Camp NaNoWriMo is about to begin and I am in it!

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So tomorrow is the start of July Camp Nano: 31 days to write a novel (or anything else you fancy). This is a lead up to the big event which is in November. For Camp, you set your own targets as opposed to the pre-determined 50,000 words of Nanowrimo.

I have set myself to write 20,000 words over the month which is about 645 words per day, which feels reasonable. I am just battling with which of my many story ideas to write. The problem is to pick the one idea that can actually be developed into a plot. Most of my ideas are very bare or I just have a scene in my head, a moment, an action but they exists on their own with no beginning, middle or end…and that is the hardest for me. To find something worthwhile for my characters to do and not just potter along doing boring stuff.

It is ok to prepare your plan, outline, character sheets etc…and I have some research for some of my ideas…

Decisions, decisions…Wish me luck!

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Advance Creative Writing course: The End

Monday was my last class and we were all very sad to say goodbye to each other. This course runs every semester and most of the attendees are returning participants.

We had 4 readings that evening and I have found it very difficult to critic other people’s work for 2 reasons:

a) I feel that they are much more accomplished and advanced than I am. Their writing felt more evolved and less fumbling. Most of them have been quite far in their story already…

b) They were all in genres that I don’t particularly read (historical drama) and although I enjoyed what they wrote, I just didn’t know how it fared against other, more established writers in that genre. For me, generally it had too many descriptions and too much introspection.

Still, I enjoyed the exchange of ideas and the warm support that the group gave each other. Everyone was keen to keep the group going for the next term but unfortunately not all of us can or want to attend. It’s in October and on a Saturday afternoon. I have time to change my mind, depending on how far I get with the current story. I feel that signing up to this one if I don’t progress, will be a waste of my time and money. I probably would have benefited more from the class if I had a better formed story. So, this time, I will wait and maybe I’ll join the following class (January 2015).

In the meantime, I have started a mind map on mindmeister (free app with Google – I love free stuff and at this stage, I don’t want to buy software) to help my plotting and I have got quite a bit of material to work with now, which may change but at least I have a frame to work with – although I still don’t have an ending.
I have signed to participate to CampNaNo, which is the summer version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which has been held in November for the past ten years. It starts on 1st July and ends on 31st and you set up your own writing target (which is the difference with NaNoWriMo where the target is set at 50,000 words). The aim is not to edit as you write but to write daily. I have set my target at 20,000 for the month, which is roughly 650 words a day, which is quite achievable I think. I believe that I can do it (I am known for my unwavering optimism)…the problem is to write 650 words that make sense and work together in one story! If I manage it, I’ll try NaNo in November as well, which will then give me material to do the advance class again.

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I is for Improvement!

Yes people! Yesterday I read my second (and last) contribution to the Advance Writing Class.

I had been agonising about it all weekend and at the last moment (well lunchtime) I decided to write something new…again. Still part of the same story but a scene much further in. For this particular scene, I originally wanted to do a fight scene but I ended up with a scary locked room scene instead.

The feedback was really great. The last time, there were issues with my tone and voice for my main gal, Cassie and some issues with too much commentary lines. This time, I got the tone right and the tension was working. I still had some issues with too many commentary lines which I had to ask specifics on as I explained that I had tried hard to cut them down but maybe I didn’t really understand what they were… It appears that there are different types and I had taken care of some, but not all.

By commentary lines, Howard – how fearless tutor – meant the lines I had added which explained what a statement meant. For example:

They had taken her shoes, she realised. Why would they do that? And who the hell were they, anyway?

The part highlighted is considered a commentary line. I should cut it out and let the reader make those comments to themselves.

Another one is:

She was not alone in room. That much she could tell. There was another person breathing, however faintly. It was too dark still for her to see where she was but she was sure it wasn’t a four star hotel.

Again, the highlighted parts are considered commentary and diffuse the tension that I am trying to create.

Otherwise, it appears that I have a natural flow for tension, a few of my fellow students said they were skipping ahead of me to know what was going to happen next.

I am a huge thriller/suspense fan but I never thought I was capable to write some. Now I’d like to be able to merge suspense and fantasy together…which is what I am trying to do with the current story.

tbsBeFunky.hammettHoward recommended that I ready some 1930s/1940s American Noir writers as they do hard boiled well and apparently my style is closer to that as I don’t do flowery description. Sharp, tense action is where my strength seem to be. He recommended Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, Walter Mosley… As before, I realised that my reading education, especially with classical American writers is quite abysmal. Although I know their favourite detectives: Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe (through TV series mostly). And as I am an obsessive type, first thing I did this morning was check them out on Amazon Kindle – which didn’t have cheap versions. So my next best website for books, especially second hand, is AbeBooks where I found really cheap second copies of The Big Sleep (Chandler), The Devil in a Blue Dress (Mosley), Hammett’s 4 first novels pack and the 3 first novels of Sue Grafton (who is a modern, female version of those dudes)…all for less than £10! Result!

I have read Sue Grafton before and I have very much enjoyed it but I had a shocking memory so I can’t remember which one I have read before. I do remember that I had borrowed the books from the library, so it will be good to have them to study.Sue_Grafton_ABC_Collection_A_for_Alibi_B_for_Burglar_C_for_Corpse_Kinsey_Millhone_abridged

Next week is our last class. I can’t believe it has been 6 weeks already! I am sure I will do that class again (you can do it as often as you like – of course) but probably not next semester. I need to do more coherent writing first so I can get more out of it. I still feel a little shaky about it and messy in my planning.

Thanks for reading,

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The One that goes round, round…

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Ouroboros… This is just how I feel (Courtesy of Google images)

I am in the middle of a struggle. I have read 2,000 words in front of the class and was please with the feedback I got but that excerpt was not really part of anything. Sure it vaguely used the character I had in mind for my story but I had whipped in during my lunch hour so I didn’t think much on how it fitted in my story…actually, that is my major problem. I still don’t know what is my story. I have a sense of genre (urban fantasy) and character but I still don’t know what I want them to do. I think I made a mistake in signing up to this last course as it would most certainly benefit me more if I had a skeleton project on the go. As it is, I only have a shadow, a spark and I keep going round and round, circling, changing what my character is…I am not a patient person by nature so I wanted to jump right in but this really doesn’t work. Next Monday I have to read again. A new 2,000 words excerpt and I really don’t know what I am going to do. I can’t carry on from my last piece because it just wasn’t going where I wanted it to go…

 

Or maybe that? A lot less elegant  (Courtesy Google images)

Or maybe that? A lot less elegant
(Courtesy Google images)

I also would like to participate to NaNoWriMo this year and I have been researching it as well as I think I have to be prepared for that (procrastination anyone? You bet your ass!). I think I have to take a deep breath and slow down. Go back to the basics…again.

I came across Larry Brooks’ blog post on preparing for NaNoWriMo and what you have to have planned before you can dive in, called 10 Specifics on How to Plan Your Story. The section on Your Vision, is probably where I am stuck. Right now I still don’t know what’s at stakes for my heroine (at least I do know that she is a she) and what it is that she wants… Why will things happen to her etc. I have to had some of the questions sorted before Monday though as I can’t show up to class without anything, especially considering the high standard of the others’ writing. I mean they are all seriously good and well polished where I feel like a freaking elephant in a crystal shop, fumbling around in the dark! So here are the questions I have to answer before Monday and then right a 2,000 word scene/chapter that will fit in:

  1. Who is the hero?
  2. What is she doing with her life prior to FFP (First Plot Point)?
  3. What is the issue, problem, opportunity thrown at them?
  4. What is the opposition to that need or quest?
  5. What are the stakes?
  6. How does the hero becomes the hero?
  7. How is it resolved?

I have 1 kinda sorted so far. I mean I know she is a she and some of her basic background info…but I don’t think I know nearly enough about her, which would lead to 2. Then I have a vague idea about 3 and 4 but no clue on 5, 6 and 7… Oh boy, I have my work cut out, don’t I? At least I have somewhere to start…right?

Well, I have three days to figure it out…ish.

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Sharing my writing

I went away on holidays so I missed class number 2 of the workshop and didn’t get to experience the “share your writing with the class” experience as a listener…instead, I had to jump in cold.

I had written something that was the right length already before I went away but as my slot (last Monday) was drawing near, I realised that I wasn’t happy with it.

At the 11th hour (as always), which reminded me of my school days, I wrote something new, still part of the same story that is circling around my head at the moment. I made no revision to it, I just poured out 2055 words, formatted them and printed 10 copies to share in class.

There were 3 of us reading that night and as I was the first one to get there, I got to pick when. I chose to go second. I wanted to see how it was going to happen before going and I didn’t want to be last. I am still happy with my decision.

It was still nerve racking though. As I mentioned before, most of my classmates (if I can call them that) tend to be more literary than me. Their writing sound serious and their language is very elaborate, lots of imagery. I think I am the only one who is going for a more pop culture genre. As a non native English speaker, my language is not as evolve, despite my fluency or maybe it is because I am more an action person than a long, evocative description type of girl (must I remind you? I hated Flaubert!)… However, according to my peers and lecturer, I had got the tension right…apparently they couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next 🙂

So I got through my reading, stumbling a bit a long the way as I hit passages that didn’t flow right or made sense when I wrote them but didn’t as I read them…the biggest problem I seem to have is to do with tone (inconsistently shifting between funny and scary – I have to pick one) and language issues when my character speaks…apparently she sounds like she is not native English…now here’s a surprise 🙂 They suggested that I made my character a non-native English speaker…which I will consider actually.

I also wrote a dog in my scene…I saw a sad YouTube video from animal rescue team in California saving a pitbull and it made me really sad to see an animal to have been treated this way, so somehow it made it’s way in my scene. It wasn’t something I had planned or thought about. It’s amazing how much attention my dog got 🙂 Howard, our tutor, loved him (Apollo I called him) whereas some people thought he got too much limelight… Funny the things that will get people talking! I was worried that the fact that I had my character staring at a naked man’s crotch would get more comments and yet, the dog stole the show 🙂

I am glad for the experience, and all the annoted copies were returned to me so I can go over everyone’s comments when it’s a little less raw (not that I was upset with anything they said). I will take some on board for sure.

As I had expected though, the two other girls were a lot more lyrical in their writing and serious in their choice of subject.