Weekly Musing: First 2017 NaNoWriMo Update

Well, we are 11 days into this year’s NaNoWriMo. And so far, this year has been different from previous years which I find fascinating. I’ve been doing NaNoWriMo since 2013, winning each year I participated. In 2013, my first year, I was nervous, terrified. I had one very specific idea I was going to tackle. Within the first few days it became apparent that I wasn’t ready for the original idea, so I switched to writing a novel completely without thought. The following year, I used it to finally complete a rough draft of the novel I’d tried to write the year before. By this time I was far more comfortable both as a writer and with the story. By then I’d learned the novel doesn’t have to be complete in order to win. 2015 saw me once again draft another new idea. 2016 has been the only year I didn’t participate as I was working on a re-write not realizing people used NaNoWriMo for re-writes.

For this year’s NaNoWriMo, I find myself using it for a slightly different purpose than one of its main purposes. During the summer I’d started a novel. Unfortunately, life changes happened to knock me out of my rhythm. Now that things have settled down, what better time and way to hop back on board then November? So, 2017’s effort is being used to re-focus and get back into a schedule.

In order to find my place again in the story, I re-read it without editing or critiquing the chapters done. How I was able to turn off the very aggressive editor part of my brain I’ll never know. I’m surprised I’m even capable of such a thing. To further aid me, I glanced at my incomplete outline to see what my original thoughts were. Oddly enough, I didn’t even attempt to finish it. By now I know it’ll change and I’ll figure out an ending.

Now that I had my bearings, I began. The first day was rough; only approximately 1,460 words written. Below the NaNoWriMo target goal of 1,667 words a day. Reflecting upon my prior experiences, it seems the first day is the most challenging. It’s the added pressure of logging it on the website making someone accountable. If a writer is part of a region, like I am, then everyone in your region can see what you’ve written especially if you post anything on the forums. Though it’s okay however many words people are at, still seeing that tracker is intimidating.

Since I didn’t meet either the NaNoWriMo goal or my personal goal of 2,000 words a day the first day, I pushed myself the next couple of days. The reason why my personal goal is 2,000 words a day is because unlike years past, I have decided to take one day off per week. That’s another difference from prior years. I have finally learned I am not the type of writer who can write seven days a week. I enjoy having a life outside of work and not being cranky every day. This month I’m only a grump six days a week. I’m also sticking hard to writing during a set time while recognizing if I get a later start, that’s okay. I’m still getting the words in.

I view NaNoWriMo as both a sprint and a marathon. What I mean by this is one of the attractive philosophies of NaNoWriMo is its emphasis on writing without stopping to edit. There is a sense of urgency with each word written toward the daily goal. But it is also a marathon with the ultimate goal of 50,000 words in 30 days. As the month goes on, your energy slows down. Primarily because we hit the middle part of our novel and start to experience middle book sag so somehow we need to find the energy to make it to the finish line. Once we reach it, our minds and bodies are exhausted and we’re glad when we finish.

At this point I’m confident I can “win” again. As of when this extra-caffeine-and-unhealthy-amounts-of-sugar-fueled post is published, I should be close to 20,000 words written. I’ll probably do another update toward the end of the month. We’ll see if I’m struggling to get to the finish line or if I buck the trend and have energy. I want to end by saying to everyone out there participating, keep up the awesome work! Keep going even when November is done. Your story is important and so is your voice.

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Weekly Musing: Back to the Future

Note: Sorry for not posting lately. Life has been quite busy the past several weeks. I’ll be getting back to a regular posting schedule. Good thing for NaNoWriMo to help kick start my writing!

 

Decades Into the Future

Dear DH Hanni,

Congratulations! You’re still writing! Awesome. It’s not been easy, but you’ve stuck with it through ups and downs. I’d love to tell you your insecurity and self-doubt went away, but it didn’t. That’s okay and normal even though you’ve had more success. Yes, you read that right. You get more success. 😊

It was a good decision to take a few years off from writing short stories to concentrate on novel writing. After the chaos of 2017 and major life changes, you got down to business and threw yourself into novels. You also finally got the confidence to believe in yourself. This allowed you to relax and let the words flow. Doesn’t mean writing became easy, but it became easier than before.

You’ve written novels in a few genres. Never did settle on just one genre and that’s okay. The publishing industry got less pissy about one genre per author. Helps you turned into a hybrid author both self-publishing and publishing via the traditional route.

Speaking of publishers, good call going the small to medium size route. You did take chances and submitted work to big publishers, but ultimately small to medium publishers was a way better fit for you. They gave you the ability to have a say in the process and they listened to how you wanted to approach marketing. You got over appearing before people in public, though there are times when your anxiety flares up over being the center of attention.

You’re still amazed anyone reads your novels let alone like them. Good call ignoring reviews and all that stuff. Unfortunately, people on the internet still lack civility and brains. Constructive criticism still isn’t a thing. All of that is noise anyway. This isn’t to say you’ve completely isolated yourself from fans or anything. I know. It’s probably weird reading you have fans, but it’s true. You interact with them at appearances and a handful of events you feel comfortable attending. You also interact a little bit online, but you value your privacy and dedication to writing so you practice moderation.

Speaking of writing, once you learned to relax and not allow insecurity to get in the way, you began believing in the quality of your prose. You stopped being afraid of exploring uncomfortable emotions. Another good decision was not paying attention to when people complain about “ugliness” in novels. Other people’s comfort level doesn’t stop you. Be true to the story is what you always say. Yeah, you come up with a catch phrase. Makes it easy in interviews when you get asked repeatedly what your biggest piece of advice is for writers.

You may be wondering about this success I mentioned above. What do I mean by this? Well, it means you will have several novels published. Each one you release sells better and better. Do you make the best seller list? I’ll never tell. 😊 Do you accomplish one of your dreams of having a book adapted into a mini-series? I’ll never tell. I can’t spoil everything for you, now can I?

To you, present me, reading this, keep going. It’s worth it and for fuck’s sake, let go of your guilt. You know what I’m talking about. Writing is how you express yourself. There’s nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of regardless of whatever you’ve written is good or bad. You deserve to write. Writing is important. What you have to say is important. The sooner you can believe in yourself, the sooner you’ll have the kind of success you want. It’ll still be a slow process as you still won’t be the fastest writer, but you’ll be able to get the kind of success you dream about. That’s another thing. Dream and dream big! Don’t tell yourself it makes you arrogant or delusional. Dreams are what keep you going.

Now, you better listen to the advice given in this letter. In the future, I know a thing or two.

Love,

Future DH Hanni

Weekly Musing: Dear Former Me

Sometime in the past

Dear Soon-To-Be-DH Hanni,

Why is this letter addressed to someone named DH Hanni? That most certainly is not your name. Soon, though, it will be a pseudonym you come up with to publish under. Publish you say? Publish what? What’s one of the few things you’ve always felt came naturally to you?

I hope the answer was writing. Remember how easy the words usually came when you wrote all those papers and essays? Pity you never got assigned creative writing. Perhaps you would have discovered earlier your writing skills extend beyond the purely academic. Sure, you’ve messed around here and there starting a story or written down ideas. My point is, in a short amount of time, in about a couple of years, you’ll pick out the name DH Hanni to write under. Spoiler: You’ll even get published under it!

Future me apparently harbors some delusion we can time travel. We can’t; it’s still not a thing. Never mind the details. If time travel were possible, here’s what I would have told myself years ago.

  • Go ahead and write. Write it all down. Some stuff will be good, some will be damn good, some stuff will be meh, and some of it should be set on fire. Just write.
  • Hold onto the joy you feel when you write.
  • Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of any idea, of any character, any genre, or any emotion that scares us in real life. Don’t be afraid to express anything. Even if someone or a group of people don’t like it, it doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you.
  • Because of your personality, you’ll start researching everything you can about writing including the publishing industry. Don’t do this! There’s such a thing as too much information. Just focus on writing. The more information you learn, the more it will stick in your mind and follow each word you write. You’ll begin to overanalyze every idea and dismiss many before you even write.
  • If you read this is 2010 that idea you’ve got right now? You’ll work on it on and off for years, investing hundred of hours in research, writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, before concluding the project has run its course. It’ll be a “file this in the bottom drawer” type of book. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
  • You’ll continue to be an outliner, but it’ll be different from how you did it in school. No strict way to do it, thank goodness. You’ll also discover whatever you’ve outlined will pretty much be thrown out the window. You can be quite changeable. It’s super frustrating.
  • Be careful about who you listen to and what advice they give. Especially when you gather the courage to allow others to read your work and give you feedback. A lot of what you hear will honestly make little sense. A lot of people, including yourself for a while, will regurgitate advice from famous and not-so-famous authors who are themselves regurgitating advice they were given. I’m not saying completely disregard everything, quite a bit is valid, but really question it. Not all of it applies to everyone.
  • It’s okay to have your own approach to writing. This ties in some with #6 as over and over you’ll hear that a “real” writer writes every day and writes no matter what. Don’t buy into this. Damn real life, you bitch. Find whatever works best. Each writer has their own process and that’s okay. In fact, don’t read anything about the best process; it doesn’t exist.
  • Don’t worry about learning anything about the publishing until you’ve got something you believe strongly in. The sooner you learn about the industry, the more discouraged you’ll feel. Just concentrate on the writing itself.
  • Don’t spend any time brushing up on it. Go ahead and get a couple of grammar books to look up things. There are people who can help as well. You’ve always been solid in this area, though there are rules we’ve forgotten, you don’t have to spend time trying to learn it all over again.
  • You’re a better writer than you think you are. You’ve got solid fundamentals. It’s your mind more than anything which interferes with your creativity. Cut out the noise before it even begins.

There’s definitely more, but I want you to know that you’ll finally conclude writing is something you’ve always wanted to do and explore. It’s such a great fit. Pity we didn’t think about it sooner. For you, future self, writing is how you express yourself best. You’ve always known this. Now is the time to go for it. It’ll be a long, unpredictable road (and you hate unpredictability, I know), often with nothing concrete to show for it. Just stay focused on the writing and don’t beat yourself up so much as you are prone to do.

Be kind to yourself.

Love,

Present Me