappyPlanner for actual planning), but you could if that’s what you wanted.

I decided to use the Spark Notebook for my 2016 writing journal. Jotting down all the shiny new ideas I have, noting anything I think about involving characters and plot, big epiphanies I have about structure and content, keeping track of my daily/weekly/monthly writing goals, etc. It’s become a journal where I tuck everything that’s loose in my brain so it has a place to be.

I have kept writing journals for a while and they don’t tend to do me much good because I can’t stand anything unstructured. Especially when it’s ANOTHER blank page to fill. ZZZZ. But in this case it’s easy because I only have to fill in one block. And if I need, I have several per day.

It’s been excellent for planning my month ahead, and then breaking it down to work on small bits of it per week. I’ve found that the weekly self-reflection pages have helped to put me in a more focused mindset to write or edit.

I thought about the other applications I personally could use it for:

A daily journal.
Keeping track of fitness/weight loss goals and progress.
Photography ideas/shoots


I’d share pictures of mine but it’s morphed into a personal glimpse of my thought process. I didn’t realize how much having a structured book could become so much more for me than a blank journal.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Summer Is Almost Over

There’s an insistent part of my brain tells me (daily) that I need to write a blog post. The thing is: I’m behind in everything in my life and blogging comes last.

Except for writing. I’m on track with that.


***
Paris was wonderful. I’d show you pictures except I haven’t edited any of them. I’m lucky they’re on my computer to begin with because shortly after I downloaded them I lost my camera cord.

Which brings me to my next point: I’m out of practice with photography.

I had a friend visit a couple weeks ago and we set out to photograph Freemont Street.

I captured utter drivel. It was depressing. I couldn’t see the shot in order to compose anything. I mean, there were naked people on the street (no joke) and my internal dialog was: this place is booooooring.

My friend encouraged me to, “Shoot through it.”

Because, yeah, that’s what you have to do. Like anything, it’s all about practice. Shooting a bunch of crap before you start to see things.


***
I have been writing. A LOT. There was a point this summer where I became frustrated that my current manuscript is not finished so I set a crazy working pace for myself. Because… OMG. I haven’t been this in love with a book in years.

I was also distraught because I backtracked at about 50K to rewrite it from 3rd to 1st.

That was a GOOD decision, BTW. Yet frustrating because couldn’t I have figured that out to begin with? I would have saved myself months of effort. It’s not like switching tense is simply a matter of changing pronouns. Sooooo, yeah.

I made myself a laborious schedule so that I can finish this manuscript soon-ish. “Soon-ish” currently looking like a November timeframe, and “finished” meaning edited a couple of times.


***
My one-year-old puppy has lost her mind. She ATE A HOLE in my brand new carpet. Not in a normal sized room either. I’m not thrilled, as you can imagine.  I could also point out that she was not in my care at the time. Both dogs behave when they’re with me because I watch them. A concept my children have yet to understand.

And then there was yesterday when that same puppy ran into the plug under my desk and shut off my computer while I was using it. I lost large sections of my novel.

I. ABOUT. DIED.

I spent three hours reconstructing it from saved drafts. I don’t think I lost anything of value. Phew.


***
Three more weeks until school starts. It may be the very first time in history that I’ve ever said this, but: I’m not ready. NOT AT ALL. I can’t stand the horrifying amounts of homework, common core, and absolutely no time for the kids to read for pleasure, or draw, or paint. Kids need to stretch their brains with creativity too – but that’s a whole other ranty blog post. 


Ciao for now, peeps.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Focus

I have been so busy these last few weeks leading into summer break. Which is stressful, and overwhelming, and all those feels. But I’m also a lot more organized (I’m always organized, I’m just hyper-so now) than I’ve been in years, so it works out. All. The. Stuff. has really forced me to focus on what needs to be done at that particular moment.

Here’s the interesting thing: the word I picked as my resolution for 2015 was “focus.” So obviously the universe has been helping me out with that goal. LOL! Strange how that works, right?

With that focus, and all the things that I’ve checked off, I feel so much more accomplished. Which was my intent in picking that as my word for the year. 2014 was such a transition period that when it wrapped up I had a difficult time seeing the progress I'd made. I didn’t want it to be that way this year. I wanted to know where my time was being leaked. And boy, did I find it. 

One of the many things consuming my life at the moment is getting ready for vacation with my mom and sisters (sisters includes my sister-in-law, because she’s my sister too). I’m so flipping excited. Not only because it’s a trip to Paris (because, well duh, who wouldn’t be excited?!), but because I get to experience this trip with the girls.

It started out as a joke on Instagram. My dad is always taking a fishing or boar hunting vacation with the husbands and brothers. Us girls? We’re left in the cold. So I posted that it was okay because we were going to take a girls’ vacay to Paris… and well, it’s happening.

It really highlights the power of speaking things into existence. Not that you can make everything happen that you want in life, but until you know what you want, how can you make it a reality?

Anyway.

I’m a little introspective today thinking over the last two and a half years since my mom’s diagnosis. And the fact that I get to experience this with her now. Her numbers are really good. Stable. So that is amazing. But still, I can’t squander the time I’m given.

It’s so important to me to make memories with the ones I love. Both on daily scale, but also on a big scale.

My kids are upset and a lot jealous I’m going on vacation without them. Their Grandma and Poppy are coming to help my husband get them around town during their last week of school. And I’m sad to miss that, actually. I hope my husband will remember to take pictures for me. 

Then again, I’ll be in Paris, so I’ll just have to get over it. Ha!


It might be a few weeks till I post again. Until then: je m’en vais, peeps.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Be Interesting

This morning I had a big gut-check moment as I drove my daughter to school. She sat beside me flipping through one of her many art books. She opened to a page and turned it toward me, showing me a drawing while explaining the intricacies of it.

The sketch was a bit odd and surrealistic. Quite well done. Arresting to look at. I wondered to myself where a 10-yr-old would come up with that idea.

Me: That's interesting. 

Bekah (with an eye roll): Of course it's interesting. I'm interesting

It was one of those statements that when I heard it, it hit me like a chest punch.

Her work is interesting because she’s interesting.

I spent the entire drive home dissecting that statement. Do I find myself interesting? Honestly? Yes, I do.

Then what keeps me from living it like I mean it?

For example:

I attended the WPPI conference last month with photographers from all over the world. I really love that conference, and highly recommend it if you’re at all interested in photography. It’s very inspiring.

However.

There’s always the inevitable shmoozy moment where someone asks about your business. I don’t have a business, nor do I care to ever have a photography business. I’m in it for the art. I love taking pictures.

The dismissive reaction when I said as much (really, the succinct version: I don’t have a business) was heartbreaking. In some cases the photographer would literally turn their back on me and move on to someone who was “serious” about their craft. It didn’t matter that I’m as good a photographer as anyone else. That I’ve worked HARD to learn my craft.

I’d thought I hadn’t let it get to me, but obviously it did. Because I haven’t picked up my camera since that weekend.

And then there’s writing.

Oh, writing.

When did it become necessary to have a major publishing deal to be serious about writing? To know your craft? To invest your soul? To be taken seriously?

I know I’m projecting. That it’s probably all in my head that I feel treated this way.

But I can't count the number of times someone has given me that pitying look after they realize I’m still trying to get published. Then they suggest, “You should put your book on Amazon.”

As if that would make me legitimate.

I don’t have anything against self-publishing. I just don’t want to do it. Much like I have nothing against owning a photography business, it’s just not for me.

When did these things become the yardstick by which we measure success?

You know what? My work is interesting because I’m interesting.

Of course the flip side of that is that I have to BE INTERESTING. I have to make art (photography, writing, drawing, painting…) every day. I have to live life and enjoy it. Seek out what only I can see and interpret.


And stop letting other people decide for me what success is or isn’t.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Blank Page

I’ve spent this last week figuring out some plot structure in my current manuscript. Which means that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about “the blank page” or “writer’s block.”

Keep in mind this discussion is different than not being able to write because of anxiety, depression, or life issues. Not having a reserve for creative things when your world seems to be falling apart is a real conundrum. One that I haven’t yet mastered. I think we creative types are more sensitive to our emotions, so it can be a real bummer when it affects our productivity.

Not being able to write because of the emotional place we’re in and not knowing what to write are vastly opposing problems.

Because I’ve spent a lot of time plotting this week, it’s meant that I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube as well. How else would I waste my time? Ha!

I’m fascinated that 100% of the advice (or so close that percentage that whatever differing suggestions are lost) to dealing with a blank page or writer's block is to “just keep writing.”

“Just keep writing” is useful advice if you can’t write because of anxiety, depression, or life issues, but it’s not great advice if you’re stuck within the story. If you keep pushing you’re liable to make more of a mess than what you had to begin with. The choices you make with the plot when you push yourself tend to be the most obvious, and well, it’s just not thoughtful or surprising.

In my mind, a plot is like a spiderweb. In order to create a web, a spider makes a starter thread connecting the end points of the web onto which the rest of it is built. That’s your main plot.

From there, the spider creates a few more dissecting threads. They do not have to have a linear progression, their job is to stabilize the web. These are your other plot points: it’s how your characters interact with one another, what they want, what they’re willing to do to get what they want, etc.

Then the spider begins to circle the web, connecting the stabilizing threads together and constantly circling around back on the web.

This is where most writers (me!) get stuck, in the huge tangled complication of how to weave together all the different plot points.

When I start writing I know at least my starting thread. Most times I know several other threads as well (though, that’s not always the case). But there comes a point in every story, that while I know where it’s heading and every scene that the story needs to get there, I have no idea what to write within those scenes.

That’s where brain mapping comes in.

For me, brain mapping is simply the act of getting all those little bits of information floating in my head into a space where I can see them and make use of them. That’s it. Because I believe that we all intuitively have the answers to the story already. — That’s where the “trust your gut” advice comes from, and the reason why when you edit, you find that you’ve already placed things within the story that work for the new idea.

Any way you can get the information out of your brain and onto the page in a way that works for you, is the key. 


The first thing I do is identify the problem.

I’m talking the obvious thing here: I don’t know what character A is supposed to do. Or characters B and C have a conflict but I don’t know what it’s supposed to be about, etc.

Write that problem down in the center of a blank piece of paper.

The second thing I do is identify the issues I have associated to the main problem. There’s not going to be many of them, three to five maybe.

Write those issues connecting off the main problem.

Then I ask myself questions about those issues. How they relate to each other. How they influence the plot and characters. How they change the situation my character finds him or herself in.

Write these questions down, but also write the answers that come with it. ALL the answers. This is not self-editing time. It doesn’t matter if I go in a wrong direction, I just make a new branch and start with a different thread of answers.

It will look something like this:



Much like that spiderweb, I know I’ve reached the end of my brainstorming when my idea points begin to circle around the paper, connecting to each other. Meaning: the issues start linking to the answers in the threads of other issues.

At this point, I still don’t have the answers to my plot problems. What I have is a map of the ideas floating around in my brain. Now I turn them into a linear list in order to get some writing done.

This is where the magic happens.

Start with blocking out the issues in headers. Not the problem, but the issues that offshoot from the first central question.

Under each issue header, I construct a plan to fix the issue by looking my brain map and putting the ideas into bullet points. Write it out.

ISSUE 1
Character A feels disconnected. Has social issues. Doesn’t have friends.
He also feels ….
Problem he faces…
The catch…
Solve this by…


In this process, I’m not afraid to challenge the ideas on my brain map. Don’t be afraid to say: “That’s interesting, but what if…” It’s there to guide me, not to keep me imprisoned. Sometimes I hang my map on the wall for a few days so I can let the connections between the ideas soak in.

Once I have these ideas worked out, I then decide how I will implement them into the plot.

This is not a drag and drop. For instance, in my example I wrote “Character A feels disconnected,” I now have to decide how to show this within the framework of my novel. Where in the plot (perhaps in several places) can this be highlighted?

And just like that, I’m back in business writing again.

Best part? I won’t have a hot mess of a plot to fix at the end of the draft. I’ll still have to fix stuff, it will just be less painful.






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