Shelley Widhalm

Archive for November, 2015|Monthly archive page

Almost there with NaNoWriMo!

In National Novel Writing Month, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Discipline on November 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

Writing every day Monday to Sunday, especially after writing at work five days a week, was a bit challenging.

I felt worn out after work, especially with it being dark, but I pushed on for National Novel Writing Month. I found it hard to fit in writing every day between work, meals and going to the gym, plus anything social that I did. But I’d set a goal to write 50,000 words in November and was determined to stick with it.

I had staying power, all for the sake of virtual credit.

I came into the final full week of NaNoWriMo having written 31,845 words and behind by 3,162 words. I should have been at 35,007 words to be perfectly on track with writing 1,667 words a day.

The week was hard, and it was a challenge to catch up. Plus, I felt the lull, as if in some writing sessions, I had to strain to get the words. But I wrote anyway, letting the characters take over when they were willing. When they were harder to access, I kept writing and hoping my story would come out, however it wanted to.

Here’s my progress for the week:

Day 22: (Sunday): I wrote 1,717 in an hour-and-a-half, just a little more than the daily goal.

Day 23 (Monday): I wrote 1,872 words in an hour.

Day 24 (Tuesday): I wrote 2,410 words in an hour-and-a-half and started catching up, slowly but surely. I just knew I couldn’t skip a day if I was going to do this.

Day 25 (Wednesday): I didn’t write. I worked, went to the gym, met a friend and got home at 8:30 p.m., too tired to open up my laptop.

Day 26 (Thursday): I wrote 1,852 words in an hour, once again more behind.

Day 27 (Friday): I wrote 2,911 words in two hours.

Day 28 (Saturday): I wrote 3,332 words in two hours, feeling the pressure to catch up with only two more days.

So, now I’m at 45,939 words, short by 737 words of my goal of 46,676 words.

It was tough going, and frankly, I’ll be glad when this month is over, but I’m also glad I’m doing it. I’m almost there. Two more days!

Third week of NaNoWriMo (and feeling behind!)

In NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Uncategorized, Writing Processes on November 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

I found the third week of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, to be a struggle after two weeks of steady, easy writing.

I questioned where I was going with my novel, and I wondered if I was repeating myself, or just writing to be writing and getting in words toward a word count.

Because I have a full-time job, I’m used to writing one to three times a week, not every day. By taking on the 50,000-word goal for the month of November, I felt like I had to be on the ball with my next scene and think of ideas every day, because the current project is a pantser with the ending sort of planned.

As a result, it seemed like some of my scenes were forced, at least this week, but once I started writing, the characters and the story took over, so I just let it go as it wanted. One of my characters became a real snot, and I started disliking her, even feeling uncomfortable hanging out with her and seeing how she treated her sister, the main character.

Anyway, here is my progress for the week:

Day 15 (Sunday): I wrote 2,754 words in two hours, struggling at first and feeling stuck, but then once I got into it, I kept writing. I reached 24,725 words, short 275 words for the 25,000 goal at the halfway point. I didn’t have the energy to write more; plus, I had an errand to do.

Day 16 (Monday): I wrote 2,130 words in two hours, and again it was slow-going at first, but it picked up after a half-hour or so. I reached 26,855 words, getting ahead for the first time. The goal was to be at 26,672 words, meaning I pulled ahead by 183 words. At least it was something.

Day 17 (Tuesday): I returned to work and had so much going on after work, including my book club meeting, I didn’t have time to write. The result: I’m behind again.

Day 18 (Wednesday): Again, I didn’t work on my novel, because I mentored a student, and we did a short story writing exercise. At least I wrote something, but not for my novel.

Day 19 (Thursday): I finally had a chance to write and wrote 1,861 words in one-and-a-half hours. I reached 28,716 words, short by 2,957 words but getting back on track.

Day 20 (Friday): I wrote 2,056 words in nearly one-and-a-half hours.

Day 21 (Saturday): I wrote 1,073 words in 45 minutes, but then a poetry reading I wanted to attend got started at the same coffee shop where I like to do my writing. I reached 31,845 words, short by 3,162 words.

Up to this point for NaNoWriMo, I’ve remained behind, except one day, and then I got busy and got behind again. The thing is, once I set a goal, I try everything I can to make sure I follow through. I’ll keep plugging away toward that 50,000-word carrot stick.

Chugging along with NaNoWriMo (and finding inspiration!)

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing Discipline, Writing Motivation on November 14, 2015 at 9:00 pm

During the second full week of NaNoWriMo, I had taken a week of vacation, meaning I could dedicate at least two hours a day to writing (or that was the idea). I planned one of my weeks of vacation to align with the month, just so I could have a week of living the writer’s life without having to go to a day job.

Though I wasn’t sure if I was going to take part in National Novel Writing Month, I knew I wanted to do some work on my literary novel, “The Heat of Trouble.” I decided to go for it and do NaNoWriMo after getting encouragement from some of my writer friends.

I found during the first week of NaNoWriMo I liked how it gave me a goal to keep me on track, even if I fell behind in word count toward the goal to write 50,000 words in 30 days, or 1,667 words a day. I wrote 8,240 words up to that point, but to be on track, I needed to have written 11,669 words, so I was short 3,429 words as of Sunday.

Here’s what I wrote during week two to try to catch up (and maybe even get ahead):

Day 8 (Sunday): I wrote 2,608 words, bringing the total to 10,848 words. (To be on track, I needed to be at 13,336 words). My word count was a personal record, besting out the top of 2,182 words from last week.

Day 9 (Monday): I wrote nothing, like 0 or zilch. I had plans all day and not a moment for writing.

Day 10 (Tuesday): I wrote 2,245 words in one-and-a-half hours, bringing my total to 13,093 words.

Day 11 (Wednesday): I wrote 631 words in an hour in the early afternoon and another 2,114 words in one-and-a-half hours in the evening. My total reached 15,838 words, still short of the on-track word count of 18,337 words.

Day 12 (Thursday): I wrote 3,352 words in two-and-a-half hours. My total reached 19,190 words, short 814 words for the goal of 20,004 words. I threw my arms in the air, at least mentally, exclaiming, “I’m almost there!” and “I beat my best!”

Day 13 (Friday): I didn’t write a thing, instead spending the entire day with my mother, which was totally fun. When I got home, late, I felt like I should write something, so I wrote my Christmas letter.

Day 14 (Saturday): I wrote 1,759 words in one-and-half hours in the morning and another 1,022 words in the afternoon.

By the end of the day Saturday, I needed to be at 23,338 words to be on track. I was at 21,971 words, short 1,367 words, so not too bad, though I would have actually liked to have pulled ahead.

As I worked all week, I found NaNoWriMo gave me something to work toward, and a community as a source of motivation to put in the daily hours toward the same goal. I thought about the writing as work, or fun-work, because in my day job, I write daily, so I figured I could write almost every day for NaNoWriMo and set aside the project for a couple of weeks, as recommended, edit it and start the sequel to my young adult novel about a 16-year-old girl who works in a coffee shop to save her and her sister.

In other words, I found the inspiration and motivation to continue with a project I’d set aside to work on something else. With that extra push, I expect by the end of NaNoWriMo, I’ll be done with my first draft or close to it.

Getting behind on NaNoWriMo (but still feeling good about it!)

In NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, Shelley Widhalm on November 8, 2015 at 11:00 am

I actually hadn’t planned to do NaNoWriMo in 2015, but enough friends asked me if I was doing it I felt like I should at least try.

In 2013, I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time, writing 51,004 words during the month of November, but in 2014, I didn’t have an idea for a project, so I decided to skip—plus achieving the writing of 50,000 words during National Novel Writing Month is a big commitment, requiring lots of time and energy.

This time around, on Nov. 1 during the first day of the month-long endeavor, I had other plans that didn’t involve writing—excuses, excuses—but on Nov. 2, I procrastinated but by 5:30 p.m., I was ready to go and wrote 2,182 words in one-and-a-half hours, making up for a few words from the day before (the idea is to write 1,667 words a day). It felt good to write, especially since I hadn’t touched my novel since mid-October while working on editing another novel.

On Nov. 3, I planned to put in another day of writing, but I worked nine hours and got off at 6 p.m. when it was dark. I was so tired all I could think about was going to the gym and to bed. Then on Nov. 4, I returned to writing, feeling way behind. By that day, I should have been at 5,001 words and by the end of the day at 6,668 words.

Instead, I was at 2,043 words by the time I finished my one-hour, 15-minute writing session, bringing my total to 4,225 words, short by 2,443 words. But I knew I’d catch up soon.

By day 5, the on-track count would have been 8,335 words. I wrote 1,904 words in one-and-a-half hours, bringing my total to 6,129 words. On day 6, I wrote 1,058 words, and on day 7, 1,053 words, almost the same as the day before.

My writing for the first week totaled 8,240 words. To be on track at the same daily word rate, the number of words would be 11,669 words, so I’m short 3,429 words (though it’s the work and sense of accomplishment that really counts).

With each day, I found the writing becoming easier and easier. Maybe because I allow myself to make up whatever comes along, not worried about the outcome.

Writing daily and fast turns off the editor, causing me to get lost in the story, almost as if my fingers aren’t typing. By writing daily, I become immersed in the story, not having to go back and review what I wrote the day before or in earlier chapters.

The flow becomes more immediate by taking on consistency from the continual input, instead of from a scattered, occasional approach. I’m more cognizant of my story and the story details, so I don’t mix up names and places, even though I do write them in a separate notebook. And I take on a more consistent tone, pace and voice.

Though it’s a lot of work, NaNoWriMo helps the writer get into the story quickly from the focus on word count, instead of thinking of excuses or getting that separation of time and space from a work drawn out over months or years.

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo (with some hesitation)

In NaNoWriMo, Shelley Widhalm on November 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

Welcome National Novel Writing Month, when first-time and seasoned writers write 50,000 words in 30 days, which equals to about 1,667 words a day.

I debated whether or not to do NaNoWriMo again this year and hesitated doing so, because I’m in the middle of a project and have to get surgery on my hands in December. But then I decided to do what I can—50,000 words or half that, as long as I keep plugging away at my literary, character-driven novel, “The Heat of Trouble.” It’s about a waitress who can’t play her music because of underlying trauma.

As of mid-October, the last time I worked on my novel, I was at 34,302 words (plus another 820 words of planning, though this is a pantser novel despite my tendency to plot). I worked steadily on the project since I began in June, putting in one to three writing sessions a week, but in October, I began editing my young adult novel, “In the Grace of Beautiful Stars,” for about the 12th edit, though I’ve lost count.

I became focused on the editing and just wanted to finish, so I put my writing on hold. I completed the nearly month-long project on Oct. 28, three days shy of two years when I started writing the young adult novel about a 15-year-old girl who relies on money finding to solve her family crisis. I wrote the novel, which I originally called “The Money Finder” and later realized the title didn’t quite fit, during NaNoWriMo 2013, plus another two weeks in December, finishing the first draft in six weeks. I worked on editing over the next 22 months.

In 2014, I decided not to do NaNoWriMo, berating myself a little for not participating, but I didn’t have an idea for a new project, though I do plan to write a sequel to my YA novel and redo my memoir about growing up shy and awkward. Instead, I did more editing.

By 2015, I felt like something was missing—that was writing—and so I returned to my love of writing (editing is fun for the first couple of drafts, but after that, it feels like more work and less play). Being in the middle of a writing project, I can’t start a new one (with a full-time job, I need to focus the few free hours I have each week on one project, or I feel distracted, scattered and unfocused). Hence, my goal is to reach 84,302 words by Nov. 30. (Or at least 59,302 words.)

Why? Because the novel will be done, or close to it.

And then it will be back to editing. And more editing.